MONEY IS NOT WEALTH
by A. Richard Miller
Begun September 29, 2008; last updated January 24, 2021

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On the eve of USA's November 2008 national election, an urgent proposal for an unsecured $700-Billion, maybe $800-Billion loan to mismanaged banks and stockbrokers was generating understandable controversy. In its initial form the Bush Buddies Bailout was one more Weapon of Mass Deception, a (later, a two-step) public welfare program for wealthy people who game the system. But the problem remains.

What, exactly, went - and continues to go - wrong? What ARE reasonable goals, what are NOT, and how might a more populist government reach good ones?

Jill and I searched, asked friends, and found part of the discussion in the mainline U.S. Press. It is dominated by large corporations, and is quickly becoming a large corporation that reports with bias and too-often avoids reporting. We find the parts they don't want us to find - overseas, in The New York Times and The Washington Post, and in the Alternative Press. Some favorites are: Alternet, Campaign for America's Future, Common Dreams, Daily KOS, Demand Progress, Democracy Now, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Little Sis, Mother Jones, The Nation, Nation of Change, Dan Rather's News&Guts, Politico, The Raw Story, Second-Rate Democracy, TruthOut, and Russ Baker's WhoWhatWhy.org. But we keep a sense of perspective; know which news is biased, and how.

The more we read, the more we realize that - as much as we want our money back - that is only one of many ways our country is becoming impoverished. Often by corporations, which most definitely are NOT people! (For one thing, these rapacious corporations have no shame.)



You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. What I mean by that, is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.
- Rahm Emanuel (Wall Street Journal Weekend Interview, Nov. 7, 2008)

Never waste the opportunities offered by a good crisis.
- Niccolo Machiavelli (Fifteenth Cent.Florentine writer and statesman)

Yes, as through this world I've wandered,
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

- Woody Guthrie, Dust Bowl Ballads

What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?
- Bertolt Brecht

Yes, We're Corrupt.
-
A List of Politicians Admitting That Money Controls Politics

Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning.
- Jimmy Carter (1979, as U.S. President)

Cycling Is Bad For The Economy
A cyclist is a disaster for the country’s economy: He does not buy a car and does not take out a car loan. He does not buy car insurance
. He does not buy fuel. He does not send his car for servicing & repairs. He does not use paid parking. He does not become obese.
Healthy people are not needed for the economy. They do not buy drugs. They do not go to hospitals and doctors. They add nothing to the country’s GDP.
On the contrary, every new McDonald's creates at least 30 jobs: 10 cardiologists, 10 dentists, 10 weight-loss experts
apart from people working in McDonald's.
Choose wisely: A bike ride, or a Big Mac with cheese? Think about it!
P.S.
Walkers are even worse. They do not even buy a bicycle.
- NOT Sanjay Thakrar, CEO at Euro Exim Bank Ltd. (2018)

It is not particularly easy for one to climb up out of the working-class - especially if he is handicapped by the possession of ideals and illusions.
- What Life Means to Me, by Jack London (1905)

... peace was not in the interest of a stable society, that even if lasting peace "could be achieved, it would almost certainly not be in the best interests of society to achieve it." War was a part of the economy. Therefore, it was necessary to conceive a state of war for a stable economy. The government, the group theorized, would not exist without war, and nation states existed in order to wage war. War served the vital function of diverting collective aggression. They recommended "credible substitutes" and paying a "blood price" to emulate the economic functions of war. Prospective government-devised alternatives to war included reports of alien life-forms, the reintroduction of a "euphemized form" of slavery "consistent with modern technology and political processes", and - one deemed particularly promising in gaining the attention of the malleable masses - the threat of "gross pollution of the environment".
- Wikipedia's summary of The Report From Iron Mountain (1967)

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
- U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower (April 16, 1953)

There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
- John Adams, letter to Jonathan Jackson (2 October 1780), The Works of John Adams, vol 9, p.511.

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.
-- President Abraham Lincoln (1864 letter to William Fletcher Elkin), or faked in Caldwell Remedy Company pamphlet (May 10, 1888), or...
<http://abrahamlincolnassociation.org/Newsletters/1-1.pdf> (pp. 4-6)
<https://americanmissive.com/2009/03/20/did-abraham-lincoln-say-that/>

What is this you call property? It cannot be the earth. For the land is our mother, nourishing all her children, beasts, birds, fish, and all men. The woods, the streams, everything on it belongs to everybody and is for the use of all. How can one man say it belongs to him only?
- Massasoit

Only when the last tree has been cut down, only when the last river has been poisoned, only when the last fish has been caught, only then will you realize your money cannot be eaten.
- an old Cree saying? Maybe not; but good.

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism.
- U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1938

Train communities through all their grades, beginning with individuals and ending there again, to rule themselves.
- Walt Whitman

This planet has -- or rather had -- a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
- Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (1979)

The Fragile States Index (Fund For Peace)

US National Debt Clock, by Ed Hall

The Freecycle Network (Good. A grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.)

Time Trade Circle (Good. Time Banking in eastern Massachusetts.)

Buy Nothing Project (Bad?)
(See its Person-to-Person section - on Facebook - and then see Corporate Surveillance in Everyday Life , below).

Calculated Risk (blog)

The Conscience of a Liberal (NY Times blog by Paul Krugman)

To Build A Better Ballot; an interactive guide to alternative voting systems, by Nicky Case, 2016)

OurFuture.org (Campaign for America's Future)

Lifton's Thought Reform, (ca. 1997; Changing Minds)
Milieu control, mystical manipulation, confession, self-sanctification through purity, aura of sacred science, loaded language, doctrine over person, dispensed existence.

Secret Worlds: The Universe Within (Molecular Expressions, 1998)
View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.

The Market as God, by Harvey Cox (The Atlantic, 1999)
Living in the new dispensation.

The Bible as God - or, Owning a Canadian, Amongst Other Fallacies (The Internet, 2018?)
Which part of Leviticus do YOU choose not to believe?

The 14 Characteristics of Fascism, by Lawrence Britt (Free Inquiry magazine, 2003)

The Legacy of F.D.R. (Time, major series from 2009)
Franklin D. Roosevelt led the U.S. through a depression and a world war. By the time he died, the nation was profoundly changed — and we owe much of the change to him and his bold presidency.

God on Grass (Permaculture Research Institute, October 8, 2010)
[We have met the enemy, and he is us! --Pogo]

Global surveillance disclosures (Wikipedia, 2013–present)
Ongoing news reports in the international media have revealed operational details about the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and its international partners' global surveillance of both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens. The reports mostly emanate from a cache of top secret documents leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The Strange Disappearance of Cooperation in America, by Peter Turchin (Cliodynamica, 2013)

Corporate Surveillance in Everyday Life (Institute for Critical Digital Culture, 2018)
Every click on a website and every swipe on a smartphone may trigger a wide variety of hidden data sharing mechanisms distributed across several companies and, as a result, directly affect a person’s available choices. Digital tracking and profiling, in combination with personalization, are not only used to monitor, but also to influence peoples’ behavior. ...
"Facebook uses at least 52,000 personal attributes to sort and categorize its 1.9 billion users by, for example, their political views, ethnicity, and income. In order to do so, the platform analyzes their posts, likes, shares, friends, photos, movements, and many other kinds of behaviors.
"In addition, Facebook acquires data on its users from other companies. In 2013, the platform began its partnership with the four data brokers Acxiom, Epsilon, Datalogix and BlueKai, the latter two of which were subsequently acquired by the IT giant Oracle. These companies help Facebook track and profile its users even better than it already does by providing it with data collected from beyond its platform.

Help Us Cure Online Publishing of Its Addiction to Personal Data, by Doc Searls (Linux Journal, March 14, 2018)
(and The Big Datastillery that targets YOU)

It's Official: Watching Fox Makes You Stupider (The Nation, 2012)

Ten True Facts Guaranteed to Short-Circuit Republican Brains (Daily Kos, 2012)

ALEC Exposed (Center for Media and Democracy, 2011)

His Grief, and Ours: Paul Ryan's nasty ideal of self-reliance (New Republic, 2012)

We All Built This Great Nation Together: Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan, and the Myth of Radical Individualism (Nick Gier)

The Foul Reign Of Emerson's "Self-Reliance (New York Times, 2011)

"A Declaration of Conscience, June 1, 1950 speech by U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith (U.S. Senate, 1950)
(The beginning of the end for Senator Joe McCarthy but, unfortunately, not for McCarthyism.)

The Death Of God, by Friedrich Nietzsche (1885)

Losing my religion for equality (Jimmy Carter, 2009)
"The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God."

Invented Symbols, by James Carroll (Boston Globe, January 3, 2006)
'Homo Sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority," Joyce Carol Oates once remarked, ''then forgets that symbols are inventions." This lesson applies across the human condition, although it shows up regularly in the realm of religion, where symbolism is the native language.
Now the church is acknowledging that the passion and authority once invested in limbo, however ''unofficially," can yield. Limbo is an invented symbol that can be left behind.
So is the nation-state. It is not religion that draws the most fervent investment of passion and authority in our time, but rather the politically autonomous entity for which humans have learned to kill and die. That the invented character of the nation-state is forgotten is revealed whenever God is invoked as its source and justification. ''For God and country" is an idolatrous slogan, and a dangerous one. It is scrawled on walls across the world.
The new invention was the United Nations. Far more than an organization, it, too, was a symbol in which passion and authority could be invested. Not only weaponry, but new modes of transport and communication, and then a revolution in information technology all forced a redefinition of the human condition, and the symbolic power of a cooperative world entity came ever more into its own. Not ''God and country" anymore, but Earth itself as holy.
But, in one of history's great ironies, the main inventors of the United Nations, the Americans, found it impossible to stop treating their own nationhood as an absolute value. There were, perhaps, reasons for this during the Cold War, but since then the United States, more than any other nation-state, has reiterated its narrow autonomy, repudiating treaties, promulgating unilateralism, making aggressive war, and treating the global environment as a private waste dump. The United States, in sum, has invested its national sovereignty with passion and authority proper to God, not to an invention of human beings.
The United Nations, where the United States is represented by a man who holds it in contempt, is now a symbol of the planet's new jeopardy. Just as the church is letting go of one limbo, America is condemning the world's best hope to another. 

RELIGION: What It Was For; What Went Wrong; How To Fix It, by Benjamin Becula

The New Populism (Campaign for America's Future, 2014)

Grokking Republicans: The Non-Cooperator's Dilemma (Daily Kos, 2014)
"To create More and Better Democrats means to increase cooperation. Punishing cooperation is the declared Republican mission. 'The Evolution of Cooperation', by Robert Axelrod, proposes a theory that says they lose, and recommends particular political strategies to make it happen faster.

Freethinkers and Libertarianism, by David Niose

EXXON: The Road Not Taken (Inside Climate News, 2015)
"This multi-part series describes how Exxon conducted cutting-edge climate research decades ago and then, without revealing all that it had learned, worked at the forefront of climate denial, manufacturing doubt about the scientific consensus that its own scientists had confirmed.

The history of volcanic eruptions since Roman times (Past Global Changes Magazine, 2015)

What's Really Warming The World? (Bloomberg, 2015)

Vanishing: The Sixth Mass Extinction (CNN, 2016)
We're entering the Earth's sixth era of extinction -- and it's the first time humans are to blame. CNN introduces you to the key species and people who are trying to prevent them from vanishing.

Yale Climate Opinion Maps, U.S. 2016

The Legend of Hercules Mulligan (U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, June 30, 2016)
We’re all familiar with the legendary heroes who fought to secure our independence from the British: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere and his midnight ride. But there are many other influencers of the Revolutionary War whose names don’t immediately come to mind when reflecting on the birth of this great nation. Their efforts and contributions are no less significant or important to securing the freedoms we enjoy every day. The heroics of their lives and stories remain unsung, like many of those serving their country in the shadows today.
This Fourth of July, to celebrate the anniversary of our independence, we are shining the spotlight on one such hero, a man who risked his life to save General George Washington. Twice. A man who helped convert Alexander Hamilton from a Tory to a Patriot. A man who successfully ran his own New York City business and used that business to live among the British, befriending them and covertly acquiring information while overtly tarnishing his reputation with the Patriots. That’s right, Hercules Mulligan.

History of Boston's Water System (slide presentation; Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, October 6, 2016)

Earthquakes of the First 15 Years of the 21st Century (4-min. video; NOAA, December 2, 2016)

Why Excessive Consumption Limits your Creativity (Medium, May 2016)

Is the World Ready for a Guaranteed Basic Income? (Freakonomics, 2016)

Scientists Are Pro-Testing (Science, 2017)

The Gerasimov Doctrine (Politico, 2017)
"It’s Russia’s new chaos theory of political warfare. And it’s probably being used on you.

We All Want Healthcare To Cost Much Less  -  But We Are Asking The Wrong Question, by Joe Flowers (Medium, 2017)
"Imagine this: Healthcare  -  the whole system  -  for half as much. Better, more effective. No rationing. Everybody in.

Kim Hill: Sustainability is Destroying the Earth: The Green Economy vs. The Planet (Deep Green Resistance News Service, May 25, 2017)
What is it we are trying to sustain? A living planet, or industrial civilization? Because we can’t have both.

Thirteen things the public sector does better than the 'free' market (Daily Kos, October 1, 2017)

What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest An Answer. (New York Times, November 7, 2017)

MichaelMoore.com

Our Revolution

Angry White House Staffer

GOP Rape Advisory Chart

The Loneliness of Donald Trump; On the Corrosive Privilege of the Most Mocked Man in the World, by Rebecca Solnit

Vote Sleuth: Investigating Democracy (Los Angeles Times, 2017)

The way Donald Trump is handling his job as president (Gallup Poll Daily Data)

PutinTrump.org

Donald Trump (Vice)

Obamacare 101: Here's what you need to know (Los Angeles Times, 2017)

Duty To Warn (Duty To Warn, 2017)
Duty To Warn is an association of mental health professionals and other concerned citizens who advocate Trump’s removal under the 25th Amendment on the grounds that he is psychologically unfit.

The way Donald Trump is handling his job as president (Gallup Poll Daily Data)

"Who am I? Why am I here?" (#25thAmendmentNow)
A running thread of Trump not knowing where he is, how he got there, or the appropriate response to give in the moment. Some mental health professionals are concerned that he may be exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's, but he might just be an idiot.

The Hamilton 68 Dashboard tracks Russian influence operations on Twitter. (Hosted by the Alliance for Securing Democracy.)

How Facebook’s destructive ethos imperils democracy (The Guardian, March 17, 2018)

Atlas Of Utopias (Transformative Cities, 2018)

CONGRESSIONAL SCORECARD; Congressional Civil Liberties Record in the Trump Era ACLU, 2018)

Chart: The percentage of women and men in each profession (Boston Globe)

Smoking bans in private vehicles (Wikipedia)

Light Cycles, by Quinn Norton

States of Anarchy (New Republic, 2010)
America’s long, sordid affair with nullification.

"The Suffocation of Democracy", by Christopher R. Browning (New York Review Of Books, October 13, 2018)
If the US has someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy, it is Mitch McConnell. He stoked the hyperpolarization of American politics to make the Obama presidency as dysfunctional and paralyzed as he possibly could. As with parliamentary gridlock in Weimar, congressional gridlock in the US has diminished respect for democratic norms, allowing McConnell to trample them even more. Nowhere is this vicious circle clearer than in the obliteration of traditional precedents concerning judicial appointments.
Trump's personal flaws and his tactic of appealing to a narrow base while energizing Democrats and alienating independents may lead to precisely that rare wave election needed to provide a congressional check on the administration as well as the capture of enough state governorships and legislatures to begin reversing current trends in gerrymandering and voter suppression. The elections of 2018 and 2020 will be vital in testing how far the electoral system has deteriorated.
Alongside the erosion of an independent judiciary as a check on executive power, other hallmarks of illiberal democracy are the neutralization of a free press and the steady diminution of basic human rights. On these issues, often described as the guardrails of democracy against authoritarian encroachment, the Trump administration either has won or seems poised to win significant gains for illiberalism. Upon his appointment as chancellor, Hitler immediately created a new Ministry of People's Enlightenment and Propaganda under Joseph Goebbels, who remained one of his closest political advisers. In Trump’s presidency, those functions have effectively been privatized in the form of Fox News and Sean Hannity. The highly critical free media not only provide no effective check on Trump's ability to be a serial liar without political penalty; on the contrary, they provide yet another enemy around which to mobilize the grievances and resentments of his base. A free press does not have to be repressed when it can be rendered irrelevant and even exploited for political gain.

She Votes (NPR's special SERIES on women and the vote, October 20, 2018)

Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2017 (ADL Center on Extremism, February 27, 2018)
Over the past 10 years (2008-17), domestic extremists have been responsible for at least 387 murders; of these, 274 (71%) were committed by right-wing extremists of one type or another.

Quantifying Hate: A Year of Anti-Semitism on Twitter (ADL Report, May 7, 2018)

Why read Aristotle today? (Aeon, May 29, 2018)
Modern self-help draws heavily on Stoic philosophy. But Aristotle was better at understanding real human happiness.

The Next Plague Is Coming. Is America Ready? (Atlantic, July 1, 2018)
The epidemics of the early 21st century revealed a world unprepared, even as the risks continue to multiply. Much worse is coming.
On average, in one corner of the world or another, a new infectious disease has emerged every year for the past 30 years: mers, Nipah, Hendra, and many more. Researchers estimate that birds and mammals harbor anywhere from 631,000 to 827,000 unknown viruses that could potentially leap into humans. Valiant efforts are under way to identify them all, and scan for them in places like poultry farms and bushmeat markets, where animals and people are most likely to encounter each other. Still, we likely won’t ever be able to predict which will spill over next; even long-known viruses like Zika, which was discovered in 1947, can suddenly develop into unforeseen epidemics.
One hundred years ago, in 1918, a strain of H1N1 flu swept the world. It might have originated in Haskell County, Kansas, or in France or China—but soon it was everywhere. In two years, it killed as many as 100 million people—5 percent of the world’s population, and far more than the number who died in World War I. It killed not just the very young, old, and sick, but also the strong and fit, bringing them down through their own violent immune responses. It killed so quickly that hospitals ran out of beds, cities ran out of coffins, and coroners could not meet the demand for death certificates. It lowered Americans’ life expectancy by more than a decade. “The flu resculpted human populations more radically than anything since the Black Death,” Laura Spinney wrote in Pale Rider, her 2017 book about the pandemic. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in history—a potent reminder of the threat posed by disease.
Despite advances in antibiotics and vaccines, and the successful eradication of smallpox, Homo sapiens is still locked in the same epic battle with viruses and other pathogens that we’ve been fighting since the beginning of our history. When cities first arose, diseases laid them low, a process repeated over and over for millennia. When Europeans colonized the Americas, smallpox followed. When soldiers fought in the first global war, influenza hitched a ride, and found new opportunities in the unprecedented scale of the conflict. Down through the centuries, diseases have always excelled at exploiting flux.
Humanity is now in the midst of its fastest-ever period of change. There were almost 2 billion people alive in 1918; there are now 7.6 billion, and they have migrated rapidly into cities, which since 2008 have been home to more than half of all human beings. In these dense throngs, pathogens can more easily spread and more quickly evolve resistance to drugs. Not coincidentally, the total number of outbreaks per decade has more than tripled since the 1980s.
Globalization compounds the risk: Airplanes now carry almost 10 times as many passengers around the world as they did four decades ago. In the ’80s, HIV showed how potent new diseases can be, by launching a slow-moving pandemic that has since claimed about 35 million lives. In 2003, another newly discovered virus, sars, spread decidedly more quickly. This is a new epoch of disease, when geographic barriers disappear and threats that once would have been local go global.
The United States has nationwide vaccination programs, advanced hospitals, the latest diagnostic tests. In the National Institutes of Health, it has the world’s largest biomedical research establishment, and in the CDC, arguably the world’s strongest public-health agency. America is as ready to face down new diseases as any country in the world.
Yet even the U.S. is disturbingly vulnerable—and in some respects is becoming quickly more so. It depends on a just-in-time medical economy, in which stockpiles are limited and even key items are made to order. Most of the intravenous bags used in the country are manufactured in Puerto Rico, so when Hurricane Maria devastated the island last September, the bags fell in short supply. Some hospitals were forced to inject saline with syringes—and so syringe supplies started running low too. The most common lifesaving drugs all depend on long supply chains that include India and China—chains that would likely break in a severe pandemic. “Each year, the system gets leaner and leaner,” says Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “It doesn’t take much of a hiccup anymore to challenge it.”
Perhaps most important, the U.S. is prone to the same forgetfulness and shortsightedness that befall all nations, rich and poor—and the myopia has worsened considerably in recent years. Public-health programs are low on money; hospitals are stretched perilously thin; crucial funding is being slashed. And while we tend to think of science when we think of pandemic response, the worse the situation, the more the defense depends on political leadership.
When Ebola flared in 2014, the science-minded President Barack Obama calmly and quickly took the reins. The White House is now home to a president who is neither calm nor science-minded. We should not underestimate what that may mean if risk becomes reality.
American hospitals, which often operate unnervingly close to full capacity, likewise struggled with the surge of patients. Pediatric units were hit especially hard by H1N1, and staff became exhausted from continuously caring for sick children. Hospitals almost ran out of the life-support units that sustain people whose lungs and hearts start to fail. The health-care system didn’t break, but it came too close for comfort—especially for what turned out to be a training-wheels pandemic. The 2009 H1N1 strain killed merely 0.03 percent of those it infected; by contrast, the 1918 strain had killed 1 to 3 percent, and the H7N9 strain currently circulating in China has a fatality rate of 40 percent.
That the U.S. could be so ill-prepared for flu, of all things, should be deeply concerning. The country has a dedicated surveillance web, antiviral drugs, and an infrastructure for making and deploying flu vaccines. None of that exists for the majority of other emerging infectious diseases.
The Hospital Preparedness Program is a funding plan that was created in the wake of 9/11 to help hospitals ready themselves for disasters, run training drills, and build their surge capacity—everything that Shelly Schwedhelm’s team does so well in Nebraska. It transformed emergency planning from an after-hours avocation into an actual profession, carried out by skilled specialists. But since 2003, its $514 million budget has been halved. Another fund—the Public Health Emergency Preparedness program—was created at the same time to help state and local health departments keep an eye on infectious diseases, improve their labs, and train epidemiologists. Its budget has been pruned to 70 percent of its $940 million peak. Small wonder, then, that in the past decade, local health departments have cut more than 55,000 jobs. That’s 55,000 people who won’t be there to answer the call when the next epidemic hits.
These sums of money are paltry compared with what another pandemic might cost the country. Diseases are exorbitantly expensive. In response to just 10 cases of Ebola in 2014, the U.S. spent $1.1 billion on domestic preparations, including $119 million on screening and quarantine. A severe 1918-style flu pandemic would drain an estimated $683 billion from American coffers, according to the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health. The World Bank estimates that global output would fall by almost 5 percent—totaling some $4 trillion.
The U.S. is not unfamiliar with the concept of preparedness. It currently spends roughly half a trillion dollars on its military—the highest defense budget in the world, equal to the combined budgets of the next seven top countries. But against viruses—more likely to kill millions than any rogue state is—such consistent investments are nowhere to be found.
Organizing a federal response to an emerging pandemic is harder than one might think. The largely successful U.S. response to Ebola in 2014 benefited from the special appointment of an “Ebola czar”—Klain—to help coordinate the many agencies that face unclear responsibilities. In 2016, when Obama asked for $1.9 billion to fight Zika, Congress devolved into partisan squabbling. Republicans wanted to keep the funds away from clinics that worked with Planned Parenthood, and Democrats opposed the restriction. It took more than seven months to appropriate $1.1 billion; by then, the CDC and NIH had been forced to divert funds meant to deal with flu, HIV, and the next Ebola.
At some point, a new virus will emerge to test Trump’s mettle. What happens then? He has no background in science or health, and has surrounded himself with little such expertise. The President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, a group of leading scientists who consult on policy matters, is dormant. The Office of Science and Technology Policy, which has advised presidents on everything from epidemics to nuclear disasters since 1976, is diminished. The head of that office typically acts as the president’s chief scientific consigliere, but to date no one has been appointed. Other parts of Trump’s administration that will prove crucial during an epidemic have operated like an Etch A Sketch. During the nine months I spent working on this story, Tom Price resigned as secretary of health and human services after using taxpayer money to fund charter flights (although his replacement, Alex Azar, is arguably better prepared, having dealt with anthrax, flu, and sars during the Bush years). Brenda Fitzgerald stepped down as CDC director after it became known that she had bought stock in tobacco companies; her replacement, Robert Redfield, has a long track record studying HIV, but relatively little public-health experience. Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, a veteran malaria fighter, was appointed to the National Security Council, in part to oversee the development of the White House’s forthcoming biosecurity strategy. When I met Ziemer at the White House in February, he hadn’t spoken with the president, but said pandemic preparedness was a priority for the administration. He left in May.

ADL H.E.A.T. Map (ADL, August 9, 2018)

Mapped: How every part of the world has warmed – and could continue to warm (Carbon Brief, September 26, 2018)

The Future Of Electric Cars Is China (Quartz, series beginning December 10, 2018)
The world awaits an electric-car future, but that future is rapidly becoming the present in China. The country is on track to sell more than 1 million electric vehicles in 2018, nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. And with tens of billions of dollars already invested to build up an electric-car infrastructure (and tens of billions more on the way), China is not letting up in its pace to become the world leader in EVs.

The Great Filter - the most important question in history (Daily Kos, November 3, 2018)

Trump’s Hidden Powers (Brennan Center for Justice, December 5, 2018)
A vast array of obscure presidential powers spans everything from the military to criminal law, and some are ripe for abuse. They need to be re-examined.
Building on previous research in this area, the Brennan Center has identified 123 statutory powers that may become available to the president when she declares a national emergency. An additional 13 statutory powers become available when a national emergency is declared by Congress. We created a database that assembles these 136 powers by subject matter, specifies the conditions triggering their use, and lists the occasions, if any, on which they have been invoked. (The methodology we used to compile the database is available here.) We have also developed a running list of national emergencies declared since the National Emergencies Act went into effect.
These resources are eye-opening in many ways: in the nature of the powers provided, in how easily the executive can access them, and in how they have been used (or misused).

In Case Of Emergency: What Can a President Do During a State of Emergency? (The Atlantic, January-February  2019)
From seizing control of the internet to declaring martial law, President Trump may legally do all kinds of extraordinary things.
More is at stake here than the outcome of one or even two elections. Trump has long signaled his disdain for the concepts of limited presidential power and democratic rule. During his 2016 campaign, he praised murderous dictators. He declared that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, would be in jail if he were president, goading crowds into frenzied chants of “Lock her up.” He hinted that he might not accept an electoral loss. As democracies around the world slide into autocracy, and nationalism and antidemocratic sentiment are on vivid display among segments of the American populace, Trump’s evident hostility to key elements of liberal democracy cannot be dismissed as mere bluster.

Voices From The Field; FBI Agent Accounts of the Real Consequences of the Government Shutdown (FBI Agents Assn., January 2019)
If the FBI and Dept. of Justice are not funded, the Agents will continue to face challenges in carrying out our mission to protect the nation.

50 Moments That Define an Improbable Presidency (The Atlantic, January 21, 2019)

Tracking Trump: The President’s Standing Across America (Morning Consult)
On a daily basis, Morning Consult is surveying over 5,000 registered voters across the United States on President Trump. Each month, we’ll update this page with the latest survey data, providing a clear picture of Trump’s approval and re-election prospects.

Russia Investigation Summary (Teri Kanefield, continuing)
Muller Probe Overview: Documents Filed, Crimes, etc.

A Timeline of Earth's Average Temperature Since The Last Ice Age Glaciation (xkcd)

Global Climate Change; Vital Signs Of The Planet (NASA, current)

Climate Change (United Nations)

Bernie Sanders: The Green New Deal (2019)

NEW: Umair Haque: Why the Anglo World is Collapsing; How the Dunces of Modern History Ended Up Being Us (Eudaimonia & Co., March 27, 2019)
The rest of the rich world has learned the great lesson of history, that cooperative nonviolence is the hand of progress. Social democracy is based on that principle. And it’s not a coincidence that social democracies are all forging ahead, whether Sweden or Canada, even in troubled times — while we Anglos are collapsing into the abyss of what supremacy must lead to: extremism, fascism, authoritarianism. All the things that are the opposite of democracy.

Sizing Up the Carbon Footprint of Cities (NASA, April 11, 2019)
Large and wealthy cities have the biggest carbon footprints.

Earthquake and Volcano Activity, Worldwide, 2001-2015 (NASA, NOAA)

Nancy Pelosi, by Hillary Rodham Clinton (Time100, 2019)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, by Elizabeth Warren (Time100, 2019)
Greta Thunberg, by Emma González (Time100, 2019)

The Privacy Project (New York Times, 2019)

Zero Waste: Our country has a waste problem. It’s time for new solutions, and a renewed commitment to move toward zero waste. (MassPIRG, 2019)

50 Days to the Moon (Fast Company, 2019)

On Bullshit, by Harry Frankfurt (Princeton University)
I propose to begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit, mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory philosophical analysis.

It’s Time to Break Up Facebook, by Chris Hughes (New York Times, May 9, 2019)
Mr. Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, is a co-chairman of the Economic Security Project and a senior adviser at the Roosevelt Institute:
"Mark Zuckerberg’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive. The company’s mistakes - the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention - dominate the headlines.
Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms - Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp - that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.
"Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. I’m disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders. And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them. The government must hold Mark accountable."

Demand an impeachment inquiry (Common Cause, July 25, 2019)
No American, especially not the President, is above the law.

Leading Civil Rights Lawyer Shows 20 Ways Trump Is Copying Hitler’s Early Rhetoric and Policies (Common Cause, August 9, 2019)
Burt Neuborne questions whether federal government can contain Trump and GOP power grabs.
Many recent presidents have been awful, but then there was Donald Trump, the only president in recent American history to openly despise the twin ideals—individual dignity and fundamental equality—upon which the contemporary United States is built. When you confront the reality of a president like Trump, the state of both sets of brakes—internal [constitutional] and external [public resistance]—become hugely important because Donald Trump’s political train runs on the most potent and dangerous fuel of all: a steady diet of fear, greed, loathing, lies, and envy. It’s a toxic mixture that has destroyed democracies before, and can do so again.
Give Trump credit. He did his homework well and became the twenty-first-century master of divisive rhetoric. We’re used to thinking of Hitler’s Third Reich as the incomparably evil tyranny that it undoubtedly was. But Hitler didn’t take power by force. He used a set of rhetorical tropes - codified in Trump’s bedside reading - that persuaded enough Germans to welcome Hitler as a populist leader. The Nazis did not overthrow the Weimar Republic. It fell into their hands as the fruit of Hitler’s satanic ability to mesmerize enough Germans to trade their birthright for a pottage of scapegoating, short-term economic gain, xenophobia, and racism. It could happen here.

United States Of Plastic (The Guardian, August 2019)

100 Photos - The Most Influential Images of All Time (Time Magazine, 2016)
Explore the stories behind 100 images that changed the world, selected by TIME and an international team of curators.
Top 100 Photos of 2018 (Time Magazine)

Globalization Isn’t Dying, It’s Just Evolving (Bloomberg, July 23, 2019)
We are entering a new era in which data is the new shipping container and there are far more disruptive forces at work in the world economy than Trump’s tariffs. New manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing and the automation of factories are reducing the economic incentives to offshore production. The smartphones we carry with us are not just products of globalization but accelerants for it. For good or bad, we are more exposed to a global culture of ideas than we have ever been. And we are only becoming more global as a result.

The 1619 Project (The New York Times, August 14, 2019)
In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the English colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. In the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.

"Tending Soil", by Emma Marris (with podcast; Emergence Magazine, October 2019)
In almost every culture, Earth is female: Mother Earth, Gaia, Pachamama, Terra, Prithvi - goddesses that, like the soil, have the power to create new life. The mystery of working with soil is that the best way to make it more fertile - more life-giving - is to mix in dead things. Soil is the medium through which death becomes life. It is the liminal stuff that exists after death and rot but before sprouting life, growth, and nourishment.

Millionaires Surtax: A Winning Issue In 2020 (Surtax, October 2019)

WMO Provisional Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019 (World Meteorological Association, December 3, 2019)

Global Transport of Smoke from Australian Bushfires (2-min. video; NASA)

The Deep Sea (Neal Agarwal)

The philosophy of cynicism (5-min. video; TEDEd, December 19, 2019)
Explore the ancient Greek philosophy of cynicism, which calls for the rejection of materialism and conformity in favor of a simple life.

The 21st-Century American Axis Of Evil (Jonathan Gordon, 2019)

The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report (U.S. House Intelligence Committee, December 3, 2019
Also, here is CNN's annotated version.

Impeachment in the United States (Wikipedia)

President Trump House Impeachment Brief (U.S. House of Representatives, January 18, 2020)

Tracking President Trump's Unprecedented Conflicts of Interest (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

Environmental voter guide (Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, 2020)
We graded the 2020 Democratic candidates on four key environmental areas, and produced this environmental report card.

100th Anniversary of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU, January 2020)
"So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we’ll be called a democracy." - ACLU founder Roger Baldwin
When a roomful of civil liberties activists - led by Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, and Albert DeSilver - formed the ACLU in 1920, the Supreme Court had yet to uphold a single free speech claim. Activists languished in jail for distributing anti-war literature. State-sanctioned violence against African-Americans was routine. Women won the right to vote only in August of that year. And constitutional rights for LGBT people were unthinkable.
The ACLU was founded to ensure the promise of the Bill of Rights and to expand its reach to people historically denied its protections. In our first year, we fought the harassment and deportation of immigrants whose activism put them at odds with the authorities. In 1939, we won in the Supreme Court the right for unions to organize. We stood almost alone in 1942 in denouncing our government's round-up and internment in concentration camps of more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans. And at times in our history when frightened civilians have been willing to give up some of their freedoms and rights in the name of national security, the ACLU has been the bulwark for liberty.

There isn’t a simple story about looting. (Vox, June 2, 2020)
“The question you have to ask yourself is: Why are there so many people in our society who don’t have a lot to lose?” says sociologist Darnell Hunt.

Neo-Völkisch (Southern Poverty Law Center)
Born out of an atavistic defiance of modernity and rationalism, present-day neo-Völkisch, or Folkish, adherents and groups are organized around ethnocentricity and archaic notions of gender.

Political Coordinates Test (Individual Differences Research, 2020)
This free political observance test will allow you to obtain your scores on the two major political scales found in Western democracies. Though there are several other "political coordinates" and "political observance" tests in existence, these tests have commonly been criticized for seeking to trick the respondent into answering in a certain way, for example by applying spin to the questions or framing them in such a way as to provoke emotional reactions in the respondent. By contrast, this test attempts to simply confront you with the questions without any coating or spin.

Benjamin Franklin and the Power of Long-Term Investing (Edelman Financial Engines, 2020)
Remembered for being a publisher, scientist, diplomat and inventor, he was also the first truly long-term investor.

Shoshana Zuboff: You Are Now Remotely Controlled. (New York Times, January 24, 2020)
The belief that privacy is private has left us careening toward a future that we did not choose. Surveillance capitalists control the science and the scientists, the secrets and the truth.

The Day Democracy Died (9-min. YouTube video sung by The Founding Fathers, February 8, 2020)

White-Collar Crime (Huffington Post, February 10, 2020)
Over the last two years, nearly every institution of American life has taken on the unmistakable stench of moral rot. Corporate behemoths like Boeing and Wells Fargo have traded blue-chip credibility for white-collar callousness. Elite universities are selling admission spots to the highest Hollywood bidder. Silicon Valley unicorns have revealed themselves as long cons (Theranos), venture-capital cremation devices (Uber, WeWork) or straightforward comic book supervillains (Facebook). Every week unearths a cabinet-level political scandal that would have defined any other presidency. From the blackouts in California to the bloated bonuses on Wall Street to the entire biography of Jeffrey Epstein, it is impossible to look around the country and not get the feeling that elites are slowly looting it.
And why wouldn't they? The criminal justice system has given up all pretense that the crimes of the wealthy are worth taking seriously. The rich are enjoying a golden age of impunity unprecedented in modern history. Elite deviance has become the dark matter of American life, the invisible force around which the country's most powerful legal and political systems have set their orbit.

A Short History Of Arson (Phys.org, December 5, 2014)
Arson has evolved from a wrongful individual act into an effective means of collective violence.

Opinion Polls (Civiqs)

The Long-Term Impact of DACA: Forging Futures Despite DACA’s Uncertainty (Harvard University, 2019)
The experiences of our respondents over the last seven years powerfully highlight the importance and success of DACA—the results are indisputable. DACA has given its beneficiaries and their families a giant boost and they have achieved significant social mobility. It has also powerfully shaped personhood and agency. Nevertheless, the temporary and partial nature of DACA leaves many issues unaddressed and has created some new dilemmas. The findings of this report have clear implications for U.S. immigration policy and community practice.
In the last section, we offer a set of recommendations for policymakers, stakeholders, and educators. Ultimately, we believe that a broader immigration reform that includes a pathway to legalization would resolve most challenges experienced by DACA beneficiaries and their families. However, we also acknowledge that needs are urgent, and that a range of community stakeholders may be able to address many issues locally and immediately.

Land Doesn’t Vote, People Do. This Electoral Map Tells the Real Story. (animated Electoral College map; Democracy Labs, November 11, 2019)

Private gain must no longer be allowed to elbow out the public good. (Aeon, April 24, 2020)
The logic of private interest – the notion that we should just ‘let the market handle it’ – has serious limitations. Particularly in the United States, the lack of an effective health and social policy in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has brought the contradictions into high relief.
Around the world, the free market rewards competing, positioning and elbowing, so these have become the most desirable qualifications people can have. Empathy, solidarity or concern for the public good are relegated to the family, houses of worship or activism. Meanwhile, the market and private gain don’t account for social stability, health or happiness. As a result, from Cape Town to Washington, the market system has depleted and ravaged the public sphere – public health, public education, public access to a healthy environment – in favour of private gain.
Simply put, a market system driven by private interests never has protected and never will protect public health, essential kinds of freedom and communal wellbeing. Many have pointed out the immorality of our system of greed and self-centred gain, its inefficiency, its cruelty, its shortsightedness and its danger to planet and people. But, above all, the logic of self-interest is superficial in that it fails to recognise the obvious: every private accomplishment is possible only on the basis of a thriving commons – a stable society and a healthy environment.

Joe Biden's Vision For America (Biden for President, July 4, 2020)

MAGA2020.com (Donald Trump's vision)

ChooseDemocracy.org
Democracy is fragile. We have reason to worry that this fall we may see an undemocratic power grab — a coup. We also know that the people can defend our democracy. Nonviolent mass protests have stopped coups in other places, and we may have to do the same in this country.

2020 U.S. Election Forecast (FiveThirtyEight, 2020)
[Why FiveThirtyEight? Let Daily Kos explain, or read his 2016 prediction.]

Five takeaways from final Senate Intel Russia report (The Hill, August 18, 2020)

Animated Map: The History of U.S. Counties (Visual Capitalist, July 31, 2020)
This quick-moving animation shows how the U.S. county map has evolved since the 17th century.

Coyote Safety (Town of Natick, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife)
Including good "Coyotes 101" slide show re new population of Eastern Coyotes.

Donald J. Trump Library
Putting the 45th President's work in historical context, while documenting the damage done to American institutions and spirit

CISA Rumor Control Page (3-min. video; U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, October 2020)

LittleSis Tracks the Political Connections and Lobbying of the Ultra-Rich and Corporations. (Democracy Labs, November 16, 2020)

2020 was the year that changed everything. (Maclean's/Canada, November 17, 2020)
The pandemic, political upheaval and an economic crisis have exploded truths and ideas that mere months ago seemed so fundamental they were beyond question.
14 things we thought were true before 2020: Democracy is our destiny? Not sure about that anymore. Rich countries can overcome? Doesn't seem like it. In a crisis, leaders will lead? If you're lucky. All the 'truths' 2020 has called into question...

How Albert Einstein Reconciled Religion to Science (Nautilus, November 25, 2020)
- The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can change this for me.
- I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.
- I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds.
May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations.
I am fascinated by Spinoza’s Pantheism. I admire even more his contributions to modern thought. Spinoza is the greatest of modern philosophers, because he is the first philosopher who deals with the soul and the body as one, not as two separate things.

The Rich Kids Who Want to Tear Down Capitalism (New York Times, November 27, 2020)
Socialist-minded millennial heirs are trying to live their values by getting rid of their money.

Mueller, She Wrote (Threadreader, November 2020)

How to get rid of the Electoral College (Brookings Institution, December 9, 2020)
The Electoral College is a ticking time bomb. (Brookings Institution, December 9, 2020)

NEW: FBI's Website on Terrorism (as of January 8, 2021)
Domestic terrorism: Violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature. Protecting the United States from terrorist attacks is the FBI’s number one priority.



Resources re Coronavirus pandemic:

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak (World Health Organization, latest status and advice)
How the Virus Won (New York Times, June 25, 2020)
Invisible outbreaks sprang up everywhere. The United States ignored the warning signs. We analyzed travel patterns, hidden infections and genetic data to show how the epidemic spun out of control.
Inside the Coronavirus (Scientific American, July 2020 Issue)
What scientists know about the inner workings of the pathogen that has infected the world.
Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker (New York Times)
Researchers around the world are developing more than 155 vaccines against the coronavirus, and 23 vaccines are in human trials. Vaccines typically require years of research and testing before reaching the clinic, but scientists are racing to produce a safe and effective vaccine by next year.
Track Coronavirus Cases in Places Important to You. (New York Times)
What’s the Best Material for a Mask? (New York Times, June 20, 2020)
Scientists are testing everyday items to find the best protection from coronavirus. Pillow cases, flannel pajamas and origami vacuum bags are all candidates.
Coronavirus May Be a Blood Vessel Disease, Which Explains Everything. (Medium, June 1, 2020)
Many of the infection’s bizarre symptoms have one thing in common.
Monster or Machine? A Profile of the Coronavirus at 6 Months (New York Times, June 2, 2020)
Our “hidden enemy,” in plain sight.
3D model of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at atomic resolution (2-min. video; Vimeo, May 11, 2020)
From hair salons to gyms, experts rank 36 activities by coronavirus risk level. (Michigan Live, June 8, 2020)
From Camping To Dining Out: Here's How Experts Rate The Risks Of 14 Summer Activities (NPR, May 23, 2020)
The Risks - Know Them - Avoid Them (Erin Bromage, May 6, 2020)
Comprehensive COVID-19 reporting (by Seattle-area 17-year-old Avi Schiffman)
Infection Trajectory: See Which Countries are Flattening Their COVID-19 Curve (Visual Capitalist)
The 7 Best COVID-19 Resources We’ve Discovered So Far (Visual Capitalist)
Coronavirus Worldwide Graphs (Worldometers)
COVID-19 Global Visualizer (Carnegie Mellon University)
Rt Covid-19 Curves for U.S. States (June 6, 2020)
These are up-to-date values for Rt, a key measure of how fast the virus is growing. It’s the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person.
How to Talk About the Coronavirus (The Atlantic, March 31, 2020)
Four ways to help those around you be better informed about the pandemic.
Epidemic Calculator (GitHub)
U.S. Projected hospital resource use based on COVID-19 deaths, assuming continued social distancing until the end of May 2020 (IHME Group at the Washington Univ. St. Louis)
Daily Coronavirus Briefing (New York Times)
What Is Coronavirus? (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Coronavirus Myths and Facts (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic (Wikipedia)
We Need to Talk About Ventilation. (The Atlantic, July 30, 2020)
How is it that six months into a respiratory pandemic, we are still doing so little to mitigate airborne transmission?
Coronavirus: Disinfectant firm warns after Trump comments. (BBC News, April 24, 2020)
How to Wear a Face Mask Correctly: Common Mistakes to Avoid (NBC Boston, April 22, 2020)
Here’s What We Know about the Most Touted Drugs Tested for COVID-19 (Scientific American, April 16, 2020)
Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – Research and Statistics (Our World In Data)
Coronavirus Resource Hub (Consumer Reports)
Information on the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (Massachusetts Department of Public Health)
2020 coronavirus pandemic in Massachusetts (Wikipedia)
Information about the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Stanford CA Hospital)
Coronavirus is most contagious before and during the first week of symptoms. (Science News, March 13, 2020)
People stop making infectious virus once the body’s antibody response kicks in. All symptoms may not appear, and NO symptoms may appear until after most contagious period.
Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, MD: Safety tips for grocery and take-out shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic (14-min. video; YouTube, March 28, 2020)
Michael Osterholm on the Coronavirus pandemic (1.5-hour video; Joe Rogan Experience #1439, March 10, 2020)
Michael Osterholm is an internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology. He is Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, all at the University of Minnesota. Look for his book "Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Deadly Germs" for more info.
Doctors and nurses demonstrate breathing techniques proven to help with coronavirus symptoms. (Daily Kos, April 8, 2020)
Long-Haulers Are Redefining COVID-19. (The Atlantic, August 19, 2020)
Without understanding the lingering illness that some patients experience, we can’t understand the pandemic.
How Trump Gutted Obama’s Pandemic-Preparedness Systems (Vanity Fair, May 1, 2020)
Former officials: Trump’s reshuffling of positions and departments, focus on business solutions, downgrading of science, left the country dangerously unprepared for an unprecedented pandemic.
A Complete List of Trump’s Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus (New York Times, March 15, 2020)
He could have taken action. He didn’t. Instead, he has continued many of his old patterns of self-congratulation, blame-shifting and misinformation. Trump now seems to understand that coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon. But he also seems to view it mostly as a public-relations emergency for himself rather than a public-health emergency for the country.
Answers to Common Questions About Coronavirus and the Food You Eat (Consumer Reports, April 1, 2020)
Food safety experts address 12 top concerns.
'It will disappear': the disinformation Trump spread about the coronavirus – timeline (The Guardian, April 14, 2020)
Heather Cox Richardson: Today, Trump and his supporters doubled down on the idea that the coronavirus is a “hoax”. (Letters from an American, February 28, 2020)
Today, Trump and his supporters doubled down on the idea that the coronavirus is a “hoax,” as Trump said, perpetrated by Democrats eager to tank his presidency. That would explain the dramatic drop of the stock market this week as nothing but an emotional reaction to “fake news.” It would mean that the strong economy Trump has hyped as his major contribution to the country—he denies that his predecessor Barack Obama had anything to do with it, although economic numbers under Obama were as good or better than today’s—remains intact, so long as people will ignore those dastardly Democrats... the Democrats that Donald Trump, Jr. says are hoping the coronavirus “comes here and kills millions of people so that they can end Donald Trump’s streak of winning.”
This is one heck of a gamble, and it reveals the corner into which the administration’s reliance on a false narrative has painted it. Under Trump, the country is great again… so the virus can’t be a problem. The rising stock market has proved that the economy is brilliant and Trump gets all the credit for it… so the falling stock market must be fake, or else the fault of jealous Democrats.
But the virus isn’t playing Trump’s game. It is spreading. Today, after we learned there are more than 85,000 known cases in the world and more than 2,900 known deaths, the director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program warned “every government on the planet” to “wake up. Get ready. You have a duty to your citizens. You have a duty to the world to be ready.”
America’s uniquely bad Covid-19 epidemic, explained in 18 maps and charts (Vox, August 11, 2020)
It’s now clear the United States has failed to contain its Covid-19 epidemic, with case counts far ahead of other developed nations and more than 1,000 deaths reported a day for over two weeks and counting. Asked if America’s coronavirus outbreak is the worst in the world, White House adviser and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci admitted it was on August 5: “Yeah, it is. Quantitatively, if you look at it, it is. I mean, the numbers don’t lie.”
It didn’t have to be this way. In March and April, other developed countries had significant Covid-19 outbreaks, but they did a much better job than the US in containing the coronavirus and keeping it down after the virus arrived. So while some other developed nations have experienced upticks, they all pale in comparison to the massive surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths that the US has seen since May and June.
Here’s what you need to know.
Food and Coronavirus Disease 2019/COVID-19 (CDC, Aug. 22, 2020)
- The risk of getting sick with COVID-19 from eating or handling food (including frozen food and produce) and food packages is considered very low.
- Take everyday actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Continue following basic steps for food safety and eat nutritious foods to take care of your physical and mental health.
CDC reverses itself and says guidelines it posted on coronavirus airborne transmission were wrong. (5-min. video; Washington Post, September 21, 2020)
Despite expert recommendations, CDC removes statement, claiming website error. The agency had posted information Friday stating the virus can transmit over a distance beyond six feet, suggesting that indoor ventilation is key to protecting against a virus that has now killed nearly 200,000 Americans. Where the agency previously warned that the virus mostly spreads through large drops encountered at close range, on Friday, it had said “small particles, such as those in aerosols,” were a common vector.
The edited Web page has removed all references to airborne spread, except for a disclaimer that recommendations based on this mode of transmission are under review.
For months, scientists and public health experts have warned of mounting evidence that the coronavirus is airborne, transmitted through tiny droplets called aerosols that linger in the air much longer than the larger globs that come from coughing or sneezing.
Despair at CDC after Trump influence: 'I have never seen morale this low.' (The Hill, September 23, 2020)
The Coronavirus Unveiled (with stunning photos and links; New York Times, October 9, 2020)
The first pictures of the coronavirus, taken just seven months ago, resembled barely discernible smudges. But scientists have since captured the virus and its structures in intimate, atomic detail, offering crucial insights into how it functions.
Less than a millionth of an inch wide, the virus is studded with proteins called spikes that attach to cells in people’s airways, allowing the virus to infiltrate. But under an electron microscope, the proteins look more like tulips than spikes, consisting of long stems topped with what looks like a three-part flower. These spikes also swivel on a three-way hinge, which may increase their odds of encountering and attaching to proteins on human cells.
UN: New daily record as COVID-19 cases hit more than 350,000 (Associated Press, October 9, 2020)
In a press briefing on Friday, WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan acknowledged that even as COVID-19 continues to surge across the world, “there are no new answers.” He said that although the agency wants countries to avoid the punishing lockdowns that have devastated economies, governments must ensure the most vulnerable people are protected and numerous measures must be taken. “The majority of people in the world are still susceptible to this disease,” Ryan warned. He said countries should focus not just on restrictive measures, but also on bolstering their surveillance systems, testing, contact tracing and ensuring populations are engaged.
Globally, more than 36 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported, including more than 1 million deaths. Experts say the tally far underestimates the real number of cases and Ryan said on Monday that the WHO’s “best estimates” were that one in 10 people worldwide — or roughly 760 million people — may have been infected.
The White House blocked the C.D.C. from requiring masks on public transportation. (New York Times, October 9, 2020)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drafted a sweeping order last month requiring all passengers and employees to wear masks on all forms of public and commercial transportation in the United States, but it was blocked by the White House, according to two federal health officials. The order would have been the toughest federal mandate to date aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, which continues to infect more than 40,000 Americans a day. The officials said that it was drafted under the agency’s “quarantine powers” and that it had the support of the secretary of health and human services, Alex M. Azar II, but the White House Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, declined to even discuss it. The order would have required face coverings on airplanes, trains, buses and subways, and in transit hubs such as airports, train stations and bus depots.
A task force official said the decision to require masks should be left up to states and localities. The administration requires the task force to sign off on coronavirus-related policies.
Lungs (and COVID-19) (Quartz, October 14, 2020)
The thing about lungs—and most of our health for that matter—is that when they’re working well, we barely notice them. It’s only when they’re threatened by something like a global respiratory pandemic that we start to notice just how talented these organs actually are.
To shut down or not shut down? Officials implement new coronavirus restrictions as cases skyrocket, but face angry backlash. (Washington Post, November 13, 2020)
Governors and mayors are forced again to weigh coronavirus deaths against anger and economic devastation.
Covid: Think for Yourself, Dammit! (This Is True, November 16, 2020)
Terry: “I’m tired of the state telling me I have to wear a face diaper as a method of control. That is what is at stake here.”
Randy: "Wrong. What’s at stake here is millions of lives — with more than 1.3 million dead around the world so far. “The state” isn’t trying to control you, it's trying to control something that has evolved to kill you."
‘They’ve been following the science’: How the Covid-19 pandemic has been curtailed in the Cherokee Nation. (Stat, November 17, 2020)
While the United States flounders in its response to the coronavirus, another nation — one within our own borders — is faring much better. With a mask mandate in place since spring, free drive-through testing, hospitals well-stocked with PPE, and a small army of public health officers fully supported by their chief, the Cherokee Nation has been able to curtail its Covid-19 case and death rates even as those numbers surge in surrounding Oklahoma, where the White House coronavirus task force says spread is unyielding.
Why face masks belong at your Thanksgiving gathering – 7 things you need to know about wearing them (The Conversation, November 19, 2020)
Here are answers to some key questions about how and when to wear masks, and how to manage their use during the holidays.
Clinical Outcomes Of A COVID-19 Vaccine: Implementation Over Efficacy. (Health Affairs, November 19, 2020)
Using a mathematical simulation of vaccination, we find that factors related to implementation will contribute more to the success of vaccination programs than a vaccine’s efficacy as determined in clinical trials. The benefits of a vaccine will decline substantially in the event of manufacturing or deployment delays, significant vaccine hesitancy, or greater epidemic severity. Our findings demonstrate the urgent need for health officials to invest greater financial resources and attention to vaccine production and distribution programs, to redouble efforts to promote public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, and to encourage continued adherence to other mitigation approaches, even after a vaccine becomes available.
We're celebrating Thanksgiving amid a pandemic. Here's how we did it in 1918 – and what happened next. (USA Today, November 22, 2020)
On Thanksgiving more than a century ago, many Americans were living under quarantines, and officials warned people to stay home for the holiday.
No. 3 - AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine shows success: Here’s how it stacks up to others. (Ars Technica, November 23, 2020)
AstraZeneca used two equal dosages and measured 62% average effectiveness. Halving the first dose upped it to 90% average. Unlike its competitor vaccines, normal refrigeration is sufficent - and its proven production methods permit early - and probably less costly - distribution to more people.
What You Need to Know About Getting Tested for Coronavirus (New York Times, December 9, 2020)
Long lines, slow results and inconsistent advice have left many of us confused about when and how to get tested. We talked to the experts to answer your questions.
SARS-CoV-2’s spread to wild mink not yet a reason to panic. (Ars Technica, December 22. 2020)
A monitoring program picked up a single case and no indications of wider spread.
How Full Are Hospital I.C.U.s Near You? (New York Times, December 28, 2020
More Than 12 Million Shots Given: Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker (Bloomberg, January 2, 2021)
The U.S. has administered 4.28 million doses; Europe’s rollout begins.
Here’s where all the COVID-19 vaccine candidates currently stand. (Popular Science, January 4, 2021)
More than a dozen frontrunners have reached late-stage clinical trials.
Professor Dr. John Dennehy: What Does SARS-CoV-2 Evolution Mean for the Future of the Pandemic? (59-min. video; Queens College, January 12, 2021)
Dr. Dennehy’s laboratory researches virus evolution, ecology, population dynamics, and the emergence of viruses in new host populations. Currently, the laboratory’s main focus if two-fold: modeling the persistence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the built environment and monitoring SARS-CoV-2 genetic diversity in NYC wastewater.
[Excellent presentation, with good charts.]
Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine suggests strong immune response. (The Hill, January 13, 2021)
One of the next vaccine candidates could change the game, but is reportedly behind production goals.
Drug Prevents Coronavirus Infection in Nursing Homes, Maker Claims. (New York Times, January 21, 2021)
An unusual experiment to prevent nursing home staff members and residents from infection with the coronavirus has succeeded, the drug maker Eli Lilly announced on Thursday. A drug containing monoclonal antibodies — laboratory-grown virus-fighters — prevented symptomatic infections in residents who were exposed to the virus, even the frail older people who are most vulnerable, according to preliminary results of a study conducted in partnership with the National Institutes of Health. The researchers found an 80 percent reduction in infections among residents who got the drug, compared with those who got a placebo, and a 60 percent reduction among the staff, results that were highly statistically powerful, Eli Lilly said.
Obesity, Impaired Metabolic Health and COVID-19: The Interconnection of Global Pandemics. (SciTechDaily, January 24, 2021)
Obesity and cardiometabolic diseases do not only trigger a more severe course of COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 infection could promote the development of these conditions.


   
News Posts

Obesity, Impaired Metabolic Health and COVID-19: The Interconnection of Global Pandemics. (SciTechDaily, January 24, 2021)
Obesity and cardiometabolic diseases do not only trigger a more severe course of COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 infection could promote the development of these conditions.
Sabine Hossenfelder: Where do atoms come from? (9-min. video; BackReaction, January 23, 2021)
Harvard Scientists Reconstruct the Game-Changing Evolution From Fin-to-Limb in Early Tetrapods. (SciTechDaily, January 23, 2021)
It’s hard to overstate how much of a game-changer it was when vertebrates first rose up from the waters and moved onshore about 390 million years ago. That transition led to the rise of the dinosaurs and all the land animals that exist today. Scientists have been trying for more than a century to unravel exactly how this remarkable shift took place, and their understanding of the process is largely based on a few rare, intact fossils with anatomical gaps between them.
A new study shows how and when the first groups of land explorers became better walkers than swimmers. The analysis spans the fin-to-limb transition and reconstructs the evolution of terrestrial movement in early tetrapods. These are the four-limbed land vertebrates whose descendants include extinct and living amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.
The researchers focused on the humerus, the long bone in the upper arm that runs down from the shoulder and connects with the lower arm at the elbow, to get around the dilemma of gaps between well-preserved fossils. Functionally, the humerus is invaluable for movement because it hosts key muscles that absorb much of the stress from quadrupedal locomotion. Most importantly, the bone is found in all tetrapods and the fishes they evolved from and is pretty common throughout the fossil record. The bone represents a time capsule of sorts, with which to reconstruct the evolution of locomotion since it can be examined across the fin-to-limb transition, the researchers said.
In Aleksei Navalny Protests, Russia Faces Biggest Dissent in Years. (New York Times, January 23, 2021)
Demonstrations in support of the jailed opposition leader swept the nation, beginning in the Far East, where people braved subzero temperatures, and reaching the capital. Arrests climbed into the thousands.
Over 3,400 arrested at Russia protests demanding Alexey Navalny's release. (2-min. video; CBS News, January 23, 2021)
Russian police arrested more than 3,400 people Saturday in nationwide protests demanding the release of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, the Kremlin's most prominent foe, according to a group that counts political detentions. The protests in scores of cities in temperatures as low as minus-58 F highlighted how Navalny has built influence far beyond the political and cultural centers of Moscow and St. Petersburg. In Moscow, an estimated 15,000 demonstrators gathered in and around Pushkin Square in the city center, where clashes with police broke out and demonstrators were roughly dragged off by helmeted riot officers to police buses and detention trucks. Some were beaten with batons.
"The problem is Putin": Protesters throng Russia's streets to support Navalny. (The Guardian, January 23, 2021)
More than 2,500 are arrested at rallies across the country as cities see huge turnouts in support of opposition leader.
For more than a decade, the Kremlin has used every tool at its disposal to keep Russians off the streets, wielding fear and boredom to make protesting against Vladimir Putin seem pointless. And yet in defiant scenes on Saturday in cities across Russia, from St Petersburg to Vladivostok and even in Yakutsk, where protesters braved temperatures below -50C, tens of thousands of Russians sent a message to a Kremlin that has squeezed out all opposition in Russia: enough is enough.
As police fought to retake control of city squares, some protesters fought back, throwing snowballs and trading blows with officers in body armour. Many more chanted for Putin to leave, swapped jokes, filmed Instagram stories, and ran to stay one step ahead of the police, who chased them across the city.
The spark was the arrest of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader allegedly poisoned by the FSB. But many of the tens of thousands out in Moscow said that the problems went deeper, tied to Putin and his two decades of control over the country.
Protests Swell Across Russia Calling For The Release Of Kremlin Critic Alexei Navalny. (NPR, January 23, 2021)
Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in protest on Saturday to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, braving the threat of mass arrests in what was expected to be one of the largest demonstrations against the Kremlin in years. From the port city of Vladivostok in the east to the capital of Moscow seven time zones away in the west, protesters swept across the country in open defiance of warnings from Russian authorities that the demonstrations have been deemed illegal.
On Tuesday, Navalny's team released a scathing investigation accusing Putin of corruption and detailing the construction of a lavish palace on the Black Sea allegedly build for the Russian leader using a "slush fund." The investigation, titled "Putin's Palace. History of world's largest bribe," has already been viewed more than 70 million times since its release on YouTube.
[From Navalny's 2-hour YouTube bombshell:
It was here, in Dresden (East Germany, 1987) that Putin defined his main life principles:
1. Always say one thing and do another. Lying and hypocrisy are the most effective methods of work.
2. Corruption is the foundation of trust. Your main friends are those who have been stealing and cheating with you for many years.
3. And the most important thing: There is never too much money.
Hmm. Who else does that remind us of?]
Senate ends standoff, agrees to start Trump’s impeachment trial Feb. 9th. (Washington Post, January 22, 2021)
The impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump will begin Feb. 9 under a deal reached Friday by top Senate leaders — delaying by two weeks the high-stakes proceedings over whether Trump incited the violent Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The agreement was made by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) following a standoff over the timing of the trial, which could permanently bar Trump from holding public office.
Astronomers Discover First Cloudless, Jupiter-Like Planet – “Smoking Gun Evidence”. (SciTechDaily, January 22, 2021)
Astronomers at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian have detected the first Jupiter-like planet without clouds or haze in its observable atmosphere. This marks the second time astronomers have ever observed a cloud-free exoplanet.
“Something Is Happening to the Bees” – 25% of Known Bee Species Haven’t Appeared in Public Records Since the 1990s. (SciTechDaily, January 22, 2021)
“Figuring out which species are living where and how each population is doing using complex aggregated datasets can be very messy,” says Zattara. “We wanted to ask a simpler question: what species have been recorded, anywhere in the world, in a given period?” To find their answer, the researchers dove into the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), an international network of databases, which contains over three centuries’ worth of records from museums, universities, and private citizens, accounting for over 20,000 known bee species from around the world.
In addition to finding that a quarter of total bee species are no longer being recorded, the researchers observed that this decline is not evenly distributed among bee families. Records of halictid bees–the second most common family–have declined by 17% since the 1990s. Those for Melittidae–a much rarer family–have gone down by as much as 41%.
Biden Signs Orders to Expand Food Stamps and Raise Wages, but Says Economy Needs More Help. (New York Times, January 22, 2021)
The president called it an “economic imperative” to provide more aid for millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet as the virus exacts a bruising toll.
Thom Hartmann: America is dying: three steps to bring us back from the brink (Medium, January 21, 2021)
Other developed countries are doing all these things; we can, too
Trump hires impeachment lawyer, McConnell wants Senate trial in February for Capitol riot incitement charge. (CNBC News, January 21, 2021)
Former President Donald Trump hired South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers to defend him at his second impeachment trial, which the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, on Thursday proposed should begin in mid-February. The New York Times later Thursday noted that Trump’s other lawyers “had all bowed out” of representing him in what will be his second impeachment trial.
It is possible that Democrats could try to force the trial to begin as early as next week. McConnell said it is “absolutely imperative that we do not allow a half-baked process to short-circuit the due process that former President Trump deserves or damage the Senate or the presidency.”
McConnell on Tuesday had said on the Senate floor that Trump was to blame for inciting the assault on the Capitol. “The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said that day. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”
Jimmy Kimmel's "Goodbye, Donald Trump!" (2-min. video; Jimmy Kimmel Live, January 21, 2021)
Dancing national monuments celebrate the Trump dump.
Drug Prevents Coronavirus Infection in Nursing Homes, Maker Claims. (New York Times, January 21, 2021)
An unusual experiment to prevent nursing home staff members and residents from infection with the coronavirus has succeeded, the drug maker Eli Lilly announced on Thursday. A drug containing monoclonal antibodies — laboratory-grown virus-fighters — prevented symptomatic infections in residents who were exposed to the virus, even the frail older people who are most vulnerable, according to preliminary results of a study conducted in partnership with the National Institutes of Health. The researchers found an 80 percent reduction in infections among residents who got the drug, compared with those who got a placebo, and a 60 percent reduction among the staff, results that were highly statistically powerful, Eli Lilly said.
Tiny corner of US has been isolated from mainland for 10 months. (Accuweather, January 20, 2021)
[And is desperate enough to build a 22-mile ice road across Lake of the Woods.]
'Don't do it': McCarthy explicitly warns that attacking other members is putting them in jeopardy. (Daily Kos, January 20, 2021)
Congressional Republicans have kicked into high gear over the past week to minimize the fallout for the Republican Party caused by Donald Trump and the murderous mob he sicced on the lawmakers at the Capitol. On the one hand, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell finally directly blamed Trump for inciting the riot by feeding his cultists a steady diet of disinformation and baseless lies about the election. On the other is extraordinary leaked audio of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy explicitly warning members of his caucus not to target other congressional members by name because "it's putting people in jeopardy."
McConnell's obstruction of Biden's agenda has already begun. (Daily Kos, January 20, 2021)
The first half of this Inauguration Day has been devoted, at least rhetorically, to unity. But Sen. Mitch McConnell is still in charge of the Senate Republicans, and he's still Mitch McConnell. The chamber is evenly divided, which does one good thing: It makes Vice President Kamala Harris one of the most—if not the most—powerful VPs the nation has ever had. McConnell seems intent on making her work. In his discussions with new Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on power-sharing in the split chamber, McConnell is insisting that the agreement contain a commitment from Schumer to retain the filibuster.
That tells you everything you need to know about McConnell's intentions for helping President Biden, House Speaker Pelosi, and the Senate save the country. Staff for each leader had been operating on the assumption that the power-sharing agreement from 2001 would be the default for this time around. Then McConnell threw the filibuster curveball.
Biden’s 17 Executive Orders and Other Directives in Detail (New York Times, January 20, 2021)
The moves aim to strengthen protections for young immigrants, end construction of President Donald J. Trump’s border wall, end a travel ban and prioritize racial equity.
Heather Cox Richardson: “Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” (Letters From An American, January 20, 2021)
For the past four years we have lived under an administration that advanced policies based on bullying; a fantasy of a lost, white, Christian America; and disinformation. We have endured the gutting of our government as the president either left positions empty or replaced career officials with political operatives, corruption, the rise of white supremacists into positions of power, the destruction of our international standing, an unchecked pandemic that has led to more than 400,000 deaths from Covid-19, an economic crash, and unprecedented political polarization.
“And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it,” Gorman reminded us.
"Overjoyed": Hear from poet who stole the show at inauguration. (CNN News, January 20, 2021)
CNN's Anderson Cooper speaks with Amanda Gorman, the nation's first-ever youth poet laureate, after she delivered a poem at the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural Poem Is a Stunning Vision of Democracy. (New Yorker, January 20, 2021)
Among the firsts in Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” is the concept of democracy that it assumed. Democracy, according to the twenty-two-year-old poet, is an aspiration—a thing of the future. The word “democracy” first appears in the same verse in which Gorman refers to “a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it.” The insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th took place while Gorman was working on the poem, although the “force,” one may assume, is bigger than the insurrection—it is the Trump Presidency that made the insurrection possible, and the forces of white supremacy and inequality that enabled that Presidency itself—“it / Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy / And this effort very nearly succeeded” the poem continues. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed / it can never be permanently defeated.”
"The Hill We Climb"; Read Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem. (CNN, January 20, 2021)
It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it's the past we step into and how we repair it.
We've seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it,
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy,
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
it can never be permanently defeated.
Republican Garth Brooks sang at Biden's inauguration. The internet reacted with memes and history lessons. (Insider, January 20, 2021)
[After performing, why didn't he replace his face mask before hugging all those national leaders? And why haven't we seen that reported?]
The Inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice President of the United States of America. (3.5-hr. video; Biden Inaugural, January 20, 2021)
Proud Boys are ditching Trump hours after he left the White House for good, calling him a 'shill' and 'extraordinarily weak'. (Business Insider,  January 20, 2021)
Mitch McConnel says Trump provoked the attack on the U.S. Capitol building. (11-min. video; The Young Turks, January 19, 2021)
Attorney General William Barr calls Trump claims "bulls***", Trump freaks. (7-min. video; The Young Turks, January 19, 2021)
Paul Krugmann: Evidence Makes A Comeback. (New York Times, January 19, 2021)
"And I, for one, am thrilled that 23½ hours after this newsletter goes out we’ll have an administration that understands that."
Navalny, From Jail, Issues Report Describing an Opulent Putin ‘Palace’. (New York Times, January 19, 2021)
As part of a dramatic battle with the Russian president playing out before an online audience of millions, the opposition leader and his team detailed a lavish compound costing more than $1 billion.
Seventeen Ways America is Less Democratic than other Major Western Countries and How We Can Do Better. (Second Rate Democracy, January 19, 2021)
A web project of Douglas J. Amy, Professor Emeritus of Politics, Mount Holyoke College.
The United States is the country that democracy left behind. At its founding, the U.S. was on the cutting edge of democracy. Our Constitution rejected rule by kings and pioneered democratic innovations like civil liberties. But in the 200 years since, democratic institutions have continued to evolve – with improvements in legislatures, elections, the judiciary, party systems, and so on. Other Western nations, with more modern constitutions, have taken advantage of these institutional advances and made their democracies fairer, more representative, and more accountable to their citizens. We haven’t followed suit and we’ve become a second-rate democracy, with a government mired in gridlock, dominated by monied interests, and unresponsive to the public.
Rioter planned attack, wanted to trap lawmakers and 'turn on gas': Prosecutors. (ABC News, January 19, 2021)
Federal authorities are continuing to charge rioters who took part in the siege on Capitol Hill. These are the most recent charges:
The Justice Department has filed its first conspiracy charges from the Capitol riot against a Virginia man who they allege was an apparent leader of a group of militia members who were part of the mob that stormed the building. Thomas Edward Caldwell is identified in an FBI affidavit as a member of the Oath Keepers. An agent alleges that he helped organize a group of eight to 10 of his fellow members to storm the Capitol with the intention of disrupting the counting of the Electoral College vote. The group can be seen in video walking uniformly through a crowd of rioters trying to gain entrance to the Capitol. Those members included co-conspirators Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl, who were charged for their role in the riots earlier this week. In social media posts, both Crowl and Watkins referred to Caldwell as "Commander," according to the court documents. While inside the Capitol, Caldwell allegedly received Facebook messages telling him to "seal" in lawmakers in the tunnels under the Capitol and to "turn on gas." Other messages appeared to be trying to give him updates on the locations of lawmakers, the affidavit states. Other texts reveal the extensive planning and even potential attacks that he and other members of the Oath Keepers were mounting leading up to the riots.
[And many others...]
Self-styled militia members planned on storming the U.S. Capitol days in advance of Jan. 6 attack, court documents say. (Washington Post, January 19, 2021)
Self-styled militia members from Virginia, Ohio and other states made plans to storm the U.S. Capitol days in advance of the Jan. 6 attack, and then communicated in real time as they breached the building on opposite sides and talked about hunting for lawmakers, according to court documents filed Tuesday. While authorities have charged more than 100 individuals in the riot, details in the new allegations against three U.S. military veterans offer a disturbing look at what they allegedly said to one another before, during and after the attack — statements that indicate a degree of preparation and determination to rush deep into the halls and tunnels of Congress to make “citizens’ arrests” of elected officials.
“This is the first step toward identifying and understanding that there was some type of concerted conspiracy here,” said one senior official with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which is leading the investigation. “Whether everyone else just happened to be there and got caught up in the moment, or if this is just the tip of the iceberg, how much this will grow at this point I can’t tell you, but we are continuing to investigate aggressively,” according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a pending investigation.
Trump Has Discussed Starting a New "Patriot" Political Party. (Wall Street Journal, January 19, 2021)
It’s unclear how serious Mr. Trump is about starting a new party, which would require a significant investment of time and resources. The president has a large base of supporters, some of whom were not deeply involved in Republican politics prior to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. Third parties have typically failed to draw enough support to play a major role in national elections. Any effort to start a new party would likely face intense opposition from Republican party officials, who would chafe at the thought of Mr. Trump peeling off support from GOP candidates.
Departing Trump administration issues racist school curriculum report on MLK day. (CNN, January 18, 2021)
A commission stood up by President Donald Trump as a rebuttal to schools applying a more accurate history curriculum around slavery in the US issued its inflammatory "1776 Report" on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Trump announced that he was establishing the commission last fall, following a slew of Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the country. He blamed the school curriculum for violence that resulted from some of the protests, saying that "the left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools." The commission is an apparent counter to The New York Times' "1619" Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning project aimed at teaching American students about slavery. Trump, speaking last fall, called the project "toxic propaganda."
[As one of his first-day actions, President Biden took down this hypocritical "preserve the imbalance" report]
Trump promoted N.M. official’s comment that "the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat." Now the man is arrested in the Capitol riot. (Washington Post, January 18, 2021)
President Trump’s culpability for the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol two weeks ago will be judged by U.S. senators in a looming impeachment trial — and possibly by the court system after he leaves the presidency. Now a man with a personal connection to Trump — and whose violent rhetoric Trump promoted to the world — has been arrested in the riot.
Otero County, N.M., Commissioner Couy Griffin was arrested Sunday for illegally entering the Capitol on Jan. 6. Griffin, the head of a group called Cowboys for Trump, claims he got caught up with the crowd and didn’t actually enter the building, but the affidavit says video on his personal Facebook page showed him in restricted areas.
Griffin also pledged to return to Washington with guns for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday, and he alluded to the prospect of violence and another incursion into the offices of lawmakers. According to the affidavit, he said in a video posted after the Jan. 6 riot: "    … We could have a 2nd Amendment rally on those same steps that we had that rally yesterday. You know, and if we do, then it’s gonna be a sad day, because there’s gonna be blood running out of that building. But at the end of the day, you mark my word, we will plant our flag on the desk of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Donald J. Trump if it boils down to it."
FBI: Texas man threatened to shoot family if they reported him going in U.S. Capitol. (Houston Chronicle, January 18, 2021)
A Wylie man arrested over the weekend for going inside of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 told his family he went there "to protect the country" and threatened to shoot his children if they turned him in, authorities say. Guy Reffitt took his gun with him when they "stormed the Capitol" and recorded some of the events on his Go Pro camera that he was wearing on his helmet, according to a federal criminal complaint.
Reffitt was arrested Saturday at his Wylie home and faces federal charges of obstruction of justice and knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority. Wylie is about 55 miles northeast of Fort Worth. The Wylie man, who is a member of "Texas Freedom Force," a militia extremist group, remained in federal custody on Monday. FBI agents tracked down Reffitt through a news video, showing a man outside the U.S. Capitol building using a water bottle to flush out his eyes after apparently being pepper-sprayed.
Biden has a congressional shortcut to cancel Trump’s regulatory rollbacks, but it comes with risks. (The Conversation, January 18, 2021)
The Trump administration dedicated itself to deregulation with unprecedented fervor. It rolled back scores of regulations across government agencies, including more than 80 environmental rules.
The Biden administration can reverse some of those actions quickly – for instance, as president, Joe Biden can undo Donald Trump’s executive orders with a stroke of the pen. He plans to restore U.S. involvement in the Paris climate agreement that way on his first day in office.
Undoing most regulatory rollbacks, however, will require a review process that can take years, often followed by further delays during litigation.
There is an alternative, but it comes with risks. Biden could take a leaf from the Republicans’ 2017 playbook, when congressional Republicans used a shortcut based on an obscure federal law called the Congressional Review Act to wipe out several Obama administration regulations.
Breakthrough Allows Inexpensive Electric Vehicle Battery to Charge in Just 10 Minutes. (Sci Tech Daily, January 18, 2021)
Range anxiety, the fear of running out of power before being able to recharge an electric vehicle, may be a thing of the past, according to a team of Penn State engineers who are looking at lithium iron phosphate batteries that have a range of 250 miles with the ability to charge in 10 minutes.
NEW: Poison squad stalked Alexei Navalny on 40 flights, says Bellingcat investigator. (The Guardian, January 17, 2021)
As Russian opposition leader returns to Moscow, flight records show how Kremlin agents have been following him for years
America's soaring national debt is a looming disaster. (Business Insider, January 17, 2021)
The problem in the United States today is that our use of debt does not satisfy the conditions for "good" debt.
A Single Gene “Invented” Hemoglobin Several Times. (Sci Tech Daily, January 17, 2021)
Thanks to the marine worm Platynereis dumerilii, an animal whose genes have evolved very slowly, scientists have shown that while hemoglobin appeared independently in several species, it actually descends from a single gene transmitted to all by their last common ancestor.
Astronomers Discover Earliest Supermassive Black Hole and Quasar in the Universe – 1000x More Luminous Than the Milky Way. (Sci Tech Daily, January 17, 2021)
The most distant quasar known has been discovered. The quasar, observed just 670 million years after the Big Bang, is 1000 times more luminous than the Milky Way. It is powered by the earliest known supermassive black hole, which weighs in at more than 1.6 billion times the mass of the Sun. Seen more than 13 billion years ago, this fully formed distant quasar is also the earliest yet discovered, providing astronomers with insight into the formation of massive galaxies in the early Universe.
Sabine Hossenfelder: Was the universe made for us? (9-min. video; BackReaction, January 16, 2021)
Today I want to talk about the claim that our universe is especially made for humans, or fine-tuned for life. According to this idea, it’s extremely unlikely our universe would just happen to be the way it is by chance, and the fact that we nevertheless exist requires explanation. This argument is popular among some religious people who use it to claim that our universe needs a creator, and the same argument is used by physicists to pass off unscientific ideas, like the multiverse or naturalness, as science. In this video, I will explain what’s wrong with this argument, and why the observation that the universe is this way and not some other way, is evidence neither for nor against god or the multiverse.
Mary Koch: The Vaccine (Every New Season, January 16, 2021)
There are folks with “vaccine hesitancy.” It’s a national phenomenon, especially among many front-line health care workers whose responses range from “maybe later” to downright “no.” A hospital in New York reported that only three of nineteen full-time staff members in the respiratory therapy department agreed to get vaccinated. These are the folks who are at great personal risk as they intubate critically ill coronavirus patients.
My own Patrick Henry stance is that I’ll fight for other people’s right not to be injected, but I didn’t hesitate. I rolled up my sleeve for the same reason I get a flu shot every winter, for the same reason I wear a mask when around others. It’s really not about me. It’s about living in a community. The healthier each one of us is, the healthier we all are.
DuckDuckGo surpasses 100 million daily search queries for the first time. (ZDNet, January 16, 2021)
DuckDuckGo reaches historic milestone in a week when both Signal and Telegram saw a huge influx of new users.
Misinformation dropped dramatically the week after Twitter banned Trump and some allies. (Washington Post, January 16, 2021)
Zignal Labs charts 73 percent decline on Twitter and beyond following historic action against the president.
Selfie-Snapping Rioters Leave FBI a Trail of Over 140,000 Images. (Bloomberg, January 16, 2021)
Citizens and police sift online trove to find Capitol mob. Facial recognition software used by at least one police department. The FBI has quickly identified more than 275 suspects -- the number is expected to grow quickly -- related to last week’s Capitol riot. More than 98 have been arrested, often with the aid of video taken or social media posted by the participants themselves. And investigators, academics and citizen sleuths are still combing though broadcast footage and websites such as Twitter Inc., YouTube and even archives of the now-defunct Parler platform favored by right-wing activists.
“Social media companies let this fester for years, but you’re seeing a sea change,” said a global head of managed security services. “They’re not going to stonewall any longer.” Like social media companies, telecoms will be essential to investigations, and be obligated to maintain and turnover subscriber call logs and location data once subpoenaed or presented with a warrant. Carriers and online companies say they cooperate with law enforcement.
Historians having to tape together records that Trump tore up. (The Guardian, January 16, 2021)
Implications for public record and legal proceedings after administration seized or destroyed papers, notes and other information.
The public will not see Donald Trump’s White House records for years, but there is growing concern the collection will never be complete – leaving a hole in the history of one of America’s most tumultuous presidencies. Trump has been cavalier about the law requiring that records be preserved. He has a habit of ripping up documents before tossing them out, forcing White House workers to spend hours taping them back together.
Bundy warns he will 'walk towards guns' if Biden tries to collect 28 years of unpaid grazing fees. (Daily Kos, January 16, 2021)
Remember Cliven Bundy, the stubborn Nevada rancher whose decades-long refusal to pay grazing fees for cattle he runs on federal land led to a 2014 armed stand-off at his family ranch and in 2016, another armed stand-off led by his son Ammon Bundy in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge? Bundy wound up in pre-trial detention for 18 months over the 2014 stand-off, but because of prosecutorial misconduct, he was released and his case adjudged a mistrial. New charges weren’t filed. He and his large family continue to run cattle on federal land without paying the modest grazing fees. By 2014, 21 years after he began refusing to pay for this use of public land, the back fees had accumulated to more than $1 million. Currently, 24,000 permit holders are charged $1.35 per animal per month for grazing—a very good deal. But not as good as Bundy’s steal.
Now the 74-year-old rancher has advice for President-elect Joe Biden’s administration: It better not come trying to collect those unpaid fees, because he and his militant supporters are willing to "walk towards guns" again if that happens.
What motivates the motivated reasoning of pro-Trump conspiracists? (Ars Technica, January 16, 2021)
New study suggests a desire to see society focus on men helps drive support.
Motivated reasoning is the idea that our mental processes often cause us to filter the evidence we accept based on whether it's consistent with what we want to believe. During these past few weeks, it has been on display in the United States on a truly grand scale. People are accepting context-free videos shared on social media over investigations performed by election officials. They're rejecting obvious evidence of President Donald Trump's historic unpopularity while buying in to evidence-free conspiracies involving deceased Latin American dictators.
If the evidence for motivated reasoning is obvious, however, it's a lot harder to figure out what's providing the motivation. It's not simply Republican identity, given that Trump adopted many policies that went against previous Republican orthodoxy. The frequent appearance of Confederate flags confirms some racism is involved, but that doesn't seem to explain it all. There's a long enough list of potential motivations to raise doubts as to whether a single one could possibly suffice.
A recent paper in PNAS, however, provides a single explanation that incorporates a lot of the potential motivations. Called "hegemonic masculinity," it involves a world view that places males from the dominant cultural group as the focus of societal power. And survey data seems to back up the idea.
A Shocking List of 30+ Elected Officials at Trump's Rally, Capitol Insurrection; It Keeps Growing. (Daily Kos, January 16, 2021)
There is a new class of fringe radical right-wing trolls entering Congress this year, including Reps. Madison Cawthorn, crime enthusiast Lauren Boebert, QAnon fanatic Marjorie Taylor Greene. They join resident right-wing conspiracy degenerates like Reps. Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, and Mo Brooks, among others.
The latter three coordinated with the leaders of the coup attempt, encouraging them and recording rally hype videos for their followers. Boebert seems to have played an active role on the day of the coup attempt, which is a whole new level of treason. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a moderate Democrat from New Jersey and a Navy veteran, suggested earlier this week that she saw Republicans giving rioters tours of the Capitol the day before the insurrection took place. Capitol Police confirm that there is an active investigation into the accusation, while Boebert seemed to accidentally confirm it on Twitter.
That QAnon and these far-right conspiracy lunatics have infiltrated the national government is terrifying, but what’s even scarier is the fact that so many more of them have wormed their way into state and local governments.
Off-duty police were part of the Capitol mob. Now police are turning in their own. (Washington Post, January 16, 2021)
During the chaos at the Capitol, overwhelmed police officers confronted and combated a frenzied sea of rioters who transformed the seat of democracy into a battlefield. Now police chiefs across the country are confronting the uncomfortable reality that members in their own ranks were among the mob that faced off against other law enforcement officers. At least 13 off-duty law enforcement officials are suspected of taking part in the riot, a tally that could grow as investigators continue to pore over footage and records to identify participants. Police leaders are turning in their own to the FBI and taking the striking step of reminding officers in their departments that criminal misconduct could push them off the force and behind bars.
“We are making clear that they have First Amendment rights like all Americans,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who on Thursday accepted the resignation of an 18-year veteran in his department due to his involvement in the riot, which followed a rally at which President Trump urged his supporters to not accept his defeat. “However, engaging in activity that crosses the line into criminal conduct will not be tolerated.”
How the rioters who stormed the Capitol came dangerously close to Pence. (Washington Post, January 15, 2021)
According to the FBI, one man who was charged this week with trespassing and disorderly conduct after making his way into the Senate chamber said in a YouTube video: “Once we found out Pence turned on us and that they had stolen the election, like, officially, the crowd went crazy. I mean, it became a mob.” At one point, a group of rioters began chanting, “Hang Mike Pence!” as they streamed into the main door on the east side of the Capitol.
The violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 came perilously close to Vice President Pence, who was not evacuated from the Senate chamber for about 14 minutes after the Capitol Police reported an initial attempted breach of the complex — enough time for the marauders to rush inside the building and approach his location, according to law enforcement officials and video footage from that day.
Twice the vice president’s agents told Pence that they recommended he and his immediate entourage evacuate the Capitol, according to two people briefed on the episode. Pence declined the recommendation both times, saying he did not want to be driven out of his own office and the Capitol by an unruly mob. The third time, the Secret Service didn’t give Pence a choice. Detail agents told Pence they were all going — that instant. Secret Service officers spirited Pence to a room off the Senate floor withhis wife, Karen Pence, his daughter, Charlotte Pence Bond, and his brother, Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), who had come to the Senate and was watching its debate over Arizona’s electoral vote with his sister-in-law and niece.
About one minute after Pence was hustled out of the chamber, a group charged up the stairs to a second-floor landing. , chasing Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman who drew them away from the Senate. They arriving on the landing at 2:14 p.m., video footage shows — mere seconds after the vice president had been whisked inside the office.
It would take several hours before Capitol Police — aided by hundreds of D.C. police officers, FBI SWAT team members, Secret Service officers and National Guard soldiers — ejected the rioters from the grounds and secured the building. As lawmakers debated where and how they should reconvene to continue the electoral vote count disrupted by the violent mob, Pence pushed to continue the session where it had begun — in the Capitol.
Once the Capitol Police gave the all-clear, Pence left his secure location and returned to the Senate chamber after 8 p.m. Before Congress resumed its work, the vice president addressed the day’s violence in an unusual speech as president of the Senate. “Today was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol,” Pence said, adding: “We will always be grateful to the men and women who stayed at their posts to defend this historic place. To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins. And this is still the People’s House.”
“Where They Countin’ the Votes?!”: New Video Details Tense Moments as Capitol Mob Sought Out Lawmakers. (3-min. video; ProPublica, January 15, 2021)
More than 10 million people have seen the video shot by HuffPost reporter Igor Bobic showing a Black Capitol Police officer leading pro-Trump rioters away from where senators were holed up in the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Now, ProPublica has uncovered new footage — amid a trove of content archived from the now-shuttered social platform Parler — that reveals the raw moments before Officer Eugene Goodman’s actions. The clip, recorded minutes after crowds breached a barrier outside, allows the public to see and hear new details from a turbulent day that ultimately led to President Donald Trump’s second impeachment.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a bill to award Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal for luring the mob away from lawmakers. Goodman is a 40-year-old U.S. Army veteran and was deployed with the 101st Airborne Division to Iraq for a year.
Two rioters claim Capitol officer told them, ‘It’s your house now,’ FBI says. (Washington Post, January 15, 2021)
As rioters overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, an officer guarding the building shook hands with two people in the mob and admitted defeat, according to the account the men provided FBI agents. Robert L. Bauer and Edward Hemenway told an FBI agent that after they rushed into the building with the crowd, one Capitol Police officer shook their hands, gave one a partial hug and told them both that “it’s your house now.”
“Sorry,” Hemenway recalled telling the officer.
“It’s your house now, man,” he said the officer replied.
Bauer told the FBI he “believed that the policeman was acting out of fear,” according to an affidavit filed Thursday in federal court in the District.
The chief of the Capitol Police and House and Senate sergeants at arms have all resigned in the wake of the attack that left a Capitol Police officer and four rioters dead. It took nearly four hours to secure the building from rioters seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Biden taps Eric Lander and Maria Zuber for senior science posts. (MIT News, January 15, 2021)
Biden intends to elevate the Presidential Science Advisor, for the first time in history, to be a member of his Cabinet.
Bill Gates is now America's biggest private farmland owner, says new report. (The Hill, January 15, 2021)
The Microsoft tech billionaire and his wife own 242,000 acres of farmland across the U.S.
NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas. (Politico, January 15, 2021)
The announcement came months after New York’s attorney general sued the organization over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for lavish personal trips, no-show contracts for associates and other questionable expenditures. The coronavirus pandemic has also upended the NRA, which last year laid off dozens of employees. The group canceled its national convention and scuttled fundraising. The NRA's bankruptcy filing listed between $100 million and $500 million in assets and between $100 million and $500 million in liabilities. Still, the NRA claimed in announcing the move that the organization was “in its strongest financial condition in years.”
Shortly after the announcement, New York Attorney General Letitia James said she would not allow the NRA to “evade accountability” or oversight. Her office's lawsuit last year highlighted misspending and self-dealing claims that have roiled the NRA and LaPierre in recent years— from hair and makeup for his wife to a $17 million post-employment contract for himself. “The NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt," James said.
Hackers alter stolen regulatory data to sow mistrust in COVID-19 vaccine. (Ars Technica, January 15, 2021)
Post titled “Astonishing fraud! Evil Pfffizer! Fake vaccines!” found on the dark Web.
Federal COVID-19 vaccine reserve is now empty, sparking angry response. (The Hill, January 15, 2021)
The Trump administration had previously been stockpiling half of available COVID-19 vaccine doses to ensure those who received the first jab would have access to the required second dose.
Parler Tricks (Mozilla News Byte, January 15, 2021)
Parler touted itself as the social network that offered its users unbridled free speech “without fear of being ‘deplatformed’ for your views.” But the site’s lax approach to content moderation backfired last week. Apple and Google suspended Parler from their app stores based on concerns about its limited content moderation. Faster than you can say, “just use the website,” Amazon removed Parler’s site from its AWS web servers. Parler says the tech companies’ response was anti-competitive in nature, and outlined this claim in its lawsuit against Amazon.
Texas realtor who flew on private jet to the Capitol arrested after filming herself breaking in. (Daily Kos, January 15, 2021)
A real estate broker from Frisco, Texas, has been charged in the Capitol building insurrection that took place in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6. Jenna Ryan documented her crimes on social media and is being charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority” and “disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.” The complaint includes Facebook posts from Ryan’s account detailing her private jet flight, with images, from Denton, Texas, to Washington to participate in a crime against our democracy.
Ryan made headlines with her photos and video from the Capitol siege, including one strange image of her in front of one of the many broken Capitol building windows that showed her smiling and putting up the victory sign (Lord knows it wasn’t the peace sign), and writing this cryptic soliloquy: “Window at The capital [sic]. And if the news doesn’t stop lying about us we’re going to come after their studios next...” Ummm. Got that?
FCC fines white-supremacist robocaller $10 million for faking caller ID. (Ars Technica, January 15, 2021)
The Federal Communications Commission finalized the fine against Scott Rhodes of Idaho yesterday, nearly one year after the FCC first proposed the penalty. "This individual made thousands of spoofed robocalls targeting specific communities with harmful pre-recorded messages," the FCC said in an announcement. "The robocalls included xenophobic fearmongering (including to a victim's family), racist attacks on political candidates, an apparent attempt to influence the jury in a domestic terrorism case, and threatening language toward a local journalist. The caller used an online calling platform to intentionally manipulate caller ID information so that the calls he was making appeared to come from local numbers—a technique called 'neighbor spoofing.'"
Rhodes in November 2018 "launched a campaign targeting Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams," with 583 robocalls that "purported to be from Oprah Winfrey, who was in Georgia campaigning with Ms. Abrams," the FCC said in the forfeiture order. The FCC order pointed to a CNN article from the time, which said, "The group behind the robocall is The Road to Power, a white supremacist and anti-Semitic video podcast hosted by Scott Rhodes of Idaho." The robocall contained "racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric," CNN wrote.
Another Rhodes campaign targeted Andrew Gillum, who was running for governor in Florida. "Well hello there. I is the negro Andrew Gillum, and I be asking you to make me governor of this here state of Florida," the robocalls said, "with a man speaking in a caricature of a Black dialect," CNN wrote at the time.
As to Rhodes' claim that his actions are protected as "free speech", because his robocaller's fake caller ID numbers were allegedly chosen as neo-Nazi symbols, "The fact that particular numbers may be intended to convey a political message does not afford a caller the right to use the numbers in violation of the Truth in Caller ID Act. The Truth in Caller ID Act bars the knowing transmission of inaccurate or misleading caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value."
The FCC has a poor track record collecting fines against robocallers, partly because proposed fines often don't lead to forfeiture orders. In Rhodes' case, yesterday's forfeiture order requires him to pay the fine within 30 days. If he doesn't, the FCC said it "will refer the matter to the US Department of Justice for further action." Issuing the forfeiture order was one of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's final acts before he leaves the commission next week. "With today's fine, we once again make clear our commitment to aggressively go after those who are unlawfully bombarding the American people with spoofed robocalls," Pai said yesterday.
FDA blindsided as Trump Admin cripples agency on its way out. (Ars Technica, January 15, 2021)
It's “a full-frontal assault on public health," one official said.
Last week, HHS said it had finalized a rule that would cause all FDA regulations to expire after 10 years unless they are reviewed. Critics of the rule, called Securing Updated and Necessary Statutory Evaluations Timely or “SUNSET,” noted that the FDA already has mechanisms to sunset outdated regulations, making automatic expiration dates unnecessary. But in a statement announcing the rule, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said that “finalizing our SUNSET rule will deliver for the American people better, smarter, less burdensome regulations in the years to come.”
Next, the HHS moved to permanently waive FDA’s review requirements of medical devices before they hit the market. Seven types of medical gloves have already been permanently exempted, and the HHS has proposed exempting 84 other medical devices, including ventilators, fetal heart monitors, infusion pumps, pediatric facemasks, and medical imaging equipment.
The HHS also moved to force the FDA to publish on its website the time it takes to review new drug applications, claiming that the agency’s current reviews are often too slow.
In yet another strike, Politico reported Thursday that the Trump Administration is working to ram through term limits on top career scientists at the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other health agencies. The regulation would mandate job reviews every five years, in which scientists would either be renewed or reassigned. “It’s been a step-by-step escalation in retaliation by HHS against career scientists throughout the pandemic,” a current senior administration official told Politico, blaming HHS Secretary Azar for the flurry of attacks. “It’s a clear abuse of power by Azar.”
Donald Trump Built a National Debt So Big (Even Before the Pandemic) That It’ll Weigh Down the Economy for Years. (ProPublica, January 14, 2021)
One of President Donald Trump’s lesser known but profoundly damaging legacies will be the explosive rise in the national debt that occurred on his watch. The financial burden that he’s inflicted on our government will wreak havoc for decades, saddling our kids and grandkids with debt. The “King of Debt” promised to reduce the national debt — then his tax cuts made it surge. Add in the pandemic, and he oversaw the third-biggest deficit increase of any president.
The national debt has risen by almost $7.8 trillion during Trump’s time in office. That’s nearly twice as much as what Americans owe on student loans, car loans, credit cards and every other type of debt other than mortgages, combined, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It amounts to about $23,500 in new federal debt for every person in the country.
Trump seeks to freeze $27.4 billion of programs in final week of presidency. (8-min. video; The Hill, January 14, 2021)
Rex Tillerson is speaking out, and ooh boy, the stories he’s telling about Donald Trump. (Daily Kos, January 14, 2021)
Thousands of troops in Washington for inauguration. (9-min. video; CBC/Canada, January 14, 2021)
“No One Took Us Seriously”: Black Cops Warned About Racist Capitol Police Officers for Years. (ProPublica, January 14, 2021)
Allegations of racism against the Capitol Police are nothing new: Over 250 Black cops have sued the department since 2001. Some of those former officers now say it’s no surprise white nationalists were able to storm the building. The 2001 case, which started with more than 250 plaintiffs, remains pending. As recently as 2016, a Black female officer filed a racial discrimination complaint against the department.
In her 25 years with the Capitol Police, Blackmon-Malloy spent decades trying to raise the alarm about what she saw as endemic racism within the force, even organizing demonstrations where Black officers would return to the Capitol off-duty, protesting outside the building they usually protect. “Nothing ever really was resolved. Congress turned a blind eye to racism on the Hill,” Blackmon-Malloy, who retired as a lieutenant in 2007, told ProPublica. She is now vice president of the U.S. Capitol Black Police Association, which held 16 demonstrations protesting alleged discrimination between 2013 and 2018. “We got Jan. 6 because no one took us seriously.”
“The Capitol Police is terrible and pathetic when it comes to threat assessment,” Chaffetz told ProPublica in an interview. “They have a couple people dedicated to it, but they’re overwhelmed. Which drives me nuts. ... It’s not been a priority for leadership, on both sides of the aisle.” He said he is not aware of any serious changes to the force’s intelligence gathering following the debacle.
“For weeks, these people had been talking about coming to the Capitol to do as much harm as they can,” Norton said. “Everyone knew it. Except the Capitol Police.” Reports show the force had no contingency plan to deal with an escalation of violence and mayhem at last week’s rally, even though the FBI and the New York Police Department had warned them it could happen.
Judge frees North Texan who faces charges in the Capitol riot, despite warnings from the FBI. (Dallas News, January 14, 2021)
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cureton ordered Brock released on restrictive conditions including house arrest. The North Texas man is charged with one count of entering or remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. The siege of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6 left five people dead. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer said more serious federal charges against Brock are expected.
In ruling not to detain the defendant, Cureton cited his “long and distinguished military career.”
Earlier in the hearing, John Moore, a Dallas FBI agent specializing in domestic terrorism, testified that Brock had become radicalized in recent months over unsubstantiated claims of a stolen election. The agent also said Brock had been fired from a job in 2018 for making threatening and bigoted remarks. Moore said he had spoken to some of Brock’s Air Force Academy classmates who said his “rhetoric started to get pretty hostile” after the November election. Brock, they said, had “made reference to a civil war.” Some blocked him on social media because of his vague threats of violence, the agent said.
Capitol rioters included highly trained ex-military and cops. (Associated Press, January 14, 2021)
“ISIS and al-Qaida would drool over having someone with the training and experience of a U.S. military officer,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent and fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “These people have training and capabilities that far exceed what any foreign terrorist group can do. Foreign terrorist groups don’t have any members who have badges.”
Among the most prominent to emerge is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and decorated combat veteran from Texas who was arrested after he was photographed wearing a helmet and body armor on the floor of the Senate, holding a pair of zip-tie handcuffs.
NEW: 'HOOYAH!' Deadly attack on Capitol has retired Navy warfare operator all but jumping for joy. (Daily Kos, January 13, 2021)
[Interesting Comments thread, as well.]
Dostoevsky warned of the strain of nihilism that infects Donald Trump and his movement. (The Conversation, January 13, 2021)
Heather Cox Richardson: Republicans are in the same bind they’ve been in for years. (Letters From An American, January 13, 2021)
At 4:22 this afternoon, the House of Representatives passed the number of votes necessary to impeach Trump. In the end, 232 Representatives—222 Democrats and 10 Republicans—agreed that the president had incited an insurrection and must be removed from office. But 197 Republicans disagreed.
In the week since the attack, emerging information indicates the insurgency was planned, not spontaneous, and that lawmakers might be involved. Democrats have stood up to this attack on our democracy, but Republicans are in the same bind they’ve been in for years: how can they both keep Trump’s voters and reject Trump himself? Only by ignoring the Constitutional oath and the well-being of the nation.
This Impeachment Is Different. (The Atlantic, January 13, 2021)
In 2019, Democrats voted to make a statement. Maybe the second time’s the charm.
This afternoon, Donald Trump, the third president in American history to be impeached, became the first to be impeached twice. The House of Representatives voted 232–197 to impeach Trump for inciting the attempted coup on January 6 and for trying to overturn Joe Biden’s election as president. The matter now goes to the Senate, where a trial is unlikely before Biden’s January 20 inauguration.
Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine suggests strong immune response. (The Hill, January 13, 2021)
One of the next vaccine candidates could change the game, but is reportedly behind production goals.
Natick "Boil Water" Alert (Town of Natick, January 13, 2021)
The Town received notice this afternoon of the presence of E. coli bacteria within drinking water samples collected yesterday, January 12th. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection regulations require the Town to issue a ‘boil water order’ effective immediately.
[And here are the CDC guidelines. On afternoon of Jan. 15th, Natick gave all-clear; it was a lab-analysis error.]
"Too little, too late": Extremism experts criticize payment companies. (NBC News, January 13, 2021)
After violent Trump supporters stormed the Capitol last week, several mainstream payment companies pledged to sever ties with groups or individuals promoting hate and violence. Stripe, PayPal and Square said that they had stopped providing services to individuals and organizations connected to the riot as part of a sweeping enforcement of policies against inciting violence.
But extremism experts say it’s too little, too late. The flurry of activity and public pledges follows years of efforts by extremism and brand safety experts to get payment companies to better police their platforms to ensure they don’t let hate groups receive direct donations or provide them payment tools for selling merchandise.
Extremists flocking to encrypted apps could restart debate over law enforcement access. (Washington Post, January 13, 2021)
Far-right chat rooms in Telegram have gained thousands of members in the days since the assault on the Capitol, particularly since Parler was suspended, where some extremists are sharing instructions for making and hiding guns and bombs to use against government officials on Inauguration Day. Other rallies are being planned on the platform and Signal, another encrypted app that's hard for government officials to monitor. And the FBI is scrambling to identify those involved in the Jan. 6 violence – a task that will surely be harder if they move their open plotting to encrypted chats.
The migration could revive the encryption debate in Washington. The chances for this issue to resurface are higher if violence continues until and past President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration – and exponentially so if law enforcement deems the encrypted apps a blind spot.
Locals Who Attended Pro-Trump Protest Return To MA As Pariahs. (Natick Patch, January 13, 2021)
Town officials, business owners and others have returned home to heavy criticism, calls for resignation and boycotts.
Parler is offline, but violent posts scraped by hackers will haunt users. (Washington Post, January 12, 2021)
Parler’s data was easily scraped from its site, a researcher said, as it fell off the Internet this week.
Rioters who stormed the Capitol last week posted some of their plans on Parler, a social media network that prides itself on free speech. “Better advice … go armed and ready to shoot,” one user posted on the site on Jan. 6, according to screenshots shared on Twitter.
Over the weekend, Parler was removed from the Apple and Google app stores. On Monday, Parler disappeared from the Internet entirely as Amazon’s cloud provider dropped it. All the tech giants cited the site’s incitements to violence and lack of content moderation.
Parler quickly became a breeding ground for conspiracy theories about the election and calls for violence in D.C. And one by one, technical services in the days following the riot dropped their support, culminating with Amazon’s decision. As its fate became clear, a group of hackers worked to archive the site so no posts — potentially incriminating or not — would be lost. Users, who flocked to the site on the promise of free speech and expression without censorship, were dealt a parting blow from a researcher who said she is in the process of archiving nearly all public posts on Parler and will make them available to others online.
After US Capitol assault, a different cybersecurity threat emerges. (Engadget, January 12, 2021)
In which we acknowledge the big cyber-elephant in the room.
We all saw the images: threatening notes left on computers, the House Speaker’s computer screen unlocked with email open, MAGA terrorists looting — and taking electronic items yet to be identified. Reports, with probably more to come, of laptops stolen from the offices of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senator Jeff Merkley. Now there are as-yet unconfirmed reports that several classified laptops were stolen during the mob’s assault on the Capitol -- left open and logged onto the classified SIPRNet network.
Initial impressions of the January 6 attack made it seem like the violent mob were costumed, unstable, virulently racist clowns that were just doing it for the ‘gram. Infosec got the quick impression that they “were unsophisticated opportunists who were more interested in taking selfies than infiltrating computer networks.”
As we now know, this masked an organized, well-equipped, and pre-planned reality. Low-key, armed, ex-military teams with flexicuffs. Militia (“Oath Keepers”) on radios and in body armor, whose forums overflow with fantasies and plans to execute people. In just one example of preparation, attackers knew where to find (Black, Democrat) House Majority Whip James Clyburn’s unmarked secondary office — bee-lining to where he was supposed to be at the time.
Weeks of advanced notice, a loud and unpredictable mob as cover, and a plan to breach and occupy the Capitol building. It makes sense to think of it as an opportunity for a foreign adversary to tag along, blend into the crowd and see what they could get.
Let’s just hope the House of Representatives and Senate — which each have their own Sergeant-at-Arms offices overseeing cybersecurity — can think beyond the concept of “foreign adversary” and acknowledge domestic, white supremacist terrorist hackers as an extremely serious threat. Downplaying or ignoring domestic cyber-adversaries, vis-a-vis everyone’s first impressions about the Capitol mob, is likely to be a deadly mistake.
Paul Krugmann: The Economic Consequences of the Putsch (New York Times, January 12, 2021)
Why Are Markets Optimistic? It actually makes sense.
At impeachment hearing, lawmakers will deliberate over a deadly weapon used in the attack on Capitol Hill – President Trump’s words. (73-min. video; The Conversation, January 12, 2021)
Five days after supporters of President Donald Trump attacked the Capitol building, the House of Representatives introduced a single article of impeachment against the president. The article accuses Trump of incitement of insurrection for his continued propagation of lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, as well as his violent rhetoric immediately preceding the attack on Capitol Hill. The article contends that Trump’s lies and rhetoric directly led to violence with the goal of undermining the counting of electoral votes. The president, says the impeachment article, “willfully made statements that, in context, encourage – and foreseeably resulted in – lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.’”
Impeachment proceedings that consider incitement to insurrection are rare in American history. Yet dozens of legislators – including some Republicans – say that Trump’s actions leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol contributed to an attempted insurrection against American democracy itself.
Such claims against Trump are complicated. Rather than wage direct war against sitting U.S. representatives, Trump is accused of using language to motivate others to do so. Some, including the president, have countered that the connection between President Trump’s words and the violence of Jan. 6 is too tenuous, too abstract, too indirect to be considered viable. However, decades of research on social influence, persuasion and psychology show that the messages that people encounter heavily influence their decisions to engage in certain behaviors.
House votes to call on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to strip Trump of power. (New York Times, January 12, 2021)
The House voted on Tuesday night to formally call on Vice President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment to strip President Trump of his powers after he incited a mob that attacked the Capitol, as lawmakers warned they would impeach the president on Wednesday if Mr. Pence did not comply. Lawmakers, escorted by armed guards into a heavily fortified Capitol, adopted the nonbinding measure just before midnight largely along party lines. The final vote was 223 to 205 to implore Mr. Pence to declare Mr. Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office and to immediately exercise powers as acting president.”
“We’re trying to tell him that the time of a 25th Amendment emergency has arrived,” Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the author of the resolution, said before the vote. “It has come to our doorstep. It has invaded our chamber.”
In letter to Pelosi, Pence rejects House effort to have him strip Trump of powers. (w/link to full letter; New York Times, January 12, 2021)
“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our Constitution,” Mr. Pence wrote in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “I urge you and every member of Congress to avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment.” Mr. Pence privately indicated last week that he did not support invoking the 25th Amendment, and his public rejection of the resolution all but ensured that the House would vote to impeach Mr. Trump on Wednesday.
Pence Reached His Limit With Trump. It Wasn’t Pretty. (New York Times, January 12, 2021)
After four years of tongue-biting silence that critics say enabled the president’s worst instincts, the vice president would not yield to the pressure and name-calling from his boss.
“You can either go down in history as a patriot,” Mr. Trump told him, according to two people briefed on the conversation, “or you can go down in history as a pussy.”
The blowup between the nation’s two highest elected officials then played out in dramatic fashion as the president publicly excoriated the vice president at an incendiary rally and sent agitated supporters to the Capitol where they stormed the building — some of them chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” It was an extraordinary rupture of a partnership that had survived too many challenges to count.
The loyal lieutenant who had almost never diverged from the president, who had finessed every other possible fracture, finally came to a decision point he could not avoid. He would uphold the election despite the president and despite the mob. And he would pay the price with the political base he once hoped to harness for his own run for the White House.
Not everyone gave Mr. Pence much credit, arguing that he should hardly be lionized for following the Constitution and maintaining that his deference to the president for nearly four years enabled Mr. Trump’s assault on democracy in the first place. “I’m glad he didn’t break the law, but it’s kind of hard to call somebody courageous for choosing not to help overthrow our democratic system of government,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey. “He’s got to understand that the man he’s been working for and defending loyally is almost single-handedly responsible for creating a movement in this country that wants to hang Mike Pence.”
Thomas L. Friedman: Trump Is Blowing Apart the G.O.P. God Bless Him. (New York Times, January 12, 2021)
There still will be a place for principled Republicans.
Republicans begin backing impeachment in "vote of conscience". (CNN, January 12, 2021)
Multiple House Republicans announced Tuesday evening they would support the impeachment of President Donald Trump for his role inciting last week's riot as congressional Republicans made their clearest break with Trump to date after he showed no remorse for the US Capitol mob.
While the vast majority of House Republicans are expected to oppose the article of impeachment on Wednesday, there are predictions ranging anywhere from as many as 10 to even 20 or more Republicans who could vote to impeach, according to Republican sources, with some estimates trending upward after the first Republicans came out in favor of impeachment Tuesday.
The first impeachment backers included the House's No. 3 Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, in a remarkable rebuke with a President who has been unassailable in the House GOP conference throughout his four-year term. While House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is opposed to impeachment, House Republican leaders are not lobbying their members to oppose it, and Cheney told the conference Monday it was a "vote of conscience." In another potentially significant blow to Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he believes that impeaching Trump will make it easier to get rid of the President and Trumpism from the Republican Party, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.
McConnell believes impeachment push will help rid Trump from the GOP, but has not said if he will vote to convict. (4-min. video; CNN, January 12, 2021)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he believes that impeaching President Donald Trump will make it easier to get rid of the President and Trumpism from the Republican Party, according to a source with knowledge of the matter. Another person with direct knowledge told CNN there's a reason McConnell has been silent on impeachment as other Republicans have pushed back: he's furious about last week's attack on the US Capitol by the President's supporters, even more so that Trump has shown no contrition. His silence has been deliberate as he leaves open the option of supporting impeachment.
McConnell has made no commitments on voting to convict Trump, and wants to see the article itself before voting. It's a stark contrast to the President's first impeachment when McConnell repeatedly spoke out against Democratic intentions to hold Trump accountable for a pressure campaign on the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his family. McConnell has been steadily moving his conference away from Trump for weeks. While he knows they all aren't there with him, the Kentucky Republican believes the party needs to turn the page.
On Eve of House Vote, McConnell Is Said to Be Pleased About Effort to Impeach Trump. (New York Times, January 12, 2021)
Senator Mitch McConnell is said to believe that the impeachment effort will make it easier to purge President Trump from the party. And Representative Kevin McCarthy has asked other Republicans whether he should call on Mr. Trump to resign in the aftermath of the Capitol siege.
In Extraordinary Move, Joint Chiefs Publicly Affirm That Biden Will Be President. (w/full letter; Talking Points Memo, January 12, 2021)
President Biden will take office on Jan. 20, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Tuesday in a message to the armed forces. “As we have done throughout our history, the U.S. military will obey lawful orders from civilian leadership, support civil authorities to protect lives and property, ensure public safety in accordance with the law, and remain fully committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” the message, sent out on Tuesday to all troops, reads. “Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath: it is against the law."
It’s a stunning statement, if only for the fact of its existence: the military feels the need to say that it will stay apolitical, as it has done for nearly 250 years. The message suggests that the country’s top generals feel the need to remind the troops to “embody the values and ideals of the Nation.”
Open Letter to the United States Air Force Academy: “We told you so.” (w/full text; Daily Kos, January 12, 2021)
The MRFF now calls on the Air Force Academy to not only clearly and publicly condemn the actions of its graduate, Mr. Brock, in the harshest possible manner, but also to call on all other USAFA graduates who attended the insurrection to identify themselves and either turn themselves in to police if they broke the law or disavow the violence and storming of the Capitol—if they, themselves, behaved in an otherwise peaceful manner.
We know that one graduate, a newly elected Republican member of Congress from Texas, August Pfluger, embarrassed a multitude of fellow USAFA graduates by objecting to the results of the largest and most scandal-free election in American history—and for that he is complicit in encouraging this mob and should be held responsible for the physical and moral damage caused to our Capitol and the Republic.
The USAFA must address its decades old, complicit role in developing fundamentalist Christian religious/political extremists who are now widely serving in our military. It must, as well, hold itself responsible for creating horrors like Mr. Brock in the same way it does USAFA graduate heroes whom we praise on the other end of the patriotic spectrum.
We told you this was happening. We told you the consequences. It happened.
In his first public appearance since the Capitol siege, Trump expresses no contrition for inciting the mob. (New York Times, January 12, 2021)
President Trump on Tuesday showed no contrition or regret for instigating the mob that stormed the Capitol and threatened the lives of members of Congress and his vice president, saying that his remarks to a rally beforehand were “totally appropriate” and that the effort by Congress to impeach and convict him was “causing tremendous anger.”
Answering questions from reporters for the first time since the violence at the Capitol on Wednesday, Mr. Trump sidestepped questions about his culpability in the deadly riot that shook the nation’s long tradition of peaceful transfers of power. “People thought what I said was totally appropriate,” Mr. Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, en route to Alamo, Texas, where he was set to visit the wall along the Mexican border. Instead, Mr. Trump claimed that protests against racial injustice over the summer were “the real problem.”
Earlier, he asserted that it was the impeachment charge, not the violence and ransacking of the Capitol, that was “causing tremendous anger.”
Mr. Trump had been largely silent since Friday, when Twitter permanently suspended his account. When asked directly on Tuesday morning if he would resign with just nine days left in office, Mr. Trump said, “I want no violence.”
He did not address his own role in inciting the mob of his supporters. Instead, Mr. Trump framed himself as a victim, calling impeachment a "continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics. I think it’s causing tremendous anger."
“The 25th Amendment is of zero risk to me,” he said. “But it will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration. As the expression goes, be careful what you wish for.”
Professor Dr. John Dennehy: What Does SARS-CoV-2 Evolution Mean for the Future of the Pandemic? (59-min. video; Queens College, January 12, 2021)
Dr. Dennehy’s laboratory researches virus evolution, ecology, population dynamics, and the emergence of viruses in new host populations.  Currently, the laboratory’s main focus if two-fold: modeling the persistence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the built environment and monitoring SARS-CoV-2 genetic diversity in NYC wastewater.
[Excellent presentation, with good charts.]
House Democrats propose $1,000 fine for members of Congress who don't wear masks on Capitol grounds. (USA Today, January 12, 2021)
The bill was filed less than a week after a pro-Trump mob stormed and ransacked the Capitol, causing members of Congress to be in lockdown in secure locations within the Capitol complex, where officials say they may have been exposed to the deadly virus.
“It is not brave to refuse to wear a mask, it is selfish, stupid, and shameful behavior that puts lives at risk,” Dingell said in a press release. “We’re done playing games. Either have some common sense and wear a damn mask or pay a fine. It’s not that complicated.”
“No Member of Congress should be able to ignore the rules or put others at risk without penalty,” Brown said.  “As the people’s representatives, it is critical that we set an example for the rest of the country. If Members jeopardize the safety of others, they should face fines.”
Many Democratic lawmakers have complained that several Republican colleagues refused to wear personal protective equipment offered during the Capitol riots last week. In the days since, Reps. Bonnie Coleman, D-N.J., Brad Schneider, D-Illin., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., have all tested positive for the virus. "Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy," Jayapal tweeted after her positive diagnosis.
Thom Hartmann: Will the “Trump Train's” 3rd attempted coup be successful? (Medium, January 12, 2021)
Twice before, oligarchs have attempted to overthrow the government of the United States. This time they might succeed.
It’s all one thing, an effort to overthrow the elected government of the United States, and the oligarchs and fascists aren’t done yet. They want complete control of America.
When Donald Trump first ran for president, it was a stunt to squeeze more money out of NBC and to polish his brand.
But when he was unexpectedly elected, he took cues from the corrupt oligarchs he admired around the world and began a serious project to remake and remold America in their image.
The first country he visited as president, in fact, was the oligarchy of Saudi Arabia, which he effusively praised.
When he proclaimed after his election that there were 3,000,000 “illegal votes” for Hillary Clinton, he was setting up today’s oligarchic takeover attempt by denigrating the American electoral system. He knew from the example of what oligarchs elsewhere in the world had successfully done that if he could convince enough Americans that our election system was “rigged,” he could ignore elections in the future.
House Democrats Briefed On 3 More Terrifying Plots To Overthrow Government. (Huffington Post, January 12, 2021)
On a private call Monday night, new leaders of the Capitol Police told House Democrats they were closely monitoring three separate plans that could pose serious threats to members of Congress as Washington prepares for Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration on Jan. 20. Democrats were told that the Capitol Police and the National Guard were preparing for potentially tens of thousands of armed protesters coming to Washington and were establishing rules of engagement for warfare. In general, the military and police don’t plan to shoot anyone until one of the rioters fires, but there could be exceptions.
The first is a demonstration billed as the “largest armed protest ever to take place on American soil.”
Another is a protest in honor of Ashli Babbitt, the woman killed while trying to climb into the Speaker’s Lobby during Wednesday’s pro-Trump siege of the Capitol.
And another demonstration, which three members said was by far the most concerning plot, would involve insurrectionists forming a perimeter around the Capitol. Lawmakers were told that the plot to encircle the Capitol also included plans to surround the White House ― so that no one could harm Trump ― and the Supreme Court, simply to shut down the courts. The plan to surround the Capitol includes assassinating Democrats as well as Republicans who didn’t support Trump’s effort to overturn the election ― and allowing other Republicans to enter the building and control government.
Parler scrape puts some Capitol rioters in legal jeopardy. (Washington Post, January 12, 2021)
Researchers and analysts say a trove of data archived from conservative-favored social media app Parler poses a real risk for those who used the platform to share their involvement in a pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol. “It's mind-blowing. The potential effects go well beyond tagging who participated in the takeover of the Capitol,” said Peter Singer, a strategist and senior fellow at the New America think tank.
The archive, which was scraped by a self-described hacker who goes by the Twitter handle @donk_enby, represents up to 99.9 percent of the data from Parler before Amazon's cloud services took it offline Monday, Gizmodo's Dell Cameron first reported. Some of the rioters who attacked the Capitol last week, hoping to overturn the presidential election, had posted their plans on Parler, which was also removed from Apple and Google's app stores in the riot's aftermath.
Law enforcement officials have since used the rioters own social media accounts to help track them down and arrest them. That means information archived from sites like Parler, which also includes millions of posts that users deleted, could be used to implicate those who stormed the Capitol and committed possible crimes. The underlying data attached to the posts, including location data, could be matched with information from other online forums, such as Facebook, Singer says.
Natick Residents Petition To Oust Official Seen At Capitol Riot. (Patch News, January 12, 2021)
In Natick, over 500 residents signed a petition to oust a Town Meeting member after she was photographed inside the U.S. Capitol during Wednesday's riot. Sue Ianni was photographed in the Capitol building with her fist raised in a large crowd.
[On Jan. 9th (see below), Sue Ianni refused to say whether she entered the Capitol or not. Also: Bedford Town Flag Spotted At Capitol Riot.)
"We get our President or we die": FBI issued dire warning day before Capitol riots. (36-min. video; USA Today, January 12, 2021)
The FBI issued a dire internal warning on the day before the Capitol riots that violent extremists were planning an armed uprising in Washington that the attackers described as "war" to coincide with Congress' counting state-certified Electoral College votes to confirm the election of Joe Biden, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. The intelligence report, prepared by the FBI's Norfolk office, described an array of preparations for an assault to include a map of Capitol-area tunnels and staging areas in in Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. “An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in,'" the Post reported, quoting from the document's contents. "Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”
FBI warns of plans for nationwide armed protests next week. (Politico, January 11, 2021)
An internal FBI bulletin warned that, as of Sunday, the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
Before Capitol Riot, Republican Lawmakers Fanned the Flames. (New York Times, January 11, 2021)
A “1776 moment”: Several of the president’s closest allies in Congress used bellicose language to urge their supporters to attend the Jan. 6 rally that turned into a deadly riot.
How should schools teach kids about what happened at the US Capitol on Jan. 6? We asked 6 education experts. (The Conversation, January 11, 2021)
Teachers shouldn't avoid this topic, no matter how uncomfortable it might make them to discuss it with children and teens.
Bill Belichick Turns Down Trump's Offer, Cites Freedom, Democracy. (Patch News, January 11, 2021)
The New England Patriots coach said in a statement that he will not accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week.
The military has a hate group problem. But it doesn't know how bad it's gotten. (Politico, January 11, 2021)
The rise of extremism in the ranks is seen as a "crisis issue" but the military's efforts to weed out radicals are "haphazard" at best.
N.Y.P.D. Concludes Anti-Harassment Official Wrote Racist Online Rants. (New York Times, January 11, 2021)
The official, James F. Kobel, who will now face a departmental trial, filed for retirement as the inquiry was winding down.
An N.J. lawmaker tests positive after being in lockdown in Capitol. (New York Times, January 11, 2021)
Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday — an infection she believes is linked to the time she spent in a secure location with colleagues who refused to wear masks during Wednesday’s siege of the U.S. Capitol. “It angers me when they refuse to adhere to the directions about keeping their masks on,” Ms. Watson Coleman, a Democrat, said in an interview. “It comes off to me as arrogance and defiance. And you can be both, but not at the expense of someone else.”
Parler Is Gone, But Hackers Say They Downloaded Everything First. (Vice, January 11, 2021)
Right-wing social network Parler was taken offline in the early hours of Monday morning, but not before a hacker found a way to download all data posted by users — including messages, images, videos, and users’ location data — shared during last week’s attack on the Capitol. The downloaded data is now being processed before being uploaded to the Internet Archive, where anyone will be able to view or download it — including the open-source intelligence community and law enforcement agencies.
Trump supporters are already voicing their concerns about what the data dump could expose about them and their activity in Washington, D.C. last week. “Bad news. Left extremists have captured and archived over 70TB of data from Parler servers. This includes posts, personal information, locations, videos, images, etc,” a Telegram account called North Central Florida Patriots said on Monday morning. “The intent is a mass dox and a list to hold patriots ‘accountable’. It is too late to scrub your data, and it’s already archived. There is nothing you can do to prevent what’s already happened. All you can do is prepare for the fallout. Accountability may come in many forms for our free speech, doxing, jobs might be called, addresses leaked and people coming to your house, etc.”
Majority of Republicans Blame Biden for the Capitol Riot! (25-min. video; The Young Turks, January 11, 2021)
The Roots of Josh Hawley’s Rage (New York Times, January 11, 2021)
Why do so many Republicans appear to be at war with both truth and democracy?
In today’s Republican Party, the path to power is to build up a lie in order to overturn democracy. At least that is what Senator Josh Hawley was telling us when he offered a clenched-fist salute to the pro-Trump mob before it ransacked the Capitol, and it is the same message he delivered on the floor of the Senate in the aftermath of the attack, when he doubled down on the lies about electoral fraud that incited the insurrection in the first place. How did we get to the point where one of the bright young stars of the Republican Party appears to be at war with both truth and democracy?
The line of thought here is starkly binary and nihilistic. It says that human existence in an inevitably pluralistic, modern society committed to equality is inherently worthless. It comes with the idea that a right-minded elite of religiously pure individuals should aim to capture the levers of government, then use that power to rescue society from eternal darkness and reshape it in accord with a divinely-approved view of righteousness.
At the heart of Mr. Hawley’s condemnation of our terrifyingly Pelagian world lies a dark conclusion about the achievements of modern, liberal, pluralistic societies. When he was still attorney general, William Barr articulated this conclusion in a speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School, where he blamed “the growing ascendancy of secularism” for amplifying “virtually every measure of social pathology,” and maintained that “free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people.” Christian nationalists’ acceptance of President Trump’s spectacular turpitude these past four years was a good measure of just how dire they think our situation is. Even a corrupt sociopath was better, in their eyes, than the horrifying freedom that religious moderates and liberals, along with the many Americans who don’t happen to be religious, offer the world.
Although many of the foot soldiers in the assault on the Capitol appear to have been white males aligned with white supremacist movements, it would be a mistake to overlook the powerful role of the rhetoric of religious nationalism in their ranks. At a rally in Washington on Jan. 5, on the eve of Electoral College certification, the right-wing pastor Greg Locke said that God is raising up “an army of patriots.” Another pastor, Brian Gibson, put it this way: “The church of the Lord Jesus Christ started America,” and added, “We’re going to take our nation back!” In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection, a number of Christian nationalist leaders issued statements condemning violence — on both sides. How very kind of them. But few if any appear willing to acknowledge the instrumental role they played in perpetuating the fraudulent allegations of a stolen election that were at the root of the insurrection.
Over the past few days, following his participation in the failed efforts to overturn the election, Mr. Hawley’s career prospects may have dimmed. Two of his home state newspapers have called for his resignation; his political mentor, John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, has described his earlier support for Mr. Hawley as “the biggest mistake I’ve ever made”; and Simon & Schuster dropped his book. On the other hand, there is some reporting that suggests his complicity in efforts to overturn the election may have boosted his standing with Mr. Trump’s base. But the question that matters is not whether Mr. Hawley stays or goes, but whether he is simply replaced by the next wannabe demagogue in line. We are about to find out whether there are leaders of principle left in today’s Republican Party.
‘We’re in a Worse Place Today Than We Were Before He Came In.’ (Foreign Policy, January 11, 2021)
Former U.S. Secretary of State (and Exxon CEO) Rex Tillerson on the mess Donald Trump is leaving behind.
Trump’s New Criminal Problem (Politico, January 11, 2021)
The president could face charges for inciting the Capitol riot—and maybe even for inciting the murder of a Capitol Police Officer. The federal criminal code (18 USC 373) makes it a crime to solicit, command, induce or “endeavor to persuade” another person to commit a felony that includes the threat or use of physical force. Simply put, it is a crime to persuade another person, or a mob of several thousand, to commit a violent felony.
From the early results of the investigation, we know that several insurrectionists already have been charged with felonies. However, the crime posing the biggest problem for the president could be having solicited the mob into a seditious conspiracy. The federal criminal code makes it a crime for “two or more persons … to oppose by force the authority [of the United States] or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States” (18 USC 2384). That felony, including the use of force, clearly was committed by the mob after being encouraged by the president.
House to vote Wednesday as Pelosi gets the votes to impeach Trump. (Politico, January 11, 2021)
Momentum to impeach the president a second time has only grown since last Wednesday's attack. Key members of the House Judiciary Committee introduced a single article of impeachment Monday that has already gathered at least 218 cosponsors, according to a congressional aide involved in the process, meeting the majority needed for passage in the House. 
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team informed members on a private call Monday they will need to return to the Capitol — for many, the first time since the Jan. 6 attacks — on Tuesday night. Impeachment is scheduled for consideration at 9 a.m. Wednesday, if Trump refuses to resign and Vice President Mike Pence won’t initiate other procedures to remove him.
An impeachment charge against Trump is introduced as Republicans block a measure demanding Pence act. (1-min. video; New York Times, January 11, 2021)
House Democrats on Monday introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump for inciting a mob that attacked the Capitol last week, vowing to press the charge as Republicans blocked a separate move to formally call on Vice President Mike Pence to strip him of power under the 25th Amendment.
The dual actions came as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her caucus sought to ratchet up pressure on Mr. Pence to intervene and push Mr. Trump to resign. If they did not, the Democrats promised immediate consequences for Mr. Trump’s role in an attack that put the lives of the vice president, members of Congress and thousands of staff working on Capitol Hill at risk as officials met to formalize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. “The president’s threat to America is urgent, and so too will be our action,” Ms. Pelosi said on Monday.
AOC cuts to the point: "We came close to half of the House nearly dying on Wednesday." (Daily Kos, January 10, 2021)
“Our main priority is to ensure the removal of Donald Trump as President of the United State,” Ocasio-Cortez told Stephanopoulos. “Every minute and every that he is in office represents a clear and present danger not just to the United States Congress but to the country. But in addition to removal, we’re also talking about completely barring the president—or rather, Donald Trump—from running for office ever again. And in addition to that, the potential ability to prevent pardoning himself from those charges that he was impeached for.”
A number of Republicans who implored President-elect Biden to forego impeachment for the sake of “unity,” arguing that it is “unnecessary” and “inflammatory.” The group of House Republicans, led by Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, wrote: “In the spirit of healing and fidelity to our Constitution, we ask that you formally request that Speaker Nancy Pelosi discontinue her efforts to impeach President Donald J. Trump a second time.”
To that, Ocasio-Cortez hammered down on the point that what happened this past week was an “insurrection against the United States.” The New York City progressive argued that “healing” requires “accountability.” She pointed out that if we allow insurrection to happen with impunity, “we are inviting it to happen again. We came close to half of the House nearly dying on Wednesday. If a foreign head of state, if another head of state, came in and ordered an attack on the United States Congress, would we say that should not be prosecuted? Would we say that there should be absolutely no response to that? No. It is an act of insurrection. It is an act of hostility.” She stressed that without accountability, “it will happen again.”
[And from its Comments thread:
- When 45% of the House is in favor of a radical right-wing revolution even after its first fascistic sortie fails, it’s time to stop calling it a "conservative electorate".
- There are a lot of rats who can’t be trusted who are now pleading for unity. History has shown over and over again that dictators, fascists and autocrats often play the accepted mainstream political game until they get their opening to make their move. I feel a lot of these Trump supporters (not all) who now condemn him and what happened would be singing a different tune if Trump had succeeded. They can never be trusted to put their country first….as the term goes “ALL enemies foreign and domestic”. They have shown they won’t stand up for their country because they have supported Trump bringing us to this point. A lot of the wolves are trying to pass themselves off as sheep because Trump screwed up and blew it as is his lifelong historical pattern. If they manage to get a more competent leader they will be back at it again, trying to tear down our democracy and dismantle our government and trying to remove or nullify our checks and balances.
- Thank you for including: “ALL enemies foreign and domestic”. The GOPers somehow keep forgetting.
- By dangling the lure of national “Unity” in front of optimistic democrats, the GOP has managed to drag the whole country toward the extreme right wing, step by traitorous step.]
The House could vote as soon as Tuesday on an impeachment article. (New York Times, January 10, 2021)
The No. 3 House Democrat said on Sunday that the chamber could vote as soon as Tuesday on an article of impeachment charging President Trump with inciting a violent mob that attacked the Capitol — but then delay sending it to the Senate for trial. Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democratic whip, said that the vast majority of House Democrats believed the president must be impeached for his conduct but that top leaders were still trying to determine how to punish Mr. Trump without hamstringing the first days of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidency with an all-consuming Senate trial. They recognized it would be impossible to impeach and hold a trial before Mr. Trump leaves office in 10 days, he said. “If we are the people’s house, let’s do the people’s work and let’s vote to impeach this president,” Mr. Clyburn said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The Senate will decide later what to do with that impeachment.”
Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ Myth Reaches Its Catastrophic Conclusion. (Huffington Post, January 10, 2021)
Reflections on violence in the heart of the American empire.
A deranged mob of Americans, fueled by lies about election fraud peddled by the president of the United States along with multiple senators and House members, sacked the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as part of an insurrection encouraged by Donald Trump to stop the constitutional process allowing for the peaceful transfer of power taking place within the building. “[Y]ou’ll never take back your country with weakness,” Trump told the rioters immediately before they marched on the Capitol. “You have to show strength and be strong.”
On the grounds outside, rioters erected a giant wooden cross and a gallows with a noose. Reporters were beaten and threatened with death. Their cameras and equipment were smashed and burned. Echoing Trump’s long-standing calls that the press were the enemy of the people, rioters scrawled “Murder the media,” on a Capitol doorway. A rioter murdered a police officer with a fire extinguisher. Another rioter was shot dead by a police officer while trying to break into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s chambers. In perhaps the most indelible image, rioters commandeered a scaffold and used it to take down an American flag and replace it with a Trump “Make America Great Again” flag. This was the catastrophic and prophetic culmination of the Make America Great Again myth.
Trump’s supporters were not taking his words either literally or seriously, they were taking them mythically. When Trump entered the political fray in 2015, he gave the supporters of the conservative movement that came to dominate the Republican Party since the end of World War II a political myth they could die for. And myths, for the believer, cannot be refuted.
A political myth is a narrative cast in dramatic form that provides a practical explanation of present events to a specific group at a time or place. Political myths provide meaning, direction and purpose through an interpretation of what the group of believers takes to be reality. They mythologize and interpret real events, and historical facts can be altered to suit the myth’s purpose. There are many kinds of political myths. There are foundation myths, like the Myth of the American Founding Fathers and the 1776 Revolution, the Roman Foundation Myth or the Soviet Myth of the October Revolution. And there are other political organizing myths, like the Myth of Norman Yoke, the Confederate Lost Cause Myth or the Myth of the U.S. Constitution.
But what Trump presents under the banner of “Make America Great Again” is an apocalyptic, or eschatological, myth. It is a myth foretelling a great and cataclysmic future event where deliverance will arrive through the exertion and sacrifice of the believers. The present order will be swept away and either a new one will take its place or an older order will be majestically restored. “Politicians have used you and stolen your votes,” Trump said while campaigning in 2016. “They have given you nothing. I will give you everything. I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years. I’m the only one.”
The catastrophic Make America Great Again myth came to fruition, and it played out on Capitol Hill. What it ultimately amounted to is not clear, but that is beside the point, as Sorel argued when he defended the myth of the general strike and its utility for socialism. “Even if the only result of the idea of the general strike was to make the socialist conception more heroic, it should on that account alone be looked upon as having an incalculable value,” Sorel wrote. The same holds true for the Make America Great Again myth. Non-believers, however, will have to wait to see what catastrophe it anticipates next.
Arnold Schwarzenegger calls Trump 'worst president' ever, 'failed leader' after Capitol riot. (8-min. video; Huffington Post, January 10, 2021)
The former California governor released a video message on Sunday addressing the deadly riot in which he slammed Trump supporters and “complicit” members of the Republican Party, who he said have “enabled [Trump’s] lies and his treachery” for far too long. “I grew up in Austria. I’m very aware of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. It was a night of rampage against the Jews in 1938 by the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys,” he explained, in the nearly eight-minute-long video. “Wednesday was the Day of Broken Glass right here in the United States,” he continued. “The broken glass was in the windows of the United States Capitol. But the mob did not just shatter the windows of the Capitol. They shattered the ideas we took for granted. They did not just break down the doors of the building that housed American democracy; they trampled the very principles in which our nation was founded.”
“President Trump sought to overturn the results ... of a fair election. He sought a coup by misleading people with lies,” he said. “I know where such lies lead. President Trump is a failed leader. He will go down in history as the worst president ever. The good thing is he will soon be as irrelevant as an old tweet.”
Schwarzenegger went on to reproach his fellow Republicans, asserting that those who’ve stood by Trump should be held accountable. “A number of members of my own party, because of their own spinelessness ... They’re complicit with those who carried the flag of self righteous insurrection into the Capitol,” he said.
He concluded the video by wishing President-elect Joe Biden “great success” when he takes office later this month, and calling for bipartisan unity. “We need to heal, not just as Republicans or as Democrats, but as Americans,” he said. “Now to begin this process, no matter what your political affiliation is, I ask you to join me in saying to President-elect Biden, ‘President-elect Biden, we wish you great success as our president. If you succeed, our nation succeeds. We support you with all our hearts as you seek to bring us together.’”
The Narcissist in Chief Brings It All Crashing Down. (New York Times, January 10, 2021)
An ending as terrible as it was predictable engulfs the president and the country.
Our president has never been a very stable man. But I’m trying to think of what threshold of loco he had to clear in order for one of his senior advisers to confide in my colleague Maggie Haberman that Donald J. Trump “lost it” on the day of the insurrection. Or for an administration official to describe him as “a total monster” to The Washington Post the next day. Or for Representative Adam Kinzinger, a member of Trump’s own party, to call for the cabinet and the vice president to invoke the 25th Amendment because we require “a sane captain of the ship” to steer us through the administration’s final days, and “all indications are that the president has become unmoored, not just from his duty, or even his oath, but from reality itself.” Our president has always been out there. But on Jan. 6, 2021, he clearly reached escape velocity and hurtled into space.
We shouldn’t be surprised. The president’s flight into the ozone of crazy was as inevitable as the country’s descent into anarchy — and almost certainly intertwined. Trump, as I and many others have noted, impeccably meets the criteria of a malignant narcissist, and he has a defect in moral conscience that is emblematic of psychopaths. People like this do not react well to being fired, divorced or kicked out of any club. They’re ego hemophiliacs. Their self-esteem cannot self-repair. And so the president is now doing exactly what all pathological narcissists of the malignant, conscience-free variety do when they’ve been given the boot. They behave dangerously. They claim they are victims. They lie, reject facts and call foul play. They blame everything — and everyone — for their failures except themselves. They accuse even their most loyal supporters of treachery.
And most important, they lash out with a mighty vindictiveness, often destroying the very institution — or spouse, family, whatever it is — they were once sworn to nurture. Which in this case is democracy itself. Trump is a man who found failure so intolerable, so humiliating, that he was willing to incite an acre-wide mob to violent insurrection, both in and around the Capitol, on Congress’s election certification day. Either he would get what he wanted or no one would. Five are now dead.
Congress member declared "Today is 1776," tweeted re Pelosi's location during insurrection. (Daily Kos, January 10, 2021)
Lauren Opal Boebert, 34-year-old firearms enthusiast, covid-restrictions refusenik, QAnon sympathizer, somehow or other brand-new newly-sworn-in member of Congress from the third district of Colorado (western slice of the state), and electoral-vote rejecter, tweeting 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, before the coup attempt started: "Today is 1776." Another connection that may shed light on Boebert’s, “Today is 1776.”: “(Ali) Alexander led a host of activists threatening to '1776'...opponents of Trump’s re-election.”
And here is her comment on the state of things today: "In the past 5 days the left has shown us what vile hypocrites they truly are. They are driven by hate, projection and endless conspiracy theories." - which probably deserves some kind of Olympic award for gaslighting.
Rifle-Toting Militia Men Rail Against Mitch McConnell In Kentucky, Hail D.C. Rioters. (Huffington Post, January 10, 2021)
Dozens of heavily armed self-described militia members dressed in camouflage descended on Kentucky’s statehouse Saturday to loudly bash Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and praise the Donald Trump-supporting rioters who stormed the nation’s Capitol. The men, toting rifles and zip ties, also railed against socialism, communism, and Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. They were there to demand the democratic election for president be overturned.
FBI arrests Nashville zip-tie suspect and another from assault on U.S. Capitol. (Nashville TN NewsChannel5 TV, January 10, 2021)
A self-described "hidden patriot" from Nashville, outed on social media as a rioter who invaded the U.S. Senate chambers Wednesday with a weapon and zip-tie handcuffs, was arrested Sunday on federal charges. FBI agents took Eric Gavelek Munchel, age 30, into custody on a federal arrest warrant charging him with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
A video, livestreamed in the hours after the riot, showing the pair having drinks in the lobby of a Washington, D.C., hotel. Munchel was still wearing the same camouflage clothing. One of the interviewers noted that he had an empty holster on his right side. "It's just a Taser, but the police came and took it away from me," Munchel said. "They didn't like it because of tonight. They said I couldn't open carry a Taser." Munchel described himself as "a hidden patriot ready to jump off."
From there, the crowdsourcing effort led Internet sleuths to Munchel's Facebook page, where his own livestreamed video showed him walking to the Capitol with the same woman and other Trump supporters.
Munchel is believed to be employed at a Nashville bar that has opposed Cooper's restriction on bars in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After he became the object of social media speculation, he apparently disabled his Facebook page.
The U.S. Department of Justice also announced agents had also arrested Larry Rendell Brock, of Texas. Brock was identified as one of the individuals who unlawfully entered the U.S. Capitol wearing a green helmet, green tactical vest with patches, black and camo jacket, and beige pants holding a white flex cuff, which is used by law enforcement to restrain and/or detain subjects, the DOJ said.
Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman hailed a ‘hero’ for diverting mob from Senate chambers. (Independent/UK, January 10, 2021)
The officer appears to strategically divert the mob away from Senate entrance, where lawmakers were convening to certify the 2020 presidential election.
Huffington Post reporter Igor Bobic describes Officer Goodman's saving maneuver in the Capitol riot. (4-min. video; Good Morning America/ABC, January 7, 2021)
Igor Bobic, who was in the Capitol building when protesters pushed their way in, filmed them as they entered the Senate chamber.
A Black Police Officer saved America on Wednesday. Say His Name. (Daily Kos, January 10, 2021)
I saw Officer EUGENE GOODMAN make himself bait as white domestic terrorists chased him up several flights of stairs in the Capitol on Wednesday. I watched the footage and wondered why did he repeatedly stop to goad them, then lead them on, stop to goad again, then lead them on. Well, now we know. This man risked his life to give the members of the Senate enough time to clear the area. This country did not earn in any way, shape, or form, the sacrifice this man made to save the nation. And he was able to do what he did WITHOUT FIRING A SHOT. Cause if he did shoot… oh boy White America would have had some thoughts. And not just on the right. I am grateful he did not lose his life. Cause Lord knows white America would have gladly just made him a martyr and political talking point. Black America has given this country enough martyrs. If not for the action of this one person, democracy might have died on Wednesday.
Inside the Capitol siege: How barricaded lawmakers and aides sounded urgent pleas for help as police lost control. (Washington Post, January 10, 2021)
By around 1 p.m., as the joint session began, the mood in the crowd outside began to shift. Trump had just given a one-hour speech to thousands of supporters amassed on the Ellipse near the White House, excoriating his enemies and reiterating his baseless claims of fraud. GOP lawmakers, he emphasized, needed to take a stand. “We’re going to the Capitol,” he said. “We’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” The president added: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Trump returned to the White House; he did not go to Capitol Hill. But his supporters began streaming east along Pennsylvania Avenue.
Lawmakers inside were still being evacuated when, around a side entrance, the mob came much closer to breaking their way onto the House floor — less than 10 feet away from an open door into the chamber. Dozens of rioters pressed against police trying to block their entry into the Speaker’s Lobby. Several officers left their post seconds before much heavily armed reinforcements showed up. But in those few seconds, the rioters smashed in the windows of the doors to the Speaker’s Lobby and were on the verge of entering the House chamber. “There’s a gun! There’s a gun!’ one rioter screamed, then an officer fired into the crowd. Trump supporter and Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old California native, was killed.
At 2:11 p.m. on the Senate side, Vice President Pence sat in the chair of the presiding officer when aides started motioning to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) that he had to replace him. The vice president hurried out a door. At that moment, one floor below, rioters had crashed through windows and climbed into the Capitol and clashed with police, including a lone Black Capitol police officer who tried to prevent them from ascending toward the Senate chamber. A video captured by Igor Bobic, a congressional reporter for HuffPost on the scene, shows the officer trying to hold back a few dozen rioters who push him back and up the steps leading almost directly to the chamber. For almost a minute, the officer held them back — at the exact moment that, inside the Senate, police were frantically racing around the chamber trying to lock down more than a dozen doors leading to the chamber floor and the galleries above. “Second floor!” the officer yelled into his radio, alerting other officers and command that the mob had reached the precipice of the Senate.
Had the rioters turned right, they would have been a few feet away from the main entrance into the chamber. On the other side of that door, had they made their way into the Senate, were at least a half-dozen armed officers, including one with a semiautomatic weapon in the middle of the floor scanning each entrance for intruders.
A Natural Phenomenon, Rime Ice, Has Been Popping Up In Massachusetts And It’s Breathtaking. (w/fine photos; Only In Your State, January 10, 2021)
While this kind of ice has many names from rime ice to hoar frost, it leaves a breathtaking scenery no matter what you call it. Let’s learn about the natural phenomenon that tends to pop up throughout Massachusetts in the winter.
Sabine Hossenfelder: The Mathematics of Consciousness (11-min. video; BackReaction, January 9, 2021)
Physicists like to think they can explain everything, and that, of course, includes human consciousness. And so in the last few decades they’ve set out to demystify the brain by throwing math at the problem. I find it to be a really interesting development that physicists take on consciousness, and so, today I want to talk a little about ideas for how consciousness can be described mathematically, how that’s going so far, and what we can hope to learn from it in the future.
White House Forced Georgia U.S. Attorney to Resign. (Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2021)
Pressure for resignation was part of broader push by President Trump to overturn state’s election results.
Georgia Officials Reveal Third Trump Call Trying to Influence Election Results. (New York Times, January 9, 2021)
More than a week before President Trump called Georgia’s secretary of state, pressuring him to “find” votes to help overturn his electoral loss, the president made another call, this one to a top Georgia elections investigator, in which he asked the investigator to “find the fraud” in the state. The earlier phone call, which Mr. Trump made in late December, was first reported today by The Washington Post.
In the December call, Mr. Trump said the investigator would be a “national hero” for finding evidence of fraud. The call occurred as Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office was  conducting an audit of more than 15,000 ballots in Cobb County, a populous suburb of Atlanta that was formerly a Republican stronghold but voted against Mr. Trump in both 2016 and  2020. The audit appeared to be an effort to placate Mr. Trump and his allies, who repeatedly, and baselessly, argued that he lost the election in Georgia by around 12,000 votes due to a “rigged” system. The president also repeatedly alleged that there were problems with the signature-matching system by which elections officials in the state verify the identity of absentee voters. On December 29, the office of Mr. Raffensperger, a Republican, announced that the audit had found no evidence of fraud.
Earlier in December, Mr. Trump made a third call, this one to Gov. Brian Kemp, urging him to call a special session of the Georgia legislature in hopes that lawmakers would overturn the election results. In a television interview on Monday, Mr. Raffensperger was asked if his office would open an investigation into the president’s phone call with him. He replied that because he had been on the Jan. 2 call, he might have a conflict of interest and suggested instead that such an investigation might be in the works by the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis.
Mr. Kemp and Mr. Raffensperger have rejected all of Mr. Trump’s efforts to get them to help him overturn the election results, even though both are conservative Republicans and Trump supporters. Mr. Trump has publicly attacked both men, spreading a baseless conspiracy theory about Mr. Raffensperger’s brother and promising that he would back a candidate in the Republican primary to challenge Mr. Kemp, who is up for re-election next year.
The new details about the president’s personal pressure campaign on Georgia officials comes as Democrats in the House of Representatives announced their plans to introduce an article of impeachment against the president for “willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States,” a reference to the pro-Trump mob that violently attacked the U.S. Capitol Wednesday. Mr. Trump is also facing growing calls to resign, while his cabinet is under pressure to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
Facing Backlash, Republicans Confront Trump’s Effect on Their Party. (1-min. video; New York Times, January 9, 2021)
In encounters with their constituents this week, Republican lawmakers have grappled with the consequences of their years-long alliance with President Trump: an angry, misinformed base.
When a distraught constituent accosted her on Tuesday night at a restaurant in the nation’s capital, Representative Nancy Mace confronted an impossible task that sprang from President Trump’s false promises: getting them to understand why she and other Republicans in Congress could not simply overturn the results of the election. Driven by Mr. Trump’s fictitious claims that the election had been stolen from him — and that lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence could clinch him another four years in power during Congress’s official electoral count — the voter had come all the way from Ms. Mace’s home state of South Carolina to witness it. Now, the voter, shaking and in tears, demanded to know why Ms. Mace, a first-term congresswoman, had refused to join the effort.
Calm but firm, Ms. Mace tried to explain that it was not Congress’s role to subvert the results of an election — and that to do so would defy the Constitution. “It didn’t matter what I said,” Ms. Mace said in an interview. “They didn’t believe it.”
Similar scenes — sometimes painful, always unresolvable — played out again and again in Washington this week in the hours before and after a violent mob urged on by Mr. Trump stormed the Capitol, as Republican voters loyal to the president cornered Republican lawmakers who voted to certify the election results, demanding answers and promising revenge. The confrontations — and the scenes of mayhem that unfolded on Wednesday — have brought Republicans face to face with the consequences of their years-long alliance with Mr. Trump, providing human evidence of the downside of his deep influence on the voters who form their party’s base. It helps explain the searing anger that has prompted many Republicans to belatedly turn against Mr. Trump after years of enabling him and seeking his validation. But it also reflects the conundrum in which the Republican Party finds itself, beholden to voters who have internalized the president’s falsehoods and been emboldened by his divisive talk.
“Their hearts, minds and wallets were taken advantage of,” Ms. Mace said, her voice rising in fury. “Millions of people across the country who were lied to. These individuals, these hardworking Americans truly believe that the Congress can overturn the Electoral College.” Many Republican members of Congress stoked that belief this week when they objected to Mr. Biden’s victory in battleground states and backed the challenges in votes that illustrated their party’s rift. In the House, more than half the Republicans, including the party’s top two leaders, voted in support of the challenges, while in the Senate, fewer than 10 Republicans did so and the leaders were vocally opposed.
The videos that emerged from the standoffs dramatized the yawning distance between elected Republicans in Washington who are increasingly desperate to peel away from the president and their constituents who say they will never let go.
Alleged lectern thief and horn-helmeted suspect arrested in connection with Capitol riot. (ABC News, January 9, 2021)
Federal authorities say they've arrested two of the alleged Capitol rioters who went viral for their part in the siege of the building.
Adam Johnson, 36, of Parrish, Florida, who was seen in a viral photograph carrying Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern through the halls, is being held in Pinellas County Jail and pending charges after federal marshals picked him up Friday night, according to the United States Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia.
The U.S. Attorney's office also arrested Jacob Anthony Chansley, a.k.a. "Jake Angeli," Saturday. Investigators said he was the man seen in viral photos of the siege dressed in horns, a bearskin headdress, red, white and blue face paint, shirtless, and tan pants and carrying a 6-foot spear with an American flag tied below the blade.
Amazon cuts off Parler’s Web hosting following Apple, Google bans. (Ars Technica, January 9, 2021)
The app will need to find new Web hosting by Sunday or go offline.
Twitter warns of plans for new violence, brewing again on social media, as reason for Trump ban. (3-min. video; Washington Post, January 9, 2021)
These demonstrations are scheduled to culminate with what organizers have dubbed a “Million MAGA March” on January 20th itself, as President-elect Biden is to be sworn in on the same Capitol grounds that rioters overrun on Wednesday.
Given the very clear and explicit warning signs for January 6th — with Trump supporters expressing prior intent to ‘storm and occupy Congress’ and use ‘handcuffs and zip ties,’ clear plans being laid out on public forums, and the recent precedent of the plot to storm the Michigan Capitol building while the legislature was in session — it is truly mind-boggling that the police were not better prepared.
Will Joe Biden’s inauguration be marred by the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol? (Los Angeles Times, January 9, 2021)
To people who study right-wing militia groups and QAnon fanatics, the idea that armed insurrectionists would storm the Capitol while Congress was in session was not merely possible. It was predictable. Long before the mob began its march up Pennsylvania Avenue, it was obvious that hordes of anti-democratic loonies had been swayed by the outlandish lies of President Trump and his echo chamber of co-conspirators, who maintained that President-elect Joe Biden had stolen the election. On Twitter, Parler, Facebook, 4chan, 8chan and the dark web, momentum was building.
For weeks, quite publicly, a growing number of Trump supporters had been whipping themselves into a frenzy, talking about doing something big on Jan. 6, when Congress met to count the votes of the electoral college. We now know, of course, that their seditious plans, inflamed by Trump himself, came to pass.
The armed insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol may have seemed disorganized, but their goal was clear: disruption of the highest levels of government. They succeeded in sowing terror and upending, at least temporarily, the peaceful transfer of power in America. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died.
We talked about how social media works against the common good and how anger-driven right-wing groups flourish as a result. “Facebook’s algorithms decide what to show you based on what keeps you on Facebook the longest. And the content that keeps you scrolling and clicking is content that makes you angry. Facebook has chosen not to fix this. Essentially, social media makes more money if we are mad at each other.”
Trump has exploited this aspect of social media like no other political figure.
In April, the Wall Street Journal published an article based on internal 2016 Facebook documents about the site’s contribution to social and political divisiveness. A high number of extremist groups use the site, and Facebook found that its own recommendation tools — “Groups You Should Join” and “Discover” — were responsible for 64% of new followers for extremist pages. What did the social media giant do? Nothing.
The American Abyss (New York Times Magazine, January 9, 2021)
Timothy Snyder, a historian of fascism and political atrocity, writes on Trump, the mob and what comes next.
When Donald Trump stood before his followers on Jan. 6 and urged them to march on the United States Capitol, he was doing what he had always done. He never took electoral democracy seriously nor accepted the legitimacy of its American version. Even when he won, in 2016, he insisted that the election was fraudulent — that millions of false votes were cast for his opponent. In 2020, in the knowledge that he was trailing Joseph R. Biden in the polls, he spent months claiming that the presidential election would be rigged and signaling that he would not accept the results if they did not favor him. He wrongly claimed on Election Day that he had won and then steadily hardened his rhetoric: With time, his victory became a historic landslide and the various conspiracies that denied it ever more sophisticated and implausible.
People believed him, which is not at all surprising. It takes a tremendous amount of work to educate citizens to resist the powerful pull of believing what they already believe, or what others around them believe, or what would make sense of their own previous choices. Plato noted a particular risk for tyrants: that they would be surrounded in the end by yes-men and enablers. Aristotle worried that, in a democracy, a wealthy and talented demagogue could all too easily master the minds of the populace. Aware of these risks and others, the framers of the Constitution instituted a system of checks and balances. The point was not simply to ensure that no one branch of government dominated the others but also to anchor in institutions different points of view.
In this sense, the responsibility for Trump’s push to overturn an election must be shared by a very large number of Republican members of Congress. Rather than contradict Trump from the beginning, they allowed his electoral fiction to flourish. They had different reasons for doing so. One group of Republicans is concerned above all with gaming the system to maintain power, taking full advantage of constitutional obscurities, gerrymandering and dark money to win elections with a minority of motivated voters. They have no interest in the collapse of the peculiar form of representation that allows their minority party disproportionate control of government. The most important among them, Mitch McConnell, indulged Trump’s lie while making no comment on its consequences.
Yet other Republicans saw the situation differently: They might actually break the system and have power without democracy. The split between these two groups, the gamers and the breakers, became sharply visible on Dec. 30, when Senator Josh Hawley announced that he would support Trump’s challenge by questioning the validity of the electoral votes on Jan. 6. Ted Cruz then promised his own support, joined by about 10 other senators. More than a hundred Republican representatives took the same position. For many, this seemed like nothing more than a show: challenges to states’ electoral votes would force delays and floor votes but would not affect the outcome.
Letter to Natick Select Board and Chief Hicks (Metrowest Daily News, January 9, 2021)
On January 6th, 2021, Town Meeting Member Sue Ianni organized multiple busloads of people to attend what became an act of insurrection targeting the United States Capitol. Through photos readily available on social media, it is clear that social distancing and other COVID protocols were not followed. What is additionally clear is that Natick residents participated in the assault on the Capitol and violence against the United States. This assault threatened the integrity of the American government, breaching the Capitol for the first time since a foreign invasion in the War of 1812, and did so in the midst of a pandemic that is ravaging our nation, our commonwealth, and our town.
Natick woman who attended violent protest in D.C. still believes 'illegal election' is at play. (Metrowest Daily News, January 8, 2021)
Sue Ianni organized 11 buses to ride down to D.C. for the protest. She is concerned she, and all Trump supporters, are targets of retribution.
Ianni declined to comment when asked if she marched to the U.S. Capitol and entered the building, offering that “too many people were arrested wrongly for a peaceful protest after being waived in by Capitol police.”
American Amnesia (The Cut, January 8, 2021)
Despite the very American efforts to obscure past pain every time there’s progress and treat horrific events as one-offs, there is no amount of change that can wipe our memories or the slate clean. We witnessed this process at its absolute apex on January 6, a day that will live in infamy unless we do our American thing of pretending as if the worst parts of us are a fringe.
Wednesday’s insurrection was not a singular event in our history. It was the result of a decades-long plan for white nationalists to wreak havoc on the U.S. government. With the encouragement of a sitting president, they did exactly that with little consequences. Five people died. The majority of the insurrectionists left the U.S. Capitol unscathed. There were no tanks to greet them, no militarized police force with batons at the ready, no eagerness to push them to the ground, break their bones, and leave them traumatized. Of course righteous anger spread on social media. There were mumblings about removing Trump from office. The very senators who encouraged the violence, including Missouri senator Josh Hawley and Texas senator Ted Cruz, released statements condemning it. Once the Capitol Police finally dispersed the crowd and cleared the building, Congress restored order and continued its procedural vote — allowing representatives and senators who helped incite the insurrection to still object to specific election results in specific states — and business continued as normal. Because it always does.
This kind of whiplash is as common in the United States as mythmaking exceptionalism and double standards in policing. America was built on violent theft, enslavement enforced through brutality, and congressional leaders manipulating the levers of power to suppress the vote, but whenever there’s perceived progress, including Barack Obama being elected to the presidency and Warnock becoming the first Black Democratic senator from the South, we’re asked to bury all of the ugly history. We’re at a new dawn, so we should pretend as if the darkness never existed — until we’re forced to face the next tunnel.
It took a mob riot for Twitter to finally ban Trump. (Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2021)
Whose megaphone will President Trump use now? In the wake of the horrifying attack on the U.S. Capitol, major social media companies have all “deplatformed” Trump and some of his fellow traffickers in false claims about the November 2020 election. The last to join in the cancel ceremonies was Twitter, Trump’s favorite vehicle for spreading deception and calumny. After Twitter finally started labeling Trump’s deceptive tweets for what they were last May, I wrote that the company had waited three years too long. That delay, combined with Twitter’s ongoing refusal to make Trump abide by the rules that apply to everyone else on the network, made Friday’s ban inevitable.
The long-overdue deplatforming could be an analgesic for the Trumpists’ fever dreams about overturning Joe Biden’s victory in November, which Congress formally certified several hours after the Capitol was cleared. No other micro-blogging or messaging service has the reach in the United States of Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. None can have the sort of impact for Trump that Twitter has.
Twitter’s analysis of Trump’s last two tweets, issued after the president’s personal account had been suspended for a day, is instructive. The first tweet proclaimed that “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” The second stated, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
The company looked across the Twitterverse to see how the tweets were being interpreted by Trump’s seditious followers. And what it found was chilling. Trump’s use of the phrase “great American Patriots,” Twitter said, was “being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the U.S. Capitol.” Trump’s announcement that he’s blowing off the Inauguration was seen by some “as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate” and as a disavowal of the president’s stated support for an orderly transition of power. “The second Tweet may also serve as encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the Inauguration would be a ‘safe’ target, as he will not be attending,” Twitter wrote.
But for heaven’s sake, why did it take a mob of Trump zealots storming the Capitol, and five deaths that resulted, for Twitter to look at what Trump has been signaling across its network? Or for Facebook to cut off Trump’s use of its network to micro-target his snake oil? Promoting a free speech culture does not mean amplifying all speech.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he doesn’t feel comfortable playing the role of speech police. But he’s created one of the world’s most powerful amplifiers, and he’s rightly set standards — low standards, sadly — for what people can do with it. World leaders should be held to the same rules as everyone else; otherwise, social networks are giving those politicians a means to communicate which is less transparent and public than the powerful soapboxes that come with their offices.
Twitter permanently suspends Trump’s account. (Politico, January 8, 2021)
"After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence," Twitter said in a statement Friday afternoon.
Two days after throngs of his supporters staged a violent rampage through the Capitol, the social media company said Trump broke its rules yet again. This came even after the company had publicly warned Wednesday that additional violations would result in his indefinite expulsion.
After his account was reactivated Thursday, Trump tweeted out two messages saying his supporters "will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form," and announcing he would not attending President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. Twitter cited those messages as motivating their decision to deactivate his account. "These two Tweets must be read in the context of broader events in the country and the ways in which the President’s statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence, as well as in the context of the pattern of behavior from this account in recent weeks," the company said in its statement. It added the tweets violated its policy on glorification of violence.
Trump's ouster culminates years of friction between the outgoing president and Twitter, the platform he has long used to promote conspiracy theories, personal grievances and surprise policy decisions to his nearly 89 million followers. But it came too late for many critics of both Trump and Twitter, who say the company has allowed him to flout its rules with rhetoric such as threats of war or violence against racial justice protesters.
The final straw came shortly after pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol during a deadly assault, when Trump posted a series of tweets that urged his supporters to leave but continued to claim falsely that the November election had been stolen from him. Those included a tweet attacking Vice President Mike Pence for refusing to overturn the election results, and another describing the rioters as "great patriots." Twitter and Facebook, where Trump posted some of the same messages, temporarily locked Trump’s account in response. Further rule-breaking, Twitter said, "will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account."
Facebook and Instagram subsequently locked Trump's accounts at least through Inauguration Day. “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a statement posted to his personal page the day after the mayhem.
"Coward": MAGA internet turns on Trump. (Politico, January 8, 2021)
The president acknowledged his defeat and urged for political reconciliation. His online faithful didn’t take it well.
After years of fidelity, Donald Trump's most ardent online fans have finally turned on him. All it took was for the president to acknowledge the reality of his loss a little over a day after they, the MAGA faithful, stormed the Capitol in a violent attempt to stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
“People were willing to die for this man and he just threw them all under the bus. That’s the only thing that’s shameful about the events of the past 36 hours,” Nick Fuentes, the host of the America First podcast and the unofficial leader of the white nationalist Groyper Army, angrily tweeted, shortly after Trump released a video Thursday night in which he conceded that Biden would be the next president and called for political reconciliation.
Hawley Faces Fierce Backlash From Colleagues, Donors After Capitol Riot. (Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2021)
Missouri senator’s objection to election results has drawn widespread condemnation, raising questions about his political future.
Mr. Hawley, an ambitious 41-year-old former Missouri attorney general, last week became the first senator to say he would object to the results of the 2020 presidential election, bucking GOP leaders and sending shock waves through his conference. By law, an objection requires the backing of at least one House member and one senator to trigger a debate and vote on whether to disqualify a state’s electoral results. Once Mr. Hawley had signed on, there was enormous pressure on other Republican senators to follow suit or risk being seen as betraying President Trump.
Now he has become a pariah among Senate Republicans, many of whom blame him for what they see as his role instigating a riot that overwhelmed the Capitol and resulted in the deaths of five people, including a Capitol Police officer. Mr. Hawley also is contending with fallout beyond the Capitol: The former Missouri senator who recruited him to run for Senate has denounced him, Simon & Schuster canceled publication of his upcoming book on big tech, the president of his Jesuit high school called on him to reflect and atone, and a multimillion-dollar donor has said the Senate should censure him. Some Democrats are demanding his resignation.
Biden: Trump skipping inauguration a "good thing". (Politico, January 8, 2021)
"He exceeded even my worst notions about him," the president-elect said. "He’s been an embarrassment to the country.”
Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to three golfers in a closed-to-the-public ceremony less than 24 hours after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. (Daily Mail/UK, January 8, 2021)
On Thursday, President Donald Trump awarded three golfers the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a closed-door ceremony. Two of the recipients, Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player, are retired, and the third, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, was awarded the medal posthumously. It comes less than 24 hours after Trump's supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a riot that led to five deaths. Many have called the timing of the ceremony 'tone deaf,' including Player's own son, Mark, who called on his father to turn down the award.
Only four other golfers have ever received the nation's highest civilian honor, including Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Charlie Sifford.
Impeachment strikes back. (Politico, January 8, 2021)
A fissure in the Republican party split wide open today. Some GOP members are now considering voting for a second impeachment of Trump. The Nightly chatted with Congressional reporter Kyle Cheney over Slack about what this week’s events mean for the days and weeks ahead.
Support for New Trump Impeachment Rises After Death of Police Officer. (Slate, January 8, 2021)
On Thursday, congressional Democrats including both Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Donald Trump needs to be removed from office for his role in inciting the mob attack on the Capitol that took place during Electoral College counting Wednesday. Some Democrats wanted to begin impeachment proceedings immediately. Others, like Pelosi and Schumer, said they would first like to see if Vice President Mike Pence invokes the 25th Amendment process to take away Trump’s authority. As of Thursday night, Pence was reportedly unwilling to do so; whether or not he changes his mind, developments overnight and this morning have strengthened the case, and the visible support, for removal.
Congressman Cohen Will Introduce Resolution to Abolish the Electoral College. (w/full text; Congressman Steve Cohen, January 8, 2021)
In the past 20 years, the archaic institution has twice awarded the presidency to a candidate who did not win the popular vote, defeating the will of the American people.
The Journey of Ashli Babbitt (Bellingcat, January 8, 2021)
Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran, was shot and killed by Capitol Police while attempting to enter the Speaker’s Lobby on the second floor of the US Capitol in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021. Babbitt was part of a thousands-strong mob that stormed the building after the conclusion of the #StopTheSteal rally at the Washington Monument earlier in the day. At that event, President Donald Trump had encouraged rally goers to head to the Capitol to protest the certification of the 2020 presidential election. His comments came after weeks of false and inflammatory statements to the effect that he had won the election, and that his enemies had rigged it against him.
Babbitt’s shooting was captured on several videos that were recorded and shared by people in the crowd. Her own social media history also reveals her movements on the morning and afternoon of January 6. But looking back further shows an ideological journey that saw her travel from stating she had backed President Barack Obama to engaging in damaging right-wing conspiracy theories. We have looked at Babbitt’s social media footprint, as well as other open source information, to trace both journeys.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal on surviving the siege: "It Was No Accident!" (The Cut, January 8, 2021)
On Wednesday, January 6, Pramila Jayapal, a Democratic congresswoman from Washington State, was sitting in the gallery above the House chamber, watching the proceedings to count the Electoral College vote and certify the result of the presidential election, when armed right-wing rioters breached the Capitol Building and began to make their way inside, toward the lawmakers and administrative, custodial, and food-service staff working inside. Jayapal, a longtime immigration activist who worked to negotiate Seattle’s $15 minimum wage before being elected to Washington’s state senate in 2015, then to the U.S. Congress in 2017, heads the House Progressive Caucus. We spoke about Wednesday’s siege, about the particular vulnerability of Black and brown women to violent incursion, and about how her party must now move forward, both in response to the attack and as the governing party moving into a new administration.
"I Was There When The Rioters Stormed The Capitol." (Newsweek, January 8, 2021)
Trump eventually took to the stage, more than an hour late, to the roar of the crowd. Immediately he called the result "bulls***" to great cheers and laughter before continuing in his usual, off-script rambling style. Yet one part of his speech really resonated with those stood staring up at him. "We will never give up; we will never concede," Trump said to thunderous applause. "We will stop the steal," he told the crowd, and later: "We're going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, and we're going to the Capitol...We're going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones...the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country."
Video of the Moment When Pro-Trump Rioters Clashed With Police in Capitol Corridor. (3-min. video; Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2021)
New footage shows a moment when pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. The violent day resulted in the deaths of five people, including a U.S. Capitol police officer.
Ignorance and Ideology Meet at the Capitol. (HistoryNet, January 8, 2021)
On Wednesday as pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington, DC in an unprecedented domestic attack on the institution of democracy, further chilling scenes unfolded on the steps of the Capitol as photographs of rioters were seen dressed in clothing with brazenly anti-Semitic messages. Some proudly displayed shirts with the insignia 6MWE — meaning “six million Jews weren’t enough.” A reminder that if democracy becomes vulnerable, genocidal forces in the wings are ready to rise. Yes, even in America.
Among the rioters were members of the Proud Boys and other alt-right, neo-fascist organizations. Hundreds or more of the mob broke into the Capitol, sparking hours of chaos and violence in which dozens were injured and five people — including a U.S. Capitol police officer — were killed.
One man wore a black sweatshirt with a skull-and-crossbones logo with the words “Camp Auschwitz” emblazoned above it and “work brings freedom.” The Nazi death camp notoriously had the phrase Arbeit macht frei or “Work sets you free” on the entrance of the camp gates.
Eleven million men, women, and children perished during the systematic, Nazi state-sponsored persecution and murder of Jews, Slavic peoples, Roma, people with disabilities, Soviet prisoners, homosexuals, and others deemed “inferior.” Of those 11 million, more than six million Jews perished during the Holocaust.
They Were Out for Blood. (Slate, January 8, 2021)
The men who carried zip ties as they stormed the Capitol weren’t clowning around. Call the zip ties by their correct name: The guys were carrying flex cuffs, the plastic double restraints often used by police in mass arrest situations. They walked through the Senate chamber with a sense of purpose. They were not dressed in silly costumes but kitted out in full paramilitary regalia: helmets, armor, camo, holsters with sidearms. At least one had a semi-automatic rifle and 11 Molotov cocktails. At least one, unlike nearly every other right-wing rioter photographed that day, wore a mask that obscured his face.
These are the same guys who, when the windows of the Capitol were broken and entry secured, went in first with what I’d call military-ish precision. They moved with purpose, to the offices of major figures like Nancy Pelosi and then to the Senate floor. What was that purpose? It wasn’t to pose for photos. It was to use those flex cuffs on someone.
In October, the FBI and state authorities charged 13 men with plotting to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan. Members of that plot attended protests at the Michigan Capitol in April, real planners of violence mixing easily with those for whom guns are fun protest props. The plotters discussed a summary execution—“knock on the door,” one wrote in the group chat, “and when she answers it just cap her”—but settled on a kidnapping, pulled off while police were distracted by a nearby explosion. Think of that plot, as these men surely did, as a dress rehearsal for what the zip-tie guys wanted to accomplish at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
They went into the Capitol, as Congress was counting electoral votes, equipped to take hostages—to physically seize officials, and presumably to take lives. The prospect is terrifying. But just because it seems unthinkable doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think hard about what almost happened. Don’t dismiss the zip-tie guys as “LARPers” or “weekend warriors.” First of all, given the well-documented overlap between ex-military, law enforcement, and right-wing militias, it’s entirely possible these guys were weekday warriors using their training in service of extracurricular interests. (One of the Twitter sleuths who are now trying to track them down sure seems to think they’re ex-military.) More importantly, the long awful course of history reminds us how slippery the slope is from playacting as a strike force to actually behaving as a strike force.
Trump Still Has the Power to Blow Up the World. (Slate, January 8, 2021)
And as long as he’s in office, there’s not much anyone can do about that.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, summoning the ultimate fear of Trump’s unbounded powers for the next 12 days, said Friday that she has asked Milley about “available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike.” If Milley was honest in his reply, he would have told Pelosi that there are no such formal precautions—that, in fact, the nuclear command-control system was designed to allow the president, and only the president, to launch nuclear weapons as quickly as possible. This system was put in place so that the United States could respond to (or preempt) an enemy nuclear attack before the enemy’s missiles landed on American soil. But the system’s designers made no distinction between responding to a nuclear attack and launching a nuclear first strike out of the blue. In both cases, the president has untrammeled monopoly control.
At the dawn of the republic, James Madison wrote in the Federalist No. 10, “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.” This was why he and the other founders devised checks and balances to a potential autocrat’s power—a legislature, judiciary, free press, and (they hoped) an educated public. Yet from the dawn of the nuclear age till now, no one has devised checks or balances to keep an “unenlightened statesman” from obliterating life on the planet.
It’s extremely unlikely that Trump will try to launch nukes in the final 12 days of his presidency, but several lawmakers, officials, and officers are worried that they don’t know what Trump might do. The possibility that he might do something destructive was what drove all 10 of the living former secretaries of defense to sign a Washington Post op-ed, reminding current officials and officers that it would be “dangerous, unlawful, and unconstitutional” for the military to play any role in settling a political election. Their main fear was that Trump might call on the armed forces to extend his term of power. His former national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (who was later indicted, then pardoned), had recently (and incorrectly) claimed the president possessed the power to declare martial law and redo the election under military supervision. The secretaries were also concerned about Trump taking military action abroad. Shortly after the election, Trump had fired the top echelon of Pentagon civilians and replaced them with loyalists, some of them inexperienced ideologues. In mid-December, these new acting officials stopped meeting with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team. The former secretaries wondered: Was Trump planning something and relying on his lackeys to execute his orders out of sight?
One silver lining to Trump’s Jan. 6 incitement of an attempted insurrection is that more people in Congress, the armed forces, and elsewhere—including many erstwhile supporters—are on heightened alert. The report that Vice President Mike Pence authorized the Defense Department to send the National Guard to Capitol Hill—an act that the president would normally take—suggests that high officials are crafting workarounds to Trump’s powers in moments of urgency. (This isn’t a totally positive thing, by the way.)
But for as long as he’s president, Trump continues to possess powers like the world has never seen. If American politics calm down in the next few years, to the point where Republicans and Democrats can hold rational discussions, premised on a common reality (even if not common views), it might be good for Biden to lead a discussion on paring down these powers.
Nancy Pelosi says she spoke to Gen. Milley about Trump and the nuclear codes. (CNN, January 8, 2021)
"This morning, I spoke to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike," Pelosi wrote in a letter. "The situation of this unhinged President could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy."
After speaking with Milley on Friday, Pelosi told her caucus that she has gotten assurances there are safeguards in place in the event Trump wants to launch a nuclear weapon.
Nancy Pelosi's letter on speaking with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs about Trump and the nuclear codes (CNN, January 8, 2021)
Biden plans to release nearly all available vaccine doses in an attempt to speed delivery. (New York Times, January 8, 2021)
In a sharp break with the Trump administration, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. intends to release nearly all available doses of the coronavirus vaccine soon after he is inaugurated, rather than hold back millions of vials to guarantee second doses will be available. The decision is part of an aggressive effort to “to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,” the Biden transition team said on Friday. The vaccination plan, to be formally unveiled next week, also will include federally run vaccination sites in places like high school gyms and sports stadiums, and mobile units to reach high-risk populations. The president-elect has vowed to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” during his first 100 days in office.
45's Falsehoods and Failures: COVID-19 (People For the American Way, January 8, 2021)
This week’s news has been largely dominated by the Senate runoff races in Georgia and Trump supporters’ terrorism at the U.S. Capitol. But even as news coverage focused on these events, the pandemic continued its dangerous spread through our communities.
At Trump’s rally that preceded the assault at the Capitol, his supporters urged the crowd to “turn to the person next to you and give them a hug” – creating a “mass-spreader event.” That same day, the United States experienced its most deadly day of the pandemic so far: More than 3,900 deaths and 255,000 new cases were reported on January 6. And neither Trump nor his Republican allies have indicated any concern about the ongoing severity of the pandemic or that their failures and misdeeds have further exacerbated it.
Despite the ongoing devastation, Trump and his federal allies continue to obstruct the orderly transition of coronavirus information to the Biden-Harris administration’s incoming team of public health experts. During a pandemic, every day can make a life-or-death difference. Trump’s callous indifference to protecting the American people has already taken a needlessly tragic toll on the country.
Trump’s failure to lead us through the pandemic will be among the greatest failures of his presidency. And although he will soon lack any governing power, the impact of his failures will continue to hurt the American people. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have outlined their extensive plans to combat the virus and speed up the production and dispersal of COVID-19 vaccines – and their leadership couldn’t come soon enough.
Donald Trump’s Final Days (Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2021)
If Mr. Trump wants to avoid a second impeachment, his best path would be to take personal responsibility and resign. This would be the cleanest solution since it would immediately turn presidential duties over to Mr. Pence. And it would give Mr. Trump agency, a la Richard Nixon, over his own fate.
This might also stem the flood of White House and Cabinet resignations that are understandable as acts of conscience but could leave the government dangerously unmanned. Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, in particular should stay at his post.
We know an act of grace by Mr. Trump isn’t likely. In any case this week has probably finished him as a serious political figure. He has cost Republicans the House, the White House, and now the Senate. Worse, he has betrayed his loyal supporters by lying to them about the election and the ability of Congress and Mr. Pence to overturn it. He has refused to accept the basic bargain of democracy, which is to accept the result, win or lose.
It is best for everyone, himself included, if he goes away quietly.
Donald Trump Finally Concedes Election to Biden: Full Text of Speech. (Newsweek, January 7, 2021)
After weeks of refusal, President Donald Trump conceded the November election to President-elect Joe Biden in a video posted to social media on Thursday.
[While, on Twitter, Trump posted the still-deceptive: “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th. I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”]
Trump Has Now Been Suspended From Four of the Six Most Popular Social Media Platforms. (Newsweek, January 7, 2021)
Inauthentic Editing: Changing Wikipedia to Win Elections and Influence People (Stanford Internet Observatory)
Wikipedia celebrates its 20th anniversary this month. This is the first of two blog posts exploring the use, misuse, and ultimate resilience of this open, community-edited platform.
“God Have Mercy on and Help Us All.” (Slate, January 7, 2021)
How prominent evangelicals reacted to the storming of the U.S. Capitol.
Michelle Obama Calls on Social Media to "Stop Enabling Trump's Monstrous Behavior." (Newsweek, January 7, 2021)
"Now is the time for those who voted for this president to see the reality of who they've supported – and publicly and forcefully rebuke him and the actions of that mob," Obama said. "Now is the time for Silicon Valley companies to stop enabling this monstrous behavior – and go even further than they have already by permanently banning this man from their platforms and putting in place policies to prevent their technology from being used by the nation's leaders to fuel insurrection."
After Delays and Tumult, Trump Finaly Tells Political Appointees to Submit Resignations. (New York Times, January 7, 2021)
Until Thursday, the White House had still not told its political appointees to step down, a routine request to smooth presidential transitions that usually happens within weeks of an election.
The White House formally asked for the resignations of its ambassadors and other political appointees on Thursday, as a wave of senior officials announced their departure from the government after President Trump incited supporters who had assaulted the Capitol a day earlier. The storming of the Capitol to disrupt the official Electoral College tally on Wednesday sent shock waves across the United States and around the world, and prompted Mr. Trump to promise early Thursday that he would ensure an “orderly transition” to the administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Trump Administration Officials Who Resigned Over Capitol Violence (New York Times, January 7, 2021)
Several officials announced that they were stepping down, after a mob of the president’s supporters disrupted the process of certifying the election results yesterday.
Trump Erases His Legacy. (3-min. video; Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2021)
Mr. Trump's obsession with the results helped to lose the GOP the Senate and to encourage Wednesday's mob.
A politician has to work hard to destroy a legacy and a future in a single day. President Donald J. Trump managed it.
Peter Bart: Washington Won’t Miss Donald Trump, Nor Will Hollywood Miss His Enabler Rupert Murdoch. (Deadline, January 7, 2021)
The Donald Trump era is passing like a dark cloud, but I’d offer a second headline of equal importance: The Rupert Murdoch era also is history. As the media lord nears 90, his ominous hold on the politics and pop culture of three nations is lifting as well. Hollywood, too, will be healthier in his absence.
The Trump legacy is one of hatred and betrayal – that much has come into alarming focus in the last 48 hours. But that shouldn’t distract from the reality that Murdoch’s media arsenal helped build Trumpism – Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and even those assets overseas. Murdoch has profited from splintering American society.
Cybersecurity experts warn about Congress's information security after Capitol riots. (CNN, January 7, 2021)
Digital security experts are raising the alarm over Wednesday's breach of the US Capitol, which not only threatened lawmakers' physical safety but also created potential national security and intelligence risks, they say. As rioters stormed the Capitol building, they broke into congressional offices, ransacked papers and in at least one case, stole a laptop, according to a video shared on Twitter by Sen. Jeff Merkley. Merkley's office wasn't the only one robbed, according to authorities. On a call with reporters Thursday afternoon, US officials said multiple senators' offices were hit.
"This is probably going to take several days to flesh out exactly what happened, what was stolen, what wasn't," said Michael Sherwin, acting US attorney for the District of Columbia. "Items, electronic items, were stolen from senators' offices. Documents, materials, were stolen, and we have to identify what was done, mitigate that, and it could have potential national security equities. If there was damage, we don't know the extent of that yet."
A Riot Amid a Pandemic: Did the Virus, Too, Storm the Capitol? (New York Times, January 7, 2021)
The mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday did not just threaten the heart of American democracy. To scientists who watched dismayed as the scenes unfolded on television, the throngs of unmasked intruders who wandered through hallways and into private offices may also have transformed the riot into a super-spreader event. The coronavirus thrives indoors, particularly in crowded spaces, lingering in the air in tiny particles called aerosols. If even a few extremists were infected — likely, given the current rates of spread and the crowd size — then the virus would have had the ideal opportunity to find new victims, experts said. “It has all the elements of what we warn people about,” said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “People yelling and screaming, chanting, exerting themselves — all of those things provide opportunity for the virus to spread, and this virus takes those opportunities.”
President Trump has downplayed the pandemic almost since its beginning, and many of his supporters who entered the Capitol yesterday did not appear to be wearing masks or making any effort at social distancing. Under similar conditions, gatherings held in such close quarters have led to fast-spreading clusters of infection.
Pence is said to oppose invoking 25th Amendment to strip Trump of his duties. (New York Times, January 7, 2021)
Vice President Mike Pence is opposed to a call by Democrats in Congress and some Republicans to invoke the 25th Amendment to strip President Trump of his powers before his term ends, a person close to the vice president said.
It is unclear when Mr. Pence will alert Congress of his position. But the decision by Mr. Pence is said to be supported by several Trump cabinet officials. Those officials, a senior Republican said, viewed the effort as likely to add to the current chaos in Washington rather than deter it.
Democrats Threaten Impeachment if Pence Won’t Act After Capitol Siege. (New York Times, January 7, 2021)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House could be ready to impeach President Trump again within days if the vice president does not invoke the 25th Amendment to strip his powers.
Pelosi calls for Trump's immediate removal through 25th Amendment. (Reuters, January 7, 2021)
Sen. Romney: This was "an insurrection incited by the President". (3-min. video; CNN, January 7, 2021)
Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) called the riots at the US Capitol "an insurrection incited by the President of the United States," while addressing his colleagues at a ceremonial counting of electoral votes that will confirm President-elect Biden's win.
Mike Pence was livid 'after all the things I've done' for Trump. (Business Insider, January 7, 2021)
Pence took lead as Trump initially resisted sending National Guard to Capitol. (CNN, January 7, 2021)
Vice President Mike Pence, not President Donald Trump, helped facilitate the decision to mobilize members of the DC National Guard Wednesday when violence at the US Capitol building started to escalate, according to a source familiar with the move and public comments from top officials.
As the chaos unfolded, doubts were raised about whether Trump would order the DC National Guard to respond due to the slowness of the response. Public statements by acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and other top officials suggested it was Pence who ultimately approved the decision. Miller's statement Wednesday seems to indicate he did not even speak with Trump, discussing the matter with his deputy instead as sources told CNN the President was reluctant to even denounce the violence being carried out in his name.
Trump, who has proven over the past year to be eager to deploy the National Guard when violence breaks out, initially resisted doing so on Capitol Hill Wednesday as a mob of his supporters breached the building, per a source familiar. Pence played a key role in coordinating with the Pentagon about deploying them, and urged them to move faster than they were.
The news raises questions about who was acting as commander in chief on one of America's darkest days, which saw the country's legislature overrun for the first time since the British attacked and burned the building in August 1814.
Industry Labor Leaders Condemn Trump Supporters’ Attack On Capitol: “Shocking And Unacceptable”. (Deadline, January 7, 2021)
A growing chorus of entertainment industry union leaders is condemning Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol building by supporters of President Donald Trump – and the politicians who incited the violence.
“It took three years, 50 weeks and four dead at the Capitol for far too few Republicans to abandon him. Trump didn’t destroy their party — they did,” tweeted WGA East president Beau Willimon, who also called for Trump to be impeached for a second time. “For those who think, ‘Only two weeks left, why impeach?’ — consider this: Would you be comfortable with a deranged and violent amateur piloting the plane you’re on for even 30 seconds? And, don’t you want to send a message that we will never allow such a pilot at the yoke again?”
Thom Hartmann: Tyrants often turn on their own people: it’s time to remove Trump from office. (Medium, January 7, 2021)
Tyrants very rarely leave power voluntarily. In almost every case they’ve committed so many crimes in the process of acquiring and holding power, and exploiting that power to enrich themselves, their friends and allies, that they know if they step down they will be facing, at the very least, a long stretch in prison.
A dear friend of mine, Armin Lehmann, was the 16-year-old courier who brought Adolf Hitler the news that the war was totally lost, and thus was in the Führerbunker when Hitler committed suicide. Armin told me how a few weeks earlier, on March 19, 1945, Hitler had ordered the remnants of the German Air Force and tank crews to bomb Berlin and reduce other German cities to rubble. Germans still refer to it as his Nero Decree.
This is why it’s so vital that Donald Trump be removed from power immediately. Be it through the 25th Amendment or immediate articles of impeachment and a vote in the Senate, it must be done.
On His Way Out, Trump Trashes America—and the GOP. (Newsweek, January 7, 2021)
This piece was initially about the GOP and where it stands after four years of being controlled by Donald Trump and his family. The party has been in lockstep with him, but perhaps things are finally changing. In addition to being the first incumbent to lose reelection in nearly 30 years, the GOP lost the House in 2018 and the Senate just yesterday. The Senate loss is especially galling, as Republicans only had to win one of two Georgia runoff races. Though Trump campaigned for Senators Perdue and Loeffler, he focused far more on his grievances, especially his loss in the Georgia popular vote in November, than in boosting their prospects. He repeatedly complained of electoral fraud and in a widely publicized call just before the runoff election pressured the Republican Secretary of State to change the state's vote totals, despite three recounts that confirmed he had lost. His baseless conspiracy mongering could very well have deterred Republicans from voting, or soured other voters on supporting Loeffler and Perdue.
Trump's biggest problem has always been his lack of any core convictions or governing philosophy. As president, Trump focused on stoking resentment, Twitter threats and insults.
'Found one': Rep. Karen Bass identifies lead instigator in attempted coup at Capitol as Donald J. Trump. (Daily Kos, January 7, 2021)
Democratic Rep. Karen Bass has been calling for President Donald Trump’s leave of office for more than a year now. She punctuated the urgency of that call Thursday by answering an FBI tweet seeking the individuals who instigated violence in Washington, D.C. with a photo of Trump. “Found one,” Bass captioned.
Trump incited an entitled mob that climbed fences, stole property, and shattered glass doors of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday in what was by no exaggeration an attempted coup. It ended with four people dead, 14 police officers injured, and 52 arrests, authorities said. The riot was intended to block lawmakers from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory, but it achieved no such thing.
In a CNN interview Thursday, Bass also pointed out the brazen double standard in how authorities peacefully responded to Trump protesters versus how they have brutally responded to Black Lives Matter protesters over the last year. She said it’s “demoralizing” for people of color who “know if you could even imagine if tens of thousands of young, old African Americans attacked the Capitol like that what would have happened.”
Jan. 6 Was 9 Weeks — And 4 Years — in the Making. (Politico, January 7, 2021)
I spent the last election cycle immersed in the metastasizing paranoia behind Wednesday’s assault on Congress. Nobody should be surprised by what just happened.
I certainly never expected to see platoons of insurrectionists scaling the walls of the U.S. Capitol and sacking the place in broad daylight. Still, shocking as this was, it wasn’t a bit surprising. The attempted coup d'état had been unfolding in slow motion over the previous nine weeks. Anyone who couldn’t see this coming chose not to see it coming. And that goes for much of the Republican Party.
Make no mistake: Plenty of the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol complex on Wednesday really, truly believed that Trump had been cheated out of four more years; that Vice President Mike Pence had unilateral power to revise the election results; that their takeover of the building could change the course of history. I know this because I know several people who were there, and several more who planned to go. They bear responsibility for their actions, of course. But the point remains: They were conned into coming to D.C. in the first place, not just by Trump with his compulsive lying, but by the legions of Republicans who refused to counter those lies, believing it couldn’t hurt to humor the president and stoke the fires of his base.
"Is This Really Happening?": The Siege of Congress, Seen From the Inside. (Politico, January 7, 2021)
On Wednesday, when the waves of pro-Trump rioters overwhelmed U.S. Capitol Police and surged through the building’s lobbies and stairways, they trapped journalists and nearly all members of Congress. Some of them had ways out; Vice President Mike Pence, there to preside over the Senate, was quickly ushered to safety. Some didn’t. Members dove to the gallery floor; rooms were quickly pressed into service as safe spots for journalists covering the session.
Five of the journalists in the building were congressional reporters for POLITICO, whose normal beats cover the far more bureaucratic daily business of Congress. We asked them—as well as a photographer and two more reporters outside—to describe, by phone, what happened in those frenzied, confusing hours when the threat to American democracy came from inside the building. This is their account.
Donald Trump, In New Statement, Says There Will Be “Orderly Transition Of Power”. (Deadline, January 7, 2021)
Donald Trump released a new statement in which he said that there would be an “orderly transition of power,” amid the uproar over his role in fomenting a mob of protesters who went on to storm the U.S. Capitol.
Shortly after Congress affirmed the victory of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, one of Trump’s aides, Dan Scavino, tweeted out the statement. The president continued to make unfounded and false claims of election fraud. “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th. I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”
Kamala Harris will be able to break Senate ties. Why her staff hopes she won't need to. (Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2021)
The victories by the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Tuesday's high-stakes races create a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans, including two independent senators who caucus with Democrats. The rare circumstance sets Harris up for a starring role on Capitol Hill — presiding at the Senate dais to deliver for the administration the final "yes" vote on key bills, Cabinet confirmations and judgeships.
Harris' advisors are hoping the Senate duties don't distract from her other responsibilities and priorities too much, hindering travel, dominating her schedule or interfering with her ability to become an active player in the Biden White House. To that end, although Harris will have a pair of offices in the Senate, like all vice presidents, don't expect her to be hanging out there all day, supervising debate or trolling committee meetings. And expect the administration to work with Republicans to avoid 50-50 ties whenever possible.
Congress completes electoral count, finalizing Biden's win after violent delay from pro-Trump mob. (CNN, January 7, 2021)
As they reconvened, Democrats and some Republicans condemned Trump's rhetoric in the lead-up to Wednesday's session, saying he deserved some of the blame for inciting the pro-Trump rioters who stormed into the Capitol. "This mob was a good part President Trump's doing, incited by his words, his lies," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. "Today's events almost certainly would not have happened without him."
The Senate voted 93 to 6 to dismiss the objection raised by Republicans to Arizona's results, and 92 to 7 to reject the objection to Pennsylvania.
In the House, a majority of Republicans voted to object to the results, but they were still soundly rejected, 303 to 121 for Arizona and 282 to 138 for Pennsylvania, with all Democrats in opposition. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was among the House Republicans to vote to reject the two states' results.
The riots prompted several Senate Republicans who had planned to object to decide they would no longer do so.
Republicans and Democrats alike condemned the protesters for breaching the US Capitol, and several blamed Trump -- who pushed for Republicans and Pence to use the joint session of Congress to overturn the election result -- for the dangerous situation that unfolded. "We gather due to a selfish man's injured pride and the outrage of supporters who he deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning," said Sen. Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican and 2012 GOP presidential nominee. "What happened today was an insurrection incited by the president of the United States," Romney added, warning those who voted to back Trump's objections would "forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy."
Warnock, Ossoff win in Georgia, handing Dems Senate control. (Associated Press, January 6, 2021)
Democrats won both Georgia Senate seats — and with them, the U.S. Senate majority — as final votes were counted Wednesday, serving President Donald Trump a stunning defeat in his turbulent final days in office while dramatically improving the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s progressive agenda. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Democratic challengers who represented the diversity of their party’s evolving coalition, defeated Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler two months after Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992.
Warnock, who served as pastor for the same Atlanta church where civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, becomes the first African American from Georgia elected to the Senate. And Ossoff becomes the state’s first Jewish senator and, at 33 years old, the Senate’s youngest member.
This week’s elections were expected to mark the formal finale to the tempestuous 2020 election season, although the Democrats’ resounding success was overshadowed by chaos and violence in Washington, where angry Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. Wednesday’s unprecedented siege drew fierce criticism of Trump’s leadership from within his own party, and combined with the bad day in Georgia, marked one of the darkest days of his divisive presidency.
NEW: Giuliani to Senator: "Try to Just Slow it Down." (complete 2-min. audio; The Dispatch, January 6, 2021)
The president’s lawyer tries to block the count of the Electoral College votes. With the Capitol building barely cleared of Trump’s seditious invaders, Giuliani left a voicemail intended for Senator Tommy Tuberville (a Trump diehard, and former college football coach, newly elected to the Senate from Alabama).
Except Giuliani called the wrong number and actually left his message with a different senator, who leaked it to the media. Here’s some of what Giuliani said:
“Senator Tuberville? Or I should say Coach Tuberville. This is Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer. I'm calling you because I want to discuss with you how they’re trying to rush this hearing and how we need you, our Republican friends, to try to just slow it down ... I know they’re reconvening at eight tonight, but ... the only strategy we can follow is to object to numerous states ...”
It’s not clear whether Giuliani—who opens the call by referring to himself as “the president’s lawyer”—was directed to call Tuberville by President Trump. One longtime Trump adviser still talking to top White House officials says Trump is in constant communication with Giuliani. Asked if such a call is something Trump would know about, he said: “Oh, yeah, 100 percent.”
"He screwed the country": Trump loyalty disintegrates. (Politico, January 6, 2021)
Wednesday’s Capitol Hill riot will reverberate for years, shaping Trump’s legacy and pushing Republicans to confront the GOP’s future.
Was it a coup? No, but siege on US Capitol was the election violence of a fragile democracy. (The Conversation, January 6, 2021)
Supporters of President Donald Trump, following his encouragement, stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, disrupting the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. Waving Trump banners, hundreds of people broke through barricades and smashed windows to enter the building where Congress convenes. One rioter died and several police officers were hospitalized in the clash. Congress went on lockdown.
While violent and shocking, what happened on Jan. 6 wasn’t a coup. This Trumpist insurrection was election violence, much like the election violence that plagues many fragile democracies.
Chaos, violence, mockery as pro-Trump mob occupies Congress. 4 die. (Associated Press, January 6, 2021)
This began as a day of reckoning for President Donald Trump’s futile attempt to cling to power as Congress took up the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. It devolved into scenes of fear and agony that left a prime ritual of American democracy in tatters.
Trump told his morning crowd at the Ellipse that he would go with them to the Capitol, but he didn’t. Instead he sent them off with incendiary rhetoric. “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” he said. “Let the weak ones get out,” he went on. “This is a time for strength.”
His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told the crowd, “Let’s have trial by combat.”
What happened Wednesday "was nothing less than an attempted coup", said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a frequent Trump critic, said, “Today, the United States Capitol — the world’s greatest symbol of self-government — was ransacked while the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard.” Sasse went on: “Lies have consequences. This violence was the inevitable and ugly outcome of the president’s addiction to constantly stoking division.”
Police said they recovered two pipe bombs, one outside the Democratic National Committee and one outside the Republican National Committee and a cooler from a vehicle that had a long gun and Molotov cocktail on Capitol grounds.
Police evacuated the chamber at 2:30 p.m., grabbing boxes of Electoral College certificates as they left - before the mob could burn them.
Yet Trump, in a video posted 90 minutes after lawmakers were evacuated, told the insurrectionists “We love you. You’re very special,” while asking them to go home. The police did allow most of them to leave.
“This is how a coup is started,” said Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif. “This is how democracy dies.”
"Not Only Did He Incite It, He Didn't Do Anything To Stop It!" -Sen. Amy Klobuchar On Trump's Failed Coup (11-min. video; Late Show, January 6, 2021)
Moments after voting on the Senate floor, Senator Amy Klobuchar joins us from a secure location inside the Capitol Building and says the president is responsible for today's failed attempted coup, and she wants every person involved to be prosecuted.
Stephen Colbert: Hey, Republicans Who Supported This President: Are We Great Again Yet? (14-min. live monologue; Late Show, January 6, 2021)
After the unprecedented assault on democracy that took place in the Capitol Building today, Stephen Colbert kicks off his monologue with a message for "the cynical cowardly Republican" lawmakers who for five years have coddled the president's fascist rhetoric: "There will be a terrible price to pay."
[Stephen Colbert calls it like it is - and has been, for far too long. Stunning!]
The Late Late Show’s James Corden Says Today Was Trump’s “Last Dance At The Worst Party Ever” But Urges Viewers To Have Hope. (8-min. video; Deadline, January 6, 2021)
Today has been a tough day and this evening’s late-night shows are likely to reflect that. James Corden, host of CBS’ The Late Late Show, was the first late-night star to address what happened earlier when a mob burst into the Capitol and caused chaos. James Corden begins The Late Late Show reflecting on what was a dark day at the United States Capitol, but sees hope on the horizon. After, he looks at Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff's victories in the Georgia Senate run-off election. “Today was [Trump’s] last dance at the worst party any of us have ever been to, so if you can, have hope, we’ve seen in these past few weeks that voting counts, change is coming, science is real, vaccines are on the way. I really do believe that there are better times ahead,” he said.
He talked about being an “outsider”, growing up in England. “I used to look to America as this beacon of light and possibility, a place where anything can happen and you’d be lucky to work, a place where many people I knew used to fantasize about living in, a place that gives an individual more opportunity than they would get elsewhere, yet cares for their fellow man. And yet today people across the world would have looked at these pictures of Washington and they would have wondered what on earth has happened to this great country.” He said that the country had been “hijacked” by a “lunatic and his crazy army” for the past four years. “But that’s about to end because in two weeks on those same steps, where the mob fought and pushed past the police, Joe Biden will be sworn in as President of the United States and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as Vice President of the United States.”
Lawmakers call for Trump's impeachment or invoking 25th Amendment in wake of Capitol Hill violence. (ABC News, January 6, 2021)
"We can't allow him to remain in office."
Gen. Barry Mccaffrey: "Rogue' Trump Must Be Removed From Office - TONIGHT!." (5-min. video; MSNBC, January 6, 2021)
Retired Four-Star U.S. Army General and MSNBC Military Analyst Gen. Barry McCaffrey reacts to Trump's role in the violent mob that stormed Capitol Hill on Wednesday, saying Congress needs to remove Trump from office now.
Jim Acosta: Trump is "traumatized" and "out of his mind" over his election loss. (2-min. video; CNN, January 6, 2021)
Presidential Cabinet "lackeys" not expected to invoke 25th Amendment, but they ARE discussing it.
[And it was Pence, not Trump, who finally called in the National Guard.]
Obama: 'A Moment Of Great Dishonor And Shame For Our Nation' — But Not A Surprise. (NPR, January 6, 2021)
Former President Barack Obama said that the violence that gripped the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was the unsurprising result of two months of instigation by President Trump and his enablers.
"History will rightly remember today's violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation," Obama said in a statement Wednesday evening. "But we'd be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise. For two months now, a political party and its accompanying media ecosystem has too often been unwilling to tell their followers the truth — that this was not a particularly close election and that President-Elect Biden will be inaugurated on January 20. Their fantasy narrative has spiraled further and further from reality, and it builds upon years of sown resentments. Now we're seeing the consequences, whipped up into a violent crescendo," wrote Obama, whose eight-year administration directly preceded Trump's.
Obama also pointed a finger at a larger group of Republicans for their role in inciting the fracas, as many denied for months that Biden was the lawful winner of November's election.
Trump's Stochastic Terrorism becomes Actual Terrorism as defined under US law. (Daily Kos, January 6, 2021)
Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass communications to stir up random lone wolves to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable. For four years, Trump has probed the depths of Stochastic Terrorism, stirring up death through terrorists in El Pas, Charlottesville, Charleston, Kenosha and elsewhere. Today he crossed the line to direct, immediate incitement to terror.
Manufacturers Call on Armed Thugs to Cease Violence at Capitol. (National Assn. of Manufacturers, January 6, 2021)
Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement in response to large groups of armed Trump adherents who have violently stormed the U.S. Capitol building as members of Congress meet to count the electoral votes:
“Armed violent protestors who support the baseless claim by outgoing president Trump that he somehow won an election that he overwhelmingly lost have stormed the U.S. Capitol today, attacking police officers and first responders, because Trump refused to accept defeat in a free and fair election. Throughout this whole disgusting episode, Trump has been cheered on by members of his own party, adding fuel to the distrust that has enflamed violent anger. This is not law and order. This is chaos. It is mob rule. It is dangerous. This is sedition and should be treated as such. The outgoing president incited violence in an attempt to retain power, and any elected leader defending him is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy. Anyone indulging conspiracy theories to raise campaign dollars is complicit. Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy.
“This is not the vision of America that manufacturers believe in and work so hard to defend. Across America today, millions of manufacturing workers are helping our nation fight the deadly pandemic that has already taken hundreds of thousands of lives. We are trying to rebuild an economy and save and rebuild lives. But none of that will matter if our leaders refuse to fend off this attack on America and our democracy—because our very system of government, which underpins our very way of life, will crumble.”
This Is a Coup. Why Were Experts So Reluctant to See It Coming? (Foreign Policy, January 6, 2021)
Today, rioters incited by President Donald Trump have stormed the U.S. Capitol building. Both the House and the Senate have suspended their counting because of security threats. Reportedly, shots have been fired. A photograph of a rioter occupying the House speaker’s chair shows that the Capitol is, essentially, being occupied. C-SPAN is reporting that senior members of leadership of the legislative branch are being held in an “undisclosed location.” Reporters are refusing to divulge their locations on the grounds—entirely reasonable—that doing so could endanger their safety. The National Guard has been deployed.
It’s undeniable at this point. The United States is witnessing a coup attempt—a forceful effort to seize power against the legal framework. The president has caused the interruption of the process that would certify his removal from office. The mechanics of constitutional government have been suspended. Americans are in danger of losing constitutional government to a degree unmatched even during the Civil War, a period when secession itself did not postpone either the holding of elections or the transition of power between presidents.
NEW: Trump Justifies Supporters Storming Capitol: "These Are The Things And Events That Happen." (Forbes, January 6, 2021)
President Donald Trump called on his supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol building to “go home” in a video message and subsequent tweet Wednesday, which Twitter has now removed, but defended the destructive mob for infiltrating the building and said he “loves” his supporters who forced their way into the Capitol.
Donald Trump speaks to insurrectionists occupying Capitol: 'I love you. You're very special.' (Daily Kos, January 6, 2021)
Multiple sources have reported that several people inside the White House, including Mike Pence, have called on Trump to issue a stronger statement to his followers. However, Trump is said to be angry at Pence for failing to overturn the election results … so he’s holding the whole nation hostage to his pout.
Pence has issued his own statement saying that “those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” However, that also remains to be seen. Having gathered his followers together under the promise of a “wild” time; having spent months inflaming them with lies about a stolen election; and having spent years teaching his followers to disregard every other source … there is every reason to expect that, far from prosecuting the terrorists, Trump will issue a blanket pardon.
At 4 PM EST, President-elect Joe Biden issued a statement in which he said: “This is not protest. It is insurrection.” He called on Trump to go on national television and end this attempted overthrow of the nation.
Fifteen minutes later, Trump issued a statement to the terrorists saying: “I love you. You’re very special. I know how you feel.” In the video, Trump continued to insist that the election was stolen and he won in a landslide.
President-elect Joe Biden calls Capitol riot ‘insurrection,’ urges President Trump to ‘end siege’. (many photos; USA Today, January 6, 2021)
“What we’re seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent, it’s disorder, it’s chaos. It borders on sedition. And it must end, now,” Biden said from The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware. “I call on this mob to pull back now and allow the work of democracy to go forward.”
Biden told Trump to go on national television “to demand an end to this siege.”
“It’s not protest, it’s insurrection,” said Biden, a former 36-year senator and former vice president who presided over the Electoral College count in 2017 that seated Trump.
Trumpists intended to take members of Congress hostage, hold show trials, conduct executions. (Daily Kos, January 6, 2021)
Approaching four hours after the Capitol Building was overrun by Trumpist insurrectionists, police are finally beginning to move in force, backed by National Guard forces from both D.C. and Virginia. However, at least one improvised explosive device has been located, and many of those currently occupying the halls of Congress are thought to be armed. So it may be some time before the full crowd can be safely removed, and those who invaded the Capitol arrested. Of course, none of this might have been necessary had the Capital Police taken action to halt the terrorists, rather than opening doors for them and sticking around to take selfies with them while making no move to arrest, or even impede, their invasion.
After a year in which police repeatedly treated Black Lives Matter protesters with extreme action, to say these Trump supporters were treated with kid gloves doesn’t come close. Police didn’t even bother to gear up for what they knew would be a large event including members of militia and white supremacist organizations.
Parler withdraws support for legal liability protection. (Washington Post, January 6, 2021)
The social media platform Parler, a favorite among conservatives, has withdrawn its support for the legal liability protection granted to social media companies, separating itself from competitors such as Twitter and Facebook that say eliminating the protection would prompt them to crack down on their users’ posts.
Parler CEO John Matze defended the Section 230 shield from lawsuits as recently as last month but this week reversed course. Parler Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Wernick told The Washington Times that the company made the decision to change its view of the protections afforded under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act after consulting its lawyers, not in response to users on its platform.
The storming of Capitol Hill was organized on social media. (New York Times, January 6, 2021)
Just after 1 p.m., when President Trump ended his speech to protesters in Washington by calling for them to march on Congress, hundreds of echoing calls to storm the building were made by his supporters online. On social media sites used by the far-right, such as Gab and Parler, directions on which streets to take to avoid the police and which tools to bring to help pry open doors were exchanged in comments. At least a dozen people posted about carrying guns into the halls of Congress.
Calls for violence against members of Congress and for pro-Trump movements to retake the Capitol building have been circulating online for months. Bolstered by Mr. Trump, who has courted fringe movements like QAnon and the Proud Boys, groups have openly organized on social media networks and recruited others to their cause. On Wednesday, their online activism became real-world violence, leading to unprecedented scenes of mobs freely strolling through the halls of Congress and uploading celebratory photographs of themselves, encouraging others to join them.
Renee DiResta, a researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory who studies online movements, said the violence Wednesday was the result of online movements operating in closed social media networks where people believed the claims of voter fraud and of the election being stolen from Mr. Trump. “These people are acting because they are convinced an election was stolen,” DiResta said. “This is a demonstration of the very real-world impact of echo chambers.” She added: “This has been a striking repudiation of the idea that there is an online and an offline world and that what is said online is in some way kept online.”
Capitol breached by pro-Trump mob during 'failed insurrection,' woman shot inside dies. (ABC News, January 6, 2021)
This comes as the Senate met about the election.
Mary Trump Predicts A “Dangerous” Next Two Weeks Under the Trump Administration. (15-min. video; Katie Couric, January 6, 2021)
I chatted with President Donald Trump’s niece Mary, the author of “Too Much and Never Enough,” on her uncle’s behavior today.  “Donald is feeling on the one hand emboldened they got away with it,” Mary said.  “On the other hand he’s locked out of Twitter, he’s probably more desperate than he’s ever been in his life. Short of the congress stepping in impeaching and removing him the next two weeks are going to be the most dangerous in our countries history and after today that’s really saying something.”
Pence defies Trump, says he can’t reject electoral votes. (Associated Press, January 6, 2021)
Infuriating President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged Wednesday he does not have the power to throw out the electoral votes that will make Democrat Joe Biden the next president, dashing Trump’s baseless hopes that Pence somehow could find a way to keep them in office.
Pence, under intense pressure from Trump and his allies to overturn the election results, issued a lengthy statement laying out his conclusion that a vice president cannot claim “unilateral authority” to reject states’ electoral votes. “It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence wrote in a letter to members of Congress before he gaveled in the joint session of Congress.
In a remarkable moment underscoring the dramatic split between Trump and his once most loyal lieutenant, Pence released the statement just after he arrived at the Capitol to tally the electoral votes and even as the president was telling thousands of supporters gathered near the White House that Pence could overturn those results. “If Mike Pence does the right thing we win the election,” Trump told supporters, who later marched through Washington and stormed the Capitol.
Trump tweeted his disapproval of Pence after returning to the White House. “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify,” he wrote. “USA demands the truth!”
Against the odds, Georgia Democrats make history with Senate runoffs. (3-min. video; ABC News, January 6, 2021)
Democrats have a majority in the House and are projected to control the Senate.
QAnon Is Taking Over the Republican Party. (Vice, January 5, 2021)
President Trump's new favorite member of Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene, is a QAnon believer.
How the Insurgent and MAGA Right are Being Welded Together on the Streets of Washington D.C. (Bellingcat, January 5, 2021)
On January 6th, 2021, a vast constellation of American right-wing groups and individuals will converge on Washington D.C. to protest what they falsely believe to be a stolen US Presidential election. The organizations currently planning rallies range from the comparatively moderate, Women for America First, to violent extremist groups like the Proud Boys. Several different rallies are planned for the 6th, including a “Wild Protest” named in reference to a tweet President Donald Trump made urging his followers to attend.
This will be the third set of right-wing rallies in D.C. since the election. If it follows the same pattern as the previous gatherings, the day will be filled with mostly peaceful speeches and marches while the night will bear witness to horrific street violence. The last such rally, in December, led to four stabbings and 33 arrests.
Chilling threat sent to air traffic controllers vowing revenge for killing of Iranian general is under investigation. (2-min. audio recording; CBS News, January 5, 2021)
Multiple air traffic controllers in New York heard a chilling threat Monday in audio obtained exclusively by CBS News: "We are flying a plane into the Capitol on Wednesday. Soleimani will be avenged." The threat refers to Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general killed last year in a U.S. drone strike ordered by President Trump. It was made on the one-year anniversary of Soleimani's death, for which Iranian officials have long vowed revenge.
Tesla vs. NIO: Battle for the World’s Largest EV Market. (6-min. video; Wall Street Journal, January 5, 2021)
Gone are the long waits at charging stations: Chinese electric-vehicle startup NIO is pioneering battery-swap systems, challenging Tesla and other rival car makers. Here’s how NIO and Tesla are racing for the world’s largest EV market in China.
Viral mutations may cause another ‘very, very bad’ COVID-19 wave, scientists warn. (Science Magazine, January 5, 2021)
This time it is not a completely new threat, but a rapidly spreading variant of SARS-CoV-2. In southeastern England, where the B.1.1.7 variant first caught scientists’ attention last month, it has quickly replaced other variants, and it may be the harbinger of a new, particularly perilous phase of the pandemic. “One concern is that B.1.1.7 will now become the dominant global variant with its higher transmission and it will drive another very, very bad wave,” says Jeremy Farrar, an infectious disease expert who heads the Wellcome Trust. Whereas the pandemic’s trajectory in 2020 was fairly predictable, “I think we’re going into an unpredictable phase now,” as a result the virus’ evolution, Farrar says.
NEW: Unprecedented Rollback of Bird Protections Cemented in Trump Administration’s Final Days. (National Audubon Society, January 5, 2021)
Finalized bird-killer policy sidesteps the courts in a clear attempt to hamstring incoming administration from being able to protect birds. The outgoing administration has severely weakened the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—a cornerstone of bird conservation, which protects over 1,000 species. With just two weeks left in their term, they have finalized their rollback, despite the federal courts ruling their attempts illegal.
We cannot let that stand. Because unless we shore up the MBTA, corporations won’t be held accountable when they recklessly kill birds. They won’t have to pay to fix the damage they’ve caused, like when birds are swamped in oil spills or in the waste pits left by oil and gas extraction, and that means they’ll have little incentive to take proper care.
Trump claims he and Pence agree on VP's election authority, contradicting prior Pence statement. (3-min. video; CBS News, January 5, 2021)
The New York Times and other news outlets reported Tuesday that Pence told Mr. Trump he doesn't believe he possesses the power to block Congress' certification of President-elect Joe Biden's win.
On Tuesday night, Mr. Trump called that report "fake news." Mr. Trump, in a statement issued by the Trump campaign, claimed he and Pence are on the same page. Pence has not issued such a statement independently.
Senate GOP opposition grows to Electoral College challenge. (Politico, January 5, 2021)
The effort to overturn Trump's loss may be defeated overwhelmingly while fracturing his party.
The Senate Republicans opposed to certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s win are heading toward a hefty defeat on Wednesday. The only remaining question is this: how badly do they lose? Just 11 GOP senators have signaled support for separate efforts led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). That makes 13 supporters — and many more have come out swinging against it.
“To challenge a state’s certification, given how specific the Constitution is, would be a violation of my oath of office — that is not something I am willing to do and is not something Oklahomans would want me to do,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who announced his decision Tuesday.
 Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) also said Tuesday that they would not object to the election results. In a statement, Moran said that doing so "would risk undermining our democracy — which is built upon the rule of law and separation of powers" and that "no victory for one’s cause today can be worth what we would lose tomorrow." Moran is up for reelection in 2022.
“Congress would take away the power to choose the president from the people and place it in the hands of whichever party controls Congress,” wrote Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in an op-ed posted Tuesday. “This action essentially would end our tradition of democratic presidential elections, empowering politicians and party bosses in Washington.”
Wednesday’s vote will amount to Senate Republicans’ most significant rejection of Trump, who continues to make false claims about widespread voter fraud in the election he lost. While the president this week attacked Republicans who rejected his efforts, some of his strongest supporters argue that breaking with the president this time should not erase their ardent support over the past four years.
“I support President Trump and have worked with the president to advance policies important for North Dakota and our nation,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said. But “the people of North Dakota do not want Congress to determine their vote, and we should not set the precedent by doing it for other states.
Why Trump’s Senate supporters can’t overturn Electoral College results they don’t like – here’s how the law actually works. (The Conversation, January 5, 2021)
On Jan. 6, the United States Congress will gather in a joint session to tally the votes of the Electoral College, which cast its ballots in state capitols last month. In his role as president of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence is slated to officially announce Joe Biden as the country’s next president.
This formal certification process – the final step in the U.S. presidential election – is the latest target of President Donald Trump’s desperate, untenable and possibly criminal effort to overturn the 2020 results. In his refusal to concede, Trump is pressuring Pence and Republicans in Congress to delay or oppose certification.
Can they really subvert the Electoral College? The answer, both legally and politically, is no.
To minimize the likelihood that they would ever again decide the outcome of a presidential election, lawmakers in 1887 passed the Electoral Count Act. It puts the onus for resolving electoral disputes on the states. As long as they do so, certifying their election results no later than six days before the Electoral College meets to cast its votes, then states will enjoy “safe harbor” protection. That means their results will be considered “conclusive” when Congress convenes to certify the vote on Jan. 6.
On Jan. 6, at least a dozen Republican Senators in Congress say they will oppose the results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan over discredited concerns of election fraud in an attempt to swing 63 electoral votes from Biden to Trump. There is no chance Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, will vote to uphold this challenge. Unless he recuses himself and hands the job over the Senate president pro tempore – as Vice President Hubert Humphrey did in January 1969 – Pence will have the ceremonial but politically consequential role of presiding over a contested certification. After the sealed certificates of vote from the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., are brought into the joint session in ceremonial mahogany boxes, the vice president opens the 51 envelopes one at a time and hands them to the designated “tellers.” As the tellers announce each state’s results aloud and record the votes for tabulation, the vice president “calls for objections, if any.” If Republicans object, a vote follows in both chambers of Congress. When the challengers cannot gain the necessary support, Pence should declare Biden president-elect.
Pence is constitutionally bound to perform this duty, but Trump says confirming Biden’s win would be a betrayal. An American president orchestrating an attempt to reverse an election – with at least a dozen senators falling in step – does profound harm to democracy, which hinges on the peaceful transfer of power. Republicans, and most visibly Mike Pence, face a choice between fidelity to the Constitution and fidelity to Trump.
The biggest threat to the Georgia runoff may be Trump. (Four 1-to-4-min. videos; Washington Post, January 5, 2021)
Georgia election officials say Trump's voter fraud claims have shaken voter confidence. Their task is now to reassure voters. “Everybody's vote is going to count. Everybody's vote did count,” Georgia's voting system manager Gabriel Sterling said. More than 3 million voters have already cast their ballots, setting a record turnout for a runoff in the state. Trump's claims, which persist after Georgia certified Joe Biden's win last month after three counts of ballots, are “all easily, provably false,” Sterling said at the news conference. “Yet the president persists and by doing so undermines Georgians’ faith in the electoral system, especially Republican Georgians.”
[Stephen Colbert reimagines Trump's Georgia call as a love ballad. (2-min. video; Late Show Fake News Alert; also see Colbert on December 18, 2020, below.]
NEW: Incredible 3D Video Microscopy Shows Human White Blood Cells Use Molecular Paddles to Swim. (0.2-min. video; SciTechDaily, January 4, 2021)
Human white blood cells, known as leukocytes, swim using a newly described mechanism called molecular paddling, researchers report in the Biophysical Journal. This microswimming mechanism could explain how both immune cells and cancer cells migrate in various fluid-filled niches in the body, for good or for harm.
Seth Meyers: Trump’s Phone Call with Georgia Election Officials Could Be a Crime. (20-min. video; A Closer Look, January 4, 2021)
Nicola Sturgeon warns Donald Trump against coming to Scotland amid speculation. (1-min. video; The National/Scotland, January 4, 2021)
With covid cases rising rapidly, the Scottish Government has brought in a raft of new rules, limiting travel into and around the country. 
Asked about the possibility of a visit from the outgoing American Commander-in-Chief, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said she hoped that Trump’s immediate travel plan was “to exit the White House”. She added: “We are not allowing people to come into Scotland without an essential purpose right now and that would apply to him just as applies to anybody else, and coming to play golf is not what I would consider to be an essential purpose.”
The White House have not denied the reports Trump is coming to Scotland, though they’ve moved to downplay the speculation.
Here’s where all the COVID-19 vaccine candidates currently stand. (Popular Science, January 4, 2021)
More than a dozen frontrunners have reached late-stage clinical trials.  
A simple chart shows why the new coronavirus variants are so worrisome. (New York Times, January 4, 2021)
Donald Trump could flee to Scotland in bid to avoid Joe Biden's inauguration. (The National/Scotland, January 4, 2021)
Donald Trump could be set to flee to his loss-making Ayrshire golf course in a bid to avoid Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Prestwick has been told to expect the arrival of a US military Boeing 757 aircraft, that is occasionally used by Trump, on January 19 – the day before his Democrat rival formally becomes president. A source at the airport told the Sunday Post: “There is a booking for an American military version of the Boeing 757 on January 19, the day before the inauguration. That’s one that’s normally used by the Vice-President but often used by the First Lady. Presidential flights tend to get booked far in advance, because of the work that has to be done around it.”
The golf course is currently closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The resort says that they will remain closed until Friday February 5, 2021, "to ensure the health and safety of our guests and associates". Currently, under Level 4 restrictions, golf clubs can still allow groups of up to four golfers with no restrictions on number of households to play. Though, club houses and shops must all close.
Speculation of the tycoon’s visit to his mother’s homeland comes as his flagship Turnberry course posted a loss of more than £2.3 million in 2019. Documents filed with Companies House at the end of the year show the resort had a turnover of £19,667,000 and made a loss of £2,307,000 in 2019. That’s the sixth year in a row that it’s made a loss. Trump’s other Scottish golf resort, at Menie in Aberdeenshire, made a loss of more than £1m for the eighth consecutive year.
Heather Cox Richardson: Whether or not America will be a democracy ((Letters From An American, January 4, 2021)
We are right now fighting over whether or not America will be a democracy. On the one hand are Americans, Republicans as well as Democrats, who might agree on virtually nothing else, standing on the reality that Democrat Joe Biden won the 2020 election fair and square, and by a significant amount, and are recognizing that he is the president-elect. On the other hand are Trump and his supporters, who are arguing without any evidence that the president has somehow been cheated of reelection, and who are using the uncertainty their own words have created to argue that the election now must be reexamined.
Georgia Secretary of State’s office holds a news conference after leaked Trump call. (entire 31-min. video; The Hill, January 4, 2021)
Georgia’s voting systems manager on Monday delivered an impassioned point-by-point repudiation of President Trump's numerous claims of fraud and malfeasance in the 2020 presidential election while urging voters to look past the president's rhetoric and “turn out to vote.” Speaking to reporters at the Georgia state Capitol, Gabriel Sterling warned that the president's rhetoric threatened to suppress turnout in the state's two upcoming Senate runoff elections. “Given the nature of the president’s statements and several other people who have been aligned with him previously … we are specifically asking you and telling you: Please turn out and vote tomorrow,” said Sterling, a Republican who has emerged as a regular critic of Trump’s allegations.
Georgia election official shoots down Trump's election conspiracy theories. (2-min. video; CNN, January 4, 2021)
A top Georgia election official said Monday that "everybody's vote did count" in the state's November elections as he shot down a list of voter fraud conspiracy theories President Donald Trump aired in a call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger this weekend. "The reason I'm having to stand here today is because there are people in positions of authority and respect who have said their votes didn't count, and it's not true," said Gabriel Sterling, the voting systems implementation manager for the Georgia Secretary of State's office, during a news conference.
Trump Declares Republican Party “Weak and Ineffective” for Not Backing His Attempts To Subvert the Results of the 2020 Presidential Election, Which Was Decisively Won by President-Elect Joe Biden. (PoliticusUSA, January 4, 2021)
“The ‘Surrender Caucus’ within the Republican Party will go down in infamy as weak and ineffective ‘guardians’ of our Nation, who were willing to accept the certification of fraudulent presidential numbers!”, the president wrote.
How the Supreme Court set up the authoritarian takeover of America (Medium, January 4, 2021)
Donald Trump's phone call to Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is the latest illustration of his lifelong criminality. Over the last 40 years, career criminals like Trump have increasingly moved out of the business world and the streets and into politics, something for which we can thank the Supreme Court.
There are, among us, a small number of individuals who are career criminals. They have literally spent their entire lives skirting or outright breaking the law, and not only believe the law doesn't apply to them, but actually delight in getting away with their crimes.
Being successful in the world doesn’t mean someone isn’t a career criminal. Witness the numerous members of Congress who’ve been busted or at least outed for everything from giving no bid contracts to their own companies (Cheney and Halliburton) to putting bricks of bribe cash into their freezers (Rep. Jefferson). Even Forbes magazine called Trump’s commerce secretary, billionaire Wilbur Ross, a professional “grifter” for all the scams he has perpetrated in his career.
While fundamentally dishonest people has been a problem for our society and business community for centuries, it has particularly become a problem in our political world since 1976 and 1978, when the Supreme Court explicitly ruled that billionaires or corporations giving massive amounts of money to politicians and political parties is no longer considered bribery or corruption but, instead, is “free speech“ protected by the First Amendment. Never before in all of American history had bribing politicians been considered free-speech, until the Buckley v Valejo and First National Bank v Belotti Supreme Court decisions. In 2010, conservatives of the court doubled down on these decisions and even expanded their scope with Citizens United.
Trump's Call To Georgia Election Officials Sparks Debate Over Legality, Ethics. (NPR, January 4, 2021)
Most of Trump's detractors on social media said the president's intentions were clearly to intimidate Georgia officials to change the state's election results. His critics argue Trump violated a federal law that criminalizes the actions by election officials or by someone in federal office that "knowingly and willfully intimidates, threatens, or coerces" another during the election process. The federal code also criminalizes actions that "knowingly and willfully deprives, defrauds, or attempts to deprive or defraud the residents of a state of a fair and impartially conducted election process."
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder cited that federal criminal statute in a tweet Sunday: "As you listen to the tape consider this federal criminal statute."
Michael Bromwich, a former inspector general at the Department of Justice, tweeted that Trump's "best defense would be insanity."
Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, wrote in an article in Slate on Monday that Trump "likely broke both federal and state law" in the phone call and that he "certainly committed an impeachable offense that is grounds for removing him from the office he will be vacating in less than three weeks, or disqualifying him from future elected office."
Richard W. Painter, a professor of corporate law at the University of Minnesota and former associate counsel to Republican President George W. Bush, agreed, calling for Trump's impeachment, so he "can never hold public office again."
Trump's message during the call also violates Georgia law, according to Anthony Michael Kreis, a Georgia State University law professor, who spoke with Politico on Sunday. "The Georgia code says that anybody who solicits, requests or commands or otherwise attempts to encourage somebody to commit election fraud is guilty of solicitation of election fraud," Kreis said. " 'Soliciting or requesting' is the key language. The president asked, in no uncertain terms, the secretary of state to invent votes, to create votes that were not there. Not only did he ask for that in terms of just overturning the specific margin that Joe Biden won by, but then said we needed one additional vote to secure victory in Georgia."
Chris Krebs, the Republican cybersecurity and election security official hired by and then fired by Trump, called the president's actions "un-American and anti-democratic." He said Sunday, "An incumbent should NEVER be able to put their thumb on the scale of national elections."
Georgia authorities may investigate Trump phone call and Schiff calls it 'possibly criminal'. (Daily Kos, January 4, 2021)
Trump is extremely unlikely to face any criminal prosecution, let alone the five-year prison sentence a Texas woman received for voting when she did not know she was ineligible to vote while on supervised release from prison after a felony conviction. Because when you’re a powerful white man, using your power to try to bully elections officials into overturning a state’s entire presidential election by “finding” the precise number of votes you need is not something that carries any consequences, just as nothing Trump has ever done wrong has carried any negative consequences, which is why he keeps doing it. One system of justice and accountability for those at the top, a completely different—harsher and more punitive—one for those at the bottom.
Thom Hartmann: Trump Isn’t Our Biggest Problem: It’s the Authoritarian Fascist Movement He’s Launched. (Medium, January 4, 2021)
Pundits across the American political spectrum are wringing their hands about the fate and future of the “dirty dozen“ Republican senators challenging Biden‘s election. One of the most widespread stories about their motivation is that they’re “afraid of Trump” or are “worried about being primaried.” Both ideas are wrong.
These people are not taking Trump’s side because they’re afraid. They’re not motivated by what they might lose. Instead, they’re looking to what they might gain in the future. They’re doing it because Trump has launched an authoritarian fascist movement, with the help and encouragement of a few American and foreign billionaires, and they’re competing with each other to be the next leader or a major player in the senior levels of that movement.
The big mistake so many political observers make is assuming that Trumpism is all about Trump. It’s not. It’s all about a 21st century American version of authoritarian fascism.
All 10 living former defense secretaries: Involving the military in election disputes would cross into dangerous territory. (Washington Post, January 3, 2021)
As former secretaries of defense, we hold a common view of the solemn obligations of the U.S. armed forces and the Defense Department. Each of us swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We did not swear it to an individual or a party.
American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy. With one singular and tragic exception that cost the lives of more Americans than all of our other wars combined, the United States has had an unbroken record of such transitions since 1789, including in times of partisan strife, war, epidemics and economic depression. This year should be no exception.
Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.
As senior Defense Department leaders have noted, “there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.” Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.
Calls Grow For Criminal Investigation Into Trump Election Fraud. (PoliticusUSA, January 3, 2021)
Neal Katyal, who served as acting solicitor general under former President Obama, said on MSNBC: Trump asked the Georgia officials to find him 11,780 votes. Maybe that works in the Soviet Union, but it is not the way that American government has operated. It's really truly an impeachable offense, the abuse of power that our founders worried about so much, the idea that a government official can use the power of his office to stay in office to try and browbeat other officials that disagree with them. I see two questions. Has a misdemeanor been committed? The tape makes it sound like there has. The second question is whether that is a criminal offense, and the Federal Code 53USC.2511 prohibits a federal official from interfering in a state election process. Again, that sure seems like what we heard on the tape. and so I think the Justice Department has to open an investigation if not now, then at least on January 20th. I think that is the least of what will happen here.
Carl Bernstein: "This is the ultimate smoking gun tape." (2-min. video; CNN, January 3, 2021)
Legendary Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein reacts to audio obtained by the Washington Post of President Donald Trump pushing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" votes to overturn the election results in the state. "This is something far worse than what occurred in Watergate! We have both a criminal president of the United States in Donald Trump, and a subversive president of the United States."
Ex-solicitor general says Trump "talking like a mafia boss, and not a particularly smart mafia boss." (The Hill, January 3, 2021)
Trump’s pressure on Georgia election officials raises legal questions. (15-min. audio recording; Politico, January 3, 2021)
In audio from a Saturday phone call, the president is heard urging the officials to reverse his loss.
Fox News Opinion: "The best way to stop McConnell is to elect Ossoff and Warnock." (Daily Kos, January 3, 2021)
As the Virus Spikes, Vaccine Distribution Is One More Hurdle for States. (New York Times, January 3, 2021)
Mass vaccination would be a challenge under any circumstances. But doing it during an out-of-control pandemic is straining states, cities and health departments.
Another obstacle looms now, one that Dr. Adams said he is “terribly concerned” about: persuading enough Americans to take the vaccine. In Ohio, for instance, Gov. Mike DeWine has said that about 60 percent of nursing home workers in the state have declined to be vaccinated so far. The low figures are attributed to misinformation and fear.
Is Time Real? What does this even mean? (10-min. video; Sabine Hossenfelder, January 2, 2021)
"Science without the gobbledygook."
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) is now explicitly calling for violence to overturn election results. (Daily Kos, January 2, 2021)
Louie Gohmert on Newsmax: "But if bottom line is, the court is saying, 'We're not going to touch this. You have no remedy' -- basically, in effect, the ruling would be that you gotta go the streets and be as violent as Antifa and BLM."
Pence Welcomes Futile Bid by G.O.P. Lawmakers to Overturn Election. (New York Times, January 2, 2021)
Vice President Mike Pence signaled his support as 11 Republican senators and senators-elect said that they would vote to reject President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.
A New Strain of Drug-Resistant Malaria Has Sprung Up in Africa. (Scientific American, January 2, 2021)
Here’s how we fight back.
Some Covid Survivors Are Haunted by Loss of Smell and Taste. (New York Times, January 2, 2021)
As the coronavirus claims more victims, a once-rare diagnosis is receiving new attention from scientists, who fear it may affect nutrition and mental health.
More Than 12 Million Shots Given: Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker (Bloomberg, January 2, 2021)
The U.S. has administered 4.28 million doses; Europe’s rollout begins.
How researchers are making do in the time of Covid (Ars Technica, January 1, 2021)
The pandemic has shuttered labs and sidelined scientists all over the world.
Trump vetoes bipartisan driftnet fishing bill. (The Hill, January 1, 2021)
The measure passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support last month. It was authored in the Senate by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and by Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) in the House. The measure passed the House 283-105 and cleared the Senate by voice vote. “The recreational fishing and boating community has long advocated for transitioning away from large-mesh drift gillnets which needlessly kill non-target species including sportfish,” Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy, said in a statement at the time. “Today marks a significant victory for marine conservation, and we are grateful for the bipartisan effort to get the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act across the finish line.”
Proponents of the measure will have to wait until the new Congress because there is no time left in this session to overturn Trump's veto. Feinstein has indicated she will press again for the legislation during the incoming Biden adminstration.
Mapped: The Top Surveillance Cities Worldwide (Visual Capitalist, January 1, 2021)
Drones celebrate Edinburgh's Hogmanay 2020! (3 spectacular New Year videos; YouTube, December 31, 2020)
Three short films titled ‘Fare Well’, showing a swarm of 150 glowing LED drones dance in the wintry Scottish skies above the Highlands, with later footage of the Forth bridges and Edinburgh. See them accompany a poem by Jackie Kay, poet laureate of Scotland. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
The stock market is ending 2020 at record highs, even as the virus surges and millions go hungry. (Washington Post, December 31, 2020)
The S&P 500 gained more than 16 percent in 2020, a strong return in a year of steep job losses and widespread pain.
Wall Street minted 56 new billionaires since the pandemic began — but many families are left behind. (NBC News, December 30, 2020)
The coronavirus has destroyed the lives, savings and small businesses of innumerable Americans — but the year wasn’t a financial washout for everyone.
Killer Robots Learn to Dance... Just when you thought 2020 couldn't get any worse. (8-min. video; Double-Down News, December 30, 2020)
Professor Stuart Russell,  one of the world’s leading scientists in Artificial Intelligence, has come to consider his own discipline an existential threat to humanity. In this video he talks about how we can change course before it's too late.
That time physicist John Wheeler left classified H-bomb documents on a train (Ars Technica, December 30, 2020)
The whereabouts of the documents remains a mystery to this day.
Girlfriend warned Nashville police Anthony Warner was building bomb a year ago. (Tennesean, December 30, 2020)
Nashville bombing froze wireless communications, exposed 'Achilles' heel' in regional network. (USA Today, December 29, 2020)
Wounded Knee Massacre of December 29th,1890: 130th Anniversary (Daily Kos, December 29, 2020)
It is worth noting that Adolph Hitler expressed admiration for the "efficiency" of the American genocide campaign against the Indians, viewing it as a forerunner for his own plans and programs.
[To honor this sad anniversary, we viewed "Neither Wolf Nor Dog".]
Trump’s worst pardon is one you haven’t heard about. (Washington Post, December 29, 2020)
Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Charles Kushner, Stephanie Mohr. You’ve probably heard about President Trump’s odious pre-Christmas pardons for the first three — and nothing about Mohr, a former Prince George’s County police officer. But Mohr’s pardon — for violating a homeless man’s civil rights by unleashing her K-9 on him — is equally, if not more undeserving. Of all the acts to pardon in a year that witnessed the killing of George Floyd, it is the most insensitive and inflaming.
Trump’s pardon of Mohr sends a reckless message to law enforcement and emboldens bad officers. It shows the president’s disdain, not just for the victims of police abuse, but for honest law enforcement officers who follow their training, see the humanity in all people, and do their job with respect and decency.
Will Pence Do the Right Thing? (New York Times, December 29, 2020)
President Trump recently tweeted that “the ‘Justice’ Department and FBI have done nothing about the 2020 Presidential Election Voter Fraud,” followed by these more ominous lines: “Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6th.”
The unmistakable reference is to the day Congress will count the Electoral College’s votes, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding. Mr. Trump is leaning on the vice president and congressional allies to invalidate the November election by throwing out duly certified votes for Joe Biden. On Jan. 6, the vice president will preside as Congress counts the Electoral College’s votes. Let’s hope that he doesn’t do the unthinkable — and unconstitutional.
A Far-Right Terrorism Suspect With a Refugee Disguise: The Tale of Franco A. (New York Times, December 29, 2020)
A German officer is facing trial on terrorism charges. At a volatile time for Western democracy, his story mirrors the story of Germany itself.
Visualizing the U.S. Population by Race (Visual Capitalist, December 28, 2020)
Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the U.S.: "We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams."
Journey to the Center of the Earth (Outside, December 28, 2020)
For nearly half a century, legends of a giant cave in the Andes—holding artifacts that could rewrite human history—have beckoned adventurers and tantalized fans of the occult. Now the daughter of a legendary explorer is on a new kind of quest: to tell the truth about Cueva de los Tayos in order to save it.
NEW: The Plague Year (The New Yorker, December 28, 2020)
The mistakes and the struggles behind America’s coronavirus tragedy.
Trump caves — but not before putting the GOP in an ugly spot. (Washington Post, December 28, 2020)
To the extent Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency was about something besides raw partisanship and a desire to shake up Washington, it was touted as putting a dealmaker in charge. Trump tried to assure voters that his business acumen was just what the country needed to “drain the swamp” and reverse decades of poor negotiations with nefarious adversaries, both foreign and domestic. With less than a month to go in his presidency, Trump put a significant ding in whatever exists of that portion of his legacy.
Trump decided over the Christmas holiday to threaten not to sign a combination coronavirus relief package and spending bill. Trump’s chief complaints: The deal delivered only $600 payments to the American people, rather than his desired $2,000, and he didn’t like the so-called pork — and especially foreign funding — in the legislation.
The exercise was bizarre from the jump for a number of reasons. First was that this was a deal forged by his own administration, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin serving as lead negotiator and hailing it shortly before Trump decided to call it “a disgrace.” Second was that Trump raised virtually none of these concerns before the bill’s passage, instead waiting until after the hard work had (apparently) been done to hijack the process. And third was that the pork that Trump and his media allies criticized not only wasn’t in the coronavirus relief bill but was rather in an accompanying omnibus spending bill — actually by and large money that Trump himself had requested in his own proposed budget.
The whole gambit has now fallen apart in a spectacular but utterly predictable way, with Trump relenting and signing the bill Sunday night. Trump dubiously claimed nonspecific concessions from Congress in voter fraud. He also said he will send lawmakers a “redlined” version of the bill “insisting that those funds be removed” from it. But Trump can insist all he wants; Congress has no duty to actually follow through on his demand to that. In other words: Trump got nothing. The whole thing was a waste. It appears to have been some combination of a fit of pique, posturing for his post-presidency political efforts, and an effort to leverage Republicans into supporting his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.
But while it was all utterly pointless, that doesn’t mean it won’t have repercussions.
Murdoch’s New York Post Blasts President’s Fraud Claims. (New York Times, December 28, 2020)
With a scathing front-page editorial, the Trump-friendly tabloid joined another of Rupert Murdoch’s papers, The Wall Street Journal, in attacking the president’s attempts to undo the election result.
“Give it up, Mr. President — for your sake and the nation’s.” In a blunt editorial, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, a tabloid that promoted Donald J. Trump long before he went into politics, told the president to end his attempts to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election. The Monday front page showed a downcast president and the all-caps headline “Stop the Insanity.” The publication’s website also featured the editorial, written by The Post’s editorial board, at the top of the home page. “Mr. President, it’s time to end this dark charade,” began the editorial.
Rep. Louie Gohmert files lawsuit claiming Mike Pence has ability to overturn election results. (Daily Kos, December 28, 2020)
The important thing to know is that lawsuit has roughly zero chance of working, because (1) the Constitution does not say that, (2) the claim that Gohmert has standing because as a congressthing, counting electors he doesn't want counted will make him officially Sad, and (3) all the rest of it. It's a broadly dishonest retread of the previous Dumbest Lawsuit in the Land, with some of the most egregious errors removed and new ones added.
The backstory here, though, is mildly more interesting. Exactly a week ago, Gohmert and a host of Republican fascism-peddlers met with both Donald Trump and Mike Pence to plot out strategies for sabotaging the acceptance of the Electoral College results. House Republicans have been strongly pressuring Pence to cause a scene at the Jan. 6 tally, Donald Trump's pseudolegal bullshitters have been hyping conspiracy theories rallying the base around the same premise, and we can gather that this lawsuit against Pence was either a planned move between House Republicans and Pence to give him plausible deniability for creating a scene or, perhaps more likely, a disgruntled loner move from Gohmert himself after Pence refused to explicitly promise House crackpots that he'd go along with their ridiculous, seditious, and doomed-to-failure plan.
Republicans Propping Up the Fossil Fuel Industry Is Borderline Socialist. (Slate, December 28, 2020)
Technically it’s crony capitalism, but it’s closer to socialism than what Democrats want.
The point of capitalism is that competition causes some industries to fail. But protecting industries from failure in exchange for political benefit is far worse: It is a dangerously short step to socialism. And traditional socialism necessarily implies authoritarianism—how else is a country to undertake central economic planning except by an authoritarian government? That is actually where the Republican Party is taking us.
NEW: Here's a breakdown of all 126 seditious Republicans who signed on for a coup d'état. (Alternet, December 27, 2020)
Here is a list of the 126 Republican officials who, whether charged with sedition and treason or not, are guilty of trying to, at the very least, thwart the will of the American people and overturn our democratically-elected president.
Snail, Fish and Sheep Soup, Anyone? Savory New Finds at Pompeii (1-min. video; New York Times, December 26, 2020)
The ancient site is the archaeological gift that keeps on giving. A food shop excavated this month suggests that its ancient residents had singular culinary tastes.
Anthony Quinn Warner biography: 10 things about Tennessee man (2-min. video; Conan Daily, December 26, 2020)
- White, age 63, single. Has a brother and a sister.
- On November 29, 1993, an explosive handling permit was issued to him in Tennessee and it was scheduled to expire on November 30, 1998.
- He has experience with alarms and electronics.
- He has been living in a two-story red brick house at 115 Bakertown Road in Antioch, Tennessee (about a 15-minute drive) since 1995.
- On November 25, 2020, he gave his house in Antioch via a quit claim for $0 to Michelle Louise Swing, an unmarried woman born in 1991 and a resident of Los Angeles, California, USA. She grew up in Knoxville TN and lived there and hen in Nashville through 2012.
FBI, ATF search homes of Antioch man in connection to Nashville explosion. (WKRN News/Nashville, December 26, 2020)
investigators are searching properties connected with Anthony Quinn Warner, age 63. Investigators also found human remains at the scene and are working to determine whether Warner was the person blown up inside an RV on Christmas morning. The FBI and the ATF arrived Saturday at homes in Antioch associated with Warner to conduct their searches.
Neighbors said they had seen an RV sitting in the driveway of a home in the 100 block of Bakertown Road for several weeks. A picture taken of Warner’s address in Antioch via Google street view shows an RV in a fenced-in section of the yard. The RV appears to match the one captured on a security camera in downtown Nashville before the explosion.
A day later, everything about the bombing in Nashville remains as puzzling as it was on Christmas. (4-min. video; Daily Kos, December 26, 2020)
In  its Comments thread: My current educated guess as to motive is Q-related (“COVID is a hoax, the illnesses are being caused by 5G.”)  We already know that this particular “belief" has motivated numerous assaults on telecoms workers, not only in the US but also in Britain.  Those assaults have become a labor issue with the union representing British Telecom field engineers. Re reports of the TN Governor asking for a declaration of emergency by Trump: my educated guess on that is a) to get federal funds for rebuilding the affected area, b) additional law enforcement assistance in Nashville, and/or c) additional LE assistance in outlying areas where 911 service is down and landline & mobile telephone service is down.
Nashville explosion: Businesses and celebrities pledge $315,000 reward. (BBC News, December 26, 2020)
Police have not yet identified those responsible for a camper van blast in the US city of Nashville, Tennessee.
The explosion rocked Nashville early on Christmas Day, injuring three people. Police emergency systems were knocked out across the surrounding state of Tennessee. Telephone, internet and fibre optic TV services were also disrupted in Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia, according to telecoms firm AT&T.
Police believe the powerful blast was caused deliberately. No motive has yet been established for the explosion, and no-one has yet said they were behind it. Possible human remains were later found near the blast site. Police have over 500 tips and a person of interest, connected to the vehicle that exploded, has been identified.
The CDC’s failed race against covid-19: A threat underestimated and a test overcomplicated (1-min. video; Washington Post, December 26, 2020)
Thai scientists deployed a coronavirus test within hours. The CDC took 46 days to roll out a working test as the virus spread.
Unemployment Aid Set to Lapse Saturday as Trump’s Plans for Relief Bill Remain Unclear. (New York Times, December 25, 2020)
At least a temporary lapse in expanded unemployment benefits for millions of Americans is now inevitable because of President Trump’s delay in signing a $900 billion pandemic relief bill.
Randy Cassingham: Beating the Vaccine Scare-Mongers (Medium, December 25, 2020)
Something to consider before getting the vaccine — or deciding not to.
Ashes of Star Trek’s Scotty were smuggled onto International Space Station. (1-min. video; The Times, December 25, 2020)
"Beam me up, Scotty!" A secret mission to give James Doohan a celestial resting place has been revealed 12 years later.
Peter Wehner: "The Forgotten Radicalism of Jesus Christ" (New York Times, December 24, 2020)
We human beings battle with exclusion, self-righteousness and arrogance, and have a quick trigger finger when it comes to judging others. Jesus knew how easily we could fall into the trap of turning “the other” — those of other races, ethnicities, classes, genders and nations — into enemies. We place loyalty to the tribe over compassion and human connection. We view differences as threatening; the result is we become isolated, rigid in our thinking, harsh and unforgiving.
Trump Mocked After He Claims Twitter Censorship Leads To Communism. (Huffington Post, December 24, 2020)
President Donald Trump gave snarky Twitter users an early Christmas gift Thursday when he tried to blame communism on Twitter censorship. The president railed against what was once his favorite social media platform, claiming that Twitter is stifling free speech by ― and this is a slight paraphrase ― not allowing him to spew lies.
Coronavirus Briefing: Reconsidering herd immunity  (New York Times, December 24, 2020)
In the pandemic’s early days, scientists forecast that the coronavirus would be under control when 60 percent to 70 percent of a population had resistance to the virus, either by antibodies or by vaccination. That’s herd immunity, when there just aren’t enough available hosts.
Initially, Dr. Fauci, the top epidemiologist in the U.S., hewed to that same ballpark, which is drawn from animal studies. “When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent,” he recently said.
But Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had been incrementally increasing his estimate. About a month ago, he began saying “70, 75 percent” in television interviews. Last week, he pushed it up to “75, 80, 85 percent.” “When newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, ‘I can nudge this up a bit,’” he said on the phone call.
Dr. Fauci said he was initially cautious about publicly raising his estimate because Americans seemed hesitant about vaccines. But now, as health care workers proudly post their bandaged biceps on social media, some polls are showing that many more Americans are ready, even eager, to receive the shot. Based partly on gut feeling and partly on new science of how the virus operates in human populations, Dr. Fauci deliberately moved the goal posts. Now, he believes that it may take close to 90 percent immunity in a population to halt the virus. That’s about what’s needed to stop measles, which is thought to be the world’s most contagious disease. The new, more infectious variant of the coronavirus appearing in Britain, South Africa and possibly other places may further increase the necessary percentage.
House Republicans pile on to the stupid, dishonest part of Trump's temper tantrum. (Daily Kos, December 24, 2020)
Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler paved the way for stupid, dishonest Republicans Wednesday when she tried to deflect the question of whether or not she supported Donald Trump’s demands for $2,000 survival checks to Americans. Loeffler seized on the stupid part, the “wasteful spending.” That was where Trump argued that the foreign assistance included in the spending part of the project—the foreign aid that was in the Trump budget, that the Republican Senate Foreign Operations Committee approved, and that congressional Republicans passed this week—was bad. Money that Trump asked for.
Now we’ve got the stupidest Republican in leadership, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (the guy who thinks Putin pays Trump) seizing on this as his excuse to oppose the $2,000 survival checks.
House Republicans Block $2,000 Coronavirus Stimulus Checks, Defying Trump. (Huffington Post, December 24, 2020)
House Republicans defied President Donald Trump’s wishes on Christmas Eve, blocking the passage of a proposal to include $2,000 stimulus checks — something the president demanded in an angry video posted to Twitter on Tuesday night while threatening to upend months of negotiations over government funding and coronavirus relief.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dared Republicans to object to Trump’s call for bigger direct payments, something Democrats have been arguing in favor of for months, by putting up a clean bill for $2,000 stimulus checks on the House floor, while most lawmakers weren’t in town, and trying to pass it via unanimous consent. In what was less than a minute of action on the House floor, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) rejected the unanimous consent attempt, as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Republicans would do.
Trump vetoes defense bill, setting up showdown with Congress. (Politico, December 23, 2020)
President Donald Trump vetoed major defense policy legislation Wednesday, sending the measure back to Congress for what could be the first successful override of his presidency if enough Republicans are willing to defy the commander in chief. In a statement rejecting the National Defense Authorization Act, Trump cited lawmakers' refusal to repeal online liability protections, known as Section 230, and a provision that would force the renaming of military bases that honor Confederate leaders, among other gripes.
Congress plans to return the week after Christmas to vote to override the veto. The House has scheduled a vote for next Monday, and if that succeeds, the Senate will come back into session on Tuesday to deal with the issue. Two thirds of the House and Senate must vote in favor of the legislation in order to nullify the veto.
NEW: Inside Trump and Barr’s Last-Minute Killing Spree (ProPublica, December 23, 2020)
ProPublica obtained court records showing how the outgoing administration is using its final days to execute the most federal prisoners since World War II.
Officials gave public explanations for their choice of which prisoners should die that misstated key facts from the cases. They moved ahead with executions in the middle of the night. They left one prisoner strapped to the gurney while lawyers worked to remove a court order. They executed a second prisoner while an appeal was still pending, leaving the court to then dismiss the appeal as “moot” because the man was already dead. They bought drugs from a secret pharmacy that failed a quality test. They hired private executioners and paid them in cash.
Trump pardons Manafort, Stone, father of Jared Kushner. (Politico, December 23, 2020)
Trump issued full pardons to 26 individuals and commuted the sentences of three others.
President Donald Trump issued a provocative new batch of pardons Wednesday, granting clemency to his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, longtime adviser Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
The pardons of Manafort and Stone effectively nullify the most significant convictions won by special counsel Robert Mueller and his team.
Stone was convicted in November 2019 for lying to the House Intelligence Committee about his efforts to make contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and for threatening a witness connected to the probe. Trump commuted Stone’s sentence earlier this year shortly before he was slated to go to prison.
Manafort was convicted for a series of financial crimes stemming from his overseas lobbying work and was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison. However, after serving about two years behind bars, he was moved from prison to house arrest in May due to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the Trump pardon, Manafort may not be entirely in the clear.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. has been pursuing criminal fraud charges against Manafort in state court, but the case has been rejected by a trial and appeals court due to a strict double jeopardy law in New York. A spokesman for Vance said Wednesday that Trump’s pardon of Manafort reinforces the need for him to face justice in New York. "This action underscores the urgent need to hold Mr. Manafort accountable for his crimes against the People of New York as alleged in our indictment, and we will continue to pursue our appellate remedies,” Vance spokesman Danny Frost said in a statement.
The pardon of Manafort, in particular, will likely be unwelcome by some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee issued a scathing report on Manafort’s activities during the 2016 presidential election, including his close ties and collaboration with an associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who the panel assessed to be a Russian agent.
Adam Schiff: The message from Trump is clear: "If you lie for me, if you cover for me, if you're loyal to me, I'll protect you, reward you, and get you out of jail. But if, on the other hand, you expose corruption or stand up to me, I'll come after you." It’s grotesque. It’s corrupt. And Republicans know it and just don’t care. No matter what damage that Trump does to our democracy and the rule of law on his way out. Pardons can right a wrong, cure an injustice, and give those who are sorry a second chance. There are thousands of Americans who deserve pardons, who have reformed and repented, and who deserve a second chance. This isn't that. Not by a long shot. We all fear what this is leading up to: pardons for Trump’s family, his closest aides still in the White House, and perhaps Trump himself.
Trump throws McConnell, Perdue, and Loeffler under the bus: Ossoff and Warnock pounce. (Daily Kos, December 23, 2020)
Whether or not it was his intent, impeached two-time popular vote sore loser Donald Trump threw Mitch McConnell under the bus Tuesday with his demand that Congress come back with $2,000 stimulus checks for everyone. He also put the Republican Senate as a whole on the spot, particularly the two in Georgia who are in the middle of tight runoff elections.
In reporters' inboxes first thing this morning: "Reverend Warnock Calls On Kelly Loeffler To Support $2,000 Stimulus Checks For Georgians." Warnock's statement is simple: "Donald Trump is right, Congress should swiftly increase direct payments to $2,000. Once and for all Senator Loeffler should do what's best for Georgia instead of focusing on what she can do for herself." Tuesday night, following Trump's bizarre statement, Jon Ossoff jumped on board.
Trump leaves Washington in limbo. (Politico, December 23, 2020)
President Donald Trump has once again thrown Washington into chaos, making uneven demands that have left lawmakers baffled and Americans coping with a global pandemic uncertain when they’ll be getting long-promised financial help. On Tuesday night, Trump blindsided all of Washington — including his own staff — with a series of eleventh-hour demands to amend coronavirus relief and government funding legislation that his own administration had helped carefully craft and supported. Overnight and into Wednesday, senior Republicans, Hill aides and even White House officials scrambled to figure out what Trump actually wanted, just as lawmakers — and Trump — prepare to leave town for the holidays.
There’s no clear answer, though. No one on either side of Pennsylvania Avenue appears to know what Trump’s plan is — or even if there is one.
The repercussions of inaction could be dramatic. If lawmakers and White House aides can’t convince the president to sign a funding and Covid relief package by Monday, the government will enter the fourth shutdown of Trump’s presidency. And millions of Americans had been told to expect another round of direct payments from the government shortly, while businesses across the country were expecting more financial assistance. Yet Trump left town Wednesday afternoon without saying a word about the bill, departing for his South Florida Mar-a-Lago resort, where he plans to stay through the new year. And no one seems to know what will happen next.
The sudden limbo reflects how Trump has combatively approached his final days in office. Trump’s main goal, said those close to the president and White House, is to grab attention and send a message to his base that he’s more supportive of Americans than Congress as he plots a run for reelection in 2024. And, in some ways, the strong GOP support for the bill has given Trump little reason to publicly support it. The measure is expected to eventually become law, whether by Trump relenting, Congress overriding a veto or President-elect Joe Biden entering office.
In recent weeks, Trump has shown no qualms about trying to best position himself politically for his post-presidency, even if it means holding up legislation his own party supports and attacking one-time congressional allies, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Trump made a similar veto threat earlier this month for the annual defense policy bill, which also passed with wide Republican support. On Wednesday, he followed through and vetoed the bill, setting up a showdown with lawmakers.
The last-minute Covid stimulus demands from Trump — who has been preoccupied with fighting the election results, leaving Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to negotiate the long-delayed rescue bill — have put Republicans in a particularly tough spot. In addition to the confusion it has caused on Capitol Hill, the move has also complicated a Republican push to win two Georgia runoff races next month that will decide the Senate majority.
At the crux of Trump’s objections appears to be the $600 direct payments the bill was set to send to many Americans. Trump had publicly and privately said he wanted the direct payments to be higher, but he did not say he was unwilling to accept the $600 checks. In fact, he had said that he would sign the bill, which White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern reiterated Tuesday to reporters. Hours later, Trump released a five-minute video he recorded in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House residence, surprising many of his aides. He did not threaten to veto the bill, but he did express displeasure. Trump also complained about spending levels in the measure that he has previously approved and even requested. "I'm asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000," he said. “I’m also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items in this legislation or to send me a suitable bill.”
But there isn’t a huge appetite in the GOP for the $2,000 stimulus checks that Trump is now calling for. "It's a really foolish egg-headed, left-wing, socialist idea to pass out free money to people, so I part ways with the president on giving people free money,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who wants Trump to veto the bill for fiscal reasons, said Wednesday on Fox News.
Meanwhile, Democrats — who have been pushing for higher checks all along — could make life even more painful for the GOP in the coming days. “Just when you think you have seen it all, last night, the President said that he would possibly veto the bicameral agreement negotiated between Republicans and Democrats,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a “Dear Colleague” letter circulated to Democrats. “If the President truly wants to join us in $2,000 payments, he should call upon [House Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy to agree to our Unanimous Consent request.”
A last-minute veto could also have implications in the Georgia runoffs Jan. 5. McConnell had promised Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue that the chamber would not leave for Christmas without a deal, and both senators started touting the stimulus package in their campaigns this week. Both Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is challenging Loeffler, say they agree with Trump’s push for higher payments and are seizing on the moment to hammer their opponents. "Trump has put Loeffler and Perdue in an impossible situation repeatedly throughout the entirety of the runoff. And this is just the latest chapter of the book of humiliation he has made them characters in," said one Georgia Republican strategist. “What do they do? Do they defy the president and stand by what they had been saying or do they once again look like weak puppets with no backbone?”
While Democrats from across the political spectrum rallied around Trump’s calls for more stimulus money, they also made clear they don’t want him to veto the package, which also includes enhanced unemployment benefits, small business aid and funding for distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine. Adding to the sense of the urgency, a slew of critical pandemic-related aid programs are set to expire on Dec. 26.
The Secret to Longevity? 4-Minute Bursts of Intense Exercise May Help. (New York Times, December 23, 2020)
Including high-intensity training in your workouts provided better protection against premature death than moderate workouts alone.
The Saga of the Monolith Isn't Over Yet. (Outside, December 23, 2020)
It showed up, attracted a flood of selfie seekers, and disappeared four days later. But now, after death threats and a federal investigation, it's with BLM officials trying to figure out where it came from in the first place.
Rare 'great conjunction' of Jupiter and Saturn wows skywatchers around the world. (Space, December 22, 2020)
It was a sight not seen since 1623!
SARS-CoV-2’s spread to wild mink not yet a reason to panic. (Ars Technica, December 22. 2020)
A monitoring program picked up a single case and no indications of wider spread.
FBI: White supremacists plotted attack on US power grid. (Associated Press, December 22, 2020)
White supremacists plotted to attack power stations in the southeastern U.S., and an Ohio teenager who allegedly shared the plan said he wanted the group to be “operational” on a fast-tracked timeline if President Donald Trump were to lose his re-election bid.
Can Joe Biden ‘heal’ the United States? Political experts disagree. (The Conversation, December 22, 2020)
A: The image of two monolithic cultures at loggerheads, though perhaps intuitive and appealing, is a myth that doesn’t hold up on closer scrutiny. As a political psychologist who has investigated radicalization, polarization and populism, I believe a “two tents” metaphor would be more accurate. If you look at 2020 election data, you’ll find both the Trump and Biden camps contained diverse points of view, interests and concerns.
B: In his victory speech, Joe Biden said that partisanship “is not due to some mysterious force” but “a choice we make,” asking Americans to “give each other a chance.” His advice for doing that: “listen.” Other political analysts have advised listening, too, as a way to heal America’s divide.
But lack of listening isn’t the problem here. My research on polarization shows political divisions have more to do with negative feelings toward opponents than with misunderstanding their views. When those feelings are intense, as they are right now, listening can actually deepen divisions. So when opponents speak, partisans hear only distortion and hypocrisy. As a result, Americans today see their opponents as untrustworthy, dishonest, unpatriotic, threatening and even harmful to the nation, according to recent polling by the Pew Research Center. Bitter partisanship has rendered Americans unable to treat their opponents as democratic partners.
Research shows that momentary exposure to political messages that slightly oppose our own typically intensifies animosity toward rivals. And when opponents attempt to correct us, we commonly double down and escalate. That’s why even fact-checking Trump’s tweets amplifies divisions: When Twitter marks a Trump tweet as misleading, research finds, Republicans grow more inclined to believe it, while Democrats grow less inclined.
A Trump executive order set the stage for Jerry Falwell’s political activities. (Politico, December 22, 2020)
By discouraging investigations of religious organizations, Trump appeared to clear the way for Liberty University to spend millions on his own causes.
Trump is prepared to lay waste to everyone around him in election loss tantrum. (Daily Kos, December 22, 2020)
Trump’s Military Coup Moment Has Arrived. (Medium, December 21, 2020)
This may very well be the first moment in Trump’s life where he’s met a problem he can’t buy, lie, or cheat his way out of. Will Trump cross the proverbial Rubicon?
Make no mistake, the stuff Michael Flynn has been talking about over the last few weeks are dangerous. He said Trump could give the order to steal voting machines in order to hold a new election, a mock election, functionally undoing the vote of the American People. And Trump asked about the idea, poking around for details that might help him in his quest to remain president at all costs. Trump seems to have forgotten the raging pandemic that’s claimed over 300,000 American lives.
One has to wonder what’s going through the minds of these people. Can they not accept the fact that they lost? For me, it’s hard to put myself into the mental state of the kind of person who would burn down the Republic because they couldn’t handle losing, but it seems that Trump, Flynn, Powell, and the surprising (read: alarming) amount of followers who’ve still clung to the Trump brand like a fading trend they’d invested their life savings on, are just those kinds of people. Incapable of accepting reality as it is.
NEW: "If it Hadn't Been for the Prompt Work of the Medics": FSB Officer Inadvertently Confesses Murder Plot to Navalny. (w/49-min. recording in Russian; Bellingcat, December 21, 2020)
During his year-end press conference on Thursday of last week, Russian president Vladimir Putin did not deny Bellingcat’s findings, which detailed how these FSB operatives had been tailing Navalny, including on his trip to Tomsk. However, the Russian president claimed – without presenting evidence – that this was due to alleged cooperation between Navalny and “United States intelligence agencies”. Putin also denied that the FSB had any role in his poisoning, and stated that “if [the FSB] wanted to, they would have taken their job to the end”. He did not explain why a suspect would need to be surveilled by officers with chemical-warfare and medical backgrounds, nor why these agents communicated with leading Russian experts in nerve toxins in the days and hours before Navalny’s poisoning, as disclosed by Bellingcat.
Bellingcat can now disclose that it and its investigative partners are in possession of a recorded conversation in which a member of the suspected FSB poison squad describes how his unit carried out, and attempted to clean up evidence of, the poisoning of Alexey Navalny. The inadvertent confession was made during a phone call with a person who the officer believed was a high-ranking security official. In fact, the FSB officer did not recognize the voice of the person to whom he was reporting details of the failed mission: Alexey Navalny himself.
Heather Cox Richardson: Breakdown in the White House (Letters from an American, December 21, 2020)
In the past two days, stories in major papers have focused on the president’s deteriorating mental state. The Atlantic ran a story by Peter Wehner titled “Trump is Losing His Mind.” It describes “Trump’s descent into madness.” Politico ran Michael Kruse’s story titled “Is Trump Cracking Under the Weight of Losing?””[T]he actual fact of the matter,” it said, is that “Trump is a loser.” Kruse points to Trump’s uncharacteristic absence from the public eye to wonder if he is breaking down mentally.
Senior White House officials are worried about what Trump might do in the next month as he spends more and more time with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is under active investigation by federal prosecutors; conspiracy lawyer Sidney Powell; disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn; Steve Bannon, who has recently been indicted for fraud; Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser; and now Patrick Byrne, the founder of the Overstock retail website. Trump is turning to this group of misfits rather than advisers like his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, or White House counsel Pat Cipollone. The new advisers are encouraging him to declare martial law or to seize state voting machines to examine them for fraud or to appoint a special counsel to investigate Joe Biden’s son Hunter. Trump has floated the idea of naming Powell as a special counsel inside the White House Counsel’s office to investigate the election. Meadows and Cipollone argue, correctly, that this is crazy.
Previous loyalists are opening up water between themselves and the president. Evangelical leader Pat Robertson, who famously said Trump was part of God’s plan for America, made the news today with his declaration that, for all the good he claims Trump has done, the president “lives in an alternate reality,” and has been “very erratic.” Robertson says it is time to recognize that Biden is the president-elect and it is time for Trump “to move on.”
Attorney General William Barr also broke with Trump today, saying that he saw no need to appoint a special counsel to investigate voter fraud or to investigate Hunter Biden, and that there was no evidence of voter fraud that would have changed the outcome of the 2020 election. Barr also confirmed that it was Russia, rather than any other country, that hacked the United States government and prominent companies over the course of the past year. Barr will leave office on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, right-wing media outlets Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and One America News are also concerned with the law. They are madly backpedaling as they face the consequences of their baseless accusations against election software company Smartmatic. Although that company was involved in the 2020 election only in Los Angeles County, right-wing media personalities have accused it of altering votes in several states in the 2020 presidential contest. The lawyer for the company’s founder, Antonio Mugica, has sent letters to the FNC, Newsmax, and OAN demanding that they retract their stories and warning them to keep documents for a forthcoming defamation suit. Voting machine manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems, also included in the news stories, has also hired legal counsel. The threat of lawsuits has prompted the FNC and Newsmax to “clarify” at some length that they had no evidence of any of the improprieties they alleged. On Newsmax, John Tabacco also had to clarify that there was no relationship between Dominion Voting Systems and Dianne Feinstein, the Clintons, Nancy Pelosi, George Soros, Hugo Chavez, or the government of Venezuela.
As he descends into the fever swamps, Trump has largely given up any pretense of governing. His public schedule remains empty, and his private meetings appear to focus on how he can stay in office. Today we learned that Russian hackers broke into the email system used by the leadership of the Treasury Department, but the cyberattack from Russia has gone unaddressed except to the extent the president tried to blame the attack on China (although he has made no move to retaliate against China for the attack). He has made little attempt to shepherd any sort of an economic relief bill through Congress. And, most crucially, he is silent about the epidemic that is killing us. As of this evening, more than 18 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus, and at least 319,000 have died.
[And there's more...]
Secular ‘values voters’ are becoming an electoral force in the US – just look closely at 2020’s results. (The Conversation, December 21, 2020)
The voting patterns of religious groups in the U.S. have been scrutinized since the presidential election for evidence of shifting allegiances among the faithful. Many have wondered if a boost in Catholic support was behind Biden’s win or if a dip in support among evangelicals helped doom Trump. But much less attention has been paid to one of the largest growing demographics among the U.S. electorate, one that has increased from around 5% of Americans to over 23% in the last 50 years: “Nones” – that is, the nonreligious.
I am a scholar of secularism in the U.S., and my focus is on the social and cultural presence of secular people – nonreligious people such as atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers and those who simply don’t identify with any religion. They are an increasingly significant presence in American society, one which inevitably spills into the political arena.
U.S. doesn't join countries cutting off U.K. travel, as new highly infectious COVID-19 strain emerges. (Daily Kos, December 21, 2020)
News of a new strain of COVID-19 that could be up to 70% more infectious has led many countries to suspend travel from Britain. That includes Canada and France, among many others, but not the United States.
The good news, such as it is, is that experts expect the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that have begun distribution to be effective against the new strain. But the virus was already spreading faster than the vaccines, and this will make that effect much worse. Already the mutation has been found not just in Britain but in the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, and Iceland.
Congress passes massive stimulus package as virus rages. (Politico, December 21, 2020)
Congress approved a $900 billion coronavirus relief package late Monday night after months of inaction and partisan bickering, sending desperately needed aid to Americans reeling from a global pandemic. Last-minute drama over a series of provisions delayed final passage of the bill for days, but the major pillars remained the same: $600 direct payments to individuals and families, enhanced unemployment benefits, small business aid, and funding for distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The long-delayed measure, which included $1.4 trillion to fund the government through next September, ultimately passed both chambers with overwhelming bipartisan majorities: 359-53 in the House and 92-6 in the Senate. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the mammoth bill into law, allowing at least some of the emergency aid to start flowing quickly.
The Death Knell for Trumpism is Sounding. (Daily Kos, December 21, 2020)
As the Mad Wannabe King spends his final days in office, the world no longer wonders what his fate will be: On December 14, the Electoral College vote confirmed his humiliating defeat at the hands of Joe Biden. When Trump departs the White House on January 20, 2021, he will likely be pursued by creditors and legal authorities alike.
In the much-anticipated sunset of Trump’s failed presidency, some political analysts are concerned that Trumpism – that corrupt brew of hubris, personality cult, faux authoritarianism, hucksterism, xenophobia, populism, and nativism – could continue. While inconstancy always surrounds anything Trumpian, I believe that Trumpism cannot outlast its progenitor. The bogus doctrine has suffered a series of life-threatening wounds that make its survival highly questionable.
Trump Threatens SCOTUS with "Disruption" If They Don't Take His Case. (Daily Kos, December 21, 2020)
Trump is once again asking the Supreme Court (PDF) to overturn the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s multiple rulings on the mail-in ballots in the election. The accompanying motion to expedite contains some VERY disturbing language:
Finally, if this matter is not timely resolved, not only Petitioner, but the Nation as а whole may suffer injury from the resulting confusion. Indeed, the intense   national and worldwide attention on the 2020 Presidential election only foreshadows the disruption that may well follow if the uncertainty and unfairness shrouding this election are allowed to persist. The importance of а prompt resolution of the federal constitutional questions presented by this case cannot be overstated.
[Emphasis added. But hey, that's what a mob boss does.]
NEW: Is Trump Cracking Under the Weight of Losing? (Politico, December 20, 2020)
Getting the boot from the White House is an undeniable ego blow for a man who has never admitted defeat.
Donald Trump has never had a week like the week he just had. On the heels of the Supreme Court’s knock-back and the Electoral College’s knockout, some of his most reliable supporters—Mitch McConnell, Vladimir Putin, Newsmax—acknowledged and affirmed the actual fact of the matter. Trump is a loser.
Consequently, he is plainly out of sorts, say former close associates, longtime Trump watchers and mental health experts. It’s not just his odd behavior—the testy, tiny desk session with the press, the stilted Medal of Freedom ceremony that ended with his awkward exit, the cut-short trip to the Army-Navy football game. It’s even more pointedly his conspicuous and ongoing absences. The narcissistic Trump has spent the last half a century—but especially the last half a decade—making himself and keeping himself the most paid-attention-to person on the planet. But in the month and a half since Election Day, Trump has been seen and heard relatively sparingly and sporadically. No-showing unexpectedly at a Christmas party, sticking to consistently sparse public schedules and speaking mainly through his increasingly manic Twitter feed, he’s been fixated more than anything else on his baseless insistence that he won the election when he did not.
Over the course of a lifetime of professional and personal transgressions and failures, channeling lasting, curdled lessons of Norman Vincent Peale and Roy Cohn, Trump has assembled a record of rather remarkable resilience. His typical level of activity and almost animal energy has at times lent him an air of insusceptibility, every one of his brushes with financial or reputational ruin ending with Trump emerging all but untouched. His current crisis, though, his eviction from the White House now just a month out, is something altogether different and new. “He’s never been in a situation in which he has lost in a way he can’t escape from,” Mary Trump, his niece and the author of the fiercely critical and bestselling book about him and their family, told me. “We continue to wait for him to accept reality, for him to concede, and that is something he is not capable of doing,” added Bandy Lee, the forensic psychiatrist from Yale who’s spent the last four years trying to warn the world about Trump and the ways in which he’s disordered and dangerous. “Being a loser,” she said, for Trump is tantamount to “psychic death.”
“His fragile ego has never been tested to this extent,” Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney and enforcer before he turned on him, told me. “While he’s creating a false pretense of strength and fortitude, internally he is angry, depressed and manic. As each day ends, Trump knows he’s one day closer to legal and financial troubles. Accordingly, we will all see his behavior deteriorate until it progresses into a full mental breakdown. ... You have to remember, Trump doesn’t see things the way that you do. He sees things in his distorted reality that benefits him. He’s able to right now embrace that distorted reality because he still wakes up in the White House. But what happens each and every day as he gets closer to not only leaving, but also it comes with a sense of, in his mind, humiliation, right? And he knows that he is destined for legal troubles.”
“Psychological disorders are like anything else,” said Mary Trump, who’s also a psychologist. “If they’re unacknowledged and untreated over time, they get worse.”
In Lee’s estimation, it’s not something that could happen. It’s something that is happening, that’s been happening for the past four years—and will keep happening. “His pathology has continued to grow, continued to cause him to decompensate, and so we’re at a stage now where his detachment from reality is pretty much complete and his symptoms are as severe as can be.” She likened Trump to “a car without functioning brakes.” Such a car, she explained, can look for a long time like it’s fine, and keep going, faster and faster, even outracing other cars. “But at the bottom of the hill,” Lee said, “it always crashes. ... The probability of something very bad happening is very high, unacceptably high, and the fact that we don’t have guardrails in place, the fact that we are allowing a mentally incapacitated president to continue in the job, in such an important job, for a single day longer, is a truly unacceptable reality,” said Lee, the Yale psychiatrist. “We’re talking about his access to the most powerful military on the planet and his access to technology that’s capable of destroying human civilization many times over.”
A President Who Can’t Put Aside Grudges, Even for Good News. (New York Times, December 20, 2020)
The past week served as a preview of Mr. Trump’s post-presidency: no leadership on debates within his party, but keen attention to waging personal vendettas and cultivating his supporters.
It was among the most consequential weeks of President Trump’s tenure: Across the country, health care workers began receiving a lifesaving coronavirus vaccine. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers closed in on a deal for economic relief aimed at averting a deeper recession. And on Friday, federal regulators authorized a second vaccine. Yet Mr. Trump was largely absent from those events. It was Vice President Mike Pence who held a call with governors on Monday to hail a “medical miracle,” and who received the Pfizer vaccine at week’s end on live television. Legislative leaders were the ones working late into the nights on a stimulus deal eventually reached on Sunday.
All the while Mr. Trump was conducting a Twitter-borne assault on Republicans for not helping him overturn the election results, even warning Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, to “get tougher, or you won’t have a Republican Party anymore.” By this weekend, the president was considering naming a conspiracy theorist as special counsel to investigate voting fraud, for which there’s no evidence, asking his advisers about instituting martial law and downplaying a massive hack his own secretary of state attributed to Russia.
Seldom has the leader of an American political party done so much to strike fear into the hearts of his allies, but done so little to tackle challenges facing the country during his final days in office.
As pandemic deaths top 300,000, Trump follows through on Making Bathrooms Great Again. (Daily Kos, December 20, 2020)
Pandemic deaths in the United States have now topped 300,000, so you can guess where the Trump administration's attention is focused in its waning days. That's right, showerheads. The administration has just finalized Donald Trump's perhaps greatest infrastructure achievement, rolling back water efficiency standards to allow rich people to waste more water than you do.
Specifically, the new rule keeps in place Congress' mandated 2.5 gallon-per-minute maximum water usage for showerheads—it being required by Congress, after all—but modifies the rules so that "fixtures" with multiple showerheads can have each head dispensing that maximum amount, side-by-side-by-side, rather than having to limit itself to 2.5 gpm in total.
The best part about this new rule, however, is not the Trumpite Energy Department skirting prior congressional mandates through creative tweaks of language, it is the sheer, raw, soggy pettiness of the move. It comes from Donald Trump, personally. Donald Trump had the powers of the presidency handed to him, and he was apathetic at best about pandemic deaths, saw national security primarily as a tool for self-enrichment, and showed such complete disinterest in each underling's policy moves that he was at near-total loss to explain any of them during public appearances.
But this? This, Donald Trump insisted on. Given the supreme powers of the United States presidency, Donald Trump used them to apply pressure on regulators over all matters of housely excretions. He had strong opinions on the flushing power of toilets. He returned time and time again to anecdotal housewife complaints about washing machines and clothes dryers. He complained bitterly to public audiences about The Showerheads These Days.
Sunlight floods inner chamber of Newgrange tomb. (Raidió Teilifís Éireann, December 20, 2020)
Sunlight flooded the inner chamber of the Neolithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange this morning, on the first day of three that the Office of Public Works is live-streaming the event. Newgrange was built 500 years before the Pyramids in Egypt and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge.
When conditions are right on the solstice, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box above the entrance to the passage at Newgrange and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually illuminating the entire chamber. The event lasts for 17 minutes. You can view tomorrow and Tuesday's solstice event here.
Mutant coronavirus in the United Kingdom sets off alarms, but its importance remains unclear. (Science, December 20, 2020)
On 8 December, during a regular Tuesday meeting about the spread of the pandemic coronavirus in the United Kingdom, scientists and public health experts saw a diagram that made them sit up straight. Kent, in southeastern England, was experiencing a surge in cases, and a phylogenetic tree showing viral sequences from the county looked very strange, says Nick Loman, a microbial genomicist at the University of Birmingham. Not only were half the cases caused by one specific variant of SARS-CoV-2, but that variant was sitting on a branch of the tree that literally stuck out from the rest of the data.
Less than 2 weeks later, that variant is causing mayhem in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe.
Congress seals agreement on $900 billion COVID relief bill. (Associated Press, December 20, 2020)
The agreement, announced by congressional leaders, would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.
The final agreement would be the largest spending measure yet. It combined $900 billion for COVID-19 relief with a $1.4 trillion government-wide funding plan and lots of other unrelated measures on taxes, health, infrastructure and education. The government-wide funding would keep the government open through September.
Passage neared as coronavirus cases and deaths spiked and evidence piled up that the economy was struggling. The legislation had been held up by months of dysfunction, posturing and bad faith. But talks turned serious in recent days as lawmakers on both sides finally faced the deadline of acting before leaving Washington for Christmas.
“This bill is a good bill. Tonight is a good night. But it is not the end of the story, it is not the end of the job,” Chuck Schumer told reporters. “Anyone who thinks this bill is enough does not know what’s going on in America.”
Trump's obsession with overturning the election is out of control. (1-min. video; CNN, December 20, 2020)
Trump's talk of martial law sends White House staffers rushing to the press. (CNN, December 20, 2020)
With only a month remaining until President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office, Trump has been ramping up his efforts to remain president, while also trying to convince millions of Americans that election fraud is to blame for his presidential loss.
That's nothing new. But a heated Oval Office meeting Friday in which Trump heard arguments about invoking martial law to stay in office had some Trump officials sounding the alarm to the press. Michael Flynn, Trump's pardoned former national security adviser, discussed the martial law plan on right-wing television network Newsmax last week and was invited to the White House Friday.
Trump dismissed reports of the martial law discussion as 'fake news' in a tweet Sunday, but two people familiar with the matter told CNN that the the plan was argued in the Oval Office Friday -- although it remains unclear if Trump endorsed the idea.
After legal threat, Fox airs news package debunking election fraud claims made by its own hosts. (3-min. Fox video; CNN, December 20, 2020)
After voting technology company Smartmatic sent Fox News a blistering legal threat that accused the network of participating in a "disinformation campaign" against it, the network has started airing a remarkable news package debunking claims its hosts and guests have propagated. The package aired for the first time Friday night on Lou Dobbs' show. Fox News said the same package would air Saturday night on Jeanine Pirro's program as well as Sunday morning on Maria Bartiromo's show. All three hosts, who use their platforms to air pro-Trump propaganda, are close with the President.
The stunning news package featured an interview with voting technology expert Eddie Perez, who poured cold water on a series of conspiracy theories that have been amplified and promoted on the shows of Dobbs, Pirro, and Bartiromo.
[FLASH: A Fox News clip you'll WANT to hear!]
Heather Cox Richardson: Trump and the Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to retain their hold on power, while President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris are quietly trying to move forward. (Letters from an American, December 19, 2020)
Today, New York Times journalists Maggie Haberman and Zolan Kanno-Youngs reported that Trump held a long meeting at the White House yesterday with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani; disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whom Trump recently pardoned for lying to the FBI; and Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell. These four are the heart of those insisting—without evidence—that Trump won the 2020 election. They have talked of Trump declaring martial law and holding new elections. In the meeting, Trump apparently asked about appointing Powell as special counsel to investigate voter fraud in the 2020 election. White House advisers in the room, including White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, pushed back strongly, noting that Powell has yet to prove any of her accusations. Axios journalist Jonathan Swan reported that senior Trump officials think Trump is spending too much time with crackpots who are egging him on to seize power. One told Swan: when Trump is "retweeting threats of putting politicians in jail, and spends his time talking to conspiracy nuts who openly say declaring martial law is no big deal, it’s impossible not to start getting anxious about how this ends."
This week, the United States learned of a massive hack on our government and business sector. Intelligence agents as well as Trump's Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, say Russia is behind the attack. Once again, though, Trump refuses to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin. He claimed that the attack wasn't as bad as the "Fake News Media" says it is, and he suggested the culprit could have been China, rather than Russia. Then, once again, he insisted he won the election.
And yet, if the Trump administration models an assault on our country by a group of oligarchs determined to seize power, the incoming Biden administration is signaling that it takes seriously our future as a true multicultural democracy. Nothing signals that more than the nomination of Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM) as Secretary of the Interior Department. Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo people who have lived in the land that is now New Mexico for 35 generations. She is the daughter of two military veterans. A single mother who earned a law degree with a young daughter in tow, she was a tribal leader focused on environmentally responsible economic development for the Lagunas before she became a Democratic leader.
The Interior Department today manages our natural resources as well as the government’s relationship with Indigenous tribes. Placing Haaland at the head of it is more than simply promoting diversity in government. It is a recognition of 170 years of American history and the perversion of our principles by men who lusted for power. It is a sign that we are finally trying to use the government for the good of everyone.
[Read on online, for her brief and accurate history of U.S. mistreatment of Native Americans.]
Kazakhstan spies on citizens’ HTTPS traffic; browser-makers fight back. (Ars Technica, December 19, 2020)
Kazakhstan gov required citizens to install self-signed root certificate (again).
John Schindler Stop Blaming Foreigners for America’s Awful Cybersecurity. (Top Secret Umbra, December 19, 2020)
These debacles will keep happening until we get serious about security in general, cyber or otherwise. There are big obstacles to getting better. Politics remains a problem, when our political parties are only interested in security when it can be used as a cudgel to beat the other party with. In addition, Americans of all stripes have had an unserious attitude towards counterintelligence for decades, as I highlighted in my last Top Secret Umbra column. Counterintelligence and security work can be a drag: difficult, time-consuming, and sometimes downright depressing. The SpyWar never sleeps. Victories there are incremental, never total, and sometimes difficult to detect at all.
This dismissive attitude towards counterintelligence was painful enough during the last Cold War, with traitors costing us lives, battles, and uncounted treasure. However, this fundamental unseriousness about protecting secrets is seriously lethal in the online age, when every government agency is fully networked and virtually every American is walking around every waking moment carrying around an espionage device that spies on everything they do, buy, and say, while offering Internet and telephone access in exchange.
Mike Pompeo admits Russia was behind series of cyber attacks, Trump immediately slaps him down. (Daily Kos, December 19, 2020)
For months, Russian hackers have been racing around inside systems at the highest levels of the U.S. government, exploiting a weakness in “SolarWinds” networking software that went completely unnoticed until it was pointed out by a third party. Those hacks have included intrusions into systems that contain critical information about the nation’s power grid, as well as those having stewardship over the nuclear stockpile. All the while, Donald Trump has refused to even mention Russia (outside of repeating lies about the Mueller investigation) and is even promising to veto a national defense spending bill that includes a program to fight Russian cyber warfare.
So when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted on Friday that Russia was behind the widespread hacks, it should not be news. After all, this has been in the news for over a week. It affects at least half a dozen federal agencies. And there is no doubt about the origin of the attacks. But in the Trump White House, just getting an admission that Russia can do something wrong, is an effort.
Michael Cohen: Trump's legal and financial problems have him headed for a 'full mental breakdown'. (Raw Story, December 19, 2020)
The president is looking at losing the protections of his office, his family is being investigated by both Manhattan District Attorney General Cyrus Vance Jr. and New York Attorney General Letitia James and he reportedly has over $400 million in debt coming due in the near future. As Kruse explains, "This is new territory for Trump, who over the course of a lifetime of professional and personal transgressions and failures has assembled a record of remarkable resilience, emerging all but unscathed from every one of his brushes with ruin," with Trump niece -- and psychologist -- Mary Trump telling him, "He's never been in a situation in which he has lost in a way he can't escape from."
Former Trump attorney Cohen, who has an intimate knowledge of Trump's financial dealings before he became president, claims he doesn't see the president holding up under the stress. In an interview with Kruse, Cohen stated, "His fragile ego has never been tested to this extent. As each day ends, Trump knows he's one day closer to legal and financial troubles. Accordingly, we will all see his behavior deteriorate until it progresses into a full mental breakdown."
Yale forensic psychiatrist Bandy Lee concurred by explaining, "We're at a stage now where his detachment from reality is pretty much complete and his symptoms are as severe as can be," adding the president is currently like "a car without functioning brakes" that "always crashes."
The inside story of how Trump’s denial, mismanagement and magical thinking led to the pandemic’s dark winter (Washington Post, December 19, 2020)
As the number of coronavirus cases ticked upward in mid-November — worse than the frightening days of spring and ahead of an expected surge after families congregated for Thanksgiving — four doctors on President Trump’s task force decided to stage an intervention. After their warnings had gone largely unheeded for months in the dormant West Wing, Deborah Birx, Anthony S. Fauci, Stephen Hahn and Robert Redfield together sounded new alarms, cautioning of a dark winter to come without dramatic action to slow community spread.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, among the many Trump aides who were infected with the virus this fall, was taken aback, according to three senior administration officials with knowledge of the discussions. He told the doctors he did not believe their troubling data assessment. And he accused them of outlining problems without prescribing solutions.
Moderna OKed — Second COVID vaccine approved for use in the US. (Ars Technica, December 19, 2020)
More vaccines will help ease shortages, work through priority list.
Britain tightens lock-downs over virus mutation with ‘significantly faster’ transmission rates. (Washington Post, December 19, 2020)
Faced with a newly emerging coronavirus mutation with "significantly faster" transmission rates, Britain on Saturday announced tightened pandemic restrictions that returned London and parts of the country to virtual lock-down and reversed earlier promises for relaxed rules over theChristmas holiday.
The new mutation, or variant, was first detected in southeast England in September and is quickly becoming the dominant strain in London and other regions in Britain. Experts said it does not appear more deadly or resistant to vaccines, but may be up to 70 percent more transmissible than previous versions of the virus here. “This is spreading very fast,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, announcing local and international travel bans and other extreme measures for about 18 million people in England beginning Sunday. Wales and Scotland followed with their own tightened restrictions, including banning all but essential movement around the isle.
South Africa announces a new coronavirus variant. (New York Times, December 18, 2020)
South African scientists and health officials announced on Friday the discovery of a new lineage of the coronavirus that has quickly come to dominate samples of virus tested in the country. Scientists are examining this particular variant closely because it includes several changes in the part of the virus that allows it to attach to human cells, which is a key target for antibody therapies and vaccines. The variant, named 501.V2, has also been associated in a preliminary analysis with faster spread and a higher load of virus found in swabs. It has not yet been linked to any difference in disease severity, and the findings have not yet been reviewed by other scientists or published in a journal.
The wealthy scramble for COVID-19 vaccines: ‘If I donate $25,000 ... would that help me?’ (Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2020)
With the first doses in short supply, California has laid out a strict order of vaccinations based on need and risk: Healthcare workers and nursing home residents, then essential workers and those with chronic health conditions, then, finally, everyone else.
But to those with power, money and influence, rules can always be bent. California’s stern messaging about serving the neediest first hasn’t stopped the rich from trying to leap ahead of teachers, farmworkers and firefighters.
Stanford hospital erupts in protest after vaccine plan leaves out residents. [Ars Technica, December 18, 2020 and updated]
Only 0.5% of the medical residents at Stanford are in on the first round of shots.
Update: Stanford Medicine shared the following statement: "We take complete responsibility for the errors in the execution of our vaccine distribution plan. Our intent was to develop an ethical and equitable process for distribution of the vaccine. We apologize to our entire community, including our residents, fellows, and other frontline care providers, who have performed heroically during our pandemic response. We are immediately revising our plan to better sequence the distribution of the vaccine."
Tracking COVID-19 Vaccines Around the World (Visual Capitalist, December 18, 2020)
In November 2020, the world received the exciting news that the first COVID-19 vaccines were ready for roll out—and as of now, nearly 7.25 billion doses have been pre-purchased by countries and organizations around the globe. Today’s visualizations highlight the number of vaccine doses that different countries have purchased, as well as the companies and organizations that have pre-sold them.
Georgia Senate Runoffs Becoming Turnout Battle. (eBay Main Street, December 18, 2020)
[We find its Massachusetts section to be interesting.]
Pentagon halts Biden transition briefings. (Axios, December 18, 2020)
Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller ordered a Pentagon-wide halt to cooperation with the transition of President-elect Biden, shocking officials across the Defense Department.
The latest: Biden transition director Yohannes Abraham contradicted the Pentagon's official response to this story on Friday afternoon, telling reporters, "Let me be clear: there was no mutually agreed upon holiday break. In fact, we think it’s important that briefings and other engagements continue during this period as there’s no time to spare, and that’s particularly true in the aftermath of ascertainment delay", referring to the Trump administration's delay in recognizing Biden as president-elect.
Miller had said in a statement following the publication of this story: "At no time has the Department cancelled or declined any interview. ... After the mutually-agreed upon holiday, which begins tomorrow, we will continue with the transition and rescheduled meetings from today."
Behind the scenes: Trump administration officials left open the possibility that cooperation would resume after a holiday pause. The officials were unsure what prompted Miller's action, or whether President Trump approved.
[All this during publicity about the worst cybersecurity break in American history.]
Kushner helped create 'campaign' shell company that secretly paid Trump's family members. (Daily Kos, December 18, 2020)
Donald Trump's son-in-law and chief adviser Jared Kushner approved creation of a shell company that "secretly paid" Trump's family members and "spent almost half of the campaign's $1.26 billion war chest." That would amount to a cool $617 million in cash supposedly meant for Trump's reelection campaign that essentially disappeared without a trace. The shell company appears to have served as a pass-through entity - with the added benefit of shielding all of its transactions from public view.
The shell company, called American Made Media Consultants Corporation and American Made Media Consultants LLC (AMMC), evaded federally-mandated disclosures that would have provided insights into where Trump's campaign cash was being funneled. Even some of Trump's top advisors and campaign staff—who were aware of the company—say they knew next to nothing about its operations. Campaign finance records reveal that more than $600 million was spent through AMMC, but it's unclear exactly where that money went.
Stephen Colbert: 2020: The Year That Took Years (13-min. video; The Late Show, December 18, 2020)
45's Falsehoods and Failures (People For the American Way, December 18, 2020)
This week, the United States continued to hit one dangerous record high after another, with the country passing 300,000 deaths due to COVID-19. That toll is roughly the equivalent of losing the entire population of Pittsburgh or St. Louis.
From day one, Donald Trump, his administration, and his Republican allies in Congress have minimized or ignored the crisis. Their negligence continues to exacerbate the pandemic’s devastating impact on our country. This week was no different.
Microsoft president calls SolarWinds hack an “act of recklessness”. (Ars Technica, December 18, 2020)
Of 18,000 backdoored servers, hackers followed up on only a few dozen.
Microsoft is reportedly added to the growing list of victims in SolarWinds hack. (Ars Technica, December 17, 2020)
Other reported victims include the Energy Department nuke security administration.
The Senate seems to have a deal on virus relief — despite Mitch McConnell’s “red line.” (New York Times, December 17, 2020)
When people talk about the Senate, they often imagine that McConnell, as the majority leader, is all-powerful and can prevent any bill he doesn’t like from coming up for a vote. That’s not the case. Any senator can propose that a bill receive a vote. If at least 50 other senators want it to receive one, it will.
Looking into the genetics of severe COVID-19 (Ars Technica, December 17, 2020)
Genetics may underlie some of the variability in people's symptoms.
DHS Inspectors Found ICE Detainees Who Were Kept In Solitary Confinement For 300 Days. (Buzzfeed News, December 17, 2020)
Inspectors also found that nearly a dozen immigrants detainees were kept in solitary confinement for more than two months.
‘Everything’s great’: GOP ditches election post-mortems. (Politico, December 17, 2020)
Mitt Romney lost by 5 million votes in 2012 and sparked a 100-page RNC autopsy report. Donald Trump lost by 7 million and there isn’t a peep.
Pence makes plans to leave the country immediately after overseeing Trump's final loss. (Daily Kos, December 17, 2020)
Google committed “antitrust evils,” colluded with Facebook, new lawsuit says. (Ars Technica, December 17, 2020)
The AGs of 52 US states and territories are joining the feds to sue Google.
China collects Moon samples, may not share with NASA due to Wolf Amendment. (Ars Technica, December 17, 2020)
The country returned about 2kg of rocks from the Moon's surface.
“Evil mobile emulator farms” were used to steal millions from US and EU banks. (Ars Technica, December 17, 2020)
The scale of the operation was unlike anything the researchers have seen before. In one case, crooks used about 20 emulators to mimic more than 16,000 phones belonging to customers whose mobile bank accounts had been compromised. The thieves then entered usernames and passwords into banking apps running on the emulators and initiated fraudulent money orders that siphoned funds out of the compromised accounts. Emulators are used by legitimate developers and researchers to test how apps run on a variety of different mobile devices. To bypass protections banks use to block such attacks, the crooks used device identifiers corresponding to each compromised account holder and spoofed GPS locations the device was known to use. The device IDs were likely obtained from the holders’ hacked devices, although in some cases, the fraudsters gave the appearance that they were customers who were accessing their accounts from new phones. The attackers were also able to bypass multi-factor authentication by accessing SMS messages.
The operation raises the usual security advice about using strong passwords, learning how to spot phishing scams, and keeping devices free of malware. It would be nice if banks provided multi factor authentication through a medium other than SMS, but few financial institutions do. People should review their bank statements at least once a month to look for fraudulent transactions.
Dutch prosecutors say that hacker guessed Trump’s Twitter password: Guess what it was? (Daily Kos, December 17, 2020)
Gevers also told a newspaper that this was the second time he’s hacked the president’s Twitter account by guessing the password.
SolarWinds hack that breached gov networks poses a “grave risk” to the nation. (Ars Technica, December 17, 2020)
Nuclear weapons agency among those breached by state-sponsored hackers.
Little-known SolarWinds gets scrutiny over hack, stock sales. (ABC News, December 16, 2020)
Before this week, few people were aware of SolarWinds, a Texas-based software company providing vital computer network monitoring services to corporations and government agencies around the world.
The revelation that elite cyber spies have spent months secretly exploiting SolarWinds' software to peer into computer networks has put many of its highest-profile customers in national governments and Fortune 500 companies on high alert. And it's raising questions about whether company insiders knew of its security vulnerabilities as its biggest investors sold off stock.
The magnitude of this national security breach is hard to overstate. (New York Times, December 16, 2020)
At the worst possible time, when the United States is at its most vulnerable — during a presidential transition and a devastating public health crisis — the networks of the federal government and much of corporate America are compromised by a foreign nation. We need to understand the scale and significance of what is happening.
Last week, the cybersecurity firm FireEye said it had been hacked and that its clients, which include the United States government, had been placed at risk. This week, we learned that SolarWinds, a publicly traded company that provides software to tens of thousands of government and corporate customers, was also hacked. The attackers gained access to SolarWinds software before updates of that software were made available to its customers. Unsuspecting customers then downloaded a corrupted version of the software, which included a hidden back door that gave hackers access to the victim’s network.
On Dec. 13, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a division of the Department of Homeland Security — itself a victim — issued an emergency directive ordering federal civilian agencies to remove SolarWinds software from their networks. The removal is aimed at stopping the bleeding. Unfortunately, the move is sadly insufficient and woefully too late. The damage is already done and the computer networks are already compromised. It also is impractical. In 2017, the federal government was ordered to remove from its networks software from a Russian company, Kaspersky Lab, that was deemed too risky. It took over a year to get it off the networks. Even if we double that pace with SolarWinds software, and even if it wasn’t already too late, the situation would remain dire for a long time.
The response must be broader than patching networks. While all indicators point to the Russian government, the United States, and ideally its allies, must publicly and formally attribute responsibility for these hacks. If it is Russia, President Trump must make it clear to Vladimir Putin that these actions are unacceptable. The U.S. military and intelligence community must be placed on increased alert; all elements of national power must be placed on the table.
President Trump must get past his grievances about the election and govern for the remainder of his term. This moment requires unity, purpose and discipline. An intrusion so brazen and of this size and scope cannot be tolerated by any sovereign nation. We are sick, distracted, and now under cyberattack. Leadership is essential.
How suspected Russian hackers outed their massive cyberattack (Politico, December 16, 2020)
A cybersecurity firm says a suspicious log-in prompted it to investigate what turned out to be a gaping security hole for the U.S. government and many large companies.
Russia’s Hacking Frenzy Is a Reckoning. (Wired, December 16, 2020)
Despite years of warning, the US still has no good answer for the sort of “supply chain” attack that let Russia run wild.
This week, several major United States government agencies—including the Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, Treasury, and State—discovered that their digital systems had been breached by Russian hackers in a months-long espionage operation. The breadth and depth of the attacks will take months, if not longer, to fully understand. But it's already clear that they represent a moment of reckoning, both for the federal government and the IT industry that supplies it.
‘Like a Hand Grasping’: Trump Appointees Describe the Crushing of the C.D.C. (New York Times, December 16, 2020)
Kyle McGowan, a former chief of staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and his deputy, Amanda Campbell, go public on the Trump administration’s manipulation of the agency. In a series of interviews, the pair has decided to go public with their disillusionment: what went wrong, and what they believe needs to be done as the agency girds for what could be a yearslong project of rebuilding its credibility externally while easing ill feelings and self-doubt internally.
“Everyone wants to describe the day that the light switch flipped and the C.D.C. was sidelined. It didn’t happen that way,” Mr. McGowan said. “It was more of like a hand grasping something, and it slowly closes, closes, closes, closes until you realize that, middle of the summer, it has a complete grasp on everything at the C.D.C.”
Last week, the editor in chief of the C.D.C.’s flagship weekly disease outbreak reports — once considered untouchable — told House Democrats investigating political interference in the agency’s work that she was ordered to destroy an email showing Trump appointees attempting to meddle with their publication.
The White House insisted on reviewing — and often softening — the C.D.C.’s closely guarded coronavirus guidance documents, the most prominent public expression of its latest research and scientific consensus on the spread of the virus. The documents were vetted not only by the White House’s coronavirus task force but by what felt to the agency’s employees like an endless loop of political appointees across Washington.
Mr. McGowan recalled a White House fixated on the economic implications of public health. He and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director, negotiated with Russell T. Vought, the White House budget director, over social distancing guidelines for restaurants, as Mr. Vought argued that specific spacing recommendations would be too onerous for businesses to enforce. “It is not the C.D.C.’s role to determine the economic viability of a guidance document,” Mr. McGowan said. They compromised anyway, recommending social distancing without a reference to the typical six-foot measurement.
Dr. Tom Frieden, the C.D.C. director under President Barack Obama, said it was typical and “legitimate” to have interagency process for review. “What’s not legitimate is to overrule science,” he said.
Often, Mr. McGowan and Ms. Campbell mediated between Dr. Redfield and agency scientists when the White House’s guidance requests and dictates would arrive: edits from Mr. Vought and Kellyanne Conway, the former White House adviser, on choirs and communion in faith communities, or suggestions from Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and aide, on schools. “Every time that the science clashed with the messaging, messaging won,” Mr. McGowan said.
Episodes of meddling sometimes turned absurd, they said. In the spring, the C.D.C. published an app that allowed Americans to screen themselves for symptoms of Covid-19. But the Trump administration decided to develop a similar tool with Apple. White House officials then demanded that the C.D.C. wipe its app off its website, Mr. McGowan said.
Ms. Campbell said that at the pandemic’s outset, she was confident the agency had the best scientists in the world at its disposal, “just like we had in the past.” “What was so different, though, was the political involvement, not only from H.H.S. but then the White House, ultimately, that in so many ways hampered what our scientists were able to do,” she said. Mr. McGowan and Ms. Campbell, who have since opened a health policy consulting firm, said they saw themselves as keepers of the agency’s senior scientists, whose morale had been sapped. Dr. Redfield, whose leadership has been criticized roundly by public health experts and privately by his own scientists, was rarely in Atlanta, consumed by Washington responsibilities.
A Glitch in Trump’s Plan to Live at Mar-a-Lago: A Pact He Signed Says He Can’t. (New York Times, December 16, 2020)
Neighbors of the president say he has violated the 1993 agreement he made with Palm Beach that allowed him to convert a private residence into a moneymaking club.
NEW: 5 ways MacKenzie Scott’s $5.8 billion commitment to social and economic justice is a model for other donors. (The Conversation, December 16, 2020)
In July 2020, Scott revealed that she’d already given away nearly $1.7 billion to 116 organizations, many of which focused on racial justice, women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, democracy and climate change. All told, her 2020 philanthropy totals more than $5.8 billion. Scott directed her latest round of giving to 384 organizations to support people disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She made dozens of gifts to food banks, United Way chapters, YMCAs and YWCAs – organizations that have seen increased demand for services and, in some cases, declines in philanthropic gifts. In the two blog posts she has written to break the news, Scott has encouraged donors of all means to join her, whether those gifts are money or time. She says (and follows):
1. Don’t attach strings.
2. Champion representation.
3. Act first, talk later.
4. Don’t obsess about scale.
5. Leverage more than money.
Philanthropy that’s intended to bring about social change inherently expresses the donor’s values, Scott acknowledged in her announcement. She also recognized her immense privilege, highlighting the need to address societal structures that sustain inequality. And like many women donors, she is using her position to amplify the voices of the leaders and groups she supported. Her goal is to encourage others to give, join or volunteer to support those same causes. As Scott noted, the issues her philanthropy addresses are complex and will require sustained and broad-based efforts to solve.
Previously married to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, the world's second-wealthiest woman announced in July that from now on she’ll be using her middle name as her new last name.
Rita Payés and her family perform "Nunca vas a comprender". (5-min. music video; YouTube, December 16, 2020)
New today: Beautiful music, in a season when we need it!
A Day on Venus (5-min. podcast; Damn Interesting, December 16, 2020)   
Compared to Earth, our astronomical next-door neighbor Venus is 95 percent as large, 28 percent closer to the sun, and almost identical in planetary composition. However, if one wished to spend a day on Venus’s surface⁠—from one sunrise to the next⁠—one would be confronted with a considerable array of hindrances and novelties.
Google: Here's what caused our big global outage. (ZDnet, December 15, 2020)
Google fingers its storage quota system for the outage affecting Gmail, YouTube and Google Cloud Platform.
Was Jesus really born in Bethlehem? Why the Gospels disagree over the circumstances of Christ’s birth. (The Conversation, December 15, 2020)
Republicans Need a Postmortem, But Trump Won’t Even Admit He’s Dead. (New York Magazine, December 15, 2020)
One of the weird things about the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election is that those in the winning party are engaged in all sorts of retrospective looks at what went wrong, while those in the the losing party are bellowing triumphantly that they actually won “by a landslide,” as Donald Trump and his campaign keep asserting. (On Monday, the Electoral College confirmed this is definitely not true.)
Georgia GOP senators dig in on refusal to recognize Biden win. (The Hill, December 15, 2020)
The developments from the top echelons of the GOP in the Senate put Perdue and Loeffler in a difficult position. Going forward, they will have to choose between siding with Trump and the populist base of the party, or aligning themselves with Republican leaders in the Senate, who — unlike Trump — will remain in office after Jan. 20.
“These are very rough waters,” said veteran GOP strategist Doug Heye. “They can’t make their best argument, which is a check and balance on the Biden-Harris administration,” he said. “But then they also can’t do the secondary message that goes along with that which is ‘you need to go to the polls, your vote is important’ because a part of the base is saying ‘my vote doesn’t matter, it’s going to get stolen anyways.' ”
McConnell congratulates Biden on White House win. (The Hill, December 15, 2020)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Tuesday, marking the first time he has directly acknowledged their victory. "The Electoral College has spoken, so today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden. The president-elect is no stranger to the Senate. He's devoted himself to public service for many years. Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20."
McConnell urges GOP senators not to object to Electoral College vote. (The Hill, December 15, 2020)
Longtime GOP strategist Steve Schmidt announces he's registering Democrat. (The Hill, December 15, 2020)
“I spent 29 years as a Republican, I’ve spent two and a half as an independent, and later this afternoon I will register as a member of the Democratic Party. Because in America today, it’s only the Democratic Party—which is the oldest political party in the world—that stands for the ideas and ideals of American liberty.”
Barr exit hints at further tumult under Trump. (The Hill, December 15, 2020)
Some Republicans believe Barr's exit was a sign that he hoped to distance himself from Trump's unproven claims of voter fraud and legal maneuvering in his final weeks in office, where Trump is likely to try to exert pressure on the Justice Department one final time.
"Bill Barr drew a line in the sand. The president stepped over it with his ongoing effort to try to overturn the will of the voters and Bill Barr apparently had enough," Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told CNBC on Monday. "I'm not surprised that he could no longer associate himself with the process that's going on now," Romney added.
Mapping the Recovery from the Global Recession of 2020 (Animation; Visual Capitalist, December 15, 2020)
The F.D.A. greenlights a new at-home virus test. (New York Times, December 14, 2020)
The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday issued an emergency authorization for the country’s first coronavirus test that can run from start to finish at home without the need for a prescription. People as young as 2 are cleared to use the test, which takes just 15 to 20 minutes to deliver a result. Unlike many similar products, which are only supposed to be used by people with symptoms of Covid-19, this test is authorized for people with or without symptoms.
The test, developed by the Australian company Ellume, detects bits of coronavirus proteins called antigens. It’s slightly less accurate than gold standard laboratory tests designed to look for coronavirus genetic material using a technique called polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R. But in a clinical study of nearly 200 people, Ellume’s product was able to detect 95 percent of the coronavirus infections found by P.C.R., regardless of whether the infected people felt sick. It also correctly identified 97 percent of the people who received negative laboratory test results.
A new way to travel across the US (BBC, December 14, 2020)
Stretching an extraordinary 3,700 miles from Washington DC to the Pacific Ocean, an ambitious new bike trail is aiming to be “America’s Main Street”.
Biden speaks in a primetime address on the electoral college vote giving him the presidency. (Los Angeles Blade, December 14, 2020)
It is my sincere hope we never again see anyone subjected to the kind of threats and abuse we saw in this election. It’s simply unconscionable. We owe these public servants a debt of gratitude. Our democracy survived because of them.
If anyone didn’t know it before, we know it now. What beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this: Democracy. The right to be heard. To have your vote counted. To choose the leaders of this nation. To govern ourselves. In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant it to them.
The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing — not even a pandemic —or an abuse of power — can extinguish that flame.
[The full text is included.]
Electoral College Vote Officially Affirms Biden’s Victory. (New York Times, December 14, 2020)
The vote made official Joe Biden’s victory, despite President Trump’s attempt to subvert the nation’s democratic process, and it put pressure on Republicans to acknowledge the outcome. In an address on Monday night in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Biden said that “it is time to turn the page” on the election. Praising election officials who stood up for the integrity of the voting system, he added: “It was honest, it was free and it was fair. They saw it with their own eyes. And they wouldn’t be bullied into saying anything different.’’
For all of the turmoil that Mr. Trump had stirred with his conspiracy theories, lawsuits and baseless claims of fraud, the Electoral College vote that sealed Mr. Biden’s victory was mostly a staid, formal affair, devoid of drama. As it always is.
Team Trump was going to get priority access to COVID-19 vaccine, until press found out about it. (Daily Kos, December 14, 2020)
On Sunday, The New York Times reported that top White House staffers—specifically, those most in contact with Donald Trump—had been given top priority for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine even though initial deliveries of the vaccine are in such short supply that they are being rationed primarily to front-line healthcare workers.
This lasted only a few hours before Trump's Twitter account walked back the news, with a tweeter who sounded not much like Trump announcing: "People working in the White House should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary," and that "I have asked that this adjustment be made. I am not scheduled to take the vaccine, but look forward to doing so at the appropriate time. Thank you!"
So either the Trump White House, which has relentlessly played down the dangers of the pandemic and which continues to spread the virus prolifically via the combination of mask aversion and the refusal to cancel in-person events featuring dozens or hundreds of guests, realized that the optics of redirecting vaccine shipments to Team Donald Trump looked particularly crappy even for them, or Donald and/or a Donald devotee got wind of the plan and got personally outraged because a scurry to vaccinate White House staff very much does not square with the White House's policy of pretending that the pandemic is of no particular danger to anyone.
Oh, but there's another catch here: The Trump White House lies prolifically about everything, all the time, and there's no actual reason to believe that they truly are releasing those vaccines back to prioritized workers as opposed to simply lying about it. They are absolutely that dishonest, and every one of us knows it.
Trump and the damage done (New York Times, December 14, 2020)
I’s hard to think of any person in my lifetime who so perfectly epitomizes the politics of distrust, or one who so aggressively promotes it. Trump has taught his opponents not to believe a word he says, his followers not to believe a word anyone else says, and much of the rest of the country to believe nobody and nothing at all.
He has detonated a bomb under the epistemological foundations of a civilization that is increasingly unable to distinguish between facts and falsehoods, evidence and fantasy. He has instructed tens of millions of people to accept the commandment, That which you can get away with, is true.
Voting technology company sends legal notices to Fox News and other right-wing media outlets over 'disinformation campaign'. (CNN, December 14, 2020)
The company, Smartmatic, said that Fox News, One America News, and Newsmax have helped spread false and defamatory claims that are not supported by real evidence and could easily have been debunked with basic research. "They have no evidence to support their attacks on Smartmatic because there is no evidence," Smartmatic chief executive Antonio Mugica said in a statement. "This campaign was designed to defame Smartmatic and undermine legitimately conducted elections."
As President Donald Trump continues to attack the integrity of the voting system, some of his allies have homed in on Smartmatic because of the services it provided Los Angeles County for the 2020 election. The baseless conspiracy theories peddled about Smartmatic, which mimic those pushed against Dominion Voting Systems, falsely suggest that the company's technology allowed the November vote to be rigged against Trump. Some strains of the conspiracy theory have aimed to tie the company to the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez and George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who is portrayed as a boogeyman in right-wing media.
Majority in Fox News poll says Trump disputing results is weakening democracy. (1-min. video; The Hill, December 13, 2020)
[But of its Republicans, majority disagree.]
Hijacking the electoral college: The plot to deny JFK the presidency 60 years ago (Washington Post, December 13, 2020)
It was a bitter, close election, and there were furious allegations of fraud. After Democrat John F. Kennedy barely beat Republican Richard M. Nixon in the 1960 election, a coalition of opponents plotted to deny him the presidency in the electoral college. Most were White, conservative electors from the south who opposed the young Massachusetts senator’s liberal policies, especially his support for civil rights for Black Americans. If these electors had succeeded, segregationist Democratic Sen. Harry Byrd of Virginia would have been elected president. His vice president would have been Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona. Both men had nothing to do with the idea.
On Monday, the electoral college will meet to ratify the victory of Democrat Joe Biden over President Trump, who has refused to concede. Some Trump backers are pressing states to release electors pledged for Biden. At least 33 states prohibit such “faithless” electors, and most other states void switched votes.
[History tends to repeat itself. So do cheaters.]
Biden starts countering Trump’s messaging on vaccine. (Politico, December 12, 2020)
With the first shots being prepared for delivery to states next week, Biden’s team is already laying the groundwork for a public education campaign.
Trump maskless at Army-Navy football game. (1-min. video; WRAL, December 12, 2020)
President Donald Trump did not wear a mask for some time while standing closely to West Point cadets and Naval Academy midshipmen -- all of whom wore masks -- at the Army-Navy football game.
An Indelible Stain’: How the G.O.P. Tried to Topple a Pillar of Democracy (New York Times, December 12, 2020)
The Supreme Court repudiation of President Trump was also a blunt rebuke to Republican leaders who had put their interests ahead of the country’s.
‘The last wall’: How dozens of judges across the political spectrum rejected Trump’s efforts to overturn the election (Washington Post, December 12, 2020)
Since the November election, they have all ruled in court against Trump or one of his allies seeking to challenge or overturn the presidential vote. In a remarkable show of near-unanimity across the nation’s judiciary, at least 86 judges — ranging from jurists serving at the lowest levels of state court systems to members of the United States Supreme Court — rejected at least one post-election lawsuit filed by Trump or his supporters, a Washington Post review of court filings found.
The string of losses was punctuated Friday by the brief and blunt order of the Supreme Court, which dismissed an attempt by the state of Texas to thwart the electoral votes of four states that went for President-elect Joe Biden.
In photos: Maskless Trump supporters and counter-protesters face off after D.C. rally. (Axios, December 12, 2020)
Iran executes exiled journalist who encouraged 2017 protests. (Politico, December 12, 2020)
Ruhollah Zam was one of several opposition figures successfully seized by Iranian intelligence operatives abroad in recent months.
The problems with Apple aren't just outages, they are injustices. (Free Software Foundation, December 11, 2020)
Each time a program is opened on macOS, it phones home via the Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) to see if that application is "okay" to launch: it asks the corporation permission each time a new application is encountered, sending potentially identifying information along with that request. While this function only made news because of the recent server outage caused by the release of the newest version of macOS, Big Sur, research indicates that the report-back has existed in the operating system since September 2018, with the release of macOS Mojave. This is a classic case of proprietary software serving as an instrument of unjust power.
Here’s what happened when a Georgia lawmaker scrutinized the Trump campaign’s list of allegedly illegal votes. (13-min. video; Washington Post, December 11, 2020)
 On Thursday, when a White House data analyst who compiled the list told a panel of state lawmakers that it proved thousands of voters cast ballots in Georgia who should not have, Nguyen was ready. “I do want to share with you some of the things that I found that appeared to be incorrect to me,” the two-term lawmaker told Matt Braynard, whose research has been cited in numerous suits filed by Trump and his allies, several of which have been tossed out of the courts.
Nguyen’s 10-minute dissection of the data offered a rare real-time fact check of the unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud that the president’s allies have promoted in state hearings around the country, largely before friendly Republican audiences. “If you are going to take the names of voters in the state of Georgia and publish their first, middle and last name, their home address, and accuse them of committing a felony, at the very minimum there should have been an attempt to contact these voters,” she said in an interview after the hearing. “There was no such attempt.”
In Georgia and elsewhere, many state Republicans have given Trump a platform to air the claims, holding legislative hearings on election integrity that have largely been used to recycle conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated allegations. The forum was sharply criticized by officials with the secretary of state’s office, who have defended the integrity of the election and denounced efforts to undermine public faith in the outcome. “Giving oxygen to this continued disinformation is leading to a continuing erosion of people’s belief in our elections and our processes,” Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting information systems manager, said during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Georgia certified its election results for the second time this week after a second recount of presidential ballots reaffirmed Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state.
Head of FDA on chopping block as Trump rages over vaccine authorization. (Ars Technica, December 11, 2020)
Vaccinations could start early next week, but FDA head could be out of a job by then.
FDA advisor explains why she voted against recommending Pfizer’s Covid vaccine for emergency use. (CNBC, December 11, 2020)
Dr. Archana Chatterjee told CNBC on Friday she voted against recommending emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine because she did not believe 16- and 17-year-olds should be included. “I want to be very clear that I am fully supportive” of clearing the vaccine for use in people 18 years and older, the dean of the Chicago Medical School said. “I think that we were pleasantly surprised to see that this vaccine has such good efficacy in tens of thousands of participants that were included in the trial.”
Biden says FDA panel's advisory vote on Pfizer vaccine a 'bright light in a needlessly dark time'. (The Hill, December 10, 2020)
The advisory panel voted 17-4 in favor of approving the vaccine, with one abstention. The FDA is not bound to follow their recommendation but is widely expected to do so. The development is a key marker in the battle against COVID-19, which to date has infected more than 15.5 million Americans and killed more than 290,000. The U.S. recorded more than 3,000 deaths due to the coronavirus in a single day Wednesday, which Biden acknowledged in his statement Thursday.
Scientists suggest US embassies were hit with high-power microwaves, Here’s how the weapons work. (2-min. video; The Conversation, December 10, 2020)
The mystery ailment that has afflicted U.S. embassy staff and CIA officers off and on over the last four years in Cuba, China, Russia and other countries appears to have been caused by high-power microwaves, according to a report released by the National Academies. A committee of 19 experts in medicine and other fields concluded that directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy is the “most plausible mechanism” to explain the illness, dubbed Havana syndrome.
The report doesn’t clear up who targeted the embassies or why they were targeted. But the technology behind the suspected weapons is well understood and dates back to the Cold War arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. High-power microwave weapons are generally designed to disable electronic equipment. But as the Havana syndrome reports show, these pulses of energy can harm people, as well.
'Christmas Star,' not seen in 800 years, will light up on longest night of the year. (The Hill, December 10, 2020)
A planetary conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn on December 21st will be the closest to Earth since medieval times.
FTC and 48 States Sue Facebook for Anticompetitive Practices. (Tom's Hardware, December 9, 2020)
The coalition’s lawsuit calls for Facebook to be barred from making any future acquisitions worth $10 million or more without advance notice to state governments, as well as calls for unspecified additional relief and for Facebook to end other anticompetitive practices. The FTC’s lawsuit goes a step further- it’s also pushing for advance notice of Facebook mergers, but in addition, the FTC is seeking to unwind Instagram and Whatsapp from Facebook’s control.
“Personal social networking is central to the lives of millions of Americans,” FTC Bureau of Competition Director Ian Conner said today in a press release. “Facebook’s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition. Our aim is to roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive.”
Earth Is Still Sailing Into Climate Chaos, UN Report Says, but Its Course Could Shift. (New York Times, December 9, 2020)
The world as a whole is dangerously behind schedule in slowing catastrophic climate change, and its richest people will have to make big changes in their everyday lives in order to shift course, a major United Nations report warned Wednesday. Emissions are expected to drop by about 7 percent in 2020, because of the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the report found. But that would have what its authors called a “negligible” impact on the overall warming trend. The average global temperature has increased already by 1 degree Celsius since preindustrial times and is on course to rise by more than 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, according to the latest calculations. While those numbers appear small, the increase in global averages is linked to record-breaking heat waves, widening wildfires and storms that bring devastatingly heavy rainfall.
The goal of the Paris accord is to limit average global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, in order to have a good shot at averting the worst effects of climate change, like food insecurity and the inundation of coastal cities. The pledges announced by countries so far are not enough to reach that goal, the United Nations report found. What matters now is whether countries will sufficiently upgrade their climate targets and detail what they will do in the next 10 years, which are crucial, according to climate scientists.
China has said that it would start reducing emissions in the next decade and then rapidly reduce its emissions to net-zero before 2060; it is expected to submit its revised national targets under the Paris Agreement soon. The United Nations is pressing countries to announce more ambitious climate targets under the Paris accord by Saturday, when it convenes an online meeting of world leaders to mark the agreement’s fifth anniversary. The pact can’t force any country to do anything about its own pollution trajectory. Rather, it leverages diplomatic peer pressure, with each country setting voluntary targets of its own to reduce the growth of emissions. Britain, a center of the Industrial Revolution and the host of the next international climate talks, which have been postponed to late 2021 because of the pandemic, has set out new climate targets, promising to cut emissions by 68 percent by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. European Union leaders have said they are optimistic about reaching an agreement at their meeting Thursday on a revised goal to reduce the continent’s total emissions by 55 percent in the next 10 years, compared with 1990 levels. Japan and Korea, both large emitters, have announced net-zero targets, too, in recent weeks.
Massachusetts Vaccine Distribution Plan: General Public Waits Until April. (Patch News, December 9, 2020)
The timeline on a new three-phase distribution plan starts next week with hospitals receiving the first 60,000 Pfizer doses.
Massachusetts Coronavirus Restrictions, Masks May Be Here 6 to 9 More Months. (Patch News, December 9, 2020)
Vaccine Advisory Group Chief says that's how long it will take the state to vaccinate enough people to achieve herd immunity, ease mandates.
What You Need to Know About Getting Tested for Coronavirus (New York Times, December 9, 2020)
Long lines, slow results and inconsistent advice have left many of us confused about when and how to get tested. We talked to the experts to answer your questions.
Covid-19 vaccine: Allergy warning over new jab (BBC News, December 9, 2020)
People with a history of significant allergic reactions should not have the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid jab, regulators say. The warning came after two NHS workers had allergic reactions on Tuesday. The advice applies to those who have had reactions to medicines, food or vaccines, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said.
The two people had a reaction shortly after having the new jab, had treatment and are both fine now. They are understood to have had an anaphylactoid reaction, which tends to involve a skin rash, breathlessness and sometimes a drop in blood pressure. This is not the same as anaphylaxis which can be fatal. Both NHS workers have a history of serious allergies and carry adrenaline pens around with them.
How Biden aims to Covid-proof his administration (Politico, December 9, 2020)
Avoiding superspreader events, requiring masks and encouraging remote work are all part of the transition's effort to keep its staff safe. They also plan to have the White House — which has seen numerous virus outbreaks among staffers and top officials this year— meticulously sanitized. “It’ll be the polar opposite of what you’re seeing now. I think the social penalties for non-mask wearing will be great. Instead of people being ridiculed for wearing masks, they’ll be pressured in the other direction. It’ll be hard to be in a meeting and not wear a mask or social distance.”
How to get rid of the Electoral College (Brookings Institution, December 9, 2020)
The Electoral College is a ticking time bomb. (Brookings Institution, December 9, 2020)
Schiff says Trump faces "real prospect of jail time" after leaving office. (7-min. video; CBS News, December 9, 2020)
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who is poised to become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in January, said President Trump faces the "real prospect of jail time" after leaving the White House. "My takeaway is there's a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him — that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time," Schiff said on "Face the Nation" Sunday.
Schiff referenced a court filing by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York on Friday which recommended a "substantial" prison sentence for Mr. Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen, who prosecutors said violated campaign finance law "in coordination with and at the direction" of the president. Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Schiff said the court documents suggest the "president of the United States not only coordinated, but directed an illegal campaign scheme" to alter the outcome of the 2016 election. Asked if the revelations in the filings meet the standard for an impeachable offense, Schiff demurred and said more investigative work needs to be completed by the House Intelligence Committee and special counsel Robert Mueller, particularly on any possible collusion or coordination between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government. Still, he said the separate memo by the special counsel on Cohen includes other damaging information on Mr. Trump that contradicts the president's repeated statements on the campaign trail that he had no business ventures in Russia.
Chris Krebs found another way to defend election after his firing: Suing the Trump campaign. (2-min. video; Washington Post, December 9, 2020)
Chris Krebs’s defamation lawsuit against President Trump's campaign marks the most significant effort yet to hold the president and his allies accountable for their violent rhetoric and baseless attacks on the election’s outcome that have led to threats against dozens of election officials. Such threats – targeting everyone from Krebs to top state officials and frontline poll workers – have continued to mount even as the president's legal options to dispute the election dwindle.
The former federal election security chief may not prevail in his suit— defamation cases are notoriously difficult to win — but he will draw attention to the fear spreading throughout state election offices that the verbal assaults could lead to real-world violence and make it far tougher to run future elections. It's also a way for the lifelong Republican fired by Trump for publicly vouching for the 2020 election's integrity to continue his quest to knock back the campaign's increasingly outlandish fraud claims in a court venue.
Florida Republican loudly resigns, in protest to questionable raid on data scientist's home. (two 4-min. videos; Daily Kos, December 9, 2020)
Former state data scientist Rebekah Jones shared on Twitter that her home was raided by armed Florida state police while her husband and two small children were home on Monday. In her Twitter thread, she included a brief video of her answering the door, where we hear her shout, “He just pointed a gun at my children!,” though that isn’t visible either way from the video itself. So, why did agents arrive at her home with guns drawn? As reported by The Washington Post, they were executing a search warrant and gathered her cellphone and computer.
Now, Ron Filipkowski, a lifelong Republican and attorney who was actually appointed to sit on a panel that picks judges, has resigned in protest over the raid. He wrote in part, “The recent events regarding public access to truthful data on the pandemic, and the specific treatment of Rebekah Jones has made the issue a legal one rather than just medical.” He added in the letter that he does not wish to serve Florida’s government in any capacity. Remember: He was appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis himself to a pretty prestigious position, so this is actually a very big deal.
Asked if he thought there was any chance this raid could happen without the governor’s office knowing, Filipkowski described Jones as a “thorn” in the governor’s side “throughout the whole pandemic” and a pretty “high-profile” person. “She is not his favorite person,” he stated. “FDLE [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] has to know when they’re going to do a raid on her like this, it’s gonna make news,” Filipkowski continued. “It’s gonna be big news. So, the idea that a small law-enforcement agency like FDLE, which reports directly to the governor, would do a raid like this on a high-profile person without clearing it through the governor’s office … There’s just no way.”
He also stated that he watched the video Jones tweeted and “couldn’t believe” what he was seeing. Then, after reading the search warrant, he couldn’t believe “how broad it was” and what they were “alleging as a supposed crime.”
Rebekah Jones, Dec. 9th: "Got new info tonight. The judge who signed the search order of my house was appointed by Governor Desantis and sworn in less than a month before he signed that warrant. In civil court. He's not even a criminal court judge. It was one of his first actions as judge."
A Political Obituary for Donald Trump (The Atlantic, December 9, 2020)
The effects of his reign will linger. But democracy survived.
To assess the legacy of Donald Trump’s presidency, start by quantifying it. Since last February, more than a quarter of a million Americans have died from COVID-19—a fifth of the world’s deaths from the disease, the highest number of any country. In the three years before the pandemic, 2.3 million Americans lost their health insurance, accounting for up to 10,000 “excess deaths”; millions more lost coverage during the pandemic. The United States’ score on the human-rights organization Freedom House’s annual index dropped from 90 out of 100 under President Barack Obama to 86 under Trump, below that of Greece and Mauritius. Trump withdrew the U.S. from 13 international organizations, agreements, and treaties. The number of refugees admitted into the country annually fell from 85,000 to 12,000. About 400 miles of barrier were built along the southern border. The whereabouts of the parents of 666 children seized at the border by U.S. officials remain unknown.
Trump reversed 80 environmental rules and regulations. He appointed more than 220 judges to the federal bench, including three to the Supreme Court—24 percent female, 4 percent Black, and 100 percent conservative, with more rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association than under any other president in the past half century. The national debt increased by $7 trillion, or 37 percent. In Trump’s last year, the trade deficit was on track to exceed $600 billion, the largest gap since 2008. Trump signed just one major piece of legislation, the 2017 tax law, which, according to one study, for the first time brought the total tax rate of the wealthiest 400 Americans below that of every other income group. In Trump’s first year as president, he paid $750 in taxes. While he was in office, taxpayers and campaign donors handed over at least $8 million to his family business.
America under Trump became less free, less equal, more divided, more alone, deeper in debt, swampier, dirtier, meaner, sicker, and deader. It also became more delusional. No number from Trump’s years in power will be more lastingly destructive than his 25,000 false or misleading statements. Super-spread by social media and cable news, they contaminated the minds of tens of millions of people. Trump’s lies will linger for years, poisoning the atmosphere like radioactive dust.
A GOP senator reveals just how deranged many in his party have become. (Democratic Underground, December 9, 2020)
Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, has done something truly extraordinary. He has now stated in unequivocal terms that it’s unacceptable for his fellow Republicans to try to subvert the will of American voters to keep President Trump in power illegitimately.
Why have so few other Republicans proved willing to take this simple step? Toomey’s declaration contrasts sharply with a new development in the Georgia runoffs. GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue just announced their support for a deranged lawsuit filed by Texas that seeks to overturn popular vote outcomes in four battleground states that Trump lost. Those Georgia moves capture a broader state of affairs: It appears that untold numbers of elected Republicans are trying to inspire in GOP voters a state of what you might call permanent warfare against our democratic institutions and the opposition’s voters alike.
From frivolous to frightening: 17 Republican states join Texas, ask the Supreme Court for a coup. (Daily Kos, December 9, 2020)
Seventeen American states, all run by Republicans, have decided to join Texas in its seditious and frivolous quest to have the U.S. Supreme Court throw out the votes of 81,282,896 citizens and declare Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 election. Those states: Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia.
All of these states gave their popular vote to Trump, though Joe Biden is receiving one electoral vote in Nebraska's split system. Each of these states is trying to get the justices to throw out all the votes in all of the states that Biden won, though the effort just names Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In reality, they would have the Supreme Court nullify the the entire election. And they argue in exceedingly bad faith in their amicus brief.
The Best Friend of U.S. National Parks Is ... a Car Company? (Bloomberg, December 8, 2020)
Subaru’s pilot program has cut waste totals in half since 2015.
Church nativity depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph as family separated at border. (NBC News, December 8, 2019)
"What if this family sought refuge in our country today?", the Southern California church asked.
High court rejects GOP bid to halt Biden’s Pennsylvania win. (Associated Press, December 8, 2020)
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously rejected Republicans’ last-gasp bid to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the electoral battleground. The court without comment refused to call into question the the certification process in Pennsylvania. Gov. Tom Wolf already has certified Biden’s victory and the state’s 20 electors are to meet on Dec. 14 to cast their votes for Biden.
The Republicans argued that Pennsylvania’s expansive vote-by-mail law is unconstitutional because it required a constitutional amendment to authorize its provisions. Biden beat President Donald Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania, a state Trump had won in 2016. Most mail-in ballots were submitted by Democrats. The state’s high court said the plaintiffs waited too long to file the challenge and noted the Republicans’ staggering demand that an entire election be overturned retroactively. In the underlying lawsuit, Kelly and the other Republican plaintiffs had sought to either throw out the 2.5 million mail-in ballots submitted under the law or to wipe out the election results and direct the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to pick Pennsylvania’s presidential electors.
In court filings, lawyers for Pennsylvania and Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, had called the lawsuit’s claims “fundamentally frivolous” and its request “one of the most dramatic, disruptive invocations of judicial power in the history of the Republic. No court has ever issued an order nullifying a governor’s certification of presidential election results."
Having lost the request for the court to intervene immediately, Greg Teufel, a lawyer for Kelly and Parnell, said he will file a separate request to ask the court to consider the case on its underlying merits on an expedited basis.
Dr. Lance Dodes: Trump is "delusional at the core," will live in "fantasyland till the day he dies". (Salon, December 8, 2020)
Former Harvard psychiatrist on Trump's "emptiness inside" and the deepening paranoia of his last days in power.
As Trump Rails Against Loss, His Supporters Become More Threatening. (New York Times, December 8, 2020)
The president’s baseless claims of voting fraud have prompted outrage among his loyalists and led to behavior that Democrats and even some Republicans say has become dangerous. Absent a single significant victory in his dozens of lawsuits — and with a key defeat delivered by the Supreme Court on Tuesday — the president’s crusade is now as much a battle against the electoral process itself, as he seeks to cast doubt on free and fair elections and undermine  Joseph R. Biden Jr. before he takes the oath of office.
“There is long-term damage when this kind of behavior is normalized,” Jeff Flake, a former Republican senator from Arizona, said on Twitter. “It is not normal, and elected Republicans need to speak out against it.”
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey calls Trump’s campaign to overturn Pennsylvania election ‘completely unacceptable’. (Philadelphia PA Inquirer, December 8, 2020)
“It’s completely unacceptable and it’s not going to work and the president should give up trying to get legislatures to overturn the results of the elections in their respective states,” Toomey, Pennsylvania’s most prominent elected Republican, said in a phone interview. His comments came a day after it emerged that Trump called the Republican state House Speaker to seek help in undoing the outcome. Toomey, one of fewer than 30 congressional Republicans to openly acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory, said he spoke with the president-elect by phone late last week, congratulated him, and discussed some of the few areas where they might be able to cooperate, such as on international trade. “We had a very pleasant conversation,” Toomey said. He added that the outcome was “clear” and that “Joe Biden won the election.”
Toomey, who faces less direct political pressure because he is not seeking reelection, has supported the vast majority of Trump’s policies. He wrote key parts of the failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts. He has a two-decades-long record of backing conservative causes and supported Trump’s reelection. Yet Toomey slammed Trump’s attempts to change the results after the Washington Post reported that Trump called Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) twice to seek help in doing so.
Cutler told Trump the state legislature has no power to overturn Pennsylvania’s chosen slate of electors, a Cutler spokesperson said. But Cutler was also among 64 GOP state lawmakers who wrote to Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation urging it to object to the state’s electoral slate when Congress formally receives the results in early January. At least one member of the state’s congressional delegation, Republican Rep. Scott Perry, told the Post he will indeed dispute the state’s Electoral College slate.
Trump is feasting on a dying GOP. (The Hill, December 7, 2020)
Watching President Trump’s conspiracy-mongering about his defeat in last month’s presidential election, I flashed back to something former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in 2018. “There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump Party,” Boehner said. “The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.”
Or is it a dying political party? The last rites started a month ago. Trump lost the presidential race to Joe Biden, including a stunning defeat in Georgia, a state dominated by Republicans for nearly 30 years.
The wheezing death rattle for the GOP continued this past weekend. Trump arrived in Georgia to campaign for two Senate Republicans facing runoff elections on Jan. 5, Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. But his message twisted his knife into the Republicans. After weeks of saying the presidential election was rigged in Georgia and elsewhere, Trump spent most of his rally ranting his baseless grievances and telling his fans not to accept his loss because Democrats "steal and rig and lie."
So, why should Republicans vote in those races if they believe Trump’s claim that the presidential election was rigged? That makes no sense unless he is trying to get the party to kill itself.
But what if this backstabbing among Republicans makes sense to Trump? What if Trump’s lie that the election was stolen is fatal to the GOP but gives him new life with an infusion of money from the hard-right conspiracy crowd, the most gullible Republicans? Then there is a method to the madness.
Here’s the proof that Trump may be on to something. Enough Republicans swallowed Trump’s bait to send him more than $170 million in the month after he led them to defeat. That money went to an entity described on the Trump campaign website as the “Official Election Defense Fund.” But according to The Washington Post, “there is no such account.” As one former Biden aide told The New York Times, this is “plain and simple grift.”
Three-time loser Donald Trump just lost Georgia again, starts pointing fingers at Georgia GOP. (Daily Kos, December 7, 2020)
Armed protesters alleging voter fraud surrounded the home of Michigan’s secretary of state. (4-min. video; Washington Post, December 7, 2020)
“They shouted baseless conspiracy theories about the election, and in videos uploaded to social media, at least one individual could be heard shouting ‘you’re murderers’ within earshot of her child’s bedroom,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy (D) said in a joint statement on Sunday. “This mob-like behavior is an affront to basic morality and decency. Terrorizing children and families at their own homes is not activism.”
Vitriolic rhetoric has led bipartisan leaders to warn that Trump’s baseless attacks on the election are endangering election officials’ lives. Multiple Michigan officials have reported being threatened and harassed over the election results, as have officials in Georgia, Arizona, Vermont, Kentucky, Minnesota and Colorado.
Federal judge upholds Michigan election: 'The people have spoken.' (Detroit News, December 7, 2020)
A federal judge has rejected a last-minute push by Michigan Republicans who sought an emergency order to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the state, saying the effort aimed to "ignore the will of millions of voters." The suit seemed "less about achieving the relief" the GOP plaintiffs sought and "more about the impact of their allegations on people’s faith in the democratic process and their trust in our government," wrote Detroit U.S. District Court Judge Linda Parker of Michigan's Eastern District. "The People have spoken," wrote Parker, who issued the ruling in the early morning hours of Monday, a week before the nation's presidential electors will meet.
Trump lost Michigan 51%-48% or by 154,000 votes to President-elect Joe Biden, and the Board of State Canvassers certified the tally on Nov. 23. On Nov. 25, six Michigan Republicans, represented by conservative attorney Sidney Powell, filed their lawsuit asking for "emergency relief," including a court order requiring Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to sign off on certified election results that state "President Donald Trump is the winner of the election." The suit also asked the federal judge to impound "all voting machines and software in Michigan for expert inspection." The defendants in Powell's suit are Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and the Board of State Canvassers.
Powell is a Trump supporter who has previously appeared with his legal team and is filing similar challenges in multiple states. Her suits have relied heavily on conspiracy theories and debunked claims of voter fraud. In Michigan, the challenge focused on murky claims about election tabulation software and data "analyses" that attempted to call into question Michigan's results. But the plaintiffs presented only "speculation and conjecture" that votes for Trump were destroyed, discarded or switched to votes for Biden, wrote Parker. The closest plaintiffs get to alleging that election machines and software changed votes for President Trump to Vice President Biden in Wayne County is an amalgamation of theories, conjecture, and speculation that such alterations were possible," she said.
Parker wrote that Powell's plaintiffs were seeking judicial action that was "stunning in its scope and breathtaking in its reach. If granted, the relief would disenfranchise the votes of the more than 5.5 million Michigan citizens who, with dignity, hope, and a promise of a voice, participated in the 2020 general Election."
Barr may leave Trump administration before Inauguration Day. (2-min. video; Washington Post, December 7, 2020)
Regardless of when and how Barr leaves the job in the next month and a half, Barr’s less than two-year tenure was marked by controversy and criticism. When he assumed the job in February 2019, he was initially hailed by many former Justice Department officials as someone who understood the institution and would safeguard it. His handling of the special counsel investigation of Trump advisers and Russian interference in the 2016 election soured many department veterans, as did a September speech in which he castigated career employees of his own agency. Given the many controversial decisions he has made, it’s unclear that a resignation, as opposed to a firing or uneventful departure, would much alter public perception of his tenure. Barr has repeatedly brushed aside any questions about his legacy, insisting that he is not concerned about such things. In recent days, some conservatives have increased their criticism of the attorney general, accusing him of undermining the president’s efforts to throw out ballots in key states, or have Republican-controlled state legislatures choose electors instead.
'This is disturbing': Judge demands Trump admin explain why it withheld family separation data. (Daily Kos, December 7, 2020)
The Trump administration withheld additional contact information that could help reunite separated families—and a federal judge is demanding to know why. Last week, the federal government turned over additional data as part of efforts to find the deported parents of hundreds of children who remain without their moms and dads after being separated at the southern border beginning in 2017. But advocates tasked with reunification efforts said the administration had been sitting on that data and disclosed it only after new attention was drawn to its inhumane policy. The judge in litigation around the case is now demanding an explanation from officials.
Trump Officials Passed When Pfizer Offered to Sell More Vaccine Doses in Late Summer. (New York Times, December 7, 2020)
Trump's allies say Rudy Giuliani tested negative before his three-state swing, but might be lying. (Daily Kos, December 7, 2020)
Like nearly all people in Donald Trump's close orbit, Giuliani has been contemptuous of pandemic safety measures like masks and social distancing. He has largely ignored those measures in recent weeks while flying all over the country to promote lawsuits seeking to overturn the United States elections on Trump's behalf, usually as a part of a cabal of like-minded Trump allies. Now we await news of the damage.
The obvious question is whether Giuliani spread the gift of Trump-supporting COVID-19 to at least three Republican-governed state legislatures, or whether it was the mask-condemning Republicans of one of those three states that gave the virus to him for further dispersal around the country. So far, Team Trump is vigorously insisting that Giuliani put none of the three statehouses at risk, claiming that he "tested twice negatively immediately preceding" the trip.
The problem with that statement, of course, is that the Trump White House and Trump campaign infamously lie about everything, all the time. We only learned after Donald Trump's hospitalization for COVID-19 that his White House and physicians hadn't been testing him at all for the virus, after months of White House claims that he was being tested daily or near-daily or at least frequently—they simply lied, brazenly, about the testing. We can infer absolutely nothing from their similar testing claims here.
Georgia state senate hearing featuring maskless Giuliani came just days before COVID diagnosis. (1-min. video; 13WMAZ/GA, December 6, 2020)
The president's top attorney met in close quarters with state senators on Thursday. On Sunday, Donald Trump announced Rudy Giuliani had COVID-19.
The maskless attorney is seen in multiple photos speaking to members of the state senate. One of those photos shows Giuliani face-to-face with Democratic state senators Jen Jordan and Elena Parent during the Thursday hearing. A message shared by Jordan on Twitter a short time after the news of Giuliani's diagnosis expressed frustration. "Little did I know that most credible death threat that I encountered last week was Trump's own lawyer," Jordan said. "Giuliani - maskless, in packed hearing room for 7 hours."
As a result of the close contact, a spokesperson for the Georgia Senate said that staff members who were present have been instructed to work from home until they are able to get tested - and receive the results.
[Was Guiliani trying to infect the Democratic senators? In the video clip, pause at 00:25 and count the unmasked bandits Republicans.]
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani positive for COVID-19 after wave of travel challenging election results. (Reuters, December 6, 2020)
The 76-year-old Giuliani is the latest in a long string of people close to the White House, including Trump himself, sickened in a pandemic that has killed more than 280,000 Americans. “@RudyGiuliani, by far the greatest mayor in the history of NYC, and who has been working tirelessly exposing the most corrupt election (by far!) in the history of the USA, has tested positive for the China Virus,” Trump said, using a term for COVID-19 that has drawn backlash.
Giuliani has been spearheading Trump’s floundering effort to overturn his Nov. 3 election loss to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden through a flurry of lawsuits. Both Trump and Giuliani have repeatedly claimed, contrary to evidence, that the outcome was marred by widespread fraud. State and federal officials have repeatedly said there is no evidence of fraud on any significant scale.
Trump and many of his close associates have balked at public health officials’ advice to wear masks and avoid crowds to stem transmission of the respiratory illness, which has roared to record levels in the United States as winter approaches.
Hundreds ill, 1 dead due to unidentified illness in India. (Associated Press, December 6, 2020)
At least one person has died and 200 others have been hospitalized due to an unidentified illness in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, reports said Monday. The illness was detected Saturday evening in Eluru, an ancient city famous for its hand-woven products. Since then, patients have experienced symptoms ranging from nausea and anxiety to loss of consciousness, doctors said. A 45-year-old man who was hospitalized with symptoms similar to epilepsy and nausea died Sunday evening, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Officials are trying to determine the cause of the illness. So far, water samples from impacted areas haven’t shown any signs of contamination, and the chief minister’s office said people not linked to the municipal water supply have also fallen ill. The patients are of different ages and have tested negative for COVID-19 and other viral diseases such as dengue, chikungunya or herpes.
Schools confront ‘off the rails’ numbers of failing grades. (Boston Globe, December 6, 2020)
Educators see a number of factors at play: Students learning from home skip assignments — or school altogether.
Hear John Ossoff, in tonight's U.S. Senate Runoff Debate in Georgia. (26-min. video; PBS, December 6, 2020)
[Hear this key contestant's very coherent presentation!]
Georgia Republican Loeffler debates challenger Warnock ahead of runoffs that will set U.S. Senate control. (Reuters, December 6. 2020)
As the debate began, Loeffler sidestepped a question about whether she agreed with President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the Nov. 3 election was “rigged.” Trump has not conceded to President-elect Joe Biden, instead insisting without evidence that the result was due to widespread fraud, claims that state and federal officials have repeatedly rejected.
Georgia's Senate runoffs show Democrats need a new message on socialism. Here's what to do. (NBC News, December 6, 2020)
Republicans have called Democrats "socialist" since the New Deal. What they're really deriding is our system of checks and balances, applied to the market.
Trump's loss in November hasn't quieted the noise: In a recent campaign speech in support of his runoff election, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., told Georgians that he and the state’s other Republican senator, Kelly Loeffler, are all that stand between America and “a radical socialist agenda.” Democrats need an effective counter to the “socialism” canard — preferably before the critical Jan. 5 Georgia Senate elections — as well as a way to bring together their progressive and moderate wings. But to accomplish both objectives, it will take something at which the party has long been notoriously poor: messaging.
A necessary — though insufficient — starting point will be to make clear to voters that what the Republicans are denouncing as "socialism" is nothing like the current systems in Cuba or Venezuela or the old systems in the Soviet Union, China and Eastern Europe. (Exit polls from Florida strongly suggest how effective such messaging was there in 2020.) Rather, what Republicans decry as "socialism" is a set of policies that a large majority of Americans strongly favor — and from which they already benefit. The supposed “socialism” that Democrats support includes the military, police and fire departments, public schools, roads, the Post Office, Social Security, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes, combating climate change, protecting us all against contaminated foods, overseeing essential scientific research and assuring that medications — and vaccines — are safe and effective. The last of those are both central to combating the current pandemic and a striking illustration of the absurd lengths to which some Republicans are willing to go to fight what they label "socialism."
Democrats should thus go on offense, both by showing Americans the truth of what Republicans mean by "socialism" and by giving the Republicans' approach a name that truly captures what they believe. They want huge corporations and billionaires to have free rein to accumulate most of the nation’s wealth without concern about how miserably the rest of the population may live — or whether they live at all. They are, in fact, the present-day incarnation of the selfish Gilded Age men who were called social Darwinists — but since even their Darwinism is unconcerned with society’s needs, let's call them anti-social Darwinists. Most importantly, though, Democrats need to start using a name for their economic approach that is both attractive and emphasizes what it really is — not socialism, but capitalism with checks and balances.
[Bingo!]
Protesters descend on Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's home after dark. (Detroit Free Press, December 6, 2020)
Benson said the protesters gathered in front of her home as she and her 4-year-old son were finishing putting up Christmas decorations, just when the two were preparing to watch the Christmas classic, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." "I have always been an energetic advocate for the right and importance of peaceful protest as enshrined in the United States Constitution, however there is a line crossed when gatherings are done with the primary purpose of intimidation of public officials who are carrying out the oath of office they solemnly took as elected officials," Benson said in a statement Sunday night. Through blatantly false press releases, purely political legislative hearings, bogus legal claims and so called 'affidavits' that fail to allege any clear or cogent evidence of wrongdoing, those unhappy with the results of this election have perpetuated an unprecedented, dangerous, egregious campaign to erode the public’s confidence in the results of one of the most secure, accessible and transparent elections in our state’s history.
"The demands made outside my home were unambiguous, loud and threatening. They targeted me in my role as Michigan’s Chief Election Officer. But the threats of those gathered weren’t actually aimed at me — or any other elected officials in this state. They were aimed at the voters.
Trump's Save America PAC is raking in donations — what can that money be spent on? (CBS News, December 5, 2020)
The Trump campaign's fundraising shows no signs of abating, though Election Day was over a month ago. Since November 3, the campaign, Republican National Committee, Trump Victory and Trump Make America Great Again joint committees, and President Trump's new political action committee, Save America, have collected $207.5 million in donations, his campaign announced Thursday. As the president's election challenges continue with lawsuits and recounts in battleground states — without a change in the voting results in any state so far — his campaign website is begging supporters to give to his "election defense fund" with a meaningless pitch: "Please contribute ANY AMOUNT in the NEXT HOUR and you can increase your impact by 1000%!" (It had earlier claimed "ALL GIFTS 1000%-MATCHED," but that language has been removed.)
Despite the rhetoric on the website and Stepien's remarks about supporting the "rightful, legal outcome" of the election, the fine print states that the vast majority of donations are not going toward funding Mr. Trump's litigation to overturn the election, but rather, to his new leadership PAC, Save America. Here's the way small donations are allocated according to the campaign website: "75% of each contribution first to Save America, up to $5,000/$5,000, then to [Donald J. Trump's] Recount Account, up to a maximum of $2,800/$5,000. The portion designated for Save America coffers has increased since the leadership PAC was established on November 9. The campaign website originally said 60% of donations would go to the Save America PAC and then hiked it to 75%.
The president has broad latitude in how he spends the cash raised for his leadership PAC, but there are some restrictions. He can't pay his campaign's legal bills with those funds, for instance.
Although Trump cannot use campaign funds to pay himself or his family members excessive salaries, or to buy enough copies of Don Jr.'s book to land it on the bestseller list, he might try to use leadership PAC funds for such purposes. The Campaign Legal Center has also pointed out instances where politicians have drawn from their leadership PACs to pay for trips to Disney World, golf excursions, Broadway tickets and luxury hotel stays.
NEW: William Barr’s Break with Donald Trump (New Yorker, December 5, 2020)
What actually motivated Barr is unknown at this point, and nothing is likely to become clearer until after Trump leaves office, on January 20th.
Until now, Barr has delivered virtually everything that Trump could possibly have wanted politically—from the Justice Department arguing that Manhattan prosecutors should not have access to Trump’s tax returns, to defying subpoenas from congressional oversight committees. Those acts and others that Barr has taken set legal precedents that have made Trump one of the most powerful American chief executives, in legal terms, since Congress and the courts curbed Presidential power after Watergate.
In the final weeks of the campaign, though, Trump went too far, apparently, even for Barr. In the pursuit of victory and vengeance, Trump publicly called for him to open a criminal investigation of the Biden family, and demanded that Barr announce the results of the Durham investigation in time to sway votes. After the election, Trump’s campaign pressured Barr to become the first U.S. Attorney General to aid a de-facto coup attempt—albeit a chaotic and, at times, comical one.
How Trump's fraud claims could backfire on the GOP in Georgia's runoff elections (3-min. video; Washington Post, December 5, 2020)
AP FACT CHECK: Trump floods rally with audacious falsehoods. (Associated Press, December 5, 2020)
Trump assails vote integrity while urging turnout in Georgia. (2-min. video; Associated Press, December 5, 2020)
Trump’s 100-minute rally before thousands of largely maskless supporters came not long after he was rebuffed by Georgia’s Republican governor in his astounding call for a special legislative session to give him the state’s electoral votes, even though President-elect Joe Biden won the majority of the vote.
The Jan. 5 Senate runoffs in Georgia will determine the balance of power in Washington after Biden takes office. Republicans in the state are worried that Trump is stoking so much suspicion about Georgia elections that voters will think the system is rigged and decide to sit out the two races. The latest futile attempt to subvert the presidential election results continued Trump’s unprecedented campaign to undermine confidence in the democratic process, but overshadowed his stated purpose in traveling to Georgia — boosting Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
Trump calls Georgia governor to pressure him for help overturning Biden’s win in the state. (Washington Post, December 5, 2020)
President Trump called Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Saturday morning to urge him to persuade the state legislature to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state and asked the governor to order an audit of absentee ballot signatures, the latest brazen effort by the president to interfere in the 2020 election.
Hours before he was scheduled to hold a rally in Georgia on behalf of the state’s two GOP senators, Trump pressed Kemp to call a special session of the state legislature for lawmakers to override the results and appoint electors who would back the president at the electoral college, according to two people familiar with the conversation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private call.
Trump also asked the governor to demand an audit of signatures on mail ballots, something Kemp has previously noted he has no power to do. Kemp declined the president’s entreaty, according to the people.
Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said that if Trump invoked his federal authority in his conversation Saturday with Kemp, or made the call from the Oval Office, he could have violated criminal provisions of the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from political activity in their official roles. Though the civil penalties of the Hatch Act do not apply to the president, the criminal provisions do, she noted. Even if Trump did not commit a crime, Clark added, his actions threaten to disenfranchise voters in Georgia who participated in the November election. “Such a move would undermine public confidence in our constitutional system and do damage to future elections,” she said.
Report finds microwave energy likely made US diplomats ill in Cuba and China. (Associated Press, December 5, 2020)
A new report by a National Academy of Sciences committee has found that “directed” microwave radiation is the likely cause of illnesses among American diplomats in Cuba and China. The study commissioned by the State Department and released Saturday is the latest attempt to find a cause for the mysterious illnesses that started to emerge in late 2016 among U.S. personnel in Havana.
The study found that “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy appears to be the most plausible” explanation for symptoms that included intense head pressure, dizziness and cognitive difficulties. It found this explanation was more likely than other previously considered causes such as tropical disease or psychological issues. The study did not name a source for the energy and did not say it came as the result of an attack, though it did note that previous research on this type of injury was done in the former Soviet Union.
I’m an astronomer and I think aliens may be out there – but UFO sightings aren’t persuasive. (2-min. video; The Conversation, December 4, 2020)
Surveys show that nearly half of Americans believe that aliens have visited the Earth, either in the ancient past or recently. That percentage has been increasing. Belief in alien visitation is greater than belief that Bigfoot is a real creature, but less than belief that places can be haunted by spirits.
Scientists dismiss these beliefs as not representing real physical phenomena. They don’t deny the existence of intelligent aliens. But they set a high bar for proof that we’ve been visited by creatures from another star system. As Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
There’s a long history of UFO sightings. Air Force studies of UFOs have been going on since the 1940s. In the United States, “ground zero” for UFOs occurred in 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico. The fact that the Roswell incident was soon explained as the crash landing of a military high-altitude balloon didn’t stem a tide of new sightings. The majority of UFOs appear to people in the United States. It’s curious that Asia and Africa have so few sightings despite their large populations, and even more surprising that the sightings stop at the Canadian and Mexican borders.
International Day Against DRM (IDAD) - Stand up against Netflix! (Defective By Design, December 4, 2020)
Digital Restrictions Management is the practice of imposing technological restrictions that control what users can do with digital media. When a program is designed to prevent you from copying or sharing a song, reading an ebook on another device, or playing a single-player game without an Internet connection, you are being restricted by DRM. In other words, DRM creates a damaged good; it prevents you from doing what would be possible without it. This concentrates control over production and distribution of media, giving DRM peddlers the power to carry out massive digital book burnings and conduct large scale surveillance over people's media viewing habits.
If we want to avoid a future in which our devices serve as an apparatus to monitor and control our interaction with digital media, we must fight to retain control of our media and software.
Fact Checking Rudy Giuliani's Grandiose Georgia Election Fraud Claim (GPB, December 4, 2020)
In a series of fantastical claims and statements from various and sundry people touted as experts, Giuliani falsely told a room of mostly Republican lawmakers that Georgia's voting machines could not be trusted, tens of thousands of absentee ballots were illegally cast and counted and that the legislature should appoint its own slate of electors for President Trump. Explosive claims made during the hearing have further undermined confidence in Georgia's election integrity among supporters of President Trump, even as the secretary of state's office has debunked the concerns and called last month's election one of the most secure and successful in recent history.
[Photo shows a maskless Giuliani, likely exposing Georgia state senators to the Covid-19 that he announced a few days later.]
Trump campaign files another election lawsuit in Georgia, suffers more legal defeats. (Reuters, December 4, 2020)
The Trump campaign said in a statement its new lawsuit would include sworn statements from Georgia residents alleging fraud. Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, like Trump, and other state officials have said repeatedly they have found no evidence of widespread fraud in the Nov. 3 election won by Democrat Joe Biden.
Trump’s team and various individuals backing him have suffered a string of legal defeats around the country, including in cases filed in Nevada and Wisconsin that sought court orders to reverse those states’ election results. President-elect Biden won the election with 306 Electoral College votes - against the 270 required - to Trump’s 232.
A district judge in Nevada on Friday dismissed a case brought by would-be Republican presidential electors and said they must pay defendants’ legal costs after failing “to meet their burden to provide credible and relevant evidence to substantiate” any of the lawsuit’s claims.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision declined to act on a case that sought to have the court nullify the presidential election in the state and pave the way for the state legislature to choose Wisconsin’s 10 presidential electors. “Such a move would appear to be unprecedented in American history,” Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote in his concurring opinion of four justices issued on Friday.
Trump’s campaign has spent nearly $9 million on its unsuccessful bid to overturn the results of the election, including nearly $2.3 million to lawyers and consultants. The campaign and the Republican National Committee have raised at least $207.5 million since Election Day, much of it from solicitations asking for donations to an “Official Election Defense Fund”. The fine print made clear most of the money would go to other priorities through Trump’s new political action committee, which could fuel his future political endeavors.
Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 - 12/04 Update (People For the American Way, December 4, 2020)
Eleven months after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States, coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to skyrocket. This week, the U.S. reached devastating pandemic milestones for the single deadliest day and the most hospitalizations in a day since the first case of coronavirus in the U.S. in January. Yet despite the danger, Donald Trump continues to abdicate his duty to contain the pandemic and ameliorate the many hardships that millions of Americans are facing.
Donald Trump threatens to defund military because Twitter keeps pointing out that his lies are lies. (Daily Kos, December 4, 2020)
On Thursday evening, Donald Trump once again promised to veto a must-pass defense spending bill over one critical national defense issue: Twitter keeps putting warnings on his lies. The National Defense Authorization Act is required to authorize spending across the military, and failing to pass it immediately could actually have serious consequences—the exact kind of failure to support both troops in the field and defense at home that Republicans usually (and falsely) claim when arguing for increases to the Defense Department budget.
Trump Orders All American Troops Out of Somalia. (New York Times, December 4, 2020)
While the number of forces — about 700 — is small, it is a continuation of President Trump’s efforts to withdraw the United States from what he has described as endless wars. Supporters of the mission say it is important for the United States to continue strikes on militants and to help train government forces to prevent their territory from becoming a haven for planning terrorist strikes, much like how Al Qaeda plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks from a home base in Afghanistan. Even some of Mr. Trump’s staunchest Republican allies in Congress have warned against troop cuts in Somalia.
Feds logged website visitors in 2019, citing Patriot Act authority. (Ars Technica, December 4, 2020)
Privacy-minded lawmakers want feds to have to get warrants for Web browsing data.
In Final Defense Bill, Too Little Progress on ‘Forever Chemicals’. (Environmental Working Group, December 3, 2020)
This joint-committee version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2021 falls far short of what’s needed to address the contamination crisis facing our service members and neighboring communities. PFAS have been confirmed in the groundwater of 328 military installations and are suspected in the groundwater at hundreds of other bases. Tragically, this bill will do little to clean up the existing legacy contamination at bases and nearby communities and does nothing to hold polluters or the Pentagon accountable when they fail to act to protect us. What’s more, the bill fails to expand PFAS blood testing to all service members, even though growing evidence suggests that the PFAS in our blood make vaccines less effective.
Cyberattacks Discovered on Vaccine Distribution Operations. (New York Times, December 3, 2020)
IBM has found that companies and governments have been targeted by unknown attackers, prompting a warning from the Homeland Security Department. The motive is also unclear. The attackers may simply be looking to steal technology to move large amounts of vaccine across long distances at extraordinarily low temperatures, which would constitute a classic form of intellectual property theft.
But some cybersecurity experts say they suspect something more nefarious: efforts to interfere with the distribution, or ransomware, in which the vaccines would be essentially held hostage by hackers who have gotten into the system that runs the distribution network and locked it up — and who demand a large payment to unlock it.
Covid-19 Live Updates: U.S. Hits Record Daily Death Toll, With Worse Likely to Come. (New York Times, December 3, 2020)
With cases in the U.S. blowing past the spring peak, more than 100,000 people were hospitalized for Covid-19 on Wednesday. Experts warn that the nation could be facing the most difficult time in its public health history.
Wikipedia page for Biden’s new Covid czar scrubbed of politically damaging material. (Politico, December 3, 2020)
A Democratic consulting firm made numerous changes to Jeff Zients' page as he became a more important figure on Biden’s team this summer and fall.
The Left’s Stupid Second-Guessing Of Biden (Politico, December 2, 2020)
It’s possible many people making the arguments against potential Biden appointees don’t know what they are arguing.
The most important debate in the Democratic Party right now isn’t between centrists and the left on fundamental policy aims but on how to present those aims to the public and then achieve them. Both the centrists who want a robust expansion of government and those on the left who want to go even further have the same problem: Insufficient legislative power to do more than modestly advance the goals of either wing. One side, the side of AOC and her allies on the left, believe the answer to this problem is a more creative politics of mobilization—putting forth a bolder agenda and defiantly drawing lines in a way that excites people who should naturally vote Democratic but often don’t vote at all because the stakes have not been framed sharply enough. The other side believes the answer is a more creative politics of persuasion—simultaneously engaging and reassuring voters who are skeptical of undiluted progressivism but can be coaxed into backing Democrats through more pragmatic appeals.
The alternative to stupid second-guessing isn’t simply to shut up. It is smart second-guessing. AOC and others on the left are surely right that an administration headed by a president who came to Washington in the 1970s, and who is surrounded by advisers who began their government service in the 1980s and 1990s, isn’t necessarily going to be fully attuned to the challenges of the 2020s. They will benefit from being pushed.
But the left should push Biden on policy ideas—and help give him the broad political support needed to implement those polices. There is little benefit to trying to exert influence with likely unsuccessful bids to pick off potential appointees on the basis of spurious ideological arguments about who really counts as a progressive.
Trump headed to Georgia as run-off boost, but also a threat. (Associated Press, December 2, 2020)
Some establishment Republicans are sounding alarms that President Donald Trump’s conspiratorial denials of his own defeat could threaten the party’s ability to win a Senate majority and counter President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. The concerns come ahead of Trump’s planned Saturday visit to Georgia to campaign alongside Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who face strong Democratic challengers in Jan. 5 runoffs that will determine which party controls the Senate at the outset of Biden’s presidency.
Koreans Believed America Was Exceptional. Then Covid Happened. (Politico, December 2, 2020)
With American Covid-19 deaths sprawling and Trump raging against the election result, South Koreans' respect for American leadership is plummeting.
It Seems Bad That the Guy the President Just Pardoned Is Calling for Him to Execute a Military Coup. (Esquire, December 2, 2020)
Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, a man the president pardoned just last week for "any and all possible offenses" related to the Mueller probe, has endorsed a call for the president to "temporarily suspend the Constitution," "declare limited martial law," have "the military oversee a national re-vote," and "silence the destructive media." Wow! Sounds a bit like a coup.
Those preaching calm over the last few weeks have not merely ignored the guiding principles of the Trump era: never assume there is a bottom to the shameless depravity, and never bet against that shamelessness being rewarded. (This is a guy who has never faced consequences for a single thing he's done, and who continually gets things he does not deserve. Why would that stop now?) These Savvy Observers suffer from a failure of imagination. The increasingly deranged conspiracies propping up Trump's tantrum have had the desired effect: millions of the Republican rank-and-file do not believe Biden's (fairly decisive) win was legitimate. Very few Republican officeholders have openly acknowledged Biden's win—even if, as we were reminded by Senator Ron Johnson today, they very well know the truth and just regard speaking it as "political suicide"—and that number does not include anyone in congressional leadership. The official position of the Republican Party is that the outcome is in doubt and in need of investigation.
The military is not the only segment of our society with guns that might theoretically attempt to achieve a desired political outcome with force rather than through the democratic process. Election officials in states targeted by Trump and his allies are already facing a deluge of death threats, and we all seem to have memory-holed the attackers—from the mail bomber to El Paso to the Pittsburgh synagogue—who engaged or attempted to engage in mass violence while spouting off right-wing rhetoric over the last few years.
And all the while, the president is starting to fire up the Pardon Machine, both for those who do crime on his behalf and, possibly, for himself. Because he faces such huge legal jeopardy when he leaves office. Which is something he wants to avoid at all costs. It is also straight out of the strongman playbook to put a number of hare-brained schemes in motion, hoping that at least one will play out in such a way that you can profit off the chaos.
Trump still claims - for 46 minutes - that 2020 election outcome was result of fraud. (46-min. video; YouTube, December 2, 2020)
President Donald Trump released a bizarre 46-minute video that he posted on Facebook where he called for the election to be 'overturned' and admitted his remarks would be 'disparaged.' Rather than pick any number of venues where he might deliver important remarks before an audience or with reporters present who might ask questions, Trump spoke before cameras from the White House, with repeated and awkward cuts by editors. 'Even what I’m saying now will be demeaned and disparaged,' he predicted as he laid out claim after claim, including several that have been put forward by his legal team and been debunked.
Trump said it 'may be the most important speech I've ever made' – then got to work trying to make the case that the election was fraudulent, that the results should be overturned in multiple states where President-elect Joe Biden got more votes than he did, and urged the Supreme Court to intervene.
[And the Washington Post said: "The most petulant 46 minutes in American history. For maybe the first time in Trump’s presidency, reality hasn’t been conforming to his nonsense."]
The election is over, but voter fraud conspiracies aren’t going away. (MIT Technology Review, December 2, 2020)
A month after Election Day, the volume of political disinformation has dropped—but experts say the problems are far from over.
Video from White House Christmas Party Shows Trump Suggesting 2024 Run: 'I'll See You in Four Years.' (People, December 2, 2020)
Some of the party attendees were seen without masks and standing closely together at the indoor gathering.
In a recent appearance on Good Morning America, Surgeon General Jerome Adam said that indoor parties can be dangerous, even with precautions. "We want everyone to understand that these holiday celebrations can be super-spreader events," he said then, adding that federal health guidelines against holding indoor events "apply to the White House, they apply to the American people, they apply to everyone."
White House again flouts public health recommendations during holiday party season. (CNN, December 1, 2020)
The White House kicked off its holiday party season on Monday, marking the start of more than a dozen festive group gatherings, even as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the country. There are some safety protocols in place for the events, but most, if not all, of the holiday parties will still flout US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for size restrictions, as well as Washington, DC, restrictions for indoor gatherings, which is currently capped at 10 people.
The Trump White House itself has already been the epicenter of at least three Covid-19 outbreaks among staff and allies, and a series of events such as holiday gatherings will likely put in peril several hundred more guests, workers and staff.
Hours after White House Christmas decorations were unveiled, first lady Melania Trump hosted a "thank you" party and tour for several dozen of the volunteers who helped decorate the people's house for the season, a White House official confirmed to CNN. The volunteers, who traveled to the White House for the week from across the country, were tested as part of guidelines for decorating. However, publicly accessible social media images posted by party-goers indicate there was little social distancing at Monday's event and many guests were not wearing masks. They clustered together tightly in the White House Cross Hall foyer, in the social media posts viewed by CNN.
Mysterious Monolith Update: Romanian Monolith Disappears in Middle of Night. 4 were spotted dismantling Utah Monolith. (Vice, December 1, 2020)
Romania's monolith disappeared on St. Andrew's Day, a night associated with supernatural superstition.
Mapped: The Top 30 Most Valuable Real Estate Cities in the U.S. (Visual Capitalist, December 1, 2020)
Paul Krugman: Biden's bevy of deficit doves (New York Times, December 1, 2020)
From 2010 until around 2014 much of the political and media establishment was gripped by the idea that rising federal debt was the most important threat facing America, and that being a “deficit hawk” was the supreme political virtue. Sad to say, President Barack Obama himself seemed to buy into the Beltway consensus, trying to strike a “grand bargain” to reduce future deficits by cutting social programs. He was only saved from his own instincts by the intransigence of Republicans, who refused to consider any tax hikes as part of the bargain.
In reality, the consensus about the evils of debt was wrongheaded and destructive. Government debt didn’t pose any significant economic threat, while spending cuts were materially holding back recovery from the 2007-9 recession. Worse, many of the most prominent deficit hawks were phonies. They didn’t really care about government debt, they only pretended to care as an excuse for trying to slash social programs. The proof came when President Donald Trump inflated the deficit with tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy — and many of those who pretended to believe that deficits were an existential threat under Obama cheered him on.
Still, some of us were worried about whether Biden would pick up where Obama left off — whether he would choose people still wedded to the old debt obsession for his economic team. The good news is that he hasn’t.
How Wrong Was Milton Friedman? Harvard Team Quantifies the Ways. (Bloomberg, December 1, 2020)
Professor stresses impacts on society over shareholder value; Analysis would add or cut billions from corporate bottom lines.
George Serafeim wants to revolutionize the way businesses calculate their success. Profit and loss aren’t enough, says the Harvard Business School professor. Serafeim aims to do what no one has done before: Put a dollar value on the impact of products and operations on people and the planet, then add or subtract it from companies’ bottom lines.
Intel Corp. provides an example of both. Serafeim and his five-person team credited $6.9 billion to the chipmaker in 2018 for paying its employees well and for boosting local economies where it has offices. But they deducted $3.1 billion for what they said was a shortage of women employees, the difficulty of career advancement and not enough attention paid to workers’ health.
“Without monetizing impacts, we’re left with the illusion that businesses have no impact,” Serafeim said. Companies that show big profits can have enormous negative effects on society, he said. “They’re just cheating because they’re operating in a context that doesn’t price all those impacts.”
Serafeim’s research throws out the playbook of measuring business performance primarily by shareholder value, which was popularized last century by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. Besides providing an antidote to “good washing” -- corporate happy talk without follow-up -- his work comes as companies increasingly search for ways to help boost a society that, despite its wealth, suffers from woes that include racism, a widening chasm between rich and poor, and deepening damage to nature. The coronavirus pandemic has made that quest more urgent.
Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, declared that a corporation choosing social responsibility over maximizing profits was practicing socialism -- a “fundamentally subversive doctrine,” he called it in 1970. In a free society, Friedman said, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business -- to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”
“What we’re doing is empowering capitalism to really have free and fair markets,” Serafeim said. “Otherwise, it’s a crony version of it.”
The Supreme Court may finally rein in an outdated anti-hacking law. (Washington Post, December 1, 2020)
The nation’s main anti-hacking law, which Congress hasn't revised since 1986, has bedeviled cybersecurity researchers almost since the birth of the Internet.
The high court heard arguments yesterday for the first time in a case challenging the broadest interpretations of that law, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Those interpretations have left cybersecurity pros fearing jail time for doing basic Internet detective work. Critics say the CFAA is vaguely worded and that its Reagan-era concerns haven't translated well to modern technology.
Giant Arecibo radio telescope collapses in Puerto Rico. (The Guardian, December 1, 2020)
A huge radio telescope in Puerto Rico that has played a key role in astronomical discoveries for more than half a century collapsed on Tuesday. The telescope’s 900-ton receiver platform fell onto the reflector dish more than 400 feet below.
The US National Science Foundation had earlier announced that the Arecibo Observatory would be closed. An auxiliary cable snapped in August, causing a 100ft gash on the 1,000ft-wide (305m) reflector dish and damaged the receiver platform that hung above it. Then a main cable broke in early November.
The collapse stunned many scientists who had relied on what was until recently the largest radio telescope in the world. Scientists worldwide had been petitioning US officials and others to reverse the NSF’s decision to close the observatory. The NSF said at the time that it intended to eventually reopen the visitor center and restore operations at the observatory’s remaining assets, including its two Lidar facilities used for upper atmospheric and ionospheric research, including analyzing cloud cover and precipitation data. The telescope has been used to track asteroids on a path to Earth, conduct research that led to a Nobel prize and determine if a planet is potentially habitable. Scientists had used the telescope to study pulsars to detect gravitational waves as well as search for neutral hydrogen, which can reveal how certain cosmic structures are formed. About 250 scientists worldwide had been using the observatory when it closed in August.
Trump takes aim at another disloyal governor—and may foment a primary challenge. (Daily Kos, December 1, 2020)
The C.D.C. Recommends Nursing Homes and Health Workers Get Vaccines First. (New York Times, December 1, 2020)
The new recommendation is the first of several expected from the panel over the coming weeks, as vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna go through the federal approval process, on the thorny question of which Americans should be at the front of the long line to get vaccinated while supply is still scarce. The panel described it as an interim recommendation that could change as more is learned about how well the vaccines work in different age groups and how well the manufacturers keep up with demand.
The roughly three million people living in long-term care and those who care for them are a relatively clear target; 39 percent of deaths from the coronavirus have occurred in such facilities, according to an analysis by The New York Times. But states and health systems will ultimately have to decide which of the nation’s 21 million health care workers should qualify to receive the first doses, as there won’t be enough at first for everyone.
Pfizer and Moderna have estimated that they will have enough to vaccinate, at most, 22.5 million Americans by year’s end, with the required two doses, a few weeks apart. The C.D.C. will apportion the supply among the states, with the initial allocation proportional to the size of each state’s adult population.
Scott Atlas Resigns After Whispering Controversial COVID-19 Advice Into Trump’s Ear. (Huffington Post, December 1, 2020)
The doctor supported the idea of herd immunity to tackle the virus and cast doubt on the effectiveness of face masks.
Trump campaign lawyer calls for fired DHS election security official to be 'shot'. (ABC News, December 1, 2020)
Joe di Genova said that former Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Chris Krebs "should be drawn and quartered, taken out at dawn and shot."
Di Genova, speaking on the conservative outlet Newsmax, said that Krebs was an idiot. "Mail-in balloting is inherently corrupt and this election proved it," di Genova told host Howie Carr (beginning at 20:20; this quote at 33:05). "This was not a coincidence, this was all planned. Anybody who thinks that this election went well like that idiot Krebs," he said, "that guy is a Class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered, taken out at dawn and shot."
Krebs was fired by the president last month after repeatedly speaking out against the president's various claims, saying the election had been the most secure in U.S. history. "The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud," Trump said in a tweet. "Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency."
Krebs, on NBC's "Today" program Tuesday morning, said that di Genova's comments were examples of "more dangerous language, more dangerous behavior. We're a nation of laws, and I plan to take advantage of those laws. I've got an exceptional team of lawyers that win in court and I think they're going to be busy." Adding that his team is exploring all options, but warning that "they can know that there are things coming."
[Note: Trump lawyer di Genova didn't only threaten Krebs: "ANYBODY WHO THINKS THAT THIS ELECTION WENT WELL like that idiot Krebs, that guy is a Class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered, taken out at dawn and shot." This is what Republicans listen to.]
Pastor Urges Trump Admin to 'Shoot' Democrats, Journalists if They Conspired to 'Rig' Election. (Newsweek, November 30, 2020)
1918 Germany Has a Warning for America. (New York Times, November 30, 2020)
Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign recalls one of the most disastrous political lies of the 20th century.
‘Stop The Stupid’: GOP Lawmaker Pleads With Trump To Drop Election Lies. (Huffington Post, November 30, 2020)
Michigan Rep. Paul Mitchell called on the president to give it up for the “sake of our Nation.”
Trump’s Lawyers Call Rudy Giuliani “Deranged” As His Lawsuits Keep Failing. (5-min. video; Ring Of Fire, November 30, 2020)
Lawyers for the Donald Trump campaign – the ones who aren’t going to court and saying that there was widespread fraud – have become openly mocking Rudy Giuliani and what they are calling the “clown car” of lawyers that he has assembled. They are calling Giuliani himself “deranged”, and they understand that there is no evidence to back up any of these claims. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins explains what’s happening.
Dominion Voting Systems categorically denies false assertions about vote switching and software issues with our voting systems. (Dominion Voting Systems, December 1, 2020)
Dominion employees are being forced to retreat from their lives due to personal safety concerns, not only for our employees themselves, but also for their extended families. ABC News has reported on these security concerns, saying that after "two weeks of false fraud claims," this is the latest sign that "freewheeling online rhetoric has real-world consequences."
Assertions of "supercomputer" election fraud conspiracies are 100% false. An unsubstantiated claim about the deletion of 2.7 million pro-Trump votes that was posted on the Internet and spread on social media has been taken down and debunked by independent fact-checkers. Our machines have no secret ‘vote flipping’ algorithm. We have no ties to dictator Hugo Chávez.
All U.S. voting systems must provide assurance that they work accurately and reliably as intended under federal U.S. EAC and state certifications and testing requirements.  Dominion's voting systems are certified for the 2020 elections. There were no Dominion software glitches and ballots were accurately tabulated.  The results are 100% auditable. Election officials provide writing instruments that are approved for marking ballots to all in-person voters using hand-marked paper ballots.  Dominion Voting Systems machines can read all of these instruments, including Sharpies.
Trump’s Disgraceful Endgame (National Review, November 30, 2020)
The chief driver of the post-election contention of the past several weeks is the petulant refusal of one man to accept the verdict of the American people. The Trump team (and much of the GOP) is working backwards, desperately trying to find something, anything to support the president’s aggrieved feelings, rather than objectively considering the evidence and reacting as warranted.
Almost nothing that the Trump team has alleged has withstood the slightest scrutiny. In particular, it’s hard to find much that is remotely true in the president’s Twitter feed these days. It is full of already-debunked claims and crackpot conspiracy theories about Dominion voting systems. Over the weekend, he repeated the charge that 1.8 million mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania were mailed out, yet 2.6 million were ultimately tallied. In a rather elementary error, this compares the number of mail-ballots requested in the primary to the number of ballots counted in the general. A straight apples-to-apples comparison finds that 1.8 million mail-in ballots were requested in the primary and 1.5 million returned, while 3.1 million ballots were requested in the general and 2.6 million returned.
Flawed and dishonest assertions like this pollute the public discourse and mislead good people who make the mistake of believing things said by the president of the United States.
The idea, as the Trump team stalwartly maintains, that the Supreme Court is going to take up this case and issue a game-changing ruling is fantastical. Conservative judges have consistently rejected Trump’s flailing legal appeals, and the justices are unlikely to have a different reaction.
Trump’s most reprehensible tactic has been to attempt, somewhat shamefacedly, to get local Republican officials to block the certification of votes and state legislatures to appoint Trump electors in clear violation of the public will. This has gone nowhere, thanks to the honesty and sense of duty of most of the Republicans involved, but it’s a profoundly undemocratic move that we hope no losing presidential candidate ever even thinks of again.
ICE expelled group of children under Stephen Miller policy just minutes after judge blocked it. (Daily Kos, November 30, 2020)
DeepMind’s protein-folding AI has solved a 50-year-old grand challenge of biology. (MIT Technology Review, November 30, 2020)
Today DeepMind and the organizers of the long-running Critical Assessment of protein Structure Prediction (CASP) competition announced an AI that should have the huge impact that Hassabis has been after. The latest version of DeepMind’s AlphaFold, a deep-learning system that can accurately predict the structure of proteins to within the width of an atom, has cracked one of biology’s grand challenges.
AlphaFold can predict the shape of proteins to within the width of an atom. The breakthrough will help scientists design drugs and understand disease.
A protein is made from a ribbon of amino acids that folds itself up with many complex twists and turns and tangles. This structure determines what it does. And figuring out what proteins do is key to understanding the basic mechanisms of life, when it works and when it doesn’t. Efforts to develop vaccines for covid-19 have focused on the virus’s spike protein, for example. The way the coronavirus snags onto human cells depends on the shape of this protein and the shapes of the proteins on the outsides of those cells. The spike is just one protein among billions across all living things; there are tens of thousands of different types of protein inside the human body alone.
In this year’s CASP, AlphaFold predicted the structure of dozens of proteins with a margin of error of just 1.6 angstroms—that’s 0.16 nanometers, or atom-sized. This far outstrips all other computational methods and for the first time matches the accuracy of experimental techniques to map out the structure of proteins in the lab, such as cryo-electron microscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance and x-ray crystallography. These techniques are expensive and slow: it can take hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of trial and error for each protein. AlphaFold can find a protein’s shape in a few days. The breakthrough could help researchers design new drugs and understand diseases. In the longer term, predicting protein structure will also help design synthetic proteins, such as enzymes that digest waste or produce biofuels. Researchers are also exploring ways to introduce synthetic proteins that will increase crop yields and make plants more nutritious.
Mysterious Monolith Update: New Mysterious Monolith Appears in Romania. (Vice, November 30, 2020)
A new monolith has appeared in Romania, a few feet away from the site of an ancient fortress.
Earth now 2,000 light-years closer to Milky Way's supermassive black hole. (CNet, November 29, 2020)
This doesn't mean we're currently on a collision course with a black hole. No, it's simply the result of a more accurate model of the Milky Way based on new data.
Turkey’s military campaign beyond its borders is powered by homemade armed drones. (Washington Post, November 29, 2020)
Their impact has been substantial. The drones played a central role in recent months in shifting Libya’s civil war in favor of the Turkish-backed government based in the capital, Tripoli, and they helped Azerbaijan, an ally of Turkey, prevail over Armenian forces in the fighting over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, according to military analysts. In northern Syria, Turkish drones played a major part this year in a series of devastating attacks on Syrian armored forces that caught some military observers by surprise and helped bring a Syrian government offensive against rebel areas to a halt.
Trump senior aide Kushner and team heading to Saudi Arabia, Qatar. (Reuters, November 29, 2020)
Trump Accuses Attorney-General William Barr And The FBI Of Election Fraud. (Politicus USA, November 29, 2020)
"The mail-in ballots are a disaster. They sent millions and millions and millions of mail-in ballots, I’m sure you know people that got two, three, or four, because I do, where they said you know, we got four ballots, they got one at the country home, dead people were seeing ballots but even worse, dead people were applying to get a ballot. They were making application to get ballots, many. And you know we’re not talking about 10 people, there are a lot of dead people that so-called voted in this election, but dead people were, in some cases, in many many cases, thousands of cases, voted but also, dead people made application to vote. They were dead 10 years, 15 years and they actually made application.
"This is total fraud, and how the FBI and Department of Justice, I don’t know, maybe they’ve involved but how people are allowed to get away with this stuff is unbelievable. This election was rigged. This election was a total fraud, and it continues to be as they hide and the problem we have we go to judges, and people don’t want to get involved. The media doesn’t even want to cover it. I mean you’re doing something you’re actually very brave because you’re doing something the media doesn’t want to talk about it."
Donald Trump never had a single day as president with an approval rating of 50% or more. It is common sense that one of the most unpopular presidents in the history of polling lost his bid for reelection. Trump can spin conspiracies and blame the government, but he lost, and no conspiracy can undo a historically humiliating defeat for Donald Trump.
The flip side to Biden's appointments: All the Trumpers he can fire. (Daily Kos, November 28, 2020)
Biden gains 87 votes in Trump's $3M Wisconsin recount as Dane County wraps up review; president plans lawsuit. (USA Today, November 28, 2020)
The recount has not turned up evidence of fraud, prompting Twitter to label his tweet as disputed. Trump's campaign has alleged long-standing voting practices in Wisconsin are illegal and sought to throw out about 238,000 ballots in Dane and Milwaukee counties. The campaign claims all early in-person votes in those counties are illegitimate, including ones cast by GOP state Sen. Alberta Darling,  GOP state Rep. Jessie Rodriguez and Trump campaign attorney Jim Troupis. Democrats, election officials and election attorneys have called the claim preposterous, noting the state has been conducting early in-person voting the same way for a decade without any challenges.
Trump reportedly wants to hold a 2024 campaign event during Biden's inauguration. (Business Insider, November 28, 2020)
Visualizing the Human Impact on the Earth’s Surface (Visual Capitalist, November 28, 2020)
As it turns out, nearly 95% of the Earth’s surface shows some form of human modification, with 85% bearing evidence of multiple forms of human impact.
Heather Cox Richardson: It seems as if Trump and President-Elect Joe Biden are in a contest to see who can will their vision of the future into life. (Letters From An American, November 28, 2020)
That Mysterious Monolith in the Utah Desert? It’s Gone, Officials Say. (New York Times, November 27, 2020)
The metal structure has been removed, Utah officials said on Saturday, adding that they had not taken it down.
Did John McCracken Make That Monolith in Utah? (New York Times, November 27, 2020)
It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, buried in the desert: His dealer says yes. His son says maybe. His artist buddies, like Ed Ruscha, say, no way the sculptor created this tall, silvery object. 
Prominent Iranian nuclear scientist killed in attack outside Tehran. (Washington Post, November 27, 2020)
A prominent Iranian nuclear scientist who was seen as a driving force behind Tehran's disbanded effort to build a nuclear weapon nearly two decades ago was killed Friday outside Tehran in an apparent targeted ambush, Iranian officials said. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, described the attack on the scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, as the work of “state terror” and implicated Israel as having a possible role.
Fakhrizadeh was once at the pinnacle of Iran’s nuclear program, including efforts to develop nuclear arms that U.S. intelligence says was scrapped in 2003. But his latest role was less directly involved in Iran’s nuclear sites, which include an energy-producing reactor and extensive centrifuge labs to enrich uranium.
Analysts also said the timing of the attack appeared linked to the impending change of U.S. administrations. President Trump — who withdrew the United States from a nuclear pact that Iran struck with world powers five years ago — has pursued a “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to work more closely with allies on Iran policies and work to rejoin the nuclear agreement. “The operation reflects thinking of those in the Netanyahu government — and/or the Trump administration — who see these next few weeks as their last chance to make relations with Iran as bad as possible, in an effort to spoil the Biden administration’s efforts to return to diplomacy with Tehran,” said Pillar, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
5 Big-Picture Trends Being Accelerated by the Pandemic (many charts; Visual Capitalist, November 27, 2020)
The Rich Kids Who Want to Tear Down Capitalism (New York Times, November 27, 2020)
Socialist-minded millennial heirs are trying to live their values by getting rid of their money.
World’s largest offshore wind farm secures $8-Billion investment. (Electrek, November 27, 2020)
Dogger Bank, which will eventually become the world’s largest offshore wind farm, is getting an $8 billion investment from Norwegian oil giant Equinor and British energy company SSE. The money will be used to construct the first two phases of the project. SSE Renewables is leading the construction of the 3.6 GW project, and Equinor will lead on the wind farm’s operations.
Equinor writes: With the strong interest from lenders, Dogger Bank A and B were able to secure competitive terms, despite unprecedented economic circumstances arising from the global coronavirus pandemic. Dogger Bank, which will eventually become the world’s largest offshore wind farm, is getting an $8 billion investment from Norwegian oil giant Equinor and British energy company SSE.
The three-phase project will include construction of a total of 3.6 gigawatts of capacity in the British North Sea, (1.2 GW per phase) and will power 6 million UK homes when it is fully operational, or 5% of UK power demand.
If athletes can get coronavirus tests, nurses ask, why not us? (Washington Post, November 27, 2020)
Why did Democrats bleed House seats? A top analyst offers surprising answers. (Washington Post, November 27, 2020)
President-elect Joe Biden garnered an unprecedented 80 million votes, will win the popular vote by as much as seven million, and won fairly comfortably in the electoral college. Even if the vote counts in swing states were pretty tight, that’s a robust victory. Yet despite all that, Democrats lost a dozen House seats, shrinking their majority and putting it at grave risk in 2022, lost key Senate races that would have secured control of the upper chamber, and failed to capture any state legislatures, diluting their influence over redistricting for the next decade. This has given rise to a lot of infighting and a thousand explanations: Democrats suffered the taint of “the Squad” of leftists in Congress and the “defund the police” movement; they lost because squishy centrists talked only to suburban Whites; they faltered as their standing with non-college Whites grew more dire.
But what if there’s also another, more structural explanation, one rooted in realities about high turnout on both sides and already-built-in incentives for many GOP-leaning swing voters?
Can Trump pardon his associates - or himself? (Reuters, November 27, 2020)
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, kicking off what is expected to be a string of pardons during the final weeks of the Trump administration. Trump has granted clemency to supporters before, most notably earlier this year when he commuted the criminal sentence of Roger Stone, who was sentenced to prison after being convicted of lying under oath to lawmakers.
In 2018, Trump even said he had the “absolute right” to pardon himself - a claim many constitutional law scholars dispute. Here is an overview of Trump’s pardon power, which is sweeping but not absolute.
Washington Post Editorial Board Tears Into Donald Trump: ‘A Total Disgrace’. (Huffington Post, November 26, 2020)
The newspaper’s board rebuked the president for pardoning his former adviser, Michael Flynn.
Trump’s baseless election fraud claims in Georgia turn Senate runoffs into a ‘high-wire act’ for Republicans. (Washington Post, November 26, 2020)
Trump and his allies have repeatedly, and falsely, accused Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans, of presiding over a fraudulent election. Trump has pushed the baseless claim that the Dominion Voting Systems machines used in Georgia were rigged as part of a global conspiracy, and Perdue and Loeffler have called for Raffensperger’s resignation.
But therein lies the conundrum: Perdue and Loeffler are traveling the state pleading with Republican voters to turn out on Jan. 5 — effectively asking Trump supporters to put their faith in the same voting system their president claims was manipulated to engineer his defeat.
Trump says he will step down if electoral college votes for Biden. (Washington Post, November 26, 2020)
President Trump said on Thursday that he would leave the White House if the electoral college voted for President-elect Joe Biden next month, though he vowed to keep fighting to overturn the election he lost and said he may never concede.
“Certainly I will, and you know that,” he said when asked if he would leave the White House if the electoral college picked Biden. Though advisers have long said he would leave on Jan. 20, it was Trump’s first explicit commitment to vacate office if the vote did not go his way.
Trump said he planned to continue to make claims of fraud about the results and said, without evidence, that Biden could not have won close to 80 million votes. His legal team has been widely mocked — and has lost almost every claim in every state, as officials certify results for Biden. “It’s going to be a very hard thing to concede,” he said of the election. Aides have privately said Trump will never concede that he lost.
Hyundai Wants to Buy the Robot Dog So It Can Make Its Cars Look Like This. (Popular Mechanics, November 26, 2020)
Softbank is reportedly in talks with the South Korean auto manufacturer to sell off its robotics company, Boston Dynamics Inc, according to a Bloomberg report. Supposedly, the transaction could be worth up to $1 billion. If the deal does go through, it wouldn't be the first time Spot got a new owner. Back in 1992, Boston Dynamics spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Then in 2013, Alphabet, Google's parent company, acquired the company for an undisclosed sum in 2013. Four years later, Softbank purchased Boston Dynamics. The specifics of that deal weren't made public.
The real Thanksgiving story hints at how future Americans will talk about Covid-19. (MSNBC, November 26, 2020)
We love stories in America. Especially when we can see ourselves in the heroes. That's part of why the tale of the humble Pilgrims, rescued from starvation by kindly Natives, has such a cherished place in our folklore.
Thanksgiving Day, for all its feasting and pageantry, is a holiday built on the stories that we tell ourselves. This year, though, it is being celebrated as we're in the throes of a pandemic that a divided country can't properly define. It makes me wonder: What stories will we eventually tell ourselves?
This Thanksgiving, millions of Americans are going hungry in the midst of Covid. (MSNBC, November 26, 2020)
This Thanksgiving, millions of Americans face homelessness and hundreds of thousands live on the street.
There are two lines that will tell you the story of the American economy right now. The first is the one President Donald Trump talks about — a lot: the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It’s an index that measures the stock prices of 30 of America’s largest and most representative companies. It tracks the value of Apple, Caterpillar, Coca Cola, Goldman Sachs, and companies like that.
The other line isn’t on a graph. It’s an image of thousands of cars lined up to get food for Thanksgiving at the North Texas Food bank in Dallas. In one week, the food bank distributed 6,000 pounds of food, including 7,280 turkeys — enough to feed 25,000 people this Thanksgiving. That’s just one food bank, in one American city.
Those two lines tell the story of the "K-shaped" recovery in America. The top line of the “K” is up and to the right, for the investor class. The bottom line is down and to the right, for the working class, the working poor and the unemployed.
As Americans prepare to gather for Thanksgiving, the world watches with dread and disbelief. (Washington Post, November 25, 2020)
Foreign observers are watching with trepidation — and at times disbelief — as coronavirus cases surge across the United States, and masses of Americans are choosing to follow through with plans to visit family and friends for this week’s Thanksgiving holiday anyway. Decisions over whether to gather have turned divisive, as experts warn that Thanksgiving includes the key ingredients — a shared, indoor meal and inter-household mixing — that could spark an even worse surge in cases in the coming weeks.
How Iceland hammered COVID with science (Nature, November 25, 2020)
The tiny island nation brought huge scientific heft to its attempts to contain and study the coronavirus. Here’s what it learnt.
Researchers at deCODE and the National University Hospital of Iceland worked day in and day out to gather and interpret the data. Their achievements aren’t merely academic. Iceland’s science has been credited with preventing deaths — the country reports fewer than 7 per 100,000 people, compared with around 80 per 100,000 in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has also managed to prevent outbreaks while keeping its borders open, welcoming tourists from 45 countries since mid-June. The partnership again kicked into high gear in September, when a second large wave of infections threatened the nation.
The same approach could work in other countries that have suitable resources, such as the United States, where all the methods deCODE is currently using were developed, says Stefánsson. In fact, early in the pandemic, many US labs pivoted to offer coronavirus testing, but were stymied by regulatory and administrative obstacles, which critics attribute to a lack of federal leadership. “This was a wonderful opportunity for academia in the United States to show its worth, and it didn’t,” Stefánsson says. “I was surprised.”
Trump pardons Flynn. Judge Sullivan will love that as he considers case against Trump. (Daily Kos, November 25, 2020)
Judge Emmet Sullivan has just been assigned a Voting Rights Act case accusing Trump of engaging in an illegal strategy to disenfranchise Black voters in an attempt to overturn the election. The complaint, filed by attorneys with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) on behalf of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO) and three Black citizens of Detroit, names Trump as an individual and his campaign as defendants for trying to "pressure state and local officials not to certify election results in key states and then have state legislatures override the will of the voters by installing" a "slate of electors" who are loyal to Trump and the Republican Party. They claim that Trump, his legal team, and his campaign have worked "in concert" and engaged in conduct to "intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten or coerce” election workers involved in "aiding [a] person to vote or attempt to vote." And that, they argue, is a direct violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Which is now going to be heard by Judge Sullivan. Who is also the judge who valiantly fought back against Trump and Postmaster General Louis Dejoy's efforts to sabotage the U.S. Postal Service and the mail-in vote this fall. So that's fun. Go ahead, Trump. Pardon Flynn. See how that works out.
Pro-Trump Group Donor Sues Over Failure to Expose Election Fraud. (Bloomberg, November 25, 2020)
When True the Vote failed to provide any reports on its progress and with certification deadlines approaching, Eshelman said it became obvious the group wouldn’t be able to execute the plan he agreed to support. So, he asked for his $2.5M back.
Eshelman is the former CEO of Pharmaceutical Product Development and founding chairman of Furiex Pharmaceuticals.
[No wonder he didn't want Biden to make medicines affordable.]
Over 30 Trump Campaign Lawsuits Have Failed. Some Rulings Are Scathing. (New York Times, November 25, 2020)
As President Trump continues to litigate the 2020 election, some judges have lost all patience. Here are some excerpts of their rulings.
Can John Kerry revive America's climate leadership? (The Conversation, November 25, 2020)
Five years ago, the U.S. was a global climate leader. Nations around the world were about to approve the Paris climate agreement, thanks in large part to negotiations by then-Secretary of State John Kerry and his team. Fast-forward to today, and the United States’ reputation lies in tatters. Rebuilding that reputation is an enormous task with high stakes. and it will soon be Kerry’s job again as the next U.S. climate envoy.
Two international energy and climate policy experts analyze what President-elect Joe Biden can do to rebuild trust and the diplomatic work ahead.
Will there be a monument to the COVID-19 pandemic? (The Conversation, November 25, 2020)
How plague monuments were used to commemorate victims of past disease outbreaks, temporary memorials for COVID-19, and why plague memorials are not as prolific as war memorials.
How to be resilient (Psyche, November 25, 2020)
Life is unpredictable. Brace yourself with a suite of coping mechanisms, internal and external, then deploy them flexibly.
How Albert Einstein Reconciled Religion to Science (Nautilus, November 25, 2020)
- The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can change this for me.
- I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.
- I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds.
May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations.
I am fascinated by Spinoza’s Pantheism. I admire even more his contributions to modern thought. Spinoza is the greatest of modern philosophers, because he is the first philosopher who deals with the soul and the body as one, not as two separate things.
Mysterious monolith puzzle has been solved by internet sleuths. (CNet, November 25, 2020)
Sorry, but it's probably not aliens.
Mysterious metal monolith discovered in rural Utah. (2-min. video; NBC News, November 24, 2020)
Public safety officers spotted the object in a remote area of red rock — something that appeared to be right out of a scene from "2001: A Space Odyssey."
500-years-old rock art in a California cave was a visual guide to hallucinogenic plants. (Ars Technica, November 24, 2020)
It’s the first direct evidence that people used hallucinogens at a rock art site.
On the Decline: A Look at Earth’s Biodiversity Loss, By Region (Visual Capitalist, November 24, 2020)
Earth’s biodiversity has seen an overall decrease across the globe. And while each region has seen a decline, some places have experienced higher drops than others.
Lord of Misrule: Thomas Morton’s American Subversions (Public Domain Review, November 24, 2020)
When we think of early New England, we tend to picture stern-faced Puritans and black-hatted Pilgrims, but in the same decade that these more famous settlers arrived, a man called Thomas Morton founded a very different kind of colony — a neo-pagan experiment he named Merrymount. Merrymount — founded as Mount Wollaston in 1624 near present-day Quincy, Massachusetts — was the brainchild of the Devonshire-born lawyer, raconteur, libertine, rake, and crypto-pagan Thomas Morton (1579–1647). His ideas for colonizing the New World were distinct from either the Plymouth or the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
While generations of historians have claimed that Americans are intellectually the descendants of stern Calvinist Puritans and Pilgrims, Morton (who stood in opposition to both groups) had his own ideas. The utopian Merrymount, it has long been argued, was a society built upon privileging art and poetry over industriousness and labor, and pursued a policy of intercultural harmony rather than white supremacy — a strange and beautiful alternative dream of what America could have been.
Again and again, Morton has emerged as an undercurrent in American culture since the seventeenth century. Condemned by John Adams, celebrated by Nathaniel Hawthorne, but more often than not a historical footnote, Morton can be regarded as part of a Manichean battle, where he and the Puritans grapple for control of national self-definition. Indeed, the clashes between Morton and his enemies provide a convenient metaphor for those warring dichotomies in the American spirit — puritanism and licentiousness, staidness and carnival, piety and irreverence. Morton remains a powerful disruptive presence in the common founding myth of American identity. What Morton promises us is that things need not be done as they always have been, for things have not always been done this way at all.
Is belief in God a delusion? (Live Science, November 24, 2020)
As the pandemic raged in April, churchgoers in Ohio defied warnings not to congregate. Some argued that their religion conferred them immunity from COVID-19. In one memorable CNN clip, a woman insisted she would not catch the virus because she was “covered in Jesus’ blood”.
Some weeks later, the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker commented on the dangers of evangelical religious belief in the coronavirus era. Writing on Facebook, he said: “Belief in an afterlife is a malignant delusion, since it devalues actual lives and discourages action that would make them longer, safer, and happier.”
Evidence Builds That an Early Mutation Made the Pandemic Harder to Stop. (New York Times, November 24, 2020)
Scientists were initially skeptical that a mutation made the coronavirus more contagious. But new research has changed many of their minds.
Day 1 for Joe Biden (New York Times, November 24, 2020)
President-elect Joe Biden’s battle against the coronavirus officially began today.
Biden’s DHS pick adds cybersecurity chops to the incoming administration. (Washington Post, November 24, 2020)
Alejandro Mayorkas worked on numerous international cybersecurity agreements as deputy DHS secretary during the Obama administration, including a landmark 2015 deal with Beijing that briefly reduced Chinese hacking targeting U.S. companies. He also helped significantly increase the amount of cybersecurity intelligence that government shared with industry.
If he wins confirmation, cybersecurity pros are hoping he can help resume stalled efforts to boost international cooperation in cyberspace and help restore ties between government and industry on cybersecurity that frayed during the Trump administration. Mayorkas will have to tackle low employee morale across DHS, as Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti report. That could be particularly difficult at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which was rocked this month when Trump fired the agency’s popular leader Chris Krebs for fact-checking some of his false claims about the election. Other CISA leaders were also asked to resign after the election.
NEW: Joe Biden Shouldn't Reverse All Trump Policies. (Newsmax, November 24, 2020)
Donald Trump tried to undo all of the laws, executive orders, regulatory rules, and international agreements introduced by Barack Obama. Joe Biden should not imitate Trump's approach.
Biden’s Transition to the Presidency Formally Begins. (New York Times, November 24, 2020)
After weeks of delay, a key federal official designated Joe Biden the apparent winner, allowing his team to access government resources and information. Today, Mr. Biden will announce his picks for cabinet offices including the secretary of state and director of national intelligence. Trump vows to keep fighting the results, but is renovating Mar-a-Lago as his retirement home.
NEW: U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley: This alternative to the electoral college doesn’t require a constitutional amendment. (Washington Post, November 23, 2020)
The right to vote for our president is one of the most fundamental rights cherished by Americans. But when the will of the voters is overturned by an electoral system that undermines the principle of “one person, one vote” — a system with origins in a centuries-old deal to preserve the power of slaveholding states — it undermines the legitimacy of the president and our system of government.
It is past time for us to abolish this arcane institution and ensure that the person who occupies the Oval Office is the same one the majority of Americans voted for. The most obvious way to do this would be to pass a constitutional amendment abolishing the electoral college. I have introduced such an amendment in the Senate. But given the high bar for enacting constitutional amendments, the odds of this happening — as The Post noted — are slim. But the good news is that a constitutional amendment is not the only way to ensure our next president is chosen by popular vote. An alternative path is called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The idea is that states would commit through legislation to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, in an agreement that would go into effect if and only when enough states agree to the compact that, together, their electoral votes would add up to the required 270-vote majority.
This is an idea that has a real chance of success. Fifteen states and D.C. have already agreed to join this pact and give their 196 electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. If state legislatures representing 74 more electoral votes join in, the United States would join the republics of the world with the gold standard for electing a president: the popular vote. This outcome would change presidential elections overnight. Every citizen’s vote across our great land would count equally. In addition, the popular vote would create a powerful force working to break down the chasm separating our U.S. political parties. Republican presidential candidates would seek votes in every part of the country, including blue states, and Democratic candidates would do the same in red states. Candidates’ platforms would adjust to address the interests of all regions of our nation, not just the swing states. Over time, voters in “safe” states would have more exposure to different ideas and opportunities to hear from voices outside the comfort of our normal echo-chamber bubbles. In this era, when so many citizens and so many states feel left out of the process, this could be a powerful factor in helping to bring America together.
"Supreme Revenge: Battle for the Court": An updated version of this 54-min. film will premiere Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. (PBS, November 23, 2020)
Inside the no-holds-barred war for control of the Supreme Court. An investigation of how a 30-year-old grievance transformed the court and turned confirmations into bitter, partisan conflicts.
Secret Amazon Reports Expose the Company’s Surveillance of Labor and Environmental Groups. (Vice, November 23, 2020)
Dozens of leaked documents from Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center reveal the company’s reliance on Pinkerton operatives to spy on warehouse workers and the extensive monitoring of labor unions, environmental activists, and other social movements.
Trauma unmakes the world of the self. Can stories repair it? (Aeon Psyche, November 23, 2020)
Human beings are storytelling creatures: we spin narratives in order to construct our world. Whether on the cave walls of Lascaux or the golden record stored on the Voyager spacecraft, we want to share our selves and what matters to us through words, actions, even silence. Self-making narratives create the maps of the totality of our physical reality and experiences – or, as philosophers sometimes say, of the lifeworlds that we inhabit. And just as narratives can create worlds, they can also destroy them.
Trauma, in its many guises, has been part of these narratives since time immemorial, often by shattering the topographies of our lifeworlds. Breaking our most fundamental, most taken-for-granted means of self-understanding, it replaces our familiar narratives with something dreadful, something uncanny, sometimes something unspeakable.
No. 3 - AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine shows success: Here’s how it stacks up to others. (Ars Technica, November 23, 2020)
AstraZeneca used two equal dosages and measured 62% average effectiveness. Halving the first dose upped it to 90% average. Unlike its competitor vaccines, normal refrigeration is sufficent - and its proven production methods permit early - and probably less costly - distribution to more people.
‘Unnecessary hardship’: The next few months have the potential to be very unpleasant for the American economy. (New York Times, November 23, 2020)
Many states are reimposing coronavirus restrictions, which will likely lead to new reductions in consumer spending and worker layoffs. As Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chairman, recently said, “We’ve got new cases at a record level, we’ve seen a number of states begin to reimpose limited activity restrictions, and people may lose confidence that it is safe to go out.”
Adding to the economic risks, several of the government’s biggest virus rescue programs are scheduled to expire next month. It isn’t clear whether Congress will renew them, because congressional Democrats and Republicans disagree on how to do so. Democrats favor a larger rescue package than Republicans do. Without a new stimulus package, a double-dip recession is possible. In an analysis circulating among President-elect Joe Biden’s aides, the research firm Moody’s Analytics predicted that the economy would shrink during both the first and second quarters of 2021, and the unemployment rate would approach 10 percent next summer, up from 6.9 percent last month.
Transition warning: Trump's mental illness is a growing danger. (USA Today, November 23, 2020)
Psychiatrists must prevent harm and injustice, especially when they are coming from a destructive government.
As the world celebrated a Biden-Harris victory, mental health professionals braced for the two-and-a-half months that we deemed would be the most dangerous period of this presidency. Indeed, in just the days since announcement of election results, Donald Trump has refused to concede, has obstructed a peaceful transfer of power, has fired and replaced top officials responsible for the nation’s security, and has contemplated catastrophic war.  All this is on top of ignoring a surging pandemic that is now infecting more than 150,000 per day and killing more than 1,500 Americans per day.
Since Donald Trump’s election, mental health professionals have come forth in historically unprecedented ways to warn against entrusting the U.S. presidency to someone exhibiting dangerous mental impairments.
The president’s dangerousness is no longer debatable. Our warnings have now been realized exactly as we said they would four years ago, as if on schedule, with abundant real-life evidence. When the right information became available, a peer-reviewed panel of independent experts performed a standardized assessment of mental capacity, to the highest rigor possible, in which the president failed every criterion. This means he would be unfit for any job, let alone president. Our evaluation fully predicted that he would disastrously mismanage a pandemic, as our blow-by-blow account shows.
The Goldwater Rule … is a violation of your First Amendment rights, and a violation of your duty to your country and to human civilization. It is a basic understanding that to remain silent against a critical medical need is a violation of our professional “responsibility to society,” as outlined in the first paragraph of the preamble of our ethics code. The APA should no longer mislead the public and the media into believing that its guild rule of restricting speech on public figures, which no other mental health association has and is not admissible on any state licensing board, is universal. The truly universal Declaration of Geneva says that we must prevent harm and injustice, especially when they are coming from a destructive government.
Trump’s unfounded fraud claims are endangering election officials. (Washington Post, November 23, 2020)
The threats underscore the real-world dangers of efforts by Trump and his supporters to sow unfounded doubts about the integrity of the election. And the danger extends well beyond Georgia. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) described similar threats against herself, her family and staff members in her office. She warned the president and lawmakers who were spreading disinformation about the election results that it is “well past time that they stop” and that “their words and actions have consequences.”
We're celebrating Thanksgiving amid a pandemic. Here's how we did it in 1918 – and what happened next. (USA Today, November 22, 2020)
On Thanksgiving more than a century ago, many Americans were living under quarantines, and officials warned people to stay home for the holiday.
NEW: America Is Letting the Coronavirus Rage Through Prisons. (New York Times, November 21, 2020)
It’s both a moral failure and a public health one.
NASA, US and European Partners Launch Mission to Monitor Global Ocean Levels. (1-min. video; NASA, November 21, 2020)
A joint U.S.-European satellite built to monitor global sea levels lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Saturday at 9:17 a.m. PST (12:17 p.m. EST). About the size of a small pickup truck, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will extend a nearly 30-year continuous dataset on sea level collected by an ongoing collaboration of U.S. and European satellites while enhancing weather forecasts and providing detailed information on large-scale ocean currents to support ship navigation near coastlines.
After arriving in orbit, the spacecraft separated from the rocket's second stage and unfolded its twin sets of solar arrays. Ground controllers successfully acquired the satellite's signal, and initial telemetry reports showed the spacecraft in good health. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will now undergo a series of exhaustive checks and calibrations before it starts collecting science data in a few months' time.
On Parler, a Pro-Trump Call For Georgia Runoff Boycott Threatens Mitch McConnell's Plan to Restrain Biden. (Newsweek, November 21, 2020)
The two Georgia runoff elections, scheduled for January 5 with early voting starting on December 14, will determine control of the Senate, meaning Biden's ability to push through a Democratic agenda under his first term. But a number of pro-Trump Republicans have taken to Parler, the "free-speech" social media platform, to discourage members of their own party from voting. Screenshots showed Trump supporters invoking a conspiracy theory about "rigged" voting machines to urge a boycott of the upcoming elections in Georgia. "Don't vote! Don't be part of the corruption" one post read.
Federal Judge Smacks Down Trump’s Effort to Overturn Election Result in Pennsylvania. (Pennsylvania court opinion; New York Magazine, November 21, 2020)
In this action, the Trump Campaign and the Individual Plaintiffs (collectively, the “Plaintiffs”) seek to discard millions of votes legally cast by Pennsylvanians from all corners – from Greene County to Pike County, and everywhere in between. In other words, Plaintiffs ask this Court to disenfranchise almost seven million voters. This Court has been unable to find any case in which a plaintiff has sought such a drastic remedy in the contest of an election, in terms of the sheer volume of votes asked to be invalidated. One might expect that when seeking such a startling outcome, a plaintiff would come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption, such that this Court would have no option but to regrettably grant the proposed injunctive relief despite the impact it would have on such a large group of citizens.
That has not happened. Instead, this Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence. In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more. At bottom, Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Therefore, I grant Defendants’ motions and dismiss Plaintiffs’ action with prejudice.
Trump Says He Has Until Dec. 8 to ‘Decertify’ Pennsylvania Loss. (Bloomberg, November 21, 2020)
Trump seeks to block Pennsylvania elections chief Kathy Boockvar from certifying the result unless the state throws out tens of thousands of what it claims are “illegal” mail-in ballots. Those votes were cast, the Trump campaign contends, as part of a nationwide Democratic conspiracy linked to corrupt voting-machine software, Communist money, billionaire George Soros, and the late Venezuelan ruler Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013.
States must choose electors by Dec. 8; the Electoral College vote is set for Dec. 14. After a string of court losses, Trump’s campaign is seeking alternate routes to victory based on what it contends is the ability of GOP-led state legislatures to override the popular vote and select electors on their own. It’s far from certain that Republican state lawmakers would go along with such a plan.
On Friday evening, civil rights groups that intervened in the lawsuit urged the judge to deny the campaign’s request for an injunction and dismiss the case, arguing the claims are based on “absurd” logic contradicted by the facts in its own complaint. The campaign seeks “to justify mass disenfranchisement with an incoherent conspiracy theory,” the groups, including the Pennsylvania chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the League of Women Voters, said in the filing. “We did not establish a representative democracy to ask courts to ‘declare’ who wins our elections,” the groups said.
When the World Seems Like One Big Conspiracy (New York Times, November 20, 2020)
Understanding the structure of Global Cabal theories can shed light on their allure — and their inherent falsehood.
Global Cabal theories argue that underneath the myriad events we see on the surface of the world lurks a single sinister group. The identity of this group may change: Some believe the world is secretly ruled by Freemasons, witches or Satanists; others think it’s aliens, reptilian lizard-people or sundry other cliques. But the basic structure remains the same: The group controls almost everything that happens, while simultaneously concealing this control.
The skeleton key of Global Cabal theory unlocks all the world’s mysteries and offers me entree into an exclusive circle — the group of people who understand. It makes me smarter and wiser than the average person and even elevates me above the intellectual elite and the ruling class: professors, journalists, politicians. I see what they overlook — or what they try to conceal.
Global Cabal theories suffer from the same basic flaw: They assume that history is very simple. The key premise of Global Cabal theories is that it is relatively easy to manipulate the world. A small group of people can understand, predict and control everything, from wars to technological revolutions to pandemics. Particularly remarkable is this group’s ability to see 10 moves ahead on the global board game. When they release a virus somewhere, they can predict not only how it will spread through the world, but also how it will affect the global economy a year later. When they unleash a political revolution, they can control its course. When they start a war, they know how it will end.
David Plouffe calls Trump’s legal fight ‘the biggest grift in American history’. (6-min. video; MSNBC, November 20, 2020)
Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe says that the president is “the most unpatriotic person in the country’s history” and warns that Republicans backing his legal fight are threatening the underpinning of our democracy
Conspiracy theories are all that’s left in Trump’s effort to overturn the election. (Washington Post, November 20, 2020)
The Trump campaign’s latest effort to overturn the election results pits the allure of conspiracy theories against years of efforts to create the most secure and auditable election in U.S. history.
Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell presented no evidence for their claims during a lengthy news conference that the election was rigged by faulty voting machines, foreign powers and an opaque cast of corrupt politicians.
Officials who ran the election and are preparing to certify it, meanwhile, have spent years improving security protections, testing technology and ensuring there are paper records of votes that can be audited after an election to prove they were tallied correctly. Indeed, the same day President Trump’s lawyers lobbed their baseless accusations, Georgia completed a hand count audit of its votes that found no evidence of fraud and upheld Joe Biden’s narrow win in that state.
But the Trump argument now is based in paranoia and gut feeling rather than evidence and logic.
US coal jobs down 24% from the start of Trump administration to latest quarter. (S&P Global, November 20, 2020)
Despite a campaign promise to put coal miners back to work and support "beautiful clean coal," President Donald Trump is on track to leave the White House with the nation posting the lowest coal production and jobs figures in recent history. "You watch what happens — if I win, we're going to bring those miners back," Trump said at a 2016 rally. Despite a slight increase in coal production in the third quarter compared to the previous one, the period marked a new low in average coal mine employment with just 40,458 jobs.
How many is 250,000 deaths? (Washington Post, November 20, 2020)
In less than a year, the outbreak has killed:
- Four times as many Americans as have died in the decade-long Vietnam War.
- Twice as many Americans as were killed over two years in World War I.
- Nearly two thirds as many Americans as have died during four years of fighting in World War II.
- More than one-third of an estimated 675,000 Americans who died in the 1918-19 flu pandemic, which was the worst in modern history.
Here's another way to think about it, from our Graphics team: If all 250,000 victims had come from the U.S. heartland, a region roughly the size of South Dakota would now be devoid of human life.
Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (People For the American Way, November 20, 2020 Update)
On November 18, the United States surpassed a quarter million deaths due to COVID-19. This stark reminder of the danger we continue to face stands in contrast to the near-silence on the pandemic from Donald Trump for the second straight week, in addition to his decision to eschew coronavirus task force meetings for the past five months. Instead, Trump has remained fixated on lying about the election’s results, spouting false claims of nonexistent voter fraud and firing the senior cybersecurity official who directly disputed Trump’s falsehoods about the election.
The Coronavirus Has Once Again Contracted Trump. (Gizmodo, November 20, 2020)
The eldest Trump spawn, Donald Trump Jr., has reportedly contracted the coronavirus. Honestly, given the rate at which the virus has spread among the president’s staff and associates in recent weeks, is anyone really surprised? Trump Jr. is the latest among more than four dozen people associated with the White House who have been infected by the virus, including President Donald Trump himself. Among others on that ever-growing list are first lady Melania Trump, the president’s youngest son Barron, his chief of staff Mark Meadows, longtime campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and several White House aides and reporters.
On Friday, Andrew Giuliani, a White House aide and the son of the Trump’s campaign ooziest lawyer Rudy Giuliani, announced that he also contracted the virus. He said in a tweet that he was in quarantine and had been “experiencing mild symptoms.” One of Pence’s aides, Hannah McInnis, tested positive for the virus earlier this month, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke with Bloomberg.
Trump Jr. was one of the hundreds of maskless guests at a packed election night party at the White House, which is starting to look more and more like the administration’s second superspreader event in as many months. In October, Trump and several others tested positive for the virus following a Rose Garden ceremony to announce Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination. The nation’s leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci later dubbed the gathering a superspreader event, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the same prognosis about Trump’s election night rally in the coming days.
The U.S. set several grim new records on Thursday, recording more than 182,000 new covid-19 cases as well as 1,971 deaths, the highest death toll since May. With the holiday season approaching fast, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is begging people not to travel to avoid potentially spreading the virus even further. As the Trumps have demonstrated in their shining display of ignorance, covid-19 is not something you want to keep in the family.
Most coronavirus cases are spread by people without symptoms, CDC now says. (CNN, November 20, 2020)
"CDC and others estimate that more than 50% of all infections are transmitted from people who are not exhibiting symptoms," it added in the guidance posted Friday. "This means at least half of new infections come from people likely unaware they are infectious to others."
According to the CDC, 24% of people who transmit the virus to others never develop symptoms and another 35% were pre-symptomatic. It also said 41% infected others while experiencing symptoms. Peak infectiousness comes five days after infection, the agency said on the website. "With these assumptions, 59% of infections would be transmitted when no symptoms are present but could range (from) 51%-70% if the fraction of asymptomatic infections were 24%-30% and peak infectiousness ranged 4-6 days."
Why does the avocado have such huge seeds? (Science Norway, November 20, 2020)
What kind of animal is actually capable of spreading a huge avocado seed? And why does the tree Maclura pomifera make huge fruits that no one wants to eat? These are plants that are still waiting for ‘friends’ that will never return. Meet the plants that have lost their enormous partners.
NEW: Clinical Outcomes Of A COVID-19 Vaccine: Implementation Over Efficacy. (Health Affairs, November 19, 2020)
Using a mathematical simulation of vaccination, we find that factors related to implementation will contribute more to the success of vaccination programs than a vaccine’s efficacy as determined in clinical trials. The benefits of a vaccine will decline substantially in the event of manufacturing or deployment delays, significant vaccine hesitancy, or greater epidemic severity. Our findings demonstrate the urgent need for health officials to invest greater financial resources and attention to vaccine production and distribution programs, to redouble efforts to promote public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, and to encourage continued adherence to other mitigation approaches, even after a vaccine becomes available.
NEW: Why Should the Covid Vaccine Manufacturers Keep All the Profits? (37-min. podcast; The Nation, November 19, 2020)
Monday we had good news on a Covid vaccine from Moderna, created with a billion dollars of taxpayer funding. Why does Moderna get to keep all the profits?
After a long absence, the U.S. coronavirus task force returns with a plea for vigilance. (New York Times, November 19, 2020)
Dr. Deborah L. Birx made the remarks after the White House coronavirus task force met with Vice President Mike Pence — who offered a far rosier assessment as he defended the administration’s handling of a pandemic that has now claimed more than 250,000 lives in the United States, and killed nearly 2,000 Americans on Wednesday alone. The White House briefing offered a stark reminder of the toll the pandemic has taken on the nation and of vast disconnect between Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence and the federal health officials who advise them. Even as Dr. Birx implored Americans to wear masks — and stood at the lectern wearing one as she spoke — Mr. Pence greeted reporters with his face uncovered.
NEW: The Marketing Theory Which Explains Why Trump Owns the GOP. It’s the emotion, Stupid. (The Bulwark, November 19, 2020)
Trump’s stranglehold on the Republican party stems directly from the remarkable connection he’s forged with his base. This affinity stems not from Trump’s astute choice of intellectually resonant issues, but rather from the way he made his supporters feel—it’s the emotions he elicits that drive his popularity. In the Trump-supplicant arrangement, the agreement on specific issues followed the emotional connection, and not the other way around.
Americus Reed, a professor of marketing at Wharton, has a name for this type of relationship between a brand and consumers: Identity Loyalty. Reed describes identity loyalty as the “marketing utopia” where the consumer develops a deep connection with “a brand you fervently believe in, a brand you use to express yourself, and one you would recommend to friends.” Identity loyalty, Reed says, “is when a product, service, organization, or person is internalized as part of a consumer’s sense of who they are.” And that is Donald Trump’s secret sauce.
NEW: Dominion Voting Systems employees latest to face threats, harassment in wake of Trump conspiracy. (8-min. video; ABC News, November 19, 2020)
The voting machine company that has faced two weeks of false fraud claims from President Donald Trump told ABC News Wednesday their employees have been the subject of threats and online harassment -- the latest sign that Trump's freewheeling online rhetoric has real-world consequences. In the past week, the president has tweeted or retweeted more than a dozen false claims about Dominion Voting Systems used across the country to his 89 million followers, calling the company "horrible, inaccurate and anything but secure," despite no credible evidence to suggest its platforms were compromised in any way.
Despite substantial vote margins in Biden's favor (more than 5 million in the popular vote and tens of thousands or more in battleground states), a crumbling legal effort to challenge election results and no evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities, the president has yet to concede defeat. Instead, he's resorted to promulgating progressively more outlandish claims online as part of an effort to delegitimize the outcome of the election. More than once, those claims have subjected the president's targets to public attacks and derision.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs released a statement on Wednesday reacting to "ongoing and escalating threats of violence directed at her family and her office." "There are those, including the president, members of Congress and other elected officials, who are perpetuating misinformation and are encouraging others to distrust the election results in a manner that violates the oath of office they took," Hobbs wrote in a statement. "It is well past time that they stop. Their words and actions have consequences."
In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he had been the target of multiple death threats. "Other than getting you angry, it's also very disillusioning," Raffensperger said of the threats made against him, "particularly when it comes from people on my side of the aisle."
The president's online rhetoric and public remarks have been repeatedly cited in court cases over the past four years for having inspired or been associated with alleged criminal conduct. An ABC News investigation in May found 54 criminal cases where Trump's name was invoked in direct connection with acts of violence, threats of violence or allegations of assault.
Perhaps the most compelling response to the president's claims about the voting machines came late last week, with a statement from the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The agencies said they determined that "there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised" -- a direct rebuke of a claim that remains on the president's Twitter page. On Tuesday, Trump responded to his administration's move to provide Dominion a clean bill of health. In a tweet, he said he fired the head of CISA, Christopher Krebs, for what he called an inaccurate statement and once more repeated false allegations about with the election, including that votes were switched from Trump to Biden.
Dominion Voting Systems has not taken any further action against the president's false allegations, some of which have been repeated on conservative television talk shows. David Greenberger, a New York-based employment and defamation lawyer, said the company may have other options. "Operatives who publish false information about the company, causing it harm, or intentionally interfere with the company's contracts or business relationships, are opening themselves up to legal liability for causes of action like defamation and tortious interference."
David Perdue profited from a Navy contractor’s stock while overseeing the Naval fleet. (New York Times, November 19, 2020)
Senator David Perdue, one of two Republican senators from Georgia facing runoff elections in January, began making large and ultimately profitable purchases of shares in a Navy contractor in 2018 just before taking over as chair of a Senate subcommittee overseeing the Navy fleet. The disclosure, first reported Wednesday by The Daily Beast, comes as both Mr. Perdue and Georgia’s other senator, Kelly Loeffler, have been under fire for their stock trades.
Mr. Perdue, a millionaire and formerly a prolific trader of individual stocks, announced in May that he would divest from his large individual stock holdings after questions were raised about his well-timed purchases of Pfizer stock in February, after senators were briefed on the coronavirus threat.
At a debate last month, Mr. Perdue’s Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, called him a “crook” who sought to profit from the pandemic. Mr. Perdue has since twice refused to debate Mr. Ossoff.
What’s the gold standard, and why does the US benefit from a dollar that isn’t tied to the value of a glittery hunk of metal? (The Conversation, November 19, 2020)
Some economists and others, including President Donald Trump and his Federal Reserve Board of Governors nominee Judy Shelton, favor a return to the gold standard because it would impose new rules and “discipline” on a central bank they view as too powerful and whose actions they consider flawed. This is among several reasons Shelton’s nomination is controversial in the Senate, which voted against confirming her on Nov. 17 – though her Republican supporters may have an opportunity to try again.
Shelton’s support for the gold standard is just one reason her nomination has run into trouble. Others include her lack of support for an independent Federal Reserve and apparent political motivations in her policy positions. For example, economists generally favor lower interest rates when unemployment is high and the economy is faltering and higher rates when unemployment is low and the economy is strong. Shelton opposed low rates when a Democrat was in the White House and unemployment was high but embraced them under Trump, even though unemployment was low. While there is often spirited debate about monetary policy, Shelton’s ideas are so far out of the mainstream, and suspicions of the political motivations of her positions are so prominent, that several hundred prominent economists and Fed alumni have urged the Senate to reject her nomination.
The Federal Reserve is an independent agency that is vital to America’s economic stability and prosperity. Like the courts, it is important that it acts with integrity and free from political considerations. It’s equally important that it not adopt discredited policies like the gold standard, which is a very poor example of the aphorism it inspired.
NEW: The Timing of Evolutionary Transitions Suggests Intelligent Life Is Rare in the Universe. (Astrobiology, November 19, 2020)
It is unknown how abundant extraterrestrial life is, or whether such life might be complex or intelligent. On Earth, the emergence of complex intelligent life required a preceding series of evolutionary transitions such as abiogenesis, eukaryogenesis, and the evolution of sexual reproduction, multicellularity, and intelligence itself. Some of these transitions could have been extraordinarily improbable, even in conducive environments. The emergence of intelligent life late in Earth's lifetime is thought to be evidence for a handful of rare evolutionary transitions, but the timing of other evolutionary transitions in the fossil record is yet to be analyzed in a similar framework. Using a simplified Bayesian model that combines uninformative priors and the timing of evolutionary transitions, we demonstrate that expected evolutionary transition times likely exceed the lifetime of Earth, perhaps by many orders of magnitude. Our results corroborate the original argument suggested by Brandon Carter that intelligent life in the Universe is exceptionally rare, assuming that intelligent life elsewhere requires analogous evolutionary transitions. Arriving at the opposite conclusion would require exceptionally conservative priors, evidence for much earlier transitions, multiple instances of transitions, or an alternative model that can explain why evolutionary transitions took hundreds of millions of years without appealing to rare chance events. Although the model is simple, it provides an initial basis for evaluating how varying biological assumptions and fossil record data impact the probability of evolving intelligent life, and also provides a number of testable predictions, such as that some biological paradoxes will remain unresolved and that planets orbiting M dwarf stars are uninhabitable.
[The lack of attention to Climate Change on Earth indicates that it's getting rare here, as well.]
Iconic radio telescope in Puerto Rico to be demolished. (National Geographic, November 19, 2020)
After two support cables broke at Arecibo Observatory, the facility is in danger of a catastrophic collapse, prompting the National Science Foundation to decommission the telescope.
These Caribbean islands were poisoned by a carcinogenic pesticide. (BBC, November 19, 2020)
"First we were enslaved. Then we were poisoned." That's how many on Martinique see the history of their French Caribbean island that, to tourists, means sun, rum, and palm-fringed beaches. Slavery was abolished in 1848. But today the islanders are victims again - of a toxic pesticide called chlordecone that's poisoned the soil and water and been linked to unusually high rates of prostate cancer.
"They never told us it was dangerous," Ambroise Bertin says. "So people were working, because they wanted the money. We didn't have any instructions about what was, and wasn't, good. That's why a lot of people are poisoned." He's talking about chlordecone, a chemical in the form of a white powder that plantation workers were told to put under banana trees, to protect them from insects.
How to reduce Microsoft’s spying on your Office use (Office Watch, November 18, 2020)
Whenever you’re running Office or Windows, it’s sending information about how you use the software to Microsoft.  Microsoft says this is for diagnostic and development purposes only but we only have their word for that.  As noted before, any information collected by US companies may be shared with the government.
There’s a hidden registry hack which can reduce the amount of information Office apps send to Microsoft. The main privacy setting is an undocumented and unsupported registry setting: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\office\common\clienttelemetry\
Dr Aleksandar Milenkoski, working for the German Federal Office for Information Security, has produced a 29-page report on what information Microsoft Office software sends back to the company. That’s information about when and how Office apps are used.  It applies to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and the other Windows programs. An English version of the report is available from the German government.
NEW: Million MAGA March: Unravelling a Violent Viral Video (Bellingcat, November 18, 2020)
On November 14, 2020, thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump gathered in Washington D.C. to protest Joe Biden’s presumptive victory in the US Presidential election. The event was branded the Million MAGA March, with the bulk of attendees being fairly mainstream conservative Trump supporters, as noted by reporters on the ground. But more extreme elements were also present.
While the daytime rally included several skirmishes, the number of violent incidents escalated significantly after sunset. There is ample evidence of violence from pro-Trump demonstrators. One assaulted freelance journalist Talia Jane, while a Proud Boy was filmed punching a French photographer in the face. At one point, a large group of Proud Boys and Trump supporters charged at counter-protesters en masse. To be clear, there was also evidence of assaults by left-wing demonstrators, as later highlighted by Trump. But the President’s framing of events erased the violence of his own supporters and painted a misleading, one-sided account.
The World Is Never Going Back to Normal. (The Atlantic, November 18, 2020)
Other countries are learning to live without America. Biden can’t restore the pre-Trump status quo.
Here’s what happened when Rudolph Giuliani made his first appearance in federal court in nearly three decades. (Washington Post, November 18, 2020)
It was Rudolph W. Giuliani’s first appearance in federal court since the early 1990s, and by late afternoon Tuesday, it was clear that U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann was losing patience with President Trump’s personal attorney.
The president’s attorney opened his appearance in court with a broad claim: that the Trump campaign was alleging “widespread nationwide voter fraud.” But he was unable to provide evidence of any fraud, and said later under questioning from Brann that the lawsuit did not allege fraud as a matter of law and that “this is not a fraud case.”
Trump is seeking to stop the certification of Pennsylvania’s vote in the Nov. 3 election, alleging that Republican voters in the state were illegally disadvantaged because some Democratic-leaning counties allowed voters to fix errors on their mail ballots. Two voters named as co-plaintiffs with Trump’s campaign in the long-shot suit had their ballots voided and allege that they were not given a chance to correct their mistakes.
“You’re alleging that the two individual plaintiffs were denied the right to vote,” Brann said. “But at bottom, you’re asking this court to invalidate more than 6.8 million votes, thereby disenfranchising every single voter in the commonwealth. Can you tell me how this result can possibly be justified?”
In response, Giuliani said that Trump’s campaign was seeking only to throw out about 680,000 ballots cast in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, because, he said, Republican observers were not allowed to watch them being counted. But Trump’s attorneys had removed legal claims relating to that issue in an amended version of the lawsuit they filed over the weekend, the judge reminded him.
As defeats pile up, Trump tries to delay vote count in last-ditch attempt to cast doubt on Biden victory. (1-min. Fox video; Washington Post, November 18, 2020)
Since President Trump lost the 2020 election, his campaign aides have repeatedly appeared on Fox News to tease baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud.
President Trump has abandoned his plan to win reelection by disqualifying enough ballots to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s wins in key battleground states, pivoting instead to a goal that appears equally unattainable: delaying a final count long enough to cast doubt on Biden’s decisive victory. On Wednesday, Trump’s campaign wired $3 million to election officials in Wisconsin to start a recount in the state’s two largest counties. His personal lawyer, ­Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has taken over the president’s legal team, asked a federal judge to consider ordering the Republican-controlled legislature in Pennsylvania to select the state’s electors. And Trump egged on a group of GOP lawmakers in Michigan who are pushing for an audit of the vote there before it is certified.
NEW: Threats to Election Officials Piled Up as President Trump Refused to Concede. ("Whose Vote Counts?", 53-min. film; PBS, November 17, 2020)
A FRONTLINE review, based on questions to a dozen election and law enforcement agencies in five swing states, as well as local media reports, found examples of threats or acute security risks to election workers in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan, Arizona and Georgia.
“What we’re seeing this year — more than we have historically — is we have, thus far, baseless accusations of fraud and an unwillingness to acknowledge the results as being what they are,” Hovland told FRONTLINE. “You’re seeing that spin out on social media, in particular. You’re seeing it be amplified and various pieces of mis- or disinformation being thrown in — various conspiracy theories about the election administration process.”
Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said his conversations with election administrators nationwide have made it clear the frequency and severity of threats is much worse than in previous election cycles. That ramping-up matters, Norden said, because it could discourage people from wanting to take on vital election work in future cycles. “I think election workers did an extraordinary job this year,” he said, citing challenges related to COVID-19, unprecedented early voting and record-breaking turnout overall. “The amount of time they put in to make this work, and then to have this reaction, the lies and threats against them — it worries me, for what it’s going to mean to get good people to continue to participate to ensure our elections run.”
For Hovland, the increase in intimidation and harassment represents a danger to both election workers and the health of American democracy. “I’ve heard from election officials that they’re concerned about the safety of their staff,” Hovland said. “The foundation of our country and our democracy is trusting in the vote. When you see people lose faith in that, when you see people lose trust in that, it’s concerning.”
NEW: They Are What They Say They Hate. (The Bulwark, November 17, 2020)
Trump is a triggered loser who embodies every trait conservatives spent decades decrying.
He is trying to bring about an "End Of Discussion" by leading an "outrage industry that shuts down debate and manipulates voters".
He is "Triggered", "driven by hate", and "trying to silence the voters".
He is stealing America.
He’s a loser who is up to his eyeballs in bullshit.
He is everything that they ever said their "evil" opponents were. And worse. But they don’t care.
Heather Cox Richardson: It was notable today that the media was dominated not by the actions of the incoming president-elect, as one would expect after a presidential election, but by the actions of the lame-duck president, Donald Trump. (Letters From An American, November 17, 2020)
Biden approaches 80 million votes in historic victory. (Los Angeles Times, November 17, 2020)
With more than 155 million votes counted and California and New York still counting, turnout stands at 65% of all eligible voters, the highest since 1908, according to data from the Associated Press and the U.S. Elections Project.
The rising Biden tally and his popular vote lead — nearly 6 million votes — come as Trump has escalated his false insistence that he actually won the election, and his campaign and supporters intensify their uphill legal fight to stop or delay results from being certified, potentially nullifying the votes of Americans. “It’s just a lot of noise going on, because Donald Trump is a bull who carries his own china shop with him,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “Once the noise recedes, it’s going to be clear that Biden won a very convincing victory.”
Don't rely on a negative test result to see your family for Thanksgiving. (CNN, November 17, 2020)
It can take up to 14 days before a new infection shows up on a Covid-19 test. Before that, you can be testing negative and have no symptoms, but you could actually be harboring the virus and be able to transmit it to others.
Adopting mask mandates, some GOP governors give up the gospel of personal responsibility. (Washington Post, November 17, 2020)
The flurry of new rules after President Trump’s loss underscores the pressure he put on red-state governors to spurn experts and downplay the virus.
No Republican governor embodies the party’s tortured response to masks more than North Dakota’s Doug Burgum. Six months ago, he fought back tears as he begged residents not to stigmatize face coverings. “Dial up your empathy and your understanding,” the Republican implored at a news conference in May. He cried again last month acknowledging that his state was “caught in the middle of a covid storm.” But empathy and understanding alone have offered inadequate shelter from the storm buffeting North Dakota, which has recently suffered under the fastest-growing case count in the country. Hospitals are so overwhelmed that some are asking infected but asymptomatic workers to keep treating coronavirus patients.
Over the weekend, Burgum traded out tears for the tools of government, implementing a statewide mask mandate. Face coverings are now required inside businesses and at indoor public settings, as well as in outdoor locations where physical distancing is not realistic. Failure to comply could bring a penalty of up to $1,000, though some local authorities are already refusing to enforce the order. Burgum, a former Microsoft executive whose net worth is estimated at about $1.1 billion, was for months among the GOP governors who did not scorn masks yet shied from statewide mandates. They stressed personal responsibility even as evidence mounted that sweeping rules were associated with a slower growth rate of the virus. Burgum’s about-face is perhaps the starkest example of the broader shift underway in a handful of Republican-controlled states. Health-care workers say Burgum and other Republicans now have an opportunity to follow science rather than the whims of the White House.
An aide to Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said the longer the president refuses to accept the results of the election, the longer his shadow will be over the coronavirus response in states where he enjoys widespread support. Herbert, while once favoring local control, resorted recently to a statewide mask mandate because his “appeal to people’s basic sense of decency” was not working, the aide said, adding, “People still don’t believe in the science behind masks.” Protesters appeared at the governor’s home over the weekend to decry the measure.
Mapped: The Top Export in Every Country (Visual Capitalist, November 17, 2020)
I’m Tired of Windows, So What Next? (Ask Bob Rankin, November 17, 2020)
For a variety of reasons, many people are looking for alternatives to running Windows 10. The most common complaints center on cost, problems with forced updates, privacy concerns, ease of use, and being trapped in a Microsoft ecosystem. One may as well consider other operating systems if there's going to be a learning curve anyway. Your options include Linux, Mac OS, Android, Chrome OS, and others. Here are several alternatives to running Windows on your desktop or laptop…
US DOI Harms Environmental Protections Until the End. (Outside Online, November 17, 2020)
In its final months, Trump's Department of the Interior shows its true colors by rushing through drilling leases in Alaska and rewriting major components of the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act.
NEW: Report outlines route toward better jobs, wider prosperity. (MIT News, November 17, 2020)
MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future identifies ways to align new technologies with durable careers.
Decades of technological change have polarized the earnings of the American workforce, helping highly educated white-collar workers thrive, while hollowing out the middle class. Yet present-day advances like robots and artificial intelligence do not spell doom for middle-tier or lower-wage workers, since innovations create jobs as well. With better policies in place, more people could enjoy good careers even as new technology transforms workplaces.
That’s the conclusion of the final report from MIT’s Task Force on the Work of the Future, which summarizes over two years of research on technology and jobs. The report, “The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines,” was released today, and the task force is hosting an online conference on Wednesday, the “AI & the Future of Work Congress.”
2020 was the year that changed everything. (Maclean's/Canada, November 17, 2020)
The pandemic, political upheaval and an economic crisis have exploded truths and ideas that mere months ago seemed so fundamental they were beyond question.
14 things we thought were true before 2020: Democracy is our destiny? Not sure about that anymore. Rich countries can overcome? Doesn't seem like it. In a crisis, leaders will lead? If you're lucky. All the 'truths' 2020 has called into question...
McConnell’s First Act of Sabotage (The Atlantic, November 17, 2020)
The Senate majority leader is rushing to confirm a nominee to the Federal Reserve Board, just in time for her to cause trouble for President-elect Biden.
Georgia secretary of state says Lindsey Graham implied he should try to throw away ballots. (CNN, November 17, 2020)
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stood firm Monday on his account that Sen. Lindsey Graham had hinted that he should try to discard some ballots in Georgia, where a recount is underway after the state went for President-elect Joe Biden in the presidential election. Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also inquired if Raffensperger could discard all mail-in ballots from counties that had shown higher rates of unmatched signatures, the Republican secretary of state told the Post on Monday.
There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, and fraudulently altering a federal election vote tally is a federal crime.
Paul Krugman: Coronavirus Stockholm Syndrome (New York Times, November 17, 2020)
One of the odder twists in the terrible saga of America’s failed Covid-19 response was the way the Trump administration and many U.S. conservatives fell briefly in love with Sweden.
Yes, that Sweden, where universal health care is mostly provided directly by the government, where taxes take 44 percent of G.D.P. compared with just 24 percent here, where two-thirds of the work force is unionized. Most of the time, in other words, Sweden is an example of everything conservatives hate; its very existence is a rebuttal to their claims that low taxes and harsh treatment of the poor are essential to prosperity.
‘They’ve been following the science’: How the Covid-19 pandemic has been curtailed in the Cherokee Nation. (Stat, November 17, 2020)
While the United States flounders in its response to the coronavirus, another nation — one within our own borders — is faring much better. With a mask mandate in place since spring, free drive-through testing, hospitals well-stocked with PPE, and a small army of public health officers fully supported by their chief, the Cherokee Nation has been able to curtail its Covid-19 case and death rates even as those numbers surge in surrounding Oklahoma, where the White House coronavirus task force says spread is unyielding.
Covid: Think for Yourself, Dammit! (This Is True, November 16, 2020)
Terry: “I’m tired of the state telling me I have to wear a face diaper as a method of control. That is what is at stake here.”
Randy: "Wrong. What’s at stake here is millions of lives — with more than 1.3 million dead around the world so far. “The state” isn’t trying to control you, it's trying to control something that has evolved to kill you."
The COVID Diaries: A first-hand account of contracting the virus in Jackson Hole (Buckrail, November 16, 2020)
Written by Buckrail reporter Jacob Gore while quarantining with the virus.
It’s very true that the virus affects everyone differently. My roommate was COVID positive too and was only sick for about a day. But after what I went through, and am still experiencing, I can confidently say that no one would enjoy this feeling. I know there’s a lot of debate about wearing a mask. I know they aren’t the most comfortable and a departure from our old way of life. But I also know that if I could avoid going through these symptoms again, I would wear a hazmat suit every day if I had to.
A majority of cases spreading in Teton County are young adults, 20-something years old, hanging out in small gatherings (similar to my case). This brought to light that casually mingling between households is enough to spread the virus far and wide. The whole process has made me much more aware of how my daily brief interactions with peers can result in a positive case.
I hope this message reminds the community to be as vigilant as possible. And last but not least, I hope it encourages you to wear a mask and reconsider plans to assemble with friends and family in the weeks and months ahead.
The ransomware landscape is more crowded than you think. (ZDNet, November 16, 2020)
More than 25 Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) portals are currently renting ransomware to other criminal groups.
America's President on 60 Minutes (27-min. video; Daily Kos, November 16, 2020)
Former president Barack Obama shares the advice he would give President Trump, his thoughts on the killing of George Floyd, and what's behind the divisions in Washington and across the U.S.
NEW: Michelle Obama Calls for Smooth Transition: "Our Democracy Is So Much Bigger Than Anybody's Ego." (Newsweek, November 16, 2020)
Former first lady Michelle Obama has broken her silence on President Donald Trump's refusal to concede the election and called on his administration to begin a smooth transition of power for President-elect Joe Biden. In a post shared to her Instagram account Monday, Obama urged elected officials "to honor the electoral process and do your part to encourage a smooth transition of power."
She began by looking back on Democrat Hillary Clinton's concession in 2016, and the responsibility placed on her and former President Barack Obama to prepare the White House for a Trump administration. "This week, I've been reflecting a lot on where I was four years ago," she wrote. "Hilary Clinton had just been dealt a tough loss by a far closer margin than the one we've seen this year. I was hurt and disappointed—but the votes had been counted and Donald Trump had won. The American people had spoken. And one of the great responsibilities of the presidency is to listen when they do."
NEW: LittleSis Tracks the Political Connections and Lobbying of the Ultra-Rich and Corporations. (Democracy Labs, November 16, 2020)
Paul Krugman: Why the 2020 Election Makes It Hard to Be Optimistic About the Future (New York Times, November 16, 2020)
If we can’t face up to a pandemic, how can we avoid apocalypse?
The 2020 election is over. And the big winners were the coronavirus and, quite possibly, catastrophic climate change. OK, democracy also won, at least for now. By defeating Donald Trump, Joe Biden pulled us back from the brink of authoritarian rule.
But Trump paid less of a penalty than expected for his deadly failure to deal with Covid-19, and few down-ballot Republicans seem to have paid any penalty at all. As a headline in The Washington Post put it, “With pandemic raging, Republicans say election results validate their approach.”
And their approach, in case you missed it, has been denial and a refusal to take even the most basic, low-cost precautions — like requiring that people wear masks in public. The epidemiological consequences of this cynical irresponsibility will be ghastly. I’m not sure how many people realize just how terrible this winter is going to be.
Georgia secretary of state says fellow Republicans are pressuring him to find ways to exclude ballots. (Washington Post, November 16, 2020)
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday that he has come under increasing pressure in recent days from fellow Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who he said questioned the validity of legally cast absentee ballots, in an effort to reverse President Trump’s narrow loss in the state.
In a wide-ranging interview about the election, Raffensperger expressed exasperation over a string of baseless allegations coming from Trump and his allies about the integrity of the Georgia results, including claims that Dominion Voting Systems, the Colorado-based manufacturer of Georgia’s voting machines, is a “leftist” company with ties to Venezuela that engineered thousands of Trump votes to be left out of the count.
Professor Lawrence Tribe calls out Trump enabler Ken Starr as a BS election conspiracist live on air. (10-min. Fox News video; Daily Kos, November 16, 2020)
Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe did not mince his words on Fox News Sunday. He explained why the foundation of voter-fraud accusations are a fraud on the American people. How can it be voter fraud when the same people who voted Trump out by voting Biden in many times then chose Republicans down the ballot. Would the enabling Republicans call that fraud as well?
Ken Starr attempted to make the case one similar to Bush vs. Gore but failed miserably. He also claimed that the lawsuit process should go through since many Americans are feeling disenfranchised. He failed to point out that some Americans feel disenfranchised because Trump, his enablers, and sycophants have misinformed and lied to their supporters about mail-in ballots as suspicious voting.
Ken Starr alluded to a dangerous premise, even if said mildly. He implies that the election should be left in the courts' hands, a system packed with many incompetent Trump-appointed judges. It is the foundation of the minority rule the Republican Party is seeking, as explained here.
Lawrence Tribe had the winning message in response to Ken Starr. "What he [Ken Starr] has been saying gives new meaning to," Tribe said. "Dare I say it, BS. There is nothing in any of these lawsuits." Professor Tribe said rightly that over 160 million Americans have spoken. Enough said.
A delusion for which there is no cure (Daily Kos, November 15, 2020)
It is often hard to fathom why so many people act as if there is no pandemic ravaging the country. Why is it that in a state like South Dakota or Iowa or Nebraska, where the virus is spreading like a prairie fire, that people refuse to wear masks and appear fatalistic about the whole thing? And why is it that so many just don't believe any of it?
In South Dakota, an ER nurse offers this gripping account on Twitter of COVID patients refusing to believe the coronavirus is anything other than a hoax:
They'll say, "Joe Biden is going to ruin the USA." All while gasping for breath on 100% Vapotherm. They tell you there must be another reason they are sick. They call you names and ask why you have to wear all that “stuff” because they don’t have COViD because it’s not real. Yes. This really happens.
From this article's Comments thread: The main factor I'm seeing is the culture wars. They perceive everything as Jets vs. Sharks - "our team all the way to the end", no matter what. It's the (pretty well-known) secret to their disproportionate political clout - but also the recipe for the nation's downfall. Seeing >73M vote for the man who's robbing and killing to continue, I'm all out of smart advice to give about what to do.
And this: So many people are quite intelligent one-on-one, but when you group them up in a crowd, the intelligence level seems to drop to the lowest common denominator.  The tribalist psychology of groups is different from that of individuals.
NEW: Un-Normalizing America’s Third Wave (New York Magazine, November 15, 2020)
Over the last few months, election-preoccupied Americans have normalized what was once an unthinkable, and certainly an unconscionable, level of death and suffering. There have been a thousand deaths from the coronavirus a day, roughly speaking, producing a cumulative total that is today approaching 250,000 — more than the number of people who died in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “I just keep thinking about this epidemic — on our soil, in our country,” the Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina told me last month. “What would the government do if we had 200,000 people die from bombs being dropped on us? You know we would not be sitting idly by.”
Public policy matters, especially now at the local level — and American parents are right to be outraged that, in many parts of the country, bars and restaurants remain open for indoor business while in-person schooling is being shut down. Mask mandates are still patchwork across the country, but new ones are likely around the corner. We are also likely to see now a wave of new restrictions — probably less like the blanket shutdowns of the spring but nevertheless more meaningful intrusions into everyday life than most Americans have experienced in months. But it is also striking how much of the present guidance — from president-to-be Joe Biden, for instance, or from Obama’s CDC chief Tom Frieden — reflects social behavior rather than public policy: mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing. Those measures work to suppress the spread rather than defeat it, but at this point, for the time being, they might be the best tools we have. At the height of its summertime second wave, which produced a local peak of pandemic hysteria, the U.S. hit a rolling seven-day average of 67,000 new cases a day. It will likely be quite a while before we can drop down even to that high level.
‘A Disservice’: Ex-DHS And NSC Officials Blast Trump For Holding Up Biden’s Formal Transition. (Talking Points Memo, November 15, 2020)
Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and former national security adviser John Bolton on Sunday rebuked the Trump administration’s refusal to assist President-elect Joe Biden’s formal transition process, which they warned poses threats to national security.
Trump’s refusal to officially concede has already put a damper to Biden’s formal transition. General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy — a Trump appointee who has sole authority over whether Biden’s transition can officially move forward — has not signed the letter of “ascertainment,” which would allow Biden’s transition team to contact federal agencies or access the millions of dollars set aside for it.
With Trench Warfare Deepening, Parties Face Unsettled Electoral Map. (New York Times, November 15, 2020)
America’s two major parties had hoped the 2020 presidential election would render a decisive judgment on the country’s political trajectory. But after a race that broke records for voter turnout and campaign spending, neither Democrats nor Republicans have achieved a dominant upper hand. Instead, the election delivered a split decision, ousting President Trump but narrowing the Democratic majority in the House and perhaps preserving the Republican majority in the Senate. As Joseph R. Biden Jr. prepares to take office and preside over a closely divided government, leaders in both camps are acknowledging that voters seem to have issued not a mandate for the left or the right but a muddled plea to move on from Trump-style chaos.
With 306 electoral college votes and the most popular votes of any presidential candidate in history, Mr. Biden attained a victory that was paramount to many Democrats, who saw a second Trump term as nothing less than a threat to democracy.
Yet on the electoral landscape, both parties find themselves stretched thin and battling on new fronts, with their traditional strongholds increasingly under siege. Indeed, Democrats and Republicans are facing perhaps the most unsettled and up-for-grabs electoral map the country has seen in a generation, since the parties were still fighting over California in the late 1980s. This competition has denied either from being able to claim broad majorities and prompted a series of election cycles, which could be repeated in 2022, in which any gains Democrats make in the country’s booming cities and states are at least partly offset by growing Republican strength in rural areas.
The election also represented a continuation of this trench warfare between two parties that are increasingly defined by their activist flanks and limited to only incremental advances. Already, there are mounting signs of just how difficult it may be for either party to govern through pragmatism and compromise. With Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede the election and his talk of running again in 2024, Republicans are worried about Trumpian retribution if they break with a leader who remains the cultural and ideological lodestar of the G.O.P. base.
At the same time, Mr. Trump’s defeat this month has removed the single most important force holding the Democratic Party’s eclectic coalition together: the president himself. With his ouster, the détente that persisted throughout the year between the Democratic left and center has begun to crumble, with open sniping and blame-casting between figures like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the party’s most prominent young progressive, and Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a centrist of vital importance to Mr. Biden’s agenda in the Senate.
It remains to be seen whether either party will embrace a head-on reckoning with its own electoral vulnerabilities. Moderate Democrats have mostly just criticized the party’s left wing for having promoted stances that they believe cost them seats in Congress, while Republicans have largely remained silent on Mr. Trump’s intransigence and conspiracy-mongering.
Trump Says Biden ‘Won’ — Then Claims Race ‘Rigged’ and Refuses to Concede. (National Review, November 15, 2020)
Major networks including the Associated Press, Fox News, CNN, and NBC, projected on November 7 that Joe Biden would win the election. However, the president has claimed that Democrats engaged in widespread voter fraud and that the election was “stolen” from him. “[Biden] won because the Election was Rigged,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday morning.
The president went on to criticize the “Radical Left privately owned company, Dominion,” which sells electronic voting machines and tabulators. Media outlets including One America News and Gateway Pundit have floated allegations that the company’s equipment switched votes from Trump to Biden. The Homeland Security Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the National Association of State Election Directors have concluded that no such incident took place.
Trump Finally Admits Biden Won, But Spews More Unfounded Election Fraud Claims. (Talking Points Memo, November 15, 2020)
After more than a week of throwing a temper tantrum filled with baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and refusing to concede his loss to President-elect Joe Biden, President Trump finally threw in the towel in a Sunday morning tweet — well, sort of. In typical Trumpian fashion, the sitting POTUS fumed that Biden won only because the election was supposedly “rigged” — an unfounded claim adding to the saga of his recent baseless allegations that Democrats are conspiring to “STEAL” the election.
Major networks including the Associated Press, Fox News, CNN, and NBC, projected on November 7 that Joe Biden would win the election. However, the president has claimed that Democrats engaged in widespread voter fraud and that the election was “stolen” from him.
Federal Judge Rules That Acting DHS Chief Didn’t Have Authority To Suspend DACA. (Talking Points Memo, November 14, 2020)
A federal judge in New York ruled Saturday that Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf assumed his position unlawfully, a determination that invalidated Wolf’s suspension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields young people from deportation. “DHS failed to follow the order of succession as it was lawfully designated,” U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis wrote. “Therefore, the actions taken by purported Acting Secretaries, who were not properly in their roles according to the lawful order of succession, were taken without legal authority.”
Wolf issued a memorandum in July effectively suspending DACA, pending review by DHS. A month earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that President Donald Trump failed to follow rule-making procedures when he tried to end the program, but the justices kept a window open for him to try again.
The Thousand MAGA March, LoL (Daily Kos, November 14, 2020)
The so-called Million MAGA March in DC today, as expected, featured a few thousand attendees made up of proud boys, Nazis, conspiracy theorists and assorted creatures of the right. They came, they shouted, they cried their usual MAGA rally cries, and they got a glimpse of their dear leader, who spared a few waves from his armored motorcade at them and quickly drove off to his favorite golf place.
We know that math is not their strong point and crowd size inflation is built into their DNA, but even so, the White House’s cookie-cutter claim about the million figure seems moronic and sad; after all, there are videos and photographs. The Freedom Plaza holds about 10,000 people. But then, they know that their supporters are dumb as rocks anyways.
Thousands of mask-less Trump supporters rally in D.C., falsely claiming president won election. (Washington Post, November 14, 2020)
President Trump’s supporters had celebrated for hours on Saturday, waving their “MAGA” flags and blaring “God Bless the USA” as they gathered in Washington to falsely claim that the election had been stolen from the man they adore. After a week in which more than 750,000 Americans were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, almost none of his backers was wearing masks. Among their ranks were white nationalists, conspiracy theorists and far-right activists carrying signs demanding action that was already being taken: "Count the legal votes.” The crowd had even reveled in a personal visit from Trump, who passed by in his motorcade, smiling and waving.
But that was before the people who oppose their hero showed up and the mood shifted, growing angrier as 300 or so counter protesters delivered a message the president’s most ardent backers were unwilling to hear: The election is over. Trump lost.
On stark display in the nation’s capital were two irreconcilable versions of America, each refusing to accept what the other considered to be undeniable fact. In brief but intense clashes, activists spewed profanity and shouted threats, threw punches and launched bottles. On both sides, people were bloodied, and at least 10 were arrested, including four on gun charges.
The demonstrations were urged on by Trump, who refuses to concede to Joe Biden or allow a formal transition to begin. On Saturday morning, as the president’s devotees remained in D.C. to fight for him, he headed to Trump National in the Virginia suburbs for a round of golf.
On a day when the president’s supporters touted a vast array of falsehoods, his spokeswoman, Kayleigh McEnany, offered perhaps the most ludicrous. “AMAZING! More than one MILLION marchers for President @realDonaldTrump descend on the swamp in support. Best base in political history — we LOVE you guys!!!”, she tweeted, vastly exaggerating the crowd size.
Defense secretary sent classified memo to White House about Afghanistan before Trump fired him. (1-min. video; Washington Post, November 14, 2020)
In the run-up to the election, President Trump’s tweet saying that all U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be “home by Christmas!” raised alarm among senior U.S. officials who had been working on a more gradual withdrawal. The existing plan, tied to precarious negotiations with the Taliban insurgent group to sign a peace deal with the Afghan government, had not yielded the progress that American officials wanted. While the Pentagon was on its way to reducing the number of troops to fewer than 5,000 this month, negotiations appeared to stall and the Taliban continued to launch attacks across the country.
After consulting with senior military officers, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper sent a classified memo to the White House this month expressing concerns about additional cuts, according to two senior U.S. officials familiar with the discussion. Conditions on the ground were not yet right, Esper wrote, citing the ongoing violence, possible dangers to the remaining troops in the event of a rapid pullout, potential damage to alliances and apprehension about undercutting the negotiations.
Days after Trump lost his reelection bid, he fired Esper. Trump, refusing to concede the election, has since allowed a purge of other senior political appointees serving under Esper, with several hardened loyalists to the president taking their place.
Missing From State Plans to Distribute the Coronavirus Vaccine: Money to Do It (New York Times, November 14, 2020)
The government has sent billions to drug companies to develop a coronavirus shot but a tiny fraction of that to localities for training, record-keeping and other costs for vaccinating citizens.
Right-Wing Host about Trump: "We're held hostage by a petulant, bitter, narcissistic and delusional man." (4-min. video; Daily Kos, November 14, 2020)
Donald Trump, like a child, is pouting because he lost the election. It is as if he wants to cause pain to Americans for repudiating him. Charlie Sykes gets it right. With a pandemic flourishing and our national security being at risk, what Trump is doing is criminal negligence. America does not have the time to cater to a child-like president who needs to be coaxed to do the right thing to protect his ego and whatever is left of his mental stability. As Charlie said, we cannot be held hostage by a petulant bitter narcissistic, and delusional man.
It isn’t only the president. The blame must go to the president’s sycophants and enablers. After all, without their support, the president could fulfill none of his bad deeds.
Biden Implores Trump to Confront a Surging Pandemic. (New York Times, November 13, 2020)
President Trump broke his near-total silence on the coronavirus on Friday with an appearance in the Rose Garden in which he threatened to deny New York access to a vaccine.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. demanded on Friday that President Trump do more to confront the coronavirus infections exploding across the country, calling the federal response “woefully lacking” even as Mr. Trump broke a 10-day silence on the pandemic to threaten to withhold a vaccine from New York. In a blistering statement, Mr. Biden said that the recent surge, which is killing more than 1,000 Americans every day and has hospitalized about 70,000 in total, required a “robust and immediate federal response.” “I will not be president until next year,” Mr. Biden said. “The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now. Urgent action is needed today, now, by the current administration — starting with an acknowledgment of how serious the current situation is.”
Mr. Biden released his statement less than an hour before the president appeared in the Rose Garden at the White House, where he announced no new measures to slow the virus’s long-anticipated autumn surge, which he hardly acknowledged. Mr. Trump hailed the news from Monday that a vaccine under development by Pfizer appeared to be 90 percent effective. But he vowed not to order widespread lockdowns as long as he remained in office and threatened to withhold distribution of the vaccine to New York because Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state intended to conduct its own review of the vaccine’s approval by the federal government. But by the time broader distribution of a vaccine is underway next spring, Mr. Trump’s presidency will have long ended.
A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, responded on Twitter, saying that Mr. Trump “has failed with his pandemic response, lied to Americans about how bad it was when he knew otherwise & was fired by voters for his incompetence. @NYGovCuomo is fighting to ensure the communities hit hardest by Covid get the vaccine. Feds providing 0 resources.”
Federal resources were very much on the minds of state officials as they grappled with infection numbers shooting skyward and hospitals on the verge of being overrun. Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin, where the number of new cases reached a daily record 8,256 on Thursday, said whatever Mr. Trump said now could not make up for his refusals to wear a mask and his embrace of large public gatherings, at campaign rallies and at the White House. Jennifer Miller, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said much of the department’s response had been paid for by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act, which is set to expire Dec. 31, thanks in part to Mr. Trump’s failure to negotiate new relief despite months of wrangling with Congress.
On Friday, Dr. Slaoui told The Financial Times that Mr. Trump’s administration should share information about the program with Mr. Biden’s transition team, something that has not yet happened because Mr. Trump has refused to concede defeat. “It is a matter of life and death for thousands of people,” he told the newspaper. “The operation has always been about making vaccines and therapeutics available faster for the country and for the world.”
Mr. Biden’s statement on Friday underscored his pledge to make the pandemic his top priority when he takes office. Since claiming victory last Saturday, the president-elect has named a 13-member Covid advisory board, delivered several speeches about the topic, and repeatedly urged the public to wear masks and practice social distancing.
By contrast, since Election Day, Mr. Trump has tweeted more than 264 times, much of it falsely claiming that the election was stolen from him and only twice about the virus. There have been no public briefings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and little public guidance on the pandemic’s latest deadly surge.
To shut down or not shut down? Officials implement new coronavirus restrictions as cases skyrocket, but face angry backlash. (Washington Post, November 13, 2020)
Governors and mayors are forced again to weigh coronavirus deaths against anger and economic devastation.
More than 130 Secret Service officers are said to be infected with coronavirus or quarantining in wake of Trump’s campaign travel. (1-min. video; Washington Post, November 13, 2020)
The spread of the coronavirus — which has sidelined roughly 10 percent of the agency’s core security team — is believed to be partly linked to campaign rallies that President Trump held in the weeks before the Nov. 3 election. In all, roughly 300 Secret Service officers and agents have had to isolate or quarantine since March because they were infected or exposed to infected colleagues.
The latest outbreak comes as coronavirus cases have been rapidly rising across the nation, with more than 177,000 new cases reported Friday. The virus is having a dramatic impact on the Secret Service’s presidential security unit at the same time that growing numbers of prominent Trump campaign allies and White House officials have fallen ill in the wake of campaign events, where many attendees did not wear masks.
In a First, Astronomers Witnessed the Birth of a Supermassive Magnetar Following a Glorious Kilonova. (1-min. video; Smithsonian Magazine, November 13, 2020)
This year, astronomers witnessed a cosmic spectacle when two neutron stars—the dense remains of collapsing stars—crashed into each other billions of lightyears away. Their gargantuan collision lit up the galaxy with a flash and gave rise to a magnetar—a supermassive star with a hyper-powerful magnetic field. Astronomers have known about magnetars, but this event marks the first time they've ever witnessed one being born. Using remarkably powerful equipment, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Swift Observatory, the scientists observed a quick flash of light on May 22. The stars' collision occurred 5.47 billion years ago, and its light had just reached Earth.
Newly Unearthed Skull Reveals How Ancient Hominids Evolved to Survive a Changing Climate. (Smithsonian Magazine, November 13, 2020)
“Paranthropus robustus” evolved sturdier skulls to be able to eat new, tough vegetation. This 2-million-years-old find is the first evidence of microevolution—the changes within a population of one species over time—in early hominids.
Tech’s Bizarre Beginnings & Lucrative Pivots (infographic; Visual Capitalist, November 13, 2020)
The road to success is rarely paved, and hardly linear.
NEW: Fire concern prompts 2017-2019 Chevy Bolt EV recall, owners asked to charge to 90% for now. (Green Car Reports, November 13, 2020)
The recall includes 68,667 vehicles globally and 50,925 in the U.S. GM is still unsure of the root cause of the fires. For now, the recall remedy is effectively a band-aid—a software flash that needs to be done at the dealership that helps limit the Bolt EV’s maximum state of charge to 90%. With 2017-2019 models carrying a 239-mile EPA range rating, that potentially takes about 24 miles out of the Bolt EV’s available range.
GM has released an info page and video, walking owners through how to make sure their vehicle is set to charge to 90%—and to activate the recommended Hilltop Reserve mode. If they choose not to do this, it recommends that owners not park their car in the garage
NY Times Reveals FTI, Exxon Mobil As The Man Behind The Man Behind The Curtain. (Daily Kos, November 13, 2020)
Thirteen years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists published a report detailing the millions of dollars ExxonMobil pumped into climate denial groups, and in response, it pledged to discontinue, as of 2008, its contributions “to several public policy research groups whose positions on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion…” about environmentally responsible energy. And that year, ExxonMobil did indeed cut off some of the biggest groups, like Cato, CEI and Heartland.
But ExxonMobil never actually stopped funding disinformation, even after coming under fire for it when investigators revealed the depth of their understanding of the issue that prompted these disinformation campaigns. And they’re still at it, with hundreds of thousands given to at least eight climate denial groups in 2019.
Trump’s false claims of stolen election are unoriginal, and evoke a dangerous historical precedent. (Daily Kos, November 13, 2020)
The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote (Again) and his smirking Republican minions—Secretary Mike Pompeo, that mirthless little smile absolves you of nothing—are currently undermining our democracy by lying about a supposedly stolen election. This is a thoroughly false claim for which they have no evidence. Even Trump administration elections officials in the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, have confirmed the baselessness of the charges.
However, the promulgation of these falsehoods evokes a piece of history that loomed large in the rise of the greatest evil our world has known. I’m referring to the “stab in the back” myth that emerged on the far right in Germany after that country’s defeat and surrender at the end of World War I. According to this fantasy, the German military was not in fact vanquished: Victory on the battlefield was instead stolen away at the last moment by politicians at home—specifically socialists, democrats, and Jews—who stabbed the soldiers in the back while they were still fighting in enemy territory. The word for that myth in German is Dolchstoßlegende.
Judges rule against Trump campaign in 6 Pennsylvania cases over absentee ballots. (ABC News, November 13, 2020)
Two judges in Pennsylvania on Friday tossed a half dozen court cases the Trump campaign had brought to invalidate thousands of votes around Philadelphia, where voters carried President-elect Joe Biden to a clear win in the battleground state.
In total, the Trump campaign had sought to throw out almost 9,000 absentee ballots because their outer envelopes lack names, dates or addresses or some combination of the three that voters could have filled out.
In five related cases, Judge James Crumlish of Philadelphia County’s Court of Common Pleas said the Trump campaign couldn’t invalidate 8,329 ballots it alleged were improper. The judge ruled those ballots should be processed and counted.
In another case, the President’s campaign sought for the Montgomery County Board of Elections to throw out 592 mail-in ballots where voters hadn’t filled out their addresses on the outside envelopes. Those ballots will be counted, the second judge, Richard Haaz of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, ruled on Friday. Haaz found that state law didn’t require voters to fill out the address sections on the envelopes, and the instructions on the ballots didn’t tell voters they must fill them out. “Voters should not be disenfranchised by reasonably relying upon voting instructions provided by election officials,” Haaz wrote.
Joe Biden becomes first Democrat in 28 years to win Georgia. (CNN, November 13, 2020)
Joe Biden will win Georgia, CNN projected Friday, striking at the heart of what has been a Republican presidential stronghold for nearly three decades. The former vice president is the first Democratic nominee to triumph in Georgia since Bill Clinton did it in 1992.
Biden's victory adds 16 electoral votes to his tally, bringing him to 306 -- matching President Donald Trump's 2016 total. With CNN's projection that Trump will win North Carolina, the final tally is 306-232, a landslide for the President-elect, who flipped five states and a congressional district in Nebraska from red to blue in 2020. The symmetry provides the President with yet another bitter pill to swallow. Trump has spent years tweeting and talking up his margin of victory against Hillary Clinton -- one that has now been turned on its head in a final, national rebuke of his presidency.
Because the presidential race was so close, with Biden up by a little more than 14,000 votes, the state began an audit on Thursday morning. It is due to be completed next week. But the Trump campaign can, even if the margin is unchanged, request a subsequent hand recount.
Biden’s Education Department Will Move Fast to Reverse Betsy DeVos’s Policies. (New York Times, November 13 2020)
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has presented an education agenda that is starkly different from the Trump era, beginning with a far more cautious approach to school reopenings.
As Trump refuses to concede, his agencies awkwardly prepare what they can for a Biden transition. (ABC News, November 13, 2020)
Bulky briefing books and budgets are unopened. Office spaces dedicated to the transition sit vacant. And planning conversations between incoming and outgoing administrations have been silenced for now.
The federal agencies were required by law to prepare for a transition before the 2020 election, but the flurry of activity that would normally be taking place during a presidential transition sits on hold thanks to President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the election results. Agency officials in the Trump administration put in charge of the transition are in the awkward place of effectively twiddling their thumbs until the General Services Administration, an agency led by a Trump appointee, signs off on the election results — a process that is normally not an issue.
Once Loyal to Trump, Law Firms Pull Back From His Election Fight. (New York Times, November 13, 2020)
Law firms that have represented President Trump and his campaign are now distancing themselves from a quixotic effort by Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the election won by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, the law firm leading the Trump campaign’s efforts to challenge the presidential election results in Pennsylvania, abruptly withdrew from a federal lawsuit that it had filed on behalf of the campaign. That followed a similar move by an Arizona law firm that was representing the Republican Party as it challenged that state’s results. And on Friday, a top lawyer at Jones Day, which has represented Mr. Trump’s campaigns for more than four years, told colleagues during a video conference call that Jones Day would not get involved in additional litigation in this election.
The moves by the law firms are the latest blows to Mr. Trump’s efforts to use a barrage of litigation to challenge the integrity of the election results. Some lawyers at Porter Wright and Jones Day had become increasingly vocal about their concerns that the work their firms were doing was helping to legitimize the president’s arguments. One Porter Wright lawyer resigned in protest over the summer.
One Porter Wright partner, Jeremy A. Mercer, spoke at a Trump campaign news conference in Pennsylvania last week. Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, introduced Mr. Mercer as a volunteer election observer who had been “obstructed in a horrible way.” Mr. Mercer added, “We’re there, supposedly observing, but we can’t see.” Neither mentioned that Mr. Mercer was a lawyer at the firm representing Mr. Trump’s campaign. Reached on Friday, Mr. Mercer declined to comment.
Porter Wright’s decision was especially remarkable, because the firm stepped away from a federal lawsuit that it had filed only days earlier.
The Trump campaign reacted angrily on Friday. “Cancel Culture has finally reached the courtroom,” Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications director, said in a statement. “Leftist mobs descended upon some of the lawyers representing the president’s campaign and they buckled.” He added that Mr. Trump’s team “is undeterred” and would continue its litigation.
NEW: The Secret Correspondence Between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks (The Atlantic, November 13, 2020)
The transparency organization asked the president’s son for his cooperation—in sharing its work, in contesting the results of the election, and in arranging for Julian Assange to be Australia’s ambassador to the United States.
Susan Rice speculates on potential impact of withholding security briefings from Biden transition team. (Daily Kos, November 13, 2020)
I would suggest one reason the Trump people are denying Biden’s team access to high-level intelligence as long as they possibly can with respect to the three most predominant issues (national security, the pandemic, and the economy): There are virtually no policies put in place by the current administration to address any of these concerns in any meaningful, substantive way.
I believe that once Biden’s team does gain access to what is happening from an internal perspective, they are going to be appalled at the degree of inaction and wholesale lack of any efforts whatsoever to address these challenges. They will find instead a network of utter incompetence and indifference to planning, strategy or policy, staggering in its depth, and the Trump people know this. They will find security threats and intel festering, ignored, or shunted aside in favor of groveling to Trump’s every chimerical whim. They will find communications from our overseas allies to have shriveled into nothingness, and our intelligence services put at risk, if not wholly ignored. They will find corruption, graft, kickbacks  and politicization to have completely replaced national security policy.
They will find only token measures performed with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all of those measures redounding to the Trump family’s personal coffers and the interests of those still employed within the highest level of the administration. They will find no coherent policies, plans, or measures in place to address the economic calamity facing tens of millions of Americans, and they will find our national security apparatus on the cusp of disaster, with only half-baked plans geared less to satisfy the interests and safety of American citizens than to fulfill the wishlists of foreign adversaries.
The Trump people know this is what they are on track to leave behind for the Biden people, which is why they’re very busy right now, deleting or destroying as much information as they can. They’re trying to stave off the horror they know will ensue when Biden’s team gains access and finds out what really has—and hasn’t—been going on.
Susan Rice: Here’s How Trump’s Stalling Risks Our National Security. (New York Times, November 13, 2020)
[Susan E. Rice was the national security adviser from 2013 to 2017 and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.]
Transitions? I’ve seen a few. Since 2000, I have participated in three presidential transitions from the vantage points of both the departing and the incoming administration. Each transition I experienced was different, but what they shared was a recognition that our country’s national security is best served when both sides endeavor to have a responsible hand-off of power. Conversely, it is undermined when either side refuses to engage the other seriously.
In the week since Joe Biden’s victory became clear, President Trump and his administration have taken no steps toward starting the process of transition. The risks to our national security are mounting.
Mr. Biden and his top national security team have not been provided the daily intelligence briefings to which they are entitled. Mr. Biden’s team is not receiving classified information. The Biden-Harris agency review teams are constituted but have been denied access to every element of the executive branch. Vital exchanges of information and expertise that would help combat Covid-19 and jump-start the economy remain stalled.
While we are extremely fortunate that Mr. Biden may be the most experienced president-elect ever to take office and brings with him a deep bench of highly qualified, knowledgeable experts, the Trump administration’s continued refusal to execute a responsible transition puts our national security at risk. Without access to critical threat information, no incoming team can counter what it can’t see coming. If, today, the Trump administration is tracking potential or actual threats — for instance, Russian bounties on American soldiers, a planned terrorist attack on an embassy, a dangerously mutated coronavirus, or Iranian and North Korean provocations — but fails to share this information in a timely fashion with the Biden-Harris team, it could cost us dearly in terms of American lives. Indeed, the 9/11 Commission, which investigated the 2001 Qaeda terrorist attacks on U.S. soil that killed some 3,000 Americans, found that the truncated 2000 transition slowed the installation of key national security officials and stressed the importance of complete and thorough presidential transitions to U.S. national security.
Instead of acting in the national interest to orchestrate a responsible, democratic transition, Mr. Trump and many Republicans are spending time sowing false doubts about the legitimacy of Mr. Biden’s election. Tragically, but not surprisingly, Mr. Trump appears determined to take a final wrecking ball to our democracy and  national security on his inevitable way out the door.
NEW: Donald Trump’s shameful endgame puts national security at risk. (Rep. Adam Schiff, November 13, 2020)
The president’s rejection of the verdict of the American people is without precedent. His baseless and repeated accusations of vote rigging, fraud and cheating by Democrats are not only a direct challenge to governance here at home, they are also imperiling a pillar of American foreign policy by casting doubt on the fairness and functioning of our system of government at a time when the very idea of liberal democracy is under assault around the globe. Dictators and wannabe authoritarians will take notice, and emulate Trump, just as they have before.
More than undermining our standing abroad, Trump’s refusal to direct his administration to work with the incoming Biden team is dangerous. Trump is thus far denying his successor access to departments and agencies across the federal government and to classified briefings by our intelligence agencies. In doing so, Trump is preventing a seamless handoff during a deadly pandemic — and damaging the country’s readiness if there is a foreign policy crisis during Biden’s first few weeks in office.
Biden’s first priority must be to stop the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19. But he must also tackle a myriad of national security threats. Across the globe, from North Korea to Iran, from China to Russia to Afghanistan, and in dozens of other places, the United States faces complex challenges that will require the immediate attention of a fully briefed and informed new national security team. Instead, Trump is blocking intelligence briefings and access that the president-elect and his senior advisers will need to better understand North Korea’s missile program, the plans and intentions of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russia’s ongoing efforts to destabilize America and our allies, and more.
Trump also seems determined to exact revenge on his perceived enemies and to reward his friends. Days after his reelection loss, Trump unceremoniously fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and other senior Pentagon officials and replaced them with political actors whose only attribute is undying devotion to the president. It is still unclear why Trump made these moves other than personal pique, but the message is clear and chilling: Absolute loyalty to Donald Trump is the only relevant qualification, even when national security is at stake.
And the bloodletting might not end here. The president’s disdain for CIA Director Gina Haspel, who has vigorously opposed his efforts to declassify material related to Russian interference in the 2016 election and risk sources and methods, is well known, as is his oft-expressed dissatisfaction with FBI Director Christopher Wray. The simple truth is that Trump will never place the national interest above his personal interests; he never has and he never will. So Congress must.
Two months is plenty of time for a man who cares not a whit about the nation he leads, who reportedly disparages the men and women who serve and risk their lives as “suckers” or “losers,” to do the nation even greater harm. Now is the time for all of us in Congress, and regardless of party, to put an end to Donald Trump’s shameful endgame.
Officials say firing DHS cyber chief could make U.S. less safe as election process continues. (Washington Post, November 13, 2020)
News that Chris Krebs, the government's top election security official, could be ousted in a post-election firing rampage at the Department of Homeland Security sent shockwaves through Washington. Krebs, who has been overseeing the largest-ever operation to secure a U.S. election, has been presiding over a 24/7 war room with state and local election officials that launched on Election Day and is still operating. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director is widely credited with helping states dramatically improve their defenses against hacking and keeping the election free of foreign cyberattacks.
But Krebs, who scrupulously avoided partisan politics in an effort to gain confidence and cooperation from both Republican and Democratic election security officials, apparently drew the ire of White House officials with a rumor control page that knocked back phony claims about election fraud — including some made by the president, who is refusing to concede. He has told associates he expects to be fired.
Krebs’s deputy Bryan Ware already submitted his resignation, as CyberScoop first reported. Ware declined to comment on the terms of his departure. He told Nick: “I’m proud of the work that I did. I’m proud of what the agency accomplished and proud to have had the privilege to serve the country.”
Valerie Boyd, the top official for international affairs at DHS, also resigned under pressure. The requests came from the White House’s Presidential Personnel Office, whose 30-year-old director, John McEntee, has recently intensified efforts to purge appointees who have failed to demonstrate sufficient fealty to the president.
The rumor control page marked the closest that CISA came to criticizing the president’s frequent falsehoods about the election. The site called out as false, for example, claims that results that are announced after election night are illegitimate and that it’s common and easy for fraudsters to vote on behalf of dead people – both claims repeatedly made by Trump and his allies. Krebs regularly touted the page to reporters as one of the agency’s most important innovations, but he also scrupulously refused to link any of the fact checks to Trump directly. “It's not my job to fact check any candidate, certainly on the presidential ticket,” Krebs said during a pre-election media event. That position has become increasingly untenable as Trump's false claims continue.
Joint Statement from U.S. Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council & the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees (CISA, November 12, 2020)
The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. Right now, across the country, election officials are reviewing and double checking the entire election process prior to finalizing the result.
When states have close elections, many will recount ballots. All of the states with close results in the 2020 presidential race have paper records of each vote, allowing the ability to go back and count each ballot if necessary. This is an added benefit for security and resilience. This process allows for the identification and correction of any mistakes or errors. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.
Other security measures like pre-election testing, state certification of voting equipment, and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) certification of voting equipment help to build additional confidence in the voting systems used in 2020.
While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too. When you have questions, turn to elections officials as trusted voices as they administer elections.
White House pressuring CISA to stop debunking election nonsense. (Ars Technica, November 12, 2020)
As Donald Trump and his allies have touted unproven claims of election fraud over the last week, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and its leader, Chris Krebs, have swatted them down. CISA has set up a "Rumor Control" page that debunks common claims about the election.
Now Reuters is reporting that the agency has come under pressure from the White House to knock it off.
Biden finds support among Republicans as Trump scrambles to salvage his strategy to contest the election. (Washington Post, November 12, 2020)
Biden flips Arizona, further cementing his presidential victory. (New York Times, November 12, 2020)
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has narrowly won Arizona, capturing the state’s 11 electoral votes and strengthening his Electoral College margin as President Trump continues to make baseless attacks on the vote counts favoring Mr. Biden.
Mr. Biden, whose margin in Arizona is currently over 11,000 votes, or about 0.3 percentage points, is the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since President Bill Clinton in 1996. Four years ago, Mr. Trump won the state by 3.5 percentage points. That Arizona — the home of the late Senator John McCain and Senator Barry Goldwater, a founder of the 20th century conservative political movement and the 1964 Republican presidential nominee — was in play for Democrats at all is remarkable. Before the state voted for Mr. Clinton, the last Democrat it had supported for president was Harry S. Truman in 1948.
Mr. Biden’s win underscored a profound political shift in Arizona, a longtime Republican bastion that has lurched left in recent years, fueled by rapidly evolving demographics and a growing contingent of young Hispanic voters championing liberal policies. Last week, the Democratic challenger Mark Kelly defeated the state’s Republican senator, Martha McSally, in a special election, making Mr. Kelly and Senator Kyrsten Sinema the first pair of Democrats to represent Arizona in the Senate since the 1950s.
The Arizona victory brings Mr. Biden to 290 electoral votes, 20 more than the 270 required to take the White House.
The Trump campaign has filed a lawsuit in Arizona, alleging that poll workers in the state’s largest county, Maricopa, improperly pressured voters to enter their vote in a way that would incorrectly reject votes. On Wednesday, Arizona’s attorney general, Mark Brnovich, a Republican, told Fox News that state officials had received about 1,000 complaints about the election but had found “no evidence” of widespread voter fraud. “If indeed there was some great conspiracy, it apparently didn’t work,” he said.
Sam Alito Delivers Grievance-Laden, Ultrapartisan Speech to the Federalist Society. (Slate, November 12, 2020)
On Thursday night, Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito delivered the keynote address at this year’s all-virtual Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention. The Federalist Society, a well-funded network of conservative attorneys, has come under unusual scrutiny after Donald Trump elevated scores of its members to the federal judiciary. Its leaders insist that it is a mere debate club, a nonpartisan forum for the exchange of legal ideas. But Alito abandoned any pretense of impartiality in his speech, a grievance-laden tirade against Democrats, the progressive movement, and the United States’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Alito’s targets included COVID-related restrictions, same-sex marriage, abortion, Plan B, the contraceptive mandate, LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws, and five sitting Democratic senators.
What is Parler, and why is everyone suddenly talking about it? (Ars Technica, November 12, 2020)
Twitter's been ramping up fact-checking. Parler promises the opposite.
Hundreds of millions of Americans—and our counterparts worldwide—watched the US election and its high-drama aftermath unfold on social media over the past week or so. Most of us were using Facebook or Twitter, but in the immediate wake of Election Day, a new social media platform suddenly rocketed to the top of the app download charts: Parler. Conservative politicians, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), have been evangelizing Parler to their followers for more than a year and have been joined by right-wing media personalities. Conservatives have now redoubled their efforts to evade "censorship," as Twitter works overtime to fact-check false claims about the election.
Donald Trump has declared war on Fox News. (Daily Kos, November 12, 2020)
We’ve all heard it before, ad nauseam: Donald Trump demands loyalty. That’s not exactly right, of course. Donald Trump demands lickspittle obeisance 24/7.
"@FoxNews daytime ratings have completely collapsed. Weekend daytime even WORSE. Very sad to watch this happen, but they forgot what made them successful, what got them there. They forgot the Golden Goose. The biggest difference between the 2016 Election, and 2020, was @FoxNews!" — Donald J. Trump
Donald’s actually been whining about the network for some time now. For some reason, Trump thinks certain media outlets, by virtue of their previous deference to him, should be nothing but fawning propaganda outlets. And Fox largely is, but it occasionally does journalism as well. Which is obviously unacceptable.
Meanwhile, President Trump has told friends that, after he’s rousted from the White House, he wants to start a digital media company to clobber Fox News and undermine the conservative-friendly network. This is quintessential Trump. Demand loyalty — and demand that it go only one way. One wrong step and it’s the Tower of London for the lot of you.
Watching Trump and Fox go at it after their five-year love affair should be pretty interesting. Donald Trump is about 320 pounds of vindictiveness, with the other 40 pounds being chicken grease. So, yeah, he very well could damage the network. Let's watch.
Mike Pence stayed loyal to Trump to the end. Now the joke's on him. (Daily Kos, November 12, 2020)
Vice President Mike Pence has played a long, patient game these last four years. He has embraced Donald Trump's every white nationalist act. He has slathered Trump with praise at every possible opportunity, and has aggressively declared himself to have never seen any of Trump's buffooneries, incompetence, or crimes. He protected Trump through impeachable acts. He adopted, wholesale, Trump's notion that a worldwide pandemic was No Big Thing and led a coronavirus task force that was steadfast, absolutely steadfast, in doing nothing of note to combat it.
Pence did all of this for the usual reason: power, and the certainty that loyally holding Trump's pants up for four years as Trump rampaged around the place would inevitably lead to Pence's own nomination as Republicanism's next presidential contender.
Sucker. Now Donald Trump's contemplating running again in 2024 (if the Secret Service eventually tosses him from the building), and where does that leave Mike Pence? Screwed.
Whether he follows through with it or not, that means every Republican who has devoted themselves to Trump for the last four years now has their own presidential ambitions on hold, full stop—or they will be considered an enemy of Trump and Trump's base. Mike Pence can't run for president until Donald Trump gets out of the way, and nobody has ever, in history, been able to pry Donald Trump out of the way when Donald didn't want to go. The man is willing to kill off his own relatives out of spite; he would relish the chance to immolate Mike Pence as he did Marco Rubio.
For now, though, Trump is moping. Multiple reports suggest Trump has completely given up on his day job of being president. CNN reports that "he has thrown relatively few angry fits," which is how we judge American presidents these days, but is despondent, pouting, and weighing the conflicting advice being given to him by Uday and Qusay Trump, who want him to press his coup-like position because they crave power, and Ivanka, who wants him to pack things in while his (her) brand still has cash value to it. The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump has no interest in a lame duck agenda or any other presidenting, no matter how much his staffers jingle those keys.
The odds that Trump can successfully pull off a coup remain near zero. Eventually he is going to be pried from the building and, realistically, the only face-saving measure available to him will be to claim he will win the next election for sure. Probably. Maybe. For whatever length of time he remains unindicted.
In the meantime, take a moment and pour one out for Mike Pence. Mike Pence was a good fascist. Mike Pence protected Trump even when it was long past obvious Trump was not only incompetent at the job, but recklessly incapable of fulfilling it. Even as Trump slid into delusion after delusion, Mike Pence backed him. Even as he committed impeachable acts, Pence was by his side. Even as Trump's indifference killed a quarter million Americans, Mike Pence took to the podium to make damn sure Trump was able to do it slickly and with minimal interference.
What does Mike Pence have to show for it now? Not much. He won't be able to run for president anytime soon, that's for sure. He might be able to wrangle his way into a Celebrity Apprentice cameo, if that's what it takes to pay the bills.
Trump's eldest children split on his path forward. (CNN, November 12, 2020)
Differing approaches have emerged amongst the Trump siblings: Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are telling their father to aggressively fight to the end, echoing baseless claims that the election has been rigged and the outcome should change.
Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, meanwhile, are weighing a different political calculus. Ivanka Trump and Kushner would prefer the President concede the race as soon as next week after the Georgia recount has concluded on November 20. Ivanka Trump has offered a more calibrated message to her father, asking him whether it was worth damaging his legacy and potentially his businesses to continue his refusal to concede. She is privately realistic about the President's loss, a source told CNN, but she also knows that her entire future - now more than ever - is tied to her father's, and must be handled delicately.
NEW: Introducing “How to Fix the Internet,” a New Podcast from EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation, November 12, 2020)
Today EFF is launching How to Fix the Internet, a new podcast mini-series to examine potential solutions to six ills facing the modern digital landscape. Over the course of 6 episodes, we’ll consider how current tech policy isn’t working well for users and invite experts to join us in imagining a better future.
How did we go astray and what should we do now?  And what would our world look like if we got it right? This podcast mini-series will tackle those questions with regard to six specific topics of concern: the FISA Court, U.S. broadband access, the third-party doctrine, barriers to interoperable technology, law enforcement use of face recognition technology, and digital first sale. In each episode, we are joined by a guest to examine how the current system is failing, consider different possibilities for solutions, and imagine a better future.
We are launching the podcast with two episodes: The Secret Court Approving Secret Surveillance, featuring the Cato Institute’s specialist in surveillance legal policy Julian Sanchez; and Why Does My Internet Suck?, featuring Gigi Sohn, one of the nation’s leading advocates for open, affordable, and democratic communications networks. Future episodes will be released on Tuesdays.
We’ve also created a hub page for How to Fix the Internet. This page includes links to all of our episodes, ways to subscribe, and detailed show notes. In the show notes, we’ve included all the  books mentioned in each podcast, as well as substantial legal resources—including key opinions in the cases we talk about, briefs filed by EFF, bios of our guests, and a full transcript of every episode.
What Is a Particle? (Quanta Magazine, November 12, 2020)
It has been thought of as many things: a point-like object, an excitation of a field, a speck of pure math that has cut into reality. But never has physicists’ conception of a particle changed more than it is changing now. With any other object, the object’s properties depend on its physical makeup — ultimately, its constituent particles. But those particles’ properties derive not from constituents of their own but from mathematical patterns. As points of contact between mathematics and reality, particles straddle both worlds with an uncertain footing.
Studies hint that over-the-counter treatments could be effective against COVID-19. (Daily Kos, November 11, 2020)
Aspirin, melatonin, fluvoxamine … they may not seem like the most obvious tools to use against a virus that has proven to be so deadly. But they have the advantage of being extremely widely used and well-understood.
The antidepressant fluvoxamine is not over-the-counter; it is within a group known as “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors” (SSRIs), which have a powerful effect on inflammation.
‘Million MAGA March’ Saturday will commingle white nationalists, conspiracists, Trump fans. (Daily Kos, November 11, 2020)
[And COVID-19...]
How One Firm Drove Influence Campaigns Nationwide for Big Oil. (New York Times, November 11, 2020)
FTI, a global consulting firm, helped design, staff and run organizations and websites funded by energy companies that can appear to represent grass-roots support for fossil-fuel initiatives.
In early 2017, the Texans for Natural Gas website went live to urge voters to “thank a roughneck” and support fracking. Around the same time, the Arctic Energy Center ramped up its advocacy for drilling in Alaskan waters and in a vast Arctic wildlife refuge. The next year, the Main Street Investors Coalition warned that climate activism doesn’t help mom-and-pop investors in the stock market. All three appeared to be separate efforts to amplify local voices or speak up for regular people.
On closer look, however, the groups had something in common: They were part of a network of corporate influence campaigns designed, staffed and at times run by FTI Consulting, which had been hired by some of the largest oil and gas companies in the world to help them promote fossil fuels.
An examination of FTI’s work provides an anatomy of the oil industry’s efforts to influence public opinion in the face of increasing political pressure over climate change, an issue likely to grow in prominence, given President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s pledge to pursue bolder climate regulations. The campaigns often obscure the industry’s role, portraying pro-petroleum groups as grass-roots movements.
Why is a lame duck so busy replacing national security and military leaders with Trump loyalists? (Daily Kos, November 11, 2020)
Donald Trump didn’t just lose the election, he lost it definitively. In 2016, when AP called the race for Trump, Hillary Clinton was on the phone to him in seconds, because the margin of electoral victory was clearly beyond anything that might be addressed with a potential recount or a discrepancy in a single state. In 2020, Joe Biden’s margin of victory is many times that of Trump, even as he runs up a five million (and counting) edge in the popular vote. This is not a close election.
But not only has Trump not conceded, his party is going along with him in the pretense that there is still some question about the outcome. While a handful of the most vulnerable Republicans have acknowledged Biden’s victory, the great majority aren’t just staying silent; they are actively participating in a fraud that at the very least is damaging to the integrity and security of the nation, and at the worst is prelude to a coup. The actions that Trump is taking in replacing both military and national security leadership drive up concerns that there’s a lot more here than just a prolonged pout from a sore loser.
'Barricaded' Trump is classic counterintelligence risk: deeply in debt, angry at the U.S. government. (Daily Kos, November 11, 2020)
Trump sold off his private helicopter after losing the election, so perhaps he’s cash-short, even as he’s running another grift, claiming he’d run again in 2024. Trump unfortunately could become an even greater Russian asset than his value as a useful idiot.
There’s other shenanigans possible in the remaining 70 days, including a small-scale international military action that in itself could cause a continuing problem for a Biden administration, or simply serve as a diversion from compromising US national security.
As a practical matter, there's little that the Biden administration can do to stop Trump from blurting out national secrets. Former presidents do not sign nondisclosure agreements when they leave office. They have a right to access information from their administration, including classified records.
[Steve Breen cartoon: Trump Goes Nuclear.]
The Cybersecurity 202: Trump’s refusal to begin the transition could damage cybersecurity. (Washington Post, November 11, 2020)
The Trump administration’s refusal to concede could leave President-elect Joe Biden and his team flatfooted in responding to cyberattacks. Without a formal go-ahead from the General Services Administration to start the transition, Biden’s team won’t be able to get access to classified information about cyberthreats and how the government is addressing them. That could prove a severe handicap as the former vice president’s team prepares to take office amid a slew of threats from digital adversaries including Russia, China and Iran.  “The cyber world is eternally vulnerable and it’s very important for the new administration to be prepared to play offense and defense immediately on Jan. 20th,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (R) who served as the first leader of the Department of Homeland Security, told me.
It highlights how Trump’s refusal to concede and commit to an orderly transfer of power poses security risks to the country, experts say, even after it came through the 2020 election without any evidence of a major cyberattack. “Cyber attackers thrive on flat-footed administration transitions and delays will only shine a spotlight on the U.S. as a target, especially for espionage campaigns,” Marcus Fowler, director of strategic threats at the cybersecurity firm Darktrace and a former CIA cybersecurity official, told me.
Some Republicans, such as former House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, said Biden should begin getting classified briefings, as is tradition.
The GSA is refusing to sign paperwork that releases Biden’s $6.3 million share of nearly $10 million in transition resources.
One silver lining for security: Biden’s transition team has been given government-issued computers and iPhones for conducting secure communications, for example, and has been granted 10,000 square feet of office space in the Herbert C. Hoover Building in Washington.
But the lack of cooperation makes a transition complicated even beyond wrangling digital risks. “Our country is in the middle of twin crises: a global pandemic and a severe economic downturn. The pandemic will make any transition more complicated,” Ridge wrote in an open letter with the three other homeland security secretaries that served during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. “At this period of heightened risk for our nation, we do not have a single day to spare to begin the transition.”
The danger could increase dramatically if Trump continues to stonewall as Inauguration Day draws near.
From Obscure To Sold Out: The Story Of Four Seasons Total Landscaping In Just Four Days. (PBS, November 11, 2020)
Four Seasons Total Landscaping wants to "Make America Rake Again." Just a day after the Philadelphia family business became the unlikely backdrop for a belligerent Trump campaign press conference, its owners cashed in on the viral fame — and even crossed party lines.
On Sunday night, the company rolled out a line of T-shirts, hoodies and stickers featuring the slogans "Lawn and Order" and its riff on MAGA. On Monday, it started offering face masks as well. By Tuesday, everything had sold out. Four Seasons' pivot to apparel had clearly paid off.
It's still not entirely clear how the Trump campaign ended up holding a press conference in Northeast Philadelphia near a sex shop, a crematorium and a jail. The hoopla was kicked off Saturday morning with a Trump tweet about an event at the Philadelphia Four Seasons. That message was quickly deleted and a new tweet clarified that instead of the swanky downtown hotel, the presser would be held at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping, a business that offers services such as mulching, weed control, pruning shrubs and leaf removal, among other jobs.
At the press event, Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani claimed without evidence that Joe Biden's victory in Pennsylvania was due to voter fraud. Four Seasons Total Landscaping declined requests for comment.
By Tuesday morning, much of the Four Seasons Total Landscaping seemed back to normal, except for a small memorial to Saturday's events outside the front door — a few candles and some flowers.
Aficionados of the landscaping business now have another event to look forward to: On Nov. 29, runners can take part in an 11-mile charity run from Four Seasons Total Landscaping to the Four Seasons Hotel inside the Comcast Center.
Audio recording shows Pa. postal worker recanting ballot-tampering claim. (Washington Post, November 11, 2020)
In an interview this week with federal agents, a Pennsylvania postal worker walked back his allegation that a supervisor had tampered with mailed ballots, saying he had made “assumptions” based on overheard snippets of conversation, according to an audio recording of the interview posted online Wednesday by activists who have championed his cause.
The two-hour recording shows that Richard Hopkins recanted claims he had made in a sworn affidavit that top Republicans cited over the weekend as potential evidence of widespread election irregularities and fraud. Hopkins told federal investigators on Monday his allegations were based on fragments of conversation among co-workers in a noisy mail facility in Erie, Pa., according to the recording. When an agent from the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General asked Hopkins if he stood by his sworn statement that a supervisor “was backdating ballots” mailed after Election Day, Hopkins answered: “At this point? No.” He also agreed to sign a revised statement that undercut his earlier affidavit.
Those previous allegations had prompted Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) to call for the Justice Department to investigate. The Trump campaign also cited them in a lawsuit seeking to delay the certification of election results in Pennsylvania, part of a broad effort to challenge the presidential election results.
Hopkins surreptitiously recorded the interview on Monday, then revealed to the agents that he had done so at the end of the session, according to the recording. Project Veritas, an organization that initially aired Hopkins’s claims last week, released the recording on Wednesday, claiming that it showed he was coerced and pressured into signing a “watered down statement drafted by them using their words.” The conservative nonprofit group has sought to bolster unproven allegations of widespread voter fraud, offering a $25,000 reward for evidence of election improprieties in Pennsylvania in recent days and promoting fundraising efforts for Hopkins.
No Self-Respecting Lawyer Should Touch Trump’s Election-Fraud Claims. (The Atlantic, November 11, 2020)
Every year, incoming first-year law students are told a simple truth: You can sue anyone at any time for anything, anywhere.
That does not mean you will win. And it does not mean doing so is always consistent with a lawyer’s ethical and professional obligations. Some of the lawyers at the firms handling the litigation work for President Donald Trump’s campaign or related Republican Party organizations are now raising concerns internally about the legitimacy and purpose of the legal claims they are currently being asked to advance. These concerns have merit: Lawyers have ongoing obligations to adhere to the ethical requirements of the state bars through which they are licensed, as well as the relevant rules of the court(s) before which they are practicing. Trump may not have to worry about keeping a job after January 20, 2021, but the lawyers doing his bidding at the moment certainly do.
The wave of quixotic lawsuits flying out of Trump’s legal team is stretching the boundaries of anything remotely resembling a coherent and evidence-based approach to litigation. In the mere eight days since Election Day, the Trump campaign has filed at least 10 different lawsuits in at least five different states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada). Some of these are run-of-the-mill lawsuits fighting over minor issues, but several directly allege fraud, and a few include documentation claiming to prove the existence of that fraud.
Rule 3.1 of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct—upon which most state bars rely at least in part—stipulates that a lawyer shall not bring an action unless a basis exists in law and fact for doing so. This rule implies that lawyers must do due diligence to inform themselves of the facts of the case and reasonably determine that a good-faith argument can be made in defense of the client’s legal claim. Rule 11(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure—many of which are designed to serve as “gatekeepers” against frivolous lawsuits—requires lawyers to ensure that their arguments are not frivolous, and that factual contentions either have or are reasonably likely to have evidentiary support. Although the courts do not often exercise their discretion to enforce it, Rule 11(c) provides judges with the authority to impose sanctions against lawyers who have violated Rule 11(b).
These due-diligence obligations are of particular importance in the cases Trump and his team are now litigating. Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules identifies certain “special matters” that must be pled with greater specificity and are thus subject to what courts call “heightened scrutiny.” One of these matters is fraud: “In alleging fraud or mistake, a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake” (italics added). More than one court has held that the “heightened scrutiny” Rule 9(b) requires also applies to claims of election fraud.
But what does “with particularity” actually mean? In simple terms, a plaintiff alleging fraud must describe the “who, what, when, where, and how” of the alleged fraud. Vague allegations of misconduct—especially those based on hearsay (governed under Federal Rule of Evidence 802)—will often meet their end against the edge of Rule 9(b)’s blade. And it looks like the Trump team’s lawsuits are not faring any better.
We can assume that Trump’s lawyers are not incompetent, which leads to the question: If they know these lawsuits are unlikely to stick, why are they filing them? The ethical dilemma confronting these lawyers is greater than merely making their billable-hours quota and continuing their advancement in their firms. The deeper they venture down the Trump conspiracy rabbit hole, armed with nothing more than futile lawsuits premised on flimsy evidentiary or legal bases, the more their professional reputations and law licenses are at risk.
This was a stinging lesson for Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who went to jail for committing campaign-finance felonies to protect his client in the days leading up to the 2016 election. Cohen’s current predicament, and the seemingly incremental steps he took to arrive there, serves as a perfect example of a lawyer crossing the line and not knowing when to refuse a client’s demands. Even the most zealous advocate for a client should not violate ethical or legal obligations merely to advance a client’s interests.
Biden’s vote lead hits 5 million. Trump’s loss shifts from ‘spanking’ to ‘shellacking’ – official. (Daily Kos, November 11, 2020)
76,983,892 Americans who voted for Joe Biden as the 46th president have had their votes counted by early Wednesday US time, compared with just 71,915,939 for Donald Trump. That is a lead in the popular vote of more than five million. This is now a certified shellacking.
Several million more votes are yet to be added with just 69 per cent of votes tallied so far in Alaska, only 80 per cent in New York, 87 per cent in New Jersey and 92 per cent in California. Steadily over the days since last week’s vote, Biden’s lead has increased. This is not a close election. Frustratingly slow, yes. But close, no.
The Times Called Officials in Every State: No Evidence of Voter Fraud. (New York Times, November 10, 2020)
The president and his allies have baselessly claimed that rampant voter fraud stole victory from him. Officials contacted by The Times said that there were no irregularities that affected the outcome.
Over the last several days, the president, members of his administration, congressional Republicans and right wing allies have put forth the false claim that the election was stolen from Mr. Trump and have refused to accept results that showed Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the winner.
But top election officials across the country said in interviews and statements that the process had been a remarkable success despite record turnout and the complications of a dangerous pandemic. “There’s a great human capacity for inventing things that aren’t true about elections,” said Frank LaRose, a Republican who serves as Ohio’s secretary of state. “The conspiracy theories and rumors and all those things run rampant. For some reason, elections breed that type of mythology.”
Perhaps none of the Trump campaign’s claims received more attention than an allegation made over the weekend in Pennsylvania by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. On Saturday, Mr. Giuliani held a news conference in the parking lot of a Philadelphia landscaping company and claimed that the election in the city had been rife with fraud.
The office of the state’s top law enforcement official said that there was no evidence to support Mr. Giuliani’s claims, and that the election in the state was fair and secure. “Many of the claims against the commonwealth have already been dismissed, and repeating these false attacks is reckless,” said Jacklin Rhoads, a spokeswoman for Josh Shapiro, a Democrat who is Pennsylvania’s attorney general. “No active lawsuit even alleges, and no evidence presented so far has shown, widespread problems.”
What emerged in The Times’s reporting was how, beyond the president, Republicans in many states were engaged in a widespread effort to delegitimize the nation’s voting system. Some Republicans have even turned to lashing members of their own party who, in their eyes, did not show sufficient dedication to rooting out fraud. In Georgia, where Mr. Biden is leading, the two Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both of whom are in a runoff to gain re-election, have called for the resignation of the Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. “The secretary of state has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections,” the senators said in a statement.
In Washington, the losing Republican candidate for governor, Loren Culp, has disputed the Republican secretary of state’s determination that the election there was free of fraud. The secretary of state, Kim Wyman, has in turn challenged Mr. Culp, trailing by roughly 14 percentage points in the results, to produce evidence. “It’s just throwing grass at the fence at this point,” she said in an interview, “to see what sticks.”
The tension over voting has been most palpable in Georgia. The Trump campaign and the two Republican senators have complained about transparency, which Mr. Raffensperger, the secretary of state, called “laughable.” “We were literally putting releases of results up at a minimum hourly,” he said in a statement. “I and my office have been holding daily or twice-daily briefings for the press to walk them through all the numbers. So that particular charge is laughable.” He added that while there were likely small instances of fraud, he did not expect it to be significant enough to affect the outcome.
The absence of any major findings of fraud or irregularities, and the willingness of even Republican election officials to attest to smooth operations, have also undercut Mr. Trump’s legal efforts.
In Michigan, the Trump campaign has sued, saying that their poll watchers were not given access to properly observe ballot counting in Detroit. But election officials in the city deny that, saying there were dozens of poll watchers from both campaigns inside the main counting center there. Last week, a judge denied a Trump campaign bid to halt counting based on complaints about observers, dismissing key evidence as “vague” and as “hearsay.”
The accusations of fraud from the president and his allies were noticeably absent from states where Mr. Trump and his fellow Republicans did well.
TikTok says the Trump administration has forgotten about trying to ban it, would like to know what’s up. (The Verge, November 10, 2020)
The deadline to sell US assets expires this week.
[But this week, Trump is busy fighting Fox News, instead.]
Oil field operations likely triggered earthquakes in California a few miles from the San Andreas Fault. (The Conversation, November 10, 2020)
The way companies drill for oil and gas and dispose of wastewater can trigger earthquakes, at times in unexpected places. In West Texas, earthquake rates are now 30 times higher than they were in 2013. Studies have also linked earthquakes to oil field operations in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Ohio.
California was thought to be an exception, a place where oil field operations and tectonic faults apparently coexisted without much problem. Now, new research shows that the state’s natural earthquake activity may be hiding industry-induced quakes. As a seismologist, I have been investigating induced earthquakes in the U.S., Europe and Australia. Our latest study, released on Nov. 10, shows how California oil field operations are putting stress on tectonic faults in an area just a few miles from the San Andreas Fault.
At the root of the induced earthquake problem are two different types of fluid injection operations: hydraulic fracturing and wastewater disposal.
NEW: Can Joe Biden and Kamala Harris unite America after Trump? (6-min. video; Guardian News, November 10, 2020)
When Joe Biden formally takes over the presidency from Donald Trump he will face some of the greatest crises the US has faced in recent history: a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans, a devastated economy, a fractured nation and a rapidly overheating climate.
The Guardian's Lauren Gambino looks at how Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris plan to 'heal' a bitterly divided nation after four years of Trumpism - and the challenges they will face with the prospect of having to navigate these times without a majority in the Senate.
In appealing to ‘give each other a chance,’ Biden recalls the democratic charity of Abraham Lincoln. (The Conversation, November 10, 2020)
On Nov. 7, in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, Joe Biden delivered his first speech as president-elect. In declaring victory, Biden spoke directly to those who didn’t support him. “And to those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of elections myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again. To make progress. We must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans.”
I am a scholar of democracy and ethics, and Biden’s words call to mind Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address. Delivered on March 4, 1865, after his reelection and at a time when Union victory was in sight, that speech – like Biden’s – called for a new beginning after a time of extreme division. Both speeches also reflect an idea of democratic charity – that we all deserve to be heard, respected and given the benefit of the doubt.
Michael Cohen: 'I believe Trump does go to jail' (3-min. video; Daily Kos, November 10, 2020)
Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, knows the Trump crime family better than almost anyone. And, needless to say, he’s no longer impressed. After discussing his unlikely friendship with Rosie O’Donnell, who visited him in prison, Cohen told MSNBC’s Ari Melber he believes either Trump or a member of his family will eventually go to jail, too.
The ‘orchestrated’ push to discredit Georgia’s election sparks more GOP infighting. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 10, 2020)
“Republicans in disarray.” That was the three-word response from Senate Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff late Monday to the extraordinary infighting that’s divided the Georgia GOP over President Donald Trump’s effort to taint Joe Biden’s victory.
This was supposed to be the week that Republicans united behind U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue for a pair of Jan. 5 runoffs that could decide control of the Senate. Instead, the two senators leveled unfounded claims of a disastrous “embarrassment” of an election at fellow Republicans who oversaw last week’s vote - and called for the resignation of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. It was a brazen effort to appease Trump, who has falsely claimed electoral fraud despite no evidence of any wrongdoing as he and his supporters try to discredit Biden.
We’re told the president and his top allies pressured the two Republican senators to take this step, lest he tweet a negative word about them and risk divorcing them from his base ahead of the consequential runoff. And shortly after, Trump and some of his inner circle started tweeting attacks at Raffensperger, who was already unpopular with many in the Georgia GOP base long before Tuesday’s vote. WSB radio analyst Jamie Dupree called it “an orchestrated election move the likes of which I’ve never seen before."
Trump Is Fundraising For Legal Help Fighting A ‘Stolen’ Election. Nearly All The Money Is Actually Going Elsewhere. (Talking Points Memo, November 10, 2020)
The Trump campaign has been unrelenting in recent days with its all-caps, bold font, exclamation-point-ridden fundraising appeals: “THE DEMOCRATS WANT TO STEAL THIS ELECTION!” “We can’t allow the Left-wing MOB to undermine our election.” They urge supporters to make donations to President Donald Trump’s election integrity defense, to ensure he has the “resources” he needs to keep the election from being “stolen.”
In reality, there is no election defense fund; the donations are siphoned into a mix of various committees. Up until Tuesday, some of the money was being used to pay down the Trump campaign’s debt. As of Tuesday morning though, the formula was changed to funnel most of the money into Trump’s new leadership PAC called Save America. “Donors who are giving in response to this urgent fundraising message to help defend the integrity of our election are actually helping fund Trump’s post-presidential political vehicle,” Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, told TPM.
Steve Bannon Caught Running a Network of Misinformation Pages on Facebook. (Gizmodo, November 10, 2020)
Steve Bannon has been outed for his involvement in running a network of misinformation pages on Facebook. Who could have possibly seen this coming?
Facebook has talked a big game about monitoring election misinformation, and yet the independent activist network Avaaz said it had to alert the company to the pages before it removed them for coordinated inauthentic behavior. The group didn’t need an army of 35,000 moderators to figure this out, and yet Facebook consistently fails to spot the troublemakers that journalists and researchers with less funding and staff seem to keep spotting. As they say: makes you think.
Avaaz said that it alerted Facebook to the pages on Friday night. By that time, in aggregate, Avaaz says the top seven pages—Brian Kolfage, Conservative Values, The Undefeated, We Build the Wall Inc, Citizens of the American Republic, American Joe, and Trump at War—had collectively gained over 2.45 million followers. In some cases, Bannon and Brian Kolfage, co-conspirator in the “We Build the Wall, Inc.” fundraiser/alleged scam, were co-admins.
Postal worker recanted allegations of ballot tampering, officials say. (Washington Post, November 10, 2020)
A Pennsylvania postal worker whose claims have been cited by top Republicans as potential evidence of widespread voting irregularities admitted to U.S. Postal Service investigators that he fabricated the allegations, according to three officials briefed on the investigation and a statement from a House congressional committee. Richard Hopkins’s claim that a postmaster in Erie, Pa., instructed postal workers to backdate ballots mailed after Election Day was cited by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) in a letter to the Justice Department calling for a federal investigation. Attorney General William P. Barr subsequently authorized federal prosecutors to open probes into credible allegations of voting irregularities and fraud, a reversal of long-standing Justice Department policy.
[In its Comments thread/Twitter: Installing friendlies at the NSA/Pentagon, & likely soon the FBI & CIA, paves the way for destruction of evidence and the selling of secrets to pay Trump's debts. Would also explain preventing PDB and transition for Biden. It's not a coup, it's a coverup.]
NEW: Joe Biden Must Be a President for America’s Workers. (New Yorker, November 10, 2020)
Biden isn’t someone with strong ideological views or a fixed approach to economics. He sees himself as a problem solver, which, in this instance, may be an advantage. His job is to fashion a concrete economic agenda and use the coalition-building skills that he demonstrated during the campaign to get at least some of it enacted. He should begin with the pandemic and build outward from there, pushing policies designed to increase the bargaining power of workers, and to restore the link between productivity growth and wage growth. In the decades after the Second World War, this link produced a more equitable U.S. economy, but, under the impact of globalization, technological innovation, and conservative policies, it has been sundered.
NEW: Why America Needs a Reckoning with the Trump Era. (9-min. video; New Yorker Magazine, November 10, 2020)
On Saturday evening, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris gave their victory speeches, reminding Americans and the world what a political leader can sound like: thoughtful rather than ignorant, authoritative rather than arrogant, empathetic rather than callous. They promised healing and spoke of unity. The allure of normalcy was immense.
Biden is poised to take office following the most divisive and destructive Presidency in memory. Speaking to his supporters’ collective desire to leave behind the nightmare of the past four years, he promised to end “this grim era of demonization.” He stressed that, in choosing him, a majority of Americans opted to “marshal the forces of decency and the forces of fairness. To marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope”—the forces of everything good, reliable, and familiar that can help us shake the feeling of living in an unstable and unrelentingly dark reality. Biden promised to “restore the soul of America.”
We have to talk about what happened and about how we go on living in such a way that it doesn’t happen again. Of course, this process can’t succeed as long as nearly equal numbers of Americans live in two non-intersecting realities. But such a process is also our best hope for reclaiming a shared reality. When you have a deep, festering wound, you do not heal it by pretending there was no injury: you clean it out, and then you stitch it up.
NEW: How Trump Sold Failure to 70 Million People (The Atlantic, November 10, 2020)
The president convinced many voters that his response to the pandemic was not a disaster. The psychology of medical fraud is simple, timeless, and tragic.
As an ex-president, Trump could disclose the secrets he learned while in office, current and former officials fear. (Washington Post, November 10, 2020)
As president, Donald Trump selectively revealed highly classified information to attack his adversaries, gain political advantage and to impress or intimidate foreign governments, in some cases jeopardizing U.S. intelligence capabilities. As an ex-president, there’s every reason to worry he will do the same, thus posing a unique national security dilemma for the Biden administration, current and former officials and analysts said.
All presidents exit the office with valuable national secrets in their heads, including the procedures for launching nuclear weapons, intelligence-gathering capabilities — including assets deep inside foreign governments — and the development of new and advanced weapon systems.
But no new president has ever had to fear that his predecessor might expose the nation’s secrets as President-elect Joe Biden must with Trump, current and former officials said. Not only does Trump have a history of disclosures, he checks the boxes of a classic counterintelligence risk: He is deeply in debt and angry at the U.S. government, particularly what he describes as the “deep state” conspiracy that he believes tried to stop him from winning the White House in 2016 and what he falsely claims is an illegal effort to rob him of reelection.
As president, Trump has access to all classified information in the government and the authority to declassify and share any of it, for any reason. After he leaves office, he still will have access to the classified records of his administration. But the legal ability to disclose them disappears once Biden is sworn in January.
The kinds of information Trump is likely to know include special military capabilities, details about cyber weapons and espionage, the kinds of satellites the United States uses and the parameters of any covert actions that, as president, only Trump had the power to authorize. He also knows the information that came from U.S. spies and collection platforms, which could expose sources even if he did not know precisely how the information was obtained. In a now infamous Oval Office meeting in 2017, Trump told Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to the United States about highly classified information the United States had received from an ally about Islamic State threats to aviation, which jeopardized the source, according to people familiar with the incident. By bragging about intelligence capabilities, Trump put them at risk. And he has been similarly careless when trying to intimidate adversaries. In August 2019, he tweeted a detailed aerial image of an Iranian launchpad. Such photos are among the most highly guarded pieces of intelligence because they can reveal precise details about technical spying capabilities.
Experts worry that Trump’s braggadocio may lead him to spill secrets at a rally or in a tete-a-tete with a foreign adversary. One former official imagined Trump boasting about the technical features of Air Force One, or where the United States had dispatched spy drones. Trump has also demonstrated a willingness to declassify information for political advantage, pushing his senior officials to reveal documents from the 2016 probe of Russian election interference and possible links to Trump’s campaign.
Many concerned experts were quick to note that Trump reportedly paid scant attention during his presidential intelligence briefings and has never evinced a clear understanding of how the national security apparatus works. His ignorance may be the best counterweight to the risk he poses - but it has not been sufficient.
A President Biden could refuse to give Trump any intelligence briefings, which ex-presidents have received before meeting with foreign leaders or embarking on diplomatic missions at the current president’s request. “I think that tradition ends with Trump,” Priess said. “It’s based on courtesy and the idea that presidents may call on their predecessors for frank advice. I don’t see Joe Biden calling up Trump to talk about intricate national security and intelligence issues. And I don’t think Biden will send him anywhere as an emissary.” 
The last line of defense, like so many chapters in Trump’s presidency, would pose unprecedented considerations: criminal prosecution. The Espionage Act has been successfully used to convict current and former government officials who disclose information that damages U.S. national security. It has never been used against a former president. But as of Jan. 20, 2021, Trump becomes a private citizen, and the immunity he enjoys from criminal prosecution vanishes.
NEW: The Unknown Father (Damn Interesting, November 9, 2020)
Later in life, although Schicklgruber was described as pedantic, temperamental, and humorless, he was a curiously successful womanizer. He fathered multiple illegitimate children of his own from various women, and occasionally married.
Magnitude-3.6 earthquake shakes northeastern U.S. (Temblor, November 9, 2020)
A M3.6 quake shook the northeastern U.S. yesterday, including major cities such as Boston and New York. Although earthquakes of this magnitude are rare in this part of the world, they do occur.
[Yes, we felt it a LOT stronger and longer than when trucks hit a pothole out on Route 9.]
Zoom lied to users about end-to-end encryption for years, FTC says. (Ars Technica, November 9, 2020)
The settlement is supported by the FTC's Republican majority, but Democrats on the commission objected because the agreement doesn't provide compensation to users. "Today, the Federal Trade Commission has voted to propose a settlement with Zoom that follows an unfortunate FTC formula," FTC Democratic Commissioner Rohit Chopra said. "The settlement provides no help for affected users. It does nothing for small businesses that relied on Zoom's data protection claims. And it does not require Zoom to pay a dime. The Commission must change course."
Under the settlement, "Zoom is not required to offer redress, refunds, or even notice to its customers that material claims regarding the security of its services were false," Democratic Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter said. "This failure of the proposed settlement does a disservice to Zoom's customers, and substantially limits the deterrence value of the case." While the settlement imposes security obligations, Slaughter said it includes no requirements that directly protect user privacy.
Zoom is separately facing lawsuits from investors and consumers that could eventually lead to financial settlements.
Europe is adopting stricter rules on surveillance tech. (MIT Technology Review, November 9, 2020)
The goal is to make sales of technologies like spyware and facial recognition more transparent in Europe first, and then worldwide.