Jan. 2021 News

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Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative January 2021 news and views

Note: Excerpts are from the authors’ words except for subheads and occasional “Editor’s notes” such as this.

 

Jan. 2, 2021

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

Top Stories

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cnn logoCNN, Federal judge throws out Gohmert lawsuit asking Pence to interfere in Electoral College count, Dan Berman, Updated Jan. 2, 2021. A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit from Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas and several Arizona Republicans seeking to force Vice President Mike Pence to help throw the election to President Donald Trump next week when Congress meets to count the Electoral College votes.

Judge Jeremy Kernodle of the Eastern District of Texas said on Friday that Gohmert, below left, and the others lacked standing to sue.

louis gohmertGohmert’s suit was part of the desperate and extraordinary GOP attempt to overturn the presidential election using baseless and unproven allegations of mass voter fraud and charging that multiple states that President-elect Joe Biden won illegally changed their voting rules due to the pandemic. Those arguments have failed dozens of times in state and federal courts over the past two months.

Gohmert and a slate of would-be Trump electors from Arizona had said only Pence could decide what electoral votes count — a remarkable argument suggesting vice presidents can directly determine who wins a presidential election, regardless of the results.

 

lin wood djt march 2020

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump world hits panic button after Donald Trump lawyer Lin Wood violently threatens Mike Pence, Bill Palmer, Jan. 1, 2021 (11:30 p.m. EST). Donald Trump has a long and strange history of hiring new lawyers who are so profoundly deranged, they end up making Trump’s existing deranged lawyers uncomfortable. We saw this when Trump had Sidney Powell filing court cases so absurd, Rudy Giuliani arbitrarily announced that Powell didn’t work for Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerNow we’re seeing a whole new round of this lunacy, but even worse. Trump is now conspiring with attorney Lin Wood (shown above at the White House in a file photo), who tweeted his expectation today that Mike Pence, below right, will “face execution by firing squad.”

Even as we wait to see whether Wood gets arrested over this apparent threat on Pence’s life, Trump’s other election lawyer Jenna Ellis mike pence o Small– a deranged lunatic in her own right – just tweeted “To be clear: I do not support the statements from Attorney Lin Wood. I support the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution.”

When you consider that Ellis has spent the past two months trying to illegally overturn the election in Trump’s favor, it’s not clear what laws she supposedly believes in. But it is clear that she’s worried about getting caught up in the criminal hole that Lin Wood is digging for himself right now.

We have a feeling that either Ellis (shown below) or Wood will no longer be Trump’s lawyer by the end of the weekend, as they can’t both be on the same legal team after this. Then again, at this rate, Wood is about to need a lawyer of his own. Trump’s endgame is getting more pointlessly deranged by the hour.

Sidney Powell, right, and Jenna Ellis

Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, left, and Sidney Powell conduct a press conference with Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani before Trump fired Powell.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Overrides Trump’s Veto of Defense Bill, Dealing a Legislative Blow, Catie Edmondson, Jan. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The 81-to-13 vote, the last vote expected in this Congress, is the first time lawmakers have overridden one of Mr. Trump’s vetoes. It reflected the sweeping popularity of a measure that authorizes a pay raise for the nation’s military and amounted to an extraordinary reprimand delivered to Mr. Trump in the final weeks of his presidency.

Department of Defense SealThe margin surpassed the two-thirds majority needed to force enactment of the bill over Mr. Trump’s objections. The House passed the legislation on Monday, also mustering the two-thirds majority required.

Mr. Trump, making good on a monthslong series of threats, vetoed the bipartisan legislation last week, citing a shifting list of reasons including his objection to a provision directing the military to strip the names of Confederate leaders from bases. He also demanded that the bill include the repeal of a legal shield for social media companies that he has tangled with, a significant legislative change that Republicans and Democrats alike have said is irrelevant to legislation that dictates military policy.

Those objections infuriated lawmakers, who had labored for months to put together a bipartisan bill. They had prided themselves on passing the military bill each year for 60 years, and lawmakers in Mr. Trump’s own party ultimately moved to mow over his concerns and advance the legislation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is destroying the Republican Party in real time, Bill Palmer, right,Jan. 1, 2021. Donald Trump’s approval rating is down eight bill palmerpoints since he lost the election, largely due to his sore loser antics, and it’ll drop further as his antics grow more embarrassing.

bill palmer report logo headerI’d rather Trump just pack up and leave quietly. But if he insists on going out this embarrassingly, at least he’s destroying the viability of a lot of his fellow bad people on his way out. His overall drop in popularity is going to convince a lot of people in the middle not to vote Republican next time. And his ongoing attacks on the Republicans will convince a chunk of his base not to vote Republican next time. The real losers here are, deservedly, the Republicans who let Trump get this far.

If this weren’t such an embarrassment to the country, it would almost be funny watching Trump-aligned clowns like Pence, Pompeo, Hawley, Cotton, and Sasse all scrambling to figure out which side of the no-win scenario they want to be on as Trump makes his exit. They’d all love to run for president in 2024, but they’re destroying their viability just by taking any position on Trump during his downfall.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, Philippines Bars Travelers From U.S. After Florida Finds U.K. Variant, Staff reports, Jan. 1, 2021. The new, highly contagious coronavirus variant first identified in Britain has now spread to at least 32 other countries. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

  • The U.S. enters 2021 playing catch-up with its vaccine distribution, prompting sharp words from Mitt Romney.
  • France couldn’t stop the New Year’s parties. One rave drew 2,500 people who fought off the police.
  • Embracing the theme of 2020, many U.S. revelers kept their New Year’s gatherings small.
  • Chief Justice John Roberts commends the courts’ responses to the pandemic.
  • Ontario’s finance minister resigns after a jaunt in the Caribbean.
  • Black and Hispanic Americans turn to doctors who look like them for reassurance on vaccinations.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Jan.2, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

84,382,536, Deaths: 1,835,389
20,617,346, Deaths:    356,445

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Jan. 2, 2021. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Virus Shuts Down Prisons, Experts Warn of Fallout, Brendon Derr, Rebecca Griesbach and Danya Issawi, Jan. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The virus is ravaging both prisoners and staff members. But transferring inmates can spur new outbreaks.

Battered by a wave of coronavirus infections and deaths, local jails and state prison systems around the United States have resorted to a drastic strategy to keep the virus at bay: Shutting down completely and transferring their inmates elsewhere.

From California to Missouri to Pennsylvania, state and local officials say that so many guards have fallen ill with the virus and are unable to work that abruptly closing some correctional facilities is the only way to maintain community security and prisoner safety.

Experts say the fallout is easy to predict: The jails and prisons that stay open will probably become even more crowded, unsanitary and disease-ridden, and the transfers are likely to help the virus proliferate both inside and outside the walls.

“Movement of people is dangerous,” said Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, who has been tracking coronavirus cases in correctional settings. “We’ve got really good examples of overcrowding equals more infection and greater risk of outbreak. We’ve got lots of evidence that even transferring people from one facility to the next is very dangerous.“

There have been more than 480,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 2,100 deaths among inmates and guards in prisons, jails and detention centers across the nation, according to a New York Times database.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi’s likely final term as speaker is set to begin with a push for votes, Mike DeBonis, Jan. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The House speaker election, set for Sunday, will be the first high-wire act of many Nancy Pelosi will face over the next two years, which she has signaled could be her last in the House.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Washington Has Been Lucrative for Some on Biden’s Team, Kenneth P. Vogel and Eric Lipton, Jan. 2, 2021 (print ed.).  President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s choice for Treasury secretary, Janet L. Yellen, right, collected more than $7 million in speaking fees over the past two years from major corporations and Wall Street banks that have a keen interest in the financial policies she will oversee after her expected confirmation to lead the Treasury janet yellen oDepartment.

Ms. Yellen’s paid speaking appearances — which included $992,000 from the investment bank Citi for nine appearances — were among the lucrative payments from a range of Wall Street, Big Tech and corporate interests to three prominent prospective members of the incoming Biden administration.

citigroup logoThe payments, revealed in disclosure statements covering the previous two years and released on New Year’s Eve, have caused consternation among progressive activists concerned about the influence of special interests around Mr. Biden, who they see as part of a Democratic establishment that has not sufficiently embraced liberal priorities.

Mr. Biden’s choice for secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, below left, was paid nearly $1.2 million by a consulting firm he helped found, WestExec Advisors, where he advised a range of corporations including Facebook, Boeing, the private equity giant Blackstone and the asset management company Lazard.

antony blinken oMr. Biden’s choice for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, was paid $180,000 to consult for the data-mining company Palantir, which has raised liberal hackles for providing data and surveillance services to law enforcement, including the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Along with their disclosure statements, Ms. Yellen, Mr. Blinken and Ms. Haines each filed ethics agreements pledging to avoid involvement in specific matters that could affect any holding they still own, or with which they had worked in the past year, unless they receive a written waiver from ethics officials.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump Tried, but Largely Failed, to Derail America’s Top Climate Report, Christopher Flavelle, Jan. 2, 2021 (print ed.). President Trump’s administration tried to thwart the premier climate science document, one meant to steer policy for years. Scientists got in the way.

The National Climate Assessment, America’s premier contribution to climate knowledge, stands out for many reasons: Hundreds of scientists across the federal government and academia join forces to compile the best insights available on climate change. The results, released just twice a decade or so, shape years of government decisions.

Now, as the clock runs down on President Trump’s time in office, the climate assessment has gained a new distinction: It is one of the few major U.S. climate initiatives that his administration tried, yet largely failed, to undermine.

How the Trump White House attempted to put its mark on the report, and why those efforts stumbled, demonstrates the resilience of federal climate science despite the administration’s haphazard efforts to impede it. This article is based on interviews with nearly a dozen current and former government officials and others familiar with the process.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: It’s all falling apart for Donald Trump quickly now, Robert Harrington, right, Jan. 2, 2021. According to Gallup, President-elect Joseph robert harringtnn portraitRobinette Biden Junior has already topped 55% in popularity in their poll, and rising. In other words, Biden has done in two months what Donald Trump couldn’t do in four years. Donald Trump’s approval rating languishes down where it’s always been at its lower end, right around 42%. In other words, “Sleepy Joe” is kicking Donald Trump’s ass — in his sleep.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen you break those numbers down, Biden’s approval among Republicans has actually doubled. It was never that high, to be sure, but it’s gone from 6% to 12% and rising. Among Independents Biden’s approval has risen from a healthy 48% to a very respectable 55%. And among Democrats his approval has gone from 95% to 96%.

But what’s particularly fascinating is, while Trump’s approval rating among Democrats and Independents remains relatively unchanged (3% and 37% respectively), Trump’s approval among Republicans has dropped! He’s fallen from 95% to 89%. That’s a breathtaking drop.

Now, I realize this is only one poll. But my point is: Donald Trump has never seen anything like these polls, to put it in Trumpian terms.

Normally I would feel sorry for such a person as Trump under these circumstances, no matter how much I might have otherwise despised him. But I remember the Americans who are now dead who shouldn’t be because Donald Trump deliberately and with malice aforethought politically weaponized coronavirus and downplayed its seriousness. I think of the rape of the environment under his administration. I think of the racial unrest he’s provoked, the stochastic terror he’s visited with vicious tweets on patriotic Americans and their families, just for doing their jobs.

When I think of his selfishness, his arrogance, his laziness, his disloyalty, his treasons, his rapes, his sexist and racist comments, I’m glad Trump is getting his due. I’m glad Trump is finally getting hurt in the two places it hurts him the most: his wallet and his popularity.

joe biden twitterOn a more sober note, while Biden enjoys what most incoming Presidents have always enjoyed (except Trump), a bump in the polls at his election and a traditional honeymoon to come with the American people, it comes at a much-needed time.

Success against the current crisis of the coronavirus pandemic requires a hefty majority of Americans behind the president. Particularly since you can just about set your watch to the fact that as soon as Biden takes office, Republicans will start blaming Joe Biden for the three thousand daily coronavirus deaths. It won’t matter that they never — not once! — blamed Trump for the 356,445 (as I write this) Americans who have died under Trump’s criminally negligent tenure.

The fight for social and political justice never ends. Democracy is not easy, and we must remain ever hypervigilant in its defense.

 

U.S. Law, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. is becoming a protest battleground. In a polarized nation, experts say that’s unlikely to change, Marissa J. Lang, Jan. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Extremism experts who study the far-right warn that D.C. is on a path to become the next battleground in increasingly violent confrontations with left-leaning counterdemonstrators.

In the weeks since the 2020 presidential election, a coalition of loyalists of President Trump, conspiracy theory adherents, white nationalists, self-proclaimed militia members and other fringe figures have flocked to the nation’s capital to support the president’s baseless claims of election fraud. As Trump’s hopes of reversing the election results have faltered, those who falsely believe the election was stolen or fraudulent have grown increasingly angry and desperate.

Extremist groups intent on sowing chaos and division have capitalized on these feelings to recruit members and spread disinformation, experts say. In online chat groups and forums, political rage and disbelief metastasizes into calls for violence.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, A Continent Where the Dead Are Not Counted, Ruth Maclean, Jan. 2, 2021. All 54 African countries put together have registered fewer Covid deaths than France. But that doesn’t mean that people aren’t dying from the virus.

Christopher Johnson was known for two things. His enthusiastic dancing in the street, which made everyone laugh. And his habit of hurling insults at strangers, which constantly got him into trouble.

So when Mr. Johnson died in late September, likely of sepsis after a leg injury according to friends, everyone in Oluti, his lively neighborhood in Nigeria’s biggest city, heard.

Everyone, that is, except the government registrar responsible for recording deaths.

As the coronavirus pandemic has swept across the world in 2020, it has become increasingly evident that in the vast majority of countries on the African continent, most deaths are never formally registered. Reliable data on a country’s deaths and their causes are hard to come by, which means governments can miss emerging health threats — whether Ebola or the coronavirus — and often have to formulate health policy blindly.

Covid-19 is often said to have largely bypassed Africa. Some epidemiologists posit that its youthful population was less at risk; others that prior exposure to other coronaviruses gave some protection. But like other diseases, its true toll here will probably never be known, partly because elevated mortality rates cannot be used as a measure as they are elsewhere.

Stéphane Helleringer, a demographer who has worked on mortality in several African countries, said that on the African continent, “There are very, very few countries that even attempt an estimation of mortality based on death rate.”

julian assange stella morris son gabriel righ max belmarsh prison irish examiner com

Stella Moris and son Gabriel, right, and Max leave Belmarsh prison after visiting her partner and their father, Julian Assange. His two children could lose their father for the rest of their lives [Source: irishexaminer.com].

Covert Action Magazine, Opinion: Upcoming Ruling in Assange Trial Threatens More Than Just Freedom of the Press, Steve Brown, Jan. 2, 2021. Although important legal principles are at stake in the extradition trial of Julian Assange, below right in a file photo, for which a ruling will be handed down on January 4, it should not be forgotten that there are important human issues at stake as well.

One such issue is Assange’s health, which has progressively worsened under what seems to be cruel and even sadistic maltreatment by the British government, including the refusal of appropriate medical care and confining him in his cell for 23 hours a day, seven days a week.

The other is that, if the Judge’s ruling is adverse, Julian’s two children may never see their father again.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomMany stories have been written about the legal issues in Julian’s case, and the chilling effect that his extradition to the U.S.  — where he will almost certainly be imprisoned for life — would have on journalists around the world who seek to expose the lies and crimes committed by their own governments.

Most of those stories present Julian, primarily, as a symbol, a hero to his principles, and an ominous example in how far tyrannical governments and corrupt politicians will go to keep their citizens ignorant and submissive.

But Julian is more than a symbol. He is also a father, a husband-to-be (even if he may have to be married in prison) and, most importantly, a human being —o ne who, as the world watches in horror and shame, is being subjected to calculated assaults on his physical and mental health in hopes that he will quickly die and spare the British and American governments the embarrassment of having to deal with him.

For nearly three years Assange and his partner, Stella Moris, had successfully kept their personal relationship and the existence of their two children a secret. Moris only revealed it (on April 11) because “Julian’s poor physical health puts him at serious risk, like many other vulnerable people, and I don’t believe he will survive infection with coronavirus” — which had been spreading rapidly through the British prison system, especially at Belmarsh, the high security prison in which Assange is being held.

ny times logoNew York Times, Understanding of Russian Hacking Grows, So Does Alarm, David E. Sanger, Nicole Perlroth and Julian E. Barnes, Jan. 2, 2021. Those behind the widespread intrusion into government and corporate networks exploited seams in U.S. defenses and gave away nothing to American monitoring of their systems.

On Election Day, General Paul M. Nakasone, the nation’s top cyberwarrior, reported that the battle against Russian interference in the presidential campaign had posted major successes and exposed the other side’s online weapons, tools and tradecraft.

“We’ve broadened our operations and feel very good where we’re at right now,” he told journalists.

Eight weeks later, General Nakasone and other American officials responsible for cybersecurity are now consumed by what they missed for at least nine months: a hacking, now believed to have affected upward of 250 federal agencies and businesses, that Russia aimed not at the election system but at the rest of the United States government and many large American corporations.

Three weeks after the intrusion came to light, American officials are still trying to understand whether what the Russians pulled off was simply an espionage operation inside the systems of the American bureaucracy or something more sinister, inserting “backdoor” access into government agencies, major corporations, the electric grid and laboratories developing and transporting new generations of nuclear weapons.

At a minimum it has set off alarms about the vulnerability of government and private sector networks in the United States to attack and raised questions about how and why the nation’s cyberdefenses failed so spectacularly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The looming questions the Brexit deal didn’t answer, Adam Taylor, Jan. 2, 2021 (print ed.). What happens to London’s financiers? What is the future of Northern Ireland? And will Britain’s negotiations with the E.U. ever end?

Is it actually over?

United Kingdom flagMore than four years after Britain voted to leave the European Union, Brexit finally came into full force at the start of 2021. An 11th-hour trade pact, ratified by Parliament on Wednesday in a final victory for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “get Brexit done” mandate, set a new framework for relations with the bloc.

european union logo rectangleBut with the mammoth legislation pushed through with little time for deliberation, and the country focused on the surging coronavirus pandemic, the convoluted saga ended with an air of anticlimax.

Ordinary Brits were unlikely to have noticed a sharp change as the clock hit 11 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and the transition period formally ended. The deal avoided the worst-case scenario — a dreaded “no deal” Brexit and attendant border chaos — but will bring few, if any, immediate and visible benefits.

The agreement stakes out Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with the E.U. in painstaking detail across more than 1,200 pages. But despite years of negotiation, it leaves several questions unresolved. Brexit may be over, but the relationship between an independent Britain and the E.U. has just begun.

 

Jan.1, 2021

Top Headlines

 

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Virus Victims, Remedies

 

More On U.S. Presidential Transition

 

U.S. Politics, Election2

 

U.S. Media News

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

Top Stories

washington post logomike pence o SmallWashington Post, Pence seeks dismissal of lawsuit that aimed to expand his power to overturn election, John Wagner and Rosalind S. Helderman, Jan. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Vice President Pence’s filing came in response to a lawsuit from Republicans who argued that the Constitution gives him, in his role as president of Senate, sole discretion to determine whether electors put forward by the states are valid.

Vice President Pence, right, asked a judge late Thursday to reject a lawsuit that aims to expand his power to use a congressional ceremony to overturn the presidential election, arguing that he is not the right person to sue over the issue.

The filing will come as a disappointment to supporters of President Trump, who hoped that Pence would attempt to reject some of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college votes and recognize votes for Trump instead when Congress meets next week to certify the November election.

The filing came in response to a lawsuit from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) and a number of Republicans in Arizona, who argued that an 1887 law that governs how Congress certifies presidential elections is unconstitutional. The suit argues that the Constitution gives the vice president, in his role as president of the Senate, sole discretion to determine whether electors put forward by the states are valid.

josh hawley missouriSen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), left, on Dec. 30 pledged to challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory next week when Congress convenes to certify the electoral (Reuters)

It asks a federal judge to take the extraordinary step of telling Pence that he has the right, on his own, to decide that the electoral college votes cast earlier in December for Biden are invalid and to instead recognize self-appointed Trump electors who gathered in several state capitals to challenge the results.

While experts agree that the law is vague and confusing, it has never before been challenged; it has been accepted by officials in both parties for more than 130 years as establishing a process in which the voters, ultimately, choose the president. This year, 81 million voters supported Biden, earning him 306 electoral college votes to Trump’s 232.

To win a lawsuit, a plaintiff must convince a judge that the interests of the person they are suing are opposed to their own — there must be some controversy or conflict between them that could be resolved through the litigation.

In this case, a Justice Department lawyer, writing on Pence’s behalf, wrote that the interests of Gohmert and the other plaintiffs were not sufficiently opposed to Pence’s own — since they were seeking to expand his power — to justify a suit.

Justice Department logo“The Vice President is not the proper defendant to this lawsuit,” wrote Deputy Assistant Attorney General John V. Coghlan.

“The Vice President — the only defendant in this case — is ironically the very person whose power they seek to promote,” he added. “A suit to establish that the Vice President has discretion over the count, filed against the Vice President, is a walking legal contradiction.”

Instead, Coghlan wrote that Congress was the proper defendant for such a suit.

Coghlan wrote that the lawsuit has other problems, too, and that, as a result, the judge should reject it, particularly given the limited timeline before next week’s vote, without trying to weigh difficult and never-before-tested constitutional issues.

While the filing dealt with a narrow legal issue, it still offered the first indication that Pence may not plan to reinterpret his role in next week’s ceremony in an attempt to change the election results. Since November, Pence has echoed some of Trump’s unfounded complaints about the election, but he has been silent on the president’s attempts to badger Republicans into overturning the results.

 

lin wood djt march 2020

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s lawyer Lin Wood goes on violent tirade about Mike Pence, Bill Palmer, Jan. 1, 2021. Donald Trump’s election lawyer Lin Wood (shown above at the White House and at right in a Gage Skidmore photo) is now tweeting about Mike Pence facing “execution by firing squad.” So if Wood gets arrested for making threats against the sitting Vice President of the United States, will Trump pardon him for it? This Trump endgame is all so pointless and so stupid.

bill palmer report logo headerFor reference, this is the same Lin Wood who keeps urging Republican voters in Georgia to boycott next week’s Senate runoff races, on the grounds that the runoff is somehow null and void because Trump secretly won Georgia to begin with.

Wood is an obvious crackpot who’s so far gone, he arguably makes Trump’s other lawyers like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell look lin wood gage skidmorementally stable in comparison. The only reason we’re even writing about Wood is that, best anyone can tell, he’s actively representing Trump as a client while carrying on about these deranged conspiracies and pushing these violent threats.

Lin Wood should obviously be arrested immediately. But then what? Each time one of Trump’s crackpot election lawyers flames out, he manages to find an even crazier one who’s willing to spew even wackier and more irrelevant conspiracy theories. This is all obviously having no impact whatsoever on the fact that Trump lost and will be leaving office on January 20th. But this all keeps getting more dangerous for the Republican Party.

djt council to reopen america fox

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: We Came All This Way to Let Vaccines Go Bad in the Freezer? Editorial Board, Dec. 31, 2020. America did not sufficiently plan for how to get millions of people vaccinated.

It’s been two weeks since U.S. officials launched what ought to be the largest vaccination campaign in the nation’s history. So far, things are going poorly.

President Donald Trump officialHow poorly? Untold numbers of vaccine doses will expire before they can be injected into American arms, while communities around the country are reporting more corpses than their mortuaries can handle.

Operation Warp Speed has failed to come anywhere close to its original goal of vaccinating 20 million people against the coronavirus by the end of 2020. Of the 14 million vaccine doses that have been produced and delivered to hospitals and health departments across the country, just an estimated three million people have been vaccinated. The rest of the lifesaving doses, presumably, remain stored in deep freezers — where several million of them could well expire before they can be put to use.

djt looking up

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Focus as Pandemic Raged: What Would It Mean for Him? Michael D. Shear, Maggie Haberman, Noah Weiland, Sharon LaFraniere and Mark Mazzetti, Updated Jan. 1, 2021. President Trump missed his chance to show that he could rise to the moment in the final chapter of his presidency and meet the defining challenge of his tenure.

The result, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former administration officials and others, was a lose-lose situation.

President-elect Joe Biden (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).

President-elect Joe Biden confirmed by Electoral College victory on Dec. 14 (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Things Will Get Better. Seriously, Paul Krugman, right, Jan. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Reasons to be hopeful paul krugmanabout the Biden economy. The next few months will be hell in terms of politics, epidemiology and economics. But at some point in 2021 things will start getting better. And there’s good reason to believe that once the good news starts, the improvement in our condition will be much faster and continue much longer than many people expect.

OK, one thing that probably won’t get better is the political scene. Day after day, Republicans — it’s not just Donald Trump — keep demonstrating that they’re worse than you could possibly have imagined, even when you tried to take into account the fact that they’re worse than you could possibly have imagined. One of our two major political parties no longer accepts the legitimacy of elections it loses, which bodes ill for the fate of the Republic.

But on other fronts there’s a clear case for optimism.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nursing home chain amassed millions as scrutiny mounted, Debbie Cenziper, Joel Jacobs, Alice Crites and Will Englund, Jan. 1, 2021 (print ed.). California’s largest for-profit nursing home chain pays millions for rent and other services to related companies controlled by its owners. Watchdog groups are lobbying the Biden administration to force more disclosure of the industry practice. As advocacy groups call for transparency, documents help trace the flow of public money to a complex network of related companies.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Wall Street soared in 2020 as millions were hungry or out of work, Hamza Shaban and Heather Long, Jan. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Despite the ongoing public health and economic crises, the markets’ comeback has further enriched the wealthy, all while a deadly pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 340,000 Americans and left millions jobless and without enough to eat. The S&P 500 gained more than 16 percent in 2020, a strong return in a year of steep job losses and widespread pain.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Philippines Bars Travelers From U.S. After Florida Finds U.K. Variant, Staff reports, Jan. 1, 2021. The new, highly contagious coronavirus variant first identified in Britain has now spread to at least 32 other countries. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

  • The U.S. enters 2021 playing catch-up with its vaccine distribution, prompting sharp words from Mitt Romney.
  • France couldn’t stop the New Year’s parties. One rave drew 2,500 people who fought off the police.
  • Embracing the theme of 2020, many U.S. revelers kept their New Year’s gatherings small.
  • Chief Justice John Roberts commends the courts’ responses to the pandemic.
  • Ontario’s finance minister resigns after a jaunt in the Caribbean.
  • Black and Hispanic Americans turn to doctors who look like them for reassurance on vaccinations.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Jan.1, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 83,946,139, Deaths: 1,828,407
U.S. Cases:  20,451,276, Deaths:     354,262

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Jan.1, 2021. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Virus Shuts Down Prisons, Experts Warn of Fallout, Brendon Derr, Rebecca Griesbach and Danya Issawi, Jan. 1, 2021. The virus is ravaging both prisoners and staff members. But transferring inmates can spur new outbreaks.

Battered by a wave of coronavirus infections and deaths, local jails and state prison systems around the United States have resorted to a drastic strategy to keep the virus at bay: Shutting down completely and transferring their inmates elsewhere.

From California to Missouri to Pennsylvania, state and local officials say that so many guards have fallen ill with the virus and are unable to work that abruptly closing some correctional facilities is the only way to maintain community security and prisoner safety.

Experts say the fallout is easy to predict: The jails and prisons that stay open will probably become even more crowded, unsanitary and disease-ridden, and the transfers are likely to help the virus proliferate both inside and outside the walls.

“Movement of people is dangerous,” said Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, who has been tracking coronavirus cases in correctional settings. “We’ve got really good examples of overcrowding equals more infection and greater risk of outbreak. We’ve got lots of evidence that even transferring people from one facility to the next is very dangerous.“

There have been more than 480,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 2,100 deaths among inmates and guards in prisons, jails and detention centers across the nation, according to a New York Times database.

ny times logoNew York Times, Unemployment claims in the U.S. dipped but remained high last week, the Labor Department said, Nelson D. Schwartz, Jan.1, 2021 (print ed). The report published on Thursday might have been skewed by the holiday. The labor market remains in distress as the pandemic limits consumer activity across the country.

us labor department logoInitial claims for unemployment benefits dropped modestly last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The Christmas holiday likely affected filings because of the shortened workweek, a phenomenon that also occurred during Thanksgiving week. “They bounce up and down a lot during the holidays,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh.

There were 841,000 new claims for state benefits, compared with 873,000 the previous week. Another 308,000 filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded program for part-time workers, the self-employed and others ordinarily ineligible for jobless benefits.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pharmacist who ‘intentionally’ spoiled more than 500 vaccine doses is arrested, police say, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Andrea Salcedo, Jan. 1, 2021 (print ed.). A worker at a Wisconsin hospital allegedly admitted to deliberately damaging more than 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine over the weekend, sparking an investigation by the FBI, FDA and local police.

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Numbers Are Surging. Why Is New York’s Vaccine Rollout Slow? Joseph Goldstein, Jan. 1, 2021. New York City once again finds itself in a worrying position in the pandemic: Hospitalizations and positive coronavirus tests are on the rise. With a new variant of the virus elsewhere in the country, it is crucial to vaccinate New Yorkers. But so far, only about 88,000 have had the shots.

washington post logoWashington Post, Out with the old, in with the few: The pandemic has changed New Year’s Eve, Ben Guarino, Marisa Iati, Samantha Schmidt and Kim Bellware, Jan. 1, 2021 (print ed.). The coronavirus pandemic canceled, scaled down and rejiggered New Year’s celebrations across the United States, where virtually no place was safe to gather in groups.

 

More On U.S. Presidential Transition

djt handwave file

ny times logoNew York Times, Plan to Challenge Election Results Exposes Rift Among Republicans, Catie Edmondson, Jan. 1, 2021 (print ed.). After Senator Josh Hawley said he would object to the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, Senator Ben Sasse rebuked the effort as a “dangerous ploy.”

Senator Ben Sasse on Thursday condemned a drive by his Republican colleagues in Congress to challenge the results of the 2020 election, rebuking the effort as a “dangerous ploy” led by lawmakers who are “playing with fire.”

ben sasse o croppedIn a blistering open letter to his constituents, Mr. Sasse of Nebraska, left, became the first Republican senator to publicly condemn a decision by Senator Josh Hawley to challenge President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, saying it was intended to “disenfranchise millions of Americans.”

“Let’s be clear what is happening here: We have a bunch of ambitious politicians who think there’s a quick way to tap into the president’s populist base without doing any real, long-term damage,” Mr. Sasse wrote. “But they’re wrong — and this issue is bigger than anyone’s personal ambitions. Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government.”

josh hawley missouriMr. Sasse’s scathing remarks came a day after Mr. Hawley, right, Republican of Missouri, announced that he would object to Congress’s certification of the Electoral College results on Jan. 6, the final procedural step in affirming Mr. Biden’s victory.

Mr. Hawley’s move ensures that the process, usually a formality, will force up-or-down votes on the House and Senate floors, requiring lawmakers to either show loyalty to President Trump and object to the results or protect the sanctity of the electoral process.

There is almost no chance that the effort, led by Mr. Hawley in the Senate and a small group of Republican lawmakers in the House, will succeed in reversing the outcome. But Mr. Hawley’s decision to challenge the results is forcing a test of how far the Republican Party is willing to go to back Mr. Trump’s false claims.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has discouraged lawmakers from objecting to the results, and on Thursday, he told members of his conference on a private call that he considered his vote on Jan. 6 the most consequential one he would ever cast, according to two people familiar with the discussion.

Mr. McConnell did not explicitly say how he would vote, and made clear he was not trying to sway senators to vote one way or another, the people said. But he framed the vote to certify the election results as a critical moment to defend the backbone of the electoral system and invoked votes he had taken on wars and impeachment to underscore its significance.

djt maga hatEven some of Mr. Trump’s usual allies have called his efforts to cling to power unseemly.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board called it a “kamikaze mission” this week and said “Republicans should be embarrassed by Mr. Trump’s Electoral College hustle.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump has yet to accept the election results months after Republicans said he would, JM Rieger, Jan.1, 2021 (print ed). The Republican Party continues refusing to accept the election results even as state and federal investigations have found little or no voter fraud and as Trump has lost 59 of 60 election lawsuits filed by his campaign and political allies, including two filed at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosAmong the roughly three dozen congressional Republicans who have publicly acknowledged Biden’s win, many waited days or weeks after the election was called before doing so. It was a stark departure from the public congratulations that many of those same Republicans gave to then-President-elect Trump in the hours and days after the 2016 election was called.

That so many elected Republicans still refuse to accept the election’s outcome is perhaps not surprising, given how many Trump supporters falsely think that Biden did not legitimately win the election.

Mediaite,140 GOP House Members Expected to Challenge Electoral College Vote: CNN, Leia Idliby, Dec. 31, 2020. At least 140 House Republicans are reportedly planning to vote against confirming the electoral votes that would verify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, according to CNN.

republican elephant logoDespite no evidence of systemic voter fraud, two Republican members of the House told CNN that their colleagues will attempt to block the count of the Electoral College’s votes on Jan. 6, according to a report from Jake Tapper.

Although President Donald Trump has lost the election, and his House supporters have essentially no chance of changing the result, the motion will delay Biden’s confirmation by a couple of hours.

Trump and his colleagues and allies have spent almost two months working to overturn the election, making baseless claims of election fraud without any legal luck.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had reportedly warned fellow Republican senators not to attempt to challenge Biden’s victory, as he’s nervous the turmoil could lose the GOP Georgia’s two Senate seats.

 

djt i dont take responsibility at all

Strategic Culture Foundation, Investigative Commentary: Terrorism: A Menace From the Right-Wing and Allied wayne madsen screen shotFundamentalists, Wayne Madsen, right, syndicated columnist, autor of 18 books and former U.S. Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Dec. 31, 2020.

att logoOn early Christmas morning a vehicle bomb exploded in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. The target was the AT&T metropolitan area network hub “Batman” building, a 33-story structure – the tallest building in Tennessee – which resembles the fictional cape crusader’s cowl.

The bomber turned out to be a 63-year-old white man. Anthony Quinn Warren, who blew himself up in the terrorist attack, apparently subscribed to the babble from the pro-Donald Trump “Qanon” group of far-right conspiracy advocates who believe that Fifth Generation (5G) wireless communications networks are linked to both the anthony warnerCovid pandemic and electronic surveillance.

Warren, right, broadcast an evacuation message to residents of the downtown Nashville neighborhood prior to his detonating the bomb. After the explosion, police arrested another Tennessee man who broadcasted a similar message from his truck while driving on a highway in Lebanon, Tennessee. It turned out that there was no bomb in the truck. A third incident in strategic culture logoLeavenworth, Washington involved a bomb threat to the 911 emergency number. The claim, that there was a bomb in a garbage can on a downtown street, prompted a major evacuation of the town.

Such bombings and threats of bombings encompass the “accelerationist” doctrine of far-right Trump supporters who believe such attacks will hasten a civil war in the United States and the overthrow of the government.

The same belief system prompted a conspiracy by a pro-Trump group of armed terrorists to kidnap Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, seize control of the Michigan state legislature in Lansing, and execute legislators and state gretchen whitmer o smile Custompolice officers, in addition to Whitmer, right. Similar plots were uncovered by right-wing groups targeting the Democratic governors of Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Nevada, Maine, New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Illinois, Wisconsin, and North Carolina and the Republican governor of Ohio.

Law enforcement investigators believe that Warren was part of a clandestine far-right group that has been targeting 5G infrastructure targets across Tennessee and the nation. These have included several cell towers that were damaged by arson in Memphis, Tennessee in December 2019. The anti-5G activists have found a ready-made audience with other right-wing groups across the United States, including racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists (REMVEs), anti-government militias, and “sovereign citizen” lone wolves.

Trump and his supporters have managed to draw the public’s and media’s attention away from the far-right’s terrorist activities by conjuring up a fictional strawman – “antifa” or anti-fascism. Far from being an actual group, antifa is a political philosophy centering on opposition to fascism and all of its offshoots, from Nazism to Trumpism.

Just as Adolf Hitler, below, and his Nazis convinced the German people that “Communists” were behind the 1933 arson attack on the adolf hitlerReichstag – the actual culprits were the Nazis, themselves – Trump and his followers believe that antifa forces are carrying out arson and looting in American cities.

In fact, the actual perpetrators of violent attacks are the far-right: Patriot Prayer, Proud Boys, Wolverine Watchmen, Boogaloo Bois, Three Percenters, etc. The far-right or their religious fundamentalist counterparts have been behind almost every major terrorist attack in the United States since 1975. On December 29, of that year, a powerful bomb exploded in the TWA baggage claim area of LaGuardia Airport in New York. Eleven people were killed and 75 injured.

The confluence of anti-5G and anti-vaccination modern-day Luddites and the far-right is seen in groups like the neo-Nazi “Vorherrschaft Division,” Germany “Forke und Schaufel” (FaS), California’s Freedom Angels 2.0, and Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantine.

The unholy alliance of far-right and fundamentalist religious groups – be they Islamic, Christian or Jewish – has resulted in democracy coming under siege. Right-wing militia groups have occupied state legislatures in Michigan, Washington state, and Oregon. Political leaders from governors to members of the U.S. Congress and state legislators to mayors and public health officials have been threatened with physical harm.

 

Michigan thugs yell State Sen. Dayna Polehanki

Protester at Michigan’s State Capitol on April 30, 2020.

An overwhelming majority of terrorist incidents in the past several decades have been carried out by the far-right, either directly or by false flags, and religious extremists, including Islamists taking their cues from the most far-right of regimes, the feudal monarchy of Saudi Arabia and the Likud-Orthodox government of Israel.

It is beyond clear where the threat of terrorism exists today. In October 2020, the Department of Homeland Security us dhs big eagle logo4concluded in a report that “violent white supremacy was the most persistent and lethal threat” in the United States. A September 29, 2020 report from the FBI Field Office in Dallas that was marked FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY/LAW ENFORCEMENT SENSITIVE stated that the Boogaloo movement was “increasing anti-government violent rhetoric and activities . . . domestic violent extremist threat in the FBI Dallas Area of Responsibility.”

 Just as Hitler diverted suspicion for the Reichstag fire to fanciful “communists,” Trump employed the same tactic regarding far-right terrorism. Just prior to his electoral defeat, Trump lied when he stated, “Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem.”

FBI logoTrump’s own FBI director, Christopher Wray, countered Trump during a September 17, 2020 hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee. Wray testified: “What I can tell you is that within the domestic terrorism bucket category as a whole, racially-motivated violent extremism is, I think, the biggest bucket within that larger group, and within the racially-motivated violent extremists bucket, people subscribing to some kind of white supremacist-type ideology is certainly the biggest chunk of that.” As for antifa, Wray said it was “more of an ideology or a movement than an organization.”

It is past time for the far-right to be dealt with harshly for their repeated terror acts, from the Oklahoma City and Nashville bombings to mass shootings in El Paso, Pittsburgh, Dayton, Charleston, and Las Vegas.

steve bannon sofa shotAt the same time, far-right extremists should be summarily purged from law enforcement and the military.

Financiers of the extreme right, including hedge fund tycoon Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer, as well as Trump adviser Steve Bannon, right, should have their activities and finances thoroughly investigated. These must be a key agenda items on President Joe Biden’s “to do” list after he assumes the U.S. presidency.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

barack obama a promised land coverA Promised Land
By Barack Obama
Published Nov. 17, 2020
Crown, 768 Pages

Los Angeles Review of Books, An America That Could Explain: On Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land,” Reviewed by Charles Taylor, Jan 1, 2021. Barack Obama in the White House was like Elvis drafted in the Army: both were vibrant men who had to operate with extreme limitations on their public selves.

Because Elvis did not want to appear to be seeking special treatment, he was deprived of the soldier’s universal right to complain — about the food, a hard-assed sergeant, a crummy work detail, anything. In A Promised Land, the first volume of Barack Obama’s projected two-volume presidential memoirs, we are reminded again and again — and not by the author, because some part of him would consider it unseemly — that the one thing the first African American president could not do was appear to be “too Black.”

For the half of the United States who underwent a nervous breakdown at the reality of a Black man becoming president, Obama might as well have been Huey Newton holding a rifle. And lest we think that it was only the overt white supremacists Obama was up against, it also became increasingly clear as his presidency went on that many of those who supported him expected him to be a firebrand on every issue instead of the ethical pragmatist they voted for — and that they were willing to label him a sellout if he wasn’t.

The frustration of those constraints emerges stealthily in A Promised Land. You don’t read a presidential memoir for psychobiography, of course. You read it for the principal player’s firsthand account of the initiatives that they advanced, the catastrophes that arose, a reasonable toting up of accomplishments and failures. You expect behind-the-scenes glimpses and candor but few glimpses into a soul.

For much of its 701 pages of text, A Promised Land sticks to that pattern, covering the years from Obama’s initial post-law-school forays into politics to the end of his first term in the White House. As such, it can be predictable: he introduces each of the players with a brief explication of their résumé and a thumbnail sketch of their character. And it can be tedious in the style of presidential memoirs: he explains each piece of legislation in terms of its aims and outlines its passage by detailing the compromises undertaken to advance it.

With only a few exceptions, Obama does a convincing job defending his record. Detailing how he tried to abolish Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which prevented gay people from serving openly in the military, he reveals that he made something of the same mistake Bill Clinton did in establishing the rule — not confronting the military officials who opposed him and asking them what part of commander-in-chief they didn’t understand. And while I don’t doubt that halting deportations of undocumented citizens would have damaged future immigration reform by providing “ammunition to critics who claimed that Democrats weren’t willing to enforce existing immigration laws,” the immediate effect of the deportations was to sacrifice real people to possible future benefit, an instance where Obama’s pragmatism seems not just shortsighted but also cold.

If A Promised Land is merely a recitation of the facts and Obama’s predictable defense of his choices, why read it? The answer is for the shadow book lurking beneath, one that reveals itself through stray words, stray remarks, fleeting expressions of pleasure or irritation. (My favorite, on Lindsey Graham: “You know how in the spy thriller or the heist movie, you’re introduced to the crew at the beginning? Lindsey’s the guy who double-crosses everyone to save his own skin.”)

A Promised Land is actually a book about what it means to be the smartest guy in the room and Black, and thus, always having to cover up and effect the necessary public air of humility.

rick wilson screengrab

Raw Story, Rick Wilson ridicules Trump for believing GOP senators are interested in keeping him in office, Tom Boggioni, Jan. 1, 2021. Rick Wilson (shown above in a screengrab from his New Year’s Eve video) ridicules Trump for believing GOP senators are interested in keeping him in office.

In a video directed at Donald Trump and posted to Twitter on New Year’s eve, GOP strategist Rick Wilson disabused the president of any notion that the GOP lawmakers who are planning to disrupt the counting of Electoral College votes on January 6th have any interest at all in helping his campaign to remain in office.

Speaking directly to the camera, the Lincoln Project founder who has been a thorn in the president’s side, said every Republican lawmaker who is backing the president on accusations of election fraud is only in it for themselves and their political future.

“I know you’re back in the residence, you’re steaming, you’re pissed, ” Wilson said speaking to the president. “You’re hoping for some break, but you’ve discovered everyone around you is a clown or a user or a sycophant. But you know the guys that you think are going to help you next week? Have you got any idea that Josh Hawley or Tom Cotton or Rand Paul or Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz are actually going to help you?”

“Dude, you’re even less in touch with reality than I thought,” he added. “This is going to end up with them doing a little performance, a little dance on the Senate floor, but they know you’re gone. It’s over.”

“People don’t know when something is over, especially you,” he continued. “You don’t know it’s over, do you? These guys are pretending to play the game for you, but it’s really their game for 2024, because every one of those guys wants to run for president or re-election.”

Wilson went on to note that Florida’s Rubio is afraid that Ivanka Trump will run against him for his Senate seat and that he would lose, before adding, “The reality is really going to smash into you hard this week.”

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump Tried, but Largely Failed, to Derail America’s Top Climate Report, Christopher Flavelle, Jan. 1, 2021. President Trump’s administration tried to thwart the premier climate science document, one meant to steer policy for years. Scientists got in the way.

The National Climate Assessment, America’s premier contribution to climate knowledge, stands out for many reasons: Hundreds of scientists across the federal government and academia join forces to compile the best insights available on climate change. The results, released just twice a decade or so, shape years of government decisions.

Now, as the clock runs down on President Trump’s time in office, the climate assessment has gained a new distinction: It is one of the few major U.S. climate initiatives that his administration tried, yet largely failed, to undermine.

How the Trump White House attempted to put its mark on the report, and why those efforts stumbled, demonstrates the resilience of federal climate science despite the administration’s haphazard efforts to impede it. This article is based on interviews with nearly a dozen current and former government officials and others familiar with the process.

ny times logoNew York Times, Georgia Republicans Deliver Persistent Message: Fear the Democrats, Astead W. Herndon and Richard kelly loeffler o CustomFausset, Jan. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Senators Kelly Loeffler, right, and David Perdue are banking on a re-election strategy that calls more attention to what they’re against than what they support.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Why a strong early vote for Democrats in Georgia’s Senate runoffs doesn’t mean they’ll win, Lenny Bronner, Jan. 1, 2021. Based on initial early vote data, Democrats seem to be in a slightly better position. But there are a number of reasons their perceived advantage might not translate to victories on Tuesday.

In the Georgia Senate runoff elections, some of the only data we have to analyze whether Republicans or Democrats have the advantage is who’s voting early.

Early voting started Dec. 14 in the two Jan. 5 runoffs between Sen. David Perdue (R) and Jon Ossoff and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) and Raphael Warnock, which will decide control of the Senate. So far, at least 2.6 million voters have cast their ballots, which is already a turnout record for a statewide runoff in Georgia.

washington post logoWashington Post, Georgia Sen. David Perdue to quarantine after coronavirus exposure, days before closely watched runoffs, Cleve R. Wootson, Jan.1, 2021 (print ed). The runoff elections are on Tuesday, and the Republican had several campaign events scheduled for the final sprint, including a rally in Dalton, Ga., with President Trump on Monday.

david perdue headshotSen. David Perdue, right, one of the Republican candidates in the pair of Georgia runoffs that will determine the trajectory of Congress for the next two years, is quarantining after coming into close contact with someone connected to his campaign who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

rnc logoPerdue’s campaign said that he tested negative for the virus Thursday but that he and his wife would quarantine, “following his doctor’s recommendations and the CDC guidelines.” The statement did not identify the person who was diagnosed.

The runoff elections will take place Tuesday, and Perdue had several campaign events scheduled for the final sprint, including a rally in Dalton, Ga., with President Trump on Monday. Perdue’s campaign could not be immediately reached for comment with details on how long he would be absent from the campaign trail.

djt virus trump did it Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: 2020 Hindsight, Robert Harrington, right, Jan. 1, 2021. In 2005, historian David McCullough published the robert harringtnn portraitbiography of an entire year. That year, 1776, truly was a worthy subject for a book. 1776 was a year of great momentum, a year of mighty deeds and high ideals, a year when men and women struggled against terrifying odds to found a nation by forcibly separating themselves from a mighty, implacable empire.

I can think of no other year since 1776 that deserves its own biography as much as this most recent one: the year two thousand and twenty — even though two thousand and twenty was a lousy year, even though it was nothing like 1776. If anyone ever does write a biography of that year it’s going to be a real downer.

bill palmer report logo headerCome to think of it, maybe biography isn’t the right word for it. Maybe autobiography would best describe 2020, because we all lived through it. We were all there. We all saw it with our very own eyes. We all agonized our way through it with our very own hearts. And no one can tell that story better than us.

And what a year it was. If ever a year was cursed, 2020 was it.

But, when you stop to think about it, who better to preside over America’s lousiest year than America’s lousiest president?

So it seemed fitting that Donald Trump would be president during 2020. Donald Trump, the little manbaby who mean-tweets hateful messages at people when they demonstrate substandard zeal in their support for him. Donald Trump, the crude, the ungracious, the liar, the stochastic terrorist. Donald Trump, the vindictive short-fingered vulgarian, was the perfect cynic’s perfect choice to preside over that fateful, hateful year.

After all, it was Donald Trump, the game show host, who parlayed a four hundred million dollar inheritance into a billion dollar loss, who believed that thermonuclear weapons were the solution to category 5 hurricanes, who recommended injecting disinfectants as a cure for coronavirus, who said that the noise from windmills causes cancer, who stared directly into the sun during a solar eclipse, it was Donald Trump, who was America’s most terrible President during America’s most terrible time. Oh, and speaking of 1776, Trump actually believed that America had airports during the Revolutionary War.

We sat helpless as the year 2020 unfolded, beginning when we watched this evil, petty, little, vindictive man, this criminal, this murderer, this rapist, acquitted by evil, petty, little, vindictive men and women, men and women for whom right and wrong was abbreviated R and D. Political hacks who could not drop their psychotic bias for one second, not even for the good of the country, not even for the sake of sanity, not even long enough to give the monster that stood before them what he really deserved. At his impeachment trial, Senate Republicans were so sure that Donald Trump was guilty of something that they refused to call any witnesses. Sometimes justice really is blind.

republican elephant logoJust like we all knew they would, Senate Republicans acquitted the obviously guilty Donald Trump, simply because he was a Republican and for no other reason.

Adam Schiff predicted what would happen next. “He has not changed. He will not change,” said Schiff. “A man without character or ethical compass will never find his way. He has done it before and he will do it again. What are the odds if he is left in office that he will continue to try to cheat? I will tell you: 100%.”

Donald Trump complained bitterly that his impeachment trial interfered with his ability to perform his duties as president effectively. But the truth of the matter was Trump never functioned effectively as president before he was impeached, so there was absolutely no reason why he would function effectively after he was impeached.

djt golf in shape customTrump was — and remained throughout 2020 — the laziest, most ineffectual, most inept president America has ever seen.

He ignored his security briefings, ignored almost all of the brain work needed to be an effective president, almost never read anything and preferred to play golf. He largely ignored his duties as president, preferring instead to take credit for the work of others. By the time his impeachment ended, along came the coronavirus pandemic, just in time for him to ignore and minimize and disregard that too.

Trump began by dismissing coronavirus as a hoax of the Democrats to discredit him and his administration. Then he claimed it would disappear by itself, in the Spring, “just like a miracle.” He encouraged Americans to attend Easter church services because the danger should be over by then.

It wasn’t until later that we found out he was lying. It wasn’t until later that we all heard Trump confessing to Bob Woodward just how bad coronavirus actually was. [clip from Trump confessing to Woodward.]

And as if that wasn’t enough, on the 25th of May, right smack in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic — which began right after the impeachment — a “peace officer” knelt on a man’s neck for eight and a half minutes until he died. Despite repeated, respectful, tearful pleas from George Floyd, a person of color, telling the cop who was strangling the life out of him that he couldn’t breathe, despite his calling pitifully for his mother, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin continued to kneel on Mr. Floyd’s neck until he was dead. He did it because he could, because no one would stop him.

This act triggered a nationwide response. The Black Lives Matter Movement was galvanized and once again in the news, and millions of ordinary citizens came out to participate in protests, the vast majority of which were peaceful.

But like all good books, all interesting books anyway, 2020 had a plot twist. And what a plot twist it was. It turns out 2020 was the biggest political gift Donald Trump — or any politician for that matter — could ever hope for. 2020 was such an enormous gift to Donald Trump it would make you, if you were Trump himself, almost believe in God. If you were anybody else it would have certainly made you believe in the devil. Because 2020 was the year that could have given Donald Trump a second term. And Trump blew it.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoHad Trump united Americans against the coronavirus and taken real measures to keep them safe, had he taken the death of George Floyd seriously, he could have sailed into November and defeated all comers. But because Donald Trump is stupid, he blew his only chance to keep himself in office and out of prison.

I never thought I would hear myself utter these words, but thank goodness Donald Trump is stupid. Let’s make sure we never elect a man like Donald Trump to the presidency. Because next time we might now be so lucky. Next time he might really be a stable genius.

As I did last week with my article titled “Dear Trump Supporter,” brothers and sisters, I created a YouTube video presentation of this article. You may watch it here.

youtube logo CustomIn order to boost Palmer Report readership from the YouTube demographic, I have included backlinks from the video to Palmer Report, so if you “like,” comment and subscribe to the video it will alert the YouTube algorithm to put my video in front of more people and boost our readership. So please do so provided that your likes, comments and subscriptions are sincere.

Reader Supported News, Analysis: Who Will Protect Georgia’s Vote Count? Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, Dec. 31, 2020. The whole world is watching Georgia’s US Senate runoff elections.

Set to finish January 5th, they will decide who controls the balance of power in the pivotal next US Congress. With them comes a “hidden” down-ballot Georgia Public Service Commission race that hovers over America’s last two big nuke reactors … and that could upend the whole Senatorial outcome.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into the state. Every nanosecond of radio/TV time has been bought and overpaid for.

The preliminary battles have raged over voter registration and turnout, precinct closures, misinformation about where people can vote, intimidation of citizens waiting in line during early voting, rejection of “flawed” ballots, and much more.

But they all pale before one issue: will there be a fair and accurate vote count?

The answer depends on whether grassroots citizen groups can muster the expertise, the staff, and the clout to make sure ballots are correctly marked, properly scanned, and accurately counted — and then rightly recounted.

It’s a decisive undertaking.

Ballots mailed to voters are mostly sent back through the postal service or put in drop boxes. They can also be returned in person to election boards, which may be the safest option of all.

They’re then screened. Signatures are checked, markings are verified. Partisan advocates can observe the process and are often hot to disqualify. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office is now claiming a tiny percentage of the cast ballots are being thrown out.

Georgia does have a “curing” process, where voters whose ballots are rejected can be called or otherwise notified. That correction process can be uneven.

Once the ballots are approved, they’re scanned directly into an electronic reader. The ballots themselves are preserved.

The images made during the scanning process and then electronically read can easily be saved on hard drives. There’s no logical reason to erase these images, which make recounts much easier to do. But many counties do it anyway.

Voters who personally bring their ballots into a voting center (as opposed to an election board) usually must surrender them, then vote using a touchscreen marking device.

dominion voting systemsIronically, Trump is loudly alleging fraud on Dominion machines bought (for more than $100 million) by Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State. The purchase was bitterly opposed by voting rights advocates. (A Dominion representative had a close personal relationship with Georgia governor Brian Kemp, who denies that had anything to do with the purchase.)

Rather than providing the voter with a cheap pen, these hugely expensive touchscreen devices create a paper ballot with a bar code. The ballots are then scanned and counted. The tallies are sent from the counties to central tabulators for a statewide vote count.

In a vulnerable pivot point, the data can be downloaded onto thumb drives and personally driven by a local election official to be compiled and counted. Internet transmission from the counties to the state’s central tabulator is also an option. Hand-tallied totals could also be printed on paper and driven in, but it’s rarely done that way.

In any event, tapes of the results from the precinct scanners are legally required to be posted on the door of each precinct, for visible monitoring by the public.

Both Georgia Senate runoffs are virtually certain to be recounted.

Likewise the Public Service Commission race, on which billions of rate case dollars depend. Though it’s gotten virtually no media attention, this race features Georgia’s first African-American PSC candidate, Daniel Blackman. His focus on grassroots campaigning, huge cost overruns at the state’s two new nuclear reactors, and the critical issue of broadband in rural areas may increase turnout and affect the Senatorial outcome.

Overall, the whole system reeks of vulnerability. Bitter disputes now rage over alleged stripping of the voter rolls, massive shutdown of voting centers in African-American neighborhoods, the question of how many legitimate voters actually get their ballots in the mail, and more.

The process of challenging and curing ballots is intensely contested. The incoming paper ballots require secure tracking technology and incorruptible chains of custody.

The bitterly disputed ballot marking devices produce a paper record that voters can inspect – but they rarely do. The human eye cannot confirm that the printed bar code accurately reflects the voter’s intent. Voters can’t read bar codes.

Computerized scanning devices are hackable. So are vote counts transmitted by internet, as well as thumb drives hand-carried to the central tabulators. If the images are erased from the scanner’s memory cache, the recount process can be compromised.

These vulnerabilities can be cured. Preserving the electronic ballot images, for example, would render the inevitable recounts far easier and more accurate.

But only a powerful, highly qualified, well-coordinated team of election protectionists can make all this happen.

There are key symptoms to watch for. “Glitches” in the registration records and in the ballot marking devices lead to long lines, most frequently at college campuses and in areas with large percentages of non-white voters.

Precincts may report outcomes (as should be visible on the tapes posted on their doors) that vary wildly from local exit polls. In fact, this has been the case in many of this year’s US Senate races, including the ones won by Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham.

In Ohio 2004, the late-night vote count stopped for 100 minutes as John Kerry was 4.2% ahead. When the delay ended, George W. Bush mysteriously led by 2.5%, then won the presidency.

In Greene County that year, thousands of warehoused ballots sat open and unguarded. Despite a federal court order, 56 of Ohio’s 88 counties destroyed their voting records, preventing an accurate recount of that bitterly contested election.

All that and more could happen in Georgia within the next week. Grassroots groups such as the Atlanta NAACP, Citizens for Good Governance, Scrutineers.org, Audit USA, TrustVote and others are well-versed in various key pieces of the electoral process.

But without a massive, deeply committed task force of well-coordinated election protection activists, Georgia’s vote count could be up for grabs … no matter what its citizens actually want.

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman co-convene the Grassroots Emergency Election Protection Coalition at www.electionprotection2024.org. Their many books reside at www.freepress.org, along with Bob’s Fitrakis Files. Harvey’s People’s Spiral of US History is at www.solartopia.org.

ny times logoNew York Times, Without Trump, or Masks, Mar-a-Lago Partied On, Michael Crowley, Jan. 1, 2021. President Trump did not attend his private social club’s annual New Year’s Eve bash, which hundreds of guests attended despite the coronavirus.

President Trump’s private social club in Palm Beach, Fla., hosted a New Year’s Eve gala at which revelers without masks dined indoors and danced to performances by Vanilla Ice and members of the Beach Boys.

Mr. Trump himself did not attend the black-tie party at the club, Mar-a-Lago, as he usually does, instead cutting short his holiday vacation and returning to Washington on Thursday without explanation.

But members of the president’s family and extended political circle partied on anyway at an event that flouted warnings against indoor gatherings during the holidays as the coronavirus surges to its deadliest levels yet. The gala also appeared to violate specific guidelines posted on the Palm Beach County website mandating facial coverings in “all businesses and establishments.”

Attendees included Mr. Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and his girlfriend, the former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and a former New York mayor, was shown in online footage ballroom-dancing with a female partner to a rendition of “New York, New York.” More than 500 guests were expected, according to The Palm Beach Post.

Other guests included Mr. Trump’s second son, Eric, and his wife, Lara; the president’s daughter Tiffany Trump; Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida; and Mike Lindell, the Palm Beach-based chief executive of MyPillow and a prominent supporter of the president.

 

U.S. Media News

tribune publishing logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Hedge Fund Seeks Control of Tribune Publishing, a Major News Chain, Michael J. de la Merced and Marc Tracy, Dec. 31, 2020. Alden Global Capital, which is already Tribune’s biggest shareholder, valued the company at about $520.6 million.

Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that has amassed a newspaper empire, has expressed interest in taking full control of Tribune Publishing, the parent of major metropolitan dailies including The Chicago Tribune, The New York Daily News and The Baltimore Sun.

If a deal goes through, it would strengthen the financial industry’s grip on the struggling news media business.

Alden controls some 200 newspapers nationwide through its MediaNews Group subsidiary, and its acquisition of Tribune Publishing would make it an even more formidable rival to the largest United States newspaper chain, Gannett, a company controlled by the private equity fund Fortress Investment Group.

Alden’s designs on Tribune Publishing, a publicly traded company that runs eight prominent metro dailies across the country, became clear in 2019, when the hedge fund revealed that it had taken a 32 percent stake in the chain, making it the company’s largest shareholder. Many Tribune Publishing reporters denounced Alden’s hold on the company, citing the hedge fund’s strategy of slashing newsroom costs at its MediaNews Group publications.

alden global capital logoAlden’s offer, if it goes through, may strike fear into the hearts of journalists at Tribune newspapers, who have publicly urged benefactors to keep the hedge fund from taking control of the chain’s papers.

Alden’s most famous run-in with journalists came in 2018, when the staff of The Denver Post openly rebelled, publishing a special opinion section devoted to blasting its hedge fund ownership, which had made drastic cuts at the paper. “If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will,” the paper’s editorial board wrote.

Tribune was a chain in trouble before Alden’s entry into the company. For many years, it billed itself under a new name meant to suggest its digital emphasis — Tronc — and its executives tangled with journalists at the Los Angeles Times in a series of spats that did not end until Tribune sold that paper to the medical entrepreneur Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and his wife, Michele B. Chan. In 2018, Tribune cut the staff of The New York Daily News, once the largest-circulation newspaper in the country, in half.

Since Alden acquired its 32 percent stake in Tribune, the hard times have continued. The company has offered buyouts and closed several newsrooms while trying to endure the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on an already distressed industry.

In August, after most newspaper employees had worked remotely for months, Tribune announced that it was permanently closing the newsroom of The Daily News. That announcement was quickly followed by the company’s shuttering of the physical newsrooms of The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa.; The Orlando Sentinel; The Carroll County Times in Westminster, Md.; and The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. In December, the newsroom at another Tribune daily, The Hartford Courant, which has been in operation since 1764, also went dark.

spiked HR cover11Revenue has plummeted for local newspapers over the past 15 years as readers have increasingly favored getting the news on screens rather than in print newspapers. Alden and other hedge funds have found that they have nonetheless been able to wring profits from newspaper chains through austere management practices.

Journalists and press advocates have expressed alarm over the influx of private equity into the news-gathering business, arguing that finance firms make imperfect stewards of an industry built on the work of watching closely over government and commerce.

Justice Integrity Project editor Andrew Kreig published a 1987 book, “Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America’s Oldest Newspaper” (Peregrine Press), documenting problems at the Hartford Courant in Connecticut as a case study of the transformation of the newspaper sector under conglomerate ownership.

Times Mirror bought the locally owned newspaper, the second largest in New England, in 1979 for the then-record price of $105 million and then resold it to the Tribune Companies. The Courant recently announced the closure of its much-downsized newsroom, thereby requiring journalists to work from home.

 

U.S. Law, Courts

michael flynn djt

President Trump pardoned former National Security Advisor and 2016 campaign advisor Michael Flynn, left, this fall from multiple felonies after Flynn pleaded guilty.

Howe on the Court via SCOTUSblog, Analysis: The Supreme Court and the president’s pardon power, Amy Howe, below right, Dec. 31, 2020. The Constitution gives the amy howepresident the power “to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of impeachment.”

In the days before Christmas, President Donald Trump used this power to pardon or commute the sentences of over 40 people, including Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager; Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner; Roger Stone, who was convicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller of obstruction of justice and other crimes; and four men who were convicted of killing Iraqi civilians while working as contractors for the private security firm Blackwater.

With just under three weeks remaining in Trump’s term, there could be more pardons on the horizon – and Trump has asserted that he has the “absolute right” to pardon himself.

The Supreme Court has made clear that, subject to the exception for impeachment, the president’s power to grant pardons is “unlimited,” with virtually no oversight or limiting role for Congress. In Ex parte Garland, which involved President Andrew Johnson’s pardon of a lawyer who had served in the legislature of the Confederacy, the court indicated that the president’s pardon power covers all federal offenses. The president can issue a pardon at any point after a crime is committed and before, during or after criminal proceedings have taken place.

The president cannot, however, pardon someone for future crimes. A pardon covers both the offender’s guilt for the crime and the sentence for that crime. When there is a full pardon, the Supreme Court has explained, it is as if the defendant never committed the crime.

SCOTUSblog, The lives they lived and the court they shaped: Remembering those we lost in 2020, James Romoser, Dec. 31, 2020. The lead plaintiffs in three landmark civil rights cases. A government lawyer who argued at the Supreme Court more than anyone else in the 20th century. A chief justice’s right-hand man. A trailblazing feminist who became a transformative justice.

These were among the people we lost in a year that was so defined by death. As the year comes to a close, SCOTUSblog looks back at some of the individuals who died in 2020 after living lives that brought them – at different times and for different reasons – to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Some worked behind the scenes. A few attained modest fame. One became “notorious.” All left an imprint on the court or the law.

  • Bruce Carver Boynton
  • ruth bader ginsburg scotusMark Cannon
  • Bernard Sol Cohen
  • Drew Saunders Days III
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg, right
  • Timothy Andrew O’Brien
  • Aimee Stephens
  • Alexander Louis Stevas
  • Darius Leander Swann
  • Lawrence Gerald Wallace
  • Ralph Karl Winter, Jr.

Howe on the Court via SCOTUSblog, Analysis: In year-end report, Roberts praises “unsung heroes” of the pandemic, Amy Howe, right, Dec. 31, 2020. Chief amy howeJustice John Roberts issued his annual year-end report on Thursday, and the theme – perhaps unsurprisingly – was the coronavirus pandemic. Roberts paid tribute to everyone in the federal court system and the federal government who allowed the courts to carry out their work safely, but he singled out what he called the “‘first to fight’ in the judicial family – the trial courts and their staff.”

Roberts began his report, as he often does, with a historical reference: the outbreak of influenza that the first chief justice, John Jay, encountered when he traveled to New York to hear cases in the lower courts. (In a trademark display of Roberts’ wry humor, he noted that two justices who skipped the Supreme Court’s first session received a more distant assignment, requiring 1,800 miles of travel – “providing,” he wrote, “yet another lesson in what happens when you miss a meeting.”)

john roberts oRoberts, left, discussed the Supreme Court’s response to the pandemic only briefly, noting that the court held “oral argument by teleconference for the first time” and managed “to stay current in our work.” The federal courts of appeals, Roberts continued, “have responded with similar considered flexibility,” as have the state courts, “who are responsible for the vast bulk of judicial proceedings.”

But it was the federal trial courts that “faced the greatest challenge,” Roberts emphasized, and – in his view – they responded. Roberts cited the example of bankruptcy courts, with their often-complicated cases that “can involve 100 participating attorneys.” “Much of their work is not glamorous,” Roberts wrote, “but it is essential, and it got done.” Jury trials have resumed, Roberts noted, after modifications to courtrooms to make them safer for everyone involved. Roberts was pleased that members of the public continue to report for jury duty despite the pandemic.

Roberts lauded the judicial branch’s creativity in responding to other aspects of the pandemic – holding, for example, drive-through and outdoor naturalization ceremonies.

Roberts concluded by making clear that he did not want “to minimize the hardships and suffering caused by the pandemic. Like others throughout the country, judiciary employees have contended with illness and loss. My thoughts,” Roberts said, “are with them.”

Roberts’ message made no mention of the other topic that has dominated the headlines in 2020: the presidential election. Although Roberts is a lifelong Republican, both he and the court have been frequent targets of President Donald Trump’s ire. Roberts began 2020 presiding over Trump’s impeachment trial, and he ended the year being vilified on Twitter by Trump allies hurling wild attacks. Even if Roberts didn’t say so, he is no doubt looking forward to a new and quieter year.

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. is becoming a protest battleground. In a polarized nation, experts say that’s unlikely to change, Marissa J. Lang, Jan. 1, 2021.  Extremism experts who study the far-right warn that D.C. is on a path to become the next battleground in increasingly violent confrontations with left-leaning counterdemonstrators.

In the weeks since the 2020 presidential election, a coalition of loyalists of President Trump, conspiracy theory adherents, white nationalists, self-proclaimed militia members and other fringe figures have flocked to the nation’s capital to support the president’s baseless claims of election fraud. As Trump’s hopes of reversing the election results have faltered, those who falsely believe the election was stolen or fraudulent have grown increasingly angry and desperate.

Extremist groups intent on sowing chaos and division have capitalized on these feelings to recruit members and spread disinformation, experts say. In online chat groups and forums, political rage and disbelief metastasizes into calls for violence.

 

 

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