As the capital braces for violence at President-Elect Joe Biden's inauguration next week, Andrew Sullivan points out the obvious:
We could have...the beginning of an ongoing, armed insurgency, denying the legitimacy of the democratically elected government of the United States, backed by a hefty chunk of one of the two major parties.
Josh Marshall points out that the GOP has hobbled our resistance to this disease for 30 years or longer:
Go back to April 1995 and the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. This sparked the first widespread interest in the militia movement which had begun to take root in the country in the 1980s. But Republicans, who had just taken control of Congress in January of that year, quickly shifted gears to defending militias as conservatives being smeared the association with McVeigh and his accomplices. Indeed, in June of 1995 the Senate held a hearing aimed at humanizing members of the militia movement as little more than very motivated conservative activists. As Ken Adams of one Michigan militia group told Senators at the hearing: “What is the militia?. We are doctors, lawyers, people getting involved in their government.”
[W]e’ve seen four or four cycles of this drama over the last twenty-five to thirty years: the US government is prevented from taking even basic steps to combat violent right wing extremism because the Republican party either forbids it (when Republicans are in power) or makes the political costs prohibitively high (when Democrats are).
Every time it’s the same. And the coddling of right wing extremists and terrorists by the institutional GOP has led us to a place where a government that spends approaching a trillion dollars a year on military and intelligence capacities had its seat of government stormed by an insurrectionist crowd acting at the behest of a renegade President.
As I said to a London-based colleague this morning, things will be strange over here for a few years, at least.
- Author John Scalzi gives the STBXPOTUS a colossal take-down on his blog today: "We don’t have to wait on history, but as it happens, this is how history will remember Donald Trump: Not as a forceful, charismatic authoritarian, but as a corrupt and pathetic wretch, who spent the final days of his presidency shouting at the walls about how the world is against him."
- Alexandra Petri: "Now is not the time to point fingers, Julius Caesar. Now is the time for healing." ("I am frankly appalled when I think of all the things that have been said on both sides, like, 'Death to Caesar!' and 'Ouch!'")
- National security experts, including the former chief research psychologist for the US Secret Service, advise treating the STBXPOTUS "like he's a terrorist leader."
- It appears that Ivanka and Jared wouldn't let the people protecting them into the house to pee, forcing the US Secret Service to spend nearly $100,000 over the past few years renting an apartment close by.
- Republicans in Congress supported intrusive security for everyone else in the past, but now that it affects them personally, they don't like it. How surprising.
- Since the Senate has recessed, presumably so Mitch McConnell can avoid an impeachment trial, President-Elect Biden still has no confirmed cabinet officials, forcing the incoming administration into an alternative plan after taking power next Wednesday.
- Chicago teachers locked out of the Chicago Public Schools online learning platform because they refused to return to unsafe classrooms found a poetic way of expressing their displeasure: they taught from the Board of Education President's front lawn.
- Chicago's regional heavy-rail system approved a $1.8 bn purchase of 500 slick new rail cars, which should start to arrive in 2024.
Finally, the authors of The Impostor's Guide, a free ebook aimed at self-taught programmers, has a new series of videos about general computer-science topics that people like me didn't learn programming for fun while getting our history degrees.
The Economist's Bartleby column examines how Covid-19 lockdowns have "caused both good and bad changes of routine."
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago/Clearing) will lose his job later today after serving in the role since 1983. Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch (D-Hillside) received 69 votes (of a required 60) in the Democratic Caucus this morning, making his accession to the Speaker's chair all but guaranteed when the whole House votes in a few minutes to elect the Speaker. Welch will become the first Black Speaker in Illinois history.
In other news:
- The Illinois legislature ended its previous legislative session earlier today by passing a 700-page criminal justice overhaul bill that ends cash bail and requires every law-enforcement officer in the state to wear a body camera, among other reforms. Governor Pritzker is expected to sign the bill this week.
- Ross Douthat holds out hope that the "divide between reality and fantasy" in the Republican Party may lead to the party's disintegration.
- Earth's rotation has picked up a tiny bit of extra speed that may require a negative leap second soon.
Too bad those shorter days haven't added up to a quicker end to the current presidential administration. At least we have less than a week to go before the STBXPOTUS is just some guy in a cheap suit.
The House of Representatives have started debate on a resolution to ask Vice President Mike Pence to start the process of removing the STBXPOTUS under the 25th Amendment. As you might imagine, this was not the only news story today:
- The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking officers in the US military, released a letter to the entire military reminding everyone that the military serves the Constitution, not the man who happens to hold the office of President.
- Bandy X. Lee, interviewed in the next issue of Scientific American, discusses the "shared psychosis" of the STBXPOTUS and his loyalists.
- Republican calls for "unity," as I mentioned Sunday and as Matt Ford reminds us more forcefully today, are total bullshit.
- Katherine Stewart, who has reported on the religious right for the past decade, hypothesizes about the roots of US Senator Josh Hawley's (R-MO) rage.
- Jennifer Rubin urges her party to move past "the post-truth society."
- What can the rise and fall of the Whig Party tell us about the future of the Republican Party?
- The Chicago City Council will vote later this week to prohibit any person convicted of treason, sedition, or subversive actions, from holding a sign permit. Why? Could it be the enormous sign showing the STBXPOTUS's name all down Wacker Drive?
- Oh, and by the way, over 375,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 so far, including 26,120 in the past week.
Finally, the always-funny Alexandra Petri imagines what people who have never read Orwell believe his books actually say.
Security is hard. Everyone who works in IT knows (or should know) this. We have well-documented security practices covering every part of software applications, from the user interface down to the hardware. Add in actual regulations like Europe's GDPR and California's privacy laws, you have a good blueprint for protecting user data.
Of course, if you actively resist expertise and hate being told what to do by beanie-wearing nerds, you might find yourself reading on Gizmodo how a lone hacker exfiltrated 99% of your data and handed it to the FBI:
In the wake of the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by scores of President Trump’s supporters, a lone researcher began an effort to catalogue the posts of social media users across Parler, a platform founded to provide conservative users a safe haven for uninhibited “free speech” — but which ultimately devolved into a hotbed of far-right conspiracy theories, unchecked racism, and death threats aimed at prominent politicians.
The researcher, who asked to be referred to by their Twitter handle, @donk_enby, began with the goal of archiving every post from January 6, the day of the Capitol riot; what she called a bevy of “very incriminating” evidence.
Operating on little sleep, @donk_enby began the work of archiving all of Parler’s posts, ultimately capturing around 99.9 percent of its content. In a tweet early Sunday, @donk_enby said she was crawling some 1.1 million Parler video URLs. “These are the original, unprocessed, raw files as uploaded to Parler with all associated metadata,” she said. Included in this tranche of data, now more than 56 terabytes in size, @donk_enby confirmed the raw video includes GPS coordinates, which point to the locations of users when the videos were filmed.
Meanwhile, dozens of companies that have donated to the STBXPOTUS and other Republican causes over the past five years have suddenly started singing a different tune:
The House of Representatives have introduced an Article of Impeachment against the STBXPOTUS. If it passes later this week, it would make him the first President—possibly the first person ever—to be impeached twice:
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 their move to formally call on Vice President Mike Pence to strip him of power under the 25th Amendment.
As expected, Republicans objected to a resolution calling on Mr. Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, meaning that the House would have to call a full vote on the measure on Tuesday. Democratic leaders were confident it would pass, and pressured Republican lawmakers to vote with them to beseech the vice president, who is said to be opposed to using the powers outlined in the Constitution, to do so.
It was a remarkable threat. If Mr. Pence does not intervene “within 24 hours” and the president does not resign, the House will move as early as Wednesday to consider the impeachment resolution on the floor, just a week after the attack. Already more than 210 Democrats have signed onto the charge, just shy of a majority of the House. Several Republicans were said to be considering voting to impeach for the first time, though party leaders were opposed.
Meanwhile, Josh Marshall asks the uncomfortable question: who's running the government?
[I]f there were a functioning federal government we’d be seeing regular press conferences updating the public on on-going arrests, health status of the injured, progress of the investigation. As far as I can tell there hasn’t been a single one. Nothing from DOJ, FBI, Capitol Police, the Pentagon. Normally you might expect such information to be channeled through press conferences at the White House. But, not to put too fine a point on it, it’s not clear or perhaps too clear which side the White House is on.
The best analogue or constitutional description for the current situation is that the President has abandoned his post but not resigned his office. In practice he did that when he led an insurrection which stormed the seat of government, despite his oath to enforce the laws and protect the constitution. But since then he just seems to have walked away. I will emphasize again that other than two videos, clearly taped under duress, we have not seen the President since Wednesday morning. We really have no idea what he’s doing. And at any moment he could pick up the reins of his constitutional powers and cause a new tragedy or force a fresh constitutional crisis in which members of the government explicitly refuse his orders.
The death throes of this presidency were always going to involve the narcissistic rage of the STBXPOTUS. It's still an extraordinary and anxious time.
We had a relatively quiet day yesterday, but only in comparison to the day before:
Meanwhile, here in Chicago:
Finally, Bruce Schneier advises the incoming administration on how to deal with the SolarWinds intrusion.
See? Yesterday was quiet.
Democrats moved a major step closer to capturing control of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday morning as Georgia voters elected the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor at the storied Ebenezer Baptist Church, in a hard-fought runoff contest that became roiled by President Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in the state.
Mr. Warnock’s victory over the Republican incumbent, Kelly Loeffler, represented a landmark breakthrough for African-Americans in politics as well as for Georgia: He became the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate from the South.
For voters, the choice between the two pairs of candidates was stark: Mr. Perdue, 71, and Ms. Loeffler, 50, are both white millionaires who leaned into more conservative policy positions like gun rights and opposition to abortion. They also made the case to voters that their business success gave them real-world experience in handling economic matters.
Mr. Ossoff, 33, and Mr. Warnock, 51, were a more diverse team. Mr. Ossoff, who is Jewish, is the head of a video production company and worked as a congressional aide. Mr. Warnock is a prominent pastor at the church in Atlanta where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.
I've been whistling this all day:
The Times continues its coverage of the SolarWinds breach, and adds a detail that explains why the Russians continue to eat our lunch:
Employees say that under [SolarWinds CEO Kevin] Thompson, an accountant by training and a former chief financial officer, every part of the business was examined for cost savings and common security practices were eschewed because of their expense. His approach helped almost triple SolarWinds’ annual profit margins to more than $453 million in 2019 from $152 million in 2010.
But some of those measures may have put the company and its customers at greater risk for attack. SolarWinds moved much of its engineering to satellite offices in the Czech Republic, Poland and Belarus, where engineers had broad access to the Orion network management software that Russia’s agents compromised.
So many things went wrong in this case that singling out one CEO for taking profits over security may seem myopic. But the SVR must love the poetry of it: a greedy American CEO tries to increase his paycheck by hiring engineers easy for them to compromise, leading to the largest network intrusion in history.
I want to see Congress investigate this, and I want to see Thompson reduced to penury for his greed. Not that anything will change; until we have rational regulation of software security—hell, until we have any regulation of software security—criminals and our adversaries will keep exploiting companies like SolarWinds.
As millions of voters in Georgia today decide which party will control the US Senate, author Ruth Ben-Ghiat looks back on other world leaders who have had a hard time letting go:
Trump has followed an authoritarian, rather than a democratic, playbook as president. It is fitting that he would end up like some of history's best-known autocrats: hunkered down in his safe space, surrounded by his latest crop of unhinged loyalists, trying pathetically to escape the reality of his defeat.
The "inner sanctums" of authoritarians take on special importance when things are going badly and their power is threatened. Composed of flatterers and family members, they function to shield the head of state from any information that conflicts with his delusion that he is always right and will stay in power indefinitely. "For God's sake, don't upset the Führer — which means do not tell him bad news — do not mention things which are not as he conceives them to be," the exiled German journalist Karl H. von Wiegand wrote of Hitler in 1939, summarizing a situation familiar to those who have worked for Italy's Benito Mussolini, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the current American president.
It is rare in history that a process of authoritarian capture is interrupted, but that's what happened when Americans voted Trump out. Many members of the GOP, still loyal to Trump, are likely to wage war on the Biden administration. The dangers to our republic from illiberal forces are far from over. Yet a new vigilance and activism have gained ground. We will need them, and a robust free media, to protect our democracy in the turbulent years to come.
Meanwhile, while waiting for the malignant narcissistic STBXPOTUS to leave office, we've passed 350,000 dead from Covid-19, and three states have higher rates of infection than anywhere else in the world.