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.
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.
Revisiting the numbers of people killed in one day by a single disaster, we find that Covid-19 now occupies 10 of the top 15 spots:
If we only look at the last 100 years, it gets even starker:
And the band played on.
We're so close to ending 2020 that I can almost taste it. (I hope to be tasting tacos in a few minutes, however.) True to form, 2020 has apparently decided not to leave quietly:
Finally, the Washington Post's Michael Rosenwald reports that Bloom asked 28 historians to determine whether 2020 was the worst year ever. It wasn't even close.
The New Yorker next week has Lawrence Wright's excellent long-form history of "the mistakes and the struggles behind America's coronavirus tragedy:"
There are three moments in the yearlong catastrophe of the covid-19 pandemic when events might have turned out differently. The first occurred on January 3, 2020, when Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spoke with George Fu Gao, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which was modelled on the American institution. Redfield had just received a report about an unexplained respiratory virus emerging in the city of Wuhan.
Redfield is convinced that, had C.D.C. specialists visited China in early January, they would have learned exactly what the world was facing. The new pathogen was a coronavirus, and as such it was thought to be only modestly contagious, like its cousin the sars virus. This assumption was wrong. The virus in Wuhan turned out to be far more infectious, and it spread largely by asymptomatic transmission. “That whole idea that you were going to diagnose cases based on symptoms, isolate them, and contact-trace around them was not going to work,” Redfield told me recently. “You’re going to be missing fifty per cent of the cases. We didn’t appreciate that until late February.” The first mistake had been made, and the second was soon to happen.
What are the odds that we can avoid a cock-up this bad in future? I will leave that as an exercise for the reader.
A couple of articles piqued my interest over the last day:
Finally, with only a few days left in December, we have now had 5 days this month with more Americans dead from Covid-19 than died on 9/11, and the STBXPOTUS won't sign even the miserly, half-assed recovery bill that Republicans in the Senate would agree to. January 20th can't come soon enough.
Thank you, Tom Lehrer, for encapsulating what this season means to us in the US. In the last 24 hours, we have seen some wonderful Christmas gifts, some of them completely in keeping with Lehrer's sentiment.
Continuing his unprecedented successes making his the most corrupt presidency in the history of the country (and here I include the Andrew Johnson and Warren Harding presidencies), the STBXPOTUS yesterday granted pardons to felons Charles Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone. Of the 65 pardons and commutations he has granted since becoming president, 60 have gone to people he knows personally and who have committed crimes on his behalf. Maggie Haberman and Michael S Schmidt say he's at his most unleashed as he tries to avoid leaving office the loser he is.
In other news:
Finally, enjoy this performance of the "Hallelujah" chorus from Händel's Messiah released just a few moments ago by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago:
The STBXPOTUS has, in the words of Greg Sargent, "detonated a truth bomb in the Georgia US Senate runoffs:"
By abruptly calling for $2,000 stimulus checks on Tuesday night, Trump inadvertently exposed core truths about the consequences of continued GOP control of the Senate — ones that Republicans are working to conceal — and about the post-Trump Republican Party in general.
In the video that Trump tweeted, he threatened to wreck the carefully negotiated settlement that led Congress to pass a $900 billion economic rescue package. He insisted that its $600 stimulus checks are insufficient and called on lawmakers to increase the payment to $2,000.
Trump’s threat not to sign the deal makes a government shutdown more likely, and it puts congressional Republicans who supported it in a terrible spot. As one GOP observer noted, Trump “just pulled down the pants of every Republican who voted for it.”
As much as I must now go scrub my brain with wire wool to remove the image of any US Senators from either party with their pants down, the guy gave the Democrats a popcorn moment like no other. When I first heard the story this morning I wondered which failed human being in the White House wound him up. Someone had to write the speech for him.
As Sargent pointed out,
It will be perversely amusing if Loeffler and Perdue are willing to stick with Trump’s efforts to subvert the will of the American people — they continue to refuse to say he lost — but not willing to support his call for more economic aid to them.
The bottom line is that the story of the past nine months confirms that orthodox conservative opposition to big spending — even to help Americans suffering amid two of the biggest crises of the modern era — has been the main obstacle to assistance for them. Trump has laid this bare.
I have no earthly idea what the White House hopes to accomplish. The STBXPOTUS doesn't usually play a long game, given his normal attention span of four to six seconds. It occurs to me, though, that with Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, he will have a much easier time of running against us in 2024.
Still, the whole thing confuses me—and probably the Loeffler and Perdue campaigns as well.
It's 11°C outside and I have a fuzzy houseguest for the day, so there will be walks! At least until the 20°C temperature drop starts around 6pm... So while I'm enjoying the last above-freezing day of the year with a very sweet and very strong office companion, I've got a few things to occupy my time.
At the top of my list today, we find that the STBXPOTUS has pardoned 15 truly awful murderers and grifters, including the four assholes who slaughtered unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007. It's possible these are the worst pardons ever granted by a US president. (I wonder if Bill Moyers would agree.)
Next we have Bruce Schneier explaining just how bad the SolarWinds penetration really is.
And finally, US Surgeon General Dr Jerome Adams said Chicago's coronavirus vaccine rollout was the best in the nation. Go us!
I will now finish my lunch, guarded vigilantly by my neighbor's dog who hopes against all evidence that some of my ham sandwich will find its way to her snout.
The December solstice happened about 8 hours ago, which means we'll have slightly more daylight today than we had yesterday. Today is also the 50th anniversary of Elvis Presley's meeting with Richard Nixon in the White House.
More odd things of note:
Finally, it's very likely you've made out with a drowning victim from the 19th century.