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.
Where to begin.
Yesterday, and for the first time in the history of the country, an armed mob attacked the US Capitol building, disrupting the ceremonial counting of Electoral Votes and, oh by the way, threatening the safety of the first four people in the presidential line of succession.
I'm still thinking about all of this. Mainly I'm angry and disgusted. And I'm relieved things didn't wind up worse. But wow.
Here are just some of the reactions to yesterday's events:
- American late-night hosts Seth Myers, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon didn't hold back. Neither did usually-staid reporters like Times White House correspondent Peter Baker and columnist Gail Colins.
- Even Bill Barr—yes, that Bill Barr—came out with a strong statement condemning the president.
- Vice President Mike Pence may have given the order to activate the National Guard, which raises two questions, both troubling: what legal authority did he have to do so, and why did the Guard obey the order? A 1949 Executive Order vests the authority with the Defense Secretary, explaining later "clarifications" that suggested Pence "consulted" with acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, who actually ordered the Guard into action.
- Maybe he should have the authority on application of the 25th Amendment, suggested incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and much of the Democratic delegations to both houses. Republicans also joined the call, including Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and former NRSC chair Jay Timmons. (Pundits like Greame Wood, Bret Stephens, Greg Sargent, and Frida Ghitis, were gimmes.)
- Some Cabinet members didn't wait. Among the resignations: Transportation Secretary (and wife of incoming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY) Elaine Chao; White House Council of Economic Advisers acting chair Tyler Goodspeed; deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger; special envoy to Northern Ireland and former White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney; the First Lady's Chief of Staff, Stephanie Grisham; Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews; senior administration cybersecurity adviser John Costello; and even the White House Social Secretary, Rickie Niceta. ("Now they leave?" asks Jennifer Rubin, quite reasonably.)
- Where were the Capitol Police? Maybe not as invested in their jobs as one would hope. But the House sergeant-at-arms, Paul Irving, resigned, and Schumer has asked for Michael Stenger, the Senate sergeant-at-arms, also to resign.
- Twitter finally suspended the STBXPOTUS's account for 12 hours; Facebook suspended him until after the inauguration.
- The president of Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police (along with some of my right-wing acquaintances) equivocated to the point of appearing to support the events of the day.
- Anne Applebaum mourns the loss of our standing as the symbol of democracy in the world.
- Adam Davison is "furious" at his friends at major news organizations like NPR and the Times for "normalizing [the president] and his followers."
- John Scalzi finally comes around to the STBXPOTUS being our worst president ever, instead of just 43rd-worst ahead of James Buchanan. (NB that only 44 men have been President; Grover Cleveland served two nonconsecutive terms.)
Meanwhile, amid the violence and the insanity, the United States set a new record for Covid-19 deaths in one day.
Oh, and also, now that you mention it, both Democratic candidates for US Senate in Georgia won their races.
The mayor of Washington DC and the Speaker of the House have requested the National Guard clear "protestors" from the Capitol grounds as Congress has evacuated the House chamber:
The request was made through the Capitol Police Board, a body that includes the chief of the Capitol Police, the House and Senate sergeants of arms, and the Architect of the Capitol.
A D.C. government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly said troops are being deployed to the Capitol.
This is terrorism, plain and simple. The STBXPOTUS has enflamed the passions of his more addle-minded followers because, like most authoritarians who lose, he can't accept that he lost.
These infants, attempting to disrupt their own Congress while shouting "USA! USA!", embarrass me. The Republican Party embarrasses me. The STBXPOTUS just makes me sad.
Three minutes ago, the Times' headline: "Police draw guns inside the Capitol." The party of Law and Order my ass.
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:
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.
I just got back from a short walk in which I confirmed (after waiting 10 minutes for a cold start) that Garmin's GPS problem has been fixed. The first thing I saw in my inbox was this story:
President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that election experts said raised legal questions.
The Washington Post obtained a recording of the conversation in which Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one point warning that Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.”
Throughout the call, Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel rejected his assertions, explaining that Trump is relying on debunked conspiracy theories and that President-elect Joe Biden’s 11,779-vote victory in Georgia was fair and accurate.
It was clear from the call that Trump has surrounded himself with aides who have fed his false perceptions that the election was stolen. When he claimed that more than 5,000 ballots were cast in Georgia in the name of dead people, Raffensperger responded forcefully: “The actual number was two. Two. Two people that were dead that voted.”
I suppose one should have some compassion for a man so clearly mentally ill and in such obvious cognitive decline. Really, we need to put the blame for this squarely on the grifters and hangers-on in the STBXPOTUS's White House who enabled this call.
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.
Happy new year! Or, as many of my friends have posted on social media, happy January, only 20 days until the new year!
Of course what they mean has to do with this:
President Donald Trump spent his first days in office pushing false claims about the size of his inauguration crowd.
He has spent the final weeks of his term blitzing the American people with falsehoods and far-fetched conspiracies as part of a failed attempt to overturn the election he lost — cementing his legacy as what fact checkers and presidential historians say is the most mendacious White House occupant ever.
“I have never seen a president in American history who has lied so continuously and so outrageously as Donald Trump, period,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss said in an interview. “Dwight Eisenhower used to say one of the most important tools a president of the United States has is that people believe what he says.”
“After two centuries, it is impressive that Americans still are inclined to believe what a president tells them, especially at a moment of crisis,” Beschloss said. “When a president breaks that bond of trust with the American people, it makes it harder for future presidents to have the kind of moral authority that enables them to protect us.”
NBC News has fact-checked Trump for more than four years. Based on thousands of hours of reporting and hundreds of reported fact checks, four issues stand above the rest as the falsehoods that define the Trump presidency.
Republican speech writer Michael Gerson also has some choice things to say about the latest mendacity, but more in criticism of US Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), who intends to challenge the Electoral College certification on Wednesday. Sauce for the gander, I say.
Meanwhile, here in Chicago, the New Year has begun with what we call "wintry mix" and everyone else calls "why would you want to live someplace where this happens." But like Punxatawney Phil, if a Chicagoan doesn't see his shadow on January 1st, that means we'll have a mild winter.
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.
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.