- 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.
The expansion of unemployment benefits combined with sensible precautions against transmission of Covid-19 have made criminals' lives much easier:
From March through the end of November, there have been more than 2 million initial claims filed for regular state unemployment benefits, according to the agency. That figure excludes people filing claims under five federal pandemic jobless aid programs the state implemented last year.
The agency has said the rise in unemployment fraud is likely due to large corporate data breaches and is not the result of any state system breaches. Past breaches including one in 2017 involving Equifax exposed the personal data of millions of people, including names, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses number, dates of births, addresses and credit card information.
People who have not filed for benefits but receive a letter from the state unemployment agency saying a claim has been filed under their name should immediately report it through the IDES website or by calling 800-814-0513.
Don't even get me started on the calls about my car's warranty...
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.
Just an hour or so into the first business day of 2021, and morning news had a few stories that grabbed my attention:
Finally, don't eat icicles. They're basically frozen bird poop.
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.
What a bizarre year. Just looking at last year's numbers, it almost doesn't make sense to compare, but what the hell:
- Last year I flew the fewest air-miles in 20 years; this year, I flew the fewest since the first time I got on a commercial airplane, which was during the Nixon Administration. In January I flew to Raleigh-Durham and back, and didn't even go to the airport for the rest of the year. That's 1,292 air miles, fewer than the very first flight I took (Chicago to Los Angeles, 1,745 air miles). I did, however, make an overnight trip to Wisconsin in November, easily breaking the record for my longest travel drought but making it shorter than never.
- This is my 609th post on the Daily Parker in 2020—an average of more than 50 per month. This new record blows away the one I set just last year by 10.5%. (Imagine how much I'd have written had anything newsworthy actually happened in 2020.)
- The pandemic let me spend Parker's last eight months with him nearly every day. Despite his age and discomfort, we managed to go for almost 241 hours of walks (274 annualized), a whopping 29% (46% annualized) more than in 2019.
- Including today, I got 4,848,171 steps, averaging 13,246 per day. This is 5.7% fewer than last year. I missed 10,000 steps on seven occasions—five this month. Without a daily commute or a dog, not to mention the cold weather, I have struggled since Thanksgiving to get motivated enough to get longer walks in. That said, I hit a new record of 312 consecutive days over 10,000 steps, a record I don't anticipate ever breaking. I also got 56,562 steps on September 4th—another record I don't expect to break soon.
- I once again read more than the year before, with 39 books started and 37 completed. (I'm still working on The Power Broker, which I started 18 months ago...) On the other hand, I watched 59 movies and 79 TV series, compared with 56 and 38 respectively in 2019. Of course, almost all of that was streaming on my home computer while programming on my work computer, but it's a lot.
I can't even predict what will happen in 2021. I expect fewer steps, more books, and actually to start traveling again. Here's hoping for a speedy vaccination.
Here's the semi-annual Chicago sunrise chart. (You can get one for your own location at http://www.wx-now.com/Sunrise/SunriseChart.aspx.)
An interesting thing happens in 2021: on November 6th at 7:30:11, we'll have one of the latest sunrises possible—indeed, the latest sunrise in 47 years. I found only one occasion from 1975 to 2040 when the sun rises later: at 7:30:35 on 6 November 2032.
The last time the sun rose after 7:30 was at 7:31:26 on 26 February 1974, after Chicago started daylight saving time on 6 January 1974, due to the oil crisis. Chicago also observed year-round daylight saving time during World War II, from 9 February 1942 until 30 September 1945. Chicago's latest-ever sunrise occurred at 8:19:17 on 4 January 1943.
Anyway, here's the chart for the next 12 months:
||Latest sunrise until Oct 28th
||Earliest sunrise until Apr 19th
Earliest sunset until Oct 24th
||Daylight saving time begins
Latest sunrise until Oct 15th
Earliest sunset until Sep 17th
||7am sunrise, 7pm sunset
||Equinox 04:37 CDT
||6:30am sunrise (again)
||Earliest sunrise of the year
||Solstice 22:32 CDT
||Latest sunset of the year
||Equinox, 14:21 CDT
||Latest sunrise until 6 Nov 2032
Latest sunset until Feb 27th
||Standard time returns
Earliest sunrise until Feb 26th
Latest sunset until Jan 9th
||Earliest sunset of the year
||Solstice, 9:59 CST
You can get sunrise information for your location at wx-now.com.