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.
All works published before 1 January 1926 have now entered the public domain:
1925 was the year of heralded novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Virginia Woolf, seminal works by Sinclair Lewis, Franz Kafka, Gertrude Stein, Agatha Christie, Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton, Aldous Huxley ... and a banner year for musicians, too. Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, the Gershwins, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller, among hundreds of others, made important recordings. And 1925 marked the release of canonical movies from silent film comedians Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.
As of today, every single one of those works has entered the public domain. "That means that copyright has expired," explains Jennifer Jenkins, a law professor at Duke University who directs its Center for the Study of the Public Domain. "And all of the works are free for anyone to use, reuse, build upon for anyone — without paying a fee."
On January 1 every year, a new batch of published works is liberated from the constraints of copyright. (For a long time, copyright expired after 75 years, but in 1998, Congress extended the date of copyright expiration for works published between 1923 and 1977 to 95 years.) It's difficult to overstate the importance of having work in the public domain. For example, can you imagine the holidays without It's A Wonderful Life? That movie happened to be unprotected by copyright, so it was able to be shown — a lot — for free, contributing to its establishment as an American Christmas classic.
In an article about this year's Public Domain Day, Jenkins discusses everything from the changes in length of copyright to a fascinating story about the copyright of Hitler's Mein Kampf, which also enters the public domain this year. (A dizzyingly exhaustive list of works from 1925 now in the public domain can be found here.)
I will once again raise my objections to the Mickey Mouse Preservation Act of 1998. The Constitution allows for "limited" protections; 75 years is quite enough, thank you.
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.
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.
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 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.
We're in the home stretch. We have 14 days until 2021 starts, and 32 days until the Biden Administration takes office. As Andrew Sullivan said in his column today, 2021 is going to be epic. Meanwhile:
And watch this blog for information about the Apollo Chorus of Chicago's final performance of 2020.
The Electoral College has voted, and with no surprises, as of 16:37 Chicago time Joe Biden has received the requisite 270 votes to be elected President of the United States. And yet, we had a few surprises today:
Finally, John le Carré died at 89 yesterday. Time to revisit Josephine Livingstone's review of "the glorious return of George Smiley," le Carré's 2017 novel A Legacy of Spies.