Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
I've become a fan of Heather Cox Richardson and shared a few of her posts in various threads.  She has indicated she will be posting her thoughts every day, through President-elect Biden's first 100 Days.  I'll be sharing them, here.  I'm starting with the day after the Insurrection.

January 7, 2021 (Thursday)

The tide has turned against Trump and his congressional supporters, and they are scrambling.

Yesterday’s insurrection at the Capitol has brought widespread condemnation. Today all four of the living presidents—Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama-- called out Trump and his party for inciting the rioters. Bill Clinton summed it up: “The assault was fueled by more than four years of poison politics spreading deliberate misinformation, sowing distrust in our system, and pitting Americans against one another…. The match was lit by Donald Trump and his most ardent enablers, including many in Congress, to overturn the results of an election he lost. The election was free, the count was fair, the result was final. We must complete the peaceful transfer of power our Constitution mandates.”

Last night, Trump lost his social media platforms as Twitter suspended him for 12 hours and Facebook and Instagram suspended his account indefinitely, leaving him isolated and unable to reach out to his supporters.

Calls mounted today for his removal from office. Republicans as well as Democrats joined the chorus. Conservative columnist Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal called for Trump’s impeachment or removal from office by the 25th Amendment, whichever is faster. “Get rid of him. Now.” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, widely perceived to be in the running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, agreed that “there’s no question that America would be better off if the president would resign or be removed from office.” Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) was the first Republican congress member to call for Trump’s removal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called Vice President Mike Pence to urge him to begin the process of removing the president through the 25th Amendment, but after keeping them on hold for 25 minutes, Pence’s staffers told them he would not take their call. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin were apparently more willing to discuss the possibility, but have so far decided against it because it would take too long, it is unclear whether acting secretaries could vote, and forcing him from office could stoke ill-will from his supporters. Still, pressure from members of both parties continues to mount as the president falls into what one aide called “a dark place.”

If Pence will not support removing the president through the 25th Amendment, Pelosi says, the House will move to impeach him. Congressional Democrats circulated articles of impeachment today, and Schumer told reporters: “I don’t care if you’re Democrat, Republican liberal, conservative, from the Northeast, South or West… if what happened yesterday doesn’t convince you that the president should be out of office now, then something is very wrong with your beliefs about democracy.”

Members of the administration are resigning. This morning, Mick Mulvaney, who was a key player in the Ukraine scandal from his post at the Office of Management and Budget and who is now Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, resigned, telling CNBC’s “Squawk Box”: “I can’t stay here. Not after yesterday.” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), also resigned, saying she is “deeply troubled” by yesterday’s events. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos added her resignation to the mix, writing to Trump: “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.”

The resignation of the Cabinet officials means that they will not have to weigh in on removing Trump under the 25th Amendment.

Last night, after Congress counted the electoral votes that put Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over the top to become the nation’s next president and vice-president, the White House issued a statement guaranteeing an “orderly” transfer of power. Today, as calls mounted for Trump’s removal from office, the White House called for the resignations of 4000 political appointees, a traditional step in the transfer of power to a new administration but one which Trump had refused to announce until today.

As calls for his removal still continued, he faced video cameras tonight, giving a speech that revealed his realization that he’s on the ropes. He tried to rise above the partisan crises of the past months and to pretend that he had, all along, simply been defending democracy. He condemned yesterday’s violence but did not concede the election to President-Elect Biden although he acknowledged that Biden would take power. He also did not tell his supporters it was over. “To all of my wonderful supporters, I know you are disappointed,” he said, “but I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning.”

Trump is not alone as he scrambles to cover over his complicity in yesterday’s crisis. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), whose willingness to join the House members who were going to challenge the counting of the votes, and who thus was a key figure in making their false accusations seem legitimate, watched his star plummet today. His key mentor, former Senator John Danforth (R-MO), said supporting Hawley was the “worst mistake of my life.” One of Hawley’s major donors called him “an anti-democracy populist” who provoked the riots, and called for his censure.

When Simon & Schuster canceled Hawley’s new book contract, the senator fought back, insisting that he was a victim of “cancel culture,” with “the Left looking to cancel everyone they don’t approve of.” He insisted this was a “direct assault on the First Amendment,” and that all he had been doing with his challenges to counting the electoral votes from certain states was “representing my constituents, leading a debate on the Senate floor on voter integrity.” It was a desperate statement that he must have known to be false. The First Amendment protects us from censorship from the government: a private publishing company is under no obligation to publish anything. And the courts have rejected the idea that preventing Congress from counting the certified votes from citizens of other states is a legitimate way to represent his constituents.

The editorial board of the St. Louis Dispatch from Hawley’s home state wasn’t having it. “Americans have had enough of Trumpism and the two-faced, lying, populist politicians who embraced it,” the board wrote. “Hawley’s presidential aspirations have been flushed down the toilet because of his role in instigating Wednesday’s assault on democracy. He should do Missourians and the rest of the country a big favor and resign now…. Trumpism must die before it morphs into Hitlerism.”

Some of those arrested yesterday took to the media to express regret for their behavior. Bradley Rukstales, CEO of a marking consulting firm near Chicago expressed his “extremely poor judgment” when he “followed hundreds of others through an open set of doors to the Capitol building to see what was taking place inside.” He condemned the violence and offered “my sincere apologies for my indiscretion.”

Criticism also mounted today over the actions of the Capitol Police yesterday. The Capitol Police have exclusive jurisdiction over the Capitol Building, and rejected help from National Guard troops and from the FBI before they were overwhelmed yesterday as the mob attacked. They were late calling for help when they finally did, leaving the building underprotected. They arrested only 14 people and let hundreds simply walk out of the building as the crisis wound down, leaving Metropolitan police to arrest 70 people primarily for violating the city’s curfew. Law enforcement officers are now trying to chase down the people who breached the Capitol by examining the videos and selfies they posted to social media.

For all that, the Capitol Police were hampered by limits the Pentagon placed on the Washington, D.C., National Guard, essentially limiting them to traffic control. The chief of the Capitol Police made an urgent call for help early Wednesday afternoon only to be refused as an official from the Secretary of the Army worried about the optics of having soldiers inside the Capitol building.

In short, the overlapping jurisdictions and chains of command meant a haphazard response to yesterday’s threat. Tonight, a Capitol Police officer died from the injuries he sustained yesterday.

The weak response of the Capitol Police to the insurrectionists yesterday highlighted the difference in police responses to Black Lives Matter protesters last summer, when officers under the control of the Executive Branch used tear gas and flash bangs to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square so Trump could walk across it for a photo op, and to the right-wing rioters who invaded the Capitol. Although they were different law enforcement branches, and although then-Attorney General William Barr, who ordered the summer’s attack, is now gone, no one could miss that Black protesters could never in a million years have broken in the windows of the Capitol, invade, and wander around taking selfies before leaving without arrest.

Today, spokespeople for the Capitol Police noted that their main job is to protect lawmakers—which they did—not the building, and that no one could have predicted that the president would egg on the rioters. Nonetheless, the chief of the Capitol Police resigned today, along with the sergeants-at-arms of the House and Senate.

The disparity in treatment of yesterday’s rioters and Black Lives Matter protesters reflects the reality that authorities treat protesters differently according to their perceived political identification. FiveThirtyEight’s Maggie Koerth interviewed Roudabeh Kishi, whose research team tracked police violence in the U.S. from May 1 to November 28, 2020, and Koerth writes that authorities were “more than twice as likely to attempt to break up and disperse a left-wing protest than a right-wing one.” When they did intervene, they used force 51% of the time for the left and only 34% of the time for the right.

Arizona State University Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice Ed Maguire told Koerth: “I think protesters on the right, because they view the police as in their corner, they feel a sense of tacit permission.”


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Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
[SIZE=.9375rem]January 8, 2021 (Friday)[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]More information continues to emerge about the events of Wednesday. They point to a broader conspiracy than it first appeared. Calls for Trump’s removal from office are growing. The Republican Party is tearing apart. Power in the nation is shifting almost by the minute.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem][Please note that information from the January 6 riot is changing almost hourly, and it is virtually certain that something I have written will be incorrect. I have tried to stay exactly on what we know to be facts, but those could change.][/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]More footage from inside the attack on the Capitol is coming out and it is horrific. Blood on statues and feces spread through the building are vile; mob attacks on police officers are bone-chilling. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]Reuters photographer Jim Bourg, who was inside the building, told reporters he overheard three rioters in “Make America Great Again” caps plotting to find Vice President Mike Pence and hang him as a “traitor”; other insurrectionists were shouting the same. Pictures have emerged of one of the rioters in military gear carrying flex cuffs—handcuffs made of zip ties—suggesting he was planning to take prisoners. Two lawmakers have suggested the rioters knew how to find obscure offices.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]New scrutiny of Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally before the attack shows Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL), Don Jr., and Trump himself urging the crowd to go to the Capitol and fight. Trump warned that Pence was not doing what he needed to. Trump promised to lead them to the Capitol himself.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]There are also questions about law enforcement. While exactly what happened remains unclear, it has emerged that the Pentagon limited the Washington D.C. National Guard to managing traffic. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requested support before Trump’s rally, but the Department of Defense said that the National Guard could not have ammunition or riot gear, interact with protesters except in self-defense, or otherwise function in a protective capacity without the explicit permission of acting Secretary Christopher Miller, whom Trump put into office shortly after the election after firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]When Capitol Police requested aid early Wednesday afternoon, the request was denied. Defense officials held back the National Guard for about three hours before sending it to support the Capitol Police. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, tried repeatedly to send his state’s National Guard, but the Pentagon would not authorize it. Virginia’s National Guard was mobilized when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the governor, Ralph Northam, herself.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]Defense officials said they were sensitive to the criticism they received in June when federal troops cleared Lafayette Square of peaceful protesters so Trump could walk across it. But it sounds like there might be a personal angle: Bowser was harshly critical of Trump then, and it would be like him to take revenge on her by denying help when it was imperative.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]Refusing to stop the attack on the Capitol might have been more nefarious, though. A White House adviser told New York Magazine’s Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi that Trump was watching television coverage of the siege and was enthusiastic, although he didn’t like that the rioters looked “low class.” While the insurrectionists were in the Capitol, he tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!” Even as lawmakers were under siege, both Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani were making phone calls to brand-new Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) urging him to slow down the electoral count. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]After Trump on Wednesday night tweeted that there would be an “orderly” transition of power, on Thursday he began again to urge on his supporters. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]With the details and the potential depth of this event becoming clearer over the past two days—Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Virginia, tweeted her support, and state lawmakers as well as Republican attorneys general were actually involved—Americans are recoiling from how bad this attempted coup was… and how much worse it could have been. The crazed rioters were terrifyingly close to our elected representatives, all gathered together on that special day, and they were actively talking about harming the vice president. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]By Friday night, 57% of Americans told Reuters they wanted Trump removed from office immediately. Nearly 70% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s actions before the riot. Only 12% of Americans approved of the rioters; 79% of Americans described the rioters as “criminals” or “fools.” Five percent called them “patriots.”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]Pelosi tonight said that she hoped the president would resign, but if not, the House of Representatives will move forward with impeachment on Monday, as well as with legislation to enable Congress to remove Trump under the 25th Amendment. The most recent draft of the impeachment resolution has just one article: “incitement of insurrection.” As a privileged resolution, it can go directly to the House without committee approval. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has no interest in further splitting the Republicans over another impeachment, or forcing them onto the record as either for or against it. Timing is on his side: the Senate is not in session for substantive business until January 19, so cannot act on an impeachment resolution without the approval of all senators. It can take up the resolution then, but more likely it will wait until Biden is sworn in, at which point the measure would be managed not by McConnell, but by the new House majority leader, Chuck Schumer (D-NY). A trial can indeed take place after Trump is no longer president, enabling Congress to make sure he can never again hold office. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]Whether or not the Senate would convict is unclear, but it’s not impossible. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), for one, is so furious she is talking of switching parties. “I want him out,” she says. Still, Trump supporters are now insisting that it would “further divide the country” to try to remove Trump now, and that we need to unify. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who led the Senate effort to challenge Biden’s election, today tweeted that Biden was not working hard enough to “bring us together or promote healing” and that “vicious partisan rhetoric only tears our country apart.” [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]Trump, meanwhile, has continued to agitate his followers, and today began to call for more resistance, while users on Parler, the new right-wing social media hangout, are talking of another, bigger attack on Washington. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]Tonight, Twitter banned Trump, stating: “we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” As evidence, it cited both his claim that his supporters would “have a GIANT VOICE long into the future,” and his tweet that he would not be going to Biden’s inauguration on January 20. Twitter says that Trump’s followers see these two new tweets as proof that the election was invalid and that the Inauguration is a good target, since he won’t be there. The Twitter moderators say that “plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021.”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]Twitter also took down popular QAnon accounts, including those of Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and his former lawyer Sidney Powell, who is having quite a bad day: the company that makes election machines, Dominion Voting Systems, announced it is suing her for defamation and asking $1.3 billion in damages. After taking down 7,000 QAnon accounts in July, Twitter continued by today taking down the account of the man who hosts the posts from “Q.”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]While Twitter officials might well be horrified by the insurrection, the ban is also a sign of a changing government. With the election of two Democratic senators from Georgia this week, the majority goes to the Democrats, and McConnell will no longer be Majority Leader, killing bills. Social media giants know regulation of some sort is around the corner, and they are trying to look compliant fast. When Twitter banned Trump, so did Reddit, and Facebook and Instagram already had. Google Play Store removed Parler, warning it to clean up its content moderation. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]Trump evidently couldn’t stand the Twitter ban, and tried at least five different accounts to get back onto the platform. He and his supporters are howling that he is being silenced by big tech, but of course he has an entire press corps he could use whenever he wished. Losing his access to Twitter simply cuts off his ability to drum up both support and money by lying to his supporters. Another platform that has dumped Trump is one of those that handled his emails. The San Francisco correspondent of the Financial Times, Dave Lee, noted that for more than 48 hours there had been no Trump emails: in the previous six days he sent out 33.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]This has been a horrific week. If it has a silver lining, it is that the lines are now clear between our democracy and its enemies. The election in Georgia, which swung the Senate away from the Republicans and opens up some avenues to slow down misinformation, is a momentous victory.[/SIZE]


Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
January 9, 2021 (Saturday)

In 1856, work began on a replacement for the original Capitol dome in Washington, D.C.. When the Civil War broke out five years later, it was unfinished.

President Abraham Lincoln and the wartime Congresses insisted on continuing construction despite the conflict, determined to show to the world their faith that the nation would endure and that it would, eventually, grow into its ideals.

The Capitol dome was completed, for the first time, in 1866. It has needed repairs periodically ever since.

(It's been quite a week, folks. I'll see you tomorrow.)


Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
January 10, 2021 (Sunday)

Unbelievably, it was only a week ago—last Sunday—that we learned Trump had called Georgia’s Secretary of State and pressured him to change the results of the 2020 election. Trump demanded that Brad Raffensperger “find” the 11,780 votes Trump needed to win Georgia. The news of the attempt to get an election official to overrule the will of the people was astonishing: at the time, it was the worst domestic attack on our democracy ever, coming, as it did, from a sitting president.

At the time.

Over the past several days, the picture of what happened on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, has become clearer, and it’s bad. While Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser gave a press conference Wednesday night, there has been not a single official briefing from the White House, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, or Capitol Police.

The federal government has gone dark.

What we do know is that on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, egged on by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Alabama Representative Mo Brooks, Don Jr., and especially Trump himself, Trump supporters stormed the Capitol just as Congress was meeting in joint session to confirm Democrat Joe Biden as our new president. They overpowered the Capitol Police—perhaps with the help of some of the officers—breached the doors, and smashed their way through the historic building, shouting for Vice President Mike Pence—whom Trump insisted was at fault for not overturning the count-- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and “traitors” who were counting the electoral votes for Biden. While many of the early pictures from inside the Capitol showed rioters gawking like tourists, ones released this weekend showed violent thugs, carrying plastic handcuffs and seeming to have information about where to find specific members of Congress. They breached the Senate chamber at 2:16, just a minute after the senators made it out.

The Capitol Police got the lawmakers to safety, but were not in control of the building. Lawmakers huddled quietly behind barricaded doors waiting for police that took hours to come. When they did arrive, they cleared the area and regained control of the Capitol. After janitors had cleaned the building, lawmakers counted the electoral votes that established Democrats Biden and Kamala Harris as the next president and vice president of the USA.

As videos have emerged and timelines been established, it has become apparent we came perilously close to seeing our elected representatives taken hostage or even executed on the makeshift gallows the rioters set up outside the building.

But here’s the thing: these were not outside insurgents; they were supporters of the Republican president. Trump enflamed the insurgents but he did not create them: years of demonizing Democrats and suggesting they must not be allowed to govern did that. As NPR reporter Kirk Siegler noted, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, infamous for years of standoffs with the federal government, wrote on Facebook that Trump “pointed towards Congress and nodded his head… [and said] go get the job done.” Republicans are now caught in a vise of their own making. They have to stand either with their own voters or with democracy.

The night of the attack, more than 100 Republican members of the House of Representatives and several senators, led by Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), continued to endorse Trump’s lies by voting to reject the electoral votes for Biden in key states. The next day, Trump’s supporters tried to argue that the rioters were “Antifa,” despite their Trump garb and the fact Trump invited them, incited them, urged them to go to the Capitol, and after the riot told them he loved them. (An AP investigation establishes that they were right-wing agitators.) When that didn’t take, supporters tried “whataboutism,” comparing the Black Lives Matter protests of this summer to the storming of the Capitol.

They are trying to rewrite the history of this week to downplay that we have suffered an attempted coup that killed at least five people, and that the people behind it are still in the highest levels of our government.

The realization that we are in the midst of a coup, abetted by Trump’s use of social media, prompted Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to ban Trump permanently, and to take down QAnon accounts. That, not the Capitol attack and the murder of a police officer, has created outrage among Trump, who is allegedly “ballistic,” and Trump supporters. Republican lawmakers spent the weekend noting how many followers they were losing as Twitter took down QAnon, Nazi, and fake accounts. (Trump opponents noted that this was not actually a good thing to call attention to.) Parler has lost almost all of its supporting businesses and might go out of business itself.

Democrats are appalled by what Trump has wrought, and they are joined by plenty of Republicans. In the National Review, for example, Ed Whelan called the Capitol attack “an outrage that ought to have every genuinely patriotic American seething with anger.” He blamed Trump for inciting the attack, and said that “impeachment and conviction of Trump is an appropriate, and probably a necessary, response.”

In a powerful video, former Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger called the Capitol attack the American equivalent to Kristallnacht, which marked the beginning of German Nazis’ systemic destruction of the Jews. To puncture the idea that the sort of behavior on display on Wednesday was manly, Schwarzenegger told the private story of his abuse at the hands of his father, who had been swept up in the Nazi movement in Austria, and celebrated the sword from his starring role in the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian as a symbol not of toxic masculinity but of democracy, tempered by adversity. He called on all Americans to rally around Biden and to work to make his administration a success.

White House appointees’ resignations show which way the wind is blowing. Trump’s former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney took to Fox News Sunday to say he had no idea that people might actually do something like attack the Capitol. “People took him literally,” Mulvaney told MSNBC. “I never thought I’d see that.”

Similarly, the rioters themselves, once found and arrested, are either apologizing and saying they were swept up in the moment, or denying they were part of the mob. One man apologized for his “indiscretion.”

Both Marriott, the world’s largest hotel chain, and health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield have suspended their donations to lawmakers who voted against the counting of Biden’s electoral votes late Wednesday or early Thursday morning. The anti-Trump Lincoln Project has promised to target companies that donate to any lawmakers who voted against the counting of the electoral votes. Hitting closer to Trump, Stripe, the vendor that handles online credit card payments for Trump’s campaign, has announced it will no longer handle his account. And tonight, the Professional Golfers Association of America Board of Directors took the 2022 PGA Championship away from Trump Bedminster, his New Jersey club.

At the end of last week, Democratic leaders set out a three-part plan to punish the president for inciting an insurrection. They gave Pence an option to begin the process of invoking the 25th Amendment, which, considering the president had tried to get him killed, was not necessarily a long shot. Pence refused. They gave McConnell the weekend to convince Trump to resign. Trump refused. They announced that, if both of those things failed, they would begin impeachment proceedings on Monday.

McConnell promptly noted that the Senate could not take up such a proceeding until the day before Biden’s inauguration at the earliest. He is bargaining. It is possible to hold an impeachment trial even after a president is out of office, but he knows that Biden does not want the beginning of his term crowded with more Trump business, especially as coronavirus is raging and Biden wants to get it under control. McConnell doesn’t want Republicans to have to vote either for or against the president because such a vote will slice the Republicans in two and make it clear that some of them stand for insurrection. In the Senate, only Republicans Mitt Romney (R-UT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) have endorsed impeachment.

McConnell is hoping Pelosi will blink and the moment will pass.

She will not, and it will not. She notes, correctly, that the president is “an imminent threat” to “our Constitution and our Democracy,” and she is trying to give the Republicans cover to do the right thing. Tonight, she announced that the House tomorrow will begin proceedings on a resolution by Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) calling on Pence to mobilize the Cabinet to activate the 25th Amendment within 24 hours. If he declines, the House will turn to impeachment. She has asked for unanimous consent for the resolution to enable the Republicans to avoid a vote. If they refuse, the measure will go forward the next day anyway.

She also fired a shot across the bow of Republican lawmakers by asking her colleagues for their views on the third section of the 14th Amendment, the one that prohibits anyone who “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States, “or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,” from serving in Congress.

As I watch Republican lawmakers try to slip away from the crisis they have made, I think of Black Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, armed only with a nightstick, luring the insurgents in the wrong direction to buy the time Senators needed to escape with their lives.


Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
[SIZE=.9375rem]January 11, 2021 (Monday)[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]This morning began with House Democrats filing one article of impeachment against Trump, charging him with “incitement of insurrection.” It makes its case by noting that Trump’s months of lies about the election and his inflammatory speech to the rally on January 6-- including lines like “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore”—led directly to “violent, deadly, destructive and seditious acts.” [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]The article also noted Trump’s attempt to subvert the election through his phone call on January 2, 2021, to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, demanding he “find” enough votes to overturn the results of the presidential election in the state. Including this in the impeachment article will prevent Georgia Governor Brian Kemp from pardoning Trump for it.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]The article says that Trump is, and will remain, “a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law.” He must be removed from office and disqualified from any future positions in the U.S. government.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]This document and the procedures around it tell us far more than their simplicity suggests. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had announced the day before that the House would take up a resolution, advanced by Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), that called on Vice President Mike Pence “to convene and mobilize the Cabinet to activate the 25th Amendment to declare the President incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting President.” The resolution did not speak to the physical or mental health of the president, but focused on his inability to fulfill his duty to respect the legitimate results of the Presidential election, accept the peaceful transfer of power, protect the people of the United States, and see that the laws be faithfully executed.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]This resolution was a generous offer to Republicans. It limited its condemnation of Trump to his quite obvious refusal to accept the election results, rather than digging deeper into his behavior. Pelosi also called for Unanimous Consent to bring up the Raskin resolution. This was a way to give cover to Republicans who didn’t want to go on the record against Trump, but who want him out of power in favor of Pence.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]Although extremist Republicans are trying to argue that removing Trump shows Democratic partisanship, in fact, Pelosi was trying to give Republicans as much cover as possible.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]It was a Trump Republican who shot that down. Representative Alex Mooney (R-WV) objected to Unanimous Consent, which means that when the measure comes up again tomorrow, each Republican will have to vote either for it or against it. Mooney has condemned his fellow Republicans who would not go along with Trump’s election claims, and now he is forcing them to go on record. In other words, he is making a play to force Republicans behind Trump.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]The House will vote on the Raskin resolution tomorrow and will take up impeachment on Wednesday. There should be enough votes to pass both.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]The tide is running strongly now against Trump and those who have supported him in his attack on our democracy. What had been shock on Wednesday is hardening into fury. Yesterday, Representative Peter Meijer (R-MI) tweeted: “I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that the President of the United States was completely MIA while the next three individuals in the lines of succession (VP, Speaker of House, Senate Pres[ident] Pro Tempore) were under assault in the Capitol. Unconscionable.” [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]As of tonight, the government remains MIA. We have had no briefings from the White House, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, or the Justice Department about what happened on January 6, or what has happened since. And now acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf has resigned, effective at midnight tonight. He will be replaced by FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]The crisis is breaking the Republican Party in two. Newly elected House members have expressed dismay that they have not gotten clear instructions from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on how they should approach this week’s votes. They say they only have the sense he would like them to support the president: pretty weak sauce to hold a coalition together.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]McCarthy has his own troubles. He is closely tied to the president—Trump called him “my Kevin”-- and has been telling people that the Republicans will take the House in 2022 as voters turn against Biden, who is inheriting a colossal mess that it appears Republicans are working to make as bad as possible. But suddenly Trump is toxic. All of a sudden, McCarthy is talking about unity and working across the aisle: “As leaders, we must call on our better angels and refocus our efforts on working directly for the American people.”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]McCarthy is facing the same problem Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), the new chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee is: they are supposed to bring in campaign cash, but suddenly corporations are announcing they will no longer make political donations… at least to Republicans. Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria at Popular Information yesterday broke the story that Marriott, BlueCross BlueShield, and Commerce Bank would not contribute to the 147 Republicans who objected to the counting of the electoral votes in Congress. That’s more than half the Republicans in Congress. Verizon, AT&T, and Amazon have now joined that boycott. Citigroup, 3M, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and JPMorgan Chase have all halted political giving for several months, and a number of other companies say they are reevaluating their giving. T-Mobile told Popular Information: “The assault on the U.S. Capitol and on democracy was unacceptable.” [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]It is no wonder that both McCarthy and Scott are madly backpedaling from their former pro-Trump stances and now calling for an end to partisan rancor. According to Jonathan Swan of Axios, in a phone call this morning, Trump tried to tell McCarthy it was “Antifa people” who stormed the Capitol. But McCarthy was having none of it: “It’s not Antifa, it’s MAGA. I know. I was there.” When Trump tried to rant about election fraud, McCarthy interrupted: “Stop it. It’s over. The election is over.” [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]But the crisis is not. Army and police forces are investigating their officers who either did participate or may have participated in the riot. The FBI warned today that online activists are planning armed protests in Washington, D.C., and at all fifty state capitols between January 16 and 20, although it is not clear that their plans will translate into mass protests. In the wake of the attack, Trump supporters are harassing lawmakers, making them fear for the safety of themselves and their families. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]As Yale historian Joanne Freeman noted, threats of political violence are a means of intimidation, a way to dominate a situation when a party does not have the support of the majority. Trump’s approval rating has dropped to 33%, with 60% of voters disapproving of his job performance. Fifty-six percent of voters blame Trump for the storming of the Capitol.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]Trump supporters are growing more violent perhaps because the wave against them is building. Today Hillary Clinton called for impeachment and condemned white supremacy, hardly a surprise coming from the former Democratic presidential candidate, but the news that former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a well-regarded retired four-star general and Republican senior statesman, has rejected the Republican Party sits a little harder. Perhaps even worse is that Bill Belichick, general manager of the New England Patriots and previously a Trump supporter, today declined to accept Trump’s offer of a Presidential Medal of Freedom.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]Insurgents now face institutional pressure, as well. The Department of Justice and the FBI are tracking down more than 150 suspects for prosecution—so far—and hackers today claimed to have captured the personal data of Parler users from Parler servers, including material that users believed they had deleted after the January 6 Capitol riot. Since rioters stole laptops and documents that included items relating to national security, they are not going to be able to drop off the radar screen. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]Trump is also under pressure, the pressure of impeachment, of course, and the loss of his social media platforms. He is also under financial pressure, as Deutsche Bank, the only bank that would still lend to him, has announced it will no longer do business with him. But, according to Maggie Haberman at the New York Times, what is upsetting him most is that the PGA has pulled its 2022 golf championship from Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=.9375rem]That, not the riots, not the deaths, not impeachment, and certainly not the coronavirus--which has now killed more than 375,000 of us—has “gutted” him.[/SIZE]





Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
January 12, 2021 (Tuesday)

The news continues to move at a breathless pace.

After making no comments on the January 6 coup attempt since the day after, when he continued his assault on the validity of the 2020 election, Trump today refused to acknowledge he has done anything wrong. He told reporters his speech to the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C., that prompted the assault on the Capitol, was “totally appropriate.” He insisted that “other people” had said that the “real problem” was “the horrible riots in Portland and Seattle and various other places.”

Instead of addressing his role in the crisis, on his way to Alamo, Texas (not The Alamo, which is in San Antonio, Texas, about four hours away from Alamo), Trump blamed the Democrats for attacking him unfairly. He said that the Democrats who were pushing for impeachment were once again on a “witch hunt” that was “causing tremendous danger to our country.”

No one is buying it.

There are three real stories right now with regard to this crisis. The first is that what happened on January 6 when rioters stormed the Capitol, and what led to that attack, is getting clearer, and none of the details are good. The second, and related, story is that the Republicans are splitting, and their leadership is trying desperately to find a way to remain powerful. The third ties the first two together: lawmakers are preparing to throw Trump out of office.

Today the FBI finally briefed the public on the events of January 6. Contradicting reports that said there was no sign of trouble in advance, an FBI official said that on Tuesday, the bureau warned that extremists were going to muster in Washington, D.C., to launch a “war.” Today, the bureau announced 160 case files on the insurrection and said this was just the beginning. Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin said people will be shocked about some of the things that happened inside the Capitol. He also said the Department of Justice is considering filing charges of sedition against some of the riot’s participants.

A separate briefing for House Democratic committee chairs seemed to leave them shaken by the scope of the insurgency. “This was not a peaceful protest that got out of hand,” they said in a statement. “This was an attempted coup to derail our Constitutional process and intimidate our duly elected leaders through violence.” “[W]e have grave concerns about ongoing and violent threats to our democracy. It is clear that more must be done to preempt, penetrate, and prevent deadly and seditious assaults by domestic violent extremists in the days ahead.”

Calls for Trump’s impeachment continue to escalate. Today the New York Times editorial board blamed Trump and his supporters in Congress and in the right-wing media for the Capitol attack, “a crime so brazen that it demands the highest form of accountability that the legislature can deliver.” Perhaps of more interest to Trump’s accomplices is that today Walmart joined other corporations in refusing to donate money to the Republican lawmakers who voted against counting the electoral votes for Biden in the states Trump falsely insisted had voted for him.

The pressure of those two things made Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), the third most powerful House Republican, today come out in favor of impeachment. McConnell acknowledged that Trump had committed impeachable offenses and told other Republican leaders he welcomed the House's actions. In the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy opposes impeachment personally, but has decided not to try to lobby fellow Republicans against it, turning them loose to vote as they wish. For her part, Cheney announced she will vote to impeach the president.

Cheney’s statement suggests that part of what is driving the Republican willingness to entertain impeachment is that there will be more coming out about January 6 and Republicans want to dump Trump rather than be associated with him. She wrote: “Much more will become clear in coming days and weeks, but what we know now is enough. The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

It is undoubtedly also of great significance to McConnell that the actions of Trump and his supporters in Congress have led major donors to close their wallets. The less money McConnell has to dole out, the less power he has, and the weaker the Republicans’ chances of retaking the Senate in 2022. McConnell wants that spigot of money to reopen.

He would also like to use this moment to get rid of Trump and his supporters from Republican leadership. Trump has led the party to a major defeat and made it so reviled that it has lost the White House and the Senate, defeats for which McConnell blames the president. Indeed, the Trump administration is so reviled that today European officials took the unprecedented step of refusing to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a scheduled trip to Europe this week. He was forced to cancel his trip at the last minute. McConnell may have been announcing his support for impeachment to put pressure on Trump to resign, which would enable Republicans to avoid voting on the issue and head off an irreparable split.

For their part, the Trump Republicans are doubling down. Law enforcement has installed metal detectors for congress members to enter the House chamber, and Louis Gohmert (R-TX), for one, simply walked around it. “You can’t stop me; I’m on my way to a vote,” he told the police officers.

Tonight, by a vote of 223-205, the House passed the Raskin resolution urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and begin the process of removing Trump from office. Pence had already told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he would not do so. In a letter to Pelosi, Pence said, “I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution.” He maintains that the 25th should be used only in cases when the president is incapacitated or disabled, neither of which, he says, is the case now. Pence’s statement gave Republicans in the House cover to vote against the Raskin resolution. Only one, Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) voted in favor.

That leaves Congress to move forward with impeachment, which it will do tomorrow. As of today, five House Republicans have announced they will join the Democrats in support of the measure.

Meanwhile, all eight of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military, including chair Mark Milley, today reminded service members of their oath to the Constitution and warned against “violence, sedition and insurrection.” They reminded members of the military that “any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our tradition, values, and oath; it is against the law.”

“On January, 20, 2021," they wrote, "in accordance with the Constitution, confirmed by the states and the courts, and certified by Congress, President-elect Biden will be inaugurated and will become our 46th Commander in Chief.”


Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
January 13, 2021 (Wednesday)

At 4:22 this afternoon, the House of Representatives passed the number of votes necessary to impeach Trump. In the end, 232 Representatives—222 Democrats and 10 Republicans—agreed that the president had incited an insurrection and must be removed from office. But 197 Republicans disagreed.

And so, Donald Trump makes the history books as the first president of the United States of America to be impeached twice.

This is an indictment of him, of course, but also of the Republican Party that let him off the hook a year ago for undermining the national security of the United States as he tried to steal the 2020 election. Shortly before the Senate vote on conviction almost exactly a year ago, House impeachment manager Adam Schiff (D-CA) charged his Republican colleagues to look to the future, telling them, “you know you can’t trust this President to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to.”

But every Republican senator other than Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted to acquit the president of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. And now, here we are.

A week ago, our Capitol was overrun by insurgents seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and install Trump in the White House for at least another term. In their fury, they murdered a Capitol Police officer and came within a hair’s breadth of getting their hands on our elected officials.

The insurgents were answering the call of their president, who urged them to fight for him and claim a victory he insisted, without evidence, had been stolen from him. As they stormed the Capitol and aid did not come for the besieged lawmakers, Trump watched events unfold on the television, pleased… and, as people have begun to note, curiously unsurprised.

In the week since the attack, emerging information indicates the insurgency was planned, not spontaneous, and that lawmakers might be involved. Democrats have stood up to this attack on our democracy, but Republicans are in the same bind they’ve been in for years: how can they both keep Trump’s voters and reject Trump himself? Some establishment Republicans who have their own bases of power--Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Romney, for example-- have finally said enough is enough, and have come out against the president.

But Republican lawmakers whose only base is Trump supporters have downplayed the attack that killed five people, including a police officer, and wounded many others; defended Trump; and argued that any attempt to remove him is simply a dangerous Democratic effort to create divisions in society. They warn that holding Trump accountable will anger his supporters even more, an observation that many interpret as a threat.

This Republican split showed up today. Liz Cheney (R-WY), chair of the House Republican Conference, blamed the president for the attack on the Capitol and voted to impeach him. But only nine other Republicans joined her. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tried to split the baby by blaming the president for the attack on the Capitol but voting against impeachment. Trump loyalists like Jim Jordan (R-OH), who just received the Medal of Freedom from Trump, continued to allege that the election was tainted. They supported Trump wholeheartedly and attacked the Democrats. Refusing to acknowledge that their attacks on the election created the crisis in the first place, they called for unity and blamed the Democrats for dividing America.

One hundred and ninety-seven Republicans voted against impeaching the president. A year ago, Schiff infuriated Republicans by repeating a rumor published by CBS News that White House officials had warned party members: “Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.” Today, rumors swirled that a number of Republicans did not dare to vote in favor of impeachment because they feared for their safety and that of their loved ones.

While the House debated impeachment, the FBI continued to hunt down the insurgents, companies withdrew support from Republicans who supported the attacks on the election, and New York City canceled $17 million worth of contracts with the Trump Organization.

The article of impeachment now goes to the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suggested yesterday that he supported impeachment, but today said he would not change the Senate’s schedule to permit a trial before January 19. McConnell was likely pushing impeachment to pressure Trump to resign but, having failed, will do the bare minimum to guide the Republican Party past this moment. He needs to bend just enough to loosen up the purse strings of the companies who are saying they won’t continue to support Republicans who attacked our elections and launched a coup.

In the next week, Trump Republicans might be able to convince Americans that holding Republican insurrectionists responsible for their actions is Democratic overreaction. In that case, the Republicans can avoid taking a stand either for or against Trump while they turn this moment into a referendum on the Democrats just as they take power in the national government. They are running this play headlong, complaining bitterly, for example, about the new metal detectors installed at the entrance to the House chamber-- even as National Guard personnel patrolled the Capitol to protect them-- and complaining about “censorship” to television cameras after Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube removed QAnon accounts and Trump’s accounts.

It could also be that, as more information comes out, the story will get even worse, and it will be easier for senators to vote to convict, especially once Trump is out of office. Yesterday’s briefings by the FBI and acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin gave notice that the evolving story of what happened on January 6 will be shocking and could well involve figures in government. More than 30 House Democrats have called attention to an unusual number of Capitol tours held on January 5, at a time when coronavirus restrictions have largely ended tours. Those tours, combined with the fact that the insurrectionists appeared to have a detailed knowledge of the Capitol complex, have led to suspicions that some members of Congress might have offered aid to the rioters.

A sign that there is something big still hanging out there came tonight in the form of a taped video by Trump himself, emphasizing that he disavowed violence and defending the right to free speech protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It sounded like a charge and a defense. To release such a video means he must be worried indeed about his legal exposure.

Another sign is that virtually no one in the White House tried to defend Trump from today’s impeachment. There were no talking points, no briefings, no interviews, no calls to lawmakers. Even White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who defended the president at his first impeachment last year, wanted people to know he was not defending him this time.

Furious and isolated, Trump is lashing out at those he blamed for getting him into this mess. He has told aides that he wants personally to approve any expenses his lawyer Rudy Giuliani ran up as he traveled around the country to challenge election results, and he has told them not to pay Giuliani’s legal fees.

Trump had largely given up governing after the election anyway, but now our government seems to be operating haphazardly. Today, Israeli warplanes hit Iranian and Iranian-backed militia positions in Syria. Israeli forces are often active in this area, but this was the hardest attack in years, hitting missiles recently brought to the area and killing around 40 people. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted Trump to pressure Iran before he left office, and this strike seems intended to demonstrate a U.S.-Israeli partnership against Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Yossi Cohen, the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, made this message obvious by being seen together Monday at Café Milano in Washington, D.C., a restaurant the Washington Post described as “Washington’s ultimate place to see and be seen.”

Also yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced new coronavirus vaccine schedule guidelines, as the U.S. reported 4,327 deaths from Covid-19. In the first 13 days of 2021, we have seen more than 3 million new infections. More than 23 million Americans have been infected so far.

Almost exactly a year ago, on January 23, 2020, Adam Schiff urged Senate Republicans to convict Trump for abusing his power and obstructing Congress, and to remove him from office. “Now,” he said, “you may be asking how much damage can he really do in the next several months until the election?

“A lot,” Schiff said. “A lot of damage.”


Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
January 14, 2021 (Thursday)

“Come Wednesday, we begin a new chapter.”

So said President-Elect Joe Biden tonight as he laid out a plan for a $1.9 trillion emergency vaccination and relief package to get the country through and past the coronavirus. The Trump administration created no federal program for the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine, leaving us woefully behind where we need to be to get our population vaccinated. And the virus is spreading fast. Over the past week, we have had an average of almost 250,000 new cases a day of coronavirus, with daily deaths on either side of 4000. We are approaching 390,000 recorded deaths from Covid-19.

Biden’s plan calls for $50 billion to ramp up Covid-19 testing, including rapid tests, and to help schools and local governments establish regular testing systems. It calls for an investment of $30 billion in the Disaster Relief Fund to make sure it can provide supplies for the pandemic.

It starts by addressing the pandemic, for both Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris believe that until people are comfortable circulating again, the economy will not rebound. But the plan also calls for federal support to rebuild the economy, a reflection of the ongoing crisis that in the last week led 965,000 Americans to turn to unemployment insurance for the first time, joining more than 5 million who have already filed claims.

The plan calls for $1400 stimulus checks for individuals, expanded unemployment benefits through September, an end to eviction and foreclosure until September 30, $30 billion to help people meet payments for rent or utilities, and a $15 minimum wage. Biden is calling for aid for child care, a $3 billion investment in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and $350 billion for state, local, and tribal governments to support front line workers.

Biden laid out his ambitious plan even as fallout continued from the January 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C., when Trump supporters tried to overturn his victory in the 2020 election. Today the FBI continued to track down and arrest rioters, while the pro-Trump faction of the Republican Party continued its attempt to wrest control from establishment Republicans.

But while Republican lawmakers are calling for “unity” to deflect attention from the riot and to avoid accountability, Biden used this speech, at this time, to calm tensions and call for unity to move all Americans forward.

He emphasized, as he always does, that he wants to be a president for all Americans, not just those who voted for him, and that if we work together we can accomplish anything. He tried to appeal to disaffected Republicans by highlighting his plan to bring manufacturing jobs back to America, as well as to create new, well-paying jobs in new fields and in long delayed infrastructure projects. To reach out to religious voters who were horrified last week by the vision of those who self-identify as Christians calling for the death of Vice President Mike Pence, Biden emphasized the morality in the plan: a good society should not let children go to bed hungry.

He made a sharp contrast with the current president, not only by sharing an actual plan to confront real problems, but also by empathizing with Americans who have lost loved ones to the pandemic and who are hurting in the stalled economy. “Every day matters, every person matters,” he said.

But Biden’s plan is far larger than a way to address our current crisis. It outlines a vision for America that reaches back to an older time, when both parties shared the idea that the government had a role to play in the economy, regulating business, providing a basic social safety net, and promoting infrastructure.

That vision was at the heart of the New Deal, ushered in by Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt after the Great Crash of 1929 and the Depression that followed it illustrated that the American economy needed a referee to keep the wealthy playing by the rules. Government intervention proved so successful and so popular that the Republican Party, which had initially recoiled from what its leaders incorrectly insisted was communism, by 1952 had adopted the idea of an activist government. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower added the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to the Cabinet on April 11, 1953, and in 1956 signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which began the construction of 41,000 miles of interstate highways.

While this system was enormously popular, reactionary Republicans hated business regulation, the incursion of the federal government into lucrative infrastructure fields, and the taxes it took to pay for the new programs (the top marginal tax rate in the 1950s was 91%). They launched a movement to end what was popularly known as the “liberal consensus”: the idea that the government should take an active role in keeping the economic playing field level.

The liberal consensus was widely popular, these “Movement Conservatives” turned to the issue of race to break it. After the Supreme Court unanimously declared racial segregation in schools unconstitutional in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, Movement Conservatives warned that an active government was not defending equality but redistributing the tax dollars of hardworking white men to grasping minorities through social programs.

By 1980, Movement Conservatives were gaining power in the Republican Party by calling for tax cuts and smaller government, slashing regulations and domestic programs even as they poured money into the military and their tax cuts began moving money upward. By the 1990s, Movement Conservatives had gained the upper hand in the party and, determined to take the government back to the days before the New Deal, were systematically purging it of what they called “RINOs”—Republicans in Name Only. They would, they said, make the government small enough to drown it in a bathtub.

As they dragged the country toward the right, Republicans pulled the Democrats from the New Deal toward reforms Democratic lawmakers hoped could attract the voters they had lost to the Republicans. “The era of big government is over,” President Bill Clinton famously said, although he continued to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from Republican cuts.

The Democratic defense of an active government was popular—people actually like government regulation, social welfare programs, and roads and bridges. But Republicans continued to be determined to get rid of the liberal consensus once and for all, insisting that true liberty would free individuals to organize a booming economy. Trump’s administration was the culmination of two generations of Republican attempts to dismantle the New Deal state.

But now, the dangers of gutting our government and empowering private business to extremes have become only too clear. For four years, we have watched as a few privileged business leaders got rid of career government employees and handed their jobs to lackeys. The result has been a raging pandemic and a devastating economic collapse, as money has moved dramatically upward. Even before the pandemic, the Trump administration had added 50% to the national debt despite cuts to domestic programs. In the 2020 election, Trump offered more of the same. Americans rejected him and chose Biden.

Biden’s speech tonight marked a resurrection of the idea of an activist government as a positive good. He is calling for the government to invest in ordinary Americans rather than in the people at the top of the economy, and is openly calling for higher taxes on the wealthy to fund such investment. “Asking everyone to pay their fair share at the top so we can make permanent investments to rescue and rebuild America is the right thing for our economy,” he said. Unlike the New Dealers and Eisenhower Republicans of the mid-20th century, though, Biden’s vision is not centered on ensuring that a white man can take care of his family. It is centered on guaranteeing a fair economy for all, focusing on an idea of community that highlights the needs of women and children.

The idea of a government that supports ordinary Americans rather than the wealthy was first articulated by Abraham Lincoln in 1859 and was the system the Republicans first put in place during the Civil War. They paid for the programs with our first national taxes, including an income tax. After industrialists cut back that original system, Republican Theodore Roosevelt brought it back, and after it lapsed again in the 1920s, his Democratic cousin Franklin rebuilt it in such a profound way that it shaped modern America. With that system now on the verge of destruction yet again, Biden is making a bid to bring it back to life in a new form.

It is a new chapter indeed, but in a very traditional American story.


Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
January 15, 2021 (Friday)

Two stories jump out at me tonight.

The first is the question of why Trump seems so desperate to stay in a job he clearly has no interest in doing. Today, reporters caught sight of Michael J. Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, going into the White House. Lindell has been a strong advocate of the idea that the 2020 election, which Democrat Joe Biden won by more than 7 million votes and by a vote of 306 to 232 in the Electoral College, was fraudulent. Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford snapped an image of the papers Lindell was carrying with him, and the words on it seem to offer a plan for Trump to invoke martial law through the Insurrection Act.

Lindell later told reporters his meeting with Trump had been brief and unproductive, but the very fact he got a hearing testifies to Trump’s desperation.

That desperation suggests that Trump knows he is facing something bad the minute he is out of the presidency. It is reasonable to assume that trouble will come from the fact his immunity from prosecution under the 1973 Department of Justice memo saying that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted will end at noon on January 20, 2021. It also seems likely that the American people are going to learn that some of the actions of the Trump administration cannot bear scrutiny.

Signs that there might be damaging information about the January 6 attack on the Capitol showed today. Stories of the fighting inside the building continued to emerge today, and the stories reveal armed insurgents who attacked with the belief that they were doing Trump’s bidding. Officers were badly outnumbered, and beaten with their own batons, American flags, and the “thin blue line” flag that those who fly it have insisted represents support for the police. Officer Christina Laury told NBC’s Jackie Bensen, ““I remember people swinging metal poles at us,” she said. “They were pushing and shoving. They were spraying us with bear mace and pepper spray.”

The assistant director of the FBI Washington Field Office, Steven M. D’Antuono, today told reporters that the department, working together with the Washington, D.C., U.S. Attorney’s Office, has identified more than 270 suspects involved in criminal activity around the Capitol on January 6, and law enforcement officers have more than 100 of them in custody. He noted that the FBI had received more than 140,000 photos and videos from the public, and warned perpetrators: “To those of you who took part in the violence, here’s something you should know: Every FBI field office in the country is looking for you.” He told reporters that the investigation was still in its earliest stages.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced today that she has asked retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore to lead a review of the security arrangements for last week, and warned that if lawmakers are found to have aided the insurgents, they will face consequences in Congress and also in court. While several agencies are investigating what led to last week’s crisis and why the Capitol Police were left unsupported for hours, Pelosi’s public statement was the first to acknowledge the swirling rumors that the insurgents might have had inside help.

News broke today that prosecutors in Georgia appear to be considering a criminal investigation against Trump for his efforts to bully election officials in the state into changing the results of the election. Michael J. Moore, the former United States attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, told New York Times reporters Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim: “If you took the fact out that he is the president of the United States and look at the conduct of the call, it tracks the communication you might see in any drug case or organized crime case. It’s full of threatening undertone and strong-arm tactics.”

We also learned today that New York prosecutors met yesterday with Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen to ask about Trump’s finances, especially his relationship with Deutsche Bank, which continued to lend to him even after other sources of financing dried up.

And yet another story emerged today that reflects badly on the administration. Its vaccination rollout is far behind where officials had promised it would be by now, and three days ago, on January 12, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar announced the government would no longer hold back second doses of the vaccine, expecting that pharmaceutical companies could keep pace and produce enough vaccines for the second dose as it was needed. The popular understanding was that they had held back half the available doses for that second necessary shot.

But today we learned that when Azar made that announcement, there was no reserve; the available vaccines had already been distributed. State health officials are outraged that vaccines they had counted on are not available, another sign of just how chaotic the vaccine rollout has been. Chicago Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady told Washington Post reporters Isaac Stanley-Becker and Lena H. Sun, “I have stopped paying a whole lot of attention to what is being said verbally at the federal level right now.”

Tonight, Azar handed his resignation to Trump, effective at noon on January 20, the minute Trump leaves office. His resignation letter touts the administration’s “remarkable response to the pandemic” and insists that “our early, aggressive, and comprehensive efforts saved hundreds of thousands or even millions of American lives.” It goes on to list what he considers the many triumphs of the administration in health care. Azar appears to suggest that he is resigning because of “the actions and rhetoric following the election,” although he never identifies Trump as being behind those actions and rhetoric.

In light of all that has happened in the past two weeks, it seems noteworthy that Trump’s appointees in the Pentagon stopped sharing information with Biden’s team in mid-December. Trump appointees also refused to share information with Biden’s people about their plan for the coronavirus vaccine. When they finally did, Biden expressed concern at what seemed to him a lack of a detailed plan. Azar dismissed Biden’s concerns as “nonsense.”

If Trump’s eagerness to cling to the presidency and cover up his actions is one of today’s stories, the other is that President-Elect Joe Biden is stepping into the space the current president has abandoned. He is taking on the coronavirus crisis with the seriousness it deserves. The pandemic has reached appalling levels, with well over 3000 deaths and more than 200,000 infections every day. Almost 390,000 of us have died of Covid-19 to date, and a far more contagious version of the disease is spreading.

In a speech today, Biden announced he will use the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard to build clinics to distribute the coronavirus vaccine, and that he will make sure doses are available at local pharmacies. He promised to invoke the Defense Production Act—a law that lets the government tell a company what to make and then guarantees a market for all of that item it produces-- to guarantee there are enough supplies of vials, syringes, needles, and so on, to move the vaccine and get it into people’s arms.

“This will be one of the most challenging operation efforts ever undertaken by our country, but you have my word,” Biden said. “We will manage the hell out of this operation.”



Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
January 16, 2021 (Saturday)

Since right-wing insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on January 6 with the vague but violent idea of taking over the government, observers are paying renewed attention to the threat of right-wing violence in our midst.

For all our focus on fighting socialism and communism, right-wing authoritarianism is actually quite an old threat in our country. The nation’s focus on fighting “socialism” began in 1871, but what its opponents stood against was not government control of the means of production—an idea that never took hold in America—but the popular public policies which cost tax dollars and thus made wealthier people pay for programs that would benefit everyone. Public benefits like highways and hospitals, opponents argued, amounted to a redistribution of wealth, and thus were a leftist assault on American freedom.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that fight against “socialism” took the form of opposition to unionization and Black rights. In the 1920s, after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia had given shape to the American fear of socialism, making sure that system never came to America meant destroying the government regulation put in place during the Progressive Era and putting businessmen in charge of the government.

When Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt established business regulation, a basic social safety net, and government-funded infrastructure in the 1930s to combat the Great Depression that had laid ordinary Americans low, one right-wing senator wrote to a colleague: “This is despotism, this is tyranny, this is the annihilation of liberty…. The ordinary American is thus reduced to the status of a robot. The president has not merely signed the death warrant of capitalism, but has ordained the mutilation of the Constitution, unless the friends of liberty, regardless of party, band themselves together to regain their lost freedom.”

The roots of modern right-wing extremism lie in the post-World War II reaction to FDR’s New Deal and the Republican embrace of it under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Opponents of an active government insisted that it undermined American liberty by redistributing tax dollars from hardworking white men to those eager for a handout—usually Black men, in their telling. Modern government, they insisted, was bringing socialism to America. They set out to combat it, trying to slash the government back to the form it took in the 1920s.

Their job got easier after 1987, when the Fairness Doctrine ended. That Federal Communications Commission policy had required public media channels to base their stories on fact and to present both sides of a question. When it was gone, talk radio took off, hosted by radio jocks like Rush Limbaugh who contrasted their ideal country with what they saw as the socialism around them: a world in which hardworking white men who took care of their wives and children were hemmed in by government that was taxing them to give benefits to lazy people of color and “Feminazis.” These “Liberals” were undermining the country and the family, aided and abetted by lawmakers building a big government that sucked tax dollars.

In August 1992, the idea that hardworking white men trying to take care of their families were endangered by an intrusive government took shape at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Randy Weaver, a former factory worker who had moved his family to northern Idaho to escape what he saw as the corruption of American society, failed to show up for trial on a firearms charge. When federal marshals tried to arrest him, a firefight left Weaver’s fourteen-year-old son and a deputy marshal dead. In the aftermath of the shooting, federal and local officers laid an 11-day siege to the Weavers’ cabin, and a sniper wounded Weaver and killed his wife, Vicki.

Right-wing activists and neo-Nazis from a nearby Aryan Nations compound swarmed to Ruby Ridge to protest the government’s attack on what they saw as a man protecting his family. Negotiators eventually brought Weaver out, but the standoff at Ruby Ridge convinced western men they had to arm themselves to fight off the government.

In February of the next year, during the Democratic Bill Clinton administration, the same theme played out in Waco, Texas, when officers stormed the compound of a religious cult whose former members reported that their leader, David Koresh, was stockpiling weapons. A gun battle and a fire ended the 51-day siege on April 19, 1993. Seventy-six people died.

While a Republican investigation cited “overwhelming evidence” that exonerated the government of wrongdoing, talk radio hosts nonetheless railed against the Democratic administration, especially Attorney General Janet Reno, for the events at Waco. What happened there fit neatly into what was by then the Republican narrative of an overreaching government that crushed individuals, and political figures harped on that idea.

Rush Limbaugh stoked his listeners’ anger with reports of the “Waco invasion” and talked of the government’s “murder” of citizens, making much of the idea that a group of Christians had been killed by a female government official who was single and— as opponents made much of— unfeminine (reactionary rocker Ted Nugent featured an obscene caricature of her for years in his stage version of “Kiss My Glock”).

Horrified by the government’s attempt to break into the cult’s compound, Alex Jones, who would go on to become an important conspiracy theorist and founder of InfoWars, dropped out of community college to start a talk show on which he warned that Reno had “murdered” the people at Waco and that the government was about to impose martial law. The modern militia movement took off.

The combination of political rhetoric and violence radicalized a former Army gunner, Timothy McVeigh, who decided to bring the war home to the government. “Taxes are a joke,” he wrote to a newspaper in 1992. “More taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement…. Is a Civil War Imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that. But it might.”

On April 19, 1995, a date chosen to honor the Waco standoff, McVeigh set off a bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children younger than six, and wounded more than 800. When the police captured McVeigh, he was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Abraham Lincoln and the words “Sic Semper Tyrannis.” The same words John Wilkes Booth shouted after he assassinated Lincoln, they mean “thus always to tyrants,” and are the words attributed to Brutus after he and his supporters murdered Caesar.

By 1995, right-wing terrorists envisioned themselves as protectors of American individualism in the face of a socialist government, but the reality was that their complaints were not about government activism. They were about who benefited from that activism.

In 2014, Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy brought the contradictions in this individualist image to light when he fought the government over the impoundment of the cattle that he had been grazing on public land for more than 20 years. Bundy owed the government more than $1 million in grazing fees for running his cattle on public land, but he disparaged the “Negro” who lived in government housing and “didn’t have nothing to do.” Black people’s laziness led them to abort their children and send their young men to jail, he told a reporter, and he wondered: “are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life… or are they better off under government subsidy?”

Convinced that he was a hardworking individualist, Bundy announced he did not recognize federal power over the land on which he grazed his cattle. The government impounded his animals in 2014, but officials backed down when Bundy and his supporters showed up armed. Republican Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) called Bundy and his supporters “patriots”; Democrat Harry Reid (D-NV), the Senate Majority Leader at the time, called them “domestic terrorists” and warned, “it’s not over. We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over.”

It wasn’t. Two years later, Bundy’s son Ammon was at the forefront of the right-wing takeover of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, arguing that the federal government must turn over all public lands to the states to open them to private development. The terrorists called themselves “Citizens for Constitutional Freedom.”

For the past four years, Trump and his enablers have tried to insist that unrest in the country is caused by “Antifa,” an unorganized group of anti-fascists who show up at rallies to confront right-wing protesters. But the Department of Homeland Security this summer identified “anarchist and anti-government extremists” as “the most significant threat… against law enforcement.” According to DHS, they are motivated by “their belief that their liberties are being taken away by the perceived unconstitutional or otherwise illegitimate actions of government officials or law enforcement.” Those anti-government protesters are now joined quite naturally by white supremacists, as well as other affiliated groups.

Right-wing terrorism in American has very deep roots, and those roots have grown since the 1990s as Republican rhetorical attacks on the federal government have fed them. The January 6 assault on the Capitol is not an aberration. It has been coming for a very long time.


Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
January 18, 2021 (Monday)

The Trump administration is winding down as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris prepare to take office on Wednesday.

Trump will leave office with an approval rating of 34%, dismal by any measure. He is the first president since Gallup began polling never to break 50% approval. After the attack on the Capitol on January 6, the House of Representatives impeached him for a second time, and a majority of Americans think he should have been removed from office.

In the last days of his term, the area of Washington, D.C., around our government buildings has been locked down to guard against further terrorism. Our tradition of a peaceful transition of power, established in 1800, has been broken. There is a 7-foot black fence around the Capitol and 15,000 National Guard soldiers on duty in a bitterly cold Washington January. There are checkpoints and road closures near the center of the city, and 10,000 more troops are authorized if necessary. Another 4,000 are on duty in their states, protecting key buildings and infrastructure sites.

In the past two days, there have been more indications that members of the Trump administration were behind the January 6 coup attempt. Yesterday, Richard Lardner and Michelle R. Smith of the Associated Press broke the story that, far from being a grassroots rally, the event of January 6 that led to the storming of the Capitol was organized and staffed by members of Trump’s presidential campaign team. These staffers have since tried to distance themselves from it, deleting their social media accounts and refusing to answer questions from reporters.

A number of the arrested insurrectionists have claimed that they were storming the Capitol because the president told them to. According to lawyers Teri Kanefield and Mark Reichel, writing in the Washington Post, this is known as the “public authority” defense, meaning that if someone in authority tells you it’s okay to break a law, that advice is a defense when you are arrested. It doesn’t mean you won’t be punished, but it is a defense. It also means that the person offering you that instruction is more likely to be prosecuted.

The second impeachment, popular outcry, and continuing stories about the likely involvement of administration figures in the coup attempt seem to have trimmed Trump’s wings in his last days in office. He is issuing orders that Biden vows to overturn, and contemplating pardons (stories say those around him are selling access to him to advocate for those pardons), but otherwise today was quiet.

He has tried to install a loyalist as the top lawyer at the National Security Agency, either to burrow him in or to get the green light for dumping NSA documents before he leaves office; Biden’s team will fight what is clearly an attempt to politicize the position. Tonight, Census Director Steven Dillingham resigned after whistleblowers alleged that he and other political appointees were putting pressure on department staffers to issue a hasty and unresearched report on undocumented immigrants.

According to news reports, Trump is planning to leave Washington on the morning of January 20 and should be at his Florida club Mar-a-Lago by the time Biden and Harris are sworn in. The last president to miss a successor’s inauguration was Andrew Johnson, who in 1869 refused to attend Ulysses S. Grant’s swearing-in, and instead spent the morning signing last-minute bills to put in place before Grant took office.

There is a lot of chatter tonight about the release today of the 1776 Report guidelines on American history. This is the administration’s reply to the 1619 Project from the New York Times, which focused on America’s history of racism.

As historian Torsten Kathke noted on Twitter, none of the people involved in compiling today’s 41-page document are actually historians. They are political scientists and Republican operatives who have produced a full-throated attack on progressives in American history as well as a whitewashed celebration of the U.S.A. Made up of astonishingly bad history, this document will not stand as anything other than an artifact of Trump’s hatred of today’s progressives and his desperate attempt to wrench American history into the mythology he and his supporters promote so fervently.

But aside from the bad history, the report is a fascinating window into the mindset of this administration and its supporters. In it, the United States of America has been pretty gosh darned wonderful since the beginning, and has remained curiously static. “[T]he American people have ever pursued freedom and justice,” it reads, and while “neither America nor any other nation has perfectly lived up to the universal truths of equality, liberty, justice, and government by consent,” “no nation… has strived harder, or done more, to achieve them.”

America seems to have sprung up in 1776 in a form that was fine and finished. But, according to the document’s authors, trouble began in the 1890s, when “progressives” demanded that the Constitution “should constantly evolve to secure evolving rights.” It was at that moment the teaching of history took a dark turn.

The view that America was born whole, has stayed the same, and is simply a prize worth possessing reminds me of so much of the world of Trump and the people around him, characterized by acquisition: buildings, planes, yachts, clothing, bank accounts. Trump and his people seem to see the world as a zero-sum game in which the winners have the most stuff, and America is just one more thing to possess.

But there is a big difference in this world between having and doing.

America has never fully embodied equality, liberty, and justice. What it has always had was a dream of justice and equality before the law. The 1776 Report authors are right to note that was an astonishing dream in 1776, and it made this country a beacon of radical hope. It was enough to inspire people from all walks of life to try to make that dream a reality. They didn’t have an ideal America; they worked to make one.

The hard work of doing is rarely the stuff of heroic biographies of leading men. It is the story of ordinary Americans who were finally pushed far enough that they put themselves on the line for this nation’s principles.

It is the story, for example, of abolitionist newspaperman Elijah P. Lovejoy, murdered by a pro-slavery mob in 1837, and the U.S. soldiers who twenty-four years later fought to protect the government against a pro-slavery insurrection designed to destroy it. It is the story of Lakota leader Red Cloud, who negotiated with hostile government leaders on behalf of his people, and of his contemporary Booker T. Washington, who tried to find a way for Black people to rise in the heart of the South in a time of widespread lynching. It is the story of Nebraska politician William Jennings Bryan, who gave voice to suffering farmers and workers in the 1890s, and of Frances Perkins, who carried his ideas forward as FDR’s Secretary of Labor and brought us Social Security. It is the story of the American G.I.s, from all races, ethnicities, genders, and walks of life who fought in WWII. It is the story of labor organizer Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, and Fannie Lou Hamer, who faced down men bent on murdering her and became an advocate for Black voting. It is the story of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who 60 years ago this week warned us against the “military-industrial complex.”

And it is, of course, the story of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life we celebrate today. King challenged white politicians to take on poverty as well as racism to make the promise of America come true for all of us. “Some forty million of our brothers and sisters are poverty stricken, unable to gain the basic necessities of life,” he reminded white leaders in May 1967. “And so often we allow them to become invisible because our society’s so affluent that we don’t see the poor. Some of them are Mexican Americans. Some of them are Indians. Some are Puerto Ricans. Some are Appalachian whites. The vast majority are Negroes in proportion to their size in the population…. Now there is nothing new about poverty. It’s been with us for years and centuries. What is new at this point though, is that we now have the resources, we now have the skills, we now have the techniques to get rid of poverty. And the question is whether our nation has the will….” Just eleven months later, a white supremacist murdered Dr. King.

These people did not have a perfect nation, they worked to build one. They embraced America so fully they tried to bring its principles to life, sometimes at the cost of their own. Rather than simply trying to own America, the doers put skin in the game.

Today, the Trump administration issued the 1776 Report that presented the United States of America as a prize to be possessed. And yet, the country is demonstrably still in the process of being created: tonight, there are 15,000 soldiers in the cold in Washington, D.C., defending the seat of our government against insurgents.


Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
January 19, 2021 (Tuesday)

On January 20, 2017, Trump took the oath of office and gave his “American Carnage” speech describing America as a hellscape, and we were off to the races.

Trump vowed he would smash norms and boundaries to “drain the swamp.” He filled positions in his administration with political operatives and appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner to manage so many projects it would have been funny if it weren’t so deadly serious. The policies the administration advanced were usually hastily and poorly conceived; when the courts overturned them, Trump complained of “the Deep State.”

Days after he took office, he issued the travel ban aimed at Muslims, the first in a series of actions throughout his presidency designed to subordinate people of color to white Americans. The racism in his rhetoric and regulations pulled white supremacists behind him. On August 11-12, 2017, they rioted in Charlottesville, Virginia. Their protest of the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee became an attempt to create a political vanguard.

The “Unite the Right” rally turned violent, injuring more than 30 people and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, whose last Facebook post before she joined the counter protest in Charlottesville read: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Three days after the riots, asked about the violent protests in Charlottesville, Trump said that “you… had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” People took that, rightly, as Trump’s support for white supremacy and the gangs that advanced it, a support illustrated dramatically in summer 2020, when he and his attorney general, William Barr, used federal troops against peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters.

By spring 2017, there was another crisis on the horizon. The FBI was investigating the cooperation of Trump’s presidential campaign with Russian spies. Trump’s former National Security Adviser, retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn, had lied to the FBI about conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and Trump pressured then-FBI Director James Comey to stop the agency’s investigation of Flynn. When Comey refused, Trump fired him, prompting the deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Special Counsel Robert Mueller (then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself because he, too, had lied about conversations with Russians) to investigate the ties between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives.

Both Mueller’s report and the report of the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee established that Russian operatives had interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump. They indicated that Trump campaign officials knew what the Russians were doing and were willing to accept their help. The Senate Intelligence Committee also noted that Trump’s campaign chair Paul Manafort gave sensitive internal information about the campaign to a Russian operative in Ukraine. Trump continued to call these allegations the “Russia hoax,” but observers noted that, for all his feuds with other leaders, he seemed oddly solicitous of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump came to office with an expanding economy. In the first three years of his presidency, the economy continued to grow, in part because of tax cuts that slashed the corporate tax rate by 40%. Trump promised that these cuts would be “rocket fuel for our economy,” but economic growth stayed at about 2.9%, the same as it had been in 2015, and more than 60% of the benefits from the cuts went to those at the top 20% of the economic ladder. Even before the pandemic, Trump’s economic policies were projected to add about $10 trillion to the national debt by 2025, an increase of more than 50%.

And then the pandemic hit. Trump first downplayed the crisis, then insisted that Democrats demanding he address the crisis were overplaying it: he called it a Democratic “hoax.” The pandemic tanked the economy, undercutting his best argument for reelection, and by summer 2020 the administration had decided its best option was to reopen schools and the economy and to try to achieve herd immunity through infections. The result was a disaster. Today, on the last day of Trump’s administration, the number of Americans we have officially lost to Covid-19 has topped 400,000. That’s about the same number of people we lost in World War Two.

The pandemic threw about 22 million people out of work and forcing businesses into bankruptcy. As the faltering economy undercut Trump’s plans for reelection, he tried to destroy faith in mail-in ballots, trying to drive people to in-person voting sites. Then, when that didn’t work, he pushed the idea that Democrats would steal the election. Although his Democratic challengers Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 election by more than 7 million popular votes and secured the Electoral College by a vote of 306 to 232, Trump and his supporters continued to insist the election was stolen.

On January 6, 2021, Trump and key members of his administration rallied his supporters to attack the counting of the certified electoral ballots for Biden and Harris. Encouraged by the president, the crowd marched to the Capitol with the plan of disrupting the vote. They overpowered the police, killing one officer; broke into the building; and came within a minute of taking our elected leaders hostage, or perhaps executing them on the gallows they built.

In the wake of the attack on the Capitol, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for the second time—the first was in 2019 after he withheld congressionally-approved money to Ukraine in an attempt to bully the newly-elected Ukraine president into announcing an investigation into Joe Biden’s son Hunter in the hopes of weakening Biden as a potential rival in the 2020 election.

So, Trump leaves the White House tomorrow facing a second Senate impeachment trial.

Trump has split the Republican Party. His true loyalists intend to turn America into a right-wing, white, Christian nation as embodied in the 1776 Report the administration released yesterday. In the last days of the administration, Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is pretty clearly trying to position himself for a 2024 presidential run, tweeting from the official government account of the State Department a long list of what he considers his accomplishments. Others are likely planning to give him a run for his money. Today Senator Josh Hawley, under suspicion of inciting the January 6 rioters with his support for throwing out Biden’s Electoral College votes, slow-walked Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security because Hawley objects to Biden’s plans to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Establishment Republicans are trying to regain control of the party. After the January coup attempt, some corporations announced they would no longer donate to Republicans who had voted to challenge the certified electoral votes, while others declared a moratorium on all political spending. The corporate turn against the Trump wing of the Republican Party strengthened the backbone of the establishment Republicans. Today Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stood on the floor of the Senate and put Trump at the center of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. "The mob was fed lies," McConnell said. “They were provoked by the President and other powerful people."

But McConnell went on. He claimed that neither party has a broad mandate after the 2020 elections, which, he said, meant that the Democrats have no call to advance “sweeping ideological change.” He is referring, of course, to the plans of incoming President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, which he has every intention of stopping.

Today, President-Elect Joe Biden arrived at Joint Base Andrews. He traveled in a private plane since Trump refused to extend him the traditional courtesy of a military plane offered from an outgoing president to an incoming one. Trump will not attend Biden’s swearing-in; he will leave for Florida in the morning. In his place, three of the other living ex-presidents will be attending the inauguration: Republican George W. Bush, Democrat Bill Clinton, and Democrat Barack Obama. It’s a party of ex-presidents, together to emphasize the peaceful transition of power. Trump won’t be there.

The tide is already turning against him. Vice President Mike Pence has announced he will not be able to attend Trump’s farewell ceremony as he is attending Biden’s inauguration instead. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and McConnell—who will become minority leader tomorrow after the two new Democratic senators from Georgia are sworn in—are not going to see Trump off, either: they will be attending church with Biden before his inauguration.

Tomorrow at noon, President-Elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office. He intends to return the government to the principles the Democratic Party has held since the late nineteenth century: that the federal government has a role to play in responding to the needs of ordinary Americans. He has also embraced the traditional Democratic idea that the government should actually look like the people it represents. In an implicit rebuke of Trump’s white nationalism, he has tapped the most diverse set of officials in American history. They are also extraordinarily well-qualified and have many years of experience in government.

Biden and Harris have already outlined a very different administration than Trump’s. Their first task is to combat the coronavirus. Biden wants 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, and is mobilizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard to make that happen. To rebuild the economy, they have advanced a coronavirus relief package designed to protect children, first, and then women and families. It calls for expanded food relief and rent and mortgage protection, as well as expanded unemployment benefits and a one-time relief payment.

Trump’s administration is, perhaps, ending where it began. This weekend, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny returned to Russia after his near-fatal poisoning by Putin’s agents in August. Upon his return to Russia, authorities immediately detained him. Trump refused to join other nations in condemning the poisoning, but yesterday, Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) demanded that the U.S. hold Putin accountable for “the corruption and lawlessness of the Putin regime.” Joining Romney in calling for new sanctions against Russia were a range of senators from both parties.

The act is called the “Holding Russia Accountable for Malign Activities Act.”


Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
January 20, 2021 (Wednesday)

“Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” America’s 22-year-old poet laureate Amanda Gorman asked today as she spoke at the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States: Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.

For the past four years we have lived under an administration that advanced policies based on bullying; a fantasy of a lost, white, Christian America; and disinformation. We have endured the gutting of our government as the president either left positions empty or replaced career officials with political operatives, corruption, the rise of white supremacists into positions of power, the destruction of our international standing, an unchecked pandemic that has led to more than 400,000 deaths from Covid-19, an economic crash, and unprecedented political polarization.

“And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it,” Gorman reminded us.

That light was us.

In these terrible years, our politicians often failed us… but the American people did not. Our national guardrails often failed us… but the American people did not. Many of our neighbors often failed us, but the American people did not.

Beginning on January 21, 2017, when women marched on Washington in the largest single-day protest in American history and dwarfed the new president’s inauguration numbers of the previous day, more and more of us worked together to keep the dream of American democracy alive. Last November, more than 81 million of us braved the coronavirus pandemic and voter suppression to reject a divisive president who seemed bent on turning our nation into an oligarchy. By more than 7 million votes, we elected Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to take the highest offices in the land.

Today, President Biden and Vice President Harris took their oaths of office in a ceremony that was sparsely attended because of the pandemic, in a city that was locked down out of concerns of violence from those who tried just two weeks ago to overturn the election.

Trouble, either in Washington, D.C., or in state capitals across the nation, did not materialize. Over the past two weeks, law enforcement officers have tracked down and arrested the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6, and the realization that committing federal crimes brings consequences might have taken some of the wind out of rioters’ sails. Today, one of the riot’s organizers, Joseph Biggs of the far-right Proud Boys, was arrested in Florida. For their part, the Proud Boys have turned on the former president, calling him “extraordinarily weak” for leaving office, and “a total failure.”

Kamala Harris took the oath first today, becoming the first woman, the first Black person, and the first person of South Asian heritage to become a vice president. She was dressed in purple in honor of Shirley Chisholm, the seven-term New York Representative who was the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress and who ran for president in 1972. Chisholm used the colors purple and yellow in her campaign, and Harris picked them up for her own presidential bid.

Biden came next.

After taking the oath, Biden delivered an inaugural address that was not simply the call for unity that he has been making for the past year. It was a call for Americans to come together to rebuild America, one that echoed that of President John F. Kennedy in 1961, when he told us: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Biden recalled the Civil War, the Great Depression, the World Wars, and the attacks of 9/11, noting that “n each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.” He urged today’s Americans to do the same in what he called “a time of testing” that brings together great crises: “an attack on our democracy and on truth. A raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis.”

“Are we going to step up, all of us?” he asked. “It’s time for boldness, for there is so much to do. And this is certain. I promise you, we will be judged, you and I, by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era…. Will we master this rare and difficult hour?”

If we do, he said, “we shall write an American story of hope, not fear. Of unity, not division. Of light, not darkness. An American story of decency and dignity. Of love and of healing. Of greatness and of goodness…. The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history. We met the moment. That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.”

After the ceremony, the new president and vice president and their spouses visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, and then Biden headed to the Oval Office. "I thought there's no time to wait. Get to work immediately," he said.

Biden began the process of signing more than a dozen executive actions, most of which either take us back to where we were four years ago or address the coronavirus pandemic. The executive orders will enable the United States to rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accords, and revoke new oil and gas development at national wildlife monuments. They reverse Trump’s own order not to count undocumented immigrants in the census, and call for a path to citizenship for the “Dreamers,” about a million undocumented immigrants brought here as children. Biden ended the travel ban that restricted travel from Muslim-dominated countries, one of his predecessor’s signature issues. He also stopped border wall construction.

Biden established a mask mandate on federal property and by federal employees, and reorganized government coordination on the coronavirus response. He revoked his predecessor’s limits on diversity and inclusion training and took down the partisan 1776 Report that attacked progressives and whitewashed our history that was issued just two days ago.

Tonight, Press Secretary Jen Psaki held her first press briefing. She began by saying: "I have deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy and for the role all of you play," then went on to answer questions. She will hold another press conference tomorrow, saying that Biden wants to bring truth and transparency back.

“Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished,” Amanda Gorman said today. And then, she concluded her inaugural poem with a reminder of the lesson that many of us have learned over the last four years: “[T]here is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.”


Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
January 21, 2021 (Thursday)

Today’s big news was not entirely unexpected: There was never any plan for a federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. "What we're inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined," said President Biden's coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients in a call with reporters. Another official said: “There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch."

Biden says he is approaching the coronavirus with a “wartime” strategy, moving the power of the federal government behind the effort to get everyone vaccinated. He warned today that the death toll, which is at 407,000 Americans today, will likely rise to 500,000 by the end of February. Today, he invoked the Defense Production Act, which enables the government to direct private companies to produce goods for national needs at the same time that it provides a market for the goods the companies produce. He wants more testing, faster vaccinations, and more funding for state and local governments to enable them to provide more vaccination sites. He has announced he hopes to vaccinate 100 million Americans by April 20.

The new president is also facing bad economic news as almost a million more people filed for unemployment benefits this week. This is the worst jobs market any modern president has ever inherited.

Biden is trying to get a handle on our national intelligence. This morning, Avril Haines, former Deputy National Security Adviser and Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Obama administration, became the Director of National Intelligence, overseeing the nation’s intelligence community. The Senate confirmed her appointment yesterday evening by a vote of 84 to 10.

Today, Biden asked the U.S. intelligence community to assess the recent hack of United States businesses and government agencies, the poisoning of Putin opponent Alexei Navalny in August, and the story that Russia offered to Taliban-linked militias bounties on U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan. These events are all linked to Russia and Vladimir Putin, whom the former president refused to criticize or investigate.

If that is what is happening specifically in Washington today, there are more general stories in the news, too, as Americans take stock of where we are and how we got here.

The January 6 attack on the Capitol made Americans acutely aware of the danger that disinformation poses to our democracy. Evidence indicates that the people who stormed the Capitol were radicalized by online QAnon conspiracy theories and by Republicans who pushed the lie that the 2020 election had been stolen. In the face of this disinformation, many different voices are now talking about the 1987 lapse of the Fairness Doctrine, which required companies that held broadcast licenses to present issues honestly, giving equal time to opposing opinions. People are talking about how its principles might be restored even in an era when modern technology means that we no longer need broadcast licenses to share news.

On Tuesday, Shepard Smith, a reporter who worked at the Fox News Channel until 2019 and who now has a show at CNBC, explained to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour why he left his job at the FNC. " I believe that when people begin with a false premise and lead people astray, that's injurious to society," Smith continued, "and it's the antithesis of what we should be doing."

"I don't know how some people sleep at night,” Smith said, “because I know there are a lot of people who have propagated the lies and have pushed them forward over and over again, who are smart enough and educated enough to know better. And I hope that at some point, those who have done us harm as a nation — and I might even add as a world — will look around and realize what they've done. But I'm not holding my breath."

Over the years, people fed up with the Fox News Channel have organized boycotts of businesses advertising on one show or another, but a big source of FNC’s income is not advertising, but rather cable fees. FNC is bundled with other channels, so many people who do not want it pay for it. Today on Twitter, lawyer Pam Keith noted that a simple regulatory change ending this sort of bundling would force FNC and similar channels to compete on a level playing field rather than being able to survive on fees from people who might not want to support them.

The other story from today with a long history behind it is that the Senate is currently unable to organize itself because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is insisting that the Democrats commit to leaving the filibuster intact. The filibuster is peculiar to the Senate, and is a procedure designed to draw out the session to prevent a vote on a measure. It is an old system, but it is not exactly hallowed: it was a bit of a mistake.

The Constitution provides for the Senate to pass most measures by a simple majority. It also permits each house of Congress to write its own rules. According to historian Brian Bixby, the House discovered early on that it needed a procedure to stop debate and get on with a vote. The Senate, a much smaller body, did not.

In the 1830s, senators in the minority discovered they could prevent votes on issues they disliked simply by talking the issue to death. In 1917, when both President Woodrow Wilson and the American people turned against the filibuster after senators used it to stop Wilson from preparing for war, the Senate reluctantly adopted a procedure to end a filibuster using a process called “cloture,” but that process is slow and it takes a majority of three-fifths of all members. Today, that is 60 votes.

From 1917 to 1964, senators filibustered primarily to stop civil rights legislation. The process was grueling: a senator had to talk for hours, as South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond did in 1957, when he spoke for 24 hours straight to stand against a civil rights act. But the need to speed up Senate business meant that in the 1960s and 1970s, senators settled on procedural filibusters that enabled an individual senator to kill a measure simply by declaring opposition, rather than through the old-fashioned system of all-night speeches. The Senate also declared some measures, such as budget resolutions, immune to filibusters. Effectively, this means that it takes 60 votes, rather than a simple majority, to get anything--other than absolutely imperative financial measures-- done.

In 2013, frustrated by the Republicans’ filibustering of President Obama’s judicial nominees and picks for a number of officials in the Executive Branch, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) prohibited filibusters on certain Executive Branch and judicial nominees. In 2017, when Democrats tried to filibuster the nomination of Supreme Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell killed the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, as well.

The filibuster remains in place for legislation.

The Democrats currently have no plans to try to kill the filibuster altogether—they do not have the votes, as Joe Manchin (D-WV) has openly opposed the idea and others are leery—but they want to keep the threat of killing it to prevent McConnell and the Republicans from abusing it and stopping all Democratic legislation.

This impasse means that senators are not organizing the Senate. New senators have not been added to existing committees, which leaves Republicans in the majority in key committees. This is slowing down Biden’s ability to get his nominees confirmed.

What’s at stake here is actually quite an interesting question. While the new Senate is split evenly—50 Democrats, 50 Republicans—the 50 Democrats in the Senate represent over 41.5 million more people than the 50 Republicans represent. The filibuster means that no legislation can pass Congress without the support of 10 Republicans. Essentially, then, the fight over the filibuster is a fight not just about the ability of the Democrats to get laws passed, but about whether McConnell and the Republicans, who represent a minority of the American people, can kill legislation endorsed by lawmakers who represent quite a large majority.

We are in an uncomfortable period in our history in which the mechanics of our democracy are functionally anti-democratic. The fight over the filibuster might seem dull, but it’s actually a pretty significant struggle as our lawmakers try to adapt the rules of our system to our changing nation.


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