Sunday, January 31, 2021

Something to Know - 31 January

Very interesting developments on Trump's legal defense;  all five of the lawyers who were working on his "defense" quit - yes, all of them. Seems as though Trump was dictating the method of his defense, and the lawyers could not support his unsupportable and undefendable story based on lies.   Where does Individual #1 go from here?   He is his own worst enemy.  HCR took the day off, so she probably will write about his story tonight for tomorrow's readers.   In the meantime, please read this from Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post; no friend of Trump as she excoriates the GOP:

Opinion: The GOP isn't doomed. It's dead.

Image without a caption
Opinion by 

With the electoral eviction of Donald Trump from the Oval Office, Republicans had a shot at redemption and resurrection.
They missed and failed — and deserve to spend the next several years in political purgatory. The chaos now enveloping what's left of the Grand Old Party after four years of catering to an unstable president is theirs to own. Where conservatism once served as a moderating force — gently braking liberalism's boundless enthusiasm — the former home of ordered liberty has become a halfway house for ruffians, insurrectionists and renegade warriors.

What does Trump have on these people, one wonders? The continuing loyalty of so many to a man so demonstrably dangerous can't be explained by "the base," a word never more aptly applied. What secrets were shared by Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who, after blaming Trump for the Jan. 6 mob attack, visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago this week to make amends? It seems that The Don, yet another appropriate nickname, need only purse his button lips and whistle to summon his lap dogs to Palm Beach, there to conspire for the next Big Lie.

The party's end was inevitable, foreshadowed in 2008 when little-boy Republican males, dazzled by the pretty, born-again, pro-life Alaska governor, thought Sarah Palin should be a heartbeat away from the presidency. The dumbing down of conservatism, in other words, began its terminal-velocity plunge, with a wink and a pair of shiny red shoes. Palin cast a spell as potent as the poppy fields of Oz, but turned the United States into her own moose-poppin,' gum-smackin' reality show.

Forget Kansas. We're not in America anymore.

Eight years of Barack Obama added insult to injury and paved the way for Trump — a gaudier, cinematic version of the "thrillah from Wasilla." Seizing upon our every worst instinct, he turned Palin's lipsticked pig into a herd of seething, primitive barbarians. Now, the Department of Homeland Security is warning of yet more violence by domestic extremists, presumably from the ranks of the mob and QAnon conspiracists who stormed the Capitol with blood on their minds.

For Donald Trump, you went down this road? Either Trump has a stockpile of incriminating videos — his people have people, you know — or today's Republicans are the weakest, wimpiest, most pathetic crop of needy nincompoops in U.S. history.
Suddenly, the "good ones" are worried about their newest member, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a QAnon-promoting female version of Trump — only without the charm. You begin to see how this monster mutates like a certain virus into ever-more-dangerous versions of itself. Among other things, Greene embraces the conspiracy theory that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and the slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., were staged. One struggles for words, but I'll settle for "creep."
Recently unearthed video shows Greene chasing David Hogg, the Parkland student who rose to public prominence as a gun-control activist after the February 2018 shooting, goading him to respond to her insinuation that his ability to get appointments with U.S. senators when she couldn't obviously meant he was a public relations spawn and not a survivor of a terrorist attack.

I confess to early uncertainty about Hogg, who was preternaturally adept at media management and public speaking, suddenly materializing from the fog of horror. But the notion that he was somehow complicit in a manufactured act of mass murder is beyond the pale even for the farthest right.
Good work, GOP. You got yourself a live one. Naturally, Greene has been assigned to the Education and Labor Committee.
Going forward, not only will House Republicans be associated with a colleague who "liked" a Twitter post calling for Speaker Nancy Pelosi's murder. They'll be attached to QAnon, which promotes the extraordinary fiction that Trump was leading a war against Satan-worshiping pedophiles and cannibals, whose leadership includes Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks and, oh, by the way, yours truly, as well as U2's Bono.

To those Republicans who can read: You own all of this. The party isn't doomed; it's dead. The chance to move away from Trumpism, toward a more respectful, civilized approach to governance that acknowledges the realities of a diverse nation and that doesn't surrender to the clenched fist, has slipped away. What comes next is anybody's guess. But anyone who doesn't speak out against the myths and lies of fringe groups, domestic terrorists and demagogues such as Trump deserves only defeat — and a lengthy exile in infamy. Good riddance.

Read more from Kathleen Parker's archive, follow her on Twitter or find her on Facebook.


When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we're brave enough to see it.
If only we're brave enough to be it.

- Amanda Gorman

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Something to Ponder and Chuckle Over

Just passing this on, since there is not much else to do right now.

A column in today's New York Times by Dwight Garner, whio is working on a collection of quotations.  Some especially liked Dolly Parton's, and Robert Benchley's:

by Dwight Garner

Mankind is divisible into two great classes: hosts and guests.
— Max Beerbohm

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who know where their high school yearbook is and those who do not.
— Sloane Crosley, "I Was Told There'd Be Cake"

The world is divided into two types: the idle and the anti-idle. The anti-idle I hereby christen 'botherers.'
— Tom Hodgkinson, "How to Be Idle"

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who leave home, and those who don't.
— Tayari Jones, "An American Marriage"

Either you're a crunchy person or you're not.
— Marion Cunningham, "The Breakfast Book"

Instead of this absurd division into sexes they ought to class people as static and dynamic.
— Evelyn Waugh, "Decline and Fall"

The world, as we know, divides unequally between those who love aspic (not too many) and those who loathe and fear it (most).
— Laurie Colwin, "More Home Cooking"

The world is divided into two classes — invalids and nurses.
— James McNeill Whistler

For me, all people are divided into two groups — those who laugh, and those who smile.
— Vladimir Nabokov, "Think, Write, Speak"

The world is home to two kinds of folk: those who name their horses and those who don't.
— Téa Obreht, "Inland"

Freddie, there are two kinds of people in this world, and you ain't one of them.
— Dolly Parton, in "Rhinestone"

Perhaps there are two kinds of people, those for whom nothingness is no problem, and those for whom it is an insuperable problem.
— John Updike, "Self-Consciousness"

There are only two kinds of people, the ones who like sleeping next to the wall, and those who like sleeping next to the people who push them off the bed.
— Etgar Keret, "The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God"

"Sheep" and "goats"
— The two classes of people, according to Hugh Trevor-Roper

"Cats" and "monkeys"
— The two human types, according to Henry James

"Cleans" and "Dirties"
— The two kinds of writers, according to Saul Bellow

"Hairy" and "Smooth"
— The two kinds of playwrights, according to Kenneth Tynan

There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.
— Aldo Leopold, "A Sand County Almanac"

What he failed to understand was that there were really only two kinds of people: fat ones and thin ones.
— Margaret Atwood, "Lady Oracle"

There are two kinds of people in the world: the kind who alphabetize their record collections, and the kind who don't.
— Sarah Vowell, "The Partly Cloudy Patriot"

There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Great Gatsby"

I divide the world into people who want to control something and those who want to make something.
— Henri Cole, in The Paris Review

The world is divided into two types of fishermen: those who catch fish and those who do not.
— Jacques Pépin, "The Apprentice"

There truly are two kinds of people: you and everyone else.
— Sarah Manguso

There are two kinds of people, and I don't care much for either of them.
— Eric Idle, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"

There may be said to be two classes of people in the world; those who constantly divide the people of the world into two classes, and those who do not. Both classes are extremely unpleasant to meet socially.
— Robert Benchley, in Vanity Fair


When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we're brave enough to see it.
If only we're brave enough to be it.

- Amanda Gorman

Something to Know - 30 January

As have said, watching individual Republicans try and out-trump their intra-party competitors is humorous, as well as a demonstration of a crass lack of ethics and enduring philosophies, we have this story from today's NY Times on a beautiful example of what we are talking about; Ivanka and Marco.  Keeping up with the Biden administration, HCR shows how the real president is sticking to his agenda, and not getting bogged down with any comments or involvement with the clown show of GeeOpie malcontents:

Marco Rubio Deserves Ivanka Trump

Will the senator's sycophancy and shape-shifting come to naught?

Frank Bruni

Opinion Columnist

  • Jan. 29, 2021

It's a measure of the Republican Party's current depravity that I think of the period when Marco Rubio was besmirching Donald Trump's genitalia as the good old days.
It was early 2016, Trump hadn't yet locked down the Republican presidential nomination and Rubio, smarting from Trump's nickname for him ("Little Marco') and cracks about his overactive sweat glands, began pointing voters toward Trump's private parts.
"He's, like, 6-2, which is why I don't understand why his hands are the size of someone who's 5-2," Rubio told voters at a campaign rally in late February that year. "Have you seen his hands? And you know what they say about men with small hands."
In that age of innocence, we were talking and even laughing about the nether regions of Republican anatomy. Five years later, we're talking and most certainly not laughing about the nether regions of Republican morality, which Rubio plumbs as shamelessly as his more exposed Senate colleagues Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton do.

All four seem to have dreams of 2024 and don't want to run afoul of Trump and his base, no matter how thoroughly that debases them. They're vain weather vanes of his hold on the party, the strength and stubbornness of which are evident in the populous crowd of Trump-smooching presidential aspirants (these four, Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, etc.) versus the sparse crew of Trump-spanking ones (Larry Hogan, Ben Sasse and that's about it).
As Trump's impeachment trial looms, everything that these young or youngish senators say and do can be seen as an audition for his mantle, which Hawley and Cruz reached for with special cynicism when they joined six other senators in voting not to certify Joe Biden's election. Rubio and Cotton didn't go quite that far, but I'm sure Rubio was tempted. Ever since, he has mustered extra energy for showing what a fierce Trump loyalist he can be.

Five people died when a Trump-loving mob, whipped into a violent frenzy by his and his Republican enablers' lies about election fraud, stormed and trashed the Capitol. But sure, Senator Rubio, Democrats' upset is purely theatrical. Absolutely, the lesson here is the bloodthirst of "the radical left."

That's no garden-variety misdirection. That's pure derangement.
It also smacks of desperation. "Little Marco," you see, may have big trouble. It's blond, it's relentless, it has a new address in Florida and it's spelled I-V-A-N-K-A. The shiniest Trump and her smug husband, pariahs now in New York City, have moved on, and there's some speculation that their relocation presages a Senate candidacy for her in 2022, when Rubio is up for re-election.
She'd potentially challenge him in the Florida Republican primary. Now there's a reason to sweat. Rubio confronts what Republican lawmakers all over the country do, the prospect of being ousted, en route to their general elections, by rivals who are even Trumpier than they are. Only there's no out-Trumping an actual Trump. And there's no defaming this Trump progeny without inflaming the Trump patriarch.
Ivanka would be Rubio's worst nightmare. She'd also be his perfect comeuppance. He would have done all that shape-shifting, summoned all that sycophancy and sold out for naught.
Maybe Ivanka would take pity on him and take a pass.
Yes, that was a joke.
As, at this point, is Marco Rubio.
I can remember back to 2013, when, as a member of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" in the Senate, he helped to draft legislation for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for millions of people in this country illegally. He was then styling himself as a pragmatist determined to broaden the Republican Party's tent.
Now he rails against "amnesty." He's a Trump-style populist, content with a clownish part in the Republican Party's circus.

I remember how his parents' flight to the United States from Cuba was the supposed cornerstone of his political convictions, the prompt for a hawkish foreign policy with no tolerance for autocrats at odds with our democratic values.
But he just spent four years blowing kisses at an American president more autocratic and more contemptuous of those values than any in his lifetime.
I remember how, for much of 2016, he pledged that he would not-not-not run for re-election to the Senate, framing that resolve as a point of honor. He said that it was an impotent institution and that lawmakers needed to limit their time in Congress, lest they become hacks. He expressed indignation at any suggestion that he would change his mind, tweeting: "I have only said like 10000 times I will be a private citizen in January."
That was in mid-May of that year. Little more than a month later, he announced his re-election bid. So much for private citizenry.
Rubio says whatever he feels that the moment demands, whatever keeps the wind in his sails, because he's unfazed by the fact that he once said something completely different, by the possibility that he'll contradict himself down the line or by the bald selectiveness of his self-righteousness.
He's a creature of Republican vogues, so he's polishing his anti-elitist riffs, like a tweet with which he slammed the emerging Biden administration:

Politeness! Order! The horror! But that's not the best part. Biden stands out from his five immediate predecessors in the White House, including Trump, for not having the Ivy League degrees that they did. Where there's fancy education aplenty is in Rubio's ranks: Hawley has degrees from Stanford and Yale, Cruz from Princeton and Harvard and Cotton from Harvard two times over.

Maybe Rubio was slyly knocking those potential 2024 competitors, too, and previewing a line of 2024 attack. His own degrees are from the University of Florida, the University of Miami and the School of Unchecked Opportunism.
To his anti-elitism he has added overwrought, indiscriminate media bashing, as when he responded to the coronavirus's rampage through America with a tweet last March that accused journalists of "glee & delight in reporting that the U.S. has more #CoronaVirus cases than #China" and called it "grotesque."
I don't recall such glee. I'll tell you what's grotesque: training more of your fury about the pandemic's devastation at the unelected people covering it than at the elected one minimizing and mismanaging it.
He was preening for Trump. He was parroting him. He still is, and he's proving that while Trump may be gone from the White House, he remains deeply present in Washington, because it's lousy with minions who remade themselves in his image.
Rubio's fate was to become what Trump once called him, not just exuberantly but prophetically: a little man, at least by the yardstick of integrity, which is the only endowment that matters.

Frank Bruni has been with The Times since 1995 and held a variety of jobs — including White House reporter, Rome bureau chief and chief restaurant critic — before becoming a columnist in 2011. He is the author of three best-selling books.  


When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we're brave enough to see it.
If only we're brave enough to be it.

- Amanda Gorman

Friday, January 29, 2021


Chasing news stories on the subject of deranged and dangerous extremists as they and the loonie blonde from North Georgia - man, you can really get lost in scum.   The Republican Party is struggling to define its playbook and political direction, and it is not going well for them.   It is a bloody spectator sport, so I am going to let them self-destruct and not get involved in the blow-by-blow accounting.    The Democrats have a big enough problem cleaning up the diarrhea left over from the previous parade, as well as going forward with government reform and the welfare of this nation.   So, it is time for a bit of hard-nose insane humor to get you going today, with a copy of a story from this morning's Santa Monica Daily Press  (SMDP).  First, however Heather Cox Richardson's daily briefing - it is amazing as to how many people are picking up on her postings and incorporating HCR into their daily readings:

Scarface, Stone Face, Loser's Face
Jack Neworth5 hours agoAnthony ScaramucciCaponeCapone's vaultGeraldo RiveraMary TrumpMichael CohenPutintrump

Now that Donald Trump is a private citizen, numerous insiders are predicting he'll likely wind up in jail. The list includes his niece Mary Trump, a clinical psychologist and best-selling author; Michael Cohen, currently a podcast host and Trump's personal attorney for 10 years; and Anthony Scaramucci, founder of Sky Bridge Capital and Trump's Communication Director, albeit for 11 days or, as he puts it, 15,840 minutes.

However, all suggest Trump might escape conviction for his most serious crimes. Trump's predicament has been compared to mob boss, Al (Scarface) Capone, who was never successfully prosecuted for murder, or his vast Chicago crime syndicate but was "pinched" for tax evasion. (As it happens, Monday marked the 74th anniversary of his death from syphilis.)

Capone's sentence was a slap on the wrist compared to the death penalty most Americans felt he deserved for his horrendous and corrupt record. (Which, coincidentally is how I've described Trump's failed presidency.)

Actually Trump and Capone have a lot in common. In their youth, each physically attacked a teacher, and in their old age each loved living in Florida. In their prime, both amassed great fortunes. Capone's was estimated at $100 million, or $1.5 billion in today's value. However, due to his dementia it disappeared when Capone literally couldn't remember where he hid it. (And I get mad at myself when I can't find my keys.)

Capone's missing fortune hearkens us back to Geraldo Rivera's April 21, 1986 boring syndicated TV extravaganza dynamiting open Capone's barren vault, unless you count empty beer bottles. (That also marks the date when Geraldo went from a one-time award-winning investigative journalist to a full-time TV clown.)

As for Trump's fortune, many experts predict with years of civil and criminal court proceedings facing him and the accompanying legal bills, his wealth may also disappear. And at least two people are convinced Trump, like Scarface did, has syphilis.

One is my neighbor, Robin, who has been insisting that for years. The other is Dr. Steven Beutler, in Redlands, who has been practicing medicine for over three decades, specializing in infectious diseases and who voiced his controversial opinion in "The New Republic" in February 2017.

Dr. Beutler made the case that Trump suffers from "neurosyphilis," which he says exhibits its first symptoms "in the form of psychiatric issues and personality changes." (Whereas I say Trump has always been an a**hole.)

Beutler cited Trump's own statements (including on the Howard Stern radio show) that he was sexually promiscuous in the 1980s, a period when syphilis cases were skyrocketing. Dr. Beutler noted symptoms include irritability, loss of ability to concentrate, delusional thinking, and grandiosity. (In defense of Trump, I think he's just a mentally ill sociopath with a narcissistic disorder.)

Speaking of narcissistic sociopaths, that brings us to Russia's apparently forever President, Vladimir Putin, aka "Trump's puppet master." I'll never forget in December 2015, Trump calling into MSNBC's "Morning Joe" TV show as giddy as a high school cheerleader after a date with the star quarterback. Elatedly, Trump bragged Putin had referred to him as "brilliant." (In reality, Putin had described Trump as a "shiny object that grabs attention.")

Joe Scarborough interjected, "Donald, you do know that Putin kills political opponents and journalists." Poor Donnie was so dejected it was as if his father discovered his box of switch blade knives hidden under his bed which precipitated his being immediately shipped to military school. Fake patriot Trump snapped back at Joe, "Yeah, well we kill plenty of people, too."

Who knows what blackmail Putin has had on Trump all these years, or how much Trump can pocket selling our state secrets to Vlad. On the very unlikely chance Trump were convicted in the Senate trial ("Impeachment: The Sequel") he would lose his Secret Service, his pension, and the ability to ever run for federal office again. But sequels are rarely as good as the original, in this case, a witness-less sham.

Barring a conviction, it appears Trump will still receive intelligence briefings, which he never bothered to read in the first place but now could monetize. (Unless his possible syphilis acts up and he forgets where he put them.)

Trying to end on a positive note, of the three character-challenged men, who's the least evil? Putin poisons people at will and has personally robbed Russia of $200 billion. Trump put kids in cages, 600 of whom will probably never see their parents again; incited a deadly white supremacist insurrection attack on the Capitol that hadn't been invaded since 1812; and, given his inexcusable mishandling of the pandemic is likely responsible for at least 350,000 of the 420,000 U.S. Covid deaths.

So, I gotta vote for Scarface. As a person who misplaces his keys, I evidently empathize with a guy who misplaced millions of dollars.

FYI, movies about Capone include: "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre," 1957, Jason Robards; "Al Capone," 1959, Rod Steiger; "Capone," 1975, Ben Gazzara; "The Untouchables," 1987, Robert De Niro; "Mobsters," 1991, Titus Welliver; and "Capone," 2020, Tom Hardy.

FYI #2, Jack is at


When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we're brave enough to see it.
If only we're brave enough to be it.

- Amanda Gorman

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Something to Know - 28 January

Today, I have three separate Zoom calls on my agenda.   My regular Thursday morning assembly of retired political junkies is done.   In an hour, a college course that I am auditing starts, and as that ends, I segue  right into a Redondo High School reunion class of '59.  Sure, I can get side tracked with all the goings with the internal combustion of the GOP, but I prefer to follow the energetic work of the Biden administration as we return to the matters of effective governance.   No need to supply any more media oxygen to a lunatic Loser.   Professor Richardson is a better read than trying to understand the unsustainable behavior of the GeeOpie:

The contours of politics today look much like they did yesterday. President Biden is forging ahead through executive actions—today pausing oil and gas leases while switching the government to electric vehicles— while the two factions in the Republican Party claw for supremacy.

Dead center of both of these political fights is the future of this country. Will Trump and his supporters seize control of the government—by means legal or illegal—or will the country steer itself back to the norms and values of democracy?

The dangers of Trumpism are becoming clearer each day. Today, for the first time, the Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin that warned of violence from domestic extremists angry over "perceived grievances fueled by false narratives" and emboldened by the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. The bulletin expires at the end of April.

Law enforcement has moved National Guard troops to Washington, D.C., in part to guard against violence on March 4, a day that QAnon supporters who still believe Trump is part of an elaborate trick to reclaim the nation from the Democrats think will be the day on which the former president is finally sworn in for his second term. (March 4 was the nation's original inauguration date; it changed under Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937.)

In testimony yesterday, the acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington told the House Appropriations Committee that at least 65 officers filed reports of injury after the January 6 attack. The chair of the Capitol Police officers' union, Gus Papathanasiou, put the number closer to 140. "I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack who have sustained brain injuries. One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs. One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake," he said. One officer died of injuries sustained on January 6. Two officers have since taken their own lives.

Meanwhile, a video emerged today of the new Republican representative from Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene, harassing David Hogg, who survived the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine's Day 2018. Greene followed Hogg down the street in Washington, D.C., in March 2019, with an accomplice filming as she badgered him, called him a crisis actor paid by George Soros, told him she was armed, demanded he talk to her, and called him a coward. He walked on, without engaging her.

The video emerged the day after reporters discovered old Facebook activity on Greene's page in which she responded positively to a commenter talking of hanging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama and another talking of killing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

While Representative Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) has called for Greene's expulsion from Congress, leading Republicans in the House responded to the Facebook news simply by saying they condemned violent rhetoric on both sides. Today, Republican House leadership assigned her to the Education and Labor Committee.

Republican lawmakers seem to be siding with Trump's supporters, turning against the ten House Republicans who voted for Trump's impeachment. In the House, Trump supporters are trying to throw Liz Cheney (R-WY) out of her spot in the party's leadership, and the former president's new political action committee is ginning up anger against her as it urges primary challengers to jump into the race in 2022.

Increasingly, Republican lawmakers are pushing to let Trump off the hook on impeachment. In the Senate yesterday, Rand Paul (R-KY) insisted that a former president could not be tried on an impeachment charge, and 45 Republicans agreed with him. This is not necessarily a signal of how the eventual Senate vote will go, but Paul said it was: he insisted this was a sign that Trump would not be convicted. Republican lawmakers seem to be coming down on Trump's side as polls show that while most Americans are horrified by the attack on the Capitol and blame Trump for it, most Republicans- 78%-- don't blame him. Republican lawmakers are accusing Democrats of divisiveness in their move to hold the president accountable.

Some Republicans are, though, alarmed at the idea that a president might get away with inciting an insurrection that endangered our elected representatives and our government itself—remember the next three people in line for the presidency were in the Capitol when the rioters stormed it—and which came perilously close to making good on threats against individuals, including then-vice president Mike Pence.

Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) dismissed the idea that the country could have unity without addressing the causes of the current anger. "I say, first of all, have you gone out publicly and said that there was not widespread voter fraud and that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States? If you said that, then I'm happy to listen to you talk about other things that might inflame anger and divisiveness," he explained to Dennis Romboy of Deseret News. "But if you haven't said that, that's really what's at the source of the anger right now."

Also notable is the firm stance of Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who has bucked his party to speak out against the former president's attacks on the election and incitement of the rioters. "I've felt very isolated in my party," Kinzinger told Ellen McCarthy of the Washington Post.

While the Republican Party's apparent embrace of Trump and all he now stands for is grabbing headlines, Biden and his administration officials are taking on the radicalization of his opponents in a new and promising way. They are demonstrating an approach to sidelining Trumpism by shifting the focus off the exhausting drama of the former president and his supporters and onto a functioning government that is working for ordinary Americans.

When a reporter today asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki if the administration had any comment on Greene, Psaki made it clear the administration was not going to give any oxygen to her or those like her. "We don't, and I am not going to speak further about her, I think, in this briefing room," Psaki said.

While Biden is starving the Republicans of oxygen, he is also working to address the conditions that have fed desperate conspiracy theories and divisions. In America, such societal breakdown is associated with periods in which ordinary people face economic hardship. Biden is moving quickly on a range of issues that are popular among ordinary voters of both parties, including addressing the country's extreme inequality. After all, one of the complaints that drew voters to an outsider in 2016 was the belief that government no longer worked for the people and needed to be shaken up.

Today's executive order on addressing climate change talks at length about creating "good-paying union jobs" and "tapping into the talent, grit, and innovation of American workers." It calls for the government to buy zero-emission vehicles made in the U.S., and to rebuild federal infrastructure, creating construction, manufacturing, engineering, and skilled-trades jobs. Job creation and infrastructure development were both promises the previous president made in 2016 that boosted his support but which never really came to pass. If Biden can actually deliver on them, he could reclaim those Trump voters for the Democrats, as well as addressing climate change and our failing infrastructure.

Biden's people are also making sure we see a White House that is addressing issues that created concern in the past administration. They are upholding old norms—holding daily press briefings, for example—honoring science, restoring government websites, and treating members of the media with respect.

They seem to be trying to remind us how our democracy is supposed to work.





When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we're brave enough to see it.
If only we're brave enough to be it.

- Amanda Gorman

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Something to Know - 27 January

Just checking in.   Today - I got my Covid-19 vaccine shot; end of anxiety.  In real news, we have HCR, and a great 1-minute video (at the bottom of this email).  Today, this is dedicated to two long-time friends: Richard and Judith Moore in Fayetteville, Georgia:

We are now a week into the Biden administration, and President Biden has set some clear and surprisingly dominant markers at the beginning of his presidency.

He has kept firmly to his constitutional responsibilities in what appears to be an attempt to remind Americans of the official roles in our democracy. He has deliberately refused to intrude on the Department of Justice, saying he would leave up to it which cases to pursue. When a reporter asked Press Secretary Jen Psaki whether Biden believes the Senate should convict the former president of incitement of insurrection in his upcoming Senate trial, Psaki answered: "Well, he's no longer in the Senate, and he believes that it's up to the Senate and Congress to determine how they will hold the former president accountable and what the mechanics and timeline of that process will be."

Within his sphere in the executive branch, though, Biden is carving out a distinctive presidency. He is restoring the norms and guardrails of the office. We have had daily press briefings all week, which is the way things used to be done. The press secretary either answers questions respectfully or dodges them, as is her job, but there are no insults or accusations of "fake news." We also get the traditional "readouts" when the president speaks to a foreign leader, giving us a sense of where the country stands with regard to its allies and rivals.

But Biden is also striking out in a surprisingly authoritative way. He has hit the ground running. He began work on the very afternoon of his inauguration and has not let up since. He has signed a pile of executive measures, seemingly adapting the policy of the Trump administration to change the direction of the nation quickly through executive actions.

But while Trump introduced measures that were applauded by his base but widely opposed, Biden's measures are genuinely popular. Many of them rescind policies of the previous administration, but others move the country in a new direction, resurrecting the idea that the government has a role to play in regulating our economy and protecting individuals in our society. He has rejoined the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accords, scrapped the transgender ban in the military, expanded food assistance programs, and created new mechanisms to fight Covid-19. Today, he directed the Department of Justice not to renew contracts with private prisons, which prospered under the previous administration.

Biden has also made a mark already in foreign affairs. Exactly four years ago today, the entire senior administrative team of the State Department resigned, unwilling or unable to stay in office under the Trump administration and its original secretary of state Rex Tillerson, the former chief executive officer of ExxonMobil. In foreign affairs, Trump tried to reassert American power unilaterally, much as the nation had been able to do during the Cold War, but weakened traditional alliances in Europe and instead turned the nation toward Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Today, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, a deeply experienced diplomat who was first the deputy national security advisor and then the deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama. "This is the man for the job," the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), told Lara Jakes of the New York Times. Blinken set out immediately to rebuild alliances that were weakened over the past four years, recognizing that the world is now a multilateral one.

Notably, the Biden administration immediately parted from its predecessor with its approach to Russia. While Trump refused to question Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden has taken a much more traditional position, one that reflects the position of both the Democrats and the Republicans of four years ago. Just three days before Biden took office, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny returned to his homeland after a near fatal poisoning in August by Putin's operatives. Navalny's return forced the hands of both Putin and, within days, Biden. Putin had Navalny arrested, sparking nationwide protests by Russians who are tired of the nation's poor economy and like Navalny's skewering of Russian government corruption.

The collision of Putin and Navalny just as Biden took office permitted Biden to use the moment to indicate the direction of his own foreign policy. Just three days after Biden took office, the State Department released a statement condemning the Russian government's suppression of its people and its media and calling both for Navalny's release and for an explanation of his poisoning. It concluded, "The United States will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and partners in defense of human rights – whether in Russia or wherever they come under threat," a statement that indicates America is resuming its traditional stance.

Today, Biden and Putin spoke for the first time, and the readout indicates that the equation of the last four years has changed. The leaders talked of extending nuclear and arms control treaties. Then Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for Ukraine and called out the recent Russian hack on U.S. businesses and government departments, the reports of Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, Navalny's poisoning, and interference in the 2020 U.S. election. According to the readout, "President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies."

Biden has refused to get drawn into the drama taking place in Congress, simply forging ahead with his own agenda. Congress, meanwhile, is also adjusting to having a new game in town. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to gum up the works, refusing to permit the Democrats to organize the Senate unless they promised not to end the filibuster, the Senate rule that enables a minority to stop any measure that can't command 60 votes. New Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he had no plans to end the old rule (for legislation—it is already gone for judicial appointments) but refused to make any such promise. The filibuster would permit McConnell to stop any Democratic legislation, and Schumer needs at least the threat of it to prevent McConnell from abusing the rule. Last night, McConnell backed down.

Interestingly, though, tonight McConnell tweeted, "Today, I made clear that if Democrats ever attack the key Senate rules, it would drain the consent and comity out of the institution. A scorched-earth Senate would hardly be able to function. It wouldn't be a progressive's dream. It would be a nightmare. I guarantee it." McConnell is, of course, the person primarily responsible for the current scorched-earth Senate, so his comment was a bit rich, but it was nonetheless an interesting statement. It is a truism that threats are a sign of weakness.

Today, as state-level Republicans embraced Trump and QAnon, 45 Republican Senators led by Rand Paul (R-KY) agreed that the former president should not be tried for inciting the January 6 insurrection or trying to overturn the 2020 election results. Also today, Google joined the many other corporations that say they will not give money to any Republicans who voted against the counting of the certified ballots on January 6. The collision between these two warring groups cannot be avoided once the Senate impeachment trial starts two weeks from today.

While the Republicans split and congress people struggle for power, Biden has stayed strictly within his constitutional role, where he has worked at breakneck speed. Staying out of the partisan fray in Congress, he has earned good marks from Americans for his first week, ending it with an approval rating of 56%.




When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we're brave enough to see it.
If only we're brave enough to be it.

- Amanda Gorman