Come Together, Right Now
February 1, 2021
The Good News
- Grubhub has partnered with the Girl Scouts to help safely sell cookies and teach entrepreneurship (CNN)
- COVID-19 cases in US nursing homes dropped steadily since vaccine rollout (Business Insider)
“The fault lines are shifting from the boundaries of nations into the web of our societies and the streets of our cities. And, terrorism and extremism are a global force that are larger than their changing names, groups, territories and targets.“ — Narendra Modi
“Violent extremism is going viral, but our response to it is moving at bureaucratic, sluggish speed.” — Michael McCaul
Republicans Trying To Come Together, Right Now… But Over What?
(Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)
Georgia’s election of QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Green to the House of Representatives was no isolated event. Support from local Republican state parties has meant several extremist idealogues are now in Congress.
Across the country — Arizona to Hawaii, Oregon to Texas — state parties have become so radicalized they continue to fight for Trump’s ‘big lie’ that the 2020 election was stolen, and defend neo-Nazis, white nationalists and QAnon followers who believe an anti-semitic theory involving Satan-worshipping cannibals and a child sex trafficking ring led by Democratic elites. Ties to these extremist groups are causing a profound schism within the GOP party itself, one the extremists appear to be winning.
Joe Biden was elected our 46th president when he received a majority of ballots cast and the requisite 270 electoral college votes. Thereafter all states certified their voters’ ballots, and electors confirmed that Biden had won the election and would be sworn in January 20. Every lawsuit challenging any part of this process failed to change it, and that should have been the end of it. Yet as Chris Hayes, author and host on the MSNBC network, tweets: “The central story of American politics right now is that one of the two parties is ‘radicalizing against democracy’ in front of our eyes.”
Former political director of Republican Voters Against Trump, Tim Miller, agrees. In both red and blue states, local parties are supporting positions “extremely far outside the mainstream… [like] ending our democratic experiment to install Donald Trump as president over the will of the people.” Post-election has seen these extremists embrace Trumpism “with renewed zeal, along with the fantasies of the far-right fringe,” including Covid denialism, and insistence that school shootings like those at Sandy Hook and Parkland were staged.
Nearly 150 House Republicans supported Trump’s baseless election fraud claims. Some of these members with very deep ties to extremist groups not only pushed violent ideas and conspiracy theories, but were prominent among the insurrectionists storming the Capitol Building January 6. Two House representatives from Arizona, Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, propelled the Stop the Steal movement to center stage. Lauren Boebert of Colorado is closely allied to members of the Three Percenters, which federal prosecutors describe as a “radical militia group.”
Recently Oregon’s state party condemned Liz Cheney and nine other House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the Capital insurrection. The party cited a groundless conspiracy theory that the riot, like the school shootings, was a “false flag” operation staged to discredit Trump supporters. (Guardian)
Marine Puts Le Pen To Paper On New Racist Policy
(Horacio Villalobos via Getty Images)
- The leader of France’s main far-right party, Marine Le Pen, has run twice for president. In 2017, she lost badly to political newcomer Emmanuel Macron, a defeat that took her months to recover from.
- But recent polling shows the anti-EU, anti-immigration populist within striking distance of Macron in 2022’s election. To build on her record, Le Pen has revived her proposed ban on Muslim headscarves in public. “I consider that the [hijab] is an Islamist item of clothing,” Le Pen told reporters at a news conference on Friday.
- She recommended a new law banning “Islamist ideologies” that she called “totalitarian and murderous.” Benefiting Le Pen are frustration and anger over the health and economic crises caused by the pandemic, as well as the bitter arguments over immigration rekindled by last October’s beheading of a French school teacher at the hands of a young Muslim man. (Al Jazeera)
The West Ponders Strong-Arming the Strong Man
- Uganda’s president, 76-year-old Yoweri Museveni, just grabbed his sixth five-year term, after a violent and bloody campaign season in which dozens of people were killed and his main opponent placed under house arrest.
- Museveni has been a staunch US ally and among Africa’s leading beneficiaries of American aid.Since taking office in 1986, Museveni has received billions of dollars, even as he has suppressed opposition voices and tightened his iron grip on the nation.
- Now, the US State Department has “significant concerns about Uganda’s recent elections,” and is considering a range of actions, including imposing visa restrictions on Ugandan individuals “found to be responsible for election-related violence or undermining the democratic process.” (NYT)
Additional World News
- Foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond May deadline (Reuters). It’s hard to overstay your welcome if you were never welcome in the first place.
- Dreams dashed: Trump’s Muslim ban damage may never be undone (Al Jazeera)
- The Dark Reality Behind Saudi Arabia’s Utopian Dreams (NYT, $)
- Russians Protest Again To Demand Alexei Navalny’s Release (NPR)
- Why Are There No Biographies of Xi Jinping? (Atlantic) Sounds like it’ll be long. I’ll wait for the musical adaptation.
- Surveillance of Uyghurs Detailed in Chinese Police Database (Intercept)
- As Virus Variants Spread, ‘No One Is Safe Until Everyone Is Safe’ (NYT, $)
- Iran rejects new talks or parties in nuclear deal (Al Jazeera). No deal, Iran is keeping its golden briefcase.
- Shell Subsidiary Must Compensate Nigerian Farmers, Dutch Court Rules (NYT, $)
- Worrisome New Coronavirus Mutations Are Emerging. Why Now? (Wired)
- How Europe fell behind on vaccines (Politico)
The Wealthy Are Driving For The Dose
- All 50 states have their own plan for when, where, and in what priority people can get a Covid-19 vaccination. The complex system has given rise to so-called “vaccine tourism,” in which people cross state, even country, lines to get earlier access.
- With no standardized protocol and a fractured US health system, thousands — possibly hundreds of thousands — of people have gotten vaccines outside their home states. Florida’s initial policy of vaccinating anyone over age 65 has made it one of the most popular vaccine tourism destinations for both domestic and international travelers.
- Florida recently implemented new ID rules in an attempt to direct more vaccines to Florida residents, but not before at least 50,000 out-of-state people got a dose. Vaccine tourists who have the means and ability to travel distances, or the technical savvy or connections to wrangle an appointment, have contributed to racial and socioeconomic disparities in vaccine distribution. From New York to New Jersey to Chicago, vaccine recipients have been overwhelmingly white and from wealthier zip codes. (Guardian)
Trump’s Case Proves Morally Difficult To Take On, Even For A Lawyer
- Donald Trump’s entire team of five lawyers quit on Saturday over a difference in defense strategy for his upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate. CNN reports that Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and that the election was stolen from him, rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he’s left office.
- But Sunday evening the former President announced he’d hired trial lawyers David Schoen and Bruce Castor to head up a new legal team. Atlanta-based Schoen represented convicted felon Roger Stone, who never spent a day in prison after Trump commuted his sentence in July 2020. Another client of Schoen’s was pedophile sex offender Jeffery Epstein.
- Castor is a former acting attorney general of Pennsylvania who opposed helping past abuse victims of Catholic priests or those of football coach and sexual predator, Jerry Sandusky. Castor had also declined to prosecute Bill Cosby for more than a decade before the entertainer was eventually convicted of sex crimes in 2018. Trump’s trial is scheduled to begin February 9th. (CNN, Guardian)
Additional USA News
- A Seattle hospital refrigerator malfunction led to a frenzied overnight inoculation drive. (NYT, $). If we created nationwide refrigerator malfunctions, would we get the entire country vaccinated faster?
- Did Closing Schools Save Lives Or Cost Lives? The Debate Continues (NPR)
- Ghosts of 2009 Drive Democrats’ Push for Robust Crisis Response (NYT, $). As a wise man once said, “Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
- What went wrong with America’s $44 million vaccine data system? (Technology Review)
- Opinion | The First Post-Reagan Presidency (NYT, $)
- Lawmakers Look at GameStop Furor and See a Populist Issue to Seize (NYT, $). Anyone have AOC and Ted Cruz backing the same initiative on their ‘2021 Insanity’ bingo board?
- Opinion | The Real Meaning of Hillbilly (NYT, $)
The Republican Party’s Future
- Here’s What Happens to a Conspiracy-Driven Party (Politico)
- For Trump’s Aggrieved Defenders, This Impeachment Confirms Everything (NYT, $)
- Tracking the Oath Keepers Who Attacked the Capitol (NYT, $)
- Opinion | The GOP isn’t doomed. It’s dead. (WaPo, $)
- ‘A Hostage Situation Every Day’: Strategists Blame Trump For Georgia Senate Losses (NPR)
- American fascism after Trump (Vox)
- GOP Rep. Kinzinger to start new PAC to challenge party’s embrace of Trump (WaPo, $)
- After Capitol Riot, Elected Officials Under Pressure Back Home (NYT, $)
- Secretive Ethics panel will judge Hawley and Cruz (Politico). In most places, transparency comes from doing things out in the open. Congress is not most places.
In The Internet Age, Everything Is For Sale
- For Joe Biden’s inauguration, Bernie Sanders wore a pair of recycled wool mittens knitted by Vermont elementary school teacher, Jen Ellis. A photo of the socially-distanced, frozen-looking Senator Sanders, huddled cross-legged in a chair with his colorful mittens prominently displayed, gave rise to countless memes.
- Superimposed photos of the crotchety, former presidential candidate appeared on the moon, a subway, on a couch with the cast of Friends, etc., and became a social media sensation. Ellis received so many requests for those mittens — made from old sweaters and recycled plastic bottles — that she has now partnered with the Vermont Teddy Bear Company to meet the demand. “Everybody will get their mittens – everybody,” Ellis said.
- Some of the proceeds will go to the Make-A-Wish Vermont charity. Meanwhile in Texas, a woman took a Sanders doll crochet pattern from her Etsy store and spent about seven hours crocheting her own three-dimensional wooly manifestation of the Senator in his earthen hues. On Saturday she put the doll on eBay, where bidding skyrocketed to $20,300. Those funds will be donated to Meals on Wheels America. Tobey King, 46, said more than 30,000 people had bought a Sanders doll crochet pattern from her Etsy store.
- Sanders and his wife, Jane, “were amazed by all the creativity shown by so many people … [and] glad we can use my internet fame to help Vermonters in need.” (Guardian)
- San Francisco Schools, Radicalism and the Pandemic (NYT, $). What’s in a name, after all?
- Google salvaged Robinhood’s one-star rating by deleting nearly 100,000 negative reviews (Verge).
- Gamestop: Robinhood’s Customers Are Hedge Funds Like Citadel. Its Users Are the Product. (Vice) & Everything you need to know about how a Reddit group blew up GameStop’s stock (CNN)
- How ecstasy and psilocybin are shaking up psychiatry (Nature). Psychiatry is entering a rave new world.
- So What Is Short Selling? An Explainer (NPR)
- Why It’s Usually Crazier Than You Expect (Collaborative Fund)
- How To Stop Procrastinating (NPR). Finally got around to reading this article.
- Do you drink bottled water? Read this. (Guardian)
- A Vast Web of Vengeance (NYT, $)
- The Trump administration left Biden with a rocket dilemma (ArsTechnica). The Trump administration had to keep making them because of all the days he’d want to takeoff from work.
- The financial burden of weddings on India’s poorest families (Al Jazeera)
- 25 Great Book Reviews From the Past 125 Years (NYT, $)