Monday, January 4th, 2021


A Crank Calling

Happy New Year to those who still follow the Gregorian Calendar. To those who adhere to the Trumpian Calendar, 2020 doesn't really end until noon on January 20. Between now and then, we'll get a heavy dose of antidemocratic acts from a desperate, deranged president, and his enablers who continue to betray American democracy, but who—especially with this last sick, faux-attempt to overturn an election by the Ted Cruz-led dirty dozen of power-hungry, seditious Senators jockeying to excite the most rabid activists in a brainwashed base—have actually added a valuable course correction to historians reviewing this era. It was never just about Trump. He grew out of a festering rot; and his departure will not halt its growth, though, it will thankfully deprive it of the nonstop supply of too-fresh fertilizer. Let's not feign shock at what's taking place. This whole presidency has been a slow motion attack on democratic norms and an affront to basic decency. The new, dangerous variant of the "perfect" phone call is a natural evolution of his tenure. Lies, mobsteresque strong-arming, and desperate pleas have long been the the calling cards of Trump phone scams. It's just that now, instead of trying to falsely increase book sales, juice his rank on the Forbes list, or cheat his way out of paying off a debt, he's curb stomping democracy. I wouldn't be surprised if he called Brad Raffensperger collect. WaPo: ‘I just want to find 11,780 votes': In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor.

+ There were 18 attempted calls from the White House to GA secretary of state's office. (A reminder that we need tougher telemarketing restrictions.)

+ "This is sedition, plain and simple. No amount of playacting and rationalizing can change the fact that the majority of the Republican Party and its apologists are advocating for the overthrow of an American election and the continued rule of a sociopathic autocrat." Tom Nichols in The Atlantic on the senators turning American democracy into a mockery: Worse Than Treason.

+ "Former Defense Secretary Perry, who served under President Bill Clinton, wrote on Twitter that the idea for the statement originated with Cheney, a Republican who served under President George W. Bush as vice president and President George H.W. Bush as secretary of defense." In Op-Ed, 10 Ex-Defense Secretaries Say Military Has No Role In Election Dispute.

+ Romney calls out his colleagues for their disgraceful attack on our election: "I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world. Has ambition so eclipsed principle?" (I think that question has been sufficiently answered.)

+ And for some bonus debasement, Trump to give Reps. Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes Presidential Medal of Freedom.


The Year of Living Tragically

"The virus in Wuhan turned out to be far more infectious, and it spread largely by asymptomatic transmission. 'That whole idea that you were going to diagnose cases based on symptoms, isolate them, and contact-trace around them was not going to work,' Redfield told me recently. 'You're going to be missing fifty per cent of the cases. We didn't appreciate that until late February.' The first mistake had been made, and the second was soon to happen." Lawrence Wright's tour de force in The New Yorker: The mistakes and the struggles behind America's coronavirus tragedy. The Plague Year.

+ Adding tragedy to the already tragic, the race to vaccinate millions in US is off to slow, messy start.

+ And Ed Yong, who gave us tremendous coverage in 2020 provides a preview of Where Year Two of the Pandemic Will Take Us. From one member of Biden's task force: "Think about next summer as a marker for when we might be able to breathe again. But there's almost a year's worth of work that needs to happen in those six months."


Ayatollah Mode

"The news comes amid heightened U.S. fears of a possible Iranian attack, one year after the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. 20% enriched uranium — which is banned under the 2015 nuclear deal — can't be used for military purposes, but is a step closer to the 90% enrichment needed to build a nuclear bomb." Iran resumes 20% uranium enrichment, seizes South Korean tanker.


Queue and A

"One longstanding disparity appears to have persisted: Casting a vote typically took longer in poorer, less white neighborhoods than it did in whiter and more affluent ones." NYT: Election Day Voting in 2020 Took Longer in America's Poorest Neighborhoods. (In other words, the system worked as it was designed to work.)


Julian Calendar

"I find that the mental condition of Mr. Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America." NPR: British Court Rejects U.S. Request To Extradite WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange. (Prediction: Julian gets a pardon in the same batch as Rudy.)


Alibaba Vamoosh

"Late last week, Ma was replaced by another Alibaba executive for the televised final episode of a business talent contest he had been helming, with his picture scrubbed from the gallery of judges. Ma has now not been seen in public for at least two months." Time: Where Is Alibaba Founder Jack Ma?


Confit For a King

Nowhere was America's inequality more evident in 2020 America than in our meat plants. And the 2021 coda to that story remains bad to the bone. WaPo "The Trump administration allowed 15 poultry plants to increase slaughter line speeds during the pandemic, an action that boosts production and makes it more difficult for workers to maintain space between one another. It also appears to have hastened the spread of the coronavirus. Now the outgoing administration is rushing to finalize a rule that would make the faster line speeds permanent and expand them to dozens of other poultry plants."


Like Sands Through the Hourglass

"Over time, though, waves hitting the barriers pull the sand away from the shore and carry it out to sea. As a result, the government approvals have fueled beach loss and perpetuated the redevelopment of private properties along treasured and environmentally sensitive coastlines — all at a time when scientists have been warning of the dire need to push development inland." ProPublica: Hawaii's Beaches Are Disappearing.


Delayed Pewberty

"For the first time since at least the Great Depression, a majority of young adults in the U.S. were living with their parents this year." That's just one of Pew's 20 striking findings from 2020.


Bottom of the News

"The Today show segment where she made gazpacho and asked Telemundo's Evi Sisko how to say 'cucumber' in English was particularly Roseanne Rosanadana, but in all fairness 'cucumber' is a ridiculous word compared to 'pepino.' Also, 'how do you say in English? Cucumber?' is even sexier than kissing a baby's head while wearing lingerie." Joel Stein: What Hilariagate Says About You.

+ I read a lot of headlines. I forget them instantly. This one is going to be stuck in my head. (Hopefully, not literally.) Ceiling fans recalled after reports of detaching blades.

+ Tube Feeding: The very real, totally bizarre bucatini shortage of 2020.