Monday, December 14, 2020


Weekend Roundup

Table of contents:

I've been paying more attention to EOY album lists, this week than to news. Started collecting this late Saturday evening, but got swamped Sunday with my work compiling Jazz Critics Poll ballots, and that pushed my schedule back a day. Even so, I prioritized collecting links for possible future interest, and refrained from commenting much on them. Perhaps I'll come back mid-week and add some notes, as there is much to talk about here.

The extra day means that the Electoral College has now done its duty and elected Joe Biden president (see: Electoral College vote officially affirms Biden's victory). Also: William Barr is out as Attorney General. And: US virus death toll crosses 300,000 as vaccinations begin (more figures further down, in the usual place).


Trump's Election Fraud and Other Election Matters

Jamelle Bouie: The 'Trump Won' farce isn't funny anymore: "Republicans are now seriously arguing that elections are legitimate only when their side wins."

Ronald Brownstein: The Republican Party's widening assault on American democracy.

Jessica Corbett: Four stabbed after Proud Boys, told by Trump to "stand back and stand by," descended on DC for march.

Garrett Epps: Disbar Ken Paxton -- and then some: Texas Attorney General, who filed the Trump fraudsters' "Hail Mary" lawsuit to overturn elections in states that try harder to practice democracy than Texas does.

Matt Ford: The rabid illiberalism of Trump's desperate election deniers.

Rosalind S Heiderman/Elise Viebeck: 'The last wall': How dozens of judges across the political spectrum rejected Trump's efforts to overturn the election.

Harold Meyerson: Will it really be all over on December 14? That's when the Electoral College votes.

Ella Nilsen: Everything that needs to go right for Democrats to win the Georgia runoffs, explained. More on Georgia:

Cameron Peters:

Jim Rutenberg/Nick Corasanti: 'An indelible stain': How the GOP tried to topple a pillar of democracy.

David Siders: Trump unleashes an army of sore losers.

Margaret Sullivan: Don't buy into Trump's disapproval of Fox News. The network is working hard on his election-denial fantasy.

Biden Prospects

See Building Biden's Cabinet for a survey of who's been selected for Biden's top administration positions, and who's being considered for still open slots.


Medea Benjamin/Nicholas JS Davies: Can Joe Biden's America figure out how to stop creating terrorists? Tempting to quote the whole article for its many examples where the insertion of US forces has only led to more resistance and terror (not least by the US itself). But I'll limit myself to the end:

We have real problems to deal with in this century -- existential problems that can only be solved by genuine international cooperation. We can no longer afford to sacrifice our future on the altar of the Global War on Terror, a New Cold War, Pax Americana or other imperialist fantasies.

Matt Ford: Biden is finding new and inexplicable ways to screw up his cabinet picks.

Fred Kaplan: Looks like Biden will be able to bring back the Iran deal after all.

Dylan Matthews:

Alex Pareene: Is Joe Biden just being stubborn? "A theory about his strangest nominees and appointments." Interesting example:

Take what happened to Marcia Fudge. The Ohio representative was openly lobbying to be made secretary of agriculture, in order to focus the department's attention on hunger and food security. She believed she had the relevant experience for the job and had even gone to the press with plans for what she wanted to do if selected: Her goal, as she explained in an interview last month, was to change the perception that the department only exists to help rural whites.

"As this country becomes more and more diverse, we're going to have to stop looking at only certain agencies as those that people like me fit in," she told Politico. "You know, it's always 'we want to put the Black person in labor or HUD.'"

Then Joe Biden's team put Marcia Fudge in HUD and announced that former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack would be getting his old job back.

Daniel Politi:

Dylan Scott: What Joe Biden could do to bring down drug costs.

Emily Stewart: The debate over Joe Biden cancelling student debt, explained: "45 million Americans have student debt." More on student debt:

Alex Ward:

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

Latest map and case count: 16.4 million+ cases (14 day change +30%, total up 1.6 million in last week), 300,051 deaths (+67%), 109,331 hospitalized (+19%). Dec. 9 was the first day where deaths topped 3,000, the round number above and beyond such infamous days as 9/11 and Pearl Harbor.


Jerusalem Demsas: Study: Allowing evictions during Covid-19 could have caused nearly 11,000 unnecessary deaths.

Laurie McGinley/Carolyn Y Johnson/Josh Dawsey: FDA authorizes the first coronavirus vaccine, a rare moment of hope in the deadly pandemic. Generic headline, but the link I followed to this article focused on the dirty hand of politics: White House orders FDA chief to authorize Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Friday or submit his resignation.

The White House actions once again inject politics into the vaccine race, potentially undermining public trust in one of the most crucial tools to end the pandemic that has killed more than 290,000 Americans. It comes in the midst of a process that had been designed to show no shortcuts were taken in reviewing the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine as surveys show many people remain unsure whether they will get the shots.

Given that bureaucrats have an innate tendency to drag their feet under the guise of caution, the political pressure might have been a good thing. Still, much can go wrong in a process driven primarily by profit-seeking and political advantage, where much of the relevant data is kept closed off as proprietary.

Whet Moser: The pandemic's final surge will be brutal.

Achal Prabhala/Arjun Jayadev/Dean Baker: Want vaccines fast? Suspend intellectual property rights.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg: Trump and friends got coronavirus care many others couldn't: "Rudolph W Giuliani became the latest in President Trump's inner circle to boast about the treatment he received for Covid-19, as hospitals across the country ration care."

Peter Wade: Rudy Giuliani brags about getting 'celebrity' virus treatment.

David Wallace-Wells: We had the vaccine the whole time.

F Perry Wilson: A doctor on 9 things that could go wrong with the new vaccines.

Sarah Zhang: The next six months will be vaccine purgatory: "The period after a vaccine is approved will be strange and confusing, as certain groups of people get vaccinated but others have to wait."

Still More on Donald Trump

Jonathan Chait: How Michael Anton's 'Flight 93 Election' essay defined the Trump era.

Sean Illing: A book critic read 150 Trump-era books. Here's what he learned. Interview with Carlos Lozada, author of What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era.

Nicole Narea:

Rachel Ramirez: The high rate of executions during Trump's last weeks in office, explained: "Trump has scheduled more federal executions than any president in at least a century."

William K Rashbaum/Ben Protess/David Enrich: Manhattan DA intensifies investigation of Trump.

Matt Stieb: Trump's last-minute execution spree has begun.

Tim Wu: What really saved the republic from Trump?

Jonathan Zimmerman: What Donald Trump can learn from Grover Cleveland. Premise here is that if Trump runs and wins in 2024, he'll join Cleveland as the only person to win two non-consecutive presidential terms. So how did Cleveland manage to win an election after losing one? Strikes me that the author is overly concerned with the duo's sex scandals, but there are other striking differences -- Cleveland actually won the popular vote in the election he lost -- as well as similarities (Cleveland was probably the most conservative president the US ever had, at least until Trump redefined what that meant).

In and Around the Courts

Jane Mayer: Dianne Feinstein's missteps raise a painful age question among Senate Democrats. Related:

  • Alex Shepherd: The Democrats are too old: "A grim report about Diane Feinstein's cognitive decline underlines a larger problem with the leadership of the party."

Ian Millhiser: The Supreme Court hands down a loss for rogue law enforcement officers -- and a win for the religious right.

Andrew Prokop: Joe Biden's Justice Department will inherit an investigation into Hunter Biden.

Mark Joseph Stern: The Supreme Court rejects opportunity to roll back marriage equality.

Around the World

Jen Kirby:

Jessica J Lee: How we an build on Trump's North Korea policy.

Trita Parsi: House Dems united to support the Iran nuclear deal.

Cameron Peters: Iran's execution of journalist Ruhollah Zam, briefly explained.

Mitchell Plitnick: Israel-Morocco agreement plants long term seeds of conflict.

Elizabeth Shackelford: Why Trump's Somalia gambit won't make anyone happy.

Other Matters of Interest

Tariq Ali: On John Lennon and Mick Jagger.

Bryce Covert: How monopolies have taken over our everyday lives: Review of David Dayen's book, Monopolized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power. By the way, some recent pieces by David Dayen:

Melissa Gira Grant: Nick Kristoff and the holy war on Pornhub: "When Kristof turns his notebook in the direction of women with stories of trauma, the resulting narratives most often fall somewhere between beneficent voyeurism and journalistic malpractice."

Daniel A Hanley: The FTC's strong case against Facebook. More on Facebook:

Sarah Jones: Why is Mitch McConnell so obsessed with liability shields?

Nick Martin: Wall Street vultures are ready to get rich from water scarcity.

Nathan J Robinson:

Luke Savage: How McKinsey, the world's most elite consulting firm, helped turbocharge America's opioid epidemic.

Peter Hammond Schwartz: Why the Democrats failed again: On the cosmological emptiness of liberalism: "Right-wingers have a theory of human nature and the universe. Without such a narrative, liberals will keep losing."

Alex Shepherd: Fox News is in trouble: "The network is facing real, sustained competition from the right for the first time in its history."

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: negative creep. His usual snark about Democrats (not without reason).

For a month now, the Democrats have ceded the airwaves to Trump and some of the most lunatic lawyers in America, while Biden rolls out recycled cabinet picks no one, except a few K Street lobbyists, asked for or wanted. Meanwhile, Pelosi and Schumer can't even get a tiny relief check to the 12 million people about to have their water and heat turned off or face eviction from their homes . . .

Still, lots more here, like a chart which shows that the top 1%'s share of income in India has risen from 6% in 1980 to 21%.

New York Times: This week in obituaries (a few names from a long list):