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A SINGLE DAY'S HEADLINES

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

December 14, 2020


The white sky today is throwing a soggy kind of snow around, on gusts of wind that make the windows actually rattle . The first truly miserable day of winter: I haven't seen anyone walking outside for hours.


But inside, all is pretty damn cozy. Stephanie got up early this morning and made us a lovely chicken-curry soup, then taught her classes and is now working on a puzzle. (Oh pandemic! Who ever had the leisure to do jigsaw puzzles on weekdays before?) I spent part of my morning reading — yes, just reading. Upping the coziness to an almost comical level: a fire in the fireplace; our little calico cat purring beside me.



Christmas at our house this year.

There are 3 dog stockings and one for the cat (out of the frame)


I don't apologize for the Hallmark-cardness of it all. Whatever it takes to defend ourselves against the anguish and tension in the world right now. Last week we surprised ourselves by being willing to put up Christmas decorations. Obviously no one but we will see them. But it helped.


The cups of tea help, the grade B television, the jokes Stephanie finds on the internet to share with her students, who are in lower spirits during this fall's school shutdown than they were in the spring. Hanging out in the yard helps when the weather is better. The animals help. Good meals help.






Clockwise: Stephanie is still spending as much time outside she can; Pirata and Giorgio with the X-mas tree; Rafael in my office; my homemade chicken pot pie. At the bottom: Agent 99





Like so many other Americans, we're fighting hard to keep doing the things that pick us up. Some of them are no longer novelties, some have definite down-sides (ahem: sweets, staying up too late, online shopping), but we keep doing them all because we're more afraid of the despair.


Yes, things are looking up. But on any random day right now — today, for instance -- they're still unsettling, or frightening, or bewildering, or uncertain, or all of those.


Take today, for instance. At this very moment, there are four major news stories unfolding in the U.S. By the time I'm finished typing, I bet there'll be a fifth.


(1) The first U.S. vaccine for COVID-19 was administered this morning. President Trump promised 100 million injections will be given by the end of 2020. Seriously.




(2) By a grim, and actually incredible coincidence, we also passed a new milestone today in American deaths from the virus: 300,000.


(3) At this very moment, state electors are casting their ballots for the 2020 election, which may or may not REALLY be over by tonight. By that I mean, Mike Pence as the president of the Senate will have to count the votes and announce them on January 6. So yes, there could still be drama even after 7 p.m. tonight, which is when Hawaii will cast the last electoral college vote of this election, praise God.


The vote right now stands at 247 Biden to 232 Trump. It's 5:20 p.m. EST.


I know the electors were carefully chosen this year, after a record-setting seven so-called "faithless electors" wrote in votes in 2016 for Colin Powell, John Kasich, Ron Paul, Faith Spotted Eagle and others not actually in contention for the Presidency. Numerous media sources have assured us all day that "faithless electors" won't be a problem this year and even if they do go rogue, Biden's advantage over Trump is substantial enough that it wouldn't change the outcome of the election.


This weekend thousands of people marched in Washington, D.C., carrying placards that read "Stop the Steal"— and who knows what, if anything, will ever convince them that this was a free and fair election. It gives me a headache thinking about how much resentment and defiance Republicans may carry into the next Presidential era and beyond.


Photo: Getty Images/BBC


But for now we have to proceed on the basis of this outcome, and there are no words for how wearying it is to still be in limbo. Technically, we really aren't since there was a clear winner, Biden's electoral victory of 306 votes being EXACTLY EQUAL TO TRUMP'S in 2016, and more than twice as large as Hillary's popular vote total over Trump. But if nearly half the country still thinks the race is undecided … ?


We've been assured repeatedly that the Texas challenge the Supreme Court ruled on this weekend -- to which 127 GOP legislators including Kevin McCarthy, our current House Minority Leader, have now attached their names — is not a serious challenge and cannot take the election away from Biden.


But it's like that movie Groundhog Day because no matter how many days we put behind us, it sort of feels like we keep standing still. Such a disturbing sensation — worse than Bush vs. Gore in 2000, which I remember vividly, because we can't help wondering what the Trump camp will stop at, if anything.


(4) In that vein, the Michigan statehouse closed down today following "credible threats of violence" by Trump supporters during voting. In fact, Michigan state Representative Gary Eisen told WPHM Radio that he was helping to coordinate protests and warned of coming violence at the beginning of the interview, then softened it at the end to saying he couldn't be sure there wouldn't be violence.



I listened to the whole interview and found it shocking that a person like Eisen was in a position of authority in the first place — though by this afternoon, he had been stripped of his committee assignments by the Republican leaders in the state legislature. So does that mean Eisen is still a member of the government, and if so, why? How much sedition should it actually take to be turfed out of office altogether is my question.



Left: Michigan State Representative Gary Eisen/Michigan Times Herald, Feb. 2020




And not just mine: this weekend New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell demanded that the 126 (the last of the names wasn't added till today) Republicans who signed onto Texas state's Supreme Court election challenge should not be seated when the new session of Congress commences in January. He cites Section III of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:


No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same [abbrev].


United States Congress


That sounds right on to me. There's no way that public officials should be able to retain their offices after taking part in a sitting President's refusal to accept the results of a Presidential election — especially after more than 50 court challenges.


As yet there have been few or no consequences to such officials, nor many to the individuals who have been menacing state capitols for the past year. These so-called "patriots" (they're the only ones calling them that) have spent most of this year ratcheting up the threat of violence in society, and sometimes committing violence. They have verbally and sometimes physically assaulted health care workers; driven vehicles into crowds of peaceful protesters, killing at least one person; engaged in face to face combat on the street with citizens they believe belong to the "radical left wing deep state"; publicly supported a 17-year-old shooter who killed three people in Minnesota on August 25; and have engage in constant and escalating cyberbullying, to the point that Twitter, Facebook and other platforms have begun monitoring comments and sometimes deleting accounts. Even now this pro-Trump population, called "domestic terrorists" by some in the media and law enforcement, continue to demand the "freedom" to infect their fellow citizens with coronavirus.



Citizen cell phone photo from this summer


It feels like all of society is holding its breath at the rise of this homegrown militia, whose displays of weaponry and threats of violence just keep increasing as the year, and the virus, goes on.


As an example just today: Electors required protection to cast their votes in swing states around the nation that Trump and his allies have been contesting since the election. In Pennsylvania, Electors were escorted to the voting venue by law enforcement, while in Arizona, the venue was kept secret, according to secretary of state's office. In Wisconsin, one Elector said that the group had been instructed to use an unmarked entrance where a police presence had been posted.


Needless to say, none of this has ever been required before.













Photo: Commonwealth Media Services/Reuters


So there you go, four huge breaking news stories on what should be an ordinary snowy Monday in December. And a new headline just popped up on my screen:


(5) U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has resigned his post and will be gone by Christmas.



U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr


There has never been a news year like this one.


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