Notorious ex-Democrat launches GOP primary challenge to Georgia governor

Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Trump-obsessed Democrat-turned-Republican, announced Thursday that he would oppose Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in next year's GOP primary. Jones' challenge comes as Kemp is also preparing for a widely anticipated rematch against Democrat Stacey Abrams, whom Peach State political observers universally expect to run again.

Jones used his kickoff Friday to once again repeat the lie that Trump would still be in the White House if Jones had been governor in 2020. Joe Biden, of course, would still have earned an electoral college majority if Trump had carried Georgia, but that's hardly stopped Trump from targeting his one-time ally Kemp for refusing to go along with his efforts to try and steal the state's electoral votes.

That hasn't changed in the last month even though Kemp has attracted plenty of gratitude in conservative circles for signing the new voter suppression bill, a development that led Major League Baseball to move the All-Star Game from the Atlanta suburbs to Colorado. Trump instead responded earlier this month by labeling the new law "far too weak and soft" and claiming, "Kemp also caved to the radical left-wing woke mob who threatened to call him racist if he got rid of weekend voting."

Jones, as we'll discuss, has been an ardent Trumpest throughout the last year, but Kemp is already trying to make his Democratic past a liability. The incumbent's team greeted Jones' arrival into the race by noting that the then-Democrat opposed a 2019 bill that effectively banned abortion just six weeks into a pregnancy, legislation that has since been struck down by a federal court. Jones, who agreed during his 2008 U.S. Senate campaign that abortion should be legal, tried to get ahead of Kemp's attacks by tweeting on Monday, "Life begins at conception - period."

The governor may also have plenty of other material to work with from Jones' long time in Democratic politics, a career that was defined by several failed attempts to win higher office. After a stint in the state House in the 1990s, Jones became the first African American to lead DeKalb County following his 2000 victory for CEO of this large Atlanta-area community. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that during his tenure, he "drew intense scrutiny for angry outbursts and an accusation of rape that he said was a consensual act between three partners." Jones, however, was never charged.

Jones, who had voted for George W. Bush twice, tried to use his high-profile post as a springboard to statewide office by seeking Team Blue's nomination to take on Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss in 2008. However, the CEO earned plenty of negative attention during the nomination contest after Barack Obama took him to task for creating a mailer that made it appear that the two were campaigning together. Jones lost the primary runoff 60-40 to Jim Martin, who went on to lose to Chambliss.

Jones then challenged Rep. Hank Johnson in the 2010 primary for the 4th Congressional District and lost 55-26. In 2013, a grand jury probing his time leading DeKalb County recommended he be investigated for what the AJC calls allegations of "bid-rigging and theft." The following year, his campaign for county sheriff ended in a landslide 76-24 primary defeat.

Jones, though, resurrected his political career when he won the 2016 primary to return to the state House in a safely blue seat. Months later, DeKalb District Attorney Robert James announced that he wouldn't be charging a number of figures, including Jones, for lack of evidence.

Jones spent the next few years often voting with Republicans and tweeting favorably of Trump, but he only burned his last bridges with his party in 2020 when he endorsed Trump's re-election campaign. The state representative, who was already facing a competitive primary, ultimately retired from the legislature (albeit after initially saying he'd be resigning), and he spent the rest of the campaign as a prominent Trump surrogate. Jones spent his time after Election Day headlining Trump rallies alleging nonexistent voter fraud, and he finally switched parties in January.

Black Army Lt. pulled over, terrorized, and beaten even though police knew he'd done nothing wrong

Last December, Army Lieutenant Caron Nazario was on his way home with a new SUV when the lights of a police car appeared behind him. Rather than pull over on a narrow, darkened street, he proceeded just over one minute, and less than one mile, down the road and pull into the parking lot of a gas station. There he was confronted by two police officers who proceeded to hold him at gun point, pepper spray him through the window of his vehicle, and threaten him with death.

According to the Associated Press, Windsor, Virginia police officer Daniel Crocker radioed that he was pulling Nazario over because his vehicle lacked a license plate and had tinted windows. He also described Nazario's one minute, low-speed drive to the parking lot as "eluding police." This, to Crocker, justified calling the stop a "high-risk felony traffic stop." Which justified calling for backup and approaching the car with gun drawn.

Except that the temporary tag for Nazario's recently purchased vehicle was clearly displayed in the rear window of the SUV. If Crocker had missed it initially, it seems impossible that he would have not seen it either during that "pursuit" conducted well below the speed limit. It's also clearly visible as the car sits under the lights of the parking lot. By the time Crocker approached Nazario's vehicle, he had to know that, if there ever had been any justification for the stop, that reason no longer applied.

Crocker might have stepped up, explained that he had missed seeing the tag initially, and sent Nazario on his way with an apology. Instead, he was joined by a second officer, Joe Gutierrez, and together the two terrorized Lt. Nazario … while never actually filing any charges.

Gutierrez reportedly saw Lt. Nazario's car pull into the parking lot, which he admitted was a common occurrence. It was something that happens, "a lot, and 80% of the time, it's a minority." If there was any doubt about why a person of color might feel the need to pull over in an area that's well lit, and where there are potential witnesses, the Windsor police soon made the reason clear.

In the bodycam video (some of which has to be watched at YouTube due to age restrictions), both Crocker and Gutierrez can be seen pointing their guns at Lt. Nazario—with Gutierrez adopting a kind of sideways, faux-gangsta style as he waggles the barrel at the uniformed Army officer's face. Gutierrez then begins to tell Lt. Nazario, "you're under arrest right now for,,," stops himself, and then says, "you're being detained for obstruction of justice."

At this point, Lt. Nazario is holding both hands out the open window and asking what is going on. Gutierrez pepper sprays him through the window. As Lt. Nazario winces and pulls back, Gutierrez steps in and gives the lieutenant an extra little toot of spray directly in his face.

After Nazario opens the door— a process delayed because as one officer is telling him to open the door, the other is shouting at Nazario to keep his hands up — Gutierrez orders him to get out of the car. "What are you?" says Gutierrez. "A specialist? A corporal?" naming two lower ranks.

"I'm a lieutenant," said Nazario. Who then informs him that he's afraid to step out, or even reach for his seat belt, and again asks what's going on.

"I'm honestly afraid to get out," says Lt. Nazario.

"Yeah, you should be!" says one of the officers.

Finally pulled from the car, Lt. Nazario is forced to the ground by Crocker and Gutierrez. Still without being told why he was stopped, and even as he is begging for some help for his dog, who was in the car and choking from exposure to pepper spray. In the middle of this, Gutierrez tells Nazario that he is about to "ride the lightning," an expression usually connected to someone being executed in the electric chair.

Lt. Nazario was beaten, handcuffed, and held for interrogation while one of the officers searched his car without a warrant. The two officers threaten to charge Nazario with eluding police, obstructing justice, and assaulting an officer … but they don't. Instead, one expresses concern about the Army learning about the arrest and says he'll let Nazario go if he will "chill."

Nazario has launched a lawsuit against the Windsor police. Both Crocker and Gutierrez still work for the Windsor police department. Neither has been suspended for their actions.

Lawsuit: Windsor, Virginia police officers threatened Navy sailor during stop www.youtube.com

An admission of Republican failure hovers beneath every racist coronavirus slur

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Republicans, encouraged by the twice-impeached, former one-term president, have persisted in using the phrase "China virus" or "Wuhan virus" to describe the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these same Republicans have insisted, despite an overwhelming scientific consensus to the contrary, that the virus was created in a Chinese laboratory as opposed to originating in an animal host. Last April, as the pandemic spread uncontrolled throughout the U.S., the GOP sent a detailed, 57-page internal memo to its 2020 election candidates, specifically urging them to blame China at every turn when faced with questions about the administration's efforts to combat the pandemic.

Of course, the predictable result from repeating this theme was a marked upsurge in violence directed towards Asian Americans. The link between Trump and the GOP's anti-China rhetoric and such violence prompted President Joe Biden, in one of his first official acts upon taking office, to ban such pejorative terminology from our federal agencies and their public documents. Still, despite the well-documented consequences to Asian Americans, elected Republican officials—such as Ohio Lt. Gov. John Husted only last week—continue to trot out the racist slur.

While the connection between this rhetoric and acts of violence is obvious, it's important for Americans to remember why Trump and the GOP made this conscious, collective decision in the first place. Blaming China was more than a deliberate attempt to shift the blame for the pandemic itself,; as employed almost exclusively by Republicans, it was a deliberate attempt to distract from the administration's wholly botched response.

From the very start the "Chinese virus" appellation was intentionally amplified by American right-wing media. It's a slur which almost revels in its senselessness. To be clear, even if the virus actually had man-made origins—even if the virus been created in Xi Jinping's basement with a vintage Gilbert chemistry set—from a practical standpoint, the precise origin of the virus, be it bat, bald eagle or Beijing lab, is essentially irrelevant. Whether the virus originated in China, Kenya, or Wyoming is distinct from the question of how the global community has responded to it, which is what ultimately matters.

That distinction is what Trump's favorite slur tries to obfuscate. The tragic reality is that the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic was atrocious compared to nearly every other developed nation in the world. It was so bad it turned this country into a pariah nation, a cautionary tale of what not to do in a public health crisis.

And that abysmal response, whose ineptitude and human cost will doubtlessly fill the history books for the next hundred years as an example of what failed, indifferent government policies can lead to, was due almost entirely to an abdication of responsibility towards the American public by one of this country's two major political parties. Republicans were the ones responsible for electing, abetting and encouraging an Executive uniquely and pathologically unsuited to addressing the catastrophic implications of a global pandemic. Republicans were the ones who stood by silently, while our public health infrastructure and pandemic response capabilities were being gleefully dismantled by the the Trump administration. And Republicans of every stripe must bear the ultimate responsibility for the consequences of that failure, whether they choose to admit it or not.

Only recently, as the nation finally begins to extricate itself from this calamity, is a reckoning of sorts coming forth. The most up-to-date estimates place direct blame on Donald Trump for approximately 400,000 of the deaths that have occurred to date due to COVID-19. There is literally no president in American history whose malfeasance resulted in so many deaths of U.S. citizens.

But Trump didn't act alone. The death toll was increased exponentially due to the sycophancy of a Republican establishment lined up behind him, adopting his cues as the pandemic's impact continued to worsen. Every Republican at the state and federal level who acquiesced to the former administration's malfeasance either by parroting lethal anti-masking propaganda, forcefully advocating reopening businesses in the name of "personal freedom," or hawking phony cures and ridiculous conspiracy theories is complicit.

So the appeal of the slur to Republicans, however irrelevant to the actual harm caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is easy enough to understand, because it serves as an ready distraction from the blame they so richly deserve for allowing a public health crisis to become a calamity. The entire approach by the Trump administration was intended to abandon any leadership role of the federal government, and thereby escape blame for any failure to stop it. As pointed out by Josh Marshall, writing for Talking Points Memo, this exercise in blame avoidance was intentional, a key to the administration's overall strategy when faced with its own ineptitude.

From the very start of the Pandemic in the first weeks of 2020 the Trump administration consistently sought to disclaim responsibility for things that would be genuinely difficult and could have challenging or bad outcomes. Push the tough tasks on to others and if it goes badly blame them. This frequently went to absurd lengths as when the White House insisted that states short on ventilators at the peak of the spring surge should have known to purchase them in advance of the pandemic. Over the course of the year Trump spun up an alternative reality in which the US was somehow still operating under the Articles of Confederation in which individual states were responsible for things that have been viewed as inherently federal responsibilities for decades or centuries.

But the impetus wasn't ideological. It was mainly a means of self-protection and risk avoidance: arrange things so that the administration could take credit if things went well and blame states if they went bad. Nowhere was this more clear than in the months' long crisis over testing capacity. Since the administration was actually hostile to testing in general and couldn't solve the problem in any case they simply claimed it was a state responsibility.

As Marshall points out, the one constant during Trump's entire botched handling of the COVID-19 pandemic—from the first warnings of an incipient health crisis through and including Trump's final day in office—was "to put it off on someone else so the White House didn't get the blame."

Attributing the pandemic to China or Wuhan, or the rally staple "Kung flu?" That was always a calculated part of Trump's attempt to avoid blame, one which immediately filtered down to the state level and was adopted by Republican officials equally eager to dodge blame. Even following a year of racially-motivated attacks on Asian Americans that resulted from this distraction campaign, most House Republicans still refused to condemn Trump's rhetoric.

As detailed by Alex Samuels, writing for FiveThirtyEight, the vilification of China had its desired effect among the Republican constituency.

Ultimately, blaming China for the pandemic didn't help Trump win reelection in 2020, but unfavorable views of China are at a record high among Americans.1 And there are signs that Americans, especially Republicans, blame China for the spread of the coronavirus. A November Economist/YouGov poll found, for instance, that 64 percent of all registered voters and 86 percent of Republicans said it was definitely or probably true that China was responsible for the pandemic.

The key word for Republicans here was "responsible." Republicans recognize that Donald Trump and those GOP officials that adopted his strategy throughout this crisis were ultimately responsible for the U.S. sustaining a higher death toll from this virus than any other country in the world. As Samuels notes, that fact practically compels them to find a scapegoat for their own failure, with any blowback inflicted on Asian-Americans a secondary consideration at best.

[T]he experts I've talked to think that if people uphold a specific worldview by delegitimizing another group, the framing of diseases will always be political — no matter how apolitical we think diseases are. That's because racism itself is a disease, and as Roger Keil, a political scientist at York University, told me, "[I]t seems to spread sometimes like a virus." Keil compared it to watching a video online: "For every video that links the disease to Chinese people, there will be 10 or 1,000 people watching, so it's normalized," he said. "It's terrible, but that's how racism spreads."

The Trump administration knew the implications of COVID-19,from the outset and that it presented his prospects and those of his minions with a truly daunting, existential crisis. The China scapegoating began immediately and continued throughout the rest of Trump's tenure, heedless of whatever harm such scapegoating would have on millions of Asian-Americans. Republican leaders willingly followed his lead and have continued to do so up to this day. But every time one of them utters the words "Chinese virus" or "Wuhan virus," what they're really doing is dodging their own responsibility for the worst response to a major public health crisis in this nation's history.

Dominion lawyer lays out in painstaking detail why Fox News messed with the wrong company

I'm not a lawyer—simple country, unfrozen caveman, or otherwise—but I have to think that knowingly spreading lies about the one thing a company does, thereby shredding that company's credibility in the eyes of millions of Americans, is kind of a big deal ... and might just get you in a wee bit of trouble.

Like if I said I'd stayed at a Trump hotel (which I've never done, for the record) and claimed my black-light inspection revealed a veritable Jackson Pollock installation of unaccounted-for horrors ... and that the bedbugs emptied more blood from me than an gin-besotted phlebotomist could ever dream of ... and that the vegan mango salsa was just a bit on the tart side—well, I'd expect to receive a clammy yellow fuck-jumble of a letter from the large man himself.

In other words, you can't just say—or promote—any fool thing you want to, especially if you know it isn't true.

Which is where Fox News comes in. On Friday, Dominion Voting Systems gifted Fox with a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit, which comes on the heels of a similar suit Smartmatic filed last month seeking a whopping $2.7 billion in damages.

And, damn, it really looks like this thing might have legs.

This morning, Dominion Votings Systems attorney Stephen Shackleford joined Brian Stelter on CNN's Reliable Sources to explain just how fucked Fox may be.

It went a little something like this:

CNN 03 28 2021 11 18 02 youtu.be

SHACKLEFORD: "As you know, part of proving that a statement is defamatory is to prove that it was made either knowing the statements were false or with reckless disregard for the truth. You pointed out to your viewers that our complaint lays out in gory detail over days and days and weeks in November and December of last year, Fox kept spouting these lies about Dominion, these devastating lies about Dominion on their airwaves even while they were being told the truth over and over again.

"And yes, they were told the truth by Dominion. Dominion sent multiple emails and letters and retraction demands, but there was also a chorus of bipartisan officials explaining how these lies were false—how the election, how Dominion machines performed as they were supposed to and accurately counted the votes."

STELTER: "How do you respond to the argument that Fox has already made against Smartmatic, which is, 'We were just covering matters of legitimate public interest. There was a grand debate going on about the election results, and we were just airing all sides of the matter'?"

SHACKLEFORD: "So Fox was not reporting the news with these reports that are outlined in our complaint. Fox was not giving voice to some grand political debate. Fox was repeatedly stating as fact, putting on Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and also with their own anchors endorsing what Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani were saying, all these lies about Dominion and they were stating them as fact. And you're right, they did have a Dominion spokesperson on at one point; it was much smaller viewership for that show, and Fox did not promote it like they promoted the [Maria] Bartiromo and the [Lou] Dobbs and other shows they put throughout their massive social media network. But as you also know, Brian, you can't get away with defamation by saying the truth in the morning and then lying through your teeth in the afternoon. That doesn't cut it. If that were the case then all any media organization would have to do is issue a retraction … after they've done all the damage, and that would be it, but that's not the law of defamation."

Damn, that doesn't sound good for Fox at all.

Of course, complicating Fox's defense is the fact that the network snapped to attention after Smartmatic sent the network a letter demanding a retraction, running a segment debunking common election-fraud claims during shows hosted by three of Fox's smarmiest liars—Jeanine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo, and Lou Dobbs. (Dobbs has since been canned.)

Does anyone really think Fox didn't know what it was doing? After Fox called Arizona for Joe Biden on election night, it looked like its viewers were poised to abandon the network for loopier la la lands like OANN and Newsmax, so it needed to tighten its hold on the barmy Trumpbots it had nurtured over the previous four years.

What better way to do that than suck up to Trump with renewed vigor?

Ah, but now the sword of Damocles looms. The only question that remains is, will it take just a few fingers or lop off an entire limb?

The county-by-county map of COVID-19 vaccinations shows both successes — and some big holes

The Washington Post has compiled a county-by-county map of COVID-19 vaccination rates that's worth a look. At minimum, it's a tidy way to compare your own county's vaccination success to those around it. More to the point, the Post's reporters were able to crunch the numbers to check up on a few of our previous conclusions. There's some good, some bad.

In the states where sufficient information was available, the Post reports a total vaccination rate of 14.3%, or 18.2% of all adults. But 45% of Americans aged 65+ have now been fully vaccinated, as states prioritize that higher-risk population for the first vaccines. That's progress.

A cursory scan of the map, however, shows just how variable vaccination rates continue to be. While the Post that they could find no "large differences between urban and rural areas," meaning vaccination success does not appear to vary with population density—that might be a little surprising, given the presumed distribution challenges in low-population areas—there are notable gaps in some regions. Lower Missouri and much of Arkansas continues to lag behind, along with central Alabama, western Louisiana, and the South in general.

The Post calls out two patterns in specific. Predominantly Black counties have a vaccination rate roughly three points lower than the overall population, a continuation of a pattern of neglect towards Black communities throughout the pandemic. The Biden administration has signaled it would target those communities with additional vaccine awareness programs, but promoting the vaccine's efficacy and actually getting it into those communities for use are two efforts, not one.

Vaccination rates are even lower, however, in counties that voted for Trump in the last election by 80% or more. Vaccination rates there have only reached 15%, compared to the national 18.2%. That's only for the 80% case: drop down to the counties that voted for Trump by 60%, there's no longer much of a gap.

We can speculate on reasons why, but it would be reasonable to assume not only that diehard Trump voters are continuing to scoff at pandemic safety measures as they have been instructed to do by the Orange Incompetent, but that the elected officials in hard-hard-right American counties are themselves supporting vaccination campaigns less robustly than, well, anyone else.

In a bit of good news, vaccination efforts in majority-Native American counties are going rather spectacularly in comparison. Thanks to targeted efforts through the Department of Health and Human Services' Indian Health Service, vaccination rates are on average a whopping fourteen points above the national average, at over 32% of all adults.

The short of it, then, is that we're getting there. Slowly, at only 18.2% of all adults, but getting there. Now to push on the regions falling behind, and on the states not releasing enough data to even track how things are going (looking at you, Texas), and as for the dark red Trump-voting areas? Yeah, that one's going to be a puzzler.

Fox News guest insists all Chinese Americans should denounce China over the coronavirus

Ying Ma is a conservative Chinese American who's been appearing on Fox lately to hype her theory that liberals only became interested in anti-Asian violence when they could use it to smear Donald Trump—who, frankly, doesn't really need anyone to smear him as it's already impossible to suss out where the slime ends and the human genome begins.

Oh, and she also thinks all Chinese Americans need to denounce the Chinese communist government over its failure to stop the novel coronavirus because, you know, that's their country, right?

Most of my immediate ancestors were Germans who came to this country in the 1860s and '70s following the Great Cinnamon Strudel and Kartoffelpuffer Famine of 1862.

Actually, I have no idea why the fuck they came here. It couldn't possibly be because they envisioned that glorious future day when one of their descendants would spend literally hours perched atop a nascent sofa sinkhole drinking Mountain Dew Baja Blast and mercilessly mowing down Nazis in Call of Duty.

The point is, it was a long time ago, and my parents and grandparents never knew any other home than America—and so they were solidly on our side during World War II. So I would have found it more than a little odd if, growing up, I'd been repeatedly asked to denounce 1930s and 1940s German war atrocities just because I was a white descendant of northern Europeans.

But this is the kind of shit people of color are continually asked to do, at least on Fox News.


MA: "There are two things that the Biden administration can do. One is to send Kamala Harris to Oakland, which is the city where she declared her candidacy for president, and ask her to actually just denounce, loud and clear, Black-on-Asian violence. The Oakland-San Francisco area is a place where Black-on-Asian violence has occurred repeatedly, and it's also the place where some of the most horrific attacks we've seen this year have occurred. The second thing is actually to encourage all Chinese Americans to come out and denounce China for the role that it has played in infecting the world with COVID-19, and along with that the Biden administration needs to be very firm in holding China accountable for having done this to America and having done this to the world."

Hmm, this sure does sound familiar, huh? Where have I seen this kind of rhetoric before?

Oh, yeah …

Yup. As Chris Hayes points out in the above tweet, this is precisely the kind of thing conservatives said about Muslims in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. WHY AREN'T THEY DENOUNCING THESE TERRORISTS? As if American Muslims as a community somehow had a hand in the murderous plot against their own country.

Hey, Fox News! I'm also an eighth Norwegian. Do I need to apologize the next time someone power-vomits lutefisk on Christmas Eve? Eventually coronavirus will be gone, but no one who's eaten lutefisk ever forgets that horror show.

No, I won't and can't apologize, because it doesn't have shit to do with me.

Then again, no one has ever asked me to do anything this ridiculous. Nobody's asked me, a white guy, to denounce the events of Jan. 6, either.

Why is that, I wonder?

Republicans formalize their embrace of American fascism with Trump's acquittal

The full malevolence of this new Republican Party nullification of consequences for political corruption—this time, in the form of a president sending a mob to block the certification of the U.S. election that would remove him from power, a president responding to the resulting violence by singling out to the mob his own specific enemies, then sitting back to watch the violence unfold on his television while taking no action to either contain the mob or protect the Congress, is difficult to even grasp.

The ultimate irony of the Republican sabotage, however, is that impeachment was unquestionably the most appropriate remedy for Trump's actions. It was an absolute necessity, and now the entire nation will suffer the consequences. Yet again.

Whether or not what Trump did was criminal is as yet undetermined, but even Sen. Mitch McConnell himself honed in on the central sin of Trump's actions. It was, at the very least, an unforgivable dereliction of duty. When faced with a clear and present need to defend the country, Trump did not. He betrayed his oath. He proved himself not just unfit for office, but a malevolent figure willing to use even violence against lawmakers as avenue for further political power.

Even if it could be argued that Trump did not intend for violence or threats to transpire, in the minutes after a speech in which he urged the crowd to march to the Capitol and intimidate the assembled Congress, it was unquestionable that Trump sought to use the violence for his advantage as it unfolded. He singled out Mike Pence after learning that Pence was still present in the building, upon which the mob went hunting for Mike Pence. He mocked Rep. Kevin McCarthy, as rioters attempted to break through McCarthy's office door.

Trump knew that violence was occurring, and still used that violence to intimidate his enemies rather than swiftly demand reinforcements to protect Congress.

There is no question of this. It is not in dispute. To say it was dereliction of duty is, to be sure, an understatement.

The only remedy requested through impeachment, however, was one both practical and essential. Trump may have left office the two weeks between coup and inauguration of his successor, but his dereliction was so severe that Congress was asked to offer up its only available constitutional remedy: barring him from future office. That was all. The Senate was not debating whether to jail Trump, or to exile him. The Senate was debating whether or not to bar Donald Trump, proven to be incompetent or malicious, from ever returning to an office he in all probability will never again inhabit. After multiple deaths inside the U.S. Capitol, it was a political wrist slap.

But by refusing to do it, Republican senators offered up a technicality-laced defense of insurrection as political act. By immunizing him from the only credible consequence for his dereliction, Republican lawmakers have granted him an authority to try again. They have asserted to his base, their own Republican base, a white supremacist froth of the conspiracy-riddled far-right, that Trump did no wrong in asking them to block the certification of an American election. Oh, it may have been wrong. But, according to the speeches and declarations of those who have protected Trump's most malevolent acts time and time again, not consequences-worthy wrong.

Trump's rally that day, and his months of hoax-based propaganda before it, were all premised around a demand to nullify a United States presidential election he did not win. It was called Stop the Steal, and Trump and his allies demanded as remedy the overturning of the election, either by individual states that voted for the opposition candidate or through the United States Congress erasing those electoral votes outright.

It was, from the outset, an attempted coup. The very premise was to nullify an election so that he might be reappointed leader despite losing it. It was an insurrection before the crowd on January 6 ever turned violent; it was an insurrection when Trump asked the assembled crowd, in the precise minutes timed to coincide with the counting of electoral votes, to march to the Capitol building to demand the Senate overturn the elections results.

It had help. Multiple Republican senators were themselves eager to support Trump's attempted coup using their own tools of office. Even the supposed institutionalists, if the word even has meaning at this point, kept their silence and refrained from acknowledging the Democratic opponent as the election's winner. It was a tactical silence, meant to measure out whether Trump's team of bumbling lawyers and organized propaganda could produce results before coming down cleanly on the side of democracy or of insurrection. While Trump's most fervent allies embraced his claims and poked away at the election, looking for weaknesses, the party at large remained silent. Trump's actions may have been deplorable, but they were not out of party bounds. There were precious few condemnations, and elections officials in Georgia and elsewhere were left to defend themselves against outrageous lies to whatever extent they were able.

Among those they had to defend themselves to: Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, themselves inquiring as to the possible methods of simply erasing enough votes as to find Donald Trump the "true" winner.

Trump intended to overturn an election. Trump went so far as to finance and schedule a mass rally of supporters to appear at the Capitol with instructions to let those inside know that the election must be overturned. Trump sat back and watched as violence quickly followed, and responded by goading the crowd to go after an enemy, by refusing congressional pleas for intervention, and by sneering at lawmakers fearing for their lives.

By evading the question before them, Trump's Republican allies have established the toppling of democratic government and the nullification of American elections as, along with using elected office as profit center and extorting an at-war foreign nation into falsely smearing an election opponent, political tools allowed to those that would pursue political power. Demanding the nullification of an election may be unseemly, when done by movement leaders. But it is allowed. It will be backed by Republican lawmakers, and those same Republican lawmakers will brush aside whatever consequences the attempter may face if the attempt ends in failure.

This weekend saw what is perhaps the most consequential new recognition of the American fascist movement as quasi-legitimized political entity. Perhaps Trump's Republican protectors intended such, and perhaps they did not, but the outcome will be the same.

The contrary position here was, by comparison, effortless. Republican senators could have detached Trump from his position as would-be autocratic "leader" with a simple acknowledgement that his actions, during a time of true national crisis, were so horrific as to render him unfit for future office. That is all. Trump could fume, Trump could raise money against enemies, Trump could grift his pissant little life away all he likes, but he, personally, could never take office again. His authoritarian cult would be deprived of the precise and only goal of its insurrection: re-installing him as leader.

The message would have been clear: Violence as political tool is disqualifying. Forever.

Not violence as political tool is unfortunate. Not violence as political tool is unseemly, but due to various technicalities and the current schedule cannot be responded to. Violence as political tool is an unforgivable act, whether such support is tacit or explicit, whether it was planned or it was spontaneous, and we will all stand united to declare that no matter what your political ambitions may be you are not allowed to do that. You are not allowed to incite an already-violent crowd with a new message singling out a specific fleeing enemy. You are not allowed to respond to multiple calls for urgent assistance by telling a lawmaker that perhaps the rioting crowd were right to be angry, rather than sending that help. You are not allowed to spend months propagating fraudulent, malevolent hoaxes intended to delegitimize democracy itself rather than accept an election loss, culminating in a financed and organized effort to threaten the United States Congress with a mob of now-unhinged supporters demanding your reinstallation by force.

If that was a bridge too far, on the part of the same Republican senators who coddled Trump's attempts to nullify an American election and spread democracy-eroding hoaxes in their own speeches, we can all imagine why.

'Like I'm banging my head against the wall': Doctor sounds off on vaccine rollout disaster

The COVID-19 vaccination rollout in the U.S. is not going well in the majority of states. On Dec. 14 in New York City, Sandra Lindsay became the first American to receive the coronavirus vaccine, ostensibly just one of 20 million scheduled to do so by the end of 2020. Instead, only 3 million Americans had gotten the shot by then, and that number was only up to 4.6 million by Jan. 4. That's barely a one-quarter of the number of doses that had been shipped by then, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Now, in mid-January, almost 1 million doses are being administered per day.)

Dr. Fauci didn't mince words: "(N)o excuses. We should have gotten 20 distributed, and 20 into the arms of people, (and) by 20, I mean 20 million." There's no glib, "WTF" sort of phrase that properly captures how enraging this failure is. The New York Times editorial board called it "an astonishing failure—one that stands out in a year of astonishing failures."

We'll never know how many people in the U.S. will have died or suffered long-lasting harm because we are failing to hit vaccination benchmarks. Yet from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the Great Lakes to the Gulf, we all want to know why we're in this position. Certainly, some of the blame goes to The President Who Tried To Overturn An Election He Lost: Donald Trump refused, for almost a week, to sign the COVID-19 relief bill with over $8 billion earmarked for vaccine distribution—essentially because he was angry about being ignored. Thus, that money couldn't be spent on ramping up the vaccination process for seven extra days—while we all watched the sociopathic Orange Manbaby throw a president-sized tantrum. Prior to Dec. 27, the federal government provided a piddling $340 million for the rollout. As Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti noted, "The federal government can't tell the local governments and state governments to do something and not give us aid."

It's yet another depraved action for which Trump has the blood of Americans on his hands—albeit not on his conscience, as that would require him to have one in the first place. Unsurprisingly, Trump is refusing to accept any responsibility. Again. Instead, he's blaming the states.

Beyond what the soon-to-be-former occupant of the White House did, the vaccine rollout's failures result from thousands of decisions made at the federal, state, and local level by people who, unlike the Insurrectionist-in-Chief, actually have good intentions. Broad reviews of those decisions, and their impact on the delay in vaccinating people, have been written elsewhere. Rather than write another one, I spoke at length with one New York City physician who takes care of patients directly, and who also has significant administrative responsibilities at an ambulatory (outpatient) facility that largely serves Americans of color, most of whom are lower-income.

This doctor, who spoke with me on condition of anonymity, is in charge of securing vaccine doses for their facility, to be administered to health care workers and other eligible staff members. Their facility is not a federally qualified health center (FQHC), which means it has to apply and be formally approved in order to receive the vaccine for its employees; most non-hospitals fall into this category. The physician's experience in seeking approval to receive and administer the vaccine has been, in short, a nightmare. "The whole process has been so stressful and is taking so long," the doctor says. "I want to protect my staff, and I have been working really hard to make that happen, but it is beginning to feel like I am banging my head against the wall."

Non-FQHC facilities seeking the vaccine in New York City must apply to the Citywide Immunization Registry (CIR), while those outside the city go through the New York State Immunization Information System (NYIIS). Non-FQHC facilities throughout the city and state have faced huge hurdles, according to the physician. Their NYC facility, after a month of waiting—while calling or emailing almost daily in pursuit of updates or an explanation for the delay—finally had its application accepted, but then was unable to order the vaccine for another week, due to a problem with the CIR computer system.

The doctor ordered the vaccine about a week into January. As of this writing, they have still not yet been informed when it will arrive. Who knows when they will actually be able to get shots in people's arms? The physician adds: "My staff is getting very antsy; everyone wants to know when we will be getting the vaccine, but I have nothing to tell them. Every day, we email the CIR and get uninformative and evasive responses."

The facility has locations across the state; outside of the city, things are even worse. Six weeks passed before those other locations learned that their applications had been accepted by NYIIS. Like the facility in the city, it remains unclear when those locations might actually receive doses of the vaccine. It's not just New York: Other cities and states are also dealing with delays and problems in getting the vaccine widely administered.

The CIR and NYIIS are significantly understaffed, and admittedly, the holiday season didn't help. Given the COVID-19 crisis, it is an open question as to whether staff should have been asked to continue working over those holidays and/or over weekends—with proper compensation, of course. New York City and state alike would've needed financial help to pay those workers—help that did not arrive in time, thanks to the whims of a certain Individual-1.

Independent doctors' offices and freestanding medical facilities face additional barriers to acquiring the vaccine for their employees. "The process has been extremely difficult, opaque and time-consuming," the clinic doctor relates. "I cannot imagine how an organization smaller than ours would ever be able to do it."

They can't, they won't, and they don't. As the physician I spoke to explained, many of these smaller facilities simply won't bother to apply for various reasons, including, but not limited to:

  • Many facilities are already short-staffed because of COVID-19, so they don't have the staff to deal with the application process and/or to administer the vaccine, as well as comply with the incredibly stringent post-vaccination reporting requirements;
  • Facilities don't have appropriate storage, particularly cold storage, for the vaccine;
  • The minimum number of doses a single facility can receive—the 100 doses in a Moderna box—far exceeds the number of employees at most of these facilities, leading to concerns about wasting doses that are needed elsewhere.

On that last point, there's another concern. Initially, there was some confusion about whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo's threat—to slap a $100,000 fine on any hospital that doesn't use all doses issued within seven days—also applies to smaller health care facilities and practices. Numerous physicians and health care administrators told The New York Times that this lack of clarity and fear of financial penalties discouraged smaller facilities from applying if they didn't have enough eligible staff to receive vaccinations. Given that the minimum number of doses a facility can order is 100, what happens if a facility only has 50 eligible employees, or 20?

Cuomo seems to have since "softened" the threat of a large fine, and clarified that facilities can send excess vaccine doses back to the state; given storage requirements—the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -70° C—that still may present difficulties for many facilities.

If employees at smaller facilities can't get vaccinated at work, they will further burden any alternative delivery system—systems that currently are unable to handle the load they already have. Many local health departments have set up vaccination sites for health care workers, but these sites are few and far between, and appointments are difficult to get. And, how will already understaffed facilities cope with employees missing time to chase down their shots? The questions go on and on.

The New York City doctor's experience tracks with the broader failure of the city and state's vaccination rollout. Seventeen days in, barely 88,000 NYC residents had been vaccinated—1% of the population in a city as hard hit as any place in the world, where the current positive test rate stands at almost 1 out of 10. Scarily, vaccinating large numbers of people is only going to get harder, as The New York Times reports.

The pace is worrying some experts. "I do feel concern," said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University. Despite months to prepare, there still seemed to be a steep learning curve when it comes to "the nitty-gritty of how do you get it from the freezer to the arm as quickly as possible," she said. "I think there are growing pains as people are picking up how to do this."

The first phase should have been the simplest, she added. "We've started out with the easiest populations, an almost captive audience: nursing homes and hospital workers — you know who they are and where to find them."

The problems faced by non-hospitals, as reported by the NYC doctor, are echoed in the Times' analysis.

"We feel forgotten," said Dr. Kerry Fierstein, a pediatrician and chief executive of a company that runs pediatrician offices, mainly on Long Island and in New York City. "If you're owned by a hospital, you've probably been vaccinated, but if you're completely unaffiliated, you don't know when you'll get vaccinated."

More broadly, the barriers non-hospital employees face in getting access to the vaccine mirror and exacerbate larger health care and societal inequalities in the U.S. relating to race, education, and class—inequalities that are particularly acute for COVID-19. In many cases, physicians in medical practices are able to be vaccinated at the hospital where they admit patients, but only as individuals. Think of the medical assistants, phlebotomists, and front desk workers at these facilities—all of whom interact with patients directly—as well as the cleaning staff and others who are also at risk. None of them can get the vaccine at work until their facility goes through the onerous process described above, actually gets approved, and decides to follow through and order the vaccine (then receives it). These workers, along with home health aides and others working for agencies, are also more likely to be women, and more likely to be Black or brown.

Lower Black and brown vaccination rates are a particular concern due to the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on those communities. The lower rates result in part from long-standing (and well-founded) mistrust of the medical establishment and the government when it comes to vaccines and other health issues.

The doctor I spoke to suggested that, in order to get more Black and brown health care workers to take the vaccine, we need to offer it to them in their own workplaces, delivered by medical providers and staff with whom they feel comfortable discussing their vaccine hesitancy—people they know and trust: "I have had conversations with individual staff members who were hesitant about getting the vaccine. I was able to take the time and answer their questions—after which almost all of them decided to be vaccinated with us, because they know and trust me and our organization. They would not feel comfortable being vaccinated at a large, unfamiliar, and impersonal venue." Just one more reason to offer the vaccine in workplaces whenever possible.

Hopefully, New York and the other cities and states will share information and learn from one another about what went wrong—even as they're working feverishly to vaccinate people. "It's gone too slowly, I know, for many of us," acknowledged California Gov. Gavin Newsom shortly after New Year's. "All of us, I think, want to see 100% of what's received immediately administered in people's arms. That's a challenge."

On Jan. 5, Cuomo introduced a revised vaccination plan for New York, conceding that the existing approach wasn't working. The new plan has three components: First, vaccinate all staff and residents in nursing homes, over a two-week period. Next, a push to get hospitals to vaccinate their health care workers; and finally, "special efforts" created by the state to directly deliver shots to all eligible New Yorkers. These efforts include drive-through vaccination locations and pop-up locations in houses of worship and community centers. There's also a special focus on social equity, and making sure that Black and Latino New Yorkers get their shots.

The situation remains fluid as of this writing. Multiple rounds of changes have been issued in recent days. Taken together, they have broadened the eligibility criteria for receiving the vaccine to include all New Yorkers over the age of 65, those who are immunocompromised, and some essential workers—including K-12 teachers!

The clinic doctor remains frustrated by the continued delays in getting their facility's staff vaccinated, and it's not clear how much the revised distribution approach will help non-hospital health care workers access the vaccine more quickly ... if at all. As for whether Cuomo's new plans address these concerns and improve the overall vaccination situation in New York? Only time will tell.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Here are 11 ways to beat Mitch McConnell — even if Democrats don't take back the Senate

Ideally, if Democrats do their job up to and on Jan. 5, we will win both of Georgia's Senate seats, and secure a bare majority in both chambers of Congress. Coupled with President-elect Joe Biden, this small trifecta means, at the very least, that our government can still function. This is a big deal, since certain Republican senators have indicated that they plan on indefinitely blocking every single one of Biden's Cabinet nominees. Biden shouldn't waste any precious time trying to get the Republican Party to do the right thing, such as respecting the will of the voters. If he wants to get anything done, he is going to have to do it alone.

Hopefully, Democrats will take both Senate seats in Georgia, as this would be the easiest path for governance. However, it isn't at all necessary for Biden to get things done. There is a critical loophole that would prevent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from blocking votes—as long as Democrats are willing to use it. There's also plenty of things that Biden can make happen, and not a single Republican is required to participate. Extremists rule the opposition, so we must continue to rethink the old adage that bipartisanship is a good thing; the other side—either through sabotage or cowardice—is hellbent on undermining democracy and going all in with the politics of destruction.

But what if the Democrats don't win both Senate seats in Georgia? McConnell retains control of his chamber, and blocks all legislation and all nominees, leading to at least two years of solid obstruction. Game over, right?


The Senate Majority Leader is a made-up position. It's not in the Constitution, or even in the Senate rules: The power of the Majority Leader is based solely on Senate norms and traditions. Since Republicans have decided those no longer concern them, then Democrats aren't bound by them, either, which presents a serious opportunity for the Biden administration. Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution clearly states that the vice president shall be "President of the Senate," but have no vote unless the votes are equally divided.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is also the president-elect of the Senate.When the vice president is not presiding over the Senate, the Senate will choose a president pro tempore to preside in her absence. Tradition has junior members of the majority party presiding, but the president of the Senate can take control anytime. If McConnell refuses to bring up legislation, or refuses to hold hearings or votes on Cabinet or judicial nominees, then Vice President Kamala Harris has the legal authority to take control. She would then decide what comes up for a vote.

This would come in handy in a situation where, say, McConnell decides to go with the Ted Cruz plan to block all of Biden's Cabinet nominees. While the overwhelming majority of Republicans would back McConnell, sadly, not all of them would. A few, like Utah's Mitt Romney, know that not having qualified experts in top positions during a pandemic or a foreign policy crisis is dangerous. It isn't typically in the Democrats' nature to play this kind of hardball, but we've got a nation to repair—a nation we all know the GOP is now hellbent on destroying.

As far as appointments go, Biden has a lot of options, as helpfully outlined by Washington Monthly. Obama paved the way for the appointment of nearly unlimited policy czars, and Biden also has the ability to appoint "acting" positions for more than 1,200 agency positions. (Trump managed to do it for other positions, as well.) Perhaps most interestingly, Biden can use the adjournment clause, in Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, to force numerous recess appointments. This technique would simply require the speaker of the House to propose a lengthy adjournment, of which the Senate can either accept or disagree. However, if the Senate disagrees, the refusal would constitute a "disagreement"—which means Biden gets to decide. This technique has never been used, but again, if the GOP is going to obstruct everything they can, Democrats better be ready to fight back—hard.

As far as legislation goes, if we lose the Senate, and can't get one Republican to do the right thing, there are plenty of things Biden can do by himself without Congress. The one thing Donald Trump did well was show us all how much a president can get done without Congress.

It's time to put on those aviators and play hardball, Joe.

The executive branch carries a lot of unilateral power, which presidents have been increasingly less hesitant to use: Think executive orders, federal regulations, and national security decision directives. Importantly, Biden has already promised on his first day to hit the ground running—without waiting for Congress. Here's a sampling of actions he might take.

COVID-19: Biden has promised to fight the COVID-19 pandemic by immediately appointing a "national supply chain commander" and establishing a "pandemic testing board" upon assuming office. It is very likely he won't be picking his children for any of those roles. Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain coordinated the federal government's response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak, which is good, since Trump was keen on pushing out experts. Biden will bring the experts back, and put scientists back in charge, instead of political hacks. This is critical, since the CDC and FDA have suffered so much under Trump. This new leadership will standardize guidance and base it on facts. Biden could and should reinstate the pandemic response team that Trump dissolved, which would improve the federal coordination in the fight against COVID-19. With new leadership, Biden could work with the CDC, and even the military, to develop a national distribution network for the vaccines. He could use the powers of the Defense Production Act to manufacture supplies and equipment—which Trump didn't want to do.

Voter Suppression: Bill Barr's DOJ was not at all interested in fighting voter suppression. You can bet that whomever Biden picks won't have that issue. However, there is one thing that Biden can do immediately that would be a huge victory against the GOP's war on voting. The entire point of Republican voter ID laws is to make voting inaccessible to thousands of poor voters. That's because voters of color are the least likely to have a driver's license, given that they are more likely to live in urban areas which have adequate public transportation, and unable to afford a car. Furthermore, tracking down the documentation to obtain a driver's license can be time-consuming and expensive. Other valid IDs, such as passports, are even harder to get. However, giving people the option to add a photo to their Social Security card, which most people have anyway, could ensure that they're not barred from voting in the red states with strict voter ID requirements where concealed carry licenses are fine, but student IDs typically are not accepted. This is an easy directive with no congressional approval requirement.

Paris Climate Accord: Biden already stated he will bring the U.S. back into the Accord as one of the first orders of business. This pact is an agreement among nations to reduce emissions. Biden does not need the Senate to do so, because the Accord is an executive agreement; Biden just needs to send a letter to the United Nations stating his intent to rejoin. Furthermore, Biden can reverse the more than 125 environmental rules that Donald Trump overturned by fiat, such as rules on energy efficiency, oil exploration, and use of biofuels. There are other accords and agreements that Biden can rejoin on his own if he chooses to, but this is arguably the most important one.

Postal Banking System: North Dakota has a very popular public bank, but nowhere else in the U.S. does a government-run bank compete with private banking. Fortunately, President-elect Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders convened a task force to look into the creation of a public banking option, set up through the U.S. Postal Service and the Federal Reserve, for low-income and middle-income families. Biden can set parts of such a system up without any legislation, such as USPS launching their own refillable, prepaid debit cards.

Student Loans: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that "President Biden can undo this debt—can forgive $50,000 of (student) debt—the first day he becomes president. You don't need Congress. All you need is the flick of a pen." Over 90% of the student debt in this nation is owed to the federal government. Biden can either forgive or eliminate the interest. Student loan debt is the only debt that you can't discharge through bankruptcy, thanks to a 2005 law. Educational debt is a massive burden to millions of people who are currently paying at least 10% of their income every month, and will for at least a decade. Forgiving it can provide much-needed relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overtime: The Trump Administration's Department of Labor allows companies to screw workers out of overtime, simply by classifying workers as managers. Dollar General is the worst offender, but there are plenty of others. Most likely, the workers you see helping you in these stores were classified as managers just so they can be forced to work extra hours without overtime pay. One ex-CEO of Dollar General faced no less than four class-action lawsuits over wage theft. That CEO became very rich exploiting this loophole. He is now an incumbent senator fighting to save his seat in Georgia—Mr. David Perdue himself.

Immigration: Biden still needs to work with Congress on pathways to citizenship, but he can do so much in this area without the Senate. This is an area where Trump was at his cruelest. Immigration in this nation has been virtually shut down, and refugees were limited to only 15,000 per year. Biden has already promised to raise that by over eight times the current amount. He has also promised to set up a task force to reunite those missing children lost under the Trump administration, and end the child-caging that Trump will forever be remembered for. Biden also vowed there would be no more Dreamer deportations, Muslim bans, workplace raids, or child separations.

Affordable Care Act: Trump did everything he could to sabotage Obama's signature achievement, but Biden can reverse much of the damage on his own. He can extend the enrollment period, increase advertisement spending, and repeal the IRS rule that workers must accept a health care plan from their employer, no matter how bad, if one is offered. Biden can also help states create their own plans—something Trump was not at all interested in—and lower prescription drug prices.

Cannabis: A Florida doctor prescribed opium to a friend of mine, who suffered tremendously in the hospital before she died. Cannabis would have been a better drug, but that was not a possibility. Such is the insanity of keeping cannabis a Schedule 1 drug, which means it is classified alongside heroin. There is some disagreement between legal scholars, but many, such as a professor Sam Kamin of the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law, assert that the president-elect can unilaterally reschedule cannabis through executive powers—he just can't deschedule it entirely. Rescheduling would make things easier for marijuana businesses, so for example, they could at least deduct business expenses with the IRS. While Biden can't deschedule cannabis—making it legal—on his own, he could order his Health and Human Services to run tests on the medical value of cannabis, which would help with descheduling down the road. He could also order the DOJ to not focus on prosecuting cannabis-related offenses.

Drug Prices: Two words: drug patents. The feds issue drug patents to companies, giving them exclusive rights to sell drugs for several years, at any price, before allowing generic versions to be manufactured. Biden has the option of "march-in rights," meaning that if a drug is being sold at an outrageous price point—which is more common than it should be—the government can seize the patent and issue it to generic manufacturers, in exchange for those manufacturers selling that drug at a reasonable rate. Although this would help the elderly on fixed incomes the most, it would also benefit everyone. Republicans would scream, but who the hell cares?

There's plenty more, such as restoring government unions, breaking up monopolies, utilizing municipal lending instruments for better access to loans, and enacting Wall Street reform—just to name a few. The point is that Joe Biden can do a lot on his own, and if Georgia's runoff goes sideways, he'd better get ready to do 'em.

Republicans will complain about everything on this list, and whine that Biden is doing things without them. So what? The American people no longer care what the excuses are for not getting things done. Trump went so far as to redirect benchmarked funding toward his own projects, and blatantly violate established law—such as the Hatch Act. He even disregarded court rulings, as with the Census and DACA. When Congress refused to give him the people he wanted for his Cabinet, he made them "acting in the role of" and dared somebody to do something about it.

Biden doesn't have to go as far as breaking the law, but breaking from norms and traditions to get his agenda through? You'd better believe it.

We need all hands on deck to win the Georgia Senate runoffs on Jan. 5, and you can volunteer from wherever you are. Click here to see the Georgia volunteer activities that work best for you.

Here's why you should care about the thousands of farmers protesting in India

2020 has been a year of ongoing protests and demonstrations for change across the globe. It has also been the year the world saw not only the largest but longest single protest to date. For almost a month now, tens of thousands of farmers in India have marched and protested against three bills passed in India's parliament in September. Since their start in late November, the protests have spread from the Indian capital of New Delhi to other parts of the country and garnered global attention. More than 250 million people across India have participated in not only the ongoing protest but in 24-hour strikes to show solidarity. According to Reuters, nearly 30 people have died as a result of freezing temperatures and at least 10 have died in accidents near protest sites

Despite the severe cold weather, farmers from the northern states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan have vowed to stay camped outside of national highways until the laws are repealed. "It's very difficult to camp out in this weather, but we aren't scared," Balbir Singh, an octogenarian from the Patiala district of Punjab, told Reuters. "We won't go back until our demands are met. Even if we have to die here, we will."

The bills in question include the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act. While the first two laws expand on the marketing infrastructure provided by India's state-level governments and enable direct marketing of farm products to processors, aggregators, wholesalers, large retailers, and exporters, the third law works to facilitate the production, movement, and distribution of farm produce by removing existing regulatory barriers. As a result, farmers' already depressed wealth is further reduced.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi argues that under these laws the agricultural system will be streamlined and farmers will have more freedom to sell their goods at any price directly to private businesses, as opposed to having to sell their produce through auction, known as the "mandi system." However, farmers argue that these bills will collectively privatize the agricultural system, making them vulnerable to corporate exploitation.

Additionally, under the new laws large corporations can dominate the market by driving down prices and diminishing any advantage farmers had at setting their own produce prices. This will add to India's growing unemployment and the debt the farming community is already facing.

According to Al Jazeera, many farmers argue the current state-controlled "mandi system" needs reform within the food supply chain to give farmers more options to sell their crops to make a profit, and that these new laws will only further disempower farmers economically and within the agricultural system as a whole.

Despite consistent development in the tech sector, agriculture still remains the largest source of income for most Indians, employing more than one-half of the subcontinent's workforce. However, despite feeding a significant portion of India's economy and people, farmers themselves have struggled for years, often bearing debts and losses as a result of not only marketed goods but severe weather changes resulting from climate change.

While Modi and his corrupt government maintain that these laws will protect farmers, these farmers, who are often elderly, refuse to stop protesting until their demands are met. "We're worried no one will buy our produce, and that we'll go into debt," Harinder Singh, general secretary of a Punjabi farmers union, told NPR. "We want the government to repeal these laws."

Similar to protests in the U.S. in which peaceful demonstrators are met with police-induced violence, protesters in India have faced harsh and violent retaliation from the government. At the start of the protest on Nov. 25 when marchers first reached New Delhi, police officials not only used tear gas and water cannons against protesters but damaged roads outside the city to prevent them from entering. Photos and videos went viral on social media depicting the brutal tactics police officials were using, including beating protesters. Despite this, farmers and their allies continued to march on and were even filmed feeding some of the officers who beat them.

As a result of global attention and the ongoing protest being the largest and longest one in human history, talks between representatives of a farmers union and government officials are scheduled to take place this week. This has come as a shock to many South Asians, as the Modi government is not known to talk about issues and instead inflict violence on protesters of its policies.

While these protests are taking place mainly in India and are in favor of Indian farmers, it is important to note that they impact conditions and people outside of the country. "The pandemic has shown us that there are two economies," Simran Jeet Singh, a scholar of religion and history currently teaching at Union Seminary, told CNN. "Essential workers across the world are suffering. The farmers in India represent all of them, and their resistance to unjust legislation that privileges the uber-wealthy corporations is a resistance that speaks to so many of us all over the world."

Not only is India one of the world's largest producers and exporters of spices, but the places in which these protests are happening lead the world's export in Basmati rice and milk. Outside of food, these herbs are used for homeopathy and medical practices as well. Odds are that something in your home was made in India and would not have been had these farmers been protesting earlier. These protests impact not only the livelihood of farmers in India but also how you receive the goods you use on a daily basis, whether it be spices or cotton found in your clothing or bed sheets.

"Even if you don't feel a personal connection to India or the farmers out there like many of us do, as a human being who lives on earth you should be concerned about exploitation of the people who feed you everyday," Ramanpreet Kaur, a Sikh Punjabi woman in New York, told CNN.

People from all across the world including the U.S. are partaking in solidarity movements with these farmers because even if you do not consume the goods they produce, this is a humanitarian issue. Human beings should always be valued over corporations. A number of nonprofit organizations like Khalsa Aid are working to provide protesters and organizers with food and other supplies. Even if you cannot protest, you can help these farmers in a number of ways, including donating to organizations that help the families impacted such as Sahaita. Whether you are Indian or not should not matter: Exploitation should not be ignored.


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