“This is Not Justice.”

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the United States Supreme Court, in a powerful dissent to the court allowing the Trump administration to continue its spree of executions:

After seventeen years without a single federal execution, the Government has executed twelve people since July. They are Daniel Lee, Wesley Purkey, Dustin Honken, Lezmond Mitchell, Keith Nelson, William LeCroy Jr., Christopher Vialva, Orlando Hall, Brandon Bernard, Alfred Bourgeois, Lisa Montgomery, and, just last night, Corey Johnson. Today, Dustin Higgs will become the thirteenth. To put that in historical context, the Federal Government will have executed more than three times as many people in the last six months than it had in the previous six decades. […]

Throughout this expedited spree of executions, this Court has consistently rejected inmates’ credible claims for relief. The Court has even intervened to lift stays of execution that lower courts put in place, thereby ensuring those prisoners’ challenges would never receive a meaningful airing. The Court made these weighty decisions in response to emergency applications, with little opportunity for proper briefing and consideration, often in just a few short days or even hours. Very few of these decisions offered any public explanation for their rationale.

This is not justice. After waiting almost two decades to resume federal executions, the Government should have proceeded with some measure of restraint to ensure it did so lawfully. When it did not, this Court should have. It has not. Because the Court continues this pattern today, I dissent.

The Year in Illustration

This is the kind of end-of-year list I can get behind: The New York Times’ art directors pick their favorite illustrations. The whole list is good, including the motion graphics, but some of my favorites:

By Michael Mapes for The Rape Kit’s History.
By Cannaday Chapman
By Hokyoung Kim for What the Fall and Winter of the Pandemic Will Look Like.

I also love the names of these files, such as the final image above: “18interlandi-1-superJumbo-v2.jpg”.

‘Suck It Up, Buttercup’ Lawmaker Hangs Up on As It Happens

I was reminded of this brief 4-year-old clip from Canadian interview program As It Happens between host Carol Off and Iowa State Representative Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton):

CO: Sorry — just a minute — who are the buttercups that need to suck it up?

BK: Well that would be people that are simply hysterical because an election was lost. That have never understood that life has winners and losers and in their adult life there are going to be times when they have wins and they have losses and there isn’t always going to be someone there to coddle them.

The Pro-Trump Mob was Doing It for the Gram

Elamin Abdelmahmoud at BuzzFeed:

But it was also quickly apparent that this was a very dumb coup. A coup with no plot, no end to achieve, no plan but to pose. Thousands invaded the highest centers of power, and the first thing they did was take selfies and videos. They were making content as spoils to take back to the digital empires where they dwell, where that content is currency.

This is why Facebook, Twitch and other platform bans are important and meaningful to Trump and his followers.

But it’s also important to not get led astray. There were, of course, paramilitary apparently ready to take hostages, IDEs and explosives found and threats to take very seriously. And the costumes are part of the we’re-a-bunch-of-jokers aesthetic. From a Talking Points Memo reader, behind a paywall:

Several of the people in my field (theater and performance studies) have been noting in social media that the capitol coup on Wednesday was costumed like a sports event — the facepaint, the viking hats, the furs — in order to camouflage the event as mere fun, and as part of populist entertainment more generally. It helps create the image of a bunch of amateur jokers, and conceals — and claims to diffuse — the truly dangerous and seditious nature of these events.

Republicans Warned Us Trump Would Lead to This Then They Forgot

Benjy Sarlin for NBC News:

Rick Perry tried to warn voters of the dangers of Donald Trump.

In a speech ahead of the 2016 Republican presidential contest in which both men would compete, the former Texas governor framed Trump as an unchecked demagogue and chose a striking historical image to illustrate his point: A mob attack on Washington.

Republicans knew what Trump was but accepted Trump and Trumpism as the price to pay for packing courts, cutting taxes and stripping regulations, which was done quickly and efficiently.

2021: A Future Year in Review

To start with the obvious: this year was better than last year, mostly because coming out of deadly, mismanaged pandemic is better that going into one.

I don’t want this review of the past year to get bogged down with schadenfreude, such as Trump’s ongoing criminal proceedings but it helped. The arc of justice blah blah blah. 

Nor do I want to relive the horrific Iowa legislative session with its rightward push to move public dollars to private schools and reinstating the death penalty by folks who identify as  pro-life.

So moving on.

The first half of the year was very much 2020 2.0: excessive death caused by denial, entitlement and exceptionalism.

But by summer that changed. Fewer dying people (good!), but with understandable pandemic fatigue, FOMO was on the rise. 

If 2020 was the year of the introverts, 2021 was the year of fighting off the extroverts.

And so, after my much-anticipated second vaccine dose, I was lured out by friends to enjoy my first meal at a restaurant in more than a year. 

Well, enjoyed is too strong of a word. 

I still insisted we eat outside, still felt uncomfortable and wasn’t sure if I would feel better or worse if all the plexiglass partitions were still up. 

Any remaining novelty of eating out wore off quickly as I immediately got annoyed when our waiter moved my used knife and fork off my plate and to the table when they cleared the first course. Eating every meal at home wasn’t so bad.

I realized that in-person everything was overrated. Live music was too loud. Movie theaters didn’t pause for bathroom breaks. Stores didn’t have a button I could use to immediately summon help or find exactly what I was looking for. Clearly my 16 months of avoiding most people had changed me. Or at least changed my priorities.

But everyone else everywhere wanted to do everything in person. Meetings that had rightfully become emails or phone calls were, again, meetings. Everyone wanted to host a cocktail hour, lunch-and-learn or some sort of celebration. If it wasn’t celebrating this year’s birthday (Wait, we’re still eating cake after someone has blown all over it? Have we learned nothing?), it was re-celebrating last year’s missed anniversaries.

Turns out that small talk still sucks, and I’d gotten rusty at faking it. With all of these invites to in-person events, it was clear that many forgot the joy of stepping immediately into and out of events held on the internet. On Zoom I just needed to hold a smile until I’d successfully clicked “Leave Meeting”.

It’s not to say that I wasn’t glad to finally be able to see people in person. Thanksgiving and Christmas, my two favorite secular holidays, were better spent in my parents’ living room than spread across Iowa and Illinois, though I did miss the joy of the low-key aspects of the previous year’s pandemic holidays.

I’ve never been a fan of the pervasive “good riddance to [current year]” — the annual refrain suggests we have no real baseline — but 2021 was only marginally better than the year before, so good riddance.


The photo collage on this post is by Evelyn Bergus

The Importance of Names

Josh Marshal at Talking Points Memo:

In twenty years of doing this, one thing that strikes me again and again is the critical importance of naming things in politics. If the question is advocacy and persuasion few steps are more important than effectively and consistently naming the key developments, agenda items, threats and prizes and raising them in the public consciousness. There are few things – things that can be controlled by people involved in politics and campaigns, as opposed to the tides of historical change we are awash in – more important for Democrats to do a good job at in the next two years.

Marshal cites “death tax,” but there are so many other examples. “Partial-birth abortion” was a successful rebranding of what doctors call intact dilation and extraction (and became a political focus despite making up just 0.17 percent of abortions). I suspect it’s behind the move from “gun control” to “gun safety”.

We’ve fallen prey to it while trying to mitigate COVID-19 by calling even minimal mitigation or restrictions “lockdown,” “shutdown” and “quarantine” when we still have freedom of movement, many businesses are open just offering services safely and very few people are truly isolating.

What Has Happened To The Promised Doses Of The COVID Vaccine?

Josh Kovensky for Talking Points Memo:

The early warning signs:

  1. Three At least 12 states are reporting cuts in their initial allocations of doses.
  2. One governor is reporting that the total number of doses projected to be available nationwide has been cut by four million monthly.
  3. The vaccine maker reports it is not having production problems and says its has doses in warehouses, but is awaiting direction from the federal government on where to send them.

Vaccines are only useful when people are vaccinated.

I can’t imagine the logistics involved, but I have to imagine it takes attention and planning, neither of which are in the current administration’s wheelhouse.