Bits ‘n’ Pieces: January 14, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling, all pivoting around the U.S. Capitol:

The date Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress convened to officially count the Electoral College votes for the U.S. presidency, will be prominent in the nation’s history books. It started with an invitation Dec. 19 by President Donald Trump to his most ardent supporters to come to D.C. for a “wild” rally. In a lengthy talk to thousands of loyalists, Trump outlined his widely debunked argument that the election was being stolen from him, urged supporters to “fight” and block election certification, and concluded later with “our incredible journey is just beginning.” 

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney described the armed invasion of Congress that followed Trump’s talk as an insurrection incited by the U.S. president. Others called it an “attempted coup” and “sedition.” Boiled down, it was an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government, by far-right Trump supporters, who believed his false allegations that the election was stolen. Lawmakers managed to evacuate one minute before Senate chambers were breached (a Black police officer had lured insurgents in the wrong direction, allowing the Senators’ escape, Slate said). Several lawmakers quickly began working on articles of impeachment, as well as legislation that would expel lawmakers who fueled the coup attempt. One Trump insurrectionist died of a gunshot wound; three others died from medical emergencies. One police officer died after being hit in the head with a fire extinguisher and more than 50 officers were injured during tussles with the mob.

The insurrectionists left behind a trail of destruction, the New York Post said. Some people inside the Capitol were pictured carrying large zip ties, which, the U.K.’s Independent reported, are “often used to handcuff people.” Along with theft (including laptops with national security documents), and smashed windows, feces had been tracked around the halls of Congress by the invaders, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Outside the building a makeshift gallows with a noose was photographed.

A vast national investigation of protesters and some police is being led by top law enforcement agencies. Those charged so far include a state lawmaker from West Virginia, who resigned after being charged with illegal entry. Federal law enforcement is scouring social media posts and video footage to identify those involved. Violent intent was confirmed with the discovery of Molotov cocktails and assault rifles, and bombs planted at both Democratic and Republican National Committee offices. Videos revealed police letting protesters into restricted areas, and at least one policeman posing for a selfie with a protester.

Revealing headlines: “Trump’s former AG Bill Barr says president ‘orchestrated’ Capitol riot,” The Guardian; “Pro-Trump Capitol rioters may face up to 20 years in prison,”; “American carnage: How Trump’s mob ran riot in the Capitol,” The Guardian; “How the QAnon Conspiracy drove the capitol mob,”; “After a day of violence and 25th Amendment chatter Trump’s allies jumping ship,” Vanity Fair; “FBI focuses on whether some Capitol rioters intended harm to lawmakers or take hostages,” Washington Post; and, “Capitol rioters planned for weeks in plain sight,” Mother Jones.

Donald Trump’s presidential legacy, from details in The Atlantic: a fifth of the world’s COVID-19 deaths occurred in the U.S.; Trump’s 2017 tax bill allows the wealthiest 400 American to pay less than every other income group; Trump withdrew the U.S. from 13 international organizations, agreements and treaties; in his first three years in office 2.3 million lost their health insurance, accounting for up to 10,000 “excess deaths;” our nation’s freedom rating dropped to below that of Greece’s, according to the Freedom House index; the number of admitted refugees fell from 85,000 annually to 12,000; 400 miles of U.S.-Mexico border wall were built; 80 environmental rules and regulations were reversed; of his 220 appointed judges, more were rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association than under any other president in the last 50 years;  the national debt went up 37%; and, taxpayers and campaign donors enriched his family business by at least $8 million. But The Atlantic said the most lasting legacy is the fallout from his pattern of routine lying. Trump made 25,000 false or misleading statements (an average of 18 per day). The Atlantic noted that with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter all presidents have lied to some degree, typically to cover up a scandal, “make a disaster disappear” or mislead the public “in service to a particular goal.” Trump’s falsehoods are different: they have undermined reality, with blatant statements contrary to settled facts. 

Blast from the past: “A dying mule kicks the hardest.” Attributed to a saying in South Africa during the anti-Apartheid struggle.

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