Bits ‘n’ Pieces: January 7, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

B.1.1.7. is the official name of the new coronavirus variant first found in Great Britain in September, which is now appearing in the U.S. Speaking to The New York Times, a Harvard epidemiologist recently described this development as “pretty grim.” While B.1.1.7. is not yet regarded as more deadly, it does appear to spread more rapidly, leading to potentially even higher rates of infections and subsequent deaths. As well, with every new person infected, the novel coronavirus has more chances to mutate.

Last weekend President Donald Trump tried to pressure Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to change the outcome of the presidential election in the state. Soon after, The Washington Post released the audio recording, in which Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told Trump that the state had done both a hand re-tally and a recount of ballots and all the numbers matched the initial count that favored President-elect Joe Biden. Trump insisted that “I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.” 

The audio also includes Trump saying Georgia voters have lost faith in their voting process, so many would not vote in the Jan. 5 run-off U.S. Senate election there. If the run-off vote goes to both Democratic candidates, congressional Republicans will lose their edge, allowing advancement of Biden administration plans.

Trump’s phone call to Georgia is an impeachable offense, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington stated. It amounts to trying to rig an election. CREW has filed a criminal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice and Georgia’s Fulton County district attorney.

Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse stated on Facebook recently that not a single congressional Republican appears to think the election was fraudulent. “Instead, I hear them talk about their worries about how they will ‘look’ to President Trump’s most ardent supporters.”

A dozen Republican senators plan to reject the electors from some states won by President-elect Biden. The Washington Post reports GOP lawmakers are asking for an emergency 10-day audit of election results, citing polling that says 40% of Americans believe the election was rigged and their effort intends to restore trust in U.S. elections. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he is not sympathetic to the move to reject electors.

If the Republican movement delays the election count, and it is unresolved by noon on Jan. 20, under the Presidential Succession Act the speaker of the house (currently Nancy Pelosi) becomes acting president until the dispute is resolved, according to Common Cause.

COVID-19 has triggered rethinking workplace routines: According to TIME magazine, a New York marketing firm cut meetings by 50%, kept salaries the same and, within two months, employees had more creative work and increased productivity. Ideas being experimented elsewhere include office space as a retreat from working at home, taking off one Friday a month, encouraging entry into the more focused “flow” state (such as less time with emails and “do not disturb” notices), cutting meeting times in half and structuring meetings so more dominant personalities don’t take over.

Congress has overridden Trump’s veto of the $741 billion National Defense Authorization Act. The president objected to contents that would rename military bases named for Confederate leaders. He also demanded repeal of Section 230 because it disagrees with his contention that social-media companies are biased against conservatives. The bill includes a 3% pay increase for service members, higher pay for hazardous duty and new benefits for Vietnam-era veterans exposed to Agent Orange, as well as tightening up prevention measures that target shell companies that evade anti-money-laundering rules, according to The New York Times.  

Blast from the past: The current congressional challenge by Republicans to the outcome of the 2020 presidential election is said to be inspired by the chaos of the 1876 election. Yet, historian Heather C. Richardson says there are no strong parallels: In 1876 both parties were corrupt and voters were not easily able to conceal how they voted. Ballot boxes could be stuffed or broken into prior to reporting the results. There were accusations of voters being terrorized at some polling places to deter them, and, in at least one state, 101% of all voters cast a vote. Today the election process has evolved so that both parties observe the process, and certified results are (and have already been) delivered to Congress.

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