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Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 Has Been a HORRIBLE Year, But America Did Not FALL Apart

What will historians make of our annus horribilis?

 Victor Davis Hanson

The year 2020 is now commonly dubbed the annus horribilis — “the horrible year.” The last 10 months certainly have been awful.

But then so was 1968, when both Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. The Tet Offensive escalated the Vietnam War and tore America apart. Race and anti-war riots rocked our major cities. Protesters fought with police at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. A new influenza virus, H3N2 (the “Hong Kong flu”), killed some 100,000 Americans.

But an even worse 2020 saw the COVID-19 outbreak reach global pandemic proportions by March. Chinese officials mislead the world about the origins of the disease — without apologies,

Authorities here in the U.S. were sometimes contradictory in declaring quarantines either effective or superfluous. Masks were discouraged and then mandated. Researchers initially did not know how exactly the virus spread, only that it could be lethal to those over 65 or with comorbidities.

Initial forecasts of 1 million to 2 million Americans dying from the virus unduly panicked the population. But earlier assurances that the death toll wouldn’t reach 100,000 falsely reassured them.

By April, a historic, booming economy was in an abrupt recession. Much of the country went into quarantine on the theory of “flattening the curve” of infection for three to four weeks. Instead, weeks turned into months. Soon, many people believed that the economic wreckage and emotional damage from the lockdowns would eventually overshadow the toll of the virus itself.

By June, initially peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody had turned violent in some cities. For much of the summer and into fall, some major cities would see nightly rioting, looting and arson, as Antifa and Black Lives Matter hijacked the nation’s outrage over Floyd’s death.

Fear of getting infected, concerns about going broke, anxiety about venturing out during the nightly havoc, frustration over weeks of forced isolation, and exhaustion from a bitter presidential campaign — all of it put Americans into a nasty mood on the eve of an acrimonious election.

The 2020 presidential election proved as revolutionary as the quarantines. The radical transition to unprecedented levels of mail-in balloting tested the ability of state registrars to authenticate and efficiently count ballots, which often did not meet verification standards of past absentee voting. Enormous voter turnout, spiked in part by huge numbers of mail-in ballots, delighted Democrats but helped convince Republicans of massive voter fraud.

After weeks of contention, Donald Trump lost the Electoral College vote. Yet Republicans defied the predictions of experts and won key races in the House and Senate. So pundits argued about whether the left had won by electing Joe Biden or lost by doing dismally in congressional elections. The media, pollsters and the government establishment were mostly gladdened by the Trump loss, even as their overt bias and partisanship permanently tarnished their reputations.

For the first time in American history, given the lockdowns and the cold-weather viral resurgence, there was neither a traditional Thanksgiving nor Christmas for many people.

Yet amid the death, destruction and dissension, history will show that America did not fall apart.

In remarkable fashion, researchers created a viable and safe COVID-19 vaccine in less than a year — a feat earlier described as impossible by experts.

The nation went into recession but avoided the forecasted depression. This was partly because America in early 2020 was booming by historical standards, and partly because the Trump administration and Congress quickly infused some $4 trillion of liquidity into the inert economy.

For all the charges and counter-charges of voter fraud and Mr. Trump being a sore loser, President-elect Joe Biden will eventually take office. And Donald Trump will leave it.

No one disputes that the 2020 campaign and election were abnormal. Whether they were unfair or illegitimate will likely be readjudicated in the 2022 midterm and 2024 general elections. By then, the people will have had time to digest the bizarre events of the annus horribilis — and with their votes make the necessary compensations.

For all of America’s troubles, the world abroad was worse. China eerily bragged that it reacted best to its own virus — even as its global popularity crashed. Europe did little better in combatting the pandemic and saw its economy in even worse shape.

More importantly, as the year ended, there was a patch of blue sky amid the storm clouds.

The Middle East may be on the verge of a historic recalibrated peace. The world is now pushing back against Chinese mercantilism. The southern border is mostly secure. The flood of illegal immigration has ebbed to a trickle. The strategies that sparked a three-year economic boom need only be reapplied in 2021.

Amid death and destruction, perhaps one day historians will conclude that what could not kill off America in 2020 only made it stronger. 

• Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, is the author, most recently, of “The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.” 


Democrats Who PRAISED 2004 Objections to Electoral College Certification Now SLAM Hawley

Democrats objected to electoral vote certification last 3 times a Republican was elected president

 Tyler Olson

Sen. Josh Hawley sparked outrage Wednesday with his decision to object to the certification of certain states' Electoral College votes during Congress' joint session on Jan. 6 -- joining several House members who have also said they will object to force a vote in each the House and the Senate over whether to accept individual slates of electors. 

"The political equivalent of barking at the moon," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said of Hawley joining the challenge to electoral slates. "This won’t be taken seriously, nor should it be. The American people made a decision on Nov. 3rd and that decision must and will be honored and protected by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives."

The challenge by Hawley, R-Mo., is almost certain to fail. The votes to overturn any slates of electors are simply not there in either the House or the Senate, where even Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and several other GOP members have congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his win. McConnell has discouraged his members from joining the House effort to challenge electors. 

But Hawley's move is certainly not unprecedented.  

The last three times a Republican has been elected president -- Trump in 2016 and George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004 -- Democrats in the House have brought objections to the electoral votes in states the GOP nominee won. In early 2005 specifically, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., along with Rep. Stephanie Tubbs, D-Ohio, objected to Bush's 2004 electoral votes in Ohio. 


That forced the chambers to leave their joint session and debate separately for two hours on whether to reject Ohio's electoral votes. Neither did. But the objection by Boxer and Tubbs serves as a modern precedent for what is likely to happen in Congress on Jan. 6. 

Notably, some Democrats lauded Boxer's move at the time, including Durbin himself. 

"Some may criticize our colleague from California for bringing us here for this brief debate," Durbin said on the Senate floor following Boxer's objection, while noting that he would vote to certify the Ohio electoral votes for Bush. "I thank her for doing that because it gives members an opportunity once again on a bipartisan basis to look at a challenge that we face not just in the last election in one State but in many States."

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., is another senator who previously praised Boxer. 

"I believe that Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) have performed a very valuable public service in bringing this debate before the Congress. As Americans, we should all be troubled by reports of voting problems in many parts of the country," Van Hollen, at the time a House member, said in a press release. "I have been particularly concerned about the lack of a verifiable paper record in connection with electronic voting systems. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of legislation to solve that problem."


Van Hollen also made clear in 2005 that he accepted the result of the presidential election that Bush won, saying, "It would have been irresponsible to use the certification process to attempt to change that result. Doing so would establish a terrible precedent." Nevertheless, Van Hollen slammed Hawley on Wednesday. 

"Sen. Hawley’s actions are grossly irresponsible. He’s attempting to undermine our democratic process, fuel Trump’s lies about voter fraud, and delay the certification of Biden’s win," Van Hollen said in a tweet. "In the end, this reckless stunt will fail, and Joe Biden will become President on Jan. 20, 2021."

One current senator who did vote to outright reject the Ohio electoral votes in early 2005 was then-Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. He was among 31 House members at the time to vote in favor of rejecting Ohio's electoral slate.

Markey on MSNBC Wednesday, however, said Hawley's challenge "is just an extension of what Donald Trump is trying to perpetrate as a fraud on the American people" and "there is no basis for any questioning of Joe Biden as our next president."

Boxer was the only senator in 2005 to vote to reject Ohio's electoral votes. 

It's almost certain that no states' electoral votes will actually be rejected by Congress. Doing so, after a challenge is lodged by at least one member of the House and Senate respectively, would require a majority vote by both chambers. 

Democrats hold a majority in the House. And many Senate Republicans have already acknowledged that Biden won the election, meaning it's unlikely either chamber will vote to reject a slate of electors. 

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., asks questions during a Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to discuss election security and the 2020 election process on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Hawley said Wednesday he will object to the certification of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., asks questions during a Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to discuss election security and the 2020 election process on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Hawley said Wednesday he will object to the certification of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)


To that effect, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., recently said a challenge to electors "will go down like a shot dog."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made similar comments Wednesday at a press conference. 

"I have no doubt that on next Wednesday, a week from today, that Joe Biden will be confirmed by the acceptance of the vote of the Electoral College as the 46th president of the United States," she said. 

In 2005 on the House floor, Pelosi said lauded Boxer's challenge

"Today we are witnessing Democracy at work. This isn't as some of our Republican colleagues have referred to it, sadly, as frivolous. This debate is fundamental to our democracy," she said at the time. "The representatives of the American people in this house are standing up for three fundamental American beliefs: The right to vote is sacred; that a representative has a duty to represent his or her constituents; and that the rule of law is the hallmark of our nation."

Pelosi, however, made clear that "under the rule of law today this House will accept the election of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. ... There is absolutely no question about that. This isn't about in any way rejecting that outcome. ... It is instead to discuss the real problems with our electoral system."

Hawley in his statement announcing that he will object to Electoral College certification notably does not adopt some of the wilder conspiracy theories pushed by those on the right about the election results. He does not accuse voting technology companies of changing votes or of being in cabal with foreign countries. He does not reference alleged ballot "dumps." In fact, Hawley does not even make an accusation that there was widespread fraud, for which no evidence has been found. 

5Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on December 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. Pelosi in 2005 said that the objection to certifying Ohio's electoral votes for George W. Bush by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was a positive chance to discuss election security, not an attempt to overturn the result of the election. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on December 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. Pelosi in 2005 said that the objection to certifying Ohio's electoral votes for George W. Bush by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was a positive chance to discuss election security, not an attempt to overturn the result of the election. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

"I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on Jan. 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws," Hawley said Wednesday. "And I cannot vote to certify without pointing out the unprecedented effort of mega corporations, including Facebook and Twitter, to interfere in this election, in support of Joe Biden. At the very least, Congress should investigate allegations of voter fraud and adopt measures to secure the integrity of our elections. But Congress has so far failed to act."

He added: "For these reasons, I will follow the same practice Democrat members of Congress have in years past and object during the certification process on Jan. 6 to raise these critical issues."


It's not clear exactly which states Hawley may join House members and object to. In an interview on "The Story," guest hosted by Will Cain, on Wednesday night he did say that Pennsylvania specifically did not follow its own election laws.

Hawley also in his interview with Cain did not explicitly say that his goal in objecting to the electoral votes of some states is to tangibly change the result of the election. He instead said he hopes to force a debate on election integrity issues and to represent Americans who don't currently have faith in the electoral system. Hawley also did not fully commit to actually voting against the certification of any states' electoral votes. 


"The state that I object to or the states that I object to, and we'll see how the process goes. But I'm likely to vote against the certification in order to make this point," Hawley told Cain. "I'm going to try to force a debate on all of these points."

When asked what he could accomplish, Hawley added: "You can accomplish actually putting people on record and forcing this issue to the front."

Hawley's office did not expand on his Wednesday comments when asked to clarify on Thursday.

Hawley on "The Story" also said there were irregularities and fraud in the 2020 election and added, "There needs to be an investigation as to how widespread this fraud was and there needs to be change. Our election laws need to change." 

The offices of Durbin, Van Hollen and Markey did not immediately return requests for comment. Pelosi's office pointed to the comments she made in 2005 making clear Democrats' objective was not to overturn the result of the presidential election. 

Hawley's objection will lead to debate in the House and Senate on rejecting slates of electors for just the third time since 1887, including the 2005 affair. 

But in 2001 and 2017, several House Democrats objected to the certification of the results in favor of Bush and Trump, despite not being joined by any senators. 

During the 2017 counting of the Electoral College votes, then-Vice President Biden became visibly agitated as he repeatedly needed to remind Democratic House members objecting to Trump electors that there was no debate allowed in the joint session and that they needed senators to sign their objections. 

In one instance, after repeatedly banging his gavel as Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., objected to the results, Biden declared, "It is over," sparking laughter and a standing ovation from the GOP side of the chamber. 

President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. Biden in 2017 gaveled down several Democratic House members lodging objections to then-President-elect Trump's electoral votes. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. Biden in 2017 gaveled down several Democratic House members lodging objections to then-President-elect Trump's electoral votes. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

At another time, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said: "I object because people are horrified by the overwhelming evidence of Russian interference in our election."

Biden reminded her that debate is prohibited in the joint session and asked Lee whether she had a senator's signature for her objection. 

"Even even with the malfunction of 87 voting machines...," Lee continued before Biden gaveled her down again. Lee's mic was cut and boos rang out through the chamber. 

"The objection cannot be entertained," Biden said. 


Similarly, in 2001, then-Vice President Al Gore batted down Democrats' challenges to Bush's victory. 

"The objection is in writing and I do not care that it is not signed by a member of the Senate," Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said in the joint session.

"The chair will advise that the rules do care," Gore responded to laughter and applause.

The 2008 Electoral College certification for former President Barack Obama went off without a hitch, with no Republicans objecting to the Obama electors. The same was the case in 2012. 

In 2008 specifically, Obama received a raucous standing ovation from both sides of the aisle. 

Fox News' Jason Donner contributed to this report. 


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Charged with MURDER, STABBING? In NYC, You’re FREE to Go

                                                                New York's criminal justice reforms have enabled accused teenage thug Jordon Benjamin from being jailed without bail.                                                                Shutterstock

  Seth Barron

Criminal-justice “reform” in New York has turned our courts into a merry-go-round, with violent offenders free to jump off at will.

The latest outrage took place in The Bronx, where 16-year-old Jordon Benjamin allegedly stabbed Amya Hicks in mid-December. Arrested a few days later, he was charged with felony assault and assorted lesser charges. Amya Hicks needed surgery and spent several days in the hospital. Benjamin was less inconvenienced: He only spent a few hours in a holding cell before being released on his recognizance, without having to post bail.

It’s bad enough that an alleged knife-wielding thug who slashes neighborhood women got to gallivant out of jail. But the story becomes downright enraging when we learn that Benjamin was already facing manslaughter charges — and the same judge let him out twice.

On Christmas Eve 2019, young Benjamin and some of his mates allegedly took time out from their holiday festivities to assault Juan Fresnada, a 60-year-old Bronx man. They stomped on him and brained him with a garbage can. Fresnada died, and Benjamin and his crew got away with $1.

In his brief career, Benjamin is already the beneficiary of multiple aspects of New York state’s criminal-justice “reform” measures, which our progressive leaders and professional activist class have hailed as “monumental” steps to “create a fairer and more humane” system, in the words of Mayor de Blasio.

Benjamin was originally held in a youth correctional facility until he was released in March because of the pandemic. This was part of a massive drawdown in the city’s jail population, which dovetailed with the push to free as many inmates as possible in expectation of closing Rikers Island.

“The number of New Yorkers held in NYC jails has plummeted, shrinking by 27 percent in 10 weeks, a steeper population decline than in all of last year,” boasted the mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice in May. “The jail population is at a number not seen since 1946.”

This would be fantastic news — if the decline in the inmate population was a function of a lower crime rate. But when it’s artificially imposed, it’s hardly cause for celebration. And while it may make sense to let certain nonviolent, older prisoners out of jail for health concerns, there is no evidence that teenagers like Benjamin, being held at juvenile correction facilities, are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

The extent to which the mass ­release of juvenile prisoners in March was a political decision, and not driven by “the science,” can be seen by the fact that as violence spiked throughout the spring, the city hesitated to release teenagers arrested for serious crimes. After balancing their low medical vulnerability against public-safety concerns, the number of detained youth rebounded to pre-pandemic levels by May.

This means that letting an alleged violent offender like Benjamin out in March was a big mistake, and one that the city quickly stopped making as shootings and stabbings spiked rapidly.

One would think that after allegedly committing another vicious assault this month, Benjamin would have at least been locked up. But Bronx County Supreme Court Acting Justice Denis Boyle decided to let him go, though he now faces separate charges of manslaughter and felony assault.

Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration, defended Boyle’s move, stating, “Judges follow the law, and the law clearly states that the least restrictive alternative should be the preeminent driver in bail consideration.”

The law Chalfen references is the infamous state bail “reform,” which eliminated cash bail for most non-violent offenses, which even de Blasio has cited as a contributing factor to the rise in violent crime. But the law doesn’t actually mandate “least-restrictive” alternatives for people accused of committing violent felonies, nor for individuals under probation or supervision or for “persistent offenders.”

But the current climate is permissive and encourages judges, cops and prosecutors to operate under the assumption that confinement is always the worst ­option. So they err in favor of criminals. Surely Jordon Benjamin is happier to be out of jail than in it while he awaits his trials for manslaughter and serious assault. Meanwhile, best of luck to the next person who has an unpleasant encounter with him.


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

This was Google’s CODE Name for its ‘UNLAWFUL AGREEMENT’ with Facebook

                                                                  Getty Images

 Nicolas Vega

New details have emerged about the deal Google and Facebook allegedly worked out to rig the lucrative online advertising market.

The two tech titans dubbed their contract “Jedi Blue,” according to an unredacted version of the blockbuster Texas suit launched against the companies and obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month, says the code name was “a twist on a character name from Star Wars,” suggesting it might be tied to Aayla Secura, a blue-colored Jedi.

Google’s “unlawful agreement” with Facebook was allegedly hatched in return for the Mark Zuckerberg-led company refusing to embrace an ad-sales method called header bidding, which posed a threat to Google’s iron grip on the digital advertising marketplace.

Header bidding had been helping website publishers circumvent Google’s marketplace for buying and selling digital ads and had been leading to more favorable prices for publishers. The alternative network was so successful that by 2016 some 70 percent of major web publishers were using it, according to the states’ lawsuit.

If a major rival like Facebook Audience Network ad service, or FAN, embraced header binding, Google’s profitable monopoly over the ad marketplace would be kaput, the states alleged.

“Need to fight off the existential threat posed by header bidding and [Facebook Audience Network],” a Google advertising executive wrote in a 2017 email referenced in the suit.

That’s when Google approached Facebook about abandoning header bidding. In exchange, Google allegedly lowered Facebook’s transaction fees to between 5 and 10 percent, well below the 20 percent it charged others.

Facebook was also able to send its bids directly to Google’s ads server, rather than through an exchange, according to the report.

The search giant also kept Facebook abreast of which ad opportunities were the result of bot activity, helping the social network avoid wasting its money on useless impressions. Google denied the same information to other auction participants, the report said.

“In the end, Facebook curtailed its involvement with header bidding in return for Google giving Facebook information, speed and other advantages,” the lawsuit alleged.

Google replied that it did not manipulate any auctions and said that 25 other companies participate in its open bidding advertising program.

“There’s nothing exclusive about [Facebook’s] involvement, and they don’t receive data that is not similarly made available to other buyers,” Google said.

Facebook is also given nearly twice as much time as auction competitors to “recognize” mobile and web users and then bid on ads, according to the unredacted lawsuit.

The Texas-led case is pivotal for Google, which is reliant on  advertising for much of its profits. Its parent company, Alphabet posted digital advertising revenue of $37.1 billion in its latest quarterly report.