Georgia elections official, Gabriel Sterling,  calls out Trump to rein in supporters!

Someone's going to get hurt': Georgia elections official denounces threats, asks President Trump to condemn violent rhetoric - The Boston Globe

Gabriel Sterling


Dear Commons Community,

Gabriel Sterling, a Republican elections official in Georgia,  lashed out angrily at the rhetoric surrounding the election and the threats of violence that have resulted, specifically calling on President Donald Trump to rein in his supporters.

Gabriel Sterling oversaw the implementation of the state’s new voting system. During a routine news conference at the state Capitol to provide an update on the recount of the presidential race requested by Trump, he admonished the president and Georgia’s two U.S. senators, who are both locked in tight runoff races against Democrats and have called on GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign over claims that he mishandled the election.

“Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions,” Sterling said, visibly angry. “This has to stop. We need you to step up, and if you’re going to take a position of leadership, show some.”

People have been driving in caravans past Raffensperger’s home, have come onto his property and have sent sexualized threats to his wife’s cellphone, said Sterling. Raffensperger and Sterling both have police stationed outside their homes, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said it’s investigating possible threats against officials to determine their credibility.

Sterling said his anger boiled over when he learned that a contractor with Dominion Voting Systems helping with the recount effort in suburban Gwinnett County received death threats after someone shot video of him transferring a report to a county computer and falsely said the young man was manipulating election data.

“There’s a noose out there with his name on it. That’s not right,” Sterling said, adding that the contractor didn’t seek the spotlight by taking a high-profile position like Sterling or run for office like Raffensperger. “This kid took a job. He just took a job.”

Trump last week called Raffensperger an “enemy of the people,” Sterling noted, adding, “That helped open the floodgates to this kind of crap.”

Sterling urged the president to step up and tell his supporters not to commit acts of violence. “Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed,” Sterling said.

The campaigns for Republican U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler both issued statements Tuesday evening condemning violence but also criticizing election officials, according to news outlets.

“Like many officials, as someone who has been the subject of threats, of course Senator Loeffler condemns violence of any kind. How ridiculous to even suggest otherwise,” Loeffler campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said. “We also condemn inaction and lack of accountability in our election system process — and won’t apologize for calling it out.”

Thank you, Mr. Sterling for showing some courage.  Too bad that most of your Republican colleagues, especially those in the U.S, Senate, have been cowards in not standing up to the bullying that Trump has used during his entire time in the White House.



Attorney General William Barr:  Justice Department Has Not Uncovered Evidence of Voter Fraud!

William Barr: No evidence of widespread fraud in presidential election - CNNPolitics

Attorney General William Barr

Dear Commons Community,

Attorney General William Barr said yesterday the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

His comments come despite President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the election was stolen, and his refusal to concede his loss to President-Elect Joe Biden.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Barr said U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but they’ve uncovered no evidence that would change the outcome of the election.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,” Barr told the AP.

The comments are especially direct coming from Barr, who has been one of the president’s most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voter fraud could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans feared going to polls and instead chose to vote by mail.

Last month, Barr issued a directive to U.S. attorneys across the country allowing them to pursue any “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities, if they existed, before the 2020 presidential election was certified, despite no evidence at that time of widespread fraud. That memorandum gave prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election was certified. Soon after it was issued, the department’s top elections crime official announced he would step aside from that position because of the memo.

The Trump campaign team led by Rudy Giuliani has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to dump millions of illegal votes into the system with no evidence. They have filed multiple lawsuits in battleground states alleging that partisan poll watchers didn’t have a clear enough view at polling sites in some locations and therefore something illegal must have happened. The claims have been repeatedly dismissed including by Republican judges who have ruled the suits lacked evidence. Local Republicans in some battleground states have followed Trump in making similar unsupported claims.

Trump has railed against the election in tweets and in interviews though his own administration has said the 2020 election was the most secure ever. Trump recently allowed his administration to begin the transition over to Biden, but has still refused to admit he lost.

The issues Trump’s campaign and its allies have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.

But they’ve also requested federal probes into the claims. Attorney Sidney Powell has spun fictional tales of election systems flipping votes, German servers storing U.S. voting information and election software created in Venezuela “at the direction of Hugo Chavez,” – the late Venezuelan president who died in 2013. Powell has since been removed from the legal team after an interview she gave where she threatened to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.

Barr didn’t name Powell specifically but said: “There’s been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that,” Barr said.

He said people were confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. He said such a remedy for those complaints would be a top-down audit conducted by state or local officials, not the U.S. Justice Department.

“There’s a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all, and people don’t like something they want the Department of Justice to come in and ‘investigate,’” Barr said.

He said first of all there must be a basis to believe there is a crime to investigate.

“Most claims of fraud are very particularized to a particular set of circumstances or actors or conduct. They are not systemic allegations and. And those have been run down; they are being run down,” Barr said. “Some have been broad and potentially cover a few thousand votes. They have been followed up on.”

Barr might be trying to clean up his legacy a bit considering all the subservience he has shown Trump in the past. The President does not take honesty among his top appointees lightly.  Ask the former head of Homeland Security, Chris Krebs!


Looking Back on Betsy DeVos’ Legacy as Secretary of Educaton!

Betsy DeVos rejects plans for part-time school reopenings

Dear Commons Community,

Jack Schneider and Jennifer C. Berkshire have a New York Times‘ op-ed today looking back at Betsy Devos contributions during the past four years that she has served as U.S. Secretary of Education under Donald Trump.  Their basic conclusion is that measured solely by policy accomplishments, DeVos was a flop.  However, they also indicate that given her failed assaults on public education that a new secretary of education under Joe Biden might be able to initiate major new policies.  Optimistically, Schneider and Berkshire conclude that “Betsy DeVos has actually given the next secretary of education an opportunity — to recommit to public education as a public good, and a cornerstone of our democracy.”

We shall see.  Below is an excerpt from the op-ed.



Trump’s Longest-Serving Cabinet Official May Start a Revolution

By Jack Schneider and Jennifer C. Berkshire

Dec. 1, 2020

Early on, her efforts to move a federal voucher program through a Republican-controlled Congress more concerned with taxes and deregulation repeatedly fell short. This year, she was forced to abandon a directive ordering states to redirect coronavirus funds to private schools after three federal judges ruled against her.

And significant pieces of Obama-era civil rights guidance that she rescinded — moves meant to protect transgender students, for instance, or address racially disproportionate school discipline — will be immediately restored by the incoming Biden administration.

Though Ms. DeVos has been mostly stymied, both by Trumpism’s policy indifference and progressive opposition, her legacy will still be far-reaching and long-lasting. This is not a result of what she made, but of what she broke: a bipartisan federal consensus around testing and charters that extended from the George H.W. Bush administration through the end of the Obama era.

For progressives, this shift hasn’t necessarily been bad news. In response to Ms. DeVos’s polarizing influence, moderate Democrats including President-elect Joe Biden recommitted to teachers unions and adopted more skeptical positions on school choice that were out of the question just a few years ago. Mr. Biden has pledged to exclude for-profit charter schools from federal funding, and he has proposed making larger investments in public education by using Title I statutes to double federal support for schools serving low-income students.

Yet Ms. DeVos has also elevated the education policy agenda of the far right, giving voice and legitimacy to a campaign to fundamentally dismantle public education. That campaign, pursued for the past few decades only in deep-red states, and often perceived as belonging to the libertarian fringe, has become the de facto agenda of the Republican Party.

So, while it is true that the Biden administration will swiftly reverse President Trump’s executive orders and administrative guidance from the Department of Education, Mr. Biden’s education secretary will still have to contend with extreme ideas that have suddenly entered the mainstream.

More than three decades ago, conventional Republicans and centrist Democrats signed on to an unwritten treaty. Conservatives agreed to mute their push for private school vouchers, their preference for religious schools and their desire to slash spending on public school systems. In return, Democrats effectively gave up the push for school integration and embraced policies that reined in teachers unions.

Together, led by federal policy elites, Republicans and Democrats espoused the logic of markets in the public sphere, expanding school choice through publicly funded charter schools. Competition, both sides agreed, would strengthen schools. And the introduction of charters, this contingent believed, would empower parents as consumers by even further untethering school enrollment from family residence.

The bipartisan consensus also elevated the role of student tests in evaluating schools. The first President Bush ushered in curricular standards in 1989 when he gathered the nation’s governors, including Bill Clinton of Arkansas, for a meeting in Charlottesville, Va. In a decade, George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation mandated accountability testing nationwide, tied to the standards that his father and Mr. Clinton had promoted.

The law was then modified under the Obama administration; still, the core logic of test-based accountability as a solution to closing the achievement gap was preserved. Arne Duncan, Mr. Obama’s education secretary, who was cool to teachers unions and spoke the language of markets, even threatened to withhold federal funds from California in 2013 if it didn’t test all its students.

Ms. DeVos, a critic of what she calls “the overreach of the federal government in education,” displayed no interest in this neoliberal compromise. Instead, she spent much of her time crusading for religious schools.

Curiously, the only time during her tenure that she prominently supported standardized testing was during the pandemic — a move seemingly intended to make public schools, which would obviously struggle to manage the task, look bad. And she surprised many last spring by backing a budget proposal with significant cuts in federal funding for public charters. To careful observers, this all made perfect sense, as Ms. DeVos’s chief aim has always been to move families out of the public system and to defund it.

Although Congress never took up her radical measures, such as a $5 billion annual tax credit for private school tuition, Ms. DeVos and her allies have made tremendous inroads at the state level. In Arizona and Florida funding for school choice programs has ballooned, with Florida taxpayers now spending more than $1 billion annually to send students to private schools.

And this past summer, the Supreme Court in Espinoza v. Montana declared that states could not bar religious schools from participating in state programs that provide scholarships to students attending private schools, clearing the way for further private expansion.

The blowback against the Republican Party’s rightward shift on education, however, is creating an opportunity for Democrats to move in new directions. In 2018, voters in purple states like Arizona, Michigan and Texas, and in red states like Kentucky, punished Republican candidates perceived as hostile to public education. And this fall, Arizona voters approved a measure to raise taxes on wealthy residents in order to increase funding for public schools and teachers — a move antithetical to the school privatization agenda that arguably helped turn the state blue.

To capitalize on voter dissatisfaction with education policies in the coming years, Democrats can no longer lean on maligning Ms. DeVos. As Republicans continue to work to defund and privatize school systems, both Democratic governors and the incoming Biden administration can draw a sharp policy distinction, boldly defending public education in a way that resonates with voters.

And while Mr. Biden’s expansive (and expensive) education plans will confront the harsh reality of partisan division in Congress, he is guaranteed a powerful megaphone — one that he’ll share, not just with the next secretary of education, but with a former high-school teacher and current community-college professor, Jill Biden.

Through her attention-attracting assault on the public education system, Betsy DeVos has actually given the next secretary of education an opportunity — to recommit to public education as a public good, and a cornerstone of our democracy.


Donald Trump is headed to Georgia to support Republican Senate Candidates: Is this good or bad for the GOP?

Georgia Senate race: The future of the Senate majority could hinge on two  Georgia runoffs - Vox

Georgia Senate Candidates – Kelly Loeffler, Raphael Warnock, David Perdue and Jon Ossoff

Dear Commons Community,

Donald Trump’s attacks on Georgia’s Republican state officials and the state’s election system, is causing concern among the GOP leadership.  As reported by various media.

Some establishment Republicans are sounding alarms that President Donald Trump’s conspiratorial denials of his own defeat could threaten the party’s ability to win a Senate majority.

The concerns come ahead of Trump’s planned Saturday visit to Georgia to campaign alongside Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who face strong Democratic challengers in Jan. 5 runoffs that will determine which party controls the Senate at the outset of Biden’s presidency.

Republicans acknowledge Trump as the GOP’s biggest turnout driver, including in Georgia, where Biden won by fewer than 13,000 votes out of about 5 million cast. That means every bit of enthusiasm from one of Trump’s signature rallies could matter. But some Republicans worry Trump will use the platform to amplify his baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud — arguments roundly rejected in state and federal courts across the country. That could make it harder for Perdue and Loeffler to keep a clear focus on the stakes in January and could even discourage Republicans from voting.

“The president has basically taken hostage this race,” said Brendan Buck, once a top adviser to former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Especially fraught are Trump’s continued attacks on Georgia’s Republican state officials and the state’s election system, potentially taking away from his public praise of Loeffler and Perdue.

“Trump’s comments are damaging the Republican brand,” argued Republican donor Dan Eberhart, who added that the president is “acting in bad sportsmanship and bad faith” instead of emphasizing Republicans’ need to maintain Senate control.

The GOP needs one more seat for a majority. Democrats need Jon Ossoff to defeat Perdue and Raphael Warnock to defeat Loeffler to force a 50-50 Senate, positioning Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking majority vote.

Trump on Monday blasted Gov. Brian Kemp as “hapless” for not intervening to “overrule” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s certification of Biden’s win. A day earlier, Trump told Fox News he was “ashamed” he’d endorsed Kemp in his 2018 GOP primary for governor. Kemp’s office noted in response that state law gives Kemp no authority to overturn election results, despite Trump’s contention that Kemp could “easily” invoke “emergency powers.” Meanwhile, Raffensperger, a Trump supporter like Kemp, has accused the president of throwing him “under the bus” for doing his job.

Perdue and Loeffler have attempted to stay above the fray.

They’ve long aligned themselves with Trump and even echoed some of his general criticisms of the fall elections, jointly demanding Raffensperger’s resignation. But the crux of their runoff argument — that Republicans must prevent Democrats from controlling Capitol Hill and the White House — is itself a tacit admission that Biden, not Trump, will be inaugurated Jan. 20. And at one recent campaign stop, Perdue heard from vocal Trump supporters who demanded that he do more to help Trump somehow claim Georgia’s 16 electoral votes.

Republicans see three potential negative outcomes to Trump fanning the flames.

Some GOP voters could be dissuaded from voting again if they accept Trump’s claims that the system is hopelessly corrupted. Among Republicans more loyal to Trump than to the party, some could skip the runoff altogether out of anger at a party establishment the president continues to assail. Lastly, at the other end of the GOP spectrum are the moderate Republicans who already crossed over to help Biden win Georgia and could be further alienated if the runoff becomes another referendum on Trump.

Josh Holmes, a top adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Republicans “haven’t seen any evidence of lack of enthusiasm in the Senate races.”

But none of those potential bad effects would have to be sweeping to tilt the runoffs if they end up as close as the presidential contest in Georgia.

“We’ll see how it plays out. It changes day by day and week by week. But so far, so good,” Holmes said.

In Georgia, any Republican concerns are more circumspect.

Brian Robinson, a former adviser to Kemp’s Republican predecessor as governor, said Trump should “drive a strong, forward-looking message” about what’s at stake for a Republican base that “is fervently devoted to him.”

“The best thing he can do for the party,” Robinson said, “is to talk about the importance of having a Republican Senate majority to project his policy legacy and to make sure the Democrats can’t reverse a lot of what he has put in place that Republicans support.”

Asked what Trump should avoid, Robinson circled back to what he believes the president should say.

Former U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, a Trump ally, downplayed the potential for GOP splintering, framing an “inner-family squabble” as a sideshow to the “incredible” consequences that define the runoffs.

“Followers of Trump will follow Trump, but they’re not blind to the huge stakes. And neither is he,” Kingston said. “He knows to keep his legacy. He’s got to get these people reelected.” Trump, Kingston argued, is “keeping the base interested,” a necessary component of any successful runoff campaign since second rounds of elections often see a drop-off in voter participation.

Robinson added that Democrats face their own challenge in replicating record turnout for Biden.

“What’s the best motivator? Fear,” he said. Before November, Democrats dreaded a second Trump term more than Republicans feared Trump losing, Robinson reasoned. “Republicans have reason to be scared now,” he said, because of the prospect that Democrats could control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

“That could make a difference in turnout” beyond anything Trump says, Robinson concluded.

 The runoff election in Georgia is going to be huge!


Sean Hannity says Trump ‘needs to pardon’ himself and his ‘whole family’!

Fox News' support for Sean Hannity should come as no surprise — Quartz

Sean Hannity

Dear Commons Community,

President Donald Trump “needs to pardon his whole family and himself” as he walks “out the door” of the White House, Fox News host Sean Hannity said on his radio show Monday.

“I assume that the power of the pardon is absolute and that he should be able to pardon anybody that he wants to,” Hannity declared as he interviewed nutjob lawyer Sidney Powell.

Powell was bounced from Trump’s election legal team earlier this month after spouting bizarre conspiracy theories claiming that Venezuela, Cuba, “antifa,” George Soros, the Clinton Foundation and the deceased Hugo Chávez, among others, were responsible for shifting November’s presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.

Hannity did not specify what criminal charges Trump or his family could face.

He insisted Trump needs to pardon himself and his family to protect him from unspecified “witch hunts.”

Powell told Hannity that she didn’t know the details of Trump’s “authority to pardon himself.” But she insisted it wouldn’t be unnecessary because “the president is going to get another four years in office” — despite losing to President-elect Biden.

Generally, someone granted a pardon has been convicted of a federal crime and has shown remorse or made reparations. Pardons typically are granted after an application is presented five years after a conviction or release from prison and is approved by the Department of Justice’s pardon attorney.

A president has never pardoned himself. In 1974, former President Richard Nixon was pardoned after his resignation by his successor, Gerald Ford.

Trump last week pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was represented by Powell, after Flynn had pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about secret calls with Kremlin officials as Trump was coming into office.

Flynn was granted a “full and unconditional pardon” from “any and all possible offenses” arising out of the investigation into possible Kremlin collusion by former special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump pardoned Flynn after the Department of Justice failed to get his case thrown out in court.

Surely Hannity’s suggestion raises questions as to what Trump and his family have to fear.  A lot!


Dr. Scott Atlas Resigns as Adviser to Trump – Good Riddance!

Trump Science Adviser Scott Atlas Leaving White House Job

Scott Atlas

Dear Commons Community,

Dr. Scott Atlas, a science adviser to President Donald Trump who was skeptical of measures to control the coronavirus outbreak, is resigning from his Whitehouse position.

Atlas,  a Stanford University neuroradiologist, who had no formal experience in public health or infectious diseases, resigned at the end of his temporary government assignment.  As reported by the Associated Press.

“Atlas joined the White House this summer, where he clashed with top government scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, as he resisted stronger efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 267,000 Americans.

Atlas has broken with government experts and the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community to criticize efforts to encourage face covering to slow the spread of the virus. Just weeks ago, on Twitter he responded to Michigan’s latest virus restrictions by encouraging people to “rise up” against the state’s policies.

His views also prompted Stanford to issue a statement distancing itself from the faculty member, saying Atlas “has expressed views that are inconsistent with the university’s approach in response to the pandemic.”

“We support using masks, social distancing, and conducting surveillance and diagnostic testing,” the university said Nov. 16. “We also believe in the importance of strictly following the guidance of local and state health authorities.”

Atlas defended his role in his resignation letter, saying, “I cannot think of a time where safeguarding science and the scientific debate is more urgent.”

Atlas was hired as a “special government employee,” which limited his service to government to 130 days in a calendar year — a deadline he reached this week.”

Goodbye and good riddance!  He advised Trump on what the President wanted to hear to the detriment of the American people, especially those who contracted and died of coronavirus.


Trump’s Rallies Didn’t Pay Off For Him At The Polls According To NBC News!

Dear Commons Community,

NBC News yesterday released data showing that Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden in 25 of the 30 counties in which he held a campaign rally.  On the other hand,  research has also linked his rallies to hundreds of COVID-19 deaths.   As reported:

“President Donald Trump’s largely maskless campaign rallies may have boosted the spread of COVID-19, but they didn’t serve Trump well at the polls,  according to a ballot analysis by NBC News.

In an overwhelming number of cases, Trump came up short of his 2016 victory margins in the counties where he held rallies in the two weeks before the election, NBC reported. In a significant number of cases, he either increased his negative margins or lost the counties to rival Joe Biden that he won the last time around.

Trump held 30 campaign rallies the final two weeks before the election in states from Arizona to Nebraska to Pennsylvania, NBC noted. Trump won larger victory margins than he did in 2016 in just five of the counties. In the rest, his negative margins grew and his positive margins shrunk, so much so that some counties flipped blue.

NBC cautioned that Trump may have done even worse in some cases without the rallies.

But the findings present a clear warning against gauging national, or even state, popularity based on rally turnouts, which tend to draw those who would vote for a candidate in any case. The rallies also represent a minuscule fraction of the vote.

Trump and his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr. have repeatedly expressed astonishment that Trump lost the election, given the president’s campaign schedule and the enthusiasm of people attending his rallies.

Eric Trump is perplexed that anyone could believe the results, according to a tweet he posted Saturday. People responding informed him that rallies are not necessarily a reliable barometer of voter support and that votes and rally attendance are not the same.

What the rallies did accomplish was to increase COVID-19 infections, according to research from Stanford University. The research conservatively tied Trump’s rallies to at least 700 deaths — and counting. Some 30,000 people became sick with the virus because of the rallies and may face lifelong health problems. Communities that hosted Trump’s events “paid a high price in terms of disease and death,” the researchers concluded in a working paper.

Few of those attending Trump’s packed rallies wore masks and clearly did not observe social distancing guidelines. In a number of cases, Trump angrily ignored COVID-19 regulations and pleas from local officials not to hold the dangerous rallies as COVID-19 cases surged.”

It is a travesty and disgrace that Trump infected his most ardent supporters at these rallies.


Bah Humbug! Theaters Are Saving “A Christmas Carol” in Spite of the Pandemic! 

Alastair Sim - A Christmas Carol (1951) - The Many Ghosts of ‘A Christmas Carol’

Alastair Sim in a Movie Version of “A Christmas Carol”

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times this morning has a featured article entitled,  Bah Humbug!, How Theaters Are Saving “A Christmas Carol.”  It describes theaters throughout the country that will continue their traditions of staging Charles Dickens’s novella.  Here is an excerpt:

“For all his flaws, that cranky old miser Ebenezer Scrooge has been a godsend for American theaters. Through recessions and blizzards and other upheavals, he has drawn small children and big money to his redemption story in “A Christmas Carol.”

Stage adaptations of the tale, which generally run between Thanksgiving and year-end, have been a tradition and a lifeline for troupes big and small, professional and amateur. But now, after decades in which the Dickens classic has sustained them, this year theaters are sustaining Dickens.

Gone are the large-cast extravaganzas playing before cheery crowds in packed venues. Instead, theaters are using every contagion-reduction strategy they have honed during the coronavirus pandemic: outdoor stagings, drive-in productions, street theater, streaming video, radio plays and even a do-it-yourself kit sent by mail.

Many of these theaters are willingly running the long-lucrative show at a loss — they are hungry to create, determined to stay visible and eager to satisfy those “Christmas Carol” die-hards who don’t want to miss a year.

“It’s absolutely an obligation, in the best sense of that word,” said Curt Columbus, the artistic director of Trinity Repertory Company, in Providence, R.I., which has staged “A Christmas Carol” each holiday season since 1977. “The story felt more urgent, and more necessary, than it has in many years.”

A filmed performance by Mr. Mays will be streamed this year to benefit regional theaters, and a second version, with more special effects, will be marketed next year to streaming services. 

A primer for those who don’t know a Cratchit from a Fezziwig: “A Christmas Carol” is an exceptionally durable novella, written by Charles Dickens and published in 1843, about the transformation, via a series of ghostly visitations, of a wealthy businessman (that’s Scrooge) from mean and miserly to caring and charitable.

Dickens himself performed readings of the story for more than two decades, with stops in America as well as Britain, until his death in 1870; it has been repeatedly adapted for stage and screen, and the story, in one form or another, has been a seasonal staple of the American regional theater since the 1970s. Last year a critically lauded adaptation from England’s Old Vic theater reached Broadway; this year, it will be livestreamed from its London home, fully staged but audience-free.

“‘A Christmas Carol’ does everything we talk about when we talk about theater — it builds community, and it tugs us toward our better selves,” said Joseph Haj, the artistic director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, which has staged the story since 1975, last year selling 57,900 tickets to the show. This year, the Guthrie will stream a retelling by four actors; it will cost $10 to watch, and will be free for schools.

Mr. Haj doesn’t expect to make money on it. Nor does Leda Hoffmann, artistic director of the Contemporary American Theater Company in Columbus, Ohio, which, for $20 per device, will stream a contemporary reimagining with Ebony Scrooge at its center. “This is very likely a losing proposition, but we’re telling the story because we want to tell it,” she said.

The financial implications are enormous, especially for those that have opted not to charge at all. Ford’s Theater in Washington last year sold $2.5 million worth of tickets to “A Christmas Carol.” This year, it is releasing a free audio version on its website and on public radio, paid for by corporate sponsorships and donations. “Hopefully it will come back to us in other ways,” said Paul R. Tetreault, Ford’s director.

The money “A Christmas Carol” usually brings in allows theaters to perform more challenging work at other times of the year.

In Raleigh, N.C., where Ira David Wood III, the artistic and executive director of Theater in the Park, has been playing Scrooge in a musical adaptation since 1974 (he missed one year, when he had open-heart surgery), the money earned from the holiday show “enables us to do ‘Uncle Vanya’ and play to maybe 12 people,” he said.

Like many major regional theaters, Providence’s Trinity Rep is enormously dependent on the show, which accounts for half of all annual sales. This year, its one-hour streaming version looks still to be popular — in the first 72 hours, 75,000 people from 46 states signed up to watch. But ticket revenue, which last year topped $1.7 million, will be zero, because the video is being aired for free.

“This thing has kept American theaters alive for decades and decades,” said Charles Fee, the producing artistic director of Great Lakes Theater in Cleveland. “Without ‘Christmas Carol,’ our company would almost certainly have failed.”

I personally love the ending of Dickens’s tale:

“The visit to the future ends as Scrooge faces his own mortality in the form of a tombstone inscribed with his name. He asks the Ghost:

    “Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point, answer me one question. Are these the  

      shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be..?”

The Ghost continued to point downward to the grave by which it stood.

      “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said

       Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you   

       show me!” (Dickens, 1843)



Video:  Fox News Host Eric Shawn Debunks Election Lies Trump Told in an Interview on the Network an Hour Earlier!

Dear Commons Community,

Fox News host Eric Shawn yesterday debunked election disinformation that President Donald Trump shared on the same network only an hour earlier (see video above).

Trump unloaded a stream of baseless claims about a rigged election in his first televised interview since the election to his devout Fox News ally Maria Bartiromo, who encouraged the allegations and allowed them to go largely unchallenged.

But Fox weekend anchor Shawn pointed out on “America’s News Headquarters” that Trump’s campaign has failed to prove any of his accusations in court.

“In fact, your government, election officials, experts and others ― many of them Republican, including Trump appointed officials ― say that the president’s claims are false and unsubstantiated,” he told viewers.

He invited Axios political reporter Hans Nichols to help dismantle many of Trump’s claims, including that ballots counted after the initial tallies on election night were somehow fraudulent.

“Every swing state that we’re talking about, and they did these massive dumps of votes,” Trump said. “And all of a sudden, I went from winning by a lot to losing by a little.”

“Well, officials say these are not illegal dumps,” Shawn said. “That’s just the counting of the many mail-in ballots that are entered into the computer system.”

Biden overtook Trump in several battleground states where Trump initially led on election night as absentee and mail-in ballots were counted in subsequent days, a standard and legitimate procedure.

Trump also asserted that President-elect Joe Biden couldn’t possibly have received more votes than former President Barack Obama.

“It seems that we have a president who, he can’t wrap his brain or mind around the fact, he can’t process the fact that someone who he thinks is so inferior to him won the election,” Shawn said.

Trump’s allies at Fox News, including Bartiromo and prime-time opinion hosts, helped him amplify false claims of election fraud. But some members of the network’s hard news division pushed back and fact-checked the unsubstantiated assertions.

Shawn participated in a similar segment two weeks ago after Bartiromo gave airtime to Trump lawyers who peddled conspiracy theories about voter fraud.

Congratulations, Eric, for telling the truth which isn’t the long-suit of Trump and some of his enablers at Fox News!


Will Wilkinson:  Why did so many Americans vote for Trump?

USA Democrat Vs Republican Election Match Cartoon - Fight For Vote

Dear Commons Community,

Will Wilkinson, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, has a piece today entitled, Why Did So Many Americans Vote for Trump?  He does a good analysis of the strategy of  the Democrats depending too much upon the ills of the pandemic while Republicans were exploiting displaced workers who desperately needed a paycheck.  Here is an excerpt:

“Democrats needed to present a competing, compelling strategy to counter Republican messaging. Struggling workers and businesses never clearly heard exactly what they’d get if Democrats ran the show, and Democrats never came together to scream bloody murder that Republicans were refusing to give it to them. Democrats needed to underscore the depth of Republican failure by forcefully communicating what other countries had done to successfully control the virus. And they needed to promise to do the same through something like an Operation Warp Speed for testing and P.P.E. to get America safely back in business.

Instead, they whined that Mr. Trump’s negligence and incompetence were to blame for America’s economic woes and complained that Mitch McConnell wouldn’t even consider the House’s big relief bill. They weren’t wrong, but correctly assigning culpability did nothing to help working-class breadwinners who can’t bus tables, process chickens, sell smoothies or clean hotel rooms over Zoom.

The Republican message couldn’t have been clearer: Workers should be able to show up, clock in, earn a normal paycheck, pay the rent and feed their kids. Democrats were telling the same workers that we need to listen to science, reopening is premature, and the economy can’t be fully restored until we beat the virus. Correct! But how does that help when rent was due last week?

Make no mistake, it was unforgivably cruel of Republicans to force blue-collar and service workers to risk death for grocery money. Yet their disinformation campaign persuaded many millions of Americans that the risk was minimal and that Democrats were keeping their workplaces and schools closed, their customers and kids at home, and their wallets empty and cupboards bare for bogus reasons.

The president’s mendacious push to hastily reopen everything was less compelling to college-educated suburbanites, who tend to trust experts and can work from home, watch their kids and spare a laptop for online kindergarten. Mr. Trump lost the election mainly because he lost enough of these voters, including some moderate Republicans who otherwise voted straight Republican tickets.”

The entire article is below.

Wilkinson provides excellent insight – Listen up Democrats!



New York Times

Why Did So Many Americans Vote for Trump?

By Will Wilkinson

Contributing Opinion Writer

Nov. 27, 2020

President Trump’s disastrous mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic probably cost him re-election. Yet it seems mind-boggling that he still won more votes than any incumbent president in American history despite his dereliction of responsibility at a time of a once-in-a-century health crisis and economic devastation.

Why are President-elect Joe Biden’s margins so thin in the states that clinched his victory? And why did the president’s down-ticket enablers flourish in the turbulent, plague-torn conditions they helped bring about?

Democrats, struggling to make sense of it all, are locked in yet another round of mutual recrimination: They were either too progressive for swing voters — too socialist or aggressive with ambitious policies like the Green New Deal — or not progressive enough to inspire potential Democratic voters to show up or cross over.

But they should understand that there was really no way to avoid disappointment. Three factors — the logic of partisan polarization, which inaccurate polling obscured; the strength of the juiced pre-Covid-19 economy; and the success of Mr. Trump’s denialist, open-everything-up nonresponse to the pandemic — mostly explain why Democrats didn’t fare better.

This shocking strategy worked for Republicans, even if it didn’t pan out for the president himself. Moreover, it laid a trap that Democrats walked into — something they should understand and adjust for, as best they can, as they look ahead.

How could a president responsible for one of the gravest failures of governance in American history nevertheless maintain such rock-solid support? Democracy’s throw-the-bums-out feedback mechanism gets gummed up when the electorate disagrees about the identity of the bums, what did and didn’t occur on their watch and who deserves what share of the credit or blame.

When party affiliation becomes a central source of meaning and self-definition, reality itself becomes contested and verifiable facts turn into hot-button controversies. Elections can’t render an authoritative verdict on the performance of incumbents when partisans in a closely divided electorate tell wildly inconsistent stories about one another and the world they share.

Mr. Trump has a knack for leveraging the animosities of polarized partisanship to cleave his supporters from sources of credible information and inflame them with vilifying lies. This time, it wasn’t enough to save his bacon, which suggests that polarization hasn’t completely wrecked our democracy’s capacity for self-correction: Sweeping a medium-size city’s worth of dead Americans under the rug turned out to be too tall an order.

However, Mr. Trump’s relentless campaign to goose the economy by cutting taxes, running up enormous deficits and debt, and hectoring the Fed into not raising rates was working for millions of Americans. We tend to notice when we’re personally more prosperous than we were a few years before.

But the president’s catastrophic response to Covid-19 threw the economy into a tailspin. That is where it gets interesting — and Democrats get uncomfortable.

Mr. Trump abdicated responsibility, shifting the burden onto states and municipalities with busted budgets. He then waged a war of words against governors and mayors — especially Democrats — who refused to risk their citizens’ lives by allowing economic and social activity to resume.

He spurred his supporters to make light of the danger of infection, made the churlish refusal to wear masks into an emblem of emancipation from the despotism of experts and turned public health restrictions on businesses, schools and social gatherings into a tyrannical conspiracy to steal power by damaging the economy and his re-election prospects.

He succeeded in putting Democrats on the defensive about economic restrictions and school closures. As months passed and with no new relief coming from Washington, financially straitened Democratic states and cities had little choice but to ease restrictions on businesses just to keep the lights on. That seemed to concede the economic wisdom of the more permissive approach in majority-Republican states and fed into Mr. Trump’s false narrative of victory over the virus and a triumphant return to normalcy.

But Democrats weren’t destined to get quite as tangled in Mr. Trump’s trap as they did. They had no way to avoid it, but they could have been hurt less by it. They allowed Republicans to define the contrast between the parties’ approaches to the pandemic in terms of freedom versus exhausting, indefinite shutdowns.

Democrats needed to present a competing, compelling strategy to counter Republican messaging. Struggling workers and businesses never clearly heard exactly what they’d get if Democrats ran the show, and Democrats never came together to scream bloody murder that Republicans were refusing to give it to them. Democrats needed to underscore the depth of Republican failure by forcefully communicating what other countries had done to successfully control the virus. And they needed to promise to do the same through something like an Operation Warp Speed for testing and P.P.E. to get America safely back in business.

Instead, they whined that Mr. Trump’s negligence and incompetence were to blame for America’s economic woes and complained that Mitch McConnell wouldn’t even consider the House’s big relief bill. They weren’t wrong, but correctly assigning culpability did nothing to help working-class breadwinners who can’t bus tables, process chickens, sell smoothies or clean hotel rooms over Zoom.

The Republican message couldn’t have been clearer: Workers should be able to show up, clock in, earn a normal paycheck, pay the rent and feed their kids. Democrats were telling the same workers that we need to listen to science, reopening is premature, and the economy can’t be fully restored until we beat the virus. Correct! But how does that help when rent was due last week?

Make no mistake, it was unforgivably cruel of Republicans to force blue-collar and service workers to risk death for grocery money. Yet their disinformation campaign persuaded many millions of Americans that the risk was minimal and that Democrats were keeping their workplaces and schools closed, their customers and kids at home, and their wallets empty and cupboards bare for bogus reasons.

The president’s mendacious push to hastily reopen everything was less compelling to college-educated suburbanites, who tend to trust experts and can work from home, watch their kids and spare a laptop for online kindergarten. Mr. Trump lost the election mainly because he lost enough of these voters, including some moderate Republicans who otherwise voted straight Republican tickets.

Democrats need to rethink the idea that these voters would have put Democratic House and Senate candidates over the top if only Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were less radiantly socialist. They need to accept that they took hits on the economy by failing to escape the trap Republicans set by doggedly refusing to do anything about the uncontained contagion destroying it.

And they need to understand how Mr. Trump saved his party by weaponizing polarization. Conservatives needed a way not to get spun by the president’s destabilizing act of disloyalty, so they steadied themselves by reaffirming their loyalty down the remainder of the ballot. They were voting against a personal crisis of identity, not the Green New Deal.

Democrats might have done better had sunny polls and their own biased partisan perceptions not misled them into believing that backlash to indisputably damning Republican failure would deliver an easy Senate majority — but not much better. Until the mind-bending spell of polarization breaks, everything that matters will be fiercely disputed and even the most egregious failures will continue to go unpunished.