Transition, violence, imprisonment, and vaccines

All eyes remain fixed on the American political transition; and some world news items you may have missed.

  • The Stringer Newsletter. New editions on Mondays.

  • Housekeeping: Some interview pieces in the works. Stay tuned, as the talking faces on tv used to say.

  • In this edition: All eyes are on the American political transition. (1). Notes on Biden’s ‘shock and awe’ approach; (2). Violence in Darfur ‘spikes’; (3). Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny imprisoned; (4). Jordan vaccinates UN-registered refugees; (5). US B-52s stalk the skies of the Middle East

Share The Stringer by Daniel Mollenkamp

All eyes are fixed on the American political transition following the attempt of armed insurrectionists in the Capitol to overturn the U.S. election. Inauguration Day is Wednesday. D.C. is locked down for the transition of power, and concern remains high over the possibility of more attacks. Trump was impeached (again), making him the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, in addition to being the first president this century to be a one-termer. To my knowledge, as a matter of historical observation, there has never been a president removed from office via impeachment, nor has there been a former president convicted by the Senate. The latest news, as of this writing, is that Rudy Giuliani has said he will not represent Trump at the Senate hearings—he had given a speech prior to the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and, therefore, might be a witness, he told reporters. Regardless, I wouldn’t hold my breadth for a conviction.

Moving forward

Showing some political shrewdness, and no doubt angering conservatives, the incoming administration will attempt to force through its agenda in the name of coronavirus recovery. Biden’s plan for his first days in office represent a “shock and awe” strategy, commented Mike Allen in Axios.

Much of the Biden plan is to use federal powers to get momentum under a national plan for actually dealing with the coronavirus, including a federal mask mandate, FEMA aid for states, support for states to use the National Guard for vaccinations, a $2 trillion stimulus plan, and so on.

However, they also hope to set a clean break with the legacy of the Trump administration— in much the same way Trump sought to distance himself from Obama. To do that, he will use executive orders, the most common baton of the bully-pulpit. In this category, the administration says it will, among other things, rejoin Paris Climate Accords, overturn the Muslim ban, attempt to reunite separated families, and extend eviction restrictions.

The unity pose will offer the president-elect a cheap way of gaining some plaudits and to shirk criticism. In fact, it will become more important to criticize Biden and to push the administration to avoid resting on cheap shows and to insist that it advance meaningful and important policy goals. There’s a danger that the administration will be let off the hook because it is being compared to the carnivalesque Trump administration, particularly given the ideological shallowness of a lot of the opposition to Trump, which would certainly not agree on the reasons why the Trump administration was bad for America, and the intensity of the final days of Trump’s administration.

News you might have missed:

A lot of news has been eclipsed by the heat emanating from the American transition of power. Here are just a couple of items:

  • Violence “spikes” in western Darfur in Sudan, the UN says. Only two weeks after the UN-African Union peacekeeping unit ended operations in the region, 83 people are dead and 160 wounded, as well as about 50,000 people having been displaced, from “inter-communal clashes,” according to a UN report which calls for protection of civilian sites. UN protection of civilian sites have a mixed track record at best, particularly in this region of Africa (think Malakal). Indeed, the record of internationals on the Darfur matter in particular is pretty rotten. It will be important to keep attention on the violence there.

  • Russian critic Alexey Navalny was jailed after returning from Germany, where he was convalescing from a poisoning attempt he blamed on Vladimir Putin. He has called on supporters to fill the streets, reports NPR. Navalny’s arrest was for violating the parole terms of an embezzlement conviction, though the European Court of Human Rights has said he was not given a fair trial. "Don't be afraid. Take to the streets. Don't do it for me, do it for yourselves and your future," said Navalny in a Youtube video.

  • Jordan became one of the first countries to vaccinate UN-hosted refugees over the weekend, reported VOA. The problem of refugee status is often that of statelessness, as Hannah Arendt famously commented. Refugees become neglected through bureaucratic paper-shuffle. The refugees of the Middle East “tensions”, as we often label it, have had a rough go. But the “right to have rights,” and the struggle in asserting that right, is worth emphasizing whenever possible. This is, from a certain viewpoint, the positive item for the week.

  • Arab News said that US B-52s patrolled the skies of the Middle East, the day after Iranian ballistic missiles landed in close proximity to a group of US aircraft carriers. The “tensions” with Iran, if I can recycle that vague word without hypocrisy, continue.

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