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Trump’s lame-duck damage must be contained

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Today's Agenda

Hunkered down.

Photographer: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images North America

Trump's Troublemaking

President Donald Trump will leave office in 48 days, 19 hours, 50 minutes and 35 seconds, not that anyone is counting. That's plenty of time for him to cause plenty of trouble, as we've written, and not just with his endless campaign to defy the will of the electorate. The latest example is his threat to veto a must-pass military funding bill unless Congress:

  1. Drops plans to remove Confederate generals' names from forts and
  2. Punishes Twitter by removing its Section 230 protections because Twitter and its users have been very mean to the president.

Now, Congress has not exactly been the model of courage when it comes to confronting Trump, but this one should be a no-brainer, writes Bloomberg's editorial boardLawmakers should ignore Trump's complaints and override his veto (assuming he goes through with it), fund the military, and carry on with plans to stop naming federal installations after traitors to the country. Section 230 is a whole other headache that, it may shock you to learn, has nothing to do with the troops.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to tilt at the windmills of the election results, the primary effect of which is to harden Republican beliefs that the race was stolen, leading to death threats against the still-honorable Republicans who insist it wasn't. One profitable secondary effect of this made-up emergency, Tim O'Brien notes, is that it lets Trump snare gobs of money from the pockets of gullible supporters. They may miss that most of the cash goes not to Trump's inept legal challenges but to a PAC that has nothing to do with the 2020 election. 

Even Fox News has suffered the wrath of Trump and his supporters for daring to occasionally acknowledge reality. This is another convenient outcome for Trump, who reportedly wants to launch his own media outfit when he finally does leave the White House. It's also been a boon to fringe right-wing outlets Newsmax TV and One America News Network, whose ratings have benefited from diligently insisting the emperor does, in fact, wear splendid clothes. But none of these competitors have Fox's operational chops, audience or industry advantages, writes Tara Lachapelle. The network's profits may survive even Trump's troublemaking. Everybody should be so lucky.

Biden's Presidency-Making

Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden is quietly preparing for a presidency that could be impeded from the start by a Republican-controlled Senate. But he may be able to overcome that obstacle. We wrote yesterday about some standard critiques of President Barack Obama. One we didn't mention was that he didn't try hard enough to sell America on his plans. Noah Smith argues Biden could correct this error by aggressively pushing big, popular ideas — infrastructure spending, say, or a $15 minimum wage or a public health-care option — and daring Republicans to stand in the way. It might not work. But it couldn't hurt to try.

Further 46th President Reading:

Covid Keeps Taking Lives

The coronavirus pandemic is in a weird phase. We keep getting hopeful news — today it was the U.K. approving Pfizer's vaccine for broad use — that can almost convince you the whole nightmare is almost over. But it's still very much not over in the U.S. and Europe, making it more dangerous than ever to let your guard down. In fact, though the U.S. death toll in this third wave has so far been less horrific than in the first, Cathy O'Neil points out the latest surge puts the country on track to suffer one Sept. 11 attack's worth of deaths every single day. All are tragic, but especially so with the end starting to come into view.

And make no mistake: Help is on the way. Maybe you're anxious about the safety and efficacy of vaccines that have been rushed to market. Sam Fazeli explains in a Q&A why you should actually feel pretty good about taking any of the top vaccine candidates. Just keep yourself safe until you can get the chance.

Telltale Charts

Green hydrogen could be as revolutionary an energy source as wind or solar, writes David Fickling. It all depends on how much room there is for its costs to shrink. 

The dollar is weakening, a healthy sign investors are pricing in reflation next year, writes John Authers.

Further Reading

Slack is a pricey acquisition that doesn't seem like a good fit for Salesforce. — Tae Kim 

In its dispute with Poland and Hungary, the EU holds all the cards. — Andreas Kluth 

Bacardi's new compostable plastic bottle doesn't solve the world's plastic problem. — Adam Minter 

The economics of complaining explain why it's most effective when it's least needed. — Tyler Cowen 

How to spend money in a way that actually makes you feel better this winter. — Sarah Green Carmichael 


Stimulus hopes still aren't quite dead yet, Episode 749.

Sweden's top epidemiologist calls herd immunity a mystery.

Following the trail of a possible White House bribes-for-pardons scandal.

Kominers's Conundrums Hint

If you're still sorting out our Thanksgiving pie Conundrum, it might help to realize that while the clues don't mostly sound like they're describing pies, it's possible both the clues and their answers might still contain something pie-like. Once you extract that, you should be left with some hints to the "event" that is the puzzle answer.

But if you find yourself looking at an event name that seems a bit unexpected, you've maybe got one step left to go. You're looking to rescue a theme-appropriate holiday — you're not trying to save our bacon. — Scott Duke Kominers


Rocking flies puts them to sleep faster. (h/t Ellen Kominers)

Somebody released a Spotify album called "OK Google Play Music."

Experimental drug reverses age-related cognitive decline in mice.

RIP to the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope.

Note: Please send experimental drugs and complaints to Mark Gongloff at

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