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Author Archives: Sabrina I. Pacifici

The Gutted, ‘Unnerving’ State of the Agencies Supposed to Keep the U.S. Safe

Politico: “As the federal government girds against threatened riots in Washington this weekend and possible violence at the inauguration and state capitals across the country, it’s dealing with an unprecedented gap at the top: All of the nation’s top Cabinet departments overseeing the nation’s security are run by acting officials who have been in the job just weeks—or even hours. The acting Defense secretary has been on the job only since the week after the election; the head of the Justice Department just since Christmas; and the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security was the administrator of FEMA until midnight Tuesday morning. That means, with President Donald Trump increasingly disengaged from even the basic responsibilities of running the government, that the U.S. government is entering what many officials are calling the most dangerous time since 9/11 with a leadership vacuum unlike anything in modern U.S. history. Since 9/11 and the creation of DHS, in fact, the U.S. has never faced a presidential transition without a Senate-confirmed attorney general, DHS secretary, and Defense secretary all in place — let alone all three vacant at once. And below them, the vacancies, empty offices and acting officials only multiply, creating a dangerous vacuum in the nation’s security and intelligence apparatus that seems to be getting worse by the day. Since last Wednesday’s violence at the Capitol, nearly a dozen national security and intelligence personnel have departed in protest of the president’s actions inciting the mob. But the problem is just compounding a longstanding one: Throughout his presidency, Trump has relied on “actings” to an unequaled degree and to fill jobs for far longer than Congress intended — sometimes years. The practice has left his agencies severely undermanned and, often, staffed by people who are seriously underqualified for the positions they occupy.

We’re so far down the chain of people who wouldn’t normally be elevated to these positions, it brings greater questions about whether they’re being competently led at such a serious security situation,” said Carrie Cordero, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security who has carefully tracked the years of Trump administration personnel vacancies. “As a former counterterrorism person, I worked on al-Qaeda in the early 2000s, and this security situation feels as tense to me as it did during certain periods then when the U.S. government was mobilizing to prevent an event. It’s unnerving.”…

The State of Online Harassment

“Stories about online harassment have captured headlines for years. Beyond the more severe cases of sustained, aggressive abuse that make the news, name-calling and belittling, derisive comments have come to characterize how many view discourse online – especially in the political realm. A Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults in September finds that 41%… Continue Reading

New Guide to Help Middle and High School Students Conduct Research with Library Resources

Teaching with the Library of Congress – This post is by Kaleena Black of the Library of Congress. “The research process can be fun and rewarding, but it can also present some challenges. For some students, the idea of research might not immediately bring to mind an exciting activity, filled with intrigue, suspense, and joy.… Continue Reading

Self-pardon? It might not go how Trump thinks.

Politico: “An unprecedented move by President Donald Trump to grant himself a pardon during his remaining days in office could divide his handpicked Supreme Court majority. Court-watchers are bracing for an epic, intra-Federalist Society clash that could determine whether Trump — and future presidents — can declare themselves immune from criminal investigations even after leaving… Continue Reading

The Capitol attack set off a raging debate on Wikipedia: what to call it?

Fast Company – “‘Storming’? ‘Insurrection’? ‘Riot’? ‘Attempted coup’? On Wikipedia, where neutrality is prized above all, volunteers are still searching for the words….As facts came in, as editors double-checked and pruned according to Wikipedia standards, the text grew and shrank and grew again, so that only the most relevant verifiable and neutral language remained. “Once… Continue Reading

National Archives – Presidential Elections & Inaugurations

“Every four years, on the first Tuesday (after the first Monday) of November, we cast our votes for President of the United States. The National Archives and Records Administration has a unique role in the election process: NARA’s Office of the Federal Register administers the Electoral College. On the following January 20, the President of… Continue Reading

The Capitol Rioters Weren’t ‘Low Class’

The Atlantic – The business owners, real-estate brokers, and service members who rioted acted not out of economic desperation, but out of their belief in their inviolable right to rule: “They were business owners, CEOs, state legislators, police officers, active and retired service members, real-estate brokers [one of whom arrived in DC via private jet],… Continue Reading

Still going to the grocery store? With new virus variants spreading, it’s probably time to stop.

Vox: “…More cases mean more really sick people, more strain on hospitals and health workers, more rationing of health care — and more deaths, including the entirely preventable ones now firmly linked to ICU bed shortages. More cases will also give the virus more opportunities to mutate further and potentially escape our vaccines, perpetuating the… Continue Reading

Coronavirus deaths climbing while country deals with political unrest

Axios: “Coronavirus deaths continue to reach tragic heights while the country grapples with a vaccine rollout, an impeachment and ongoing civil unrest. The state of play: States with the top-five death rates per 100,000 residents as of Thursday January 14, 2021 include… New Jersey, with 227 people dead per 100,000 residents Massachusetts — 196 Rhode Island —… Continue Reading