Simone Biles: Her Greatest Victory

Okay. I’m sure that in the days ahead Simone Biles will take some heat from the Internet trolls out there for her decision to opt out of competing in the Olympics for the women’s team gymnastics title. After all, this is one of the premier events at the COVID games and Biles is (dare I say it?) the greatest of all time in this sport.

And Americans can’t agree on much these days—except for our desire to see our Olympians kick ass.

I’ll admit that when I first heard the news early this am (and not via NBC which has pretty much stopped even pretending to have a news organization) I was shocked, surprised and disappointed.

Well, I guess Simone Biles is human like all the rest of us.

And if this development shines some much needed light on the pressures and mental health issues facing athletes and others then good for her.

Here’s from Yahoo Sports describing the scene after her less than stellar performance:

“At the side of the vault her teammates covered their mouths in shock. That wasn’t a Simone Biles vault. It was easily her worst attempt in a decade, at least. What was it? What was happening?

Before the judges even tallied a shockingly low 13.766 — a full 1.2 below her qualifying mark, Biles knew she was done. She couldn’t do this. She couldn’t perform. She could injure herself, sure, but she, the Great Simone Biles, was suddenly useless as a gymnast.

Her score was dragging down the team. It was .540 below any of her teammates. It was 0.700 below any of the Russians. She was the worst one, by a lot.

It was so low it staked the Russians to a 1.067 lead — a huge number in gymnastics. It’s the kind of gap the Americans would struggle to overcome even if they had Simone Biles at her very best.

“I was like, ‘I am not in the right headspace,’” Biles said. “I am not going to lose a medal for this country and these girls because they’ve worked way too hard to have me go out there and lose a medal.”

She nearly broke into tears, consulted a USA Gymnastics doctor, briefly left the arena floor and then came back, pulled the wraps off her wrists she was set to use on the uneven bars and told her teammates to go win a medal.

Simone Biles pulled herself out of competition.

“I didn’t want to go into any of the other events not believing in myself,” Biles said. “So I thought it was better to take a step back and let these other girls do the job.

“And they did.”

And more from Yahoo Sports:

She tried to describe what she had gone through. She wanted these Olympics to be for her and her teammates, not for her sponsors, not for USA Gymnastics, not for the U.S. Olympic Committee, not for the expectations of the world.

“I felt pretty comfortable coming into the Olympic Games and then I don’t know what happened,” she said. “ … You wind up in a stressful situation and you don’t know how to handle all those emotions.”

Suddenly, it all crumbled and there was nothing she could do to stop the slide. Even if it didn’t make sense, even as everyone told her otherwise, she couldn’t shake her feelings, couldn’t beat back the demons.

“These Olympic Games, I wanted it to be about myself,” Biles said, her voice suddenly catching and tears rolling out of her eyes. “And I came in and I felt I was still doing it for other people, and it hurts my heart that doing what I love has been taken away from me to please other people.”

Her teammates put arms on her shoulders. They tried to prop her up, but here she was, one of the most famous and popular and celebrated people in the world, standing raw and vulnerable and honest.

She knows plenty of people won’t understand, but that’s what got her here in the first place.

“You are still too concerned about what everyone else is going to say, the internet,” Biles said.

So she decided she would have to be more than a gymnast, even here during the biggest gymnastics meet of them all. She had to take care of herself.

She didn’t quit on her team. She quit, she said, and saved the team.

“What was best for me was what was best for the team,” she said.

She was set to talk to professionals on Wednesday morning. After that, a day off from training that she seemed to covet. Will she be back Thursday for the all-around competition? What about the four individual finals she qualified to be in? Will she be back, ever?

She couldn’t say, for sure. At that moment, it wasn’t important.

First things first.

“Fighting,” Simone Biles said, “all those demons.”

Let’s be honest about this. There are only a handful of people in the world who can relate to what Biles and others like her (think Naomi Osaka) have to face. For instance, I’m pretty good at sitting on my couch every afternoon and taking a nap. But the greatest napper of all time—hardly.

So the Olympic Games will go on, and it’s possible that Biles will return for the individual medal events later this week.

But regardless. If her actions in Tokyo help athletes—especially younger ones—face and overcome all those demons, then for the GOAT, this might be her greatest victory ever.

Return Of The Mask

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve been pretty much mute on this site for the past few months. Without Trump and his cadre of dimwits mucking up just about everything foreign and domestic it’s hard to get all that worked up about the by comparison minor problems we all face.

Gee. And I’m not convinced that Uncle Joe is playing with a full deck, but after more than a year worrying that you might catch a deadly virus just by leaving the house in a futile search for toilet paper, it’s kinda nice to be able to return to public venues such as supermarkets without having to wear a mask. I imagine that for many shoppers this brings the same level of joy and excitement that one would experience visiting a nude beach. I digress.

But whoa Nellie. It might not be totally safe to dip your toes in the water just yet.

Here’s from a story published by CNBC:

The World Health Organization on Friday urged fully vaccinated people to continue to wear masks, social distance and practice other Covid-19 pandemic safety measures as the highly contagious delta variant spreads rapidly across the globe.

“People cannot feel safe just because they had the two doses. They still need to protect themselves,” Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products, said during a news briefing from the agency’s Geneva headquarters.

“Vaccine alone won’t stop community transmission,” Simao added. “People need to continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene … the physical distance, avoid crowding. This still continues to be extremely important, even if you’re vaccinated when you have a community transmission ongoing.”

The health organization’s comments come as some countries, including the United States, have largely done away with masks and pandemic-related restrictions as the Covid vaccines have helped drive down the number of new infections and deaths.

Say what?

So in literary terms we can paraphrase the Bard: To mask or not to mask? That is the question.

During my working life I spent around 40 years in various communications related jobs. And I can say without fear of contradiction that the messaging throughout this pandemic has been a fiasco.

Here’s the advice from the CDC: Everyone should wear a mask and social distance. Well, maybe that’s not really necessary. But if you are inclined to wear a mask, maybe one isn’t enough. Why not try two or more. And so on.

And getting vaccinated is really the only way to protect yourself and others. But if you don’t want to get vaccinated (hat tip here to the former POTUS) maybe a shot of Clorox is all you need.

So it goes.

In any event, at a time when most people in the USA would rather die than continue to wear a face mask, WHO officials are encouraging people to cover up. Good luck with that. Many people, for whatever irrational reason, have decided they aren’t going to get the vaccine. And even getting a shot at a million bucks via a state lottery ain’t going to change that.

And it would be nice if someone in charge actually provided some guidance that met the test of time.

Oh, well.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers. So I guess like most people I’ll continue to rely on the Internet for medical advice.

Let’s hope for the best.

Spring Break Gone Wrong

Well, I’m sure that many of us would like to pack our suitcase these days and get away for a quick vacation. And I’m equally sure that thousands (probably more) of people living (barely) in Texas these days would be the first to hop on a plane for just about any destination offering warmer temps and drinking water.

In case you missed the story while still hunkered down trying to avoid the Trump virus, the entire State of Texas is basically out of power, short on electricity, and without water to drink or even flush toilets. A cold snap zapped the resources of the Republican designed and managed power grid — and like just about everything else the GOP touches these days, the situation quickly became a deadly shitstorm.

And then there is Ted Cruz, a Republican Senator representing The Lone Star State.

Rather than try to stick around and help during the crisis, Cruz apparently decided it was better for him to take a road trip to Cancun.

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Well, I’ll let CNN provide the backstory:

Sen. Ted Cruz said that flying to Cancun, Mexico, as a winter disaster in his home state left millions without power or water “was obviously a mistake” and that “in hindsight I wouldn’t have done it.”

Cruz, a Texas Republican, spoke to reporters after returning to his Houston home Thursday evening from a trip that has earned fierce criticism on social media and in his own backyard.
“I started having second thoughts almost the moment I sat down on the plane, because on the one hand, all of us who are parents have a responsibility to take care of our kids, take care of our family. That’s something Texans have been doing across the state,” said Cruz, who had said in an earlier statement that he flew to Mexico because his daughters had asked to take a trip and he was trying to be a “good dad.”
“But I also have a responsibility that I take very seriously for the state of Texas and frankly, leaving when so many Texans were hurting didn’t feel right and so I changed my return flight and flew back on the first available flight I could take,” Cruz continued.
With protesters audible outside his home, Cruz said he understands the anger many Texans feel toward his decision.
“Of course, I understand why people are upset. Listen, we’re in a strange time where Twitter’s been going crazy and the media is going crazy and there’s a lot of venom and vitriol that I think is unfortunate frankly on both sides,” Cruz said. “I think everyone ought to treat each other with respect and decency and try to understand each other more particularly at a time of crisis.”

Granted, Cruz is an asshat. Still, while he appears to have no shame and displays no ethical behavior, you would think that to be elected Senator you would have to demonstrate at least some degree of common sense.

In Texas, apparently not.

Unfortunately, Cruz is one of the weekend GOP “patriots” who will be in the queue for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2024. Sheesh.

And since that is the case, Cruz might want to take the advice of the former POTUS before he plans anymore getaways.

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I guess Cruz was fortunate that Trump wasn’t able to build his wall. Otherwise, he might have become a permanent resident of Mexico. I digress.

And then for the people in Texas who couldn’t leave on spring break:

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So it goes.

Profiles In Cowardice

John F. Kennedy, before he became President, wrote a widely acclaimed book, Profiles in Courage. In the book, Kennedy profiled eight U.S. senators, describing acts of bravery and integrity.

I watched last week as the Senate moved ahead with the second impeachment trial of former POTUS Trump. And as far as the Republicans in the Senate are concerned, if Kennedy tried to write a similar book today he would be hard pressed to fill an abbreviated Cliffs Notes.

Clearly, there wasn’t much bravery or integrity on display in the Senate chamber last week as 43 Republicans voted to acquit — and then many, including Moscow Mitch, took to the airwaves or social media to proclaim that yes Trump was responsible and should be held accountable.

Ah, can’t have it both ways, dudes. I digress.

Anyway, it appears that Trump’s defense and the Republican position came down to pretty much this:

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Okay. Maybe a more detailed explanation is in order.

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So it goes.

Like I said, the update to Kennedy’s book will be titled, Profiles in Cowardice.

And for the leaders of the Republican Party, I guess in this case their strategy did pay off, as predicted by another author, George Orwell, in his book, 1984.

 

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A Swearing Out Ceremony

Like millions of others I had my fat ass planted squarely on the couch for most of the day yesterday as I watched the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris.

And I admit that I would still have rather seen Bernie standing there with his hand on the bible instead of sitting by himself in the back row bundled up in a winter coat and sporting some classic mittens.

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I digress.

Yet the inauguration was a reaffirmation of the values and traditions that make America a shining example of democracy to the rest of the world. It had pomp, circumstance and substance. And after an attempt on January 6 to overthrow the government (initiated by you know who), we witnessed (thankfully) a peaceful transfer of power.

Still, I think Trump got away easy by heading out of DC at the crack of dawn instead of doing the right thing and attending the swearing in of POTUS 46.

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In these circumstances in the future (God forbid) I suggest that we have a swearing out ceremony.

It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Just some flunky like Moscow Mitch standing by the stairs to the helicopter and saying:

“Trump, you douchebag. Get the fu@@ out of here.”

Oh well. I digress again.

But in any event, I’m pleased that Biden is at work today in the Oval Office. He appears to be a decent person who is more than qualified to end what he called our “uncivil” war. And he seems to be more interested in fixing the many problems that face our nation rather than spending his day on twitter, watching TV and stroking his own ego.

Except for those sitting in their mommy’s basement rapped in a Trump/Nazi flag, I think you have to admit that the inauguration yesterday presented an opportunity for all of us to feel good about America again.

And the person who put the exclamation point on the whole affair was the 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman.

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Here’s from the BBC:

Amanda Gorman has become the youngest poet ever to perform at a presidential inauguration, calling for “unity and togetherness” in her self-penned poem.
The 22-year-old delivered her work The Hill We Climb to both the dignitaries present in Washington DC and a watching global audience.
“When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” her five-minute poem began.
She went on to reference the storming of the Capitol earlier this month.
“We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy,” she declared.
“And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”

Wow.

…”while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”

Somebody should have shared that line with Trump during his swearing out ceremony.

Democracy Under Siege

Okay. I wasn’t sure I was going to opine on what happened in DC earlier this week, since I don’t really have any new insights. But hey. How often does a retired senior citizen with access to a computer and the internet have the opportunity to sit on his couch and watch a gaggle of domestic terrorists attempt to overthrown the government of the USA?

Fortunately, not often. In fact, the last time the Capitol was breeched by a group of armed thugs was during the War of 1812. And the British didn’t even have Twitter or Facebook to mobilize the dim-witted masses.

This assault on our democracy — and our elected leaders — is clearly nothing to laugh about.

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I digress.

I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to believe that Trump helped incite this riot via his tweets and other comments that launched a host of conspiracy theories and gave rise to the notion that the election was stolen, even though no credible evidence of voter fraud has surfaced.

Still, Trump supporters — who now constitute the white nationalist wing of what used to be the Republican Party — believe it is better to trash the Constitution rather than abide by it.

Fortunately, those who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday are not the sharpest knives in the drawer.

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And then there is this guy who must have either taken a vacation day or called in sick to join the mob.

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Oh well. I heard this morning on MSNBC that his employer terminated this douchebag. And that’s probably a good thing. I expect that he will soon be joining many of his comrades in prison — and I assume that would create a conflict for showing up to work every day.

I also worry about whether Wednesday’s assault on our country was the end of a tragic episode (read that to mean Trump’s presidency) or the beginning of a new chapter in our nation’s history marked by violence and God forbid, political assassinations. If what we witnessed at the Capitol was a preview of how we are going to live as a Banana Republic, then I would prefer not to see the main feature.

So, I guess we need to do at a minimum a couple of things:

One, Congress has to investigate how an armed mob was able to take control of what should be one of the most secure facilities in this country. And we have to make sure that nothing like this can ever happen again. Without putting too fine a point on this, what we witnessed was a catastrophic failure of the police and armed forces.

Two, social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook have to be held accountable for making it easy to spread lies and disinformation. They aren’t just innocent bystanders to this type of train wreck.

Three, we need strong national political parties that represent the views of all Americans. It is time to move on from the Republicans if they have morphed into the American Nazi Party.

Four, Trump needs to go, sooner rather than later. And if that means impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment, then so be it. 

Trump and his enablers provoked this assault on our democracy.

It’s time to close the book on this ugly chapter in American history.

And move on.

 

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2020: Good Riddance

Well, I guess unless you are Jeff Bezos or one of the other billionaires who have made a financial killing off of the pandemic that defined 2020, I’m sure you will agree that it is a blessing to now be looking at the disaster of last year in the rearview mirror.

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But if nothing else, we learned last year just how inept our federal government is at responding to a national crisis. Folks, without putting too fine a point on it, if this were the best we could do in the early 1940s we would all be speaking German or Japanese now. So it goes.

In fact, with nearly 350,000 Americans (and counting) being killed by the Trump Virus, we have already surpassed the number of deaths of American military men and women during WW2. Here’s from Business Insider:

The US saw 291,557 battle deaths during World War II, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

I wonder how the Trump-supporting mask-holes are getting along with their claims that this pandemic is a hoax, while clinging to absorb conspiracy theories that Biden and the Dems somehow stole the election.

 

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I digress.

Anyway, I’m reasonably optimistic that 2021 will be better.

It appears that a vaccine for the virus is beginning to make its way into arms of Americans throughout the country.

And we can look forward to the return of some actual Presidential leadership in less than a month — even if the current POTUS has to be carried from the Oval Office in leg irons.

 

 

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So let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best in 2021.

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But in any event, for 2020: good riddance.

The US Postal Service: Bah, Humbug

Okay, admittedly this is a first world problem. With thousands of Americans dying every day because of our government’s failed response to the pandemic, I guess there are bigger fish to fry than worrying about Xmas gifts and cards going undelivered.

But here is a case where you do have to give Trump some credit. POTUS and his lackeys tried hard to slow down the mail service as a way to help him win reelection. That didn’t work. But one lingering effect has been to delay the shipments of packages and cards during the holiday season.

Folks, if grandma hasn’t received the fruitcake yet, well good luck.

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And just to show you that I don’t make all of this stuff up, here’s from an article in The Washington Post:

“Competing crises are slamming the U.S. Postal Service just days before Christmas, imperiling the delivery of millions of packages, as the agency contends with spiking coronavirus cases in its workforce, unprecedented volumes of e-commerce orders and the continuing fallout from a hobbled cost-cutting program launched by the postmaster general.

“Nearly 19,000 of the agency’s 644,000 workers have called in sick or are isolating because of the virus, according to the American Postal Workers Union.

“Meanwhile, packages have stacked up inside some postal facilities, leading employees to push them aside to create narrow walkways on shop floors.
Some processing plants are now refusing to accept new mail shipments. The backlogs are so pronounced that some managers have reached out to colleagues in hopes of diverting mail shipments to nearby facilities. But often, those places are full, too. Meanwhile, packages sit on trucks for days waiting for floor space to open so the loads can be sorted.”

Well, I’m sure these are difficult times for the U.S. Postal Service and for its employees. And I imagine that working at the Post Office isn’t always ideal under even the best of circumstances.

Here’s the perspective of Newman, from the classic TV show Steinfield:

Oh, well. Like I said, the inability of the Post Office to deliver mail during a pandemic is a first world problem. And I’m not going to let it ruin my Christmas.

But it’s disappointing that for the first time in decades a running calendar that I send to a friend in Florida each year isn’t likely to make it.

I mailed the package at the Woodland Park, Colorado, Post Office on December 7. Now on December 22, it has made its way all the way to Aurora, Colorado, about a two hour drive by car.

But since there isn’t anything I or anyone else can do about this, I might as well just sit back and enjoy the holiday season.

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So it goes.

Signs Of The Times

Okay. I’ll admit it. I’m more than a little concerned about our country these days. It appears that the USA is circling the toilet bowel, waiting for Trump or one of his lackeys to pull the handle.

Need evidence of this?

Well, Congress continues to dither over a financial relief package, despite the death and suffering that the virus has caused for millions of Americans.

The Russians apparently have the ability to wage a massive cyber attack on the USA, putting at risk everything from our electrical power grids to the nation’s nuclear codes. And the response of POTUS is to suggest that maybe it is China, not Russia, causing the threat. I’m beginning to believe that Putin is one of the few people in the world who will be sorry to see Trump leave office. Oh well.

And then there is the virus — and the administration’s pathetic and lackluster response.

Folks, we now have more than 300,000 dead in this country, with the number growing by the minute.

And I wonder where we would be today if Trump and company hadn’t lied to the American public about the severity of the pandemic — and if our so-called leaders didn’t promote the notion that it was patriotic to ignore the advice of the health experts to stay home, social distance and wear a damn mask.

I really have a hard time seeing how wearing a mask to protect yourself and others is somehow a threat to our personal and constitutional liberties. But what do I know?

Anyway, I see signs of this stupidity every week when I shop at the Safeway in my little mountain town.

Safeway, like most other grocery stores and retail outlets, has a large sign posted at the front entrance saying that masks are required. Yet inside on any given day you see plenty of shoppers proudly loading their carts with their faces as bare as the bottom of a newborn baby

And Safeway management took a stab at getting people to social distance by trying to get people to go in one direction in each of the aisles. This actually doesn’t seem like such a hard concept. Think driving on a one way street. People are smart enough to figure that out all the time.

And at Safeway, you even have visual cues to help the dim witted:

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I take that sign — plainly marked — to mean don’t go that fucking way.

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And I assume that when you see this one it means go straight ahead.

Pretty simple. Right?

Well, actually, no.

On any given day, if you could get a dollar for every person going in the wrong direction in these plainly marked aisles you would have enough to get your groceries for free.

I’m not sure if people ignore the directions because they are self-indulgent to a fault. Or if they are just plain stupid. I stood there Saturday and watched one asshole proudly go in the wrong direction in every aisle. Wonder who he voted for? I digress.

But I know two things:

One, people who won’t wear a mask or social distance aren’t patriots protecting civil rights. They are asshats who are more than willing to endanger the health of everyone they come into contact with.

And two, if as a society we are unwilling to follow simple rules for the benefit of everyone, then we only have ourselves to blame when somebody pulls that toilet handle.

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So it goes.

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Gee, let’s see what has been going on in our little world since I last posted in this space.

Well, the virus, despite the rosy forecasts of the Trump administration, continues to get worse, not better. In the USA, we’ve topped 16 million cases and more than 300,000 deaths. And those numbers climb every day, in fact, every minute. Oh, boy.

Still, there are millions throughout the country who still believe this is a hoax, or an attempt by the government to take away our personal freedoms and constitutional rights. I suspect these are the same people who can’t (or won’t) follow the clearly marked directions in the aisles of my town’s local Safeway. Oh, well.

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Fortunately, there does appear to be some light at the end of the tunnel, as the first wave of a vaccine is starting to make its way across the country. Of course, only about half of the people who have been asked have said they will take the vaccine when available. Wonder if someone is working on a vaccine to cure stupidity? I digress.

And while the CDC has established protocols for how the vaccine should be distributed and administered (first up: health care workers, first responders, those in nursery homes and so on) there is some talk that members of the administration and those in Congress should be able to jump the queue and get a dose before us common folks.

Well, I don’t want anyone to get the virus. But from where I sit, White House staffers and their Congressional counterparts should be the last people in line. They at first downplayed the virus and later wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a mask. Folks, without putting too fine a point on this, those people are the ones who need to take responsibility for this deadly fiasco, not get rewarded because of their job status.

And then there is Congress itself. Since before the election, our elected leaders have been stewing over a plan to provide relief — money and essential supplies — to the millions who desperately need it. But as of this morning, they can’t reach a deal. I imagine that before the election, the Democrats didn’t want to pass anything because it might help Trump. And following the election, the Republicans have once again turned into deficit hawks and appear unwilling to fund anything other than an inflated defense budget.

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Yet there might be some light at the end of the tunnel here as well.

In a little over a month, President-elect Biden will take the oath of office, and Trump will be back in Florida point what he does best, puttering around the golf course.

Or will he.

Various news outlets, including the Daily Mail in the UK, are pointing to a CNN story that Trump is still considering not leaving the White House in January.

Trump is telling advisers he’ll REFUSE to leave the White House on January 20, is ‘throwing a tantrum’ and is plotting revenge on Republicans who turned on him, report claims
President Donald Trump has told advisers that he will refuse to leave the White House on Inauguration Day, a new CNN report claims
‘He’s throwing a f***ing temper tantrum. He’s going to leave. He’s just lashing out,’ one adviser said
Trump now reportedly spends his days mulling over the lost election, plotting ways to contest it, and devising revenge on Republicans who ‘turned on him’

Remember that this is based on a CNN report. 

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But I guess on January 20 we might get to watch the spectacle of Federal marshals dragging Trump’s sorry ass out of the Oval Office. 

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Or maybe we can find some other uses for the former POTUS if he wants to stay in Washington.

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Oh, well.

The coming weeks and months should be interesting.

And let’s just hope that the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a freight train heading our way.