Joe Biden inauguration
(Image: David Tulis/Pool Photo via AP and AAP)

BIDEN SWORN IN

Joe Biden has officially been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, in a uniquely quiet, National Guard-filled day at DC’s Capitol building that, among others, saw politicians, musicians, reverends, and poets come together to stress the concept of unity.

As ABC explains the event, which replaced spectators with flags in the nearby National Mall, also confirmed Kamala Harris as “the first black, South-Asian and female American to be vice-president”.

In comments echoed across all speeches, Biden denounced “this uncivil war that pits red against blue”. He also hit out at a world where “facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured”, and, tellingly, called on Americans to “stop the shouting and lower the temperature”.

Performances included Lady Gaga singing the national anthem; Jennifer Lopez doing a medley of This Land is Your Land and America the Beautiful; Garth Brooks — who hugged Barack Obama without his mask, pandemic be damned — singing Amazing Grace; and, in easily the standout, National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman reading self-composed poem The Hill We Climb.

Former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were also in attendance, along with former vice-president Mike Pence but, in a historic snub, not Donald Trump. 

DONALD DUCKS OUT

Donald Trump has officially left the White House, breaking tradition by ditching Biden’s inauguration for a farewell event at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before flying to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

As CNN reports, Trump issued an oddly sad farewell speech at his large, taxpayer funded send-off, lauding achievements such as Space Force and stacking the Supreme Court with Republicans, refusing to name Biden but wishing the “new administration great luck and great success”, and hardly dancing at all to one of his favourite songs, YCMA. He leaves with an under 40% approval rating.

Hours earlier, the now former president issued last minute pardons for 143 people, including to his former adviser and head of far-right website Breitbart Steve Bannon. As The Guardian reports, the list included rapper Lil Wayne and former Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy, but not Trump himself, his family, Rudy Giuliani, or, and it was always an outside chance, Australian journalist Julian Assange. 

PS: While it received less coverage amid the mess of the last few weeks, the BBC explains Trump also spent his last week in office overseeing five rushed executions, none of which were blocked by the now Republican-stacked Supreme Court.

TIME TO STEP ON THE GAS

According to The Australian ($), Scott Morrison has announced a two-year extension of a Turnbull-era deal with east-coast LNG exporters to offer uncontracted, but not price-controlled gas first to Australian companies.

The deal, which Morrison announced with another dubious claim that “gas is critical to our economic recovery”, extends a 2017 agreement aimed at heading off supply shortfalls. It does not include formal price controls, a measure manufacturers reportedly called for but the LNG industry opposed.

Elsewhere, The Age reports that Morrison reiterated his support for coal mining for the next “10, 20, 30 years” on a tour of South32 Cannington Mine in McKinlay, Queensland, while offering a vague acknowledgement miners understand “things change over time”.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

We are in a happy relationship and have been open about it.

Bridget McKenzie and Simon Benson

For clarity, the sports rorts minister and The Australian’s political editor are not talking about their respective organisations but their love life.

CRIKEY RECAP

Albo seizes the limelight created by large cracks on ScoMo’s far right flank

“In a rare foray into foreign policy, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has hit out at Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ‘affinity with Donald Trump‘ and his handling of the United States alliance.

“There is no doubt Mr Morrison put this affinity and his political interests first when he effectively went on a campaign rally stage with Donald Trump in Ohio,’ Albanese said at Perth USAsia Centre this morning.”


America’s fever dream is over but came close to lasting another four years

“Well good god, it’s really happening isn’t it? The US presidential inauguration always has a momentous air about it — the handover from one elected monarch to another — but this time it’s the shift from one whole order of reality to another. Or back to another.

“For four years the US and much of the world has endured and enjoyed a presidency that was all foreground, always in your face, an exhausting but enervating parade of chaos, given a keen edge by the fact that its perpetrator could have launched a new, all-involving war — nuclear or otherwise — something out of the reach of Rodrigo Duterte or Viktor Orban.”


Trump and his co-conspirators capitalise on a gullible, angry America

“In the last 24 hours of the Trump presidency, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell finally declared Donald Trump to be a liar who fed conspiracy theories to the mob which stormed Capitol Hill on January 6. He also raised the role of other ‘powerful people’.

“McConnell didn’t name them but they are likely to include infamous Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone and the off-the-charts radio conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, best known for promoting the conspiracy theory that a mass shooting at the Sandy Hook school in 2012 was a hoax.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Catholic Church makes record payout in child sex abuse case

Most borders are closed to NSW despite no COVID-19 hotspots in the state — here’s why

Australian government urged to try and recover student loans from the dead

NSW Premier pushes for Pacific bubble in 2021

Labor demands former cabinet minister Marlene Kairouz explain why she shouldn’t be expelled

COVID-19 vaccine won’t be mandatory in Australia, but some industries may demand workers get vaccinated

Coal seam gas company pushes to drill hundreds of new wells at off-limits Queensland site

Investigators probing Trump finances have some of his tax records

China labels Pompeo a ‘doomsday clown’ and Uyghur genocide claims ‘wastepaper’

THE COMMENTARIAT

Wannabe-PM Josh Frydenberg has two other things he must kick off in 2021 ($) — Terry McCrann (The Australian): “Wannabe-PM Josh Frydenberg has two other things he must kick off in 2021, in addition to delivering the permanent increase in JobSeeker. First and most importantly he must sort out the leadership of the country’s primary corporate regulator ASIC and sort it out fast. Simply put, he must endorse the current but ‘absent’ chairman James Shipton or sack him, and do so now.”

Trump’s record of attempting the terrible – and making a mess of even that — Bill Wyman (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Donald Trump’s presidency reminds one of the joke Woody Allen tells in Annie Hall, about the two old ladies at a restaurant. ‘The food here is terrible’, one says. ‘Yes,’ agrees the other, ‘and such small portions’. In Trump’s case, he attempted so many terrible things, and yet did just about all of them badly. He was wrong-headed and not up to the job, and in the end that may have saved the country.”

Get Ready to Fight Joe BidenBen Burgis (Jacobin): “I voted for Joe Biden last November in the swing state of Michigan. If time were rewound, I’d do it again. Biden was clearly the lesser evil, and there were both strategic and harm reduction reasons for the left to prefer spending the next four years fighting him rather than Trump. It mattered whether hardcore union-busters would be appointed to the National Labor Relations Board, and it mattered whether social conservatives would be appointed to the Supreme Court.”

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