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Editorial: Presents for some, coal for others — our annual naughty-or-nice list

Jeffrey Fast wears a protective mask while dressed as Santa Claus in Canoga Park.
Nothing says 2020 like Santa Claus in a face mask. Here, Jeffrey Fast waits, masked and sitting in an enclosed space, for children to arrive at the Westfield Topanga Mall in Canoga Park on Dec. 2.
(Los Angeles Times)

It has been a year of remarkable naughtiness, beginning with a tiny virus that has upended the world — helped in no small measure by people exercising their self-proclaimed right to be a disease vector. There was also a pandemic-fueled economic crisis, the grueling and demoralizing presidential campaign (which in the mind of one candidate still isn’t over), a surge in local homelessness, and yet more skirmishes in our unending culture wars. But we have had sprinklings of nice, too — go, you Dodgers and Lakers! Here’s our annual list of who landed on which side of Santa’s ledger sheet.

Naughty

President Trump, for, among a long list of other things, his inexcusably slow response to the COVID-19 pandemic (a sluggishness that cost tens of thousands of lives) and his reckless and baseless accusations of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, further undermining faith in American democracy.

Rudy Giuliani, who has exceeded even Atty. Gen. William Barr in his obeisance to Trump while spreading conspiracy theories like a virus.

Speaking of which, the novel coronavirus, for killing more than 1.6 million people and ravaging economies around the world. We know, the virus is just being a virus, but still.

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California’s Employment Development Department, for taking months to get benefits to financially desperate people while not noticing it was being scammed for as much as $8 billion.

Former Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, who is facing federal bribery and racketeering charges over allegations that he used his position to rake in $1.5 million in cash and other benefits from real estate developers.

Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton, for making a mockery of his office by filing a bizarre and evidence-free lawsuit challenging the election process in four other states won by President-elect Joe Biden.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, who disgraced himself and California by adding his name to Texas’ preposterous lawsuit.

Virtually every other Republican in Congress, for lacking the courage to call out Trump’s falsehoods, including his claim that he lost the election because of widespread fraud. And One America News Network, Newsmax and Fox News’ prime-time hosts, for irresponsibly amplifying that claim. A fraudulent claim about fraud — that is so 2020.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who abandoned judicial restraint in a speech to the conservative Federalist Society by criticizing pandemic-related restrictions on houses of worship — an issue that has come before the court.

Televangelist Jim Bakker and every other sleazebag who took advantage of the pandemic to hawk various brands of snake oil to a scared public, and the equally sleazy scammers scheming to cheat people eager to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

All the face-mask deniers who decry the government-imposed pandemic restrictions, yet won’t employ the simple, safe and time-tested infection-control tools that might have helped us avoid the restrictions in the first place.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for not only stonewalling vast amounts of worthwhile legislation, but also rushing through the election-year confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s third nominee to the Supreme Court, four years after blocking consideration of Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee, because it was an election year and the American people “should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice.”

Congress, for moving way too slowly on a second stimulus package even as more than 10 million Americans remained unemployed.

Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who were recorded waving guns at peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters in June, in effect becoming the faces of white entitlement and intolerance for 2020. Much to the relief, we imagine, of Amy Cooper, the Central Park “Karen.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose agents carried out yet another poisoning in August. Happily, the latest victim, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, survived.

All those (mostly Democratic) California lawmakers who decided COVID-19 closures, travel prohibitions and other pandemic restrictions were “rules for thee but not for me.” We’re looking at you, Gov. Gavin Newsom, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and the state legislators who jetted off to Maui for a political junket.

The sheriff’s deputies who responded to the fatal Kobe Bryant helicopter crash and flouted basic standards of professionalism, decorum and humanity by sharing pictures of the gruesome scene as if they were sports memorabilia.

Former and current Trump administration officials Scott Atlas, Paul Alexander and Michael Caputo, for so callously promoting a herd-immunity approach to COVID-19 — ”We want them infected” — without concern over the suffering it could entail.

The hundreds of well-capitalized publicly traded corporations that scooped up Paycheck Protection Program loans that were intended for cash-strapped small businesses.

Pangolin poachers, for threatening a species that’s already in danger — and in doing so, they might have first exposed humans to COVID-19.

Q, the unnamed author or authors of the QAnon posts, for duping millions of willfully gullible Americans into believing that Trump is a warrior against a federal government run by and for a cabal of elitist Satan-worshiping, sex-trafficking child molesters.

The “WWG1WGA” crowd, for believing that nonsense.

Keith Raniere, the NXIVM cult leader whose real-life sex-trafficking crimes helped fuel the QAnon hoax.

The Proud Boys, antifa adherents and other extremists who co-opted legitimate protests to advance their own violent and nihilistic agendas.

The protesters who brandished guns at the Michigan Capitol building to try to intimidate Michigan lawmakers into ignoring the pandemic.

Hotel and motel owners in Los Angeles who let their properties sit empty rather than offer taxpayer-funded temporary housing to homeless people during the pandemic — apparently because they worried about tarnishing their property’s image.

Nice

Joe Biden, for giving America the chance to be America again.

The Chinese scientist Zhang Yongzhen, who published the genome of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, allowing researchers around the world to begin studying how to defeat COVID-19.

The nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers who logged phenomenal hours without adequate protective gear under dangerous conditions to save the lives of COVID-19 patients.

The laboratory researchers who barely saw their families during the pandemic, so intent were they on finding answers to the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, for being the public health hero the nation needed during a scary time, and Dr. Deborah Birx, for speaking rationally to the country as the coronavirus response coordinator for a White House led by an irrational president.

Black Lives Matter protests, for demanding justice and forcing America into a racial reckoning.

Postal workers, who overcame dysfunction at the highest levels to meet the challenge posed by mass mail-in voting.

The unheralded volunteers at food banks and other safety net services, for continuing the work despite the COVID risk.

Sweatpants, for being a silver lining to the pandemic. It’s nice not having to get dressed for the office.

Parents and teachers, for doing their best to help kids keep learning after their schools closed.

The producers, staff, stars and bakers of “The Great British Baking Show,” for quarantining themselves for the weeks it took to produce a new season, offering up a badly needed fantasy distraction during the pandemic.

Voters across the nation, for casting ballots despite the dangers and disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other state elections officials who resisted Trumpian pressure to disenfranchise the voters they served. A special nod goes to Georgia’s Gabriel Sterling for his raw, emotional call for an end to the false narrative about fraud that put election workers in danger.

Drivers at Grubhub, Postmates and other delivery services, for helping Californians continue to patronize restaurants while complying with stay-at-home orders.

AT&T, for recognizing the pandemic-imposed need for more bandwidth and waiving the data caps on home internet users for all of 2020.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, for putting country ahead of party and casting the sole Republican vote during Trump’s impeachment trial to remove the president from office.

Filmmaker Bong Joon Ho, for making history (and a remarkably good movie) with “Parasite,” the first non-English-language film to win a best picture Oscar.

Former University of California President Janet Napolitano, for resisting proposed cuts in UC funding, encouraging students to enter public service and defending campus diversity and students lacking legal immigration status, among other highlights in seven years of bold leadership that ended this year.

Comedian Sarah Cooper, for keeping locked-down Americans in good humor with her videos skewering Trump.

The Los Angeles Dodgers (especially much-maligned manager Dave Roberts) and the Los Angeles Lakers (particularly LeBron James), for finding ways to win championships in baseball and basketball to offer us moments of joy in an otherwise emotionally devastating year.

NASA and SpaceX, in a historic public/private partnership, for sending two astronauts to the International Space Station in May, then dropping off four more in November.

Newsom, for launching Project Roomkey this spring to try to move homeless people from the streets into vacant hotel rooms, and L.A. city and county officials for cajoling (and paying) owners of empty hotels and motels to take them in.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, for working passionately to get homeless people sheltered and making it clear the city is doing it too slowly. Now, if he would only stop micromanaging the process.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for new rules that will compel filmmakers to include diverse people on camera and off if they want their films to be considered for Oscar nominations.

The Supreme Court, for allowing livestreaming of oral arguments conducted over telephone because of the pandemic. Here’s hoping the livestreaming continues after the court begins meeting again in person. For all of our sakes, let that day come soon.


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