Daily Blog for August 2020

Stories on or under the headlines for Aug 3

Don’t be a mask “simp”!
  • Panic in the White House as Staffers Discover There Is Some Sort of Pandemic Happening
  • The painful truth about Covid and the economy – Trump is to blame
  • Nasa astronauts aboard SpaceX capsule make first splashdown in 45 years

10 thoughts on “Daily Blog for August 2020

  1. Panic in the White House as Staffers Discover There Is Some Sort of Pandemic Happening

    The Trump administration: They’re just like us!

    Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

    There are many people in this country who are trapped in bad jobs, ranging from dangerous to exhausting to simply boring, by their financial realities. In the United States, being anything less than pretty darn rich is a potentially perilous situation; if you get into an accident and end up on the wrong end of a huge medical bill, for example, even a decent amount of money saved up for a rainy day can evaporate overnight. If you lose your job, unemployment insurance might not cover the bills. If you have a baby, oh no, why did you do that? And if you make the stupid mistake of growing old, you might end up giving away your savings just to get into a Medicaid-funded nursing home.

    All of these facts surely weigh on the minds of the many people in Washington whose jobs are unsavory or actually evil, particularly those who are still hard at work scrambling up the Baddy Ladder. Young people come to this town thinking they’ll make a difference and end up producing powerpoints for the Tuna Council of North America, but what are they supposed to do—quit? Equally, we are led to believe by endless leaks that there are many people within the Trump White House who are ever so worried by the president’s behavior, but nevertheless, they persist.

    The death this morning of Herman Cain, the Islamophobic former Republican presidential candidate and guy who quoted the Pokémon movie in ending his campaign, may have prompted reconsiderations for these beleaguered White House staff. Jake Sherman, the author of Politico’s premier newsletter for Washington wankers, tweeted not long after the announcement of Cain’s death that his team was receiving intel from “deep inside the Trump administration” that aides “feel like they cannot work safely during COVID, and are being told not to wear masks.”

    Cain had attended Trump’s flop of a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was captured by photographers maskless and surrounded by others. As recently as yesterday, posts on his Twitter feed raised skepticism about the coronavirus. A deleted tweet from Cain’s account before the rally read: “Masks will not be mandatory for the event, which will be attended by President Trump. PEOPLE ARE FED UP!” Multiple Trump staff members also tested positive for the coronavirus after the rally. But it’s not just that single potential superspreader event threatening the staff: This week, national security adviser Robert O’Brien tested positive for the virus.

    It’s easy to see how there may be political pressure inside the White House not to wear masks, working for a president who only recently and begrudgingly wore one in public. It’s equally easy to think that those psychotic enough to work for the Trump White House might really subscribe to the Louie Gohmert school of thought on the necessity of masks. Party leaders have spent the last month trying to row back their early skepticism, but local Republicans continue to spoil it all by doing things like comparing mask mandates to North Korean oppression. The rank and file is coming around to masks, but the party in Washington has long been more extreme than its members. It is far too easy to imagine that some twenty-something Benny Johnson clone with a White House badge has called his coworker a “masks simp” for putting one on in the office.

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  2. The painful truth about Covid and the economy – Trump is to blame

    Lies about the economy are as dangerous as lies about the virus. Thanks to the Republicans, millions are about to be hurt

    Robert Reich

    “The recovery has been very strong,” Donald Trump said on Monday. Then the commerce department reported the US economy contracted between April and June at the fastest pace in nearly three-quarters of a century, which is as long as economists have been keeping track. The drop wiped out five years of economic growth.

    It Was All a Lie review: Trump as symptom not cause of Republican decline
    Read more

    But pesky facts have never stopped Trump. Having lied for five months about the coronavirus, he’s now filling social media and the airwaves with untruths about the economy so he can dupe his way to election day.

    The comeback “won’t take very long”, he reassured Americans on Thursday. But every indicator shows that after a small uptick in June, the US economy is tanking again. Restaurant reservations are down, traffic at retail stores is dwindling, more small businesses are closing, the small rebound in air travel is reversing.

    What’s Trump’s plan to revive the economy? The same one he’s been pushing for months: just “reopen” it.

    He wants the public to believe the shutdown orders that began in March caused the economy to tank in the first place, so reversing them will bring the economy back.

    People can’t go back to work because there is very little work for them to do

    Rubbish. It was the virus that caused the downturn, and its resurgence is taking the economy down again. The virus is surging back because governors reopened prematurely, before the virus was under control – at Trump’s repeated insistence.

    The sequence of cause-and-effect is clear. The virus has surged most in states that were among the first to reopen, such as Florida, South Carolina, Texas and much of the rest of the sun belt.

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  3. Nasa astronauts aboard SpaceX capsule make first splashdown in 45 years

    Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley land off Florida after two-month voyage that was Nasa’s first crewed mission from home in nine years

    US astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, who flew to the International Space Station in SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon, splashed down in the capsule in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday after a two-month voyage that was Nasa’s first crewed mission from home soil in nine years.

    Behnken and Hurley left the station on Saturday and returned home to land in the waves off Florida’s Pensacola coast on schedule at 2.48pm ET following a 21-hour overnight journey aboard Crew Dragon “Endeavor.”

    The successful splashdown, the first of its kind by NASA in 45 years, was a final key test of whether Elon Musk’s spacecraft can transport astronauts to and from orbit – a feat no private company has ever accomplished before.

    *The SpaceX capsule is lifted onto a ship Photograph: AP *

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  4. Media to be banned from Republican convention due to coronavirus restrictions

    In a modern first, the press will not be present when the GOP votes to renominate Donald Trump for president

    Not sure this is Trump, hard to tell from this angle

    The media will reportedly not be allowed to witness the renomination of Donald Trump as president at the Republican national convention later this month.

    Citing coronavirus-related health concerns, a convention spokesperson told the Associated Press that media members would be turned away in order to assure compliance with state and local guidelines “regarding the number of people who can attend events”.

    The announcement was highly unusual and would represent a historic departure from convention practices in modern times. A small Arkansas paper, the Democrat Gazette, first reported the news. The Republican national committee, which organizes the convention, could not immediately be reached for comment.

    Held once every four years, the parties’ national conventions represent occasions for party officials and operatives to come together to strategize, renew contacts, share excitement and ultimately formally nominate the party’s candidate for president.

    The official nomination is typically covered with a wall-to-wall media blitz including cheering crowds decked out in party swag and a live broadcast of the nominee’s acceptance speech. The exposure typically results in a bounce of a few points for the nominee in approval polls.

    But this year the Republican party appears intent on repeating its nomination of Trump, whose dismal performance in handling the coronavirus pandemic has dragged his popularity to historic lows, with no cameras present, in subversion of the president’s own instinct for spectacle and obsession with TV ratings.

    “Given the health restrictions and limitations in place within the state of North Carolina, we are planning for the Charlotte activities to be closed [to] press Friday, August 21–Monday, August 24,” a convention spokeswoman told the AP.

    “We are happy to let you know if this changes, but we are working within the parameters set before us by state and local guidelines regarding the number of people who can attend events.”

    It was not clear how the convention could move forward in compliance with state guidelines, which have been a sticking point between Republicans and the state’s Democratic governor for months. The state of North Carolina currently has set an official limit of 10 people for indoor gatherings and 25 people outdoors.

    The Republican national party has announced that 336 officials would attend the convention.

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  5. What Joe Biden Wants

    Each of the main vice presidential contenders offers a different skill set. What Biden needs is someone to help him govern.

    Mark Makela /Getty Images

    After a weekend of oppo dumps and Twitter battles over the leading vice presidential possibilities, Joe Biden could well want to throw up his hands and tell someone else to choose his running mate.

    It’s happened once before: In 1956, Adlai Stevenson let the delegates at the Democratic National Convention pick his running mate without so much as whispering his true preference to the party bosses who controlled the convention floor. As a result, Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver edged a telegenic newcomer named John Kennedy for the VP slot on the second ballot, the last second ballot at a political convention in history.

    Stevenson aside, for most of the twentieth century, Democratic vice presidents were chosen for a single reason: to balance the ticket, usually by pairing a Northern liberal with a Southerner. But the rules changed in 1992 when Bill Clinton tapped Al Gore—a young moderate senator from an adjoining state—partly because of his knowledge of foreign policy. As Elaine Kamarck, a former top Gore aide now at the Brookings Institution, argues in her new ebook, Picking the Vice President, “Every vice president since Al Gore has been chosen more for their ability to do his job than for the ability to balance the ticket.”

    Biden was a major beneficiary of this trend in 2008. Barack Obama didn’t need help winning Biden’s tiny home state of Delaware nor did he need to appease the nonexistent Biden wing of the Democratic Party. But the Illinois senator, who had only just arrived in Washington in 2005, did need a vice president to help him govern, and Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, offered all the benefits of someone who had spent more than three decades in the Senate.

    These days, almost all the handicapping of Biden’s VP pick represents an exercise in retro politics. Journalists have spent their time gaming out who would do the most to balance the ticket, suggesting that a dynamic Black woman or unabashedly left-wing Democrat like Elizabeth Warren could help unite the party and paper over any weaknesses Biden has as a candidate.

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  6. Paul Begala on Trump: ‘Nothing unites the people of Earth like a threat from Mars’

    The former White House adviser and Democratic strategist thinks the Republicans need a heavy defeat – and may get one

    *Begala speaks in Pasadena in 2017. Photograph: Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images *

    In the New York Times in January 2016, David Axelrod, former campaign strategist for Barack Obama, published The Obama Theory of Trump. “Voters rarely seek the replica of what they have,” he wrote. “They almost always seek the remedy, the candidate who has the personal qualities the public finds lacking in the departing executive.”
    It Was All a Lie review: Trump as symptom not cause of Republican decline
    Read more

    Ten months later, America elected Obama’s polar opposite, Donald Trump: Moriarty to his Holmes, Joker to his Batman, antimatter to matter. According to Paul Begala, a doyen of Democratic politics, the theory bodes well for Joe Biden.

    “Too many Democrats were trying to be just as pugilistic in their way as Trump is,” he says, by phone from a farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. “I’ve known Joe a very long time and I think his most dominant character feature is empathy. He’s bright and he’s experienced but he’s so empathetic. We’ve seen him through tragedy. He’s been very good to me and my family.

    “If there were a time where we needed empathy, it’s now. He has experience, which used to be a bad thing, he has competence and empathy and that’s exactly the opposite of Trump. So if we want the replica, we’re not going to vote for Joe. But if we want the remedy – and I think we do – he’s very well positioned to win.”

    Now 59, Begala was a chief strategist for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign and served in the White House as counselor to the president, then advised a Super Pac that helped elect Barack Obama in 2012. He describes Lyndon Johnson, Clinton and Obama as the three “Rushmore-worthy” presidents of his lifetime. He is also a familiar face on CNN and has written six books, the latest of which is You’re Fired: The Perfect Guide to Beating Donald Trump.

    Chapter one is entitled Mea Culpa, as Begala reflects on the catastrophe of Hillary Clinton’s utterly unexpected defeat in 2016.

    I have some personal responsibility for failing to stop the worst man who’s ever been president

    Seriously, if we had a fully functioning mental health system, Trump would be in a rubber room, not an Oval Office

    Read more

  7. Could this anti-Trump Republican group take down the president?

    Savage attack ads from a well-funded group of dissident Republicans are aiming to sway a key sliver of opinion in swing states

    Screen shot from a campaign ad produced by the anti-Trump Republican group, the Lincoln Project. Photograph: The Lincoln Project

    Amid all the noise of an election involving Donald Trump – all the inflammatory tweets and shadowy Facebook posts – one set of ads has somehow managed to break through.

    There’s the one of the US president shuffling down a ramp that declares that the president “is not well”. There’s the whispering one about Trump’s “loyalty problem” inside his White House, campaign and family.

    There’s the epic Mourning in America that remakes Reagan’s election-defining 1984 ad, turning the sun-bathed suburbs into a dark national portrait of pandemic and recession. On Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, those three ads alone have racked up more than 35m views.

    The Lincoln Project, run by a group of renegade Republican political consultants, has crystallized one of the core narratives of the 2020 campaign in ways that few other political commercials have in past cycles.

    Its work on brutal attack ads sits alongside the swift boat veterans against John Kerry in 2004, the Willie Horton ad against Michael Dukakis in 1988, and the daisy ad against Barry Goldwater in 1964.

    Their reward? Disdain from independent media, distrust across the political spectrum and a recent series of harshly negative coverage from pro-Trump media outlets.

    Disdain appears to be the consensus view from the pundits. Atlantic magazine called their ads “personally abusive, overwrought, pointlessly salacious, and trip-wired with non sequiturs”. The New Republic examined what it called “the viral impotency” of the Lincoln Project, suggesting they couldn’t “persuade voters of anything”. Even the Washington Post declared most of their ads were “aimed not at persuading disaffected Republicans but simply at needling the president”.

    But that’s not how the project’s leaders see their work or purpose. In their launch manifesto, published as a column in the New York Times, the founders said their goal was “defeating President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box”, including his Republican supporters in Congress.

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  8. Hear Neil Young’s Anti-Trump Song ‘Lookin’ For a Leader 2020′

    Protest song is a reworked version of a 2006 tune that took on President George W. Bush

    Neil Young’s most recent Fireside Session featured a new rendition of his 2006 song “Lookin’ for a Leader” that lambasted President Trump and urged people to vote against him in the 2020 election. He’s now calling the song “Looking for a Leader 2020” and he’s released it onto streaming services; he’s also posted a standalone video on the Neil Young Archives.

    “Yeah, we had Barack Obama,” Young sings, “and we really need him now/The man who stood behind him has to take his place somehow/America has a leader building walls around our house/He don’t know black lives matter and we got to vote him out.”

    The song was part of a special politically charged Fireside Session that also included “Ohio,” “Southern Man,” “Alabama” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are-a Changin.’” Young has been a consistent voice against Trump from the earliest days of his administration, even though the president continues to play “Rockin’ in the Free World” at his rallies. Earlier this week, Young said he’s contemplating a lawsuit over the issue.

    “Imagine what it feels like to hear ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ after this president speaks, like it is his theme song,” Young wrote. “I did not write it for that.”

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  9. Conservative Media Is Really Struggling With the Possibility That Trump Killed Herman Cain

    The idea that Cain’s death shouldn’t be politicized is absurd—and impossible.

    NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

    How did Herman Cain die? Tweets commemorating the former presidential candidate and pizza magnate, including from President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, didn’t mention a cause of death. They said he was an “American success story” and a “great friend” who just happened to die of … something.

    As someone who briefly led the Republican presidential primary in 2012, Cain is arguably the most famous American to die of Covid-19. He was also an inveterate culture warrior who opposed mask mandates and amplified skepticism of the dangers of coronavirus. Nine days before he tested positive for the virus, he was filmed without a mask in a tight crowd at Donald Trump’s Tulsa rally. (At least eight White House staffers involved in the rally have tested positive for the virus.) It is entirely reasonable to propose that Trump, as well as the entire Republican industry built around resisting basic anti-virus safety protocols, bear some responsibility for his preventable death.

    But that is a bridge that gets a little too close to reality for Republican politicians and their allies in conservative media, which have claimed that liberals have been polluting Cain’s memory by politicizing it. As usual, they got it backwards.

    Between hawking brain pills, Ben Shapiro made the case that people who wear masks also die. “There are plenty of people dying of this who have been wearing masks and have been being careful,” he said. “So spare me some of the crocodile tears on behalf of people who really are not happy with Herman Cain’s politics.” Within minutes of Cain’s death, the right-wing website The Blaze had collected a series of tweets from people pointing out a simple fact—that the former presidential candidate had died of coronavirus—titled, “Liberals waste absolutely zero time politicizing Herman Cain’s death and blaming Trump.”

    The Washington Examiner’s Byron York, meanwhile, told his readers to “ignore” the fact that Cain had died from Covid-19. “Like everything else these days,” he wrote, Cain’s death was “immediately discussed in a Trump-anti-Trump context.” It would be preferable and more humane, he insisted, to use Cain’s death as “an occasion to … remember Herman Cain.” For York, this included a conversation the two had about pizza crusts during the 2012 campaign.

    But Cain’s legacy is directly tied to Trump and the anti-science, anti-elitist politics that likely contributed to his death. His own political rise presaged Trump’s. Beyond a core tax policy that would have bankrupted the Treasury (“9-9-9”), he had no real policy portfolio to speak of in 2012. He largely seemed to be making it all up as he went along—his famous quip that he didn’t care who the president of “U-beky-beky-becky-stan-stan” was summed up his ethos, which privileged the authentic over the prepared. He was a businessman who believed that all of America’s problems could be solved by running the country like a mediocre regional pizza chain.

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  10. James Murdoch resigns from board of News Corp

    Statement cites ‘disagreements over certain editorial content’

    James Murdoch, pictured in 2015. His resignation severs his final formal link to the media empire his father, Rupert, created. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

    James Murdoch has resigned from the board of News Corp, the media company said on Friday, citing “disagreements” over editorial content.
    The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty review – Succession with phone hacking and foam pies
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    The resignation severs Murdoch’s final formal link to the media empire his father, Rupert Murdoch, created. James’s older brother Lachlan heads Fox Corporation.

    In a letter of resignation filed on Friday afternoon, Murdoch wrote: “My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions.”

    News Corp’s News UK division owns the Times, the Sunday Times and the Sun newspapers. Its other assets include Dow Jones, the owner of the Wall Street Journal, broadsheet newspaper the Australian, and the Australian tabloids the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and the Courier-Mail.

    The Murdochs’ other media company, Fox Corp, is the parent company of Fox News and the Fox broadcast network, created after 21st Century Fox sold its entertainment assets to the Walt Disney Company last year.

    James Murdoch, 47, is the fourth child of the 88-year-old Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire founder of News Corp. Lachlan Murdoch, 48, is seen as the heir apparent.

    It was not immediately apparent what editorial content might have fueled James Murdoch’s decision to step down. However, he and Lachlan have recently indicated discomfort with the conservative slant of much of News Corp and Fox Corp.

    Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspapers have repeatedly been accused of propagating climate “misinformation” and giving a platform to climate science deniers, including during Australia’s recent bushfires crisis.

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