Daily Blog for August 2020

Stories on or under the headlines for Aug 21-31

  • Now that the Democratic Convention is over, I’m taking a “news-cation” for the rest of the month. For the best daily news brief anywhere check out the AM Quickie. 7-9 minutes of the most important stories of the day delivered in fun but factual way.

75 thoughts on “Daily Blog for August 2020

  1. The Plot Against America: The GOP’s Plan to Suppress the Vote and Sabotage the Election

    Blocking ballots, intimidating voters, spreading misinformation — undermining democracy is at the heart of Trump’s 2020 campaign

    Illustration by Victor Juhasz for Rolling Stone

    In June, President Trump sat in the Oval Office for one of his periodic interviews-turned-airing-of-grievances. When the conversation turned to the 2020 election, Trump singled out what he called the “biggest risk” to his bid for a second term. It was not the mounting death toll from COVID-19, or further economic damage inflicted by the pandemic, or anything else a reality-dwelling president might fret about.

    “My biggest risk is that we don’t win lawsuits,” Trump told the Politico reporter he’d invited. He was referring to the series of lawsuits filed by his campaign and the Republican National Committee that fight the expansion of mail-in voting and seek to limit access to the ballot box in November. “We have many lawsuits going all over,” he said. “And if we don’t win those lawsuits, I think — I think it puts the election at risk.”

    Going into 2020, Trump had the political winds at his back with a strong economy, roaring stock market, and historically low unemployment. Then came COVID-19. As of this writing, more than 135,000 Americans are dead from the virus, more than 3 million have gotten infected, and the economy has tipped into Great Depression territory. With Trump at the helm, the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has ranked as one of the worst anywhere in the world.

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  2. Down Goes Clay: Cori Bush Knocks Off Half-Century Dynasty

    Cori Bush’s defeat over 19-year incumbent Rep. Lacy Clay in St. Louis, Missouri, is Justice Democrats’s latest upset.

    Cori Bush. Photo: Courtesy of Cori Bush for Congress

    In an upset that will rock the House Democratic caucus, Ferguson activist Cori Bush on Tuesday unseated Rep. Lacy Clay, whose family has represented the St. Louis-area congressional district for more than 50 years.

    Clay dominated Bush among mail-in and absentee ballots, leading some outlets to prematurely call the race, but Bush surged back with a commanding election day lead, narrowly topping Clay by three points when all were counted.

    Bush was among the original Justice Democrat recruits in 2018, but lost her first challenge by 20 points. A registered nurse and pastor, she made a second run this cycle, again with the backing of Justice Democrats, the progressive group best known for recruiting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “It is historic that this year, of all the years, we are sending a Black, working-class, single mother, who’s been fighting for Black lives since Ferguson, all the way to the halls of Congress,” Bush said in a victory speech.

    Bush’s win follows the upset of veteran Rep. Eliot Engel at the hands of Jamaal Bowman in New York, and longtime Rep. Daniel Lipinski in Illinois, who fell to Marie Newman. Justice Democrats also supported a challenge against Rep. Henry Cuellar, who narrowly fended off Jessica Cisneros in Texas.

    Bush’s win is monumental in a number of ways. Unlike Bowman, she did not have the luxury of an opponent who fled his district and told a hot mic that he only wanted to speak at a Black Lives Matter rally because he had a primary to worry about. When Engel lost to Bowman, an anonymous Democrat argued to the New York Post that his loss was a fluke, and tied to his race and his lack of energy in office. “It doesn’t show AOC’s power — it shows that New York voters want demographic changes in the House,” the Democrat was quoted saying. “They don’t want old white guys who don’t do anything. Not only old white guys; but old white guys who only work when they’re up for reelection…People are punishing these kinds of lawmakers. If you’re old, white and lazy, you’re going to get kicked out.”

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  3. From the “Donald Trump Is A Pig” department

    Trump refuses to praise late civil rights leader John Lewis

    President unhappy that Lewis did not attend his inauguration
    Trump questions value of Civil Rights Act: ‘How’s it worked out?’

    John Lewis in 2019. When asked how history would remember Lewis, Donald Trump said: ‘I don’t know. I really don’t know.’ Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

    Donald Trump refused to praise the late John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and original Freedom Rider, during his latest one-on-one interview, and also questioned the value of the pivotal Civil Rights Act of the 1960s, which Lewis fought and almost died for.
    Biden says ‘do your job’ as Trump continues campaign of misinformation – as it happened
    Read more

    When asked how history would remember the civil rights leader, the president replied, “I don’t know. I really don’t know” and brought the point back around to himself.

    “I never met John Lewis, I don’t believe,” Trump said.

    In the interview, released late on Monday, with the Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, Trump instead centered his view of the late congressman on their lack of a personal relationship, noting Lewis “chose not to come to [his] inauguration”.

    “He didn’t come to my State of the Union speeches, and that’s OK,” he said. “That’s his right. He should’ve come. I think he made a big mistake.”

    The interview was conducted as the Georgia congressman lay in state in the Capitol rotunda. Trump did not pay his respects while Lewis’s casket was in Washington, nor attend Lewis’s funeral in Atlanta last week, at which Barack Obama delivered a soaring eulogy that was personally poignant but also a barnstorming political attack on the Trump administration’s efforts at voter and protest suppression.

    Flags on federal buildings were ordered to be flown at half-staff for less than a full day to mark Lewis’s death.

    Lewis, the son of sharecroppers and a youth activist who rose to represent Georgia’s fifth congressional district for decades, died of advanced pancreatic cancer last month at the age of 80.

    Before serving in Congress, Lewis spent years as a pioneering activist in the civil rights movement, marching with Martin Luther King and nearly dying in the 1965 attack on marchers in Alabama known as Bloody Sunday.

    Before that, Lewis challenged segregation on interstate bus services as a Freedom Rider in 1961.

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  4. Jerry Falwell Jr accused of hypocrisy after sharing photo of pants unzipped

    Head of Liberty University is one of Americas’s most powerful evangelical leaders and a prominent backer of Donald Trump

    (You can see the picture here somethings I just can’t post)

    The head of the evangelical Liberty University, which has strict rules over dress code and social activities, has been accused of hypocrisy after he shared a photo of himself with his pants unzipped to reveal his underwear.

    Jerry Falwell Jr, who is also a prominent backer of Donald Trump and one of America’s most power evangelical leaders, posted the photo, which apparently shows him portraying a character from the cult Canadian comedy Trailer Park Boys, to Instagram this week.

    Falwell Jr deleted the image, which he said was taken on a yacht, but it was shared by a Houston Chronicle reporter on Twitter.

    The photo shows Falwell Jr, who has recently been criticized for reopening Liberty University despite the coronavirus risk, wearing a black T-shirt and dark pants. The pants have been unzipped at the fly and are stretched open to reveal Falwell’s navel, stomach and upper crotch.

    Falwell’s underpants, which appear to be grey, are visible.

    “More vacation shots,” Falwell said in a comment below the photo. “Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht.”

    In the photo Falwell is carrying a glass which is filled with a dark beverage.

    “I promise that’s just black water in my glass,” Falwell wrote in the comment. “It was a prop only.”

    An accompanying video, obtained by the Pulpit and Pen website, says Falwell was portraying Julian, one of the lead characters in Trailer Park Boys.

    Julian is known for wearing black T-shirts, having a black beard, and perpetually holding a glass of rum and coke, but less so for wearing his pants unzipped to reveal his underwear.

    Liberty University did not immediately respond to a Guardian email asking why Falwell had shared a photo of himself with his pants unzipped.

    On Twitter the the singer and actor Bette Midler said the photo had “strained her eyeballs”, while author John Pavlovitz posted: “Imagine the righteous outrage from people like Jerry Falwell if those kinds of pictures had been posted by AOC; the sermonizing we’d have heard from the “families values” folks. #hypocrites.”

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  5. Caveat emptor Democrats, caveat emptor

    The Never Trumpers Have Already Won

    They’re not trying to save the GOP from a demagogue. They’re infiltrating the Democratic Party.


    What causes people to draw ethical lines and purport to stand on principle? In February 2016, as it became clearer and clearer that Donald Trump was on track to win the nomination of the Republican Party for president, some of its elites took fright. The hashtag #NeverTrump “blew up” on social media, Robert P. Saldin and Steven M. Teles remark in their new book, when the host of The Apprentice won endorsements from the likes of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, his beaten foe in the primaries, and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, his future attorney general. Suddenly the bad joke of the Republican primary was anything but funny.

    Claiming to be torn between principle and loyalty to their party, Never Trumpers rose above the usual careerist opportunism and short-term gain, Saldin and Teles believe. Democracy itself was at stake. In the face of populism, an assortment of normally gray and straitlaced national security experts, political operatives, and “public intellectuals” (scare quotes for those unsure Jonah Goldberg and Kevin D. Williamson should count) felt called upon to go rogue. They could not shirk the grave responsibility of the moment: Sacrificing their influence in their own party, they resolved to criticize its leader from the outside in hopes of winning it back. Aiming to save the country from ruin, some even voted for Hillary Clinton.

    We should pity these upstanding few, Saldin and Teles insist: Understanding them requires grasping how difficult a time 2016 was to be a principled conservative. And it is in part because the risks to their careers were so substantial that those who volunteered to defend basic values deserve our thanks. Even if the Never Trumpers failed in the short term—both in the Republican presidential primary and in the general election in November 2016—they may yet cast the die for the sustenance of American democracy for the future. Or at least this is how the principals in this drama, in interviews with Saldin and Teles, tell the tale of their righteous campaign for democracy itself.

    “The louder he talked of his honor,” Ralph Waldo Emerson once drily remarked of a self-promoting guest, “the faster we counted our spoons.” The Never Trumpers’ account of their own movement in its early years is, not surprisingly, self-congratulatory and incomplete. They claim they were attempting to save the soul of conservatism and set up a bulwark against tyranny. In fact, their brand of conservatism had long been tarnished, and they gained little traction within their own party for that reason. Instead, they would join with centrist Democrats, exercising greater power against a growing egalitarian and noninterventionist left than they would ever wield against the extreme right.

    Saldin and Teles are fellows at the Niskanen Center, a think tank founded in 2015 to advance a kind and gentle form of economic libertarianism and that has become a base for Never Trump advocacy. Niskanen stands for bleeding-heart libertarianism: The center’s devotion to free markets and warnings against an encroaching state are offset by its acknowledgment that the climate and the poor will not save themselves. In the Trump era, it has provided a counterpoint to the crackpot policies that Trump epitomized, especially by steering far clear of the nationalist-populism—of Missouri Senator Josh Hawley or genteel scribe Yoram Hazony—that other conservatives have tried to present as the fancy philosophy of his erratic rule.

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  6. Donald Trump on the ropes in interview over US Covid-19 death toll

    President again says he is doing ‘incredible job’ fighting pandemic and casts doubt on Jeffrey Epstein’s cause of death

    Donald Trump visibly floundered in an interview when pressed on a range of issues, including the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the US, his claims that mail-in voting is fraudulent, and his inaction over the “Russian bounty” scandal.

    The US president also repeatedly cast doubt on the cause of death of Jeffrey Epstein, and said of Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite who has pleaded not guilty to allegedly participating in the sex-trafficking of girls by Epstein, that he wished her well.

    In the interview, broadcast on HBO on Monday and conducted by Axios’s national political correspondent, Jonathan Swan, Trump again asserted that his administration is doing an “incredible job” responding to the coronavirus.

    Claiming that the pandemic was unique, Trump said: “This has never happened before. 1917, but it was totally different, it was a flu in that case. If you watch the fake news on television, they don’t even talk about it, but there are 188 other countries right now that are suffering. Some, proportionately, far greater than we are.”

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  7. Canada Sends Patrols to ‘Prevent Caravans of Americans’ From Surging Across the Border

    Americans in boats and RVs have been flouting the Canadian coronavirus border closing, forcing authorities to crack down

    Distant view of a sailboat sailing in sea near mountains on shore, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    Photo Illustration by Joe Rodriguez; Images in Illustration:: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group/Getty Images; Ben Girardi/Aurora Photos/Getty Images

    Since March, the U.S.-Canada border has been closed to all but essential traffic in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. But Americans being Americans, they are flouting the new regulations in the pursuit of their usual summer fun.

    According to NPR, “Canadian border patrol has effectively prevented caravans of Americans” from crossing the border. Most are arriving by sailboats and luxury yachts.

    Those crossing the border have often told officials that they are heading to Alaska to circumvent the new regulations. But because so many Americans are using the so-called “Alaska loophole,” authorities have increased restrictions.

    One reason Americans are being spotted is that Canadian boaters are using technology to monitor them. With the requirement that all passenger boats have to be equipped with tracking devices to help prevent weather-related accidents, anyone with an internet connection can monitor border-crossings and identify vessels by type and country of origin.

    “A number of us that are retired boaters and still members of the Council of BC Yacht Clubs started looking at the number of American boats that were crossing our border, in spite of the prohibition by the federal government,” President of BC Marine Parks Forever, George Creek, told NPR.

    But Creek says that the Americans are starting to catch on to the tracking.

    “They’re turning them off as they cross the border. We see them on the computer, and at a particular point a few minutes later, they’re not there anymore,” he said.

    Both Creek and his fellow Canadians don’t appreciate border crossing Americans. As NPR points out, one poll found eight in 10 Canadians want the border with the United States to stay closed due to the coronavirus.

    Creek told NPR he’d been angered by an incident involving Americans exiting a large yacht at an outpost for supplies, saying, “They wandered the dock. Three or four adults and the rest were teenagers with no social distancing, no masks, and went through the store as if they were just shopping at Walmart.”

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  8. The College Athletes Who Refuse to Die for the NCAA

    With nobody else looking out for them, college athletes are banding together and taking a stand against the cash-happy league.

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The hits keep coming for Major League Baseball. On Monday, just one week after an outbreak of the coronavirus derailed games for the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies, the St. Louis Cardinals canceled their upcoming series with the Detroit Tigers after eight team members, six of them players, tested positive. The day before, the National Football League dealt with a high-profile case of its own when Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was sent home from the team facility after testing positive.

    It seems that league-wide outbreaks are no longer a risk but an inevitability. While non-players, like medical and equipment staffers, remain at risk along with their families, the athletes themselves are, for the most part, able to make conscious decisions about whether they want to participate in the current altered season thanks in large part to a combination of accrued personal wealth and their players’ union. But for the college athletes being actively blocked from acquiring both wealth and a union, a simple question is being asked as many weigh whether to report to campus for preseason workouts and training camps ahead of their fall seasons: Are our lives worth risking for a job in a billion-dollar industry that doesn’t even pay us?

    A group of athletes in the Pac-12 Conference—home to schools like University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Southern California (USC), and Stanford University—recently organized around this very question. On Sunday, the collective published a list of their demands in The Players’ Tribune. Among them were the following: The players want the option to sit out the 2020-2021 season without losing their eligibility or roster spot; they want to be able to hold schools liable should the athletic departments break protocol and cause an outbreak; they want well-paid administrators, like university athletic directors, to take pay cuts and for schools to stop burning cash on unnecessarily gaudy facility updates, redirecting those funds instead toward sports programs that have been cut in light of the pandemic; they want a permanent task force to address racial inequities that persist in college athletics; they want the long-denied rights to their name, image, and likeness; and they want a fifty percent share of the conference’s revenue to be spread among the sport’s players.

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  9. 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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  10. 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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  11. 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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  12. 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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  13. 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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  14. 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

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  15. 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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  16. 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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  17. 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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  18. 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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