On the Road Again? or, Dog Bites Man, Dog Bites Man Again, Man Bites Dog, and There is Hell to Pay

A couple of months ago, some ad agencies decided that what the country needed was a lot of chirpy commercials about reopening. Not happening.

Washington Post, One question still dogs Trump: Why not try harder to solve the coronavirus crisis?

[B]oth allies and opponents agree he has failed at the one task that could help him achieve all of his goals — confronting the pandemic with a clear strategy and consistent leadership.

Trump’s shortcomings have perplexed even some of his most loyal allies, who increasingly have wondered why the president has not at least pantomimed a sense of command over the crisis or conveyed compassion for the millions of Americans impacted by it.

People close to Trump, many speaking anonymously to share candid discussions and impressions, say the president’s inability to wholly address the crisis is due to his almost pathological unwillingness to admit error; a positive feedback loop of overly rosy assessments and data from advisers and Fox News; and a penchant for magical thinking that prevented him from fully engaging with the pandemic.

Greg Sargent, How Fox News may be destroying Trump’s reelection hopes

Associated Press, AP-NORC poll: Us course at record low, Trump sinks on virus

Dog Bites Man

Trump is a nutjob.

Dog Bites Man Again

Trump’s approval on handlng the pandemic is sinking like a stone.

Man Bites Dog

Thirty-two percent of our fellow Americans are still living in a dream world of denial. and whackadoodle conspiracy theories. They aren’t wearing masks and they aren’t taking other precautions.

These folks are, of course, unevenly distributed around the landscape. In the South, there are vast hordes of them.

I Gaze Into My Crystal Ball and See Hell

Until somebody whom they trust takes these people, shakes them by the throat, and tells them to stop acting like idiots, they are going to keep on acting like idiots and the virus is gong to keep on spreading out of control.

It is Politically Motivated and Dishonest to Quote Senator Cotton Verbatim

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TPM, Cotton’s Office Denies He Believes Slavery Was A ‘Necessary Evil’ After Backlash Over Remark:

“We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country,” Cotton said. “As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.” …

Backlash ensued upon the publication of Cotton’s interview with the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on Sunday, which included the creator of the Times’ 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Cotton’s office denied to TPM in a statement on Sunday that the Arkansas senator believes that slavery was a “necessary evil.”

“As his quote makes clear, that view was held by some founding fathers,” Cotton press secretary James Arnold told TPM. “Reporting to the contrary is politically motivated and dishonest.”

I trust you join me in being shocked, stunned, and deeply saddened by the mendacity of the mainstream press. To what depths of depravity will they not sink? Just how looooow can they goooooo?

My Old Friend John

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In case you were wondering, Edmund Pettus was a general in the Confederate Army, and, according to one historian, “followed with conspicuous bravery every forlorn hope which the Confederacy offered.” After the Civil War, he resumed his law practice, while serving as Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan—a position he leveraged to get himself elected to the United States Senate in 1897.

The bridge was built and named in his “honor” in 1940.

 

Inmates Taking Over the Asylum: Two Good Reads for Today

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N.Y. Times, Red vs. Red in Texas, With Republicans Battling One Another After Mask Order: The virus has heightened long-simmering friction in the largest Republican-led state in the country, with Gov. Greg Abbott under attack from within his own party.

The two parts of the Republican coalition in Texas—call them Richie Rich and Douglas Dunderhead—are in the process of tearing each other apart.

Goody goody gumdrop.

Steven Perlstein, Wall Street doesn’t care if Trump loses: Facing a pandemic, a recession and an increasingly likely Democratic sweep, investors party on.

Mr. Perlstein, who is an exceptionally sharp person, convincingly elucidates the many, many oddities in the thinking of the average Wall Street financier.

Distrust and Denial Mount

virus

Four key findings from the July 21 Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index:

  1. Three-quarters of Americans, from virtually all walks of life, see their fellow country-people as not helping with the pandemic. …
  2. Among Americans who report socializing with friends and family in the last week, very few report constant use of protective gear. …
  3. Government at all levels continues to lose the public’s trust regarding coronavirus information. …
  4. More Americans, particularly Republicans, deny the death toll of the pandemic. …

Follow the link for more detail on each of the main points.

 

Divide et Impera

et impera

Ezra Klein, How Biden is Winning: Joe Biden refuses to play into Donald Trump’s hands.

A topic about which much is written, and many of us obsess. But I found Ezra Klein’s exposition refreshingly lucid and insightful. A key point:

Biden’s view of the Republican Party: He sees it not as a monolith but as a coalition. Some members of that coalition love Trump and will grieve his defeat. They’re not going to work with Biden, and he doesn’t expect to work with them. But some Senate Republicans dislike Trump, regret what their party has become, and are looking for redemption. What they need is a Democrat they can work with — a Democrat who doesn’t antagonize their voters and won’t rub their noses in their loss. What they need, Biden thinks, is Biden.

But this isn’t just Biden’s theory of governing. It’s also his theory of the campaign. …

He is executing a careful, quiet campaign focused less on thrilling his partisans than denying Trump the boogeyman he needs to reenergize his base. It’s a campaign that frustrates liberal activists and pundits because it repeatedly, routinely denies them the excitement and collisions that structure modern politics. It’s also, for that reason, a campaign that is frustrating Trump and Fox News, which is why they keep trying to run against Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar instead. …

The key to Biden’s success is simple: He’s slicing into Trump’s coalition, pulling back the older, whiter voters Democrats lost in 2016. The Biden campaign’s insight is that mobilization is often the flip side of polarization: When party activists are sharply divided by ideology and demography, what excites your side will be the very thing that unnerves the other side. Studies of House elections show this dynamic in action: Ideologically extreme candidates perform worse than moderates because they drive up turnout on the other side.

Biden’s theory of wavering Trump voters is the same as his theory of wavering Republican senators: He thinks they want to vote with him but need help getting over their political hang-ups about voting for a Democrat. And so he is trying to give them that help. He praises the old Republican Party, refuses to pick a side in American politics’ hottest fights. Biden has resisted calls to abolish private insurance, ban fracking, decriminalize immigration, and defund the police. It’s cost him enthusiasm on the left, but it has denied Trump the clear foil he needs. That’s left Trump confused, pathetically insisting Biden holds positions Biden doesn’t hold and getting fact-checked live on Fox.

Biden is treating Trump voters not as a monolith but as a coalition — a coalition that can be broken.

Aardvark’s Addendum

Of course, in his effort to break up the Republican coalition, Biden is getting help from Trump. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious help.

One of the Most Striking Failures of Leadership in a Tableau of National Dysfunction

The Washington Post Editorial Board Would Like the Governor of Georgia to Know That You’re the Top, You’re the Colosseum, You’re the Top, You’re the Louvre Museum

The Board writes,

THROUGHOUT THE state of Georgia, corporate and civic leaders have moved to make mask-wearing mandatory as the pandemic has surged this month. Now, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has undercut all of them at one stroke.

Mr. Kemp’s paramount job is to keep Georgians safe; instead, he will be remembered mainly for the lives he endangered. On Wednesday, he countermanded existing mandatory mask orders in at least 15 cities and counties, including big ones reeling from the coronavirus such as Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah.

His intervention is one of the most striking failures of leadership in a tableau of national dysfunction in fighting the pandemic. It stands as an example, among many others, of confused, counterproductive and callous acts by officials who were empowered to take decisive action to thwart the coronavirus’s spread, and refused to do so.

It’s not that Mr. Kemp is heedless of the critical role masks can play in fighting infections; to the contrary, he advised Georgians that covering their faces in public is the right thing to do. But, for reasons that look cravenly political, he has subverted his own advice by refusing to issue a statewide mandate. And with this week’s order he doubled down by undoing the efforts of more courageous leaders at the local level, then tripled down by suing Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms (D), and the Atlanta City Council for sticking with the mask decree, which comports with the universal recommendations of public health experts.

The governor argues that mask-wearing edicts are unenforceable. That’s true to some degree of many rules, orders and laws. But in the time of covid-19, the question is not whether every mask miscreant can or should be brought to justice. The question is whether citizens are told, without hemming and hawing by their elected leaders, that masks save lives, and that the refusal to wear them in public is unacceptable, antisocial and dangerous. To do less is to give the public a message: “Hey, no big deal.”

Sadly, it is a big deal, as at least half the states have recognized by ordering people to cover their faces in public. They include Georgia’s neighbor Alabama, whose Republican governor, Kay Ivey, said, “Folks, the numbers just do not lie.” They also don’t lie in Georgia, where current hospitalizations due to covid-19 have spiked to more than 2,800, the highest level yet, and existing critical-care capacity is nearly exhausted.

An increasing number of major corporations and retailers have decreed that un-masked customers will not be welcome on their premises. They include Walmart, Target, CVS, Kohl’s, Kroger and others, which together have thousands of outlets across Georgia. Now, owing to their governor’s spinelessness, Georgians must wear masks when they shop in major outlets, but not when they enter state or local government facilities.

The rest of the world shakes its head in pity and wonderment at America’s ineptitude. Along with President Trump, who has bungled and actively undercut nearly every federal effort to address the pandemic, Mr. Kemp is a prime example of how foot-dragging and fecklessness ceded the upper hand to the pandemic.

It’s About to Get a Lot Worse

winter is coming

Axios aims at an audience of folks who think they are busy businessfolk whose time is very valuable. For that reason, I am happy to advise you that it will take you exactly two minutes to understand doomsday:

For months now, American workers, families and small businesses have been saying they can’t keep up their socially distanced lives for much longer. We’ve now arrived at “much longer” — and the pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon.

The big picture: The relief policies and stopgap measures that we cobbled together to get us through the toughest weeks worked for a while, but they’re starting to crumble just as cases are spiking in the majority of states.

Next week, the extra $600 per week in expanded unemployment benefits will expire. And there’s no indication that Congress has reached a consensus on extending this assistance or providing anything in its place.

    • But nearly half of the U.S. population is still jobless, and millions will remain jobless for the foreseeable future. There are 14 million more unemployed people than there are jobs, per the Economic Policy Institute.
    • Nearly a third of Americans missed a housing payment in July — and that was with the additional $600. Plus, most Americans have already spent the stimulus checks they received at the beginning of the pandemic.
    • “We should be very concerned about what’s going to happen in August and beyond” — starting with a spike in evictions, Mathieu Despard, who leads the Social Policy Institute at the Washington University in St. Louis, tells Axios.

Expect more furloughs and layoffs as more small businesses are pushed off the pandemic cliff.

    • By economists’ estimates, more than 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed since the pandemic began.
    • For those that are hanging on, loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) have not been enough, and the back and forth between re-opening and then closing again as states deal with new case waves has been devastating. In fact, rates of closure have started increasing, the New York Times reports, citing Yelp data.
    • The big firms aren’t immune either. Just last week, behemoths like United Airlines, Wells Fargo, Walgreens and Levi’s either cut jobs or told workers their jobs were at risk, Axios’ Dion Rabouin writes.

And the question of whether schools will reopen looms.

    • Since schools sent kids home in March, and most summer camps didn’t open their doors for the summer, working parents have been dealing with a child care crisis — attempting to do their jobs, care for their kids and homeschool all at once — and hoping that the stress will be temporary.
    • The situation is more dire for low-income families with kids who rely on school lunches or for single parents who are juggling work and parenting without any help.
    • Now the public heath crisis hasn’t abated, and school districts are running out of time to figure out what the fall will look like. Some, starting with Los Angeles, have already decided to go online.

The bottom line: “It’s the uncertainty that is anxiety-inducing,” says Despard. “If you give people a time horizon and say, ‘Look you have to get through these next 8 weeks of extreme shutdown,’ they’ll do it. Now it’s like, ‘How much longer?'”

As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap: The Republican Party Lost Five Percent of its Members Last Month

party affliliation

Gallup.com, U.S. Party Preferences Have Swung Sharply Toward Democrats:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Since January, Americans’ party preferences have shifted dramatically in the Democratic Party’s direction. What had been a two-percentage-point Republican advantage in U.S. party identification and leaning has become an 11-point Democratic advantage, with more of that movement reflecting a loss in Republican identification and leaning (down eight points) than a gain in Democratic identification and leaning (up five points).

Currently, half of U.S. adults identify as Democrats (32%) or are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party (18%). Meanwhile, 39% identify as Republicans (26%) or are Republican leaners (13%).

happy girl
Happy girl laughing

War Eagles in Deep Doodoo

Anton DiSciafani, My Small Alabama Town, Masked and Unmasked: This is a nice place to live in ordinary times. But these are not ordinary times.

The professor of creative writing at Auburn University tells how they showed up by the hundreds to condemn the death of George Floyd, but they won’t wear masks.

And, now, 35,000 students are about to show up for the fall semester.