Friday, August 28th, 2020


Coup de Grass

During the final night of the GOP convention, Donald Trump spewed enough bullshit to keep the White House south lawn fertilized in perpetuity. He also made it clear how thoroughly he has mowed down his party and regrown it in his image; the south lawn may as well have been the fairway of one of his golf courses at the conclusion of a convention that featured more Trumps than Republican senators. Attendees gathered shoulder to shoulder, flouting social distancing rules established for a pandemic they were determined to portray as being over. As Susan B. Glasser explains in The New Yorker, "The real message of the evening was that nothing, not even a deadly plague or a cratering economy, can stop Trump from being Trump. He bragged. He lied. He even ad-libbed a taunt at his critics, using the White House as his prop. 'We're here,' he said, pointing to the flood-lit mansion behind him, 'and they're not.'" (Amy Klobuchar had the line of the night: "Get off our lawn." (Sadly, he's not gonna just sod off.)

+ McCay Coppins in The Atlantic: "Americans who tuned in to this week's Republican National Convention were treated to a slickly produced, four-day dispatch from an alternate reality—one in which the president has defeated the pandemic, healed America's racial wounds, and ushered in a booming economy. In this carnival of propaganda, Donald Trump was presented not just as a great president, but as a quasi-messianic figure who was single-handedly preventing the nation's slide into anarchy." A Carnival of Disinformation. (And like most carnival rides, it was intended not to convince, but to disorient. Did it work? We don't know yet, but for tens of millions of voters, it's been working for years.)

+ And what's a golf course-like setting without a good lie. Or a few hundred of them. Watch Daniel Dale fact-check Trump's address. The speech went on so long and was so exhausting that I found myself ordering a My Pillow.


Silent But Violent

It "is a kind of parallel media universe that left-of-center Facebook users may never encounter, but that has been stunningly effective in shaping its own version of reality. Inside the right-wing Facebook bubble, President Trump's response to Covid-19 has been strong and effective, Joe Biden is barely capable of forming sentences, and Black Lives Matter is a dangerous group of violent looters." The NYT's Kevin Roose has been tracking top Facebook posts for months. He knows full well the massive lead held by extreme right wingers. And so does Facebook. What if Facebook Is the Real ‘Silent Majority'? "Listen, liberals. If you don't think Donald Trump can get re-elected in November, you need to spend more time on Facebook." (Great article, silly lede. There is not a liberal alive who doesn't think Trump has a chance to get re-elected.)


Weekend Whats

What to Book: Facebook is a powerful force. But no media platform has had a greater impact on the rise of Trumpism (or Trump's policies themselves) than Fox News. If you want to understand the symbiotic relationship that threatens American democracy, read Hoax, by Brian Stelter.

+ What to Watch: Teenage Bounty Hunters is a fun show about twin sister who balance life at an elite, religious high school with their side gig as bounty hunters.

+ What to Read: Emma Copley Eisenberg in Esquire: Fact Checking Is the Core of Nonfiction Writing. Why Do So Many Publishers Refuse to Do It? An interesting, surprising look at how fact-checking works.


Speed Test

"Abbott announced that it had received FDA authorization to distribute a new type of test. This test requires only a coated-paper card and a small swab, and the scale of its production is stunning: Abbott says it will begin manufacturing 50 million of these tests a month in October. The tests will cost just $5 apiece. That wasn't the only news. This morning, the Trump administration announced that it would be purchasing 150 million of these tests from the company. For comparison, states have reported fewer than 75 million tests total over the past six months." Alexis C. Madrigal in The Atlantic: A New Era of Coronavirus Testing Is About to Begin.

+ Helen Branswell in Stat: Four scenarios on how we might develop immunity to Covid-19.


Vigils and Vigilantes

"In a spate of exchanges that have spanned from Kalamazoo, Mich., and Bloomington, Ind., to Chicago and Portland, Ore., people on both sides of the United States' political and cultural divide have been filmed exchanging punches, beating one another with sticks and flagpoles, or standing face-to-face with weapons, often with police appearing to be little more than observers." WaPo: U.S. political divide becomes increasingly violent.

+ The Kenosha shooting suspect was in the front row of a Trump rally in January.

+ The George Floyd killing shook the nation. The Jacob Blake shooting, and the Kyle Rittenhouse murders, may provide a more informative look at how we discuss different crimes, perpetrators, and victims. The Guardian: Vigilante, volunteer, terrorist: how the US media covers Kyle Rittenhouse.

+ Jacob Blake's family says he is handcuffed to his hospital bed. (He was the victim. Also, he's paralyzed.)


The Fire and The Flood

NPR: Hurricane Laura Witness: "The Wind Just Tore Everything Up." From InFocus: Photos of The Aftermath of Hurricane Laura.

+ Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols's house burned to the ground in California's CZU Lightning Complex fire. He wrote his daughter a letter breaking the news.


Secret Service Charge

"For Trump's club, it appeared, saying no to the Secret Service had made it a better customer. The agency was paying for rooms on nights when Trump wasn't even visiting — to be ready just in case Trump decided to go, one former Trump administration official said." WaPo: Room rentals, resort fees and furniture removal: How Trump's company charged the U.S. government more than $900,000.

+ This is just the latest in a series of pieces spearheaded by WaPo's Pulitzer Prize-winning David A. Fahrenthold. The reaction from the White House: "Please be advised that we are building up a very large 'dossier' on the many false David Fahrenthold and others stories as they are a disgrace to journalism and the American people." [Sic] and [Sick]


Zo It Goes

"After weeks of speculation fueled by recent hospital visits, Abe made official what many suspected: Though his chronic ulcerative colitis is not life-threatening, he is just too sick to govern." Abe Shinzo, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, steps down over health concerns.


The Strides of March

"The event, dubbed the 'Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks,' brings an end to a tumultuous week, one that saw Blake shot by police in Wisconsin. It follows a summer that has seen a global outcry over the killings of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement. And it takes place in the midst of a pandemic that has disproportionately affected people of color." Activists gather for another March on Washington, 57 years later.


Feel Good Friday

"An Associated Press reporter and photographer hiked the renowned Redwood Trail at Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Monday and confirmed most of the ancient redwoods had withstood the blaze. Among the survivors is one dubbed Mother of the Forest." 2,000-year-old redwoods survive wildfire at California's oldest state park.

+ NBA to resume Saturday with new goals, including creating polling places at local arenas.

+ More companies pledge to give workers time off to vote.

+ These philanthropists are donating 1% of their net worth to expand and protect the vote. (I'm old enough to remember when the government wanted to protect the vote...)

+ Couple donates reception food to shelter, spends wedding day serving the homeless.

+ Africa declared free of wild polio in milestone.

+ Bird deaths down 70 percent after painting wind turbine blades.

+ NYT: New York Philharmonic Restarts the Music With a Pickup Truck. (Weird, I didn't see these scenes in the RNC depiction of NYC...)

+ Meet the penguin watching Pingu so he doesn't get lonely. I've done that myself on a few occasions.