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July 25, 2020

Hal Brown blog

 Website speeds if you click here  This is a blog with my opinion on news stories that pique my interest. My Bio here.

July 27, 2020 - I am no longer mirroring my blog on my personal Facebook page by posting the same stories there. Below: I posted my own original Daily Kos story on the top of this page.

 中國/中国, and Tèlǎngpǔ (特朗普) and Chuānpǔ (川普).

Covid News: What if you get it?

From Jennifer Rubin's Washington Post OpEd about how Trump's team still does not get it (Paywall).

She begins:
The admiral in his dress
 uniform by Hal Brown
Judging from their TV appearances, President Trump’s advisers are unwilling to admit error and adjust their handling of the coronavirus pandemic accordingly. They still insist they are doing everything perfectly, and still blithely point to about a third of the United States as merely some “hot spots.”

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Adm. Brett Giroir, who heads the widely panned federal testing operation, would not admit that much of anything was wrong, only conceding he wouldn’t be “satisfied” until the virus is eradicated. Giroir hedged when asked if everyone could get a test, saying everyone who “needs” one can get it. (This would not include all asymptomatic people.) Presented with a Harvard University analysis that says we should be doing between 3 million and 3.5 million tests a day, Giroir raised a straw man that 300 million tests was unrealistic. He insisted that, despite long wait times for test results, that the Defense Production Act did not need to be invoked to increase the supplies necessary to collect and process test specimens.
She concludes:
Cutting unemployment benefits while giving employers immunity is a peculiar way to win votes in an election year, but a good way to pander to donors and right-wing ideologues.
Whatever the Republicans present and whatever the final package will be, their attitude helps explain why they are losing coast to coast, be it in presidential and Senate races or the congressional generic poll for House races. Their denial of the degree to which they have botched the pandemic response and their blindness to the experience of ordinary Americans have not changed. Their suspicion that Americans are somehow goofing off, that parents are irrational for not wanting to send their kids to in-person school and that we should not be concerned about 60,000 or more new cases a day does not suggest they have learned much of anything after 143,000 deaths.
I figured that since I created this image I might as well use it in a tweet. Whether Giroir, the pediatrician and four star general, chooses to wear a military uniform or would rather dress in a suit is unknown. I suspect Trump has told him  to wear a uniform even though doing so is, to say the least, deceptive. He isn't a soldier. It really is ridiculous as there are so many of the things Trump does to make him appear to be a powerful leader.

Sometimes Trump prefers that his generals and admirals wear their prom outfits:

His Surgeon General who holds the rank of vice admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service, Jerome Adams, also wears a uniform.Here he is in his dress uniform: 

The United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, also referred to as the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service, is the federal uniformed service of the U.S. Public Health Service, and is one of the eight uniformed services of the United States. 

Along with the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is one of two uniformed services that consist only of commissioned officers and has no enlisted or warrant officer ranks, although warrant officers have been authorized for use within the service.[12] Officers of the commissioned corps are classified as noncombatants, unless directed to serve as part of the military by the President or detailed to a service branch of the military.[13] Members of the commissioned corps wear the same uniforms as the United States Navy, or the United States Coast Guard (when assigned to the Coast Guard), with special PHS Commissioned Corps insignia, and hold naval ranks equivalent to officers of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard. Commissioned corps officers typically receive their commissions through the commissioned corps's direct commissioning program. Wikipedia

You need a subscription to read this. Here are a few excerpts.
"It’s worth remembering that the next time you hear Mr. Biden praised for running a cautious, inoffensive and largely mistake-free campaign. Given Mr. Trump’s epic blunders, inoffensiveness may be enough to propel the former vice president to the White House. But it’s a lot easier to be inoffensive when you’re a man."
The evidence that Mr. Trump’s electoral woes stem as much from the gender of his opponent as from his own failures begins with his net approval rating: the percent of Americans who view him favorably minus the percent who view him unfavorably. Right now, that figure stands at -15 points. That makes Mr. Trump less popular than he was this spring. But he’s still more popular than he was throughout the 2016 campaign. Yet he won.

What has changed radically over the past four years isn’t Americans’ perception of Mr. Trump. It’s their perception of his opponent. According to Real Clear Politics’s polling average, Joe Biden’s net approval rating is about -1 point. At this point in the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton’s net approval rating was -17 points. For much of the 2016 general election, Mr. Trump faced a Democratic nominee who was also deeply unpopular. Today, he enjoys no such luck.

Remember the hopeful days when we thought  Mueller was the heroic investigator who would end the reign of Trump. Now his reputation among both Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans has been trashed. Norm Eisen's new book will put another nail in his coffin. He also paints the House Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee in a rather unflattering light.


Eisen, who signed up as a House Judiciary Committee attorney in early 2019 with an eye toward impeachment, also describes the hail of early “f--- you’s” he delivered to House Intelligence Committee aide Daniel Goldman, who he said had accused him of treading on the panel's turf. (They would later get past the initial tension, Eisen says). He describes how internal Democratic politics led him to shave a planned 10 articles of impeachment — encompassing a sweeping range of allegations such as “collusion” and “hush money payments” down to three, and then two, after vulnerable Democrats rejected charging Trump with obstruction of justice.

Eisen reveals the sometimes painful conflicts between House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) — in Eisen’s eyes, the unsung hero of impeachment — and House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who often resisted Nadler’s lead-foot on the impeachment accelerator. Nadler drew Pelosi’s ire throughout the process by leaning into calls for impeachment faster than the rest of the House was ready for, and Eisen said Nadler had accepted that it would take time to restore his “former level personal warmth” with the speaker.

July 26, 2020

These ads are downright stupid and juvenile.  On the other hand, put this one in the MAGA campaign Annals of Ineptitude, or the handbook of how to shoot yourself in the foot trying to cheat your way into winning an election:

Here in Portland I follow local news on two of our network affiliates. KOIN is the CBS station, and KGW is NBC's station. For those of you not in Portland who are following the protests here, these are good links to check out for reporting with a local perspective. The other station, KATU is the ABC affiliate and is owned by far-right Sinclair Broadcasting. I was interested in this story from The Washington Post today: 
Since you need a subscription to read it, here are a few excerpts:

After facing intense scrutiny for planning to air a baseless conspiracy theory that infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci helped to create the coronavirus, conservative TV broadcaster Sinclair Broadcast Group announced Saturday that it will delay the segment to edit the context of the claims.
Sinclair, which has 191 stations across the country, received backlash this week after “America This Week” host Eric Bolling interviewed Judy Mikovits, a former medical researcher featured in the debunked “Plandemic” conspiracy online film.

In the Sinclair interview, Mikovits claimed that Fauci “manufactured” the coronavirus and shipped it to Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated. A chyron during the segment reads, “DID DR. FAUCI CREATE COVID-19?”

Mikovits and her lawyer Larry Klayman dropped other unfounded allegations during the show, including President Trump soft-pedaling relations with China because he has evidence of the country’s involvement with the inception of the virus.
The show was released online earlier this week before it was to be aired on local news channels. The segment was first reported by Media Matters, a left-leaning media watchdog. As of Saturday afternoon, the show was pulled from Sinclair websites.
Bolling, a former Fox News personality, did not challenge Mikovits’s assertions, calling what she said a “hefty claim.” He later told The Washington Post via text that he brought Fox News medical contributor Nicole Saphier on the show after to provide an opposing viewpoint.
As if it isn't bad enough that Fox News is brainwashing their viewers with propaganda and dangerous lies about Covid-19 we have others around the country who may not have a choice in which station that watch for local news. They also may watch one of two or three local stations because they like the hosts or prefer how they present local stories. They are the second largest station owner in the country with 193 stations covering 40% of the country. (See Wikipedia) This is what New York University professor John Rosen tweeted about the Sinclair owned local stations:  “Although it’s emerging a little more as itself lately, it is still for the most part a stealth network that operates through local 'community’ stations that present to the viewer as ABC CBS NBC & Fox affiliates.”
Link above for replies
CNN Business also has a story about this which anybody can read.

Parsing the Polls:

To say that the latest polls don't look good for Trump is an understatement. Interpreting the polls what jumps out at me is how Republicans who represent approximately 29% of registered voters (29% are independents and about 40% are Democrats (Reference) the data saying that 81% of Republicans approve of Trump's overall performance only 68% think he's handled the pandemic well. It hasn't really dawned on many Republican that this is akin to a poll taken during World War II saying that 68% of the members of the president's own party think he is handling the war well. They will come to the realization soon what the Covid bombs drop on their own house. It is inevitable.

Overall 38% of all American approve of Trump.  The poll that says 8 in 10 Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction isn't illuminating. We don't know how this number breaks down. Do some of those who said this think we are headed in the wrong direction because of the reasons Trump promulgates about lawless Democrats burning down our cities and minority groups taking over the white suburbs,  or because of the evils of Trumpism? If they believe the former they will vote for him, if the later of course they will vote for Biden. Some of course may be so confused they won't vote at all.

From Frank Bruni in The NY Times (subscription) This is a an extension of what I wrote on Daily Kos today about how absurdly ridiculous what passes for a campaign strategy Trump and his geniuses are trying to run. I didn't know about the photo of him hugging the Rio Jesus statue.

You can read the Daily Beast story here.

From Frank Bruni:

It’s no longer interesting, or particularly newsworthy, to point out that Donald Trump lies. It stopped being interesting a long time ago. He lied en route to the presidency. He lied about the crowd at his inauguration. His speech itself was one big lie. And the falsehoods only metastasized from there.

Why? We’ve covered that, too, most recently in all the chatter about “Too Much and Never Enough,” by Mary Trump, who is not only his niece but also a clinical psychologist. He lies because he grew up among liars. He lies because hyperbole and hooey buoy his fragile ego. He lies because he is practiced at it, is habituated to it and never seems to pay much of a price for it.

That’s the question at the heart of his re-election bid, because his strategy isn’t really “law and order” or racism or a demonization of liberals as monument-phobic wackadoodles or a diminution of Joe Biden as a doddering wreck. All of those gambits are there, but they spring from and burble back to a larger, overarching scheme. His strategy is fiction. His strategy is lies.
Then there are the Trump campaign’s ads, which are “Veep”-grade caricatures of the usual fakery, not to mention paragons of incompetence in their own regard. One that appeared on Facebook in early July said, “WE WILL PROTECT THIS” — just like that, in URGENT CAPITAL LETTERS — beneath a picture of a statue of Jesus. But Trump won’t be protecting that statue, because, as eagle-eyed observers noticed, it was the Christ the Redeemer monument that looms over Rio de Janeiro.

Another Facebook ad a few weeks later comprised two side-by-side pictures. Under an image of Trump were the words “Public Safety.” Under a separate image, of a police officer crumpled on the ground amid protesters, were “Chaos & Violence.”

Scary! But, again, foreign. The scene wasn’t Portland or Minneapolis or Washington or Chicago circa 2020, although that was the obvious suggestion. The picture, it turns out, was taken in Ukraine. Six years ago.

.For a more complete and very funny deconstruction of its infelicity,  read Jonathan Last’s riff in The Bulwark.

The Trump campaign’s television commercials, meanwhile, have painted a dystopia of rampant criminality in Democratic-controlled metropolises where the police no longer function or exist. One shows an elderly woman being attacked by a burglar as she listens to a 911 recording that tells her to “leave a message.”

If this is Trump’s tenor in July, just imagine October. By the time he’s done, Willie Horton will look like Peter Pan.

It’s beyond ludicrous. But is it too much? I once would have answered an emphatic yes. Now I just don’t know.
June 25, 2020

Here in Portland we find ourselves in the center of a firestorm caused by Trump's desperate need to start and take advantage of a culture war. From the Politico article below:
"The recent rise in protests has only given more fuel for the right to portray city leaders as complicit with antifa or unable to stand up to violence."
My Dutch friend who remembers WWII and the Russians coming into the Netherlands
 was upset by the hammer and sickle and wondered what it had to do with
 Antifa and what ACAB meant. I have no idea why this woman by this on the
shield but the letters stand for All Cops Are Bastards. Go figure? 
And Portland has become the perfect staging ground. While the city’s protests had been dying down before Trump sent in federal troops, the region already had a reputation in conservative circles as a hotbed of antifa violence — primarily due to the presence of far-right militia groups protesting there over the years, and the media coverage of their subsequent clashes with left-wing protesters and antifa groups.
For those reading this who don't live here and want a local perspective I suggest looking at the stories about it on the websites of our two non-Sinclair (a right-wing outlet) owned TV stations, KOIN and KGW

Last week an old friend from Michigan called me and asked "what is going on there and why is it happening in Portland?" It took me almost an hour to explain how our progressive city became a magnet for fringe groups like Antifa on the left and very far right like The Proud Boys. Here's the latest from Politico:


At White House briefings, in far-right outlets and among Republicans, Trump’s allies have made a sound stage out of four blocks in Portland, turning it into a campaign ad for the president. On Friday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany showed a video of Portland protesters yelling obscenities at police. On Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on Thursday announced he would hold a hearing on “antifa terrorism” and wrote an op-ed promising to “take back Portland.” On Fox News, pundits have turned attention to other cities, such as Chicago, that they claim are in similar situations. In short, they say, it’s the America Joe Biden would create.

The theatrical display is giving Trump the ammunition he needs to fight perhaps his most aggressive culture war against urban, liberal voters. The effort is a subset of the broader “law and order” platform he is trying to create after the coronavirus pandemic decimated the economy — previously seen by Republicans as his best selling point — and massive anti-racism protests broke out across the country. It’s a foray Trump essentially launched the day he marched from the White House to the vandalized St. John’s Church, stopping to hold up a Bible and have his photo taken.

“I think he’s fishing around for an image, for optics that project the image he’s trying to retain,” said Seth Mandel, the executive editor of the right-leaning Washington Examiner magazine. “‘Law and order,’ as he says.”


Trump held an expansive “press conference” in the Rose Garden this week that was, by multiple accounts, a rambling monologue mostly attacking Biden (31 times) and Democrats. By most measures, it was more campaign rally talk than national policy.

To Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, it was “an hour-long diatribe against Joe Biden, attributing a platform to his Democratic opponent that bore hardly any resemblance to anything occurring in the real world.”

Among Trump’s contentions: Biden will incentivize illegal alien child smuggling,” “abolish immigration enforcement,” “abolish our police departments” and “abolish our prisons, I guess.” Democrats are even “calling for defunding of our military,” Trump said. Democratic mayors possibly “wouldn’t mind” if terrorists “blow up our cities.”

Biden’s energy plan “basically means no windows” in homes or offices by 2030, he said, and “cold office space in the winter and warm office space in the summer.”
Milbank asked: “Um, Biden would abolish windows? “I’m not making this up!” Trump said, mid-jeremiad. (Actually, he was).”

While presidents have used their office to campaign for reelection, “Trump’s reinterpretation of that approach was downright bizarre.”

The title of story below, Person Woman Man Camera TV, comes from Trump making up words he claims were part of the MoCA test for memory which he apparently thinks proves he's a stable genius.  The actual words used are totally unrelated to each other. Therapists of my acquaintance have suggested that his using these words as an example tells us something about Trump's personality. The words used on the test would be, by way of example be like shoe, cloud, frog, car, and chair, that is not be in the same category.

From The Emerald Island
EXCERPT: It’s not too controversial, at this point, to say that Donald J. Trump may suffer from serious mental issues. It’s important always to disentangle mental illness from just being an awful person. When confronted with profound immorality that is difficult for the average person to fathom, retreat into comfortable mental harbors such as, “That person must be crazy!” is letting the malefactor off the hook. However, there have been signs from the beginning that Trump may have some profound psychological problems. Until 2016, we didn’t hear the phrase “malignant narcissism” as often as we do now — and that’s just the first course of a speculative smorgasbord covering Trump’s possible psychopathologies. Mary Trump’s recently published book has increased the volume of this discussion, but others, such as George Conway and the authors of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, started it already.

Of course, none of us are qualified to give a definitive diagnosis of Trump, though Mary Trump comes closest, knowing him well as a family member. However, if you are on the bus with someone, as I once was, who is angrily shouting about blue demons and the CIA, you presume that there’s something broken about them, certainly enough to move to a different seat further away from that person. We don’t have to be that person’s therapist or psychiatrist to hypothesize about potentially dangerous mental problems and protect ourselves from them.

More about this: A Good Brain’: Colbert’s Hilarious Parody of Trump’s Cognitive Test

EXCERPT: Trump tells a lot of deliberate lies, but he might perhaps just have been confused on this one -- since he was booed elsewhere in New York after launching his candidacy in 2015. He was also booed during a poorly received quasi-comedic speech at the Alfred E. Smithcharity dinner in New York City in October 2016, though that was long after he announced his candidacy. 
Still, Trump's account has evolved over time. He told a highly similar booing story to the New York Times after his election in November 2016, except he did not name the Robin Hood Foundation gala as the venue, put the incident "about two years ago" rather than in 2015, and said it happened "just after I started thinking about politics" rather than after he announced his candidacy. 
Trump has tried to make mental sharpness a major issue in the campaign, repeatedly suggesting that Democratic opponent Joe Biden has lost his faculties. Trump taped the interview with Portnoy just a day after a Fox News interview in which he crowed at lengthabout his supposed ability, on a cognitive test he says he took, to remember five words in order: "Person, woman, man, camera, TV."

The Ukrainians have ties to Russia and their own checkered pasts. But some Republicans are taking them seriously, and two of the operatives plan to be in Washington soon to push their agenda.

Filling in on Morning Joy Tiffany Cross did a great job interviewing this black Trump toady: Trump ally fact-checked on MSNBC after boasting president has helped Black Americans. Watch the video

“I have to ask you, why would anybody in the Black community or people who don’t support white supremacy, why would they listen to you carrying this president’s water?” asked Cross.

Cross is most likely auditioning for taking over the MSNBC weekend show Joy Ried anchored so successfully that she now has a prime time show. I don't know who the competition will be for the weekend slot but after today's show I'd say she has to be one of the top candidates. The obvious name for it would be Crossfire, but alas, that was already the name of a long running CNN show.

Entertainment - streaming video
Ho-hum, another pandemic film, you say. We have a million of those. In fact, not even writer/director Nathaniel Atcheson had been recently thinking about Domain in light of our current predicament (I called and asked in June). But what happens in-film after its fictional pandemic makes Domain disturbingly prescient four years later. The movie follows seven people from across the United States, but most of the action takes place in similar-looking bunkers because humanity has been forced to quarantine en masse. And in this alternate version of the present day, the government requires these groups to keep tabs on each other by communicating through ever-present video chat—it's not Zoom, FaceTime, Google Meet, or Skype; it's the titular Domain.
"It was probably two or three weeks into [the pandemic] before I realized and put the connection together myself," Atcheson tells Ars. "I literally made a movie about this exact scenario: people are home for a very long time and all they have is this Web interface. The real-world logistics are a bit different—obviously we can go outside, we just aren't supposed to. So maybe that kept me from making the connection sooner, but I'm sort of embarrassed how long it took for me to think of it. I have the poster on my wall in my living room/dining room, and I was sitting here eating and looking at the poster. 'Oh my god.'"

IPhone fans:

I have an iPhone 10. The only reason I'd consider shelling out the big bucks for a new one is if they make a major improvement to the camera. After all I am teetering on the verge of getting a new 65" TV because the burn-in (see article) is so distracting on my three year old LG OLED set. At first it was mainly visible on solid backgrounds in commercials (below) but now I can see it on regular shows. I watch MSNBC so much you can actually read "breaking news" and see the NBC Peacock. 

Here's what the iPhone 12 will probably offer in their camera:

Much of the talk surrounding the cameras on the iPhone 12 have focused on the number of lenses, rather than specific hardware specs like megapixels and apertures. We think the iPhone 12 and 12 Max will feature a main camera and an ultra wide angle lens while the iPhone 12 Pro models will also feature a telephoto lens. That's the same setup featured in the current iPhone 11 lineup.

But the iPhone 12 Pro may see an additional change — a LiDAR sensor similar to the one Apple added to this year's iPad Pro. In broad terms, we know that a LiDAR sensor can map your surroundings in 3D, and that should help support augmented reality apps as well as photographic and video effects. But we don't know specifics about what kind of things a LiDAR sensor on a iPhone 12 Pro will allow you to do.
Sadly, we'll likely have to wait until Apple's fall iPhone event to see actual demos of the LiDAR sensor in action in terms of the effects it can add to photos and videos. The same goes for AR applications, as we can easily imagine a series of demos in which Apple brings out app makers to show how LiDAR enables cool features in their software. But if Apple starts talking up new AR tools during this month's WWDC keynote, that could be a sign that the LiDAR sensor isn't just a tacked-on gimmick, but rather a central part of the company's focus for this year's phones. From Tom's Guide

For my regular readers in the United States and around the world:

I appreciate all of you who are taking an interest in my little blog. You may have noticed today that I have tried to add to my linked stories not with excerpts but including more of my own commentary. Now that I have some extra time not bothering to post anything on my Facebook page (and who doesn't have extra time anyway if they are mostly stuck at home like I am because of the pandemic) I will try to keep this up. I will probably keep leading with an original opinion piece which I post of Daily Kos. 


July 24, 2020

I find myself reading more of The Washington Post than The NY Times these days. Perhaps this is one of the reasons: 

New York Times' sexist double standard: AOC coverage reeks of misogyny

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave a riveting House speech Thursday. To Times reporters, it was a branding exercise

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez makes some people very uncomfortable, and apparently that includes some editors and reporters at the New York Times.
So rather than report on Ocasio-Cortez's riveting, viral speech on the House floor on Thursday aas a signal moment in the fight against abusive sexism, Times congressional reporters Luke Broadwater and Catie Edmondson filed a story full of sexist double standards and embraced the framing of her critics by casting her as a rule-breaker trying to "amplify her brand."
Washington Post columnist Helaine Olen tweeted: "I'm not into NYT bashing — newspaper work is hard and reporters and editors make bad calls! — but referring to @AOC masterful speech as a 'brand' exercise is a major, major miss."

David Remnick's appreciation of Ocasio-Cortez's remarks serves as an antidote of sorts to the Times story. Writing for the New Yorker, he gave her credit for her achievements:
Ocasio-Cortez has been at the forefront of major issues, including climate change, immigration, campaign-finance reform, and income inequality. Her ability to skewer a balky witness in committee hearings has proved as uncanny as it is entertaining.
In a speech that "should be studied for its measured cadence, its artful construction, and its refusal of ugliness," Ocasio-Cortez "defended not only herself; she defended principle and countless women," Remnick wrote.
And he clearly identified the real norm-killer:
The politics of our moment are dominated by a bully of miserable character, a President who has failed to contain a pandemic through sheer indifference, who has fabricated a reëlection campaign based on bigotry and the deliberate inflammation of division. His language is abusive, his attitude toward women disdainful.
In the Washington Post, Monica Hesse wrote that "On the subject of misogyny at least, her Thursday address was the speech of a lifetime."

Ocasio-Cortez is an extraordinary political figure: a smart, brave, charismatic young Latina woman who refuses to be intimidated by anything or anyone.
Her very existence in Congress, along with her insistent, progressive agenda, her bold words and actions, and the ease with which she navigates pop culture and social media, have turned her into an icon — a singular walking, talking challenge to the conservative white male power structure.

As such, she tends to bring out the worst in some people.

On Thursday, she brought out the worst in the New York Times.

This is how HuffPost put it: AOC Gave The Most Important Feminist Speech In A Generation

Bad news from the federal court in Portland: Judge denies restraining order against feds in Portland

This seemed to be good news. It wasn't: Judge Bans Federal Officers From Targeting Media In Portland Amid Ongoing Protests

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, saying: “When wrongdoing is underway, officials have great incentive to blindfold the eyes” of the press.