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Are we entering the “UFO Summer of Disclosure 2020” now?

For all of you UFO fans out there, something interesting popped up at Medium over the weekend from Bryce Zabel. He’s been reading the various tea leaves in the news recently, both mainstream and among the ufology subculture, and finding that there is once again a growing air of excitement over the possibility that some serious “big D” Disclosure on the subject of government secrecy regarding unidentified aerial phenomenon may be on the horizon as we sweat out the sweltering summer heat in the midst of a pandemic and civil unrest. Of course, as Bryce notes, this “moment” has come many, many times before, and it’s never panned out. Could this time be different?

He begins by referencing a friend of his, a pseudonymous “UFO influencer” only referred to as John. It seems that John is convinced that this could be the moment so many have been waiting for. The government wizard may be preparing to pull back the curtain, if only a little, and let the public know what really going on with all of the UFOs we keep hearing about. And perhaps… dare we suggest… extraterrestrial life visiting our world?

For years now, John has routinely predicted that Disclosure is imminent, and lays out a detailed play for how it will happen on which president’s watch and why. So far, he’s never been right. Eventually, he will be. That’s playing the long game…

Is there something different this time, here in the coronavirus summer of 2020? The UAP crowd wonders — can a country as torn as ours is by pandemic and politics really take on The Phenomenon at the same time? There may be reason for cautious optimism that conditions are better than ever, they allow themselves to think, but everyone needs to remember how hope was alive before, then faded.

On the other hand, it does pay to lay it out, and look at it for what it is. Here’s a partial list of how the UFO/UAP issue has played out over the last two-to-three months as we approached #UFOSummer2020.

Bryce stacks up a number of bits of recent news on this subject, almost all of which my regular readers are already familiar with. Those include the Pentagon validating the Navy UFO videos, the recent Senate Intelligence Committee order for a public report on UAPs, President Trump appearing to drop some hints about Roswell, and the increasing coverage of this subject in mainstream outlets in recent months.

But does this add up to anything? As Bryce says, in the heat of the summer amid all of this madness, it certainly feels as if there’s something in the air. But then, for those who have long believed in the idea of Disclosure, it’s been feeling like that since the 1950s. And it’s never happened. The author has a lot more great material, both current and historical in that piece, so the entire thing is well worth a read. But at the end of the day, one looming question remains. Okay… check that. Two looming questions remain.

First, would the government really spill all of the beans, or at least a significant portion of them, whether of their own volition or because of the mainstream media forcing their hand?

Second comes the potentially more disturbing question, at least for the faithful in the ufology community. What if the government doesn’t have anything of consequence to disclose?

The first question assumes that the government has been sitting on a ton of information about UFOs and possibly even extraterrestrial lifeforms for more than half a century. I’ll confess, that’s always been my belief, though there’s little or nothing out there to confirm it beyond a reasonable doubt. Bryce touches on a subject I’ve mentioned here recently and those of you who follow me on Twitter have probably seen me ranting about at various times. It’s the current rumor that the New York Times is preparing to imminently publish an article detailing a beyond top secret black ops program dealing with UFO crash retrieval and possibly even government possession of alien bodies. It all deals with the so-called “Admiral Wilson Documents” which have long been a subject of hot debate. There are quite a few of the old hands in the ufology news stable who are close to 100% sure this is true.

Of course, “imminent” was thought to be possible as soon as last week. Nothing yet, but who knows? Perhaps it’s this week. Or if this is more like the wave of assurances we received in the 70s, maybe it’s still half of a century away. I spent more than an hour last night listening to a panel discussion among a number of these seasoned researchers who are in the “it’s coming shortly” camp. You can click through and delve into that yourself if you want to take a long swan dive down that particular rabbit hole. And for all I know, they may turn out to be right, no matter how crazy some of it may sound to me personally.

But then there’s that second question I mentioned above. This whole Disclosure debate hinges on the belief that the United States government (and probably others) not only knows more than they’re telling us but very likely have more than they’re revealing. If they actually are in possession of technology created somewhere beyond the Earth and possibly even physical proof of intelligent, extraterrestrial lifeforms, it would be a story that would change the course of human history. Of course, they’d have to come up with one heck of a mea culpa over why they’ve been lying all this time, but I think most of us would forgive them quickly if they came clean.

But… and this is the tricky part… what if they don’t have much of anything? What if there were never any crashes? What if the aliens never contacted anyone in a position of power? After all this time, if all they have is a collection of videos and weird pictures of things that show up in our airspace, well… then they don’t really know all that much more than we do. Maybe the government is just as stymied and frustrated as we are. If that’s the case, then Disclosure already happened and it was a huge flop.

But even if that turns out to be the truth, there’s one more ugly reality to come to grips with. Nobody in the ufology community is going to believe them. Everyone will simply assume they’re “still lying.” Hell’s bells, Francis… I’ll predict right now that I’ll assume they’re still lying. We’ll be right back to square one where we were during the summer of 1947 and where we’ve effectively stayed ever since then. And wouldn’t that just be a fine kick in the teeth? #UFOSummer2020 indeed.

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What can we expect from Ghislaine Maxwell’s court date this week?

Jeffrey Epstein fixer and child procurer (“allegedly“) Ghislaine Maxwell has been transferred to a New York City lockup in advance of her next court appearance. She wound up landing at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. We should immediately wonder whether the prosecutors were trying to send a rather unsubtle message to Maxwell by putting her in the same jail where her former boss had his, er… unfortunate accident when there were other locations available to store her. Nevertheless, she’ll be going before a judge later this week.

But what sort of fireworks (if any) should we expect when she stands before the wheel? Depending on how much credence you give to some of the courthouse gossip going around, it might be quite the show. For one example, we can look to this report from one of her more famous accusers who claimed that Maxwell was sobbing and going into hysterics prior to her previous remote/video appearance. Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims to have been served up repeatedly to Prince Andrew, told reporters that she had smiled broadly upon hearing Maxwell’s apparent distress and suffering. And if her allegations are true, could you really blame her? (NY Post)

Ghislaine Maxwell broke down in tears and wailed “Why is this happening?” when she faced a judge last week, according to a key accuser who called it “one of the best days of my life.”

Virginia Roberts Giuffre — who has repeatedly claimed Maxwell forced her to have sex with Prince Andrew — claims she heard the anguished cries during the British socialite’s remote appearance before a federal magistrate in New Hampshire hours after her arrest Thursday.

She heard “a very loud British woman screaming, ‘Why is this happening? How is this happening? How could this happen?’ — and just crying her eyes out,” Giuffre told “60 Minutes Australia,” smiling at the memory.

While Giuffre described the event as being “one of the best days of her life,” it’s not entirely clear if her account is true. Reporters covering the hearing claimed that they didn’t hear such anguished cries and wondered whether she had confused someone else on the call for Maxwell. Either way, if it makes her feel better, I’m sure it’s okay.

Of course, we already know who probably isn’t feeling better. That would be the aforementioned Prince Andrew. As Ed Morrissey noted earlier, he’s mysteriously decided to remain in his native country instead of vacationing abroad this year. And possibly for many years to come.

If Maxwell was expecting any sympathy from the local press upon her arrival in New York City, she’s probably going to come away disappointed. NY Post columnist Maureen Callahan welcomed her to Gotham with an op-ed informing Maxwell that she needs to “spare us the poor little rich girl” act.

But by all means, let’s keep hearing about what a victim Ghislaine Maxwell is. How she had the misfortune to fall in love with Jeffrey Epstein and how powerless she was under the intoxicating spell of this pedophile and serial child rapist.

“I know that she would have died to marry him,” a Maxwell pal told Vanity Fair. “She would have done anything for him. He trumped everybody and everything.”

Ladies — who among us can’t relate?

And since Maxwell only ever wanted Epstein to love her — impossible when your boyfriend is into children — she would put up with all sorts of abuse. She was Epstein’s beard at high-society galas, his age-appropriate arm candy, while behind closed doors she was allegedly nothing more than a pimp. He was only ever interested in sex with her if a child was involved.

Poor Ghislaine!

Welcome to the NY media market, Ms. Maxwell. You can likely expect more of the same in the future. Of course, it’s still possible that she may get off with little to no jail time, even if she’s convicted. If you go back to the article I linked at the top regarding her transfer to a New York City jail, there’s an interesting quote in there. One source familiar with the pending case told the Post that “a plea deal is possible if Maxwell “has proof which will lead to the conviction of bigger fish.” And given the previous rumors that Maxwell has videotapes that could prove very uncomfortable for many powerful individuals and is currently facing the possibility of what would work out to be a life sentence, they likely have very good reason to be worried indeed.

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Judge orders the Dakota Access Pipeline temporarily shut down

A federal judge has ordered that the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been operating for the past three years, be shut down while an expanded environmental review takes place. The same judge ordered the new review in March and said at that time that he would consider whether or not to shut down the pipeline in the interim.

In March, Judge Boasberg, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, ordered the federal government to conduct a sweeping new environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The ruling found that the pipeline’s “effects on the quality of the human environment are likely to be highly controversial,” and that the federal government had not done enough to study the risks of a major spill, or whether the pipeline’s leak detection system was adequate.

He also ordered both the tribe and the federal government to submit briefs on whether the pipeline should continue operating during the new environmental review. The Earthjustice lawyer, Mr. Hasselman, said at the time that the tribe would ask for the pipeline to be shut down until the review was completed. Monday’s ruling granted that request.

Earthjustice, the environmental group that is representing the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in court, said today’s decision means the pipeline will remain closed for several years: “The shutdown will remain in place pending completion of a full environmental review, which normally takes several years, and the issuance of new permits. It may be up to a new administration to make final permitting decisions.”

Meanwhile, the company that operates the pipeline said it plans to appeal the decision:

We believe that the ruling issued this morning from Judge Boasberg is not supported by the law or the facts of the case. Furthermore, we believe that Judge Boasberg has exceeded his authority in ordering the shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been safely operating for more than three years. We will be immediately pursuing all available legal and administrative processes and are confident that once the law and full record are fully considered Dakota Access Pipeline will not be shut down and that oil will continue to flow.

We intend to immediately file a motion to stay this decision and if not granted, to pursue a stay and expedited appeal with the Court of Appeals. We also believe that the Army Corps of Engineers has the ultimate jurisdiction over this matter, pursuant to its regulations governing Corps property…

This pipeline is the safest, most environmentally responsible method for moving North Dakota’s crude oil to refining markets around the country. Shutting down this critical piece of infrastructure would throw our country’s crude supply system out of balance, negatively impact several significant industries, inflict more damage on an already struggling economy, and jeopardize our national security.

We’ll have to wait and see whether a stay or an appeal will reverse this decision, but for now it appears the Standing Rock Sioux have won a big victory in court that could result in this pipeline being shut down permanently.

In closing, here’s President of the North Dakota Petroleum Council Ron Ness, expressing his shock at today’s rulling:

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Activists lash out at J.K. Rowling again over conversion-therapy comparison

Author J.K. Rowling has refused to apologize for her views about hormone therapy as it relates to young trans people and that continues to outrage some trans activists. Over the weekend, Rowling responded to one of her critics with a Twitter thread about the “medicalization” of young, gay people, which she compared to conversion therapy, i.e. a therapy intended to convert gay people into straight people. It started when Rowling liked this tweet by Sophie who is a trans woman:

That got a reaction from this person who went on to complain that he didn’t really want a response from Rowling.

Rowling took offense to that, saying she’s taken medication in the past for her own mental health issues and that it helped her.

Going back to her first tweet above, the “porn tweeted at children” is a reference to something Rowling has been doing during the lockdown. As she explains here, she had written a children’s book for her own kids and planned to publish it at one point, but she wound up publishing a different book for adults instead. She planned to leave the children’s book, The Ickabog, as something for her own family but changed her mind when the lockdown began. Instead of selling the book, she releases new chapters for free on the web. In response, lots of children (with help from parents) have been sending her their artwork connected to the story on Twitter and she praises many of them:

Anyway, you get the idea. I can’t imagine how thrilled some of these kids must be to get some personal praise from the author of the Harry Potter books. But apparently, some of the angry trans activists have been responding to these threads with porn, which is wildly inappropriate, not to mention counterproductive.

In addition, Rowling has been getting lots of death wishes. They aren’t really threats since I don’t think most of these people can be taken literally but they are certainly angry and ugly.

Anyway, the backstory to all of this is that some feminists like Rowling have taken issue with some trans dogma. Trans activists created the acronym TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) to identify these women and are pretty vicious online seeking to punish the TERFs for their unorthodox views. Rowling, because of her fame, is now the world’s best known TERF so she gets a tremendous amount of heat.

This really seems to have started last year with a tweet in support of a woman named Maya Forstarter who was fired over a tweet. Then last month Rowling wrote a piece on her personal website explaining her reasoning for supporting Maya and that set off another round of TERF wars.

My interest in trans issues pre-dated Maya’s case by almost two years, during which I followed the debate around the concept of gender identity closely. I’ve met trans people, and read sundry books, blogs and articles by trans people, gender specialists, intersex people, psychologists, safeguarding experts, social workers and doctors, and followed the discourse online and in traditional media. On one level, my interest in this issue has been professional, because I’m writing a crime series, set in the present day, and my fictional female detective is of an age to be interested in, and affected by, these issues herself, but on another, it’s intensely personal, as I’m about to explain.

All the time I’ve been researching and learning, accusations and threats from trans activists have been bubbling in my Twitter timeline. This was initially triggered by a ‘like’. When I started taking an interest in gender identity and transgender matters, I began screenshotting comments that interested me, as a way of reminding myself what I might want to research later. On one occasion, I absent-mindedly ‘liked’ instead of screenshotting. That single ‘like’ was deemed evidence of wrongthink, and a persistent low level of harassment began.

Months later, I compounded my accidental ‘like’ crime by following Magdalen Berns on Twitter. Magdalen was an immensely brave young feminist and lesbian who was dying of an aggressive brain tumour. I followed her because I wanted to contact her directly, which I succeeded in doing. However, as Magdalen was a great believer in the importance of biological sex, and didn’t believe lesbians should be called bigots for not dating trans women with penises, dots were joined in the heads of twitter trans activists, and the level of social media abuse increased.

I mention all this only to explain that I knew perfectly well what was going to happen when I supported Maya. I must have been on my fourth or fifth cancellation by then. I expected the threats of violence, to be told I was literally killing trans people with my hate, to be called cunt and bitch and, of course, for my books to be burned, although one particularly abusive man told me he’d composted them.

After offering five reasons why she is concerned about the current trans movement, Rowling says she’s decided to stand up to the backlash that many people are afraid to face:

It would be so much easier to tweet the approved hashtags – because of course trans rights are human rights and of course trans lives matter – scoop up the woke cookies and bask in a virtue-signalling afterglow. There’s joy, relief and safety in conformity. As Simone de Beauvoir also wrote, “… without a doubt it is more comfortable to endure blind bondage than to work for one’s liberation; the dead, too, are better suited to the earth than the living.”

Huge numbers of women are justifiably terrified by the trans activists; I know this because so many have got in touch with me to tell their stories. They’re afraid of doxxing, of losing their jobs or their livelihoods, and of violence.

But endlessly unpleasant as its constant targeting of me has been, I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it. I stand alongside the brave women and men, gay, straight and trans, who’re standing up for freedom of speech and thought, and for the rights and safety of some of the most vulnerable in our society: young gay kids, fragile teenagers, and women who’re reliant on and wish to retain their single sex spaces. Polls show those women are in the vast majority, and exclude only those privileged or lucky enough never to have come up against male violence or sexual assault, and who’ve never troubled to educate themselves on how prevalent it is.

So, you can probably see why they hate her so much. She’s articulate and reasonable and she won’t apologize when threatened. They may not have enough numbers or power to cancel J.K. Rowling but it won’t stop them from trying to punish her for espousing what they see as the wrong ideas.

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Trump has a 91% chance of winning

Not sure I’ve seen a bolder political prediction this year.

Or any year.

I’m going to disagree with the idea that the president is a 91 percent favorite to win right now, and disagree more forcefully that he’s going to lock down 362 electoral votes en route to victory. I think there’s still a vaguely plausible scenario in which he wins in November, especially if the solid jobs reports keep piling up, but he’ll certainly have fewer EVs this time than he had against Hillary.

Established in 1996 by Stony Brook University political science professor Helmut Norpoth, the Primary Model correctly picked the victors in multiple presidential elections — including the last one…

“The Primary Model gives Trump a 91% chance of winning in November. This model has picked the winner in all but two elections since 1912, when primaries were introduced, including, of course, Trump’s victory in 2016,” Mr. Norpoth tells Inside the Beltway in a statement.

“As for polls showing Trump trailing Joe Biden right now, remember 2016. Polls and poll-based forecasts all handed Clinton a certain victory. But this is not the only failure,” he continues.

“As a rule, the candidate with the stronger primary performance wins against the candidate with the weaker primary performance,” Norpoth writes in explaining his model’s success. On the other hand, that same webpage begins with the words, “Caution: The massive disruptions caused by the Coronavirus outbreak may prompt me to revise the forecast, especially if there is a crack in Trump support.” He said the same thing in a Fox appearance on May 29 but noted at the time that Trump’s job approval hadn’t yet been dented by COVID-19. “In fact, in the early goings [of the pandemic] he got a little uptick,” Norpoth noted of the president’s approval rating. “And, unless his approval rating collapses, I don’t think that this would have much bearing on my forecast.”

Would this count as a collapse? New this morning from Gallup:

No president who’s polling at 38 percent approval is getting reelected. That doesn’t mean Norpoth’s wrong — there are still four months for POTUS to rebound — but it means he’d be badly wrong if the election were held today. Nor is there as much consolation as there may seem in the idea that there are still four months until America votes. Polling on July 4 is actually a reasonably solid predictor of electoral outcomes historically, writes Harry Enten:

[S]ince 1940, the final result differs from the polls at this point by an average of just 7 points. The median difference is only about 4.5 points.

These should be quite worrisome for Trump given he’s already down double-digits, and there’s no guarantee any polling miss would benefit him.

Indeed, we can translate past polling to give us odds about the current election. At least 8-in-10 to 9-in-10 times based solely on the horserace polling, Biden would be expected to take more votes in the fall.

More troublesome for Trump: no one in an incumbent presidential election has been polling above 50% at this point like Biden and gone on to lose.

History’s either going to end up misleading Enten or it’s going to end up misleading Norpoth. As for Norpoth’s claim that the candidate who runs stronger in the primary almost always wins the general election, you can understand why that might generally hold true. It’s a measure of partisan enthusiasm and we’d expect a candidate whose fans are more enthusiastic to turn out in greater numbers in the general election and defeat a candidate whose supporters are less so. The wrinkle this year is that Democrats despise the president so thoroughly that he may be generating more “enthusiasm” in the other party than he is in his own. Multiple polls that have had Biden leading him big nationally have found heavy majorities of Dems saying that they’re motivated more by their desire to defeat Trump than by their desire to see Biden win. In fact, today’s Gallup poll finds an 89-point gap between Republican approval of Trump (91 percent) and Democratic approval (two percent), the highest the firm has ever measured. I don’t know that conventional metrics for enthusiasm work in a situation where one party basically unanimously wants the current guy out.

As for 362 electoral votes, Trump’s own campaign staff seems to have written off the possibility of him building on his total of 306 from 2016. “States that top campaign officials had said they had the luxury of pursuing are no longer considered add-ons to the president’s electoral vote tally but backstops to keep him afloat,” Politico reported today, citing people close to or involved with his reelection operation. The campaign is spending big on ads in states Trump already won four years ago, like Georgia and Florida, in hopes of keeping them red instead of in blue states in hopes of expanding the map, and donors are allegedly increasingly resigned to losing Michigan and Wisconsin. “We don’t need 306. We just need 270. We can lose Michigan and lose Pennsylvania and still win,” said one Trump advisor. That’s light-years more realistic than 362.

In lieu of an exit question, here’s a new poll that’s encouraging for Trump, relatively speaking. Trafalgar, the pollster that predicted his Rust Belt wins in 2016, has him tied with Biden in Florida at a moment when other pollsters tend to show Sleepy Joe up by five points or better. Fox News recently had Biden by nine(!) there.

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Whole Foods employees boycott over facial mask policy

It began three weeks ago with two Whole Foods employees being told they cannot wear Black Lives Matter face masks on the job. The two employees in Bedford, New Hampshire were sent home for a violation of the company’s dress code policy.

The employees were told to go home several times, it is reported, for violating store policy by wearing face masks and sneakers imprinted with “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe.” One worker said they wore the apparel for two days before being told about the store policy.

“Just two days ago, they finally gave me the policy. They had never shown me anything in the policy that stated that we couldn’t wear them,” Styles said. “The way the situation and everything was handled was just very unprofessional and not understanding.”

Styles and Greene said they were told that if they refused to change their masks then they could not keep working their shifts, the paper said.

The two reportedly protested outside of the store with signs that asked cars to honk in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

A spokesperson for Whole Foods released a statement confirming that all employees sign an acknowledgment of company policy that “prohibits any visible slogans, messages, logos or advertising that are not company-related, on any article of clothing, including face masks.” Ms. Styles said she no longer feels comfortable there and is seeking employment elsewhere.

In solidarity with their fellow employees, some Whole Foods employees began to wear Black Lives Matter face masks in other stores. That included a store in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Whole Foods released a statement that all employees must comply with the dress code policy.

Whole Foods released a statement last week noting that “[i]n a customer-focused environment, all Team Members must comply with our longstanding company dress code, which prohibits clothing with visible slogans, messages, logos or advertising that are not company-related.”

The company said that employees are given the opportunity to comply with the dress code and are offered new face masks, but will not be allowed to work until they comply with the policy.

In order to appease the woke employees, an email was sent out stating the company was offering all a “special one-time bonus” for the month of June. Full-time employees would receive $500 and part-time employees would receive $250. This was to “express gratitude for the remarkable resilience and dedication” they have shown, much like what Amazon did for its employees. What happens when you appease activists? It is never enough. The employees said it was no longer about facial masks and walked out. They now demand “substantive change from the entire Whole Foods corporation.”

Now the original seven employees sent home protest outside the store, carrying signs. Their argument is that Amazon and Whole Foods talk a big talk about racial equality and make large financial contributions to causes but they don’t support employees making a personal statement.

Many of the protesters, like Jason Slavick — who lives just across the street from the store — used to frequent the market. He and other boycott organizers have contacted local store managers as well as corporate leaders to argue that a company that pitches itself as a values-oriented business should change its policy.

“There should be no place safe for racism, and the only way that happens is if they say it out loud and stop hiding behind neutrality,” he said.

Suverino Frith was one of the original seven employees who was turned away after showing up to work in a Black Lives Matter mask. The 21-year-old spoke before the crowd, urging them to continue fighting.

“These are careful people who want to be loud but not too loud,” he said, speaking about the company. “They don’t want to alienate anyone. They don’t really want to choose a side; they just want to seem like they are. Only that’s too bad, because we’re choosing a side for them.”

Mr. Firth worked seasonally for two years with Whole Foods. He said he knew about other stores sending employees home who refused to wear an approved face mask yet he was surprised when his store’s employees were sent home for the same reason. This is where the rub comes in – these employees feel entitled to dictate company policy though they are fully aware of the store’s policy when they accept employment from Whole Foods. They have it backward – company management dictates policy, not the disgruntled employees. What he and the others should have done, if they are so unhappy, would be to do as the woman in New Hampshire did – quit and find a new job. This isn’t hard. When you go to work for someone else, you don’t get to make the rules. If you no longer can abide by the rules, you leave.

There were over 40 protesters Sunday in front of the Cambridge Whole Foods. The protests began on June 25 and continue. They urge passersby to shop elsewhere and cheer when potential customers leave to do so. City Councilors Quinton Zondervan and Alanna Mallon attended the Sunday protest. Zondervan said, it “shouldn’t be necessary to get Whole Foods to do the right thing,” Really? No wonder the employees are so self-entitled. Their local leaders are of the same mindset. Whole Foods is “doing the right thing”, they are enforcing company dress code policy across the board.

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Is there a “COVID effect” on Trump’s polling in hard-hit battleground states?

The question in the headline is interesting, but here’s a more interesting one: Assuming there is a “COVID effect” on Trump’s polling in hard-hit battleground states, will it abate as the the epidemic in those states abates? We’re bound to see the curves in Arizona and Texas and Florida start to flatten sometime between now and Election Day. Bars are already closed, a mask mandate is in effect in TX, lockdowns will inevitably follow soon if case counts don’t begin to drop. By hook or by crook, at some as yet unknown cost in lives, the spread will slow down in those states.

If voters there have soured on the president now, with the epidemic raging, will they turn sweeter once it calms down or will they hold a grudge? And by “grudge,” I mean not so much hard feelings as a durable political conclusion that Trump wasn’t up to the task of managing the crisis and should be held accountable for that even if the worst has already passed by the time polls open in November.

The presidency may depend on the answer.

Anyway, this is interesting data from Pew, via Bloomberg:

Pew Research Center polls show Trump’s approval is slipping fastest in the 500 counties where the number of cases have been more than 28 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people.

Pew surveyed voters in late March and the same people again in late June, and found 17% of those who approved of the president in March now disapprove.

The shift came almost equally among Democrats and Republicans, men and women, and college graduates and non-graduates. But those who live in counties with a high number of virus cases were 50% more likely to say they no longer approve of Trump.

And older voters, who have typically trended conservative and have backed Trump in the past, are abandoning him at the same time the virus hits those ages 65 and older the hardest.

I don’t have the county data in front of me, but eyeballing the state head-to-head polls between Trump and Biden, I don’t see any noticeable decline in Texas and Arizona over the past month. Texas had been neck-and-neck before its outbreak started and it looks to be neck-and-neck now. And Arizona has been pretty steadily pro-Biden dating back to March, when he all but locked up the Democratic nomination, months before COVID-19 burned through.

Florida’s more interesting. Biden didn’t lead by as much as seven points in any poll there until June 12, when he suddenly ripped off a series of leads by seven, nine, and 11 points in three different surveys. Hmmmm. Evidence, perhaps, that the state and its unusually high percentage of seniors might be blaming Trump for the rises in cases there? It’s not so clear-cut when you look deeper: The last few polls of Florida have been tighter even though case counts have continued to skyrocket. And Florida’s epidemic didn’t really start to explode until the last week of June, after the polling showing Biden’s biggest leads.

Even more mysterious: Trump’s long decline in national polling began in mid-May, long before the current wave of COVID-19 got going in the Sun Belt. I think it’s more likely that he started to lose people with how he reacted to the George Floyd protests and then, perhaps, the rising COVID case counts across the south and in California accelerated the trend by deepening the sense that he just has no idea what to do to try to contain the virus. More to the point, he seems to have no interest: His focus since April has been on reopening the economy come hell or high water, at whatever cost.

According to NBC and WaPo, the White House is preparing to go all-in on that perception. Their new message to a frightened country is, apparently, to get used to a raging epidemic of a virus that’s already killed 120,000 people.

After several months of mixed messages on the coronavirus pandemic, the White House is settling on a new one: Learn to live with it

At the crux of the message, officials said, is a recognition by the White House that the virus is not going away any time soon — and will be around through the November election.

As a result, President Donald Trump’s top advisers plan to argue, the country must figure out how to press forward despite it. Therapeutic drugs will be showcased as a key component for doing that and the White House will increasingly emphasize the relatively low risk most Americans have of dying from the virus, officials said.

The Post puts it memorably: “White House officials also hope Americans will grow numb to the escalating death toll and learn to accept tens of thousands of new cases a day,” believing that if the feds just stop talking about it, “the base will move on and the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day.” That reads like a parody of Trump’s belief that all political problems are messaging problems and that he can control everything that threatens him simply by the way he talks about it.

Team Biden reportedly intends to use “the stumbling response and renewed surge in cases as ways to paint Trump as uninformed, incapable of empathy and concerned only about his own political standing.” No joke: If Trump gets reelected running on a “learn to live with it” message about a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, at a moment when our European allies have hammered down their case counts to practically nothing, it’ll be the political feat of the century. Not even his first election will rival it. To surrender on the health-care challenge of the age when Americans know full well from foreign experience that it can be managed effectively and win a second term anyway — it’d be one of the most amazing electoral achievements the country has ever seen. Imagine running on a campaign slogan of “Try to grow numb to it” and winning.

They are going to do one thing beyond encouraging people to get used to COVID misery. That’s to encourage more mask-wearing.

White House officials are discussing taking a more active role in encouraging masks as they shift to a strategy of preparing Americans to live long-term with the virus. After appearing at a string of events without social distancing and where masks were scarce, Trump’s campaign said Sunday it would host a New Hampshire campaign rally where attendees will be “provided a face mask that they are strongly encouraged to wear.”…

Many of Trump’s closest allies now say in private that wearing a mask in public could help him appear more attuned to the crisis. They fear his failure to do so — and to encourage his supporters to follow suit — could threaten the economic recovery Trump is counting on to fuel his reelection, because further outbreaks could roll back the reopenings he desperately needs to have a chance in November.

That same point was made by critics of early reopening since the moment Trump first started pushing the idea in April. If you reopen without measures in place to help keep the virus in check, you risk a second wave that’ll trigger new lockdowns and potentially erase all the economic gains you’ve made. It’s nice that they’ve come around in July to the reality that containing the virus and rebuilding the economy isn’t an either/or choice but rather a sequential process, but it would have been nicer in April. As I say, the truly interesting question in battleground states is whether Trump will be forgiven for mistakes like that or whether the cake is baked at this point and even a comparatively good outcome over the next four months won’t save him in November.

Here’s the mayor of Miami-Dade laying some blame for Florida’s outbreak at the feet of anti-racist protesters. Officials in Seattle and L.A. also told Fox News that the protests were likely responsible for some transmissions, although NYC’s extremely woke government continues to deny any role played by the demonstrators there. In lieu of an exit question, go read this thread by former Trump advisor Tom Bossert, who guesstimates that infections in hot-spot states right now are far more prevalent than our testing shows — and beyond a certain threshold of prevalence, it becomes very difficult to put those fires out. “We are in trouble,” Bossert says ominously. Maybe my assurance that things will surely be under control in Arizona et al. by November is misplaced.

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Who would have guessed that COVID-19 numbers would decline after reopening?

I can think of at least one person who not only predicted it but counted on it, and his name isn’t Andrew Cuomo. “We’re actually down from where we were when we started reopening,” the governor of New York told the media this afternoon. “Which, as you remember, no one predicted.” The question at the time was whether the states could control the increase, but instead “we are right where we want to be”:

“We’re actually down from where we were when we started reopening,” Cuomo said. “The question was, when you start reopening, activity will go up, number of cases will go up, can you control the increase? That was the question. We haven’t needed to control the increase, we’ve actually had a slight decline, and now we’re basically running flat. And that is great news. That is really great news.”

Cuomo said the adjustments that have been made to the phased reopening – such as postponing indoor dining at restaurants in New York City – are helping to keep the numbers low. …

The governor said no decision has been made regarding school reopening in the fall. “We obviously very much would like to,” he said.

That is indeed good news, but the phased reopening plan didn’t entirely originate with Cuomo or New York. The Trump administration developed that plan in April, hoping to get precisely the kind of result Cuomo touts here. The idea was to phase in reopening steps while testing, making adjustments when testing indicated higher risk and using targeted means to contain outbreaks.

Trump might well tout the exact same results as evidence that this plan works. He’s already unhappy about the reporting on numbers in other states. Late yesterday, Trump tweeted about the media missing the larger story on the “China Virus”:

Part of the success of New York, however, might be its earlier failures. The virus spread rapidly and broadly in the state, thanks to a series of dumb decisions by Cuomo and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. The spread might have expedited the beginnings of herd immunity, especially in the Big Apple, which might account for why there isn’t a dramatic increase in positive tests — which we should expect from higher testing capability.

On the other hand, the daily count of new cases dropped yesterday across the US as a whole, Johns Hopkins announced this morning, not just New York. That’s good news, but they warn that July 4 festivities might bring a new spike:

The United States dipped under 50,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time in four days, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, but experts fear Fourth of July celebrations will act like rocket fuel for the nation’s surging outbreak.

Leaders in Austin and Houston, Texas, warned Sunday of hospitals nearing capacity, and asked Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott to allow them to issue local lockdown orders. Florida meanwhile surpassed 200,000 statewide coronavirus cases and West Virginia saw its biggest two-day jump in cases yet.

Hospital admissions and ICU capacity are the key metrics in this pandemic, not new cases in general. There won’t be any way to avoid the transmission of the disease in the population, but the key is to keep its kinetic value low enough so that acute cases don’t overwhelm health-care capacity. That might be happening in Texas, but doesn’t appear to be happening elsewhere, as the new cases are trending much younger and with fewer co-morbidities. This was the point of the lockdowns, after all — not to stop transmission entirely, but just to get ahead of the health-care capacity curve.

Cuomo’s correct in noting that New York has managed its reopening to succeed at that objective. So have many other states, and even Texas and Florida appear to have more of a transmission spike than a true capacity crisis for now. Let’s keep the phased strategy in place — and maybe get the media to report this issue more accurately. If they had, no one would have been surprised at Cuomo’s announcement today.

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Trial over faith, faithless electors, free speech, and more!

Once again, I get to step outside the box and guest host for Sheila Liaugminas’ A Closer Look on Relevant Radio® from 6-7 ET today! The Catholic talk-radio network is heard nationwide on the air, as well as online and through their free mobile app that plays live and podcast shows.

Today’s Relevant Radio® show includes:

  • Will the US Navy court-martial an officer for going to church? First Liberty’s Mike Berry reports on the case of Major Daniel Schultz, whose naval command ordered officers not to attend religious services. The same order allowed personnel to attend protests and use mass transit, and Major Schultz saw this as an illegal order.
  • I’ll review today’s Supreme Court decision in Chiafalo and take calls on the “faithless electors” phenomenon.
  • Will a lawsuit prevent Title IX reforms to speech restrictions on campus from taking effect? Nicole Neily from Speech First discusses the lawsuit and what’s at stake on college campuses — and from there to the rest of the country.

We will also take your calls at 1-888-914-9149You can also listen on the Relevant Radio® app no matter where you are in the world, so download it now. I’ll look forward to talking with you!

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When will Bubba Wallace apologize for that race hoax?

Lot going on here, starting with the fact that this story is almost two weeks old. Why’s he tweeting about it now?

One is always tempted with presidential tweets to go looking for “eight-dimensional chess” explanations, but it’s a mistake. He probably saw a NASCAR commercial on Fox today and realized that he hadn’t ventilated this particular grievance yet so he fired away. Trump usually operates on impulse.

Anyway, NASCAR’s ratings aren’t down…

…and it’s still an open question whether this was a “hoax.” I took my best shot to formulate a conspiracy theory for that scenario in this post and couldn’t come up with anything. Even if it was a hoax — and how could it have been when the “noose” rope was there since late 2019? — it doesn’t seem to have been Wallace’s fault. According to the man himself, the person who discovered it was an African-American crew member who was at the garage in Talladega. Wallace himself wasn’t there due to concerns about COVID-19. The driver apparently walked around to other garages at the track to see if their pull ropes were also tied like nooses. When he saw that they weren’t, he informed NASCAR. It was the president of NASCAR, Steve Phelps, who told Wallace about the noose and claimed that a “hate crime” had occurred, not vice versa.

If all of that’s true, it sounds more like a misunderstanding than a hoax. And if anyone should apologize for hyping it, it’s Phelps, not Wallace.

Wallace responded to Trump’s tweet this afternoon, denouncing “hate”:

Another NASCAR driver initially tweeted this at Trump before deleting it…

…although he’s since retweeted this to make his point instead:

More interesting is Lindsey Graham also wanting no part of this conflagration:

Graham is more keyed in on the very end of Trump’s tweet, where he suggested that banning the Confederate flag at NASCAR events was a bad idea. His usual defense of Confederate monuments is that they’re part of our history; to tear them down is to obliterate history itself. That’s a harder argument to make in defense of gratuitously displaying the Confederate flag at sports events. If there’s any strategic explanation for his tweeting about Wallace it’s that it’s part of a general culture-war reelection campaign that’s turning increasingly scattershot in its targets. One minute it’s Confederate monuments, the next it’s Wallace and the rebel flag, the next it’s sports teams changing their nicknames:

Apparently the Trump campaign was so eager to fundraise on the left’s threat to American and religious icons that they included a photo of Brazil’s statue of Christ the Redeemer in an email this weekend with the tagline, “WE WILL PROTECT THIS.” As one Trump advisor eloquently put it to the Daily Beast, “the statue sh*t” is now a core part of the campaign:

Both sources independently said they intended to gently implore Trump to take a different approach. One of the sources said they had already told Trump in recent days that making statue fetishization a cornerstone of the re-election pitch amounted to a “distraction” that wouldn’t help move the necessary votes into the president’s column by the election in November.

“The question now is, Is the statue sh*t going to work?” said a senior Trump campaign adviser, adding that current polling was “inconclusive” at best…

“One issue is that the president and some of his people see something on Fox News and then take that to mean that that issue will resonate with most voters: Republican, independents, even some Democrats or former Democrats,” said one Republican operative close to the White House. “That is what is happening with the hyper-focus on this [statues] issue and it doesn’t always work out. Look at the caravan during the [2018] midterms.”

The through-line on everything from Confederate statues to the flag ban at NASCAR to Wallace and his “hoax” to the Redskins changing their name is the sense that older white Americans are having to yield on aspects of the culture with which they might be comfortable with but which younger, browner Americans aren’t. It’s the idol-smashing stage of a long cultural retreat and defeat, the sort of thing Trump was elected to stop but ended up presiding over. (Tucker Carlson’s willingness to point that out is why his ratings are up lately.) He’d be on firmer ground if he stuck to defending icons of the Founding Fathers, about whom opinion isn’t as polarized. But that would miss the point: Precisely because that subject is less divisive, there’s less hay to be made of it electorally. Even Biden and Pelosi have called for leaving statues of Washington and Jefferson in place.

This is also why, although Trump didn’t praise any Confederates in his Mt. Rushmore speech, the media got away with implying that he did. It’s not just that they’re biased against him (although they are), it’s that Trump himself typically draws no line around the Founding Fathers relative to his more dubious cultural sacred cows. Washington, Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, CSA generals who have U.S. military bases named after them, the U.S. flag, the Confederate flag — it’s all pretty much the same to him. (He has that much in common with wokesters. It’s all pretty much the same to them too.) His speechwriters for Mt. Rushmore were more careful than he usually is, but you never get the real Trump from his speeches. Twitter Trump is the real deal.

The strangest thing about “the statue sh*t” is that he has far richer political material to mine if he’s trying to claw back suburbanites and older voters. His positive argument for reelecting him is the economy: “I’ve built the best economy ever once, I can do it again, just look at the jobs reports lately.” That’s straightforward. But he has an increasingly strong negative argument too: Trends in crime. There are three posts on this site today alone tracking how menacing the situation has become in Chicago, Atlanta, and New York City, where crime had been shrinking essentially nonstop for 25 years until recently. That’s a trickier pitch for Trump than the economy pitch since, after all, crime is rising on his watch as president, but he’s a “law and order” candidate of longstanding and doubtless would poll better than Biden if you asked Americans whom they trust more to deal with crime. (Especially during a “defund the police” push on the left.) He should dial back the statue chatter and drill down on that a bit more. I bet it would help.

I’ll leave you with this oldie but goodie from 2013: