We should not normalize this election

It seems clear that the TV network NBC’s decision on Wednesday to schedule a Trump town hall on Thursday at the same time as the previously scheduled town hall that Joe Biden was having on ABC (which itself was a replacement for the debate that Trump refused to take part in) was due to them caving in to the demand by Trump that it be at the same time. Trump must have been sure that he would get higher ratings than Biden and thus could gloat about it because for him, ratings are everything. But that strategy proved to be a bust because not only was his performance panned, what must have really stung was that the Biden show got better ratings than the Trump show.
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You want media attention? Say that you are an undecided voter

As the election draws nearer, reporters are fanning out trying to root out that very rare species, the undecided voter. I find it hard to imagine how anyone can be an undecided voter at this point. Elections with an incumbent running are usually a referendum on that person’s performance and Trump has been such an intensely divisive and polarizing figure that this time it will be even more so. I find it hard to imagine that any sentient being could not have formed an opinion of whether to vote for him or not. But yet there are people claiming to be so and the media is drawn to them as flies to honey.
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Future debate plans and schedule

The next debate on the schedule is between the vice-presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Mike Pence to be held on October 7 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Usually the vice-presidential debate does not generate much excitement (with the possible exception of 2008 when Sarah Palin was debating Joe Biden and people wanted to see if she knew where Europe was) but given the utter disaster of the first presidential debate and no indication that Trump will behave any better in the next two presidential debates, this one might be the only chance to have anything approaching a substantive discussion of the issues. Harris is sharp and aggressive and quick on her feet and it will be interesting to see how Pence will defend his indefensible boss.
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The pitfalls of vox pop reporting

As the election nears, there are more and more media attempts to gauge the mood of the electorate. Polls of course are one indicator but given how people got burned by polls in 2016, people are a little skeptical of putting too much faith in them. Another popular reporting staple is to go out to various communities and talk to the people and then report on what they are saying, often quoting specific individuals. These vox pop pieces (short of vox populi or ‘voice of the people’) are interesting but how seriously can you take these people in the street interviews?
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This is what happens with a rotten business person as president

When Trump ran for president in 2016, he touted the fact that he was a businessman and that this background would enable him to run the government more efficiently. The idea that being a businessman is good training for running a government is a dubious proposition at best because there are major differences between the two. With a business, you have to appease just the stockholders if it is a public company or nobody at all if you own a private company. But with government you have to deal with a huge number of different constituencies that have independent sources of power and are not beholden to you and finding ways to get things done takes a different skill set.
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The dangerous deception

Another day, another bunch of Trump lies revealed, as well the lies of those around him who are supposed to be public servants. Much attention has been paid to Bob Woodward’s latest book that says that Trump knew about the dangers posed by the coronavirus as far back as in February but downplayed the threat.

Donald Trump knew the extent of the deadly coronavirus threat in February but intentionally misled the public by deciding to “play it down”, according to interviews recorded by one of America’s most venerated investigative journalists.
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Many people only read the headline before forwarding articles

In an age when we are inundated with information from all sides with little time to carefully digest all of it, it should not be a surprise to find that people often read just the headline and the opening sentences of an article before deciding that they agree with the contents and forward it to others. Twitter is making an attempt to discourage this practice.
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The deadly menace of Facebook

I think that it has become very clear that Facebook is the source of much of the dangerous disinformation that is spreading rapidly across the world. And this can result in real harm. One example is that of Erin Hitchens, a 46-year old woman who died from complications of covid-19 because she and her husband thought the virus was a hoax and so they disregarded all the recommended precautions. Her husband now regrets their foolishness.

A Florida taxi driver, who believed false claims that coronavirus was a hoax, has lost his wife to Covid-19.

Brian Lee Hitchens and his wife, Erin, had read claims online that the virus was fabricated, linked to 5G or similar to the flu.

The couple didn’t follow health guidance or seek help when they fell ill in early May. Brian recovered but his 46-year-old wife became critically ill and died this month from heart problems linked to the virus.

Erin, a pastor in Florida, had existing health problems – she suffered from asthma and a sleeping disorder.

Her husband explained that the couple did not follow health guidance at the start of the pandemic because of the false claims they had seen online.

Brian continued to work as a taxi driver and to collect his wife’s medicine without observing social distancing rules or wearing a mask.

They had also failed to seek help as soon as possible when they fell ill in May and were both subsequently diagnosed with Covid-19.

Brian said he and his wife didn’t have one firm belief about Covid-19. Instead, they switched between thinking the virus was a hoax, linked to 5G technology, or a real, but mild ailment. They came across these theories on Facebook.

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Telling it like it is

Stuart Varney is, along with Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs, Donald Trump’s most devoted hosts on Fox News and in a recent show he was visibly upset when Paul Romer, a former chief economist of the World Bank, called the people who speak about economics for the Trump administration, such as White House economics advisor Larry Kudlow, ‘liars for hire’ and that they should not be believed. When Varney remonstrated with him, Romer did not back down.

Trump risks overexposure

It used to be that American political party conventions involved some genuine uncertainty about who would become the party nominee and spirited debates about what the party platform should contain since that was supposed to (at lest in theory) set the party’s agenda for the next four years. But those days are gone. Nowadays the nominee is known well in advance and the party platform is also decided on and approved in advance. The last bit of suspense, the nominee’s pick for the vice-presidential slot, is now also announced in advance. Conventions have become infomercials consisting of fulsome praise for the nominees and criticisms of the rival party and candidates.
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