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Global freedom would suffer grievous harm in a second Trump term

Opinion by the Editorial Board

THE 21st century, like the one that came before it, has seen the emergence of a fateful struggle over the nature of human governance. Regimes founded on democracy and human rights, which 25 years ago appeared to have triumphed, now face a grave challenge from a resurgent authoritarianism, which employs new technologies to refashion the tyranny that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union could not sustain. At stake is not only which nations will dominate global affairs, but also whether individual freedoms — of expression, of assembly, of religious faith — will survive.

A 21st-century victory for democracy, like those that came in World War II and the Cold War, is inconceivable without the leadership of the United States. America must prevail in the race to develop new technologies, rally fellow democracies to counter authoritarian aggression, and reform capitalism and democracy itself to serve a new age. But President Trump cannot deliver that leadership. On the contrary, over the past three years he has done as much as any global actor to advance the cause of authoritarianism and undermine the free world.

Mr. Trump’s most conspicuous aid to tyranny has been his relentless support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who aided Mr. Trump’s 2016 election and whose foreign policy is laser-focused on weakening the United States and dividing it from other democracies in the NATO alliance. Mr. Trump has provided invaluable support for this cause, most recently by ordering a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany. While he has not hesitated to publicly trash NATO and the leaders of Germany, Canada and Britain, Mr. Trump has never uttered a word of criticism of Mr. Putin, even after receiving U.S. intelligence reports indicating that Moscow paid bounties to the Afghan Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers.

Until recently, Mr. Trump offered similar obeisance to Chinese ruler Xi Jinping, calling him a “brilliant leader” and “a great man.” Mr. Trump encouraged Mr. Xi’s cultural genocide against the Uighur population of the Xinjiang region. That campaign has pioneered Beijing’s technologies of comprehensive surveillance and other AI-aided repression — tools that are central to the new model of authoritarianism it is promoting to the rest of the world. Mr. Trump also promised Mr. Xi he would remain silent on the suppression of Hong Kong’s democracy movement while negotiating trade concessions. The administration’s belated reversals on those issues, tied to Mr. Trump’s attempt to shift blame for the more than 177,000 U.S. covid-19 deaths, has predictably altered neither China’s behavior nor the conclusion among many Asians that the United States can no longer be counted on to defend democratic values or resist Chinese aggression.


The Lawbreakers Trump Loves

He uses scare tactics about “law and order.” But what distinguishes this White House is its ties to criminals.

By Nicholas Kristof

Even as President Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination on the White House lawn, lawbreakers rampaged through the capital.

Would our law-and-order president leap off the podium and tackle them? He once said he would race unarmed into a building to tackle a school shooter. But sadly he ignored these blatant lawbreakers, presidential aides violating Hatch Act restrictions on political manipulation of government.

It’s one law he doesn’t want to uphold. Asked about the Hatch Act, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, scoffed, “Nobody outside of the beltway really cares.”

Inside the beltway, Trump and other speakers at the Republican National Convention conjure grave national threats from raging anarchists.


'We're Here and They're Not'

Could Trump and his convention have been more puerile?

By Frank Bruni

I’m so relieved that the pandemic is over! I’d somehow missed that news, but then I watched the Republican National Convention, culminating in President Trump’s big speech, and learned that with his swift, muscular action, he’d pretty much vanquished the “China virus.” I learned that the economic toll of it was fast receding and would be a blurry memory soon.

I learned that it’s now perfectly safe for hundreds of people to sit cheek by jowl without masks, because that’s what they did in order to bathe the president in applause and chants of “four more years.” I learned that anyone who says different is just being a hater. But Trump is a lover. I learned that, too.

How to reconcile that with the viciousness of much of his remarks, which were as grounded in reality as a Tolkien novel and about as long? I’m stumped.

But I’m impressed: that he claimed such big-heartedness while showing such small-mindedness; that he twisted facts with such abandon and in such abundance; that he again trotted out that nonsense about having done more for Black Americans than any president since Abraham Lincoln; that he disparaged Joe Biden for not “following the science” about Covid-19 when he, Trump, mused about injections of bleach and vouched recklessly for hydroxychloroquine.


College Football Is Not Essential

Why are some schools pressuring student-athletes to play a game that could expose them to the coronavirus?

By The Editorial Board

For more than six months now, many workers deemed essential have had to strap on face masks for shifts at meatpacking plants, Walmarts, grocery stores, hardware stores and restaurants. It is a necessary sacrifice for the nation’s well-being. But at universities across the country, while scores of professors, staff and students start the academic year remotely to curb the spread of the coronavirus, another class of worker will be asked to strap on protective gear to do their job — without the face coverings: college football players.

Never has the inaccuracy of the term “student-athlete” been put in starker relief than in the misguided and dangerous attempt by the Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference to press forward with a nearly full season of football games beginning next month — as nonathlete classmates are sent home for their safety. For many college competitors, but for football in particular, the demands of practice and travel can exceed those of a full-time job. The players do it all, however, for no pay — while schools, coaches, television networks and the conferences profit.

Saturday afternoon college football is a way of life for millions of Americans. But the players — and make no mistake, the young people who play for these teams are workers, helping to generate billions in revenue collectively for their universities — are not essential in the middle of a pandemic that has already taken nearly 200,000 lives in the United States. The health and future of college players deserve far more consideration than they’ve gotten thus far from their coaches, their fans and the presidents of their universities.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences, whose members include powerhouses like the University of Michigan and the University of Southern California, this month decided to suspend their coming football seasons until it is prudent for players to return to a sport that is impossible to play while staying six feet apart.

Until there is such a thing as a socially distanced quarterback sack, the other three so-called Power 5 conferences ought to follow suit. The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s own physicians raised concerns about the potential for the virus to spread in a contact sport like football. Putting affected players under quarantine for two weeks doesn’t account for the potential lingering effects of the virus to the heart and brain well after symptoms have abated. One survey by an Ohio State cardiologist, for instance, found a high rate of myocarditis among athletes who had otherwise recovered from the virus.


Police in Germany shut down protest against coronavirus restrictions

Source: LA Times

Berlin police ordered a protest by people opposed to Germany’s pandemic restrictions to disband Saturday after participants refused to observe social distancing rules.

Tens of thousands of people had gathered at the German capital’s iconic Brandenburg Gate in the morning before streaming down the Unter den Linden boulevard in a show of defiance against Germany’s coronavirus prevention measures.

Protesters with a wide range of grievances carried banners proclaiming their opposition to vaccinations, face masks and the German government in general. Some waved American, Russian or German Reich flags, while others had T-shirts promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory. Several wore clothing with white nationalist slogans and neo-Nazi insignia, but most participants interviewed denied having far-right views.

Uwe Bachmann, 57, said he had come from southwestern Germany to protest for free speech and his right not to wear a mask.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-08-29/berlin-police-shut-down-protest-against-virus-restrictions

Trump's speech was nasty, brutish and interminable

Opinion by Michael Gerson

There is much that can be said about President Trump’s intemperate, interminable convention speech. It combined the generous, unifying spirit of an average Trump campaign rally with the concision and amusement value of a typical State of the Union address. After a week of speeches from Republicans attempting to humanize their nominee, Trump demonstrated that it is possible to be brutish and boring at the same time.

The speech was ripe with rhetorical tensions. Trump called for “a new spirit of unity that can only be realized through love for our great country.” So, Americans can be united — but only if they accept Trump’s version of American nationalism. The president is, in essence, urging national unity against people who don’t accept his version of unity. The point is subtle to the point of absurdity.

In another bold challenge to coherence, Trump said that “we have ended the rule of the failed political class” while depicting a country overrun by “illegal aliens,” political correctness, the “China virus,” violent criminals and godlessness. Trump’s incumbency requires a record of sterling achievement; his insurgent populism demands a dystopia to overthrow. Trump’s America must remedy the horrible ills of . . . Trump’s America.

I could pick at loose threads of logic all day. But Trump’s speech Thursday should be ultimately judged by its treatment of the two largest issues of our time. How did Trump respond to the covid-19 pandemic that has thrown our country into economic crisis and cost at least 178,000 lives? And how did he deal with deep divisions of region, race and ideology that paralyze our politics and threaten our union?


The latest battlefield in a heated presidential campaign: front yards bearing Biden signs.

Across Pennsylvania — especially in rural communities — tens of thousands of yard signs supporting Joe Biden have popped up as his fans try to replicate how Donald Trump showed his growing support in the state in 2016. And, just as quickly, some of those signs have been vanishing.

It usually happens in the dark of night, local Democrats say, but sometimes in daylight. Sometimes entire streets or neighborhoods are cleared. Pro-Biden Facebook groups have devoted long threads to strategies for deterring sign snatchers — one suggestion involves clear hair gel and pesky glitter, another electrifying the metal frame with a car battery.

While sign thefts are a problem every election year for candidates of both parties — and are an ongoing source of headaches for campaign staffers and party officials — some Democrats in Pennsylvania and several other states insist it’s worse for them this year and illustrates the emotional intensity of the coming election. While there are examples of Trump signs also disappearing, there hasn’t been the same level of public outcry.

Campaign staffers frequently roll their eyes at the utility of campaign signs, preferring to spend their time and money on higher-tech sales pitches. But as the Trump campaign proved in 2016, signs can create a momentum for a candidate all on their own, persuading people that siding with a candidate, even a controversial one, is safe.


As Trump appointees flout the Hatch Act, civil servants who get caught get punished

A Defense Logistics Agency employee was suspended for 30 days without pay last fall after giving his office colleagues a PowerPoint presentation that displayed the words, “Vote Republican.”

An Energy Department worker was forced to resign in January after admitting she gave a woman running for Congress a tour of a federal waste treatment plant so the candidate could show her expertise to potential voters.

Another civil servant began a 120-day suspension without pay from the Food and Drug Administration in July after creating a Facebook page with his name and photograph to solicit political donations and then co-hosting a fundraiser.

These were some of the recent consequences for federal workers who illegally mixed government employment with partisan politics in violation of the Hatch Act, the anti-corruption law Congress passed in 1939.


'No one has done more.' At the RNC, Kevin McCarthy lauds Trump

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California’s most powerful Republican, lauded President Trump as a savior for the nation on Thursday, the final night of the GOP’s national convention.

“No one has done more to protect and advance [the United States] than President Trump,” McCarthy said, arguing that Trump created strong trade deals, supported the military and strengthened the border. “As Republicans, we are proud to stand with him and to work for you. Together we built the greatest economy the world has ever seen — and we will do it again.”

McCarthy laced into Democratic nominee Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris — his state’s junior senator — as supporting policies that would lead to socialism, poverty and government control.

McCarthy, a prodigious fundraiser who has represented the Central Valley in Congress since 2007, was the chairman of the Republicans’ four-day nominating convention. The post is recognition of McCarthy’s being among Trump’s earliest supporters in the 2016 presidential campaign and among his most vocal and loyal defenders.


Gawd I despise this asshole.

Trump accepts the nomination, may still be speaking, because no one made it past the first hour

Last night Donald Trump accepted the Republican coronation in an extravaganza whose central theme was “Farewell to democracy.” In a genuinely horrific display of authoritarian ownership, Trump not only filled the South Lawn with white chairs—and equally white supporters—but bracketed the White House with enormous LED signs surely secunded from their normal roles of advertising mattress sales along the interstate. Then Trump-themed fireworks burst over the National Mall. It was gaudy. It was sickening. It was deeply, intrinsically tacky.

In front of the Vegas-ified White House, Republicans delivered a night of lies which repeatedly turned to one theme: We wouldn’t be in this mess if Trump was in charge. The pandemic, the economic collapse, the violence … all could be solved if someone like Donald Trump was at the helm. Gee, what a shame Trump isn’t here to steer this ship out of the storm some absolute jackass got it into.

As Joe Biden tweeted during the evening, Trump wasn’t asking for a second term; he was asking for a do-over.

When it came his turn to speak, Trump demonstrated that the complaints that “anyone can read from a teleprompter” were not true at all. Not only did Trump struggle to follow along in an emotionless drone—like a large, orange, sweaty bee—he also mangled multiple phrases, from “profoundly accepting” the nomination to “we pioneered the fatality rate.” Reading, as it turns out, is a skill.

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