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Politics

French prime minister, government resign

Edouard Philippe and the current ministers will remain in-post until a new government is named | Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

Move comes in the wake of disappointing results for Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche party in local elections.

By

7/3/20, 9:34 AM CET

Updated 7/3/20, 10:11 AM CET

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron will appoint a new prime minister on Friday, after Edouard Philippe and his government resigned earlier in the day.

“A new prime minister will be appointed in the coming hours,” an official in Macron’s office said.

Earlier, Macron’s office said in a press release: “Mr. Edouard Philippe submitted the resignation of the government to the president of the Republic, which he [Macron] has accepted.”

Current ministers will remain in-post until a new government is named. The French president appoints the prime minister, who then nominates the rest of the government.

The reshuffle is part of Macron’s efforts to reset his presidency after the coronavirus crisis, and comes in the wake of a disappointing result for his La République En Marche party in local elections on Sunday. The Greens, meanwhile, conquered some of France’s biggest cities in the ballots.

Macron has been hinting at a reshuffle and a pivot to greener and more social policies for several weeks, but wouldn’t say whether he planned on keeping Philippe.

This article has been updated.

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Boris Johnson: UK not being ‘disrespectful’ toward EU in Brexit talks

“I’m not remotely disrespectful of Michel or the EU system which I know well and understand,” Johnson said | Peter Summers/Getty Images

British PM ‘optimistic’ about reaching a future relationship deal with Brussels.

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected claims that the U.K. was being disrespectful toward the EU or its chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier after the latest round of future relationship talks ended abruptly on Thursday.

In a statement after the end of this week’s negotiation round, Barnier pointed to “serious divergences” between the U.K. and the EU, and said he expected the EU’s positions to be “to better understood and respected in order to reach an agreement.”

The British prime minister rejected the suggestion of a lack of respect in an interview on LBC Radio on Friday.

“I’m not remotely disrespectful of Michel or the EU system which I know well and understand,” Johnson said. “I don’t think it is right that we have to continue to proceed on the basis of the European Court of Justice continuing to arbitrate in the U.K., or us continuing to have to obey EU rules even when we are out of the EU, or hand over our amazing fish stock.”

He added that he has had some “very good conversations with friends and colleagues around the EU” and feels “a bit more optimistic” than Barnier about reaching a Brexit deal in coming months.

The interview took place a day before large parts of the U.K.’s hospitality and cultural sectors reopen Saturday, including restaurants, pubs and theaters. Johnson urged people to “enjoy summer sensibly and make sure that it all works.”

During the interview, the prime minister faced questions over why the public will be able to have a haircut from Saturday but not go to a nail bar, and why they were allowed to play tennis but the cricket ball was deemed to be a vector for coronavirus.

He acknowledged there are “inconsistencies” in his government’s plan to lift lockdown restrictions in England, but stressed these are necessary to keep the “lid” on the pandemic.

“You can find all sorts of inconsistencies,” he said. “But we are managing a pandemic … The only way to keep a lid on the pandemic is, I’m afraid, to take certain steps to reduce human contact.”

Johnson refused to answer questions about his father’s trip to Greece, saying it was a “family conversation.” Despite the U.K. Foreign Office’s advice against all non-essential travel, Stanley Johnson said on Thursday that he had travelled from London to Athens via Bulgaria.

The prime minister refused to put a date to an official inquiry into his government’s response to the pandemic, but said the government “will have to go back and look at the whole issue of what happened in care homes in great, great detail.”

He also stood by the government’s decision to discharge elderly patients from hospital and take them back to their care homes, which has been blamed for a surge in cases at these facilities.

“What we certainly wanted to do was to ensure we had the space in the NHS, that’s absolutely right, but what I’m told is every decision to move people out of the beds in the NHS was taken on a clinical basis and not in any way intended to endanger the care homes,” he said.

Johnson added that Chancellor Rishi Sunak would announce more economic support measures next week.

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Politics

MEPs reject European Banking Authority nominee over gender balance concerns

It is the second time the committee has voted against the Paris agency’s nominee for the executive post | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

Parliament committee votes down EBA’s second male candidate in a push for women in financial posts.

EU lawmakers voted down François-Louis Michaud’s nomination to the European Banking Authority by one vote, escalating a demand for more women in financial posts.

The European Parliament’s economics committee voted 24 to 23 to reject the his candidacy for EBA executive director, in a secret ballot conducted electronically Thursday. There were 10 abstentions. Results were emailed to members Friday.

It is the second time the committee has voted against the Paris agency’s nominee for the executive post, as lawmakers flex their muscle over top appointments at financial institutions.

“We are disappointed about this outcome and we wait for the decision of the Parliament in its plenary session next week,” an EBA spokeswoman said by email.

Michaud, now one of the European Central Bank’s top supervisors of eurozone lenders, pledged in writing to “immediately tackle” the issue of gender balance at the EBA — but it was not enough.

Evelyn Regner of Austria, the Socialist chair of Parliament’s committee on women’s rights and gender quality, emailed ECON members on Thursday to encourage them to vote against Michaud.

She urged colleagues to vote down the appointment because the EBA had not offered a gender-balanced shortlist with a female candidate alongside Michaud.

The second blow to the EBA comes after the Parliament blocked the nomination of Irish regulator Gerry Cross in January, due to similar concerns over gender equality as well as revolving doors with industry.

The EBA board’s original shortlist was composed of three candidates: Cross, Michaud and Isabel Vaillant, the agency’s current director of prudential regulation and supervisory policy.

This article has been updated with comment from the EBA.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Financial Services. From the eurozone, banking union, CMU, and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the Financial Services policy agenda. Email pro@politico.eu for a complimentary trial.

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What Sweden can teach us about coronavirus

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Elisabeth Braw directs the Modern Deterrence project at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies.

Ever since the coronavirus swept into Europe, everybody’s had an opinion about Sweden.

Specifically, the country’s decision not to impose a nationwide lockdown — a strategy that has resulted in a higher death toll than many of its neighbors — has been derided by many international observers as a libertarian approach that could only go wrong.

“Sweden’s COVID-19 policy is a model for the right. It’s also a deadly folly,” opined the Guardian’s Nick Cohen in May. “Sweden Tries Out a New Status: Pariah State,” the New York Times excitedly reported on June 22.

The truth could not be more different. Not only is the verdict still out on the wisdom of the Swedish approach; the country’s strategy has nothing to do with the live-and-let-die philosophy most prominently championed by U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

It’s not everyone-for-himself — as face mask refusers in the United States or Brazil would have it — but everyone-for-the-community.

Instead, the Swedish model is rooted in the country’s history of collective action, in which everyone has a role to play in keeping the country safe.

Sweden’s coronavirus strategy is a public health version of the country’s “total defense” approach to national security. Introduced during World War II and perfected during the Cold War, it posits that every citizen has to do their part to defend the nation.

Faced with powerful potential invaders like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Sweden had no choice but to involve large parts of the population in the country’s defense. Not only were all men required to participate in military service, but civilians and businesses were expected to play their parts too.

Industrial giants such as Volvo worked with the government to keep production up in case of war. Scores of civilian experts were given special government duties (and received training) should war break out. Every citizen could volunteer by, for example, driving heavy vehicles or using their radio communication skills to assist the armed forces and other government agencies in case of a crisis.

The system was slashed after the end of the Cold War, but in 2015 — partly in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine — the Swedish government decided to resurrect the program.

The first total defense exercise since 1988 was launched last fall. The exercise, which is still underway, is led by the armed forces and the civil protection and public safety agency, and involves the participation of government agencies, businesses and volunteers.

Sweden’s coronavirus strategy is based on the same idea. It’s not everyone-for-himself — as face mask refusers in the United States or Brazil would have it — but everyone-for-the-community.

While there’s no denying that Sweden’s approach has, so far, led to a much higher death toll than in many of its neighbors, Stockholm is betting it will be proved right in the long run.

A comparison to, say, Portugal, a similarly sized country that locked down hard and early, is dispiriting. Sweden has suffered 61,137 infections and 5,280 deaths, compared with Portugal’s 41,189 infections and 1,561 deaths.

It’s important to note, however, that the largest number of deaths in Sweden has occurred in care homes. Of the people who died by June 1, 2,036 lived in care homes, and 1,062 were elderly people living at home looked after by government-funded carers. While, this is a problem that certainly needs to be addressed, it also means that it’s too early to write off the country’s coronavirus strategy as an overall failure.

Sweden is betting that strict coronavirus rules like those imposed in virtually every other European country can only work in the short term. Treating citizens as children lacking the judgment to make wise decisions is not a sustainable approach. Addressing a prolonged crisis, or one that comes in repeated waves, will require citizens to be active and responsible participants in their security — not mere recipients of government instructions.

“The long-term sustainability of strict rules isn’t that big,” Anders Tegnell, the epidemiologist in charge of the Swedish coronavirus response, recently told a Danish interviewer. “You can only impose such restrictions for a limited time. So, you need to find a different way, and our model may prove more sustainable.”

Sweden’s State Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell | Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

He may very well be right. Swedes are demonstrating that collective responsibility is possible: Even though the government has only issued behavioral guidelines and individuals don’t face fines for non-compliance, 93 percent of the population say they are following social-distancing recommendations.

Instead of ridiculing Sweden, international observers should inform themselves about the historical background of the country’s approach — and ask themselves what there is to learn from the Swedish example.

The World Health Organization has already taken notice, with its top emergencies expert, Mike Ryan, pointing to the country as an example for others coming out of lockdowns. “If we are to reach a new normal, in many ways Sweden represents a future model,” he said in April.

The Swedish model of collective action also has important lessons that go far beyond public health efforts.

The biggest looming crisis of all, climate change, will require far more radical change than governments have so far committed to — and that will only be possible with the active, informed participation of their citizens.

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Politics

How Real Conspiracies Inspired False Rumors About Flooding Black Communities With Fireworks

A person records with a phone an amateur fireworks display in an empty park on June 24, 2020 in the Brooklyn.Stephanie Keith/Getty

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John Williams had just finished his fourth novel and was trying to figure out how to sell it. His 1967 book, The Man Who Cried I Am, focused on a CIA plot to stave off an inevitable Black uprising by exterminating all people of African descent. The existing avenues for promotion weren’t particularly receptive to Black fiction-writers like Williams. So he sought to generate buzz by photocoping sections of the book discussing the plot, which he dubbed the King Alfred Plan, and leaving them on subway seats in Manhattan.

As Williams admitted himself in a 1971 interview with Jet magazine, the marketing gambit didn’t help The Man Who Cried I Am sell particularly well. But it still had an lasting impact: as Herb Boyd, a journalist and New York college professor, wrote in a 2002 issue of Black Issues Book Review, the “ploy worked so well that soon after, black folks all over New York City were talking about ‘the plan’” which “many thought was true.”

It wasn’t, but the King Alfred Plan tapped into a very real fear of the government targeting and persecuting Black communities in an era characterized by grossly illegal plots, including the FBI encouraging Martin Luther King Jr. to commit suicide and the assassination of Black Panther activist Fred Hampton.

In the 60 years since Williams dreamed up the King Alfred Plan, the paranoia that helped the conspiracy spread is still embedded in the minds of many Black Americans. Most recently, that fear has manifested itself in popular explanations for the surge of fireworks that have been popping off in urban areas across the country, leading to sleepless nights and wild rumors.

For the last several weeks, city dwellers all over the United States have posted on social media about hearing and seeing unprecedented displays of fireworks. Reporting has backed up the claims. One fireworks wholesale retailer told The Atlantic that there were 60 percent more orders than normal, and that those customers were spending up to 40 percent more than usual. The president of the American Pyrotechnics Association told CNBC that some sellers have seen a 200 to 300 percent sales jump.

As posts about the fireworks went viral, suspicious that something unexplained was underway began to crop up. “Too many ppl from major cities sayin this,” rapper Wale tweeted on June 20. “Something is afoot.” More elaborate stories and conspiracies started popping up soon after his post.

“We think this is psychological warfare, the first wave before whatever the next stage of the attack is,” novelist Robert Jones Jr. wrote on June 20, in a Twitter thread about the fireworks that would go viral. “There is NO WAY IN THE WORLD that young Black and Brown people would otherwise have access to these PROFESSIONAL fireworks.”

Jones speculated that “the government is providing these to neighborhood young people,” theorizing that the fireworks could be a “desensitization” tactic for impending martial law or a method to cause sleep deprivation in minority communities in retaliation for protesting against police in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. “They clearly don’t understand that they’re pawns,” he wrote, before warning that “cops may be setting young folks up” for arrest. Jones’s thread got serious attention, receiving around 10,000 likes. It was even boosted by respected journalists on Twitter, including Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Since these theories took off, reporters have dug into the fireworks and found a simpler explanation. Legal fireworks sales are up, and the fireworks black market also appears to be thriving. Resellers have imported fireworks across state lines into areas where they’re illegal and sold them on the streets. Bored kids who had been pent up at home under coronavirus lockdown without anything to do are taking advantage of readily available fireworks to pass the time.

Despite all the counterfactual evidence to the fireworks as a psyop conspiracy, a lot of people thought that there was something to it.

Two days after Jones’s thread, Nigerian-American writer Clarkisha Kent wrote about the theory in another moderately viral thread. Her points echoed Jones’s but also explained why, even in the absence of firm evidence, the theory caught steam. “Here’s the reason I’m not so quick to denounce Black ‘conspiracy theorists,’” Kent wrote. “The stuff that has happened to Black people in this country (and even elsewhere in the world) IS the stuff of conspiracy theories. It IS the stuff of science fiction.”

When she wrote the “stuff that has happened to Black people,” Kent was referring not only to government backed-suppression of civil rights era black activists, but to older official initiatives like the Tuskegee experiments—in which Black men were unknowingly coerced into becoming guinea pigs for Syphilis studies—and forcibly sterilizing large numbers of Black women in North Carolina for almost half a century that jeopardized Black lives or prevented Black births.

Patricia Turner, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles’s Department of African American Studies, says the fireworks conspiracies “reminded me of an adage: ‘Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.’”

While the mantra is usually used by deluded conspiracy theorists, for Black Americans, history has proven the advice valid. The idea that fireworks are being intentionally planted into the hands of Black youth as a part of a nationwide law enforcement effort is deeply paranoid. But is it less outlandish and unbelievable than lying about giving free healthcare to people with syphilis and then letting them die? Less outlandish than state-funded medical workers forcibly sterilizing women? Less outlandish than sending letters to civil rights leaders urging them to kill themselves? None of these are science fiction, novel plots, or conspiracies.

Turner told me that the fireworks conspiracy called to mind the enduring power of stories about crack cocaine being introduced to impoverished black communities by the federal government. Like drugs, “fireworks usually aren’t manufactured in the community,” they’re manufactured elsewhere and shipped in, she said, noting that “they both have the potential to be destructive to those using them and those around them.”

As with John Williams’s King Alfred Plan theory and the fireworks theory, there was no evidence of a government plot to spread illegal drugs to any segment of the U.S. population. But reporting in the ’80s and ’90s by the Associated Press and the San Jose Mercury News—later corroborated in key respects by information unearthed in official inquires—revealed that Central American paramilitary forces allied with the CIA had funded operations by selling crack and cocaine in the US with the agency’s knowledge.

Given the consistent onslaught of covert attacks on the black community, conspiratorial thinking is arguably a survival tool: a “productive resource” as Anthony Cooke, a former professor at Georgia Southern University, once put it in an article titled “Black Community, Media and Intellectual Paranoia-as-Politics.” Published in 2011 in the Journal of Black Studies, Cooke wrote that Black Americans in the 1960s, facing “segregation, unemployment, and anti-Black terror,” turned to deep suspicion and often outright conspiracy theories as a means of ensuring “both physical and psychic survival.” 

It’s easy to laugh at the fruits of this paranoia when they are incorrect. But they are sometimes correct. In the 18 months prior to health officials acknowledging that there was something wrong with the water in Flint, Michigan, authorities repeatedly promised the water was fine. Black people, meanwhile, repeatedly said something was wrong, drawing national attention that ultimately proved the claims right, and giving some the opportunity to obtain alternate sources of water. The survival tool worked.

There is no single determinant of what kind of person turns to conspiracy theories, and believers sit along a vast spectrum of ideology and intensity. But being or feeling excluded from having a voice in politics is a consistent trait among many who believe in conspiracy theories. Journalist Anna Merlan, the author of Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power, has observed that one driver of conspiracy ideation is “rising disenfranchisement, a feeling many people have that they are shut out of systems of power, pounding furiously at iron doors that will never open to admit them.” Social science research has reached the same finding.

Throughout American history, Black people have waded through both literal and metaphorical disenfranchisement, and been represented by elected leaders who don’t or can’t come through on policies that would alleviate suffering in their communities. It might not be a coincidence that the fictional King Alfred Plan found an audience ready to believe and spread it in 1967, just a few years after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act.

While Martin Luther King Jr. and allies who pushed for the bill never claimed that it would be a panacea ending racial inequity, by the end of the decade, it was becoming clear that changes in the law weren’t doing much to address structural racism. The wealth gap between Black and white households was more or less as large as it had ever been. Black incarceration rates were still on the rise. Even with sweeping civil rights legislation on the books, many things were still atrocious for Black America. It would not be unreasonable to suspect some conspiracy from “the man” launched to thwart promises of progress, even if like-minds disagreed on the specifics.

Today, as establishment Democrats tell Black Americans driven to protest after the George Floyd’s killing that demands of defunding or abolishing the police in the pursuit of racial justice are off the table, there’s been a proliferation of fireworks conspiracies positing a plot targeting Black youth. As the community’s demands have been rebuffed, highlighting their powerlessness, they’ve been drawn to a unsubstantiated story that nonetheless correctly identifies where the power is (in the hands of the police) and who it targets (Black youth and communities). 

What will come out of the protests is unclear, but the fireworks rumors could portend larger conspiracies if, like in the 60s, gaping holes are left in policies to mitigate systemic racism. Even as the conspiracy has faded on Twitter, police in Boston, New York, Rhode Island, and elsewhere have promised crackdowns on fireworks. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said that the city’s ramped up response to fireworks would include “undercover buys” and “sting operations.” More arrests almost always mean more Black arrests—a very real consequence which the conspiracy theorists saw coming.

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Jobs: Good News/Bad News — and Wee Tim’rous Beasties

People who lost their jobs fill out paperwork to file for unemployment following an outbreak of the coronavirus, at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fayetteville, Ark., April 6, 2020. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

The headlines look just fine. No, more than fine.

CNBC:

Nonfarm payrolls soared by 4.8 million in June and the unemployment rate fell to 11.1% as the U.S. continued its reopening from the coronavirus pandemic, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting a 2.9 million increase and a jobless rate of 12.4%. The report was released a day earlier than usual due to the July Fourth holiday.

The jobs growth marked a big leap from the 2.7 million in May, which was revised up by 190,000. The June total is easily the largest single-month gain in U.S. history.

But:

. . . . because the government survey comes from the middle of the month, it does not account for the suspension or rollbacks in regions hit by a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

As CNBC noted, new jobless claims rose, and by more than estimated, but the most interesting number (to me) was highlighted by Felix Salmon for Axios:

Thursday’s jobs report showed 4.8 million jobs created in June, but those were overwhelmingly people beginning to return to places where they had been temporarily laid off. The number of “permanent job losers” went up, not down, rising 25% in just one month to 2.8 million from 2.2 million.

This, I think, underlines the point that you cannot just switch an economy off and then on, just like that. A “pause” on the scale and, possibly more seriously still, of the duration, that we have seen was always going mean that the recovery would fall very far short of the ‘V’ on which so many are pinning their hopes.

I cannot help wondering whether it might have been different if the U.S. had had something in place more directly akin to Germany’s Kurzarbeit arrangements (It’s well worth reading Standpoint’s Christopher Rauh on this topic).

If I had to guess (which is all, really, that anyone can do), the most likely shape of the recovery will be a ‘K’.  That won’t be good news for those in the wrong part of the K, or, for that matter, the GOP in November.

I’d also pay close attention to Salmon’s comments on where the money that is being pumped (theoretically) into the economy is going.

Short answer: Much of it is going nowhere, at least for now.

Salmon:

We’ve already thrown $6 trillion at this crisis. Much of it seems to have found its way into the stock market, which rose 20% in the second quarter. A new stimulus bill could add another $1 trillion or so. But far too much of that money just isn’t being put to effective use . . . .

If money flows into a bank and just sits there, that’s a sign of severe economic malaise — the “paradox of thrift.” In a healthy economy, individuals and corporations spend freely, and that free spending causes more money to come in tomorrow. In an unhealthy economy, cash gets hoarded and does not contribute to economic activity . . .

Americans saved 32% of their income in April, and 23% in May — numbers vastly higher than all previous records. Money-market funds now hold $4.7 trillion. Corporate cash balances are similarly surging, and now stand at well over $2 trillion. And the total amount of cash available for spending in checking accounts and other readily-accessible locations is now over $5.2 trillion.

Part of this reflects the simple reality that, particularly where discretionary spending is concerned, there are limited opportunities for spending with so much of the consumer economy shut down. But part of this may be simple caution. People do not feel secure enough to spend.

While, as Salmon notes, “insofar as the CARES Act was designed to ensure that America didn’t run out of money, it succeeded. And the individually-focused elements of the act — the $1,200 stimulus checks and the $600-per-week extra unemployment benefit — worked to cushion the economic blow that hit millions of Americans.”  That’s good, but the broader picture — that of a nervous consumer is unchanged.

And if the consumer is nervous, so are companies.

Salmon:

Much of the corporate aid in the act — from $500 billion in emergency relief for businesses to the Fed’s Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility — has ended up almost entirely untouched. Even the Main Street lending facility has lent almost nothing.

Keynes saw a revival in what he referred to as “animal spirits” as an essential element in any recovery.

The only animal I can see (borrowing shamelessly from Robert Burns) is a “wee . . . tim’rous beastie,” cowering in its burrow. That’s understandable — and it’s not good news.

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Politics

RNC Pays Big Bucks To Former ‘Apprentice’ Producer, For Convention Stuff. And Things!

With Donald Trump’s reelection effort riding a wave of perfect poll numbers, a booming economy, and a nation that’s completely healthy and at peace with itself, there’s really little reason to think too much about politics, since nothing could possibly derail Trump’s coronation as president-for-life. Which is why it’s probably not worth even considering this Daily Beast story reporting that the Republican National Convention has hired a former producer of Trump’s financial-education documentary series “The Apprentice” to help it put together the party’s big Coronavirus Rainbow Party. Of particular not-interest is the tiny detail that the producer, former NBC exec Chuck LaBella, has no actual experience in doing political conventions or events. Also of no significance at all would be that LaBella is said to know “all the dirt” about Donald Trump. Honestly, no single person could have all the dirt.


LaBella no doubt works hard for the money, and that’s why the RNC treats him right (also we have no idea why the article has his name with a lowercase b when he capitalizes it himself):

From August 2019 through May 2020, the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Convention made
a dozen payments totaling more than $66,000 to Labella Worldwide, Inc. for “production consulting services.”

Gosh, dare we dream of a Gary Busey-Meat Loaf rematch at the convention? There can obviously be no other reason for the payments to LaBella’s very busy entertainment concern, which is thriving so hard that its website currently looks like this:

We suppose a particularly rude person might conceivably jump to totally unwarranted conclusions from some other details in the Daily Beast story:

According to actor Tom Arnold, who was a contestant on the show and has since become a vociferous Trump critic, Labella was in possession of Trump’s ostensibly salacious—and, in political and media circles, long-sought—behind-the-scenes Apprentice outtakes. “Chuck LaBella was there and knows all,” Arnold said. Arnold’s accusations are often brushed aside by Trumpworld as conspiracy-mongering. But the charges he leveled were reportedly serious enough that Trump’s then personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, helped situate Labella with a close attorney, Keith Davidson, in late 2017. Davidson’s name became prominent for his representation of another Trump-adjacent personality: porn star Stormy Daniels, for whom he helped arrange hush money payments in order to maintain her silence about her alleged affair with Trump. Davidson did not return a request for comment.

What, you people see the names of some people who happened to be involved in hush-money payments that Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making on the behalf of Individual One, and you think there might be something funny going on with these completely above-board consulting fees to a great entertainment industry expert who’s bringing his expertise to an upcoming event? Gosh, you’re cynical, and the Daily Beast is very careful — as are we — to avoid suggesting there’s anything the least bit untoward going on here.

And indeed, it would be highly inappropriate to think otherwise, says RNC national press secretary Mandi Merritt, who is definitely not described as having a completely flat, expressionless affect as she told the Daily Beast that LaBella was doing perfectly standard event production things:

Chuck LaBella is consulting on a variety of efforts for convention, including talent, production, stage design, and media consulting. […] It’s incredibly common for large scale events such as these to receive consulting from those with backgrounds in the entertainment industry and to suggest anything other than that is not only flat on wrong, but offensive and misleading.

INCREDIBLY common, probably the most ordinary thing ever! An unnamed RNC official also pointed out that the Democrats are using a person who happens to have entertainment industry connections for their convention, too, noting that the DNC has “re-hired Ricky Kirschner (sic) as executive producer for its convention.” Kirshner, the Daily Beast points out, has indeed “produced every Democratic Party convention since 1992 in addition to Super Bowl halftime shows and the Tony Awards,” so he really is a LOT like the former Trump associate who has never done a political convention before and is merely rumored by a crazy actor guy to have dirt on Trump.

The article also notes that, before it went into COMING SOON mode, an archived version of LaBella’s website said he was “currently consulting for two network television shows: Fox’s The Masked Singer and ABC’s Holey Moley.” We would add that since Sarah Palin was recently on the “Masked Singer” thing — intoning, we shit you not, “Baby Got Back” — clearly LaBella IS a political sort of guy, so let’s just not read anything at all into his being paid to work on this summer’s RNC.

We would say more, but we suddenly really need to pee for absolutely no reason at all.

[Daily Beast]

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OANN Cooked Up A Poll For President Trump To Snort, Shoot, Smoke, Or Pop. It’ll Make You Feel Good!

Fox’s inbred cousin One American News Network has released a poll of Arizona voters, and it is a holy wonder. Donald Trump is going to get all tingly in his orange bits when he discovers that he’s running four points ahead of Biden instead of four points behind. Martha McSally is not A IDIOT, though, so she’s probably not going to fall for a poll that shows her four points ahead of Democrat Mark Kelly, rather than trailing him by 10. On the other hand, she is getting pretty desperate, so …

Okay, let’s take a look at this poll, shall we? See if maybe there’s some way they manipulated the pool of “527 registered, likely voters in Arizona” sharing their opinions via “interactive voice responses and an online panel of cell phone users.”

Uhhhhhh, 47 percent of respondents to this poll voted for Trump four years ago, and only 33 percent for Clinton? Does that seem like a representative sample of the electorate?

via NYT

In fact, it does not!


They shaved off 11 percentage points worth of Hillary Clinton voters from the jump? Very subtle! Well if OANN deliberately undersampled registered Democrats, that would show up in the party registrations, right?

Hmm, let’s just compare that to the party breakdown according to Arizona’s Secretary of State.

Fam, we are shook! They look to have given Democrats a haircut here, too. Whodathunkit from a network that had to pull its own poll last month for being complete garbage! And just for good measure, let’s compare the racial breakdown of their sample set to the Census Bureau’s estimate that Hispanics make up 32 percent of Arizona’s population.

UH HUH. So when they say, “The results are weighted by voting demographics,” what they mean is “We arbitrarily decided that Democrats and Hispanics weren’t going to turn up at the polls, which gave us the whiter, more Republican sample set we were hoping for.”

So, now we know where they hid the salami — not that it was all that hard to find, TBH — let’s see if stacking the deck yielded any spectacularly silly results.

In 2016, CNN’s national exit polling showed Trump garnering eight percent of the African American vote, 28 percent of the Latino vote, and 27 percent of the Asian vote. OANN shows him at 22 percent with African Americans, 32 percent with Latinos, and a whopping 76 percent with Asians. And if you think that’s some crazy shit, they’re showing McSally beating Mark Kelly 53 to 47 among African Americans. Sounds legit!

How did those crank-yankers at OANN manage to find McSally beating Mark Kelly with less of the white vote than she got in 2018 when she lost to Kyrsten Sinema? It’s magic!

Or perhaps it’s done by piling leading questions on top of a GOP oversample. Those onanists asked a full four questions using the word “riot” (Whom do you trust to prevent violent riots in American cities?; Is rioting an effective way to change policy?; Is activating the national guard an effective way to prevent further rioting?; Who is more responsible for the riots across the country?), two about support for the police, and one about blaming China for the coronavirus.

Two weeks ago, before Arizona’s COVID-19 numbers went through the roof, the pollsters from Sienna and the New York Times had Biden up 7 and Kelly up 9. But now that shit’s hitting the fan courtesy of Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, OANN wants you to believe that the Grand Canyon State is coming home to the GOP.

Yeah, you bet.

[OANN Poll]

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Politics

Young People Really Don’t Like Donald Trump

That doesn’t bode well for the future of the Republican Party.

Pew Research published a national poll this week that showed Biden with a ten point lead over Trump, much as we’ve seen from other polls. But when they broke the responses down by age, the most startling result was that with 18-29 year-olds, Biden’s lead is 40 points (68-28). That might not be surprising. But here is a comparison to previous Democratic candidates.

Pew also found that for Biden supporters, 67 percent said that their choice is more about opposition to Trump. I’m sure that is probably true for the subset of voters under 30 years of age. In other words, young people really don’t like Donald Trump.

We watched that play out when young people used social media to troll the Trump campaign into thinking there would be a massive crowd at his Tulsa rally. The small attendance was related to people’s concerns about the coronavirus, but the groundswell requesting tickets lured the campaign into boasting about all of the enthusiasm for the president—which crashed spectacularly. It was an excellent reminder that young people will find their own ways of making their voices heard in the political arena.

As always, the concern about young people is whether or not they will actually show up at the polls to vote. We’ve already seen that, for all of the emphasis the Sanders campaign put on that demographic group, they didn’t show up for the primaries in great numbers. So that will remain a concern in 2020.

But the Trump presidency has solidified the fact that young people are being repelled by the Republican Party. Contrary to the myth about voters getting more conservative with age, this is what the research tells us.

On an individual level, of course, many people’s political views evolve over the course of their lives. But academic research indicates not only that generations have distinct political identities, but that most people’s basic  outlooks and orientations are set fairly early on in life. As one famous longitudinal study of Bennington College women put it, “through late childhood and early adolescence, attitudes are relatively malleable…with the potential for dramatic change possible in late adolescence or early adulthood. [B]ut greater stability sets in at some early point, and attitudes tend to be increasingly persistent as people age.”

The distinct political identities of Millennials and Generation Z are being formed and solidified in the Trump era. That doesn’t bode well for the future of the Republican Party.

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Politics

Ludicrous: NY Times Paints St. Louis Gate-Breaking Mob as ‘Peaceful,’ Ignores Threats

The New York Times assigns Americans white hats and black hats based on the terminology they use. Leftists believe in “social justice reforms.” Conservatives believe in “exacerbating racial divisions.” The Left isn’t “exacerbating racial divisions” right now??

That was the caricature drawn by Times White House correspondent Annie Karni in her story “A Trump Retweet: Guns Pointed at Protesters,” about a videotaped confrontation between protestors and homeowners in St. Louis that went viral. Putting the reality of the mob aside, Karni described “a peaceful march” (through a private neighborhood) that encompassed destruction of a gate, trespassing on private property and verbal shouts and threats.

She smeared both the homeowners protecting their home and President Trump for tweeting about it, which was the ostensible reason that Washington-based Karni was covering a St. Louis incident in the first place.

In case any Times reader was confused whose side they were supposed to be on, Karni threw in unnecessarily racial and loaded (pardon the pun) terminology.

President Trump retweeted a video on Monday morning of a white man and woman brandishing a semiautomatic rifle and a handgun at peaceful black protesters in St. Louis over the weekend, amplifying a surreal scene that embodied the racial divisions roiling the country.

Mr. Trump’s promotion of the St. Louis confrontation was the second time in two days that the president used his social media platforms — which he often credits with allowing him to circumvent mainstream news outlets — to exacerbate racial divisions as Americans have been protesting police brutality and demanding social justice reforms after the killing of George Floyd.

Speaking of “exacerbating racial divisions”:

In the video from the protest on Sunday in St. Louis, a barefoot white man dressed in a pastel pink polo shirt and khakis emerges from his marble mansion and appears to threaten protesters who are marching down a private residential street. A woman, also barefoot, stands next to him in a pair of black capri pants, with her finger on the trigger of a silver handgun she points at the protesters.

From her perch in D.C., Karni insisted the protest, which ended with the gate to the private community destroyed, was wholly “peaceful.” That coverage is in keeping with the paper’s ludicrous evasion of actual violence at left-wing protests.

The protesters were participating in a peaceful march to the home of Lyda Krewson, the Democratic mayor of St. Louis, in order to demand her resignation after she released the names and identifying details of individuals who supported defunding the police.

The group can be heard banging on drums and yelling to one another, “Keep moving!” as they walk past the couple threatening them with firearms. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the white couple in the video were identified as Mark T. McCloskey and Patricia N. McCloskey, both personal injury lawyers.

But NewsBusters pointed to local CBS affiliate KMOV, which noted in a photo description that protesters “broke down a gate in the neighborhood to march past their home.”

KMOV’s skeptical story at least quoted Mr. McCloskey at length.

“It was like the storming of the Bastille, the gate came down and a large crowd of angry, aggressive people poured through,” Mark McCloskey said. “I was terrified that we’d be murdered within seconds. Our house would be burned down, our pets would be killed.”

“A mob of at least 100 smashed through the historic wrought iron gates of Portland Place, destroying them, rushed towards my home where my family was having dinner outside and put us in fear for our lives,” Mark McCloskey said, and shared photos of the destroyed gate.