Patterico's Pontifications


In The Air: Call To End Presidential Debates

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:32 pm

[guest post by Dana]

The idea is being promoted by members of the media and the political community. From Elizabeth Drew’s op-ed in the New York Times:

The debates have never made sense as a test for presidential leadership. In fact, one could argue that they reward precisely the opposite of what we want in a president. When we were serious about the presidency, we wanted intelligence, thoughtfulness, knowledge, empathy and, to be sure, likability. It should also go without saying, dignity.

Yet the debates play an outsize role in campaigns and weigh more heavily on the verdict than their true value deserves.

This, by the way, isn’t written out of any concern that Donald Trump will prevail over Joe Biden in the debates; Mr. Biden has done just fine in a long string of such contests. The point is that “winning” a debate, however assessed, should be irrelevant, as are the debates themselves.

Hm, if this call to end debates isn’t about concerns that Trump might possibly prevail over Biden during a debate, then why not make the case prior to the debate between Trump and Clinton, or Bush and Obama? I think that Ms. Drew’s timing is suspect:

Drew was a panelist for the first debate in the 1976 U.S. Presidential election, and moderated the debate between the Democratic candidates for the nomination in the 1984 race.

Which makes the question of ‘why now’ all the more relevant.

The New Republic suggests that political debates, like conventions, are relics of a bygone era:

This moment has forced us to reimagine much of our politics, and it’s perhaps the right time to consider whether these annual televised events have the same salience they had in the heyday of Jim Lehrer. The truth is that the debates have long since stopped serving the needs of voters and instead only exist to benefit television networks and cable news, in particular. Perhaps it’s time to consign them to the dustbin of history.

Every election cycle brings helpful souls out of the woodwork, pitching a new wave of ways to fix our broken presidential debates. There is a constant refrain: Dial down the pageantry and ratchet up the sobriety. It is a truth universally acknowledged that live audiences, more keen on hooting and hollering than listening, distract from the proceedings. This not only gives debates the atmosphere of an early-round NBA playoff game, but it also underlines the fact that what is happening is a spectacle, not anything of substance.

Whatever purpose these debates may have served at some point in the past has been overrun by media excess and politics’ cynical machinery. If they once functioned effectively as a showcase to contrast the essential differences between the candidates or to test their leadership and critical thinking skills, they now exist as a strange sort of political ritual that celebrates form over function and optics over authenticity. Really, they are just a thing we now do every election season, without fully understanding why we do it. What could we possibly learn from three debates between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, besides the fact that it’s time we did away with them entirely?

On a side note, Biden’s team is advising Biden not to participate in any scheduled debates, saying that it will just be an opportunity for a Trump publicity stunt:

Democratic strategists and supporters of Vice President Joe Biden are urging him not to debate President Donald Trump in the lead-up to Election Day, citing Trump’s publicity stunts and disregard for the rules in 2016…Former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart joined several Democratic Party strategists in bluntly advising Biden, “whatever you do, don’t debate Trump.” Speaking on CNN Saturday, Lockhart said Trump shouldn’t be given another platform which will enable him to “repeat lies,” which he said occurred in the 2016 debates against Hillary Clinton.

“We saw in the debates in 2016 Hillary Clinton showed a mastery of the issues, every point she made was more honest and bested Trump,” Lockhart told CNN. “But Trump came out of the debates doing better I think because he just kept repeating the same old lies: ‘we’re going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it,’ ‘we’re going to keep all those Mexican rapists out of the country,’ and ‘we’re going to make great trade deals’ — none of these things have come to pass.”

“Giving him that national forum to continue to spout — get him to 21,000 or 22,000 lies — I think just isn’t worth it for the Democrats or for Biden,” Lockhart continued

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign wants not just more debates but wants them to be scheduled sooner. Note: The Commission on Presidential Debates has scheduled four debates so far: three between Trump and Biden and one between Vice President Pence and whoever emerges as Biden’s running mate.

Although I watch the presidential debates, it is with the understanding that they are little more than well-rehearsed performative acts designed to seduce voters with a tightly-tailored snapshot of the candidate. The events rarely reveal anything we don’t already know about the candidate, especially in this election. However, because there are occasions when a well-timed bit of snark or a foot-in-mouth gaffe provides an unexpected laugh, I must insist that the two old, rich white clowns whose mental acuity is in question stand behind their respective podiums and debate one another (audience not required). I simply will not be denied the cheap thrills of *this* presidential debate. And how sad is that?

On a serious note, who do you think fares better in a debate between Biden and Trump, and why?


Black Lives Matter Louisville Uses Intimidation Tactics On Local Business Owners To Further…Social Justice

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:35 am

[guest post by Dana]

A Cuban business owner who came to the U.S. on a raft when he was just 18 years old took to the street to protest the intimidation tactics he (and other local business owners) face from Black Lives Matter. That’s a mighty nice restaurant you’ve got there. It’d be a shame to see something happen to it:

More than 100 members of Louisville’s Cuban community gathered at La Bodeguita de Mima, 735 E. Market St., Sunday to rally in support of the immigrant-owned restaurant.

The rally came after a controversial letter from Black Lives Matter protesters laid out demands that aim to improve diversity in NuLu, which is known for its locally owned shops and restaurants.

Fernando Martinez, a partner of the Olé Restaurant Group, publicly denounced the letter’s demands on Facebook, calling them “mafia tactics” used to intimidate business owners. On Thursday, a small group of protesters gathered outside his restaurant, La Bodeguita de Mima, in protest.

“La Bodeguita is open to everybody,” Martinez said. “If you’re gay, this is your home. If you’re Black, this is your home. If you’re white, this is your home. If you’re human, this is your home.”

He also condemned the criticism his business had received over diversity concerns.

“How can I be called a bigot and a racist when my family is Black? When my son is gay?” he asked. “I’m the proud father of a gay son, and I’m gonna fight for him against anybody.”

Some of BLM’s demands included that

…NuLu businesses adequately represent Louisville’s Black population by having a minimum of 23% Black staff, purchasing a minimum of 23% inventory from Black retailers or donating 1.5% of net sales to a local Black nonprofit or organization and requiring diversity and inclusion training for all staff members on a bi-annual basis.

How is this not a shakedown hiding under the guise of social justice? Because the question is: what happens if the businesses refuse to meet the group’s demands? While the Social Justice Rating System seems childish to me given that local businesses will be slapped with a rating of either an A, C, or a failing F if they don’t meet demands, I want to know what, if any, further consequences there will be for the non-compliant? Protests in front of their businesses? Efforts to drive away customers? Shut down their businesses?

Apparently, the gentrification of the area was the catalyst for the BLM action:

At the root of the protesters’ demands is the request that business owners acknowledge the harm brought on Black residents when they were displaced from NuLu and the adjoining Phoenix Hill neighborhood during the demolition of the Clarksdale housing project in the early 2000s.

The 65-year-old complex, which abutted NuLu on Jefferson Street, was torn down in 2004 and replaced with mixed-income housing that became known as Liberty Green.

According to a 2009 Courier Journal article, just 41 of the roughly 635 families who’d been displaced at Clarksdale returned to the new development.

An activist associated with BLM explains that the intimidation tactics weren’t meant to be threatening, but were intended as a conversation starter:

Phelix Crittenden…said the demands and related “NuLu social justice health and wellness ratings” were not meant to be a threat but were instead intended to start a conversation with owners about how their businesses can better reflect and support Black people.

Crittenden said several NuLu business owners have volunteered to sign a contract created by the protesters and are open to discussing their roles in gentrification.

“How you respond to this is how people will remember you in this moment,” Crittenden said. “You want to be on the right side of justice at all times.”

Fernandez Martinez summed up his feelings about the matter in a public Facebook post:

There comes a time in life that you have to make a stand and you have to really prove your convictions and what you believe in… All good people need to denounce this. How can you justified (sic) injustice with more injustice?

This gross misstep will not help further the cause of the BLM group. Hard-working business owners do not take kindly to being intimidated and possibly having their livelihoods threatened. Especially people of color who struggled through hardships unknown to the majority of us to make their way to these shores. It is both possible to be sympathetic to a number of concerns the Black community at large has expressed, yet strongly disapprove of BLM’s misguided tactics in Louisville.


Florida Doing Either Great or Terrible on COVID, Depending on the News Outlet You Read

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am

Choose your story. These both appeared yesterday.

Fox News:

Florida reports fewest daily coronavirus deaths in nearly 3 weeks, lowest daily cases in a month

Positive signs out of the state include a continued decrease in new patients being hospitalized for COVID-19

As virus-hit Florida braces for Tropical Storm Isaias, the state on Sunday reported its fewest daily coronavirus deaths in nearly three weeks and its lowest daily number of cases in almost a month.

Florida’s number of confirmed fatalities rose by 62, for a total of at least 7,084. The state reported another 7,104 positive cases – down from 9,619 the previous day – for a cumulative tally of 487,132.

After battling record-breaking COVID-19 cases and deaths last month, the state’s daily positive rate of infections dropped below 10 percent for the first time since June 24.

More positive signs out of Florida included the continued decline in the number of new patients being hospitalized for COVID-19. The number of patients being treated in hospitals rose by 178 – down 261 from the previous day and down more than 1,000 from peak levels two weeks ago.

Florida surpasses record for most COVID-19 deaths in single week

Florida on Sunday surpassed its record for the most COVID-19 deaths in a single week, with 1,230 reported in the past seven days.

The Sunshine State broke the previous record, set one week earlier, after recording 257 deaths on Friday, the most in a single day, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

On Sunday, the state recorded 62 additional deaths, bringing its total during the pandemic to 7,084, according to Florida data.

In the past week, Florida has also identified 63,277 new coronavirus cases and 3,086 hospitalizations. By comparison, [Florida] experienced 73,808 new cases, 3,093 hospitalizations and 872 deaths in the week ended last Sunday, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

So there you have it. Either last week either set a record for the most COVID deaths in a week, or the state just reported its fewest daily coronavirus deaths in nearly three weeks.

The thing is, I suppose both can be true — depending on whether you focus on a single day or a week. For what it’s worth, focusing on a single day or even a single week can be misleading without drilling down into when the deaths occurred as opposed to when they were reported, and accounting for the occasional dump of a backlog of death stats due to new information or changes in classification. But for the average reader just trying to get an answer, it’s hard to make sense out of the data without going out on your own and digging deeper than either outlet apparently cares to do. Most people rely on the headline and the basic narrative of the article. Who has time to spend hours pawing through data? Isn’t that what these people are being paid to do before they write the story?

Few things illustrate the partisan spin that different outlets can put on a set of facts like the huge divide between the perspectives of these two stories. We’re increasingly living in an atomized society where reality itself, include hard facts relating to the biggest story in years, seems to depend entirely on which Web site you click on.

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