By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”
August is usually the month of slow news: the doldrums, the “dog days” of summer.
This being 2020, all bets are off in terms of unexpected events, crises and downright crazy news.
On the COVID-19 front, the USA passed five million cases, and flew by 170,000 even 180,000 deaths – and certain to pass 200,000 by the end of September, if not sooner. (For a little perspective, the population of Tacoma is a shade over 200,000.)
Schools at all levels, normally opening this time of year, are split about what they can, should or shouldn’t do.
Parents are torn; some insisting that schools should open, some demanding that they stay closed.
The stock market had its best August since the boom year of 1986. Main Street and Wall Street went in opposite directions. So did the money.
Many of us might not use, or even think about the USPS, but in August we did.
Turmoil in the postal service has led to delays and losses inconceivable in a modern society. From delayed payments to lost medicine, even dead animals, the USPS case made history in 2020 – https://news.yahoo.com/armageddon-rotting-food-dead-animals-180715834.html?
There is some fear that the USPS might not be able to process electoral ballots in a few months.
For the record, vastly more mail goes out every Christmas season than any election year.
Beyond our borders
August literally began with a bang on August 4th, when a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the port of the city of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, exploded, causing at least 181 deaths, 6,000 injuries, $10–15 billion in property damage, and leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless.
Shinzo Abe, the longest-serving Japanese prime minister in history, has resigned, citing health reasons.
Unconventional political conventions
Thanks to COVID-19, both political parties had their presidential party conventions “virtually” instead of in massive gatherings.
In tone and substance, the parties could not have been more different. Democratic candidate Joe Biden was presented as an “everyday” guy, someone you would want, and trust, as a neighbor or friend. Many former, or even current, Republicans spoke in support of Biden.
A full set of Democratic presidential contenders, who ran against Joe Biden just a few months ago, spoke in support of Biden, as did previous Democratic presidents Clinton and Obama. No previous Republican presidents spoke in support of President Trump.
A classic adage is that during presidential elections the real choice is not between candidates or even political platforms, but is actually the choice between hope and fear.
Democrats pointed to the hope of change, combined with the fear, not of the future, but of the present.
Republicans point to a future of turmoil and chaos if Democrats are elected, highlighting current chaos and crisis, it must be said, with a Republican president.
Another difference in the two conventions was that Biden received the majority of votes, but Sanders received many, while the Republican delegates voted unanimously voted for Trump.
On the final evening of the GOP Convention, speakers presented a portrayal of a “kinder, gentler” President Trump.
And to close out August, yet another Trump tell-all book has been released – this one about Melania. As the author put it, “A Trump is a Trump is a Trump.”
President Trump’s younger brother and “best friend” passed away from natural causes in the middle of the month.
Former three-term Republican U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton passed away at age 92. Gorton was that rare breed of Republican who saw beyond standard political dogma – he was pro-choice, anti-school busing, supported the Brady gun bill, but opposed the ban on assault weapons. In 1974, as Washington state attorney general, Gorton was one of the first Republicans in the nation to call for President Nixon’s resignation.
Chadwick Boseman, lead character of Marvel’s “Black Panther” died at age 43. In tribute, ABC aired a commercial-free version of “Black Panther” on August 30 to a record audience. The Disney Corporation owns both Marvel and ABC.
In a closing line of the movie we hear the line “The foolish build barriers, while the wise build bridges.”
Nature strikes back
Iowa was hit by a series of storm that wiped out the majority of this year’s corn and soybean crops. You might not think that you buy soybeans or corn, but if you look at the list of ingredients on almost any package and you will see corn and soybeans (or their derivatives) in almost every box, bag or can.
Power in Iowa was out in many major urban areas for over a week.
California was hit with record heat which led to storms which caused about 600 fires (over a million acres, with tens of thousands evacuated and hundreds of homes destroyed) which led to major power outages, all at a time of pandemic.
On the final day of August, it was reported that two more Asian giant hornets (AKA “murder hornets”) have been reported in Whatcom County — one found dead in a trap, the other confirmed in a photo, both in and around Birch Bay.
This brings to nine the number of Asian giant hornets found in Washington state since 2019, all in Whatcom County.
In an odd repeat of COVID, a county in western Washington had the first cases not only for the state but also the U.S.
Double hurricanes, for the first time in recorded history, hit the Gulf Coast. The word “unsurvivable” enters our weather vocabulary.
An asteroid the size of a car barely missed colliding with earth (https://news.sky.com/story/asteroid-makes-closest-fly-by-of-earth-on-record-and-nasa-didnt-see-it-until-after-the-close-shave-12052261)
NASA didn’t notice it until it had passed.
A car sized asteroid is expected to pass extremely close to the earth the day before election day with less than a 1% chance of hitting us. (https://www.space.com/election-day-asteroid-flybys-2020.html).
It might be a threat, or it might save us from our misery, but either way, vote early.
Speaking of space, did we have a visitor from another galaxy? Maybe. You can see details here – https://www.livescience.com/oumuamua-interstellar-hydrogen-or-aliens.html.
In any other month, this would be headline, breaking news, but in August of 2020, it was just another passing news blip.
Many schools, from kindergartens to universities opened on a partial face-to-face basis. Many closed or reversed policies almost immediately after widespread infections.
August 7-16 marked the 80th year of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. About half a million attended. Minimal COVID precautions were taken and masks were near-nonexistent. About two weeks later, as expected, Sturgis related cases of COVID appeared in half of US counties.
President Trump highlighted a “big surge” in COVID cases in New Zealand. That week New Zealand announced under ten new cases. The USA was averaging over 40,000 each day.
Face masks are required, suggested or prohibited in a variety of settings across the country.
As of August 22, the 7-day average dropped to 981 deaths per day. This is the first time the 7-day average has been below 1,000 since July 30 in the USA.
Fall will bring its annual flu season which will merge with our current pandemic giving us a “twin-demic”; two pandemics at once.
On the final day of the Democratic Convention, Steve Bannon, former advisor to President Trump was arrested for fraud related to a privately funded project to build a wall at our Mexican border. Bannon had been scheduled to be a speaker at the Republican convention. He will be unavoidably detained. Bannon joins a long and ever-expanding list of convicted felons from the Trump Administration from Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Rick Gates and far too many others to count.
As one Republican White House spokesperson put it, “Another day, another scandal.”
In local news, the family of Manuel Ellis announced their intention to sue the Tacoma Police Department for $30 million for his death.
And in sports
The NFL, WNBA, NHL, MLS and various other sports venues and organizations canceled, postponed or made statements during games and practices in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
The NBA and its players’ union announced a plan to use arenas across the country as polling places in the upcoming election.