By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
The term “October surprise” has been part of our vocabulary for many years. 2020, as we might expect, put a whole new spin on “surprises” in October.
The first couple of days of October gave us a month’s worth of news; from fallout following the first presidential debate (including denials and obfuscation regarding President Trump’s relationship with overt white supremacy groups) to releases of recordings of Melania Trump complaining about putting up Christmas decorations and, of course the President, and many others, testing positive for COVID.
President Trump tested positive for COVID-19, and the White House, as of the first week of October, had more cases of COVID than New Zealand and several other entire countries.
As one might guess, the stock market responded, news shows obsessed over every word and nuance and Constitutional scholars emerged with a variety of opinions and projections.
With an election in process (as we go to press, the final day to vote was yesterday, November 3rd, with ballots being counted for some time to come – the Secretary of State will certify the results November 27th) and a Senate process that confirmed a new Supreme Court Justice to replace Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, it’s difficult to imagine our nation being more vulnerable. One of many questions is which potential adversaries will be taking advantage of us, and how.https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/02/opinions/code-red-moment-us-government-trump-covid-19-vinograd/index.html
The medical staff caring for the President spoke vaguely, evasively and in contradiction with each other. To put it mildly, at a time of crisis, information, direct, complete and honest, is crucial. Loss of credibility and confusion only serve to make a difficult situation far more difficult.
In short, the 24 hour news cycle has morphed into a near-instantaneous flood of statements, pronouncements, denials and evasions as frenzied as the chipmunk in the children’s movie Over the Hedge.
Each news day feels more like a month – or more.
Public perception of COVID has changed over the course of time. To follow this change in attitudes, you can follow Five Thirty Eight survey here: https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/coronavirus-polls/?
As a side note, I had pneumonia in December of 2019. Besides being two days away from sepsis, I was given multiple IVs, nebulizers and prescription drugs. The irony was that even though my body was depleted of oxygen for days and had been seriously weakened, thanks to the steroids my doctor gave me, I felt great. President Trump said that he felt better than he had in twenty years. That’s exactly how I felt.
There is other news beyond the White House of course.
When is bread not bread? An Irish court ruled that bread from the sandwich chain Subway does not fit the legal definition of bread in that country. I knew there was something strange about it. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/01/irish-court-rules-subway-bread-is-not-bread?
An asteroid is heading toward earth and may pass by or even hit the earth just before election day. It might be divine intervention. https://thebreakfastclub.iheart.com/content/2020-10-05-nasa-asteroid-heading-towards-earth-could-hit-day-before-election-day/?
Rite Aid buys 130-year-old Seattle-based Bartell Drugs (founded in 1890, the same year as Tacoma Daily Index) chain for $95 million.
Nokia has a multi-million dollar contract to establish a 4G phone system on the moon (https://phys.org/news/2020-10-nokia-moon-4g-cell-network.html)
Speaking of space, NASA landed a probe on an asteroid. This asteroid will answer many questions. Other asteroids are made of gold or other precious metals.
We lost Eddie Van Halen, guitarist extraordinaire of the band Van Halen.
Jerry Jeff Walker, the folk-country singer-songwriter best known for the late-’60s hit “Mr. Bojangles,” died Friday, October 23, at age 78. One of my high school friends told me that this song always reminded him of me. Go figure…..
James Randi (The Amazing Randi) died October 20, 2020. He was the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) which focused on investigating and discrediting paranormal, occult, and supernatural claims.
Before Randi’s retirement, JREF sponsored the Paranormal challenge, which offered a prize of one million dollars to eligible applicants who could demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.
The question now is, who will save us from lunacy conspiracies like Qanon, Pizza-gate, anti-vaxxers and flat-earthers? https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/25/haunted-future-without-james-randi-to-see-off-the-charlatans?
Locally, a figure more influential than physically recognized passed away this month. Martin Neeb, general manager of KPLU since 1981, helped lead the movement to create an independent radio station eventually known (and internationally recognized) as KNKX.
Lee Kun-hee, who transformed Samsung Electronics from a copycat South Korean appliance maker into the world’s biggest producer of smartphones, televisions and memory chips, died aged 78. He was South Korea’s richest person.
The last day of October gave us news that we lost Sean Connery, the uber-James Bond, who set the tone for spy thrillers for a generation.
Profiles in (something like) courage
Flies, rats, superspreader events and naked ballots
Toward the end of September, a rat was awarded a medal for bravery. At the debate of the vice presidential candidates, a fly stole the show.
GOP operatives quickly developed an internet rumor that the democrats had previously trained several house flies to harass VP Pence. In 2020, it almost makes sense.
Also in election news; you’d think our election laws, policies and procedures would have been in place (as ours in Washington have been) but for whatever reason, several states have changed their election laws and policies just days before the election.
Texas has changed its laws on placement of drop-boxes and Pennsylvania has changed its laws and will not count so-called “naked ballots” (those submitted without their privacy envelope).
In Pennsylvania alone, more than 100,000 mailed ballots may be thrown out because of a last minute court ruling on their envelope policy.
For the record, Washington state counts each legitimate ballot whether you use the privacy envelope or not.
By October 29, record numbers of voters are voting early. Over 100% of Hawaii’s voters (compared to ballots cast four years ago) had already voted: as had 60% of Washington state voters.
And by the 30th, more people had voted early in Texas than had voted in total in 2016.
So-called “superspreader” events, from political rallies to frat parties, fueled a resurgence of COVID.
By mid-month, the US saw 50,000 new cases each day. Then 60,000, and then over 75,000 and then over 80,000. And finally, as if in a race, we surpassed 100,000 new COVID cases on October 31st.
As our president reminds us, we are “turning a corner on COVID”. I’m not certain what direction, or how many “corners” COVID has, but we do seem to be turning.
I can tell already that it’s going to be a long winter.
One of the harbingers of fall is college enrollment. Along with the economy, enrollment, especially among freshmen, has dropped dramatically. Community college enrollment nationwide dropped by 23% in September of 2020.
The first “murder hornet” nest in the USA was found and eradicated in Blaine, Washington. Once again, as with COVID, the first case in America is found in our state.
It’s the economy, Stupid
We got the number on economic growth in the third quarter (July, August & September). Third quarter growth was over 30%.
To say that this “recovery” was uneven would be the ultimate understatement. The letter “K” became the metaphor for an economy that favored some and undermined others.
A “K” economy (one going in two directions at once) ensures continued economic instability, if not civil unrest.
A stable, fair and expanding economy is a benefit to all of us.
The final week of October was the worst in the Stock Market since the first COVID impacts in March.
And in the “can it get any nuttier?” category
Kraft Mac & Cheese might seem like the ultimate politics-free, neutral comfort food, but in 2020, nothing is neutral. You can see details of the firestorm, reaction and retractions here – https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/oct/13/kraft-send-noodz-mac-n-cheese-campaign-backlash?
A reporter for The New Yorker was fired for exposing himself to co-workers on a Zoom call –https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/jeffrey-toobin-new-yorker-exposed-zoom-call-b1161523.html. This is one of those events no would believe, and none of us could explain to our children or grandparents. You could call it the ultimate 2020 workplace hazard.
Our President’s personal lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, was profiled in the latest Borat movie sequel in a hotel room with a woman portrayed as under-age in a most compromising situation. “Tucking in my shirt” has a whole new meaning from now on.
Two pivotal scenes from the Borat sequel were filmed in our area – one in Lakewood and one in Olympia.
I am relieved that Borat bypassed Tacoma, at least for now.
Walmart, taking a stand on principle, removed all guns and ammo from their stores. Within 24 hours they reversed their policy.
And in Belgium, cloned female mutant crayfish are taking over (https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/escaped-cloned-female-mutant-crayfish-take-over-belgian-cemetery/YZDGK4GTJKKML7Y76OELOTHGPA/?) and are apparently unstoppable.
And yes, let me be the first to say that cloned female mutant crayfish would be a great name for a band.
And in what passes for politics in 2020
Thirteen members of anti-government paramilitary groups were taken into custody for plotting to kidnap Michigan’s governor. They also had plans in place for kidnapping Virginia’s governor.
Several states began early voting in the middle of October. Quarter mile lines, eight to ten hour waits became the norm –https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/15/ohio-us-election-voter-suppression? – and this was more than two weeks before official election day.
President Trump mentioned that he might have to leave the country if he was not re-elected. Since our borders are essentially closed, that might be a challenge.
His (former) senior advisor, Steve Bannon, insisted that if Mr. Trump was not re-elected in 2020, he would run again in 2024. (https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-will-run-again-2024-if-he-loses-joe-biden-says-steve-bannon-1540118?).
And, in case that wasn’t enough, Donald junior might run in 2024.
TV evangelist Pat Robertson reported that he had been told by God that President Trump will be reelected, and his reelection will bring about the start of civil unrest, perhaps to the point of civil war and then earth will be hit and destroyed by an asteroid (https://politicalwire.com/2020/10/20/pat-robertson-says-trump-will-win/).
I am not sophisticated enough to discern whether this was a warning, an endorsement or something else. Given that we are in 2020, it seems to be all of the above.
And who knew that we needed a “Trump-themed news network”? https://www.businessinsider.com/kushner-talking-up-trump-branded-media-outlet-gop-sources-say-2020-10? Get your, All Trump, all the time, news updates here.
Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Monday, October 26. She assumed her duties on Tuesday, October 27. She also appeared in a Trump campaign ad on that day: the first Supreme Court Justice to ever do so.
President Trump closed out the month by having at least four campaign rallies each day.
Appropriately enough, October ends with Halloween. What could be scarier than October of 2020?
Stay tuned for November…..