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Three for the Weekend

Every week, Montana Press contributor Kenneth Neill publishes a newsletter, "Three for the Weekend," a commentary on national events with links to three online articles. The Montana Press shares these perspectives weekly on our site.

Say goodnight, Steve Bannon; keep your fingers crossed for a presidential pardon...

It's quite remarkable, isn't it, that President Trump's first chief strategist had the chutzpah to raise millions from Trump loyalists, money meant to fund Wall building on the Mexican border, only to find that much of the money ended up in Bannon and his cohorts' pockets?

Well, at least some of the donors now have a good excuse to vote for Joe Biden.

When will all this graft and grift ever end? Donald Trump is making Presidents Grant and Harding, both infamous for their sleazy staffs, look like George Washington. All this in a week when the pandemic death toll passed 175,000, with no end in sight, the Postmaster General blindsided the USPS, Vladimir Putin went back to poisoning his enemies, and Donald Trump ranted and raved like the madman he is.

It now appears that the Republican National Convention will convene neither in jilted Charlotte nor nervous Jacksonville, where government/medical authorities told Mr. Trump that he was not welcome to bring his MUMT show (Maga Unmasked Mystery Tour) show into their pandemic-afflicted city.

No, the Republican Party announced Friday - a mere 72 hours before said convention is scheduled to start - that the president will stay close to home, holding whatever it is the Republicans will be having in the District of Columbia.

In Washington, it seems, most events will be held in the Mellon Auditorium, a federal building that just happens to be around the corner from, yes, the Trump International Hotel! Rates just have been jacked up to $790 a night, minimum. Sweet. And on Friday, the president intends to deliver his keynote speech on the White House lawn, a presidential first reflecting the incumbent's total ignorance and/or concern for historical protocol.

Perhaps Tropical Storms Laura and Marco will decide to crash the party in the Mid-Atlantic. But one way or other, the Republican Convention will be a tempest in a teacup compared to the widely-applauded Democratic all-virtual event that consumed most of this past week.

Most observers seem to agree that the DNC's experiment with mega-zooming was a box-office success, well-planned and well-executed. In particular, Joe Biden's speech was cogent, engaging and, well, presidential, something we don't get to see very often these days.

Before the former Vice-President spoke on Thursday, conservative columnist David Brooks wrote an exceptional essay in the New York Times that captured the sense and spirit of the DNC event eloquently.

Second is yet another brilliant essay in The New Yorker from Bill McGibben, perhaps America's foremost environmental journalist. Here he speaks of the Trump Administration's determination to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and mineral exploitation.

The mind boggles at the sheer madness of this scheme, with all the diabolical climate-change consequences such a land grab would precipitate.

Last but not least is something of a blast from the past, a 2017 Politico article I discovered half by accident a couple of months ago, when I was trying to research why the coronavirus had run amok so badly in meat-packing plants all across the West and Midwest.

This nuts-and-bolts piece reminded me of Michael Lewis' 2018 best-seller, The Fifth Risk, which detailed just how badly the transition between the Obama and Trump teams went in the Commerce, Agriculture and Energy departments, in terms of both inexperience and lack of organizational knowledge. This Politico article helps explain just why the Trump Administration has been the greatest disaster of any in our country's history.

That administration's "original sin" is plainly visible here, as author Jenny Hopkinson provides on-the-ground evidence of just how awful it was that the Electoral College in 2016 put an indolent, incurious, and dangerous human being in the White House.

Hang onto your hats this week; it should be, well, as frightening as usual!

Kenneth Neill was Publisher and CEO of Memphis magazine and the Memphis Flyer for over 35 years, and he splits his time between Memphis and Montana, where he contributes to the Montana Press.

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