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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
December 28, 2020

Trump is growing smaller before our eyes

Opinion by Paul Waldman

Cementing his status as quite possibly the worst deal-maker ever to sit in the Oval Office, President Trump once again created a crisis, made some impulsive demands, then backed down at the last minute without actually obtaining anything other than some increased suffering for millions of Americans.

His overdue capitulation in signing the bill that provides pandemic relief and keeps the government open was a vivid illustration of how weak Trump has become. And this episode might contain a silver lining: It might preview how Trump could fade into irrelevance in the coming few years, becoming not the continuing agent of chaos many fear, but instead a pathetic figure who is easier to ignore than we thought.

Trump’s delay in signing the bill will mean one fewer week of enhanced unemployment benefits for millions of struggling Americans; his demand that everyone receive checks of $2,000 instead of $600 will be ignored by Senate Republicans unwilling to do too much to stimulate the economy over which Joe Biden will preside. So after signing the bill, Trump issued a typically dishonest, self-aggrandizing and self-pitying statement, which before whining about voter fraud included this:

Fortunately, as a result of my work with Congress in passing the CARES Act earlier this year, we avoided another Great Depression. Under my leadership, Project Warp Speed has been a tremendous success, my Administration and I developed a vaccine many years ahead of wildest expectations, and we are distributing these vaccines, and others soon coming, to millions of people.

Much of this is false, but more than anything else it’s just pitiful. Trump has always demanded credit for imagined successes or the accomplishments of others, but seldom has it sounded so feeble.

December 27, 2020

FAA Chief Helped Delta Retaliate Against Whistleblower in Previous Role, Administrative Judge Rules

Source: Wall Street Journal

Carrier used psychological evaluation to ground, intimidate pilot, Labor Department ruling says

A Labor Department ruling determined that prior to becoming head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Steve Dickson participated in efforts by Delta Air Lines Inc. management to wrongly use a psychiatric evaluation to retaliate against a pilot who raised safety concerns.

The lengthy decision by a department administrative law judge concluded that Mr. Dickson, as Delta’s senior vice president of flight operations, knew about and approved punitive moves against veteran co-pilot Karlene Petitt, who was deemed unfit to fly in December 2016 after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The diagnosis eventually was reversed and she resumed flying.

The ruling supported Ms. Petitt’s claims that she was singled out for special scrutiny to try to keep her quiet about safety issues. Scott Morris, the judge who presided over the long-running litigation, determined that Delta punished and discriminated against a federally protected whistleblower without any evidence indicating her “performance as a pilot was deficient in any way.” According to the decision, “not a single witness questioned her flying acumen.”

The ruling says that “in this case, the squeaky wheel did not get the grease.” Instead, ”it got unlawfully discriminated against in the form of a career defining” mental-health evaluation. Ms. Petitt has four decades of flying experience and a doctorate in aviation safety. Many inside Delta saw her safety concerns and warnings as valid and told her to brief managers about them, according to the decision, but simultaneously other company officials identified her as a candidate for psychiatric evaluation.

Read more: https://www.wsj.com/articles/faa-chief-helped-delta-retaliate-against-whistleblower-in-previous-role-administrative-judge-rules-11609085771

December 27, 2020

Until Biden's win is certified, the U.S. remains vulnerable

Opinion by David Ignatius

Not to be alarmist, but we should recognize that the United States will be in the danger zone until the formal certification of Joe Biden’s election victory on Jan. 6, because potential domestic and foreign turmoil could give President Trump an excuse to cling to power.

This threat, while unlikely to materialize, is concerning senior officials, including Republicans who have supported Trump in the past but believe he is now threatening to overstep the constitutional limits on his power. They described a multifaceted campaign by die-hard Trump supporters to use disruptions at home and perhaps threats abroad to advance his interests.

The big showdown is the Jan. 6 gathering of both houses of Congress to formally count the electoral college vote taken on Dec. 14, which Biden won 306 to 232. The certification should be a pro forma event, but a desperate Trump is demanding that House and Senate Republicans challenge the count and block this final, binding affirmation of Biden’s victory before Inauguration Day.

Trump’s last-ditch campaign will almost certainly fail in Congress. The greater danger is on the streets, where pro-Trump forces are already threatening chaos. A pro-Trump group called “Women for America First” has requested a permit for a Jan. 6 rally in Washington, and Trump is already beating the drum: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”


It would really stroke Trump's ego to have people die in the streets for him.

December 26, 2020

Biden's Withering Olive Branch

The new year will prove whether we have any decency left in us.

By Frank Bruni

The year will turn, Joe Biden will take the oath of office, and we’ll heal.

That was the fundamental promise of his campaign, no? That was the hope.

But I’m struggling mightily to hold on to even a sliver of it.

Like President-elect Biden, I believe in common ground, in comity, in identifying where we intersect rather than where we diverge. I was drawn to him, as were a critical mass of other Americans, because he represented the calm after the storm, the sense after the sensation.

But is calm a mirage? Is normalcy obsolete? In the many weeks since it became clear that he lost the election, Donald Trump has successfully marketed an outrageous alternate reality, so that 70 percent of registered Republican voters, according to a Quinnipiac poll this month, believe that Biden’s victory was illegitimate. Trump has taken his refusal to concede to historic, previously unthinkable lengths. And an overwhelming majority of Republican members of Congress have played along, actively or passively, many of them knowing better, all of them traitors to democracy and profiles in cowardice.

To this crew Biden is supposed to extend an olive branch?

From this bunch he’s expected to wring droplets of decency?

December 26, 2020

George Blake, notorious Cold War double agent who helped Soviets, dies at 98

Source: Washington Post

George Blake, a British intelligence official who betrayed closely guarded secrets to the Soviets and was among the most damaging traitors of the Cold War, then made a daring escape from a London prison in 1966 and lived out his days as a national hero in Moscow, has died at 98.

Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, known as SVR, announced his death on Dec. 26 but provided no further details. Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Mr. Blake as a “brilliant professional” and a man of “remarkable courage.”

News accounts from the 1960s described Mr. Blake as a “Super Spy,” and perhaps one secret to his successful treachery was that he hid in plain sight. As one of his friends, a Salvation Army executive, told a reporter at the time, Mr. Blake resembled “a typically blasé bowler-hatted, rolled umbrella government official.”

In fact, he was the last high-profile survivor of a string of British turncoats who spied for Russia during the 1950s and 1960s, a badge of dishonor that included the Cambridge Four: Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby.

Dick White, a former chief of British intelligence, once said Mr. Blake wrought the most damage. The information he turned over reputedly led to the deaths of scores of highly placed Western agents, including Robert Bialek, a top-ranking East German police official.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/george-blake-notorious-cold-war-double-agent-who-helped-soviets-dies-at-98/2020/12/26/be090600-477b-11eb-b0e4-0f182923a025_story.html

And Trump is considering granting a pardon to Snowden...
December 26, 2020

Golfer Greg Norman in hospital with coronavirus after father-son tournament

Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman shared photos on social media Friday suggesting he has been hospitalized with COVID-19.

The 65-year-old Australian posted a video on Instagram on Thursday night saying he was experiencing coronavirus symptoms, then posted photos Friday showing himself in a hospital bed.

“This sums it all up,” he wrote. “My Christmas Day.”

Norman’s son, Greg Norman Jr., also said on social media that he and his wife, Michelle, have tested positive. The Normans played in the father-son PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida, last weekend.


December 25, 2020

A basic fact about Trump is now clear

The behavior and rhetoric of Donald Trump and his most ardent partisans since he was defeated for re-election have brought into sharp focus a fact that has lurked in the background since the day he became a candidate in the 2016 presidential election: Trumpism is a specifically American iteration of generic fascism.

Before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, I am not suggesting Trumpism is akin to Nazism or even to Italian Fascism with a capital F. But it does check most, although not all, of the boxes outlined in Robert O. Paxton’s authoritative The Anatomy of Fascism, a work untainted by Trump Derangement Syndrome, having been published long before Trump traded in Howard Stern for Sean Hannity.

Trumpism is palingenetic, meaning its core myth is of a rebirth, of the redemption of an idealized nation of Real Americans from the decadence and corruption, cultural and political, of effete liberal elites and malevolent socialists. The Make America Great Again mantra perfectly captures the palingenetic nature of Trumpism, as does draining the swamp and other tropes of purification and renewal. Palingenetic myth is a central pillar of generic fascism.

Trumpism is a classic fascist cult of personality, complete with fervid rallies for the gobsmacked faithful, public bootlicking by obsequious lackeys and hagiographic creations of a Trump legend from the tawdry dross of his actual life. Largely devoid of substantive content and, as a result, unsuited to actual governing, Trumpism is sustained by political theater, whether in the form of flag-waving boat parades or manufactured crises like border invasions.


December 25, 2020

Japan adopts green growth plan to go carbon free by 2050

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune

Japan aims to eliminate gasoline-powered vehicles in about 15 years, the government said Friday in a plan to achieve Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s ambitious pledge to go carbon free by 2050 and generate nearly $2 trillion growth in green business and investment.

The “green growth strategy” urges utilities to bolster renewables and hydrogen while calling for auto industries to go carbon free by the mid-2030s.

Suga, in a policy speech in October, pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions in 30 years. As the world faces an environmental challenge, green investment is an opportunity for growth not a burden, he said.

The strategy, which provides a roadmap to achieving the goals in different sectors, projected 30-50% increase in electricity demand and called for a push to triple renewables in the country’s energy mix to about 50-60% from the current level, while also maximizing use of nuclear power as a stable, clean source of energy.

Read more: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/nation/story/2020-12-25/japan-adopts-green-growth-plan-to-go-carbon-free-by-2050

This is a big deal.
December 25, 2020

Trump Corrupted the Presidential Pardon. Biden Must Repair It.

There are clear ways to reform the pardon process to work as the founders intended.

By The Editorial Board

President Trump doesn’t use his pardon power often, but when he does, he abuses it for all it’s worth.

In less than four years in office, Mr. Trump has made a mockery of mercy, doling out clemency to some of the most deplorable people in the country, an alarming number of whom happen to be his friends, while ignoring tens of thousands of more deserving applicants.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump once again granted pardons to some of his closest allies: Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman; Roger Stone, his longtime confidant; and Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. These grants, along with 26 others, followed 20 Mr. Trump issued a day earlier, many to a rogues’ gallery of wrongdoers who shouldn’t have been on anyone’s mercy list. These included four Blackwater security guards convicted in connection with the killing of Iraqi civilians, three corrupt Republican former members of Congress and two figures who pleaded guilty as part of the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

Sure, Mr. Trump has tossed a bone to a few people sentenced under outrageously harsh three-strikes laws, like Weldon Angelos, who got 55 years in prison for selling marijuana while carrying a handgun. But those are the exceptions. In general, if you are not a xenophobic sheriff, a right-wing troll, a homicidal military officer, an old friend or a turkey, your odds of being pardoned by this president hover around zero.

December 25, 2020

Trump's Most Disgusting Pardons

Blackwater mercenaries committed a massacre. Now they’ll go free.

By Michelle Goldberg

The youngest victim of the 2007 massacre in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, committed by Blackwater mercenaries whom Donald Trump pardoned on Tuesday, was a 9-year-old boy named Ali Kinani.

In a 2010 documentary, the journalist Jeremy Scahill interviewed Ali’s father, Mohammed Hafedh Abdulrazzaq Kinani, who spoke of how he’d welcomed the American invasion of his country and brought along his son to greet U.S. soldiers. “The first day the American Army entered Baghdad, I handed out juice and candy in the street to celebrate our liberation from Saddam,” said Kinani. Scahill called him “that rare personification of the neoconservative narrative about the U.S. invasion.”

On Sept. 16, 2007, Kinani was driving toward the traffic circle at Nisour Square with his sister, her children and Ali when guards from Blackwater opened fire with machine guns and grenade launchers. (Blackwater, a private security company, has since changed its name to Academi.) Ali was one of 17 people killed. According to The Washington Post, a U.S. military report found that there had been no provocation. “It was obviously excessive, it was obviously wrong,” a military official told the paper. An F.B.I. investigator reportedly described it as the “My Lai massacre of Iraq.”

The U.S. Embassy offered Ali’s family a $10,000 condolence payment. After initially refusing the money, they donated half of it to the family of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. “They wanted to do that to honor and acknowledge the sacrifice of those men and women that had come over to Iraq to fight for them and free them from Saddam Hussein,” Paul Dickinson, a lawyer who represented Kinani and others in a civil suit against Blackwater, told me.


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