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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
December 22, 2020

Trump is an authoritarian wannabe. He must never hold power again.

Opinion by Michael Gerson

Looking on the bright side of a humiliating national disaster, the manner of President Trump’s departure from power has clarified why he must never hold power again.

In leaks to a variety of news organizations, senior Trump administration officials reported: 1) Rudolph W. Giuliani urging the federal government to illegally seize Dominion voting machines; 2) presidential consideration of deranged conspiracy-monger Sidney Powell as a special counsel investigating nonexistent election fraud; and 3) a White House meeting involving disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn at which Trump discussed the imposition of martial law.

These accounts indicate the emergence of two distinct factions within Trump’s inner circle. On one side are the lunatics — among them Giuliani, Powell and Flynn — who want Trump to violate laws and assume authoritarian powers. On the other side are sycophants who supported Trump’s spurious legal challenges to the election result but apparently draw the line at treason. By most accounts, Trump’s sympathies lie with the lunatics.

Some respond, as usual, by suggesting that these provocations are merely the sad, silly reactions of a cornered narcissist. And it is indeed ludicrous to believe that the military would ever consider torching the Constitution, particularly in service to a draft-dodging coward who views their honored dead as “suckers.” Even on the rumor of a coup, Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy and Gen. James McConville, the Army chief of staff, issued a joint statement saying there “is no role for the US military in determining the outcome of an American election.”

But the code-red level of worry within Trump’s staff does seem unprecedented. “People who are concerned and nervous aren’t the weak-kneed bureaucrats that we loathe,” said a senior administration official to Axios. “These are people who have endured arguably more insanity and mayhem than any administration officials in history.” At the very least, these freely leaking White House staffers are determined to distance themselves from outright subversion. It is nice to find there are still some limits to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’s servility.


December 22, 2020

Don't let Mitch McConnell get away with his vile rewriting of history

Opinion by Greg Sargent

Congress passed a new $900 billion economic rescue package on Monday night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered a choice bit of spin on how we got to this moment:

“A few days ago, with a new president-elect of their own party, everything changed,” Mr. McConnell said on Monday. “Democrats suddenly came around to our position that we should find consensus, make law where we agree, and get urgent help out the door.”

Getting the story right here is highly consequential. It will shape the arguments that determine the outcome of the Georgia runoffs — and control of the Senate — and should leave little doubt that continued GOP control means McConnell will strive to sabotage the recovery to cripple Joe Biden’s presidency.

This is what McConnell wants to obscure. Because as he has privately admitted, the failure of Congress to deliver a robust aid package to people is putting his Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R) and David Perdue (R) at risk.

So McConnell wants voters — especially those in Georgia — to believe Republicans supported generous aid all along, particularly the stimulus checks in the new deal, and that Democrats refused to act to harm President Trump’s reelection campaign.

But the reality is that Democrats were the ones pushing for stimulus checks and robust aid all along, even though it would have helped Trump’s reelection, and McConnell and Republicans were the main obstacles.

December 22, 2020

Dems Brace For GOP Ploy To Pin Under-Planned Vaccine Rollout On Biden

President Trump and his top lieutenants would love to have the country believe that the COVID-19 vaccine will be widely available very soon, just a few weeks into the Biden administration.

But there’s an inconvenient problem with that estimate: Systematic lack of funding of public health and failures in the Trump administration’s planning for vaccine distribution will likely extend the vaccine distribution timeline months beyond the outgoing administration’s rosiest predictions.

The Trump administration has a detailed plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, but it only covers the first wave of doses. It will take all of six weeks, inoculating frontline health-care workers and nursing home residents, potentially leaving the Biden administration with a surfeit of vaccine but a huge shortfall in planning. That problem is compounded by the lack of funding from Congress for states and cities to manage distribution — a problem partially alleviated this week, when lawmakers arrived at a plan to appropriate $8.75 billion to distribute the shot.

But top Trump officials have tried to create the impression publicly that the vaccine will be widely available to the general public as soon as February — a wildly unrealistic estimate that, if taken seriously, could frame the Biden administration for what seems like a conspicuous early failure.

Democrats are beginning to take notice that they’re being set up.


December 22, 2020

Russian Hackers Disappointed to Find U.S. Government Already Disabled

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Russian hackers attempting to disrupt the U.S. government were disappointed to discover that it had already been thoroughly disabled, the hackers have confirmed.

Expecting to find a well-oiled machine that they could impair, the hackers instead came upon a barely operational mess that had already suffered what appeared to be four years of degradation.

Dmitri X (not his real name), was assigned to hack the Environmental Protection Agency’s computer systems and was “shocked” by the agency’s weakened condition.

“My job was to access the E.P.A.’s database and delete all of the environmental regulations,” he said. “There was nothing there left to delete.”

The hacker found similar evidence of sabotage at the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and myriad other federal agencies.

“To be honest, it was pretty disheartening,” he said. “I was hired to cripple the U.S. government, but it’s clear that someone else got there first.”

The hacker could not identify who was behind the widespread vandalism, but speculated that the culprit had vast experience in driving large organizations into bankruptcy.


December 22, 2020

Exclusive: Apple targets car production by 2024 and eyes 'next level' battery technology - sources

Apple Inc is moving forward with self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The iPhone maker’s automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, have proceeded unevenly since 2014 when it first started to design its own vehicle from scratch. At one point, Apple drew back the effort to focus on software and reassessed its goals. Doug Field, an Apple veteran who had worked at Tesla Inc, returned to oversee the project in 2018 and laid off 190 people from the team in 2019.

Since then, Apple has progressed enough that it now aims to build a vehicle for consumers, two people familiar with the effort said, asking not to be named because Apple’s plans are not public. Apple’s goal of building a personal vehicle for the mass market contrasts with rivals such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo, which has built robo-taxis to carry passengers for a driverless ride-hailing service.

Central to Apple’s strategy is a new battery design that could “radically” reduce the cost of batteries and increase the vehicle’s range, according to a third person who has seen Apple’s battery design.


December 21, 2020

Denmark to Dig Up Millions of Dead Mink After Botched Covid-19 Cull

The mink carcasses will be incinerated over fears they could contaminate water supplies

Denmark will dig up millions of dead mink it culled to stamp out a potentially dangerous mutation of the virus that causes Covid-19, only to find that their rotting carcasses could cause a fresh contamination risk.

The Danish parliament voted Sunday to exhume up to 5.5 million of the animals beginning in May after environmental inspectors found that some water sources might already have been polluted by bacteria as the bodies decay. Workers will have to wait several months to make sure there is no risk of contracting Covid-19 from the animals before incinerating them, the government said, though officials say they are hopeful the decision will bring an end to the saga, which has rocked Denmark’s government and driven broader concerns about the safety of the global fur-farming industry.

The drama began in November, when Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s government signed the death warrant for the country’s 17 million mink—three times the human population. Researchers had found that the farms where they were bred for their fur could act as a reservoir for a new strain of the virus—unrelated to the new variation recently found in the U.K.—that might resist the new vaccines now being deployed. Scientists advising the government warned that the mutation could become endemic among feral mink, creating a lasting problem.

The cull effectively brought Denmark’s $750-million-a-year mink industry—the world’s biggest—to an unedifying end.

December 21, 2020

'A real mess': Trump is leaving behind crises and undermining Biden before he takes office

When President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office on Jan. 20, the list of crises he will face includes a massive cyber intrusion, a still-raging global pandemic, a slowing economic recovery and a lingering reckoning over the nation’s racial tensions.

President Trump is not making his job any easier and, in several ways, appears to be actively making it harder — going to extraordinary lengths to disrupt and undermine the traditional transition from one administration to another despite the nation’s many crises.

Trump has sought to play down or even deny the still-expanding cybersecurity breach that many experts blame on Russia, even as its impact has spread to a growing number of federal agencies. The delayed and turbulent transition process could complicate the Biden administration’s ability to address the challenge and shore up the nation’s cyber defenses.

Trump has been far more vocal on other issues that have captured his focus, ranging from baseless claims of election fraud to a rolling purge of administration officials deemed not sufficiently loyal. In his final weeks in office, Trump is making a series of moves aimed at cementing his legacy and handicapping Biden’s presidency — from abruptly pulling troops from war zones to cracking down on Iran to encouraging the Justice Department to investigate his political enemies.

The result is a situation without precedent in American history: One president ending his term amid crisis is seeking to delegitimize a successor and floating the prospect of mounting a four-year campaign to return to power.


December 21, 2020

A President Who Can't Put Aside Grudges, Even for Good News

The past week served as a preview of Mr. Trump’s post-presidency: no leadership on debates within his party, but keen attention to waging personal vendettas and cultivating his supporters.

It was among the most consequential weeks of President Trump’s tenure: Across the country, health care workers began receiving a lifesaving coronavirus vaccine. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers closed in on a deal for economic relief aimed at averting a deeper recession. And on Friday, federal regulators authorized a second vaccine.

Yet Mr. Trump was largely absent from those events. It was Vice President Mike Pence who held a call with governors on Monday to hail a “medical miracle,” and who received the Pfizer vaccine at week’s end on live television. Legislative leaders were the ones working late into the nights on a stimulus deal eventually reached on Sunday.

All the while Mr. Trump was conducting a Twitter-borne assault on Republicans for not helping him overturn the election results, even warning Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, to “get tougher, or you won’t have a Republican Party anymore.” By this weekend, the president was considering naming a conspiracy theorist as special counsel to investigate voting fraud, for which there’s no evidence, asking his advisers about instituting martial law and downplaying a massive hack his own secretary of state attributed to Russia.

Seldom has the leader of an American political party done so much to strike fear into the hearts of his allies, but done so little to tackle challenges facing the country during his final days in office. Far from presenting the vaccine breakthroughs from Pfizer and Moderna as testaments to private-sector ingenuity and innovation — once a conservative creed — he was fixated on menacing Republicans who might dare to acknowledge Joseph R. Biden Jr. as president-elect.

December 21, 2020

The GOP whitewashing of the Trump stain has quietly begun

Opinion by Greg Sargent

Listen closely, and you can already discern how leading Republicans will attempt to expunge the massive black stain of Trumpism from their party.

Prepare for a set of rhetorical tricks. Republicans will portray President Trump’s degradations as a matter of tone and personal conduct. They will depict themselves as having been discomfited bystanders to his ugly comportment. And they will carefully sever their own governing ideology from any role in the legacies of destruction he unleashed on the nation.

The embryo of this effort can be found in this big New York Times piece about GOP maneuvering over Trump’s rage about his loss. Trump is MIA as president, mostly ignoring the vaccine rollout and refusing to condemn Russia’s massive cyberattack, instead focusing on overturning the election.

But, the Times reports, some Republicans profess to see an “upside” in Trump’s disinterest in specifics and in his coming absence:

They believe the president’s departure might allow Republicans to return to some of the themes that proved effective in down-ballot races last month, while also depriving Democrats of their most dependable boogeyman.

December 21, 2020

Florida temporarily bans teacher after disparaging comments

The former middle school teacher cannot teach in Florida until at least next summer.

A former Florida middle school teacher has been banned from teaching in the state until at least next summer after being accused of making disparaging and anti-immigrant comments to students.

The Education Practices Commission suspended the license of Susan Oyer, 54, last week for remarks she made to students at Boca Raton Middle School, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

Oyer is accused of telling students that she was going to “call immigration on you,” and that she was surprised their parents “haven’t thrown you to a wall,” according to the report.

If Oyer wants to teach again, she must pay a $1,000 fine and complete a course on classroom management.


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