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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
December 21, 2020

Trump officials attacked CDC virus reports, House panel says

Source: Tampa Bay Times

Trump administration political appointees tried to block or change more than a dozen government reports that detailed scientific findings about the spread of the coronavirus, a House panel investigating the alleged interference said Monday.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said his coronavirus subcommittee investigators have found evidence of a “political pressure campaign” to “bully” professionals at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in what may have been an attempt to “cripple the nation’s coronavirus response in a misguided effort to achieve herd immunity.”

Herd immunity is shorthand for a theory — rejected by most public health experts — that society can be best protected by allowing younger people to get infected and develop natural immunity until vaccines are widely available.

Accusing Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield of stonewalling his investigation, Clyburn issued subpoenas to compel them to turn over reams of documents and emails by Dec. 30.

Read more: https://www.tampabay.com/news/health/2020/12/21/trump-officials-attacked-cdc-virus-reports-house-panel-says/

December 21, 2020

San Diego Humane Society urged to stop releasing adoptable cats back onto streets

A local attorney sent a cease and desist letter to the San Diego Humane Society demanding the organization stop abandoning adoptable cats.

In a letter to San Diego Humane Society President Gary Weitzman dated Dec. 8, attorney Bryan Pease says he represents the Animal Protection and Rescue League, Inc. and the Paw Protectors Rescue, two organizations that insist the Humane Society “immediately cease from releasing friendly, adoptable cats back to the street and that any and all plans to start releasing friendly, adoptable cats be canceled.”

The letter says that if Weitzman does not confirm by Dec. 22 that the organization has stopped the releases, legal action will be necessary.

In recent years, the San Diego Humane Society has taken over animal control responsibilities for the city of San Diego and several cities that were served by the county.


It's a tough decision, either euthanize friendly feral cats or spay/neuter/vaccinate and release them back on the street. I live in a semi-rural area and I occasionally see cats on the night cams roaming around our house, and they seem to manage ok being out and about in a predator environment (coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, foxes, etc.).

December 21, 2020

How My Once-Apolitical Church Became the House of Trump

Politics never came up at church. Then suddenly, this year, we were in a “spiritual battle?” Congregants were sharing “The Plandemic” on Facebook? The election was rigged?

It started with the prayers. He’s our president, after all, so the call to pray for Donald Trump seemed harmless enough. The nondenominational, charismatic church I’d been attending had never been political—that wasn’t our focus. We had a multi-racial, socio-economically diverse congregation. A food bank. A prison ministry. A large banner on the side of our modest brick building read: “Experience God’s Love.” And I had.

In March of 2020, with the outbreak of COVID-19, services went online. In May, our governor, Arizona’s Doug Ducey, allowed formerly shuttered businesses to reopen. Places of worship (though technically having been free to meet all along) could resume limited in-person services. I opted to watch online from the safety of my home.

As the election drew nearer, I noticed a change. Sermons took an increasingly martial tone. We were in a “spiritual battle.” Dark forces had been unleashed upon our nation. Prayer warriors must “lock shields” and “keep up the offensive.” The pastor likened himself to Paul Revere, a patriot “sounding the alarm.” Yes, love was important, but we weren’t supposed to just “sit around and sing kum-ba-yah.”

For too long, he said, the church has been twiddling its thumbs. Enough of this namby-pamby stuff. We were in a fight for our nation’s future. It was good versus evil. Good in the form of those who would take a stand against abortion. Evil in the form of those in favor of it. Although we were not explicitly told to vote for Donald Trump, it was hard to miss the messaging. A Latina fellow congregant asked me, “Is it wrong to be a Democrat?” “Of course not!” I answered. Jesus never gave his followers a political litmus test; on the contrary, he said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

December 21, 2020

There is no middle ground between fact and fiction on the election results

Opinion by Editorial Board

AS PRESIDENT Trump continues to lie about last month’s election, national Republican leaders are trying to stake out what they imagine as a middle ground: While Joe Biden is the president-elect, the 2020 election was marred by substantial fraud and election irregularities. In fact, this is also a lie, and their dishonesty damages U.S. democracy.

At a Wednesday Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) declared that it is “not sustainable” for a large proportion of Americans to believe the election results are illegitimate. He then set about encouraging this false belief by dignifying debunked attacks on the vote’s integrity. Mr. Johnson insisted that pro-Trump forces have raised “legitimate concerns” about “violations of election laws,” “fraudulent votes and ballot stuffing,” and “corruption of voting machines and software that might be programmed to add or switch votes.”

Former Trump election security chief Christopher Krebs told the panel that the election was highly secure and that attacks on local voting officials were deeply unfair. Yet Mr. Johnson trotted out Trump lawyers who alleged massive numbers of illegal votes and blamed losses in court on negligent judges refusing to look at their so-called evidence. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) declared that “the fraud happened.” Other GOP senators emphasized that their constituents thought the vote was rigged. The overall message, about perhaps the cleanest presidential election ever run in the United States: We cannot prove that fraud changed the outcome, but we cannot rule it out, and Americans should be angry regardless.

Echoing many other Republicans, Mr. Johnson blamed declining trust in U.S. democracy not on his party’s persistent campaign to undermine trust in U.S. democracy, but on Democrats’ “efforts to delegitimize the results of the 2016 election” and the “corrupt” Russia investigation. This is false. Following the 2016 vote, Democratic leaders acknowledged that Mr. Trump was president. And the Russia investigation was based in fact — Russia tried to aid Mr. Trump, the Trump campaign welcomed the help, and Trump allies had strong connections to the Kremlin — whereas claims about Mr. Biden’s illegitimacy are based in partisan fantasies that have serially failed when scrutinized, in court and elsewhere.


December 20, 2020

The evictions crisis is coming. We have barely begun to face it.

Opinion by Karen Attiah

The United States is dancing on the edge of an eviction crisis, and so it is darkly fitting that this is the time of year when we recount the story of a family of color desperately seeking shelter.

As the story of the Christmas Nativity goes, Joseph and a very pregnant Mary could find no room at an inn, and so they had to resort to a stable, where Mary gave birth to her baby. Those of us who celebrate Christmas find deep meaning in the notion that the King of Men — the one who would grow up to be the savior of mankind — was born homeless, his parents refugees from the wrath of Herod.

But, of course, homelessness is nothing to celebrate, and much of the way we mark the holiday bears little resemblance to the spirit of the story. Holiday advertisers are relentlessly encouraging lucky Americans to buy more stuff to fill their homes, even as millions of other Americans risk having their stuff put out on the street.

Many millions, actually. After Dec. 31, when a federal evictions moratorium is set to end, more than 30 million people in the United States could be in danger of losing their homes. Nearly 12 million Americans — disproportionately Black people and other families of color — will be an average of almost $6,000 behind on rent and utilities by the new year. That’s an increase of 3 million people in a month. Millions of others are falling significantly behind on their mortgages.


December 20, 2020

Trump saved the worst for last

Opinion by Max Boot

Presidents usually experience a poll bump after they leave office. George W. Bush, for example, nearly doubled his popularity rating between 2009 and 2018. If there is any justice in the world (admittedly a big if), that won’t happen with Donald Trump. If posterity needs any reminder of how awful he has been, all it will have to do is look at his final days in office. Trump has saved the worst for last — and there is still a month to go before he is evicted from the White House.

Trump’s singular focus since the election has been on overturning the results even at the cost of destroying U.S. democracy. For more than six weeks, Trump has been spewing conspiracy theories about nonexistent election fraud — claims that have been rejected in 59 court cases and counting, including by Trump-appointed judges.

On Friday, as the New York Times first reported, Trump met at the White House with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a pardoned felon, and attorney Sidney Powell, who was fired from the Trump legal team after promoting conspiracy theories about the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez too wacky even for Trump. Trump reportedly discussed with the duo Flynn’s idea of declaring martial law and having the military “rerun” the election — or, failing that, appointing Powell as a special counsel to probe (nonexistent) election fraud.

These dangerous ideas may not be implemented, but simply the fact that they are being discussed marks a new low. Never before in U.S. history has there been a record of a president discussing a military coup to stay in office. Is there any doubt that if Trump could find any active-duty generals willing to carry out this plot against America, he would give it the go-ahead? In this instance, all that is preserving the Constitution is the military’s fidelity to the rule of law.


December 20, 2020

Senator Amanda Chase Is What the Next Frontier of GOP Lunacy Looks Like

She texts with Boogaloos. Her QAnon-linked “security” pals were busted with guns en route to a Philly vote-count. Now she’s running for governor.

Virginia state Senator Amanda Chase and her staff wanted to be clear: She was experiencing a sinus infection, not COVID-19 symptoms. Just a little head cold. In fact, Chase told The Daily Beast on Friday shortly before stating that she would refuse a COVID-19 vaccine, she was already feeling much better.

Such a diagnosis would be very good news for Chase, but also her colleagues in the Virginia General Assembly. Chase, a far-right Republican and 2021 gubernatorial candidate, refuses to wear a mask during government session, forcing her at times to sit alone in a plexiglass quarantine box that she calls “the square of freedom.” Framed by sheets of wobbly plastic in these moments, Chase is a portrait of her political reality: isolated from her fellow Republican lawmakers and walled off by conspiratorial belief.

But Chase, who recently left the state Senate’s Republican caucus and was ousted from her local chapter of the GOP, is not alone. All year, she has stood shoulder to shoulder with members of far-right militant groups and conspiracy movements, some of whom would be arrested by year’s end. Now, in the twilight of 2020 and the Trump presidency, she’s playing the hits for the extremist crowd, lying about the vaccine, knowingly taking donations and “security” help from neo-Confederate and QAnon-linked extremists, and calling on President Donald Trump to overturn his election loss by declaring martial law.

Her gubernatorial campaign is an eerie preview of even stranger, more conspiratorial post-Trump Trumpism, even as her own state party grows increasingly uneasy with her antics.

December 20, 2020

The Fake News We're Not Talking About

Right-wing conspiracy theories have infiltrated Asian and Latino communities through platforms like WeChat and WhatsApp. Democrats must take notice.

By Cathy Park Hong

In August I was on the phone with my mother, a 70-year-old Korean immigrant, to discuss the upcoming election. In the past, she had complained that President Trump was a lunatic, so I naturally assumed that she would support — or at least be neutral about — Joe Biden.

“I don’t like him either,” she told me. “He’ll be soft on China. I know all about his son Hunter’s business dealings there.”

Hearing her parrot a right-wing talking point was out of the ordinary. My mother doesn’t watch Fox News or any other English-language news. In her 40-plus years living in the United States, she has never voted. Alarmed, I began calling her more often to whack down spurious claims, as if I were playing a carnival game. Sick of my calls, my mother eventually registered to vote for the first time and voted for Mr. Biden.

But since the election, the fake news she hears has only worsened, spiking from Fox News talking points to batty QAnon-level conspiracy theories. When I ask where she gets her news, my mother simply says, everyone thinks this.

December 20, 2020

What Is Death?

How the pandemic is changing our understanding of mortality.

This year has awakened us to the fact that we die. We’ve always known it to be true in a technical sense, but a pandemic demands that we internalize this understanding. It’s one thing to acknowledge the deaths of others, and another to accept our own. It’s not just emotionally taxing; it is difficult even to conceive. To do this means to imagine it, reckon with it and, most important, personalize it. Your life. Your death.

Covid-19’s daily death and hospitalization tallies read like ticker tape or the weather report. This week, the death toll passed 300,000 in the United States. Worldwide, it’s more than 1.6 million. The cumulative effect is shock fatigue or numbness, but instead of turning away, we need to fold death into our lives. We really have only two choices: to share life with death or to be robbed by death.

Fight, flight or freeze. This is how we animals are wired to respond to anything that threatens our existence. We haven’t evolved — morally or socially — to deal with a health care system with technological powers that verge on godly. Dying is no longer so intuitive as it once was, nor is death necessarily the great equalizer. Modern medicine can subvert nature’s course in many ways, at least for a while. But you have to have access to health care for health care to work. And eventually, whether because of this virus or something else, whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, death still comes.

What is death? I’ve thought a lot about the question, though it took me many years of practicing medicine even to realize that I needed to ask it. Like almost anyone, I figured death was a simple fact, a singular event. A noun. Obnoxious, but clearer in its borders than just about anything else. The End. In fact, no matter how many times I’ve sidled up to it, or how many words I’ve tried on, I still can’t say what it is.

December 20, 2020

John Kelly is wrong. These were not good people.

Opinion by Jennifer Rubin

Former White House chief of staff John F. Kelly — the man who enthusiastically presided over the separation of children at the border; defended President Trump’s lies and accommodation toward Russia; and enabled arguably the most destructive president in our history — told the Atlantic: “The vast majority of people who worked in the White House were decent people who were doing the best they could to serve the nation.” He added, “They’ve unfortunately paid quite a price for that in reputation and future employment. They don’t deserve that. They deserve better than that, because they kept the train from careening off the tracks.”

This is dead wrong. These people are not victims. Their reputations have been besmirched for the best of reasons: They participated in an administration unparalleled in its corruption, meanness, racism and authoritarianism.

The excuse that things would have been worse without White House aides is weak, at best. Would we have lost even more than the 312,000 Americans who died from covid-19 if not for them? Would we have been even more lax in failing to respond to Russia’s interference in our election, its bounties on U.S. troops or its hacking of our government?

Self-congratulatory aides did not stop the child-separation policy. Nor did they prevent Trump from trying to delegitimize the election. Or from lying about hush money to pay off an adult-film actress. Or from failing to warn the public early on that covid-19 was far worse than the flu. Or from refusing to wear a mask. Or from encouraging Chinese President Xi Jinping in his efforts to place millions of Uighurs in concentration camps. Or from spewing more than 20,000 lies. Or from extorting Ukraine to manufacture dirt on a political rival. Or from defaming our intelligence community. Or from using tear gas on peaceful protesters outside the White House. I could go on, but you get the point: Their hands are dirty because they enabled a dishonest president and allowed him to continue his reign of chaos, death and authoritarianism.


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