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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
March 15, 2020

New details of misconduct by former Rep. Duncan Hunter emerge ahead of sentencing

Even as former Rep. Duncan Hunter insisted publicly that he never mishandled campaign donations — allegations he later admitted to in U.S. District Court— the Republican from Alpine was deliberately hiding his criminal behavior, federal prosecutors said in a filing Tuesday.

The disgraced congressman, who in January resigned the 50th District seat he held for almost six terms, knowingly used political contributions to support a lavish lifestyle, including fancy meals, trips with girlfriends and even paying for his children’s private-school tuition, the filing states.

At the same time Hunter told national television audiences and local supporters that he did nothing wrong, claiming he was the victim of a witch hunt cooked up by his political enemies, hundreds of pages of evidence made public Tuesday show the congressman was actively obfuscating his role in the campaign finance scandal.

“Rather than admit his guilt and resign his seat in April 2016, when originally questioned, or even in August 2018, when originally charged, Hunter chose to mislead the more than 700,000 people who reside in the 50th congressional district,” the filing states.


This asshole needs to do some serious prison time.

March 15, 2020

Before Trump and his allies blamed China for coronavirus, Trump vouched for China -- repeatedly

President Trump, the White House and their allies are increasingly on a blame-China footing in the fight against the coronavirus. They’re stoking nationalism by emphasizing the country where the virus originated, calling it the “Wuhan virus,” lodging conspiracy theories about it being deliberately weaponized and accusing the Chinese of a coverup.

But there’s one person who didn’t have time for blaming China even as of a couple of weeks ago: Trump himself.

The most speculative conspiracies about China have emanated from Trump allies like Jerry Falwell Jr. and conservative journalists. But even in his Oval Office address Wednesday night, Trump conspicuously emphasized that the virus “started in China” and called it a “foreign virus.” He also said at Friday’s news conference, “They know where it came from; we all know where it came from.”

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien has even gone further. On Wednesday, he directly accused China of a coverup. “Unfortunately, rather than using best practices, this outbreak in Wuhan was covered up,” O’Brien said, adding, “The way that this started out in China, the way it was handled from the outset, was not right, it should have been handled differently.”


March 15, 2020

Raise your hand if you have not been sued by Devin Nunes

In these grim times — pandemic spreading, markets crashing, society shutting down — it seems there is nowhere we can turn for good news.

But there is! Devin Nunes, bless his heart, is still filing lawsuits. The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee has, aided by a lawyer with a colorful past and a flair for invective, sued just about everybody who criticizes him.

Including, just this month, The Washington Post. Phew! I was beginning to feel left out. (That was a joke, Congressman; please do not sue me.)

To be specific, Nunes has sued:
McClatchy. CNN. Hearst Magazines. Fusion GPS. Republican strategist Liz Mair. A watchdog group, Campaign for Accountability. An organic fruit farmer who called Nunes a “fake farmer.” Twitter. A parody Twitter account called “Devin Nunes’ Mom.” A fictitious bovine on Twitter called “Devin Nunes’ Cow.” (“Like Devin Nunes’ Mom, Devin Nunes’ Cow engaged in a defamation campaign,” he alleged in court.)


March 15, 2020

Coronavirus screening causes massive bottlenecks at O'Hare and other U.S. airports

Source: Washington Post

Airports around the country were thrown into chaos Saturday night as workers scrambled to roll out the Trump administration’s hastily arranged health screenings for travelers returning from Europe.

Scores of anxious passengers said they encountered jam-packed terminals, long lines and hours of delays as they waited to be questioned by health authorities at some of the busiest travel hubs in the United States.

The administration announced the “enhanced entry screenings” Friday as part of a suite of travel restrictions and other strategies aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Passengers on flights from more than two dozen countries in Europe are being routed through 13 U.S. airports, where workers check their medical histories, examine them for symptoms and instruct them to self-quarantine.

But shortly after taking effect, the measures designed to prevent new infections in the United States created the exact conditions that facilitate the spread of the highly contagious virus, with throngs of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder in bottlenecks that lasted late into the night.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2020/03/14/europe-travel-ban-airport-delays/

March 14, 2020

Trump's Failing Coronavirus Response is Standard Issue Republicanism in 2020

“He’s got a certain talent for this,” President Donald Trump said of Vice President Mike Pence when entrusting him with the response to the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis. Pence’s perpetual grimace is the new face of the U.S. response to the coronavirus, after a chaotic week when the White House health team’s internecine squabbles and revolving-door corruption got a bit too public for Trump’s comfort. GOP operatives are likely relieved that their “adult in the room” has taken over. After all, Pence may be a fundamentalist zealot, but he is at least an actual “normal” policy-maker.

But a Pence-led response is dangerous, not in spite of, but precisely because he is a typical Republican. His coronavirus task force — which includes several Pence loyalists — is not particularly Trumpian. Its members are long-time political operatives, some of whom even have medical degrees. For the most part, their problem is not incompetence. It’s that they apply their competence and considerable resources in exactly the way a “normal” Republican administration would: protection for the powerful, callousness for the afflicted, and a special disdain for the “other.” In the Pence coronavirus task force, we have a clear window into what a Pence presidency would look like. The answer should scare you.

For the last few days, reporters have granted an overdue spotlight to Pence’s foot-dragging response to an HIV outbreak in Scott County, Indiana while he was governor. Dirty needles drove the outbreak, but Pence’s refusal to set up a needle exchange led almost 10 percent of the county to be infected before any government action was taken. Pence’s current coronavirus response team includes long-time allies who had their own roles in the Indiana crisis, like Surgeon General Jerome Adams. He was appointed Indiana State Health Commissioner in October 2014, just before the outbreak. Though he rebranded himself as “a strong advocate of needle exchanges” after his appointment, during the crisis, Adams dodged repeated questions about whether he’d stand up to Pence on the issue. He showed the same loyalty on Sunday, when he told a panicked nation on CNN that President Trump “sleeps less than I do and he’s healthier than I am.” Perhaps his doctor should test him for sycophancy.

Then there’s Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Verma made her name helping Pence and other Republican governors add work requirements and exorbitant premiums to their state’s Medicaid programs — which, by definition, are designed for people in poverty. Scott County ranked last of Indiana’s 92 counties for poverty, unemployment and uninsured people as a percentage of the population. In other words, Verma earned reverence in conservative circles for oppressing the broke users whom Pence and Verma abandoned in Scott County. As HIV cases spread in Indiana, Verma both consulted on Pence’s Medicaid design and worked for one of the state’s largest Medicaid vendors. Today, Verma faces a Hatch Act lawsuit for publicly railing against Medicare for All, and spent a few million taxpayer dollars on a bid to make the cover of Glamour.


March 14, 2020

Trump Meets Nemesis, Punisher of Hubris

A virus exposes the folly of what the president’s base believes.

The word “nemesis” is too often misused. We tend to think of it as meaning a powerful, nefarious, but ultimately conquerable enemy: Vader; Voldemort; the Wicked Witch of the West. But the original Nemesis was not a villain. She was a goddess — an implacable agent of justice who gives the arrogant, insolent and wicked what they deserve.

As a matter of public health, nobody should ever suggest that the novel coronavirus represents any form of justice, divine or otherwise. It’s a virus that must be stopped.

As a matter of politics, however, it’s hard to think of a mechanism so uniquely well-suited for exposing the hubris, ignorance, prejudice, mendacity and catastrophic self-regard of the president who is supposed to lead us through this crisis.


March 14, 2020

A Conservative Agenda Unleashed on the Federal Courts

As a Republican candidate for the Texas Supreme Court, Don R. Willett flaunted his uncompromising conservatism, boasting of endorsements from groups with “pro-life, pro-faith, pro-family” credentials.

“I intend to build such a fiercely conservative record on the court that I will be unconfirmable for any future federal judicial post — and proudly so,” a Republican rival quoted him telling party leaders.

Judge Willett served a dozen years on the Texas bench. But rather than disqualifying him, his record there propelled him to the very job he had deemed beyond reach. President Trump nominated him to a federal appeals court, and Republicans in the Senate narrowly confirmed him on a party-line vote.

As Mr. Trump seeks re-election, his rightward overhaul of the federal judiciary — in particular, the highly influential appeals courts — has been invoked as one of his most enduring accomplishments. While individual nominees have drawn scrutiny, The New York Times conducted a deep examination of all 51 new appellate judges to obtain a collective portrait of the Trump-populated bench.


March 14, 2020

The U.S. may already be in a recession, and it could linger even after the covid-19 crisis is over

There is a high likelihood that the United States will enter a recession in 2020. In fact, one may have already started.

America is shutting down at lightning speed as schools and businesses instruct people to go home and wait the new coronavirus out. That is having a huge ripple effect on the economy as people curtail spending on about everything but toilet paper, pasta and hand sanitizer.

The pace at which all of this is happening is unprecedented. In 2008, it took 274 days for the stock market to enter the dreaded “bear market” territory. It took 24 days to enter a bear market now. (Even after Friday’s rally, the Dow remains in a bear market). JPMorgan just changed its forecast to predict two quarters of negative growth, which is typically defined as a recession.

Economists and big Wall Street investors nearly all agree the nation has to do whatever it takes to get the health crisis under control, even if that means putting the economy into a recession. The hope was that a downturn would be short-lived. Until only a few days ago, most economists were talking about a V- or U-shaped situation with a quick drop this spring that would be followed by a big rebound this summer as Americans cooped up at home do a mass rush back into “normal” life.


March 14, 2020

RNC agrees to stop using 'census' in mailers, online ads

The Republican National Committee said Thursday that it would stop using the word “census” on mail solicitations and digital advertising, a practice Democratic lawmakers have called deceptive, especially during a decennial census year.

In a letter dated March 12, the RNC’s chief counsel, J. Justin Riemer, denied that the use of the term “census” was unlawful or misleading but agreed not to continue using it.

“The clear and conspicuous disclaimer plainly indicates that the mailing is ‘Paid for by the Republican National Committee,’ (and) includes all other language required by law.”

However, it said the RNC would “use words other than ‘census’ in future RNC mailings and digital advertising.”


March 14, 2020

What Sarah Palin's 'Masked Singer' cameo says about the virus in our politics

It’s poetic, really, that the cascade of events that finally sent the country into convulsions of panic this week began with the appearance of a onetime would-be vice president parading around on stage in a bright, fuzzy bear costume.

That’s what Sarah Palin was wearing when she appeared on a reality TV show called “The Masked Singer.” History will record that as the president was preparing to give the worst speech in the history of Oval Office addresses, Palin, the former Alaska governor and religious conservative, was singing “I like big butts, and I cannot lie.”

In that moment, and in the minutes that followed, the virus infecting our politics ― a decades-long drift into entertainment and triviality — collided in real time with the actual virus that’s now paralyzing our communities. The question is whether both might soon burn themselves out.

Palin, it turned out, was a minor figure in our politics; she came within shouting distance of the second-most powerful office in the land, then pivoted immediately to more lucrative forms of celebrity, such as writing tired right-wing screeds and dancing in bear suits. But she symbolized something much more profound in the American culture.


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