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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
September 7, 2019

A Cruel Parody of Antitrust Enforcement

President Trump’s Justice Department — for it is increasingly clear that the department has been reduced to an arm of the White House — has opened an antitrust investigation of four auto companies that had the temerity to defy the president by voluntarily agreeing to reduce auto emissions below the level required by current federal law.

The investigation is an act of bullying, plain and simple: a nakedly political abuse of authority.

The department is supposed to prevent companies from acting in their own interest at the expense of the public. The four automakers, by contrast, are acting in the public interest.

That the government of the United States would fight to loosen emissions standards in the face of the growing threat posed by climate change also boggles the mind. Not content to fiddle while the planet burns, Mr. Trump is fanning the flames.


September 7, 2019

Something Strange Is Going On With All Those Retiring Texans

The Republican Party of Texas appears to be molting. Last week, Representative Bill Flores became the 10th Texas Republican in the House to announce his retirement since the 2016 election, and the fifth this year. Others are expected this year.

If Democrats can flip the congressional districts they lost by less than five points in 2018 — including one represented by Will Hurd, a retiring local maverick who was once considered a Republican rising star — they will make up the majority of the state’s congressional delegation for the first time since 2005.

This has been branded “Texodus,” proof the Republican Party is running scared. A good deal of the churn has a simpler explanation: By 2016 the state’s Republican delegation had gotten long in the tooth, with some of the older members serving since the 1980s. Now they’re in the minority, and that stinks.

But there is something strange going on here, and it’s been going on for a while. Arguably, Texodus really started in 2015, with the most consequential retirement in the state in many years, that of Gov. Rick Perry. The Texas Republican Party had rarely looked stronger than it did that year — and has rarely had a stranger and more off-putting run than the period that came after.


September 7, 2019

Rep. Duncan Hunter argues his campaign filings are immune from prosecution

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, argued to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday that filing campaign finance forms is a legislative act -- immune from federal prosecution by constitutional separation of powers protections.

If his argument is successful, the case against him could ultimately be dismissed prior to trial that’s supposed to start Jan. 14 as Hunter prepares to run for re-election in a March primary election.

Hunter, 42, was indicted in August 2018 along with his wife and former campaign manager, Margaret, on 60 federal counts of misusing campaign funds and covering up the crimes.

The two were accused of living well beyond their means by spending money from political donors on family vacations, dental work, private school tuition, fast food, groceries and other expenses. The congressman also was accused of spending the funds on extramarital affairs.


This guy is a real piece of work.

September 7, 2019

Trump warns California that emissions deal with automakers may be illegal

Source: LA Times

The Trump administration sent California a stern warning Friday that its agreement with four major automakers to reduce car pollution appears to violate federal law.

The letter from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation is the latest sign of President Trump’s anger at California and the car manufacturers that have bucked his plans to roll back regulations put in place to combat climate change.

In their agreement with the state, which was announced in July, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW all agreed to voluntarily increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, essentially ignoring the Trump administration’s plans to roll back car pollution standards. State officials have been trying to persuade other companies to join the agreement; the White House has been trying to prevent that.

Friday’s letter threatened “legal consequences” if California does not abandon the agreement, but did not say what officials might actually do. It reiterated the administration’s long-held belief that only the federal government has the authority to set fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-09-06/trump-warns-california-violating-law-auto-emissions

September 7, 2019

Navy SEAL leaders fired after allegations of sexual assault and drinking among team

Source: CNN

The three senior leaders of a US Navy SEAL Team have been fired from their positions by the admiral overseeing the Navy's elite special operations forces "due to a loss of confidence that resulted from leadership failures," after members of their team were accused of serious discipline breaches, including an alleged sexual assault and drinking while deployed to Iraq.

"Commander, Navy Special Warfare Command Read Adm. Collin Green relieved the three senior leaders of SEAL Team Seven from their positions Sept. 6.," US Navy Capt. Tamara Lawrence, a spokesperson for Naval Special Warfare Command, told CNN in a statement explaining the rare move.

"Green relieved the unit's commanding officer, Cdr. Edward Mason; executive officer, Lt. Cdr. Luke Im; and the team's top enlisted leader, Command Master Chief Hugh Spangler due to a loss of confidence that resulted from leadership failures that caused a breakdown of good order and discipline within two subordinate units while deployed to combat zones," Lawrence added.

While the team's leadership has been removed from their positions, they remain in the Navy and no additional punishments or disciplinary action has taken place at this time.

Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/06/politics/us-navy-seal-leaders-fired/index.html

September 6, 2019

Trump is trying to bully California and carmakers into giving up on climate change

Sometimes it seems like the only consistent policy coming out of the White House these days is vindictiveness.

Case in point: Still seething over California’s end-run around its plan to roll back fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions targets on new cars, the Trump administration has launched an antitrust investigation into four automakers that reached an agreement with the state to make their cars run cleaner.

The administration also sent a letter to California officials warning darkly of “legal consequences” if the state does not abandon the agreement. And it’s considering revoking California’s long-standing authority to set tougher auto pollution standards than those required by the federal government — an authority Congress has provided at least since 1967 in recognition of the state’s own efforts to clean its dirty air.

This is a blatant attempt to use the power of the federal government to bully companies that disagree with the president. It’s especially galling that the administration would use the threat of a Justice Department investigation to pressure automakers to make cars that are worse for consumers, worse for the environment and worse for a rapidly warming planet.


September 6, 2019

More House Republicans Ask: Why Win Re-election When You Can Retire Instead

Congress’s six-week summer recess comes to an end on Monday, and a growing number of House Republicans have sent a clear message: They would much rather stay home.

More than a dozen Republicans of nearly every stripe — moderates and conservatives, relative newcomers and those with decades of seniority, two of the party’s 13 women and its only African-American lawmaker — have all announced their retirements in the past several weeks, underscoring a sour mood in the minority party and a sense of foreboding about its chances to win back the House in 2020. And party operatives believe there are many more departures to come.

Most of them have explained their planned farewells at the end of their terms in 2021 in personal terms, citing health and family concerns or a general sense that “it’s time” and declining to elaborate further. Only a few, such as Representative Will Hurd of Texas, faced a difficult re-election campaign.

But former lawmakers and several political strategists said the departures were more likely a consequence of two slowly dawning realities for Republican House members: Being in the minority is no fun, and their chances of ending Democratic rule next year are fading fast.


September 6, 2019

India Loses Contact With Chandrayaan-2 Mission During Moon Landing Attempt

Source: New York Times

India’s attempt to land a robotic spacecraft near the moon’s South Pole on Saturday appeared to end in failure.

The initial parts of the descent, as engines fired to slow it down from orbit, went smoothly. But less than two miles above the surface, the trajectory diverged from the planned path. The mission control room fell silent as communications from the lander were lost. A member of the staff was seen patting the back of K. Sivan, the director of India’s space program.

He later announced that the spacecraft was operating as expected until an altitude of 2.1 kilometers, or 1.3 miles. “The data is being analyzed,” he said.

The partial failure of the Chandrayaan-2 mission — an orbiter remains in operation — would delay the country’s bid to join an elite club of nations that have landed in one piece on the moon’s surface.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/06/science/india-moon-landing-chandrayaan-2.html

September 6, 2019

Fed says Trump's trade fight is cutting U.S. economic growth

President Trump's trade war is crimping economic growth to the 2 percent pace he assailed as unacceptable in the Obama years.

That's the implication of new research from a group of Federal Reserve economists. They just released a first-of-its-kind study by the central bank to attempt to quantify the impact of the trade fight on GDP.

The researchers examined hundreds of corporate earnings-call transcripts and news stories to assess rising uncertainty spawned by the trade war and arrived at an estimated tab for it. The trade war, they estimate, will shave 1 percent off of growth through the early part of 2020.

That may not seem huge, but it's the difference between where growth has been tracking lately — bumping along at the respectable but unimpressive 2 percent level Trump blasted under President Barack Obama — and the 3 percent clip that Trump promised to deliver at a minimum. New data show further economic weakening, with the Atlanta Fed trimming its third-quarter GDP forecast to an annualized rate of just 1.5 percent.


September 6, 2019

White House Prepares to Revoke California's Right to Set Tougher Pollution Rules

President Trump is strongly considering a plan to revoke California’s legal authority to set state tailpipe pollution standards that are stricter than federal regulations, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The potential challenge to California’s authority, which would be a stinging broadside to the state’s governor and environmentalists, has been widely anticipated. But what’s notable is that the administration would be decoupling its challenge to California from its broader plan to weaken federal fuel economy standards, the latest sign that its plans for that rollback have fallen into disarray.

Since the early months of the administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department have been pursuing one of Mr. Trump’s most consequential attempts to weaken regulations designed to fight climate change: a sweeping rollback of Obama-era rules designed to cut the emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases.

But that rollback has become bogged down, according to people who have worked on the project, largely because staff members have been unable so far to prepare adequate documents detailing the legal, technical, economic and scientific justifications for it.


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