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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
September 30, 2019

Impeach the Malignant Fraudster

It is the clarity of Donald Trump’s transgression that is most remarkable.

By his own admission, and backed up by the quasi-transcript released by the White House and by the whistle-blower complaint, he abused the power of the presidency to enlist a foreign government to help him politically.

People don’t have to wade through the tome that Robert Mueller produced, through the murky parts and the fine legal points. This is as clear as a bell. Trump has confessed to the central allegation.

No matter how much his defenders squirm — and they certainly are squirming — to justify or diminish that fact, it is nevertheless a fact. He did it.


September 30, 2019

Note to the Impeachment Investigators: Trump Rarely Acts Alone

President Trump’s assaults on democracy are rarely solo endeavors. His schemes often entangle, by chance or by choice, an array of accomplices, enablers, observers and victims — many of whom will need to be heard from as House members begin investigating the Ukraine scandal as part of the impeachment inquiry announced last week.

“There is a whole host of people apparently who have knowledge of these events,” Representative Adam Schiff of California, who is spearheading the inquiry as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters on Thursday. Fortunately, said Mr. Schiff, the complaint filed by the administration whistle-blower provides “a pretty good road map of allegations that we need to investigate.”

Indeed it does. Among the many persons of interest in this investigation: whichever White House and State Department staff members who were listening in on Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky; those who subsequently received a readout of that call; and those involved in the effort to “lock down” the record of it. The lines of inquiry quickly spiral. But here are a few notable figures — in addition, of course, to the whistle-blower himself — who could prove particularly useful to House investigators.

Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney/fixer. As the point person on the push to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Mr. Giuliani likely knows more about the origins, scope and details of the effort than almost anyone. Some of the more targeted mysteries he could shed light on include: When and from whom did the president first get the idea to pressure Ukraine? How did Mr. Giuliani first become involved? Was he being paid for his work, and if so, by whom?


September 30, 2019

Trump is making himself expendable

It was the question of the week, and Frida Ghitis posed it best:

"How is it possible that after the country was torn apart by the Russian interference in the 2016 election and its aftermath, and after (President Donald) Trump himself endured almost two years under the searing spotlight of an investigation into that very thing, how is it possible that he could reach out to another country and -- according to a whistleblower complaint -- attempt another round of election interference? How is that possible?"

Her answer: "Trump has apparently come to believe that he is so brilliant, so talented, so invincible, that he could get away with defying every norm, every practice, every institution of the democracy he is charged with leading." In a word from ancient Greece: hubris.

Michael D'Antonio described it another way: "Trump's decision to push Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate a political opponent one day after the country heard special counsel Robert Mueller testify before Congress suggests a man with a political death wish."


September 29, 2019

Trump isn't loyal to Russia -- or America. Only to himself.

Ever since the revelation in the summer of 2016 that Russia was hacking the Democratic National Committee to help elect Donald Trump, his critics have been searching for evidence that he is loyal to Russia. We still don’t know the full story of President Trump’s ties with Moscow; an FBI counterintelligence investigation is apparently still going on. But from what we know, it’s a mistake to imagine that Trump is loyal to any country — whether the United States or Russia. His only loyalty is to himself. His policy is not “America First.” It is Trump First.

That message was hammered home by the revelations of last week. The week’s major news story — the one that has made impeachment inevitable — is that Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to launch an investigation of Joe Biden. The president’s own words, in the rough transcript released by the White House, convict him of two offenses against U.S. interests. First, he encouraged a foreign country to interfere in a U.S. election despite a federal law that makes it a crime to “knowingly solicit, accept, or receive from a foreign national any contribution or donation.” Second, apparently as a pressure tactic, he held up military aid for Ukraine that was authorized by Congress to help this front-line ally defend itself against Russian aggression.

Whether it can be proved that Trump acted criminally (and it will be hard to put a value on the campaign aid that Trump wanted from Ukraine), he deserves to be impeached because he violated his oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” He subordinated the public’s interest — in holding free and fair elections and ensuring that foreign aid is used for the purposes intended by Congress — to his own personal interest in getting reelected.

Trump acted with similar disregard for the national interest during and after Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election. Though former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III did not find sufficient evidence to conclude that Trump was part of a criminal conspiracy with Moscow, there remains ample evidence of his willingness to encourage Russian interference. “Russia, if you’re listening,” Trump said on July 27, 2016, encouraging Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. The Mueller report revealed that Russian hackers tried to do that just hours later.


September 29, 2019

No, the GOP won't abandon Trump no matter what for one reason: he's the last.

Long before Trump, today’s GOP lost any ability to be constructive on just about anything. If something is good, they reflexively oppose it. People having healthcare? Oppose. People going to college? Oppose. Stopping gun massacres? Oppose. Renewable energy? Oppose.

Their entire policy on immigration is bigotry and hate. Their policy on the budget is to cut taxes for the wealthy. Their policy on elections is to have as few people as possible voting. Also, I’m not quite sure how a political party would be opposed to saving our environment, but here we are.

Then 2016 happened. Republicans have surrendered everything--their duty, their patriotism, and their principles—in order to pledge fealty to a man too stupid to be trusted to manage his own social media account. He remade the party in his ugly image, so now those who haven't left can largely be divided into just three groups: the rich, the racists, and the rubes. This is who they have to work with now.

Every demographic the GOP had been working on gaining has been forever lost. When the Democratic Party became the party of civil rights in the 1960s, the southern conservatives switched allegiance to the GOP, and haven’t looked back. As recently as 2012, the GOP was determined not to lose the fast growing Latinx community in the same way they lost the African-Americans, so they pandered. Even Sean Hannity argued that the GOP should go for amnesty. All of that outreach ended under Trump, who has smeared and insulted them continuously since day one.


September 29, 2019

SpaceX Unveils Silvery Vision to Mars: 'It's Basically an I.C.B.M. That Lands'

As you drive east along Texas State Highway 4, it looks like a giant, shiny and pointy grain silo is rising out of the scrubby flatland at the tip of southern Texas.

But it is the first version of a spaceship design that Elon Musk, the entrepreneur and founder of the rocket company SpaceX, hopes will be humanity’s first ride to Mars.

Within a month or two, he says optimistically, this prototype of the Starship spacecraft — without anyone aboard — will blast off to an altitude of 12 miles, then return to the ground in one piece.

“It’s going to be pretty epic to see that thing take off and come back,” Mr. Musk said late on Saturday at a SpaceX facility outside Brownsville, Tex., where Starship is being built.

September 29, 2019

Ex-GOP chair for North Carolina to plead guilty to lying to FBI

A former North Carolina GOP chairman will admit in court that he lied to federal agents conducting a bribery investigation of a major political donor, according to court documents filed Friday.

The federal court docket shows that Robin Hayes is scheduled to enter a guilty plea next Wednesday. Hayes has agreed to plead guilty to making a false statement to the FBI, said U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Lia Bantavani.

A factual basis document prepared as part of the plea agreement and signed by Hayes' attorney said Hayes knew he was making false statements to FBI agents conducting the bribery probe in 2018. He was initially also charged with conspiracy and bribery.

Prosecutors have accused Hayes, a former congressman, of involvement in an insurance executive's plan to funnel campaign contributions to the state's top insurance regulator in exchange for special treatment. The executive, Greg Lindberg, and two of his associates have been charged with attempting to bribe state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey.


September 29, 2019

Drought exposes long-submerged 'Spanish Stonehenge' monument

A 7,000-year-old monument dubbed “Spanish Stonehenge” has been exposed for the first time in 50 years, after drought conditions in western Spain dropped water levels in a manmade lake and revealed the ancient standing stones.

The circle of more than 100 large rocks, known as the Dolmen of Guadalperal, was submerged in 1963 after the Spanish government constructed the Valdecañas Reservoir to feed a hydroelectric dam that still generates power in the region. Occasionally, the tips of the tallest standing stones have been visible as the reservoir’s water levels have changed, but according to NASA, this is the first time that the entire monument has been out of water since the area was flooded to create the lake.

Water levels in the reservoir dropped significantly this summer after two intense heatwaves baked much of Europe. In Spain, June’s hot spell saw seven weather stations record their highest temperatures ever, according to the country’s meteorological agency, with several cities exceeding 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). Higher-than-average temperatures and dry conditions were also recorded across Spain in July and August.

NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite snapped pictures of the area on July 25. In a comparison of satellite views taken of the same area in 2013, it’s possible to see the changing coastlines around the Valdecañas Reservoir and more pronounced vein-like features in the water that represent the exposed lake bottom.


September 29, 2019

Staring down impeachment, Trump sees himself as a victim of historic proportions

Donald Trump is not the first American president staring down impeachment to nurse a deep sense of persecution and self-pity. But he is the first to broadcast that mentality to the world.

In the five days since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opened an impeachment inquiry following revelations about President Trump’s conduct with his Ukrainian counterpart, Trump has been determined to cast himself as a singular victim in a warped reality — a portrayal that seems part political survival strategy, part virtual therapy session.

As Trump tells it, he is a hard-working and honorable president whose conduct has been “perfect” but who is being harassed and tormented by “Do Nothing Democrat Savages” and a corrupt intelligence community resolved to perpetuate a hoax, defraud the public and, ultimately, undo the 2016 election.

“There has been no President in the history of our Country who has been treated so badly as I have,” Trump tweeted Wednesday, some 13 hours after Pelosi’s announcement.


September 28, 2019

These tea bags release billions of plastic particles into your brew, study shows

A couple of years ago, Nathalie Tufenkji stopped by a Montreal cafe on her way to work and ordered a cup of tea. She sat down with her mug, enjoying its warmth, before she noticed something strange: Her tea bag appeared to be made of plastic.

“I thought, ‘That’s not a very good idea, putting plastic into boiling water,’ ” she told The Washington Post.

Tufenkji was worried that the plastic bags could leach particles into the beverage that she and her fellow customers were consuming, and as a professor of chemical engineering at McGill University, she was well positioned to investigate. She dispatched her student Laura Hernandez to purchase tea bags from stores in the area and bring them back to the lab.

It turns out Tufenkji’s hunch was right. The bags were releasing plastic particles into the brewed tea. Billions and billions of them.


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