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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
September 24, 2019

Today may be the most important day of Trump's tenure

Remember the date: Sept. 24, 2019. It may well be the most consequential day of President Trump’s tenure. Certainly it is one of the days that will determine the course of his presidency. After a wave of Democratic House members came out in favor of impeachment throughout the day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced she will begin official impeachment proceedings. She reiterated that Trump “has admitted to asking the President of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically.” She therefore announced impeachment proceedings would go forward under the umbrella of six committees. She stressed, “No one is above the law. … The times have found us.”

Ominously, the Senate unanimously passed a sense-of-the-Senate resolution demanding the whistleblower complaint that started all this be transmitted to Congress.

Before we even start the official impeachment process, there will be a test vote of sorts in the House. Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) announced in a written statement released earlier a vote on a nonbinding motion on Wednesday “making it clear Congress’s disapproval of the Administration’s effort to block the release of the complaint and the need to protect the whistleblower.” The written statement continued, “This is not a partisan matter, it’s about the integrity of our democracy, respect for the rule of law and defending our Constitution. We hope that all Members of the House — Democrats and Republicans alike — will join in upholding the rule of law and oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution as Representatives of the American people.” This is one of many potential steps to turn up the heat on Republican lawmakers.

How did the ground on impeachment shift so quickly? For once, Democrats remained in sync and moved swiftly. The glaring abuse of power at issue — asking Ukraine’s president to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter while withholding military aid to Kiev — and the president’s refusal to provide all evidence including a whistleblower complaint as required by law shocked Democrats out of their cautious mode and propelled them to rally around impeachment. Pelosi, who ostensibly was protecting these members, was then compelled to act. Contrary to cynical media chatter, facts do matter and these facts could not be ignored by Democrats despite any misgivings about the political fallout.


September 24, 2019

Fox News Apologizes For Their Mentally Ill Hosts

NEW YORK—Responding to criticism for comments about 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg made on their network, Fox News officials apologized Tuesday for their mentally ill hosts.

“While we understand some people disagree with the statements made by Laura Ingraham and other pundits on Fox News, it’s important to remember that these are completely deranged nutcases who lack any emotional intelligence and have severe anger issues,” said Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, who requested viewers’ compassion and tolerance with the network’s decision to repeatedly give deeply disturbed individuals like Tucker Carlson a platform to offer his unhinged views.

“These are people who have severe psychiatric impairments that make them unable to control their thoughts and urges. What they say may not always fall within the general idea of appropriate speech, and they may behave in ways that we do not associate with being totally with it, but it’s important to remember that they’ve overcome severe mental issues to share their thoughts with us.”

Scott added that none of this would be happening if the hosts’ parents had just raised them right and stepped in to stop them from repeatedly making their crazy statements in public.


September 23, 2019

Donald Trump vs. the United States of America

Sometimes it’s worth stepping back to look at the full picture.

He has pressured a foreign leader to interfere in the 2020 American presidential election.

He urged a foreign country to intervene in the 2016 presidential election.

He divulged classified information to foreign officials.


September 23, 2019

Why Trump gets away with everything

A depressing mystery hangs over our politics: Why is it that when we have a president whose behavior puts our security interests in peril, our political parties can’t confront the threat together?

Here we have a whistleblower from the intelligence community who, as The Post reported, found a “promise” that President Trump made to a foreign leader “so alarming” that the “official who had worked at the White House went to the inspector general of the intelligence community.”

If what Trump did is entirely innocent, you’d assume the White House would want everything to become public so the president could be cleared of suspicion. After all, Trump tweeted on Friday that he had had a “perfectly fine and respectful conversation” and that “there was nothing said wrong, it was pitch perfect!” Further, he accused the whistleblower of being “highly partisan.”

So why not share all the information available with the House Intelligence Committee? If Trump’s accuser is some kind of “partisan,” why wouldn’t the president want the world — or at least Congress — to know his basis for saying so?


Well, duhhhh. It's been no mystery. The Republican Party is the party of criminals and traitors, and has been since Nixon.

September 23, 2019

There's another expert player warming up to online election interference. We should worry.

COUNTRIES AROUND the world are worrying, rightly, about Russian interference in their elections. But there’s another player in the game with a lot of experience, and it isn’t sitting this one out.

China began dabbling in Internet disinformation long before “Russian troll” became part of the American vernacular. Its so-called 50-cent army, as many as 2 million strong according to some estimates, started marching in 2004: sneaking state-sponsored narratives into organic conversations, or just distracting citizens from controversial subjects, and pretending the 448 million comments it generates a year come from ordinary people.

These manipulation attempts have historically been mostly inward-facing, while efforts to sway foreigners have focused instead on overt propaganda disseminated through 3,000 public television channels, 2,500 radio stations, 12,000 newspapers and magazines, and more than 3 million websites. But recent activity suggests that Beijing has turned its attention outward — most aggressively, not so far from home.

The Stanford Internet Observatory has identified the upcoming Taiwanese presidential election as a near-certain target for a Chinese influence campaign. Journalists discovered this summer that an upset mayoral victory in 2018 by a pro-Beijing politician in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan’s largest city, was not the story it had seemed of charisma and digital know-how propelling a populist to victory. Instead, a mainland campaign had used sockpuppet accounts to gin up support, a tactic in line with researchers’ findings of cross-strait operations in recent elections. Now, a presidential contest approaches, and all signs point to more of the same, or worse.


September 23, 2019

The Trump-Powell feud isn't slowing down. But a bigger story is being missed.

If ever there was a case of political miscalculation, it’s the collapsing relationship between President Trump and the chair of the Federal Reserve Board, Jerome H. “Jay” Powell.

Trump seems to have believed that he could easily manipulate Powell into embracing an aggressively easy monetary policy whose main objective was Trump’s reelection. For his part, Powell seems to have believed that, although Trump would periodically challenge the Fed’s behavior, he would fundamentally respect its “independence.”

Wrong on all counts.

Instead, we’ve gotten a schoolyard brawl. After the Fed’s decision last week to cut its key lending rate (the Fed funds rate on overnight loans among banks) by a quarter of a percentage point (to a range of 1.75 percent to 2 percent), apparently not enough for Trump, the president unleashed one of his furious tirades. “Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again,” Trump tweeted. “No ‘guts,’ no sense, no vision!”


September 23, 2019

This may be the worst Trump scandal yet

A mob enforcer doesn’t have to say “pay up, or we will destroy your store” to be guilty of extortion. The message is conveyed clearly enough if he says “nice store, shame if anything happened to it” combined with the storekeeper’s knowledge of what the mafia has done to those who didn’t pay up.

Likewise, President Trump did not have to say to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, “Accuse Joe Biden of corruption, or you’ll never see any more aid from the United States.” It was sufficient that, according to the Wall Street Journal, in a July 25 call, Trump badgered Zelensky eight times to investigate Biden, before also withholding $250 million in military aid. The Ukrainians got the message whether the quid pro quo was explicitly laid out. As a Ukrainian official told the Daily Beast, “Clearly, Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in prison.”

We don’t yet know the full details because of White House stonewalling, but from what we already know, this may be the most shocking revelation of wrongdoing by Trump since he fired FBI Director James B. Comey on May 9, 2017, (by his own admission) to squelch the investigation of his Russia ties. In 2016, candidate Trump implored a foreign power to interfere in the U.S. election on his behalf (“Russia, if you’re listening…”). In 2019, Trump appeared to use the full power of his office to extort a foreign leader to intervene in the next U.S. election on his behalf. The latter is far more egregious than the former. It is hard to imagine a more glaring example of a “high crime and misdemeanor.”

If there were any justice in the world, this would mark a turning point where Democrats find the courage to impeach and Republicans find the decency to stop defending the indefensible. Instead, so far we are getting a rerun of previous scandals characterized by Trump’s brazenness, Republicans’ servility and Democrats’ pusillanimity.


I'm sure there will be even worse scandals to come.

September 22, 2019

An Abrupt Move That Stunned Aides: Inside Trump's Aborted Attack on Iran

By the time President Trump met with congressional leaders on the afternoon of June 20, he had already decided to retaliate against Iran for shooting down an American surveillance drone. But for once, he kept his cards close to the vest, soliciting advice rather than doing all of the talking.

“Why don’t you go after the launch sites?” a Republican lawmaker asked. “Well,” Mr. Trump replied with a hint, “I think you’ll like the decision.”

But barely three hours later, Mr. Trump had changed his mind. Without consulting his vice president, secretary of state or national security adviser, he reversed himself and, with ships readying missiles and airplanes already in the skies, told the Pentagon to call off the airstrikes with only 10 minutes to go. When Vice President Mike Pence and other officials returned to the White House for what they expected would be a long night of monitoring a military operation, they were stunned to learn the attack was off.

That about-face, so typically impulsive, instinctive and removed from any process, proved a decision point for a president who has often threatened to “totally destroy” enemies but at the same time has promised to extricate the United States from Middle East wars. It revealed a commander in chief more cautious than critics have assumed, yet underscored the limited options in a confrontation he had set in motion.


September 22, 2019

The U.S. has no rules for when the president is a national security threat

On the surface, the latest confrontation between Congress and the White House involves the Trump administration’s refusal to hand over to the House Intelligence Committee a whistleblower complaint deemed an “urgent concern” by the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community.

But the showdown is really about the government’s inability to cope with an unprecedented problem: what to do when the president of the United States poses a national security threat.

The case involves a complaint by an intelligence official about communications between President Trump and a foreign leader and a “promise” Trump made, which the intelligence official found alarming enough to notify the inspector general about it. People familiar with the case told The Washington Post that it centers on Ukraine, whose president, Volodymyr Zelensky, spoke with Trump two and a half weeks before the complaint was filed. Trump, reportedly, pressed Zelensky to investigate former vice president Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, at a time when the U.S. was weighing whether to send millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, though the aid allegedly didn’t come up on the call.

Presidents have, of course, acted inappropriately in the past, and our constitutional system has a framework in place for addressing misconduct by the chief executive. But it’s designed to deal with straightforward criminal activity, not national security threats. The special counsel regulations, for example, were created to deal with a Watergate-like situation as a worst-case scenario. So they take into account the need for an investigation insulated from political influence and give special counsels the ability to make prosecutorial decisions independently of the rest of the Justice Department or the attorney general. The rules even envision a report that might be made public.


September 22, 2019

The 19th-Century Troll Who Hated Dirty Postcards and Sex Toys

In the 1870s, New York City was a haven for artists and radicals. But it was also the nursery for a new kind of moral activism. Led by Anthony Comstock, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice became a media sensation by targeting feminists in a culture war over obscenity and birth control. He then used his fame to lobby Congress for laws that arguably halted the progress of reproductive rights for almost a century. His tactics — a combination of media manipulation and ruthless legal strategies — are a precursor to those used by anti-feminists on social media and in Washington today.

Comstock started his career as a small-time crusader for Christian values. He moved to Brooklyn from Connecticut in the late 1860s and took a job working for a dry goods merchant, but he had bigger plans. When another clerk revealed that he was buying erotic literature at a bookstore nearby, Comstock took it upon himself to investigate. After buying some of the illicit materials, he went to the police and got the shopkeeper arrested for obscenity. Hailed in a few local papers as a hero, Comstock gained a taste for notoriety.

He joined the activist wing of the YMCA, inviting New York reporters along to his busts, where he worked with the police to shut down shops that did mail-order business in rubber dildos and “French postcards” featuring photographs of scantily clad women. Comstock gave speeches and wrote books about how the postal system had become a “putrid stream” of the “filthy productions of licentious minds.”

Supported by wealthy men including J. Pierpont Morgan and Samuel Colgate (yes, the founder of the soap and toothpaste company), Comstock became a full-time activist. But he remained mostly a local nuisance until he found a target famous enough to get him national attention. He decided to take down Victoria Woodhull, who was running for president in the 1872 election. She and her sister Tennessee Claflin had opened the first woman-run brokerage firm on Wall Street and ran a newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, dedicated to women’s suffrage, socialism and “free love,” a term she popularized to describe sex outside the strictures of marriage.


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