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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
September 21, 2019

What's really at stake in the GM strike? The future of cars.

Detroit is stuck. Its carmakers still sell plenty of vehicles. But while their chief challenge for the past century has been figuring out which cars consumers will buy, they now face a future of having to sell Americans on the very idea that they need to buy a car at all.

That’s what makes the United Auto Workers strike against General Motors so different from past conflicts. The union and carmakers have always played tug-of-war: In good years, the UAW demands a share of the prosperity. In bad years, the companies seek concessions so they can stanch their losses. But the current strife pits the auto industry’s past way of doing business against its uncertain future. The carmakers would have you think that every American wants a big ol’ SUV or pickup truck. And the union, with its walkout, is saying it wants to keep things the way they are, without shutting plants or laying off workers or paying more for health care.

But the stakes have changed in a way that neither the carmakers nor the union fully acknowledges. Consumers have signaled that maybe they don’t need Detroit quite as much as they used to. Auto analysts suggest that the country has reached “peak car” — meaning the number of autos sold each year isn’t likely to increase. Some predict a drop in worldwide demand. The long-term trend has been shifting toward fewer cars per household. Because the United States is so big, it takes a lot to bump the ownership statistic, but it has been below two cars per household since 2009. Not only do these trends cause havoc with automakers’ planning, they blunt the UAW’s ability to argue for more money and guaranteed jobs, and to get them through strikes.

Drive any highway in America, and you’ll see fleets of new sport utility vehicles and pickups. The carmakers push them in their advertising just as the behemoths push smaller vehicles out of the way while zooming past. They offer lease deals and rebates, or knock $5,000 or more off the price, which they can afford to do because the big models yield big profits. The companies argue that they’re meeting consumer demand, but like department-store clerks who bring out only the most expensive dresses, they rarely put any effort into marketing less-profitable cars. Detroit automakers have all but erased smaller cars from their lineups: Ford has dropped the iconic Taurus, which helped it compete with Japanese carmakers in the 1980s. Chrysler is going to discontinue, in North America, the little Fiat 500, which it got from its Italian overseer. And GM has ended production of the small Chevrolet Cruze at its factory in Lordstown, Ohio, one of four vehicle plants it announced last year that it wanted to close, a move that enraged the union and struck fear in the hearts of local communities.


September 21, 2019

Massachusetts Rep. Kennedy announces Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Markey

Source: Washington Post

Rep. Joe Kennedy, the latest generation of a famous political family, announced Saturday that he would challenge Sen. Edward J. Markey in Massachusetts’s Democratic primary, a bid certain to divide the party in the state and in Washington.

Ahead of a rally here, Kennedy emailed supporters a video officially declaring his candidacy.

“Since Donald Trump’s election, I have had countless conversations with my constituents. I’ve told them not to give up. I have implored them to do more. I have begged them to reach deeper, fight harder, put more on the line — because everything we believe in is at stake,” Kennedy writes in the email. “I’m running for Senate to do the same.”

Kennedy mentions the need for a new generation to take on “outdated structures and old rules,” an implicit nod to the decades that separate him and his opponent.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/massachusetts-rep-kennedy-announces-democratic-primary-challenge-to-sen-markey/2019/09/21/7f40384c-dbef-11e9-bfb1-849887369476_story.html

September 21, 2019

Barron Hilton, Hotel Magnate and Founding A.F.L. Owner, Dies at 91

Barron Hilton, who oversaw the vast expansion of his father’s hotel empire and took part in changing the pro sports landscape as an original club owner in the American Football League, died on Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. The last survivor of the A.F.L.’s founding ownership, he was 91.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, of which he was chairman emeritus, announced the death.

Mr. Hilton embarked on a business career at 19, when he acquired a citrus distribution company in the Los Angeles area. He had turned down an offer from his father, Conrad Hilton, for a $150-a-week job and a chance to work his way up in the chain he founded in 1919 when he bought his first hotel, in Cisco, Tex., capitalizing on an oil boom in the area.

Barron Hilton’s citrus business proved successful. But he joined Hilton Hotels in the early 1950s, became a vice president in 1954 and then rose to president and chief executive in 1966 and chairman in 1979, when his father died.


September 21, 2019

Donald Trump is having a Louis XIV moment. He considers himself above the law.

With the lawsuit he filed on Thursday against Manhattan Dist. Atty. Cyrus Vance, Jr., President Trump seeks to set himself above the law. Like Louis XIV of France, he seems to believe “l’état c’est moi.”

The lawsuit asks the court to block a grand jury subpoena Vance served on the Trump organization and Trump’s outside accountants to obtain eight years of tax returns, including those from five years before he took office.

Vance claims that the Trump tax returns may, among other things, be relevant to his investigation of 2016 payments to Stormy Daniels, allegedly to keep her from talking about an alleged sexual relationship she had with Trump a decade earlier.

It’s hard to see how even Clarence Thomas could side with Trump on this one.


September 21, 2019

Trump has done plenty to warrant impeachment. But the Ukraine allegations are over the top.

Among the most delicate choices the framers made in drafting the Constitution was how to deal with a president who puts himself above the law. To address that problem, they chose the mechanism of impeachment and removal from office. And they provided that this remedy could be used when a president commits “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

That last phrase — “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” — was a historical term of art, derived from impeachments in the British Parliament. When the framers put it into the Constitution, they didn’t discuss it much, because no doubt they knew what it meant. It meant, as Alexander Hamilton later phrased it, “the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

Simply put, the framers viewed the president as a fiduciary, the government of the United States as a sacred trust and the people of the United States as the beneficiaries of that trust. Through the Constitution, the framers imposed upon the president the duty and obligation to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” and made him swear an oath that he would fulfill that duty of faithful execution. They believed that a president would break his oath if he engaged in self-dealing — if he used his powers to put his own interests above the nation’s. That would be the paradigmatic case for impeachment.

That’s exactly what appears to be at issue today. A whistleblower in U.S. intelligence lodged a complaint with the intelligence community’s inspector general so alarming that he labeled it of “urgent concern” and alerted the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Though the details remain secret, apparently this much can be gleaned: The complaint is against the president. It concerns a “promise” that the president made, in at least one phone call, with a foreign leader. And it involves Ukraine and possible interference with the next presidential election. The complaint is being brazenly suppressed by the Justice Department — in defiance of a whistleblower law that says, without exception, the complaint “shall” be turned over to Congress.


This article was co-written by Kellyanne's husband George Conway. It must be really weird to live in that house.

September 20, 2019

If Trump extorted a foreign leader for political gain, it's impeachment time

Until now, I have been willing to accede to the judgment of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to go slow on impeachment proceedings that are unpopular with voters and could imperil the Democratic majority. But if the new scandal involving President Trump and Ukraine is as bad as it seems — and that is, of course, a very big if at this early stage — the House will have no choice but to impeach, consequences be damned.

Already, since the release of the Mueller report and the waning of the impeachment threat (despite damning evidence of obstruction of justice), Trump has become more brazen in flouting the law. In August, he expressed interest in holding the Group of Seven summit at his own Doral resort in Florida — a violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause — and he allegedly told aides that he would pardon them if they broke the law to build his border wall. Charles Fried, solicitor general in the Reagan administration, observes that promising a pardon to induce illegality “is the essence of tyranny and lawlessness.” In September, Trump invoked a bogus claim of executive privilege to limit the congressional testimony of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and he still refuses to comply with lawful requests for his financial records — most recently from the district attorney in Manhattan.

But all this is small change compared with what could be the next big scandal. On Wednesday, The Post reported that an intelligence community whistleblower had lodged a report alleging that Trump had made an improper “promise” to a foreign leader. This complaint was considered so troubling by a Trump-appointed inspector general that he asked that the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, immediately forward the complaint to Congress, but Maguire refused to do so, reportedly on the advice of William Barr’s Justice Department. Then on Thursday night, The Post reported that the complaint centers on Ukraine.

We don’t know yet precisely what this means. But the most likely explanation is that this is a reference to a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.


September 20, 2019

Roy Cohn Is How We Got Trump

Near the beginning of “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” the new documentary about the lawyer and power broker who mentored Donald Trump, an interviewee says, “Roy Cohn’s contempt for people, his contempt for the law, was so evident on his face that if you were in his presence, you knew you were in the presence of evil.” He wasn’t being hyperbolic.

The film, which opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, will likely be of wide interest because of how Cohn helps explain Trump. In the attorney’s life, you can see the strange ease with which a sybaritic con man fit in with crusading social reactionaries. You see the glee Cohn derived from being an exception to the rules he enforced on weaker people. From him, Trump learned how, when he was in trouble, to change the subject by acting outrageously, to never apologize and always stay on the offense. When the Justice Department claimed that apartment buildings owned by the Trump family were discriminating against black renters, it was Cohn’s idea to countersue the Justice Department for $100 million.

In the 1950s, as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy, Cohn wasn’t just a key player in the anti-Communist witch hunts of the time. He also persecuted men in the State Department who were suspected of being gay, despite being a closeted gay man himself. Later, he became a consigliere to New York’s mafia families, some of whom also had ties to Trump, even as he ranted about law and order.

The film’s title comes from something Trump said when he was frustrated with then Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Cohn was Trump’s template for what a lawyer is supposed to be. (In Attorney General Bill Barr, he seems to have found someone who satisfies him.) “Roy was somebody that had no boundaries,” a lawyer in his firm says in the film. “And if you were on the right side of him, it was great. And if you were on the wrong side of him, it was terrible.”


September 20, 2019

Trump Declares War on California

I’m on a number of right-wing mailing lists, and I try to at least skim what they’re going on about in any given week; this often gives me advance warning about the next wave of manufactured outrage. Lately I’ve been seeing dire warnings that if Democrats win next year they’ll try to turn America into (cue scary background music) California, which the writers portray as a socialist hellhole.

Sure enough, this week Donald Trump effectively declared war on California on two fronts. He’s trying to take away the Golden State’s ability to regulate pollution generated by its 15 million cars, and, more bizarrely, he’s seeking to have the Environmental Protection Agency declare that California’s homeless population constitutes an environmental threat.

More about these policy moves in a moment. First, let’s talk about two Californias: the real state on America’s left coast, and the fantasy state of the right’s imagination.

The real California certainly has some big problems. In particular, it has sky-high housing costs, which in turn are probably the main reason it has a large population of homeless residents.

September 20, 2019

Secret F.B.I. Subpoenas Scoop Up Personal Data From Scores of Companies

The F.B.I. has used secret subpoenas to obtain personal data from far more companies than previously disclosed, newly released documents show.

The requests, which the F.B.I. says are critical to its counterterrorism efforts, have raised privacy concerns for years but have been associated mainly with tech companies. Now, records show how far beyond Silicon Valley the practice extends — encompassing scores of banks, credit agencies, cellphone carriers and even universities.

The demands can scoop up a variety of information, including usernames, locations, IP addresses and records of purchases. They don’t require a judge’s approval and usually come with a gag order, leaving them shrouded in secrecy. Fewer than 20 entities, most of them tech companies, have ever revealed that they’ve received the subpoenas, known as national security letters.

The documents, obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and shared with The New York Times, shed light on the scope of the demands — more than 120 companies and other entities were included in the filing — and raise questions about the effectiveness of a 2015 law that was intended to increase transparency around them.


September 19, 2019

Pennsylvania man allegedly used drone to drop explosives on ex-girlfriend's home

A Pennsylvania man has been accused of using a drone to drop explosive devices on his ex-girlfriend’s home.

Jason Muzzicato, 43, of Washington Township, was arrested back in June after he was linked to a series of nighttime explosions in March, The Morning Call reported.

Earlier this month, Muzzicato was slapped with even more charges related to the firearms and homemade bombs found at his home and his business, Bangor Motor Works, the news outlet reported.

During Muzzicato’s arraignment this week in federal court in Allentown, prosecutors revealed that Muzzicato allegedly used a drone to drop the explosive devices on the home of his ex-girlfriend, according to the report.


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