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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
December 31, 2019

Trump is unpopular in Texas. The state won't sit quietly.

The Senate isn’t the only place where Donald Trump’s presidency hangs in the balance.

In Texas, the nation’s biggest, most important red state, Trump’s disapproval rating has consistently lagged behind many of the 30 states he carried in 2016. This potentially puts the state — a must-win for the president if there ever was one — in play for 2020.

To think Trump’s unpopularity in Texas is because of Twitter, or Ukraine, or the media, or a smear job by the left is to underestimate the problem. The reality is that Trump’s signature policies are out of step with what most Texans want.

Take Trump’s threat of tariffs against Mexico as punishment for the flow of unauthorized immigrants across the border. While railing against Mexico might work at a campaign rally in the Midwest, Texans perceive it as a direct threat to their bottom lines. Mexico is Texas’s biggest trading partner, accounting for nearly 35 percent of state exports in 2018. In comparison, Mexico accounts for only 5.8 percent of exports for Ohio.


December 31, 2019

Legal marijuana sales may spark Midwest interstate tension

Retailers legally selling marijuana for the past month in Michigan say they have drawn customers from surrounding Midwestern states where the drug remains illegal and, as Illinois prepares to joins the recreational market on Wednesday, officials are renewing warnings to consumers against carrying such products over state lines.

The dynamic is familiar for states on the West and East coasts where the sale and use of marijuana has been broadly allowed since Colorado's market opened in 2014, despite a federal ban that created a patchwork of legal and cultural snares. Nebraska and Oklahoma went so far as to file an unsuccessful lawsuit against Colorado, arguing that its marijuana law would have ill effects for surrounding states.

In the years since, the industry has wrestled with questions over companies' obligation to pay federal income taxes or follow laws on employee safety. Other thorny issues confronted state regulators, who were forced to determine suitable pesticides for growing cannabis plants, and which ingredients were safe to include in products meant to be eaten or burned. That terrain is usually reserved for federal agencies.

The tensest point, though, remains the illegal market that has survived in states with legal cannabis markets. Some of that product comes from outside the legal systems tracked closely by states' regulators, while other states have struggled to keep “diverted” legal marijuana from bleeding into the illegal market at home or in far-flung states.


December 31, 2019

Trump and his team take a big risk using their personal cellphones

The Kremlin might know more about conversations between President Trump, Rudolph W. Giuliani and others involved in the Ukraine gambit that led to Congress’s impeachment inquiry than congressional investigators themselves. The reason for this alarming reality? A dangerous fondness for cellphones.

Mr. Trump’s insistence on using his personal cellphone for official communications was a problem the moment he stepped into the Oval Office — after a campaign spent railing against rival Hillary Clinton for sending state emails on a private server. Now, call records obtained by the House have resurrected concerns about how the president and his closest associates communicate about the most sensitive of matters, and who exactly might be listening.

Mr. Trump claims he relies exclusively on government-issued devices hardened against hacks. But last year, the New York Times reported he favored a mass-market iPhone for dialing his friends, and Chinese spies often eavesdropped for insights on how they might sway the administration. Even if all the commander in chief’s phones are now specifically programmed for protection, there’s still a risk if they’re not routinely scrubbed or swapped out — measures Mr. Trump in the past allegedly declared “too inconvenient.”

Security experts also say cellphones are generally more vulnerable than landlines. Adversaries eager to intercept privileged chats, for example, can “spoof” the towers through which calls are routed. John F. Kelly’s success in getting Mr. Trump to move to White House channels was short-lived; the president discovered that meant the then-chief of staff could access a log of his calls, and he reverted to his old habits.


December 31, 2019

The jig is up: Bolton and Mulvaney have no excuse for not testifying

On Monday, a federal judge dismissed a case brought by Charles Kupperman, a former deputy national security adviser, asserting an “absolute immunity” to protect him from testifying. Both the House Judiciary Committee, which withdrew the subpoena so as not to stall impeachment proceedings, and the White House, which did not want an adverse ruling, requested the case be dismissed as moot. The subpoena was withdrawn, impeachment proceeded without Kupperman, and Kupperman’s failure to appear was not included in the article of impeachment concerning obstruction. Judge Richard J. Leon agreed with the Justice Department and the White House, ordering the case dismissed.

That leaves a ruling by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson rejecting in scathing terms a similar claim of “absolute immunity” in a case involving former White House counsel Donald McGahn as the final word, for now, on current and former executive branch employees’ testimony.

Former national security adviser John Bolton, who shares a lawyer with Kupperman, had previously stated that he would rely on the outcome of the Kupperman case to decide whether to testify. (Bolton claims he wants to testify but needs direction from the courts, unlike his subordinates who performed their civic responsibility by responding to a legally sufficient subpoena.)

Bolton can no longer rely on the Kupperman case, and the relevant precedent is now the McGahn case. What then is his excuse to remain silent (other than a lucrative book deal)? As former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal, appearing on “The Beat” with Ari Melber on MSNBC on Monday night, argued, “the bottom line is that John Bolton now has no rock to hide behind anymore, and that he really should testify.”


December 31, 2019

It's up to voters to prevent four more years of institutional vandalism

Two thousand and twenty will be a year in which U.S. institutions begin to recover from a nasty infection, or to reveal lasting disabilities.

The immediate, televised test will come to a disturbingly weakened U.S. Senate.

This is the one institution that Americans decided the founders had gotten all wrong. Senators were initially selected by state legislatures as a counterbalance to the direct democracy of the House of Representatives. That changed with the ratification of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution in 1913. But the Senate’s immunity from public passions was partially maintained by six-year terms and by Senate rules allowing filibusters and requiring supermajorities to move forward at key moments. This gave individual senators extraordinary power to shape corporate outcomes and encouraged a healthy institutional arrogance.

The old Senate is nearly dead — mortally wounded by majority leaders of both parties who have prioritized efficiency over tradition. The current leader, Mitch McConnell, seems intent on delivering the coup de grace by publicly admitting to coordination with the White House in the impeachment process. This is the effective subordination of the Senate to the president, leaving a large hole where the framers intended an immovable object.


December 31, 2019

Trump's threat to democracy

Polite society warns against the drawing of certain historical parallels. But as another tumultuous year of Donald Trump’s presidency draws to a close, it seems like a good time to ask: Where does one look for a political equivalent in a year when the president’s supporters chanted “send her back” about a nonwhite member of Congress?

Should we attach a bland label like “illiberalism” to such a wretched public display when “fascism” fits so much better? And what term best describes a 2019 political rally where a U.S. president, who had previously suggested the shooting of migrants, laughed as a supporter shouted that they should be gunned down at the border?

Do we bite our tongues as Trump apologists dismiss this rhetoric as harmless? Do we stay silent as left-wing commentators claim this to be the natural progression of Reagan conservatism? How do we define Trump’s slandering of Hispanics as breeders? How should newspaper editors and political leaders label a presidency that inspired white supremacists such as David Duke to celebrate Trump’s moral equivocation after Charlottesville? Terms such as “illiberalism” and “conservatism” seem both inaccurate and inadequate.

It is difficult to remember a time when Trump was seen as little more than a bumptious reality star who plastered his name on steaks, water bottles and apartment buildings around the world. Manhattan society long viewed the reality host’s career as the vulgar elevation of a trashy aesthetic, but millions of Americans always saw something more. Even during his political ascent, Republican and Democratic leaders alike shared Sen. Lindsey O. Graham’s view that the future president was a clown who had neither the character nor intelligence to be America’s next commander in chief. But elites’ failure to grasp Trump’s appeal, then and now, made him a greater threat to the natural checks and balances of Madisonian democracy.


December 31, 2019

Doug Jones: Every trial is a pursuit of truth. Will my colleagues in the Senate uphold that?

“Verdict,” from the Latin “veredictum,” means “to say the truth.”

Soon, my colleagues in the Senate and I will be called on to fulfill a solemn constitutional duty: to render verdicts — to say the truth — in the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump. Our decision will have enormous consequences, not just for President Trump, but for future presidencies and Congresses, and our national security.

For Americans to have confidence in the impeachment process, the Senate must conduct a full, fair and complete trial with all relevant evidence regarding the president’s conduct. I fear, however, that we are headed toward a trial that is not intended to find the whole truth. For the sake of the country, this must change.

Procedures in prior impeachment trials set no precedents because each is unique to its particular set of facts. Unlike the investigation of President Bill Clinton, Trump has blocked both the production of virtually all relevant documents and the testimony of witnesses who have firsthand knowledge of the facts. The evidence we do have may be sufficient to make a judgment, but it is clearly incomplete.


December 31, 2019

Ex-Nissan boss Ghosn, facing Japan trial, arrives in Beirut

Source: AP

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, who is awaiting trial in Japan on charges of financial misconduct, has arrived in Beirut, a close friend said Monday. He apparently jumped bail.

It was not clear how Ghosn, who is of Lebanese origins and holds French and Lebanese passports, left Japan where he was under surveillance and is expected to face trial in April 2020.

Ricardo Karam, a television host and friend of Ghosn who interviewed him several times, told The Associated Press Ghosn arrived in Lebanon Monday morning..

“He is home,” Karam told the AP in a message. “It’s a big adventure.”

Read more: https://news.yahoo.com/former-nissan-chief-carlos-ghosn-215755928.html

December 31, 2019

The Absurd Process That Made Trump Possible

Andrew Yang began his closing statement at the last Democratic debate with a charming bit of self-deprecation: “I know what you’re thinking, America. How am I still on this stage with them?”

Yang has never been elected to any office. He is a businessman who has never run a major company. Even so, he is one of the Democratic Party’s seven leading candidates for an election that everybody agrees is desperately important. The other six on the debate stage included another businessman who’s never held office and a mayor who has never won an election with more than 10,991 votes.

As funny as Yang’s line may have been, he was highlighting a real problem: Our process for selecting presidential nominees is badly flawed.

It is, as Jonathan Rauch and Ray La Raja recently wrote in The Atlantic, “a spectacle that would have struck earlier generations as ludicrous.” It has come to resemble a reality television show, in which a pseudo-scientific process (polls plus donor numbers) winnows the field. The winner is then chosen by a distorted series of primaries and caucuses: The same few states always get outsize influence, and a crude, unranked voting system can produce a nominee whom most people don’t want.


December 30, 2019

Explosive new revelations just weakened Trump's impeachment defenses

If Mitch McConnell is going to pull off his scheme to turn President Trump’s impeachment trial into a quick and painless sham with no witnesses, the Senate majority leader needs the story to be covered as a conventional Washington standoff — one that portrays both sides as maneuvering for advantage in an equivalently political manner.

But extraordinary new revelations in the New York Times about Trump’s corrupt freezing of military aid to Ukraine will — or should — make this much harder to get away with.

McConnell badly needs the media’s both-sidesing instincts to hold firm against the brute facts of the situation. If Republicans bear the brunt of media pressure to explain why they don’t want to hear from witnesses, that risks highlighting their true rationale: They adamantly fear new revelations precisely because they know Trump is guilty — and that this corrupt scheme is almost certainly much worse than we can currently surmise.

That possibility is underscored by the Times report, a chronology of Trump’s decision to withhold aid to a vulnerable ally under assault while he and his henchmen extorted Ukraine into carrying out his corrupt designs.


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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 48
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