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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
November 27, 2019

US economy grew at a moderate 2.1% annual rate last quarter

Source: AP

The U.S. economy grew at a moderate 2.1% annual rate over the summer, slightly faster than first estimated, the government said Wednesday. But many economists say they think growth is slowing sharply in the current quarter.

The July-September growth rate in the gross domestic product, the economy’s total output of goods and services, exceeded the Commerce Department’s initial estimate of a 1.9% annual rate. A key reason is that businesses didn’t cut back on investment spending as much as first estimated.

The economy had begun the year with a sizzling 3.1% GDP rate, fueled largely by the now-faded effects of tax cuts and increased government spending. Many analysts have estimated that GDP growth is weakening in the current October-December quarter to a 1.4% annual rate or less. The most pessimistic forecasters foresee growth slowing to a sub-1% annual rate this quarter, largely because the U.S.-China trade war is causing businesses to reduce investment and inventories.

Still, the holiday shopping season is expected to be relatively healthy given solid job growth and consumer spending.

Read more: https://apnews.com/17c1023b42894f6caed3da623cb50918

Where's that 3+% growth rate Trump promised?
November 27, 2019

A healthy man was licked by his dog. He was dead within weeks.

A 63-year-old German man showed up in the hospital with a burning sensation in his left leg and muscle pain in both. His flulike symptoms were severe, with labored breathing for three days. He had petechiae, or rounds spots on the skin that look like rashes as a result of bleeding capillaries, which made his legs look discolored.

The patient’s heartbeat was stable, doctors said, even though he was running a temperature of 102. His labored breathing caused an inadequate supply of oxygen to his tissue. His failing kidneys were not producing urine, researchers wrote.

But doctors had no idea what was wrong with him. He had not recently been in the hospital. They suspected some kind of bacteria, but he didn’t have any open wounds and he didn’t have meningitis.

It wasn’t until his fourth day in the hospital that a blood test revealed the man had a type of bacteria found in the saliva of healthy dogs and cats. It’s a kind of bacteria that’s usually only transmitted to humans if they are bitten.


November 27, 2019

The Trump administration's lawless intransigence is eviscerated in court

U.S. DISTRICT Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on Monday eviscerated the Trump administration’s lawless intransigence in a ruling that was as sharp as it should have been predictable. No, former White House counsel Donald McGahn is not “absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony.” No, President Trump cannot prevent Mr. McGahn from responding to legal congressional subpoenas. “Compulsory appearance by dint of a subpoena is a legal construct, not a political one, and per the Constitution, no one is above the law,” the judge wrote.

Previous presidents and congressional leaders have found ways to defuse disputes. George Washington and Ronald Reagan turned over documents to congressional investigators. During Barack Obama’s presidency, Congress held then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt when he failed to respond to a congressional subpoena in the overhyped investigation of the “Fast and Furious” gunrunning scheme, but the two sides eventually worked out a compromise that prevented lengthy litigation. President George W. Bush asserted broad “absolute” authorities to ignore Congress until a federal district judge rejected them and, again, the two sides struck a deal that mooted the case. Compromises have been found before courts could anoint victors with finality, preserving the possibility of healthy give-and-take between the branches.

Mr. Trump has evinced no interest in compromise. In a pugnacious Oct. 8 letter, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone declared a policy of total noncooperation with the House impeachment inquiry, essentially arguing that the president gets to decide when congressional proceedings are legitimate and, therefore, when to respect — and when to ignore — Congress’s legal orders. In the McGahn case, the Trump Justice Department appears determined to appeal Judge Jackson’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

It should find no solace there. Though past presidents have at times claimed “absolute” authorities and immunities relative to Congress or the judiciary, there is scant case law evaluating such sweeping assertions — and little in the American constitutional tradition suggesting that the executive is an unaccountable branch of government. Rather than appeal, the administration should respect American tradition and comply with valid congressional subpoenas.


November 27, 2019

NRA boosted executive pay while cutting funding for key programs, filing shows

Compensation for top officials at the National Rifle Association surged by 41 percent last year, according to a new tax filing, as the nation’s largest pro-gun organization sharply reduced spending on programs central to its mission.

The jump from 2017 to 2018 for the NRA’s officers, directors and highly paid employees included a 57 percent increase for chief executive Wayne LaPierre that boosted his overall compensation to $2.15 million.

The filing also shows perks for top officials that are typically associated with the corporate world, including charter and first-class travel with companions as well as dues for health or social clubs. Those costs were not detailed, though the NRA filing says housing expenses were provided for five people.

During that same period, NRA spending plunged 22 percent for education and training, 61 percent for hunter services and 51 percent for field services, which includes organizing volunteers, fundraising for shooting sports and promoting the NRA at gun shows and other events, according to a previously released audit.


Grifters all.

November 27, 2019

Conservative Hypocrisy Makes Its Case at the Supreme Court

What a time to be a conservative movement lawyer. Emboldened by the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, lawyers on the right have asked the Supreme Court to push the law beyond existing boundaries on a range of issues. From immigration, abortion and the use of public funding on religious schools to gun rights and L.G.B.T. rights, conservatives are understandably hopeful the newly aligned court will hand down a wave of victories on social issues that divide the nation.

For progressives, this might seem worrisome enough. But there’s a whiff of something even more troubling beneath the surface: raw hypocrisy. In several major cases this term, conservatives are relying on arguments that both they and the court have explicitly rejected as a matter of principle over the last five decades. This hypocrisy presents the Supreme Court with a fundamental challenge. Will the court apply settled law neutrally, even if doing so leads to outcomes the conservative majority disfavors? Or will the conservative majority bend established rules to enable its preferred policy outcomes?

Start with New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. New York, a case set for argument on Dec. 2. Gun owners in the case are challenging a New York City ordinance that prohibits gun owners with licenses to possess guns only at their homes from bringing their firearms to shooting ranges outside city limits. The gun owners do not argue that the Constitution affords them an express right to bring their guns to shoot at any range of their choosing. They argue instead that the city’s restriction violates an “implied” constitutional right — a right to “acquire and maintain proficiency” in firearms use that is an unspoken corollary to the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

This is a stunning argument. For decades, conservatives have panned the very notion of implied constitutional rights, arguing that the court should stay within the confines of explicit constitutional guarantees. For example, in his 2015 dissent from the decision to uphold a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that, “Allowing unelected federal judges to select which unenumerated rights rank as ‘fundamental’ — and to strike down state laws on the basis of that determination — raises obvious concerns about the judicial role.” A similar concern led five conservative justices to reject an implied constitutional right to education in 1973. Now, the gun activists’ argument raises the unsettling possibility that the court will enshrine a more encompassing theory of constitutional rights for gun owners than for schoolchildren.


November 27, 2019

Electric vehicle sales in California on the rise--but is it enough to reach the 5M goal by 2030?

While overall sales for new cars in California dipped in the third quarter, the combined market share for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in the Golden State continued to grow. But is the increase moving at a quick enough pace to reach the goal set by state policymakers for 5 million zero-carbon emission vehicles on California’s roads by 2030?

Overall registrations for light duty vehicles (cars, pickup trucks and SUVs) dropped 5.1 percent in California through the first nine months of the year compared to the first three quarters of 2018. But electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid sales increased to 7.9 percent in combined market share during that time frame.

Hybrids without a plug-in are not considered zero-emission vehicles, or ZEVs, and do not count toward the state’s target of 5 million but if their 5.5 percent of market share is added, the combined percentage of electric vehicles and all hybrids comes to 13.4 percent for the third quarter, an all-time high.

“These numbers pretty much track with what we’ve been seeing, and are a continuing sign that there’s a healthy ZEV market developing in California and that the state’s ZEV goals are achievable,” said Dave Clegern, public information officer for the California Air Resources Board, the state agency in charge of improving air quality.


November 26, 2019

Texas Republican Party's 2020 election strategy document lands in Democrats' hands

In a bizarre political blunder, a document laying out the Republican Party of Texas’s election strategy for the 2020 elections has ended up in the hands of Texas Democrats. Attacking Democratic candidates through websites and mitigating “the polarizing nature” of President Donald Trump are part of the plan.

The document — called a draft for initial discussion by the Texas GOP Party chair — was titled “Primary/General Election 2020 [Draft]” and began showing up in Democratic emails Monday evening.

It includes a target list of 12 statehouse districts, including six in North Texas, that Republicans are aiming to take back in next year’s elections. Negative attacks through websites, and highlighting diverse Republicans to counter a “narrative driven by Democrats” about the GOP’s lack of diversity are also part of the strategy.

Republican targets in North Texas are Dallas County Democratic Reps. Ana-Maria Ramos, Terry Meza, Rhetta Bowers, John Turner and Julie Johnson, as well as Denton County Rep. Michelle Beckley.


November 26, 2019

Devin Nunes Accuses Witnesses of Misleading American People with Facts

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In what some observers called his most sarcastic opening statement of the impeachment inquiry, Representative Devin Nunes, on Thursday, accused witnesses of trying to mislead the American people with facts.

“From the beginning of these proceedings, the Democrats’ witnesses have offered facts, more facts, and nothing but facts,” Nunes said. “I, for one, have had enough of their factual games.”

Ramping up his attack, he accused the civil servants who have testified of having “an almost cult-like worship of verifiable information.” “ ‘Step right up,’ these witnesses seem to be saying,” Nunes added. “ ‘The fact circus is in town.’ ”

Nunes, however, warned his Democratic colleagues that “the American people won’t be fooled by your relentless account of things that actually happened.”

“When the American people see the Democrats building this massive, sky-high tower of facts, they have to ask themselves: Is that all you’ve got?” he said.


November 25, 2019

The worst commander in chief ever

President Trump has repeatedly dishonored the military. He sent troops to the southern border before the 2018 midterms in a xenophobic stunt designed to win votes. He seized funds for military construction to build his useless wall, which will never be built. He humiliated our forces by announcing an impulsive retreat from Syria, betraying our allies and allowing Russians to seize and occupy our former facilities. Then came the case of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher.

Joseph Kristol and Stephen Petraeus wrote for The Post:
On Thursday, the president showed fresh contempt for the professional judgment of military officers, tweeting “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin.” The Navy had intended to oust Gallagher from the SEALs for, among other things, his conviction at court-martial for posing in a photograph with the corpse of a 17-year-old captive Islamic State fighter.

Trump seems to think that condoning war crimes (as he did during the campaign) and freeing those who violate the code of conduct for our armed forces make him a tough guy, one of the boys and a hero to the military. The opposite is true. (“The U.S. military is given a unique charge: the right to kill on behalf of the state. Exercising that right, though, must be done in a manner consistent with the nation’s ideals,” Kristol and Petraeus write. “With only rare exceptions, members of the well-trained and professional U.S. military execute their missions with honor. For the few who don’t, the armed services must be allowed to hold them accountable.”)

Then, on Sunday, something curious happened. The secretary of the Navy refused to go along with this abomination. Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer was fired for allegedly trying to cut a private deal with the White House to "ensure that Gallagher retired as a Navy SEAL, with his Trident insignia, if they did not interfere with a review board convened to determine his fitness to stay in the elite force.” Spencer is accused of not relaying this proposal to the defense secretary, which differed from reports that he would resign unless the president relented.


November 25, 2019

How Richard Spencer's firing illustrates some of Trump's most corrupt impulses

One key reason Donald Trump’s presidency has been so damaging is that he has a way of corrupting all the people and institutions he comes in contact with, infecting them with his virus. No one remains untouched.

As the sudden firing of Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer shows, that includes the military. Spencer’s story also bears a remarkable resemblance to the Ukraine scandal, in the way people with their own agendas played on Trump’s most repugnant impulses to manipulate him.

Spencer’s firing has its roots in the case of Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who became a Fox News hero. Gallagher’s long and complicated case began when members of his own unit accused him of a series of war crimes, including firing on civilians and murdering a wounded teenage Islamic State fighter receiving medical treatment from his unit.

Gallagher allegedly stabbed the wounded fighter multiple times, then took a picture with his corpse and texted it to friends, with the caption “Got him with my hunting knife.” He was also charged with covering up his crime by threatening to kill members of his platoon if they reported it. They did anyway.


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