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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
December 30, 2019

Trump's pardon of Gallagher just got even more appalling

“Freaking Evil.” That is how Special Operator First Class Craig Miller described Eddie Gallagher, the chief of his Navy SEAL platoon. Then, he wept.

The New York Times last week revealed investigative video recordings of testimony from members of SEAL Team 7 who reported behavior from Chief Petty Officer Gallagher that they believed violated the spirit of their profession and the rule of military law. These agonizing accounts make even more appalling President Trump’s unprecedented decision to reverse Chief Gallagher’s demotion and pardon two other service members convicted of war crimes this fall, and to preserve Chief Gallagher’s Trident pin by preempting the plans of Navy commanders.

The SEALs’ descriptions portray a fighter unhinged from the military’s mission of defending the nation and dedicated instead to his own desire to spill blood. Chief Gallagher, SEALs said, purposely exposed his soldiers to enemy fire and thought casualties in his platoon could win him a Silver Star. They said he bragged that “burqas were flying” when he shot at women and boasted after an operation that he had killed four of them — with the excuse that he had fired warning shots first. Other members of the platoon, they said, began to spend their days trying to “save civilians from Eddie.”

The SEALs called Chief Gallagher a “psychopath.” He was “toxic.” He was “literally the worst of the worst.” His priority for the tour? “War stories at the end.” His motivation? “To kill anybody he can.”


December 30, 2019

Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell.

And he’s on a mission to use the “authority” of the executive branch to stop it.

Why would a seemingly respectable, semiretired lion of the Washington establishment undermine the institutions he is sworn to uphold, incinerate his own reputation, and appear to willfully misrepresent the reports of special prosecutors and inspectors general, all to defend one of the most lawless and corrupt presidents in American history? And why has this particular attorney general appeared at this pivotal moment in our Republic?

A deeper understanding of William Barr is emerging, and it reveals something profound and disturbing about the evolution of conservatism in 21st-century America.

Some people have held that Mr. Barr is simply a partisan hack — willing to do whatever it takes to advance the interests of his own political party and its leadership. This view finds ample support in Mr. Barr’s own words. In a Nov. 15 speech at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention in Washington, he accused President Trump’s political opponents of “unprecedented abuse” and said they were “engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.”

It is hardly the first time Mr. Barr stepped outside of long-established norms for the behavior of attorneys general. In his earlier stint as attorney general, during the George H.W. Bush presidency, Mr. Barr took on the role of helping to disappear the case against Reagan administration officials involved in the Iran-contra affair. The situation demonstrated that “powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office,” according to Lawrence Walsh, the independent prosecutor in that case. According to some critics, Mr. Barr delivered the partisan goods then, as he is delivering them now.


December 29, 2019

Inside the Biggest 2020 Advertising War Against Trump

Hillary Clinton tried. So did 16 rival Republicans. And after hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on ads attacking Donald Trump in 2016, the results were the same: They never did much damage.

Now Michael R. Bloomberg is trying — his way — spending millions each week in an online advertising onslaught that is guided by polling and data that he and his advisers believe provide unique insight into the president’s vulnerabilities.

The effort, which is targeting seven battleground states where polls show Mr. Trump is likely to be competitive in November, is just one piece of an advertising campaign that is unrivaled in scope and scale. On Facebook and Google alone, where Mr. Bloomberg is most focused on attacking the president, he has spent $18 million on ads over the last month, according to Acronym, a digital messaging firm that works with Democrats.

That is on top of the $128 million the Bloomberg campaign has spent on television ads, according to Advertising Analytics, an independent firm, which projects that Mr. Bloomberg is likely to spend a combined $300 million to $400 million on advertising across all media before the Super Tuesday primaries in early March.


December 29, 2019

Sweethearts Forever. Then Came Alzheimer's, Murder and Suicide.

It began almost playfully, like tiny hiccups in her mind. She would forget she had already changed the sheets and change them again, or repeat a thought in the same breath.

Then the illness amplified.

She grew confused by everyday tasks. Became convinced her parents were still alive and insisted upon a visit. At social gatherings, she was anxious and fearful. She forgot how to sew and cross-stitch. Forgot the faces of her children.

She did remember her name. Alma Shaver. But not her age. Eighty.

And sometimes, she did not know her husband.


Alzheimers is a terrible affliction. And the Trump administration is busy cutting scientific research.

December 29, 2019

Science Under Attack: How Trump Is Sidelining Researchers and Their Work

In just three years, the Trump administration has diminished the role of science in federal policymaking while halting or disrupting research projects nationwide, marking a transformation of the federal government whose effects, experts say, could reverberate for years.

Political appointees have shut down government studies, reduced the influence of scientists over regulatory decisions and in some cases pressured researchers not to speak publicly. The administration has particularly challenged scientific findings related to the environment and public health opposed by industries such as oil drilling and coal mining. It has also impeded research around human-caused climate change, which President Trump has dismissed despite a global scientific consensus.

But the erosion of science reaches well beyond the environment and climate: In San Francisco, a study of the effects of chemicals on pregnant women has stalled after federal funding abruptly ended. In Washington, D.C., a scientific committee that provided expertise in defending against invasive insects has been disbanded. In Kansas City, Mo., the hasty relocation of two agricultural agencies that fund crop science and study the economics of farming has led to an exodus of employees and delayed hundreds of millions of dollars in research.

“The disregard for expertise in the federal government is worse than it’s ever been,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, which has tracked more than 200 reports of Trump administration efforts to restrict or misuse science since 2017. “It’s pervasive.”


December 28, 2019

Trump's stock market rally is very good, but still lags Obama and Clinton

U.S. stocks are closing out a terrific year and President Trump loves it. He’s bragged about the stock market hitting record highs six times this week alone on Twitter.

On Friday, be boasted “Trump stock market rally is far outpacing past U.S. presidents,” and he vowed that the “BEST IS YET TO COME!” Trump is making the economy and stock market a key focus on his reelection campaign. He often likes to claim this is the “best” or an “unprecedented” scenario, even when that is not the case.

While the stock market has performed well under Trump, it is not an unprecedented performance. Trump’s stock market returns still lag behind Obama and Clinton at this point in their first terms.

The Dow Jones industrial average has gained about 45 percent since Trump was sworn in nearly three years ago. The Dow was up about 53 percent at this point in Obama’s presidency and a whopping 57 percent in Clinton’s early years in office. How much credit presidents deserve for market gains — or losses — remains a big debate, but Trump points to the stock market frequently as a barometer of how he’s doing as president.


December 28, 2019

Is Betelgeuse, one of the sky's brightest stars, on the brink of a supernova?

One of the sky’s brightest lights is losing its shine.

Since the start of December, the star Betelgeuse — the gleaming right shoulder of the constellation Orion — has been rapidly growing dim. Just 650 light-years from Earth, it’s usually the ninth most luminous star in the sky. Right now, it wouldn’t even break the top 20.

Betelgeuse is a “variable” star, known for wild fluctuations in its brightness, but scientists have never recorded it changing quite so fast. Such strange behavior from a beloved star has them wondering: Is this a sign that Betelgeuse is about to explode?

Astronomers know that day is bound to come. Betelgeuse is at least 15 times more massive than the sun and wide enough that, if we moved it to our solar system, it would extend past the orbit of Jupiter. “Supergiants” like this tend to live fast and die young, and Betelgeuse’s red color indicates that it has already moved to one of the last stages of a star’s life: fusing helium atoms into ever-heavier elements, which it occasionally spews into space. The carbon in your cells and the oxygen in your lungs was made this way, borne across the universe on the sighs of a dying sun.


December 28, 2019

A Stirring of Conscience in the Senate

The holiday break has thus far provided little respite for President Trump, who has spent much of his time venting over what he sees as the injustice of his impeachment.

The refusal by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to submit the formal articles to the Senate until she has a clearer sense of how the trial will be conducted is a travesty, the president told reporters on Tuesday morning at his Mar-a-Lago resort. “They treated us very unfairly, and now they want fairness in the Senate.”

By Christmas night, Mr. Trump had worked himself into a lather. “Why should Crazy Nancy Pelosi, just because she has a slight majority in the House, be allowed to Impeach the President of the United States?” he tweeted.

Short answer: Because that is how the separation of powers works. And what the Constitution prescribes when a chief executive abuses his office.


December 27, 2019

Tesla: There's None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See...

I’ve been saying this for a long time, and I’ll say it again: the vast majority of analysts were not only overly simplistic in their assessment of Tesla, but completely wrong. On Christmas Eve, the company’s share price passed $420, precisely the value at which, in August of last year, Elon Musk said he was considering taking his company out of a market that obviously had trouble understanding it, and that he had secured financing to do so at precisely $420 per share, in a tweet that cost him $20 million personally, along with another $20 million for his company.

For some time now, I’ve been discussing Tesla’s valuation with fellow academics who specialize in finance and strategy: irresponsible skeptics trying to convince their students that the company is overvalued, that its price is the result of some kind of collective hallucination, and that Elon Musk is little more than a charlatan who has amazingly managed to fool a lot of the people for a lot of the time. For a company founded in 2003 and that went public in 2010, things aren’t looking too bad at all. At what point, to borrow Matthew Henry’s famous question, will the deaf hear, the blind see, and the skeptics understand that we are talking about a different kind of company, one that can only be assessed on its quest to change the world we live in?

Tesla is today’s true automotive trendsetter. Its exclusive commitment to developing electric cars, instead of irresponsible hybrids, has forced the industry to speed up its plans to dispense with internal combustion engines as soon as possible. The interior of more and more cars even look like the Model 3, no longer stuffed with useless clocks and buttons like the cockpit of a jet, but opting instead for a large central display and a completely redefined interface. And far from being an expensive, exclusive or a minority design icon, it turns out that the Model 3 is selling like hot cakes around the world as the company strives to build new factories in China or Germany.

When Tesla launches a new model, such as its Cybertruck, the industry comes to an abrupt halt, and for a while, there is talk of nothing else: controversy and argument… while almost 200,000 people slap down a deposit to reserve one, even though no specific delivery date has been set. In short, Tesla launches revolutionary products that change the rules of the game, and all those who initially ridiculed the company fall over themselves to copy them.


Tesla will begin delivering Chinese-built Model 3s to that country starting Monday. I suspect it will be incredibly popular there as it is here.

December 27, 2019

In Trump Country, a season of need on family farms

The grocery list took Anne Lee hours to make, an exercise in her increasingly desperate effort to feed her family of seven.

“Chicken noodle soup?” she wondered as she sat at her kitchen table with a pen and notepad. “No, I’ll make chicken and biscuits. That’s more filling.”

These days, Anne has only about $175 each month to spend on food, beyond the eggs, milk and meat that her family’s dairy operation supplies. So this has become her monthly ritual, going through several drafts to create an affordable meal plan that keeps her husband and five kids from going hungry.

She knows the prices from the discount grocery store by heart. Crushed tomatoes for chili: $1 a can. Potato tots for roast pork: $1.69 a bag.


Here's another sad story about the suffering of a Trump-voting farmer.

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