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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
July 1, 2020

I was in charge of Mt. Rushmore. Trump's plan for fireworks there is a terrible idea.

It has been more than 10 years since fireworks were last seen at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The fireworks were canceled in 2010, my first year as superintendent of the memorial, and they never resumed during my tenure. While such patriotic celebrations were memorable, they also endangered public safety and irreplaceable natural and cultural resources within the national park and surrounding area.

Yet this year, President Trump and his administration, with the support of South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem, have insisted on resuming the fireworks on July 3. And the Interior Department, under Secretary David Bernhardt, is allowing this to happen, overlooking the well-documented danger this event presents.

Several concerns drove the sound decision to cancel the fireworks in 2010. In case of emergency — wildfires started by the fireworks, medical emergencies or extreme weather events — evacuation of visitors could prove tremendously difficult. The anticipated traffic congestion and gridlock could last for hours before and after the event, compounded by visitors who are not familiar with the area. Furthermore, chemicals in the groundwater caused by perchlorates from fireworks is a concern to the health and safety of visitors and employees. A recent analysis of water and soil samples from the memorial found contamination “an order of magnitude higher” than sites measured outside the memorial; the analysis also stated that further fireworks events would increase contamination levels. This is an unacceptable outcome.

And this year, resuming the fireworks demonstration is an even greater threat to both humans and nature. Thanks to an extremely dry summer, South Dakota faces a higher than usual risk of wildfires. A former fire management officer for Mount Rushmore and numerous national parks warned that the fireworks show would be “ill-advised” given the dry conditions. The National Park Service has heeded similar warnings in previous years, canceling the fireworks in 2002 and 2010 at least in part because of high fire danger. And the park service has continued to cite concern over devastating wildfires as a reason for discontinuing the event until now.


July 1, 2020

The World Builds a Wall to Keep America Out

America has no monopoly on success.

You might call it poetic, if it weren’t so painful. Donald Trump won the White House largely on a campaign of shutting America’s borders to pretty much everyone other than people of European descent. “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” he once asked, about Haitians, Salvadorans and Africans. “We should have more people from places like Norway.”

So what should one conclude about America’s own proximity to Trump’s global latrine now that “places like Norway” have decided to keep their borders indefinitely closed to us?

Among the list of nations to which Norway and the rest of Europe will soon reopen for travel are three from the continent that Trump flushed down the toilet: Algeria, Morocco and Rwanda. Canada is also on the list. So is China, assuming it reciprocates.

But Trump’s America is not, because we are nowhere close to meeting Europe’s criteria for reducing the spread of the coronavirus. How successfully a society can fight a pandemic is as objective a measure of national capacity, not to mention “greatness,” as one is likely to find — and on this, like so much else these days, America ranks near the bottom.

July 1, 2020

Why Do the Rich Have So Much Power?

Americans may be equal, but some are more equal than others.

America is, in principle, a democracy, in which every vote counts the same. It’s also a nation in which income inequality has soared, a development that hurts many more people than it helps. So if you didn’t know better, you might have expected to see a political backlash: demands for higher taxes on the rich, more spending on the working class and higher wages.

In reality, however, policy has mostly gone the other way. Tax rates on corporations and high incomes have gone down, unions have been crushed, the minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, is lower than it was in the 1960s. How is that possible?

The answer is that huge disparities in income and wealth translate into comparable disparities in political influence. To see how this works, let’s look at a fairly recent example: the budgetary Grand Bargain that almost happened in 2011.

At the time, Washington was firmly in the grip of deficit fever. Even though the federal government was able to borrow at historically low interest rates, everyone who mattered seemed to be saying that the budget deficit was the most important issue facing America and that it was essential to rein in spending on Social Security and Medicare.

July 1, 2020

In unusual deal, U.S. Treasury to acquire 30 percent of trucking company in exchange for $700M loan

Source: Washington Post

In unusual deal, U.S. Treasury to acquire 30 percent of trucking company in exchange for $700 million loan

YRC Worldwide helps the U.S. military with transportation needs, the government said

The Treasury Department announced Wednesday that it will loan $700 million to a trucking firm that ships military equipment, in exchange for having U.S. taxpayers acquire an almost 30 percent stake in the company.

Under the unusual arrangement, the Treasury Department will provide the emergency loan to YRC Worldwide, while taking a 29.6 percent equity stake in the company. The U.S. government does not typically take ownership stakes in companies but was given permission to do so by Congress as a way to ensure taxpayer funds are not misspent.

The deal is the first under a $17 billion loan program approved as part of the broader stimulus by Congress in March. That pot of money was earmarked for firms deemed “critical” to U.S. national security. Congress gave Treasury the authority to approve more than $500 billion in emergency loans to companies and cities, although most of that money has not been disbursed.

“We are pleased for Treasury to make this loan pursuant to the CARES Act,” Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement. “This loan will enable a critical vendor to the Department of Defense to maintain significant employment while providing appropriate compensation to taxpayers.”

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/01/treasury-loan-yrc-worldwide-cares-act/

Looks like socialism to me!

I wonder how many Republicans will howl about this...
June 30, 2020

Donald Trump is the king of cancel culture

No other politician has spent more time trying to cancel those who offend him.

“President Trump stands against … cancel culture, which seeks to erase our history,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany declaimed on Monday.

Talk of “cancel culture” — defined as the “popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive” — is everywhere these days. “Social justice warriors are waging a dangerous 'Cancel Cultural Revolution,’” screams the headline in the New York Post. “Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, who’s next on the statue cancellation tour?” demands Fox’s Greg Gutfeld. Democrats are being “driven by this radical 'cancel culture’ left,” insists Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

So perhaps it isn’t surprising that the left-bashing president has jumped on this particular “culture wars” bandwagon.

But here’s the hypocrisy: Donald Trump has embraced “cancel culture” his entire life. I cannot think of another politician, or public figure, who has spent more time trying to “cancel” critics than the thin-skinned former reality TV star in the Oval Office. Over the years, Trump has called for the boycott of leading U.S. brands such as Macy’s, Apple, and Harley Davidson, among others, because they displeased him in one way or another. He forces those around him into nondisclosure agreements and then threatens them with legal action if they dare speak out against him — including his own niece Mary, whose forthcoming tell-all book the president is desperately trying to … cancel.

This approach has only been amplified since he came into office, a period that has found him publicly and repeatedly trying to cancel both social media companies (“We will strongly regulate, or close them down”) and network news channels (“Challenge their license?”) while calling for prominent journalists who have upset him, such as Chuck Todd and Jemele Hill, to be fired. (In private, Trump has gone much further: according to his former national security adviser, the president wants some journalists to be “executed.”)

June 30, 2020

Trump's Twitter feed reads like a local crime blotter as he stokes a culture war

President Trump returned from his Virginia golf course Saturday afternoon and turned his Twitter feed into a crime blotter.

In less than five minutes, the president posted 15 fliers from the United States Park Police to his 82.6 million followers, complete with grainy photos of Americans suspected of vandalism at Lafayette Square. The images hearkened to the kinds of posters one would see on the wall of a local post office.

The president’s messages about protesters and vandals have continued apace, often in the early hours of the morning or the late hours of the evening when he is not surrounded by aides, but sometimes in interviews and executive orders.

“We are tracking down the two Anarchists who threw paint on the magnificent George Washington Statue in Manhattan. We have them on tape. They will be prosecuted and face 10 years in Prison based on the Monuments and Statues Act,” Trump wrote Tuesday morning. “Turn yourselves in now!”


June 30, 2020

Masks are dividing Florida's Republican leaders as coronavirus outbreak spreads

Some have supported mask ordinances, some are suing to stop them and some are trashing them on TV.

The record-setting pace of new coronavirus cases in Florida has been met with mixed signals from Republican leaders over how far to push Floridians to wear masks. Monday was an exposition in how a piece of cloth has vexed the party of freedom and personal responsibility.

In Jacksonville, Republican Mayor Lenny Curry made it mandatory to wear a mask in indoor public spaces as the city looks to contain the outbreak ahead of the August Republican National Convention. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican, ripped mask mandates during a Fox News interview and suggested leaders should “inform us (but) stop telling us what to do.” Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he won’t stand in the way of local rules regarding masks while simultaneously suggesting that policing facial-wear would “backfire.”

“We left it to the locals to make decisions about coercive measures or impose any kind of criminal penalties,” DeSantis said Monday. “We’re not going to do that statewide.”

Experts agree that masks can help stop transmission of the disease, and many Republican leaders are encouraging people to wear them, including DeSantis, Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. After eschewing face wear early on, DeSantis and his aides are more frequently spotted wearing masks at public events. Rubio has donned a mask in his Twitter picture.

June 30, 2020

DeSantis kills online learning program amid virus resurgence

Source: Politico

With a stroke of his veto pen, Gov. Ron DeSantis wiped out the entire $29.4 million budget for a suite of online education services that have become critical to students and faculty during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The move, barring action before midnight Tuesday, will kill the Complete Florida Plus Program, an array of technology systems that faculty, staff and students throughout Florida rely on, never more so than now, in the midst of a pandemic that has amplified reliance on distance learning. The cuts include a database of online courses and an online library service that provides 17 million books to 1.3 million students, faculty and staff.

At least 2,000 adult learners could be cut off from their scholarships and school accreditation could even be at risk without the resources housed under Complete Florida, which are used by students at high schools, state colleges and universities. Some 150 employees in Tallahassee, Gainesville and Pensacola stand to lose their jobs.

DeSantis, whose office declined to comment on the cut, on Monday vetoed $1 billion from Florida’s 2020-21 budget as the state attempts to beat back a resurgence of the viral outbreak, which has sickened 152,434 people and killed 3,505 in one of the country's hottest Covid-19 zones.

Read more: https://www.politico.com/states/florida/story/2020/06/30/desantis-kills-online-learning-program-amid-virus-resurgence-1296178

June 30, 2020

Florida records 58 deaths and more than 6,000 new coronavirus cases

Source: Tampa Bay Times

Florida topped 150,000 recorded coronavirus infections on Tuesday with 6,093 cases reported in the previous 24 hours.

Since the first case in early March, the state has seen 152,434 infections from the virus. It has also recorded 3,604 deaths, 58 of them on Tuesday. Another 228 hospitalizations were also recorded, meaning 14,879 people in the state — about 10 percent of all cases — have required hospital care.

The cases reported Tuesday follow a record-high Saturday, when new cases for the day hit more than 9,500.

Across the state, leaders have struggled over how best to implement health and safety practices. Gov. Ron DeSantis has urged people to wear masks but stopped short of mandating them.

Read more: https://www.tampabay.com/news/health/2020/06/30/florida-records-58-deaths-and-more-than-6000-new-coronavirus-cases/

June 30, 2020

Why does the 'America First' president keep putting Russia first?

At the heart of the Trump administration resides “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”: What is it with President Trump and Russia? Why does the “America First” president so often put Russia first?

That question has surfaced yet again after the New York Times first reported that a Russian military intelligence unit had paid bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Post reported that those bounties had resulted in the deaths of Americans.

A normal president would have canceled his golf outing and made clear that there would be hell to pay if the reports are true. Not Trump. Instead, he lashed out at the news media, denying that the intelligence community had briefed him on its findings, as the Times and other publications had reported. Unfortunately, it’s hard to credit anything said by a president who has lied to or misled the public more than 19,000 times.

The U.S. government reportedly had this information since January, and the National Security Council even debated what to do about it. During that time, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at least five times and issued a joint declaration celebrating the “Spirit of the Elbe” in honor of the meeting between U.S. and Soviet troops in Germany on April 25, 1945. Trump also invited Putin back to the Group of Seven and gushed that “we have this great friendship.”


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