We are also now pretty damn excited about TRUUUUUUUUUUUCK.
Two truck posts in two days? Sure why not.
When Joe Biden talked to folks at the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan, yesterday, he introduced himself by saying, "My name is Joe Biden, and I'm a car guy." He's also the president, allegedly. But he really is a car guy.
And during that visit, he got to test-drive the new Ford F-150 Lightning, which is all electric, which will be officially unveiled tonight, and is set to go on sale next year.
We are also somewhat of a car guy, but we didn't realize what a big fuckin' deal this new electric F-150 was until Rachel Maddow, who is a Biden-grade car person, decided to devote her entire A-block last night to TRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!
Things we [by "we," Evan means Evan; I knew all this, OBVS — Editrix] did not realize that Maddow told us last night, about why it's such a big fuckin' deal that they're officially debuting a fully electric F-150 tonight:
- The F-150 and the other F-series trucks are the top-selling vehicle in all of America for 39 straight years running. More than the Camry, more than the Civic, more than all the other trucks.
- The F-150 and its relatives bring in more American Dollar Bucks than Coca-Cola or McDonald's or Nike or any of 'em. $42 billion in revenue in just 2019 alone!
Maddow said she's personally on her second F-150, her fourth Ford truck in all. So she was able to explain this as a truck owner. And quite frankly, we ourselves being a southern person who is friends with a lot of truck people, what Maddow said about the possibilities for this fully electric F-150 — to be surely followed by Chevy Silverado and Dodge Ram! — struck us in a "wow" kind of way, to the point that we actually personally bought a few shares of Ford Motor Company this morning because it just seemed like a good idea. (That is not stock advice, we are not a stock adviser, DO WE LOOK LIKE SUZE ORMAN TO YOU?)
Here's part of what she said:
MADDOW: If the Ford F-150 becomes an electric vehicle, if Ford can transition that particular vehicle to electric, because as an electric vehicle it's better, goodbye gas cars in America! There isn't a single thing that could be done in this country to move us further and faster toward a no-gas automotive future and everything that means for infrastructure, climate and all the rest of it, there's nothing else that could move us further and faster toward that than this one vehicle, this specific vehicle, not only having an electric option, but actually being better as an electric vehicle than it as a gas one. Being more capable as an electric vehicle than it is as a gas one.
Because pickup truck owners in America — and there are gazillions of them — want their vehicles to be better and more productive, and they want them to look cool.
It's that part at the end. Truck owners are all kinds of people and there are indeed gabillions of 'em. And every single truck person we've ever known — whether they personally gave a shit about "efficient" or "environment" or "Green New Deal" — has really given a damn about whether the trucks work, first of all, and whether they're really cool.
If this truck ends up being the most reliable, Ford Toughest damn thing out there, and if its bells and whistles are the coolest fucking thing in the entire world, they won't be able to build them fast enough. And that will indeed change the entire country's relationship with that quaint old thing called "gas."
Ford is making its official announcement in a live event tonight, but from what we can tell so far, it does sound like this thing is going to be pretty damn cool. Jim Farley, the CEO of Ford, told shareholders last week that this thing will be equipped "to power your home during an outage, it's even quicker than the original F-150 Lightning performance truck; and it will constantly improve through over-the-air updates." Joe Biden did say fucker's really fast. Apparently it does zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds, or at least that's what Biden blurted out yesterday like he made up the number out of thin air.
It's also going to have insaaaaaane towing capabilities, which is a thing lots of truck people kinda care about. Maddow played a video last night of a video of an early prototype from 2019 pulling a one million pound series of freight cars. Then they filled the freight cars with 42 F-150s, which brought the weight up to 1.25 million pounds, and the prototype pulled that too.
For comparison, a 2021 F-150 with a stinky old gas engine maxes out at 11,300 pounds of towing capacity.
If you watch that video, you see a very cool woman driving the F-150 prototype, and she is Linda Zhang, the head engineer who created this new electrified pick-em-up truck that's being unveiled tonight. That's right, BIG BADASS ELECTRO-TRUCK was created by a woman who also happens to be an immigrant from China who came here when she was in the third grade.
Maddow interviewed Zhang last night, and it was really fun watching them have Truck Talk. Zhang said her cool-ass truck will be able to "power [...] your home as a backup generator [and] light up an entire campsite or work site." Video of the interview doesn't appear to be online, but the transcript is here.
Zhang also reportedly had a lot of fun with President Biden yesterday. Apparently the Ford folks had literally no idea the president was really going to drive the truck.
"Linda did a great job of taking the president through the engineering of the vehicle," [Ford CEO Jim] Farley said. "We first had just the frame and the batteries and electric motors. We showed him that and he had lots of questions. I didn't know this but he had just been down to Atlanta to the SKI plant that actually makes the batteries for the truck he was standing next to. He was like, 'I was just at that plant making these batteries.'"
"Linda took him through the truck," Farley said. "The Secret Service said, 'We prefer him to just stay on the outside.' He was like, 'I want to get inside the truck.' He was in there for, like, 10 minutes. I have no idea what he and Linda were talking about but it must have been pretty interesting. He would not leave that truck."
HE WANTED IN THE TRUCK.
So anyway yeah, this truck could be a really big fuckin' deal, both for truck people, and for liberal commie rags that are like "environment environment environment global warming Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is sooooooooo cool."
If you would like to watch "truck" tonight at 9:30 p.m. Eastern, here is a video for you to watch "truck."
And until then, OPEN THREAD!
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NOT SHINY, NOT NORMAL: Chevron Allowed To Literally Prosecute Lawyer For Winning Judgment Against It
US vs. Donzinger? THIS WHOLE CASE IS OUT OF ORDER.
Yesterday, the final day of his criminal trial, was Steven Donziger's 650th day under house arrest.
Donziger's crime? Pissing off Big Oil.
For decades, the oil giant had destroyed the local ecosystem, dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste, leaving pits of oily waste water the size of football fields.
In 2011, an Ecuadorian court awarded Donziger's clients $19.5 billion in damages.
Rather than finally pay for some of the damage it had done, Chevron — which has some $260 billion in assets — quickly sold all of its holdings in Ecuador and got to work doing everything it could to get out of paying the people it harmed.
And, in addition to fighting the judgment, Chevron had a new goal: Ruin Steven Donziger's life.
Let's start at the beginning
As you can probably already tell, this is a long and complicated story. So let's start at the beginning.
From 1964 to 1992, Texaco dumped some 19 billion gallons of toxic waste into the area around the Lago Agrio oil field. The pollution and contamination have caused all of the problems you would expect. High cancer rates. Birth defects. Miscarriages. Unsafe drinking and bathing water. Lots of death. In 2000, Chevron bought Texaco, assuming its liabilities.
The case that would eventually be won in Ecuador was originally filed in the United States. It was Chevron that argued the case should be tried in Ecuador. Once the case got to Ecuador, Chevron tried to argue the case shouldn't be brought there, either. Because they would really just prefer it if no courts had jurisdiction over them.
The trial court in Ecuador ruled in favor of Donziger's clients and awarded them $19 billion. The judgment was upheld by Ecuadorian courts, though the country's highest court cut the damages down to $9.5 billion.
To this day, Chevron has not paid a dime for the damage it inflicted on the people of Ecuador. Instead, it quickly sold off its Ecuadorian assets, making it impossible for the plaintiffs to collect on their judgment.
Chevron v. Donziger
Soon after the verdict in Ecuador, Chevron and Donziger were back in court in the US — this time with Chevron accusing Donziger of committing a RICO fraud and bribery.
Chevron v. Donziger, filed in the Southern District of New York, drew Judge Lewis Kaplan to oversee the case. Judge Kaplan, a Clinton appointee, was a career corporate defense attorney before taking the bench. While in private practice, he represented Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. and was part of "the inner sanctum of top tobacco lawyers that mapped the companies' joint legal and political strategies."
Originally, Chevron had sued Donziger for some $60 billion in damages. On the eve of trial, Chevron dropped its damages claims, leaving Judge Kaplan to deny Donziger a jury of his peers.
After a bench trial, Judge Kaplan ruled in favor of Chevron, finding in a 500-page opinion that Donziger had fraudulently procured the Ecuadorian verdict. Judge Kaplan's decision was based in large part on the testimony of Chevron's star witness, former Ecuadorian judge Alberto Guerra, whom the judge deemed to be credible.
Chevron paid more than $2 million to move Guerra to the US, pay for his immigration attorneys, and pay him a monthly salary.
Guerra has since admitted that he lied under oath at the 2013 trial. During proceedings in front of the International Arbitration Tribunal, Guerra also described how Chevron employees paid him huge amounts of money, saying things like "Money talks, gold screams."
"One of [Chevron's employees] took me by the arm and said, 'Look, look, look what's down there. We have $20,000 there,'" Guerra explained in his testimony before the tribunal. "Specifically, one of them was the one that led me to take a look at it. It was inside a safe."
In testimony before the tribunal, Guerra admitted that at this point he tried to get more money from Chevron. "At some point, I said, well, why don't you add some zeroes to that amount, and then later on I said, 'I think it could be 50,000.'"
In the order, Judge Kaplan went out of his way to say that Donziger was guilty of criminal activity, despite the fact that Donziger had never been charged with, tried for, or found guilty of any crimes. This order would also be the basis for Donziger's disbarment.
Despite the fact that Chevron dropped its monetary damages claim against Donziger to avoid a jury trial, Judge Kaplan ordered Donziger to pay Chevron $800,000 for doing the RICO.
And by now, Judge Kaplan has ordered Donziger to pay around $10 million in fines, fees, costs, and attorneys fees to Chevron and its lawyers at Gibson Dunn.
US v. Donziger
Because Donziger has only been charged with misdemeanor contempt, he can't be sentenced to more than six months in jail. Meanwhile, he has spent nearly two years under house arrest.
This criminal case is an offshoot of Chevron's civil suit. Because Donziger — who lives in a two-bedroom apartment in New York with his wife and kid and is not, in fact, a billionaire like Chevron — now owes Chevron and its lawyers a lot of money that he doesn't have.
As part of its attempt to collect, Chevron requested access to all of Donziger's electronics — and Judge Kaplan obliged. Donziger, who was worried about his legal and ethical obligations to his clients, objected and appealed the order. While the order was still on appeal, Judge Kaplan ordered Donziger to show cause why he shouldn't be held in criminal contempt.
And just wait, it still gets worse!
Kaplan referred his criminal contempt charge against Donziger to the US Attorney's office. The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York declined to prosecute the case. AND JUDGE KAPLAN JUST CHARGED DONZIGER ANYWAY!
The judge also hand-picked Seward & Kissel, a corporate defense law firm that represented Chevron as recently as 2018, to go after Donziger on behalf of the United States. (Seward & Kissel didn't disclose its attorney-client relationship with Chevron until it had already been prosecuting Donziger for seven months.) Do judges often farm out prosecutions to private counsel? NO! NONE OF THIS IS NORMAL.
Ignoring the standard procedures for case reassignment, Judge Kaplan also chose to assign the case to George H.W. Bush appointee Judge Loretta Preska. Another career corporate defense attorney, Judge Preska took senior status in 2017 so that Donald Trump could appoint another judge to the Southern District of New York. She also tried to kill the CFPB but was overturned by the Second Circuit. Judge Preska is also still active with the Federalist Society, which, as we all know, only likes people who are corporations. Unsurprisingly, the Federalist Society also gets a whole bunch of money from — you guessed it! — Chevron.
Judge Preska denied Donziger's attempts to disqualify both herself and Seward & Kissel from his case.
Seward & Kissel has been paid more than half a million dollars to prosecute Donziger — more than 150 times what a court-appointed criminal defense attorney is allowed to bill for defending indigent clients against a misdemeanor.
Even Donziger's criminal case wasn't heard by a jury. The Supreme Court has decided that criminal defendants with contempt charges are only entitled to a jury trial if the potential sentence is longer than six months, so Judge Loretta Preska was like, "I got this one."
The trial ended on Monday, with Donziger declining to call any witnesses in his defense. Donziger and his lawyers made it clear they did not believe they were getting a fair trial and were preparing to appeal the inevitable guilty verdict.
Martin Garbus, a well-known criminal defense and civil rights lawyer who was name-dropped in The Big Lebowski, told Judge Preska, "No justice will be done here. We know you won't return a verdict of not guilty."
"We spent a lot time preparing for Steven to testify at trial," Kuby said. "But we've also been paying attention to what the court has deemed to be relevant, and nothing that Steven would have to say would be deemed relevant by this court.
"His good-faith efforts to comply with the orders: irrelevant! The Second Circuit's ruling that his belief was completely reasonable: irrelevant," Kuby said. "His attempt to act as a lawyer fighting a case from his kitchen table when he had no legal representation and was facing lawyers who were billing over $3 million: irrelevant.
"So given the fact that the judge has so cabined the case to what the judge believes to be the only issues, he simply has nothing to say in that courtroom, and it's unfortunate but that courtroom is not the last word."
Judge Preska asked the parties to submit briefs in two weeks with their proposed findings of fact and findings of law. She did not give any indication of how quickly she intended to rule. Garbus said he expects Judge Preska to find Donziger guilty in about 30 days.
So that's fucked up
If, at this point, you're wondering whether any of this is normal, the answer is no. It's entirely unprecedented.
Six prominent members of Congress — Jamie Raskin, Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman, AOC, and Jim McGovern — have asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to review the case, which is still technically being pursued on behalf of the United States government. Retired federal judges, 68 Nobel laureates, 475 lawyers and legal organizations, 200 law students from 55 law schools, and human rights organizations like Amnesty International have all spoken up in Donziger's defense.
After the trial, Donziger said it was clear he "was never able to get a fair trial before Judge Preska."
He's almost certainly right.
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Haha, the joke doesn't work if the answer is yes! Also, the answer is yes!
Back in Medieval times, it was possible all over Europe to murder someone or commit another crime and then run into a church and be safe from being arrested or otherwise punished — which usually resulted in being exiled instead. This, as you probably learned from reading or watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was called declaring sanctuary.
During the Trump administration (and even before that), cities across the country declared themselves sanctuary cities for immigrants — meaning that they would limit their cooperation with a bunch of exceptionally terrible federal immigration laws. California declared itself a sanctuary state. This was for both compassionate reasons and practical ones. People in these cities didn't want to spend money and resources hurting their neighbors because it made people who don't even live in those cities feel good about themselves.
But oh how the tables have turned! Somewhat. Late last month, Danny McCormick, a Republican Louisiana state rep and oil company owner, attempted to pass a bill that would declare the state a sanctuary state ... for fossil fuels. Probably out of compassion for said fossil fuels, who have simply come to Louisiana in search of a better life, so that they and their family members can be drilled out of the ground and turned into leaded or unleaded.
"I don't know who would have a problem with it, honestly," McCormick explained during the bill's hearing. Apparently he had not met any of the many people — people in color in particular — who would have a problem with it and might dislike the idea of getting sick so oil company owners like McCormick can get rich.
Via The Guardian:
Nixing environmental requirements would disproportionately hit communities of color. Shreveport, which is 57% Black, is in the 90th to 95th percentile for cancer risk from breathing in air toxics, according to the EPA's National Air Toxics Assessment. In 2013, the EPA fined the Calumet refinery $326,000 for nine air violations, prompting a new fenceline monitoring system.
Shreveport is in north-west Louisiana, almost on the border with Texas. But south-east Louisiana, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, is also known for its heavy industrial presence and pollution. It has been dubbed "Cancer Alley".
Perhaps ironically, because this will probably kill people, it's actually somewhat more in line with the medieval concept of declaring sanctuary than not following immigration laws would be.
While the bill has been stalled due to the fact that it would not exactly be entirely legal, McCormick and other Republicans are currently working hard to change the language in a way that would make it passable.
McCormick's bill was tabled because of concerns that the current language could cause the US Environmental Protection Agency to revoke the state's authority to enforce federal rules. But his colleagues still offered their support. The chairman of the Louisiana House Natural Resources and the Environment Committee, Jean-Paul P Coussan (R-Lafayette), said he would work with McCormick to resolve issues with the bill that could give the federal government more power over oil and gas companies in Louisiana.
"You're not going to find a bigger support of oil and gas in his legislature than maybe you and I," Coussan said to McCormick at the committee hearing. "We can tighten this up so all our oil and gas constituents can be proud of the bill. The intent is to help industry not to end up in court just for a headline."
Aw! So helpful. To industry.
Unfortunately, this is not the only crap law meant to murder the environment that Louisiana legislators are trying to pass. It's not even the only crap law meant to murder the environment that Danny McCormick is trying to pass. He's also floating out HB 549, which would "stop Louisiana State Police from being able to ticket pipeline companies for failing to immediately notify them of small natural gas releases by changing the definition of a pipeline from a mode of transport, which the state police has authority over, to a facility, which they don't."
I mean really, just because something can kill people doesn't mean you need to be notifying anyone that it is happening. Surely, if people in Louisiana really cared about not dying, they could walk around with their own portable oxygen tanks all day.
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Much less like them.
Billionaire creepazoid/visionary/cult figure Elon Musk announced yesterday that his car company, Tesla Motors, will no longer accept Bitcoin as payment for cars, because of concerns about the astonishing amount of energy used in making Bitcoin happen. As with many times when Elon Musk Says A Thing, the announcement set off a bit of a panic, with the value of Bitcoin plunging and cryptocurrency markets losing something like $385 billion in value yesterday.
In the announcement, Musk said he was "concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining and transactions, and especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel," and while Tesla won't be selling off any of its Bitcoin holdings — about $2.5 billion, which seems like rather a lot — it will hold off any further Bitcoin trading until the cryptocurrency "transitions to more sustainable energy."
Now, before we go any further, let us reassure you that this is an energy and environment story, not a cryptocurrency story. You don't have to understand anything about no "blockchain" or "public ledgers" or anything, beyond knowing that in order to add a version of the scarcity that makes money "money," Bitcoin can only be mined with dedicated computers that must solve incredibly complex math problems in order to be able to trade the imaginary currency. (If you do want to understand Bitcoin more, then what is wrong with you, and you can find a good introduction in this Chris Hayes podcast, which is remarkably non sleep-inducing).
All that computing power eats up a lot of energy, as CNBC explains:
Critics of bitcoin have long been wary of its impact on the environment. The cryptocurrency uses more energy than entire countries such as Sweden and Malaysia, according to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index. [...]
So-called miners run purpose-built computers to solve complex math puzzles in order to make a transaction go through. This is the only way to mint new bitcoins.
Miners do not run this operation for free. They have to shell out huge sums on specialized equipment. A key incentive of bitcoin's model, known as "proof of work," is the promise of being rewarded in some bitcoin if you manage to solve its complex hashing algorithm.
University of Sussex business professor Carol Alexander points out that the "difficulty" of the computing tasks necessary to make new baby Bitcoins has been increasing in recent years, resulting in higher energy usage. Miners have an incentive to locate their big damn computing facilities where they can get cheap electricity. In some cases, that's near hydroelectric plants, so good for them, but it also means a lot of operations in China, where cheap coal is more the norm.
Now, there's also some debate about how bad for climate Bitcoin actually is, because it's complicated. There's the massive amount of coal energy being used in China, but some Chinese regions, like Inner Mongolia, have actually announced they'll shut down crypto operations to reduce energy consumption.
Some proponents of Bitcoin insist that Bitcoin uses only a tenth of the energy of the conventional banking system, which sounds really nice until you consider that Bitcoin accounted for just .4 percent of the world's money supply in 2020, which means it's using a hell of a lot of energy for the amount of economic activity it represents.
Bitcoin fans also like to argue that cryptocurrency miners go where electricity is cheapest, and that means that as green power reaches parity with electricity generated by fossil fuel plants, then crypto production will use the green stuff. Already, CNBC reports, "In China, the province of Sichuan is known to attract miners due to its cheap electricity and rich hydropower resources."
But even that could represent a less than ideal scenario for the climate emergency, as Quartz explains:
The electrical grid will become less carbon-intensive over time, but that green energy could be absorbed by bitcoin, said Alex de Vries, a digital currency economist who authored Mar. 10 article in the journal Joule about bitcoin energy consumption. "Renewable energy that we could have used to clean up the grid will go to bitcoin mining instead," he said.
Ultimately, Musk's move may have more to do with public relations than anything else. The growing perception that cryptocurrency is bad for global warming may not be great for a guy who wants to sell electric cars as part of the solution, and shareholders may simply be far happier if they don't have to fend off accusations of climate hypocrisy.
It's also worth pointing out that Musk has been talking up a competing cryptocurrency, Dogecoin, which like Bitcoin relies on similar high-energy-use computing. But he's not selling Teslas in exchange for that one, at least not yet. On Tuesday, he asked his bejillions of Twitter followers if they'd like the option, and then he turned right around and said Wednesday that he was ending Bitcoin purchases of his cars out of concern for the environment.
Gosh, what a mercurial genius. Fuck him and fuck crypto. Let's just focus on getting green infrastructure built, please.
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