Wednesday, July 31, 2019

'Moscow Mitch' McConnell really, really doesn't like his new nickname

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 17:  U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (2nd L) speaks as (L-R) Sen. John Thune (R-SD), and Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) listen during a news briefing after a weekly policy luncheon July 17, 2018 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Senate GOPs participated in a weekly luncheon to discuss Republican agenda.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
The Russian Asset.
Many kids suffered through the experience of being “nicknamed” something they didn’t really prefer to be called. For a brief span of time in my pre-teen years I had to endure the appellation of “Gerbil,” because I had a set of semi-bucked teeth that my parents decided wasn’t worth the high cost of braces (disclosure—they eventually receded normally).

But whoever coined “Moscow Mitch” seems to have really touched a nerve with the Republican Senate Majority leader responsible for killing just about every piece of legislation benefiting the American public that the Democratic House of Representatives has passed over the past year. While Mitch McConnell has reveled in his ability to single-handedly stop our country from functioning as a democracy, his refusal to protect the nation from an attack by pro-Trump Russian cyber-spies infiltrating our election process seems to have finally tipped the equation.
WASHINGTON — Senator Mitch McConnell is usually impervious to criticism, even celebrating the nasty nicknames critics bestow on him. But Mr. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is incensed by the name “Moscow Mitch,” and even more miffed that he has been called a “Russian asset” by critics who accuse him of single-handedly blocking stronger election security measures after Russia’s interference in 2016.
It’s rare for a stodgy U.S. Senator, particularly one of such longstanding tenure as McConnell, to be forced to suffer the slings and arrows of social media. He doesn’t seem to be taking it well, especially since it’s now permeated his usually quiescent Kentucky media market.
[W]hatever Mr. McConnell’s reasoning, the criticism has taken hold — even back home in Kentucky, where the majority leader faces re-election next year.
“Democrats want more aggressive legislation to protect America’s elections after Robert Mueller’s stark warning about Russian interference,” began one report aired on a Louisville television station last week. “Mitch McConnell blocked it.”
His fellow Russian sympathizer, Donald Trump, came to his defense. But even the Tweetster-in-Chief’s effort was uncharacteristically lame.
“Mitch McConnell is a man that knows less about Russia and Russian influence than even Donald Trump,” the president told reporters Tuesday as he was leaving for a speech in Jamestown, Va. “And I know nothing.”
Democrats pressed their advantage. And why not? The hashtag #MoscowMitchMcTraitor was trending on Twitter, and Senate Republicans of all stripes were being asked about the blockade.
“So long as the Senate Republicans prevent legislation from reaching the floor, so long as they oppose additional appropriations to the states, so long as they malign election security provisions as, quote, partisan wish lists, the critics are right to say Leader McConnell and Republican senators are blocking election security,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said on the floor Tuesday.
There’s something about “Moscow Mitch” that just seems to resonate.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Obama shares impassioned anti-Trump op-ed

President Obama rarely comments on the puerile antics of Donald J. Trump. Let’s hope that changes when election season gets into full swing and he hits the campaign trail on behalf of our nominee. But for the most part, he’s faithfully observed tradition and held his tongue, despite the dopey depravities of our doddering dunce-in-chief.

But sometimes Trump is so noxious, even Obama, one of the classiest men on the planet, has to throw some shade.

And today he did just that with this quiet — yet thundering — tweet:

The op-ed he shared was co-signed by 149 African-Americans who served in the Obama administration, and it’s a must-read.
A few excerpts:
We stand with congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, as well as all those currently under attack by President Trump, along with his supporters and his enablers, who feel deputized to decide who belongs here — and who does not.
There is truly nothing more un-American than calling on fellow citizens to leave our country — by citing their immigrant roots, or ancestry, or their unwillingness to sit in quiet obedience while democracy is being undermined.
We refuse to sit idly by as racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia are wielded by the president and any elected official complicit in the poisoning of our democracy. We call on local, state and congressional officials, as well as presidential candidates to articulate their policies and strategies for moving us forward as a strong democracy, through a racial-equity lens that prioritizes people over profit.
The statesman Frederick Douglass warned, “The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.” This nation has neither grappled with nor healed from the horrors of its origins. It is time to advance that healing process now through our justice, economic, health and political systems.
Expect to hear more from us. We plan to leave this country better than we found it. This is our home.

Obama should be proud, and all elected representatives need to heed this call to action.

We do too.

Monday, July 29, 2019

No, both sides are not the same

Could you really see "both sides" wearing a shirt like this one?
Read the comments on any political post and sooner or later you will run across the obligatory “Both sides are the same” argument, or some variant of that sentiment. It is normally said by someone who thinks they are smarter than everyone else, and when they say it, they talk down to all who disagree with them. They also happen to be wrong.

There are two distinct sides in American politics today. The differences between the two sides could not be any more apparent or clear, especially since the election of the current White House occupant.

On one side is the American right, where facts and reason have been cast off as if they were a worthless trinket won at the country fair. Members of the Republican Party are expected to walk lockstep with party leadership: There is no dissent, and very little, if any, diversity. They are a party that uses racism, hatred, and fear to drive voters to the polls. Someone is always coming to get their guns or bring sharia law to the country, and scary brown people are constantly trying to take their jobs.

The GOP is a party that claims fiscal restraint yet cuts taxes with abandon, never worrying about the impacts those tax cuts will have on the very institutions that rely on government funding to function. Infrastructure crumbles, college tuition climbs, and elementary and secondary education suffer. Parents have to pick up the slack by selling wrapping paper, magazine subscriptions, discount cards, and various other schemes to replace funding that has been cut to pay for ill-advised tax cuts, while the Air Force gets all the money they want for a bomber that we really don’t need. You can bet the Air Force won’t be holding a bake sale to raise $600 million to buy a new bomber.

The Republican Party also claims the moral high ground. With the backing of American evangelicals, they claim to be the soul of America, yet they support a thrice-married cheater who epitomizes everything Jesus preached against.

On the left you have the Democratic Party which, while not perfect, is a damn sight better than anything on the right. On the left there are actual proposals that will make peoples lives better, and not just rich folks. The Affordable Care Act was a long time coming and is the first step in making health care a right, and not a privilege. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has a plan for everything, recently released a plan to eliminate student debt, a plan that could help millions of Americans and prevent an economic collapse. Democrats stand for taxes and decry income equality, arguing that billionaires and large corporations should not be paying less in taxes than the average American making a median income.

Democrats believe that no one should suffer from food insecurity, while Republicans have no issue with kicking 3 million people off the SNAP program.

Democrats want inclusivity and as a result, it often seems like getting the Democratic Party to agree on anything is like herding cats. Every group has a voice and every voice has a different priority, but eventually a consensus is achieved, and moved forward.

Some of America’s greatest achievements have been shepherded in by the American left. In the throes of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced Social Security. John F. Kennedy gave us the moon. Lyndon Johnson gave us Medicare. Barack Obama gave us the Affordable Care Act.

Is the Democratic Party perfect? Not by a long shot. But that is what is so great about it: We can all complain about the party, we can argue about its future, we can agree, and we can disagree. We do not have to march in lockstep with the party leaders, and that is the strength of the American left.

So the next time you hear someone smugly say that “both parties are the same,” do not engage them, and do not argue with them. Let them have their little moment, and know that they are not as smart as they think they are. There is a stark difference between the parties. Anyone who says any different is doing nothing more than displaying their ignorance of American politics.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

California and four major automakers stick it to Trump on fuel-efficiency standards

Tesla Model 3 in southeast Michigan June 19, 2018
Fuel efficiency standards won't just reduce the fuel-guzzling habits of internal combustion engines, they will spur manufacture and sales of more electric vehicles, lowering their costs and diminishing the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on our beleaguered atmosphere.
In an agreement announced Wednesday, California and four major automobile manufacturers have undermined the Trump regime’s effort to roll back automobile fuel-efficiency requirements that had been finalized in President Barack Obama’s first term. The automakers say they will push for an average of 50 miles per gallon across their entire product line regardless of what the federal government does.

As a consequence, said Democratic Rep. Doris Matsui, who represents Sacramento in Congress, Trump’s attempt to freeze vehicle efficiency standards at the 2020 level is now “dead on arrival.”

That’s good to hear since the Trump plan is to set efficiency at 37 mpg. But whether it’s truly d.o.a. remains to be seen. California led 16 other states last year in suing the Environmental Protection Agency over the proposed rollback. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said at the Washington Auto Show in April: “I believe we are on firm legal footing and I believe that our standards will be upheld by the courts.”

Maybe. Or maybe he’s just whistling in the dark. California and the other state parties think there’s a good chance the feds will lose the suit. Whoever wins, the litigation could take a long time to work its way through the courts.

Which is exactly what automobile manufacturers don’t want. Because delay means uncertainty. If there is one thing automakers—and other manufacturers—despise more than a tough new regulation, it’s not knowing what will be in a regulation nor when they’ll have to comply with it and how. 

That’s why Ford, Honda, Volkswagen Group of America, and BMW of North America decided to negotiate with the California Air Resources Board, agreeing to manufacture fleets averaging 50 mpg by 2026. That’s just a year later than Obama’s standard—54.5 mpg on paper; 47 mpg in practice. Wheeler said at the auto show that he had tried to negotiate with CARB, but no deal emerged. “Federalism does not mean that one state can dictate the standard for the entire nation,” he said. “I met with CARB three times since taking the helm of EPA last July, but despite our best efforts, we could not reach a solution and decided to end the discussions.”

Kudos to CARB for standing firm. The deal means big savings on fuel, fewer deaths and disabilities caused by pollution, and a spur to new technology desperately needed in the transition to a zero-greenhouse gas emissions economy run on clean energy.

The root of Wheeler’s complaint is an agreement dating back half a century—to 1968—when California was granted an exemption from federal fuel efficiency standards because it, alone among the states, already had some in place when the U.S. Clean Air Act was passed. California’s emissions standards have typically been stricter than the feds’. And although California was granted the only exception, 12 other states have followed its emissions standards rather than the federal government’s. Because California sells more cars and light trucks than any other state—more than a quarter of all such sales in the U.S. in 2018—it and the dozen states that follow its fuel-efficiency lead drive automaker standards for the whole nation. Manufacturers don’t want to configure one version of a vehicle for some states and a different one for others.

Obama twisted a lot of arms to get automakers and the United Auto Workers to sign onto the new fuel-efficiency standards in 2012, the first upgrade since 1989. But when Trump arrived in the Oval Office, the manufacturers sought relief. Couldn’t they have more time, or a slightly lower standard? He gave them more than they wanted.

Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford, and Jim Hackett, the president and CEO of the carmaker, went so far as to write an essay for Medium explaining:
We support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback. We want one set of standards nationally, along with additional flexibility to help us provide more affordable options for our customers. We believe that working together with EPA, NHTSA and California, we can deliver on this standard.
In addition, at Ford, we believe we must deliver on CO2 reductions consistent with the Paris Climate Accord. We already have charted a course for our future that includes investing $11 billion to put 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicle models on the road by 2022 as well as responsible development of the self-driving car.
What seems likely as a result of the CARB agreement with the four automakers is that GM, Toyota, Daimler AG, and other car companies will be following the same path. This isn’t just about making cars with more efficient internal combustion engines. We need a world devoid of those altogether. One way for manufacturers to meet the 50 mpg goal is to build more electric vehicles, whose efficiency ratings are much higher than ICE vehicles.

Although it’s not a mandate, California’s goal is to have 5 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030. Currently, there are 1.27 million electrics nationwide and half of them—612,000—are in California. That’s against a total of more than 14 million cars registered in the state.

Requiring higher fuel efficiency is one part of building fewer and fewer of those millions to run on fossil fuels. That, obviously, is not Donald Trump’s, Andrew Wheeler’s, and Exxon-Mobil’s vision. But it must be ours, as does vastly reducing the number of cars on the road no matter how they are powered.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

It's a Sad Day for Democracy if this McConnell Active Betrayal goes Unchallenged

Mitch McConnell cares more about Putin's interests, than he does in protecting our Elections.
Disgusting ...

McConnell blocks 2 bills on election security on heels of Mueller warnings 

by Trish Turner, ABC News — Jul 25, 2019

One day after former special counsel Robert Mueller issued a stark warning that the Russians are actively seeking to interfere once again in the U.S. elections and called for aggressive deterrence measures, Senate Democrats sought passage of multiple election security bills only to be stopped by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for a second time this week.
"It's very important that we maintain the integrity and security of our elections in our country," the GOP leader [McConnell] said, but he added, "any Washington involvement in that task needs to be undertaken with extreme care, extreme care and on a thoroughly bipartisan basis. Obviously this legislation is not that. It's just a highly partisan bill from the same folks who spent two years hyping up a conspiracy theory about President Trump and Russia."
Despicable ... 

Mitch McConnell blocked 2 election security bills in the warning-packed 36 hours since Mueller's testimony

The Week — 7/26/2019

In the past 36 hours, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller emphasized that Russia is still working diligently to meddle in U.S. elections, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that Russia and other foreign adversaries are finding new ways to exploit U.S. election vulnerabilities, and the Senate Intelligence Committee released a bipartisan report that found Russia had targeted all 50 states in 2016 and "top election vulnerabilities remained" in the 2018 elections and continue to this day, though progress has been made.
In those same 36 hours, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has blocked two bills to shore up election security, one already passed by the House, calling them unnecessary reactions to a partisan Russia election meddling "conspiracy theory."
The Senate Intelligence Committee encouraged states, which run elections, to "take urgent steps to replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems," specifically those with outdated software and the thousands of local election jurisdictions using machines that don't leave a paper trail to audit votes. "More money may be needed," the committee advised. Even if Congress acted now, it's not clear states could make the recommended substantial upgrades before the 2020 election, much less primary voting that begins in six months.
Dastardly ... 

Because here is what Mitch McConnell is blocking:

One bill McConnell objected to would have both required the use of paper ballots and provided funding for the Election Assistance Commission.
He also objected to legislation that would have required campaigns and candidates to report offers offers of election-related aid from foreign governments.
Mitch knows without those 2 Mack-truck-sized Election Law loopholes, Trump and his band of lawless Enablers will have little chance of tipping the Electoral College again in 2020. 

What kind of thinking American could be adamantly againstPaper Ballots”?

Thursday, July 25, 2019

A Deadly, Drug-Resistant Fungus Could Be the First Infection Spread by Climate Change

'The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 587 cases of the fungus, Candida auris, in March.' (photo: Getty Images)
'The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 587 cases of the fungus, Candida auris, in March.' (photo: Getty Images)

By Rebecca Klar, The Hill
limate change may be causing a wide-spread, drug-resistant fungus, according to a study published Tuesday in the American Society for Microbiology.

Researchers found that the new fungal disease could be the first to emerge as a result of climate change.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 587 cases of the fungus, Candida auris, in March. The CDC had said it was resistant to antifungal drugs.

It was first discovered in 2009 in Japan and reported first in the U.S. after mid-2015.

To examine the potential impact of climate change on its emergence, researchers compared the thermal susceptibility of Candida auris to its close relatives. The study found that the fungus was able to adapt as the climate warms.

"The argument that we are making based on comparison to other close relative fungi is that as the climate has gotten warmer, some of these organisms, including Candida Auris, have adapted to the higher temperature, and as they adapt, they break through humans' protective temperatures," study co-author Dr. Arturo Casadevall, chairman of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CNN.

Casadevall said climate change could lead to new fungal diseases "we don't even know about right now."

The study includes the caveat that while "global warming-related changes in the environment might have played a prominent role" in the fungus emergence, it "is unlikely to explain the whole story."

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Most live in present; Some of us remember the past


Image from Storyville.

By George Templeton
Gazette Columnist
Political Correctness in “No When”
“No When” is separate from time.  It has no past, present, or future.   It is absolutely true and politically correct.  It is never ambiguous, contradictory, or incomplete.  Nothing happens or changes in “No When”.  Time vibrates randomly forward and back.  Cause and effect goes away.  There is no point in trying to measure it.  Time requires regularity.  Instability causes infectious uncertainty.  Disorder allows claiming and concluding anything.  When you drop an egg, the fragments of its shell are accessible, but you cannot put it back together along with its spilt yoke and white.  That changes its future irreversibly.  Our lives are like that, but most of us live in the present.  Some of us remember the past.
Politically Correct
We grew up politically incorrect, but we did not realize it.
Paul Broca, the master of nineteenth century craniometry, concluded that brain size, facial shape, woolly hair, and skin color predicted intelligence.  It was the foundation of white superiority that Hitler believed in.   Jesse Owens’ four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics called it into question.
Storyville was a red light district at the turn of the twentieth century.  It was a mixing pot of musical styles, cultures, and races, where the most beautiful girls were of mixed race.  Julie, an entertainer on the Show Boat was one of them.   That 1927 musical dealt with racial prejudice and tragic love.  How does one know that they are “black”?  Julie passed for white.  Her marriage became illegal and she could no longer perform for a white audience when her black blood was discovered.
No court had struck down a ban on interracial marriage prior to 1948.  It was not until 1967 that the Supreme Court unanimously ruled (legislated from the bench) that laws against interracial marriage were unconstitutional.   The movie, “Guess who’s coming to Dinner” and the sitcom “All in the Family” reminded us of how we really felt.
Arthur Jensen (2002) studied the influence of genetics and race on intelligence.  But we are not intelligent enough to know what conscience is or how it works even though it will soon drive our cars.  We mistake self-interest for empathy.
In 2003, scientists mapped the human DNA code for the first time.  Armed with computer ANOVA (analysis of variance), they found that there is more variation within races than between them.  This is what happens when science runs up against what it means to be human.  The self fractures apart.  Only people are left.
Living in Racist History 
The founding fathers wanted to abolish slavery.  So wrote Glenn Beck in a fit of patriotic hubris, but we fought a war over it.  Today, our President would identify non-citizens in the census, but they trust him less than the North and South came to trust each other.  Then, we counted slaves as 3/5 of a person.
Anti-immigrant sentiment thrust the Know-Nothing Party to prominence.  Abraham Lincoln wrote that they would change our Declaration to read “… all men are created equal except Negroes, foreigners, and Catholics”.  Illinois and Indiana barred African Americans from entering their states, while Oregon ordered all black people out. 
White America objected to Jackie Robinson’s entry into Major League Baseball in 1947.  The early fifties Arizona school books wrote of how the slave owners treated their valuable investment well.  The Amos ‘n’ Andy show (1951-1953) made fun of blacks, treating them as incompetent and stupid.   Colored people needed guidance.  Our society was structured that way, so they agreed.  If they did not show deference and obedience, they would be sorry.
There was de facto segregation in Mesa and Phoenix in the fifties.  There was hard core segregation and inequality in the Southern States, where blacks could not sit at the lunch counter, drink at the “whites only” water fountain, enter through the front door, or get a job even though they held master’s degrees.
In the fifties, I listened to the “race records”, played by the colored radio station on my grandfather’s giant Philco radio.  It was before Elvis Presley.  The music was delightfully “different”, but our parents worried that it would rot our minds.  They even worried about Elvis.  The musical “Memphis” describes that time.  Its subject is not only black music, but the relationship between whites and blacks, and inter-racial romance.
In 1957, Governor Orval Faubus called out his national guard to prevent the Little Rock Nine from attending Central High School.  When Louis Armstrong complained about how blacks were treated, we said “Don’t they appreciate that we freed them from slavery?  It’s Communists that make them act this way.”
In the early sixties, the pastor at my church explained that God was for “separate but equal”.   His congregation would not tolerate minorities lowering their property values.   But youth had more “soul” than the establishment.
The students in southern universities protested against racial integration.  They carried signs reading, “Go back to Africa, Negros”.  How do you suppose they feel about Trump’s suggestion to the five new idealistic Congresswomen, “Go back to where you came from”?
In college, we lived together, participated in civic obligations, planned and cooked our meals, and debated racism along with theology.  It wasn’t just God’s grace and his little book that counted.  Deeds mattered.  The important thing in religion was to engage in and serve society, not dogma.  Religion had not yet become a weapon of political ideology.  We believed in the role of the church, but that is getting harder today.  Now it is solidly on the side of cruelty and the destruction of liberals.
There was no agreement.  There was controversy over things like whether the universe was much more than 6000 years old and if all the animals came over on the Ark.  There was confusion about the theology of Paul Tillich, and offense over the idea that faith requires doubt.    But we were not politically correct.  As students, we sang “God is on our side”.  The establishment had to be turned.
We can thank Lyndon Baines Johnson for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Eighty one Republicans approved.  Only fifty nine Democrats did.  By doing the prudent thing, Johnson lost the political South.  As in musical chairs, the Republicans and Democrats changed sides.  This is the cultural and political foment that existed in Joe Biden’s early service to our country.
At our lunch table, the discussion turned to how Martin Luther King was the beguiling, deceitful anti-Christ, imminent before the pending apocalypse.  Promiscuous, unfaithful, and Communistic, he should not be granted a holiday.  Governor Evan Mecham agreed.  It was white society’s self-understanding.  Now, we hear it again in the GOP’s strategy.  We find it difficult to have empathy for people who are different than us.
It Hurts
In the seventies, Civil rights opponents controlled the Senate.  Biden had to work with powerful segregationists like James Eastland of Mississippi.  There were blacks who did not want to be bused to white schools, whites who did not want to be bused to black neighborhoods, and strong community friendships that mattered as much as anything to the social development of children.  What is appropriate relates to demographics, geography, finance, school quality, and local job opportunities.  These are neighborhood variables.
Racism hurts feelings, but Kamila Harris got what she wanted.  She dammed Biden using faint praise about him not being racist and then launched into an issue that is historical, nuanced, and not appropriate for the hurry up of the “debate”.
Kamila was bused to a better school, but it hurt her feelings because she discovered that the world was imperfect.   She printed T shirts and sold them to finance her campaign, with her little girl picture on it.  Such politics is disingenuous, contrived, and motivated more by ambition than anything else.  Meaning is deeper than political correctness.
Bigotry is an insidious disease because you don’t know when you have it.  You can’t be only partly accepting.  What others do justifies one’s self, and that comes from the top down.  When our president speaks of immigrant “infestations” from “sxxx hole countries” bringing criminals, drug deals, and rapists, he justifies those who feel that this the fact.  It is the ground of the 9500 member dehumanizing, racist, Border Patrol Facebook group described in recent news.  It is in Lindsey Graham’s comment justifying cruel treatment of families seeking asylum. “Things are tough all over the world”.  We have a breathtaking facility for ignoring other people’s pain.  The Art of the Deal contains a monstrous impulse revealing how our darkest urges lurk in the background of every transaction.
Trump says that he is the moral one because he loves our country.  Evangelicals overwhelmingly agree, ignoring the majority of the Bible.  That only adds to our “Heart of Darkness” and raises a new generation to be amoral hurting the very cause religious people argue for.  The reason their churches are shrinking is not because educated people prevent them from believing in God.
So, now your neighbor has a supply of crosses to burn stored in his barn.  He has hoods in his closet, and he tweets white nationalism, but he is not racist.  Evangelicals can see into his heart and they find no hatred.  He is a loyal member of the Republican Party, justified because it is just politics, not racism.   It is the evil other that disagrees with Trump and whom he calls Godless Communists (Socialists).  But his words reveal the hidden seeds of his thought and that good or bad are nothing more than what mommy said when he was a child.  We worry about what has happened to America’s heart.  Racism should not require something more, like conviction for a hate crime.  But neither moralizing nor edict will make any difference.
Democratic Republicans
Perhaps the best Republican for the job is a Democrat.  The big challenges we face are bipartisan, neither Republican nor Democrat.
I voted for Barry Goldwater many times.  He often stuck his foot in his mouth, but he was an honest man.  I trusted him.  I voted for John McCain for similar reasons.  I can find room to support Jeff Flake’s ideas set forth in his 2017 book, Conscience of a Conservative.  John Kasich describes policies that liberals do not find repugnant in his 2017 book, Two Paths, America Divided or United.  These men thought that America would come to its senses, but apparently not.
We need the idealism of youth, but they have not lived the problem, have not met the reality demons.  The cult of amateurism and novelty is contradictory to experience and wisdom.  Whoever becomes president is going to be confronted by many imperfections that will require personal sacrifice, consistent policy, and cooperation for tens of years.   If we go too far to the left, the pendulum of ideology will continue to destructively oscillate.  If the Democrats are to win, they need something more than Trump’s game.  Perhaps it is history, honesty, experience, wisdom, and character.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

One day before Robert Mueller is set to appear before Congress, the DOJ is trying to shut him up

Despite numerous delays in negotiation, and last-minute changes that bumped the date back by a week, former special counsel Robert Mueller is slated to testify before Congress on Wednesday morning. But what he will answer is in even greater doubt after a Monday night letter from the DOJ instructed him to severely restrict his testimony.

As usual in congressional hearings, Mueller will make an opening statement. This will be followed by question periods doled out to Democratic and Republican members in five-minute segments. It can be expected that Democrats will spend their five minutes asking Mueller to recall the most telling information learned in compiling the report, and to air his opinion on how Attorney General William Barr’s three-page “summary” distorted those findings. Republicans can be expected to spend their time asking Mueller about Peter Strzok’s love letters, why he didn’t look into Hillary Clinton’s email server, and more or less anything except Donald Trump’s obvious attempts to obstruct justice.

And while Democrats will have to struggle with the interruptions of Republicans out to derail the hearing at every turn, there’s another big roadblock—because the Department of Justice letter to Mueller is nothing short of a threat. That letter notes, “As the Attorney General has repeatedly stated, the decision to testify before Congress is yours to make in this case,” but it also makes it clear that this sweet generosity on the part of Barr has decided limits. Though the attorney general has repeatedly said he would not stop Mueller from testifying, he has also made it clear that he doesn’t want the special counsel to talk, and has gone so far as to offer to help Mueller fight a congressional subpoena if he decides not to appear. Since Mueller didn’t take Barr up on that offer, the attorney general is now applying heavy pressure in the Monday letter, saying that the DOJ “agrees with your stated position that your testimony should be unnecessary under the circumstances” and that “the Department generally does not permit prosecutors such as you to appear and testify before Congress regarding their investigative and prosecutorial activity.”

The DOJ instructs Mueller not to say anything about the redacted portions of the report, citing case law. The letter makes sure to include the statement, “In addition, it is the Department’s longstanding policy not to discuss the conduct of uncharged third-parties.” Finally, the letter warns Mueller against saying anything else related to the report, because everything is related to the report. According to the DOJ, Mueller may not talk about “investigative steps or decisions made during your investigation” or anything that is “potentially open.”

It’s not an order for Mueller not to appear, but it’s close. It’s a last-moment effort to  jerk the former special counsel’s chain, and based on how he has responded before … it might work.

Mueller made it clear that he would prefer not to testify, and that his testimony will be limited to information already included in the (still redacted) report. However, with Barr making it impossible to obtain information related to the report and casting a blanket of “privilege” over it and associated documents, Mueller’s testimony is critical. And with only a tiny number of Americans having actually read the report, Mueller’s public appearance may be the last best chance to get across to the public the hundreds of connections between Trump’s campaign and Russia and the concerted effort by Trump to cover up those connections.

Democrats might also be expected to ask Mueller about how he came by his rigid interpretation of Department of Justice guidelines concerning potential indictment of Trump, since many legal experts have disagreed with that position both before and after the report was issued. And Democrats might want to get a good definition of the limits set on Mueller’s activity by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whose instructions to the special counsel have still not been revealed.

The letter from the DOJ would seem to suggest that all these matters—how Mueller interpreted the guidelines, how the limits of the special counsel’s office were set, what Mueller thought of Barr’s efforts to distort his work by failing to publish the summaries created for that purpose—are privileged.

That could make Wednesday’s testimony even more frustrating that it’s already expected to be.

Mueller will first appear before the House Judiciary Committee in a session slated to begin at 8:30 AM ET. At noon, he will answer questions for the House Intelligence Committee.