after the report

Nana is dozing in her recliner, so I thought I would try to do a quick post on my reactions so far to the redacted release of the Mueller report. With everything going on in my family life, I haven’t been able to read all 400+ pages, but have seen excerpts and analysis from lawyers and investigative/legal reporters, which I have found very helpful.

As longtime readers may recall, I was very concerned about Russian hacking and interference in the 2016 US presidential election, even before the voting took place, so volume one of the report, which details the Russian attacks, is chilling. It reveals how extensive the attack was, confirming that it reached millions of potential voters, some of whom were targeted with particular posts or ads because of where they lived, their race, and other personal factors. It also deals with the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other campaign systems with release of materials to the public, as well as attempts to hack voting systems.

I am very concerned that Congress has not done enough to help the FBI and the states and localities identify potential weaknesses, especially in technology systems, and rectify them for the 2020 race, which has already started with many candidates declaring their intent to run in the party primaries. We need to be prepared for both similar attacks and for different kinds of attacks from Russia and from other countries. This should not be a partisan issue at all; people across the political spectrum should all be committed to protecting our national security and our freedoms.

The second part of the report is about possible obstruction of justice by the President. It makes it clear that no charges were filed because it is Justice Department policy not to indict a sitting president. Mueller also made it clear that he could not gather all the evidence needed, as the President and several other key figures were not able to be interviewed by the investigators. However, the report lays out details of possible counts of obstruction, which could be taken up by Congress as part of their investigations (which could lead to the filing of impeachment charges) or which could be charged by the courts after Trump leaves office. The statute of limitations for most of the actions taken by the president is five years, so if he leaves office during his first term or fails to win a second term, court charges could be brought for obstruction of justice.

The question of whether the House of Representatives will move toward impeachment is open. It’s complicated by the fact that the Mueller investigation was focused on Russian interference, but there are investigations on-going in other areas, among them illegal campaign contributions, emoluments, and financial crimes. Trump is trying to block them by ignoring subpoenas, not providing records, and not allowing even former staff to testify to Congress. It’s plausible that this could cause additional impeachment charges of obstruction for not cooperating with a Congressional investigation.

Additionally, people have to be aware that the standards for impeachment are different than they are for court trials. For example, one of the impeachment charges against President Nixon was lying to the American people. There isn’t a specific law against this, but it is considered a “high crime or misdemeanor,” which is the Constitutional impeachment criteria.

Some people say that Congress should just wait until the 2020 election, but I disagree. I’m afraid if these things aren’t investigated, with impeachment charges filed if found appropriate, it will look as though anyone who is elected president can get away with breaking laws and ethical codes for four years without consequence.

That is a terrible message to send. We, the People of the United States, deserve better.

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JC’s Confessions #3

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

When Stephen does Midnight Confessions, in his lead-up he often says that he doesn’t get to go to church as often as he would like and he misses one of his favorite things, going to confession. At which point, I usually think, “Said no Catholic ever!” Everyone with whom I have ever spoken about it feels that it is a stressful situation, even with a good confessor (and downright terrifying with a poor one).

For the last several years, our diocese has had a day during which every church is open for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as confession is more properly called. I confess that I find it very creepy that they advertise this on television and with billboards, as though mercy and forgiveness are commodities.

It also makes it seem as though forgiveness is only available through this sacrament, even though the church recognizes many other routes for this, such as the penitential rite during liturgy, asking for forgiveness from someone whom you have hurt, prayer, making reparations, and receiving the Eucharist. Indeed, individual confession is only required in the case of serious sin, one which fractures the relationship of the person with God.

I admit, not confess, that I haven’t gone to individual confession in years. This is partly due to a priest from my past who was so unstable I was afraid to be alone with him. Even though he is no longer a threat to me, it makes the thought of going to confession even more fraught.

What is even more difficult is figuring out how to confess my own part in social sin. I grieve that the United States is participating in violence and injustice, degrading the environment and the climate, and lacking in compassion and assistance for those most in need. We are called in our Constitution to “promote the general welfare”; my faith tells me to love and serve my neighbors near and far. Even though I try to oppose what is unjust and to help those in need, I still bear guilt for being part of an unjust system. Seeking forgiveness for these social sins feels hollow, because I am no less a part of the social system after confession than I was before it.

Wow! When I said in my standard introduction to this series that my reflections would be “more serious,” I didn’t mean to make it quite this serious.  Still, we are living in very serious times with many very serious problems confronting us daily. I can only hope that my trying to do my part in repairing the damage will join with the efforts of other people of good will to improve our country and our world.

Reading Michelle Obama’s memoir

Since she became a public figure during the first presidential campaign of her husband, I have felt an affinity with Michelle Robinson Obama. While on the surface it would seem that an African-American woman from the South Side of Chicago couldn’t have much in common with a European-American from a tiny New England town, there are a number of similarities. We are close in age, having been born in the last few years of the Baby Boom. I have long felt that we youngest of the Boomers, who were young adults during the Reagan recession when unemployment was high and mortgage rates even higher, are fundamentally different from the elder members of our cohort. Michelle and I are both mothers of two daughters and women who have been blessed with a close and long relationship with our own mothers. We have close women friends and mentors. We are both community-minded, and also recognize the importance of educational opportunity for ourselves and others. We each have a long, loving, and intact marriage. And we are both women of our time, which means we have experienced sexism and the challenge of tending to both our private and public lives.

Becoming, Michelle Obama’s memoir published late last year, reinforces my sense of her on all these points. She writes honestly and beautifully; I was especially impressed with the way she wrote about her feelings about what was happening and not just the events themselves. She also frequently gives context of what happens either before or later with a particular place or event, such as the changes over time in her South Side neighborhood.

I particularly enjoyed reading about Michelle’s childhood, teen, and college years, as the stories from that time before she was a public figure were mostly new to me. I also appreciated knowing how she felt about many events and causes during the campaigns and her eight years in the White House, as well as her take on the current president.

What was most enlightening to me was hearing how being a black female impacted her life at every stage and added to the pressure to excel and to be an exemplary person at all times. As the first African-American first family, it seemed that every move the Obamas made was scrutinized. I admire that Michelle and her mom, who was also in residence at the White House, were able to protect First Daughters Malia and Sasha from most of the intrusiveness of the press corps so that they could grow up (mostly) out of the public eye.

Many people share my admiration for Michelle Obama and her accomplishments. Her book tour includes venues that seat thousands of people and her book has sold over three million copies, making it the bestseller of 2018.

She can definitely add best-selling author to her already impressive resume.

SoCS: the current state of affairs

Seriously, watching the news in the US these days is like watching a soap opera!

The richest man in the world reveals a plot from a tabloid to get him to stop an investigation into them by threatening that they will release compromising photos of him and more text messages about his affair that is what landed him in a divorce from his wife of twenty-five years, who is now likely to be a very, very, very rich woman, but then will he not still be the richest man in the world – or maybe it’s the country. It’s hard to keep track…

But wait, there is more! The owner of the tabloid is an old friend of the president and they – they meaning the owner and the business – are currently in a cooperation agreement with the federal judiciary because they acknowledged that they paid hush money to two women during the presidential campaign so that news of his (the president’s) affairs with them would not hit the papers right before the vote. As part of this, they are not supposed to commit any new crimes or they will be prosecuted for what they already confessed to. So, does their behavior regarding the richest man rise to the level of a crime?

Meanwhile, the brother of the woman with whom the rich guy had the affair that broke up his marriage is in a friend and business relationship with several people who are being investigated or who have been indicted by the Mueller probe. So, was he the one who leaked the private messages to the tabloid? Or was it – insert serious music here – someone at a federal agency who was trying to discredit or harm the rich guy because he himself owns a newspaper, the Washington Post, which has done a lot of investigation and reporting on the current administration and Russian oligarchs and other shenanigans?

Stay tuned because no one knows what shoe will drop next!

If this were fiction, people would say it is too far-fetched. But here we are, listening to these reports on the news or reading it in the papers or online.

It’s no wonder my head is spinning. Metaphorically.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week was to begin the post with an adverb that ends in -ly. Bonus points for ending with one, too. Not that anyone is keeping score. Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/02/08/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-9-19/

Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is a concept that combines a rapid transition to sustainable energy to help keep global warming as low as possible – the Green part – with social justice action, not only to fund the initiatives but also to guarantee living wage jobs and truly affordable, quality health care – the New Deal part.

At this point, it has not been formalized as legislation, but there are plans to have a Congressional committee to study all the components and put them together into a viable bill, if not for the current iteration of Congress, perhaps the next.

Time is of the essence, as recent scientific reports both from the US and internationally have made clear that the next 10-12 years are critical in keeping climate change impacts from becoming catastrophic. We know that we are already experiencing some disturbing impacts and that there is no currently known way to fully reverse those changes. We also know that the United States has had very high carbon emissions over the last century and a half and, therefore, carries a major obligation to cut emissions quickly and to make major contributions to help our country and the international community to adapt to climate change impacts. The Green New Deal looks to be a powerful aid to doing that.

Yesterday, I was part of a group visiting our local Congressional office to deliver petitions and discuss the Green New Deal. Our representative, Anthony Brindisi, just took office last month, so we wanted to let him know that climate change, good-paying and secure jobs, renewable energy, labor rights, regenerative agriculture, and environmental and economic justice are important to many of his constituents.

The staff member with whom we spoke was very attentive and let us gather and talk in the office. This was a stark contrast to our former representative who did not want us gathering even outside the building where the office is and called the police to remove us, which they didn’t do because we were on public property and not blocking passersby.

We are hopeful that this will be the first of several visits and meetings to engage with Rep. Brindisi and his staff. We think that the Green New Deal concepts will help the people of our district, as well as the rest of the country and the world.

Update:  You can read the Green New Deal Congressional resolution text here.

One-Liner Wednesday: the system

“Nothing is going to change until we stop accepting this dirty, rotten system!”
~ ~ ~ Dorothy Day (1897–1980)
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Join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays and Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/01/23/jusjojan-2019-daily-prompt-jan-23rd-and-one-liner-wednesday/
More information on JusJoJan and prompts here: https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/31/what-is-just-jot-it-january-2019-rules/

 

 

 

uneasy times

I thought that I had mentally prepared myself for DT’s presidency, thinking that Congress would step up and cooperate to create sound legislation to keep us on a reasonable track.

I was, of course, totally wrong.

As of today, the United States government is in partial shutdown for a record 27 days and counting. 800,000 federal workers are either furloughed or working without pay, including the Coast Guard, air traffic controllers, and food inspectors. There are also one million contractors who work at government facilities who are not working and who, unlike federal workers, will not get back pay when the shutdown ends. Besides the workers and their families, there are also other businesses that rely on government work/ers as their customers, and are experiencing big drops in revenue as a result of the shutdown.

One of the frustrating things is that this shutdown should not have happened in the first place. After a prior (brief) shutdown, the last Congress had agreed on spending levels for all departments for 2018-2019. Some of the appropriations bills were passed by both houses of Congress; these departments are not affected by the shutdown. The remaining bills followed the previously agreed upon funding levels, but were not voted on in time to go into effect before the shutdown began. Although the House in the new Congress has now passed the same appropriations bills that the Senate in the prior session had previously passed, Republican Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell will not hold new votes on these bills to re-open the government because the president doesn’t approve, citing lack of $5 billion for a wall on part of the southern border.

It is, however, Congress’s Constitutional duty to control government spending. Therefore, I think that the Senate should pass these bills so the government can re-open – and because it is their duty to fund the government. Then, the ball will be in DT’s court. He can sign the bills and everyone can get back to their jobs serving the public. He can veto the bills, which would return them to Congress for a vote to over-ride, which might be possible as the pressure builds on Republican members of Congress to restore government services. The third option is that the president refuses to sign the bills without vetoing them, which would mean that they take effect in ten days.

The government needs to be about its business of serving the people. The human toll is already mounting and will continue to mount if government is not fully open soon. Many current government workers may be forced to take other jobs to support themselves and their families, which would be crippling to the functions of the affected departments when they do re-open.

Of course, this is not happening in a vacuum. Over the past couple of weeks, in court filings, testimony, interviews, and investigative reporting, there have been ever more alarming stories about the administration’s relationship with Russia and with NATO and sad and disturbing stories from the Middle East. It seems that the White House is overwhelmed with its responsibilities and incapable of dealing effectively with either domestic or foreign affairs.

The United States government has weathered a lot of storms. I’m hoping and praying we come through this one, too.
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Join us for Just Jot It January! Today’s pingback link is here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/01/17/jusjojan-2019-daily-prompt-jan-17th/
More information and prompts here: https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/31/what-is-just-jot-it-january-2019-rules/