hungeski's blog

Mitch McConnell Fails Oath of Office

mcconnellTeamTrump.jpg

Senator Mitch McConnell, as majority leader, gets a salary of $193,400 from the U.S. taxpayer. But he fails to do his job. Consider the oath of office that McConnell, and every civil servant, takes:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Well, it seems McConnell fails to "faithfully discharge the duties of the office." Here are four notable cases.

A Little Light for the Clouded Enlightenment

Image: On Jeopardy facts win; The Paragraph

The United States is the world's first liberal democracy, a product of the The Enlightenment. As such, the founders built it on the principles of unity, liberty, tolerance and equal rights. And they designed it to make policy based on factual knowledge and bathed in the light of reason. But, today, in the time of Trump, factual knowledge is getting clouded over in several ways.

World to Write Rulebook for Climate Action

Image: Kartowice, Poland (Wikipedia)

The annual world climate talks take place in Katowice, Poland, this week and next. For this year the goal is to come up with a rulebook for implementing the Paris Climate Agreement.

A major goal of that agreement, made in December three years ago, is to keep global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above preindustrial average. As of last year, the planet stood at 1.0°C (1.8°F) warmer.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world's top authority on the subject, produced a report for use at the meeting. The report focuses on the 1.5°C goal.

Effects of Warming

Effects of warming as we go from present to 1.5°C warmer, and then to 2.0°C, include ever higher risks to society. From the IPCC report:

B.1. Climate models project robust differences in regional climate characteristics between present-day and global warming of 1.5°C, and between 1.5°C and 2°C (3.6°F). These differences include increases in: mean temperature in most land and ocean regions (high confidence), hot extremes in most inhabited regions (high confidence), heavy precipitation in several regions (medium confidence), and the probability of drought and precipitation deficits in some regions (medium confidence).

B.3. Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and increase further with 2°C.

Students Keep Aim True against Gun Violence

March for our Lives on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., March 24, 2018. (Phil Roeder from Des Moines, IA, USA (March for Our Lives)) (CC-BY)

Not long after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting massacre on February 14th in Parkland, Florida, many students of the school organized to cut gun violence in the USA. And their aim was true and clear. One of the students that expressed that aim was Emma Gonzalez. Just three days after the massacre, she gave a famous speech, which wound up with:

Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don't know what we're talking about, that we're too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.

If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.

Let's look at some of the facts that back up Gonzales's statements, and call to action.

Internet Freedom Fight Keeps On

Senate Votes for Internet Freedom -- to Reverse FCC and Keep Net Neutrality. (CSPAN)

Internet Freedom Status

The clock has ticked down on net neutrality, and its guarantee of internet freedom. We won that freedom in 2015, after internet users sent four million comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC then classified all internet service providers (ISPs) as common carriers, which, by definition, must treat all communications equally regardless of who it comes from, who it goes to, or what it contains. But last fall the new Trump Republican majority on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to take our hard-won freedom, and give total control of your internet connection to your Internet Service Provider (ISP), be it AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum, or any other. The FCC net neutrality kill order officially took effect June 11, 2018.

But the people's love of internet freedom endures. In a recent poll, 86% of persons stood against the FCC net neutrality kill order. That number includes 82% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats. That broad public support should brighten the outlook for internet freedom, as the fight continues on several fronts.

US Senate Greasing Skids for Next Bank Crash

Lehman Brothers 1850-2008 (AP Images)

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted to begin floor debate on a bill (S. 2155) that would weaken regulations of banks, large and small, and grease the skids for the next bank crash. After the severe bank crash of 2008, in order to guard against future such crashes, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank law, which enacted the regulations the bill would now weaken. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the bill for budget costs, and figured $671 million over ten years. But the CBO said its estimate was "subject to considerable uncertainty" due to a "slightly greater" "probability in any year that a systemically important financial institution (SIFI) will fail or that there will be a financial crisis." However, in 2008, we saw what some of the real cost to the country could be: $821 billion to the federal government, plus $3.4 trillion in real estate wealth and 5.5 million jobs lost.

Through Knowledge Peace

Linndale Peace Memorial (Google Street View)

December 28, 2017. Cleveland is in a deep freeze. It seems to have come about a month early this winter. The weather service forecasts the cold spell to run for at least another week. I am driving through icy, slushy streets. But it's mostly sunny, though by the rays of a low-arching winter sun. I see one car that looks like it has just been washed. The rest have a road salt glaze.

The House Serfdom Caucus

The House SERFdom Caucus logo (The Paragraph (CC BY-SA 3.0))

The House Freedom Caucus of the U.S. Congress has built a reputation for bullheaded pursuit of far-right policy, but not for pursuit of freedom, as its name would indicate. It has pushed federal government shutdown, caused the speaker of the House to quit, and scuttled the Republican bill to cut health care for not cutting enough. But, measured against the four freedoms once set down by President Franklin Roosevelt, the caucus seems more in pursuit of serfdom than freedom.

In his "Four Freedoms" speech, given eleven months before the nation's entry into World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt set down a standard of freedom:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want – which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear – which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.

Let's see how the caucus measures up to those four essential human freedoms.

Mainstream Daily News Still on the Job

Mainstream Daily News Reports ((CC-BY SA) The Paragraph / The Chronicle-Telegram)

Despite cutbacks and financial stress in the industry, the mainstream daily newspaper is still on the job, reporting corruption in public office. For example, here are a few boiled-down summaries of reports that I found over the past month in the local daily I subscribe to.

Involuntary manslaughter among charges filed in Flint water crisis

(The Detroit Free Press, June 14.) The wheels of justice slowly, surely turning ...

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced the fourth round of criminal charges in the Flint water crisis. The state charged five persons with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Robert Skidmore by Legionnaire's disease. An outbreak of the waterborne disease, which killed 12 and struck dozens more, followed the switch of the city's water from the Detroit system to the Flint River.

Among those charged are Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon and former Flint emergency manager Darnell Early. Lyons is accused of failing to alert the public to the outbreak of the disease for a year after he became aware of it. He is also charged with misconduct in office for instructing an official to stop study that would help find the cause of the disease outbreak.

The state also charged Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Eden Wells with obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer. The obstruction of justice charge alleges that Wells threatened to withhold funding for the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership if it did not stop its investigation into the source of the disease outbreak.

Paul Simon Gives Tour de Force and a Sermonette

In a concert at the riverside pavilion in Cleveland last week, Paul Simon gave the crowd a tour-de-force -- and a sermonette.

The tour-de-force was made up of a strong choice of songs from Simon's 53-year-long career. Five Simon and Garfunkel songs, five songs from the lush "Graceland" album, a couple from last year's "Stranger to Stranger," and 13 more carried the crowd through a 2 hour and 10 minute musical trip. Throughout, Simon hit the right notes, while his band put out striking strong rhythms and soaring psychedelic sounds.

The sermonette came just before the last song:

I feel a little bit funny about saying these things, but I'm giving, I'm allowing myself the privilege of it due to my advanced age. For years it is my observation: Anger is addictive. And we are becoming a nation of addicts. Ask yourself, "Who are the dealers? Who are the pushers? Where, where is that anger coming from?" And be aware of -- when you hear it, when you see it -- be aware of its source. It's not, it's not that we aren't gonna have reasons to be angry. Of course we do. But decision-making and best choices are made with a cool and a calm mind. And in a well-knit community, practice kindness.

Then he played, in acoustic solo, "The Sound of Silence."

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