October 2, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM

THE TIGHTENING NOOSE:

Trump refuses to answer what he asked Ukrainian president to do about Bidens (Zachary Basu, 10/02/19, Axios)

President Trump refused to answer a question from Reuters' Jeff Mason about what he was asking Ukraine's president to do about Joe Biden and his son during a now-infamous July 25 phone call, instead criticizing European countries for not providing aid to Ukraine, attacking the impeachment investigation as a "hoax" and berating Mason for being "rude."

The exchange:

MASON: "The question, sir, was what did you want President Zelensky to do about Vice President Biden and his son Hunter? 
TRUMP: "Are you talking to me?"
MASON: "Yes. It's just a follow-up of what I just asked you, sir."
TRUMP: "Listen, are you ready? We have the president of Finland. Ask him a question."
MASON: "I have one for him. I wanted to follow-up on the one that I asked you."
TRUMP: Did you hear me? Did you hear me? Ask him a question. I've given you a long answer, ask this gentleman a question. Don't be rude. I've answered everything. It's a whole hoax. And you know who's playing into this hoax? People like you and the fake news media that we have in this country. And I say in many cases, the corrupt media."

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM

THE TIGHTENING NOOSE:


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:16 PM

FROM THE ARCHIVES: WHO COULD EVER TAKE HIM SERIOUSLY....:

Among the Hagiographers: Early on Gandhi was dubbed a 'mortal demi-god'--and he has been regarded that way ever since (ANDREW ROBERTS, 3/27/11, WSJ)

Joseph Lelyveld has written a ­generally admiring book about ­Mohandas Gandhi, the man credited with leading India to independence from Britain in 1947. Yet "Great Soul" also obligingly gives readers more than enough information to discern that he was a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist--one who was often downright cruel to those around him. Gandhi was therefore the archetypal 20th-century progressive ­intellectual, professing his love for ­mankind as a concept while actually ­despising people as individuals.

...after reading this.

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[originally posted: 3/28/11]


Posted by orrinj at 12:03 PM

IMPEACHABLE, NOT ILLEGAL:

White House ordered ultrasecret system upgraded to prevent leaks (DANIEL LIPPMAN and NATASHA BERTRAND, 10/01/2019, Politico)

That highly classified system is being newly scrutinized in light of a whistleblower complaint alleging that national security officials used the system--meant for storing information classified at the highest level -- to conceal politically embarrassing conversations, including a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 in which President Donald Trump urged Zelensky to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

If hiding politically embarrassing material, rather than protecting national security secrets, was the motive, experts and former officials said, it would be an abuse of the codeword system. While not necessarily an illegal act, it does run counter to an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2009 that says information can't be classified to "conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error" or "prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency."

Posted by orrinj at 11:22 AM

WE ARE STRANGERS HERE OURSELVES:

MARILYNNE ROBINSON'S POSTMODERN HUMANISM: a review of What Are We Doing Here?: Essays By Marilynne Robinson  (J. L. Wall, 9/30/19,  Modern Age)

In her critique of modernity, Robinson, an unabashed political liberal, begins to sound surprisingly--and sometimes stridently--conservative. Indeed, she seems to have affection for the word, provided that it can be redefined around the act of conservation. The purpose of the humanism  for which she argues is to "preserve as we can the heritage we have received and that we enlarge and enrich it for the sake of coming generations," a curatorial role that she once "assumed . . . was simply a thing civilizations did." Humans may be the creators of art, architecture, and all that goes into civilization, but as curators they are responsible for more than the works of their own hands--for that which is created, or, in one of Robinson's favorite words, given. Human dignity (what she later terms a "radical anthropocentricity") runs through this recognition of givenness. For Robinson, humans are created beings yet also distinguished from the rest of creation by the ability "to stand apart from what we are and consider ourselves."

Though Robinson is skeptical of the term postmodern and hardly a conservative in the commonplace sense of the term, her stance may be best understood in conversation with the late Peter Augustine Lawler, who spoke, alternately, of postmodern conservatism and conservative postmodernism. Lawler's postmodernism is not the postmodern art and theory of the academy. Such "attacks on our ability to perceive the truth and goodness of nature and human nature," he argued, are really "hypermodernism": the logical extreme of the belief that the modern individual is itself a construction. Taken to hypermodern extremes, the modern project moves away from the truly human, leaving us, in Robinson's view, "shadowed by gloom, nostalgia, anomie, deracination, loss of faith, dehumanization, atomization, secularization, and assorted other afflictions of the same general kind." Lawler preferred a more concise description: homelessness.

On both accounts, the modern individual is fully capable of asking the fundamental human question: What I am--are we--doing here? But pursuing this inquiry requires a language that does not exist. Following the lead of another novelist, Walker Percy, Lawler suggested that among the chief crises of the (post)modern person was being "deprived of the language to express the longings of a real human being" and, indeed, losing "even the language of the individual." Robinson likewise laments that "we have no language to express the scale of the experience we have."

That is not to say that we are at a loss for words. But what Robinson calls the "catechisms" of modern thought are of no use. Neither science, nor economics, nor the political right and left can tell us what we're doing here. They fail in this endeavor because "the modern West for generations [has tried] to move away from a vocabulary that is charged with its own intellectual and cultural history, the shift being understood as advancing thought from the pre-scientific to the scientific or from the religious to the secular." The project of Robinson's nonfiction, then, has become one of recovery-- of the history and reputation of the Puritans who are central to her worldview, and, increasingly, of a vocabulary that might enable us to ask the questions on which this line of inquiry depends. [...]

Even modernity, she insists, has not been able to escape reference to the divine in its talk of individuals. The psychological "self," Robinson writes, "looks to me like a rather robust survival of what was once called a soul." Our constrained vocabulary limits both modern inquiry and selfhood. The point--and the sticking point--of the language she believes we require is that it is necessarily theological, capable of representing "a very broad, unconditional reality, a givenness that in its fullness reflects divine intent." Alongside "the divine" and "dignity," it includes "wisdom, courage, generosity," givenness, conscience, grace, beauty, faith, hope, love, soul, and virtue. Only language grounded in and unashamed of these words can "create a conceptual space large enough to accommodate human dignity," capable, we might say, of replacing the language and ideology of the individual with that of the whole human being.

The word liberalism, too, takes on paramount importance for Robinson. In her previous collections, When I Was a Child I Read Books (2012) and The Givenness of Things (2014), she began an argument continued in this collection: that a liberalism defined by rights-based discourse almost inevitably leads to its individualist corruption. Robinson's preferred alternative stems from the early modern liberalism of English and American Puritans. Against the individualism of Lockean Virginians, she finds in John Winthrop's political vision "a society whose relations are based on charity, using the word in the biblical sense, meaning love." In other words, "he sees the bonds of society in mutual care and service." Robinson grounds her liberalism in an older, less frequently used definition. Perhaps liberality would be more apt here than liberalism, as, for her, this is the politics of generosity.

Even though the practical goals toward which Robinson believes this sense of liberalism must lead are largely indistinguishable from those favored by the modal American university professor, she nonetheless insists on distinguishing her liberalism from that of her political allies. In What Are We Doing Here? Robinson goes further than her usual critiques--of easy abandonment of generosity, eager dismissal of religion and the legacy of Puritanism--and challenges the American left on the level of ideology. "The Left does not understand the thinking of the Right because it is standing too close to have a clear view of it," she writes. According to the rigid, ideological thinking of both ends of the political spectrum, self-interest and human nature are synonyms: "everything that has happened in our history is to be understood in its essence as profit driven." In her castigations of Marxism, (social) Darwinism, scientism, and Freudianism, Robinson comes to sound, at moments, rather like the left's stereotype of a right-wing campus crank. These modern political ideologies "are themselves so starkly determinist, so determinist in every iteration, that this is arguably their point," she proclaims.

It may seem odd, as Robinson herself acknowledges, for a self-described Calvinist and believer in the predestined fate of human souls to rail against determinist anthropologies. Yet she doubles down, arguing that predestination affords more freedom and dignity than the modernist alternative. Once more, reference to Lawler may help to explain what's going on. For Lawler, the crisis--and contradiction--of modern life is that "the world created by modern individuals to make themselves at home turns out to have made human beings less at home than ever." The physical corruptibility of the human body, culminating, without variation, in death, produces this homelessness by refusing to submit to human control: the pursuit of happiness fails to conclude with its ultimate enjoyment. Postmodernism, rightly understood, calls on us to grow "at home with our homelessness"--and, in doing so, to find the freedom and dignity of the whole human being.

Of course, Locke agrees with Ms Robinson and Mr. Lawler, not with secular individualists--who like rights but loathe duties, especially since imposed by God.  Else the Founders would have ignored him altogether.





Posted by orrinj at 11:03 AM

NEVER BOYCOTT ELECTIONS:

Israel's post election talks fall apart (Mehul Srivastava, 10/02/19, Financial Times)

Talks between the two leading parties in Israel's deadlocked elections have fallen apart, deepening a protracted political crisis just as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's lawyers started his defense against a possible indictment on corruption.

Benny Gantz, the ex-military chief whose fledgling alliance, the Blue and White Party, has bested Mr Netanyahu's Likud in two back-to-back inconclusive elections, called off talks with the four-time premier to form a unity government. 

Unless talks resume next week, Mr Netanyahu is likely to inform President Reuven Rivlin that he is unable to form a governing coalition of at least 61 seats, increasing the likelihood of a third election. 


Posted by orrinj at 9:42 AM

NOT TO DISCOUNT THE SEX (profanity alert):

How Isaac Hayes Changed Soul Music (Emily Lordi, October 1, 2019, The New Yorker)

[T]here was more to Hayes than humor and sex. Fifty years ago last summer, he released one of the most extravagantly beautiful musical manifestos of the modern era, "Hot Buttered Soul." The forty-five-minute album, consisting of just four extended psychedelic-orchestral tracks, changed not only the sound of soul but also its scale. Hayes, by presenting himself with all the bravado of other soul men, but at half the volume, traded the big-voiced charisma that had defined soul in the nineteen-sixties for a more conceptual, introspective approach. Fittingly, the cover of "Hot Buttered Soul" featured the dome of Hayes's shaved, bowed head.

"Isaac was just cool as [***]t," said the drummer Willie Hall, who worked with Hayes at Stax Records, in Memphis. "He would look up in the top of his head, the third eye, trying to come up with an idea--boom, it would come--perfect." Hayes is seldom remembered as an enigmatic, restless creative, and even less so as a political leader. But he was, in some ways, a race man cut from conventional cloth. He had been born into desperate poverty, and moved around to various parts of Tennessee, where his family nearly froze in the winters and starved all year long, and the experience radicalized rather than defeated him: he helped to register black voters in the South, pushed for greater black representation at Stax, and co-founded a group called the Black Knights, to protest police brutality and housing discrimination in Memphis. On "Hot Buttered Soul," he expressed his belief in black power in more experimental terms: through ostentatious claims to musical space.

The album was both a product of and a departure from Hayes's earlier work at Stax, where he had honed his skills as a pianist--he filled in for Booker T. Jones while Jones was away at college--and where he proved to be an especially gifted songwriter. Along with David Porter, Hayes wrote some of the label's most iconic hits, including Sam and Dave's "Soul Man" and "Hold On, I'm Coming." Hayes wanted his own star turn, but, as he later explained, the Stax co-founder Jim Stewart thought his voice was "too pretty." "At that time we were living in a James Brown era," Hayes noted. "Rough singing . . . [but] I was a soft singer." Sales of his 1968 solo début, "Presenting Isaac Hayes," were unimpressive.

But then Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed, in Memphis. Hayes, who had considered King a friend, "flipped," as he put it, and became more "rebellious" and "militant." For a time, he also went quiet. "I could not create properly," he said. "I was so bitter and so angry. I thought, What can I do? Well, I can't do a thing about it, so let me become successful and powerful enough where I can have a voice to make a difference. So I . . . started writing again." Hayes released "Hot Buttered Soul" in the summer of 1969, as part of Stax's "Soul Explosion," a release of twenty-seven albums designed to help the company recover from a disastrous distribution deal with Atlantic and the death of the label's star, Otis Redding. But Hayes's ambitions were less commercial than creative: "I didn't give a damn if 'Hot Buttered Soul' didn't sell," he said, "because there were twenty-six other LPs to carry the load. I just wanted to do something artistic, with total freedom."

The album contains no rage or protest in the conventional sense. Hayes mentions race only once, in a mystifying lyric on the track "Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic": "A slave's on a horse every time she explores / Just heard a discussion about, uh, racial relations." But the album's very largesse was political: Hayes had internalized King's death, one of the era's preëminent signs of black vulnerability, and reëmerged as a giant.

When Ike was on the Dr. Ruth Show, she looked at him like Augustus Gloop looked at the Chocolate Factory.

Posted by orrinj at 9:35 AM

SUBSTITUTING FEELING FOR THOUGHT:

Overrated: Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Austrian philosopher and 20th-century genius disabled others and inspired decades of needless self-destruction among his disciples (Crispin Sartwell, 18/09/2019, Standpoint)

When he first met Wittgenstein, Russell called him "the most perfect example I have ever known of genius," despite or perhaps because he couldn't understand what young Ludwig was saying. Writing to his lover Ottoline Morrell in 1913 about Wittgenstein's attack on one of his logical doctrines, Russell confessed: "I couldn't understand his objection--in fact he was very inarticulate--but I felt in my bones that he must be right." He added: "I saw that I could not hope ever again to do fundamental work in philosophy."

That Wittgenstein's mysterious charisma disabled a philosopher and logician as brilliant as Russell was among the first of its baleful effects, and Russell did in fact largely abandon logic at that moment. For a while, instead, he concentrated on spreading the Wittgenstein miasma, and his admiration turned Wittgenstein into an intellectual superstar. Ever since, Wittgenstein has been more of a cult than an argument, an irrationalist movement in a supposedly rational discipline. Like Russell, Wittgenstein's followers know he is right; the only difficulty is knowing what he meant.

Had Russell chosen to respond in detail to The Blue Book, Wittgenstein would have flown into a rage. According to Wittgenstein, no one ever understood Wittgenstein, Russell least of all. No paraphrase is adequate; no definite interpretation captures the true intentions of the Genius. He slips through the fingers like sand. No blow can land, for the real Wittgenstein is always elsewhere.

Ludwig even had trouble interpreting himself plausibly.

Russell should have grabbed a poker.

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM

IT'S A RICO CASE:

A Trump hotel mystery: Giant reservations followed by empty rooms (ANITA KUMAR, 10/02/2019, Politico)

House investigators are looking into an allegation that groups -- including at least one foreign government -- tried to ingratiate themselves to President Donald Trump by booking rooms at his hotels but never staying in them.

It's a previously unreported part of a broader examination by the House Oversight Committee, included in the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, into whether Trump broke the law by accepting money from U.S. or foreign governments at his properties.

"Now we're looking at near raw bribery," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a House Oversight Committee member who chairs the subcommittee with jurisdiction over Trump's hotel in Washington. "That was the risk from day one -- foreign governments and others trying to seek favor because we know Trump pays attention to this.... It's an obvious attempt to curry favor with him."

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM

BUBBLE BREACH!:

State Department inspector general asks for 'urgent' Capitol Hill briefing (Carlin Becker, October 02, 2019, Washington Examiner)

The timing of the request suggests it could also be related to an intelligence community whistleblower complaint about President Trump's July phone call with the president of Ukraine, during which he asked the foreign leader to investigate Joe Biden, the former vice president and his possible 2020 general election opponent. A congressional aide described the request as "highly unusual and cryptically worded."

Linick's ask also follows Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's Tuesday response to a subpoena for Ukraine documents, in which he accused House Democrats of attempting to "bully" State Department employees.

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM

A PRIMER:


Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM

ABOVE AVERAGE IS OVER:

Robots to Cut 200,000 U.S. Bank Jobs in Next Decade, Study Says (Alfred Liu, October 1, 2019, Bloomberg)

Technological efficiencies will result in the biggest reduction in headcount across the U.S. banking industry in its history, with an estimated 200,000 job cuts over the next decade, Wells Fargo & Co. said in a report.

The $150 billion annually that the country's finance firms are spending on tech -- more than any other industry -- will lead to lower costs, with employee compensation accounting for half of all bank expenses, said Mike Mayo, a senior analyst at Wells Fargo Securities LLC. Back office, bank branch, call center and corporate employees are being cut by about a fifth to a third, with jobs related to tech, sales, advising and consulting less affected, according to the study.


Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM

ALWAYS BET ON THE dEEP sTATE:

Ousted U.S. diplomat could be crucial to impeachment inquiry (LAURA KING, SABRA AYRES, SEP. 30, 2019 LA Times)

 In President Trump's rough parlance, she was "the woman."

That's how Trump described Marie Louise Yovanovitch, the widely respected former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, in his July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Now the 60-year-old envoy, who spent more than three decades in the diplomatic service, could prove key to illuminating murky events central to the House impeachment inquiry against Trump.

The veteran diplomat was abruptly ordered back to Washington in May, ending her three-year tour two months early. By then, the events that ultimately would set the stage for the impeachment saga were already in play.

Yovanovitch is one of five current or former State Department employees summoned to provide depositions to investigators from the House committees on intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight. Her closed-door appearance is scheduled Wednesday.

From her perch in the Ukrainian capital, Yovanovitch had a front-row seat to the machinations of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, who engaged with a range of Ukrainian officials outside normal diplomatic channels in an effort to stir up suspicions about former Vice President Joe Biden, now a leading Democratic presidential candidate, and his son, Hunter.

By all accounts, Giuliani and his Ukrainian contacts found Yovanovitch, who had sought to boost the country's anti-corruption efforts, an impediment. And Trump, in the reconstructed record of the call with Zelensky that the White House released last week, made plain his own animosity.

"The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news," Trump told Zelensky, who took office in May. "And the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news, so I just wanted to let you know that."

Vaguely but ominously, Trump added: "She's going to go through some things."

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM

IT'S A RICO CASE:

Was There Another Cover-Up In Response to the Whistle-Blower? (Neal K. Katyal and Joshua A. Geltzer, Oct. 2, 2019, NY Times)

One of the first things new prosecutors at the Justice Department learn is that cover-ups are rarely singular. There is often a cover-up of the cover-up.

Allegations of one cover-up, then another, emerged last week. Officials in the Trump administration tried to "lock down" the phone call memo between President Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (the first cover-up), and then officials in the executive branch made efforts to keep this information from reaching Congress (the second cover-up).

Now we have discovered what may be a third cover-up. In its handling of the investigation and a potential campaign-finance violation, the Department of Justice appears to have ignored a rule that a matter under investigation must be referred to the Federal Election Commission. Critically, if the department had followed the rule, the Ukraine affair would have been disclosed to the American public.

Were it not for the efforts of the whistle-blower, everything about this would have been hidden from the F.E.C. and the American people.

The fact there was only one whistleblower is an indictment of the whole Administration.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM

SO THE TRUMPBOTS DO HAVE AN EXCUSE:


Posted by orrinj at 6:24 AM

IF BY SCRUTINY YOU MEAN A GLANCE:

GOP defenses for Trump's Ukraine call quickly collapse under scrutiny (John Harwood, 10/01/19, CNBC)

[E]ven cursory scrutiny of evidence that has emerged so far knocks down assorted GOP arguments like shanties in a hurricane. Here's a brief review:

It was hearsay

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy notes that "the whistleblower wasn't on the call" between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart. "Hearsay," Sen. Lindsey Graham insists, cannot be a basis for impeachment.

Both observations are irrelevant. In the partial transcript of the call released by the White House itself, Trump's own words affirm the whistleblower's account. That is direct evidence, not hearsay.

"If they thought it would be exculpatory, they miscalculated badly," GOP former Sen. Jeff Flake told me.

Biased whistleblower

The president says the still-unidentified whistleblower harbors "known bias" against him. This observation, which the intelligence community inspector general called "arguable," does not discredit the whistleblower's allegations, which the inspector general found "credible."

If the whistleblower's information is accurate, his motivation doesn't matter. Trump's own former homeland security advisor, Thomas Bossert, has described himself as "deeply disturbed" by the president's behavior, too.

Media distortion

On "60 Minutes" Sunday night, CBS correspondent Scott Pelley asked about Trump's comment that "I need you to do us a favor, though" after Ukraine's new president requested military aid to counter Russian aggression.

"You added a word there," GOP leader McCarthy replied, referring to the damning "though."

McCarthy's assertion was false; Pelley accurately quoted the White House-released document. The most charitable interpretation of the GOP leader's embarrassment is that he had not actually reviewed the evidence he had gone on national television to discuss.

To their credit, they aren't even trying to defend him, since he's indefensible.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 AM

DONALD IS THE SWAMP:

Trump tweeted 'billions of dollars' would be saved on military contracts. Then the Pentagon fired the official doing that. (Martin de Bourmont and Sharon Weinberger, 10/02/19, ,Yahoo News)

"When you get somebody who is the president of the United States who understands precisely what you do for a living and understands how it's actually done, it becomes a pretty rewarding thing to do, especially when someone at the top is world-class himself in terms of negotiating," Shay Assad, the Pentagon's pricing director, told attendees at a conference held by McAleese and Credit Suisse in March 2017, just two months after Trump's inauguration.

Assad had already built a reputation as the Department of Defense's toughest contract negotiator, having spent more than a decade battling defense companies on behalf of taxpayers, trying to get the prices down on skyrocketing weapons costs. Over the course of his career, he has been decorated with a panoply of awards from the Pentagon for his work, and praised for saving the government billions of dollars. A 2016 Politico profile described Assad, known for his dogged campaigns to force defense industry companies to justify their costs, as "the most hated man in the Pentagon."

Assad's aggressive approach to contract negotiations, however, paid off. The Pentagon credited the career civil servant with bringing down the costs of the Apache helicopter, the C-17 transport plane and the F/A-18 fighter, saving taxpayers more than half a billion dollars. And that wasn't all: A former senior Pentagon official said Assad had over the span of his career "saved the Department of Defense many billions of dollars."

Trump's interest in negotiating better prices for the government made it seem like Assad's work would get White House attention.

Yet within two years of Trump's entrance into the White House, Assad would find himself removed from his job, and his efforts to save money and recover hundreds of millions of dollars in potentially fraudulent spending tabled.

His treatment, he contends, was the direct result of his attempts to save the Pentagon money and identify potential contract fraud, which brought him into conflict with the Pentagon's top weapons buyer. It was a conflict that ended dramatically, he says, when shortly after he emailed senior Pentagon officials about potential fraud, details about his travel records and his demotion were published in the press.

Assad, who is now retired, says the issues he brought up involved potentially billions of dollars in waste and fraud, and still aren't being addressed. It's a claim that's backed up by multiple interviews conducted by Yahoo News with Assad and those who worked with him at the Pentagon, as well as by documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 AM

HE CORRUPTS EVERYONE HE TOUCHES:

Labor pressures the PM to release transcript of Donald Trump phone call (TOM STAYNER, 10/02/19, SBS)

Scott Morrison is under pressure to detail what help he offered Donald Trump with his administration's investigation into the origins of a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Mr Morrison has been dragged into an impeachment scandal unfolding in the US after the New York Times revealed Mr Trump phoned him to ask for Australia's help with the investigation aimed at discrediting the Russia probe.  

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 AM

WAIT, THE QUESTION ISN'T WHO WOULD JESUS HATE?:

HOW THE IMPEACHMENT OF DONALD TRUMP COULD HELP US REDISCOVER JESUS: Eight Urgent "Jesus Questions" For Right Now (JIM WALLIS, SEP 27, 2019, Sojourners)

[A]t this moment in the life of our nation and our democracy, I believe these are the questions that should root us as we seek to find a way forward together. To sum up those eight Jesus questions that will take us deeper than the polarized politics all around us. 

The Neighbor Question: In an environment where the question of whether we will love or hate our neighbor is dangerously at stake, Jesus told us what it means to love our neighbor, which includes, according to Jesus' definition, those who are different from us. "Who is my neighbor?" is the gospel question that underlies everything now in American politics.

The Image Question: When people face constant attack for their racial background, gender identity, who they are, how they pray, or who they love, Jesus reminds us that he was present at the universe's creation, when all human beings were made in God's image and likeness. If we love and honor Jesus, we will acknowledge that every human being is a child of God and must be treated accordingly. Who is valuable and who is not is at the core of our political decisions.

The Truth Question: When the number of official lies told becomes legion to the point that people doubt the existence of truth anymore, Jesus says, "You will know the truth and the truth will make you free." Our very freedom is vitally connected to the truth. Whether the facts and the truth matter anymore in America, in the Congress, in the media -- and even in the churches -- will be a defining question.

The Power Question: When leadership becomes utterly defined by power, and by winning and losing, Jesus says leadership is about service and washing each other's feet. "Who is the greatest?" cuts to the core of how a society is led, and by whom. Where do we see or long for public "service" to prevail over private political aggrandizement?

The Fear Question: When people don't just fear the things that are reasonable to be concerned about, but are now living in the "spirit of fear," Jesus repeats this phrase more than almost any other: "Be not afraid." When political leaders run on fear, we must learn to break free of it and dispel it.

The Caesar Question: When the "Caesar test" is being defined by strongmen who say everything is about them, Jesus instructs his followers to render to Caesar only the limited things that belong to him; and to God, everything else.

The Peacemaker Question: When accusation, slander, and attack become the norms of public discourse, Jesus says that those who are the peacemakers, the conflict resolvers, will be called "the children of God."

The Discipleship Question: When wealth and power become the definitions of society and politics, Jesus makes the extraordinary judgment that the ultimate measure of our lives, including God's evaluation of the kings of the nations, is what we have done for "the least of these," which was Jesus' final discipleship test.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 AM

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL:

Trump impeachment probe gains steam with briefing, depositions (Patricia Zengerle, 10/02/19, Reuters)

Kurt Volker, who resigned last week as Trump's special representative for Ukraine, was to go to Capitol Hill to give a deposition to House staff on Thursday, the day he had been asked to appear.

Marie Yovanovitch, who was U.S. ambassador to Ukraine until she was abruptly recalled in May, has agreed to appear on Oct. 11, not on Wednesday as originally requested.

With their deep knowledge of Ukraine, testimony by Yovanovitch and Volker could be especially important to the impeachment probe formally launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week.

The inquiry could lead to approval of articles of impeachment - or formal charges - against Trump in the House. That would lead to a trial in the Senate on whether to remove him from office. But the president's fellow Republicans control that chamber and have shown little appetite for removing him.

Yovanovitch was ordered back to Washington two months before the end of her three-year tour in Kiev. The career diplomat, who had served during both Republican and Democratic administrations, had been the subject of attacks in right-leaning media and Democrats had suggested her recall was politically motivated.

Over the past few days, the Democratic chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees have issued subpoenas to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and scheduled depositions with a series of other current and former officials, as well as associates of Giuliani, as they seek to unearth more evidence of potential wrongdoing by Trump.

Trump asked Zelenskiy during the July call to investigate Biden and his son Hunter in coordination with U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Giuliani.

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 AM

GREEN LIGHT:

A THIRD OF VOTERS WHO OPPOSE IMPEACHMENT ARE WORRIED ABOUT BACKLASH FOR DEMOCRATS, NEW POLL SUGGESTS (Aída Chávez, October 2 2019, The Intercept)

A new YouGov Blue poll for the Progressive Change Institute, the nonprofit polling arm of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, lends insight into both of these crucial questions. The poll, released Wednesday morning, found that other polls undercount support for Democrats moving forward on an impeachment inquiry. It also revealed that a third of voters who oppose impeachment actually agree that Trump committed high crimes, but are concerned that it would hurt Democrats politically. And a majority of the voters who support an impeachment inquiry said Democrats should proceed "boldly and decisively," with all members voting within the next month.

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 AM

THE SECRETARY IS LYING TO YOU:

State Dept inspector general requests 'urgent' Ukraine briefing on Capitol Hill (CONOR FINNEGANandKATHERINE FAULDERS, Oct 1, 2019, ABC News)

The unusual nature and timing of the briefing - during a congressional recess - suggests it may be connected to a recent intelligence community whistleblower allegation which describes, in part, the State Department's role in coordinating interactions between Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, and Ukrainian officials.