Dems Object to Financial Oversight of Special Counsel
This week, by a vote of 207-201, the US House of Representatives approved a measure requiring a semi-annual audit of how Special Counsel Robert Mueller is spending the taxpayers' money. Thus far, Mueller's investigation of possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign has admitted running through nearly $17 million in total, but no itemization has been provided.
Sponsor of the measure, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), defended it, saying that "a special counsel's work is important, but they should not be able to spend taxpayer dollars without accountability. Americans need to know where their money is going."
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), ranking member of the House appropriations subcommittee characterized the measure as "an attempt to obstruct justice. There may be good reasons for keeping the particulars of the Special Counsel's spending secret. Whatever progress has been made in the whole FBI investigation has depended upon covert operations to insert informants into the Trump campaign, to obtain FISA Court approval to intercept Trump's communications, and to aggressively deploy redactions of federal documents specifically to block congressional interference. The GOP's audit scheme could unravel two years of painstaking efforts by the intelligence community to try to protect our government from falling into the wrong hands."
In related news, the onset of the FBI scheme to spy on the Trump campaign in now revealed to have occurred in December of 2015. A text message sent by counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok to then FBI lawyer Lisa Page, mentioned "oconus lures," which is FBI lingo for overseas spies used to disrupt a targeted operation. In the months following this text the FBI sent Joseph Mifsud into the outer fringe of Trump campaign associates where he was able to plant the claim that Russia had Hillary's missing emails into the mind of George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos' later boast about these emails to the Australian "ambassador" to the UK was then used to help persuade the FISA Court to authorize the FBI to spy on Trump.
Bill Would Require All Guns to Be Licensed by Feds
Illinois Democrats Rep. Bobby Rush and Sen. Tammy Duckworth have introduced a bill that would make it a crime for anyone to own a gun without a federally issued license. The bill is based on the Illinois Firearm Owners Identification card program, which Rush claims "has worked for more than 50 years to prevent gun violence in my state."
While the touted "success" of the Illinois program seems to be regularly contradicted by the gun fatality statistics in the state's largest city, Duckworth asserts that we should "imagine how much worse things would've been in Chicago without the gun owners ID program" and that we should "imagine how much more effective it could've been had it been nationwide rather than confined to a single state."
Both Rush and Duckworth call their bill a compromise. "In an ideal world there would be no private ownership of guns," Rush contended. "We would be a lot closer to that ideal if this country hadn't taken a tragic wrong turn defying the government's efforts to confiscate private weapons in 1775. The paperwork following an eight-year war embedded an anti-social individualism into our Constitution that has impeded progress toward the more civilized society that Europe has enjoyed in the absence of widespread gun ownership in the 200+ years since we took that wrong turn."
Key GOP Leaders Say FBI Spying on Trump "Proper"
After a lengthy meeting in which representatives of the FBI met with Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and explained why they had to infiltrate and spy on the Trump campaign, both congressmen agreed "it was the proper thing to do."
"Before I came to congress I was a prosecutor in South Carolina," Gowdy said. "There were numerous instances where I worked with the FBI to bring down dangerous criminals. That built a bond of trust that I could rely on in the pursuit of justice. When they told me that they were suspicious of Trump's connections to Russia and that a covert sting operation was warranted I took them at their word—as I had so many times before."
"The subsequent lack of evidence for the FBI's suspicions doesn't prove that those suspicions weren't sincere," Gowdy added. "In hindsight, I suppose we can all breathe a sigh of relief that the suspicions turned out to be unwarranted, but the Agency had to act without the benefit of hindsight to protect this country from a potential external threat. Fortunately, the mucking around they did during the campaign didn't affect the outcome of the election. I think we let bygones be bygones rather than further tarnish the sterling reputation of this great law-enforcement agency."
Burr concurred with Gowdy's assessment and endeavored to address the perception of bias. "Some of my Republican colleagues are upset that Trump was singled out for scrutiny," he observed. "They want to know why the FBI didn't similarly monitor the Clinton campaign. They say that tens of millions of dollars from Russian-owned businesses found their way into the Clinton Foundation after the Uranium One deal was approved by Hillary when she was Secretary of State. They say that she mishandled classified communications and destroyed evidence. Well, the FBI did investigate Hillary and found her innocent of all charges. So there was no need to inquire any further after July of 2016."
Meanwhile, disgraced former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has demanded immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week. McCabe's lawyer, Michael Bromwich, insisted that "the immunity request doesn't mean my client is acknowledging any wrongdoing. It's just a precaution against someone else using his testimony to construct a case against him. In fact, documents exonerating Mr. McCabe are currently being withheld by the FBI in an attempt to scapegoat him for the misdeeds ordered by former FBI Director James Comey."
More Jobs than Job Seekers
This month, for the first time since employment statistics have been tracked, there are now more job openings than there are persons seeking employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job vacancies for the most recent month were 6.7 million while the number of unemployed persons seeking jobs came in at 6.35 million.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) called these statistics "further proof that the Trump Administration's policies are destroying this country. His tax cuts are provoking businesses to expand their production, but the induced labor shortages will choke off this expansion. It will be an economic catastrophe."
"Thankfully, voters will have an opportunity to set things on a more stable course this November," the Minority Leader pointed out. "By electing a Democrat majority to Congress we can pass legislation that will repeal the tax cuts and reestablish the regulatory constraints that allowed the economy to maintain the more sustainable stagnation set in place during the Obama years."
In a bid to win over a greater share of corporate money to support the election of Democrats, Pelosi suggested that "the job vacancies could be filled at a lower labor cost if we increase immigration. By granting amnesty to the millions already here and by opening the borders to the tens of millions more who want to come to America we could easily fill the 6.7 million vacancies without having to raise wages or disturb the leisure of the millions of Americans who have become accustomed to living freed from the obligation to support themselves."
In related news, the deregulation and tax cuts pushed by the Trump Administration have enabled the United States to retake the lead as the world's most competitive economy for 2017. The US's faster economic growth and a supportive atmosphere for scientific and technological innovation allowed it to knock Hong Kong from the top spot, an achievement that former President Obama lamented, calling it "a reversal of the progress toward an unthreatening mediocrity we made during my eight years in office. Being 'number one' puts a target on your back. It's safer to be in the middle where no one envies you and there is no incentive to try to take you down."
Europeans Say Increased Iranian Uranium Enrichment OK
European participants in the Obama-arranged "deal" that is supposed to discourage Iran from developing nuclear weapons insist that the country's stepped up uranium enrichment program does not violate the terms of the agreement.
Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini, explained that "a careful reading of the terms shows that Iran has only agreed to forego attacking us with nuclear weapons until they are 'physically able to do so.' All work on bombs and delivery systems prior to the attainment of this capability are unconstrained by the agreement brokered by former US President Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry."
Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, assured European governments that "you will not be annihilated until it becomes feasible. Even then, we will not strike unless it is absolutely necessary. It would be wise for you to use the intervening time to work on removing the necessity. At a minimum, your people must accept submission to our Islamic authority. However, I would advise converting. Only then will your people come under the umbrella of our nuclear protection and enjoy the full rights and privileges of being a part of the Muslim umma."
Kocijancic thanked Salehi "for your clarification of Iran's position and your sage advice on how to improve relations between our countries."
California Enacts Strict Water Rationing
After years of drought, the California Legislature has enacted severe restrictions on household water consumption. Under the new law, by the year 2022 residents in California will be limited to 55 gallons per person, per day. An eight-minute shower uses about 17 gallons. A bath uses about 80 gallons. A load of wash uses about 40 gallons. Each toilet flush uses about 1.5 gallons. Fines for exceeding the daily 55 gallon limit can rise to $10,000 per violation for repeat offenders.
To enforce compliance, the state government will deploy surveillance systems to spy on all residents. Utility providers will be obligated to report on violators, and urban retail water suppliers are expected to use satellite imagery, site visits, or other best available technology to develop an accurate estimate of each person's water usage. A reward program to encourage neighbors to "rat out" each other is also under consideration.
While many residents wonder how they'll comply, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) assured them that "it's not so hard. I often go a week or more between showers. Americans have developed an unreasonable fetish regarding cleanliness. Europeans don't bathe as often as we do. Yet we regard them as fashionably chic. Just slap on a little more cologne. If you must wash up daily consider showering at the YMCA or go swimming in the ocean."
"Another trick you can use to conserve water is wait until your toilet is full before flushing," Brown continued. "I've found that by cutting back on dietary fiber I've been able to limit flushing to a maximum of once a day and have been able, with the aid of some air freshener to stretch that out to multiple days at a time. You could also use a public restroom in a government building or at a fast food restaurant whenever possible and let someone else bear the expense of disposing of your bodily waste."
"You know, the real heroes of conservation are the homeless," Brown contended. "They've shown us all that it is possible to live without showering, washing, or flushing. They live more naturally and have a far smaller environmental footprint than their more materialistic neighbors. If more of us were to choose that lifestyle it would solve a lot of our environmental problems."
Thankfully, the law exempts swimming pools, spas, and fountains. So there is no danger that the state's more important residents—celebrities, corporate executives, and high-ranking government officials—will be unduly inconvenienced by the rationing scheme.