Why GOP Won’t Release Blumenthal Testimony

Adam SchiffRepublicans asked more than 160 questions about Mr Blumenthal’s relationship and communications with the Clintons, but less than 20 questions about the Benghazi attacks. Republicans asked more than 50 questions about the Clinton foundation but only four questions about security in Benghazi. Republicans asked more than 270 questions about Mr Blumenthal’s alleged business activities in Libya, but no questions about the US presence in Benghazi. And Republicans asked more than 45 questions about David Brock, Media Matters — I have no idea what that is even — and affiliated entities, but no questions, no questions about Ambassador Stevens and other US personnel in Benghazi.

—Adam Schiff
Said during today’s Benghazi Hearing

Benghazi and Republican Malfeasance

Trey GowdyToday, Hillary Clinton is testifying before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. It’s an amazing display. It’s such a joke. They’ve been beating this drum for three years now. They’ve found nothing. All they’ve managed to do is convince those in the right wing echo chamber that there must be fire, because if there is one thing the Republican Party is good at, it is creating smoke. But if that weren’t enough, we had Kevin McCarthy putting the hearings in the context of how it damaged Clinton’s approval rating. And over the weekend, we learned, Republican Chairman Of Benghazi Committee Caught Making Bogus Accusation Against Hillary Clinton.

It all involves Trey Gowdy. Earlier this month, he sent out a letter claiming that Clinton had revealed the name of a CIA source in some of her private email. Gowdy wrote, “This information, the name of a human source, is some of the most protected information in our intelligence community, the release of which could jeopardize not only national security but human lives.” On Sunday, the ranking Democrat, Representative Elijah Cummings hit back. Hard. It’s worth quoting at length:

The problem with your accusation — as with so many others during this investigation — is that you failed to check your facts before you made it, and the CIA has now informed the Select Committee that you were wrong. I believe your accusations were irresponsible, and I believe you owe the Secretary an immediate apology.

It appears that your letter was rushed out to the press to counter the public firestorm caused by Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s stark admission that Republicans are using millions of taxpayer dollars to damage Secretary Clinton’s bid for president. However, your letter only provided further evidence of this fact.

It turns out that the information is not classified. But before releasing it to the press, Gowdy redacted the name of the CIA source, adding “redacted due to sources and methods.” This was certainly all done to make Clinton look bad. And as Cummings noted in his letter, “Predictably, commentators began repeating your accusations in even more extreme terms…” Of course they did! Just the same, you would think after the same thing happens again and again (as it has with selective leaks from various Benghazi committees), the the press would wise up.

What’s perhaps most important, is that a day after this story broke — showing malfeasance on the part of Trey Cowdy — Google News had nothing about it among its top news items. In fact, if you did a search on “Benghazi,” the first thing that came up was a Fox News article, “Ambassador Sought Security Staffing Before Benghazi Attack, Cable Shows.” It’s understandable that for the last 40 years, the Republicans have been looking for something to redeem them for Nixon and the Watergate scandal. They look for scandals everywhere, even while they find them nowhere. (Unless marital infidelity is as important as running a crime syndicate out of the White House.)

I hope Brian Beutler was right earlier this week, The Benghazi Witch-Hunt Against Hillary Is Backfiring Just Like Bill Clinton’s Impeachment. But is it really? I question that. It seems to me that the press is only waking up to the fact that there is nothing to all this Benghazi thing. The Republicans have had more than 13 hearings on it. That ought to be enough to come to that conclusion. Instead, it takes clear acts of malfeasance to make the press figure there is nothing to see. Of course, there is something to see. If the Democrats acted like the Republicans have, it would be a huge thing. Instead, given that this is simply what the Republicans have become, it is ignored. The Republicans are just awful, so there is no story.

Deficit Hawks Are Not Interested in the Deficit

Bill McBrideBill McBride has a question about, Ornithology: What is a “deficit hawk”? It might seem easy: a deficit hawk is someone who cares a great deal about the deficit and is willing to make a lot of compromises to get rid of it. But is that really what a deficit hawk is? McBride has noticed what I have: deficit hawks don’t seem to care much about the deficit; they just seem to care about using the deficit to push other things they actually do care about.

How else do you explain the fact that almost all the prominent deficit hawks are for lowering taxes? Yes, they claim that this will create growth that will decrease the deficit. But as McBride noted, “All data and research shows that at the current marginal rates, tax cuts do not pay for themselves and lead to much larger deficits.” Speaking of economic growth, these are the same people who don’t want to do anything to head off recession. And how do you explain that they are generally for budget-busting wars? The only “sacrifice” that these deficit hawks seem to be willing to make is cuts in spending on the poor and middle classes.

I think the answer really comes back to one of my favorite analogies: Matt Yglesias’ Quaker budget hawks:

If you saw a bunch of Quakers running around in a panic about the national debt pushing a plan to reduce the debt by cutting military spending, and then loudly objecting to all debt-reduction plans that don’t slash military spending you’d rapidly reach the conclusion that the Quakers don’t actually care about the national debt. They’re just pacifists. And good for them! But it would be extremely frustrating for them to run around pretending to be accountants.

But somehow, in our society, rich people must be given the benefit of the doubt — regardless of how absurd that becomes. My favorite example doesn’t even come from the United States. Back in 2013, France was being forced to do austerity — because balancing the budget is so important in a recession. (Note: sarcasm!) But when France met its budgetary target through tax increases rather than spending cuts, European Commissioner Olli Rehn was upset. He said, “Budgetary discipline must come from a reduction in public spending and not from new taxes.” And why is that? It certainly isn’t because the economics dictates this. In fact, the economics probably point in the opposite direction. It’s just that Rehn’s conservative ideology dictates it, but like almost all of the deficit hawks, he doesn’t actually care about deficits.

I should be clear: I don’t care about deficits. In a booming economy, they are a problem, of course. But when was the last time we had a booming economy? For two years at the end of the 1990s? And that was such an aberration that people still talk about. It was also a time when the deficit was gone because of the boom. But I’m willing to talk about deficits if we can get a political system that shows it is actually interested in creating jobs and not just more income for the very richest among us.

But what’s clear is that those who want to use the deficit as an excuse for their conservative ideology are not honest brokers. We can’t deal with them because they won’t say what they want. And we know why that is: what they want is truly unpopular. It sounds so much better to say that we must screw the poor in order to help the poor. And somehow, that’s an argument that has worked for four decades now — even as the poor are doing worse than ever.

Morning Music: I Want To Stay Here

Girl - Tiny TimFinally, we get to Tiny Tim’s last studio album, Girl — from the first song on the album, an excellent cover of the Beatle’s tune of the same name. I think it is the best thing he ever did. That’s most especially true because he was paired with the great Brave Combo — a band that defies classification, but that can apparently play anything at all. This was the band that Tiny Tim always deserved.

It contained some familiar tunes that he had been doing for years like the wonderful, “I Believe in Tomorrow.” But I want to focus on some of the new material. And it’s hard! There are 14 songs on the album and they all deserve to be listened to. In fact, you should just click on that album cover there and buy the CD. You’ll be glad you did.

Let’s start with a simple one, the Carole King and Gerry Goffin classic “I Want To Stay Here.” I especially like Tiny Tim when he works with other vocalists. It’s probably because he has such a unique voice, that it is nice to have something standard to tie it to. Also, I love the Richard Nixon vocal here. Regardless, this is a wonderful version of the song.

Anniversary Post: Venera 9 Lands on Venus

Venus Surface - Venera 9

On this day in 1975, the Soviet spacecraft Venera 9 landed on Venus. It was the first successful landing on another planet. Venus holds a special fascination for me — similar to what I see others have in Mars. To some extent, it is the idea that Venus seems to me a more reasonable planet for terraforming. I’m not saying that it would be easy. But in theory, you could get rid of the carbon-dioxide. It could easily hold onto oxygen and nitrogen, if you got the temperature down. I’m still waiting for someone to explain how Mars is ever going to have a thick enough atmosphere. Just the same, the lack of a decent magnetic field is a problem. But it is on Mars too.

But mostly, I’m fascinated by Venus because it is so horrible. That picture at the top was taken by Venera 9. It was the first ever taken of the surface of Venus. And it looks kind of Earth like. At the same time, we know that those rocks are hotter than a pizza oven: 860°F. And the pressure was almost a hundred times what it is on the surface of the earth — roughly equivalent to being a half mile under the ocean. It also has a lot of sulfur in the atmophere. That is a picture of hell!

And we went there. Those crazy Ruskies actually landed on the surface! The primary purpose of the lander was not the surface, however. The mission scientists were interested in the atmosphere. It found clouds that were over 20 miles thick. And it measured such lovely chemicals in the atmosphere as hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid. Breaking Bad fans will remember this latter as what was always used to dispose of bodies. It doesn’t actually work that way, but as I recall from chemistry class, long-term exposure will destroy your bones, as it moves through soft tissue. Which is a good deal more horrific. But also something that makes Venus that much more cool!