Impeachment is the purview of Congress

Trump’s lack of ethics are a solvable problem, if we had a functioning Congress

Impeachment is a political act, not a criminal one. If the House majority is more enamored of their prospective legislative agenda than a President’s criminal or unethical activity, then that activity is by definition not sufficient to lose the office. The President can do whatever he likes until the House decides it’s Too Much™. Calling unethical behavior “not obstruction of justice” is a canard; the real question is if Paul Ryan cares more about creating an Ayn Rand wonderland than suffering a Keystone Kops Executive. He clearly does. 

Once upon a time, “it’s not illegal if the President does it” was a joke on its face for its hubris. The truth we’ve been reminded is, “it’s not functionally illegal for the President if Congress abides it”. Certainly the President can hire and fire who he wants in the Executive; the check against abuse of that power is impeachment. The President could systematically fire every federal investigator and prosecutor probing them, FBI, CIA, NSA, DoJ, whoever – they all serve at the behest of the President, and he can functionally dismantle pretty much any investigation of his conduct the moment he’s aware of it. Again, the only check on that is impeachment, or a Cabinet-level 25th Amendment revolt.  

Congress didn’t abide Clinton’s weasel answers about blowjobs. They apparently are much more comfortable these days with the President strong-arming the heads of the FBI, CIA, and the DNI about on-going investigations involving close allies of the President. The sad fact is that the American federal legislative body is so moribund and rotten through that it can no longer be counted on to fulfill any of its roles, compromising itself, the Executive, and the nation itself.

Maybe I should re-read The Fountainhead. I don’t remember it being THAT good.

Stop calling half of America racist

Trump is racist. His supporters? All of them? Really?

Anyone lambasting Trump’s supporters as racist xenophobes need to consider:

Were the votes for Clinton cast because her supporters wanted closer ties between Washington and Wall Street? Because they felt like a two-tier justice system is something to strive for? That more wars, and especially poorly-chosen and poorly-executed wars are good? That international trade agreements focusing on intellectual property rights are more important than climate accords?

Or was that support given for Clinton’s professed support of LBGT+ rights? Her stand against misogyny? Her promise of the status quo against what appears to be reactionary chaos? For women’s sovereignty over their bodies?

Trump offered up racism and nativism, sure. He also offered up a sledgehammer to the existing Washington elite. His support wasn’t about one thing; it wasn’t just “I hate minorities so Trump gets my vote” from Florida to Idaho. This election wasn’t just Trump’s nativism, it was also Establishment v Washington Sucks, and pretending it was only one thing or the other isn’t a full or reasonable accounting of what America currently is dealing with.

If this country is going to heal itself and stand firm against what I assume is a coming tidal wave of federal bullshit, people need to realize that there are actually rational reasons why the supporters of the opposing candidate exist. Imagine Clinton won, and the reaction in Dallas and Ft Lauderdale was for thousands of people to take to the streets chanting, “lock her up!” and posting online about how Hillary’s supporters just want the Washington consensus to send us all to war against Russia. Toss in a few burning effigies. That was the literal fear, right? That the election results wouldn’t be accepted by Trump? Remember the Tea Party? Do you think that kind of my-way-or-it’s-treason attitude has done America a lot of good?

People have allowed themselves to believe in their own virtue and denounce their opponents as immoral degenerates for way too long. I know maintaining civil discourse is hard when you only see the rotten in others, but no one is a caricature.

We have to love each other. We have to turn the cheek.

#partycrasher

American race and identity politics

The GOP just ran a platform of identity politics for whites. We all need better.

More post-election thoughts.
 
The American right has been complaining about Democratic invocation of identity politics for some time now; basically, catering to a demographic slice without much seeming consideration for the rest of America. To date, it’s only hit a few snags: racial minority opposition to same-sex marriage is probably the biggest snag to date, internal to the various factions the Democrats cater to.
 
Well, Trump’s nativism is what identity politics looks like to the right. He went out, targeted the concerns of a demographic in the white working class, and gave them exactly what they wanted without consideration for the rest of America.
 
I’m not saying that the concerns of the Democrats’ favored factions aren’t real – LBGTQ+ rights have always been lacking, police violence against the black community is a real thing, etc – but without being able to display comity to all while also pushing for faction-specific rights, such work is always going to come off to white America as special privileges rather than equal rights, political correctness rather than courtesy and respect.
 
America has lots of whites. They’re losing out in terms of electoral power, demographically, and America is changing around them in ways that they’re not being consulted on. Yes, American white supremacy is a thing… but even more so is the mere fact of the American white population. America is a democracy, and white people are a large and wealthy portion of it, carrying a disproportionate weight of taxation owing to their wealth in the favored society they’ve created. White America cannot be ignored simply because it has, at times, played the role of oppressor; it cannot be discarded or assumed loyal.
 
American democracy is wide, and for all the reasons the GOP morally needs to appeal to minorities and their concerns, the Democrats need to appeal to whites as well, because clearly they don’t think they’re part of the Democratic party’s plan any more.
 
If we’re going to have two major parties, it is morally imperative that those two parties do not define themselves by race. We did that once in America. We cannot do it again.

Trump wins, 11pm EST

Clinton lost it because she was a symbol of everything wrong with the status quo.

I’m reminded of Martha Coakley’s Senate loss in MA. Clinton pushed harder than Coakley, but there was that same arrogance to it all. Compare that to Warren’s Senate victory: she fought hard and jumped right in and stood for something, and she won in a walk because she had something to say. Clinton won’t lose to misogyny, she’ll lose because she embraced her Establishment role.
 
Hillary’s air of dynastic inevitability – cultivated and entirely by design, insofar as the political connections were concerned, and disastrously little apparent concern for public perception of those connections – was simply too much for Americans to stomach. Trump was a flawed candidate, a bloviating nitwit of a salesman who’s going to farm out every responsibility of the president other than speeches, demagoguery, and receiving accolades… and he beat Clinton.
 
For all the criticisms that flew around about Sanders, it was the very nature of Clinton, what she actually was rather than who she attempted to appear as, or how others painted her to be… but her very nature that lost. Maybe there is some misogyny in that, in that she just wanted it too much and perhaps a man wouldn’t have suffered for that, but America never really has liked smarty-pants nor intellectuals. Consider that poor ‘ol Jeb! got his ass handed to him for wanting it too much. No, I think Clinton earned this one on her own.
 
Neither party ran a particularly good candidate. Trump’s narcissism and lack of intellectual curiosity was inescapable, but Clinton somehow managed to find a way to be even more detestable than that. Neither party should have ran who they did; America’s problems are too large to have to deal with moronic empty pledges or more heaping portions of the status quo. We needed better.

There is a role for the feds, and they and us need to own it

Standing Rock is about sovereignty and the rule of law

This is not an environmental issue so much as a sovereignty issue. America has always treated treaty rights with natives as speed bumps to be disregarded without great concern; they simply don’t have a history of taking them seriously or respectfully.
 
But those rights are real.
 
This is a nutshell demonstration of the battle between laws for little people, and government abetting of illegal actions for the wealthy. The Bundy occupation in Oregon was about federal mismanagement of land that ought to be treated as local. This is more than that: this is about federal mismanagement of land that wasn’t even theirs to begin with… compounded with a healthy dose of corporate greed and willful, shameful destruction.
 
If America wasn’t so divided, the crowds that cheered on the Bundys should be there. For those that want to speculate on such things: in an American two-party state wherein those parties are captured by oligarchs, it would be to their advantage to keep challenges to the de facto oligarchy isolated from each other.
 
There are, of course, complicating counterfactual narratives. The Bundys were basically going to bat for some arsonists that didn’t want to hold the bag on what they’d done. Here, there’s hay to be made about environmentalists holding back a multistate permitting process that’s already exceedingly complicated and has multiple rounds of reviews with stakeholders. And in the end, any solution here will have to be arrived at through some kind of compromise with the acquiescence of the feds themselves, which is why we both need to maintain federal power as well as govern it more wisely: petroleum interests in ND aren’t going to stand against big money, especially for natives. Someone has to be the adult in the room or else in the end money rules everything, and that adult is supposed to be laws administered by fair arbiters.
 
The way things are now, money does rule most things, as it ever has. It’s really up to the people to scale that truth back.

Fear Makes Enemies from Allies

The purpose of terror is to affect disproportionate change, to enlist emotions in recruiting unnecessary armies

The world is a complicated place.

Freddie Gray dies in the back of a police van after being picked up for nothing. No one is seemingly held accountable. Maryland a black state attorney, Baltimore has a black mayor, a substantial minority presence in their police force, a majority-minority city council, and has basically been run by local Democrats for fifty+ years.
 
There are issues here of accountability, but they run all over the place. If they belong to any political party, they belong to the local Democrats. They certainly appear to transcend easy racial narratives on the side of any oppressor, though personally I find it easy enough to imagine the state being a tool of minority/poor oppression regardless of who’s in charge.
We know that, for example, police use of force is disproportionately applied to minorities. There’s some ongoing discussion of shootings – most research indicates a bias, there’s at least one recent study (though only examining incidents in Houston) which counter that conclusion – but personally I think it’s enough to point out that minorities get beat more often than whites in similar incidences to say that there’s smoke.
But what now?
The panacea of “better government” is not enough. Government is, by-and-large, a manifestation of society at large and for good reason. The downside is that transformation in government comes after transformation in society at large, and American society at large is struggling with itself: Black Lives Matter against All Lives Matter, awareness of the state’s largely out-of-sight minority oppression against a struggle to maintain deference to law and order. The good news is that the civil rights movements of the 60s were decried in their time for being disruptive, and that Black Lives Matter being considered similarly is at least a reminder that struggles can tip quickly.
The new, ugly wrinkle in all of this is the string of murders of police officers.That is the wedge, the worst fears of All Lives Matter come to manifest, an erosion of the ideal that it is possible to be both aware of the minority experience of the state’s violence and power, as well as aware that minority and poor communities in general require the help and aid of police. Just as any kind of terror attack is designed to drive rifts between populations, to make estranged allies and neutral parties into enemies, these shootings are terror attacks. If they work, they will erode the social capital required for change, and everyone will come out lesser.
I hope it doesn’t go that way.

Direct democracy, aristocracy, and America

The American political system is solving itself into a system with less internal conflict, paradoxically creating greater manifest conflict

image

It isn’t that people are less intelligent than before, it’s that we’ve slowly eroded the aristocracy that was supposed to protect us from ourselves: the electoral college is a non-sapient mechanism at this point, Senators are directly elected, and many judges are directly elected. The House was always intended as a playground for demagoguery and polemics, but now that the Senate and Presidency and judiciary are as well, there are no more arms-length gatekeepers. The parties that control the country have no incentive to make wise decisions, only popular ones… and then, only popular enough to win roughly 30% or so of the population, that portion that constitutes a majority of the voters.

Direct democracy has always been a bad idea, and in some case it’s because of a parallel issue that libertariaism has: you can’t expect the entire populace to be plugged-in dispassionate arbiters of social, political, l and legal issues, just like you can’t organize a society around everyone being good little capitalist marketeers.

The aristocracy of the Constitution – a republic, in that the aristocracy ostensibly is vulnerable to some popular rollover – was trying to thread the needle between mobocracy and oligarchy, and somehow both ends of the equation have managed to find and distill the worst elements of both.

What’s interesting about this is that the original system was supposed to be full of checks and balances, governmental factions existing in a creative tension, pulling against each other to tease out an optimized government. That’s a great idea, but in modern times that’s become just another system to solve. The system has been slowly eroding these impediments to efficiency – eroding the tensions, smoothing the process – but in doing so, they’re breaking the end result. The system wasn’t supposed to run smoothly, it was supposed to create good government. By emphasizing the smoother operation and selection of various governmental representatives, all it’s done is shift the tension from being between branches with differing methods and oversight to a tension between political parties, and in doing so the various branches of government are themselves existing within a tension, unable to present a united front for consideration by the other branches.

The creative tension between branches is now a destructive tension within branches. Congress can’t legislate. The President acts with increasing impunity, knowing the Executive can’t be stopped by a feckless Congress and inspired to act and fill the gap of Congress’s dysfunction. The judiciary is forced to resolve issues which ought to be resolved by legislation. It’s a decent lesson in systems maintenance: you’d best fix one thing when it starts to rattle, because that rattling is going to break two or three other things, which will break two or three other things.