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.

Selling Out to Win

What does it mean to win the world and lose your soul?

We start here:

https://mobile.twitter.com/brianklaas/status/837600751950131201

We know there was some kind of Ukrainian peace deal passed around, discussions of sanctions, some dead Russians peripheral to those conversations… but the talks look to be all over the place. It doesn’t look like one agenda getting pushed, it looks like Russia just fully supporting Trump with everything they could… the way the US typically does in foreign elections.

I think that might be the bigger story here. Susceptibility to foreign meddling in elections via broad support (and some dirty tricks, such as the DNC hack) is something typically ascribed to weak nations and not the US. The question appears to be, “Is this acceptable in the US”? It’s clear that Trump and the Russians were up to SOMETHING, but what, and proof that “what” is more illegal than Logan Act violations doesn’t seem imminent.

This seems to me to a fight about propriety, and pride, and not outright treason. The hurdle of actual treason doesn’t look to be met any time soon, and the Presidency itself probably doesn’t qualify as enrichment under the Enoulments Clause. They’re foreign agents. They probably were happy for the help and, I believe, are still pro-American. That said, anyone who was willing to cut deals with aggressive foreign kleptocrats in order to win wanted to win so bad they forgot what they were fighting for.

And it may still yet be treason. We’ll see.

Mesbwhile, what will we accept? What will the world accept?

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.

America’s Dysfunction in One Speech

No one on national television will ever care about the real story of Benghazi.

Patricia Smith is a grieving woman, and is allowed her grief. And she’s angry over her loss and that’s understandable. I bear her no ill will; I wish her peace.

That said, let me identify the three major issues I see here whose absence illuminates the rot in American political discourse:

  • No one wants to talk about whether or not we should have been in Benghazi in the first place. Following the entirely predictable (and predicted) collapse of Iraq and subsequent long-term disaster, the oligarchic Beltway consensus was that Libya’s teetering state should be tipped over. At no point has this rationale been significantly challenged by anyone in power. The entire intervention in Libya has – once again – led to a chaotic mess of what used to be a country, with spillover effects in the region, none of them good. We can’t forget Iraq, but Libya seems to have no trouble slipping into the memory hole of bad ideas, and the enablers that promoted it have never been held to account, largely because they’re all the same people and have no interest in mea culpas.
  • Congress – and mostly Democrats due to political reasons – never significantly challenged the fact that the American intervention in Libya violated the War Powers Resolution. The Democrats, for reasons of party loyalty, never allowed Congress to proceed with a formal rebuke over Libyan intervention. The GOP made an attempt and it went nowhere. Ultimately, Congress rolled over because arguing about Libya is really arguing against killing people, an ugly past-time that is basically guaranteed to earn support from the majority of inhabitants in your district.
  • The State Department and Hillary Clinton specifically declared to Congress that there was no need for their authorization, despite the War Powers Resolution. Not only was this against the Resolution, it also was against the limits set by the Department of Justice and a raft of precedent. Basically the Executive told the Legislature that it had no power, they’d be doing whatever they wanted anyway, and to trust them, and the Legislature ultimately went along with it. This isn’t a story of just Congress being useless, it’s also a story of the continued growth of presidential executive power in America.

Instead, what came of Benghazi? Endless reams of interviews and panels and inquiries, all to determine that the CIA was stirring up trouble in Benghazi, the Embassy was essentially undefended and overly reliant on local untrustworthy militias, that reinforcements were either going to come from the CIA who wanted to stay as undercover and unseen as possible or from Italy (too far to actually do anything in a combat situation where airfield access is unknown)… and oh yeah, some emails.

Benghazi was an undefended outpost of an imperial power that was put smack in the middle of its own stirred-up covert intelligence shenanigans, in order to attempt to stabilize a country that had been destabilized for bad reasons clear both before and after the interventions. Absolutely none of that has penetrated into the wider discourse in this country.

Clinton’s emails did. And it turns out that she carelessly shared classified material with people cleared to see them. And that’s dumb, but it didn’t murder anyone in Benghazi. It’s the kind of thing that gets a Navy officer two years probation and a $7,000 fine.

This poor woman is pissed off that Clinton said that a video caused the attack. It didn’t. That was at worst a lie, at best a mistake. The real reason the embassy was attacked was because it was a vulnerable American outpost in a volatile region, a truth that transcends the particulars, and that’s the reason why Ms Smith can’t get an answer. The answer is, “knowing everything we do about Iraq, which only reminded us of the obvious truths we knew before Iraq, we Americans collectively attacked a place, overthrew its despot, watched the region crumble, then put an embassy in the middle of it all and didn’t properly fund its defense”. And that answer indicts not just Clinton, but pretty much all of Washington.

None of that came up. None of that will come up. The hawks who clamor always for more war sneak by. The Congress that can’t do much other than grandstand sneaks by. A Presidential executive that will go to war when and how it wants to and will tell Congress to get stuffed sneaks by. The Pentagon’s budget, ever-ballooning, never auditable, grows and sneaks by. Instead, we’re treated to the parade of a grieving woman and told to hate Clinton. The Republicans should be ashamed; everyone involved in this should be.

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.