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:

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?

You can’t Tweet from the SITROOM

Crisis response requires preparation, and is the President’s most unique role. It does not appear Trump is interested in preparing.

We’ll start with this:

Trump was Tweeting during the Yemen raid, which you can’t do from the Situation Room.

I don’t believe anyone in the SITROOM would’ve been able to react to events in Yemen in any direct fashion, but they certainly can do so indirectly. I don’t know what it’s like to be President, and I don’t think that a President should need to monitor every military operation they order; goodness knows I hope the career professionals would have a better grasp on events as they happen than the latest popularity contest winner.

Still, something about this doesn’t sit right. It seems callous. I would’ve thought that a first-time President would’ve wanted to see this, to get walked through it all by the professionals, to get context on what’s involved, to learn what it is that he actually ordered. The logistics, background on the planning, the reality of execution… all the myriad bits that make the difference between a plan and a reality, especially in a situation like this.

It’s one thing to muck around with executive orders, or sign bad laws. They’re reversible, mistakes can be corrected, courts have a role if things are bad enough. But crisis response is probably the one thing the President does that’s supreme in authority, immediate, and irreversible, and there are many, many hints that a crisis under Trump would not be reacted to with wisdom, grace, or coordination.

Hacks talking about serious topics unseriously

Take a look at this thing:
I want to use the word “shocking” to describe an article covering this topic that would mention Bush only once, for the surveillance powers he doled out, and only to praise them. I can’t, because it’s not surprising at all.

The USA PATRIOT Act was the real first shot fired in the modern Imperial Presidency (back when it was just the “Unitary Executive” according to Cheney). Under that, the NSA lied to Congress and the American people and conducted flatly illegal surveillance – and Congress saw no reason to challenge any of that and still doesn’t. In fact, the only reason we know about such abuses is due to Snowden’s leaks… which this article feels were unnecessary and totally should be prosecuted.

Remember, this is an article warning of the Imperial Presidency. It doesn’t excoriate Congress for inaction. It goes out of its way to praise Bush, and then specifically Obama’s prosecution of leaks. It never mentions Cheney.

Articles like these are the reason why people can read extensively about serious topics and not have much to show for the effort. The Imperial Presidency is a real danger to the Republic, but it’s a symptom of a weak Congress and a divided nation with little capability for discourse. Articles like these are one reason why that divide exists.

The RickRoll Was Not An Accident 

It shouldn’t be happening but it IS.

Seriously. Melania Trump’s speech was a trial balloon to see if we’ve transcended satire. We have. 

Her speech didn’t just contain a few paragraphs cribbed from Michelle Obama. It had a literal Rick Roll in it: It would be embarrassing but we’re past that point I guess. 

My guess at this point is that the speechwriter laid a few landmines. On purpose. And no one will care, because why would we. 

Painting into racist rhetorical corners with Coulter and Trump

The argument from Coulter (and the pro-Trump right) is either 1, the Loony Left are racist and so is Donald Trump, or 2, the Loony Left is correct about White Supremacy in America and Donald Trump is being railroaded by a Mexican. Turns out both statements are wrong!

I don’t know why, but I’m always at least a little bit shocked at the breadth of what smart people can profess to believe. In this case, it’s Ann Coulter backing up Donald Trump, which really should surprise no one, and that goes double when it’s finding clever ways to make a point about how bad white folks have it these days.

It should surprise no one that Trump is a whiny asshole, nor should Coulter defending a whiny asshole be shocking either. But the rhetorical arguments she uses are worth dissecting, because it’s basically saying that you can’t have a racial critique of society in America without also letting people baselessly denigrate each other. Leave aside the fact that on its face, Coulter’s argument is either 1, the Loony Left are racist and so is Donald Trump, or 2, the Loony Left is correct about White Supremacy in America and Donald Trump is being railroaded by a Mexican. She doesn’t spend any time on that unmentioned conclusion because it’s embarrassing, and when you’re being paid to say provocative shit but you still have some ability to self-reflect you stop thinking once you hit your word quota for the day.

So, let’s take on the two points; 1, that there are meaningful racial critiques of justice and law to be made that aren’t racist, and 2, that Donald Trump is/is not full of shit (SPOILER: it’s the former).

  1. Judges are informed by their experiences. It’s why we don’t have federal judges with, say, no experience as a judge. That’s the easy call. The more interesting bit is that experience matters for all kinds of things, and that experience includes your ethnicity, your education, and generally what’s happened to you in life. There’s a reason why Plessy v Ferguson (that’s “separate but equal is okay”) was overturned: people’s experience between that ruling and later courts changed, and society decided that perhaps racial injustice is a thing that should be considered more deeply. Experience matters, and yes, you want diverse courts because there is no immaculate divine experience of the law that mortals channel into their rulings: courts made up of solely white educated liberals from the Northeast are not going to reflect the myriad experiences of life in America and that’s something you want to account for in your courts. There’s a reason you’re tried by a jury of your peers, and that experience of life is why. When an all-white jury is considered your peer group sometimes you can end up with statistically significant disparities in sentencing length and so that’s why appeals courts are a thing, and jury selection, and all that jazz.So, when someone (say a Supreme Court judge) thinks that having a different background is a good thing, she’s not professing the superiority of one outlook over another, she’s professing the utility of her own background in an arena that is largely white and male and lacking wider perspective.
  2. It is entirely different when you say, “because this person is Mexican they can’t judge me”, which is essentially what Trump was saying and what Coulter is defending here. And that difference is pretty large, because what Judge Curiel actually did is pretty straight-forward and that point seems to be lost. There are actual, formal things you can do if a judge is screwing you and Trump can afford them… but he isn’t disputing any of that. He didn’t like a ruling that looks solid, and so because he can’t win in court he’s going to just make a slur out of it. This is not Trump standing up to a power-hungry judge out of control, this is Trump getting a ruling he didn’t like and doing two nasty and dysfunctional things: 1, blaming that person rather than himself, and 2, deciding that the best, clearest reason why this judge ruled against him was because he was a Mexican (even though he isn’t).You know, if a judge ruled against me with bias and hate in his eyes because, I don’t know, he thought me some kind of virulent Communist pervert, and the ruling doesn’t pass the smell test and I find out that this guy is a John Bircher teetotaler celibate, then I might have some room in there to make hay. But if the judge issues a ruling and all my pricey lawyers shrug and move on to the next phase of the trial because it turns out the ruling is sound, and THEN I say it’s because the guy is an Italian, then clearly I’m unhinged and a whiny asshole.

I hope that both people that read this find it useful and everyone in America can now get on with being adults and selecting a coherent conservative opponent for Hillary Clinton in the fall.

UPDATE NOTE: the term “la raza” probably deserves mention. It does mean race, but it’s use is generally for Mexican-Americans or mestizos. It’s distinct from Hispanics in general, which is considered kind of a stuffy term. It’s a ethnic and cultural identifier, but is a lot more specific in application than an actual race; it’s more specific, like Afro-Cuban, than just “black”.

You’d have to be kind of ignorant of Chicano culture to think that la Raza is meant to generally imply superior genetic stock.

Paul Ryan is a coward, Trump is Racist, and the GOP is lost

When you’d take a racist over Hillary, you’re pretty much a racist too.

Paul Ryan is pathetic and cowardly. You know, if you’re pushing paper for The Man and keeping your head down to make rent and put your kids through school, I can accept some degree of moral flexibility. But if you’re the Speaker of the House and you don’t stand for something more than “hey let’s not make waves here I’ve got a great office” then you’re straight up despicable.

This guy believes that a racist President is better than a neoliberal one. I’m guessing he thinks a racist DoJ is somehow made up for by lowered taxes (or something similar), and that’s fucking amazing. It explains everything awful about the current GOP, just in higher contrast: they just don’t care about minority rights, and it isn’t even an issue of “not seeing color” and being post racist, whatever that is. It’s now, starkly clear it’s because they just don’t care: they’ll literally accept an outright racist with a long history of racism, someone who really does see color and doesn’t like it. And they’ll embrace it because Hillary Clinton is… what?

Among antiabortion folks, I could see why they’d like a GOP Congress and President and could endure a racist to achieve that end: from their perspective they’re fighting a holy war for thousands of innocent children. But Ryan? A near-libertarian hawk? Does he really love lowered taxes enough that he’d endure a racist?

… I can’t believe we know the answer to that question, and it isn’t even rhetorical. Not only that, but Ryan is joined by all kinds of folks in the GOP willing to turn their heads and just pretend like this isn’t a big deal even as they acknowledge it is very much a big deal.

UPDATE: I beat Vox by a day. They’re stealing my lines!