One follows the other

WORK

…..til you die,

she was told -

ergs and calories in

-to the slow-roll gears of

economic bloat. Everyone

benefits, everyone

dies. And some press

-stamp’d armature flows

directly down the supply stream,

an alchemical descendent of

her toil

bound for all our landfills, and

rendering her, in plain view, utterly

irrelevant.

.

Work til

…..you DIE, he was

told, and every erg every

calorie, that

bubbles up here, burns off there

fed into the all-consuming queue,

(our all-consumer queue)

just to fuel all of his and all of our

(utterly irrelevant)

illusions.

.

Live BEFORE you die,

…..we proclaim. And

it is subversion.

Subvert your own ergs, your

own calories, build your own

palace, live your own and be your own.

All else is

…..utterly irrelevant.

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Impeach that PO(tu)S

They say that if you come at the king, you’d better not miss. That in a nutshell is the reason I’ve argued against the initiation of impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. It’s a politically pragmatic stance on my part, but then, impeachment is the ultimate in political pragmatism.

I found impeachment heretofore unpragmatic because it’s ultimately destined to fail—if success were to measured by the ultimate removal of Trump from office. The Senate seems all but sure to acquit him on any articles of impeachment presented to them, up to and including Trump’s own fabled shooting of an innocent on 5th Avenue.

Articles surrounding Mueller’s findings, or any of the myriad of scandals that landed prior to these waning days of September, were all just murky enough, with enough arcane details and inbuilt deniability, to mute the popular indignation that’d force Senate Republicans to put country before party (for once) and shed their orange albatross. As it stood, and as it unbelievably still stands, they’re standing by their man, and the results of the Senate portion of the impeachment process seemed, and seems, a foregone conclusion.

So given that Mueller murkiness, I argued against impeachment, positing that the process would get us nowhere, and it very well might hand Trump an undeserved Clinton-like bump just as we head into the election.

That was then. This is now, and I make that argument no more. Impeach the hell out of him, I say.

There’s pragmatism here too. The current scandal, Trump’s Ukraine hurricane, his Monica Zelensky, this one is in no way murky. We all know a shakedown when we see it. And we all feel in our gut that enlisting foreign aid—at a president-to-president level, no less!—to take down a political rival, this is the definition of abuse of power. The Senate may still vote to acquit; they probably will. But this one laid bare Trump’s corruption, and the post-acquital bump will go the other way I think. Indeed, I think the protectors and enablers of Trump’s naked corruption, no less than Trump himself, will finally be held to account with this one, regardless of what the Senate does. And if it does what we all assume it will, it’ll be held to account as well.

Because there comes a time when pragmatism has to take a back seat to doing what’s right, and the impeachment of Donald Trump isn’t just pragmatic, it’s absolutely the right thing to do. It is absolute in the sense that its rightness stands independent of the Senate’s actions and the likely outcome. It is right, it is proper, it is necessary for the nation to hold the formal process of cataloging Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors.

Speaking of those—we might as well dispose of the currently mandated talking point that no crime was committed here. In any just world we’d recognize that the real crime is that the party that fancies itself the USA’s moral compass defends a serial con artist based on his skillful use of merely implied quid pro quo. But hey, this is the hill they’ve chosen, let them die on it.

Me, I don’t even see any need to contest it. The court of public opinion can, again, decide for themselves if they recognize an extortion racket when they see it. For the purposes of impeachment, that would matter only if we could act against high crimes alone.

Misdemeanors, on the other hand, is the shoal designed to sink presidencies. It doesn’t mean what you think it means, because it meant something different to the framers of the Constitution: Mis-demeanors. Misbehavior. It doesn’t have to be a crime. It only has to be something, a behavior, that’s incompatible with the presidency. Really, it can be anything a majority of the House of Representatives says it is.

The best example I can think of: Suppose a president decided one day to no longer do his job. Suppose he stopped taking meetings, stopped answering correspondence, suppose he even locked himself in his room and refused to come out. None of that is illegal. But none of it is tolerable in our president. Such a president would have to be removed.

So too would be a president who repeatedly, unashamedly used his office for personal gain and political advantage. Who not only let this malfeasance seep into the international relations and national security arenas, but did so in our dealings with some of the most volatile regions of the world. The outrages have long been stacking up, but this most recent one is particularly breathtaking: to create the illusion of dirt on a current rival, he withheld military aid from a country that has twice, in just the last handful of years, been invaded by the country that he last enlisted aid from, to take down his previous rival.

They’re defending that, and it’s indefensible.

But then, that’s what they signed up for—them and every person with eyes and a functioning prefrontal cortex that voted for Trump. The Trump we got is the Trump we’ve always known, from the moment he peacocked onto the ’80s stage: narcissistic, amoral, and shallow as a puddle. Whatever Faustian bargain, however many judges and justices they thought this presidency might be worth, they bought and paid for it, and the receipt will dog them all their days, because Trump has behaved, and is only capable of behaving, precisely as he has forever advertised. They knew that, or should have known it, and the country has suffered as a result.

Trump prevailed at the polls in 2016, barely, by presenting the Trump-facet he correctly divined most appealed to the rubes. He was lucky enough to face an opponent that most of those rubes hated, and that no one loved enough to spark the resistance the moment required. Even then he couldn’t pull enough votes for a popular win, and squeaked into office through a Constitutional back door.

There’s no reason he should enjoy any of those unlikely advantages again, so there’s no reason to suspect the Trump era will extend beyond January 2021…and there’s a glimmer of hope, at least, that it’ll end much sooner.

Impeach his sorry crooked ass. Put his crimes and trespasses before the Senate, and let them rule as they will. Let the American electorate take that, in its entirety, into the booth with them 13 months from now. Let’s see if Trump being Trump is something America can continue to stomach.

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RIP Eddie Money (March 21 1949 – Sept 13 2019)

.

Onetime NYPD officer, longtime FM radio staple – Edward Joseph Mahoney, better known as Eddie Money, has lost his battle with esophageal cancer. May he rest in peace.

.

.

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Labor Day – cookouts and class struggle

Just a wee, timely reminder that Labor Day is our late-summer salute to a movement, to a social class, to all the toilers who have built and continue to build the skeleton and connective tissue of our nation-state. A reminder that they built, and continue to struggle to maintain a middle-class culture that’s largely unique in a world history. And a reminder, finally, that all of this is, and has been for far too long, in great peril.

The struggle continues. Happy Labor Day.

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The pendulum’s gonna do what a pendulum does

Someone once told me that if I really wanted to know what was going on in the world I should skip the front page, and flip directly to the business page. Years have passed, and I’ve since dabbled in business directly, so I know corporate America isn’t exactly devoid of lies…but the point remains valid. Business people, business leaders in particular, are incentivized to deal in facts, in reality. They’re as prone as any of us to bias and political dogma, but at the end of the day they have the means to know which way the cultural winds are blowing, and they have the motive (profit variety) to drift in that same direction.

So draw a line from that to the statement issued this week by the Business Roundtable, a pro-business lobbying group founded in 1972 by the CEO of Alcoa. Current membership includes CEOs of Walmart, JPMorgan Chase, Apple, Amazon, and a couple hundred other leading American businesses. All of those CEOs signed the joint communique which redefines the obligations of corporations and their leadership. They stated that they must serve communities, their employees, our culture, and our nation.

This is huge. For decades the Roundtable and every group like it recognized just one master: the shareholder; and just one responsibility: to increase shareholder value. This then is a tectonic shift.

Those new values and sentiments seem at odds with the pro-business, America-first dogma that’s been putting down roots in Washington, and elsewhere, these last three years. Indeed, those values and sentiments seem so opposed to Trumpism that you might be tempted to call them downright liberal.

So why might corporate America believe that a liberal outlook will serve them better than a Trumpian one? It could be as simple as looking at the economic forecast—Trump continues to bellow that we’re doing great (blazing two percent growth!), while every rational economic indicator says a recession is on the horizon. It’s up in the air yet whether it’ll hit before the elections, but the smart money says that if it does, Trump can’t win.

Otherwise, there’s the simple, unavoidable fact of Trump fatigue. Some are doubting it exists, but that’s only because the MAGAs-for-life are so vocal it’s easy to forget they’re such a tiny minority. The middle is teeming, and they’re getting awful tired of this unremitting unreality show.

But mostly it’s just because we’re a nation hooked on extremes, and we like to swing back and forth between them. The cycles tend to run, not coincidentally, in four or eight year spans. Looking back on history you might notice that the shorter swings tend to happen when the movement is particularly ugly, boorish, and extremist. They wear out their welcome quicker, as it were, the public tires of them and sends them packing, and the pendulum swings back and we give the other side a try for a while.

None of this guarantees a Trump loss in 2020, of course. (Never underestimate the Dem penchant for choking in the clutch.) It only means that he’s going to fight some formidable headwinds to pull out a win.

And it’s not just me saying that, it’s the Business Roundtable. You know, Trump’s people.

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Butt music

Yes you read that right. We’re going to have a little listen to a gluteal chorale today. You will enjoy it. (How could you not?)

The composition comes to us courtesy of Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch (1450 – 1516), a religious painter renowned, maybe infamous, for fantastical and unsettling depictions of religious themes. Perhaps his most famous work is his 1505 triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Not long ago, Resident Art Goblin Amelia (she’s single-named as far as you and I are concerned), noticed that in the lower half of the right panel of Garden, the portion representing hell, there can be seen a tortured soul whose eternal punishment seems to include wearing a musical score on his exposed backside. No doubt he had it coming.

A half-millennium plus 14 years after the painting was completed, someone sat down at a piano and played what Amelia calls, “The Music Written On This Dude’s Butt.”

May it gladden your heart and lift your spirits, as it has surely done for me. Unfortunately the file isn’t embeddable, so click here to experience music from where the sun don’t shine.

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Verso (Sunday musing)

All

of the dark magick

that oozes here

and there

And elevates the pulse of these lands.

And the land that dances

- here -

there and everywhere -

pulls some magnetic threadcraft

all along the ages.

Lest some slack register

come right along

And seek the balance we’ve so forsaken.

Balance is the plaything

- everywhere -

of stars and dragons and planets. Quiet

your muddy mind and go along.

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Happy birthday HST – there is no gonzo without you (July 18, 1937 – Feb. 20, 2005)

It’s been 14 wretched years since the good Dr. Gonzo, man of letters, Hunter Stockton Thompson, left us on his own terms, just as he always said he would.

If the world was mad in his time—and it was, and he captured and commented on that madness like no one else—then the insanity has only grown. His observations and prescriptions for our current woes would certainly be welcome…although he’d just as likely wordlessly and mirthfully smack us all around, like the no-account swine we are.

“The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage and whup their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy—then go back to the office and sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece.” – Hunter S. Thompson

When the going gets tough, the tough get weird. Selah.

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Going Fourth

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

WHEN IN THE Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…

(We can argue about whether it was a land-owners’ tax revolt, or a continental cry for freedom…)

WE HOLD these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…

(And we can argue whether Mother England was as tyrannical as accused, or whether our patriots were guilty of treason against crown and country…)

it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles…

(We’ve made a century and a half of peace with England—the world has never seen such steadfast allies…)

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions…

(Those allies indulge us on this day for our martial air, for our remembrance of past glory at their expense…)

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

.

(…because it began on this day, with a savant gentleman-farmer from Virginia, who challenged the sweep of history and an empire with the power of his pen.)

Happy Fourth, patriots!

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Gerry Mander for president

It’s hard to say exactly when American democracy died. But June 27th, 2019 might be remembered as the day the U.S. Supreme Court drove a stake in its chest to make damned sure it stayed dead.

In an ideologically split, 5-4 vote, the Supremes struck down previous Federal court rulings that various state-level partisan gerrymandering efforts are unconstitutional.

Once upon a time the topic of gerrymandering—the engineering of political districts for electoral advantage—was wonky and uninteresting. The practice (and the etymology of our name for it), rolls back to the early 1800s, which only makes it that much more tedious. Massachusetts governor Eldridge Gerry apparently inaugurated this black art, divvying up state senate districts in favor of his presciently titled Democratic-Republican Party.

I call that prescient because modern-day gerrymandering is both bane and tool for both our major parties, and they’ve turned into a procedural stain that is (or at least should be) anything but tedious.

Yes, the GOP is the 21st-century villain in this story, but never doubt that the Dems’ hands are dirty too. They spent most of post-WWII years carving up districts for their own benefit, so no one should be surprised that when their opposition began gaining control of state legislatures, they’d do the same only more so.

And likewise, with demographers reporting a dwindling conservative base, we can forecast that the Democrats will one day rise again, and will immediately resume their own gerrymandering. This pendulum is poisonous, but it swings on.

Our only hope to break that cycle was the judiciary, and they just utterly failed us.

So welcome to the old normal, newly entrenched. Forget Gerry Mander for president; he’s dictator for life.

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Here come the Deepfakes

At some point, the onward trudge of technology has taken on more of a steamroll presentation, and much of the nextgen whatever-it-is brings far less progress to society and much more churn. It’s like the rote Silicon Valley diktat, “disrupt things,” has become the marching orders for a doomsday cult. They don’t even need to pretend they’re building consumer ware anymore. They’re hacking the culture for no better reason than to see what might happen—and they’re absolutely sedate with the understanding that we know that’s what they’re doing.

How else can you explain the emergence of deepfakes — the application of AI and CGI to create ersatz video that’s hard (but not yet impossible) to tell from the real thing? So far we’ve seen scarily convincing videos of Zuckerburg, Obama, and others. Match the images with the work of a decently imitative voice actor, tweak the peaks and valleys with ProTools, and you’ve coded yourself carte blanche to make public figures and politicians say and do whatever you please.

Well, almost. The tricksters haven’t quite yet overcome the Uncanny problem; there’s still something indefinably, inherently repellent about deepfakes, that can and should trigger a healthy dose of doubt. Unless of course they’re saying something you want to believe they’d say.

(And this is completely beside the point, but let’s take a sec to recognize what an embarrassingly stupid descriptor “deepfake” is. When did the tech sector  get so bad at naming their output? Right about the time they gave us the ‘Internet of Things’? Dreck. Blech.)

We won’t stay in the uncanny valley forever though. The tech will get better, and inside a year we’ll see ginned up e-kompromat that’ll be next to impossible to debunk. That’s when the politics of scandal gets interesting.

It’s also when American society divides further along its natural fault lines: some of us will be all too ready to believe that Hillary finally owned up to her awful antics in pizza-parlor basements, and the rest of us will be permanently scarred from repeated, vicious face-palming.

The law of unintended consequences comes into play, too. (Or maybe, ‘unexpected’ consequences, because who the hell knows what anyone intends anymore?) There’s a certain class of politician and public figure who’s going to benefit from the proliferation of deepfakes. It’s an ever-ready alibi that frees your inner Nazi. So go ahead and tell a smoky back room full of donors that Hitler actually had some pretty good ideas—one of the waiters might get it on their phone but that’s okay. Just go on Hannity and swear it was a deepfake, and all will be well.

In fact, can’t we start doing that retroactively? How long will it be until Trump is retconning the grab-em-by-the-pussy tape? He already floated a couple trial balloons that it’s not actually him on that tape (after initially admitting it, of course)—and that was at least 18 months before deepfakes entered the cultural consciousness. When will he circle back to that idea? Oh, right about the time it becomes a reelection issue….

So, yeah. Deepfakes are here. They’re not yet pulling at the threads of society, but they soon will be.

As far as I can see we really have one defense, and it’s not coincidentally the same defense we have for the entirety of the muck that big tech and the media and every stuffed shirt and talking head throws at us these days:

Believe nothing. Doubt everything.

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For the arts – challenge yourself

How about this? Hats off to artist Denise Cerro and her band of merry creators, for their revolving assemblage challenge (and many bonus points awarded for their use of recycled materials).

Does this not inspire? You don’t have to think of yourself as an artist to create art—perhaps you just need to get yourself started. A group challenge like this could get you and your cohort off and running. You’d rather fly solo? No probs. Set your own parameters…maybe repurposed materials, all primary colors, must incorporate your pet’s name…the weirder the better, because you will amaze yourself with your creativity. Go on, give it a try.

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In memoriam: General George S. Patton

Since 2011, this site has observed Memorial Day by saluting the ordinary yet heroic soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who served and sacrificed, and died for their country.

It must be said though that many of our heroic dead were, and are, quite extraordinary, and their stories must also be told.

Leading that list is perhaps the most larger-than-life general officer the United States has ever produced. George S. Patton was very much a man for his times, because his time encompassed two world wars. Had he been granted omniscience to view the great sweep of time, I’d posit he’d want to live and serve exactly when he did: honing his tactical and command experience during the First World War, and perfecting them both during the Second. And further, I think he’d want to die when he did: on the cusp of a strange, decades-long non-shooting war that he’d neither condone nor understand.

A career military man, Patton entered the world stage as a junior office in France in 1917. Originally a member of General Pershing’s staff, then an infantry commander, he eventually found his calling in the novel milieu of tank warfare. Ascending to his first tank-corps command in the spring of 1918, he found that he was one of the only Americans who’d actually completed tank training. When his unit took delivery of a trainload of armor, it was left to him to personally drive them off the rail cars.

A brevetted lieutenant colonel by then, he oversaw his brigade’s training and led them into several battles leading up to the Argonne offensive in September 1918. On the 26th of that month, near the French town of Cheppy, he was shot in the leg while leading an attack on a German machine-gun position. While he was recuperating, the November 11th armistice was signed, and the war was over.

Patton spent the interwar years building and refining his ideal American tank corps. He helped write the Army’s manual of tank operations, consulted on new armor designs, and initiated tank crewman training courses at Fort Meade, Fort Myer, and Fort Riley. As a full colonel, he came to the attention of Army Chief of Staff George Marshall. Sensing an impending second European war, Marshall short-listed Patton for promotion to general, but kept him as a regimental commander, thus a colonel, until hostilities broke out.

The United States military was largely demobilized in the years between world wars, but a few forward thinkers in uniform, including George Patton, did their best to prepare for the conflict they knew was on the horizon. In the months after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Patton helped to hone the nascent armored corps and ready it for combat. In October, 1940 he was given his first star—Brigadier General Patton took acting command of the 2nd Armored Division, and the following April he was promoted to major general, and was made permanent division commander.

His fame grew between then and America’s entry into the war that December, and it was probably during this time that the Wehrmacht general staff took notice. The German military machine never really understood the American democratic model, and it had an almost willful blindness to the notion of civilian control over the military. They couldn’t fathom how a soldier like Patton could be hobbled by civic and political forces. That would prove to be their fatal blind spot.

They understood Patton himself, though, and were concordantly respectful. They knew as well as anyone that America would be entering the war, and they sought to know their enemy. They knew that generals like Marshall and Eisenhower, though formidable, wouldn’t lead from the front, and that MacArthur would be in the east. They were certain that George Patton would be their main foe on the ground in Europe.

For nearly two years, from the first assaults in Morocco through to the invasion and occupation of Sicily, they were correct. Patton proved himself a consummate land-war tactician, winning far more battles than he lost. The invasion of northern Europe loomed, and Patton was as sure as the Germans were that he was destined to lead it.

What happened next was one of the oddest historical quirks on record, and only in retrospect can we know that it just might have won the war. Patton was a soldier, an officer, but he was never quite a gentleman. He was rash, he was impolitic, and he had a knack, off the battlefield, for doing exactly the wrong thing. He put himself in the doghouse repeatedly through careless remarks to the press or in speeches to civilian audiences. Then in August of 1943 he went too far.

He slapped the faces of two privates, both of them suffering from what we now know as PTSD. He called them cowards, and he ordered them back to the front lines.

That he’d be relieved of command for such actions was, again, incomprehensible to the Germans, so they convinced themselves that it had to be misinformation. When he was ordered back to England they were sure it was in preparation for the coming invasion.

Eisenhower was content to let them think that, and went on to pull off one of the most artful deceptions in the history of warfare. In June 1944 Allied forces landed in Normandy and began the drive towards Berlin. Patton was not with them. He’d been given nominal command of an army that didn’t exist—the so-called “Ghost Army.” Artists and model makers created a vast phantom force of canvas tanks and dummy soldiers, centered in the area of Dover, seemingly poised to strike across the Channel at the Pas de Calais.

A constant of amphibious warfare, since before the Persians invaded Athens, is that the defender’s best hope is to stop the invaders while their feet are still wet. The Second World War could have very well been lost on June 6th or June 7th, if the Germans had reinforced Normandy. But they concentrated their forces at Calais. Because that’s where they thought Patton would be.

Patton, of course, would regain battlefield command, leading his fabled Third Army through France and into Germany. They helped save the day during the Battle of the Bulge, joining the effort to turn back the final German offensive. They crossed the Rhine, fought southward through Bavaria, and crossed into Czechoslovakia, nearly making it to Prague, before the Germans surrendered on May 8th, 1945.

Patton hoped to transfer to the Pacific theater while the war with Japan still raged, but was instead made military governor in Munich. During his short post-war career, Patton managed to embarrass himself still more—courting controversy by telling an audience of Gold Star Mothers (mothers of American soldiers killed in action), that those who die on the battlefield are often “fools.” He was also criticized for keeping Nazi party politicians in Bavarian administrative posts.

Sometime between the end of the war and December 1945 he managed to complete his wartime memoirs. Others, including Eisenhower and Churchill, were to write their own histories of the war, but in many cases that took years. That Patton wrote his so quickly has to make you wonder if he sensed his end was near.

On December 8th 1945 General Patton was traveling in a staff car with a few others, in the Rhineland area of Germany. They were struck at low speed by a U.S. Army truck. Patton alone was injured.

That such a man could suffer such a prosaic death has spawned countless conspiracy theories. In truth, it was just rotten luck. At the moment of impact Patton turned around to say something to someone in the back seat. He was in an awkward, twisted position and the impact, though hardly forceful, caused his neck to strike the edge of a partition window. He both fractured and dislocated two cervical vertebrae.

For 12 days General Patton was paralyzed from the neck down. This led to heart failure and pulmonary edema. He died in his sleep on December 21st, the winter solstice.

When I say that I cannot envision what retirement might have looked like for George Patton, that could just be the myopia of historical hindsight. Or it could be an understanding that General Patton simply wasn’t made for retirement. It seems as though he wasn’t made for anything other than war.

General George Patton served his country in his singular fashion through two world wars, and in a way to help define that country as an unequaled military power through to a future he could scarcely have imagined. He did all that he could do, he did it well, and then he was gone. He was never a perfect man, but he very well might have been a perfect soldier, and the nation will always be in his debt.

Likewise we are in the debt of every man and woman, throughout our history, who served and sacrificed. Memorial Day is their day, and that makes it sacred.

Happy Memorial Day. Please don’t ever forget what this day is about.

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To impeach, or not to impeach?

Are we barreling toward the impeachment of a president? Should we be?

Impeachment is, as intended in our constitutional charter, the heavy artillery of checks and balances. It’s an unwieldy process by design: a simple majority vote in the House of Representatives starts the process, but then the Senate is required to hold a trial, with conviction (i.e. removal from office) requiring a two-thirds supermajority vote. To date, impeachment proceedings have been initiated against three presidents, two have been actually impeached, and none have been removed from office.

Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution not only defines the impeachment process, it also enumerates impeachable offenses…and in so doing throws up ambiguities that were (and are) probably necessary, but are maddening nonetheless.

The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors. (Article II, Section 4)

Bribery? Clear enough, I suppose. Treason? Well, it’s a word bandied about enough (Trump tends to apply it against his political enemies), but it has the virtue of being the one and only crime defined by the Constitution: giving aid and comfort to the enemy during wartime. The United States last declared war in 1941, so contemporary acts of treason are vanishingly unlikely.

That leaves what is perhaps the most familiar phrase in this charge, high crimes and misdemeanors. It does not mean what most of us think it means.

The phrase in its entirety is inherited from English common law, and dates from at least the 14th century. High crimes are, explicitly, political crimes, or at least crimes committed in office by political officers.

Misdemeanors are not, in this context, the codified classification of infractions that rank somewhere between traffic offenses and felonies. They are what is literally suggested by the word: mis-demeanor, or bad behavior. That’s clearly vague, but it also clearly suggests that not just criminality is grounds for impeachment.

Why? Suppose a president locked himself in his room, and refused to come out. Suppose a president left the country, and refused to come back. These aren’t crimes, but they’d obviously prevent a president from discharging his duties. So they’re cause for impeachment.

Likewise, a president that impedes congressional investigation can be impeached. As can a president who refuses to work with the congress until those investigations are halted. These are impeachable offenses if 51 percent of the House of Representatives says they are.

So should they? I don’t envy that decision. There are pros and cons—perhaps most tellingly, Donald Trump wants the House to impeach. He recalls the failed attempt at removing Bill Clinton, and Clinton’s absolute surge in popularity as the process dragged on.

Their situations aren’t exactly analogous. Clinton was a lame duck by then (he was impeached by the House in December of 1998, and acquitted by the Senate in February 1999). It’s true that his party picked up seats during the 1998 mid-terms, which can probably be at least partly attributed to impeachment-backlash…but on the other hand his party went on to lose the White House. Trump is probably right that impeachment will fire up his base—but will it win him reelection? That’s probably a tad too optimistic on his part.

Perhaps the strongest pro-impeachment argument involves what it would do for the congressional investigations of the presidency. Attempts to stonewall on the turnover of documents and the availability of witnesses will be non-starters. The courts have unanimously upheld the power of Congressional discovery during impeachment proceedings, and not even this SCOTUS would dare fiddle with that. Trump’s taxes would be an open book, and the Mueller Report would get unredacted. (One wonders if Trump has thought about this.)

Enticing as all that is, the overarching reason not to impeach is this: the Senate will acquit him. Unless and until offenses are uncovered that will turn even the MAGA-hats against Trump, the GOP-controlled Senate will not just vote the Articles down, they’ll cry aggrievement the whole time they’re doing it. Trump will play the victim, and in turn he’ll claim victory and declare himself absolved.

Since that would likely closely coincide with the 2020 elections, the outcome at the polls will hinge on who controls the messaging. The opposition might keep attention on the mis-demeanors that brought us to that juncture. Or Trump might gin up enough sympathy to pull off another electoral squeaker.

So who do you trust to prevail in that war of words? The party that consistently snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, or the con man who lives and dies by his brand image?

From a 30,000-foot view, impeachment sure looks like it is, or should be, an issue of national security, and indeed, national survival. Down here on the ground, though, it’s pure politics. These are politics that you don’t dare fuck up.

If/when Trump reaches a state of mental instability as to be an existential threat, then no doubt—no politics—he should be removed from office, and I think (I hope) even the Senate would be on board with that. But even the most impeachment-hungry among us has to recognize that’s not our present situation.

Impeachment? We’re just not there yet. Hold your nose, and let this play out a while longer.

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RIP Tim Conway (Dec. 15 1933 – May 14 2019)

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This one hurts. Tim Conway hailed from my neck of the woods, got his start on local TV, and was a fixture on the comedy and variety shows that anchored TV in the seventies and eighties. He was one of the most improvisational, naturally funny people to ever walk this earth.

He died this morning in Southern California, aged 85. He recently suffered from a neurological disorder, thus his family is asking for donations in his name to the Lou Ruvo Brain Center at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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