If Impeachment, then Trial.

There’s a lot of questions floating around the journals of late about impeachment. The basic flavor, from both the left in fret and the right in hope, is will the Senate shrug? The majority leader has said they will take them up, but then came suggestions of the inevitable motion to dismiss.

The first thing is that you will never see articles move out of the House unless Speaker Pelosi and her colleagues find them damning enough for four or more Republicans to vote with the Democrats against dismissal on at least one of the articles. Perhaps the only way the House moves on articles without that locked down is if the Senate Republicans signal they have given up entirely on their oaths and take to the Mall to fly kites. At that point, the House would vote articles to place an asterisk on this chapter in American history so that future generations will note how craven a party can become under the poison spell of a filthy fool like President Donald John Trump.

To go through preliminaries—which they’ll need to before they can receive a motion to dismiss—and then accede to such a motion would be disastrous. They would have set the stage for a trial, with the public’s understanding already formed, and then said there’s nothing to be done about that understanding. It would speak against the entire purpose of the separation of powers—that, the executive being unable to properly investigate and indict emself, must have eir actions subject to review by a separate branch. If that separate branch cannot bring itself to successfully review executive actions, we have a whole systemic breakdown.

From the timber of the Trump–Ukraine (now –China?) scandal to-date, at least a handful of Republicans should vote against dismissing some of the articles. Such motions are a low bar in all but the most worthless cases, whether civil or criminal. The fact of the coverup using the code-word NSC system, the fact of the attempts by Secretary of State Pompeo to block testimony, the facts of Attorney General Barr and the citizen Giuliani jetting about and phonecalling to dig up dirt, all point to there being enough witnesses and awareness of the wrongdoing to push this into the territory of impeachment. There was something else…. Oh—the call itself, where the President directly asked a foreign government for dirt on a political opponent!

The other reason that the Senate would want to hold a full trial is that they should want the thing put to bed, either way. If they refused to hold a real trial upon the basis of valid and dire articles of impeachment, the House could simply reissue them again and again, to drive home the point much the way that parents waking their children find particularly grating ways. If the Senate dispensed anything approaching real justice, allowing for the case to be presented, and then decided to acquit, at least history would be served, if not justice.

Which brings us to Chief Justice Roberts. He will preside over any presidential impeachment. He represents the third branch, but the main reason for his presence is that a removal of a president automatically elevates the vice president, which means the vice president has a natural conflict. To obviate the conflict, the chief justice presides in his place. And in that role, he is the presiding officer of the body, including the fact that he may break ties on votes requiring a majority. Under Senate precedents, Roberts will offer preliminary rulings on legal questions before the body, subject to reversal or affirmation by a majority of the body. He also reads out the questions posed by senators, in writing.

All of which is to say that the Senate has that extra reason to behave in the midst of an impeachment trial. They will not want to make Roberts look bad. They will not want to cast a bad reflection upon our judiciary.


A reminder: impeachment and removal are there to fix the government. They are not punishment; any criminal behavior can be prosecuted after removal and punished accordingly. The question of removing President Trump boils down to the fact of his abuse of our standing in the world to seek personal benefits, which is a matter that surely harms our national interest and our security particularly.

For now the matter remains in the House, where the inquiry is getting started. It’s unclear how the House will proceed, with some folks on the right calling for it to be formally voted as an inquiry and held inter partes as the Nixon and Clinton inquiries were. If the House Republicans wish that vote so badly, they are free to push a resolution to that end and vote for its adoption (rather than the feckless resolution they’re seeking on Representative Schiff for paraphrasing the readout of the Trump–Zelensky call). Instead, their entire strategy seems to be more about the lack of any defense for the president’s wrongdoing. That said, one expects a vote at some point, and that the president’s counsel will be allowed to participate, if only to ensure the get a close-up view of the grave position this White House is now in.

This Trump–Ukraine Business

There is a myth in the media about impeachment, that it’s some state of being rather than a particular act by the House. It’s not. Impeachment happens when the House approves one or more articles of impeachment against any officer of the executive branch or judicial branch. That’s it. That’s all impeachment is.

Impeachment inquiries are oversight that someone has decided looks like it will probably end in a vote on at least one article of impeachment.

There are no additional powers unlocked by calling oversight an impeachment inquiry. Those who say there are do not know what they are talking about. The House can empower and entrust committees with additional powers or modify their processes, but that has nothing to do with the constitutional power of impeachment and everything to do with the clause that gives the chambers of the legislature control over their own rules.

Now, this business with Trump and Giuliani and a whistleblower (House Intelligence Committee: 26 September 2019: PDF of IC Whistleblower Complaint) and a coverup and seeking dirt on Joe Biden from Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. Is it impeachable conduct, to send your personal attorney under quasi-diplomatic cover to work on getting dirt on a political rival and precondition a phone call with a foreign leader on discussing said dirt, and dangle nearly half a billion dollars and a visit to the White House during that call?

I don’t know. I mean, what is the purpose of government if not to bribe, to conspire to defraud your fellow citizens, to abuse your power? That would be rather boring, wouldn’t it, to have a non-corrupt government that simply did its best to clear away the bullshit in peoples’ lives and let them get on with living? That glowed bright against corruption and stood for justice and democracy? So, yes, obviously it is impeachable. And no, it wouldn’t be boring in the least. It would be a welcome fucking change.

There are those who are afraid the Democrats are moving too fast on impeachment. We’ll see. There are those who worry it will help Trump electorally. Could be, but if we’re going to keep going on with having a country, we have to actually adhere to the law. If the nation decides it yearns for corruption and poison air and all those flavors of hell that so many fought, toiled, and died to stop and avoid, then that’s what it decides. A large number of us will never agree to such regression.

But we’re a country that supposedly cherishes justice, and that means we have to have trust in our executive. We do not have that trust. He has lied at every turn, burned every bridge, and he will be held to account under the law.

So, go ahead and play count-the-votes on your abacus, while the Democrats under Speaker Pelosi try to keep the Republic. They aren’t to impeachment yet. The probability they get there is much higher today than it was a week ago. The new conduct is more damning than anything we’ve seen before.


The charges, as they stand:

  1. President Trump’s administration withheld fund appropriated by Congress from Ukraine to leverage that government to aid Trump’s reelection by gathering or fabricating evidence on a political rival. (He may have also been dangling a White House meeting to further entice President Zelensky.)
  2. President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, repeatedly sought that same goal.
  3. President Trump conducted a telephonic conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky that had as a precondition the discussion of working on gathering that political fodder.
  4. President Trump’s administration fraudulently employed the classification system to cover up the call.
  5. President Trump’s administration violated the law by not forwarding the whistleblower complaint and by actively and willfully minimizing it in the face of stark evidence.
  6. President Trump’s administration did not employ proper recusal procedures in evaluating criminal complaints that were forwarded to the Department of Justice.

And that’s just for starters. We do not know the extent of the involvement of some figures, including Secretary of State Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr. We do not know the exact nature of Giuliani’s work—who paid for it, and whether any of it was officially sanctioned by the State Department. We also know that Vice President Pence was blocked from attending Zelensky’s inauguration, and the president has insinuated that Pence’s own conversations with Ukrainian officials may be incriminating, but we do not know any details yet.

To be perfectly clear: the ask for targeted prosecution itself, without any promise of payment, is impeachable. But: due to the relationship between the United States and Ukraine, it is impossible to make any such request without it being a de facto quid pro quo—the United States is obviously in a powerful position compared to Ukraine, and Ukraine is reliant on the United States to help protect it. All the more reason that the USA has a duty to such foreign governments and their people to be an honest broker and not add to the woes of corruption and stressors that they have to deal with. The very fact that President Donald John Trump would attempt to take advantage of that country is dirty and corrupt.


The 2020 election takes place in 57 weeks. Keep following the candidates, as we all have a duty to try to pick the best of the lot.

Thoughts on the Steam Client Library Update

First, what is the update and what is it not? The update covers the Steam library, listing the user’s games and the display of individual games themselves. It’s not a revamp of all the web pages and application views that form parts of the library, like achievement pages or the downloads view. Those will likely be updated in look and feel to match the new styles over time.

The biggest change is the addition of the new home section, which is a jumping-off point to other parts of the library. It adds a new events/news serial at the top, where you can see game news including media and updates to games.

The primary art for games is now in portrait format (600×900). This, alongside the addition of a large banner image at the top of each game page, are the biggest visual changes. The portrait format affords space for text and art with some separation where the old banner style (what Valve calls capsule) really require putting the two together. But the capsule format is still used in at least a few places, including for the most-recently played game and on the downloads view.

The collections system, formerly more like tags, now allows for dynamic grouping. I tend to track several properties of games, like whether I played them yet and what their style of game is, besides noting of they require a EULA or have broken features on Linux (a few games I’ve played required using Proton in order for achievements to unlock).

One downside of the collection system is that if you navigate to a game from the home screen, it will be opened from the first collection alphabetically. It might be useful to let users designate a primary collection that a game belongs to, so that it will be shown as selected from the most sensible category and not one that happens to be first in some old song that lists letters.


On the whole this is a nice update. The most notable thing is that it matches design changes that are happening across the larger digital space. While books developed a fairly consistent design schema a long time ago, the digital sphere is still trying to do so. It still has a way to go, as seen in the choice to maintain website icons as squares (which, far as I can tell, was a change driven by Apple and their iOS choices) while something like the Steam library uses portraits.

In terms of the future of Steam, a lot of this will depend on developers using the new events system and updating their artwork. As of writing, roughly 2/3 of my games have updated art for the beta, with the rest using the capsule-style art with a blur effect to fill the extra space.

As mentioned, other parts of the client experience still use the old capsules. While it takes work to create the separate representations, having the visual differentiation is useful as far as it goes. One wonders whether a compositing system wouldn’t work better, with separate images for graphical logos and backgrounds being able to be adjusted to aspect ratio requirements at display time, with some caching for frequently composited elements. Ah well.

2020 Democratic Debate 3.0

It’s been two minutes since I finished watching and I’ve already forgotten everything that was said.

Just kidding.

Julián Castro has the distinction of the first of the crowd to go into outright mudslinging during a debate. There may be good ways to raise issues of age and style about Joe Biden during a debate. Whatever they be, that wasn’t one. It reminded mostly of those sour 2016-cycle Republican debates.

Sure, the eventual nominee may face Trump in debates, if the president doesn’t pull out. And if Trump does debate the nominee, he’s sure to say some stupid shit and try to take some cheap shots. But the idea that the Dem nominees should emulate Trump seems to miss the point. Trump is an idiot. His gross manner is not useful and copying it will not improve anything. The biggest problem with Trump is that he has ample opportunities to do good and he chooses stupid every time.


If you do want to raise issues of age and the inevitable mental decline we will all one day face, which is an important issue not particular to Joe Biden, nor even to Donald Trump, nor to the executive branch, then do so. Call on the establishment of a standard for disqualification or qualification, not just of presidents, but of legislators and judges, too. Call for better standards for aging family members and business owners, while you’re at it.

Or don’t. Say it should be up to the voters for the executive and for the legislator, and hope that staff and colleagues can take care of the judiciary for us. We should just let the creep of aging catch some off guard and pick up the pieces and let what is a messy problem remain as messy as possible.

But have that conversation, rather than some half-assed insinuation in the middle of a debate where the issue wasn’t even properly raised by Castro or anyone.


On to Beto O’Rourke. Sure, what he said about taking AR-15s and AK-47s isn’t politically correct. It offended a lot of conservatives, including the ones who claim they read gun magazines for the articles. It’s not the way to sell the policy. But at least it is a policy. It’s a perfectly valid reaction to a terrorist attack to say we should take extraordinary measures to prevent it from ever recurring.

The Republicans don’t have an anti-terror policy here. They have a cradled phone they sit by, waiting for the NRA to call Trump and tell him that doing anything at all might be okay, so that Trump can call McConnell and tell him what his policy can be. They aren’t thinking entities in any real policy sense. They are playing the most dangerous game of Simon Says.

Bernie Sanders had to respond to a bonkers question about how his views of socialism differ from Venezuelan kleptocracy. Remember that? That was fun, having a moderator ask a candidate, point-blank, do you in fact not want to be a murderous dictator? I get the fact that folks like Sanders have at times tried to be awfully deferential on foreign policy matters, avoiding criticism of countries that are nominally socialist (or, for the exemplar with conservatives, see Augusto Pinochet). They’re all nuts to do so. Tyrants are tyrants, no matter what books sit upon their shelves.

But it’s another thing entirely to suggest that deference or caginess is somehow an endorsement or adoption of the tyrannical policy. The moderator loses points on that one.

At another point Cory Booker was again asked about his veganism. Somehow it’s taboo to say that we should all improve our diets for the sake of the climate. Just as we should all improve our diets for the sake of our health. I mean, not that the debate had time to cover it, but we have an obesity crisis among our other crises. We should want to change diets. There are (wild-ass guess) billions of dollars made per year on health food and fad diets and books and so forth. It’s a whole industry. Yet it’s something that you can’t say on climate: diet is part of the equation.


Those were the things that stood out to me. If you had others, feel free to leave a comment.

On the whole, not a transformative debate. Which, honestly, we shouldn’t expect. The top candidates aren’t going to take big risks, but it’s still too early for the other top-ten candidates, especially when they’ve already qualified for the October debates. The laggards, well they aren’t on the stage to take a shot.

One suspects after the October debate some more lower candidates will begin to drop out, and the more salient names there may begin endorsing as they do so. It may take longer. Slowly the crowd begins to thin and at the same time the support starts to shift into lanes as it becomes clear who will be around by January and who will not.

The 2020 Climate Forums, Part 1

Seven hours (minus commercial time) of candidate town halls on climate change.

What I wanted to see was realism, ideas, passion, and purpose on the issues of the climate. I saw a lot of that from almost all the candidates. Plans are something we need to see move through congress, and just because a candidate has a good plan doesn’t mean that happens. But, taken as a starting point, they are still useful and the candidates did a lot to discuss where they’re coming from.

Here’s a ranking of how I saw the candidates who participated. The ranking is in terms of the ideas they brought that differed from the pack, positive or negative, but not as an overall view of their plans. In general, all of their plans are good, particularly compared to inaction, and we need to act. The = # preceding a name means a tie.

  1. Booker
  2. = 1 Warren
  3. Yang
  4. Buttigieg
  5. = 4 O’Rourke
  6. Castro
  7. = 6 Harris
  8. = 6 Sanders
  9. Biden
  10. = 9 Klobuchar

I appreciated Booker and Yang speaking about the role of nuclear power. It’s not a perfect technology, and we should handle the waste responsibly by having a permanent repository, whether that’s Yucca Mountain or somewhere else. But it is carbon-neutral, and it cannot be ignored in our immediate and pressing need to deal with the problem of putting out too much carbon. Those who spoke against it, or who seemed to suggest that a permanent repository is a non-starter seem to deny the fact we already have a wealth of radioactive waste to store, and that even if we phased out all nuclear yesterday, we would still have the responsibility to handle that waste. They lost a point, accordingly.

Booker also spoke credibly on a number of other initiatives including farming, reforestation, and his record as mayor of Newark, New Jersey.

Warren spoke out on the need to do carbon-trade balancing—accounting for carbon in imports and exports, which is important. But she lost half a point for suggesting that all American-invented technologies related to climate would be exclusively manufactured in the USA. If we should eat local, we should also manufacture local, or at least leave the door open to it. (This will happen eventually as automation and fabrication technologies shift, but in the meantime we need to cut carbon more than we need trade protection. Licensing patents and technologies would allow us to spend the fees on other means to create jobs.)

Yang got a half-point for kind-of-implying the need for a treaty on geoengineering, which is something that is necessary and would include the fact that climate change and carbon pollution are already a form of geoengineering, as unintentional as it may be.

Buttigieg, in a question about his use of private flights in campaigning, spoke about the need for ground transportation including trains. Rail is important, so he got a point for that. The fact is that even the airlines should want us to build out rail, so they can save money on vouchers and have improved throughput by having a fully functioning, diverse transportation system. Everyone who complains about leg room or baggage fees should be in favor of rail.

O’Rourke was the only one who favored cap and trade over a direct carbon tax. There are arguments both ways, and either is useful, but I think there are some market effects possible with cap and trade that can be missed with direct taxes. On the other hand, there are hybrid approaches possible. The main downside of the tax approach seems to be that companies will seek to conglomerate on the basis of the tax rather than any inherent economic need, which can worsen an existing and awful feature of our corporate tax code. In any case, point for not bandwagoning on the tax.

Castro lost a point for suggesting that flood insurance should be subsidized in a way that suggested moral hazard. We can’t do that. We just can’t. There are other moves to make for folks who live in places that are no longer viable, but embracing it is simply folly.

Harris also spoke against nuclear power and waste. She did highlight some of her achievements as a district attorney and attorney general.

Sanders was among the candidates who stated unequivocally that some houses shouldn’t be rebuilt, and we have to face that fact. It’s part of the larger issue around rural-vs-urban and balancing freedom and subsidy in ways that make sense, some of which are climate-related and others of which are just fundamental issues we’ve never really worked out as a nation. For example, in some places farmers commute to the farm, rather than living there. On the other hand he was one of the more expressedly opposed to nuclear power. Again, it has problems, but it’s just not reasonable to condemn it given the challenge.

Biden’s main problem is this fundraiser with a fossil-fuel-tied host. That and he didn’t really seem to have a lot to say on the issue beyond a kind of “trust me” outlook.

Klobuchar lost points for her stances on nuclear power and fracking. While natural gas is better than coal when responsibly extracted, it’s not great and there’s plenty of evidence that it’s not responsibly extracted in too many cases. If the industry wants to be a bridge, it needs to show itself to be a safe one, not a rickety one. She did a good job talking about the opportunities with farms, as did several other candidates.


The climate is a big deal, and the Democratic candidates have set themselves apart from the Republicans by showing themselves to be thoughtful and studious on the issues. The challenge will come in implementing any of their plans, should a Democrat be inaugurated in 2021. But that’s always been a challenge, so long as Republicans have denied reality. It’s hard to move a couch when the other person carrying it doesn’t believe in the stairs.

In general, the 2020 Democratic candidates form a healthy slate. Most of the candidates are worth considering, and it’s hard to pick a favorite out of the pack. We will see how the debate goes this Thursday, and one hopes a few of the climate issues (maybe nuclear power, for example) can be brought up to help the candidates further explain how they approach the issue.

As to plans, they will be changed to become law. And they will be changed after they are law. Some changes good, others bad. There will be mistakes and unexpected wins, both. But we have to act on it. The Republicans fail to even propose plans on many of the pressing issues of the day, where for every single one there will be at least a few Democratic proposals.

That failure is a fundamental problem for our nation. The Republicans that cannot plan cannot lead. And yet there they are, in the driver’s seat of our nation, pressing nobs, turning buttons, and doing a whole lot of damage and nothing particularly useful. It is a shame.