Categories
unAmerican

Why Witnesses?

The question is moot now, the Senate having voted against entertaining motions for specific witnesses. It’s worth noting that every other Senate impeachment trial included witnesses.

Particularly in this Senate trial, when nobody believed we could see anything approaching real justice—given the majority of Republican Senators spiritually-entangled with Donald John Trump, what could witnesses have added?

If the Republicans are to acquit no matter the evidence, why would they have witnesses? If Donald John Trump is to be let off the hook, again, for known and proven crimes, what would witnesses add?

Purgation, for one. Not for Donald John Trump, of course, but at least for the Senate Republicans. A full airing of the facts that they turn a blind eye to, would serve to place the record upon the table. It would allow them to point backwards and say, “We knew, but we were paralyzed with fear and hate, we could not act upon the truth!”

Instead, they will always be haunted. They will, for the rest of their time, be confronted by the witnesses they have failed to call. Everyone who ever sees them will recall and associate them with John Bolton and Mickey Mulvaney. What would have been said? (We’ll find out over the years.) Why couldn’t they bring themselves to have had it said then, despite all the calls for them to do so? (Did they hate themselves that much?) What went so wrong with this sad being before me? (It used to be a thing of stature, but look at how it oozes around now.)

The innocent employees of the executive would be cleared, for another. Anyone seeking to do business with former associates of this administration will now have to ask, “Can I trust they didn’t have a hand in that Ukraine scheme?” Any firm with a laywer would receive advice against hiring those with potential involvement—the blackmail risk is too high for any of them to hold a position of trust! But had the full record been developed, those who hope for carreers beyond this administration would not have it hanging over their head.

For the same reason, it would have protected the nation’s security. There are those still in the administration who helped further this corrupt scheme, and they are subject to blackmail or other kinds of manipulation. They have not been rooted out, and the rot continues.


We’re at a point where it again seems futile to try to explain the daylight to the blind fools in the Republican caucus. Maybe so, maybe not, but it sure feels pointless. If they care not for the nation, which appearances again suggest, one wonders why they bother to remain. Why not take a cruise to one of the four corners of the earth?

Alas, there is something sick in them, and science has no known cure. They are betting against the United States of America, the place that invented telling naysayers where to stick it. They have placed their chips with corruption and coverup. It’s a bad bet, and it won’t pay. (And their donors will move on, leaving them with the debt.)

To be clear, the election of Donald John Trump was a major and lasting blow to any claim to credibility or sanity the Republican party could make. It was a bleeding wound in their caucus. But it was survivable. Get to a doctor. Fight for your life.

No. Given every opportunity, with the Democrats and others urging and rushing them to the surgical suite, they have now called off surgery. They are choosing to bleed themselves to death. Pro-life? Indeed. The Republicans in the Senate have fled the hospital and intentionally thrown themselves upon a clearly marked landmine. They’ve pissed away at least a couple of Senate seats on that vote alone! (Ask me which.)

It happens, sometimes. Institutions that know they have grown sick, that they are beyond redemption. Like those spots in strip malls that keep opening and closing and opening and closing. Permanent dead zones. One hates to believe it, that some can slip so far that they are beyond reprieve. But it does pass, in this universe of odds.

Categories
society

What to do with Your Impeachment Trial

Note: this was written prior to the start of the trial. Some details may have bitrotted by the actual Senate practice diverging from their rules or precedent.

You find yourself having an impeachment trial. Naturally, the question arises, what to do with it? You’re stuck in that dusty chamber all day. You can’t go on television. You can’t fundraise. You can’t even have your phone with you to play around with. No recess, no nap time, nothing.

The first thing to do is to remain calm. Having an impeachment trial is a big responsibility. You are deciding whether or not to remove a federal official from office. Depending on the official and the nature of the allegations, this will be a slog. They will have lawyers defending them with substantive arguments about facts and process in their jobs that has led to this occasion. On the other side will be House managers who will present the case for removal.

You will have to listen to witness testimony and might even write down a few questions to be asked of the two sides. Once you are presented with the facts and witness testimony and documentation from the executive or judicial branch, it is important to consider the ultimate purpose of impeachment.

Could you imagine yourself doing that in similar circumstances? Would you feel ashamed, or possibly try to cover it up? You should weigh those things. Bad conduct, even just a little, is a blight. We all have a duty to keep government free from rot. We swore it in our oaths. Removal is the remedy the Constitution offers for rot. Cut the rot out, the Constitution says.

But maybe the conduct isn’t that bad. Maybe the party has learned their lesson. Have they said as much? Offered any indication they understand it was a mistake? Or are they hardened? The bar for getting to impeachment typically means there are facts against the party: the House does not undertake impeachment lightly, and they know less than two dozen officials have ever been impeached, so they want to make them count.

And their record is pretty darn good, with nearly two-thirds of the officials either resigning or being convicted. Not to forget: acquittal in an impeachment trial doesn’t mean innocent, but it also doesn’t mean not guilty. It may simply be that there were bribes given to Senators, or it might mean that the Senate didn’t feel the matter reached the level of wrong to require removal.

Assuming you aren’t on the take, that will likely be the biggest question of your trial: is it bad enough to remove?

There are two main factors to consider:

  1. The articles, per se. Maybe the things that were done are just bad enough that they are stinking, rotting, and filthy. In that case, hold your nose and get that rot out!
  2. The nature of the office. Is it a very high office, like a cabinet member? Or an upper-tier member of the judiciary? For some positions, particularly high ones, it’s important to have no question, no reproach. The higher the office, the lesser the offense needed to remove.

In summation, you need three things for your trial to be a success:

  1. Evidence and witnesses. Make sure you get to the facts of the conduct. Without facts to go on, it’s not a real trial.
  2. Contrition and mitigation. Mistakes happen, and even good people do bad things under stress and pressure. If you believe in your heart that the damage is reparable and that the conduct will not continue, you should consider that.
  3. The consequences of acquittal. Ultimately, if you believe that there is rot, do not take a chance. The government you save may be your own. Just as you don’t want to serve in the Senate with scum, nobody wants to serve in government under scum. We are very lucky that our nation is populated by intelligent, hard-working people. We can replace any rotten government official at a moment’s notice if need be. But replacing the government, if it becomes overrun with malingerers and no-good bribe-takers and the corrupted elements of humanity, is much harder.

Help keep the government free of rot by doing your part in your impeachment trial!

Thank you for your service.

Categories
society

Where are the Goalposts?

Senator Mitch McConnell recently accused opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court of moving the goalposts. While he did not elaborate, what the phrase means is something like, “They believe that their current efforts to thwart the nomination will fail, so now they are opening new attacks in an effort to stop him.”

The problem for McConnell and Kavanaugh and all of us is that there is only one set of goalposts. They don’t move. They are: have a good government. But what does that mean?

Below I will outline the facets required for a legitimate and useful justice, which can also serve as a place to look back for future nominations so that McConnell and his spawn cannot say the goalposts have moved.

The list:

  1. Legally qualified
  2. Of good character
  3. Relatively non-partisan

Legal Qualifications

A justice or judge should have a solid understanding of the Constitution and the law. E should know that the law is not always adequate and be willing to admit that. E should be also willing to admit that e is not perfect at interpreting. But their record as legal professionals should show distinction and merit as contributors to a diverse and ingenuitive body.

Character

E should lack moral turpitude, and be repentant for past mistakes and malfeasance. E should be respectful of the other branches of government, of eir critics, and of eir colleagues. E should be candid when questioned.

Non-partisanship

Especially in these times, when Republicans fail to credit the Democrats for having a tough time dealing with an outrageous administration, and Democrats feel particularly vulnerable and overreact in some cases, the judiciary should not be partisan. It should recognize that it is holding a pair of scales, not a paper fan emblazoned with a candidate’s name.

A judge (again, this speaks to character) must know when to bite eir tongue. Nobody expects em to be wholly disinterested in the political environment, but e should be measured eir interest, and e should refrain from partisan attacks entirely. If speaking about a political figure, a judge may comment on the person, but should not connect that to the party.


Re: Judge Kavanaugh, he possesses a useful measure of legal qualifications and experience. There are some spots of trouble, usually in dissents, which is where they usually are. There are political concerns about how he would approach some issues. But those are politically contentious issues, and like it or not, we will have to find political solutions to them. People will be harmed in the process, but I do not find that a per se reason to disqualify him.

Abortion, for example. Judge Kavanaugh would likely weaken women’s rights. Republicans like that about him. Democrats dislike it. They can and should vote accordingly, as Republicans know that if he does rule in that fashion in a future case, it will cost them politically. Just as Democrats knew that trying to open access to healthcare would cost them and moved forward anyway.

On the matter of character, Judge Kavanaugh has a mixed record. There are spots of trouble alleged in his formative years and in college. His professional record remains relatively clean by the available information (which is, unfortunately, artificially constrained and therefore not reliable). And his behavior in response to allegations against him showed some glaring examples of bad behavior.

At the very least, he showed disrespect to the country in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and while he apologized to a senator, he has not apologized to the nation. As the Senate represents the nation, it is owed an apology unto itself.

Of non-partisanship, the man can make no claim to it. He served as a heavy-handed partisan on multiple occasions, and his public behavior at the hearing was overtly partisan in the most egregious fashion. It would be a gross mistake, as it has been in the past, to install a partisan hack as a justice.

Categories
unAmerican

Accusations in a Vacuum

Update: a back-room agreement seems to have been made by Jeff Flake to see at least some investigation done by the FBI. We’ll see if that happens, but it would be a step in the right direction even if it is not definitive.

The failure of the White House to have the FBI to investigate the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh, alongside his own failure to publicly call for said investigation, and the failure of the GOP to call for an investigation, means I have no choice but to believe the accusations. They are credible based on the available evidence, and any evidence that could have impugned them is left ungathered.

There is sufficient evidence that Judge Kavanaugh lacks credibility:

  1. Unexplained discrepancies between earlier testimony and the limited documents released on his record from his time working in the government under the Starr investigation, in the Bush administration, and regarding his correspondence or other knowledge of Judge Alex Kozinski’s abuses.
  2. A lack of specificity regarding his debts.
  3. His lack of candor in the Fox News interview regarding his high school behavior.
  4. His failure to call for an investigation that could plausibly clear his name.
  5. His lack of candor in the hearings on Thursday.
  6. His indulgence in right-wing conspiracies regarding the process.

Meanwhile, the only accuser given the chance to testify, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, has had a consistent recollection of the incident going on some six years. She called for the FBI to investigate. There is no offered evidence that impeaches her telling.

Given the gravity of the alleged behavior, high school or not, it is damning if true. But we don’t have the luxury of deciding truth. We have to choose who we believe. In a natural vacuum, you might believe Ford or Kavanaugh. But we have here an artificial vacuum, created by the reluctance of the GOP, including Kavanaugh himself and the man who nominated him, Mr. Trump, to have the matter professionally investigated by the FBI. That artifice must weigh heavily against Kavanaugh.

The GOP in the Senate is now on trial. If they vote to consent to his appointment with the bad process, they will thereby sign a statement of their own incompetence at governing. They will disqualify themselves from the claim to legitimacy that is vital to the functioning of a democratic republic. All of this is a result not of Judge Kavanaugh’s alleged crimes, but of the very real process failures at the hands of the Trump administration and the Senate GOP.

There are sufficient leads for an FBI investigation to be conducted, even at this late date. They might find exculpatory evidence. They might find corroborating witnesses or facts. They might decide to have Mark Judge testify. The GOP’s failure to have the matter investigated requires a jaded eye fall on Kavanaugh’s rebuttal testimony. He is unfit to serve on the Supreme Court purely due to the process failures here.

If the president chooses, withdraw and renominate him with an FBI background check that encompasses these allegations. But, where we are today, any Senator worth eir salt will vote against Kavanaugh unless and until the public facts are improved. The damage of doing otherwise is a major blow to the integrity of our institutions.

2018 midterms are in five weeks.

Categories
society

The Kavanaugh Process

One of the features of the American judicial system is the notion of process. It’s there in the Constitution: “due process.” The notion that how you proceed (shared root with process) is just as important as the result of the proceedings.

The Republicans have elected to follow a mangled process for deciding whether to consent on the nominee for such a process-oriented institution. Hundreds of thousands of documents withheld. Conflicts in the release process that would make Lady Justice tear off her blindfold and toss down her scales, walking away in disgust. Confidentiality markings that are meant to obscure rather than protect.

Another low point. The thinking among Senate Republicans seems to be that, given their map for the 2018 midterms, they have nothing to lose. When your team is virtually guaranteed, no matter the wave, that you’ll retain your majority, that’s when you say “fuck the voters.” Except that’s not how our country is supposed to work. That’s exactly the kind of tribal, might-makes-right thinking we sought to abolish in forming the nation.

I expect that they will feel the sting of their indifference to America’s flag and its defenders in due time. The Republicans in the Senate may be safe in 2018 (remains to be seen), but they will not be safe forever. Kavanaugh may yet be confirmed through a process that any judge in any court in the land would bang the gavel on, and bad judges do real damage. That’s regrettable, lamentable, but at the end of the day all the rest of us can do is keep working to remedy the injustices, whether they are natural or artificial, political or commercial.

To put it another way, if Kavanaugh is confirmed, if the court rules poorly, the choice remains of how to react. I do not expect that the public will abide in bad law. It takes time, it takes effort. The law is subject to amendment.

This is just the sort of power shifting that Senator Sasse pointed to in his opening remarks (The Washington Post: 4 September 2018: Amber Phillips: “Ben Sasse on why Kavanaugh hearings are so ugly”; see especially the four-point argument mentioned). Having an imbalanced court inevitably pushes voters in the other direction, like carrying too many groceries in one hand leads you to lean the other way to compensate.

There’s an open question in game theory about how necessary such shifts are. That is, whether congress could self-reattach (to extend the self-neuter analogy used by Sasse), or whether some outside event is required to provoke such a response. If, in fact, such outside agitations are requisite, then in our next revision of our governing systems we should seek to build-in mechanisms to induce rebalancing more frequently.


We are just over eight weeks out from the election.