Discussion: Impeachment trial

February 13, 2021 • 11:00 am

I have no particular expertise—much less knowledge—about the second Trump impeachment trial, as I watched virtually none of it save the videos and thus can’t weigh in. All I can say is that I wish that the Democrats had made the indictment broader, as I indicated this morning in the Hili dialogue. Regardless, from what I know, I would vote to kick the s.o.b. out.

I’m also not sure what bearing a conviction has on his ability to hold future office. In truth, I’m also not sure—narcissist that he is—that he even wants future office. He may just be content with the role of “elder GOP statesman” for his fawning, slavering minions. But he’ll remain a danger so long as he has any political influence.

If you’d like to say your piece on the proceedings, or on the unlikely outcome that he’ll be convicted, by all means weigh in below. Will he be barred from office? How many Republican senators will vote for his conviction? Mitch “666” McConnell has remained strangely silent in the last several days; could it be that he’s rounding up 17 Republicans to vote for conviction, hoping to save the reputation of his party?

Whoops, cancel that. I just saw this on Twitter:

My friend Betsy sent me a New York Times summary of the defense’s case, which she found amusing in this description of one of Trump’s hastily-assembled team of lawyers:

“A personal injury lawyer whose Philadelphia law firm solicits slip-and-fall clients on the radio and whose website boasts of winning judgments stemming from auto accidents and one case “involving a dog bite,” Mr. van der Veen proceeded to lecture Mr. Raskin, who taught constitutional law at American University for more than 25 years, about the Constitution.”

If that isn’t snark in the news, I don’t know what is.

van der Veen, from the NYT. Credit: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Impeachment articles drawn up by House, as well as request for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment

January 11, 2021 • 1:00 pm

Just a a couple of hours ago, the House of Representatives introduced a motion to impeach the “President” for the second time. Click on screenshot to go to the pdf:

There’s one article: “Incitement of insurrection,” but that includes not only his speech to the protestors before they bum-rushed the Capitol, but also his sleazy phone call to Georgia’s Secretary of State, urging him to “find more votes” to overturn the state’s electors.

There’s also this resolution, based on the same data, calling for Pence to get the 25th Amendment rolling and call on Trump to resign, forcing him if he balks (click on screenshot):

House Republicans objected to the second measure, but they’re in a minority, so if that resolution comes to the floor, it will pass. But it’s toothless, for it has no power to force Pence to do anything. The NYT gives more details:

As expected, Republicans objected to a resolution calling on Mr. Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, meaning that the House would have to call a full vote on the measure, most likely on Tuesday. Democratic leaders were confident it would pass, and pressured Republican lawmakers to vote with them to beseech the vice president, who is said to be opposed to using the powers outlined in the Constitution, to do so.

It was a remarkable threat. If Mr. Pence does not intervene “within 24 hours” after passage and the president does not resign, House leaders said they would move as early as Wednesday to consider the impeachment resolution on the floor, just a week after the attack. Already more than 210 Democrats have signed onto the leading charge, just shy of a majority of the House. Several Republicans were said to be considering voting to impeach for the first time, though party leaders were opposed.

I think there are grounds for invoking the 25th Amendment, as Trump is clearly incapacitated by some mental affliction, but this is a futile gesture. I have more hope for (and approval of) the impeachment, but with the proviso that if the House passes it (and it will), they wait a while before sending it to the Senate before trial. That would prevent Biden’s first days in office from being tied up in a fractious impeachment trial, and allow him—as, I believe, he wishes—to get going with his legislation. And we need him to get going, for we don’t know if he has longer than two years of a Republican Senate.

As they say every decade, “We live in interesting times.” But I never imagined I could see the day when a fascist could hold the reins of power and command his minions to storm the Capitol building. This is worse than Nixon, which is the worst I’ve seen since I’ve been alive.

Ossoff wins Senate seat in Georgia, both houses of Congress now with a Democratic majority

January 6, 2021 • 3:30 pm

This may inflame the mob more, but we have some good news from Georgia.  The second Senatorial election has been called by several sources for the Democrat Jon Ossoff.

With exactly half of the Senators now Democratic, the deciding vote in the many ties to come will go to the Vice President of the U.S., who happens to be Democrat Kamala Harris.  That the tying vote comes from the VP will drive Republicans crazy—if they can be crazier than they’re acting now. (n.b. I am not indicting all Republicans. Yes, there are some reasonable ones—ones who are appalled by what’s happening in Washington.)

Fascist President spurs on mob to invade Capitol; woman in critical condition after being shot

January 6, 2021 • 3:00 pm

Well, 2021 isn’t starting well after all. All I can do is be upset and pass on the news to others who share my feeling. Here are links:

All from the New York Times:

Each bullet point goes to a link:

It’s a good time to be a news reporter, and a bad time to be an American—even a Democrat. It’s bad for all of us.

Oh, and now there are reports that a woman is in critical condition after being shot on the Capitol grounds.

The good news and the bad news.

January 6, 2021 • 2:30 pm

What do you want first? How about the good news? (click on screenshots):

Once again I will be right, and happily so.

The bad news:

I didn’t think this would happen, despite many people warning of it. It is a putsch prompted by a fascist who doesn’t have the concern about America to call it off. His motto should be “Make America Hate Again”.

Chaos engulfed the Capitol on Wednesday as a faction of Republicans sought to overturn President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in Congress and a group of protesters loyal to President Trump tried to storm the building, demanding to be heard.

Around 2:15 p.m., the proceedings ground to a halt as security rushed Vice President Mike Pence out of the Senate chamber and the Capitol building was placed on lockdown, with senators and members of the House locked inside their chambers.

The extraordinary day in Washington laid bare deep divisions both between the two parties and within Republican ranks, the ceremonial counting of electoral votes that unfolds every four years in Congress was transformed into an explosive spectacle, with President Trump stoking the unrest.

“This is what you’ve gotten, guys,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, yelled as the mayhem unfolded in the Senate chamber, apparently addressing his colleagues who were leading the charge to press Mr. Trump’s false claims of a stolen election.

Look at this! I think it’s illegal to carry guns inside the Capitol building, but if they can’t stop these miscreants from entering, how could they take their guns?

(From the NYT). Supporters of President Trump swarmed and entered the Capitol building in Washington on Wednesday, prompting a lockdown and portions of the grounds to be evacuated.  Credit: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

They will not win, but I may have been wrong in thinking that there would be no violence. Think about this: there are people who would risk their lives to illegally keep Trump in office.

Watch the Congressional debates live

January 6, 2021 • 1:00 pm

Click on the screenshots below to watch the proceedings of the electoral certification debate in the House and Senate. Right now two bodies have split up, after first meeting together, to debate objections to the election results. This could in principle take forever, but the total debate in the House is limited to two hours. You can watch the Republicans flaunt their phony claims, which is somewhat amusing.

The House:

And click below to see the live Senate proceedings. Ted Cruz was speaking, arguing that the results need to be independently audited because “nearly half of Americans think that there was voter fraud.” But the results already were audited by both the states and the courts—Biden/Harris won. Cruz and his Republican minions are reprehensible.

The Senate:

Thank Ceiling Cat that Mitch McConnell rebuked his moronic colleagues:

Meanwhile, Trump supporters are massing in Washington, like vultures around a carcass, to demand that election results be withdrawn or changed.  I didn’t think there would be any violence, but I’m getting a bit nervous now. . . .

Who will win the Georgia Senate seats?

January 4, 2021 • 12:00 pm

The rational among us will be hoping that, in tomorrow’s Georgia senatorial runoff elections, both Democrats will win. For if they do, the Dems will have the Presidency, the House, and the Senate, and stuff can actually get done. But both elections are tossups, though I think the Democrats’ lead is widening. According to FiveThirtyEight (see below, click screenshot for more), each Democrat is leading by about 2%, but that’s well within the margin of error.

If you go to the article, you’ll see that, despite the data, you can make a case for either party (Nathaniel does so for the Democrats; Geoffrey for the Republicans). Just for fun, since we’ll know what happens by the end of the week, we’ll do a poll. And VOTE, damn you!

How many Senate seats will the Democrats win in Georgia?

View Results

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Andrew Sullivan implies that the Resurrection probably didn’t happen, and then describes “Christianism” as a big threat to America

December 12, 2020 • 11:30 am

Andrew Sullivan is a practicing Catholic, but doesn’t like to discuss his own beliefs.  I’ve had two interactions with him about this issue, though the latest wasn’t really an “interaction.”

In 2011, Sullivan pounced on me in his column in the Daily Dish for assuming that people take the Bible literally when it comes to the creation of Earth and its inhabitants. His piece can be found at the archived website, and I also posted about it, saying this and quoting Sullivan:

At any rate, Sullivan makes this accusation:  I am one of many deluded fools who thinks that the account of Genesis was meant to be taken seriously.  From the outset it was an obvious metaphor, and intended to be seen as such!

“There’s no evidence that the Garden of Eden was always regarded as figurative? Really? Has Coyne read the fucking thing? I defy anyone with a brain (or who hasn’t had his brain turned off by fundamentalism) to think it’s meant literally. It’s obviously meant metaphorically. It screams parable. Ross sees the exchange as saying something significant about the atheist mindset – and I largely agree with everything he says, except his definition of “fundamentalist” doesn’t seem to extend much past Pat Robertson. It certainly makes me want to take Jerry Coyne’s arguments less seriously. Someone this opposed to religion ought to have a modicum of education about it. The Dish, if you recall, had a long thread on this subject in August. No one was as dumb as Coyne.”

I responded by quoting a number of theologians, including Aquinas and Augustine, who took the Genesis story literally, even though some church fathers noted that it had a metaphorical interpretation as well as a literal one. And of course about 40% of all Americans are Genesis adherents. In response to Sullivan’s insults about my dumbness, and his assumption that I hadn’t read Genesis, I called him a “mush-brained metaphorizer.”

My anger at Sullivan, inflamed by his insults, has since cooled. We’re on the same side on many issues, particularly “wokeness”, and his columns are very often rational and perspicacious. Still, he occasionally drags his faith into his column (now The Weekly Dish, a subscriber-only site to which I do subscribe). And when he mentions faith in a positive way, it now conflicts all the more jarringly with his avowed adherence to rationality and science.

That led to my second interaction, when he wrote this:

. . . I don’t know whether liberalism can survive without some general faith in an objective reality and a transcendent divinity. That’s why I suspect a reinvention and reboot for Christianity is an urgent task.

Well, I couldn’t let that stand, so I wrote what I thought was a good “reader’s dissent”, pointing out that the happiest, most well-off, and liberal democracies of the world were the least religious. Sadly, he didn’t publish my gem, so I put it on this site. So be it.

But I always wonder what the man really believes about his faith, and I’d love to debate him on the dissonance between his Catholicism and his constant banging on about the need to be rational and adhere to the facts. In his column this week, he makes a telling statement in the midst of criticizing Trumpian Christianists (more on them in a second) for their refusal to face facts about the election. He indicts not only the Right, embodied by the unhinged Eric Metaxas, but also the Woke Left, represented by Ibram X. Kendi, as ignoring evidence. If you’re a member, click on the screenshot below:

Toward the end of what is a readable and incisive essay, Sullivan makes the statements below below while discussing the refusal of “Christianists” to accept the election results, claiming instead that Biden’s victory is the result of a widespread conspiracy. (The emphasis below is mine.)

The right is not unique in conspiratorial delusion, of course. The refusal of many on the left to accept Tump’s legitimate victory in 2016 was real and widespread. Both Hillary Clinton and John Lewis declared Trump an illegitimate president. Remember the Diebold machines of 2004? Not far from the Dominion stuff today. And the intensity of the belief on the left in an unfalsifiable “white supremacist” America has a pseudo-religious fervor to it. The refusal of Metaxas to allow any Republican to remain neutral or skeptical is mirrored by Ibram X. Kendi’s Manichean fanaticism on the far left.

But the long-established network of evangelical churches and pastors, and the unique power of an actual religion to overwhelm reason, gives the right an edge when it comes to total suspension of disbelief. Christianists are not empiricists or skeptics. They’re believers. This time around, it’s belief in a “multi-layered, multi-dimensional” conspiracy involving hundreds of people in several states, rejected by almost every court. You can fact-check that as easily as you can fact-check the Resurrection.

But what else does that mean except that there’s as little evidence for the Resurrection as there is for Republicans’ election conspiracy theories? In other words, no evidence! I’m forced to conclude, then, that Sullivan, as a Catholic, rejects Jesus’s literal Resurrection. Maybe he thinks it’s some kind of metaphor. My conclusion is strengthened in the next bit when he once again touts empiricism (my emphasis):

To survive, liberal democracy must have some level of moderation, some acceptance of the legitimacy of the other side, and room for compromise. It has to be based in empiricism, shared truth, deliberation and doubt. Fundamentalist religion has none of those qualities. It’s all or nothing.

One can conclude that Sullivan indeed equates belief in the Resurrection with fundamentalism, but of course that’s not the case: if anything, Jesus’s revival is a critical tenet of mainstream Catholic (or other Christian) faith, fundamentalist or not. It’s a linchpin of the Christian story of sin and salvation. Note also that he avers here that liberal democracy must be based on empiricism and shared truth, while earlier he said that liberal democracy, to survive, also has to have some faith in a “transcendent divinity”, and requires a “rebooted Christianity.” I’m here to tell Sullivan that basing democracy on empiricism automatically rules out basing it on any Abrahamic religion, including a “transcendent divinity” theistic or not.

Enough. The rest of the article is good, describing a group of hardcore Republican Christians, whom he calls “Christianists” to parallel “Islamists”, as both groups see no distinction between their faith and politics. Trumpian Christianists apparently see Trump, with all his flaws, as God’s own second saviour to redeem both ourselves and our country.

To Sullivan, the existence of Christianists explains the plethora of Republican loons who still won’t accept the election results. But I’m not as sure as he that this group will pose a real threat to America after Biden is sworn in.

Two quotes:

In a manner very hard to understand from the outside, American evangelical Christianity has both deepened its fusion of church and state in the last few years, and incorporated Donald Trump into its sacred schematic. Christianists now believe that Trump has been selected by God to save them from persecution and the republic from collapse. They are not in denial about Trump’s personal iniquities, but they see them as perfectly consistent with God’s use of terribly flawed human beings, throughout the Old Testament and the New, to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven.

This belief is now held with the same, unwavering fundamentalist certainty as a Biblical text. And white evangelical Christianists are the most critical constituency in Republican politics. If you ask yourself how on earth so many people have become convinced that the 2020 election was rigged, with no solid evidence, and are now prepared to tear the country apart to overturn an election result, you’ve got to take this into account. This faction, fused with Trump, is the heart and soul of the GOP. You have no future in Republican politics if you cross them. That’s why 19 Republican attorneys general, Ted Cruz, and now 106 Congressional Republicans have backed a bonkers lawsuit to try to get the Supreme Court to overturn the result.

Biden’s victory was not God’s will. Therefore it couldn’t have happened.

Below: Sullivan’s fears, which may well be exaggerated. I certainly hope they are:

And Trump is at the center of [Christianists’] belief system now, which includes all his lies. The relationship of many with him is that of evangelicals and their pastor: a male, patriarchal figure who cannot be questioned and must be obeyed. Trump’s political genius has been in sniffing out this need to believe, and filling it, all the time, tweet by tweet, lie by lie, con by con. No wonder Trump Trutherism is now a litmus test for the Christianist faith. . .

. . . Not only is it all or nothing, but the mandate to believe it, and act on it, is from God himself. When this psychological formation encounters politics, it cannot relent, it cannot change its mind, it cannot simply move on. And a core element of our politics right now — and part of the unprecedented resilience of Trump’s support — is this total suspension of judgment by a quarter of all Americans. When that certainty of faith met a malignant narcissist who cannot admit error, a force was created that continues to cut a ferocious swathe through our culture and our democratic institutions.

And if God Almighty calls for the overturning of a democratic election by force or violence? Then let the walls of Jericho come tumbling down.

I still predict little or no right-wing violence after January 20, but I’m not going to bet on it. The GOP, with 100+ of its Congresspeople joining the crazy Texas lawsuit trying to overturn the election, has become a swarming beehive of of truthers, conspiracy theorists, and, of course, gun nuts.

The Supremes give Trump a boot in the tuchas

December 11, 2020 • 6:12 pm

The ridiculous Texas lawsuit seeking to nullify the election results in Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Pennsylvania has been rejected by the Supreme Court in an unsigned order, and for the expected reason: lack of standing. Here’s the terse decision:

I’m not sure what Alito and Thomas are on about, but the lawyers in the crowd can explain it to us.

He has no recourse, at least any that I can see.

Tweeted a few hours ago (he hasn’t reacted to the new decision, but that should be fun):

The court showed adherence to the law.

The greatness of PCC(E)

November 13, 2020 • 2:15 pm

This CNN bulletin gives what’s likely to be the final Electoral College tally for Biden (306 votes) and Trump (232 votes). (Click on the screenshot.)

I’m letting you know because I was the first person to call the election for Biden AND to give the correct final Electoral College vote for Uncle Joe. This was in a post on November 5.  I ask all the readers to avoid false idols like Nate Silver and recognize the prescience and wisdom of your host, who will now celebrate by taking a nap.