Thursday, January 16, 2020

Impeachment Reaches the Senate and Male Attire

Impeachment Rolls On ... Heading Nowhere

If justice prevailed, the Senate would make short order of its “trial” of Donald John Trump, accused of impeachable offenses in the Articles of Impeachment passed on to the Senate by the House of Representatives, and he would be sent packing.

But things are not that simple.  Despite undenied proof of his culpability, Republicans in both Houses continue to support him, although all of them really know better.  They do that because of the votes of the vast number of ignorant and gullible people who follow Trump’s leadership, falling for his lies about everything, despite indisputable evidence to the contrary.   They will not vote to remove him from office.

The truth, readily available on most news channels and in most newspapers, is more difficult to digest than Trump’s bluster.   It takes a bit of intelligence, some discerning intellectual honesty and an absence of long-ingrained prejudices, traits most Trump supporters lack, to do that.  They prefer things in black and white, easily understood.  It’s easy to call Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi names and insult and demean their actions that to try to grasp the intricacies of Trump’s deceitful, self-serving behavior.  The Republican Senators who will form the jury in Donald John Trump’s trial all understand this but their need for the votes of Trump’s supporters on Election Day and their fear of opposition in primary elections will cause them to violate the oath (see below) they all have taken, elevating them to new heights of hypocrisy, a great accomplishment even for Republicans.

The Oath the Senators Take: Chapter IV, Paragraph 5 and also Chapter XXV of the Senate Rules, which stipulate that all Senators must take oaths, states: “I solemnly swear [or affirm, as the case may be] that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of [the person being impeached], now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.”

So, if Trump himself is not the problem (but merely a manifestation of it), and the Republicans (who are "reacting" rather than "acting) are not the problem, who is?  It is the American public, more interested in “Americas Got Talent,” “Dancing with the Stars” and the Super Bowl than what happens to our nation. 

For democracy to work, the electorate must be knowledgeable, and the American electorate, thanks to TV programming, the internet and Fox News, is pathetically ignorant of what is going on.   The Founding Fathers made one big mistake in creating a democratic republic back in 1789.  They assumed the citizenry was ready for that kind of government.  True, they did limit the voice of the people by creating the Electoral College and leaving the selection of Senators to State Legislatures (that was changed in 1919 by the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution), but that was not enough to prevent the election of an incompetent, unqualified, self-serving fraud to the Presidency and makes the fearful Senate reluctant to approve his clearly warranted removal from office.  The vote, in those days, was not universal as it is now and States undemocratically denied many the right to vote.  But this also initially prevented the vote being given to the ignorant and gullible, a practice which changed
Jackson - Never Impeached
but was censured by Congress. 
He scorned the Legislative
Branch of Government
in the elections of the 1830’s which gave us Andrew Jackson, who incidentally, might count Donald John Trump as one of his fans.

Something will have to be done about this.  Abolishing the Electoral College entirely or dividing a State’s electoral votes proportionately according to the popular vote in that State, or simply electing the President by popular nationwide vote might be good starting points.  But the real answer is improving the educational level of the electorate.

A question:  Do you feel that voters who cannot name their Senators and Representative in Congress should be allowed to vote?  If so, why?  It puts a premium on ignorance, the kind of thing which brough Donald John Trump into the White House.  Another question:  How much accumulating evidence will be necessary to get even the most doctrinaire Republican, and those who blindly vote for them, to abandon Donald John Trump and put America first?  And what will happen to those who lead his evil legion of enablers, let by Attorney General Willliam Barr, a disgrace to the the legal profession as well as the Department of Justice?

Fashion Corner

Women at 2020 Golden Globes
Penguins Waiting in Line to
Attend Golden Globe Awards
Women "dress up" very well, in a variety of colors and styles.  A good place to see this is on the TV presentations of the award programs such as the Golden Globes, the Emmies and the Academy Awards.  They spend thousands of dollars to look stunning and attractive.   Men, on the other hand, on these occasions,  dress up in costumes making them resemble a colony (or a 'waddle') of penguins. 

Golden Globe Men - 2020
I suppose this desire to appear attractive on the part of women comes from their pre-historic inate desire to appeal to males and attract a mate.  Men, on the other hand, seem to dress to "conform" rather than to appeal to anyone else.  I suppose such behavior serves to prevent them from standing out and being the target of competing males.  Seems pre-historic to me.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Bigotry Raises Its Ugly Head

When the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom in the United States, it does it by stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”   Of course, it is tacitly understood that such free exercise of religion must exclude any religion which advocates harm to anyone who does not follow its tenets.  A religion which encourages its followers to do that does not deserve the protection of the First Amendment.

Extreme versions of Islam which consider those who do not accept it as “infidels,” deserving of punishment, or any faith which justifies the murder of heretics, fits into this category.  During the Crusades, Christians tried, unsuccessfully, to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims.  As they marched across Europe, they had no qualms about murdering non-Christians, particularly Jews who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah, along the way, along with anyone else they considered to have heretical beliefs. The historic conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism was also a bloody one.  Believers in such violence today do not deserve the protection of the First Amendment. The murderers of doctors who perform abortions, for example, do not deserve the protection of the First Amendment when they claim their actions were merely acts following the dictates of their religion.

When I am in a crowd, at a theatre, concert hall or sporting event, or even on the street or in a shopping mall, it is hard to identify the religion of those around me.  Of course, sometimes Muslim women can be identified by head covering and Jewish men by the wearing of a small skull cap, but outside of this, we do not usually wear our religion on our sleeves. 

Ultra-Orthodox Jews, whose religious observance calls for them to exist as much as possible outside of mainstream society, dress in a very distinctive manner, and are thereby distinguishable by their attire on those occasions when they are out in the general population.   This visibility might be a reason why most attacks on Jews by anti-Semites, it seems, involve Orthodox Jews, even though they amount to no more than ten percent of the nation’s Jewish population.  Similarly, attacks on bearded and turban-wearing Sikhs, who are not even Muslim, might be prompted by their appearance, which misleads ignorant anti-Muslims.  These vile acts are intended for everyone of the faith being attacked, whether or not their religious affiliation is conspicuous.  When a Hasid is attacked in Monsey, N.Y., it is equally an attack on all Jews, even those without black hats, beards and payot (sidecurls) and who believe themselves to be assimilated. 

What we need, in addition to strong laws aimed at reducing gun violence, is more education as to what religious freedom is all about and what the First Amendment protects.  As for those whose hatred of other faiths, even if for social or economic reasons, in addition to religious reasons, leads them commit acts of violence, they should be punished to the fullest extent allowed by law.  Otherwise, the First Amendment is diminished.
Jack  Lippman

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Significance of an Oath and Why Trump Thinks he Did No Wrong

An Oath Means Something

Chapter IV, Paragraph 5 and also Chapter XXV of the Senate Rules, which stipulate that all Senators must take oaths, states: “I solemnly swear [or affirm, as the case may be] that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of [the person being impeached], now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.”

This is the oath that 51 Republican Senators, along with their Democratic and Independent colleagues will take in acting on the Bills of Impeachment of the 45th President which the House is likely to soon pass on to them.

Mitch McConnell

It looks like Senate Republican Leader McConnell is planning on violating this oath, along with most of his G.O.P. colleagues.    At least that is what he has said.  He claims he will be working with the President's legal team, which certainly does not make him "impartial."  Hence, these "oath violators" should lose the ability to act on the Impeachment.  Violate the oath?  Lose power to vote on it!  Very Simple.

Chief Justice Roberts

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,  John Roberts, presiding over the Senate's proceedings regarding impeachment, should take note of this and advise that by violating their oath, he can take away their right to vote on the removal of the President.   I am sure the Democrats will raise a point of order on this, directed to Chief Justice Roberts.

Jack LIppman

                                                                    *    *    *    *

Why Trump Honestly Believes Impeachment is a Hoax

President Trump keeps saying that the whole impeachment thing is a big hoax, and is oblivious to the solid evidence presented to the Intelligence Committee in its hearings.   

The reason for this is that in his head, our 45th president still is sitting at the head of the table in the conference room on "The Apprentice."  He can say "You're Fired" to anyone, anytime, and of course, the scripted actions always reflect things which he honestly believes to be what he thinks, again in his head, are what he wants them to be.  He still is living in the alternate reality of a TV production which he controlled and cannot understand that the nation, of which he is the President, doesn't share that reality, preferring the real thing.   

And because so much of what is going on appears on TV, many Americans have difficulty in separating the all-powerfull Donald Trump of the fictional "Apprentice" from the pathetic, dishonest, weakling he actually is.  That is a problem.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Lessons of History: Afghanistan and Federalist Paper No. 65



The idea that “those who ignore the lessons of history are forced to relive them” has been voiced by many, but George Santayana, 20th century Spanish philosopher gets most of the credit for it.   

It is most applicable to our current “problem” in Afghanistan, recently described in a Washington Post article as repeated defeats which our military cosmetically described as victories.  Check out the Encyclopedia Britannica’s (or any other reliable source's) treatment of the following bit of military history, which I am certain is taught at West Point and military academies throughout the world.  I am sure many West Pointers, now generals, slept through this course.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the British fought three wars in Afghanistan.   These were known as the Anglo-Afghan Wars, also called the Afghan Wars, and took place from 1839 to 1842, from 1878 to 1880 and also in 1919 in the wake of the First World War.  A century later, things have not changed very much there, although India is no longer a tool of Great Britain, Pakistan did not exist then  (It was still part of India) and the Taliban was not formally organized then although its radical ideas certainly existed then. 

Afghanistan borders six nations, and is in the middle of "nowhere."

In these conflicts, Great Britain, from its base in India, sought to extend its control over neighboring Afghanistan and to oppose Russian influence there.  It these wars, the British suffered defeats, significant loss of lives (including diplomats) and the eventual elimination of any governments they had backed.  The Afghans, then and now, will not be governed nor influenced by any outside powers for very long.  

It is time for us to accept whatever government, however despicable, the Afghans choose for itself, provided it does not serve as a base for attacks on the United States nor its allies.  If they would agree to that, we ought to let them go their own way, however much we disagree with it.

That is the lesson of history.
Jack Lippman

                                                             *  *  *  *

Federalist Papers - No. 65

In the Federalist Papers, written to gather support in New York State for the proposed Constitution, Alexander Hamilton wrote this.  It applies to the Senate, after the House has impeached an office holder.   Significant comments by Hamilton are highlighted and my comments are in red.  In view of what is going on today, it is important that we read Hamilton's words.  It is hoped that the members of the Senate, upon whom an awful responsibility is put by our Constitution, also read it.

The Federalist Papers : No. 65

The Powers of the Senate Continued
From the New York Packet.
Friday, March 7, 1788.

(Written by Alexander Hamilton)
To the People of the State of New York:

THE remaining powers which the plan of the convention allots to the Senate, in a distinct capacity, are comprised in their participation with the executive in the appointment to offices, and in their judicial character as a court for the trial of impeachments. As in the business of appointments the executive will be the principal agent, the provisions relating to it will most properly be discussed in the examination of that department. We will, therefore, conclude this head with a view of the judicial character of the Senate.

A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.   Present minority position of Republicans in the House.

The delicacy and magnitude of a trust which so deeply concerns the political reputation and existence of every man engaged in the administration of public affairs, speak for themselves. The difficulty of placing it rightly, in a government resting entirely on the basis of periodical elections, will as readily be perceived, when it is considered that the most conspicuous characters in it will, from that circumstance, be too often the leaders or the tools of the most cunning or the most numerous faction, and on this account, can hardly be expected to possess the requisite neutrality towards those whose conduct may be the subject of scrutiny.  Reasons for the Constitution's not letting the more democratically elected House do the whole job.  Then, who must make the final decision?

The convention, it appears, thought the Senate the most fit depositary of this important trust. Those who can best discern the intrinsic difficulty of the thing, will be least hasty in condemning that opinion, and will be most inclined to allow due weight to the arguments which may be supposed to have produced it.  In the proposed Constitution, Senate was not elected, but appointed by the State Legislatures. 

What, it may be asked, is the true spirit of the institution itself? Is it not designed as a method of NATIONAL INQUEST into the conduct of public men? If this be the design of it, who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation as the representatives of the nation themselves? It is not disputed that the power of originating the inquiry, or, in other words, of preferring the impeachment, ought to be lodged in the hands of one branch of the legislative body. Will not the reasons which indicate the propriety of this arrangement strongly plead for an admission of the other branch of that body to a share of the inquiry? The model from which the idea of this institution has been borrowed, pointed out that course to the convention. In Great Britain it is the province of the House of Commons to prefer the impeachment, and of the House of Lords to decide upon it. Several of the State constitutions have followed the example. As well the latter, as the former, seem to have regarded the practice of impeachments as a bridle in the hands of the legislative body upon the executive servants of the government. Is not this the true light in which it ought to be regarded?

Where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently independent? What other body would be likely to feel CONFIDENCE ENOUGH IN ITS OWN SITUATION, to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an INDIVIDUAL accused, and the REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE, HIS ACCUSERS?  (The House of Representatives)  - Hamilton was not dealing with a directly elected Senate, which we have today and DOES NOT HAVE CONFIDENCE IN ITS OWN SITUATION, BECAUSE, UNLIKE IN 1789, IT HAS TO RUN FOR RE-ELECTION.  What would Hamilton had written if the Senate were elected as it is today?

Could the Supreme Court have been relied upon as answering this description? It is much to be doubted, whether the members of that tribunal would at all times be endowed with so eminent a portion of fortitude, as would be called for in the execution of so difficult a task; and it is still more to be doubted, whether they would possess the degree of credit and authority, which might, on certain occasions, be indispensable towards reconciling the people to a decision that should happen to clash with an accusation brought by their immediate representatives. A deficiency in the first, would be fatal to the accused; in the last, dangerous to the public tranquillity. The hazard in both these respects, could only be avoided, if at all, by rendering that tribunal more numerous than would consist with a reasonable attention to economy. The necessity of a numerous court for the trial of impeachments, is equally dictated by the nature of the proceeding. This can never be tied down by such strict rules, either in the delineation of the offense by the prosecutors, or in the construction of it by the judges, as in common cases serve to limit the discretion of courts in favor of personal security. There will be no jury to stand between the judges who are to pronounce the sentence of the law, and the party who is to receive or suffer it. The awful discretion which a court of impeachments must necessarily have, to doom to honor or to infamy the most confidential and the most distinguished characters of the community, forbids the commitment of the trust to a small number of persons.

These considerations seem alone sufficient to authorize a conclusion, that the Supreme Court would have been an improper substitute for the Senate, as a court of impeachments. There remains a further consideration, which will not a little strengthen this conclusion. It is this: The punishment which may be the consequence of conviction upon impeachment, is not to terminate the chastisement of the offender. After having been sentenced to a prepetual ostracism from the esteem and confidence, and honors and emoluments of his country, he will still be liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law. Would it be proper that the persons who had disposed of his fame, and his most valuable rights as a citizen in one trial, should, in another trial, for the same offense, be also the disposers of his life and his fortune? Would there not be the greatest reason to apprehend, that error, in the first sentence, would be the parent of error in the second sentence? That the strong bias of one decision would be apt to overrule the influence of any new lights which might be brought to vary the complexion of another decision? Those who know anything of human nature, will not hesitate to answer these questions in the affirmative; and will be at no loss to perceive, that by making the same persons judges in both cases, those who might happen to be the objects of prosecution would, in a great measure, be deprived of the double security intended them by a double trial. The loss of life and estate would often be virtually included in a sentence which, in its terms, imported nothing more than dismission from a present, and disqualification for a future, office. It may be said, that the intervention of a jury, in the second instance, would obviate the danger. But juries are frequently influenced by the opinions of judges. They are sometimes induced to find special verdicts, which refer the main question to the decision of the court. Who would be willing to stake his life and his estate upon the verdict of a jury acting under the auspices of judges who had predetermined his guilt?    Reasons for not letting the Supreme Court have the final word. And today, this may be applicable to the Senate as well.

Would it have been an improvement of the plan, to have united the Supreme Court with the Senate, in the formation of the court of impeachments? This union would certainly have been attended with several advantages; but would they not have been overbalanced by the signal disadvantage, already stated, arising from the agency of the same judges in the double prosecution to which the offender would be liable? To a certain extent, the benefits of that union will be obtained from making the chief justice of the Supreme Court the president of the court of impeachments, as is proposed to be done in the plan of the convention; while the inconveniences of an entire incorporation of the former into the latter will be substantially avoided. This was perhaps the prudent mean. I forbear to remark upon the additional pretext for clamor against the judiciary, which so considerable an augmentation of its authority would have afforded.

Would it have been desirable to have composed the court for the trial of impeachments, of persons wholly distinct from the other departments of the government? There are weighty arguments, as well against, as in favor of, such a plan. To some minds it will not appear a trivial objection, that it could tend to increase the complexity of the political machine, and to add a new spring to the government, the utility of which would at best be questionable. But an objection which will not be thought by any unworthy of attention, is this: a court formed upon such a plan, would either be attended with a heavy expense, or might in practice be subject to a variety of casualties and inconveniences. It must either consist of permanent officers, stationary at the seat of government, and of course entitled to fixed and regular stipends, or of certain officers of the State governments to be called upon whenever an impeachment was actually depending. It will not be easy to imagine any third mode materially different, which could rationally be proposed. As the court, for reasons already given, ought to be numerous, the first scheme will be reprobated by every man who can compare the extent of the public wants with the means of supplying them. The second will be espoused with caution by those who will seriously consider the difficulty of collecting men dispersed over the whole Union; the injury to the innocent, from the procrastinated determination of the charges which might be brought against them; the advantage to the guilty, from the opportunities which delay would afford to intrigue and corruption; and in some cases the detriment to the State, from the prolonged inaction of men whose firm and faithful execution of their duty might have exposed them to the persecution of an intemperate or designing majority in the House of Representatives. Though this latter supposition may seem harsh, and might not be likely often to be verified, yet it ought not to be forgotten that the demon of faction will, at certain seasons, extend his sceptre over all numerous bodies of men.

But though one or the other of the substitutes which have been examined, or some other that might be devised, should be thought preferable to the plan in this respect, reported by the convention, it will not follow that the Constitution ought for this reason to be rejected. If mankind were to resolve to agree in no institution of government, until every part of it had been adjusted to the most exact standard of perfection, society would soon become a general scene of anarchy, and the world a desert. Where is the standard of perfection to be found? Who will undertake to unite the discordant opinions of a whole commuity, in the same judgment of it; and to prevail upon one conceited projector to renounce his INFALLIBLE criterion for the FALLIBLE criterion of his more CONCEITED NEIGHBOR? To answer the purpose of the adversaries of the Constitution, they ought to prove, not merely that particular provisions in it are not the best which might have been imagined, but that the plan upon the whole is bad and pernicious.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Pensacola Shooting and Impeachment Rolls On

Pensacola Shooting

Sometime in the mid-nineties, we took the kids on a trip to Florida which of course, included a visit to Disneyland!  I recall waiting in line at one of the rides (“40,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” I believe) and the people right next to us in line whom we talked to during the wait turned out to be a group of Saudi Air Force personnel who were in the United States being trained to fly American planes.  So, this has been going on for years.  I am sure the recent Pensacola shooter, a Saudi Air Force trainee, was appropriately checked out before coming to this country, but when hundreds, if not thousands, come here for such training, someone with problems (and all “shooters” in this age of gun violence seem to have some sort of problems which motivate them) is certain to slip through occasionally.

The Sad Thing About Impeachment

The Senate hearings, once the House passes Bills of Impeachment regarding Donald J. Trump, will be controlled by the Republicans.  Their re-election chances depend on Trump supporters so do not expect fairness in whatever happens in the Senate.  Almost all Republican Senators will vote “not to convict,” even though in their hearts, for the good of their Party, they would be glad to get rid of him.  But they will not vote their hearts, nor vote as Americans, but as Trumpublicans.

Despite the solid, factual revelations which came out of the House Intellligence Committee's hearing, Trumpublicans seem to accept the fact that the testimony of State Department Russian and Ukranian expert Fiona Hill, the incriminating comments of Gordon Sonderling as well as Ambassador Taylor's revelations and those of several State Department officials are all part of what the President calls a "big hoax."  Only Trumpublicans are dumb enough, and un-American enough, putting Party before country and Constitution, to believe that, but that seems to be the case.

The House’s Bill of Impeachment, like a “grand jury’s” indictment, is no more than a charge.  That the President boycotted the House hearings and ordered those in the Executive Branch to do likewise, cannot be taken as an admission of guilt although Trump and his supporters would have been hard put to contradict the facts which the hearings developed.  Guilt will depend on what the Senate does, and that is the venue where the President will make his stand.

There are undeniable facts which the Republicans in the Senate will latch on to, such as the fact that Joe Biden’s son did indeed hold a seat on the Board of an Ukrainian gas company.  Out of this fact, half-truths, suppositions, suspicions and outright lies will be woven and voiced.  Even if unsubstantiated and unproven, they would be enough for Republicans to use as a basis for standing behind the President.  Also, the historically corrupt nature of Ukrainian politics will be brought up as well as the entirely disproven “Crowdstrike” conspiracy, originated by the Russians, which is still believed by many Republican comrades who prefer to believe Putin’s intelligence services rather than our own.  Republicans will attack Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi too, whose positions are based on proven truths, with their own unproven lies.  That's what we can expect from the Senate.

(The other day, Joe Biden told a questioner at an Iowa town meeting, that “He was a damn liar.”  The poor fellow then claimed the lies he was spouting about Biden and his son he got from MSNBC.   Obviously, and Joe Biden pointed this out, this was not the case.  But somewhere in the web of right-wing misinformation, the gentlemen had indeed been given the idea that even MSNBC confirmed the lies about Biden’s son. Those swimming in a sea of right wing misinformation are difficult to convince of the truth and there are tens of millions of American voters in that category.  Similarly, the reporter ... formerly with Fox, now with Sinclair ... who implied that Nancy Pelosi "hated" the President, was nourished by such information, which, incidenentally, his past and present employers were and are in the business of spreading.) 

Sadly, in addition the letting the President off, the confusion coming out of the Senate hearings will cause many Americans to buy into G.O.P. lies as we enter the 2020 election year.  How to deal with this, without taking their eyes off of the real issues, domestic and foreign, involved in that election, in addition to defeating Donald Trump, is a challenge the Democratic Party must face.