Random Thoughts on Impeachment

I’ve been following the proceedings so far, watching the hearings and reading the press reports and occasionally the comments.

And I’ve got a few thoughts.

I feel safe referring to “Republicans” and “Democrats” as the two sides, since it really is split along party lines. No Republicans have even hinted that they would consider the possibility of voting to impeach, and no Democrats have suggested with any seriousness that El Presidente just might be innocent.

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Now What?

So we’ve had two weeks and many hours of people giving their testimony on Trump’s “Aid for Dirt” bribery scandal. As could be expected, the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee asked pointed questions that strengthened their case for Conspiracy to Commit Bribery, while the Republicans responded with “La la la, I can’t hear you, Biden, corruption, Burisma, hearsay, la la la…..”

The media have gone over the testimony picking out highlights and wondering why the whole megillah hasn’t moved the proverbial needle on Impeachment. Personally, the high point of the many hearings was Chairman Schiff’s closing comments on the last day of the hearings. He made an impassioned defense of law and order, as well as our nation’s role on the world stage. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, go do so now:

And to think it was all ad-libbed!

Anyway, now that the hearings are done, what happens next?

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Astros vs. Nationals

OK, this is it! World Series time! The best team in baseball facing the hottest team. And only the second time ever when both teams were expansion teams (the first was in 2015 when the Royals beat the Mets). The teams are loaded with talent, especially when it comes to starting pitching. Plan for a low-scoring series, but expect something unexpected to happen (naturally).

I’ve read some comments complaining that MLB would have preferred a New York – Los Angeles series, because those are the two biggest TV markets in the country. As it happens, Houston and DC are both in the top ten (at #7 and #6 respectively), so it’s not going to matter much. There are other gripes that starting the WS games at 8 pm means they will end after midnight, much too late for children. That claim betrays the commenter’s East Coast Bias. A game that ends at midnight in New York or DC will end at 11 pm in Chicago, St Louis, and Houston; at 10 pm in Denver and Phoenix; and 9 pm in Los Angeles and Seattle. I think the kids will be fine…

And as far as a “narrative” for FOX Sports to promote? The Astros are by far the best team in the game today; they are working on a dynasty. The Nationals are bringing the World Series to DC for the first time in seven decades. If your Promotions Dept. can’t do anything with that, fire them and get some new people in there.

I’m wondering who the Nationals will pick for “Ceremonial First Pitch” duties. The team doesn’t have enough history in DC to have some legendary players – yet. Perhaps they can hearken back to their Montreal Expo origins and call on Hall of Famer Tim Raines? It’s possible there just might still be someone alive who actually played for the original Washington Senators; if not, Walter Johnson’s grandson is around…. Whatever they do, please do NOT pick a political figure. Keep it baseball-related.

For the Houston Astros, I understand the temptation to ask Nolan Ryan if he’d like to do it. I would call on the “Killer B’s” – Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, and Craig Biggio – their superstars from their good teams in the late 90s and early 00s. If they need a fourth, then ask Ryan.

Anyway, I’m going to go on record here as hoping that the Astros take it in five games – mostly because I’ll be on vacation next week, and won’t be able to watch Games 6 or 7…

Extortion

extortion (noun)

ex·​tor·​tion | \ ik-ˈstȯr-shən

1 : the act or practice of extorting, especially money or other property especially : the offense committed by an official engaging in such practice.

Merriam-Webster

1. Illegal use of one’s official position or powers to obtain property, funds, or patronage.

2. The act or an instance of extorting something, as by psychological pressure.

The Free Dictionary

The obtaining of property from another induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.

The Free Legal Dictionary

Law. the crime of obtaining money or some other thing of value by the abuse of one’s office or authority.

Dictionary.Com

Extortion is the crime of obtaining something from someone, especially money, by using force or threats.

The Collins Dictionary

Extortion is a crime in which one person attempts to force another person to do something against his will. Extortion is used to force the victim to give property or money to the perpetrator, or to take some action, such as giving someone a promotion, or voting for something. This is done by threatening the victim’s property, person, or loved ones with harm, by intimidating the victim, or by falsely claiming a right. While extortion cases generally must contain some type of threat to the victim, his property, or his family to be classified as extortion, it does not need to involve actual physical injury, or relate to any other specific unlawful act.

The Legal Dictionary

Don Corleone (Marlon Brando): Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, consider this justice a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.

The Godfather, screenplay by Mario Puzo

The President: Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There’s a lot of. talk about Biden’s son, that Eiden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.

Donald Trump, released transcript of phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky

On the Campaign Trail – 1

I haven’t been paying that much attention to the Democratic Presidential Campaign. It’s way too early, and there are far too many candidates. The need for the Democrats to not only unseat El Presidente but retake the Senate and keep the House is too important to worry about who wins the eventual nomination – especially when any one of them is good enough to win. There’s strong reasoning behind the “Vote Blue – No Matter Who” slogan.

Of course, that’s not going to stop me from having opinions.

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Burying the Lede

I did not watch Mueller’s testimony yesterday, but I did read about it – even following a liveblog. I was not expecting much, since all the information was already out there. And, being a professional and as bipartisan as he could be, Mueller wasn’t going to be tricked into saying anything damning (that wasn’t already covered in his report).

Even so, there were still things that need to be mentioned. Unfortunately, the press is far more concerned with the “optics” of the hearings (the tone of the questions, Mueller’s uncertainty and reticence) and picking winners and losers than discussing the content.

So instead of headlines like “Six Takeaways from the Hearings” and the usual “Dems Disappointed”, I would have gone with something completely different if I had any front page editorial control:

MUELLER CONFIRMS TRUMP NOT EXONERATED

* Says Trump lied to cover up his involvment
* Trump can be indicted once out of office
* Schiff calls Trump “Disloyal”
* Russia still trying to interfere in our elections

See? It’s not hard.

One might come across some of these (or similar points from the hearings) buried deep in the later paragraphs of a story. To bury the lede like that is a colossal failure of journalism. I cannot tell what is in the minds of the mainstream press. Perhaps they are trying to maintain a sort of bipartisan neutrality in the matter, and not come down on one side or another. Or maybe they want to milk any “controversy” for as long as they can in order to keep readers. Or worse, they just don’t care. It can’t be that they are afraid of any pushback from daring to criticize El Presidente, can it….

Thankfully, there are still a handful of journalists (and the places that publish their work) who know what their proper role is.

A US election was hijacked. Trump stood by as it happened and profited from it. And ever since he has attempted to cover up this original sin of his presidency. At the hearing, Mueller did not rail about Trump’s serious misconduct. But in the quiet way of an institutionalist who respects norms and rules, Mueller made it clear: Trump engaged in treachery. This is not news. But it remains a defining element of the Trump presidency that deserves constant attention.

David Corn, Mother Jones

The “failure” is not of a prosecutor who found the facts but might be ill equipped to make the political case, but instead, of a country that won’t read his report and a media obsessed with scoring contests rather than focusing on the damning facts at issue.

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

What should be important to all of us is that the world heard (again) that the Russians continue to undermine our democracy, that the Trump campaign was not averse to accepting Russian help in the 2016 presidential election and actively sought to cover up its actions, and that there was convincing evidence the president of the United States obstructed justice. And those are just some of the things that were discussed at the hearings….

But when folks follow [Trump’s] lead and focus on performance and visuals rather than the substance, they’re playing Trump’s game on Trump’s turf. And when that happens, Trump wins. So if you’re playing that game and still wondering how Trump always seems to get away with the outrageous and the unconscionable, you should just look in the mirror.

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post

If only we were paying attention……

On the 2019 All Star Game

Just a few random notes – in no particular order – about this year’s All-Star Game.

Determining that one league dominates the other based on one single game – where the managers seem to place more importance on getting every player in the game instead of, you know, winning – is ludicrous. Especially in an era when players switch leagues so easily. Aside from the significant role of chance in any individual contest, taking that logic to its extreme means that Don Larsen is the greatest pitcher of all time. And how can you say one team “dominated” the other when the final score was 4-3?

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Is It Impeachment Time Yet?

As the president shows more of his general unfitness for office on a daily basis, the calls to impeach him are steadily growing more frequent and more strident from those on the farther left. Their frustration is evident, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to brush the matter aside, saying that in effect, they’ll do it when the time is right.

Pelosi is correct, of course. The time is not yet right to begin the proceedings. It’s not that we don’t yet have sufficient evidence; it’s that impeachment – though conducted as if it were a criminal proceeding – is a political process. And the situation isn’t politically ripe to even start holding hearings.

A quick review of the procedure is in order. Continue reading

Reporting on the Report

Now that the “suitable for the public’ version of the Mueller Report has been released, and we’ve had time to read it and mull over the contents, what have we learned?

First, it seems that we were overreacting about the possibility of Attorney General William Barr going overboard with his redactions. The amount, where they came in the report, and the general reasons for them, seem to actually be reasonable. Most of them were in the section about Russia’s cyberattacks and interference in the 2016 election campaign. And given that those threats are still active and being fought by the relevant intelligence agencies, it’s reasonable that one would not want to let any of the details be made public. Making them available to important members of Congress is entirely justified, though.

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On the Green New Deal

The freshmen class of Democratic representatives (and one or two on the Republican side of the aisle) came up with this nice little legislative proposal to attack global warming head-on, and deal with a few other pet social and economic issues.

As a set of policy goals or a proposed platform, it’s a lot like Wilson’s Fourteen Points. As a detailed legislative package, well, it’s a lot like Wilson’s Fourteen Points….

And it doesn’t help that its backers, so far, seem to be adopting the tactic of browbeating the opposition until they cry “Uncle!” and give up. Hanging out in the halls of Congress harassing people isn’t going to win them over to your side. Yes, the matter is extremely urgent, but why not come up with a better approach – one that explains the dangers if we don’t do anything, gives some ideas about what will have to be done to avoid that fate, and makes the necessary steps more palatable?

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