Saturday, January 25, 2020

I hold out HOPE, however small, that the US Senate will do the right thing, but if it doesn't...

Because impeachment is a political process, it must develop in the political context of a Congress made up of members who are not always courageous, who are invariably calculating and who are easily distracted in even the most urgent of circumstances. Three presidents have been seriously targeted for impeachment by the House. Two were impeached, and then acquitted by the Senate. One was at the brink of impeachment—following the decision of the House Judiciary Committee to support three indicting articles—and chose to remove himself before trial. There are those who argue that the resignation of Richard Nixon upended the impeachment process, but anyone who understands the point of a system of checks and balances will recognize the absurdity of this claim.
Nixon was threatened with impeachment and removed himself—thus ending his abuses of power and restoring the proper functioning of the office of the presidency. By any reasonable measure, that was a successful application of the constitutional remedy. Keep in mind that the point of impeachment has always been to address the abuses of executive authority that might see a president assume the mantle of an “elected despot.” Whether a president is impeached and convicted or simply resigns in order to avoid inevitable impeachment and conviction, the constitutional crisis has been cured. 
Thus, the American who can most justifiably be said to have continued the right of impeachment as George Mason and his compatriots intended is Peter Rodino, the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who, upon his death at age ninety-five, was recalled by The New York Times as “an obscure congressman from the streets of Newark who impressed the nation by the dignity, fairness and firmness he showed as chairman of the impeachment hearings that induced Richard M. Nixon to resign as president.” 
Rodino was a Democrat and Nixon was a Republican. Rodino’s Democrats had majorities in the House and Senate in 1974. Yet, the savvy veteran of the rough-and-tumble politics of New Jersey’s Essex County well understood that, in order to hold Nixon to account, he was going to need cautious House Democrats and skeptical House Republicans to accept the necessity of impeachment. This wasn’t about building a narrow coalition in order to clear the constitutional hurdles of a simple majority vote in the House and a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate. This was about building a case that was convincing to the American people. The case that Rodino and his Judiciary Committee colleagues crafted over many months, with hearings that entertained a wide range of offenses but finally focused on a few of the most egregious wrongs, was sufficiently compelling to secure Republican support for three articles of impeachment and to send Nixon packing. 
These are different times. There are plenty of pundits and politicians who now assert that our partisanships have become so great that even a Peter Rodino could not make an impeachment process work. If that is the case, then the United States has not continued the right of impeachment as a whole instrument of the Constitution. The licensing words may remain in the document, but they are merely assertions of an ideal—not a practical tool for making real the founding promise of accountability for errant executives.
If we have reached such a point of compromise, then the American experiment is finished. Donald Trump may be voted out of office after one term. Or he may retire after two. Better presidents may come. Or worse. But the vision that ours would be a government of laws, not men, will be finished. We will, like the monarchies of old, be able to hope for no more than a “good king.” We will be more akin to the monarchies of old, which might have produced a “Bad King John” or a “Good King Richard,” but that always had kings. And those kinds ruled by “divine right,” rejecting the rule of law in favor of rule by fiat—just as Donald Trump does when he suggests he cooperates with inquiries not out of respect for the rule of law but because it occurs to him that he has “done nothing wrong.” 
This new America with its diminished system of checks and balances, where impeachment is never an option, will not be a formal monarchy. Jurists may still prattle on about statutory requirements, and those requirements will undoubtedly be applied to citizens. But those requirements will no longer be applied to the executive branch, which will go from bad to worse; on a downward spiral of imperial presidents where good commanders-in-chief are the exceptions that prove the rule. The failure of Congress to hold Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush to account for their Iran-Contra transgressions cleared the way for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to engage in far more destructive transgressions in Iraq. A failure to hold Donald Trump to account for his lawlessness all but guarantees that a more lawless president will eventually occupy the Oval Office. To think otherwise is to engage in the cruelest of fantasies. 
This book rejects fantasy. It chooses the realism of long-settled history over the conjecture of a chaotic present. Taking the long view is rarely rewarded in these times of “instant analysis.” But it is the only view that provides us with the hope of righting the ship of state for more than a passing moment. This book outlines a serious vision for renewing the system of checks and balances, not merely to hold Donald Trump to account but to restore the basic premises of accountability that were embedded in the Constitution by the founders—and that have been preserved by true patriots in even the most daunting of times.
The patriots who have contributed to these pages propose nothing more radical than a reconnection with the deepest understandings from the summer of 1787, and from the summer of 1974. They recognize the necessity of wielding the awesome power of impeachment with the “solemnness” that Congresswoman Barbara Jordan described on July 25, 1974.
An African-American lawyer and legislator born and raised in the segregated Texas of “Jim Crow” times, she was serving her initial term in the U.S. House of Representatives as the first African-American woman ever elected from the Deep South. Now, Jordan sat on the Judiciary Committee as “an inquisitor” charged with determining the fate of a president who had only recently been reelected with 61 percent of the vote and a 520–17 Electoral College landslide. 
“Earlier today, we heard the beginning of the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States: ‘We, the people.’ It’s a very eloquent beginning,” she told her colleagues. “But when that document was completed on the seventeenth of September in 1787, I was not included in that ‘We, the people.’ I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decision, I have finally been included in ‘We, the people.’ ”
There was perfection in the language that Barbara Jordan chose on that historic day. She took hold of the right of impeachment and made it what it should always have been: the possession of every American. Every American. And she declared that this right must have meaning, not merely in history but in the present. 
“James Madison, again at the Constitutional Convention, [said]: ‘A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.’ The Constitution charges the President with the task of taking care that the laws be faithfully executed,” she explained, “and yet the President has counseled his aides to commit perjury, willfully disregard the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, conceal surreptitious entry, attempt to compromise a federal judge, while publicly displaying his cooperation with the processes of criminal justice.” 
Jordan repeated Madison’s words: “A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.” Wearing the armor of history, she explained why the standard would need to be applied to Richard Nixon’s sins against the republic. “If the impeachment provision in the Constitution of the United States will not reach the offenses charged here,” said Jordan, “then perhaps that 18th-century Constitution should be abandoned to a 20th-century paper shredder!” 
Those are words as wise as any handed down from George Mason or James Madison or Thomas Jefferson. They form an impression of the impeachment power as we today must recognize it. So, too, does Jordan’s willingness in so charged a moment to maintain the right of impeachment. 
“Has the President committed offenses, and planned, and directed, and acquiesced in a course of conduct which the Constitution will not tolerate? That’s the question,” explained the congresswoman. “We know that. We know the question. We should now forthwith proceed to answer the question. It is reason, and not passion, which must guide our deliberations, guide our debate, and guide our decision.” 
The authors of this book speak a historic language when they demand that Congress ask again: “Has the President committed offenses, and planned, and directed, and acquiesced in a course of conduct which the Constitution will not tolerate?” This is a book that extends from the founding moment of 1787 through the accountability moment of 1974 to the urgent moment of today. It demands more of us than many of our ancestors were willing to provide the republic. But not more than George Mason demanded. Not more than Barbara Jordan demanded. Not more than solemn and sincere patriotism has always demanded of us.
We do know the question that extends from the right of impeachment. And if the Constitution is to remain full in its meaning and its promise, then we should now forthwith proceed to answer the question.
JOHN NICHOLS June 8, 2018
John Nichols, the national affairs correspondent for The Nation, has covered impeachments and impeachment movements for decades. He is the author of the 2006 book The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders’ Cure for Royalism, for which author Gore Vidal wrote the introduction. In 2007, he appeared on the historic Bill Moyers Journal broadcast “Tough Talk on Impeachment with Bruce Fein and John Nichols.” (the video of that broadcast is at the top of this post)
From the Forward to The Constitution Demands It. Melville House. Kindle Edition. 
My aim is to temper any remaining (likely unreasonable) expectations that the current U.S. Senate will expel Donald Trump from the White House. Nevertheless, I disagree with Nichols that it might be fantasy or unreasonable to expect that the American People will rise up in the wake of Trump's expected acquittal rather than simply acquiesce.

Movements are already rising to demand (for example) a Brand New Congress that will be genuinely responsive to the People and to elect Elizabeth Warren, a candidate with the vision, backbone and detailed plans to transform the American federal government with Bold Structural Change.

If mealy-mouth (a description that fits the House GOP caucus exquisitely, by the way) Republican senators don't muster up the backbone to do the right thing, the American electorate will.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Prosecution Rests -- Adam Schiff's closing argument January 24, 2020

If you didn't have the opportunity to view the entire three days of the trial when House Managers presented their case for convicting Donald Trump on the two Articles of Impeachment, this final 48 minutes sums it up well. Schiff also takes apart the anticipated defense arguments that will be presented beginning (and perhaps finishing) Saturday.

Among the comments posted on YouTube, one person mentioned this will be taught in constitutional law classes henceforth.

Monday, January 20, 2020


Last night, I finished reading Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, a memoir written by former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. It's a great read and if you have any interest in leadership of any kind, I wholeheartedly recommend you devour it. I reviewed it at and Amazon.

Later last night, I also started reading The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, by Shoshana Zuboff.

Zuboff's book has already blown my mind. Surveillance Capitalism goes far beyond simply providing targeted ads based on your interests. The professor emerita at Harvard Business School defines the term as,
Sur-veil-lance Cap-i-tal-ism, n.
1. A new economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales; 2. A parasitic economic logic in which the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new global architecture of behavioral modification; 3. A rogue mutation of capitalism marked by concentrations of wealth, knowledge, and power unprecedented in human history; 4. The foundational framework of a surveillance economy; 5. As significant a threat to human nature in the twenty-first century as industrial capitalism was to the natural world in the nineteenth and twentieth; 6. The origin of a new instrumentarian power that asserts dominance over society and presents startling challenges to market democracy; 7. A movement that aims to impose a new collective order based on total certainty; 8. An expropriation of critical human rights that is best understood as a coup from above: an overthrow of the people’s sovereignty.
Zuboff, Shoshana. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (p. 2). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition. 
Surveillance capitalism’s products and services are not the objects of a value exchange. They do not establish constructive producer-consumer reciprocities. Instead, they are the “hooks” that lure users into their extractive operations in which our personal experiences are scraped and packaged as the means to others’ ends.
ibid. (p. 10)

Zuboff then argues (pursuasively) that it is unprecedented.
When we encounter something unprecedented, we automatically interpret it through the lenses of familiar categories, thereby rendering invisible precisely that which is unprecedented. A classic example is the notion of the “horseless carriage” to which people reverted when confronted with the unprecedented facts of the automobile. A tragic illustration is the encounter between indigenous people and the first Spanish conquerors. When the TaĆ­nos of the pre-Columbian Caribbean islands first laid eyes on the sweating, bearded Spanish soldiers trudging across the sand in their brocade and armor, how could they possibly have recognized the meaning and portent of that moment? Unable to imagine their own destruction, they reckoned that those strange creatures were gods and welcomed them with intricate rituals of hospitality. This is how the unprecedented reliably confounds understanding; existing lenses illuminate the familiar, thus obscuring the original by turning the unprecedented into an extension of the past. This contributes to the normalization of the abnormal, which makes fighting the unprecedented even more of an uphill climb.
On a stormy night some years ago, our home was struck by lightning, and I learned a powerful lesson in the comprehension-defying power of the unprecedented. Within moments of the strike, thick black smoke drifted up the staircase from the lower level of the house and toward the living room. As we mobilized and called the fire department, I believed that I had just a minute or two to do something useful before rushing out to join my family. First, I ran upstairs and closed all the bedroom doors to protect them from smoke damage. Next, I tore back downstairs to the living room, where I gathered up as many of our family photo albums as I could carry and set them outside on a covered porch for safety. The smoke was just about to reach me when the fire marshal arrived to grab me by the shoulder and yank me out the door. We stood in the driving rain, where, to our astonishment, we watched the house explode in flames.
I learned many things from the fire, but among the most important was the unrecognizability of the unprecedented.
ibid (pgs. 12-13)
Perhaps until we come to grips with the fact that we've been inundated by a new force and environment that we previously had no way of understanding, we might not be able to figure out what to do or how to do it to shed the scourge.

You can listen to Professor Zuboff explain it in her own voice on a 50 minute podcast embedded in a Recode (on interview from February 2019. And in a column on the Project Syndicate website dated January 3, 2020.

I am indebted to Zuboff for her poignant examples of being unable to recognize the significance of the unprecedented.

Further, as the Senate Impeachment Trial of the current occupant of the White House gets underway tomorrow (January 21, 2020), I believe there are massive aspects of the last three years for which we have been unable to imagine an adequate framework because it has been so freakin' unprecedented.

If I tried to expound on it, other than citing the overwhelming number of intentional misrepresentations that he has uttered (>16,000 and counting) and the unbelievably absurd case that he and his team have thus far articulated, it would take me days and nights to do. So I won't.

Suffice it at this moment to say that I do not believe we have an adequate framework through which to imagine the significance of what we are about to live through even over the next two to three weeks.

That is, even though nobody and her brother expects the Senate to convict Trump.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Retired Colonel Martha McSally

The Arizona Eagletarian is in the process of reading General Jim Mattis' memoir, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead. It's a tremendous read to gain insight on exactly that, learning to lead. Here's a gold nugget I found in it recently.
"Jim," General Hagee said, "it's time you got back into the fight."
Like an old cavalry horse whose ears perk up when he hears the Boots and Saddles bugle call, I stood a little straighter that day. Iraq was looking bad, and the American public was losing patience. But a leader's role is problem solving. If you don't like problems, stay out of leadership. Smooth sailing teaches nothing, and there was nothing smooth about the Middle East. Plus, I'd be back with the troops.
General Jim Mattis, Call Sign Chaos, page 158.

Needless to say, Col. Martha didn't exactly demonstrate the composure required of a senior military officer when she blasted Manu Raju.

Here's another gold nugget I recently shared with Col. Martha on Twitter,
"History is compelling; nations with allies thrive; those without them die." -- Jim Mattis, Call Sign Chaos page 170.

And finally, here's what a Martha McSally who might actually intend to get elected in November 2020 would make happen.

What is the White House Occupant's record for strengthening or alienating allies? If Colonel McSally was interested in using her current position to strengthen American interests in foreign policy, might she be more inclined to actually lead... rather than falling lockstep into formation behind Moscow Mitch?

Sunday, January 12, 2020

A most profound opinion by NYTimes columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn

Who Killed the Knapp Family?

Across America, working-class people — including many of our friends — are dying of despair. And we’re still blaming the wrong people.

Mr. Kristof and Ms. WuDunn are the authors of “Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope,” from which this essay is adapted.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Do you want a say in who Democrats nominate for president in 2020?

Are you an Arizona voter? Do you want the opportunity to have a say in who Democrats nominate for president in the 2020 general election?

Here's your chance!

Arizona's Democratic Presidential Preference Election date is March 17, 2020.

Unlike the statewide primary election in August (for Congressional, statewide and legislative offices), in order to vote, one MUST be a registered Democrat.

All registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, will be eligible to vote in August (with early voting starting in July).

Again, to vote in the Democratic Presidential Preference Election (PPE - the "Democratic presidential primary") MUST BE REGISTERED VOTERS IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY by the registration deadline, 29 days before Election Day which is February 18, 2020.

Any citizen living in Arizona may update their registration online at

PPE Election Day is March 17, 2020. Early voting begins in February.
I recommend all registered voters check their current voter registration to make sure it is correct. That can be done at by clicking on Search for your Voter Registration.

PLEASE NOTE: There is no Arizona 2020 Republican Presidential Preference Election, by the Republican Party's decision.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Americans do BIG things, THAT is who we are! We WILL seize THIS moment!

A brilliant message to begin 2020, Sen. Elizabeth Warren inspires hope.

"Our BEST moments as a country have been when we see a challenge clearly and we MOBILIZE to meet it head on. That is why I come to you [now] with a heart filled with optimism." 

Of America's accomplishments, not one of them was born of fear. They were born of boldness and big dreams.

"They were rooted in our unique ability to turn dispair into hope; fear into courage; improbability into triumph. They were born of an ability to imagine a better world. To imagine it so clearly and so thoroughly that we fought for it with everything we had."

Dutch historian Rutger Bregman, author of Utopia for Realists, notes that the one thing he believes is most important for people today is hope. Check out this great interview Bregman gives with Daily Show host Trevor Noah.

We will turn the destruction of American institutions by reactionary Trump(sters) into a monumentally significant transition that will bring the dreams of millions of Americans into fruition.

We will seize the moment. Start here with Teri Kanefield's to do list. Join me.