Let’s talk impeachment for a minute.

FYI: The United States of America has never actually impeached and removed a president before.

Americans toss the idea of impeaching a president around pretty casually in conversation. We demand it, we talk about it like it’s a one-and-done kind of thing.

It is not. It really, really isn’t.

You can read about how federal impeachment works on Wikipedia, but very basically, the House Judiciary Committee first investigates if a president has committed impeachable offenses of some sort. “Impeachable offenses” are defined pretty vaguely in the Constitution: “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

So first the House Judiciary investigates. Investigation can take quite awhile – months, easily. If they find something they think is an “impeachable offense,” usually some kind of crime, the Judiciary will issue articles of impeachment with specific allegations. The articles of impeachment are sent on to the full House of Representatives.

The House debates the various allegations and votes on the articles of impeachment. A simple majority vote is needed to pass the articles. After that, folks from the House of Representatives present the case to the Senate.

The Senate holds a trial. The House presents the prosecution case, and the president would have his lawyers defend him. After hearing the case, the Senate deliberates among themselves, and they need a two-thirds super majority to convict the president.

Once the president is convicted, he’s out. This is a process that can take months. Clinton’s impeachment took just over a year, and I don’t think that’s counting whatever investigations the House Judiciary did at the time.

Impeaching a president is a lengthy, cumbersome, drama-filled process, and one that is not generally undertaken lightly by Congress.

Another thing to consider: The United States has never actually impeached and convicted a president before. We’ve never kicked a president out of office.

We’ve impeached two presidents in the House, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, but they were both acquitted in the Senate. We started to impeach Richard Nixon, but he resigned before we really got going.

We’ve had 45 presidents over the course of 242 years. Some of them were pretty frickin’ awful. A few of them were monsters. And we’ve never kicked a single one out of office by impeachment.

I’m pointing this out to you because I want you to understand that impeaching a president and removing them from office has a momentous weight of history bearing down on it. This is the kind of action that stamps its mark on history for generations.

This is, as Joe Biden might say, a big fuckin’ deal.

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do it. I’m not saying Trump doesn’t deserve it. (If anyone does, I’m pretty sure it’s him.) I’m just saying, this is not a thing you just up and do.

So if you’re one of the many, many people or news pundits out there who’s all “He should be impeached, why aren’t we impeaching him, we should do it tomorrow, yaddayaddayadda,” hey, take a breath. This isn’t going out for ice cream, man.

It’s probably gonna happen. We’ll probably at least try to impeach Trump. But it’s going to take a minute. Nobody changes the arc of history overnight.

Featured photo: US Capitol Building, by Martin Falbisoner. CC BY-SA 3.0. Source and licensing.

Bad Headlines & Poe’s Law

Reminder: Most people reading the news really only read headlines, particularly folks who get their news via social media. Y’all have to do better at headlines.

Two quick things about this screenshot.

First Thing: This headlines states that Donald Trump thought the the people he saw talking on the TV were talking privately to him. The article, however, is about an answer Pence gave to a question from NBC: “Which former presidents told President Trump, as he said, that he should’ve built a wall?” The answer was basically, “Maybe Trump saw it on TV.”

Look, guys, I know you’re trying to get clicks. We’re all trying to get clicks. But we’re dealing with a president who has an obvious mental impairment of some kind, and who seems to be in mental decline. You can’t go announcing that he thinks the TV people are talking directly to him, because that is shit we’ll all easily believe in real life.

You’re not helping.

Second Thing: The President of the United States is such a hot, festering mess that I just read a headline that said Trump thinks the TV people are talking directly to him, and I found that shit extremely easy to believe.

Like, it wasn’t a “Ha ha, he’s so dumb, I bet he does,” reaction. It was a “Yeah, he probably does, dude has dementia or something and dementia patients get confused like that,” response.

And that is terrifying.

The shutdown drags on…

Here’s some news about the ongoing government shutdown, Trump’s demands to address the nation during prime time on Tuesday, and, just for funsies, “Supernatural.”

Some good news: Russell Vought, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, claims the IRS will pay out tax refunds even if the government is still shut down. Details as to how they’ll do that are thin on the ground, considering they haven’t been legally allowed to disperse funds without actually having the funds in the past. And they won’t have funds until a spending bill gets passed. So I guess we’ll see?

And some bad news: The Dept. of Agriculture, which runs the SNAP program (“food stamps”), doesn’t know how much longer they’ll be able to pay those out. That’s real bad, folks.

Meanwhile, Trump wants to address the nation tomorrow at 9 p.m. so he can lie at us some more about his border wall. News folks were reporting earlier that network stations weren’t sure if they were going to carry the address, but the article I linked says they will. I’m not sure if that’s been updated recently or what. Keep an eye on that, I guess. And of course, if you do bump into Trump during prime time tomorrow evening, don’t believe a word he says. The man is pathologically unable to tell the truth.

Trump keeps saying he’s going to declare a national emergency and use his emergency powers to build his wall, and the House Democrats plan to meet him in court if he tries it. Other experts have said that a national emergency and presidential emergency powers still won’t get the wall built. NPR has a fact check, if you’re interested.

And, to wrap things up on a lighter note, it looks like Supernatural‘s 300th episode is going to have some favorite old faces involved somehow.

(Photo credit: White House in Washington, D.C. on Wikimedia Commons. Source and licensing.)

Trump must go to prison.

I have no interest in immunity deals to get Trump out of office. Trump must be held accountable.

Former Bush II adviser Alan J. Steinberg wrote recently of Trump, “the self-professed supreme dealmaker will use his presidency as a bargaining chip with federal and state authorities in 2019, agreeing to leave office in exchange for the relevant authorities not pursuing criminal charges against him, his children or the Trump Organization.”

And like… maybe?

Impeachment is probably a non-starter. The Democrat-controlled House could hold a hearing and impeach Trump, but then the Senate has to vote to convict on the impeachment as well. Twenty Republicans would have to break with the party to manage a conviction and toss Trump out of the White House, and that seems pretty damned unlikely at the moment.

Trump, his kids, and his businesses are neck deep in serious legal troubles, so there might be leverage for an immunity deal in return for a resignation. I’m couldn’t say how possible or likely such a deal would be, since I know nearly nothing about that kind of legal wrangling.

But here’s what I do know: Trump is deeply mentally diseased. He’s probably a malignant narcissist and/or sociopath. His sense of self is deeply tied to his own mythology, that of the “winner,” the “great dealmaker,” the guy who never loses. So I’m not entirely sure that Trump is capable of recognizing that he’s in trouble he can’t get out of and striking a deal like that. It would subvert his own sense of self to a pretty gross degree.

I also don’t think he gives that much of a damn about his kids. I mean, he doesn’t act like he does.

I lean towards thinking that Steinberg’s opinion piece is just wishful thinking.

Also, an immunity deal? Hell no. Trump should go to prison. America needs Trump to go to prison. America needs to put this criminal president in jail for a good, long time. We need to show ourselves and the world that presidents are not above the law, that there are consequences for evil actions, even for the powerful.

The Trump administration has committed evils that are, as far as I can see, unprecedented in modern times. Step one in correcting those evils and making up for them is making sure that those who ordered those actions are called to account.

Anything less than that is just a declaration that we intend to allow more of the same.

Photo credit: Donald Trump, by Gage Skidmore (source and licensing).

5TtRT: Medicare for all, Facebook, facts matter, Tesla, & privacy

Today’s topics include working towards Medicare for All, Facebook being terrible, reality vs. facts in politics, Elon Musk and Tesla, and how advertisers track literally everything about you.

I’m on vacation for two weeks, and I’m having a nice, quiet day after Christmas. We’re gonna go see the new Spider-Man movie this afternoon and then I’m gonna spend the rest of the day being lazy and not looking at the trashfire of news. I may just go ahead and play Minecraft all day. If I get motivated, I might clean a thing, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up if I were you.

Here’s some stuff to read.

5 Things to Read Today

Today let’s talk about ‘political correctness.’

NPR released a poll yesterday that said that most Americans were against political correctness and that Democrats should avoid a social justice platform for the 2020 election, but I don’t think that’s quite right.

NPR had this article yesterday, Warning To Democrats: Most Americans Against U.S. Getting More Politically Correct, and I have some questions.

The gist of the article is that America is against being “politically correct,” and that Americans feel like there are too many things they can’t say anymore, and like they can’t speak their minds anymore. That’s based on a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll (read it here). The article uses the poll data to warn Democrats against pursuing “identity politics” in the 2020 election.

In this particular context, the poll data and warning about “identity politics” means that Democrats shouldn’t try running on a social justice platform that centers the challenges that LGBT+ communities and non-white communities are facing, in 2020.

Which I think it wrong, personally. There should definitely be a few social justice planks in the Democratic platform in 2020. I think we’re also facing a lot of other important issues, too. Social justice probably shouldn’t be the only plank in the platform.

Also, running a campaign is basically marketing a product, and you don’t sell a product the same way to different demographic groups. Democrats need multiple planks in their platform.

But that’s not really what I’m thinking about this morning. What I’m thinking about this morning are these two questions from the poll:

  • In general, are you in favor of the United States becoming more politically correct and like when people are being more sensitive in their comments about others, or are you against the country becoming more politically correct and upset that there are too many things people can’t say anymore?
  • Compared with a few years ago, do you feel you can speak your mind more freely, or not?

My first question is “What does ‘politically correct’ mean here?”

I don’t see it explained in the article, and it doesn’t seem like it was explained in the poll, either. So apparently the question was asked, and people were left to interpret and answer that in their own ways.

That feels like a pretty loaded question to me when it’s put that way. “Politically correct” as a term has been heavily politicized. Your impression of that term and its meaning is influenced by your personal politics, I think.

The term political correctness is used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society. Since the late 1980s, the term has come to refer to avoiding language or behavior that can be seen as excluding, marginalizing, or insulting groups of people considered disadvantaged or discriminated against, especially groups defined by sex or race. In public discourse and the media, it is generally used as a pejorative, implying that these policies are excessive or unwarranted.

The contemporary pejorative usage of the term emerged from conservative criticism of the New Left in the late 20th century. This usage was popularized by a number of articles in The New York Times and other media throughout the 1990s, and was widely used in the debate about Allan Bloom’s 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind, and gained further currency in response to Roger Kimball’s Tenured Radicals (1990), and conservative author Dinesh D’Souza’s 1991 book Illiberal Education, in which he condemned what he saw as liberal efforts to advance self-victimization and multiculturalism through language, affirmative action, and changes to the content of school and university curricula.

Commentators on the political left contend that conservatives use the concept of political correctness to downplay and divert attention from substantively discriminatory behavior against disadvantaged groups. They also argue that the political right enforces its own forms of political correctness to suppress criticism of its favored constituencies and ideologies. In the United States the term has played a major role in the “culture war” between liberals and conservatives.

Wikipedia

I suspect that most people have a bad reaction to the term “politically correct,” regardless of their politics. I think when conservatives hear it, they associate it with the idea of censorship, maybe with a dash of wussiness, like the people who are “politically correct” are too fragile to hear some things. I think when liberals hear the word, they associate it with being browbeaten by conservatives, or they think of it as a word conservatives use to demean the idea of social justice.

The term “politically correct” is a punchline or an insult, not a way of making the world more fair and less harmful for everyone.

So I wonder if you asked “Should the world be more fair and less harmful for everyone” instead of “Should the world be more politically correct” how different the answers might be.

That’s not the only part of that question, though. The question also asks if you like when people are more sensitive in their comments, or if you feel like there are things you’re not allowed to say anymore. And that also seems like pretty loaded phrasing.

Most of us are sensitive in our comments as we wander around through day-to-day life. And most of us don’t like feeling like there are “things we’re not allowed to say.”

There’s a connotation to that phrasing that’s automatically about censorship, and Americans are conditioned to be very against the idea of censorship, to view censorship in very extreme ways. In America, censorship is always a slippery-slope argument. Any instance of even the most minor thing, like not being allowed to use one particular word, is viewed as an instant gateway to Orwellian Doublespeak.

Well. Maybe not that extreme. Not most of the time. But it’s pretty close.

So I feel like that first question, “In general, are you in favor of the United States becoming more politically correct and like when people are being more sensitive in their comments about others, or are you against the country becoming more politically correct and upset that there are too many things people can’t say anymore?,” is pretty loaded.

The second question, “Compared with a few years ago, do you feel you can speak your mind more freely, or not?,” seems more straight-forward, but again.

What does “speak your mind more freely” mean? Why can’t you “speak your mind more freely”?

What are you not allowed to say anymore? What is meant by “not allowed”?

I’m trying to think of what I might not be allowed to say, or say anymore, and I’m not really coming up with anything except various kinds of racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. language.

I think that, first, these poll questions are pretty loaded, and that they way they’re phrased is probably leading people to answer against the idea of political correctness, or social justice.

And I think that, second, the way these questions are phrased specifically underlines the fact that some people are mad that they can’t be racist in public without facing consequences anymore, and also that some people – probably more people or maybe even most people – are really worried that they’re going to be accidentally racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. in public and get called out on it.

So, I think NPR’s poll says a lot of interesting things. I just don’t think it actually says that Democrats should ignore social justice in the 2020 election.

Let’s talk culture wars, folks.

We need to talk about the ongoing culture war, and why you shouldn’t be sharing those stupid outrage-porn articles around.

We need to talk about the ongoing culture war, and why you shouldn’t be sharing those stupid outrage-porn articles around.

I’ve seen a few things making their way around the Internet lately, and we need to have a little chat about them.

To start off with, the Rudolph video/article from the Huffington Post that every rightwinger on Earth had their knickers all in a twist over? It was a joke. If you check the original article, you can clearly see it was labeled “comedy.”

People were joking about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer because it’s a very old show and it’s full of stuff that probably wouldn’t fly these days.

Which brings us to the thing I want to talk about: Our understanding of all kinds of complicated issues has changed a lot in the last fifty years.

We have much better ideas about how to raise kids. We have better ideas about what being transgender is and how to help people who are. We have better ideas of what gender is and how it works. We have, in general, become more sensitive in dealing with some kinds of traumas and experiences that people face.

This leads to a lot of change in how we deal with things and talk about things in society.

We’re beginning to understand that “gender,” the idea of feeling “male” or “female,” is not the set-in-stone binary switch we used to think it was. We understand that gender, like sexual preferences and orientations, is a spectrum of feelings. And our language is changing to accommodate that.

Society is beginning to work towards language in all areas that is more gender neutral, because we understand that not everyone is “male” or “female” the way we used to think they were even 20-some years ago when I was a kid.

Look, I get it. The gender thing seems weird. I’m 42, man. When I was a kid, you were either a boy or a girl and you were born that way and you stayed that way, and if you tried to change it, there was something wrong with you. That’s what we thought. That’s what we believed.

Except, that wasn’t actually true.

It turned out to be a lot more complicated than that, which makes perfect sense because human beings are complicated critters.

It’s hard to change those old ideas. Humans are complicated in a lot of ways, and very simple in others. One of the ways we’re simple is that we are just super, super lazy about thinking.

Once we’ve established a way to think about something, we tend to want to stick with that, because changing how we think about a thing is difficult and hard work. So we established a way to think about gender, and we stuck with it for a good long time, and now it turns out we were wrong.

There are a whole bunch of us who don’t want to do the difficult and hard work of changing how we think. Hell, there are a bunch of us who are working on changing how we think, and still not getting it entirely right.

It’s hard to change patterns of thought. It takes work. It doesn’t happen instantly. And honestly? That’s okay, as long as you’re working on it and trying not to be a dick about it.

But here’s where the “culture wars” thing I mentioned, and those articles I linked above, come into play.

There are a whole bunch of us who not only don’t want to do the work, but are actively resisting letting others do the work. There are a whole bunch of us who think that the work of changing the way we think shouldn’t be done at all, even though the old ways of thinking about things like gender are harming people.

They would rather hurt people than change. And that is bad.

That’s where articles like the ones I linked above come from. They’re bandied about by people who would rather harm others than do the hard work of changing. And when you play into this crap, share those articles, you’re aiding those people and helping to harm others.

Look, man. Transgender people commit suicide at double-digit percentages more often than non-transgender people, because the world transgender people live in is actively hostile to them. We can fix that. Those people don’t have to die. All we have to do is not be assholes to transgender people.

And this isn’t just about gender. It’s about treating women like human beings. Yes, we get it, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is an old song and it wasn’t written about date rape. There’s even an argument to be made that the song was kind of empowering for its time.

But its time was 74 years ago, and shit has changed since then. Now it sounds a little rapey, y’all. Treat modern women with a little respect and maybe don’t play a rapey-sounding song anymore.

Or maybe do. Most of us don’t actually give that much of a fuck. But a certain segment of the American population would like you to think that there are tons of people out there who give a great big huge fuck about it, and they’re coming for your rights, or your way of life, or something.

Because they want you to be scared of change, too.

Here’s how the culture war works. There are, eh, call it three populations of people in the US.

One thinks, hey, we shouldn’t be dicks to women, the LGBT+ community, and non-white people anymore because that actively harms those populations and cuts our whole society off from what they have to offer.

One thinks we should, because they feel like elevating everyone to the same respected, human status somehow takes something away from themselves.

And one honestly isn’t thinking all that much about this stuff at all because they have bills to pay and kids to raise and they’re busy and tired.

The first two are fighting over that third population, and that’s the culture war. And even though you’re tired and busy and not thinking about this stuff very much, you’re still picking a side.

You’re picking a side every time you share an outraged article about Rudolph with a comment like “This is so stupid, Rudolph wasn’t about child abuse.” Because every time you do something like that, every time you play into that kind of outrage, you’re accepting and propagating the premise of the question.

You’re picking the side that wants to harm people because change is hard and scary.

Hey, I know. I’m busy and tired, too. I just want to pay my bills and walk my dog and watch cartoons on Netflix. But if I stick my head in the sand and only do that, people get hurt.

And because I’m not in favor of people getting hurt, I’m willing to devote what spare brain power and effort I have to thinking about this stuff and trying to make sure I’m not helping to create a world where LGBT+ people are killing themselves and non-white people are getting killed by cops all the time and women are getting raped and harassed all over the place.

That’s what this comes down to. One side, out of fear or laziness or hatred or some combination of all three, would rather hurt people than change. One side would rather change than hurt people.

Which side do you want to be on?

Photo credit: Buckley gingerbread men, U.S. Air Force photo. (Source and licensing.)