"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"...doesn't philosophy amount to the sum of all thinkable and unthinkable errors, ceaselessly repeated?"--Jean-Luc Marion

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

In Other News: The Sun Rose This Morning


It's gotta be hallucinogens.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Correct Answer is:


Although we almost always get the Senators we deserve.

The Sad Thing Is

...he thinks that's a good argument.

Follow the Bouncing Ball

(The answer is: "No, probably not."  But the question does go to my conclusion.)

Honestly, this wouldn't make sense if I was just a rhetorician by profession now, and not a lawyer as well:

“Back then you said that it certainly doesn’t have to be a crime if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president, who abuses trust, and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don’t need a technical crime,” said [Anderson] Cooper.

“Well, that’s true. You don’t need a technical crime. That’s my position today,” said Dershowitz. “I’ve said right from the beginning you need criminal-like behavior akin to bribery and treason.”

As a lawyer and as a teacher of composition and rhetoric, I have no idea what "criminal-like" means.  It's too vague to base a criminal charge on, and too meaningless to base an argument on.

“But that’s not what you said then,” said Cooper. “You didn’t say criminal-like behavior. You said completely corrupts the office of president, abuses trust, imposes great danger.”

“I’ve done a lot of research. Back then I took the word of many academics who said that,” said Dershowitz.

So he's the victim of academics he shouldn't have trusted?  This is an admission of not being an academic oneself.  The keystone of academic work is research sufficient to reach an independent conclusion on the topic of study and the issues thereof; or at least to be able to defend one's conclusion without this cry of "Well, that's what some people said!"  That is such a non-academic defense it's actually indefensible.

“So you were wrong?” said Cooper.

“No, I wasn’t wrong. I have a more sophisticated basis for my argument now,” said Dershowitz.

I couldn't be wrong, I could only be unsophisticated?  Really?  That sounds like a sound argument to a former Harvard Law professor?  Man, their standards have fallen low, indeed.

“What is clear is Alan was right in 1998 and he is wrong now,” said Jeffrey Toobin. “I mean, the two — the two statements cannot be reconciled. One is right or one is wrong. And the one in 1998 is right. The idea — look, every single law professor that has looked at this issue except you seems to think there is a—”

“He just lied,” shouted Dershowitz. “Professor Bowie, who is a professor at Harvard takes my view. Read his article, Jeffrey … please withdraw that argument that no professor has said it. So you’re saying that Professor Bowie doesn’t exist?”

The appeal to authority is one of the most basic of logical fallacies.  One rests an argument on sound authority, but in law or academia only after showing a thorough understanding of the authority and its consonance with the issue at hand.  This is just plain hiding behind the skirts (sorry!) of Professor Bowie.  That's pathetic, in law or academia or just plain argument.

“I want to go back,” said Cooper. “Previously you said it doesn’t have to be a crime if the person in office completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and poses great danger to our liberty, that is impeachable. Now you’re saying criminal-like. So corrupting the office of the president, is that in your criminal-like behavior?”

“No, it’s not. That was rejected by the framers,” said Dershowitz.

Whether or not it was rejected by the framers is actually irrelevant, since the Framers didn't set the Constitution in stone and holy writ and declare any deviation from their uniform conclusions (of which there aren't any; they just acquiesced to majority rule on the language that was approved) to be apostate and unmutual.  That's part of the problem with this whole argument:  that we can and must know what "the Framers" thought.  That's a chimerical pursuit that doesn't even answer the question of how many angels can dance on the nib of a quill pen.

“You were wrong back then?” said Cooper.

“I was saying that I’m much more correct right now,” said Dershowitz.

“Much more correct? What does that mean?” said Cooper.

I think it's something like "criminal-like behavior."  I'm still trying to figure that one out.

“Let me explain. Please don’t shut me off. Two against one here,” whined Dershowitz. “Let me make my point.”

I honestly don't think you can.  I don't think anyone can.

“No. I’m not on anyone’s side. I’m trying to rationally understand,” said Cooper.

You poor man. No wonder you're confused.

“I still don’t think you need a technical crime,” said Dershowitz. “And I think your viewers are entitled to hear my argument without two bullies jumping on everything I say … let’s talk what the issues are instead of trying to attack the messenger.”

You haven't been able to yet.  Whining is not winning, you know.

“I don’t think anybody’s attacking the messenger,” replied Cooper. “I think rationally, look, I’m not a lawyer, nor have I studied law, and I didn’t go to Harvard, but what you’re saying, the words you are speaking do not jibe with what you said in the past, and yet you’re not saying what you said in the past is wrong.”

Gets to the nub of it, doesn't he?

This is still true:

And so is this:
And also, so is this:
And the latter only matters if that bare majority exists in at least a few states with GOP Senators up for re-election and in states that will provide the electoral college votes to oust Trump.  Then again, this is true as well:
So that 51% may prove to be enough, after all.

Especially if the Democrats impress upon the people that the GOP wants a government of men, not of laws.

History Lessons on Twitter

Memory Lane

Let's see:

W. Bush faced John "Did you get the name of that Swift Boat?" Kerry.

Carter faced Reagan in our winter of malaise and discontent with Iran over our embassy.

I can't honestly remember who was Reagan's cannon fodder.

"Dewey defeats Truman" who invented the whistle-stop campaign.

Nixon faced McGovern who was on his second running mate before September.

Clinton faced Dole, who got a doomed Presidential run instead of a gold watch.

Obama faced two-time loser Mitt ,I'm richer than God" Romney.

Poppy faced Clinton. He never saw what hit him.

Ford pardoned Nixon. He never had a snowball's chance in hell.

It really is a matter of being fortunate in your opponent.

Laurence Tribe Gets Trolled

The "cry of a wounded animal"

No shit.
I mean, I knew it was bad:
Really, really bad:
But Holy Guacamole, Batman!
Well, when the Senate says already that facts and law don't matter.... 

You Got Nothin'

When the best "fact" you've got to refute facts in a book is one you made up.

The Chew Toy That Is Alan Dershowitz

So I saw this; and in the same article, this:
In which interview Dershowitz said this:

“I’m here to present a constitutional argument the way I did in the Clinton impeachment and the way I argued when I was on the national board of the ACLU in the Nixon administration."

“I believe there's been no impeachable offense. So I think that both of the articles of impeachment violate the Constitution. Abuse of power is something that's been a charge against every president since John Adams, and the framers explicitly rejected broad criteria for impeachment, such as maladministration. And I think concluded with that would be abuse of power. The second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, is just completely made up. President [Trump] didn't obstruct Congress by simply demanding that there be court orders before subpoenas are complied with, and one can argue that the speaker of the House is obstructing the Senate by not sending the articles of impeachment. I don't think those kinds of metaphorical accusations should rise to the level of impeachment, and I don't think they do as a matter of constitutional law.

“And I've said the same thing going back to the impeachment of [Richard] Nixon, the impeachment of [Bill] Clinton. I've been very opposed to impeachment from the 1970s. I was on the national board of the [American Civil Liberties Union] and I opposed the ACLU seeking the impeachment of Richard Nixon, even though I personally favor the impeachment of Nixon. I thought they should be there defending his constitutional rights and opposing his being named as an unindicted co-conspirator, which doesn't give anybody the opportunity to prove their innocence. So I put civil liberties before impeachment, unlike the ACLU, which puts politics before civil liberties.”

And while I didn't find anything about Dershowitz' claim on the Nixon impeachment, everybody and his dog has by now seen this:

And frankly, in light of Lawrence Tribe's critique of Dershowitz claimed support for his legal position on Trump's impeachment, I call "bullshit."  I simply don't believe he made any such argument about Nixon's impeachment.

It's not that Dershowitz can't be believed, it's that the burden of proof is on him.  Unlike, say, Professor Tribe, Dershowitz has no authority in himself, left.  He has to support his statements with something other than an appeal to his own biography.

And it's not that Trump has corrupted Dershowitz; it's that, like Trump, Dershowitz is convinced his own fame is his imprimatur.  But fame yields neither authority or integrity; indeed, it strips those two away as the fame increases attention, and the attention proves the person a human being after all.  Usually a very flawed and irresponsible human being, famous for reasons their every continuing attempt at prolonging their fame, undermines.  Alan Dershowitz has not been corrupted by Trump; he and Trump are two peas in a pod.

Davos has a soul?

The metaphysical implications are...curious.  Then again, institutions are like people:  they tend to become, more and more openly, what they started out to be.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

“You had to leave the realm of constitutional law scholars and go to criminal defense lawyers.”

No, in other words.  This is not the argument "Dersh" says it is:

“I am making an argument much like the argument made by the great Justice [Benjamin] Curtis, and to call them absurdist is to insult one of the greatest jurists in American history,” he said. “The argument is a strong one, the Senate should hear it. I am privileged to be able to make it,” Dershowitz said on This Week. “I have a limited role in the case. I’m only as counsel on the constitutional criteria on impeachment.”

Tribe's response:

As if to match one great justice with another, Dershowitz on Sunday cited Justice Benjamin Curtis, a dissenter from the infamous Dred Scott decision. Curtis, after stepping down from the court, represented President Andrew Johnson in the 1868 impeachment trial and, Dershowitz claimed, prevailed by insisting that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense.
That is false. They actually lost a Senate majority (and avoided by a single vote the supermajority needed to remove Johnson) only because one senator appears to have been bribed to vote for the president. And, so far as the arguments themselves were concerned, Dershowitz is also misrepresenting. The fact is that Curtis, in his opening statement representing the president, and Attorney General Henry Stanbery, in his closing statement, insisted both that Johnson had broken no valid law and that he had not abused his presidential powers in any way.

They objected to impeaching Johnson on the basis of his unsuccessful attempts to fire his secretary of war in violation of the Tenure of Office Act, arguing that Johnson hadn’t actually violated the act and that in any event was within his rights to deem it unconstitutional, as it ultimately was held to be. They objected to impeaching Johnson for the manner of his “executive administration.” They objected to impeaching him for having disgraced the office through his outlandish insults to members of Congress, arguing that doing so would undermine the “precious right … of free speech.”
But, far from viewing “abuse of power” as unimpeachable, the defense team in Stanbery’s closing took the opposite tack, saying of Johnson that he never misused “public money” or injured any “public officer” or “appropriated the public funds … unlawfully to his own use” but, rather, “stood firm as a rock against all temptation to abuse his own powers or to exercise those which were not conferred upon him.”

Rep. Schiff knows what he's doing:

“You had to go so far out of the mainstream to find someone to make that argument,” Schiff said on ABC’s This Week. “You had to leave the realm of constitutional law scholars and go to criminal defense lawyers.” Dershowitz argued that even if proven, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress do not add up to impeachable offenses. “The logic of that absurdist position that’s being now adopted by the president is he could give away the state of Alaska, he could withhold execution of sanctions on Russia for interfering in the last election, to induce or coerce Russia to interfere in the next one,” Schiff said about the argument.

I rather like that highlighted part.  And the proof Rep. Schiff, like Speaker Pelosi, is paying attention to the best available arguments:


TFW you realize you're trying to take farm land for the border wall.

Can Senators Defend Trump's Defense?

That's the argument of a defense attorney before a trial.  We have a system for handling his kind of issue:  it's called a trial, where the veracity of witnesses can be weighed and tested.
A retired Texas judge once described this to me as "preaching it round and square."  He was well aware of the irony of it.  Cornyn, also a former Texas judge, knows better.


The argument I made earlier about Dershowitz' "constitutional" argument, just made a bit more eloquently, and with appropriate historical references.

As I was saying, the "important" argument Dershowitz now claims is at the center of Trump's defense, is an argument that you can't prosecute a President for a crime (courtesy of the OLC memo), so you can't impeach a President because impeachment requires a crime; and not just the allegation of a crime (which has been alleged), but proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a crime, which is the standard of law a criminal offense requires. Short of that, no President can ever be impeached; which means no President can ever be impeached, and so can do whatever he or she can politically get away with. Then again, ETTD:
Well, and there's this:
No matter how deep you go, you never touch bottom with this guy.

Slipping in at the last minute, an "Also as I was saying":

The question remains:  it matters not what defense Trump puts on; the question is, can the Senators defend Trump's defense?

Reading List

Is Rand Paul In A Contest With Trump prove who is the dumbest man on the planet?

Saturday, January 18, 2020

"Dersh" Responds

"Yeah, but there's no law against serving yourself or failing to faithfully execute the laws, so there's nothing we can do about it."
They don't have to make a legal argument, but they'll have to make one better than that. Because the real trial is not in the Senate. It's in the court of public opinion.
They don't need to make a legal argument, and they know it. But is this the team to make a political one? The House managers understand that better than Trump does.
The strength of their Constitutional argument is that, if they say so, it's unconstitutional. Which returns the battle to a spat between Congress and the White House. But the question remains: if Congress can't question the POTUS, and the POTUS can't be impeached for not doing his job faithfully, haven't we truly established the Imperial Presidency?

The winning argument is not "I can't do anything wrong and you can't ever prove I did anything wrong." That's the argument of a criminal who escaped justice on a technicality. A very Pyhrric victory, indeed.

All The News That Fits

If We Haven't Buried

...the notion of a "businessman" running the country, then God helps all.

Birds of a Feather

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Cost of Discipleship

I post this to direct you to the statement from the Bonhoeffer Society, and the article by Jim Wallis. It is a fine response from an evangelical to the "Evangelicals for Trump."

Sure, Why Not?

Might as well make a farce of the trial, and get it over with. They probably want to finish before the SOTU. If so, nothing will prevent that.

Besides, the conclusion is baked in. The sooner it's over, the sooner the GOP contempt for the Constitution is clear. And it will be clear, or it won't be. Reports are 70% of Americans want a trial with witnesses. That is not a trial that can finish quickly, not if Trump gets Hunter Biden and the House gets Parnas (Bolton shouldn't be called by either side. Never call a witness at trial when you don't know what they will say; and don't assume Bolton is waiting to burn Trump. He could be playing this for the publicity for his book.). The faster it goes, the less satisfied a large portion of the country is, and the likelier Trump and the GOP go down.

Never get in the way of a man punching himself in the face.

Because We've Already Acquitted Him!

"Sentence first, verdict afterward!"

Another Distraction!

All young children must eat like the Emperor! It is hereby decreed!

Playing One on TeeVee

I've gotta say, this is even better than I would have expected:

“I think it overstates it to say I’m a member of the Trump team. I was asked to present the constitutional argument that I would have presented had Hillary Clinton been elected and had she been impeached,” Dershowitz said.

“I was asked to present my constitutional argument against impeachment,” he continued. “I will be there for one hour, basically, presenting my argument. But I’m not a full-fledged member of the defense team in any realistic sense of that term.”
Gee, I wonder why not?

Oh, you mean this?

Does Dersh think he's only a little bit pregnant?

Clearly Trump wants him because Dershowitz plays a konstitooshanal skollar on TeeVee.  Which is the only kind Trump recognizes.

I guess if he's only there for an hour "Dersh" will barely have time to get in front of a camera, huh?  Maybe those media restrictions aren't such a bad idea after all.

What the Kids Remember

Starr and the Dersh? Wow, talk about going with the discredited and discreditable. I can imagine lots of hay can be made with old footage of stuff Starr said around impeachment and Dershowitz said during the OJ trial to compare with what they'll say next week.

Old news.

It's the "son of a bitch" who's being impeached

...not the President.  Or am I reading too much into that?
Football players are commandos?  In what, a movie?

Only the BEST People!

The Problem With the Second Impeachment in a Generation

Nixon was even a better crook.

The Freedom of the Intertubes

The Konstitooshinal Skollar

Who is on Trump's impeachment defense team.
Art. I, sec. 8, of the U.S. Constitution:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

Art. II, sec. 2, of the U.S Constitution:

[The President] shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;
These are the specific references in the Constitution to U.S. foreign policy and who has power to determine it.  I'm not sure where in there it gives the President the authority to do as he pleases, and removes from Congress, in which, according to Art. I, sec. 1, "all legislative powers herein granted shall be vested," authority over foreign policy.

Dershowitz' constitutional arguments are a joke, and will serve to do nothing more than provide a fig leaf behind which GOP Senators can cower.

Just because the fix is in, doesn't mean we can't point out the emperor is stark naked.  The difference is, in the fable the emperor remained emperor; and nobody elected Trump emperor.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Not The Distinction I Was Looking For

"It's not easy being..."

"I don't believe I've ever spoken to him"

And by the way: our President is a toddler.
What's that all about?

The Warm-Up Act

I was waiting for Daddy to say it (turned out he already had).  I only had to wait 24 hours:

Twitter, of course, always imagines it has the unanswerable response:

Except the answer to that is obvious:  "FAKE NEWS!"  Do you doubt it?

Trump's most recent tweet.  He doesn't understand anything except how blameless he is for whatever he does.

And really, it doesn't distract from this:
"Oh! I thought you said 'Perv Lanas!'"
And why that matters:

has no
idea who
this guy

Other than some rando who showed up at the White House one day, apparently.  Really gotta tighten security at that place.

Would he lie to you?

I'm guessing Trump doesn't know this guy, either:

This is all normal and "usual process," which Zelensky won't know, not being a career politician or diplomat, but trust Rudy, things like this get done all the time.  However, as Jonathan Chait so eloquently explains:

Trump’s defense has hinged upon the fact that, in his conversation with Zelensky, Trump said “do us a favor,” which he claims must mean the United States, not his private interests. “With the word ‘us’ I am referring to the United States, our Country,” he tweeted last month. “I said do us a favor, not me, and our country, not a campaign,” he wrote in his diatribe to Nancy Pelosi.

Giuliani’s letter to Zelensky could not have refuted this defense any more effectively. He states in writing he represents Trump “as a private citizen, not as President of the United States.” And he proceeds to note that he is doing so “with his knowledge and consent.”

The Giuliani letter is a written confession of the president abusing his power. 

How long will that last?

Meanwhile, back at the GAO:

Yeah, but the GAO didn't go to court to enforce compliance, so it's a non-issue (I've actually heard that's a GOP defense of the obstruction article against Trump).

There is no Hercules to cleanse our Augean stables.  We the people have to be our own heroes.


If a federal court had issued the GAO report as a verdict following a trial, the GOP would have the same response.

And add into the bargain that it didn't prove Trump guilty of an impeachable offense, while still arguing Trump had to be found guilty of a crime before he could be impeached.

It's some catch, that Catch-22.

Nothing To See Here

And the Senate doesn't need any witnesses to support or refute that! It's a fact! Leave it alone!
Leave our government alone, too!

And Sen. John Kennedy is very worried about press restrictions on coverage of the trial.
These concerns and a $5 bill will buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
Whose credibility is at stake here?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

As I Was Saying...

I think Sen. Warren knows what Sen. Sanders said to her. Funny he gets the benefit of the doubt.


And honestly, it's a discussion non-participants should just stay out of, especially if all you can do is mansplain it:

Just another way of saying "Warren misunderstood Bernie."