Saturday, August 19, 2017

Gloom and doom scenarios

We've entered a new phase... Generally, I prepare these things in spurts, as much as a few weeks in advance. But events are moving so fast that I must use a new style. These postings will henceforth be in two parts. The well-written and deeply pondered stuff is below...

...but we'll lead with something from the latest news.


And no, I cannot even catch up on the firing of Steve Bannon! I'll link you to my earlier attempts to decrypt this bizarre figure... and the dangerous "triumph of the will" ethos he embodies.  Though in fact, his fall may have come more because he wanted the U.S. to finally stand up for itself in international trade. His one sensible policy may have got him fired.


== Everyone's raving about end games ==


Oh calm down already! All right, you desperately want to envision a way out of this torment. Then ponder four scenarios: 


(1) Impeachment is extremely unlikely, unless Robert Mueller finds smoking guns, big ones. In which case idiot Democrats will call a mob and Ryan will rub his hands with glee, letting them clean up the GOP's mess while riling the confeds to volcanic fury. He'll become VP and we'll tumble into hot civil war. Don't fall for it.

(2): The 25th Amendment.  Trump and Pence would send "letters" back and forth at an ever-accelerating rate until the email servers melt. Congressional Republicans will dither, covering their ears to the blatant psychological melt-down of the man-with-nukes.  Till the Supreme Court has to step in with some kind of non-Constitutional arbiter. Insane amounts of damage.  


Yes, Congress could appoint a commission of sages that could have real power for good, under the 25th. I comment on this, below. If the right people were on it, our nation could ease out of civil war.  And the chances McConnell and Ryan would do this are nil.

(3) Donald Trump is pressured to resign. Um right. That would require something on the order of the Pee Tape. Nothing less and probably much more. You got hopes.


A hybrid seems possible.  DT takes a 'stress break.' A vacation with no electronics of any kind. Dems should insist they get to see him, daily.


(4) Status quo. The circus goes on and on. We depend utterly on the sane adults of the civil service, intel community, law professionals and the U.S. military officer corps to keep us safe, while Donald Trump adds fuel to phase 8 of the Civil War, destroying the Republican brand and riling up the Union to truly take up the fight.... ideally winning overwhelming victory at the ballot box. (Though that will also require dems wising up on tactics.)


#4 doesn't mean passivity! Congress must rescind the 2001 War Powers Act now!  And set up a commission of sages that can (if unanimous) allow the military to pause a presidential command. That commission could be explicitly granted 25th Amendment powers giving it real muscle. (If it is partisan, then we're entering Venezuela territory.  So start with all the ex-presidents, ex-Vice Presidents and ex Supreme Court Justices. Throw in every U.S. Nobel laureate?) 


The fact that DT has made such thoughts necessary - and forced the Joint Chiefs to (just yesterday) issue statements contradicting a presidential statement - is the worst symptom of this disease.  Though remember. Fox is the disease. Donald Trump is only a symptom.

Any "fifth option" I can think of is too horrific for words and I denounce it, in advance.


My advice, especially to Democratic politicians, remains not to fall for traps laid by Paul Ryan and Rupert Murdoch, as I put it here. Though yes!  I still pray for a dem smart and courageous enough to do this.


Above all, you guys need to calm down. Ponder that DT's White House leaks like a sieve, rendering it somewhat harmless... but  Mike Pence - if he gets in - would fill the place with tightly-disciplined Dominionists who will sincerely strive every day to bring about the Book of Revelation's end-of-days. 


We're supposed to be the smart people. We have all of the fact-user professions, right? Use that. Think.

And if that wasn't cheery enough for you...


== Dire Warnings ==

David Wallace-Wells has stirred angst galore, via an article in New York Magazine crying out “Alas, Babylon!” – that all hope is lost. In “The Uninhabitable Earth Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think,” Wallace-Wells cites doomsday scenarios of exintinction level events, such as heat death, drought, food shortages, and climate plagues.

Among the many responses out there, one that is brief cogent, well-written – by Jim O’Donnell – first summarizes the reactions, then gets on to important points. Jim doesn’t weigh how wrong or right Wallace-Well’s assertions might be (I found many of them to be exaggerated, if pointing in needful directions), but focuses instead on the fire and brimstone pulpit slamming preachiness of Wallace-Wells, whose ethos is clearly “we’re all doomed, so get up off your butts! Because, did I mention that we’re all doomed, no matter what anyone does?”

I have long inveighed that reflexive gloom is being pounded into citizens for a variety of reasons:

1. Would be oligarchs, pushing for a return to 6000 years of feudalism, know that fear was always feudalism's foundation and fearful personalities are more likely to seek what George Lakoff calls the "strong father."

2. Reformers at the other end of the (lobotomizing/simplistic) "left-right spectrum" push gloom for reasons of puritan righteousness.  They believe you can get folks to invest heavily in planet-saving or tolerance-spreading endeavors by screaming jeremiads. Hence, it is on the left that immense rage boiled against Stephen Pinker's "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined," and against Peter Diamandis's "Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think" -- books that laid down long lists of things that have gone very well and portend more good things, to come.

The underlying reason for hatred of Pinker and Diamandis and others is not based on their actual positions and recommendations -- both of them urge vigorous action and doubling-down on liberal efforts to save the world -- but on their message that these efforts will go better if pursued by a confident people, whose can-do spirit is grounded in past accomplishments. 

Their sales pitch -- that modernist, scientific, liberal society has achieved miracles and hence should feel encouraged and propelled to do more -- is anathema to those stoked on indignat joys of denunciation. (See this counter-productive - and often deeply sick - sanctimony addiction explicated in my article on self-righteousness.)

3. Another driver has been our shared mythologies -- especially Hollywood films, but also my own realm of novels and stories.  Fiction often conveys positive values: e.g. Suspicion of Authority (SoA), tolerance, diversity, and appreciation of eccentricity. (Almost all protagonists exhibit some eccentric trait, which helps bond with the audience.) But two other messages are almost always purveyed, out of a laziness that makes plotting easier, but that spreads a poison:

-  No institution is ever to be trusted.
-  Your neighbors are all useless, clueless, cowardly sheep.

These are blatantly untrue, yet purveyed in a firehose of myths and memes. I explain the basic reason in my article The Idiot Plot. 

Now add in a distrust of smartypants know-it-alls, which the right has exploited and converted into all-out memic war against science, journalism, teaching, universities, medical doctors and every other clade of fact-users, now including even the FBI, Intel communities and military officer corps. (All of the latter are now "deep state" conspirators.)

Jim speaks of how "societies which fared best are those able and willing to adapt."  This reiterates the conclusion reached by one of the world's greatest historians, Arnold Toynbee, who found that societies collapsed when they failed to invest in a liberal diversity of "creative minorities" who could respond to challenges with fresh solutions.  (Jared Diamond's more recent book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, made the same point, but focused narrowly on environmental (often man-made) challenges.)

The long and short of it is that liberals and leftists are allies, for now, but psychologically very different.  While the latter are steeped in radical, angry, sanctimonious and zero-sum thinking - you either follow the party line or the world dies! - the former tend toward positive sum belief in a balance between dire warnings and willingness to at least glance at how far we've come, perhaps even accepting that progress has happened. Indeed, that is the best reason to believe that we can accomplish more.

= Coda: Papa Heinlein would want you to use him right now. Use him! =


I will keep going back to The Master. 


You out there who make excuses for today's madness on the right? You badly need to look again at Robert Heinlein, who tore into the potential for an alliance of oligarchs and pulpit pounders taking over America... a cabal that would --

"promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Negrosim, and a good large dose of anti-“furriners” in general and anti-intellectuals here at home, and the result might be something quite frightening – particularly when one recalls that our voting system is such that a minority distributed as pluralities in enough states can constitute a working majority in Washington."

Read more of Heinlein's spectacular insights into our problem. In this linked blog I gave the podium over to RAH, from his afterword to REVOLT IN 2100. And he offers no comfort, no shelter, no justification to those who called him a member of the crazy right. Oh, sure, he hated commies too! But there's no ambiguity which side he'd be on in this phase -- in any phase -- of the American Civil War.

Oh, you Catholics? Don't imagine you'll be exempt. Not when it hits the fan. Or Methodists or Mormons or Israelis etc, either. Listen to Papa Heinlein. Snap out of it.



39 comments:

Michael C. Rush said...

Personally, given how far things have been allowed to get and the disposition of the population, I think there is about a 20% chance at best of avoiding a Scenario 5. And I'd rather see that than some sort of 1-4 that doesn't get done what needs doing. If a 1-4 or some combination thereof can reassert democratic institutions meaningfully, then obviously that's by far the preferable choice. But I just don't see how they can realistically do that, and I don't see that overstating their power to do so is helpful, just because the alternative is horrific. History is full of situations that were only reset by horrors. We don't have to like that to acknowledge it.

J.L.Mc said...

Has anyone hear of how Pauline Hanson wore a burqa in parliament? That as shocking as the Steve bannon firing.

David Brin said...

I offered a coda response to locum's silly depiction of the Greatest Generation and their favorite person. Then typed "onward." I'll not go back. Forward.

Michael I did not forbid serious thinking in case a fifth solution is imposed on us. What I will not abide is discussion here of betrayals of Constitutional legitimacy. I call to mind the best scene from "A Man for all Seasons" about Thomas More. Great flick (about a man who was not as perfect as portrayed.)

Alice More: Arrest him!
More: Why, what has he done?
Margaret More: He's bad!
More: There is no law against that.
Will Roper: There is! God's law!
More: Then God can arrest him.
Alice: While you talk, he's gone!
More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast– man's laws, not God's– and if you cut them down—and you're just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?
Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety's sake.

Anonymous said...

Well written Dr brin

Br. Doug

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

The 25th Amendment. Trump and Pence would send "letters" back and forth at an ever-accelerating rate until the email servers melt. Congressional Republicans will dither, covering their ears to the blatant psychological melt-down of the man-with-nukes. Till the Supreme Court has to step in with some kind of non-Constitutional arbiter. Insane amounts of damage.


I didn't think congress had any role in a 25th Amendment solution. That would be up to the VP and the cabinet, right?

David Brin said...

Ever more, talk has shifted from impeachment (don't go there!) to invoking the 25th amendment. I recommend giving it a careful read. The pertinent stuff starts here:

'Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.'

Note "...or of such other body as Congress may by law provide..."

Hence Congress may establish a commission of sages who may - in coordination with the Vice President - declare the President unable to discharge his duties. How interesting. But has anyone, especially in Congress, actually thought about the implications? The Cabinet, filled with Trumpists and some crazies, will at best be slow to act. But there is no reason why an alternative commission cannot already be established by Congress! Once created, it would serve immediately as a warning to the President, to calm down. Moreover, it would be able to act (with the VP) almost instantly, should he issue bizarre or especially dangerous orders. In other words, Congress could establish the commission now, ready to act, in concert with the VP, in an instant and effectively cancel a crazy command.

Without such a Congressionally established commission in existence, the VP would have to assemble the Cabinet behind the President's back and persuade a majority to betray the man to whom they owe everything.

The 25th Amendment continues: "Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."

There it is again. The commission - in conjunction with the VP - may then reject the President's demand to be reinstated... sending it for decision by Congress. A 2/3 of the vote is required in order to have keep POTUS suspended.



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-fifth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

David Brin said...

Continuing re the 25th...



"Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office."

It is infuriatingly unclear what happens during the four days that Congress has to assemble and the 21 days it has to deliberate. I would assert that during those 25 days the VP is in charge. The Court would almost certainly have to decide.

But in any event, what's clear is that there is a way for Congress to lay groundwork in advance, to protect the Republic from an unstable president. A commission can be established... right now... that bypasses the Cabinet, but still requires courageous leadership from the Vice President. As a way to firm its trust and authority, it should be nonpartisan and start with all the former presidents, vice presidents and Supreme Court Justices, plus an array of mighty American notables. (I'd add all U.S. winners of the Nobel Prize.)

That commission would be backed by the Constitution itself and empowered to cancel or postpone any rash presidential order, by handing reins over to the VP for a limited time. Even if the action has only brief effect and POTUS is reinstated, the effect will still be to assure a pause for calm and reflection, during which rash orders may be ignored.

Believe me, I see flaws in that as well! Given that Mike Pence is a member of an end-the-world-as-soon-as-possible cult, and has expressed utter devotion to Donald Trump, I am only somewhat eased. Still, I have to wonder. Do you think Congressional leaders are even aware of all this? Has anyone, anyone at all, worked it out down to this level? That the U.S. Constitution itself would support establishing a commission of sages able to protect us?

Jumper said...

Why "behind Trump's back?" Why not at the Cabinet meeting in front of the pig?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
As a proud "Leftist" I find your portrayal of "Liberals and Leftists" completely wrong!

IMHO it is the "Liberals" who are the loonies who try and persist with failed strategies and the
"leftists" (Like Corbyn) who want us to return to the economic strategies that worked very well in the 50's and 60's - I know the world has changed - but I'm not at all sure that the strategy to operate in the world has changed and I'm damn sure that the solutions that the middle of the road (New Labour) "liberals" propose have already been tried and have failed badly

David Brin said...

Bah, Duncan. The distinction is not about policies, it is about polemics and tactics. Almost all democrats hated the ACA and they voted for it because it looked like it could get done, while Hillary's 1993 plan simply wasn't going to happen.

Liberals are the only positive sum group anymore in US politics. They think we can have expansion of inclusion WHILE maintaining older loyalties. The left gives its fealty and tribal loyalty SOLELY to the process of inclusion expansion and (zero sum) condemns older loyalties as at-best distractions and at worst evil troglodytism.

Look at the differing responses to the prospect of offering a Big Tent coalition that could actually crush Murdochism and end the civil war. Your words above show that you refuse the Big Tent. You think (zero sum) that it is either or, and the Blue-Dog, DNC liberals are an enemy. That is how to remain pure... and kill us all.

I am fine with Bernites and lefties getting first crack at swing districts where they seem to have a chance... if they in return will acknowledge the benefits of recruiting thousands of Blue Dogs to run in currently hopeless red districts, where no bernite or lefty (they are different actually) would stand a snowball's chance. But look at your own visceral reaction to that suggestion.

That reaction is the problem. It could kill us all.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Dr Brin
I'm not an American - I did live there for four years but I don't know the people the way you do

BUT I do think that you are wrong - the "middle of the road" - "it's all we can get" - policy is straight New Labour
And it simply does NOT get people to the voting booths

Hillary offered a weak gruel - She was offering "Republican Light" - and that was not enough to motivate people - she won - but she didn't get the numbers to ensure victory

Sanders offered something that people could get their teeth into

IMHO offering the "Blue Dogs" will simply lose you the election - why vote for "GOP Light" when you can vote for the real thing??

You may be surprised what will happen in those "Red" districts - and taking a longer view a "leftist" now who loses may buy you a win in the future

I'm an engineer - I'm a great believer in "suck it and see" - If I was in charge (snigger) then I would try both strategies

Your "Blue Dogs" in some seats and "Lefties" in some other seats

But I would NOT limit the "lefties" to the least "Red" seats - and I would try more "lefties" than Blue Dogs

My objection to your strategy is not a "purity" concern -
I am quite sure that any Brin Blue Dog would be a thousand times better than any GOP party zombie
But I simply don't believe that running the Blue Dogs would be an effective strategy

Jerry Lambert said...

Regarding strategies for the current phase of the Civil War: I’m concerned about people taking the low road against the white supremists. Throwing rocks at Nazis and KKK just feeds the Fox narrative, and defacing Confederate statues feeds the romantic notion of the Lost Cause. Generations have been indoctrinated in the narrative of the Lost Cause, they need to be pointed to a better future before they stop romanticizing the past.
I was more impressed with a lady in Phoenix, who placed a “Second Place” banner around a Civil War monument, sure it gets taken down, but the photos last forever on the internet. Also, I like that many of the signs of the counter protesters seem to be more thoughtful and not hateful.
I think it reflects the tactic that Sherman used when he marched across the South; he understood better than most the pride that drove the lower class Confederates who were doing the fighting and sacrificing and undercut their prideful notion that they were keeping the Yankees out of the South.

donzelion said...

"Above all, you guys need to calm down."

And get to work. Across the street from me is an old guard Republican hack. Dr. Brin has his colonel, I suppose I have a chemist to help change that. First day canvassing for me in.....a long time. Good man. Think I'll do this a lot more.

Hoping for Congress to act is like hoping for the Electoral College to do its job. Republican hacks have been masters of defending Christmas and apple pie and fighting wars for show for so long that they'll have to save Mother Theresa's Protestant lunar church from invasion by gay Latino Muslims before they will ever act on Trump.

Our job is to rescue Congress, one district at a time.

David Brin said...

Duncan, I get that you believe you are answering me with: “BUT I do think that you are wrong - the "middle of the road" - "it's all we can get" - policy is straight New Labour And it simply does NOT get people to the voting booths.”

Yes, I can see you believe that and I see that you believe that (even if it is true) it is pertinent.

It is not true nor would it be (even if true) even remotely pertinent to the discussion, which is how to achieve crushing victory over right wing madness.

Try to understand the words “district” and “Constituency.” Each district is its own election, to be dealt with on its merits, taking into account the personality types and needs of those who live there. And if you think that running a Bernite or leftists candidate in a currently red or confederate district will achieve victory then thank you for perfectly illustrating the utter, blithering nonsensical-ness of today’s left.

I live in the CA 49th where the dems came close to ejecting Darrell Issa himself, losing by just a hundred votes after being outspent 50 to one. And it was by running a retire officer who local republicans said: “I listened to a democrat for the first time in my life.”

Duncan Cairncross said...

Dr Brin
You are saying EXACTLY what everybody said about Corbyn

I know it was the UK and not the USA but everybody said that going left would lose votes and "the only way" was to tack to the center

By going left millions of young people voted who had never voted before - not quite enough for victory but a huge amount forwards

The issue (or a large part) is that the young and minorities do NOT VOTE

Are they likely to turn up for your Democratic Colonel or for somebody who more closely represents their own aims?

Will the "lefty" get more additional votes from the young and minorities?
Or will your Colonel take more votes from Republicans?

Your Colonel does have an advantage as every vote he/she gets is a double whammy!

I don't think the answer is as clear cut as you do - and I do take your point that the results will vary district by district

I just have this horrible worry that you guys will go down the Colonels path and not win your "crushing victory over right wing madness"

When a Corbyn/Bernie approach would have

Corbyn won some seats that had been Tory for nearly a century -
If the Labour Party had had
(1) Got behind him and not spent all of their time obstructing him
(2) Had the courage to actually go for winning a few seats rather than concentrating on "Not Losing"

Then the UK would have a Labour government now

And NO I did NOT predict that Corbyn would win! or even do as well as he did!
And I am NOT sure that I am correct - I just think that you need to keep it in mind

As I said if I was in charge of Democrat Strategy then I would follow both paths - some lefties - some Colonels
And I would expect to be having spirited discussions with my team on which to apply where plus I would be getting my team to log their predictions and reasoning - so that we could do an analysis - how could we do better - afterwards

David Brin said...

Duncan, I keep telling you and you simply will not listen:

"You are saying EXACTLY what everybody said about Corbyn I know it was the UK and not the USA but everybody said that going left would lose votes and "the only way" was to tack to the center"

You are not paying the slightest attention to anything I said about districts and regions. You have your polemical rant and there is clearly nothing I can do to get you out of it.

At the end you almost hinted you could see a mixed strategy, choosing the right weapons for different conditions. But I have little confidence that you understood or meant what you said then. Sorry, man.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Dr Brin
I can definitely see a "mixed" strategy
And I can see that you may well be perfectly correct about the Colonels

BUT I simply do NOT see that it is a "slam dunk" -
I did NOT expect Corbyn to do as well as he did - but he did!

And all of the "common wisdom" that he was going to fail was simply WRONG

This is too important to simply go ahead with the "Colonel's Strategy" without doing some very serious study about the alternative strategies

It may well be (almost certainly is) "horses for courses" - but the "lefty horse" may well be be the best on a lot of your courses

I can see a lot of people being persuaded by your military democrat - and also a lot of people seeing him/her as GOP light

People who vote for the "person" may change their vote
But how many people actually do that these days? - and how many simply vote for their side?

Your strategy depends on peeling off the "Ostrich Republicans"

The Corbyn/Bernie strategy depends on getting the non voters to the polls

Unfortunately both strategies tend to interfere with each other

I believe that you overestimate the effectiveness of the "ostrich strategy" - mainly because you have been pushing it for a long time and even sensible people like Tacitus don't seem to have lifted their heads



Tony Fisk said...

@J.L. McC re the Burqha stunt, two things:
1. what amazed a number of commentators was the passionate censure of Hanson by the last person you'd expect: Lib. Senate Leader Sen. George Brandis.
2. Brandis' response drew a standing ovation... from the Greens, followed by the Opposition. Brandis' own party were curiously muted, which is the really chilling thing.

Those US residents wanting a break from their crazies can view the full response here.

Tim H. said...

Dr. Brin, have you considered that the apparent swing of U.S. politics to the right may be largely the inability of progressive candidates to secure funding? That party hierarchies have lost touch with the 99%? I fear that the longer we go on our current path the more disruptive the correction will be. We got The Donald because he made noises that could sound progressive, if one squinted just right, imagine what dubious joys are in store for us if we continue to optimize our democracy for the mental comfort of the .001%?

dennisd said...

@Duncan Cairncross
Far too many Americans--of any age or generation---don't vote. Some are prevented from voting but far more simply choose not to vote. Their reasons for not voting are legion but the most common one I hear is a selfish complaint: 'She's not/He's not my candidate' or 'I don't like her'. Few people talk about compromise, consensus or strategy with regard to politics and government.

The 2016 national election should have been a blowout. The choice between competence and a dangerous, incompetent fool was starkly clear. Once Trump got the nomination it became a no brainer choice. Our lazy-ass, whiny, selfish, childish, complaining non-voting Americans could have delivered 65-70% win for either Clinton or Sanders over Trump. But, no, they stayed home.

Of course, that fantasy win would've been a bandaid. And I've no doubt that a losing Trump would have stirred up civil unrest from outside the gov't. Yet our work remains at rebuilding a vigorous and engaged civic culture from the ground up. our house is on fire. We can bicker about colonels, bluedogs, liberals and leftists after we douse the fire.

Jumper said...

"Blue dog" could be a name a few call you. I doubt it's a good idea for you or your campaign to call yourself that. Other things need saying for Democrats to gain backers in those places.

Some people shouldn't vote, or rather, they allow themselves to be unready. I would run a series of short infomercials on the voting process directed towards the some-time voter, to increase confidence along with knowledge. I've got a million of them.
1. I didn't study the judges. Can I leave them blank in the voting booth? (Yes. All your other votes will count.)
2. I studied all of it! Can I take my notes in with me? (Yes.)
3. My one vote won't change anything. Why should I bother? (Collective action, Baby!)
[That last one needs some variants.]
4. My one vote won't change anything. Why should I bother? (If the candidate you want wins by one vote you'll be a hero. Hey, so will everyone who voted for them!)

Paul451 said...

David,
"The 25th Amendment. Trump and Pence would send "letters" back and forth at an ever-accelerating rate until the email servers melt."

I don't think so. My reading of the 25th is that, once section 4 is invoked, the VP becomes acting-President, even if the President immediately sends a counter-letter. The phrasing of the section strongly implies that the VP remains acting-President for the four-day window he and Cabinet have to send a counter-counter-letter. Reasoning: The first part says that the VP "immediately" assumes the duties of acting President. The following section about the President's counter-notice doesn't say "immediately", only that he resumes his duties "unless ... within four days..." Being that the exception proves the rule, this contrast in language strongly implies that the VP remains acting-President during those four days. Hence, if 25s4 is invoked, for any reason, there's actually no mechanism by which the President can resume his duties within 4 days, even if the VP changes his mind or if the "incapacity" was temporary. (Say the President is kidnapped, VP/Cabinet invoke the 25th to preserve the chain of command, an hour latter POTUS shoots his way out, in a scene not unlike a badly written Hollywood movie, he still has to wait four days before resuming office.) OTOH, section 3 can be switched on and off like a light.

Similarly, if the VP (et al) send the counter-counter-letter during that 4 day window, there's no provision for the President to send a counter³-letter, instead the 21 to 23 day deliberation process happens. And it's strongly implied that the VP remains acting-President during that deliberation.

And even after the deliberation process, the constitution doesn't explicitly say that President can send a "Nah, I'm all good now, promise" letter and start the process over again. That has been one interpretation. But I suspect that if Congress agrees that the incapacity is a permanent condition, then Congress may refuse to accept additional letters from the President. Ie, it would be up to Congress to decide, in their vote, whether the condition causing incapacity is permanent or temporary. Only in the latter case is the duelling letters option open.


[Aside: It was interesting, while re-checking the words, to read about Reagan's apparent near-miss. Senior WH staff had become distressed that Reagan had become bored, lazy, inattentive; Cabinet and advisors met in full specifically to assess this, which Reagan (not being aware of the situation) found stimulating. What's interesting to me is that Trump started in the condition that Reagan nearly lost his Presidency over.]

--

Re: The burqa stunt.

Minor aside: It's actually a violation of Parliamentary protocol to clap, let alone offer a standing ovation. (By traditionally, you're supposed to just say "Hear hear", but even that is behaviour "out of order".) IIRC, they have to vote on temporary change of rules when they know that they are inviting a guest speaker (AKA a "stranger on the floor", who also needs a special vote) for whom they know they it would be weird/impolite to not applaud.

Midboss57 said...

%Dennisd

Maybe this should be taken as a sign that the political class urgently needs to get its act together. If abstention is at such a level within a democracy, it means that a lot of people have lost faith in the mainstream parties.

I hold the belief that it's not the voter's job to force themselves to like a candidate any more than it's a customer's job to force himself to like a product. You want more voters: you.earn.them. You find out what they want, you meet them, you offer a program they want. Not a program you think they should want. Not a program the lobbyists and think-tanks claim they should want. Not empty platitudes and promises you intend to drop. A program they want.

If the democrat party can't even understand that most basic lesson, then maybe the creative destruction the liberals keep praising should also be applied to politics.

LarryHart said...

dennisd:

The 2016 national election should have been a blowout. The choice between competence and a dangerous, incompetent fool was starkly clear. Once Trump got the nomination it became a no brainer choice. Our lazy-ass, whiny, selfish, childish, complaining non-voting Americans could have delivered 65-70% win for either Clinton or Sanders over Trump. But, no, they stayed home.


The blowout factor might have worked against us. Liberals who were unhappy with Hillary felt safe in casting a protest vote or staying home, comfortably secure that Donald Trump could not possibly win no matter what they did.

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

3. My one vote won't change anything. Why should I bother? (Collective action, Baby!)
[That last one needs some variants.]


"Why do you think you don't hear Republicans asking that?"

"Preventing your one vote won't change anything. Why do Republicans work so hard to prevent you from voting?"

"Think about who put that idea into your head."

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

(Say the President is kidnapped, VP/Cabinet invoke the 25th to preserve the chain of command, an hour latter POTUS shoots his way out, in a scene not unlike a badly written Hollywood movie, he still has to wait four days before resuming office.)


Remember the movie "Air Force One"? The POV of the movie got this part completely wrong. The President is unaccounted for, and his family is being held hostage for specific terrorist demands--exactly the sort of situation that the 25th Amendment is meant to cover. The cabinet (rightly) tries to invoke the 25th, making VP Glenn Close the acting president, but in a demonstration of "stand by your man" loyalty (which the movie clearly intends the viewer to admire), she refuses to sign on to the proceedings and leaves Harrison Ford as the one to decide whether to pressure the Russians to release a dangerous terrorist leader while under unimaginable duress.

No matter what else was happening in the action plot, the cabinet was right and Glenn Close was wrong. I don't even get what her defiance was supposed to accomplish--for anybody.

In a more trivial observation about the same film, the movie uses as a punchline the cliche about how any airplane which finds itself with the president on board is designated as "Air Force One". Is the opposite true? Had Glenn Close signed the order and Harrison Ford was no longer president, would the presidential bird have had to take on a different designation? Or if he had successfully parachuted off? Same question.

LarryHart said...

Midboss57:

I hold the belief that it's not the voter's job to force themselves to like a candidate any more than it's a customer's job to force himself to like a product. You want more voters: you.earn.them.


I don't entirely discount that, but the problem with such an attitude is that democracy should be about the voters electing people who will best perform the functions of government, not the parties "winning" by having the best campaigns. When your abstention allows Donald Trump to be president, the loser isn't just Hillary or the Democratic Party. It's the country who loses--the voters themselves.

Maybe that's the problem of voter disaffectedness--that voters see the party celebrities as the ones with a stake in the elections rather than seeing themselves with that stake.

Tim Wolter said...

"....even sensible people like Tacitus don't seem to have lifted their heads"

Duncan

There are two possible answers to that. They are not mutually exclusive.

1. I have lifted my head. And I am looking past the current mess to what might lie beyond. Or, and in addition:

2. I am looking down and seeing some important things that you are missing. Taking your eyes off the ground makes it much easier to trip and fall on your face.

Each of these could be expanded upon, but I think a couple of other thoughts first.

Legalistic schemes to remove a President, any President, from office are dangerous in the extreme. The percentage of the populace who are highly politically engaged is probably 10 to 20%, with the split being perhaps 45/45/10 (Prog/Conserv/Libertarian-Other). If you endevour to remove a President by any means not clearly spelled out in the Constitution you will incur the incandescent wrath of a small segment of the populace. Another small segment would sing Hosannas of Praise. But a much, much larger group would take umbrage at setting aside an election result, even one that they may not have cared for. Count me in that group. I doubt the 25th Amendment will prove any more fruitful an avenue than Faithless Electors, the Emoulments Clause or any of the several other convoluted schemes put forward.

And even if you follow established rules there is peril to your party/world view. To impeach a President because some of what he or she does is repulsive to you....yes, it is "in bounds" Constitutionally. But look how it rebounded against the Republicans when they tried this against B. Clinton. It got ugly fast.

Jumper's suggestions for engaging marginal voters have considerable merit. Whatever your political affiliations our voter turnout rate is an embarrassment, and especially at the primary level encourages politically extreme (vs centrist) candidates. If I might add one or two?

Why should I bother to vote?

"It might be much closer than you think. Pollsters and the media are not always telling the true story".

"If your candidate does not win, the fact that you voted makes any criticism you have of the outcome way more valid".

"Hey, if you are happy enough with how our politicians are running things...stay home. If not...get out there and vote!"

Tim Wolter/Tacitus2

Jumper said...

I like the one about "preventing," Larry.
i guess it's cheaper to get voters to stay home sometimes. Obama was good at selling but sometimes he didn't know how to close the sale in his early days. Every time a Democrat really tells a noble vision people will get out and vote. "Eat oatmeal" is good sound and even caring advice but you won't win elections with it.

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

Obama was good at selling but sometimes he didn't know how to close the sale in his early days. Every time a Democrat really tells a noble vision people will get out and vote.


Obama had me sold at the 2004 Democratic convention. Back then, I already knew that it was Hillary's "turn" next, and I also knew that there was no way in hell a black candidate would be nominated (or would win if he was). But I wanted that guy to be the next president.

You're right that the effect somehow didn't survive his being actually elevated to office. With hindsight, while Republicans were busy accusing President Obama of being Neville Chamberlain toward Islamic terrorists, the fact is that he was focused on "peace in our time" with Republicans, with predictable result.


"Eat oatmeal" is good sound and even caring advice but you won't win elections with it.


"Can't we all get along?" is also good, sound, caring advice, especially after the polarizing years of Bush/Cheney. But when the other side is actively trying to destroy you, sometimes the answer to the question is "No."

LarryHart said...

Tom Wolter, formerly known as Tacitus2:

Legalistic schemes to remove a President, any President, from office are dangerous in the extreme... If you endevour to remove a President by any means not clearly spelled out in the Constitution you will incur the incandescent wrath of a small segment of the populace. Another small segment would sing Hosannas of Praise. But a much, much larger group would take umbrage at setting aside an election result, even one that they may not have cared for. Count me in that group.


I have to agree with you, especially in light of the recall attempt against your own state's Scott Walker. If poll respondents weren't lying, then even those who didn't like Walker were not anxious to overturn a legitimate election.

Me personally, I consider Trump's victory illegitimate for many reasons, but I acknowledge that overturning the result without poisoning the country would involve a whole lot of persuasion--getting a super-majority of my fellow voters to agree with that position. There is a threshold above which the process of removal would happen as it did with Nixon, but that threshold is a high one and might not happen inside of four years. Trump himself might help move it along. When Alfred Differ agrees with me on this, then I'll know I've won. :)

I doubt the 25th Amendment will prove any more fruitful an avenue than Faithless Electors, the Emoulments Clause or any of the several other convoluted schemes put forward.


I take issue with your characterization of the Emoluments clause as a scheme to undermine Trump. It's right there in the Constitution, not even in an amendment, but in the version Jesus handed down in that painting (sorry). Trump was in violation as soon as he took office. If he can be president and do that, why would a Kenyan-born Muslim be ineligible?


And even if you follow established rules there is peril to your party/world view. To impeach a President because some of what he or she does is repulsive to you....yes, it is "in bounds" Constitutionally. But look how it rebounded against the Republicans when they tried this against B. Clinton. It got ugly fast.


In a perfect world, this would not be true. In the real world, yes, to successfully remove a president by impeachment, he has to be seen to have done something so bad that his own party and/or his supporters have had enough. If it's just the opposition that wants him removed, the process will always have the stink of partisanship, even if the partisans happen to be correct. A Democratic congress pursued Nixon, but he had lost the support of Republicans by the time he resigned. That last bit is crucial.

Back during the Obamacare debate, you (yes, you personally) defended Mitch McConnell's obstructionism by rhetorically asking whether, if Senate Republicans really thought Obama was threatening the welfare of the nation, they shouldn't do anything Constitutionally allowed in order to keep that from happening? Now that the shoe is on the other foot, has your position evolved on that one?

LarryHart said...

Aaargh, I mean "Tim Wolter".

I don't know how "Tom" got stuck in my head, but it's there.

Tim Wolter said...

"Back during the Obamacare debate, you (yes, you personally) defended Mitch McConnell's obstructionism by rhetorically asking whether, if Senate Republicans really thought Obama was threatening the welfare of the nation, they shouldn't do anything Constitutionally allowed in order to keep that from happening? Now that the shoe is on the other foot, has your position evolved on that one?"

Hmmmm. I do strive for consistency.

If the Democrats take over the House of Rep in 18 months, they certainly could, Constitutionally, impeach Donald Trump. If they do my attitude would be similar to the Clinton proceedings, let the process play out. It ended badly for the party seeking impeachment then and would probably do so again. Politically one wonders if it is worth it.

Now, as to the actual obstructionism (vs active measures). I don't know if my thinking has evolved but I'd be happy to clarify. Recall that there is often a political price to pay..one that may defeat your initial intentions.

Fair Game:

Delay in confirmation of appointees in non critical posts. We can manage pretty well without an undersecretary of Commerce. Sec of Defense, maybe not so much.

Borderline

adding poison amendments to important bills so that your opponents have to vote against things.

Out of bounds

Leaking information that could plausibly get people killed. Mostly this is in the intelligence/foreign affairs realm. Just leaking info that is politically embarrassing is in the borderline to inbounds range depending on the degree to which the leaker is prepared to pay the price. If you are motivated by a book deal and/or a nice job in a think tank you get less slack from me than if you are willing to face prosecution and do some jail time for your beliefs.

Otherwise we sorta generally agree on a bunch of stuff.

But my name is still not Tom.

T.Wolter/Tacitus

Jumper said...

Obama won the Romney debates but almost didn't accept the gold ring at the end. He could have begun the job right then as far as I was concerned and without telegraphing future moves imprudently, start laying out some more vision. When you know you've got the job, don't act like you might not be getting it. That impulse at least I think he did mostly correct in his job once it became real. Obama seemed to know before it started it's the hardest job in the world, and whatever faint criticism I've made just seems to illustrate a certain humility which impressed me as well.

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter:

But my name is still not Tom.


I know, and I can only say that during 50+ years of marriage, my dad could never remember that my mom doesn't like orange juice for breakfast, and this might be the same sort of mental block.

Maybe I just need to remember the mnemonic that the vowels in your first and last name are different. Hopefully, that will do the trick.


Fair Game:

Delay in confirmation of appointees in non critical posts. We can manage pretty well without an undersecretary of Commerce. Sec of Defense, maybe not so much.


Delaying tactics are a good method of forcing some thought and public reaction into the process. The filibuster used to be like that--the old fashioned Jimmy Stewart type that involved someone actually talking for hours on the Senate floor. It couldn't block a vote forever, but it could delay one. I'm all for the minorities in congress having that sort of power.

The Republicans under McConnell seemed to me to cross a line by turning delaying tactics into permanent veto power. I don't approve of it being common practice that a vote in the Senate "requires 60 votes". I also don't approve of the Senate claiming not to be in recess even as they conduct no business. But, I am not going to admit that since I was against such things before, I should be against them now. I was against such things and lost the argument before, so now I'm glad to see my Democrats making use of the rules of the game they have to play. We're not playing a game where the Republicans get to use a Designated Hitter while the Democrats have their pitchers bat.


Out of bounds

Leaking information that could plausibly get people killed. Mostly this is in the intelligence/foreign affairs realm. Just leaking info that is politically embarrassing is in the borderline to inbounds range depending on the degree to which the leaker is prepared to pay the price. If you are motivated by a book deal and/or a nice job in a think tank you get less slack from me than if you are willing to face prosecution and do some jail time for your beliefs.


I can't tell here if you are condemning Democrats for leaking that Trump gave away Israeli secrets to Russia and Syria, or condemning Trump for doing so. Both pale in comparison to the Valerie Plame leak back in the Bush/Cheney years, both for the motivation and the damage done by the leaks. As long as you acknowledge that, we're probably in closer agreement here than you think.


Otherwise we sorta generally agree on a bunch of stuff.


Yeah, I think so too.

donzelion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
donzelion said...

Midboss: "I hold the belief that it's not the voter's job to force themselves to like a candidate any more than it's a customer's job to force himself to like a product. You want more voters: you.earn.them."

We live in a world inundated with "Samsung v. Apple" ads (both make great products but have had some stinkers), or "GM v. Toyota v. X/Y/Z" - so we expect politics ought to work similarly: the 'product' needs to sell itself to me, therefore the candidates likewise need to 'sell' themselves.

But whether you "like" politician X or Y or hate them all - someone will write the laws, someone will enforce them. For a decision about products, you have the choice 'none of the above.' For political decisions, that's not a valid choice. Opting out is conceding choices about how to allocate resources to someone else. And sadly, the fastest, easiest, and cheapest means of ensuring that a small pool of crazies dictates their choices to others involves convincing a large pool of non-crazies to stay home.

donzelion said...

Hmmm... "Delay in confirmation of appointees in non critical posts. We can manage pretty well without an undersecretary of Commerce. Sec of Defense, maybe not so much."

What's the largest operating division in Commerce? NOAA. What government division studies climate change most directly? NOAA. Is that really noncritical? Sure, if you're a Republican...

What's the second largest division? Patent & Trademark Office. Noncritical? Sure, if innovation and business malpractice isn't important.

Third largest area of spending is the "Public Safety Broadband Network." That's only critical if there's a risk of hurricanes/tornadoes/earthquakes/terrorist attacks...

Fourth comes the Census Bureau. Wanna lock in gerrymandering? Shut down the leadership there for a few years, and then select 'cheapest possible' census-taking tactics to ensure that the 2010 maps are mostly unaltered. It takes years to set up a proper census, but neglecting that will help keep things as they are...

Commerce has a lot of important jobs to do, which need to be done by competent people. But it's probably necessary to remind Americans WHY these jobs are important from time to time - because we tend to forget, and when we do, we'll let horse traders take positions on a 'spoils' system, rather than insisting upon professionals who demonstrate competence.

David Brin said...

Tim H, sorry but this is cockeyed: “We got The Donald because he made noises that could sound progressive, if one squinted just right,”

No that is not what happened. What happened was a festival of hate. Not so much racism (though it was there) as hatred of university/city/smartypants elites and their “facts.”


Onward

onward