Be Not Afraid

I have learned that if you are truthful, people respond, even if they don’t agree with you. We have to find our truth and not be afraid to be straight with people.

– Barack Obama (2005)
quoted in The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power

This week’s featured post is “Answers to Impeachment Objections“. It covers arguments about impeachment. Developments in the impeachment story are covered below.

This week everybody was talking about impeachment

The action on impeachment is happening in the House Intelligence Committee chaired by Adam Schiff (who Trump is accusing of treason). The next step seems to be to interview the whistleblower behind closed doors, hopefully without revealing his or her identity. (Good luck with that. Trump stooge Devin Nunes will be in the room.)

I don’t believe a specific date for that hearing has been set yet, but Schiff promises it “very soon”.

The important thing to understand about the whistleblower complaint is that it is a roadmap for investigation. Trump wants to paint it as a he-said/she-said dispute between him and an anonymous person, but that’s not the point. The WB will be asked where he got his information, and then Schiff’s committee will seek testimony from those people and subpoena the supporting documents. By the time an article of impeachment is written, the support for it will probably barely mention the WB.

We’ve already seen this happen with the Ukraine phone call. The WB described the call very accurately, but that doesn’t really matter any more, because we have the White House transcript of it. Lawfare calls the conversation “self-impeaching”.

The major revelation that still needs support is that the White House tried to hide the Ukraine transcript in a hyper-secure computer system meant for something else entirely. If true, this points to consciousness of wrongdoing, and raises the question of what other presidential transcripts may have been hidden away for similar reasons.

CBS has independently verified that “the transcript was moved to the computer system at the direction of National Security Council attorneys”. CNN has discovered that Trump’s calls with Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were also removed from the usual record-keeping system, though it didn’t find out whether it was on the same system as the Ukraine call.

It’s worth considering what these politically damaging calls imply: The foreign leaders on the other side have something to hold over Trump’s head. Imagine if one of Trump’s conversations with Putin is as damaging to him as the conversation with Zelensky. Putin can threaten to release that any time he wants. That gives him leverage over Trump.

Trump asked Ukraine’s Zelensky for two “favors”, one about dirt on Biden, and then other about “Crowdstrike”. This concerns a conspiracy theory that comes from Russia, in which the real villain of the 2016 election mischief is Ukraine.

Trump’s original Homeland Security Adviser, Thomas Bossert, explains that Trump has been repeatedly briefed on the evidence that the Crowdstrike/Ukraine theory is bogus, but he can’t let go of it.

“It is completely debunked,” Mr. Bossert said of the Ukraine theory on ABC. Speaking with George Stephanopoulos, Mr. Bossert blamed Mr. Giuliani for filling the president’s head with misinformation. “I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again, and for clarity here, George, let me just again repeat that it has no validity.”

Bossert doesn’t draw this conclusion, but his version of events doesn’t make Trump sound like a very rational person.

By my count, Trump tweeted 23 times yesterday about some conversation between Ed Henry and Mark Levin, claiming that Levin “mopped the floor” with Henry’s criticism of Trump. That’s a measure of how inhinged he has gotten, and hard he had to search to find something positive on the Sunday talk shows.

Meanwhile on Fox News, Chris Wallace was interviewing the White House’s Prince of Darkness, Stephen Miller. Wallace teed up what should have been a perfect question for Miller, if there was the slightest validity to his message. “How specifically did the Bidens break the law in Ukraine?” He couldn’t give a straight answer.

Somebody should tell Trump that witness intimidation is a crime. Thursday he told the US Mission to the UN that the White House officials who gave the whistleblower his information were “close to a spy”.

You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.

In other words, he implied they should be executed. The House Intelligence Committee is going to want them to testify, and the President is threatening them with death.

No doubt if one of his violent followers does kill a witness, Trump will say that this was a joke. CNN’s David Gergen doesn’t see it that way.

One minor detail of the Trump/Zelensky conversation gives support to the theory that Trump’s properties are avenues for foreign bribery. Zelensky makes sure to mention that he stayed at Trump Tower the last time he was in New York. It’s clear that he believes one way to butter up Trump is to point out that you’ve paid him money.

Whether or not it’s actually true that patrons of Trump properties get a better deal from the White House, it’s clear that’s what foreign leaders believe.

and Greta

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg spoke to the UN last Monday. Her speech was short and you can read the transcript.

The point of her speech, as I read it, is to call the current generation of decision-makers to account for what it’s doing to her generation and generations to come. She puts a face on a nightmare that should haunt all of us: When people look back on us in 100 years, won’t they curse us for what we did and failed to do?

Almost more interesting that what Greta said herself were the unhinged responses she evoked from the Right. Dinesh D’Souza compared her role in the climate campaign to the Nazis’ use of “Nordic white girls with braids” in their propaganda. (Putting children in cages in border concentration camps doesn’t remind D’Souza of the Nazis, but Greta does.) Sebastian Gorka OTOH, was reminded the Communists rather than the Nazis:

This performance by @GretaThunberg is disturbingly redolent of a victim of a Maoist “re-education” camp. The adults who brainwashed this autist child should be brought up on child abuse charges.

Laura Ingraham referenced Stephen King’s horror story Children of the Corn, in which children kill adults. Because we grown-ups are the victims here.

Greta’s Asperger’s syndrome also drew fire on Fox News’ from Michael Knowles, who mischaracterized it as mental illness.

The climate hysteria movement is not about science. If it were about science it would be led by scientists rather than by politicians and a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international Left.

The absurdity here is nearly overwhelming. Scientists have been trying to warn the world about climate change for 30 years or more, but have not been listened to by people exactly like Michael Knowles. You can’t ignore the scientists for decades, and then criticize Greta for not being a scientist. The debate is not even about science any more, because the science has been long settled. It’s about morality now, about our selfishness and our ability to ignore our responsibility to future generations. That’s why a child’s jeremiad is so effective.

Justin Murphy brought sex into the discussion, because what else ever comes to mind when a 16-year-old girl is involved?

Not even being provocative but if you think Greta Thunberg has the maturity to guide global policy-making then you cannot object to Jeffrey Epstein paying 16-year-olds for sex.

Yep, if they’re old enough to have opinions about the hellish future we’re making for them, they’re old enough to be prostitutes. How can you argue with that logic?

and you also might be interested in …

Israel still doesn’t have a new government, nearly two weeks after an election gave 33 seats to the Blue and White Party, 31 to Likud, and scattered the rest among other parties. 61 votes are necessary to form a Knesset majority. Likud’s incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was given the first opportunity to form a government, but that doesn’t seem to be working out. If he gives back the mandate, Blue and White’s Benny Gantz will get a chance. If he fails as well, a third round of elections may be necessary.

In Sunday’s NYT, Micah Goodman summarized the problem like this: The two-state peace plan favored by the Left leaves Israelis feeling unsafe against attacks from the newly independent territories, which they imagine being similar to Gaza. The one-state plan favored by the Right (in which Israel annexes such large chunks of the occupied territories that a Palestinian state ceases to be feasible) produces a country without a clear ethnic majority (even though Israeli Jews would still dominate the electorate) like Lebanon.

Rejecting both views, Goodman calls for “shrinking the conflict” rather than trying to solve it. That seems to mean leaving things as they are while making the Israeli occupation less onerous to the Palestinians.

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of references in social media to a Salon article from June: “There is hard data that a centrist Democrat would be a losing candidate“. The article is by Keith Spencer, who states a provocative thesis:

the Democratic Party that is wantonly ignoring mounds of social science data that suggests that promoting centrist candidates is a bad, losing strategy when it comes to winning elections.

I feel an obligation to rebut this, not because the conclusion is necessarily wrong, but because it misrepresents the paper it relies on. The “mountains of data” Spencer refers to are in a paper by economist Thomas Piketty, who is famous for Capital in the 21st Century. The paper is called “Brahmin Left vs. Merchant Right“. It’s an academic paper that is a bit of a tough read, clocking in (with appendices) at 180 pages.

Unfortunately, if you actually read Piketty’s paper, it’s about something else entirely. Spencer’s Salon article looks like a pure flight of fancy. Let me tell you what the paper is actually about:

Piketty presents data to show that educational and economic elites used to be united in the conservative parties of class-based political systems. But in recent decades educational elites have turned left and economic elites have stayed right. So whereas the Left used to be centered in the working class and the Right in the upper class, now there’s an upper-class split, with the intellectual upper class leading the Left and the financial upper class leading the Right. That’s quite possibly why the working class feels neglected.

Piketty is trying to figure out whether that trend will stabilize, or whether there’s a longer transition going on that will reunify each class in a globalist/nativist split. In that vision, the upper class will coalesce in an internationalist party that champions immigration, free trade, and cross-cultural equality, while the working class will form a Trumpist party that is nativist, religious, and socially conservative.

Spencer makes much of one line in Piketty’s paper, which he misinterprets:

Without a strong and convincing egalitarian-internationalist platform, it is inherently difficult to unite low-education, low-income voters from all origins within the same party.

An egalitarian-internationalist platform would be one that convinces domestic lower-income classes that migration and globalization work in their favor rather than against them. Piketty does not suggest what such a platform would be, or even assert that such a platform is possible. (Maybe there is no way to make migration and globalization work for the domestic lower class.) He certainly doesn’t relate that platform to the current centrist/progressive split in the US Democratic Party.

The “hard data” is historical post-election polling from France, the UK, and the US that demonstrates the gradual separation of the financial elite from the educational elite. It’s doesn’t purport to have predictive value about the prospects centrist Democratic candidates.

and let’s close with some historical context on the climate

XKCD provides a response to the people who say “The climate is always changing.”

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