MIASMA THEORY: a Primer of True Science

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miasma clothespin

Miasma: A poisonous vapor, mist or dust believed to be made up of particles emitted from corrupt, decomposing material. It is the cause of all disease,and can be identified by its foul smell. By eliminating the smell, one eliminates the miasma, and thus controls the disease. Tn modern times, this has come to be known as Febreze Theory of Disease, or FTD.

During the Black Death, healers wore beak-shaped masks stuffed with camphor or flowers to banish the foul smell from their noses, protecting them from the plague. (This is why, even today, some florists are still called FTD.) As a result of their efforts, only a little more than half the lives in Europe were lost in that pandemic, which was the greatest success story in history at that time.

Today, modern science has shown us that face masks are a sign of wimpyness. They are only for losers. This principle is illustrated in Poe’s great thesis, The Mask of the Red Death, in which everyone who wears a mask ends up dead, except for that biggest loser of all–Death himself, who turns out to be of no substance anyway.

Here we see a modern practitioner of this little-known science using his vast, esoteric expertise. He has created a barrier to protect the nation from an agressive miasma attempting to invade across the southern border into the United States, which is, by executive order, a Clean Zone.

Do you see the fierce determination in the eyes of the miasmatologist? This is an essential part of his technique, and demonstrated his mastery of the principles and practices involved. Without being overly technical, let me explain that this infuses his facts with truth, and helps to intimidate the miasma into submission.

This practitioner may have gone nose-blind, however.  While confering personal immunity on him, olfactory dysfunction can be a confounding factor . He seems to be unaware that the source of the stench might be much farther to the north and east.  Has he lost sight of that guiding insight of Febreze Theory, that he who smelt it, dealt it?

The Personal Protective Gear shown here employs the latest antimiasma technology, and is far more effective than those gay mask things.  It is available on order from the Trump Protection Syndicate.  If you buy now using your credit card, we will send you a second unit absolutely FREE! (You just pay a separate fee.)  A special Collector’s Edition is available, coated in genuine gold paint, proudly displaying the presidential seal on one side, and the president’s portrait on the other.  Order now—supplies are limited.

Calvinball!

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trial arena

If there is only one lesson to be learned from the impeachment circus we are now suffering through, it is that the recall of a duly elected President of the United States is to weighty a matter to reduce to a game of Calvinball.

(For the uninitiated, Calvinball is a game invented by the brilliant cartoonist Bill Watterson and his characters, Calvin and Hobbes. What rules there are must invented as the game goes on.)

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The drafters of the constitution understood that power was corrupting, and that at some point someone elected to the presidency would be tempted to act like a king.  Alexander Hamilton put it eloquently in an essay on public debt:

When a man unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanor—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may “ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.”

In Federalist #69, Hamilton (writing as anonymously Publius) compared the presidency to the institution they were trying to avoid—that of George III of England and the Monarchs of Europe throughout history.  Concerning the time a president should hold office, he wrote that he should remain only if his good behavior earned the support of the people.  Unlike the king, if his behavior were egregious, he could be removed at once without resorting to war:

That magistrate is to be elected for FOUR years; and is to be re-eligible as often as the people of the United States shall think him worthy of their confidence. In these circumstances there is a total dissimilitude between HIM and a king of Great Britain, who is an HEREDITARY monarch, possessing the crown as a patrimony descendible to his heirs forever; but there is a close analogy between HIM and a governor of New York, who is elected for THREE years, and is re-eligible without limitation or intermission. If we consider how much less time would be requisite for establishing a dangerous influence in a single State, than for establishing a like influence throughout the United States, we must conclude that a duration of FOUR years for the Chief Magistrate of the Union is a degree of permanency far less to be dreaded in that office, than a duration of THREE years for a corresponding office in a single State.

The President of the United States would be liable to be impeached, tried, and, upon conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors, removed from office; and would afterwards be liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law. The person of the king of Great Britain is sacred and inviolable; there is no constitutional tribunal to which he is amenable; no punishment to which he can be subjected without involving the crisis of a national revolution.

One of the great strengths of the Constitution is its terseness.  The drafters laid down essential principals, but in deference to the people, and to changes in values and circumstance that occur over time, they left the formulation of details to the states, and to posterity.  They dealt in strategy, leaving tactics to the troops in the field.  The result is a document with the strength and flexibility to have successfully guided the republic for two and a half centuries.

There are but a few short provisions in the United States Constitution relating to impeachment.  Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5, which delineates the powers of the House of Representatives, provides:

The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Article I, Section 3, Clauses 6 and 7, which describe the role of the Senate in impeachments in somewhat more detail, state:

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Article II details the powers of the president.  Regarding impeachment, it specifies that:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors. (Section 4),

and

[The President] … shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.  (Section 2)

The crime of treason is further defined in Article 3, which deals with the establishment of the Judicial Branch:

1: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

2: The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

That’s it.  The crime of Bribery is not further defined so as not to conflict with stature or common law. Neither are high Crimes and Misdemeanors, which are not crimes in the usual sense, perpetrated against persons or property.  Instead, as Hamilton explains in Federalist #65, “They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.” 

No rules are specified for the conduct of impeachments.  No rules are given for the introduction of evidence or the procedures to follow in an impeachment trial, except for the requirement of a two thirds majority to convict.  These are left to the judgement of Congress, where each house is empowered to make its own rules.  The Chief Justice is charged to “preside” over a Senate trial, but no guidance is provided concerning his responsibilities or powers.  As the Senate determine the rules that governs proceeding within its chamber, senators have predictably yielded little of their power to this role.

Calvinball.

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When they drafted the Constitution, the founders did not intend to include parties (they called them factions) in the actual workings of government.  They foresaw the possibility, though, and warned strongly against following that course.  In his farewell address, George Washington sounded an alarm:

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.”

At the time the young country was riven by two antithetical views on how to proceed.  An decentralized government whose power was diffused among the States and their individual but “well-regulated” militias was promoted by Thomas Jefferson, while Alexander Hamilton, aware of the growing external military challenge posed by Great Britain as well as the threat of privateering and piracy at sea, advocated a strong, well financed federal government in the interest of military defense and economic clout.  The resulting parties—Jefferson’s ‘Democratic-Republicans’ and Hamilton’s ‘Federalists’—eventually insinuated themselves into the very mechanisms of our government, giving party officials the mantle of government power.

Today the Speaker of the House, elected by the majority party, uses party powers to whip party members into voting as a solid bloc.  The Senate Majority Leader decides which bills (His party’s) reach the floor for a vote, and which (the other party’s) languish.  Negotiations which once took place openly on the floor of the House now occur in private caucuses: pledge to vote with the party on this bill, and your district will get funding for that bridge.  Creative thought and conscience give way to party loyalty; ideology and party interest replace the common good.  If the majority party’s objectives can’t be achieved, or the minority party’s objectives blocked, with the procedures in place at a given time, the majority party can change them.  The “frightful despotism” of factions of which Washington warned are here today, baked into the government itself.  The parties in power may change, but the despotism remains.

Calvinball.

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Nowhere is this clearer than in the impeachment proceedings now underway.  The House subpoenas evidence in pursuance of an impeachment action.  White House complains they didn’t do it right, so the subpoenas are void and no evidence need to be provided.  The Senate insists that it is the House’s burden to amass all the evidence, and they have no need to conduct a fair trial if the House prosecutors are unprepared.  The Chief Justice, charged to preside but given no actual role to play, gavels the proceedings to order and then sits silent.  The talking heads of cable news (formerly the Fourth Estate) carry on as though this were a sporting event.

I wonder who is more amused, Lewis Carroll or Franz Kafka.

Calvinball.

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The time to design an impeachment procedure is when there is no specific impeachment underway or even contemplated, so that some objectivity can be brought to bear.  That the House has the ‘sole power of impeachment,’ and the Senate the ‘sole power to try’ impeachments, does not mean that procedures to achieve those ends justly cannot be negotiated beforehand.

Having witnessed two and a half impeachment procedures in my lifetime, I have thoughts on the subject to share with you, unencumbered by any legal or governmental expertise whatsoever.

Reverse Calvinball.

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Impeachment Process in the House

Any member of the House should be able to offer articles of impeachment on the floor of the chamber.  Such a bill should be required to provide the alleged reason for the proposed impeachment and be accompanied by sufficient facts to show probable cause why the impeachment should proceed.  If the full House accepts the charge and the facts, the matter thus vetted should be referred to the Judiciary Committee for investigation.

The Judiciary Committee should be empowered to issue subpoenas for documents and testimony related to the allegations in the proposed article of impeachment.  Initial hearings should be held in closed session, in a SCIF if necessary, to protect the integrity of the evidence and the privacy of the witnesses at this point in the investigation, the intgrity of the investigation itself, and the reputation of the accused president.

If there are constitutional issues, such as a challenged claim of executive privilege, they should be referred without delay to the Supreme Court.  The full court should decide the matter in an expedited manner. Arguments could take place, for example, within a week of submission to the Court, and a decision handed down within thirty days of argument.

If, after adequate investigation, the Judiciary Committee finds merit in the impeachment allegation, they should prepare formal Articles of Impeachment to introduce on the House floor, where additions and amendments can be made.  The articles and the ensuing debated must be fully public at this point, but the White House may not participate in the debate until there is a trial, although Representatives from his party may.  The formal Articles, having been approved by the full House, would then be sent to the Senate for trial.

 * Impeachment Trial in the Senate *

While the drafters unequivocally gave the Senate the sole power to try impeachments, their use of terms usually used to describe Judiciary matters—trial, conviction, judgement—clearly indicated they intended impeachment to proceed in a quasi-judicial manner.  In the case as grave as the impeachment of a president, they seem to have intended to add an additional balance by bringing in the Chief Justice to preside, as a judge presides at a civil or criminal trial.

In the typical courts of Europe at the time of the founding of the US, the monarch’s will be the law.  In opposition to this, Article 3 of the Constitution guarantees that The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed”.  Impeachments were excepted because they involved political acts rather than statutory crimes, they occurred at the federal level outside the jurisdiction of any state, and peers of an impeached official would have to be members of the federal government itself.

Trial of impeachments, then, was assigned to the Senate.  By calling it a trial, though, the framers seemed to intend that it afford the same protections to both accusers and accused that are provided at a trial in a court of law.  A judicial trial has two main tasks: the finding of facts, and the determination of guilt.  In every state, trials have the same basic structure: two parties (plaintiff or prosecutor, and defendant) face off in an adversarial stance before a jury of their peers, with a neutral party versed in the applicable law (the judge), serving as referee.  The rules of such proceedings are clearly delineated in statute and the Constitution; they cannot be changed once the procedure is underway.

At the same time, the founders understood that impeachments are more political than judicial.  Hamilton explained in Federalist #65:

A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.

In a judicial trial, the jury is responsible for matters related to fact.  To do this, they hear witnesses, usually in the form of witness testimony and documents.  The judge, given his extensive training and experience, is responsible to decide matters related to the law, including determining which evidence is pertinent to the matter at hand.  The jury has the sole duty of determining guilt or innocence, except in the rare instance where their determination is inconsistent with the law.

A trial in the Senate is a very different animal, since the Senate is charged with determining its own officers and procedures.  Over the years of party dominance that power has devolved to party leadership, investing considerable power in the Majority Leader.  With the growth in the power of the Majority Leader has come a diminishment of the role of the Chief Justice as the arbiter of law or evidence in Senate trials, until today his role is largely ceremonial and little real power to bear on the proceeding.

 * Expanded Role for the Judiciary in Presidential Impeachment Trials *

To restore the presence of the Judiciary that the drafters intended in presidential impeachment trials, I propose a three-justice panel to preside:  The Chief Justice, and two other Supreme Court Justices, one chosen by the Senate and the other by the House.  In this panel will reside the power to decide by a simple majority all matters of law and evidence, as a judge might in a judiciary trial.  The Senators would not have the ability to override this panel from the Senate floor, although they might appeal it to the full Supreme Court, which would definitively decide the matter in the expedited manner described above.

* The Role of Senators in an Impeachment Trial *

The Senators would hear the evidence and arguments from the Impeachment Managers from the House, as well as the evidence and arguments offered in defense of the president.  They would be empowered to issue subpoenas for witnesses or documentary evidence.  They would be empowered to question witnesses in direct and cross examination through a designated spokesman appointed from among their number as litigators of the impeachment.

They would not be able to change the procedural rules once the proceeding is underway.  They would not be able to determine what evidence is admitted into the proceeding or its record, nor choose what witnesses could testify.  These decisions are left the panel of justices, whose judgement, arising from their authority as Supreme Court justices, could not be overridden from the floor of the Senate.

Senators, under oath of affirmation, would be charged with evaluating the facts and interpreting them in light of the rulings on law from the panel of Supreme Court Justices and the rulings of the full Court, in an expedited manner, on appeals.  It would be the Senate’s sole authority and responsibility to issue a final verdict based on the evidence they hear.  A Senator who was not present for two thirds of the trial sessions would not be eligible to participate in the verdict. A two-thirds majority of Senators present and eligible to vote would be required for conviction and removal from office; disqualification from holding future office would require a separate two-thirds vote. 

The Supreme Court, having been available during the trial, would have no role once the Senate had rendered its verdict.  A conviction on impeachment would be unappealable, and final.

 

 

 

Would Term Limits Enhance the Consent of the Governed?

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In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men,” James Madison wrote in Federalist #51, “ the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.  A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

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Term limits are among those ‘auxiliary precautions’ which have been considered in the nearly two and a quarter centuries since the Constitution established our form of government.

Would limiting the length of time an individual could spend in any particular federal office help lift us out of the partisan quicksand that the founders foresaw, and that is engulfing us?  Is it fair to tell good and able patriots that they must stand down before they feel their job is done?  Just what are term limits, anyway, and what would happen if they were widespread in American politics?

The Founding Fathers on Terms of Office

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James Madison

Even a cursory scan of the Federalist Papers is sufficient to understand that a major concern of the men who drafted our Constitution was to ensure that the government did not devolve into a monarchy.  For them, the divine right of kings was neither a right, nor divine.  Instead, civic power arose from “the consent of the governed”, which monarchs (today we would say despots or dictators) wrested from the people through guile and force.

This is why they expressly forbade titles of nobility in the new Constitution. This is also

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Alexander Hamilton

the reason that they separated the powers of government in to three branches, separate and equally powerful, each to serve as a check or balance on the others.  The prerogatives of the royal court – the making of laws, the execution of them, and their interpretation—were separated into separate but equal branches, with each branch empowered to monitor the other two, and hold them back if they sought to overreach their powers.

These are the ‘auxiliary precautions’ mentioned by Madison in Federalist #51.  He went on to explain:

“ We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights.”

The most important power, the power to make laws, was further divided in two legislative houses.  A high-turnover, energetic House of Representatives, always close to the people who elected them and boiling over with new ideas, would be balanced by a more staid Senate, whose longer terms in office would endow them with the wisdom which comes with experience, sometimes at the expense of fresh thinking.  The shorter terms in the House, and the longer terms in the Senate would provide regular turnover of lawmakers while ensuring both the timeliness and stability of their law making. 

Presidency vs Monarchy

The president, being the most likely to be tempted to become a despot, was the one whose powers the Constitution most limited.  He was to faithfully execute the laws Congress enacted, but he could not spend any money for this unless Congress specifically allocated it beforehand.  He was to conduct foreign policy, but he could not appoint ambassadors or make treaties without the advice and consent of the senate.  He was Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, but he could not declare war – only Congress could do that.  Perhaps his most stringent limitation: he served for a term of four years only.  After that he had to stand again for reelection; he could continue to serve only at the pleasure of the people who elected him.

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The founders were not of one mind regarding the length of time a president should serve.  In Federalist #69, Hamilton arguedThat magistrate is to be elected for four years; and is to be re-eligible as often as the people of the United States shall think him worthy of their confidence.”  In Federalist #71 he even argued for a lifetime appointment for the president.

In the end, the Constitutional Convention opted for a limited presidential term, subject to reaffirmation by the people’s vote every four years, but not limited to the overall time in office. The founders did not want the President’s job to be too easy or efficient, lest he begin to think of himself as a king.

Terms of Office for Judges

For judges, the founders favored lifelong terms limited only by the Congressional power of impeachment.  When judges performed honorably, with wisdom, compassion, and above all a thorough knowledge and impartial application of law and precedent, their long terms in office rendered them resistant to corrupt influences, and provided a needed stability to the law.

Terms of Office as Organizational Incentive

The founders appreciated the value of keeping popular, high performing people I their respective offices.  While individual terms of office were limited, the number of terms a person could serve were not.  This was a break from prior practice. The Articles of Confederation, adopted in 1781, established term limits for the delegates to the Continental Congress: Article V states that “no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years.”

Now highly effective representatives and executives could keep their offices at the pleasure of the constituencies that elected them.  Less useful members could be voted out at regular intervals that did not disturb the functioning of the bodies in which they served.  Special procedures were provided for impeachment and expulsion, but these were reserved for emergencies and intentionally made difficult to carry out.

Terms of Office in a 2-Party System

House by terms servedAlmost immediately, the founder’s carefully considered use of term lengths to enhance the dynamism and stability ran afoul of the two-party system, with its emphasis on preserving incumbency. Measures such as gerrymandering poll taxes and raw intimidation were used to preserve incumbency.  The efficiencies of collective fundraising by parties overpowered the abilities of most individuals to spread their political messages.  During Reconstruction after the Civil War, political offices were rotated along the party faithful.  A system of political bosses arose to direct this flow of party money and influence as spoils to those who served the party in power.  The system which clearly favored incumbents who toed the party line.  Everyone in any federal office was virtually guaranteed re-election if he wanted it; by the 1950s nearly 100% of incumbents who ran for reelection were successful.

Can the incentives the founder’s intended for the term lengths they established be in or outrestored in today’s political environment?  Can the wisdom of experience be preserves without sacrificing the constant infusion of relevant new ideas?  Yes, but it won’t be easy, and the initiative must arise from the people themselves, because it may be seen by incumbents as running against their personal interests.

A single one-size-fits-all term limit rule won’t work, as the founders recognized when they devised the system of allowed term lengths.  A system of tailored term limits might do the job. 

Term Limits in the House of Representatives

houseConsider the House of Representatives.  I propose that representatives there be limited to three two-year terms.  Leadership, elected from the floor at the end of each Congress, would be allowed an additional two terms but become ineligible to run after ten years in the House.  After eight consecutive years out of office, former members would become eligible to run for the House again.  Representatives could run for offices outside the house at any time, if they are qualified.  Such a rule encourages a reasonable turnover of representatives, preserving their connection with the people and the access of the legislature to fresh thinking,

Term Limits in the Senate

senateIn the Senate, where stability is the priority, I propose a limit of three six-year terms, with leadership, also elected at the end of each Congress, allowed a single additional six-year term synchronous with their previous terms of service.  This rule preserves the stability of government that the founders intended with longer allowed terms in the Senate, while preventing the virtual ownership of Senate seats that occurs today. It also favors stability of leadership while discouraging the unhealthy accumulation of power that occurs without term limits.

Term Limits in the Federal Courts

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Federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, be appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate with a constitutionally mandated two-thirds majority.  They would initially be appointed for a provisional seven-year term, after which their appointment would be automatically re-submitted to the Senate, where they could be removed, or affirmed by a simple majority for a lifetime appointment. 

Such a rule preserves the stability conferred by lifetime appointments, but only after a period during which their performance on the bench could be evaluated by a new Senate, and possibly a new President as well.  It would discourage partisan packing of the federal courts, such as that which has been so obsessively undertaken by the GOP today.

Term Limits in the Executive Branch

WashingtonThe President is already limited to two terms by the twenty-second amendment.  George Washington retired after two terms, citing fatigue. Thomas Jefferson honored the principal that no man deserved to serve longer that Washington had, setting the two-term precedent.  Grant sought a third term but failed to get the GOP nomination.  Theodore RooseveltTheodore Roosevelt, after serving out the almost full term of the assassinated McKinley, ran for reelection in his own right, pledging not to run again as he had essentially had two terms in office.  Out of office for a year, TR had second thoughts, but was rebuffed for nomination by the GOP convention he felt was fixed.  He ran that year on the Progressive Party (or “Bull Moose”) ticket, but he lost.

fdrWhen FDR approached the end of his second term in office, he had guided the republic through the Great Depression, but rumblings of war were beginning to be heard in Europe, and America was afraid.  Americans, having full faith in FDR’s leadership in a crisis, elected him to a third, and fourth term once World War 2 began.  He died in office as that war was winding down, leaving behind anxiety that his four-term hold on the presidency had had concentrated too much power in that office, and set a precedent that might lead to a monarch-like executive.

Congress quickly moved to initiate the process that resulted in the twenty second amendment:

“No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.”

On May 4, 1951, Alabama became the 41st of 48 states to ratify the amendment, and it became law.  Eisenhower became the first term-limited president, as all those who followed him have been.

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Are Term Limits Possible Today?

The twenty-second amendment shows that limitations on federal terms of office are possible.  The Federalist Papers, and the Constitution itself, show that the founders saw term lengths as a way to maintain both the vibrancy and the stability of government.

As the length of terms for government officials are already defined in the first three Articles of the Constitution and the subsequent amendments 12 and 22, establishing term limits term limits would require new amendments to override those previous rules.  These would either require a constitutional convention, which has not occurred since the original constitution was adopted, or it would require a two thirds majority of both houses of Congress to support a bill that would diminish the powers of the very incumbents that would need to vote for it.  In either case, ratification from thirty-eight state legislatures must follow before the amendment becomes law.  Neither process requires the President’s signature.

Such change is possible, but not easy.  The founders intentionally made it cumbersome to change the structure of federal government, and the iron grip of the two-party system has turned incumbency into an almost insurmountable rampart protecting the status quo (i.e. party power).  A majority can still make it happen, though, if its members work together, with insight courage, and they persevere.

I have faith, though, that civic power does indeed arise from the consent of the governed.  If we the people understand that, then we can send to Washington (and to statehouses, too) officials who understand the damage that frantic partisanship, guaranteed incumbency, dark money and all the rest are doing to our personal lives, we can begin to provoke change.  The founding fathers would smile proudly at us.  We would be on our way to making America great again.

Can Congress Free Itself from Party Interference?

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For any attempt to free American government from petrifying  partisanship that grips it now, by far the most difficult task will be to free Congress from the two-party system to which we have grown so accustomed over more than two centuries that we find it difficult to imagine our government without it.  Yet it is not the form of government described in the Constitution.

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George Washington warned us against partisanship in his Farewell Address in 1796:

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

Today, the parties have burrowed, like parasitic worms, deep into the very flesh of our government, where they battle each other for supremacy, to the vast detriment of the country.  The Declaration of Independence rightly tells us that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  Many today feel, with considerable justification, that their consent doesn’t count for much, or that the decisions made by partisan politicians in Washington reflect their oppression rather than empowerment.

Ironically, Washington’s Farewell Speech is recited by rote at the opening of every Congress, though few members remain in the chamber for this rite.

How, then, do we recover the apartisan government that the founders envisioned?  Has the American Experiment in democracy failed forever?  Is it already too late?

*  Presiding over the Senate *

McConnellThe two-party system has taken control of the levers of power in the Senate.  The majority leader (presently Mitch McConnell), who is selected by a vote among members of the majority party only, dictates which bills reach a floor vote and which wither and die.  The idea of supermajority, and its daughter the filibuster, which the founders conceived as ways to foster debate and promote compromise, have been largely abandoned because they can be used to thwart the power of a party that controls only a simple majority in the chamber.

In an apartisan Senate there would be no majority party caucus to elect a leader.  The constitution assigns the role of presiding over the Senate to the Vice President, although he has no vote on the floor except in the event of a tie.  Article 1 also directs the Senate to elect from their number a President pro tempore to oversee the Senate in the absence of the Vice President, or in the rare instance that he is exercising the office of a President who has become incapacitated, died, or been removed from office by impeachment or resignation.

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Running Mates

To mitigate the possibility of collusion between the President and Vice President to control the Senate, Amendment XII requires that the Vice President and President be elected on “distinct ballots” of the Electoral College.  Inconvenient in this age of partisan politics, this requirement has been bypassed in a system which allows each party to nominate a “ticket” for both offices, creating “running mates” and ensuring that one party holds both offices.

In an apartisan Senate, this forced cozy relationship between the President and Senate leadership should be eliminated.  Distinct ballots for President and Vice President, as well as the election of President pro tem from the floor rather than a party caucus, would help to restore to the voters in nationwide elections some discretion as to how bills and appointments are managed as they navigate toward the Senate floor.

These changes in procedure would bring the workings  of the Senate closer to the intent of the Founders and help ensure that the “consent of the governed” reaches the floor of the Senate, with the voice of minorities included in the debate.

 

* Promoting Fraternity *

The fiercely adversarial atmosphere that envelops Washington today does not serve the People well.  It stifles compromise, which is the life’s blood of democracy, and it leads to the weaponization of procedural rules, which are intended to lubricate debate and protect the voices of the majority.  It is the direct result of the two-party system, exactly as George Washington predicted.

Comity among those who hold elected office is a prerequisite for a democracy to work.  A Senator should rely on respect from his peers for the office to which he was elected.  He must also recognize that the other Senators were likewise elected, and respect the office of each of them

* Seating on the Senate Floor *

In today’s Senate, the phrase ‘across the aisle’ is more than a metaphor; it is a description of the actual seating arrangement on the Senate floor.  Republicans sit in a monolithic group on the right side of the floor (a historical coincidence, though apt), with an actual aisle separating them from the Democrats on the left.  Such an arrangement ensures that there is no socialization or even discussion on the floor.  All debate is channeled through the leader holding the gavel, chosen by the majority caucus and granted inordinate power to control the course of legislation.

senate seating

To increase the intermingling of lawmakers, seating on the Senate floor could be assigned at random, perhaps weighting the front rows by leadership position and seniority.  Such an arrangement would blur the demarcations between the parties and might eventually result in more meaningful debate.

* Senate Cloakrooms *

cloakroom

Part of a Democratic Cloakroom

Adjacent to the Senate chamber lie the ‘cloakrooms’, which are not what the name implies.  Senate.gov explains that Democratic and Republican cloakrooms adjacent to the Senate chamber serve as gathering places for party members to discuss chamber business privately.”  The also contain snack bars, couches, televisions, and private phone.  Only Senators of the designated party, their pages and select staff are admitted.  They are, then, caucus rooms and partisan lounges where lawmakers can go for relaxation and refreshment, or to conduct business, without having to mingle with members of the opposing party or lobbyists.  They are party headquarters located within the Capitol itself, paid for with taxpayers’ money.

The cloakrooms should lose their party designations, becoming rooms that Senators can use regardless of their political affiliations.  As there are two cloakrooms, perhaps one could be designated as political, where members could hash out their differences away from the floor.  The other could be apolitical, where members could just get to know one another, sharing stories of their families, interests, and personal goals, but not the politics of the day.  In both cloakrooms members would be out of sight of the public and the press, but not other members who might disagree with them.

* Party Activity in an Apartisan Senate *

An apartisan Senate would not recognize party affiliation, but it would not forbid it either.  Freedom of speech (freedom of thought) is the second freedom mentioned in Article I, followed closely by the freedom of peaceable assembly.  Assembly for the purpose of establishing a party’s position on a particular bill (caucusing), however, should not take place within the Capitol or even in federal office buildings.

Neither the Vice President nor the President pro tem should participate in such off-campus meetings, even when conducted by their own parties, lest their roles as presiding officers become biased.  Like a judge overseeing a trial, their judgements should be formed based on the issues raised on the floor of the Senate.

* The Constitution and Parliamentary Procedure *

The Constitution does not prescribe the procedures or rules by which the legislate shall operate, instead providing that “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings.”  In consequence, none of the measures described above would require constitutional amendment.  To convince those who presently hold the power to cede it back to the people will probably be an even more Herculean task.  Yet it is one that must necessarily be undertaken for American democracy to survive, and to ensure that, in Lincoln’s powerful words. “government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Saving our Elections from Partisanship

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vote

* ELECTIONS *

Elections underlie our entire political system.  The founders seem to have intended a vote among the members of an electorate who were educated, informed, and engaged men who would discuss the issues of the day among their peers.   They could be expected to vote according to their personal interests tempered by their patriotic zeal.  Voter participation would be nearly universal.

JeffersonThis ideal soon foundered on the twin shoals of Hamilton’s Federalists and Jefferson’s Democratic Republicans.  In the interest of increasing their voice in politics, individual voters began subordinating their individual votes into blocs.  By the presidency of Andrew Jackson these blocs had solidified into political parties which began, inexorably, to hamiltonincorporate themselves into the very mechanisms of government in ways the framers of the Constitution never envisioned.

Is it possible, at this late date, to extricate ourselves from the situation that we have created over may generations?  I believe it is.  We must begin by taking back our elections from the parties that have a chokehold on them today.

 

* Open Primaries *

primary ballotToday the primary elections that name the candidates are party operations.  Democrats and Republicans hold separate primary elections in which only registered party members may vote, Republicans participate in in one poll, and Democrats in another.  The winner of each primary face each other in a general election, along with a scattering of lesser party candidates who are usually determined by means other than a primary election.

 

This system assures that each party has a candidate in the general election, but makes it difficult for independent candidates to prevail.  It poses a diversionary layer between power of the people and the power of the offices themselves.  Leaders or the two major political partiesmany of them unelected,  dominate this layer, with the minor parties exerting a lesser influence, steering elections by sapping votes from one party or the other without actually assuming office.

Open primary elections would remove the parties from the actual execution of elections.  All candidates, without regard to party status or affiliation and subject to the same qualification requirements, would run in a single nationwide primary election administered by a non-partisan election commission.  If the top two vote getters together receive more than half of the votes cast, there need be no further primaries; these will stand against each other in the general election that follows.  If the top two candidates do not together receive a majority, then the highest vote-getters who do receive a half the votes will run again in a multilateral run-off election.  This process will continue as often as necessary, winnowing the field with each primary until one of the candidates, regardless of party affiliation, receive more than half the votes cast.  That majority holder becomes the first nominee for the contested office.

The remaining candidates will stand in a similar runoff process until one of them likewise receives a majority of the votes cast. That winner becomes the second candidate, and the primary process ends.

An additional benefit of this system of open primaries would assure that both nominees would have received a majority of voters in the primary elections, as opposed to the small cadres of party faithful that dominate the process today. 

* INCREASE VOTER PARTICIPATION *

Steps need to be taken to ensure a high degree of voter participation, so that the majority of votes cast more closely approximate the majority of those eligible to vote, rather than the smaller groups that participate in elections today.  One way to do this might be to make election days into national holidays, and holding them on Saturdays to ameliorate the effects of the extra holidays on national productivity. 

bbqUniform, liberal voter eligibility laws supervised by nonpartisan commissions might increase the accessibility of polls by the people. Eliminating gerrymandering and other forms of voter disenfranchisement is essential.  Making polling places into festive fairs, like Independence Day street fairs, might attract more people and increase voter participation.

In the interest of avoiding voter fatigue and encouraging full participation of the electorate, public electioneering on behalf of individual candidates (including the receipt of campaign contributions) should be limited to the six weeks prior to the first primary election.  Run-off elections should be scheduled at two-week intervals after that.  Open discussions of issues, as opposed to promotion of candidates, would not be so limited.

* CONTROLLING CASH FOR INFLUENCE *

To offset the bias that occurs when one candidate has access to unlimited cash from wealthy of corporate donors, individual contributions should be limited, and their sources clearly disclosed.  This would ensure that each candidate’s campaign fund was more closely related to the popularity of his or her ideas than the influence of wealthy special interests. 

money cartoon

Contributions by corporations should be prohibited, since they allow owners to contribute multiple times, once for each corporation owned.  This unfairly weights contributions, and possibly influence, in favor of the wealthy.  The Citizen’s United decision should be rescinded, and the very concept of corporate personhood should be reexamined.  Public funding of elections, at least at the primary level, should be considered.

* UNIFORM RULES *

In elections for federal office, these rules should apply to all national and statewide elections in a uniform fashion.  District elections to the House of Representatives could proceed in a similar fashion.  If such a system proved successful, elections for statewide offices, such as governors and attorneys general, might follow a similar process, piggybacked on the statewide ballots for national office.

The Constitution specifies that the states will administer elections, including those for federal office, but does allow for the federal government to ensure that states adhere to Constitutional requirements.  The changes I have outlined here, which would result in more uniform election procedures across the United States, might require Constitutional Amendment.

 

 

Smoke & Mirrors

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The Trump Administration’s actions at the southern border are grotesque and dehumanizing.  There seems to be open contempt for the rule of law and for basic human decency…

…The Trump Administration has demonstrated repeatedly that it is willing to disregard the Constitution, defy decades of clear precedent, and invent frivolous new arguments to delay and obstruct Congress’ oversight authority.  Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross are complicit in this cover-up…refusing to comply with duly authorized subpoenas from Congress.

…Mr. Chairman, we need you.  Those children need you.  I am talking directly to my Republican colleagues.  We need you to stand up to President Trump.  We need yu to join us in telling him that we reject this mean policy…

It is time for Congress to start conducting its own independent and credible oversight of the White House from scrutiny.

…We should be able to agree that we will not keep kids in child internment camps indefinitely and hidden away from public view.  What country is that?  This is The United States of America!

–Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland

COULROPHOBIA:Reality TV Roadshow

clown king fans

I posted this image on Flickr, and called it COULROPHOBIA: Reality TV Roadshow.  The first comment appeared almost at once:

Not funny. No place for hatred and intolerance on Flickr. This is an art and photography community, Not a political platform.

At first I was aghast. A complex mixed reaction swept over me, compounded of anger at accusation of hate, and regret for having caused her distress, tinged with feelings that were admittedly political and inappropriate.  It unsettled me.  Here is my response:

I agree with you that this is not funny. That is why I called it coulrophobia, fear of clowns. I disagree that it is not art.

Art and politics are not self-exclusive. Consider Picasso’s Guernica or Brecht’s Threepenny Opera.

 I am distressed with some of the ways our democracy is trending, and that distress finds its way into some of my images. It may not be politically correct, but it is honest and straight from the heart, as art must be,

In the cool light of morning, I have had time to think about this.  The issues I have struggled with are threefold.  Is this image hateful?  What is the relationship between art and politics?  What is the relationship between truth, free expression, and art?

enchanted forest 72dpi**

I do not like to think of myself as hateful, but I admit there is hate in me.  In general, I hate acts, not people.  I do not care about a person’s skin color, ethnicity, of gender identity. When a shooting occurs in the inner city I don’t need to know if it was black-on-black or white on black to deplore the shooting itself.  I respect the Muslim faith, but I hate murder in the name of Allah.  I am incorrigibly straight, but I hate the idea that anyone else can tell me, or any other human being, whom to love.

children's jail1I do not hate Donald Trump.  I do not even hate his policies, although I disagree with most of them.  I do hate the separation of children from their parents for political gain.  I hat the imprisonment of children without due process, for the crime of wanting to stay with their parents when they tried to cross the border into America.  I hate the kissing up to vile autocrats in Russia, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia for the sake of American (and personal) business interests.  I hate to see my country putting the interests of dying industries, like fossil fuels and steel, above the interests of a dying planet.  I hate the nepotism.  I hate the lies.  I do not hate Donald Trump.

It fact, there are parts of the Trump agenda I agree with, in principle if not in implementation. The tangle of red tape that has resulted from Congress’ abdication of its legislative function to the Executive branch, and the jungle of expensive administrative agencies that has engendered, desperately needs to be cut back.  Previous administrations have tried to do this, and largely failed.  Trump is succeeding, but without any finesse, or heed to the damage he is doing.  I like the end, but I hate the means.  When you hire the bull to clean out the china closet, you may not be happy with the results.

detention layer lo resMy Trump images try to cleave to real events.  When Trump steps up to the podium at one of his rallies, he reverts in my perception to a clownish constructed persona.  When he slides into one of his cute but slanderous little skits attacking journalists and women, an adoring crowd cheers his performance and warm to the affirmation of their own beliefs.  This is performance art, not leadership.

No, this image was not born of hate, but of dread.  Coulrophobia.

***

Does art have a place for politics?  Of course it does. 

delacroix

Delacroix-Liberty Leading the People

Aristophanes comedy Lysistrata, in which the women of Greece try to end the Peloponnesian War by withholding sex from all Greek men until they end it, appeared in 411 BCE.  Much art of the Renaissance was an extended paean to the Church, which at the time was as political as it was theologically. In 1830, French master Eugene Delacroix presented Liberty Leading the People to the Paris Salon.   At the turn of the 20th century, the fierce battle between the Salonists and the Refusés was settled by Napoléon III—modern art began with an Imperial decree.  As the 20ty century wore on, Lenin, Goebbels, and their ilk, made propaganda science.  Art entered the service of the state, though one can argue whether Social Realism is really art.

G.W.Bellows-Ashcan School

G.W.Bellows-Ashcan School

In America, newly minted Impressionist began to turn their attention to urban themes, with a gritty reality that became as the Ashcan school.   Franklin Roosevelt experimented with state sponsored art with the Public Works Art Project (PWAP) and its well-known successor, the Works Progress Administration (WPA)  Norman Rockwell shifted during World War II from homey Americana to strongly felt political imagery, beginning with Four Freedoms and processing through The Problem We All Live With, which portrays a young black girl in a fine white dress and carrying schoolbooks, flanked by federal marshals as she walks by a wall marred with racist graffiti  and stained with thrown tomatoes, as she walks to her first day at a newly integrated school in New Orleans. For many (including me), that was when Rockwell rose from being a clever illustrator to being a profound artist.

riis

Jakob Riis-Bandits’ Roost

Flickr, especially in the Smug Mug era, is devoted to photography.  Because of its inherent documentary property, photography has always welcomed political art.  Matthew Brady’s battlefield images affected Lincoln, and the course of the Civil War.  Jakob Riis’ pictures in The Way the Other Half Lives profoundly affected Theodore Roosevelt, helping to usher in the Progressive Era.  The Depression portfolio of Dorothea Lange and Gordon Parks’ documentary work in the black ghetto of the 50s through the 70s carry potent political power.

My art does not rise to the level of these greats. It is not disqualified as being art, however, simply because it has political content.

*** 

“Beauty is truth, and truth beauty,“—that is all

ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know.”

John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn

This is a quaint Victorian conceit, comfortable in its naiveté, but it is not true.  Truth is not always beautiful.  It is true, though, that what is not true is seldom art.

This does not mean that art must cleave to the laws of physics or the universe of facts.  The truth of art is more profound than that. No one believes that The Wizard of Oz is an historical document.  The truths that it tells about courage, intelligence, and heart, about the powers of persistence and love, and the battle between good and evil, all resonate with us.  These deeper truths are the basis of its art.

off to see the wizard st basils

My picture is not factual, but it is true to the feeling I get when I see clips of a Trump rally.  I do not believe that I am the only one who sees it this way.  It is not a beautiful image, but it is earnest and honest.  The picture is not funny.  It evokes a pang of truth that is unsettling.  If it draws out a chuckle, it is not from amusement but from that most dissonant of feelings: irony.

dangerous toyI regret any distress I have provoked.  I regret the loss of comity in our shared country, making it difficult today to hold sharply differing opinions without harboring ill feeling, and digging in.  I regret that we cannot move our country out of the terrible mire we have driven into, because we have lost track of the highway of facts that could lead us through the jungle of unproven assertions.  We have allowed our ability to compromise to atrophy to near uselessness.  We have allowed our need to win no matter what to outstrip our need to do the right thing for our country.

I do not regret my image.  It is not great art, but it is art nonetheless.

Lord What Fools These Mortals Be

shark tee

People never cease to amaze me.

When I first arrived on Cape Cod, I went for a walk on the beach despite a brewing storm. There I watched a man bring his young family out to the end of a stone jetty, dragging beach chairs. They wanted the best view of the storm surge as it rolled in on the high tide, ahead of Hurricane Floyd. They appeared to have no awareness of the risks they were taking. Floyd fizzled here; I believe they survived, but I can’t be sure. God looks after idiots and drunks.

Recently the presence of great white sharks off Cape Cod has grown in the public’s awareness. The sharks are drawn here, perhaps by warmer summer ocean temperatures, and certainly by the smorgasbord of seals laid out on the beaches and sandbars from Monomoy to Race Point.

Tourists are drawn to these very beaches, in the hopes of sighting a shark. While they wait for a dorsal fin to appear (with the brain-worm shark theme from Jaws doubtless harmonizing with the sounds of the surf in their benumbed brains), they swim, surf and splash in the very waters where giant, unseen predators prowl for their pinneped prey.

Shark attacks of humans on Cape Cod have been rare. Between 1965 and 2014, only four such attacks were reported, none of them fatal. The last fatal shark attack on the Cape occurred in 1936.

Entertainments like the Jaws and Sharknado franchises trivialize a real peril, and titillate with a faux fear that is fun to feel. On Cape Cod, the thrill is so much more fun for being real. Tourism at the Cape Cod National Seashore spikes during Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.

This year, there have been two horrific shark attacks here. A New York man was maimed in Truro, but survived. A Revere man died of shark-inflicted injuries in Wellfleet.

For those tourists who insist on unrestricted ocean swimming here still, I have designed the tee shirt graphic above. I mean no disrespect for those who have already suffered grievous harm. I do mean disrespect the the hoards of those who willfully ignore their sacrifice, and especially to those in the entertainment and tourist trades who have commercialized it.

The shirt is specifically designed to be used as a tourniquet, if necessary.

LeCount Hollow shark short header

Homeland Security?

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“I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” Trump told reporters, with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Vice-President Mike Pence standing by his side. “I think anybody with a heart would feel strongly about it. We don’t like to see families separated.”

It’s not that he doesn’t like the fact of the child abductions he has ordered, mind you.  It’s that he doesn’t like “the sight or the feel” of it.  He doesn’t like seeing it on TV. 

Sometimes the language Trump uses, inadvertently or not, shows a flickering glimpse into that dark vacuum where his soul should be.

His use here of the passive voice, and the conditional perfect form of the verb ‘to feel’, is interesting.  It allows him to invoke the warm and fuzzy feelings associated with people with hearts and caring about children, without actually committing himself to either one.  Then there’s his use of the Imperial We…

Consider this sentence instead: “I don’t like separating families.” It is a strong sentence, clear and declarative, but it has two major problems for Trump.  With its active voice and simple present tense, it takes ownership of the worst aspect of the policy, and it renders the lie transparent–his glee with the chaos he produces shines through his habitual melancholy bluster.  He would prefer us to admire the strength of his border policies, once again conflating cruelty with strength at the expense of empathy.  That is the core of the Trump political brand.

Secretary Nielsen displays a similar lack commitment to empathy in her remarks:

“… the children in D.H.S. and H.H.S. custody are being well taken care of.”  she insisted.  “The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement provides meals, medical care and educational services to these children. They are provided temporary shelter, and H.H.S. works hard to find a parent, relative or foster home to care for these children.”

She clearly has a better command of the organizational chart of the Executive Branch than of the urgent needs of a traumatized child, or even how to comfort a crying baby.  She knows who the boss is.  She can be lawyerly, but can she be motherly?

Apparently the Secretary believes that providing pizza and indoor cages with Mylar blankets, along with medical care for physical problems (which probably doesn’t even satisfy the Geneva Convention for adult prisoners of war) constitutes good care for child political prisoners.  Does she seriously think that children, after a strenuous trek through tropical jungles, arid deserts, and hostile countryside, witnessing violence and death, and then, with the goal in sight, being snatched from their parents in a strange land whose language and customs they do not understand, and held like animals in locked cages, are ready for packaged “educational services’, or won’t act out their anger when they are placed, all alone, in the homes of strangers who speak a language foreign to them?

The last months have provided even the youngest of them with an education beyond what their keepers can even comprehend, bilingual or not. 

Still, taken out of contest, it all sounds so humane

POTUS hates immigrants whenever they come;
They are dirty and violent, worthless and dumb.
He hates South Americans most for their treasons.
Now please don’t ask why. He won't give us his reasons.
It could be his head isn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes are too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May just be that his heart is two sizes too small.

(Forgive me, Dr, Seuss!  I got carried away.
And I still don’t feel  better, I’m sorry to say.)

** *** **

FULL DISCLOSURE:

The photo underlying this was taken by Gerald L. Nino (irony, anyone?) of the US Border Patrol.  It shows Mexicans awaiting deportation.  DHS released it in 2011, when Barak Obama was president.  Donald Trump did not invent this problem, but he seems to be perfecting it.

A Great Fall

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a great fall3

All the King’s horses and all the King’s men could not put Humpty together again. 

Humpty Dumpty has been used to demonstrate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The law describes a property of things known as entropy, which is a measure of the number of specific ways in which a system may be arranged. Entropy represents the energy in a thermodynamic system which is not available to do work. It is often taken to be a measure of  randomness or disorder:  the higher the entropy, the more chaotic is the system, and the less useful energy it contains. 

After his fall and subsequent shattering, Humpty becomes a high entropy (disordered) system. The inability to put him together again illustrates the Second Law, as it would be extremely difficult (though not impossible) to return him to his earlier state of lower entropy (higher orderliness) without enormous effort. The entropy of an isolated system never decreases on its own. (A deck of cards cannot become a house of cards without inputs of energy.)

 Unlike that better known systems property, mass/energy, which cannot be created or destroyed, new entropy is constantly created. Perhaps to accommodate its growing chaos, the universe is eternally expanding.

…..

 

Doctor in Brooklyn: Why are you depressed, Alvy?

Alvy’s Mom: Tell Dr. Flickr. [turns to doctor]…its something he read.

Doctor in Brooklyn: Something he read, huh?

Alvy at 9: The universe is expanding.

Doctor in Brooklyn: The universe is expanding?

Alvy at 9: Well, the universe is everything, and if it’s expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything!

Alvy’s Mom: Why is that your business? [turns to doctor] He stopped doing his homework!

Alvy at 9: What’s the point?

Alvy’s Mom: What has the universe got to do with it? You’re here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!

Doctor in Brooklyn: It won’t be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we’ve gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we’re here! 

–Woody Allen, Annie Hall