October 11, 2017 in 3,513 words

The Case For Impeaching Donald Trump is Real and Serious. Here’s Why.

I sat through weeks of impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon. Forty-plus years later, I see the makings of another case.


With Republican members of congress becoming increasingly anxious about the unpredictable if not reckless president, the question of how Donald Trump could be removed from office has become more prevalent on Capitol Hill. The thinking used to be that the 2018 midterm elections might go a long way toward deciding whether the next congress would take up this question. But with all the president’s recent saber rattling, combined with his impulsiveness and alarming tendency to ignore his most qualified advisors, the matter is now considered more urgent.

As is well known, the Constitution sets forth two ways to remove a president. Article 25, which establishes the mechanism for getting him out of office if he’s seen as “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” is clumsy and perhaps unenforceable. Then, of course, there’s impeachment. Observers have insisted that Republican leadership would never allow an impeachment proceeding against Trump, or that too many Republicans fear “the base” to move against him. Such things can change over time. Richard Nixon had a base until he didn’t. Yes, Trump’s might be different. I’m not, however, addressing the question of the likelihood of such a proceeding but, rather, if congress were to seriously take up the matter of impeachment, what might be valid charges against him. Depending on what special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation turns up, there could be several such charges.

To impeach a president (in the House, by a majority) and then convict him (in the Senate, by a two-thirds vote) is appropriately difficult. It shouldn’t be easy. But it’s a critically important instrument for holding a president accountable for his actions. Impeachable offenses aren’t the same thing as crimes listed in the U.S. Code. In fact, that’s the point: a president can be held accountable for actions that aren’t necessarily crimes. A crime might be an impeachable offense – but not all impeachable offenses are crimes.

Eminem Delivers a Critique as Vulgar as the President

An unlikely champion of civic values offers a blistering TV performance.

The rapper Eminem performed a freestyle takedown of President Trump on television Tuesday, calling out the hypocrisy of his extravagant travel, his bumbling incompetence, and his disrespect for a POW before dubbing him “Donald the bitch.”

The performance was perhaps the most prominent instance of a white celebrity defending the NFL players protesting the killing of African Americans by police officers.

And the flagrant disrespect the entertainer showed for the president felt like karma, and not just because Trump has called the protesting NFL players sons of bitches. Recall that during last year’s Republican primary, Trump was able to excel in part by taking advantage of the fact that he had no respectability to maintain, no sense of shame or decency to limit him, and no reputation for good character to lose.

None of the other candidates could pull off bragging about their penis size on stage, insulting a rival’s wife, or appending juvenile nicknames to competing pols. The Access Hollywood tape would’ve sunk any other candidate. But why would it lower anyone’s opinion of a man who gave a radio host permission to call his daughter “a piece of ass”?

Trump’s tough talk on Iran could end in a big, blame-evading dodge

With little US appetite to kill the nuclear deal, he will likely blame the ‘deep state’ for not taking action – thus keeping his base onside.


Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

Trump’s recent threat to decertify the Iran nuclear deal is the latest and most dangerous Trumpian gambit yet, and it has emerged that the US is working to designate the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group. Just about the only person in his administration who believes abrogating the agreement isn’t dangerously foolish is Trump himself. But he promised his loyal base, Fox News and Steve Bannon, he would dump the accord. How can Trump keep his base happy, assuage his fragile ego and not blow up the world?

Until yesterday, Trump seemed to be hemmed in and contained by the unofficial “Committee to Save America”. As the Senate foreign relations chairman, Bob Corker, said: “Secretary [Rex] Tillerson, Secretary [James] Mattis and Chief of Staff [John] Kelly are those people who help separate our country from chaos.”

In congressional testimony last month, Mattis and General Joseph Dunford Jr, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, reaffirmed their qualified support for the Iran deal. Our entire national security apparatus, including Kelly, agree Iran is in basic compliance and the deal is working.

The actual scientific, objective monitoring of the Iran deal is done by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency. Their inspectors constantly examine information transmitted around the clock by surveillance cameras, online monitors and fiber-optic seals on nuclear equipment. It’s the most intensive and technologically advanced inspection regime in history. Seven times, IAEA has certified that Iran is meeting its obligations. All the signatories to the pact, including China and Russia, are relatively satisfied with the progress that has been made.

‘You Better Learn Our Lesson’

Kansas Republicans say they are worried that Congress and the Trump administration will repeat the mistake they made in enacting budget-busting tax cuts.


Representative Lynn Jenkins of Kansas has supported the Republican tax plan.

The regretful Republicans of Kansas have a message for the tax-cutting Republicans of Congress: Don’t follow our lead.

If states are, as Justice Louis Brandeis famously called them, the laboratories of democracy, then Kansas’s experiment in conservative tax reform set off an explosion of red ink. Steep cuts for businesses and individuals failed to produce a promised economic boom, and busted the state’s budget instead. Now, the GOP legislators that oversaw—and ultimately cancelled—that fiscal study are increasingly worried that Washington will ignore its central finding.

A tax-reform plan from the White House and Republican congressional leaders mirrors the structure of the legislation Kansas passed, and it’s been accompanied by the same confident assurances that it will “pay for itself” with economic growth. “That won’t work, so you better learn our lesson,” warned Kansas state Senator Barbara Bollier, a Republican who voted against the tax cuts originally and then fought to undo them earlier this year.

At the behest of conservative Governor Sam Brownback, Republican majorities in Kansas in 2012 set the state’s income tax on a “march to zero” and eliminated taxes on companies whose owners filed their taxes as individuals—a loophole exploited by thousands of businesses that resulted in plummeting revenue to the state’s coffers. Brownback, a former U.S. senator and presidential candidate, hailed the policy as “a real-live experiment” in conservative governance. But in the eyes of all but Brownback and his staunchest supporters, the test failed. Economic growth never materialized, and the state legislature could not summon the political will or overcome legal roadblocks to cut spending to match the lower revenue. With annual deficits in the hundreds of millions, Kansas has been mired in a perpetual budget crisis ever since.

The next financial crisis is probably around the corner—we just don’t know from where

PANIC BUTTON


So common, yet still surprising.

Financial crises are happening more frequently, becoming almost a fixture of modern life, according to research by Deutsche Bank. While meltdowns remain difficult to see in advance, the next panic is almost certainly brewing, and it may well be provoked by the world’s major central banks.

The German bank’s study of developed markets uses this criteria to define a financial crisis: on a year-over-year basis, a 15% drop in stock markets, 10% decline in foreign-exchange, 10% fall in bonds, 10% increase in inflation, or a sovereign default.

Deutsche Bank argues that crises have been increasingly frequent since the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system, which, after World War II, fixed exchange-rates and essentially linked them to the price of gold. That coordination ended in the 1970s when the US broke the dollar’s peg to the yellow metal. The link to a finite commodity helped limit the amount of debt that could be created.

6 Conspiracy Theorists Who Got Owned In Hilarious Ways

Being a conspiracy theorist is a tricky balancing act. On the one hand, you have to be shamelessly stupid enough to ask the kind of questions an average seven-year-old would be too embarrassed to ask for fear of sounding stupid. Is the Earth flat? Do lizards rule the world? Do airplanes fart out dumb-clouds to make us think buying TVs is good? But on the other hand, you have to be smart enough to realize that you should stick to your lane. Never take your crazy bullshit outside of the remedial school anthill that is the conspiracy theory community, because you will get smacked down by anyone with half a brain and a spine. For example …

#6. David Irving Goes To Court To Disprove The Holocaust, Somehow Loses


It’s hard being a Holocaust denier. While they have their reasons to be skeptical (*coughracismcough*), it’s such a well-documented event that arguing the opposite requires a breathtaking ability to ignore practically everything ever written on the subject. David Irving is a master of this art, plugging his ears to the sound of reason and logic for many decades. Or at least, he was until he decided to take the fight to the historians. It didn’t end well for him.

In 1993, Deborah Lipstadt published Denying The Holocaust: The Growing Assault On Truth And Memory, a fascinating look at the insane bullshit Holocaust deniers use to justify their crusades. In the book, she describes Irving as a “dangerous spokesperson” for Holocaust denial. Irving, as usual, didn’t care for that interpretation of history, and he decided to slap Lipstadt with a libel suit, arguing that his definitely existing reputation as a respected historian had been harmed.

Though maybe a WWII historian banned from entering Germany, Austria, or
Italy has bigger credibility problems.

To make sure he’d win his sure slam dunk of a case, Irving sued Lipstadt and her publisher in the United Kingdom. There, unlike in the U.S., in libel cases the burden of proof lies with the accused. This was great for Irving, whose strong suit was never facts, or even basic logic. But this turned out to be his biggest mistake — aside from denying the Holocaust ever happened, of course. Assembling a dream team of historians, Lipstadt set about ruthlessly dismantling Irving in court. After they got Richard Evans, professor of modern history at Cambridge University, to serve as their lead witness, he and a team of graduate students spent two years poring over everything that Irving had ever written. At trial, they demonstrated that Irving had knowingly used falsified documents as sources, misattributed quotes, and willfully interpreted euphemisms for extermination (a common component of the orders issued by the Nazi high command) at face value.

Meanwhile, despite promising to tear Evans “to shreds” on the stand, Irving quickly reduced his tactic personal attacks and ad hominem arguments, which works a lot better on the internet than in a courtroom. Sensing that he was about to lose, Irving tried to settle with the publisher. In exchange for being dropped from the suit, all they would have to do was remove the book from sale, donate a sum of money to a charity run by Irving, and testify against Lipstadt. Oddly, they didn’t budge. Irving then made the same offer to Lipstadt. It’s said that on quiet nights, you can still hear her lawyers laughing.

A Giant, Mysterious Hole Has Opened Up in Antarctica

“We’re still trying to figure out what’s going on.”


Antarctica’s Weddell Sea

A hole as large as Lake Superior or the state of Maine has opened up in Antarctica, and scientists aren’t sure why it’s there.

The gigantic, mysterious hole “is quite remarkable,” atmospheric physicist Kent Moore, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus, told me over the phone. “It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice.”


An image of the hole in the sea ice. Image: MODIS-Aqua via NASA Worldview; sea ice contours from AMSR2 ASI via University of Bremen.

Areas of open water surrounded by sea ice, such as this one, are known as polynias. They form in coastal regions of Antarctica, Moore told me. What’s strange here, though, is that this polynia is “deep in the ice pack,” he said, and must have formed through other processes that aren’t understood.

“This is hundreds of kilometres from the ice edge. If we didn’t have a satellite, we wouldn’t know it was there.” (It measured 80,000 k㎡ at its peak.)

Shark costume man bitten by Austria’s burqa ban

Men wearing costume fined by police.


A man wearing a shark costume, similar to the one pictured, was fined in Austria.

Austria’s new ban on the burqa claimed an unusual victim — a man dressed in a shark costume.

Since October 1, it has been illegal to wear the full-face veil in public, and breaking the law is punishable with a €150 fine. The law extends to other face coverings, including costumes and even people on motorbikes who protect themselves against the wind with a scarf, according to Die Welt.

A man hired to carry out promotional work by electronics store McShark was stopped by police on Friday, Austria’s Heute reported Monday. The officers reportedly asked him to remove the head of his shark costume but he refused, saying “I’m just doing my job.”

The man, who has not been identified, later removed the shark head but was still hit with a fine.

Hacking is inevitable, so it’s time to assume our data will be stolen

Countermeasures


The scene of the crime.

If recent hacking attacks such as the one at Equifax, which compromised personal data for about half of all Americans, have taught us anything, it’s that data breaches are a part of life. It’s time to plan for what happens after our data is stolen, according to Rahul Telang, professor of information systems at Carnegie Mellon University.

Companies are prone to understating the scale of hacks, which suggests that there needs to be better standards for disclosing breaches. Yahoo recently confessed that its data breach actually impacted 3 billion user accounts, three times what it disclosed in December. Equifax also boosted the number of people it says were affected by its hack.

The data stolen at Equifax was highly harmful for consumers, compounded by what Telang says was an incompetent response from the company. Equifax first disclosed its data breach on Sept. 7 and says it discovered the unauthorized access on July 29. The firm, which collects data on 820 million consumers and more than 91 million businesses worldwide, said it was concerned about “copycats” breaking into its systems, an excuse disputed by experts, according to the Financial Times (paywall).

As Telang sees it, a determined hacker is probably going to succeed, yet there’s far too little focus on limiting the damage. Credit freezes could be automatic, and wherever possible data could be aggregated to protect individual identities and private information. The types of fraud-protection services that Equifax sells to customers could be made available to victims as a default.

Half the universe’s missing matter has just been finally found


Discoveries seem to back up many of our ideas about how the universe got its large-scale structure.

The missing links between galaxies have finally been found. This is the first detection of the roughly half of the normal matter in our universe – protons, neutrons and electrons – unaccounted for by previous observations of stars, galaxies and other bright objects in space.

You have probably heard about the hunt for dark matter, a mysterious substance thought to permeate the universe, the effects of which we can see through its gravitational pull. But our models of the universe also say there should be about twice as much ordinary matter out there, compared with what we have observed so far.

Two separate teams found the missing matter – made of particles called baryons rather than dark matter – linking galaxies together through filaments of hot, diffuse gas.

“The missing baryon problem is solved,” says Hideki Tanimura at the Institute of Space Astrophysics in Orsay, France, leader of one of the groups. The other team was led by Anna de Graaff at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

Because the gas is so tenuous and not quite hot enough for X-ray telescopes to pick up, nobody had been able to see it before.

First Evidence That Online Dating Is Changing the Nature of Society

Dating websites have changed the way couples meet. Now evidence is emerging that this change is influencing levels of interracial marriage and even the stability of marriage itself.


Not so long ago, nobody met a partner online. Then, in the 1990s, came the first dating websites.

Match.com went live in 1995. A new wave of dating websites, such as OKCupid, emerged in the early 2000s. And the 2012 arrival of Tinder changed dating even further. Today, more than one-third of marriages start online.

Clearly, these sites have had a huge impact on dating behavior. But now the first evidence is emerging that their effect is much more profound.


The way people meet their partners has changed dramatically in recent years

For more than 50 years, researchers have studied the nature of the networks that link people to each other. These social networks turn out to have a peculiar property.

One obvious type of network links each node with its nearest neighbors, in a pattern like a chess board or chicken wire. Another obvious kind of network links nodes at random. But real social networks are not like either of these. Instead, people are strongly connected to a relatively small group of neighbors and loosely connected to much more distant people.

Borderline personality disorder fails as a diagnostic term—let’s retire it

World Mental Health Day


The weight of diagnostic labels can be heavy to carry.

Trigger warning: the following article has a graphic description of self-harm.

Standing in the cold, dark bathroom, she hacked into her wrist with a razor blade and quietly stared at the blood that flowed from the cut. She told herself she was a bad person and deserved the pain.

A part of her felt reassured by the sight of the blood—it showed she was alive—since she felt so dead and empty inside. As she stared at her image in the bathroom mirror, she thought, “I have no idea who that person is staring back at me.”

Such deliberate self-harm is very common in people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. It takes many forms, including intentional overdoses of tablets with excessive alcohol, risky sexual behaviour, as well as physical self-punishment.

Other symptoms of the disorder include identity disturbances, feeling “dead” inside, rage responses or difficulty regulating emotional reactions to situations, mood swings, constant anxiety and panic, poor self-esteem, memory blanks, dissociation (“out of body” or feeling “unreal”) experiences, problems with concentration, feeling invalid, and fear of being abandoned.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Your tax dollars are funding these divisive, costly stunts. When will they stop?

Donald Trump claims his IQ is higher than his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s. Well, Mr. President, it’s time to put your ability to calculate mathematic equations involving money where your mouth is!

Get a behind-the-scenes look at Fred Armisen and Seth Meyers’ studio sessions for our sponsor Middle-earth: Shadow of War.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night wiht Seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.

Thanks to the inherent rudeness of New Yorkers, we were gifted one of the greatest lines in cinematic history.

Max and his mess and he than realised he is being filmed.

FINALLY . . .

‘People Who Boast About Their IQ Are Losers’

Studies say that bragging about your superiority makes people like you less—so what does Donald Trump hope to gain?


In 2004, a New York Times reporter asked Stephen Hawking what his IQ was. “I have no idea,” the theoretical physicist replied. “People who boast about their IQ are losers.”

President Donald Trump seems to think otherwise. After recent reports that Rex Tillerson, his secretary of state, called him a moron, Trump toldForbes: “I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”

As Philip Bump at The Washington Post reported, Trump has a history of boasting about his IQ, and challenging others to IQ tests. His supporters have also taken up this cause for him in the past. In December 2016, a chart made the rounds saying that Trump’s IQ was 156, putting him above most past presidents. (The median score is 100.) The fact-checking website Snopes rated this claim as false: While the chart was based on a real study, the study didn’t have real IQ scores for most presidents (it estimated their IQs based on other factors), Trump wasn’t included in the study, and most importantly,“Donald Trump’s true intelligence quotient is unknown,” the article reads.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?