Posted in Rants on January 27th, 2018 by Ed

Amazon's reality show approach to naming the state and local government that wins the honor of giving it billions in handouts entered the "prelude to Rose Ceremony" phase last week with its release of the most predictable list of finalist cities ever.

Chicago? Austin? You don't say.

You can see the layers of bullshit from a mile away. It's very obvious that the executives have no interest in finding a place that best fit the criteria and instead just want to make sure they can relocate somewhere sufficiently Cool. How can I tell? Because Detroit isn't on the list.

If this process were driven by any kind of legitimate analysis of what each city can offer, places like Detroit and St. Louis would be at the top of the list. Memphis and Louisville too, maybe Indianapolis. Any of them could fit the following description, but for narrative simplicity let's just talk about Detroit.

Detroit is one of the handful of examples of a city in which it really, legitimately makes sense to find a company like Amazon and say "Here, take whatever you want." Billions in tax giveaways to get a company to move to Chicago, Austin, or Pittsburgh make little sense because those cities are, on the whole, already doing pretty goddamn well. Moving Amazon in might even displace something already there (aside from low-income housing residents, whom Amazon will very definitely displace).

Detroit is half empty. It and St. Louis have not one but TWO enormous airports largely idle. If any local government could make the argument, "Look, let's just give them the Renaissance Center for free" and have it not be an exercise in pointless corporate bootlicking, it's Detroit. The company could utterly call the shots in a place like that since there is so much unoccupied construction. "Detroit, we would like our HQ here, can you raze this ten square block area?" Yes. Yes they sure can.

And nobody would be displaced. Ideally that's how a process like this would work. Find capacity that isn't being used and use it. Instead they're going to show up in Atlanta or Austin or Chicago, point to an area that is already occupied, and say "Get rid of them, we want this." And of course the state and local governments will bend over backwards to do it.

But why? It makes no sense of course, but the higher ups at a tech company basically just want to make sure they can live somewhere suitably Hip. The tax breaks are irrelevant – any state government will readily hand those over in staggering amounts these days.

Next time some corporate giant goes through this process they should just admit "We only think the coasts and maybe four places between them are good enough, so everyone else fuck off." Save Buffalo the trouble. In a system with even the faintest echo of economic planning, though, our government at the national level would be working to direct this process toward the places where 1) infrastructure is in place but currently idle, i.e. being wasted and 2) bringing in a new corporate giant won't displace a lot of what is already there.

But planning is Communist, so instead we get this shitshow leading up to the inevitable "We're going to Austin!" announcement, ignoring that the city is already a cookie with vastly too much cream shoved in it, no remotely affordable housing, and an impending water crisis that will resemble something in Road Warrior. But it's just so COOL.


Posted in Rants on January 25th, 2018 by Ed

It's common, easy, and often necessary to shit on the Democratic Party in the same way it's easy to shit on the Cleveland Browns. The amount of material they give you to work with is…extensive.

As usual, 18 months before the 2020 election kicks off – yes, it'll be here before you know it – lots of names are being thrown out there. And just as usual, the names are often recycled self-nominees or media speculation about candidates with very little track record who look good on paper but may not even be willing to run.

Unless this story is trolling, John Kerry is apparently putting out feelers. Joe Biden too. Maybe Hillary again. Maybe Sanders again.

Now. An important caveat. The Democratic Party as an organization has nothing to do with this. Anyone can say they are thinking about running. Also, don't forget that in this "Invisible Primary" period people gravitate toward names that are familiar. Those names will do well in a hypothetical poll because they're the ones people know.

That said, consider for a moment the current state of Democratic leadership in Congress and prominent (at least in terms of name recognition) maybe-running candidates for 2020: Schumer (age 67), Pelosi (77), Bernie (76), HRC (70), Biden (75), Durbin (74), Steny Hoyer (78), and Kerry (74). All of those people are white. Two are women, one of whom (Pelosi) has never even suggested aspirations beyond the House.

We may reasonably ask if having so much power within the party that is supposed to represent a diverse America better is not helping matters. This is not a shit-fest; all of these people have done good things at some point in their long political careers. But is a retirement-aged white guy really the way forward? For anything?

I don't think this issue is unique to the Democratic Party or even politics. With no disrespect to the more aged and experienced among us, I can't help but feel like the current generation of older people is remarkably unwilling to ride off into the sunset and let The Youths (say, some spry 55 year olds, maybe) take over. Look, that generation had a very long run. It has to end at some point. It is OK to elevate people born after 1960 into leadership roles, in politics and everywhere else.

Part of the problem for the parties, of course, is that younger people today either see life in politics as nightmarish, can't afford the very high cost of entry, or both. Congress has done a very good job, alongside the right-wing media, of making the idea of a career in Washington seem highly unappealing. Why would anyone get into this game to be torn to pieces, threatened by lunatics on the internet, dumped all over, and blocked at every turn by special interests? The only answer is ego. You'd put up with all of that if you had an enormous ego that needed power.

So that guarantees that even if younger people do enter the game they're probably not the kind of person who is likely to do anything to improve it.

Yes, there are younger Democrats who could run in 2020. And people like Biden and Kerry may not be all that serious about trying again. It is a problem that goes beyond the 2020 Democratic candidate pool, though. It's a delicate topic because it makes older people feel stigmatized and attacked, but it's very difficult to rebut the idea that maybe, just maybe, part of the problem with a lot of our institutions is that the powerful people in them are so often so old. Maybe someone with less "experience" (in a broken system) is a logical alternative.

I mean, it couldn't go much worse.


Posted in Rants on January 22nd, 2018 by Ed

Since the Democratic Party began taking steps in the late 1980s to position itself more toward the center without completely losing its identity, the American left has been in constant tension. That's not a condemnation. In a two-party system and a country of 300,000,000 people there are always going to be intra-party coalitions that have to learn how to live with one another.

Liberals and leftists can look at the same thing and see totally different realities. Liberals look at the deal Senate Democrats made to reopen the government and fund CHIP for six years as a strategic win; leftists look at it as another capitulation for a promise (a DACA vote) that everyone who isn't in a medically-induced coma knows will not be kept. Liberals want to amass victories like this and demonstrate to voters that they are better at governing, have better issue positions, and aren't completely cold-blooded lizard people monsters like Republicans. Leftists feel like the Democratic Party could mobilize more non-voters by taking stronger, more strident stands that will appeal to people lacking much energy to pick through the fine details of policy negotiations.

One group sees capitulation; the other sees a good chess move.

If I tend toward Leftist it's not because I think Liberals are factually wrong; it's inarguable that getting CHIP off the table from the position of a minority in both chambers is an accomplishment. My issue is that I think the strategy that such Wins add up to a convincing message is flawed. It should add up to that, but it never seems to happen.

A friend and colleague posted four points in favor of the compromise. I think all have merit, and also have obvious counterarguments.

1. They don't get blamed for a shutdown – A lot of people do not even know the government is shut down, to say nothing of the many more people who have no idea why it is shut down or who is responsible for it. Democrats are constantly gaming these Blame/Credit scenarios without recognizing that, you know, a third of Americans don't even know which party controls Congress. The strategy depends on people knowing the details. And only a small fraction of political junkies do. And think about how many people will forget all about this in a week, let alone by November. Having "Winners and Losers" implies people are paying attention and have accurate information. OK.

2. If DACA doesn't become law between now and Feb. 8th the Democrats can blame the Republicans. – And Republicans will blame Democrats. Democrats will believe the Democrats and Republicans will believe Republicans.

3. If it does pass, they can claim credit. – The GOP will also claim credit; see 1 and 2.

4) They can always try again after the 8th without CHIP on the line. – Sure, getting CHIP off the chopping block is good. I think this overestimates the extent to which the people taking to the streets by the tens of thousands and yelling for Trump's head on a platter are going to get real enthusiastic in response to messaging like "We got a six-year extension on CHIP!" or "In early January we proposed X Y and Z but Trump rejected it!"

Beltway media personalities who embrace the Reasonable Person – Centrist persona like a second skin are forever talking about "optics." How is this gonna look? How will the spin play out? If the past two years have not convinced them yet that this political system has evolved beyond spin to creating parallel realities, nothing will.

I'd argue that "We are doing everything we can to work for our legislative priorities" makes sense as a message intellectually, but forever harping on the word Bipartisan and calling anything less than the worst possible outcome a victory frustrates as many angry, emotional people as it appeals to people who watch the news every day. The natural constituency for the Democratic Party is too busy trying to stay afloat to care about procedure and political gamesmanship.

Compromise brings short-term victories but undermine the ability to pursue long-term ones. Sometimes making a deal is smarter but fighting is worth more down the road.


Posted in No Politics Friday on January 19th, 2018 by Ed

Recently I took my young niece/nephews to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Despite being a local Institution, it was my first trip there since the 1990s. Well my first trip inside, anyway. It is one of my favorite end-point destinations for bike rides, so I am on the grounds regularly during good weather. But I haven't seen the interior in ages.

Museums are in a tough spot these days. Kids are so hard to stimulate and interest now given the overwhelming sensory stimuli available to them at all times. The MSI exhibits were starkly divided between the Old School ones I remember clearly from childhood and the New Stuff full of touchscreens, very loud noises, and lots of flashing lasers. You see the new stuff (not to mention the tablets and phones every child has on hand) and you realize the more traditional exhibits simply doesn't stand a chance. The enormous model train that takes up 1/4 of the main level at MSI was surrounded with parents whose kids couldn't have looked more bored if they were in church.

My favorite exhibit from the olden days also has lost to the ravages of time: the "hear yourself on the phone" thing. I remember being five, ten years old in the 1980s and finding that absolutely mind-blowing. And you would have to wait in line with dozens of other kids (AND ADULTS) to use it. You spoke into the phone for a couple seconds, waited, listened, and burst into giggles with OH MY GOD DO I REALLY SOUND LIKE THAT? and a good time was had by all.

Now of course there is nothing novel or thrilling about people hearing their own recorded voices. The idea that it even could be novel is incomprehensible to anyone under 20.

This visit took place as I am in the process of completing the first episode of Mass for Shut-ins: The Gin and Tacos Podcast. That has involved a lot of time spent recording my own voice and nothing else, then listening critically to the results. The way we perceive how we sound is rarely subjected to a lot of self-criticism, but I promise you it starts to get very weird after you do it for hours in this kind of setting.

For lack of ability to explain it better, it's like looking at part of your body under extreme magnification. You just…notice a lot. You notice things that have been there forever but you have never actually seen. And then you start to think, wow this has been here all along. Other people probably see it; why haven't I seen it before? Then you get paranoid. What else am I not noticing?

Reaching that point signals a good time to take a break.

The most interesting part, if you're recording something solo, is not the tone of your voice. You will very quickly get used to the fact that it sounds how it sounds. It's the speech patterns. I've done some light reading on this (there actually is Theory of what makes a Radio Voice sound appealing) and discovered that I'm a Riser – each complete thought ends with a rising inflection on the final word.

Here's the thing about when you discover something about a speech pattern you have – it's really, really goddamn hard to alter it. In my case I've been talking this way for 39 years. Undoing it is like trying to learn how to write with my left hand at this point.

We get used to seeing ourselves in mirrors at an early age. Those of us who are a bit older, presuming we're not entertainment industry professionals, haven't totally gotten used to hearing ourselves though. It has been an enlightening experience to say the least. I wouldn't describe it as life changing, but I didn't begin the process of learning how to podcast expecting that I'd end up subjecting such a basic part of my existence to under-microscope scrutiny.


Posted in Rants on January 15th, 2018 by Ed

Here are two statements. Tell me which one you agree with, if either:

1. "If your supervisor at Wal-Mart asks you to work an extra half-hour off the clock because you're at 40 hours and they don't want to pay overtime, you should just go ahead and do it. Cut the guy a break, he needs SOMEONE there to work those 30 minutes."

2. "If you're a teacher and your class is full and a student asks to be added because he forgot to take it for 3.5 years and now he's trying to graduate, don't be a dick. Just let him into the class."

Surprise! Those statements are functionally identical.

A really, really interesting thing about teaching is the way that people are eager – even Liberals who would find the first statement abhorrent – to tell you that you're in the wrong if you refuse to agree to do more work without additional compensation. Never mind that you haven't gotten a raise or have taken a functional paycut for the last decade or two. Never mind that you very likely have too many students in your class already. Just say yes. To more work. And that's what every single person enrolled in a class is – more work. More grading, more one-on-one time, more emails, more office hour visits (OK probably not, but in theory), more of everything you're already doing.

Like everyone other than commenters on Fox News and local newspaper websites, I resist doing additional work for the same compensation whenever possible. The principle does not change because one way of conceiving of units of work is hours and minutes and another is per person.

Students, parents, administrators, and gawkers alike make a collective effort to guilt educators into doing more work all the time. Don't you care about these kids? Isn't it your duty to make sure they learn? Aren't you morally derelict if you're not working FOR THE CHILDREN all the time? Jeez I thought you cared about kids. I guess you don't.

It is a special kind of right-wing, anti-labor rhetoric – it's special because you get it thrown in your face constantly regardless of the ideological leanings of the person saying it. Why?

Part of it may be that everyone remembers the times they fucked up as K-12 or college students; the times they needed someone to cut them slack because they were too drunk, high, lazy, or immature to realize before the tail end of senior year (or Fifth Year) that they need to take College 101 – Intro to College in order to graduate. And they remember how they had to beg, plead, cajole, and bargain to get some professor, admin in the Registrar's office, or academic advisor to yield to "Cut me a break man, c'mon."

So, some of it is just projection. Most of the rest, the kind you get from Centrists and conservatives, is bog standard anti-labor rhetoric – fat, lazy, entitled teachers who never do any work and make $250,000/yr to sit on their fat lazy teacher asses and count their lavish pension money. Right-wing obedience to authority tendencies in the United States most definitely do not encompass the teaching profession.

I can't speak well to K-12, but at the university level I'd like you to keep in mind that when you're talking about the job faculty do you are talking about people who maybe, if they're lucky, have seen their salary increase 1 or 2 percent since the crash of 2008. If they're lucky. All that has happened since then is that more work, more responsibilities, higher expectations of research output, and more bodies per classroom have been thrown at them. Nothing is wrong with faculty, like any other employee anywhere else in the economy, refusing to do additional work they are not obligated to do if they receive no compensation for it.

Labor has value. Every non-teacher recognizes that if someone wants more of your labor, they have to pay for it. Think a little harder about what you're asking when you suggest that we should "be cool." You're suggesting we work more for free.


Posted in Rants on January 10th, 2018 by Ed

When traveling internationally government agencies like the US State Department or the UK Foreign Office can offer valuable advice. The basics – shots, visas, potential complications – are all in one place and up to date. Their travel "advice," however, must always be taken with grains of salt. Let's just say they tend toward extreme caution. I think the State Department in particular imagines the would-be US traveler as an 18 year old college freshman who has never been outside Paramus, NJ and will be unable to handle the slightest "non-Americanness."

Come to think of it, that's a great approach. That is the modal American tourist.

El Salvador is listed by the State Department in Category 3 (Reconsider Need to Travel) which is one stage short of "Do Not Travel Here." The Embassy warns that the crime threat in El Salvador is "critical" and notes, as it does for many countries, that law enforcement is corrupt and as likely to rob you as help you. Poor rural sanitation, Zika outbreaks, and political unrest due to government corruption are also noted. Again, they tend to overdo it a bit, but suffice it to say that El Salvador is a place with many problems.

Despite warning Americans not to go there, the White House announced recently that 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants to the US are about to be given the heave-ho and, presumably, forced to return. Makes sense, right?

What is the point of this? What is the point of any of these targeted attempts to legislate immigrant-bashing? This accomplishes absolutely nothing and benefits no one. Like the "travel ban" countries, we declare these places chaotic shit holes and then actively move to ship people there. I guess borderline failed states are good enough for SOME kinds of people, amirite.

It's worth noting that without being overly dramatic or self-critical, a good portion of the responsibility for the corruption, brutality, and poverty of Central American states belongs squarely in Washington. I mean, what do you think paramilitary death squads do after they've overthrown a duly elected leader, disband and go home to read magazines?

The irony of explicitly calling a country too dangerous to visit and then deporting people to it is almost too much to bear, but I suppose we're all getting used to bearing it.


Posted in Rants on January 7th, 2018 by Ed

The whole routine CNN, Jake Tapper, and White House sycophant Stephen Miller went through on Sunday was as pointless as it is dumb, and as dumb as it is exhausting.

Tapper and CNN are predictably taking victory laps now, playing endlessly the clip of Tapper cutting Miller off and accusing him of wasting the audience's time. Meanwhile, hot garbage like "The 24 most grotesque lines from Jake Tapper's Stephen Miller Interview" dots their homepage and will no doubt creep well into the upcoming week.

If Tapper is concerned about wasting his audience members' time, the answer is simple: stop giving Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, and all these other skeletal fascist nitwits an opportunity to take your microphone and address a worldwide audience. What I saw Sunday was not Jake Tapper being a great journalist; I saw Jake Tapper inviting a man he knows to be a lying, callous, racist piece of crap onto his show for the explicit purpose of kicking him off the show and looking tough. You don't invite Stephen Miller onto the show because you think you're going to get a good interview out of him or that your audience will learn something. You invite him onto the show because A) you agree with him, or B) you want to use him as a prop. This was the latter.

Great job shutting him down, Jake. It would be even more impressive if you didn't have him on your show in the first place.

We are two years into the Trump-as-Serious Politico era and I promise you there is not one single person alive in the United States who is one cable news interview away from suddenly realizing what Trump and the people he surrounds himself are. The idea that CNN or any other journalists are "exposing" these people, here in January 2018, is so stupid only a truly committed "Both Sides Do It" Centrist could find value in it. Nobody, and I mean not one single person, is going to see Stephen Miller on CNN on January 7, 2018 and walk away with a changed opinion. "You know, I thought Team Trump was full of nice, smart people…but now I'm having second thoughts!"

Who ARE these people? Who needs yet another interview full of lies and whitewashed racism and soft-pedaled fascism to suddenly realize what they are? Who hasn't figured it out but will if the legendary journalistic skills of Jake Tapper show them the path to enlightenment?

Stop it. Just stop it. Stop giving these people a platform. Worse, stop inviting them on the show simply to play Mr. or Mrs. Badass for a day. "Stephen Miller came on the show and started spewing lies. And I said, NOT TODAY, MISTER! and shut him down!" Stephen Miller spews lies. That is his thing. It's what he does. When you bring on a serial liar and then scold him for lying serially it feels more than a little…disingenuous? Not fake, but more than a little pointless.

I get that CNN's ratings blow and that Sunday shows in general are taking a real beating since audiences are burned out on Trump and politics. In that light, I suppose this is a harmless enough stunt. Certainly no one will ever feel badly for Stephen Miller. Tapper could drop-kick him in the back of the head and most viewers would walk away satisfied. If CNN is really concerned about its audience and its on-air integrity, though, the simpler solution would be to refuse to have as guests the president's dumbest hangers-on who have proven beyond any doubt congenitally incapable of telling the truth.

Until then, spare us the Journalistic Integrity routine. If you had any you wouldn't have been interviewing Stephen Miller a year into this presidency.


Posted in No Politics Friday on January 5th, 2018 by Ed

After suffering a string of injuries to their goaltending position, the Chicago Blackhawks recently called up a man named Jeff Glass to make his NHL debut. The team hasn't done bad at all with him in the net, especially for a guy with no NHL experience.

It's a pretty unremarkable story – guy gets hurt, second guy comes in to play in his stead. The interesting thing, though, is that Glass is about to turn 33. All sports are a young person's game, and you don't see many 33 year old rookies. The more I thought about this while watching him play, the more it struck me as one of those "OK this is what people find compelling about sports" moments.

He has more than 15 years and 600 games of experience playing professional hockey, all at various minor or not-quite-NHL levels. He has, in the old saying, Modeled a Few Uniforms in his day. Presumably waiting his turn to get a crack at the NHL he has played for, among other remote islands of the hockey world, the Kootenay Ice, Rockford Icehogs, Binghamton Senators, and six different teams in the Russian KHL including Astana Barys and Lada Tolyatti. Those are cities that, even by Russian standards, are out of the way.

Nobody feels a ton of sympathy for a guy who made not-bad money (minor league hockey at the AHL and KHL level pays high five to low six figures) to play a game for a living. But what a strange, frustrating journey that must have been. Imagine how many nights he must have sat in motel rooms in Chelyabinsk, Russia feeling like he was on another planet and asking, "What the fuck am I doing?"

Anyone who has ever had a goal must be able to imagine how many times he delivered his "I quit" speech into bathroom mirrors or how many times he saw some random dude promoted to the NHL and thought, why him and not me? How many times did he have to talk himself into giving it one more try, one more month, one more game, one more season? When a minor league prospect gets past the age of about 27, it is universally understood that if he has not yet Made It he is never going to Make It. Did Glass convince himself that he would beat those odds? Or did he simply give up on his NHL dream and content himself with being a bush leaguer for as long as someone would pay him?

Either scenario must have made it feel bizarre to finally get that call a week ago, "Here's a plane ticket to Edmonton, you're starting tonight for the Blackhawks." He won that game, by the way. I don't suppose any of that night registered on him, and it must have felt like it was over in a blur – when you wait fifteen years for something to happen, it has to feel like you're underwater and in shock when it actually happens.

It's not exactly an important story, but in its own way a universal one. Achieving goals is about a lot more than our own talent; there are a hundred other "Just get me anyone who knows which end of the goalie stick to hold" guys that Chicago could have signed and played. In the past, Glass got passed over for a lot of them. This time, a lot of them got passed over in favor of him. That's life. The element of randomness tends to drive me crazy. I wonder how he convinced himself it was worth it to keep going, and how it must feel when it paid off.


Posted in Rants on January 4th, 2018 by Ed

It will disappoint some of you to hear that I find all of the arguments involving the 25th Amendment and Trump to be silly. My take on the purpose of that Amendment is to deal with a president who is comatose, alive in a vegetative state (e.g. Ariel Sharon in Israel), or bedridden in such overwhelmingly bad health that he doesn't have the time or ability to do the job (e.g. someone dying of end-stage cancer). Could a president's mental competence short of that be a reason to trigger the 25th? Sure, in theory. But add partisan politics to the mix and I think there is essentially zero chance that presidential incapacity could ever be agreed upon short of the individual being inert. Short of the president wandering around screaming at imaginary dragons like we all too often see among the homeless, "The president is nuts" is never going to work. It's just too subjective, and people who want to believe the president is fine will always be able to construct an argument for that.

So with the caveat that I absolutely do not believe that the Trump Problem will be solved by the 25th Amendment I've paid very little attention to any of the (extensive) takes out there about him suffering dementia or something similar. Eric Levitz offered another such take today. Unlike anything previous, there is one thing about this piece I have to admit is stunning. Watch this 1980 interview with Trump. It's short. Try to forget how much you hate Trump for a second and just watch this with, if possible, neutral feelings:

That is, without overstatement, a completely different person. Nobody's going to mistake him for Socrates, and he still (of course) comes off as an arrogant dick. But ignore what he's talking about and just listen to his voice and demeanor. He has a normally-sized vocabulary. He speaks in a normal tone at a normal volume. His responses are relevant to the questions. He cites facts – several times mentioning a specific building or price. He makes a joke, and it's appropriate in tone and context ("If you have any at that price, I'd love to buy them.")

There are plenty of ways to explain this away if you're so inclined. He's much younger, he's motivated to make a good impression, and he's speaking about (perhaps) the only topic he really knows anything about. But Levitz's point is made regardless – the ranting, repetitive, incoherent mess we hear interviewed today is a departure from this person's track record in the public eye. While still a smarmy ass, 1980s Donald Trump spoke in full sentences like a normal human and didn't struggle to string two thoughts together. He talked as if he knew more than six adjectives. He sounded – god help me – like an educated rich kid.

Diagnosing Trump from a distance is futile. A political majority large enough to declare Trump incompetent could just as soon impeach him, which is cleaner and less fraught with questions. With respect to specifics like what appeared to be slurring during a recent appearance or his weird glass-grasping which ignited speculation about his motor skills, I don't find armchair diagnoses terribly persuasive. There is no doubt, though, that something beyond ordinary aging is at play here. Comparing audio or video of a person talking over time usually surprises in how much they sound the same, not how they have grown into a totally different person.

Whether the explanation is internal or external – A viable hypothesis, for example, is that Trump has conditioned the way he speaks in public to positive reinforcement from sycophants and strategic attempts to give the media what it wants – something has changed. And it has changed quite a bit. The 25th Amendment isn't going to solve this problem, but it is hard to deny that for whatever reason, Donald Trump no longer acts like he used to.


Posted in Rants on January 3rd, 2018 by Ed

In a span of eight hours on Tuesday, January 2, the President used Twitter to:

-Spread InfoWars-level conspiracy shit about Deep State, undermining the Justice Dept. and legal process
-Taunted North Korea in game of nuclear chicken
-Took credit for the safety of commercial air traffic
-Unveiled upcoming awards for the worst media outlets and reporting, continuing to target and delegitimize the critical media
-Threatened Palestine with economic sanctions

This is, to strip our current situation down to its essence, exhausting and beyond insane. There is no reason we need to live like this. This does not have to continue. It continues because of the false narrative that Congress can't remove the president unless red-handed evidence of him committing a crime is uncovered. That simply is not true. Impeachment was added to the Constitution explicitly separated from the normal legal process. While a range of opinions exist on exactly what does and does not constitute impeachable offenses, any practical understanding of the process points to the conclusion that an impeachable offense is whatever a given Congress says it is at a given point in political time.

To play one of conservatives' favorite games, let us imagine what the Founders would say if we asked them, "Can a president be impeached for no specific crime but for being really, atrociously bad at being president?" Nothing in the historical record suggests that the people who put the Constitution together would dispute that poor performance and bad behavior are sufficient grounds for impeachment.

I am on the third day of the flu so I will cut directly to the chase: Everyone, Republicans included, can see where this is going. It is inevitable that this guy is going to start a shooting war somewhere, either through his bad temper and poor impulse control or because he is so stupid he will stumble into it by accident. This does not have to happen. And it's going to look mighty strange after it happens to look back at all the really obvious warning signs and rationalize why Congress did not act.

Republicans can get everything they want out of Mike Pence, but they are terrified of the primary challenges they'll face if they are perceived as the people who betrayed Trump. History offers us some pretty strange explanations for important events unfolding but I think this will top them all. "Everyone recognized that he was insane but we couldn't come up with a reason to impeach him that Fox News viewers would accept" and "I was scared of a Tea Party challenger" will stand out as particularly feeble reasons in a century or two when humanity tries to figure out what in the hell happened during the Great Insanity of the early 21st Century.