Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Sunday, October 27, 2019

Impeachment and schadenfreude

Today’s word, for those of you who view life as an episode of Sesame Street, is “schadenfreude.” Pronounced “shah-den-froy-duh.” It means “taking delight in Donald Trump’s impeachment.”

            Oops, there’s another  big word. “Impeachment” -- pronounced im-peach-ment -- means “humiliating the president.”

            And that’s about all it means.

            I could write about last week’s federal election. But everyone else has already done that, ad nauseam. And I’m still not  sure who won, who lost, and what all this means for the country. So I’m going to write about impeachment.

            Canadians don’t have impeachment. We have no procedures for impeaching prime ministers, regardless of their lack of popularity. Instead, parliament can pass a vote of “no confidence,” which means, basically, that the members of parliament want another election, whether or not Canadians as a whole have lost confidence in the ability of the government to govern.


A meaningless game…

            The big difference is that when a Canadian parliament votes “no confidence,” the government falls.

            When the American House of Representatives votes for impeachment, it does little more than splat the president with a banana-cream pie.

            Impeachment doesn’t dethrone His Imperial Majesty. It doesn’t stop him from signing executive orders. It doesn’t dissolve Congress. It doesn’t fire the country’s administration.

            Impeachment has only happened twice in U.S. political history. To Andrew Jackson, in 1868, for “high crimes and misdemeanors” which consisted mainly of his personnel policies. And to Bill Clinton, in 1998, for not keeping his fly zipped up.

            In both cases, the Senate acquitted them. Both men served out the balance of their terms of office.

            Richard Nixon only escaped impeachment by resigning before the House of Representatives voted.


… of embarrassment

            Theoretically, Congress can remove a president from office. It has never happened.

            Theoretically, too, the Judicial branch could arrest and convict a president for a criminal offence. That too has never happened. And perhaps could never happen, given the president’s power to issue unconditional pardons. Even for himself.

            Impeachment will not save democracy, as some have boldly asserted. It will not change the rules that let the wealthiest -- whether individuals or corporations -- spend billions to buy the loyalty of their favoured candidates. It will not change the system that creates three equal authorities -- the president and his Administration, Congress, and the Judiciary -- so that any of them can thumb its nose at the other two.

            After all, if you’re equal to them, why should you submit to their will?

            That is, of course, the fear that even if impeached, Donald Trump will claim presidential privilege and continue wreaking havoc.

            Impeachment itself will not re-unite children caged in detention centres by Immigration and Customs Enforcement with their parents.

            It will not restore funding to public schools. It will not cancel employment discrimination against LGBTQetc. It will not undo punitive labour regulations.

            It will not lead to a change of heart in the Pentagon, ending America’s endless lust for endless wars. It will not move funds from what Eisenhauer called the “military/industrial complex” to social programs. Or to universal health care.


Word of Honour

            It will not -- at least not immediately -- restore trust in America’s honour. That former allies will not be abandoned or betrayed. That negotiated trade deals will not be cancelled. That international agreements will not be repudiated.

            Impeachment will not even reverse the policies imposed by Trump’s executive orders, not by law, on administrative agencies such as the  Environmental Protection Agency, which is no longer protecting the environment. Pesticides will still be sprayed on wilderness vegetation. Bee-killing insecticides will still be used on farms. Drilling for oil -- and worse, fracking --will still be supported in delicate geological zones in California and Alaska. Boreal forests will still fall to chainsaws.

            And unless impeachment also includes a clause barring Donald Trump from using Twitter or any other means of mass communication, white supremacists will still read encouragement for acts of violence against African-Americans, Mexicans, Muslims, Jews, and women.

            Impeachment will not, in fact, change anything. Except possibly the fortunes of the political parties involved, pro or con.

            Impeachment has yet to remove any president from office. John Tylor, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all survived impeachment attempts.

            Advice columnist Anne Landers used to suggest that miscreants should be punished by 40 lashes with a wet noodle. However much I may enjoy watching the mighty fall -- schadenfreude -- at the political level, impeachment is little more than Landers’ wet noodle.


Copyright © 2019 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

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Last week, I denounced -- as vigorously as I dare without getting sued by a giant corporation with bottomless lawyers -- the companies that have promoted addictive “vaping” as a new and “safe” way of getting a nicotine high.


Isabel Gibson connected my column last week with a previous column in which, you may recall, I suggested that “liberals” see corporations as the devil; conservatives see government as the devil. Isabel wrote, “On the face of it, this [vaping] also seems to me to be a failure of the regulatory function of government.

            “I don't condone a company (or any organization or person) doing something they know is wrong, or with what we might call ‘malice non-thought’ in the case of those who are just willfully careless; neither do I understand why this wasn't caught.”


So did Laurna Tallman, connecting some letters defending the conservative view to the election earlier this week: “I'm afraid we are about to find out how short-sighted, poor of memory, and ignorant Canadians are. Your readership may not reflect how Canadians will vote tomorrow but the support for what the Canadian Conservative Party has become is alarming and grievous. For some readers to cast your writing simply as ‘liberal’ is tragic and surely not your fault. I would have thought the catastrophe in the U.S. would have been a wake-up call to Canadian Conservatives and conservatives. Apparently not among some of your readership. You will be left with plenty to write about and I will be left with plenty to disregard as I continue to plow a straight furrow against all odds.”


Bob Rollwagen also mused on the liberal/conservative spectrum: “Our reality does not prevent any of us from making life choices, such as drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, vaping other substances, eating to excess, driving outside acceptable safe guidelines -- the list could go on. The political reality really only impacts how the side effects of our actions are dealt with by our society and how these decisions are supported.

            “Conservative-leaning groups want minimal intervention by government and lower taxes so each individual can support their choices. Liberal-leaning groups want intervention that creates equality of support regardless of economic status. Both support free enterprise that provides access to all of the life styles listed earlier. Conservative thought suggests more of the gain from the market risk should go the risk taker, while liberal thought wants the gain to be shared to a greater degree between the investors and the consumers.

            “We have witnessed the development of corporate giants that produce huge profits and huge environmental impact. It seems that the gains come first and the impact is measured later. Then, the giant is killed. The result is some retain their gain while others lose --  their health, their current economic stability, or their future economic opportunity.

            “The rules need to change such that no one can avoid the impact of their actions because of advantage or entitlement.’


Bob Mason wrote, “I couldn't agree more with your observations and your conclusion that a federal law requiring that companies and corporations be held responsible for the long-term consequences of their actions -- presumably expecting they might have huge fines imposed should anything go wrong. It. would likely see more caution on the part of innovators before they introduce new products.

            “However, unless the principals of companies and the boards of corporations are also held personally liable for the actions of their businesses, and they themselves have huge fines imposed when catastrophic events occur, there will probably be more cases where the corporation simply declares bankruptcy.”


Tom Watson summed it all up: “As in all other things, follow the money. If there's money to be made, some firm will find the way and, even if it's harmful, will defend it all the way to the bank. The extension is this: Those who win lawsuits against large corporations may well be dead before appeals finally make their way through the courts…”






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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think some of these  links are spam.)

                       Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.

                       I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also runs beautiful pictures. Her Thanksgiving presentation on the old hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, Is, well, beautiful -- https://www.traditionaliconoclast.com/2019/10/13/for/

                       Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)



                       The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns.

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Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: Trump, Impeachment, Congress



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