Impeachment II: Because Trump Will Never Really Go Away
Get up to speed in 10 minutes: Wage hike = fewer jobs, less poverty + Mark Martin under fire + UNC students in the street + NCGA throws cash at noobs + the ethics of fake meat + GoFundMe health care
Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021
Happy Tuesday! … This week will be pretty miserable weather-wise. Today will probably be your last chance to see the sun. High of 58, light rain in the morning.
Today’s Number: 16
Percentage of Americans who say democracy is working very well, according to an AP/NORC poll.
Chart of the Day
As it turns out, money does buy happiness — or, in academic-speak, “experienced well-being.”
“First, the more happiness you want, the more expensive it gets.”
“And second, money is not nearly as important as other factors.”
On This Day
1775: The British Parliament declared the Massachusetts colony in rebellion.
1825: With no candidate securing a majority of the Electoral College, the House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams the sixth POTUS.
1909: The U.S. passed its first federal legislation banning narcotics — in this case, opium.
1942: Daylight Savings War Time went into effect in the U.S.
1950: Sen. Joe McCarthy alleged that there were 205 communists in the State Department.
1956: UNC point guard Phil Ford (1974–78) was born in Rocky Mount.
1964: The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
1971: Satchel Paige became the first Negro League player elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame.
2020: The number of COVID deaths surpasses deaths from the 2013 SARS outbreak.
One Year Ago
The New York Times, A1, Feb. 9, 2020: “President’s Team Aims to Win Back Suburban Voters”
One Century Ago
The backstory: In the waning days of the Wilson administration, British Ambassador Sir Auckland Geddes returned to Washington with proposals for a world conference on disarmament. It was unclear if President-elect Warren Harding had any interest.
+TODAY’S TOP 6
1. Impeachment II: The Impeachening
Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial will be like watching a paint-by-numbers sequel whose ending was obvious from the outset. He’ll be acquitted, probably with 52 or 53 senators voting to convict. Facing such a fait accompli, senior Dems — including within the Biden administration — want it done with it asap, with no witnesses. The House managers, however, still have a point to make.
Yesterday, Trump’s attorneys filed a brief asking for the impeachment — “political theater” to be dismissed. The House managers rejected it.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries: “If you can’t hold a president accountable for activity that has occurred even in the final few weeks of a particular president’s term, then it unleashes the possibility that you can have someone try to artificially halt the peaceful transfer of power, as occurred in this particular case, because they would know from this precedent that there’s no way to hold them accountable.” (WaPo)
The managers will make their prosecution “fast-paced” and “cinematic,” relying on video to remind everyone of the outrage they felt a month ago. (NYT)
The Senate will likely vote on whether or not to call witnesses — thus prolonging the trial for weeks, maybe longer — early next week. (USA Today)
Forty-five Republicans — including Senators Burr and Tillis — have previously voted to dismiss the impeachment case on the ground that it is unconstitutional to try an ex-president. The Senate is going to spend four hours today arguing this point — which, in a Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) op-ed this weekend, conservative constitutional attorney Charles Cooper wrote wasn’t much of an argument at all.
“The trial’s opponents argue that because this provision* requires removal, and because only incumbent officers can be removed, it follows that only incumbent officers can be impeached and tried. But the provision cuts against their interpretation. It simply establishes what is known in criminal law as a ‘mandatory minimum’ punishment.”
The provision: “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.”
“Given that the Constitution permits the Senate to impose the penalty of permanent disqualification only on former officeholders, it defies logic to suggest that the Senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former officeholders.”
The Senate has previously held impeachment trials for at least two former officeholders.
—> OTHER INSURRECTION NEWS
Former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Mark Martin, who left the bench to take over a Christian law school and was then connected to Trump’s Operation Steal the Election through Mark Meadows, helped write the patently silly Texas lawsuit asking the Supreme Court to overrule the election results, then endorsed the crackpot scheme to have Mike Pence toss out whatever electors he wanted.
Now, critics say he should be investigated: “‘All the lawyers who whipped up Trump’s followers into a frenzy based on the completely baseless belief that the election had been stolen must bear a share of the responsibility for what happened on Jan. 6,’ said [Norm] Eisen, a special counsel in Trump’s first impeachment.” (N&O)
2. Is the Minimum Wage Hike DOA?
Democrats’ efforts to shoehorn a minimum wage increase into President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill appeared — on the surface — to hit a speed bump yesterday.
The CBO released a report estimating that hiking the wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would cost the economy 1.4 million jobs.
OTOH, it would lift 900,000 people out of poverty, improve wages for 27 million workers, and raise wages by a net of $333 billion.
Liberal policy wonks think the CBO’s methodology on calculating job losses is outdated, and experiences in cities and states that have raised minimum wages show that fearmongering about widespread layoffs isn’t borne out.
Most important for our immediate purposes, the CBO thinks raising the minimum wage would add $54 billion to the deficit, due to increased health care costs and additional federal spending for goods and services.
That last part is important for our immediate because of the rules regarding budget reconciliation, which is how Democrats can bypass a Republican filibuster. Budget reconciliation requires legislation to have a significant impact on federal spending and forbids provisions from running deficits after the reconciliation period of 10 years.
As soon as the CBO issued its report, Democrats cheered that $54 billion amounted to significant spending. (Politico)
It’s not clear how they’d get around the “out-year” provision; the usual game is to have the minimum wage provision sunset, then dare the Congress of 2031 to let it expire.
Biden has said he doesn’t think the minimum wage provision will get past the Senate’s parliamentarian (whom VP Harris can, but almost certainly won’t, overrule).
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-Sigh, has already signaled his opposition to hiking the minimum wage to $15/hour. Republicans — including North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx — pounced on the CBO’s prediction of job losses to call the wage increase “radical Democrat legislation.”
—> OTHER STIMULUS NEWS
While Senate Dems are wringing their hands over whether to limit the $1,400 checks to those earning $50,000 or less, House Dems are (mostly) sticking to the original plan of sending them to everyone making $75,000 and under. (WaPo)
The cautious center-left wonks of a generation ago — most notably Larry Summers — are furtively chin-stroking about how Biden’s relief package could trigger inflation, something no one seemed to mind when Trump and company were handing out trillions in tax cuts to the yacht club set. The Biden team is, for now, ignoring them. (The Upshot/NYT)
“In an interview with CNN’s State of the Union television program on Sunday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen acknowledged that too rapid inflation was a risk that needed to be considered. But she argued that policy makers have the tools to deal with that should it materialize, and emphasized a greater danger. ‘The most important risk is that we leave workers and communities scarred by the pandemic and the economic toll that it’s taken, that we don’t do enough to address the pandemic and the public health issues, that we don’t get our kids back to school,’ Yellen said.” (Bloomberg)
3. UNC Lets Profs Stay Remote After Postgame Celebration
By now, you’ve probably seen the video of about 1,000 UNC students flooding Franklin Street after the Tar Heels defeated the Blue Devils on Saturday, celebrating like UNC had just won the conference title rather than held off a very mediocre Duke team — and like there was a deadly pandemic going around. In the 60 or so hours since, UNC officials have shaken their heads in disappointment.
“The UNC students involved could face disciplinary action, including being disenrolled from the university. Chapel Hill police are also working with the university to follow up with students who were identified at the event. ‘As of Monday morning, Student Conduct has received more than 300 referrals since Saturday night,’ Amy Johnson, UNC vice chancellor for student affairs, said Monday afternoon.” (N&O)
In-person classes were set to resume yesterday. On account of the moment of collective idiocy, however, admins gave professors the option of teaching remotely until Feb. 17.
“About 85% of undergraduate courses are being taught remotely and 30% of UNC undergraduate students are taking one or two courses in-person this spring. Those students are required to be tested for COVID-19 twice weekly. On Monday, the university said it is not keeping track of how many professors decided to temporarily continue with remote classes.”
—> OTHER COVID NEWS
Maskless dumbasses also celebrated Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl win, and they didn’t even have the excuse of being dumbass college students. (NYT)
Ron Wright, a second-term Republican congressman from Texas, died of COVID, becoming the first sitting member of Congress to do so. (CNN)
The UK variant is spreading quickly throughout the U.S. and is likely to be predominant within a month. (NYT)
South Africa paused the rollout of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which has proven ineffective against the prevalent variant there. (NYT)
4. NCGA Gave $3.5M to a Brand New Nonprofit
The N&O’s Dan Kane took a deep dive into the legislative sausage-making that led to taxpayers forking over $3.5 million to a brand-new nonprofit that in turn quickly awarded a contract to a company loosely tied to House Speaker Tim Moore. There’s nothing in Kane’s story that screams malicious intent, but there’s a whole lot of passing the buck.
Here’s the gist:
In 2019, Laura Caitlyn Whitehurst was murdered by her abusive ex in a murder-suicide. That October, her parents formed the nonprofit Caitlyn’s Courage.
Last year, the nonprofit lobbied lawmakers to award it funds for a pre-trial electronic monitoring system that would alert victims when their alleged abusers were nearby. The legislature granted the group $3.5 million.
The nonprofit opened a remarkably short three-week bidding period on a contract for the system. Some of the biggest players in the industry didn’t hear about the opportunity until after Caitlyn’s Courage had awarded the contract to Tarheel Monitoring of Wilmington.
The wife of Tarheel Monitoring’s owner has given money to Moore, and a friend of Moore’s had an ownership stake in an offshoot of the business several years ago. But there’s no evidence that Moore influenced the selection process.
The bigger problem is that the General Assembly gave novices a chunk of change while stiffing more established organizations.
“Domestic violence groups found it remarkable that state lawmakers would provide that much money to a nonprofit with no track record, while state funding for traditional programs languished.”
“April Burgess-Johnson, then the chairwoman of the N.C. Domestic Violence Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor and the legislature, said in a statement to lawmakers the money should be put toward established programs through the state’s domestic violence center fund.”
“She said that fund spends $4.8 million annually for domestic violence and sexual assault victim services, and that spending has ‘decreased by approximately 3 percent since 2015.’”
Recall that domestic violence incidents have spiked during the pandemic.
—> OTHER LOCAL NEWS
The 15th annual HKonJ kicked off with a 120-car parade in lieu of thousands of protesters. (N&O)
The pandemic and warmer weather hurt Durham’s Burt’s Bees’ bottom line, though parent company Clorox did just fine for, well, obvious reasons. (TBJ, sub. req.)
The parents of a Winston-Salem State University student sued Wake Forest University over his fatal shooting on WFU’s campus. (W-S Journal)
A woman’s body was found stuffed in a suitcase by the Neuse River. The family of Brittany Smith, a pregnant 28-year-old who was reported missing over the weekend, told WRAL they believe it is her, though law enforcement did not confirm her identity. (WRAL)
5. What I’m Reading: “Is It OK to Eat Bald Eagle Meat That Was Grown in a Lab?”
For years, cultured meat (meat grown in a lab from the cells of living animal donors) has been lauded as the future of meat consumption. Cultured meat avoids many of the environmental harms of conventional livestock (although to what extent remains contested) and requires none of the harm to animals of traditionally-sourced meat. Recent news that the sale of cultured chicken meat has been approved in Singapore brings this future one step closer.
The prospect of lab-grown meat separates two activities that have been inextricably linked for virtually all of human history: Eating meat has always required animal killing. But with the development of lab-grown meat, these two activities can be separated, and the morality of each activity assessed on its own.
Now, we can think about eating animals without killing them, opening up a whole realm of previously taboo possibilities. Why stop with chickens? Why not develop cultured meat from all sorts of exotic animals? Thanksgiving tiger? Christmas chimpanzee? Fourth of July bald eagle? What about extinct animals like the woolly mammoth, passenger pigeon, or dodo bird? Using scientific techniques like cloning and gene editing, scientists may be able to bring these animals back from extinction within the next several years, meaning we might finally be able to go on an authentic Paleo diet.
But is it safe to assume that any moral problem with eating meat comes from animal killing? If you remove the killing, and the harm it causes the animal, the moral problem goes away, right? Not necessarily.
6. What I’m Writing1: “How GoFundMe Became America’s Health Care System of Last Resort”
Sarah Winston knew COVID-19 had hit her daughter hard. On Saturday, Ella’s fever topped 104 degrees. She coughed and vomited uncontrollably. By Sunday, dehydrated and pallid, Ella couldn’t pull herself off the bathroom floor.
But Winston also knew Ella didn’t fit the stereotype for severe cases. Seventeen and healthy, she was a competitive dancer with no underlying conditions. (Winston thinks Ella contracted the infection at a dance competition the previous weekend.) So when Winston, 45, drove her daughter to Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis on Nov. 1, she assumed the doctors would give Ella fluids and send her home.
Instead, they kept her overnight, then moved her to intensive care.
The scope of the virus’s damage soon became clear: kidney failure, pneumonia, liver distress, dangerously low blood pressure, a heart blockage. Over the next few days, Ella developed a staph infection and heart arrhythmia.
Winston didn’t leave Ella’s room for 10 days — not to shower, not even to stretch her legs.
By Friday, Ella’s cardiac tests began to improve. The doctors had started her on Remdesivir to battle the infection. She was alert enough to FaceTime with friends.
But Winston didn’t get to exhale before she was gut-punched by a new crisis: The hospital informed her that her healthcare plan wouldn’t cover Ella’s stay. Not one cent of a bill certain to run into the six figures.
“I discovered today that my health insurance has ZERO coverage for hospitalizations,” she texted friends. …
Jen Gordon Rasmussen, a longtime friend, says she knew Winston was too proud to ask for help. So Rasmussen did it for her. She put Winston at the mercy of what’s become America’s de facto insurer of last resort: GoFundMe.
Source: No Patient Left Behind
When I’m not writing this.