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The Forward-looking Impeachment of a Frankenstein Monster

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Some two thousand years ago there was a Roman Emperor by the name of Caligula who led the Roman army into Normandy in France and stopped at the shores facing Britain. Thereafter, rather than give orders to prepare for the invasion, he instructed his generals to dismount from their horses and look for shells on the beach that he could add to his collection at home. After his return home, to show his contempt for Roman republican ways he nominated his horse as senator of Rome and send it to the Senate.

At that point some, including his own praetorian guards in charge of his security, began to suspect that Caligula was not only a psychological sociopath, but that he was insane and therefore a political danger to the whole polity of the Roman Empire. After all, he had given proof that he was a man at such a point of acute narcissism and megalomania that he could use the most powerful army in the world to enrich his private shell collection and think of a horse as superior and more intelligent than a Roman senator. In equivalent modern terms this was a madman with his finger on the nuclear button. Most would agree that such a man is unhinged.

They began to devise all kinds of stratagems by which to remove him as an emperor, for indeed the emperor was naked and devoid of any rationality; he had in effect become a clown but a dangerous one at that, good at staging extravagant reality-shows in the Coliseum, but still parading as the most intelligent man in the land since intelligence and power and money are proportional to each other; so did the amused zombie-like masses thought.

This projected removal from power proved rather difficult since, as elite praetorian guards, they had sworn an oath of fealty to the supreme authority of the Empire and that loyalty had to be absolute and neutral with no political strings attached. Besides there would be predictable repercussions and reactions; a civil war might ensue. Many in the land were ideological fanatics and were harmed to their teeth, after all this was a rather militaristic society used to constant war. They had Caesar’s assassination episode and the ensuing civil war in mind. Nevertheless, they concluded that the best method was that of assassination as a form of execution without any democratic preliminary trial or discussion, it is after all the most unequivocal and final: the assassination (or in modern Machiavellian parlance, the liquidation) of the madman, or tyrant if you will, is un-appealable. As we know, from Roman history, this was actually carried out one fateful day as the emperor was walking back to his quarters in a dark tunnel after watching the reality-show presented on that day to the adoring crowds in the Coliseum. The transition to a more sane emperor (Caligula’s own uncle Claudius) went quite smoothly. In any case, the war games in the Coliseum continued unabated; which is to day, the madness in a more moderate form continued too.

This is ancient history. Let’s now jump to a parallel scenario in modern Western history: the presidential campaign going on as we speak in the US. As previously commented upon, for the last three years or so the Republican party has been steadily grooming a Frankenstein monster who has now grown too big and powerful to be stopped and is proceeding to the destruction of the whole party.

Today’s headline is “Civil War in the Republican Party,” meaning that there is an acrimonious discussion going on as we speak among the party leaders on whether or not there is still time to remove the threat to the unity of the party and, most importantly, to the chances of their own re-elections to the Senate and the House, should the Democratic party win in a landslide in November, which is a real possibility. The more brave among them have repudiated not only the character and the persona of the republican nominee, but the nomination itself. Under no circumstance they will support his nomination; some have declared that they will vote for Hillary Clinton. The more pusillanimous, usually comprising the majority of opportunistic politicians, want the cake and eat it too, they repudiate the person and his bigotry but accept the nomination of the party. The results of these two differing defensive strategies in November will be intriguing.

Be that as it may, the removal of the Frankenstein monster has proven to be quite a difficult task. It might have been easier three years ago when he was going around with his trumped up birther issue completely made up by his fertile imagination, never mind the truth. His arrogance and bully-like behavior grows by the day. He has now taken to collecting purple hearts from simple-minded naïve adoring followers saying that he had always wanted to have one and it is easier that way; he has repeatedly insulted a golden medal family, implying via his surrogates that the reason their son was killed is the fault of the present “illegitimate” occupier of the White House, never mind that he was not president when Captain Khan was killed on the field of battle, and the list could go on and on. The gaffs and embarrassments also grow by the day, the polls are showing a decline. The party is deeply worried. To go back to the comparison with ancient history: the praetorian guards are worried; they are in a pickle. After all, they helped in the creation of the monster. What to do?

The operative word at present seems to be “unfit.” Mr. Trump is unfit to be president. He does not understand what that document called the American constitution is all about, if he ever read it. He has propensities toward bigotry, racism and xenophobia. He has no inkling of what it means to be an American, and so on, and so on. So far the term mentally “unhinged” and psychologically impaired has been studiously avoided. After all, some 30% of the Republican electorate chose him. Are they also “unhinged?” If one watches carefully the documentaries of the Mussolini and Hitler rallies in the 30s, there seemed to be a lot of unhinged people enthusiastically saluting the Duce and the Fuhrer at those rallies. It seemed that the whole nation had gone insane. After the war, most of them declared themselves anti-fascists and anti-Nazis and probably said so to their children and grandchildren. Interesting!

But to go on. The praetorian guards are now frantically asking: how do we proceed with this unstoppable monster? They seem to have come up with a new stratagem. The stratagem is this: let’s impeach forwardly the Frankenstein monster and prosecute him by listing all the reasons why he is unfit to be president, without mentioning that he may also be unhinged. After he is found guilty, he will have effectively and legally been removed retroactively, that is to say, removed from the presidency five months ahead of time. The way is now open for the vice-president, Mr. Pence, to step in. After all, we are not barbarians any longer; we don’t solve our problems by violent assassinations, they are even against the law, aren’t they?; that might have been still ok in the 60s and 70s and the 80s when a president was assassinated and an attempt was made on two others, but now that we have evolved politically we do our removals and liquidations democratically by impeachment, and so we can impeach a president ahead of time as unfit to be president. Voilà, problem solved. Will this clever stratagem work? History will soon give us an answer. Stay tuned.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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The 4 groups of Senate Republicans that will decide Trump’s impeachment trial

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With Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pushing back the Trump impeachment trial to mid-February to make sure things cool down, Senate Republicans’ positions on the vote are far from crystallized yet. Here are the four groups of Senate Republicans, according to views and likely vote. The numbers and composition of these four groups will decide Trump’s future political faith. Which group Mitch McConnell chooses to position himself in will also be a deciding factor in the unusual and curious impeachment trial of a former US president no longer sitting in office.

Group 1: The Willing Executioners

There surely are those in the Republican Party such as Senator Mitt Romney and Senator Ben Sasse who cannot wait to give that Yea and the final boot to disgraced former President Trump, and will do that with joy and relief. Both the Utah Senator and the Nebraska Senator may be vying for the leadership spot in the Republican Party themselves but that is not the whole story. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska openly said “I want him out.” This group is unlikely to reach as many as 17 Senators, however, needed for the two thirds Senate majority to convict Trump.

Group 2: The Never Give up on Trumpers

There are also those Republican Senators who will stick with Trump through thick and thin until the end – some out of conviction, but most as someone who cannot afford to alienate the Trump supporter base in their state – a supporter base which is still as strong. 

At least 21 Republican Senators are strongly opposed to voting to convict former President Trump, as reported by Newsweek. They realize that doing so would be a political suicide. Republican voters, on the whole, are unified in their belief that the presidential elections were not fair and Joe Biden did not win legitimately, with 68% of Republican voters holding the belief that the elections were “rigged”. The majority of the Republican Party constituents are Never Give up on Trumpers themselves.

Among them are Senators Cruz and Hawley. Both will fight at all cost a vote which certifies as incitement to violence and insurrection the same rhetoric they both themselves used to incite the Trump crowd. Cruz and Hawley will try to avoid at all cost the legal certification of the same rhetoric as criminal in order to avoid their own removal under the 14th Amendment, as argued already by Senator Manchin and many others.

Senator Ron Johnson even called upon Biden and Pelosi to choose between the Trump impeachment trial and the Biden new cabinet confirmation. Group 2 will fight fierce over the next weeks and you will recognize them by the public rhetoric.

Group 3: I’d really like to but I can’t be on the record for convincing a President of my own party

Then there is a large group of Republican Senators – maybe the largest – who would really like to give that Yea vote and leave Trump behind but they do not wish to go on the record as having voted to convict a US President from their own party. Some of these Senators will share their intention to vote Yea in private or off the record with the media, but when push comes to shove and the final vote, they will be hesitant and in the end will vote Nay. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida falls under Group 3.

Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is also the illustration of the average Republican Senator right now – someone who said that Trump committed “impeachable offenses” but who is not sure about convicting him through trial, so that probably means a Nay. 

The BBC quoted a New York Time’s estimate from mid-January that as many as 20 Republican Senators are open to voting to convict Trump, but it should be recalled that in the first Trump impeachment trial in 2020, several Republican Senators also shared in private and off the record that they would be willing to convict. After so much discussion, calculations and prognosis, in the end, it was only Senator Mitt Romney who broke ranks on only one of the two impeachment articles, and voted to convict.

The Capitol events, of course, are incomparable to the Ukraine impeachment saga, but it should be accounted for that the trial vote will likely take place sometime in March 2021, or two months after the Capitol events, when most of the tension and high emotion would have subsided and much of American society will be oriented towards “moving forward”. Group 3 will host the majority of Senate Republicans who in the end will decide to let it go. Most of the 21 Republican Senators who already expressed their opposition to convicting Trump actually belong to Group 3 and not Group 2 Never Give up on Trumpers.

Group 4: I am a Never Give up on Trumper but I really want to look like Group 3

And finally, there is the most interesting group of Republican Senators who are secretly a Never Give up on Trumpers but would like to be perceived as belonging to the hesitant and deliberative Group 3 – willing and outraged but unwilling to go all the way on the record to eliminate a former Republican President.

Senator Ted Cruz might move into Group 4 in terms of rhetoric. Never Give up on Trumpers will vote Nay willingly but will try to present themselves as conflicted Group 3 politicians doing it for different reasons.

Which group Mitch McConnel chooses will be the decisive factor in aligning the Senate Republican votes. McConnel himself seems to be a Group 3 Senator who, in the end, is unlikely to rally the rest of the Senators to convict Trump even though McConnel would really like Trump out of the Republican Party, once and for all. The very fact that McConnel is not in a hurry and is in fact extending the cool-off period places him in Group 3. 

Yea voters don’t need time to think about it and look at things. It took House Democrats exactly three days to get it over and done with. McConnel is quoted as willing to give time to “both sides to properly prepare”, allowing former president Trump enjoy due process. But Trump’s legal team will notice quickly that there is not much to prepare for, as they won’t find plenty of legal precedent in the jurisprudence on American Presidents’ incitement to violent insurrection for stopping the democratic certification process on an opponent who is the democratically elected President.

McConnel himself has said that he is “undecided” and that speaks volumes. He is a Group 3 Senate Republican, and with that, Group 3 will describe the mainstream Senate Republicans’ position in the impeachment trial. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set 8 February as the start of the impeachment trial, pushing earlier McConnel’s time frame. This is when it all starts.

It is my prediction that when all is said and done, there won’t be as many as 17 Senate Republicans to vote to convict former President Trump. Trump will walk away, but not without the political damage he has incurred himself and has also left in American political life.

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Two Ways that Trump Spread Covid-19 in U.S.

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Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

1. Encouraging infected workers to continue working even if it infects others:

On 12 May 2020, two hundred and twenty five labor organizations signed a letter to Antonin Scalia’s son Eugene Scalia who was Donald Trump’s appointed Secretary of Labor, and it urged his Department to change its policies “that address the standards that apply under the federal U[nemployment] I[insurance] law to determine when workers remain eligible for regular state UI or P[andemic] U[nemployment] A[ssistance] if they leave work or refuse to work due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns.” In more-common language, an economist Jared Bernstein headlined in the Washington Post six days later on May 18th, “The Labor Department is forcing workers back to jobs that could make them sick” and he explained that Scalia’s Department “has issued guidance that virtually ignores health risks and encourages employers to report workers who refuse job offers [while unemployed] so their unemployment payments can be taken away. The agency is busy urging employers to snitch on ‘claimants that have turned down suitable work.’” Trump’s Labor Department ignored the labor-organizations’ letter. Then, a barista headlined at Huffpost on 22 January 2021, “I Work In A Coffee Shop In Montana. Anti-Maskers Have Made My Job Hell.” She complained that the many customers who refused to wear masks were causing her to fear working there — she was blaming those customers, but not Trump. However, Trump and his Labor Secretary were responsible and simply didn’t care about the safety of workers, such as her, and were instead encouraging employers to force these workers to stay on the job, though doing so endangered themselves and their co-workers. Millions of infected workers were infecting others because not to would cause them to become fired and could ultimately force them into homelessness. Maybe the billionaires who funded Trump’s political career profited from such exploitation of their employees, but nationally this policy helped to increase the spreading of Covid-19. Also: since so many of those bottom-of-the-totem-pole employees are Blacks and Hispanics, etc., this Trump policy helped to cause the drastically higher infection-rates that have been reported among such groups.

2. Refusing to deal with the pandemic on a national basis:

On 15 July 2020, the Washington Post headlined “As the coronavirus crisis spins out of control, Trump issues directives — but still no clear plan” and reported that, “health professionals have urged the White House to offer a disciplined and unified national message to help people who are fatigued more than five months into the crisis and resistant to changing social behaviors, such as wearing masks and keeping a distance from others. Trump, for instance, refused to be seen publicly wearing a mask until last weekend, when he sported one during a trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. ‘You can get a really strong and eloquent governor who can help at the state level, but it does seem like we need some more national messaging around the fact that for many people, this is the most adversity they’ve faced in their life,’ said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.” Every country (such as China, Vietnam, Venezuela, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand, and Finland) that has been far more successful than America is at having a low number of Covid-19 cases (and deaths) per million residents has dealt with the pandemic on a national and not merely local basis, but all of the worst-performing countries (such as America, which now is at 76,407 “Tot Cases/1M pop”) have not.

It therefore also stands to reason that 

which ranks all 50 states according to how high is the number of Covid-19 infections per million inhabitants, shows (and links to the data proving) that “In 2016, the top 17 [most Covid-infected states] voted for Trump, and the bottom 5 voted for Clinton. All but 3 of the top 24 voted for Trump.” The correlation of high Covid-infection-rate with Trump-voting was astoundingly high. Trump, it seems, gave the high-infection-rate states what they had wanted. But what he gave to America is the highest Covid-19 infection-rate of any nation that has at least 11 million population. It is the 7th-highest Covid-19 infection-rate among all 219 reporting nations. Trump’s policies produced the type of results that had been expected by well-informed people around the world.

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A Most Unusual Inaugural

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President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden enter the inauguration platform during the 59th Presidential Inauguration ceremony in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. (DOD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II)

Sic transit gloria mundi — thus passes worldly glory, which seems an apt phrase for the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.

Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. became the 46th president of the United States at noon on January 20th, and earlier  Donald J. Trump departed the White House quietly for Florida — his last ride on Air Force One as president — leaving behind a generous and gracious letter for Biden.  So it is described by Joe Biden himself.  Trump did not attend the inauguration, the first president not to do so since Woodrow Wilson in 1921, who remained inside the Capitol building because of poor health while his successor Warren G. Harding was installed.

It was a most unusual inauguration this time.  There were no crowds on the lawns outside; instead row upon row of American flags representing them.  The official attendees all wore masks and included three former Presidents (Obama, the younger Bush and Clinton).  President Carter, who is in his 90s and frail, sent his apologies. 

The usual late breakfast before the ceremony and the lunch afterwards were also cancelled — one cannot eat with a mask in place!  No evening inaugural balls either.  These were sometimes so many that the new president and his lady could only spend a few minutes at each.  In their stead, there was a virtual inaugural celebration hosted by Tom Hanks the actor.  It consisted mostly of pop-singers who supported Biden plus a disappointing rendering of Amazing Grace by Yo-Yo Ma on his cello. 

Biden’s first act was to sign a series of executive orders to undo some of Trump’s policies.  He announced the U.S. would not leave the World Health Organization (WHO) and would continue to contribute to it.  On climate change a complete policy reversal now means the U.S. will abide by the Paris climate accord.   

Biden’s other executive orders totalling 15 responded to the coronavirus crisis with the goal of giving 100 million vaccine shots by the end of April.  He proposes to establish vaccine centers at stadiums and community facilities and also plans to speed up production of the supplies required for making vaccines.

The U.S. now has lost 406,000 lives (and counting) from COVID-19.  That number is noted to be greater than U.S. deaths during WW2.  The virus has so far infected 24.5 million people.  However, the problem is more complicated than simply inoculating everyone.

Swedish authorities report that 23 people, mostly elderly and having other health issues, have died after being given the Pfizer vaccine.  Its side effects apparently can be severe and mimic the disease itself.  Thus given a choice, one would prefer the Moderna vaccine.  

Old age is a poignant sight to behold.  Biden the ex high school football star now having difficulty lifting his feet to walk.  Very gamely, he even tried a jog or two to say a quick hello to bystanders during his short walk to the White House.  We wish him well and hope for a successful presidential term.  Thirty-six years as senator and eight years as vice-president certainly make him one of the most experienced to sit in the White House Oval Office.   Good luck Mr. President!  

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