Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Impeachment Resolution

Old Business: War on Islam

The news tells me that Osama bin Laden has another recording out. In this one, he makes use of the politically potent slogan, “War on Islam.”

He must be right. There must be a War on Islam going on in this country. After all, almost nobody mentions Allah in the public square. We do not have children pledge allegiance to Allah, nor do we require readings from the Quoran in our schools. We even allow schools to serve lunch during Ramadan, when people of faith should be fasting during daylight hours. We are not posting the 5 pillars of Islam on our public buildings and in our public schools. Plus, every once in a while, our citizens say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” – either option being an attack on Islam.

According to some very popular arguments that I am familiar with, these things all indicate that we are, indeed, engaged in a War on Islam.

The only other interpretation that we could possibly draw is that the things that I mention in that paragraph above are not, in fact, indicative of a war on anything.

Old Business: Windfall Profits Tax

Democrats are pushing for a windfall profits tax against oil companies because of the money they are making from high-priced oil.

Now, imagine that you are a citizen in a village when a famine hits. The price of food goes through the roof, because there is not enough food to go around. As a result of this famine and the resulting high price, the Mayor comes up with a plan to force hunters, gatherers, and farmers to pay a special tax.

The high price – and high profits – are nature’s way of telling the people to go out and get some more of whatever is in short supply. The plan to tax hunters, gatherers, and farmers is a plan to penalize those very people who are in the best position to get the community through the shortage. Famine is a poor time to be punishing those who are working to find additional food.

New Business: Impeachment Resolution

There is a rule in the House of Representatives that states that a state legislature can call for the impeachment of a President by submitting a resolution to that effect.

Resolutions to that effect have been introduced in California and in Illinois .

This blog is not concerned with political strategy. I have absolutely no interest in entering into a discussion of what would benefit or harm the Democratic Party. Nor do I have an interest in evaluating the probability of success for such a resolution, or how to increase or decrease its chances. This blog is concerned with matters of principle. As a matter of principle, there is a strong case to be made in favor of such a resolution.

Impeachment: The Main Case

The main argument in favor of impeachment is that, if this Administration is allowed to get away with all of the things it has done that are contrary to the principles of freedom and democracy, then this will establish a precedent for all future administrations.

It is commonplace for a President and his administration to look back on the actions of a past President in order to justify his actions. They look back on things like, "This is not unlike what President Lincoln did at the start of the Civil War," or "This is simply another version of the Monroe Doctrine."

The fear is that future generations, who look back on the Bush Administration, will find justification for any level of tyranny and abuse that may appeal to such a future President. He has spied on Americans without a warrant, imprisoned Americans without trial, ordered the invasion of a sovereign state under false pretenses, overseen the torture of prisoners sometimes until death, kidnapped the citizens of allied countries and hid them in secret prisons where there are no protections from courts, sometimes torturing hidden prisoners for months before determining that they must actually be innocent.

The only way to make it the case that these policies not be used by future Presidents is to make it clear that they were not tolerated from this President. If we, the people, stand in opposition to these abuses and usurpations, then we send a message to future Presidents and to future generations of citizens that, as citizens, they have certain rights and not only an opportunity, but a duty, to stand up for those rights against any who may seek to usurp them.


It is important to note that impeachment itself is not a statement that the President did something wrong. It is like an indictment by a grand jury. It is used merely to state that sufficient reason exists to formally investigate whether the President performed actions worthy of being removed from power.

The actual trial and determination of guilt or innocence would take place in the Senate.

In this context, I will not prejudice this Senate’s decision by saying that the President should be found guilty. That has the same moral quality as saying, "The defendant should be given a fair trial and then hanged." The verdict is not mine to give. It belongs to the Senate after due consideration of the available evidence.


I said that this is not a blog for discussing political strategy. However, the principles mentioned above suggest a particular strategy that would be the most fitting and proper.

There is one powerful reason to suggest that the House of Representatives impeach, and the Senate should hold its trial, before the next election. This way, if it should be discovered that there is sufficient cause to remove Bush and Cheney from office, the Presidency itself will stay in the hands of the Republican Party.

If the impeachment and trial take place after the election, we risk the possibility of the impeachment and trial being held under Democratic rule, and end by transferring power from a Republican administration to a Democratic administration. This would taint any verdict with the charge that impeachment was an act of partisan politics, not of principle.

Of course, this assumes that the Republicans in the Senate are even capable of giving the evidence a fair hearing and coming to a just conclusion. There is an excellent chance -- some may say a certainty -- that a Republican Senate could never convict a Republican President.

The Hitler Comparison

On this matter, I have a question. Assume that Hitler managed to get elected as a party's nominee for President and managed to get himself elected. Let us assume that this was done using a very-well funded and carefully orchestrated public relations campaign that made him seem like an all-around good guy. It is only after he got into power that he started to reveal his true intentions.

My question to party loyalists is, "At what point would you turn against this Hitleresque President and put principle before party?"

Let me be clear -- I am not saying that Bush is as bad as Hitler.

My argument is that a President does not have to be 'as bad as Hitler' to deserve to be removed from office -- even by members of his own party. Somewhere, there is a line, beyond which a President may not step. Hitler stepped so massively over that line that it is difficult to find a true comparison. However, this means that a President can be 'not as bad as Hitler', and still deserve to be removed from office.

This is a question about the moral character of the Republicans who now serve in the House and Senate. "Are you the type of person who would follow a Hitleresque President, as long as he called himself a Republican? Or is there a point at which you will say that he has gone too far, and call him up short?"

My guess is that most Republicans would support a Hitleresque Republican President even to the point of defending a 'final solution' that killed millions of innocent people. My guess is that most Democratic partisans would do the same thing to a Hitleresque President that called himself a Democrat. At least for those on the Republican side of the isle, this is their chance to prove that I am mistaken.


Anonymous said...

I almost always like your arguments from analogy, but today's "oil shortage = famine" one falls flat. In times of famine, there are no abundant alternative food sources; it is as though there were suddenly a shortage of game, and rather than switch to grains (a healthier and more sustainable choice in the short AND long terms), the villagers pay more and more for a commodity that they don't really need--if only they'd bother to learn to cultivate what is already available.

Is it right and fair that the government impose a windfall tax? I don't see that such taxation is much different from a sliding-scale income tax, so there's precedent at least. Perhaps its effect would be to raise prices even higher, which I'd favor in principle given that eventually people would HAVE to start seeking out practical alternatives.

Dan said...


Alonzo Fyfe said...


Existing sliding-scale income taxes will automatically incorporate a type of "windfall profits tax" on oil. Whatever income an individual has that pushes them into a higher tax bracket, or triggers the 'alternative minimum tax', will then result in higher taxes regardless of the source. If oil revenue is the cause of extra income, then oil revenue is what will be taxed. There is no need for a special tax on oil revenue.

My opposition to the windfall profits tax is not that it will drive prices up further (as companies seek additional revenue to pay for the additional tax). This might happen. My objection is that, when there is a shortage (whether it is in food or energy), it is wiser to reward those who are working to counter that shortage, rather than punish them. When there is not enough food, this is a poor time to be punishing farmers with an extra tax. When there is not enough energy, this is a poor time to be punishing energy producers.

These types of actions make the problem worse, not better.

I am perfectly comfortable with taxing the rich. If one wants to argue for an energy assistance program to help the poor heat their homes, further improve public transportation, and invest in alternative forms of energy, then I would support a general tax on the rich to do these things. However, this is all consistent with holding that a specific tax that targets energy producers with extra burdens is a poor way to deal with an energy shortage.

Anonymous said...

- there are no moderate Muslims
- that Islam is not just fundamentally, but always a bloody and hateful religion - in ways incomparable to it's Christian cousin
- that by allowing them into North America we have jeopardized our nations (all Muslims here are laying in wait for the time when they can ultimately take over)
- considers that the genocide of all Muslims might be viable option for us in the next so many years . . .

(Quoting doesn't work here?)

Well, the first point is obviously and factually wrong. It's a statement of fact, and it's false.

The second is half right - Islam is often bloody and hateful in ways *identical* to its Christian cousin and their common Jewish parent. All three are explicitly opposed to religious tolerance and it's amazing that we as a species eventually managed to develop it even in the face of such opposition. I guess a few centuries of being jerked around and shoved into wars by religious leaders will do that, eventually.

The third point is possibly right, but it's not clear to me that a Muslim takeover would be worse than the Christian takeover we already have. It might be, it might not. If there really weren't any moderate Muslims, then it would almost certainly be worse, so I guess this follows from his first mistake.

And the fourth point is just wrong. Killing people for what they believe is one of the gravest evils of religion and definitely NOT one that should be emulated. Convincing them to abandon a belief system based on hate and on believing what someone says just because they said God said it is one thing, killing them is quite another.

Which "folks" are buying Harris' argument without complaint? Christians that need an enemy to fulfill their prophecies of Armageddon, sure, but can you point to any atheist who believes Harris? A Buddhist? A Hindu? A Jain? A neopagan? An agnostic? Even moderate Christians and Jews would find it hard to swallow, I bet (a rejection of faith-based genocide being one of the necessary qualifications for being a moderate anything).

Mark said...

Funny, I read Harris's book months ago. I did not come away with a hate for muslims. I came away with fear of faith driven society. If anything, Harris uses Muslims of today as the current best example of how wrong things can go when faith and irrationality drive behavior. Christians before the reformation could have worked just as well.

and a quote from the most recent poster: "And the fourth point is just wrong. Killing people for what they believe is one of the gravest evils of religion and definitely NOT one that should be emulated."

Let's assume that I will use deadly force if someone uses deadly force against me. Why might someone use deadly force against me? Because they BELIEVE I might kill them. This is how many murders/wars are justified - I fear for my survival (belive my existence is in jepordy) so I better act first...
Leaders of all sorts (religious leaders included) are excellent at convincing followers that the "bad guys" "threaten our existence" so go out and preemptively kill the bad guys. Problem is, they often define "bad guy" as "someone different than me" (different skin color, religion, nationality etc...)