Gongol.com Archives: December 2019

Brian Gongol

December 18, 2019

News Presidential impeachment

The impeachment of President Trump has passed the United States House of Representatives. There is a distinct cost to not taking action on the President's misdeeds. The compressed, streamlined case is clear: "(1) abuse of power by soliciting the interference of Ukraine in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and (2) obstruction of Congress by directing defiance of certain subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives." ■ On Article I, the vote was 230 to 197, with one abstention. On Article II, it was 229 to 198, with one abstention. The polarized response to Article I is one thing, but the institutional resistance to standing up for Congress's prerogatives as the first branch of the Federal government is quite another. ■ As former Republican (and now independent) Rep. Justin Amash puts it, "Conservatives will someday face the horrible truth that the Republican Party fought so hard to justify and excuse an amoral and self-serving president", and the sad truth is that there will have been so much complicity in neutering their own branch of government. Like Congress or hate it, the House of Representatives is supposed to be the closest thing we get to direct democracy on the national scale. When a President defies Congress by defying lawful subpoenas and ordering subordinates not to testify, they're expressly insulting and undercutting the Congress, and by extension, the American people. Members of Congress may or may not ask the right questions, but their right to do the asking ought to be universally affirmed, regardless of partisan stripe. ■ Some people have looked the other way from the President's behavior because they feel compelled to partisan solidarity and think the impeachment process can be cast in terms that make it a tribal battle. What if, wholly apart from the impeachment process, we just automatically held a recall election for the President two years into each term?

The United States of America Lincoln's Veep

It's doubtful most of us could name Abraham Lincoln's first Vice President in a thousand guesses. (It was Hannibal Hamlin.) He was called up for militia duty while Vice President -- and showed up. Then, four years after getting bounced from the ticket in favor of Andrew Johnson as VP, Hamlin was back in the United States Senate.

Health Antibiotic resistance ought to have us panicking

Straight from the CDC: "Antibiotic-resistant (AMR) bacteria and fungi cause more than 2.8 million infections and 35,000 deaths in the United States each year, according to a November 13 CDC report." 35,000 deaths is a huge number -- comparable to the number of deaths caused annually by automobile crashes (around 40,000). That's a number large enough that it should be treated like a serious public-health problem, worthy of lots of popular attention. It doesn't seem like it's getting that attention at all.

Humor and Good News Worthwhile marital advice: Champion your spouse's efforts

Much like expressions of gratitude tend to make us feel good (and even more grateful), so do expressions of pride in our spouses.

Humor and Good News 4-year-olds can summon help from 911

You don't need to know this story about a little kid from New Jersey who called for help when her mom collapsed, but you'll be glad you read it anyway.

Computers and the Internet Reporting the four impeachments

An event like the impeachment of President Trump is the best evidence that newspapers -- even in the digitized 21st Century -- serve an essential archival role for the communities they serve. Nobody prints a screenshot of a homepage, but people still save front pages, even if they're saving them as .jpg files.

The United States of America The government owns Blair House because Winston Churchill had bonkers sleeping habits

From the official Blair House website: "Franklin Roosevelt, Jr., recalls the morning his mother found the prime minister wandering towards the family's private quarters at 3 a.m., trademark cigar in hand, to rouse the sleeping president for more conversation. He met Eleanor first, however, who firmly persuaded him to wait until breakfast." And it was soon after that Churchill and others were to be put up at Blair House instead of the Presidential residence.

Business and Finance Amazon as a reportable threat

Recode notes that "213 public companies have mentioned Amazon in the 'risk factors' section of their annual 10K financial filings". Data journalism sometimes gets (and occasionally deserves) a bad rap for substituting spreadsheets for source development. But sometimes it's really quite effective, and this is one of those cases. Forms filed with the SEC aren't the kinds of documents that it's wise to take lightly or treat unscrupulously. If companies are documenting Amazon as a known "risk factor", that's quite telling.