Oops, I Did It Again

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I feel like this keeps happening — I get in a bad place mentally, and the idea of zoning out and just running/having a concrete goal sounds tempting. So, I sign up for a race — and a long one — before I remember, oh shit, now I have to train.

In my post-election haze, I’ve just not been motivated to exercise. Combine that with a hectic work month and a horribly rolled left ankle, I haven’t really done much besides sign up for the race and think about how much it’s going to suck running that long on no training. My ankle is feeling better and the work nuttiness will calm down drastically today, so I’m basically out of excuses on why I haven’t started the process.

I chose the Rock ‘n’ Roll race in DC for a variety of reasons, mostly because it literally runs by my apartment at about the halfway point, so I’ll be used to the terrain. My work schedule is generally so wonky in the spring that I’m hesitant to commit to travel outside of the DC area this far out, and I’ll have few excuses to not complete the race.

My plan right now (and I use plan loosely) is to use December as a base-building month — get back up to running 2-3 miles on the weekdays, and 3-5 on the weekend, before I officially start “training” in January. The race is March 11, and I think that 8-9 weeks is more than enough time to get up to the half marathon distance again. I’ll probably make a more in-depth training plan once I realize how horribly out-of-shape I am in the next few weeks.

I’ve also been using ClassPass in DC, and I think that I can use that as a nice complement to the distance training, plus toning for a wedding I’m in next April. I don’t want to lose that, so it looks like I’m going to be back to 5-6 days of exercise a week soon enough.

 

 

Diving Deep: Article 1, Section 9 and Electoral Responsibility

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I’ve tried really hard to not let myself get caught up in the optimism of the current recount efforts happening, largely because I have conflicting feelings about Jill Stein’s motivations and what would happen if it shows the election is rigged. Would that be the end of the democratic process as we know it — would we go back to paper ballots? would we be able to trust the validity of future elections? would Russia really do this? — and I don’t really know how to reconcile these feelings.

(Side note: I think Donald Trump may secretly be hoping that the recount ends in a Clinton victory. I have no basis for this.)

The reason for the rush about the recounts is truly all about the Electoral College, maybe one of the most misunderstood aspects of the American experiment and one that is getting an unexpected amount of press this year.

There’s a movement to have electors become “faithless” or to switch their votes to Hillary Clinton “just because.” An elector in Texas resigned his post because voting for Trump violated his personal beliefs. There is a recount being mounted in three of the closest states to get HRC over 270.

It may not be necessary, though.

One of the provisions of Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution reads: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.

Hmm. Why would you include something like that in the U.S. Constitution? Let’s travel back in time to the Constitutional Convention in 1788. At that point, the United States was barely United — it was a loose confederation, trying to come together under one federal system (and George Washington). The U.S. had been greatly helped by France during the Revolutionary War, and there was still “New France” on the border of the former colonies. Not to mention, diplomatic relations had barely been restored with Britain and were just being established with the rest of Europe.

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One thing that’s often overlooked about the Founders is how afraid they were of the ills and free will of the “people” — it’s why the electoral college exists, and it’s why there are provisions like Article I, Section 9. The excerpt above is from Edmund Randolph, then-governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia and delegate to the Constitutional convention. The part that I want to touch on specifically is “If discovered, he may be impeached.”

“If discovered, he may be impeached.”

There is no deep dive into discovering the potential payments Donald Trump will be taking from foreign governments — it’s evident at even a cursory level. Any time that a foreign dignitary stays at any one of the Trump properties, I feel like he’s violating the Constitution. That’s already happening — The Washington Post recently wrote a story entitled “For foreign diplomats, Trump hotel is place to be.” 

The Congressional Research Service found that “there is no current legal requirement that would compel the President to relinquish financial interests because of a conflict of interest,” but I think that this would be more than a conflict of interest. It isn’t a conflict of interest, defined legally as “a situation in which a public official or fiduciary who, contrary to the obligation and absolute duty to act for the benefit of the public or a designated individual, exploits the relationship for personal benefit, typically pecuniary.” While there are undoubtedly conflicts of interest that exist between Trump Corporation and Trump the President, there is more than that than we need to be worried about.

There is a solution to this. Trump can sell his companies and put the proceeds in a blind trust before he’s inaugurated. I think there’s little chance of that happening, simply by looking at what’s happening within his Transition team and how he’s elevating his children to advisory roles (another ethics violation for another day). The Electors could insist upon this as a condition of their casting their votes on December 19, but I don’t think that’s going to happen either.

I don’t know if this is another nuanced, circular legal argument, but it is without precedent that we would have someone that is sworn to uphold the Constitution violate it daily — and take no effort to mitigate it. I’m sure that someone will file Articles of Impeachment, but will a Republican House fulfill its’ Constitutional obligation? Will they give Trump an “all-clear” to establish a virtual kleptocracy from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Article II, Section 4 provides that “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.” This may not reach the level of bribery (I think it does), but it is certainly a high crime or misdemeanor that is forbidden.

Psst: I’m not the only one that thinks about this. Laurence Tribe agrees with me, as do the top ethics officers for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. 

The First Amendment: A Primer (Part 1)

So, for all of the work that I do, I don’t actually use any of my “formal” training (I could be nominated for a Trump Cabinet seat! Too soon?), but at heart, I’m a wannabe Supreme Court historian just waiting to get out.

Never in modern American history have we had a President-Elect with such a loose view of validity of the U.S. Constitution. Like a majority of voting U.S. citizens, I’m troubled by this, and instead of inundating my Facebook feed with my thoughts on some of these issues, I’ve decided to take advantage of my tiny microphone right here.

Right now? Right now, it’s all about the media, freedom of the press, and The Donald.

Among other enumerated rights, the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of the press.

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Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. – As adopted in 1791.

On Monday, news broke of a “secret” meeting that the PEOTUS held with several well-known members of popular media — well, everyone but The New York Times. This article in the New Yorker outlines much of what was said at the meeting, and it doesn’t look great.

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I’m not going to even touch the “fake” news he’s denigrating (um, hello, Breitbart) right now, but I can’t let his attacks on the networks stand. As someone who has long believed that the development of cable news can be directly tied to the nonsense that we’re dealing with now — mostly because of the demands of the 24-hour news cycle and the fleeting attention of the average American — there is absolutely no foundation to the statement that they are lying. In fact, they were often nicer to him than they were to his opponents, and most of the “attacks” on him were based on words he said on the record. I digress. This is why that’s concerning:

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-8-13-14-pmThe Free Press clause, as it’s frequently called, protects the right of individuals to express themselves through publication and dissemination of information, including ideas and opinions, without interference, constraint, or fear of prosecution by the government. It’s not only a protected right, it’s considered by the Court to be fundamental (Branzburg v. Hayes).

Right now, the United States needs a free press more than ever, and if Trump’s behavior is anything to go by, the leader of the United States expects a press corps that will kowtow — or lose access. He hasn’t spoken on-the-record to the press since July, and when he does gather them, it is to berate them for such things as printing pictures of him with a double-chin or being “mean.”

Scarily enough, many of his followers respond to these treatment, as the media has been successfully painted as part of the “elite” or the “enemy,” something that wasn’t helped by the Editorial Boards of all but two major newspapers coming out for Hillary Clinton. Thy are part of the “liberal bubble” or the “coastal elite” that were defeated by the election of Trump. This turns more people towards “fake news” or clickbait sites that circulate false stories like a popular DC pizzeria actually being a child trafficking front for John Podesta and Hillary Clinton. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s being stoked by the man whose first sworn duty is to protect the Constitution.

I’m hopeful that this turns out to be more bluster, but all that we’ve seen so far about Donald Trump says that he cares about one thing: the public appearance of Donald Trump. It’s something that he’s detailed in his books — his reliance on “truthful hyperbole” and his fundamental belief that “all publicity is good publicity.” I’m afraid that we’ve gotten to the point where that isn’t enough — all publicity must be good publicity seems to be the direction where he is going, which is a huge threat to our democratic ideals.

With changes to the Court upcoming (yeah, there’s no way Obama, a con law professor at heart, will think about overruling the Senate on their “advise and consent” requirement) and the President promising a new look at libel and slander laws, there could be great changes on the horizon, and not for the better.

If you want to go deeper into SCOTUS jurisprudence, I’d recommend Near v. Minnesota (1931) for prior restraint, Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart (1976) for sharing information concerning public interest, and New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) for libel laws affecting public officials.