Today’s Items about Politics and Culture

  • Is the attempt to impeach Biden an example of tit for tat, or something else?;
  • How attendees at the Dreamforce conference this week didn’t recognize the right-wing media depictions of San Francisco, and other cities, as ‘hellholes’.

Here’s a piece that challenges the easy perception that Republicans are trying to impeach President Biden as simply revenge for the two impeachments of former President Trump.

LA Times, Jackie Calmes, 21 Sep 2023: Column: Kevin McCarthy’s impeachment inquiry proves there’s only one political party of revenge — the GOP

This seems clear to me, but apparently not to many others. The writer begins:

It was nearly 80 years from Congress’ creation to the first impeachment of a president, Andrew Johnson in 1868, and 130 years more until the second, Bill Clinton in 1998, both of them Democrats impeached by Republican House majorities. That total — two impeachments in more than two centuries — doubled in just over a year with the 2019 and 2021 impeachments of Donald Trump by a Democratic-controlled House.

And now, only three years later, we have House Republicans hellbent on impeaching President Biden.

Yet to conclude that we’ve entered into a sorry new era of tit-for-tat impeachments — as some scholars and other observers have suggested since House Speaker Kevin McCarthy ordered up an impeachment “inquiry” last week — amounts to simplistic bothsides-ism. It’s wrong.

By such reasoning, Democrats and Republicans alike are engaged in a vengeful, self-perpetuating cycle of seeking to oust a president of the opposite party, even when it’s clear the Senate won’t vote for conviction. No, what we have here is one party, a radicalized Republican Party, playing tit for tat and thereby normalizing the Constitution’s most extreme check on the presidency.

Details. Then:

Indeed, it’s not. But the Biden impeachment inquiry is not the “same thing” at all as the House actions in 2019 and 2021.

Both of Trump’s impeachments were well-deserved, based on hard evidence of abuses of presidential power that fit well within the Constitution’s definition of impeachable offenses: “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

More details. The article finishes,

Pelosi, now a backbencher by choice, is just taking it all in, without pleasure. “For them to use [impeachment] in the frivolous way that they are is really a disservice to the country,” she said on MSNBC’s “The Sunday Show,” adding, “This is almost silly, except that it’s so serious.”

Yes, it is serious. Only the Republicans are not. They alone are treating impeachment as if it were just another hammer in the political toolbox, cheapening its power now and for the foreseeable future.

I have to say, I have been gobsmacked in recent years by these political trends. I grew up with visions of grand futures attainable through reason, science, and technology. I’ve only recently understood that the darker aspects of human nature, tribalism and anti-intellectualism, might never allow this to happen. On the one hand, I fear our species is doomed. On the other… I see how far we have come over the past two, or five, centuries, overcoming the dark forces of superstition and religion. But I fear it’s been a blip in human history, and it will all fall away.


Yet another story about how to be very cautious about the news media, even the best of them but especially the worst of them. You have to understand their motives.

SFGate, 21 Sep 2023: Dreamforce attendees defend San Francisco: ‘Not like what they heard on the news’

The annual tech conference Dreamforce roused an otherwise sleepy downtown San Francisco, packing city blocks with lanyard-necked attendees. Even Bono from U2 was spotted strutting along Market Street in downtown San Francisco — or at least a convincing doppelganger.

The three-day conference pulled 40,000 out-of-city visitors to the Moscone Center between September 12–14, recalling recent memories of a vigorous downtown. A hotel manager told SFGATE that certain guests even defended San Francisco from its skewered reputation seen in national coverage.

The news media shows you the exceptions. The right-wing news media has an agenda to portray the supposedly left-wing dominated big cities as hellholes. They do this over and over again. It’s not true. You can *always* find pockets of deprivation in any big city. I never have any concern driving into San Francisco for a medical appointment, a dinner engagement, or a walk in Golden Gate Park. Yes, there are areas in the city I would not linger in — though the worst one, in my understanding, the Tenderloin, is actually adjacent to the CMPC Hospital where I had my heart transplant, and not far from City Hall and the concert halls. I would not walk along those streets. It’s a much smaller area than the entirety of South LA, Los Angeles, including Watts, that when I lived in that city for decades, I never went to either.

Oakland has a similar reputation; it’s a large city by area with upscale areas in the northeast, and lower-class, relatively crime-ridden, areas in the west and south. It’s oblong shaped, slanted northwest to southeast, so I’ve gradually learned that when people say “west Oakland” or “east Oakland” they’re referring to areas defined by convention, not by literal geography. That’s why we like to tell people we live in the “Oakland Hills”. For anyone who understands the difference.

The news comes when the criminals invade the upscale areas, as has happened in recent weeks: Burglars strike multiple businesses in the Oakland hills, subtitled “Thieves stole thousands of dollars in cash, jewelry and other goods during a burglary spree in Montclair Village early Friday morning.” We frequent Montclair village regularly, two miles from us, and I know those businesses.

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