Can the President pardon himself?

No.

That was easy!

I mean, come on — you don’t have to be a Constitutional scholar to figure that one out. A President who has the power to pardon himself is a king, a dictator, a tyrant. A President could murder his enemies and then pardon himself afterwards if that were the case.trump evil

The Constitution mentions the pardon power in Article II, Section 2. The president “shall have the Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for offenses against the United States.”

“Offenses against the United States” means for federal criminals, not state ones. So if, say, the state of New York brings charges against Trump, it doesn’t appear that he would have the power to pardon himself of those charges.

But even so, it’s a long-standing tradition in both English and American law that a person cannot judge themselves. A judge who commits a crime in his or her jurisdiction must have another judge appointed to rule over that trial. Clearly, a pardon is a type of judging and therefore a person cannot pardon themselves.

Usually no one gets pardoned until after they have been convicted and have served some time — the President may pardon them so they can have a clean record.  However, Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon before Nixon had been convicted or even charged (even though those charges were clearly coming). This set a bad precedent, was highly criticized by many legal scholars, and surely played a part in Ford’s failure to win re-election. Since Nixon accepted the pardon, it also means that he agreed he was guilty, doesn’t it?

But there’s more to Section 2 as well — “except in Cases of Impeachment.” So a President cannot pardon anyone who has been Impeached (which would include himself). Impeachment, of course, is separate from criminal proceedings. Bill Clinton was impeached even though he had not committed any crime.

So can a President pardon himself? While the Constitution does not explicitly say, all precedent and logic state that he cannot.

Can I mention in passing how absolutely ridiculous this past year has been? If I had pitched this as a fantasy novel to follow Bloodsuckers, my agent would have said it was too outrageous and unbelievable. And now this lunatic President is talking about pardoning himself?

The Supreme Court, Hate Speech, and the Washington Redskins

The United States Supreme Court just ruled that the government cannot stop someone from getting a trademark on a name that the government considers “hate speech.”

This is an important win for freedom of speech. As I’ve said here many times, the 1st Amendment is meaningless if it only protects speech we all agree with. As the Court held:

[The idea that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend. . .strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate.”

The case involved an Asian-American rock band called “The Slants.” They wanted to trademark their name, but the government said no, you can’t, because it’s hate speech.

This case basically puts an end to the lawsuits against the sports teams with insulting names, such as the Washington Redskins.

Should the Redskins change their name? Absolutely. Should they be forced to do so by the government, making the determination as to what speech is acceptable for us to use? Absolutely not.

Speech we all agree with doesn’t need a 1st Amendment.

The Slants

The Slants

 

Kathy Griffin, Hypocrites, and the First Amendment

Comedian Kathy Griffin recently posted a picture of herself holding a severed bloody Trump head.

In comparison to all the crap conservatives posted about Obama — including actual death threats — it was mild, but still provocative. screen_shot_2017-05-30_at_1.47.48_pm_-_h_2017

Of course, that was the point, wasn’t it? Provocative? Isn’t that what comedians sometimes are like?

Immediately, GOP members without any sense of irony screamed about how inappropriate it was. “But the children may see it!” they yelled. Griffin lost some jobs, was criticized all over the internet, and many said she should be arrested for this.

Because, you know, if there’s one thing conservatives love, it’s America. They just hate what it stands for — you know, like that damned First Amendment, which is meaningless if it only protects speech we all agree with.

Then — and here is where you roll your eyes — GOP members who complained that the photo would harm children are now running that photo in campaign ads on prime time TV.

Why, it’s almost as if they really don’t care about the children at all and are merely blatant hypocrites!

Thin-skinned babies want to punish flag burners

Freedom of Speech is meaningless if it only protects speech we all like.

Trump, soon to be known as “the Tweeting President,” has declared that people should be jailed for burning the American flagflagburning.jpg

People who claim to be patriots (but who don’t quite grasp the concept) are cheering him on, pointing out that burning the flag is an insult to America and the veterans who have fought for what the flag stands for.

Well, duh. Of course burning a flag is insulting. So is standing on a corner with a sign saying “God Hates Fags.” They know it’s insulting when they do it. That’s why they do it.

But America has thicker skin than Trump, who spends more time thinking about how much he can’t stand Saturday Night Live than he does going to necessary intelligence briefings.* America knows that we can take the insults, because we’re better than that.

And we know that if we start banning speech we don’t like, then it may be our speech they come after next. The Founding Fathers knew that when they wrote the 1st Amendment. The Supreme Court knows that, as they have ruled many times. You have to protect speech we hate. Speech we all agree with doesn’t need protecting.

So if you really believe in freedom, if you really are a patriot, then mean it. Stand for what the Constitution guarantees. Don’t make exceptions.

Don’t be a thin-skinned baby who can’t take an insult — you know, like the immature child that a minority of us chose to lead us.

*I am not making that up

How to Honor the Founding Fathers with the Electoral College

“The Electoral College was set up with a specific purpose in mind and we should do what the Founding Fathers want,” people say to me whenever I argue for getting rid of it.

Well, fine. If your desire is to do what the Founding Fathers wanted, then we’ll need to change a few things.Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather Quill

  1. Stop having Presidential elections. There’s nothing in the Constitution about them. The Electors are chosen by the state legislatures in any way they wish. They could choose the lobbyists who give them the most money if they wanted to.
  2. How the state legislatures are chosen is not provided for in the Constitution either. So we should allow states to just appoint these people, too.
  3. The Founding Fathers also intended that whoever came in second place would be Vice President. Nothing wrong with that, right?
  4. Even if the states do decide to have elections, those states should only allow white men who own property to vote. Hey, do you want to honor the Founding Fathers or not here?

Of course, in those days where it could literally take weeks to travel from state to state, each state was much more independent and unique, almost like the way the European Union is now. We were less a country than a collection of independent states (which is why we are called the “United States of America” and not just “America”).

That changed quickly. People started seeing the President as the leader of all the people and not as just some figurehead off there in the distance. (Seriously, does anyone know who the leader of the European Union is?)

And the states started having elections to choose this leader. Congress decided on a date for these elections — because that’s not in the Constitution either — and soon, the popular vote winner in that state decided who the electors were. By 1824, this led to the election of Andrew Jackson, exactly the kind of person the Electoral College was set up to prevent getting into the White House. Thus, within forty years of the writing of the Constitution, while some of the Founding Fathers were alive, we had already moved away from the original intent of the Electoral College.

So for those of you who say we should keep it in order to honor what the Founding Fathers intended:  You’re 200 years too late.

Why someone might not stand for the National Anthem

I’ve never heard of this Colin Kaepernick guy before today, but apparently people are mad at him because he used his Constitutional right to protest our National Anthem by not standing for it when it was played.

Of course, he’s now being attacked left and right (okay, mostly right) by people who think he should be punished for not standing up for the Anthem that represents the country that allows people to not be punished for not standing up for the Anthem. Funny, that.

And all of the attacks on him go after him as the messenger of something that they don’t like. Why? Because they can’t attack the message itself, which is this: The National Anthem supports slavery.

Seriously. You don’t hear it in the first verse that everyone knows, but later on the lyrics say this:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

What’s that about? Simple. The British were attacking us in 1812 and they promised to free the slaves when they won. They accepted escaped slaves, who fought with the British. Francis Scott Key was proud of the fact that the Americans were able to stop this, putting into the lyrics that we should feel patriotic that the slaves met “the gloom of the grave” for daring to rebel against the United States.

After the war, the US demanded the return of the escaped slaves who lived, but the British refused. So there’s at least that.

But yeah, I can see why someone would say that we shouldn’t have a National Anthem that glorifies war and slavery.

And protesting is more patriotic than blindly accepting something wrong any day.

 

Who cares what the Founding Fathers thought?

The Founding Fathers were a bunch of politicians, not too different from the politicians we have today (except that they were all rich white men). Some were tremendously intelligent people who deserve all the accolades they receive. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams — great men who did their best to create this great experiment.constitution_quill_pen

Others have been lost to history. William Blount? Alexander Baldwin? Pierce Butler? Some were mediocre men, who fought against giving people any power, who argued to keep slavery, who forced the great men into compromises like the 3/5ths clause and the 2nd Amendment in order to gain their votes.

You know — politics.

And that’s why it is so frustrating when the Constitutional Fundamentalists say that we should obey the “will of the Founders” when interpreting the Constitution.  Well, which Founders?  This wasn’t adopted unanimously, you know. To argue that we should never have a position about the Constitution based on who won is like saying we should never question Obamacare because hey, it got passed by some politicians so it’s gospel and cannot be challenged.

And that’s the key — I call these people Constitutional Fundamentalists because they view the document like it’s a religious holy book, handed down by the Founding Gods, and we should obey what the Founders said. (And, of course, 100% of the time, just like religious fundamentalists, these people know exactly what the Constitution means and it matches their own personal views perfectly! Isn’t that amazing!)

The Founders created a foundation for a building — the Constitution provides the very minimalist blueprint. “Freedom of Speech” it says, but it doesn’t go into any detail. Does it include libel and slander? Television and internet? Can you cause a riot and claim this freedom as a defense? Can you reveal military secrets and not get punished? The Constitution doesn’t say.

That means it has to be interpreted, just like it had to be within a few years of its passage, when the Supreme Court had to make decisions and Founding Fathers argued before members of the Court (who were also Founding Fathers) and they didn’t all agree! 

So with all respect to the great men who founded this nation, 230 years later, who cares what they thought? These were guys who thought you could cure diseases through bloodletting. They thought humans could be property, women should be close to property, and killing natives for land was perfectly fine.

This would be like trying to add air conditioning and heating to your home but being told “No, the original blueprints from 200 years ago don’t mention that, so you can’t do it.” We should not have our society limited, Amish-like, to a time that no longer exists.

Many religious fundamentalists already understand this. They already ignore the parts of the Bible they want to ignore, recognizing that something that was written so long ago should not guide modern thinking.

Somehow, Constitutional fundamentalists have yet to reach that stage.