Impeachment Primer

“A good magistrate will not fear [impeachments]. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.” – Eldbridge Gerry (Massachusetts), later elected to the House of Representatives; served as Vice-President under James Madison.

“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.” – Article 2, Section 4
Step one: the House of Representatives by simple majority passes Articles of Impeachment, laying out the alleged offenses of the impeached officeholder. Step two: the trial is held in the Senate. In the case of the president, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides, otherwise the President of the Senate aka the Vice-President. (The Constitution does not specify; inferring it would be the usual presiding officer.) A two-thirds majority is required to convict and remove from office. Conviction by the Senate does not disallow criminal prosecution.

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Monuments: South and West

“The devices and platforms that made Silicon Valley famous were created… by entrepreneurs who risked their investors’ capital, not their lives. It’s not really an underdog story…”

Some parts of the country, mostly in the South, are agonizing over monuments erected to honor and celebrate the Confederacy and its treasonous heroes. Some of that some are taking direct action, removing statues, most of which were put up in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Their purpose was to deliver a message to former slaves and their offspring that Reconstruction was over and Jim Crow ruled.

Meanwhile, out west, the San Jose City Council is pondering a proposal to install a monument in a city park celebrating the impact Silicon Valley has had on the world, if not on ethnic nor gender employment diversity. If the proposal passes an international competition will ensue for design of a suitably-grandiose sculpture.

The leader of the drive thinks $150 million is a reasonable amount for Silicon Valley’s monument to itself. Others are less than enthusiastic.

David Horsey, editorial cartoonist and political gadfly does not mince words:

“But the technological revolution has not been completely beneficial to civilized life. Hackers working for foreign powers threaten our security and democracy. Internet scammers and criminals steal our money and our identities. Social media distract us, mislead us and intensify outrage, division and extremism. Online pornography has opened a new frontier of misogyny and exploitation to any child who can log onto a computer.”

More About Cheese

“In a world obsessed with cleanliness, and armed with hand sanitizers, it is worth paying attention to the function of good bacteria.”

English chef John Quilter hosts the YouTube series Food Busker. He has posted episodes showing how to make healthy fried chicken, beef bourguignon burgers and various recipes using ramen. A recent chapter sounds like something that could be from Monty Python. He embarks on a project to make cheese using bacteria from celebrities.

John Quilter – Food Busker

Quilter concedes he has a couple challenges: he doesn’t know any famous people and he doesn’t know how to make cheese. He does find five British celebrities, including a rapper and Great British Bake Off finalist. He also knows people who know how to make cheese.

Swabs from the ear, armpit, nose, or navel of the celebrity volunteers become the makings of starter cultures to begin the transformation of milk into comté, mozzarella, stilton and cheddar. The cheeses are aging in the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the exhibition. Food: Bigger than the Plate. No sample will be offered.

This demonstration recreates a project from 2013. The stated purpose, then and now, is “to educate the public about the ubiquitousness of microbes and to challenge cultural queasiness around bacteria.”

About Beer and Cow Shit

If you are really old, you may remember Olympia Beer and the tagline “It’s the Water.” Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman and Clint Eastwood are a few of the stars who were pictured onscreen drinking Olympia. It also was my Uncle Roger’s favorite beverage. The brewery advertised its product as being brewed using water from artesian wells.

Olympia and Rainer breweries both shut down long ago.

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Nothing to Do with Changing Climate?

A wet spring has forecasters predicting a less-than-normal fire season in New England. Same in Colorado; they’re hoping the heavy winter snowpack will slow wildfires this summer. The outlook for the West Coast, which also had a wet spring and record snowpack, is not so optimistic. The National Interagency Fire Center issued its report which said precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and California resulted a heavy crop of grasses and other vegetation that will likely be dried out by summer, providing fuel for wildfires.

On cue, a week after the report was released, a wildfire in Central Oregon destroyed a home in La Pine and damaged another. Oh, and 145,000 acres are burning right now in eastern Russia.

Although the stable genius is on record that climate change is a hoax, state government authorities, including Colorado, are planning and budgeting for longer and more severe fire seasons as the new normal.
Meanwhile, in Santa Rosa California, where more than 5,000 homes burned in 2017, rebuilding is underway. The certainty of another fire is not stopping property owners from rebuilding their McMansions on the hills of Fountaingrove overlooking the city. (A fire of almost the exact same dimensions burned the area in 1964, before any homes were there.)

Our esteemed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo won’t use the words “climate change,” but he recently did state that melting Arctic ice was a good thing: “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new naval passageways and new opportunities for trade, potentially slashing the time it takes for ships to travel between Asia and the West by 20 days. Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century’s Suez and Panama Canals.” He also didn’t mention how the changing climate has made subsistence farming near-to-impossible in Guatemala, resulting in the caravans of people headed our way.

Perhaps less devastating, unless you’re a third-generation family farmer or not a fan of high-fructose corn syrup, is the declining maple syrup production, a result of shorter winters.

Maybe you’re not convinced that there is little or no hope for our progeny. Click here for what long-time environmental writers Elizabeth Kolbert and Bill McKibben have to say.

Some Good News about Bees

Marauding bees delayed for eighteen minutes the first pitch of a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants. It was a rare show of strength for the beleaguered insect whose population has been on a precipitous decline over the past several decades. We once feared ferocious killer bees invading from Mexico; now we fear that fewer bees threatens our food supply.

You may worry about the rising price of your Honey Nut Cheerios. You should be even more concerned about pollination. Remember your ninth-grade science? It’s how plants have sex: plant pollen is transferred from the male reproductive organs to the female reproductive organs to form seeds. Wind, animals and insects are the transfer agents. Bees may be the most important of the players in nature’s mènage á trois.

Bee pollination may be responsible for as much as 70% of food grown for humans, possibly 90% of the world’s nutrition.

Much study and speculation has gone into why fewer bees are at work. It could be the changing climate, or chemical fertilizers and pesticides. More recently, there is evidence that corporate monoculture – giant fields of a single crop appear to lessen bees’ interest in flitting from flower to flower. It seems that sexual boredom of bees is a danger to agricultural abundance.

Meanwhile in France, there was concern about the 180,000 bees living on the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral. The Cathedral’s staff shared the honey the hives produced. Shortly after the fire was extinguished, bees were observed flitting around the still-in-tact hives. It is not yet known if most of the bee population came through the conflagration unscathed, but early signs are encouraging.