Catching up on the impeachment inquiry

Seth Meyers tries to bring us up to date on the fast-moving impeachment investigation into Donald Trump’s attempts at bribery and extortion with the Ukrainian president. This sets the stage for this week’s public testimony by many more witnesses, including Trump’s Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland who has a whole lot of explaining to do to reconcile his earlier testimony with that of career officials in the state department who have contradicted him.


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Shaming people to act virtuously

In the UK and some countries of the Commonwealth, the poppy symbol began to be used after World War I to commemorate the deaths of soldiers in wars on Remembrance Day, their equivalent to Memorial Day in the US. Little red plastic poppies are given out in return for a charitable contribution and then worn on the clothing to signify that the person has donated money to the cause. Collectors will stop you in the street or come to offices (with permission) with little tin cans into which you drop your money and get a flower in return.

In the US, we do not have charities going up to people and asking for a charitable donation in return for a token but the pressure can be similar. Here it is the flag pin or the flags flown on cars and houses especially when wars are begun, or demands that stores say ‘Merry Christmas’, and to a lesser extent, the ‘I voted today’ stickers that have become ostentatious symbols that one is on the ‘right’ side. This can have the effect that those who do not publicly conform are somehow lesser people.

Jonathan Pie rails about how what were once harmless symbols have now become weaponized and used to stoke nationalism and pressure people. (Language advisory)

John Oliver on the evil of SLAPP lawsuits

It is a terrific show with a rousing finale. You should really check it out.

As I have said many times before when Jon Stewart was host of The Daily Show, while you may be able to win a public spat against ordinary people, it is a big mistake to get into one with a professional comedian who has his own show with a stable of writers and a network that has deep pockets and backs them up. You will always end up looking ridiculous.

But as Oliver says, SLAPP lawsuits can have a chilling effect on pretty much everyone else which is why we need all fifty states, not just the current thirty, to pass anti-SLAPP legislation.

Samantha Bee on Trump’s enablers

While Bee is correct that the Donald Trump’s framing of why Joe Biden tried to get the Ukrainian prosecutor fired is wrong, the fact does remain that the hiring of Biden’s son Hunter to the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma and paying him $50,000 a month when he had no qualifications or experience in the gas business was definitely an attempt at using the Biden name to gain influence. It is part of the entire sleazy business of family members of major political figures cashing in on their connections. It is not necessary for the company to use Hunter Biden to get his father to do illegal things that are favorable for the company. They know that just having him on the board and on their letterhead gets them access to high levels in the US government. They can also use the name to get favorable treatment from other entities by showing that they have friends in high places.

The Bidens are not alone in this kind of sleazy practice. The Trump children have done this and are still doing it, as has Chelsea Clinton, Abby Huntsman, Meghan McCain, Liz Cheney, and Rand Paul, all of whom are the children of famous politicians.