About Wayne A. Schneider

I'm a Liberal, Libertarian, Atheist Humanist. I believe that though the world is a dangerous place, it can be made better if we stop dividing ourselves by how we're different from each other, and reach out to each other through what we have in common. And that is that we are all human beings on this planet. Please remember that.

The Weekend Hole, Sat-Sun, Nov 26-27, 2016: Have You Read The 25th Amendment?

In his series “The Resistance” (formerly known as “The Closer” until the election of Donald J. Trump), Keith Olbermann spells out how Republicans in Congress can remove Trump from office without going through the process of an impeachment. And it’s all perfectly legal and constitutional, because the procedure is spelled out in Article of Amendment 25, Section 4,of the US Constitution. It reads as follows:

4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

So how would this work? Well, upon returning from the swearing-in ceremony, Vice President Pence and a majority of the heads of the cabinet departments (and it could be the ones still in office on January 20, or even the ones who act as heads of the departments should the heads all have resigned effective at noon that day) could write a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan and President Pro Tempore of the Senate Orrin Hatch (the President Pro Tem is the oldest serving member, not the Majority Leader) simply stating the Donald is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. They don’t have to give a reason. They don’t have to prove anything. No hearings. No nothing. Just a letter.

Now, of course, the Donald could fire back a letter within minutes (and I’d bet he’ll have such a letter pre-written, ready to go) saying no such inability exists. Within four days (in case there’s a holiday weekend in there), Pence and his department heads could fire back another letter (again, they should have this one written along with the first because it would be needed) saying the inability does still exist. Then the matter would go to the Congress. It would require a two-thirds vote of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to remove Trump from power permanently.

I can only hope the Republicans in Congress recognize the danger of having Trump be POTUS and take the legal, constitutional path to remove him from being able to do damage. He could keep the title, since I’m sure that’s all he really wanted out of it, but he wouldn’t have the authority to do anything. Not that I would be much happier in a Pence administration. Unlike Pence, I actually like women and want to see them have the autonomy over their bodies that men take for granted. That’s even less likely to happen under Pence than under Trump, but at least Pence knows something about governing. Trump does not. In fact, based on his comments on the campaign trail, I’m convinced Trump doesn’t understand how government works at all. He talked as if the POTUS had powers he doesn’t really have. In fact, at times it sounded like he thought a POTUS was a dictator, possibly because a lot of Republican citizens think he is. That’s just projection on their part.

And while it is perfectly constitutional to remove Trump from power (if not office) in this matter, it’s actually harder than impeaching him. Invoking Article 25, Section 4, requires two-thirds of both Houses to remove him. But to impeach him (for Treason, Bribery or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors) would require only a simple majority of votes in the House of Representatives. It would still require a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove him. But you’d have to produce actual charges and conduct an actual trial for that process to work. And while Trump will be in violation of the Constitution at 12:01 PM EST on January 20, 2017, it will not be because of a crime. Instead, and possibly among other reasons, it will be because he had a group of foreign dignitaries come to his hotel in Washington, DC, and encouraged them to stay there when they visited the United States. In other words, he would personally profit from his job beyond what the Congress provides as compensation. (It’s called an Emolument, and its definition depends on what the Framers took the word to mean, not what it may have come to mean since.) Unless, of course, he lets them and their entire staffs stay there completely free of charge, including meals. Then he might argue that he’s not receiving any emoluments. But does anyone believe a man driven by the lust for money, who campaigned on a bigoted platform designed to make white people feel good about themselves, would let foreigners stay at his hotel completely free of charge? I don’t. And I wouldn’t believe a word Trump said about whether or not he was making any money on it. He’s a billionaire because he says he is. He’s the one deciding how much his properties are worth, not an independent auditor. There is very little that Trump says that can be taken at face value. And that’s one of many reasons why he should never be allowed to be POTUS. Also, he’s a bit of an asshole, but there’s no law against that. Otherwise I’d be in a lot of trouble, too.🙂

This is our weekend open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you wish.

The Watering Hole, Tuesday, November 22, 2016: Somebody Died On This Date In 1963

On November 22, 1963, author Aldous Huxley died. Famous for writing Brave New World (you can read it free at the link), Huxley also experimented with Mescaline, the experiences of which led to his writing The Doors of Perception.

On November 22, 1963, author C.S. Lewis died. Famous for writing The Chronicles of Narnia (you can pay to read it at the link), a set of children’s stories meant to indoctrinate them into the Christian faith, Lewis also gave highly popular radio speeches on Christianity during WWI.

On November 22, 1963, author John F. Kennedy died. Famous for having written Profiles in Courage, a book actually ghostwritten for him by Ted Sorenson, Kennedy was also President of the United States for a couple of years and his assassination may or may not have involved Rafael Cruz, father of Senator Ted “I have No Morals So I’m Supporting Trump” Cruz.

Yes, it’s true. All three of these famous men died on the dame day.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you wish.

The Weekend Hole, Sat-Sun, Nov 19-20, 2016: The Fulsome Five

So far Donald Trump has announced the selection of people to fill five major positions in his administration who all deny climate change is real and exacerbated by human activity. They also happen to be examples of the worst kinds of choices one could have in charge of the things over which they shall be in charge. This doesn’t surprise me. Trump chose Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus to be his Chief of Staff, and Reince is helping Trump pick people who, in typical modern Republican fashion, are wholly unsuited for the positions they will hold. If you’ll recall how the last Republican administration did things like put a lobbyist for the mining industry in charge of the Interior Department, the ones who give out permits to companies wanting to mine on federal property, you’ll get the feeling they’re doing it all over again. And it’s important to note that in addition to all the other flaws each of these people has (bigotry, racism, white supremacy), they’re all climate change deniers. Reince would like to see an end to the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. Their reasons are not in the least bit scientific (they totally reject what 97% of climate scientists say on the subject and defer to the few who are on the payrolls of companies who don’t want the use of fossil fuels, the key human activity making the problem worse, to end), but are economic instead. In short, they whine and complain that if we stop burning fossil fuels, the giant corporations that extract and refine fossil fuels for a living will be out of a job. To which I say, “So?” We’re talking about companies responsible for producing a product whose use will eventually bring about the death of us all. And we’re supposed to be upset that they’ll be out of business?

Steve Bannon, chosen to be Trump’s Chief Strategist (with the not-so-hidden side job of being Chief White Nationalist, which pleased the KKK and Neo-Nazis) and lured away from his former job of running Breitbart News website (the site so horrible they named it after Andrew Breitbart, who actually named it after himself) has said that climate change is a hoax created by activists, scientists, and renewable energy executives. (He really loves conspiracy theories.) He believes there should be unfettered access to fossil fuels as opposed to the more intelligent strategy of ending our use of such destroyers. Bannon believes President Obama’s focus on climate change is a threat to national security. The Pentagon disagrees. They consider climate change to be the biggest threat to national security. But Bannon is of the ilk (I love using that word; it’s so onomatopoeic) that believes the greatest threat to national security is, of course, “radical Islamic terrorism,” usually just shortened to “Islam.” That’s because people like that are more afraid of their own imaginations than they are of factual reality. They refuse to accept the fact that by using the very words they decry Obama for not using, they’re playing into the hands of the very people they claim are the greatest threat to us. That’s too complicated for their fear-filled minds to absorb. Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency who was forced out for being a bad manager, will be Trump’s National Security Adviser. While he hasn’t said a whole lot about climate change, he has belittled it as a threat to national security, he being of the Bannon ilk when it comes to terrorism.

Mike Pompeo is a bought and paid-for Koch Brothers stooge. And now he’s going to head the Central Intelligence Agency (a/k/a NAMBLA), the people largely responsible for spreading terrorism via drone strikes famous for taking out large portions of wedding parties. And Little Jeff Sessions is being tapped to be the Attorney General. In addition to having demonstrated a complete and utter lack of understanding of the science behind climate change, Sessions is a well known racist. He thought the Ku Klux Klan was alright, until he learned they smoked pot. Not the attitude I want in my Attorney General.

There you have it. As fulsome a five as you’ll ever find, at least until the next five names come out of the Trump Transition Team. Everyone of them worthy of disapproval. There’s a word for that. Oh, yeah. Deplorable.

This is our weekend open thread. Feel free to discuss any topic you wish.

The Weekend Hole, Sat-Sun, Nov 12-13, 2016: Super Beaver Moon

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Sometime between Sunday night and Monday night, the Moon will be closer to the Earth than it’s been since 1948, and won’t this be this close again until 2034. I’m not making plans to see that one. The orbit of the Moon is elliptical, so its distance from the Earth varies rather than staying at a steady, constant distance. Sometimes the moon is new and barely visible, and sometimes it is full or close to it. So there are always full moons that are closer than the others. These are often dubbed Supermoons, because they appear larger and brighter in the sky. And a full moon in November is called a Beaver Moon. Hence the title.

The Moon reaches its fullest at 8:52 AM EST, past moonset for most of the US. It will reach its closest point to Earth at 6:21 AM (or 6:22, depending on which article you read.) But the Moon will still be big and bright both Sunday and Monday nights, so if it happens to be cloudy one night, you might get lucky the next. This phenomenon of the Moon appearing bigger has nothing to do with a rising full moon looking bigger. So get out and enjoy your Super Beaver Moon, or Moon your Super Beaver, while it’s still a free country.

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss Moons you like, Super or not, or even beavers.

The Watering Hole, Tuesday, Nov 8, 2016: Election Day – VOTE!

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It is the official policy of The Zoo since its founding to not endorse any political candidate or party for elected office. (But if you can’t figure out where most of us stand or how we intend to vote, you probably haven’t been paying attention.) So there’s one question I have for anyone reading this:

If you have already cast your vote, or intend to cast your vote, for any Republican, for any office, at any level of government (even local), could you please identify the candidate and office (include state and pertinent district – congressional or assembly) and explain why you’re casting a vote for that person? I truly want to understand. In my own home state of New York, most of the Republicans in this area are pretty moderate. I know many of the local politicians personally and they’re decent people. I don’t vote for them usually because they run unopposed. And since you can’t lose a race running unopposed if you vote for yourself, there’s no reason for me to vote for any of them. But they do a decent job, and I have no serious complaints. But my focus is more for the national level, and Republican control of any level of our federal government concerns me.

I ask that you not give vague and ambiguous platitudes like, “I support the Constitution.” (How so? What do you feel is being attacked? And what evidence can you cite for that?) I’d like to know the reasons why you wish to vote for a Republican, but I should caution you that the reasons you cite may be challenged by me or by others who post here. As a general rule, we tend to adopt the tone of the person commenting. If you start out exceptionally rude or with name-calling, I can’t promise you any civility in return. But if you’re polite, I promise you I will be, and I can safely vouch for the regulars here that we will be respectful as well.

Please, help me understand. Because I can think of lots of reasons why you shouldn’t, and I hope there’s time to talk you out of it.

This is our daily open thread. Please be sure to vote.

The Weekend Hole – Sat-Sun Nov 5-6: The Fall Back Position

Tonight Daylight Savings Time ends. For now. We move to the Fall Back position. If you live in a part of the United States that, oh, what’s the right word, “celebrates”? “participates”? “recognizes”? maybe it’s “observes”, Daylight Savings Time, you should set your clocks back one hour before going to bed. If you don’t, you may end up attending Sunday Morning Worship Services an hour ahead of everybody you know from your usual service. Who knows? Maybe it’s worth a try. And on the bright side, you’ll be back in time to watch “PoliticsNation” with the Reverend Al Sharpton, who should be good and awake what with having an extra hour to sleep. And if you live in a part of the United States that does not observe DST (as the cool kids call it), life will be unchanged for you. Congratulations, the Chinese envy you.

But why do we do this? What’s the point? Well, the idea was, in not so many words, to save daylight. (You can read about the history of Daylight Savings Time to varying degrees here, here, and here.) It was believed by its proponents in recent years to save about 10,000 barrels of oil per day. The thinking is that as we shift our daily activities by an hour, businesses will use less energy. Not everyone agrees. But we do it, and our reward is to get an extra hour of sleep once a year, in exchange for our sacrifice of one hour’s sleep once a year.

Funny story. When I was in the Air Force in 1987, I was stationed at Ramstein AB, West Germany. In September of that year, I took a month’s leave to attend a friend’s wedding and to see my then-girlfriend, Jane. My leave ended after the first weekend of October, so I was here in the United States when Europe took their Fall Back position. I returned to West Germany afterwards, so I was in Europe when folks in the United States took their Fall Back position on the last weekend in October. So I missed the chance to get my extra hour of sleep that year. And while I understand why, intellectually, it’s wrong, I have always felt that for the last 29 years, the Universe has owed me an extra hour of sleep.🙂

Okay, I promise. The 30th anniversary of that lost hour will be the last time I tell that story.

Personally, I prefer not to turn the clocks back until I wake up whenever on Sunday morning. I have no place I have to be at any set time, so if I realize it’s still real early I can just go back to bed. A fun thing you can do right before 2 AM ET is to right-click on your computer’s clock to adjust the date and time. You’re not going to adjust the date and time, you just want to see the clock face go from 1:59:59 AM to 1:00:00 AM. After it does just cancel out your “changes.” The real fun is changing the times on the wall clocks, the ovens, the coffee maker, the microwave oven, and the car dashboard. Oh, and getting the cats adjusted to your new schedule. It’s 7:00 AM to you, but it’s now 8:00 AM to them, and they wanted to go out an hour ago. Enjoy!

This is our Weekend Open Thread. Feel free to discuss any topic you wish. Have a great weekend, and enjoy your extra hour of time.

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 31,2016: The Bonfires of Samhein

Two thousand years ago at this time of year, Druids would gather on the Hill of Tlachtga in medieval Ireland to light a bonfire that began a ritual throughout the country. The light would call on other people to light their own bonfires. It was the start of the season of darkness, and people celebrated with dances and feasts around the fires. The fires were to honor Samhein (pronounced sow-in), the god of Darkness and Winter. Many of the rituals associated with the celebration in America of Halloween can be traced back to these Celtic ones. You can learn more about all of these at Smithsonian Magazine.

Personally, I don’t play dress up games. I spend the entire year trying to make people believe I’m somebody I’m not (just like everyone else) that I don’t feel any desire to add a costume to it on one particular day of the year. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not for me. Then again, I’m kind of anti-social in a lot of ways like that. I don’t go along with what everybody else is doing, often because I see it as silly and pointless, or possibly even dangerous. (Pokemon Go has already gotten some people killed.) I realize it’s just a diversion and people can find them fun, but sometimes they can become too pervasive and counterproductive to a functioning society. Is it really a good idea that young people gather together in public to stare at their phones? But I suppose the rituals of American Halloween aren’t too terrible. It’s just a good idea that people understand them, and how they compare to one’s own beliefs, especially where Religion is concerned.

For example, if you acknowledge the observation of Halloween, then you acknowledge the existence of other gods since this was a celebration of one of them. For many Conservative Christians, this is against their belief in God as the only God. I hesitate to point out to them that this is not correct at all, and even the God they worship said so. His First Commandment was to have no other Gods before Him. That doesn’t mean to deny the existence of other gods, but just not to put any of them ahead of this particular god (on account of his constant problem with the deadly sin of Jealousy.) But since they celebrate the holiday anyway and perform the pagan rituals, it’s just another example of their religious hypocrisy. I just hope there aren’t too many kids dressing up as Donald Trump. It would indicate a generation of kids totally lost to the idea of sense, reason, and logical thinking.

Lastly, I wouldn’t be me without a little nerd joke once in a a while, so…

Why do programmers confuse Halloween and Christmas? Because OCT 31 = DEC 25.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss ancient gods you’ve worshiped, or any other topic you wish.