I Picked the Wrong Hypothetical Example

Trump sacrifice

In yesterday’s post I analogized Trump’s constitutional arguments to a constitutional claim that John Doe may assert a free religious expression defense to justify human sacrifice.

Instead, I ought to have envisioned a hypothetical case in which Donald Trump asserts a constitutional defense to justify human sacrifice. See

Giuliani: Trump Could Have Shot Comey And Still Couldn’t Be Indicted For It

Trump and the Absolute Constitutional Right to Perform Human Sacrifice


Today has been a day of hand wringing over the Trump legal team’s claim of absolute presidential right to open and close investigations, and to pardon anyone he chooses, including himself, for any reason.

I would like to put this discussion in context. So let me begin by telling you a story.

John Doe comes to realize that he is the reincarnation of a high priest of Quetalcoatl, and that it is his destiny and his duty to assume the office of high priest himself. Accordingly, Mr. Doe constructs a shrine to Quetzalcoatl in his spare bedroom, and begins to lure people into his home, find some means to render them immobile, drag them into the bedroom/shrine, cut out their hearts, and offer sacrifice to the deity.

When Mr. Doe is apprehended, his counsel defends on the basis of the free religious expression clause of the First Amendment.

With this hypothetical in mind, let us pose a few questions.

Is the worship of Quetzalcoatl a religion? Yes, it is, or at least it was.

Is it (was it) incumbent on Quetzalcoatl’s worshipers to perform human sacrifice from time to time? Yes.

Is Mr. Doe a true believer in Quetzalcoatl and his religion? Who the hell knows, but one must assume an affirmative answer.

So when Mr. Doe killed all those people, was he exercising his religion? Yes, he was.

What does the Constitution say on the subject? It says, and I quote, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Is there an exception in the words of the Constitution for religious expression that involves human sacrifice? No, there is not.

Has the Supreme Court ever ruled that the First Amendment does not permit human sacrifice as a form of religious expression? No it has not. There is a case permitting chicken sacrifice as a religious ritual. But killing chickens for non-religious reasons is lawful, so it was not a challenge for the Supreme Court to reason that killing them for religious purposes must also be kosher.

Well, then, if the literal language of the Constitution affords an unfettered right to express oneself religiously, and if the Supreme Court has never dealt explicitly with an implied human sacrifice exception, isn’t it at least possible that the Supreme Court might find that Mr. Doe has a good defense to the charges against him? No, it is not. You would have to be a bloody idiot to think so.

But if the asserted legal defense is so ridiculous, then why did Mr. Doe’s lawyers assert it? BECAUSE THE FACTS WERE SO BAD THAT A REALLY RIDICULOUS ARGUMENT WAS THE ONLY ARGUMENT THEY HAD.

How does all this relate to Trump’s legal position? Trump’s position that he has the absolute right to pardon anyone for any reason implies that he has the power to announce in advance that he will pardon people who commit crimes of which he approves. In practice, this would imply an absolute ability to rewrite the criminal code to his liking, without a by-your-leave from anyone else.

For example, pictured below is Louis XIV (“L’etat c’est moi”) revoking the Edict of Nantes in 1685—after which French Protestants became outlaws, liable to being killed with impunity.

Trump is asserting that, as a matter of constitutional law, L’etat c’est Trump.

Should we be fearful because Trump has asserted such a ridiculous legal position? Probably, but at the same time we should feel a sense of relief. That’s because when you adversary embraces a position that is ludicrous on its face, it’s a sign of weakness and desperation.

If Trump’s legal position is ludicrous on its face, then why did his lawyers take that position? BECAUSE THE FACTS WERE SO BAD THAT A REALLY RIDICULOUS ARGUMENT WAS THE ONLY ARGUMENT THEY HAD.

Louis XIV, L'Etat C'Est Moi

At Least the Plutocrats Are Getting Their Just Deserts

Today’s guest blogger is Jeffrey Sachs. In Trump’s Insane Trade War, Professor Sachs writes,

Maybe Donald Trump really is the Manchurian Candidate, a stooge of some foreign potentate. Much more likely, Trump is just mentally unstable and narcissistic. Whichever it is, Trump is rapidly destroying American global leadership, alliances, and interests. Wednesday’s announcement of new tariffs on steel and aluminum exports from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union is the latest bizarre and self-destructive move. ,,,

Trump’s so-called policies are not really policies. Trade wars are on, off, on hold, on again, within the span of days. Summits are on, canceled, or maybe on. Foreign companies are sanctioned today and rescued the next. He says one day he would like to see overseas troops called home soon, and tells them to stay the next. Global agreements and rules are ripped to shreds. Trump’s garbled syntax and disorganized thoughts are impossible to follow.

The US has probably never before had a delusional President, one who speaks gibberish, insults those around him including his closest associates, and baffles the world. By instinct, we strive to make sense of Trump’s nonsense, implicitly assuming some hidden strategy. There is none. …

Trump creates chaos for no reason other than his own flagrant inability to follow rules or respect the interests of others. His is a psychopath’s trade war. The result will be to undermine the long-term role of the dollar; ratchet up the public debt; and undermine the current expansion through a spiral of protectionist measures and rising uncertainties for business. ,,,

The real answer to Trump’s trade (and other) policies is the 25th Amendment. Trump is unwell and unfit to be President. He is a growing threat to the nation and the world.

Aardvark’s Addition

Then there was the scene last week where he said Kim wrote a very nice letter, but he had not read it.

OK, plutocrats, how’s that Faustian bargain workin’ out for ya?



Lies, Damned Lies, and Tweets


Continuing to explore an issue I have addressed with morbid fascination these past months, Dana Milbank writes, Trump’s not a liar. He’s a madman.

I find Milbank’s conclusion curious. It seems to me that evidence is mounting that Trump’s lies are often conscious and strategic. Recent examples: the claim that the Democrats are responsible for separating children from parents at the border, and the assertion that there was an FBI “spy” in his campaign.

People who are actually successful have a number of techniques at their disposal, but Trump has only four: smarmy flattery, insults, threats, and lies. If you are the type of person whose behavior can be influenced by these techniques, then Trump has your number. If you are not affected by obviously insincere flattery, by verbal abuse, or by intimidation, and if you do not believe his lies, then Trump is flat out of luck, because that’s all he knows how to do.

Milbank cites evidence that the velocity of Trump’s lies is increasing at a dizzying rate. But the mere fact of lying is not in itself evidence of madness. It is instead evidence of desperation.

In addition, it seems that the lies are becoming so ludicrous that it’s like he’s just phoning it in.

As the dying cobra makes a last effort to defend itself from the mongoose by injecting more venom, it’s not crazy. It’s just ineffectual. ‘Cause the cobra has become immune to the venom.

Something like Shep Smith reacting to Trump’s venomous lies.