The Practical Guide to the United States Constitution

Dear Congress: You learned all you need to know about life in kindergarten, but you don’t need to act like you’re still there.


Is it just me or is outrage casserole usually served with a side helping of amnesia?


What You Need to Know About Impeachment

Impeachment is all the rage right now, although throughout American political history, only two presidents have earned the coveted impeachment jacket: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon may come to mind, but in that case, he fell into the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” category as he resigned from office before the completion of impeachment proceedings. 

Here’s the kicker. Historically, impeachments have had about as much impact as the Psychic Hotline. To date, no president has ever been removed from office by the impeachment process although the procedure has given us an infinite supply of off-color jokes. For those who don’t have Air Force One Fast Pass tickets, impeachment is much more common. Sixty-some people in lower positions have been impeached but only 19 of those have endured the entire process. Of those, only eight were ultimately kicked out of office. If you’re curious, they were all federal judges. 

We’re not in the business of arguing for or against Orange Man Bad impeachment proceedings, so we’ll leave that to the legions of cable news show pundits and their seemingly endless and mind-numbing panel discussions. Here, we’re going to talk about what impeachment is and how it works. Then you can make your own judgments about who should and shouldn’t be impeached. 

While we can all agree that Congress generally operates like a pre-school where the lunch lady spiked the Turkey Tetrazzini with PCP, in the case of impeachment, it’s Congress members who get to be the parents. Simply put, Congress has the ability to put the President (or other “civil officers of the United States”) in a political time out. Actually, it’s more like a weaponized time out because not only can Congress issue stern warnings, but they can remove a President from office, take away the plane, and start eviction proceedings from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Hold this thought for a hot second; there’s a lot more than a simple impeachment vote required to implement such extreme actions. 

So, what is impeachment? If you watch crime dramas like Law and Order or follow any politician’s career for more than 12 months, you might be familiar with the concept of indictments. An indictment is an accusation. You might think of it as a leveling of charges, kind of like a frustrated parent counting to three before the serious discipline begins. Here, the parent is the House of Representatives. I know, that’s tough to swallow, so just stay with me. While the House can, through a vote, impeach a sitting President, the process is not a trial, the completion of it does not represent a conviction, and impeachment isn’t even evidence of guilt. After the House finishes impeaching, the process moves to the Senate for a “trial” phase. 

So, what manner of bad behavior can bring about impeachment? That’s addressed in Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution. If the thought of reading the Constitution makes you want to fake your own death, get a copy of my book, The Practical Guide to the United States Constitution. Even a career politician can understand it. It’s also fun. Anyway, back to the issue at hand. 

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.

You have to give the Founders an A+ for brevity. Those 31 words cover a lot of ground, don’t they? The Constitution doesn’t go into any more detail over what specifically makes up “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but it’s been generally understood that impeachable offenses do not have to be a violation of criminal law. When leading the house minority, Gerald R. Ford (you know him, he later became the stumbling president) suggested that “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” For example, some future Oval Office occupant may give the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the cast of The Real. While not technically illegal, I think we can all agree the action would cause irreparable harm to the country, so that might be an impeachable offense. 

Per Article One of the Constitution, the House of Representatives is solely empowered to begin impeachment proceedings at the federal level. The process is simple, although cable pundits make it seem complicated. After some investigation, which may start just about anywhere, someone in the House of Representatives draws up articles of impeachment. This is nothing more than an itemized listing of bad behavior accusations. Once the articles are filed, the House votes, and if a simple majority of voting members present agree, then the offender has been duly impeached. 

What does that mean? Besides a few headlines and possible political clout impacts, not much. The impeachee still wakes up the next morning and goes to work, just like the day before. The only exception to their normal routine might be a ruthless slashing of their holiday card list. 

It’s the Senate that judges all legal proceedings that follow impeachment. Besides looking stern and speaking to news media about how unpatriotic the offending party is, they get to hear evidence, berate lawyers, and ultimately decide on guilt or innocence. 

Two-thirds of the present Senate has to agree before someone is deemed guilty. If it happens to be the President of the United States that’s getting impeached, then the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial. 

While the senators can have a trial to determine whether the impeachment has teeth, their punishment options are limited. Should you ever get impeached, the Senate can only remove and disqualify you from “any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.” However, don’t think you’re off the hook from spending time in the slammer. If you did something illegal, you can still be arrested, indicted, tried, judged, and punished accordingly; it’s just not part of impeachment.

Oh, one more thing. Those handy presidential pardons don’t apply to those impeached. Presidents can’t pardon themselves or any other impeachees.


I think hell is having to work a Microsoft Windows help desk when the only caller is your grandmother.


If Aliens Watched TV…

Aliens watching TV

The internet can be useful for things other than passive aggressive aggression. For example, there’s a site that helps you figure out which TV show is reaching a given planet based on the current date and the planet’s distance from the MSNBCNNFOX towers. As I write this, the Tau Cetites are enjoying the very first Power Rangers episode. On a related note, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize on behalf of all earthlings to citizens of the two potentially habitable planets there. 

Thinking about ET watching DirecTV from earth is an interesting idea, although somewhat of a fantasy. Since most TV viewers actually live on earth, signals aren’t optimized for deep space transmission. They’re broadcast spherically and if there’s any aiming done, it’s in the direction of the horizon. The problem is that any signals that do escape Earth become billions and billions of times weaker on the way to our interstellar neighbors. So, by the time Keeping Up with the Kardashians makes it to Proxima Centauri (4.244 light-years past that Taco Bell down the road), it’s coming across as unintelligible background noise devoid of meaning. You know, just like here on earth. 

If there is alien life somewhere in the expanse, perhaps we can assume they have superior satellite dish technology that can pick up our nightly TV anyway. I’d even bet they can unscramble the premium channels and avoid paying the $9.99 monthly access. It’s good to be alien. 

So, what would they learn? That question got me thinking. If some intelligent life form is out there, and they watched a few hours of prime-time television, they might reach some interesting conclusions about life here on earth.

  • Most humans have diseases that can only be treated using drugs with ridiculous names.
  • The most perfect human specimens work at Wal-Mart stores.
  • When a human is ready to marry, a dozen members of the opposite sex join them at an all-expense-paid luxury resort where their prospective spouses grovel for affection while spreading rumors that their peers are whores.
  • The earth’s climate has been absolutely stable and unchanging for the past billion or so years. Until 2019.
  • 46% of the human species is gay.
  • To own a car, one must correctly guess “Before and After” phrases even though some letters are missing.
  • Everyone has their own personal Personal Injury Attorney.
  • Sharks kill 67% of all humans annually.
  • Lunch ladies spike the Turkey Tetrazzini with PCP. It’s the only explanation for human behavior.
  • It’s illegal to talk loudly during golf.
  • Pundits with the least amount of relevant experience claim to have all the great ideas.
  • Everyone is murdered at least once daily.
  • Mickey Mouse Club membership is a shortcut to future sex and drug scandals.
  • Wars are fought between cities by groups of grossly overpaid and egomaniac mercenaries dressed in colorful uniforms. Losing cities have to buy the beer.
  • The residents of Hollywood spend their days giving awards to each other when they’re not recovering from plastic surgery.
  • Humans who are particularly annoying and like to dress in skimpy clothes are banished to tropical islands where they are forced to eat bugs and tarnish each other’s reputations.
  • The most successful earthlings drink beer continuously while wearing exotic fragrances.
  • Those who should probably be in charge of earth’s government compete nightly over trivia. Those with trivial brains compete daily for microphone time in front of the Capitol.

Did I miss anything?


If Congress Worked Like American Ninja Warrior

American Ninja Warrior

One of the interesting things about American Ninja Warrior is that it’s so darn… positive. No, really. Where else do you see so much fun, enthusiasm, and grit but no politics, complaining, or obnoxious egos. Actually, I guess it’s nothing at all like congress, but imagine if it was…

Everyone would spend most of their time back at home training diligently to get better.

Members would have to pay their own way to the meetings. As soon as the session was finished, they’d go back home to work their day job.

Career advancement and longevity would be determined objectively and strictly by job performance. No exceptions.

Lobbyists could only cheer from the bleachers while having absolutely no impact on the results.

All of the other Representatives would stand on the sidelines cheering for the one at the podium to succeed.

In the event of a deadlock, the two disagreeing members would have to race through an obstacle course 30 feet above the Capitol Rotunda floor.

When the going gets tough, Representatives would remove their shirts. Hey, I didn’t say this would be easy for the rest of us.

Of course, we’d have to find two ebullient commentators to do play by play. I’m thinking Tara Lipinksi and Johnny Weir.

And the best part? When they screw up, they fall 20 feet into a pool of water. On national television. The ad revenues alone would wipe out the national debt.