Je Vous Dis, Merde! 33: The Pardoner of Mar-A-Lago.

This essay continues my exploration of the direct relevance of philosophically-guided logic to contemporary US politics.

Once upon a time in a faraway land, there was a village barber who shaved all and only those who needed a shave but didn’t shave themselves.

For funzies, let’s say that the village was Seville, so that the village barber was The Barber of Seville.

Assuming he needed a shave, did he shave himself?

Well, if he shaved himself, then he didn’t shave himself; but if he didn’t shave himself, then he shaved himself.

So he shaved himself if and only if he didn’t shave himself.

Paradox!

In logical theory, a paradox is a statement that’s true if and only if it’s false.

So a paradox is not only a contradiction — a statement that is both true and false — it’s a hyper-contradiction, since no matter how you interpret it, whether as a true or as a false statement, it’s still contradictory.

Paradoxes are an affront to the seemingly self-evident Strong Principle of Bivalence, which says that NO statements are both true and false.

Moreover, The Strange Case of The Barber of Seville is what’s known as a self-referential paradox, because in such cases the logical paradox is generated by an attempt to apply a certain logical state-of-affairs (in this case, shaving all and only those who don’t shave themselves) to that logical state of affairs itself (to the barber who shaves all and only those who don’t do that self-shaving thingie).

Now the famous 20th century American philosopher and logician, W.V.O. Quine, remarked of The Strange Case of The Barber of Seville that you could avoid the conclusion that it’s a genuine paradox, simply by denying that there is, or ever has been, any such barber.[1]

And Quine’s remark has always made a certain amount of good sense to me, at least as a purely pragmatic solution to what might otherwise seem to be a purely logical difficulty.

Until last Friday.

For, consider now what I’ll call The Strange Case of The Pardoner of Mar-A-Lago, as reported by The Washington Post:

Trump team seeks to control, block Mueller’s Russia investigation

By Carol D. Leonnig, Ashley Parker, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger July 21

Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

….

Currently, the discussions of pardoning authority by Trump’s legal team are purely theoretical, according to two people familiar with the ongoing conversations. But if Trump pardoned himself in the face of the ongoing Mueller investigation, it would set off a legal and political firestorm, first around the question of whether a president can use the constitutional pardon power in that way.

“This is a fiercely debated but unresolved legal question,” said Brian C. Kalt, a constitutional law expert at Michigan State University who has written extensively on the question.

The power to pardon is granted to the president in Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, which gives the commander in chief the power to “grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” That means pardon authority extends to federal criminal prosecution but not to state level or impeachment inquiries.

No president has sought to pardon himself, so no courts have reviewed it. Although Kalt says the weight of the law argues against a president pardoning himself, he says the question is open and predicts such an action would move through the courts all the way to the Supreme Court.

“There is no predicting what would happen,” said Kalt, author of the book, “Constitutional Cliffhangers: A Legal Guide for Presidents and Their Enemies.” It includes chapters on the ongoing debate over whether presidents can be prosecuted while in office and on whether a president can issue a pardon to himself.

Other White House advisers have tried to temper Trump, urging him to simply cooperate with the probe and stay silent on his feelings about the investigation.

On Monday, lawyer Ty Cobb, newly brought into the White House to handle responses to the Russian probe, convened a meeting with the president and his team of lawyers, according to two people briefed on the meeting. Cobb, who is not yet on the White House payroll, was described as attempting to instill some discipline in how the White House handles queries about the case. But Trump surprised many of his aides by speaking at length about the probe to the New York Times two days later. Cobb, who officially joins the White House team at the end of the month, declined to comment for this article.

Some note that the Constitution does not explicitly prohibit a president from pardoning himself. On the other side, experts say that by definition a pardon is something you can only give to someone else. There is also a common-law canon that prohibits individuals from serving as a judge in their own case. “For example, we would not allow a judge to preside over his or her own trial,” Kalt said.

A president can pardon an individual at any point, including before the person is charged with a crime, and the scope of a presidential pardon can be very broad. President Gerald Ford pardoned former president Richard M. Nixon preemptively for offenses he “committed or may have committed” while in office.

***

OK.

So The Strange Case of The Pardoner of Mar-A-Lago is the case of a greedy, narcissistic, neo-fascist, ruthless, xenophobic billionaire who, by some morally and politically absurd and scandalous process in 2016, became President of the USA in 2017, whereby he acquired the legal power to pardon all and only those who need a pardon but don’t pardon themselves.

Then he got himself into a world of moral and political pain and trouble, and asked his advisors: “Assuming I need a pardon, do I pardon myself?”

Well, if he pardons himself, then he doesn’t pardon himself, and if he doesn’t pardon himself, then he pardons himself.

In other words, unlike The Barber of Seville, who, as far as I know, has never actually existed, The Pardoner of Mar-A-Lago actually exists, and, tragically, is also The Prez of The Land O’ Liberty.

In turn, this means that in yet another perfect example of gaslighting and what I’ve also called The Logic of MINDFUCK, The Pardoner-Prez, with the complicit or duped aid of The Washington Post, is yet again deliberately and maliciously affronting our rational capacity for critical moral and political thinking, this time with a self-referential paradox, simply in order, yet again, with malicious intent, to fuck with our minds and systematically deflect our attention away from the things that really matter.

Like the twin existential dangers of a nuclear apocalypse and The Scientism-Capitalist-Statism Zombie Apocalypse.

Like poverty and economic oppression.

Like the job dilemma of either unemployment or shit jobs.

Like healthcare hell.

Like cultural conflict and closed borders.

And like gun violence.

So to anyone who thinks that The Strange Case of The Pardoner of Mar-A-Lago is anything other than a genuine logical paradox being used for the purposes of malicious MINDFUCK,

Je vous dis, merde!

NOTE

[1] W.V.O. Quine, “The Ways of Paradox,” in W.V.O. Quine, The Ways of Paradox and Other Essays, (revised and enlarged edn.; Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1976), pp. 1–18, at p. 2. Also available online at URL = <https://math.dartmouth.edu/~matc/Readers/HowManyAngels/WaysofParadox/WaysofParadox.html>. An alternative response to The Strange Case of The Barber of Seville is to say that it is indeed a genuine paradox after all, but simply that the The Strong Principle of Bivalence is false and should be replaced by The Weak Principle of Bivalence, which says only that NOT EVERY statement is both true and false, i.e., that NOT EVERY statement is a paradox, even if SOME statements are genuine paradoxes— e.g., The Strange Case of The Barber of Seville and The Strange Case of The Pardoner of Mar-A-Lago, and various others. This is the response I favor. That response, in turn, would be consistent with the actual existence of The Pardoner of Mar-A-Lago. By contrast, as far as I know, no actual or even fictional barber, whether in Seville or anywhere else, has ever been such a malicious MINDFUCKer. Move over, Sweeney Todd.

***

“Je vous dis, merde!” (literally, “I say to you: shit!” or more loosely, “You’re so full of shit!”) is a morally and politically defiant slogan invented and first published by an early 20th-century Catalan anarchist who used the nom de guerre “Miguel Almereyda.” Almereyda, who was murdered in a French prison in 1917, was also the father of the famous French film director Jean Vigo, who immortalized the same slogan in his breakthrough 1933 film, Zéro de conduite, aka Zero for Conduct.

Here is the seven-part platform of The Wake The Fuck Up! Party , aka The WTFU Party, aka Up Against the Wall, Philosophy-Fucker!, aka UAW/PF —

1. Universal Respect for Human Dignity (URHD):

· Human dignity is the absolute non-denumerable moral value of every member of humanity, and everyone ought to try wholeheartedly to treat everyone else in a way that is sufficient to meet the demands of respect for human dignity, especially including (i) alleviating or ending human oppression, and (ii) actively engaging in mutual aid and mutual kindness.

2. Universal Basic Income (UBI):

· Anyone 21 years of age or over and living permanently in the USA, who has a personal yearly income of $50,000.00 USD or less, and who is capable of requesting their UBI, would receive $25,000.00 USD per year, with no strings attached.

3. A 15-Hour Workweek for Understaffed Non-Bullshit Jobs (FHW-for-UNBJs):

· Anyone 18 years of age or older who is living permanently in the USA, who has completed a high school education, and is mentally and physically capable of doing a job, would be offered an eco-job, paying a yearly wage of $25,000.00 USD, for fifteen hours of work (three 5-hour days) per week.

Thus anyone 21 years of age or older with a high-school degree and who is also mentally and physically capable of working, would have a guaranteed yearly income of at least $50,000.00 USD if they chose to do an eco-job.

The rationale behind the three-year gap between (i) being offered an eco-job at 18 and (ii) beginning to receive their UBI at 21, is that every young adult who has finished high school will have the option of pursuing three years of part-time or full-time free higher education without credentialing, i.e., for its own sake, after high school, before making longer-term decisions about what I call job-work and life-work.

***

Here are a few more details about UBI and eco-jobs.

(i) The UBI is to be paid by a monthly stipend check.

(ii) Eco-job income is not taxed.

(iii) For all individual yearly incomes of $50,000.00 USD or under, no tax will be levied; hence for someone receiving their UBI and also doing an eco-job, no income tax will be levied.

(iv) For all individual non-eco-job incomes, for every $1.00 USD earned above the standard UBI of $25,000.00 USD, the monthly UBI stipend is reduced by 50 cents, until the recipient’s UBI is reduced to zero; hence for those individuals with yearly non-eco-job incomes equal to or under $50,000.00 USD, the maximum UBI + non-eco-job income sum is always $50,000.00 USD.

(v) For all individual yearly incomes over $50,000.00 USD, for every $10,000.00 USD earned, that surplus income is taxed at the rate of 1%, with the highest surplus income tax rate being 50%; hence the maximum surplus 50% tax rate starts at individual yearly incomes of $550,000.00 USD, and applies to all higher surplus incomes.

***

4. Universal Free Higher Education Without Credentialing (HEWC):

· Everyone would be offered, beyond their high-school education, a free, three-year minimum, optional (but also open-ended beyond those three years, as a further option), part-time or full-time universal public education program in the so-called “liberal arts,” and also in some of the so-called “STEM” fields, including the humanities, the fine arts, the social sciences, mathematics, and the natural sciences.

· For many or even most people, their HEWC would fall between (i) the end of their high school education at age 18 and the corresponding availability of eco-jobs, and (ii) the beginning of their UBI at age 21.

· But HEWC would be open to anyone with a high school degree, no matter how old they are, provided they are mentally and physically capable of doing the program.

5. Universal Free Healthcare (UFH):

· Every human person living permanently in the USA will receive free lifelong healthcare.

6. 2-Phase Universal Open Borders (2P-UOB):

· Phase 1: Starting in 2021, there will be universal open borders with Canada and Mexico, and everyone who moves across those borders and then claims residence in the USA, will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the USA, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents to depend on the current availability of (i) adequate funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the USA, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the USA and elsewhere in the world.

· Phase 2: Also starting in 2021, the USA, Canada, and Mexico will collectively form a Global Refugee Consortium (GRC), with three-way open borders to any political refugee, economic refugee, or asylum seeker from anywhere in the world (aka “global refugees”), who will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA, Canada, or Mexico, and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the three GRC countries, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents, and the precise distribution of new residents among the three members of the GRC, to depend on the current availability of (i) funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the three GRC countries, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the GRC and elsewhere in the world.

7. Universal No-Guns (UNG):

· No one in the USA, including police, internal security forces of all kinds, armies, and intelligence forces of all kinds, has the moral right to possess or use guns of any kind, for any purpose whatsoever, because the primary function of guns is coercion, and coercion is immoral.

· UNG would be implemented by repealing the Second Amendment to the US Constitution in 2021 and then universally banning the possession or use of guns thereafter.

I’m also assuming that Universal Public Education (UPE) — universal free access for all human persons of any age to good public education up to the end of high school — already exists in most countries, and needs no further justification.

Where UPE does not already exist, it would automatically become a necessary part of the seven-part WTFU Party package, thereby making it a eight-part package.

***

Mr Nemo, Nowhere, NA, 28 July 2017

The WTFU Party is a sub-project of the online mega-project Philosophy Without Borders, which is home-based on Patreon here.

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.