Good morning, Quartz readers!
This week, the House Judiciary Committee heard from four legal scholars about the constitutional grounds for impeaching US president Donald Trump. The hearing on the law, however, turned into a bit of a trial for the esteemed witnesses and the very notion of principle.
The scholars were invited to opine on the Constitution and the meaning of the impeachment clause—whether Trump’s actions as revealed by the inquiry into his Ukraine dealings constitute impeachable offenses in light of the law. But California Republican Tom McClintock had a more personal question for the academics, asking the panel of four to raise their hands if they supported Trump’s election in 2016.
Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan, an expert on voting, was clearly horrified, responding, “I have a right to cast a secret ballot.”
McClintock’s point was to undermine the witnesses’ presentations by pointing out their personal politics. The implication is that they can’t possibly offer a reliable interpretation of the law because they dislike Trump, and therefore their testimony can be dismissed as partisan rhetoric.
One problem with this tactic—emphasizing individual bias and suggesting objectivity is an impossibility—is that it undermines the integrity of society’s major institutions and erodes critical notions, like open-mindedness and guiding principles.
If it’s actually impossible to reach conclusions based on rules and information rather than sentiment and preferences, then we can have no justice system, no government, and indeed very little else of value.
The entire legal system relies on the idea that people can put ideas above emotions. And there’s evidence that it’s not just wishful thinking. For example, despite all the talk of a Supreme Court dominated by conservatives appointed by Republican presidents, the justices last term were difficult to predict. Their politics didn’t always tell us how they’d rule.
Ideological division isn’t necessarily fatal to the nation’s institutions if people remain guided by ideas. But if politicians do manage to convince everyone that partisanship is the sole guiding principle at work in the republic, they’ll undermine the legitimacy of authority itself and in the process lose their raison d’être. —Ephrat Livni
FIVE THINGS ON QUARTZ WE ESPECIALLY LIKED
A healthy dose of community. The government pays for healthcare in the UK, but it’s struggling with the costs of emergency hospital admissions, which have risen rapidly in recent years. In one village, however, they’ve fallen, thanks to a novel program pointing patients to community resources. As Jenny Anderson reports, its success highlights the importance of social connections in making people happier and healthier.
ICE is mining driving records. During the Obama years, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement devoted its resources to removing undocumented immigrants with serious criminal histories. Under Trump, it’s targeted many who have no such history. As Justin Rohrlich reports, one way it finds them is via state driver’s license data. In one example, ICE bought a year’s worth of access to North Carolina driver’s license data for less than $27.
Dementia’s most heartbreaking problem. Usually the conversations around dementia focus on neuroscience and the frustrating search for cures. Less noticed is the burden on those who must care for relatives with the disease. As Katherine Ellen Foley writes in a Quartz member exclusive, there’s simply no script for them to follow, with dementia as unique as the person it affects: “They need to make decisions now, and they probably won’t be perfect.”
Reusable plastic shopping bags aren’t really helping. It seemed like a good idea: In 2015, England introduced a 5-pence charge for single-use plastic bags and urged shoppers to bring their own “bags for life,” sturdier plastic models that can be used again and again. But as Zoë Schlanger reports, the amount of single-use plastic used by the nation’s biggest supermarkets has actually increased in recent years.
Making mental health a regular part of maternal care. Women are more likely to develop symptoms of depression during the first year after childbirth than at any other time in their lives. Yet rarely are new mothers screened for depression. Annabelle Timsit reports on one California hospital changing that, and the challenges of making the practice more widespread and effective.
FIVE THINGS ELSEWHERE THAT MADE US SMARTER
One man’s career as a jailhouse informant. Within US prisons, it’s widely understood that helping prosecutors and the police can result in reduced sentences. Not surprisingly, some felons eagerly testify about confessions supposedly made to them by fellow inmates. For ProPublica and the New York Times Magazine, Pamela Colloff profiles a con man whose testimony over the years sent dozens to jail and four to death row, much to his own benefit.
The Pakistani girls sold as brides to Chinese men. Thanks to a one-child policy that lasted over three decades and favored boys, China today has roughly 34 million more men than women. An unfortunate consequence of this is a bustling trade in trafficked brides from a growing list of countries. For the AP, Kathy Gannon reports on a list of 629 girls from poor communities in Pakistan supplied to China—and on authorities’ silence.
Narendra Modi’s India. Today the Indian prime minister is known for being pro-business and campaigning for more public toilets, but he rose to power by fanning the flames of Hindu nationalism, as Dexter Filkins explains in the New Yorker. Filkins also profiles Rana Ayyub, an Indian journalist who went undercover to expose the ties of Modi’s ruling party to extrajudicial violence against the Muslim minority.
Using apps like Tinder? So are registered sex offenders. You’d think that free dating apps, given how prominent they’ve become, are required under US law to screen for sexual predators. They are not. An article copublished by ProPublica, BuzzFeed, and Columbia Journalism Investigations shows how one woman was “matched” with a three-time convicted rapist who later assaulted her. That, it turns out, was not an isolated incident.
Metal credit cards are no longer elite, but don’t tell customers that. An invite-only American Express black card says something about you—namely, that you’re loaded. Its titanium composition, novel when the card debuted in 1999, drives home the message. But these days, many credit cards are metal, as AnnaMaria Andriotis writes in the Wall Street Journal. However modest their spending limits, users still prize them as status symbols.
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, jailhouse confessions, and eco-friendly bags to email@example.com. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Weekend Brief was brought to you by Steve Mollman and Holly Ojalvo.