1. Jezebel fails an integrity test. Are you surprised? The feminist site has a story about John Smelcer, a successful novelist who has falsely claimed to be a Alaskan Native American and has used twenty-five-years of fake credentials and phony biographical details to gain a foothold with academia, publishing houses and critics. Smelcer’s deceptions are a good ethics tale on their own; I especially enjoy his tendency to use blurbs from dead authors on his Amazon pages. But it was this sentence in the Jezebel piece that really impressed me:
“…he was hired by the University of Alaska Anchorage as part of an effort to increase its diversity, with the understanding that he was an Alaskan Native.”
“Smelcer sounds like a Rachel Dolezal…”
Rachel Dolezal? The former NAACP official who claimed (and still claims) she was black when she wasn’t? Is that who comes to mind when you think about a prominent figure who was hired by a university as a diversity candidate after falsely claiming Native American status, and who has parlayed that fraud into national prominence?
The feminist website is shamelessly (transparently, clumsily, hilariously) protecting Senator Elizabeth Warren, aka “Fauxahontas,” and demonstrating how it and the rest of the left-wing media will try to whitewash her personal history to advance the hypocritical demagogue to the White House if possible.
The same story has another example of flagrant unethical conduct being unsuccessfully slipped under the ethics radar. In the process of noting that Smelcer’s Amazon page includes bogus endorsements by such dead literary luminaries as Norman Mailer, Saul Bellow, and J.D. Salinger, the story quotes Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, who also authored an accolade for Smelcer. She wrote to Jezebel that she has asked Smelcer to remove her blurb several times, explaining,
He was so intrusive, he kept lobbying me to give him a blurb. And I basically gave him one just to get rid of him. I was very busy on tour, and unbeknownst to me, he put it on a new book he just published. I’ve written him multiple times for over a year to take my blurb off his publicity, and he wouldn’t do it. He uses all these famous dead people’s names. I never thought someone would be so brazen as to do something like that, but I thought, okay, I’m in good company!
We see. Dunbar-Ortiz thinks it’s okay to give a fake endorsement of a book that she knows will be used to deceive purchasers and critics as long as she’s busy, and doesn’t have the integrity to say “no” and mean it. And wait—what? She gave him a blurb and says now that she didn’t expect him to use it?
No, Roxanne, you’re not in good company, all those dead authors are in bad company, with you. They didn’t give Smelcer blurbs; they’re dead. You’re the one who voluntarily aided his scam.
2. Yesterday, the New York Times wrote that President Trump’s withdrawal from the Kennedy Center Honors event has organizers concerned that his absence may permanently mar the event, and create a precedent “upending one of the few Washington traditions left for Republicans and Democrats to come together.”
Right: this is Trump’s fault. The President withdrew after Norman Lear, honored for his sixties sitcoms but also a progressive activist, announced that he would accept his accolades but boycott a reception at the White House. That started a stampede of disrespect, with fellow honoree Carmen de Lavallade, 86, announcing that she too would skip the “in light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our current leadership is choosing to engage in.” Then Lionel Richie—does this seem like a B list for the Kennedy Center this year?– hinted that he might do the same.
This is part and parcel of the despicable show business attempt to undermine the President’s Inauguration as a symbol of unity and respect for the office by pressuring various artists not to participate. As with the White House Correspondents dinner, the President’s only responsible course was to withdraw. He should inform the Kennedy Center’s board, currently stacked with Obama appointees like Valerie Jarrett, that he will continue to do so for the remainder of his time in Washington unless and until all recipients of Kennedy Center Honors are told that leaving politics out of their acceptance is a non-negotiable condition of their receiving the honors at all.
3. More on the Joe Arpaio pardon freak-out: “Morning Joe” Scarborough said yesterday that “when” Democrats draft their impeachment papers—note the President’s sole impeachable conduct so far is that he displeases Democrats—the Arpaio pardon will be on the list of examples of his “abuse of power.” Using a power completely within the boundaries set by the Constitution is not “abuse of power,” Joe, but you may be right. If one perusse the many posts I have authored here defending a President whom I deplore, a high percentage of them protests the unethical practice of condemning Trump for doing what every other President before him has done without similar condemnation.
The pardon of an 85-year old man facing a light sentence is being called an attack on the Rule of Law by the same pundits, legal experts and elected officials who were largely mum when President Obama inexplicable used his pardon power to release Oscar Lopez Rivera, a Puerto Rican nationalist and terrorist. From the Washington Post (an opinion piece by Charles Lane):
During the 1970s, Lopez Rivera headed a Chicago-based cell of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), which waged a futile but violent struggle to win Puerto Rican independence.
The FALN claimed responsibility for more than 120 bombings between 1974 and 1983 in a wave of senseless destruction that killed six and injured dozens. In 1981, a federal court in Chicago sentenced Lopez Rivera, then 37, to 55 years for seditious conspiracy, armed robbery, interstate transportation of firearms and conspiracy to transport explosives with intent to destroy government property.
Notably, the seditious-conspiracy charge was not some “thought crime,” as Lopez Rivera’s lawyer has said: The indictment listed 28 Chicago-area bombings, some of which caused injuries, as “overt acts” in support of the conspiracy.
FBI agents discovered dynamite, detonators and firearms at two residences occupied by Lopez Rivera. At trial, a cooperating witness from the FALN testified that Lopez Rivera personally trained him in bomb-making.
So Lopez Rivera is neither a low-level offender nor a nonviolent one. Nor, crucially, is he repentant.
He defiantly challenged the legitimacy of the court that tried him. Shortly after entering federal prison at Leavenworth, Kan., he and FALN members on the outside hatched an escape plan; the FBI foiled it by arresting Lopez Rivera’s would-be helpers, who were armed with guns and explosives. A conviction for that escape attempt added 15 years to his sentence.
In 1999, Lopez Rivera was one of 16 imprisoned Puerto Rican terrorists to whom then-President Bill Clinton offered executive clemency. He refused, reportedly because Clinton’s offer did not include one of the FALN members who had tried to break him out of Leavenworth.
Lopez Revera didn’t even make Professor Jonathan Turley’s USA Today list of bad pardons that, in his words, “[pale] in comparison with some past misuses of pardon authority…Left to their own devices, Presidents have repeatedly used this power for their personal, political and familial interests.”
(Without anyone seriously suggesting impeachment.)
Here are some of Turley’s examples that I was unaware of and hadn’t noted here previously (except the final one):
…Thomas Jefferson was accused of using the power to pardon his political allies convicted under the Alien and Sedition Act (though he opposed the act). He also pardoned Dr. Erick Bollman to allow Bollman to testify against Jefferson’s arch rival, Aaron Burr, in 1807 for treason. Bollman ultimately refused to accept the pardon and thus did not testify.
…Franklin Roosevelt pardoned Conrad Mann for running an illegal lottery. Mann was a close political associate of Kansas City boss Thomas Pendergast, who made a fortune off illegal alcohol, graft and gambling and is credited with putting Harry Truman into office.
…Harry Truman pardoned one of Louisiana’s most corrupt politicians, Democrat George Caldwell. “Big George” was notorious for skimming money off government projects, including the building fund for Louisiana State University. He was finally prosecuted for tax evasion and bribery, but pardoned by Truman…
…Bill Clinton was a serial abuser of pardon authority, using the power to benefit family, friends and political donors. Clinton granted a pardon to his own brother, Roger Clinton, and his friend (and fellow Whitewater business partner) Susan McDougal. Most notoriously, he pardoned a man who is generally viewed as one of the least worthy recipients of a pardon in modern history: the fugitive financier Marc Rich. Rich was a major Democratic donor and entirely unrepentant for his tax evasion, racketeering, fraud and illegal dealings with Iran.
Double standards aren’t ethical. I don’t know why this concept seems so hard to grasp for some people.