Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/30/2017: The Price Is Wrong, Traveling Men The Trump Cabinet,And The Return Of “Will & Grace”

Good Morning!

1 Under pressure from President Trump, who shouldn’t have appointed him in the first place, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned  yesterday. He, along with other Trump officials, was under Congressional scrutiny for using expensive charter and military flights unnecessarily, costing taxpayers at a time when the administration is supposedly watching the budget. Under Federal Travel Regulations, officials are told to take the “most expeditious” means of transportation which “by no means should include personal use,” Chairman Trey Gowdy and ranking member Elijah Cummings had written to  letter to Price, 23 other agency heads, and the White House. Price has spent more than $400,000 on taxpayer-funded private jet travel since May.

Price’s abuses included a $17,760 round trip on a charter jet to Nashville, where the HHS Secretary stayed less than six hours, including lunch with his son. The day before he resigned and a day after the President publicly expressed displeasure over the travel abuses, Price had apologized. “Today, I will write a personal check to the U.S. Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes. The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes,” Price said in a statement, adding that he will no longer take private planes while serving as Secretary. “No exceptions.” This was deceit, however. The repayment was just $51,887.31, a fraction of the true cost to the government. That was, as Price said, the cost of  the secretary’s “seats” if had flown commercial.

Price is not the only Trump official whose travel practices and expenditures raise at least the appearance of impropriety, but if one had to be the symbolic whipping boy, Price was a great choice. He was also my choice back in January for “Trump Cabinet Appointee Most Likely To Make Money Off Of His Position.” In a post expressing disgust at Price’s appointment, I wrote,

“Last year, Price purchased shares in Zimmer Biomet, a medical device manufacturer right before he introduced  legislation that would have directly benefited the company. Price bought between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares in the company last March, and then, less than a week after the transaction,  introduced the HIP Act…to delay until 2018 a regulation that industry analysts believed  would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet, one of two companies most affected by a regulation that limits payments for joint implant procedures. Not only did Price have a financial stake in the regulation he tried to stall,but after Price introduced  his bill, Zimmer Biomet’s political action committee donated to the Georgia congressman’s reelection campaign.”

2. Losing one arrogant, travel-abusing high official may not be enough. It’s an interesting problem: is it fair to make one miscreant the focus of abuses that involve many? No; it’s also not practical, and therefore not responsible, to behead a significant portion of the Executive Branch because oversight was lax and an unethical culture had been allowed to take hold. I think Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin would be an excellent and deserving candidate to join Price as metaphorical head on a pike.

Shulkin took a 10-day trip to Europe this past July, for meetings with Danish and British officials about veterans’ health issues. He treated much of the trip as a vacation, taking in a Wimbledon championship tennis match, touring Westminster Abbey and taking a cruise on the Thames with his wife, whose expenses were also paid for by you and me. The federal government paid for the commercial flights for Shulkin and his wife, and provided a per-diem reimbursement for their meals and other expenses. How did Mrs. Shulkin rank reimbursements and taxpayer-funded airfare? A VA spokesman explained that she was traveling on “approved invitational orders” and had “temporary duty” travel expenses.

In other words: “Huminahuminahumina…”

This should make citizens furious. It’s pure arrogance and entitlement. These people know this is wrong, and do it anyway. It is a common, and despicable, practices by executives in all organizations. Shlkin didn’t have to go to this meeting; he wanted to go so he could get the U.S. to pay for his recreation. (None of the VA chiefs in the Obama Administration flew overseas.) This isn’t just the appearance of impropriety, it is impropriety.

3. Fox and others conservative media rushed to file the “Obama’s Cabinet was just as bad!” defense. This may or may not be true, but it is irrelevant. This is unethical conduct. It undermines trust in the government. Whether or not electing someone like President Trump to stop it makes any sense, resentment against this kind of casual, entitled, ruling class arrogance is one reason Trump was elected. The extravagant travel habits in the Obama administration were largely given a pass by the news media and received little publicity because, as I chronicled for 8 long years, the news media decided to support the fiction that The First Black President was Great regardless of what actually happened. Yes, it is true: now that a Repblican is in office, and not just a Republican, but a Republican from


the standards are different and the news media is suddenly outraged by many things they would have ignored and did during the Obama years. That doesn’t mean that Price, Shilkin and the rest, including the President himself, should be able to get away with this petty looting of the Treasury.

5. I am grateful to Fox for reminding me of one of Obama’s minions’ flagrancies that drove me crazy at the time, and no, it wasn’t Erik Holder  using  a government-owned Gulfstream to fly to the Belmont Stakes with his daughters, their boyfriends and two security officers at a cost to the government of $14,440. Holder only reimbursed the government $955 for that flight, essentially the same deal that got Price jettisoned.  But there were so, so many other reasons Holder should have been fired…no, my favorite was L CIA Director and later Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, using  government planes to commute from Washington to California nearly every weekend. Each flight cost taxpayers about $32,000, but Panetta only had to pay $630, the cost of an equivalent round-trip commercial flight. Policies require that the  Defense Secretaries use a military plane for all travel, and Panetta had President Obama’s approval to fly home every weekend. This, you will note, flunked the Kant’s Rule of Universality. What if every official was permitted to fly home to distant families at government expense? Apparently Panetta refused to accept his appointment unless this was part of the deal, and as weall know, he was the only qualified American alive who could do the job.

I’m sorry: some mornings I warm-up by being sarcastic.

6.  The rebooted “Will & Grace” arrived earlier this week, and as everyone expected, was a non-stop Trump-and-GOP-bashing orgy. (I had a sock draw to organize by shade, unfortunately, and missed all the fun). A fan of the old show wrote a critique in Mediaite that concluded,

“There used to be a time when politics stayed in politics and didn’t taint every other aspect of our lives. From Hollywood to our favorite sports, we simply can’t escape the left’s constant emotional freakout from the results of the 2016 election. We are running out of things that are sacred, of things that actually unite us. If we allow our vitriol for those who disagree with us to consume our everyday lives, then such societal pessimism will become the norm and civility and respect we once had for one another will be replaced by hostility and bitterness. It’s truly a shame that Will & Grace, a show I used to love, has become The Walking Dead to me.”

At least in that “resistance” poisoned post-apocalypse landscape, the Will & Grace characters can watch Jimmy Kimmel and the NFL.

Want to be really depressed? Read the comments on that essay. I dare you.

7. Finally, a brief note relating to the NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck, which is still barrelling along, lowering the NFL’s ratings, improving President Trump’s, and doing nobody any good whatsoever. No, I don’t mean the revelation that Colin Kaepernick—you know, that heroic martyr who everyone who “takes a knee” is emulating–-gave $25,000 to a group named after a convicted cop-killer, nor am I referring to the attack by Yahoo sportswriter Greg Wyshynski on black NHL star P.K. Subban for saying that he would never “take a knee” during the National Anthem, because he has too much respect for the American flag. No, I’m referring to this commentary, by writer Andrew Klavan, regarding the protest and President Trump’s response to it. He writes, in his conclusion to a passionate blog post,

…To disrespect the flag is to say that America is the enemy, that America is the problem, that America must be “fundamentally transformed” before it is worthy of its citizens’ respect. For sixty years, the news media, Hollywood, and the academy have been selling us that second idea. Because they only speak to themselves and listen to themselves, they must have thought that they had succeeded in changing our minds and draining our love of country until we were as unpatriotic as they are. They must have thought they could get away with stripping our national games of their patriotic core.

Donald Trump caught them out and exposed them and exposed that they were wrong.

Don’t tell me he shouldn’t have done it. Every day, we hear our news media insult the people and push the leftist narrative. Every night, we hear one comedian after another insult the people and push the leftist narrative. In movie theaters, in pop songs, at award shows, in college classes, the same thing, every day. Donald Trump has the only voice loud and bold enough to override that ceaseless sneering propaganda. Donald Trump, that is, and the people.

I love the NFL. I love football. But I love America infinitely more. If they keep disrespecting our flag, I will never watch them again. Trump is utterly right about this and they are utterly wrong.

I think Klavan is wrong about the President. I do not think any President should be taking sides in disputes among citizens, even public disputes. For the exact same reason, I marked Trump as correct for refusing to choose one set of extreme protesters over another in Charlottesville. However, Klavan’s next to last paragraph gives me pause, and perhaps this is an unprecedented environment when a new standard of Presidential conduct is necessary. Ethics Alarms has defended the President’s attacks on the news media because it is failing its institutional duty to democracy, citizens need to know that journalism has become biased, partisan, and untrustworthy, and obviously it won’t tell the public that itself. Only the President has a large enough megaphone to do it, and it has to be done. And maybe, just maybe, the Left’s domination of education, popular culture, television, entertainment, the internet and the news demands a counter-weight that Klavan is applauding.

I’m not convinced.


But I’m thinking about it…


Sources:Fox News, Washington Post

34 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/30/2017: The Price Is Wrong, Traveling Men The Trump Cabinet,And The Return Of “Will & Grace”

  1. It’s a dirty job, but somebodies got to do it? If the only way that reality can be reported is by going around a biased, unethical press, then maybe it should be done. I’m not sure Twitter is the optimal media for it, but it sure is handy.

  2. “And maybe, just maybe, the Left’s domination of education, popular culture, television, entertainment, the internet and the news demands counter-weight that Klavan is applauding.”

    Another consideration is, how is possible to punch down on someone who thinks that you’re the scum of the earth, and that their own bodily discharges put roses to shame? I’m not certain it can be done.

  3. WHY didn’t I think of this sooner?!
    A unique and relevant name for the current “respect gesture” during the National Anthem…
    “Kaeperkneeking!”* (Look closely; it even has 3 k’s, ha-ha!)
    *My apologies to anyone who might have blabbered that already.

  4. Losing Tom Price is a good start. Now the WH needs to lose every single member of the administration who has been using a private email account to conduct WH business, starting with Jared Kushner.

          • Trump brought up Hillary using a private email constantly during the campaign as the primary reason not to vote for her. Remember “lock her up?” It was probably his number 2 rallying cry, right behind “build the wall.” Having it known that his own advisers did the same thing he said he would put Hillary Clinton in prison for makes him look unbearably incompetent and dishonest. Of course, we already know that he is, and his supporters will rationalize anything he does, so maybe he doesn’t feel any pressure to be consistent here–he’s said that his supporters would still love him even if he shot someone on fifth avenue. I don’t doubt they’ll still love him after this.

            • There are no laws against White House employees using private e-mail, though they shouldn’t. The issue with Hillary, who was Secretary of State, was deliberately and flagrantly mishandling classified information, which she did, and the FBI confirmed it. If Trump was using private e-mail. you would have an argument. The argument you are making is nonsense.

              Go back to bed. You woke up silly and even more biased than usual.

              • Hillary’s emails were an issue before it was determined that she sent classified email. Whether Kushner and others did so is something for investigators to determine. (And some day the multiple investigations into Trump’s people will disturb you as much as the multiple investigations into Hillary did.)

                • No, Chris. The reason it was an issue was because those were paying attention knew that she HAD to be mishandling classified information. She was just lying about it, and the biased, pro-Hillary hacks in the media were slow to call it.

                • The issue has been warped from ‘using a consumer grade private server with off-the-shelf anti-virus and anti-malware software’ to ‘Hillary’s emails!’
                  and not by coincidence.

                  If any of the info is incorrect, Jack, feel free to correct me! The following is the gleanings of a couple hundred articles, and what I’ve learned from them. It doesn’t mean that it’s all correct…

                  I dug into this issue, a lot. It seems that in most cases, in the case of lawmakers, ‘private email’ means the DNC and RNC servers as opposed to something like Gmail. Using the DNC and RNC servers for things like inter-office memos etc is not against the law but using such networks for official government business (classified) is. It was not, until 12,000 Bush Administration emails went missing (which were subsequently found in the National Archives, mislabeled) , so when the much-referenced (by Hillary) Colin Powell was using the RNC server for a lot of emails, it was still legal. It was no longer legal from right after the Bush administration, so Hillary saying ‘Colin Powell did it, too!’ was deceptive on her part, or was she so uninformed about the rules governing her job? Neither option paints her in a favorable light.

                  Hillary’s server was from Network Solutions. They sell server accounts for the $49-$99 range, and are classified as ‘consumer grade’ not ‘corporate grade’ and certainly don’t seem to be geared for a Secretary of State. Why would Hillary want her own server? The White House system is run directly by the NSA, the DNC and RNC servers (one would assume) would be more secure than something from Network Solutions. Private servers are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Is that why? She didn’t want to have to turn over anything?

                  Her domain name was Really. How much easier could it be to find? That and the fact that she had a dozen devices, some that she had staff smash with hammers when she was done with them, and some she just lost ( more than one Blackberry, and a laptop) which means that there are a number of devices out there floating around be with classified information on them. Amateur Hour! Network Solutions was hacked while Hillary was Secretary of State, and ownership of her domain name, along with about 100 others, was briefly transferred to the Virgin Islands…who can testify to the integrity of her email account for that time it was transferred out of the country?

                  So, Chris,it was not just ‘Hillary’s emails’ but a whole convoluted mess of multiple devices, lost devices, an off-the-shelf server, and Hillary’s lack of understanding of technical matters, and her flouting the rules of her job. Not the same as Trump using the RNC server ( for example) for private email. The bleating in the press about ‘Trump using private email, after criticizing Hillary on the campaign trail for the same’ is a willful distortion of the facts.

                  • That is a good run-down, crella.

                    I’m not saying the use of private e-mail in and of itself is just as bad as what Hillary did. I’m saying it still creates the appearance of hypocrisy, and is thus completely incompetent.

                    • Please reread the first sentence of my post. It was not about private email, the ‘Look, Trump’s using private email!’ is deflection. Hillary’s problem was not private email but doing State Department business on a server run out of her house provided by a company that has nothing in it’s lineup suitable for use in government service, and her telling the FBI she had one Blackberry and one laptop, without mentioning the Blackberry was her 12th or 13th….THAT was the problem, so the hypocrisy is in saying Trump’s use of private email (RNC server) for private non-governmental email is wrong/hypocritical. It isn’t.

  5. Andrew Klavan is pretty funny, I listen to his podcast. He wasn’t a trumpster from the get go, but he has said that Trump is who we need to fight the culture war. I think that is a defensible position. With a President Hillary, the direction of the culture would go along similar lines as it has under President Obama, which we can agree was not conducive. A few decades of such “progress” and our American values would turn to mush. It is better to start cleaning house now, while it’s still possible, then waiting for an ireconcilable conflict to emerge. In the end America and her values will prevail. Carthago delenda est!

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