Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/22/2017: The Best Laid Plans….


I’m really trying hard to be positive today: guaranteed low traffic, behind the Christmas 8-ball, and last night I heard what is, along with the sound of an atom bomb, Nancy Pelosi’s voice, fingernails on a blackboard, and the screaming of the lambs, among the most horrible sounds in existence: that made by a fully decorated, 8-foot Christmas tree falling over….I don’t want to talk about it.

1 Leaks are unethical. What about this is so hard to understand? This story is being widely interpreted as meaning that the reassigned FBI attorney was one of the likely leakers in the agency. Lawyers leaking confidential information related to their representations is unethical, and ground for disbarment, and of course firing with cause. I hope to get to this in more detail  later, but the widespread attacks in the media on criticism from conservatives, Fox news and President Trump on the FBI is Bizarro World stuff. The FBI would have no leakers if it were professional, competent and trustworthy. None. The botched Clinton e-mail investigation and the Peter Strzok scandal are proof of deep, deep, incompetence and corruption.

2. Well, there goes Plan C! In discussing Plan J, also now on life support, I laid out the Democrats’ other nine plans to over-turn the election and overthrow the Trump Presidency by non-democratic means ( I also hope to get to this in more detail  later, but the widespread attacks in the media on statements from some conservatives and Fox News that Democrats and “the resistance,” aided by the news media, have been attempting a “coup” is Bizarro World stuff as well. The justification for the indignation is that the term coup usually implies a violent overthrow of a government, but there have been coups that were quiet, peaceful and non-violent as well. The key factor in coups is that they are illegal or extra-legal. Calling the various plans to undo a legal election too similar to a coup to ignore places what has been going on since last November in its proper, sinister perspective.

Again: Plan A was to reverse the election by hijacking the Electoral College. Plan B was pre-emptive impeachment. Plan C was the Emoluments Clause. Plan D was “collusion with Russia” (The New York Times, to give credit where it is due, actually created a chart to explain this one, and if it isn’t obvious to you how pathetically weak the case is, you played NFL football…), Plan E is”Trump is disabled because he’s a narcissist and a Republican, so this should trigger the 25th Amendment.”, Plan F, the Maxine Waters plan, is to just impeach the President because she really, really doesn’t like him, Plan G is “The President obstructs justice by firing incompetent subordinates,” Plan H is “tweeting stupid stuff is impeachable,” Plan I is “Let’s relentlessly harass him and insult him and obstruct his efforts to do his job so he snaps (see E) and does something really impeachable.” Plan J is to force Trump’s resignation based on alleged sexual misconduct that predated his candidac.

Plan C was just kicked out of court:

“Judge George B. Daniels of United States District Court in Manhattan found that the plaintiffs had failed to show that they had suffered as a result of specific actions by Mr. Trump intended to drum up business for his enterprises. . . . Beyond that, the judge found, the emoluments clauses of the Constitution are intended to protect the country against presidential corruption from foreign influences or financial incentives that might be offered by either states or the federal government. They were not meant to protect businesses from competition from presidentially owned enterprises, he ruled.”

3. As for Plan J: Not lookin’ so good, Senator Gillibrand!…and Al Franken was screwed. Elizabeth Price Foley a constitutional law specialist an a  law professor at Florida International University College of Law, effectively exposed the logical and legal flaws in this theory, writing in part...

While Congress has authority under Article I, Section 5 to expel a seated member with two-thirds concurrence, expulsion for conduct that occurred prior to congressional election would be breathtakingly aggressive. Indeed, in 2008, the Senate Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint filed against Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), accused of repeated solicitation of prostitution, with the first reason articulated being “the conduct at issue occurred before your Senate candidacy and service.”

Expelling a member for conduct that occurred during office, by contrast, would stand on firmer constitutional ground. Precedent strongly suggests, however, that sexual indiscretions are highly unlikely to result in expulsion, and for good reason. Of the 20 expulsions of sitting members that have occurred, 17 were for supporting the Confederacy. The remaining three — Sen. William Blount (R-Tenn.), Rep. Michael Myers (D-Pa.) and Rep. Jim Traficant (D-Ohio) — were likewise expelled for serious criminal behavior inconsistent with public trust (treason, bribery and racketeering, respectively). Short of expulsion, however, as Sen. Franken and Rep. Conyers know, the threat of an ethics committee investigation is often sufficient to trigger resignation in an effort to avoid further public airing of indiscretions.

When it comes to allegations of sexual impropriety against a president or presidential candidate — such as those made against President Clinton and presidential candidate Donald Trump — higher stakes should counsel extreme hesitation for Congress to “investigate” or second guess the will of voters. Indeed, short of impeachment, Congress lacks jurisdiction to investigate allegations of presidential impropriety. A president is not another member of Congress, and thus not subject to the jurisdiction of congressional ethics or oversight committees.

While a president may be removed from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” impeachment charges are referred to the appropriate House committee, and they involve serious breaches of public trust committed during the president’s time in office. Short of impeachment proceedings, calls for Congress to “investigate” a sitting president’s sexual behavior prior to inauguration are inappropriate process and odious to our Constitution’s separation of powers.

4. Nah, there’s no partisan news media bias…The revelation that President Obama allowed a terrorist organization to continue to peddle illegal drugs in the U.S. so he could achieve his objectively irresponsible and reckless deal with Iran continues to be effectively embargoed by most of the news media. From the linked article: “There’s an exceptionally good chance most of your neighbors and colleagues haven’t heard anything about it.”

Check that out for me, would you?

Then ponder this commentary by Peter Ingemi, on his Da Techguy Blog:

For years we have been hearing about the plight of Black America in the inner cities (almost exclusively controlled by Democrats for decades). While the left tries to blame the NRA or gun manufacturers the actual problem comes down to the drug trade.

You have dealers targeting youths for addiction, you get crime generated to pay for these drug habits, then gangs recruiting youth for membership in the drug trade as a quick way out, finally you get ongoing wars over the control of that trade costing the lives of not only young black men involved in the trade but innocents who get caught in the crossfire terrorizing entire neighborhoods.

Put simply if you enable the Drug Trade you enable Terrorism against the inner City Black Community.

And this is what outrages me.

The Black Community stood behind Barack Obama and his administration tooth and nail. They ignored the bad economy, the failed policies, the rise of ISIS terror and furthermore in 2012 they turned out and saved him from defeat against a much more competent adversary.

Barack Obama didn’t just betray America by enabling international terrorists in order to allow himself to fund one of the World’s primary backers of said terror, but he did so knowing that the Hezbollah drug trade terrorized black neighborhoods, black families and particularly young black men, betraying those who had been his most loyal supporters.

Those black lives destroyed by the drug trade didn’t matter to Barack Obama or his administration as much as funding Iran did. That’s an uncomfortable truth that many who voted Obama will silently endure rather than admit how badly they have been played.

That’s the real outrage of the Hezbollah Iran Obama Drug story.

Oh, there are many ethical outrages in this episode. Picking the worst is a tough challenge. Still, if there is rebuttal to Ingemi’s point, I’d love to hear it.




Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

30 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/22/2017: The Best Laid Plans….

  1. 4- ”to continue to peddle illegal drugs in the U.S.”

    Might a Hezbollah -v- CIA turf-war be in the offing?

    ‘Sides, Tommy Vietor says there’s nothing to it…

    @TVietor08: ”There are many reasonable critiques of Obama’s foreign policy. The idea that he was soft on Hezbollah is not one of them. The story is so manufactured out of thin air that it’s hard to push back except to say that it’s a figment of the imagination of two very flawed sources.” (bolds mine)

  2. “Judge George B. Daniels of United States District Court in Manhattan found that the plaintiffs had failed to show that they had suffered as a result of specific actions by Mr. Trump intended to drum up business for his enterprises. . . . Beyond that, the judge found, the emoluments clauses of the Constitution are intended to protect the country against presidential corruption from foreign influences or financial incentives that might be offered by either states or the federal government. They were not meant to protect businesses from competition from presidentially owned enterprises, he ruled.”

    I find it hard to believe Larry Tribe and Erwin Chereminsky actually joined this lawsuit.

  3. A fallen Christmas tree is a nightmare I dread.

  4. Chris Marschner sent me this via email; Thanks Chris. The cat did knock down our tree the first time it happened,3c year ago. This time, it was our next door neighbor, indirectly. Long story…

  5. Luke G

    My father has always made matching ornaments for the family members each year, often commemorating a major event of the year. I treasure in good humor the ornament shaped like a lopsided tree- my copy of which hangs sideways, like it looked when my parents found me trapped under it while checking the water level.

    I feel your pain. That sound IS ominous, and the closer it is to your head the worse it is.

  6. Andrew Wakeling

    Not a ‘rebuttal’, but it would be possible to believe that holding Iran back from going nuclear was worth a setback on drugs. Just because you might call that a ‘rationalisation’ diesn’t mean it is necessarily wrong. Real life is full of ‘rationalisations’ and the need to decide between unattractive courses of action.

    • Obviously Obama believed it. He believed that making a deal with a power that has violated every agreement it has ever made, that lies routinely, that has pledged to destroy both Israel and the US, that is run by a death-cult culture, that is exporting terrorism, and that experts agree will be ready, willing and able to blow up the world as soon as the deal had run its course, if not before, was worth paying ransom for hostages, releasing billions in Iranian assets that we know will be used to finance terrorism, and to allow criminal activity to continue domestically through Hezbollah. Yup. Obama thinks that’s a smart trade-off.

      • Andrew Wakeling

        So you can hold as your opinion that Obama was ‘wrong’, ‘incompetent’, or even ‘stupid’. But there is nothing here to argue that he acted unethically.

        • Incompetence is unethical to a degree. More so in certain positions.

        • The ends doesn’t justify the means. All you have suggested is that he didn’t know he was acting unethically. This was the guy who promised transparency, fort example. Incompetence is unethical; messing with the lives of people when you don’t know what you are doing is unethical. Saying you are fighting terrorism whne you know your policies support it is unethical.

          By your cracked reasoning, Mao wasn’t unethical.He just thought killing 200 million people was the right thing to do. Oopsie!

  7. Andrew Wakeling

    Re ‘incompetence’ : Very hard to maintain that Obama was unethically incompetent over Iran even if you disagree vigorously with the path he pursued. He had a fully staffed State Department. He consulted with experts. He seems to have read his papers. He chaired meetings apparently giving the opportunity for competing views to be aired. He never maintained that naturally he knew best. He clearly took the issues very seriously. He worked hard to build support from other countries and the UN. What more would you have had him do – other of course than following the course you preferred, whatever that might have been?

    Re ‘‘Ends don’t justify the means’: Certainly possible in this case honestly to hold otherwise, and many highly knowledgable people do / did. All possible courses of action or inaction had possibly adverse outcomes. There has never been any credible suggestion that Obama was driven by any improper objectives – like enriching himself. Just because you disagree with him doesn’t justify the accusation that he acted unethically.

    Re ‘Consequentialism’ : – perhaps the hardest of the ideas you float. Any ethical case against Mao’s actions should not rest on the ‘consequences’ (ie 200 million dead) but his motives and objectives. What was he trying to do, and why, and how; and judged before the event, was that course of action ethical? Judging Mao on that basis is far harder. I think relapse into ‘consequentialism’ is sometimes justifiable, as you Jack are doing here. I think the key is to require careful consideration of ‘reasonably forseeable consequences’, identification of alternatives, and a profound duty of care. Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin and Lincoln were all pursuing aims some might reasonably have considered as ‘noble’. And lots of people died. To what extent were those bloodbaths forseeable? And to what extent were they avoidable, and avoided, or at least managed with all possible care to minimise pain and suffering?

    • Re ‘incompetence’ : Very hard to maintain that Obama was unethically incompetent over Iran even if you disagree vigorously with the path he pursued. He had a fully staffed State Department. He consulted with experts.

      It was an incompetent decision. The decision was his. He appointed his experts, and subordinates overwhelmingly choose to follow what they know to be the POTUS’s desires. This is a constant throughout Presidential history. The deal was spectacularly incompetent, even before we knew the horrific emerging details. As in many cases in his inept administration, the President chose an ideological path in direct defiance of reality. Kicking cans down the road so someone else will have to deal with an even worse version of the same problem is an unethical and incompetent strategy by definition–it is just naked opportunism and political betrayal. The debt, heath care costs, Iran, North Korea, the infrastructure, terrorism—all were handled this way by Obama. It was a pattern, an incompetent, anti-leadership pattern, and the Iran deal was part of it. You ca’t assess it in a vaccuum.

    • Andrew,

      The very concept that you are making excuses for Pol Pot and Mao is an indictment. Are you nuts?

      There is ZERO, zip, nada, nichts, NO evidence that they thought they were acting ethically: it just was not a consideration in their lives. Power was all, and they had it.

      And results matter. Good intentions are the beginning of a LOT of bad ideas, when follow through lacks, or the idea was not well conceived in the first place.

      • Andrew Wakeling

        No I am not making ‘excuses’ for anyone. I am just pointing out that ‘consequentialism’ means we don’t make ethical judgments (re a particular action) based on the results, eg 200 million dead for Mao, but instead on the motives and reasonably forseeable outcomes.

        As to you saying there is ‘no evidence Mao or Pol Pot thought they were acting ethically’ then perhaps you know more than I do. Neither as far as I know inherited great power, or could call on a God (‘divine right of kings’ etc) for their authority. So how do you think they gained their initial supporters ……. the guys who set out on the ‘long march’ with Mao, or went into the jungle with Pol Pot?

        Once Mao or Pol Pot achieved power, then Acton, Shakespeare and Orwell’s (amongst others) observation about corruption applies. (“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” etc.). Ethics may well fly out of the window.

        To my mind, one of the most dangerous and damaging assumptions is that monsters (like Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot) slither out of the cesspit, obsessed with evil intentions, equipped with demonic powers, and then they terrorise the rest of us. Mao and Pol Pot at least initially must have had some idea that was presentable as a ‘noble intention’ and they must have been persuasive enough to inspire others to die for it. That does NOT of course imply that it was a ‘good idea’ or that necessarily I agree with it.

        Your first question “Are you nuts?” Is seriously too hard. How would one know? …….. Are you Russian?

        • All of these dictator’s lives are well documented. Regard for ethics was not a hallmark they were known by.

          These were thugs, plain and simple. Their initial followers were thugs, gangsters, call it what you will. The idea that they were initially noble in cause or intention is simply not supported by the historical record.

          I agree that ‘baby dictators’ do not spring from Satan’s loins fully formed and breathing fire. They start as petty crooks, and proceed from there. Many such were stopped by others before they got into power; these three simply (through luck, cunning or sheer orneriness) hung on until the world caught fire around them.

          As to ‘foreseeable’ outcomes, who could have known that destroying the food supplies would cause famine and wipe out the Ukraine? Imagine all those college educated prisoners being susceptible to physical torture and bullets?

          They knew exactly what they were doing before they did it.

          • One more point: “Your first question “Are you nuts?” Is seriously too hard. How would one know? …….. Are you Russian?”

            One does not have to experience the truth to know it. We have reliable sources to things in history. Your allusion seems to be akin to a Holocaust denier in flavor.

            I have no personal animus for you, Andrew. Your posts here seem to run rife with muddle headed liberal feel good thinking. Human nature does not change, and we are a sorry lot almost from birth, without external guidance and correction. We are capable of great beauty, selfless acts, and endless sacrifice for another’s benefit… if those traits are self absorbed and embraced.

            Trying to ‘understand the person’ behind the mass murder is like blaming a criminal’s actions on his circumstances or upbringing, IMHO. Everyone is responsible for their thoughts and actions, regardless of their circumstances. (Notice this indicts me as well)

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