Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/15/2018: Rationalizations, Corruption And Mass Impeachment [UPDATED]

Mornin’, all!

1. “That Dog” Ethics. I can think of more accurate and meaner names for Omarosa than “that dog,” but then my vocabulary is larger and more versatile than the President’s…but then, whose isn’t?  I have never heard of “dog” being identified as a racist term—because it isn’t one—though it is a sexist term, often used to denote an unattractive female. Nonetheless, this is presidential language, indeed gutter, low-life language that demeans a President, his office, and the nation he leads when it issues from the White House.

Among the rationalizations that suggest themselves are 1A.  “We can’t stop it” (apparently not, and neither can John Kelly), 2. A. “She had it coming” (nobody short of a traitor or a criminal deserves to be attacked by the President of the United States using such language), 7. “She started it” (which is excusable if you are in kindergarten), 8A. “This can’t make things any worse” (oh, sure it can), 22. “He’s said worse” (true) and many others: I don’t have the energy to go through the whole list.

Of all the dumb, incompetent, self-inflicted impediments to doing the job he was elected to do, the Omarosa fiasco might be the worst and most unforgivable. I’m not sure: I’d have to go through that list, and not only do I not have the energy, I think I’d rather rip my eyelids off.

2. I’m sure glad the new Pope fixed all of this. This story would normally fall into the category of being so obviously unethical that it isn’t worth writing about. Moreover, Ethics Alarms had referenced the Catholic sexual predator scandals in many ways, on many occasions. What distinguishes the latest chapter in this ongoing horror is that the latest revelations are coming after all of the lawsuits, damages, mea culpas and promises of reform, and they did not come from the Church. This means that the cover-up was and is ongoing. It means that even with the thousands of children who were raped and abused that we know about, there were many more. It also means, in all likelihood, that the abuse is continuing.

From the Washington Post:

More than 300 Catholic priests across Pennsylvania sexually abused children over seven decades, protected by a hierarchy of church leaders who covered it up, according to a sweeping grand jury report released Tuesday.

The investigation, one of the broadest inquiries into church sex abuse in U.S. history, identified 1,000 children who were victims, but reported that there probably are thousands more.

“Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades,” the grand jury wrote in its report.

The 18-month investigation covered six of the state’s dioceses — Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton — and follows other state grand jury reports that revealed abuse and coverups in two other dioceses. The grand jury reviewed more than 2 million documents, including from the “secret archives” — what church leaders referred to the reports of abuse they hid from public for decades, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a news conference Tuesday.

You can read the entire report here.

I think I’ll publish my ethics conclusions regarding this in a free-standing post. I’ll provide this preview, however: there is no longer any valid argument to be made that the Catholic Church is not a thoroughly corrupt and criminal institution unworthy of trust, and one that has no moral standing whatsoever. [Correction notice: in the original post, I left out the rather crucial word “not.” Thanks to Alizia for the alert. This is another example of my lifetime affliction of occasionally saying the exact opposite of what I intend to say, and not realizing it.]

3. The West Virginia Supreme Court Ethics Train Wreck. The West Virginia House of Delegates’ impeached all of the remaining justices on the state’s Supreme Court of Appeals this week. Now the case goes to the state Senate.

What’s going on here? Good question. The vote in the House was completely partisan, with Republicans voting for and Democrats voting against. Is this a cynical effort by the state GOP to get a conservative court on the bench? Maybe, perhaps even probably. However, the charges against the four justices were and are substantial. Could an entire appellate court become corrupt, and support various kinds of misconduct by their colleagues? That seems plausible. It also seems that if there are enough genuine allegations of malfeasance, responsible justices would resign to support public trust—and if they did not, then impeachment would be justified.

The impeachment came after earlier federal criminal charges had been filed against two of the court’s five justices, one of whom who retired from the court in late July, just days before he was charged with federal wire fraud. Another justice announced her retirement the day after the impeachment vote.

Just because the motives of the Republican legislators aren’t pure, it does not necessarily mean that the justices shouldn’t be removed. It is more disturbing, from an ethical perspective, that no Democrats would vote for impeachment, because convictions would mean that the state’s Republican governor would be able to appoint replacements until the next election, in 2020.

36 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/15/2018: Rationalizations, Corruption And Mass Impeachment [UPDATED]

  1. Doesn’t deserve much slack for the Omarosa thing…who could imagine anything good coming of hiring on a person like that in the first place?

    I’m not sure “dog” is a sexist term, though; it could be used to describe a Weinstein type male, as well. Now if he had used the more gender-specific version….

    • Trump seems to view a person for what they can bring to the table, near term. Once that is accomplished, they are re-evaluated based on the ‘what can you do for me now?’ scale and let go if the answer is not enough.

      Trump values loyalty above all else, and ‘the dog’ violated that trust, in his eyes. So the firestorm rages.

      This hypothesis makes sense to me, given my observations of Trump over the years.

      Which still wants me to have his thumbs broken to slow the tweets down.

      But I did not vote for Trump the person. I voted against the elite establishment and their degrading opinions of everyone I know. Put Trump’s head on a platter and I still vote against the establishment.

      • What did Omarosa ever bring to the table? If she was A-A window dressing, which is what seems to be the case, that was a revolting and cynical move. Van Jones was a more defensible choice, Truther connections and all. Heck, an actual DOG would have been a better choice.

        • Not saying the choices are good ones, just that there is a reason, valid or not, for each hire, in Trump’s eyes. Loyalty is a litmus test for Trump, and utility is a big part of his employment calculus.

          was a revolting and cynical move

          Trump lives in a cynical and revolting world, for my money, being involved in each of (1) New York City, (2) Real Estate in NYC, (3) Marketing and Branding, (4) Hollywood, (5) Labor Relations, (6) Ultra Wealthy Liberal Social Circles, and (7) National Politics.

          Your mileage may vary.

        • Her role was to create outreach into the black community. How well she performed would be pure speculation. The woman has a talent for ingratiating herself and supposedly had street cred. I doubt seriously she was cynically hired as window dressing.

          One of the main complaints about Republicans is that they do not actively court black voters ; basically surrendering them to the Democrats. This seems to be forgotten. Trump does attempt to reach out which could be why the Dems continually try to paint him as a racist.

      • Reposting this from an earlier posting by a worthy commenter: it shows the left beginning to understand themselves, and what they have done to Trump voters, who couldn’t care less if Trump the man is a vile what have you, but support what he has done.

        Many were shocked by Trump’s manner… And still they voted for him. Why? Because they loathed the other side more. They loathed the establishment. They loathed the media. And their reservations about Trump were washed away by the laughter following Clinton’s “deplorables” line.

        Think back on that laughter, on that giggling when she talked of “deplorables.” What followed were the snickers of the clique who get the joke at the expense of those who don’t.

        That laughter stuck. And Trump voters took the memory of it to the polls on Election Day.


  2. I think I’ll publish my ethics conclusions regarding this in a free-standing post. I’ll provide this preview, however: there is no longer any valid argument to be made that the Catholic Church is a thoroughly corrupt and criminal institution unworthy of trust, and one that has no moral standing whatsoever.

    So where are the indictments?

    • The are part of the elite establishment and thus not subject to the laws written for common American peons. (Besides, we have to figure out who is still standing when the music stops, to know who to throw as a bone to the public. Scapegoats seldom volunteer, you know)

      And how dare you suggest that your betters should face the music!

  3. Let’s make a deal, Jack. I’ll accept your blanket condemnation of the Catholic Church if you’ll accept my blanket condemnation of Islam as the religious and political pestilence it is. I won’t excuse the PA clergy and episcopate who allowed the specific acts and pattern here to happen, they all can and should hang, but I think you cast your net a tiny bit wide by saying a worldwide church of just under 1.3 billion members is a criminal enterprise.

        • That statement I can definitely get on board with. Partly it’s due to unjustified trust of those cloaked in the faith, partly it’s due to fear. Many’s the Catholic parent who sided with Father Joe against their own child because Father Joe was God’s representative in this world, and if you go against him, you go against God. Many’s also the average Muslim just trying to live normally who’s looked the other way on nefarious doings afoot or clammed up when the authorities came looking after the bombing/assassination/whatever, because he knows fanatics who kill those who don’t agree with them will not hesitate to kill those who turn on them.

          The Catholic approach is more the white collar crime/corruption approach usually used in big business or other large organizations: First you shuffle the perpetrator out of sight, claiming illness or something else sympathetic. After that you bully and intimidate a few into giving up. Then you clam up as long as you can in the hopes some accusers will give up. After that you dribble the information out a bit at a time in the hopes a few more will give up. Then you lie in the hopes still more give up. Maybe you settle with a few, on the condition that they keep quiet. Finally, you resist the few who remain tooth and nail, pointing out how few in number they have become and accusing them of being crazy, being in it just for themselves, and so on. As often as not it works.

          The Muslim approach is more the street thug/low level Mafia approach, where you might pay off a few folks to keep quiet, but mostly you use the threat of violent action, either against whoever or against his family or property, to keep those less inclined to it doing what you want. The average guy might be inclined to spill to the police, because he doesn’t want you conducting a reign of terror, but he’s not going to say boo if he knows the minute he steps away from his house it’s going to get burned. The average guy isn’t going to want any part of passing a message or money for murderers, but if he’s told his wife has “company” who’ll leave as soon as he does it, he’ll do it (and thereby put himself deeper in the bastards’ clutches).

          Either way is evil

          • And neither scenario is much different from the black neighborhoods in many of our cities where everyone knows who is doing the shooting, but no one says anything.

      • This is a somewhat false analogy, though.

        Catholics are violating the written documents they purport to follow when they rape, or cover it up

        Muslims are just following the letter of their written law when they kill infidels.

        • Though I’m not sure if one is ethically better than the other: Being evil, but with integrity, or being evil while pretending to stand for the opposite? Both require dedicated denial to avoid the obvious conclusions.

          • Oh, both proposition deserve to burn in hell, ethics aside.

            From an ethical perspective, I would say the Catholic Church is worse. Radicalized Muslims are internally ethical when they rape or murder.

  4. Jack, you need to correct this: “there is no longer any valid argument to be made that the Catholic Church is a thoroughly corrupt and criminal institution unworthy of trust, and one that has no moral standing whatsoever.”

    That the CC is not

    • Just FYI, a great many cases of domestic and child abuse are probably as yet uncovered in this closed community. The Orthodox Jewish communities comprise about 10% of the Jewish population in the United States, according to the Pew Group, and the ultra-Orthodox [Haredi] number six out of ten of them. In their strict adherence to the Torah’s commandments, they find themselves largely incompatible with secular society.

      So I wasn’t too surprised to learn that . . .[W]ithin the U.S. Jewish community, they clearly do not fit the picture of a relatively secular, liberal-leaning, aging population with small families. But I had never thought about their politics. It seems that, unlike most other American Jews, “Orthodox Jews tend to identify as Republicans and take conservative positions on social issues such as homosexuality . . . and they prefer a smaller government with fewer services. On average, they also are more religiously committed and much younger than other U.S. Jews, and they have bigger families.” A less even-handed report from a friend who is a member of the local gay synagogue, Sha’ar Zahav (with a woman rabbi, of course), the Hasids are insular, unforgiving and have a “mob mentality.

      Not surprisingly — since there are no electrified fences around their neighborhoods and kids do tend to find a way to explore the forbidden — an estimated 52% have left Orthodoxy, if not their faith.. So you would think they leave because of religious differences. Not so, say the recent explorations of the Haredi — fueled by the exposés of the Catholic church in the past decade: the majority leave because they were abused. And of those who stay, most do it because of the threat of permanent ostracism. (The Japanese may understand this better than most Americans do: it is the most terrible threat of all.)

      The abuse is still largely undercover. Two documentary exposés that are out to the general public is Netflix’ still-current “One of Us” made in 2017 about three different victims in Brooklyn’s large Hasid neighborhoods. The other, “Standing Silent” was made between 2007 and 2010 in Baltimore and Israel. The trailer for the latter:

      Like “Spotlight,” the surface dug up in “Standing Silent” uncovers a world not only of abuse but also of some peculiarly Jewish excuses for the hiding of it. The journalist, Phil Jacobs, who undertook the exposure, and who had himself been molested as a child, as well as Yakov Margolese, a construction contractor who made the painful (and to the community, shameful) report of his own abuse in the movie, sent up a furor of death threats and denial in the Jewish populations of two countries.

      There are also cultural reasons for silence, says another report, stemming at least in part from a Jewish law known as “mesirah,” which forbids informing on a fellow Jew to secular authorities. The law is “integral to a culture of self-protection rooted in centuries of anti-Semitism.” Then there is lashon hora, the Hebrew term for negative speech that harms another, and that is considered a sin. Because of these and the fact that a great many Jews still smart from ancient stigma, there was a call for a ban, NOT on the film, but on the Baltimore Jewish Times whose reporter did the groundwork and wouldn’t quit, and NOT for the abuse but for the uncovering of it, for the “Orthodox bashing”.

      The Netflix movie is dramatic and depressing; the other one cuts closer to the bone. “Standing Silent” is not about three escapees from an ultra-gated religious community — stories distanced by definition — but about people living in the open, everyday all-encompassing real world who have been hurt to the core, who speak up with great difficulty only that they might be able save others — only to find that they are being vilified by the very people to whose families they sacrificed their painful intimacies.

      Who is being blamed here? Not the abuser: as often as not, they continue to be vociferously defended. Not even phenomenon of the victim, guilty for being one in the first place, and daring to talk about it in the second. No, among Jews, at least the ones who seriously profess to be The Chosen People, who think anything less than perfection must be hidden from the “spotlight,” the true villain is The Messenger!

      There are heroes in the media after all. They just work in small, mysterious ways with keyboard and camera.

  5. Can we all agree, like most institutions, religions can become agents of all sorts of awful behavior. Religions seem to differ only in that they’ve been around for a long time and have gotten a big head start.

  6. I agree that the Omorosa debacle is of Trumps own making. While her credibility remains ensconced in the bowels of a Spot a Pot, it still remains that she was hired by him and he lowered the office by his tweets.

  7. Dog or its ebonicentric Dawg can be used as a term of endearment, if regionally and with demographic specificity.

    Same thing with Cracker.

    Über Lefty moron Tommy Christopher said, tolerantly and with a straight face mind you: “although the term (cracker) is derogatory in much of the country, in Florida, it’s a source of pride.” It symbolizes a “rich cowboy heritage.”

    Plus my Good Golden Girl would never accept that that term could carry any negativity, and who am I to argue with my best friend?

  8. Not forgiving the president for his inappropriate language but he is not changing. He is not going to get more “Presidential.” And I agree that he should be called out no matter every time he continues this type of behavior.

    But no one at CNN or the NYT was clutching their pearls when President Obama called Kanye West a jackass. Twice.

    They simply can’t help but spin everything he does negative.

    • Well, yes, but calling Kanye West a jackass—he is, in fact, a jackass—twice is a transgression of manners that the current President exceeded before breakfast about 18 months before he was elected.

      See the posts on “The Julie Principle.”

  9. It appears the President may have something against dogs. His use of “dog” is neither racist, nor sexist. He’s used the term hundreds of times on Twitter to refer to all manner of people and things that he dislikes.

  10. “Just because the motives of the Republican legislators aren’t pure, it does not necessarily mean that the justices shouldn’t be removed.”

    Makes sense. Just like even though the motives of some of the investigators weren’t pure, doesn’t mean the Mueller investigation should be stopped.

    • True. No argument. The reasons the Mueller investigation should be stopped are that there never was a legitimate reason to suspect (or investigate whether) the Trump campaign had made some shady quid pro-quo deal with the Russians; that there never has been any indication that the Russian efforts had any effect on the election, that in the case of the DNC hacks, the Russians did us a favor, since the public had every right to know that the Democrats and Hillary were cheating (and incompetent); because it is doing harm to the country without anything even close to a counter-balancing benefit; because it has gulled the news media into making fools of themselves; because Mueller’s mismanagement and poor oversight had created the appearance of impropriety; and the involvement of openly biased investigators have robbed the exercise of legitimacy; because it legitimizes the use of criminal law in politics as a weapon rather than a remedy; and because it unjustly handicaps the ability of the Trump administration to function.

      But no, the fact that the motives for the investigation were unethical doesn’t make the investigation itself unnecessary or wrong.

    • Agreed.

      Of course, if they are behaving unethically while acting under color of statute, like leaking information in ways designed to undermine the administration, then the sinister and illegal nature of their actions requires that they be removed.

      It doesn’t mean that the investigation shouldn’t be continued by someone else as long as there is some reason to investigate. I question whether or not that reason still exists, but it may. At some point, though, and two years sounds like a good point to me, we have to start demanding that this thing be wrapped up, or compelling evidence shown why it should not be.

      No matter how well-intentioned or even necessary, this investigation is undermining the ability of the president to do his job. The law of diminishing returns and the interests of the country demands it not proceed much longer, in my opinion. If you haven’t found it in two years, it probably doesn’t exist.

    • I think that the special investigation needs to be held to a more discreet mandate.

      I was recently in an argument with a friend where he said that the Mueller investigation was an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. This is a facially absurd suggestion, I linked him to the document appointing Mueller and giving him his marching orders and it’s explicit that the investigation was to investigate the possibility of a connection between the Trump administration and the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election. His take was that because the marching orders took for granted that such interference happened, and that in order to prove collusion, the investigators first had to know what form the interference took, Mueller by necessity had to first look at the interference angle.

      That’s not facially absurd, call a spade a spade, but the reason that a special prosecution was called, ostensibly, is because the outcome of that investigation could implicate the administration that would otherwise be carrying it out. The primary goal was to determine whether or not anyone in the Trump administration colluded with Russia, and whether or not every possible investigatory avenue has been exhausted, If the investigation does not find that collusion happened between Trump and Russia, and if they have no likely prospects for discovering any, then it becomes entirely unnecessary for a special investigation to cover the Russian interference. Not only is this investigation damaging to the national discourse, but special prosecutions are by their very nature wasteful. Ideally, the matter would close, and the remaining leads to the incidental, secondary, investigations would be referred back to the FBI, who would probably commit the same people to the investigation as are currently working on them.

      Why is this appealing to me? Because I believe that he’s actually finished with the primary investigation. He might trap a few idiots into charges of lying to the FBI, but I don’t think that anyone else *from the administration* is going to give them what they want, and if that’s true…. I think it would go a long way towards moving forward to have this investigation end.

      Why is that so frightening to a progressive? Because they’ve spent a lot of infrastructure on this, and for it to come up empty must feel bad. Rachel Maddow, true statistic, between February and March 2017, spent 640 minutes and 15 seconds on Russia related issues and 551 minutes 43 seconds on ANYTHING else, and it hasn’t gotten much better from there. You’d figure that she’s learned her lesson after the Trump tax return thing. More, Trump has shown somewhere between little and no interest in actually investigating Russia’s meddling, going so far as to say that Russia did not interfere…. While that’s both facially absurd and generally not good… I don’t care.

      Russia will never stand trial for this, there is no enforceable law against interfering with foreign elections, otherwise America would be convicted almost annually. Individual Russians will never stand trial for this, because Russia will not extradite it’s spies to America. More, the damage, what little of it there might be, is done. There were two things that were alleged: That Russia paid for advertisements on social media, and that Russian spies hacked the DNC and told the American people the truth. There is a near-zero percent chance of either of those things happening again, and if they do, it is entirely because of the absolute incompetence of the people involved America-side, this investigation will not give competent IT professionals any more tools, and the lack of an investigation will not deprive fools any more than their current retardation does.

      Literally nothing will change.

  11. After 2 years, either the Trump Campaign (that collection of arch masterminds we have been in awe of) and the Russians are REALLY good at hiding whatever they did such that the full might of the USA intelligence community cannot find it, or there was never anything to find.

    So Mueller is either incompetent, out of his league, or wasting time, money, and oxygen. In all cases HE should stop investigating.

    By the way, when the Right wants to investigate a lefty in the future, and there is no crime in evidence, the precedent has been set to run up a Special blah blah blah now. Good job, Anti-Trumpers.

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