Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/14/18: A Newly Christened Ethics Train Wreck!

Good Morn…ARRRGH!!!

1. As predicted…The wounded Ethics Alarms commenter who sued me for defamation is appealing the Massachusetts judge’s ruling granting my motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action. His main objective, I assume, is just to waste as much of my time and money as possible. Apparently he either has posted or will post the entire transcript of the hearing and a recording of the proceedings on his website.

2. It’s official! The Bret Kavanaugh confirmation is officially and ethics train wreck. It was already a national embarrassment. Putting it over the top and on the metaphorical rails was the truly nauseating smear attempted by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Cal). Here is her statement:

“I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”

This is pure innuendo with no content whatsoever, and thus dirty politics, indeed McCarthyite politics. But wait! There’s more! From the Intercept:

It purportedly describes an incident that was relayed to someone affiliated with Stanford University, who authored the letter and sent it to Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat who represents the area. Different sources provided different accounts of the contents of the letter, and some of the sources said they themselves had heard different versions, but the one consistent theme was that it describes an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman while they were in high school.

I’m sorry if heads are exploding, but I’m especially concerned about those who will try to rationalize what Feinstein, and the Democrats, are doing in their desperation to defeat the nomination of a completely qualified Supreme Court candidate. A second, third or fourth-hand hearsay account from an anonymous source alleging  some kind of possibly sexual misconduct (by 2018 #MeToo rules, I’m sure) was passed along to Feinstein, who announced that she was referring it to the Justice Department, and the alleged conduct of an undefined nature occurred when Kavanaugh was a high school student.

3. Trump Tweets Dept. Why? Why? In advance of Hurricane Florence, the President felt compelled to send off a tweet expressing doubts about the official death figures when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017. Actually, we know why: from the beginning, the President has attempted to dispute the criticism the extent to which  Puerto Rico was crippled by the storm, which destroyed roads and bridges and leaving much of the Caribbean island without electricity for months.  He has some justification in this: local officials relied on the hostile U.S. news media to assist them as the tried to shift accountability from their own incompetence to Washington, D.C.—after all, it worked for New Orleans. Claiming that the ridiculously low death figures in initial counts were accurate as a way of arguing that disaster was averted is not persuasive or rational. He tweeted:

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000.”

My Facebook friends…to be fair, mostly the friends of my friends, who are significantly more deranged on balance than my own beloved left-wing shills…went completely bonkers over this. Several said that the tweet proved that he should be impeached. They said it was a lie. No, and no..the tweet is just stupid public relations, and Presidents shouldn’t make themselves look stupid to members of the public who don’t pay close attention to what’s going on.

I’ve covered the revised hurricane death tolls before. Nobody knows what the real figure is, and it is fair to question the newer estimates, which were produced by public health experts at George Washington University in Washington. Their report was commissioned by the U.S. territory’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, and he was looking for big numbers: the more deaths, the more U.S. aid. The report’s methodology compared predicted mortality without the factor of a hurricane,  and island deaths totals after Maria. It then made the assumption that all of the extra  deaths from  September 2017 to mid-February 2018 could be attributed directly or indirectly to Maria. I’m serious: that’s where the 2, 975 figure came from. The news media misrepresented the study as well. Here’s Reuters:

The death toll from Maria, the most powerful storm to hit there in almost a century, was raised last month from 64, a number widely discounted as far too low, to 2,975. That number was produced by public health experts at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., in a report commissioned by the U.S. territory’s governor, Ricardo Rossello. The study found that those deaths could be attributed directly or indirectly to Maria from the time it struck in September 2017 to mid-February of this year.

False! the study didn’t “find” that at all. It assumed it; it theorized it; it argued it.  There is a material difference between finding something and assuming it’s there.

Blogger and author Peter Grant writes,

“I find this study highly suspect.  One can find similar increased death tolls in other areas, but with autopsies, witness statements, etc. that make it possible to analyze them properly.  Example:  the opioid epidemic that’s ravaging several US states at present.  Death rates due to the misuse of opioids are climbing dramatically, but in every case, the cause of death can be measured, medically confirmed, and verified.  How do we know that opioids weren’t responsible for at least some of the “excess” deaths in Puerto Rico?  What about deaths caused by vehicles?  How do you know whether an accident was due to increased traffic, caused by aid distribution after the storm, or a drunk driver?  The first might be blamed on the hurricane;  the second, certainly not.  Without medical and other evidence, one can’t assign a definitive cause to each casualty;  but the study conducted there did not examine such evidence.  It only looked at numbers, and made assumptions.”

But that’s an argument a blogger can and should make, not the President of the United States. The President should not be saying, as Trump implicitly was, “Aw, it wasn’t THAT bad.” As is so often the case, he deserves the criticism, but not for what he’s being criticized for.


73 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/14/18: A Newly Christened Ethics Train Wreck!

  1. 2) shouldn’t the DNC be labeled as an ethics train wreck entirely passengered by Ethics Villains?

    This Kavanaugh fiasco is just a manifestation (a train car if you will) of the greater train wreck.

  2. 1. Dude must be wealthy to take a personal vendetta (well, what else do you call it?) to such levels. I hope, Jack, now that you are a part of a firm that your hourly rate tripled and this guy has to pay the new rate. If he is willing to spend the money just to get at you, at least you can direct a bit of it your way!

    2. The worst of these so-called non existent ‘crimes’ (underage sex? rape?) would have had the statute of limitations run out long ago, no? What, exactly, could be investigated?

    The FBI said it will not be investigating this smear. I was a little surprised, as I am conditioned to believe the FBI will do anything Congressional progressives want them to do, for the sake of the revolution. The really sad part is that no one can call me for wearing a tin foil hat when I say that.

    3. I think we should give PR back, set them free… and suspend all rights those living there have to American tax dollars. Just another liberal shite-hole (to borrow a phrase) that had been run by Democrats (and their cronies) so long that nothing works, and relief supplies sit and rot. See: Detroit, or Baltimore, or Chicago…)

    Trump should have shut up, but again, we knew who we were voting for.. and against.

    4. There is no number 4.

    • Regarding #4, if only the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico had the amazing leadership of Senator John Blutarsky at the helm, they would’ve had a fighting chance.

    • The FBI couldn’t possibly do anything with Feinstein’s anonymous letter and still maintain even a shred of credibility. Even if they wanted to. And I believe that Kavanaugh has already been thoroughly vetted (probably multiple times) by these agencies for any possible criminal past activity prior to serving in other courts. It was just Feinstein being new ways to keep the bottom dropping out on just how low these people can go.

      The even bigger outrage is progressive “news” outlets like Think Progress tweeting out headlines like, “Kavanaugh has his own #MeToo problem, and the FBI is involved!” Because, you see, Feinstein gave the letter to the FBI, so that means they’re technically involved!

      And they are including pictures of Kavanaugh hugging his young daughter in her school uniform, to suggest that he’s a pedophile. Practically zero Democrats of note are protesting this. If there was a “fight for the soul” of the Democratic Party going on, the good guys have given up.

  3. #2 I’m surprised Senator Feinstein didn’t talk about how she has an envelope with a list of names of people who are Facebook friends with Kavanaugh and they made unsavory comments. I think it is fair to interpret this that the Dems know they’re not looking too good for the midterms, so they have incentive to really jack up the silliness, since they know they have a weak hand here. If you’re going to fizzle like an old birthday balloon, might as well make it exciting with a bang. And you can also pretend that you’re like on the barricades, fighting against tyranny and supporting justice. Sure it’s all made up, but isn’t it a heck of a story?

  4. I am in the process of reading through the George Washington public health study. It is dense. I do not want to say too much until I’ve digested it, I have reason to be skeptical.

    The study predicts the number deaths that “counter-factually” might have occurred had the storm not changed conditions, and compares that to the actually number of deaths recorded on the island. They consider the difference between the actual and predicted to be an estimate of “excess mortality”.

    The study looks at causes of death equally. There really were 10,000 deaths on the island in the three months after the storm. The issue is that the statistical model predicts that their should have been only 7,000 deaths.

    What I find curious is their method for accounting for migration after the storm. The total number of deaths look seems to be unremarkable for the pre-hurricane population, but looks “excessive” only on the post-hurricane population. The island’s population dropped by about 300,000 after the hurricane. I want to take a closer look at their formula here.

  5. Ah I was about to cite Peter Grant’s post but you beat me to it. Solid choice there. 😉

    Presidents shouldn’t make themselves look stupid to members of the public who don’t pay close attention to what’s going on.

    Now I will argue with you that such an action (or inaction) is even possible.

  6. A second, third or fourth-hand hearsay account from an anonymous source alleging some kind of possibly sexual misconduct (by 2018 #MeToo rules, I’m sure) was passed along to Feinstein, who announced that she was referring it to the Justice Department, and the alleged conduct of an undefined nature occurred when Kavanaugh was a high school student.

    I suspect the statute of limitations have long since expired.

  7. Some are reporting that the letter says Kavanuagh, 17 at the time, and another boy locked a girl in a room at a party and she felt threatened but she got out. There is no mention of sexual assualt taking place. This may be why the FBI will not investigate. Pranks are not necessarily criminal.

    If I have to choose a behavior that suggests unfittness for office I would choose Feinsteins smear through innuendo over an ill considered death toll challenge.

    I suggest we cut Puerto Rico loose and let them be an autonomous nation. Forget statehood their governance does not meet our standards for effective state government and the other states have no desire to prop them up.

    • I think the burden of proof should be on SOMEBODY to demonstrate that this whole thing isn’t 100% made up. There is not one single data point, not one factoid even suggesting that it’s real, except for the naive hope that “they wouldn’t lie about something like this.” And we know THAT’S not true. They’ll lie about anything, right down to who spent 50,000 dollars on curtains.

      If Feinstein isn’t excoriated by EVERYONE, Left and Right, with a smidgin of a conscience for this stunt, then this just might be day the Republic dies. We can call it right now. Because of close to 40-50% of the population is so ravenously anti-Republican that they think every conservative is Hitler, and they will demonstrably do ANYTHING to stop them (because the ends justify the means,) how hard would it be to find a former high school classmate of ANY right-winger of import willing to lie (without repercussions and with full anonymity) about being abused by them? If this works to any degree, there could be liberals lining up to write anonymous letters lying about the Republican classmates they passed in the hallway one time.

  8. # 2 (literally)

    Sheesh! Even Never Trumper Über Lefty Ruth Bader Ginsberg is calling democrats a bunch of dip-stick, hyper-partisan morons.

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg Calls Dems Treatment Of Kavanaugh During SCOTUS Hearings, “Wrong,” “Highly Partisan Show”

    IMHO, Ginsberg does not look/act/comport well at all.

    They wouldn’t let someone like that drive a school bus, yet she continues to sit on the highest court in the land??

  9. 1. Can you sue him for harassment? Seems like you would have a better case.

    2. I saw this in The Guardian:

    A source who said they were briefed on the contents of the letter said it described an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman that took place when both were 17 years old and at a party. According to the source, Kavanaugh and a male friend had locked her in a room against her will, making her feel threatened, but she was able to get out of the room. The Guardian has not verified the apparent claims in the letter. It is not yet clear who wrote it.

    A spokesman for Feinstein declined to comment. The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.

    In related news, Ginsburg gave an interesting interview regarding the partisan efforts.

    I wonder if both sides are the same kind of both sides Trump talked about in Charlottesville?

    3. Trump should have just kept his mouth shut on this issue (like my other issues). However, they understand the urge to defend yourself. Trump’s job was to make sure they got the help they needed, not run logistics. The NY Post had an article this week how millions of bottles of water are still sitting on a PR tarmac.

  10. 3. “Nobody knows what the real figure is, and it is fair to question the newer estimates, which were produced by public health experts at George Washington University in Washington.”

    I don’t understand how this is possible. Puerto Rico is part of the United States. You have birth and death certificates, you have census reporting. Whether the number is 20 or 20,000 how the hell do you not know not only exactly how many deaths there were, but the names and funeral arrangements for each?

  11. You know — I thought this Kavanaugh scandal was a big nothing burger too, until the Republicans released a letter of women who apparently are saying that Kavanaugh is not a rapist. That is a bad PR move in my book as this was all done too quickly. It suggest that there might be teeth to this story and the Republicans already investigated it.

        • It doesn’t say he isn’t a rapist. It says he is a good man. The issue is about his character since we don’t know what was in the secret letter. People assume it was a metoo thing.

          A source for The Guardian says this:
          Described an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman that took place when both were 17 years old and at a party. According to the source, Kavanaugh and a male friend had locked her in a room against her will, making her feel threatened, but she was able to get out of the room.

          However, his treatment of women has been on trial the whole time. It could be related (the high school line makes that a strong indicator), but given the questions and accusations, I’m wouldn’t be surprised if this letter has been in the making for a while.

          I don’t know. You could be right. There might have been some PR guy who grilled Kavanaugh about every major and minor incident in his life just so they could get ahead of it. Wouldn’t surprise me.

        • “Republicans released a letter of women who apparently are saying that Kavanaugh is not a rapist.”

          The aim of that letter is to infer that they believe Kavanaugh was/is not a rapist?

          Spin like that would claim that Attila the Hun “enjoyed an active outdoor lifestyle” (H/T the late, great George Carlin).

          • I just read the letter. I agree with SS that it’s overkill and in the “protest too much” category, but all it says is that the undersigned women who knew the judge in high school say that he treated women with respect.

            All I need to know is that it’s an allegation of conduct that occurred before he could vote.

            • Well, I wouldn’t go that far. If this woman is correct, then attempted rape is a character flaw, signature significance, etc. If she is lying, then I hope she rots in hell.

              • I know too many examples in history and personal experience to not believe that character traits displayed in the teens tell us little about the adult to be. Not me, of course. As my high school friends will attest, I was always this way…

                • For some things, yes, for others, no. The allegation is quite specific and, if true, horrifying. Note that I have no comment on whether it is true or not. I will agree that Dems are hoping that their are others who might be willing to come forward, because this allegation, on its own, won’t carry the day absent the other alleged wannabe rapist coming forward or some other proof.

                  • How is that allegation “horrifying”? There wasn’t a rape or an allegation of rape. It was a sexual assault only by the standards of #MeToo: no kid would ever be arrested or even reported for such a thing 30 years ago. The victim refuses to go public; the other individual named denies it. Suddenly this story surfaces at the last minute? Its pure Clarence Thomas, but worse. At least Hill was willing to execute her hit job in view, and her story was about adults, not minors. IF true? IF TRUE? It isn’t even worthy of asking the question.

          • I was not spinning — I was making a joke. This letter is in response to the rape allegation. Note that it wasn’t signed by men, it was signed by women. What is the point of the letter Paul — these are women who obviously never have been sexually harassed or attacked by Kavanaugh. Sheesh.

            • ”I was not spinning — I was making a joke.”

              I see that now & should have seen it earlier, your delivery is drier than Needles, CA. In this day-n-age, I find it best to err on the side of caution.

              Attempted rape? They’ve known about this for nearly 2 months and it comes out now? Kavanaugh’s people had to have known about it longer than that. Why didn’t they disclose that ahead of time, it would have left them no where to go.

              “these are women who obviously never have been sexually harassed or attacked by Kavanaugh.”

              Who do you think they should cite? If there are females that were harassed/attacked by Kavanaugh, reckon we’ll hear from them now?

              Too quick on the trigger, which means it was at the ready.
              Reminds me of the greatest Polish comic of all time being interviewed.

              Interviewer: “To what do you attribute being the gre…”

              Comic: “Timing!”

              Heck, Geraldo Rivera’s “Al Capone’s Vault” & Rachel Maddow’s “The Donald’s 2005 Tax Return” episodes had more panache.

              Good thing he strap his dog in a crate on the top of his car top…

    • I heard that theory earlier today, spewed by some liberal mouthpieces. “They knew he had something in his history: That’s why they were prepared to address it!”

      Nonsense. The Democrats have repeatedly seen the power of sordid accusations floated at the last minute before an important vote. Obama wouldn’t even have made it into the Senate if it weren’t for his opponent Jack Ryan’s divorce papers being unsealed shortly before the election.

      After the disgusting spectacle that surrounded Roy Moore’s run for office, the Republicans would have been fools not to investigate as many of Kavanaugh’s female acquaintances as they could find before the President even dropped his name in public. If I were preparing for these hearings, I would have grabbed his old yearbooks from high school, any documents they could find from college and grad school, the employee roster from his first job, et cetera, combing them until I was certain he was as pure as new-fallen snow.

      If you ask me, it says something about the people making these accusations that their first thought is that the Republicans would try to push forward a soiled candidate for the highest court in the land. Honi soit qui mal y pense, as you know…

    • Nope, that was a personal effort by Kavanaugh’s actual classmates and friends, who were immediately angered by the story and fired the letter off. Not initiated by “the Republicans” although the usual media weasels are trying to spin it as such.

      • The woman who spearheaded the idea of writing the letter, a schoolmate of Kavanaugh, has explained, at length, how, when, and why she wrote it, and how she was able to get it signed by so many people so quickly (in short, because Kavanaugh has lots of female friends and colleagues, and they’re all pissed about this.)

    • You are naive if you don’t think the Republicans knew of this letter before Feinstein released it. I imagine they were hoping that she would think better of it, but wanted to have this document just in case.

      • We know that the document wasn’t written or signed until AFTER Feinstein’s letter became national news. So your theory that it was insurance being held by “the Republicans” “just in case” is impossible.

        It’s possible that some Republicans knew Feinstein or someone else might stoop to something like this as a Hail Mary, sure.

      • I was not implying that a defensive document would have been written ahead of time, just that the Republicans should already have sought out and spoken with many of Kavanaugh’s previous acquaintances. With current contact information for scores of people, generating a response would be quick and easy.

  12. Using a study which compares actual to predicted death rates is fundamentally flawed due to not having a control group. But then to attribute the delta to an action or inaction by a person or group is simply assinine. The study looks only at a 3 month time horizon. Attribution of blame may be more appropriate for deaths occuring at the end of the time horizon but not in the early stages. Thus, a more realistic test to confer culpability would be to compare storm related deaths occuring after an expected reconstruction time frame. When Wilma hit Cozumel it took nearly a year to bring things back to normal operations and even longer to fix all the road systems. PR a much larger island andwith its mountainous regions would be much harder to recover. Thus, it makes no sense to suggest that any administration should be held accountable for such recoveries especially when the only decision making capacity they have is in resource provisioning and none in actual deployment.

    Currently, officials are expecting power outages in the Carolinas to be several weeks even with other power companies from unaffected neighboring states coming to help. PR is 1500 miles from the mainland and getting resources prepositioned in nearby safe harbors is impossible. How long did it take George Marshall to reconstruct the infrastructure in Germany after WW2, years.

    • Impossible to have a control group for such a study, but I would think that any conclusions would have to be approached very carefully.

      I have long felt that the media — and politicians, and likely the general public — are far too quick to assign blame for aid not instantly reaching victims of natural disasters such as hurricanes or ice storms. Even in areas where there is a robust infrastructure (which should be most of the U.S.), it simply takes time to get things rolling. You have to first clear the roads, which will be a major undertaking, before anyone can get into the affected area. Even with utilities pre-positioning repair crews, which is common for hurricanes, it takes time. Then they can clear and repair power lines, transformers, etc.

      Puerto Rico had several strikes against it from the start. Its infrastructure, from what I’ve read, was extremely fragile and — whatever the antonym of robust might be — to start with. It’s an island, which means you can’t simply load up an 18 wheeler in Pittsburgh and drive it down there. Utility work simply takes a lot of heavy equipment and trained workers — and there was no way to pre-position them.

      Here is a basis for comparison. After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, look at how long it took for the U.S. and its allies to ship in the military force needed to strike back. When the vast majority of stuff has to go by sea, it takes time.

      • Diego
        We are in agreement. However PR was not the only island affected. The model could use any other impacted Island as a control for comparative purposes.

        At issue is what “should have” been done relative to what was actually done.

    • Buried deep within the executive summary, the study admits that it is a shot in the dark order-of-magnitude estimate, and was meant to be part of of a three part study to forensically review the death certificates and medical records to recreate a real death toll list. The Puerto Rican government only paid for part one, but made it the “official” death count anyways.

  13. Re: the letter being ready for release so soon.

    I once had to defend my character against a false accusation and was able to secure over a dozen handwritten personal letters within six hours of the time the allegations were risen. And I’m more of an introvert than most.

    It was a bad PR move, but anybody questioning the timing (and I’ve seen that in the press) is either dishonest, untrustworthy, or has no friends.

    • “[I]s either dishonest, untrustworthy, or has no friends.”

      Or has lived in DC for decades and knows how the sausage is made. It’s ugly.

      • When a decent person is 100% innocent and is being accused by a single individual’s word against all evidence and witnesses to the contrary, for political reasons, it’s very easy to round up dozens of female friends and co-workers (of all political leanings) who can express their anger over the allegations and to point out that the person never acts like this (see Clarence Thomas for a not-so-long-ago example.)

        I know if someone ever tried to #MeToo me I could make one Facebook post and just about every single woman I’ve ever interacted with would sign a letter like that within 24 hours. Innocent people don’t wait around and consult their lawyers, and they don’t have to pull strings to get others to defend their character. It happens naturally, as we see happening with Kavanaugh.

  14. Translation for #2:

    Woman A to Stanford Employee: “Ya. Brett and I actually went on a date one time when we were in High School. He held the door for me and was really polite.”

    Stanford Employee in letter to Rep Anna Eshoo: “Brett is a chauvinistic pig who think women are helpless to open their own doors.”

    ::Letter circulates the democratic swamp of D.C.”

    “What we know is that there was an incident between Brett and a woman when he was in High School. We won’t say that it was an inappropriate incident or otherwise qualify it because then we’d have to have back up our characterizations….but what we’re hoping is that if we say there’s 1 woman, we’re hopeful that dozens will suddenly have the courage to stand up and say they also had an incident with him. The only way we can stop this now is to see if we can get a METOO Tsunami to wipe him off the board.”

  15. Diane Feinstein has turned out to be a detestable human being. Too bad we’re stuck with her in California. As for Trump, he should pay attention to the following caution: “Be sure that brain is engaged before tweeting!”

  16. #1 Jack wrote, “Apparently he either has posted or will post the entire transcript of the hearing and a recording of the proceedings on his website.”

    Yes, the audio has been posted.

    I just listened to the 48+ minute audio of the hearing. In my opinion, the plaintiff represent himself as all good lawyers-in-all-but-degree do, poorly. His claim that he’s a “lawyer-in-all-but-degree” was exposed as utter nonsense. It’s also my opinion that he was quite foolish to have represented himself in the manner in which he did.

    I predict the appeal will be denied, but that alone won’t stop this guy’s obsession, yes it’s my opinion that he is obsessed. His obsession is unwise.

    • Z, almost all obsessions are unwise. Many can be downright scary. I suspect he’ll just fade away after his appeal is denied (I see no merit to his case), but I’m hoping he’s not one of those people who go off the end of the pier when his obsession is thwarted.

  17. My opinion on the…


    This study has the distinct pungent odor of being an agenda driven sham from top to bottom and it starts with including these words in the title, “ESTIMATED EXCESS MORTALITY” and ends with anti-Trumpers presenting it as if it’s bonafide fact. The people that created this should have known better than to present something that is immediately going to be perceived as an agenda driven sham. Presenting an “estimated excess mortality” based on assumptions and knowing full well that it’s going to be presented to the world as fact not an estimate; what the hell were these unethical people thinking? They should hang their collective heads in shame.

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