Afternoon Ethics Round-Up, 2/12/2019: It’s Kamala Harris Day, Among Other Things…


1. Without the decency to say, “Well, we didn’t find anything.”  From CNN: “After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.”

The honorable, fair and honest thing for Senate Democrats (and Democrats generally) would be to state clearly and unequivocally that they found no evidence of “collusion,” and therefore were going to stop insinuating that collusion took place. But these are not honorable, fair and honest people, but people who are determined to undermine public trust in the President, elections, the government and democracy, because they would rather have power in a ruined, crippled government than not have power at all. Thus Committee co-chair, Sen. Mark Warner, D.-Va.,  told reporters, “I’m not going to get into any conclusions I have, [but] “there’s never been a campaign in American history … that people affiliated with the campaign had as many ties with Russia as the Trump campaign did.”  This ranks among the most weaselly statements in recent memory. “Ties” is a deceitful term wielded by the news media—by its definition I have ties to Russia. People “affiliated with the campaign” having business dealings with Russia or Russians, or communications with Russia, are not the same as the campaign having “ties” to Russia. Warner’s statement is, at its most trivial, sour grapes, and at its worst, a deliberate smear.

One Democratic Senate investigator told CNN (anonymously of course),”Donald Trump Jr. made clear in his messages that he was willing to accept help from the Russians. Trump publicly urged the Russians to find Clinton’s missing emails.” After all this, that’s the smoking gun? An obvious, off the cuff joke Trump made on the stump? “We were never going to find a contract signed in blood saying, ‘Hey Vlad, we’re going to collude,'” another Democratic aide sniffed. This is, of course, a dishonest version of Hillary’s “It wasn’t the best decision” (referring to her illegal decision to hijack official emails into a private server) rationalization. No, Hillary, not only wasn’t it the best decision, it was a terrible, suspicious, indefensible decision, and no, anonymous partisan hack, you were not only not going to find a contract signed in blood, you weren’t going to find any evidence of illicit, illegal, impeachable contacts at all.

The Democratic Party has allowed its defeat in 2016 to rot the party and its supporters to the core.

2. Baseball and lawyers! As I discussed here, Baseball’s Today’s Game Committee (formerly known as the Veterans Committee) elected OF/DH Harold Baines to the Hall of Fame in a decision that was not only logically indefensible, but obviously tainted by conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety, since associates and friends of Baines dominated the voting process. Now one of the pro-Baines voters, Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa (full disclosure: he works for the Red Sox now) has written an article  defending the decision. What is interesting about the article is that LaRussa, though few remember this, is trained as a lawyer, and his defense of picking Baines uses one legal advocacy device after another. Bill Baer, at NBC Sports, isn’t a lawyer, but he does an excellent job with his reply brief to LaRussa’s tortured and statistically deceitful arguments.

3. Let’s start a pool! Which of the gazillion Democrats running for President will commit the most verbal gaffes and require the rationalized defense, “Well he/she still doesn’t lie as much as Trump does!”? Obviously Joe Biden will be a popular choice for the title, as his foot is more or less positioned in his mouth up to the knee, but I think it will be a very competitive contest. For example (from Reason):

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, is a latter-day convert to legalizing pot. As a prosecutor and California attorney general, she was opposed to legalization. Indeed, as Scott Shackford noted yesterday, in her 2014 race to become Golden State AG, her Republican opponent favored legalization, a position she literally laughed at. In an interview yesterday with the radio show The Breakfast Club, Harris admitted to smoking weed in college (“I did inhale,” she said, laughing, “I just broke news!”) and that she listened to Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur while getting high. Here’s the problem: Harris graduated from Howard in 1986 and law school in 1989. Snoop Dogg, then known as Snoop Doggy Dogg, didn’t get started until 1992 and Tupac’s “career did not take off until the early 1990s when he debuted in Digital Underground’s ‘Same Song’ from the soundtrack to the 1991 film Nothing but Trouble.

This is reminiscent of Bill Clinton recalling black church burnings when he was growing up in Arkansas, and Hillary announcing that she was a life-long Yankee fan. These slips are not as trivial as they seem. They are signature significance for pandering liars. Voters beware.

4. And speaking of Harris…This kind of thing drives me crazy. The category is smart and educated politicians deliberately making an idiotic argument because they think the public is too stupid to see through it. Senator Harris, among others, is arguing that the Trump tax cuts hurts the middle class because people are getting smaller tax refunds. “The average tax refund is down about $170 compared to last year,” she tweeted this week. “Let’s call the President’s tax cut what it is: a middle-class tax hike to line the pockets of already wealthy corporations and the 1%.”

ARRGH!! The tax refund has been a staple on government flim-flam from the beginning. If you get money back, it means you were over-withheld, and Uncle Sam got free use of your money for months, while you lost the interest you could have made if you had it in the bank. Tax payers who rejoice over big refunds are the same saps who signed up for Christmas Clubs before they became illegal. And, apparently, they are also the citizens Kamala Harris is counting on to make her President. You know…morons.

5. Believe all celebrity victims who say they were attacked by men in MAGA hats! Watch this case.  Do you know who Jussie Smollette is? [CORRECTION NOTE: I have benn calling him “Jessie.” My mistake. All fixed, I think] I did, and do: he’s an African-American actor best known for his portrayal of musician Jamal Lyon in Fox TV series “Empire.” On January 29, 2019, Smollett claimed that he was attacked in Chicago outside his apartment building  by two men in ski masks who made racial and homophobic slurs.  Smollett gave a follow-up interview to police saying that the attackers had shouted “MAGA country” during the assault, a detail  he had not mentioned in the initial interview.  Performers, political activists and Democrats (like…Kamala Harris!) rushed to support Smollett on social media. Harris and Cory Booker both described the attack as a modern-day lynching, with Booker urging Congress to pass a federal Anti-Lynching Bill he and Harris have co-sponsored.

Here’s the problem: so far, police can’t find any evidence that the attack took place. John Ziegler writes in Mediaite:

Among other things, the police have made it very clear they have not yet found any proof of an attack, despite having almost all of Smollett’s movements on surveillance video. They have disclosed that Smollett would not give over his cell phone to verify his timeline of events. They even published photos of “persons of interest” that they had to know were going to be universally mocked for being obviously irrelevant. In my view, none of those important revelations would have been made public in the way that they were, unless there was extreme suspicion within the police force that Smollett’s story was not fully accurate.

By extension, media figures would not be being told by their police sources, as I have been told is currently happening both routinely and with vigor, that the authorities are acting on the assumption that they will never find any evidence to fully substantiate Smollett’s story. This isn’t just happening via idle speculation either, the police are doing so with great specificity, even including an alternative theory for what really happened (current attempts to find the origin of the rope found around Smollett’s neck long after the event was over are believed to be the most likely game-changer, if there ever is one in this case).

Now the question being asked is whether the Chicago police and the news media will have the guts and integrity to state that Smollett’s story may be a hoax. Writes Rick Moran,

“The cops have subpoenaed Smollett’s phone records. It will be awkward for him if he fights the action. But it won’t matter now. If the police drop the matter without finding the perpetrators, the outcry in the black community will be just as loud. And if they charge Smollett, violence will be likely. Maybe the cell phone records will buttress the actor’s case. But there are upwards of 30,000 surveillance cameras in the city and not one of them has apparently caught Smollett’s attackers.”

6. Wikipedia ethics. The first line in Jussie Smollett’s wiki entry was, as of this minute, “Jussie Smollett (born June 21, 1982) is an American actor, singer, director, hate crime faker and photographer.”

23 thoughts on “Afternoon Ethics Round-Up, 2/12/2019: It’s Kamala Harris Day, Among Other Things…

  1. Warner, Harris, and their ilk are not people I wish well. Instead I wish them to be exposed for what they really are: would-be saboteurs of the Constitution. May they fail and humiliate themselves publicly for the rest of their days and be remembered only as the shameful, power hungry opportunists they were.

  2. #5.:As of five minutes ago, the “hate crime faker” line was gone from the wiki, but there is a fairly detailed section on the investigation thus far, including indications that the report might have been fabricated.

  3. 3. Kamala Harris is going to have at least one more historical decision to explain on her way to the nomination. As SF DA, she refused to enforce vagrancy laws, contributing to the City’s homeless problem which is so out of control, Americans everywhere seem to be well-informed. In response to one restaurateur’s complaint about a homeless person who was permanently positioned at the restaurant’s entrance–“Where’s your humanity?” One could easily ask where’s her humanity following policies that keep human beings living on the streets . . .

  4. Let see, . . . rather have power in a ruined crippled government than not to have power at all. Ladies and gents we have Mark Warner (D)VA. And just months ago we find out that the son of Tim Kaine (D) VA is a member if Antifa. Between state elected officials and elected federal representatives the state is not well represented with paragons of ethical virtue.

    There does seem to be a correlation between political nastiness and the amount of dollars the state recieves.

  5. Here is a news story that hqas ethics issues.

    “Everyone, we wanted to give you an update on the Vic Mignogna situation. Following an investigation, Funimation recast Vic Mignogna in Morose Mononokean Season 2. Funimation will not be engaging Mignogna in future productions. Part of our core mission is to celebrate the diversity of the anime community and to share our love for this genre and its positive impact on all. We do not condone any kind of harassment or threatening behavior being directed at anyone.”

    Mignogna played the role of “executive” in the anime, but Funimation has since recast the character with Ian Sinclair. Sinclair will play the role of “executive” starting with episode 5, which aired on February 2.

    The 56-year-old came under fire after convention attendees accused Mignogna of kissing and embracing them without consent. Other allegations include rude and homophobic behavior, some dating back to 2008.

    In the wake of these allegations, many industry professionals took to social media to show their support for the victims or share their own experiences with Mignogna.

    • I’m surprised Newsweek covered this, since anime is still kind of a niche genre (but then I haven’t read Newsweek in ages).

      Anyway, I only know of Vic because I follow the online show RWBY. The show’s production company fired him a little while ago because of these allegations, and some people are coming to his defense.

  6. To make sense of all these issues, I consulted a friend of mine, a recently laid-off Huffington Post journalist by the name of Standard Issue NPC470C5. I just call him “C5.” He says:

    1. “The Senate Intelligence Committee may not have been able find a ‘smoking gun’ but it is common knowledge that Trump is in bed with Russia. I am sure my fellow humans The American People will see through the Orange Man’s lies in 2020.

    2. [beep boop] Internal Error. Command “Base Ball” not recognized. Possible mansplaining and/or toxic masculinity and/or female exclusion and/or rape detected. Press ENTER to send report to Facebook.

    3. [click, whir] Human trolls attempting to “fact-check” Senator Harris are obviously intimidated by a strong, female POC candidate for President.

    4. Unlike you, white male human, Kamala Harris understands the feelings of oppressed human organisms and does not need to be concerned with your obsession over “economics” and “facts.” (Run Program: Righteous Sass.) YOU try telling a minimum wage worker that her $170 dollar reduction in refund doesn’t matter just because she got to keep $1000 more of her paychecks this year, Russian Troll!

    5. Mr. Smollett is very brave for sharing his felt experiences of oppression and otheredness, regardless of the details or the howling of the usual right-wing extremist conspiracists. Most importantly, he is starting a valuable conversation about violent attacks on rich gay actors, a very real epidemic problem in Trump’s America.

    • Most importantly, he is starting a valuable conversation about violent attacks on rich gay actors, a very real epidemic problem in Trump’s America.

      No, that conversation has been going on since no later than the Beggar’s Opera in the eighteenth century, when it was observed that it had made Rich gay and Gay rich.

    • What happens when a less-than-moral alt right convert decides that if white male trump supporters are going to be smeared with fake attacks, then real attacks are not out of order?

      “…then let me be evil…”

  7. #4. It is a constantly amazing thing to hear people who should know better say that they “didn’t pay any income tax; they actually got money back”. They had no idea there was a line on the 1040 that stated the amount of tax paid, and that what they got back was what was left of their withholding for the year.

    I recall Ronald Reagan, as California Governor, opposing the state instituting withholding. His position was that every citizen should have to write that check so that they knew exactly how much tax they paid. I thought he was right then and I still do today.

    • Yeah, don’t ask anyone to actually try to comprehend their tax return. You’ll never see a person’s eyes glaze over faster unless you try to explain quantum strangeness to them.

    • The new tax laws have made taxes much more straightforward than they were before. For 85+% of couples, add up your income (W-2’s, 1099’s) subtract $24000, then calculate the taxes. Until you get close to the 85%ile, it really isn’t realistic for those families to have more than $24,000 in deductions. In addition, when you jump a tax bracket, it doesn’t apply to ALL of your income now, just the income above that cutoff. All this makes taxes much more predictable, it makes estimated withholdings more accurate. Your withholding is supposed to estimate how much money you owe, giving you a bid rebate is the opposite of the point. As long as the amount owed isn’t getting much bigger, smaller rebates mean the tax changes are doing their job of accurately predicting your tax amount better.

    • In a previous life, I was once asked to get our hourly workers to sign up for FSA withholding as a way to keep more of their annual income.

      I never got ANY to see that a little less in each monthly paycheck gave them more money annually. It just did not compute. One girl exclaimed “That is less money to go clubbing each month!”


  8. 1 Collusion

    The Democrats have no realistic political choice but to dissimulate. If they were to acknowledge the truth, their base would rebel and the party would descend into even deeper chaos.

    It may be unethical, but politically, I believe they have no alternative that does not produce a worse political outcome.

    Hopefully, rational non-base Democrat voters will see this as the hoax it was. I’m not holding my breath, though.

    3 Liar’s pool

    This is reminiscent of Bill Clinton recalling black church burnings when he was growing up in Arkansas, and Hillary announcing that she was a life-long Yankee fan. These slips are not as trivial as they seem. They are signature significance for pandering liars. Voters beware.

    So what you’re telling me as the Democrats will be running as Democrats, with all the trimmings.


    For the bet, my money is on Elizabeth Warren. She and the truth don’t even have a nodding relationship.

    4 Harris

    ARRGH!! The tax refund has been a staple on government flim-flam from the beginning. If you get money back, it means you were over-withheld, and Uncle Sam got free use of your money for months, while you lost the interest you could have made if you had it in the bank.

    Shh. Don’t confuse people with logic. It hurts their heads, and makes them stop their ears and say, “La,la,la,la…” real fast.

    If you want to get through to them, you gotta emote, man! “ARRGHH!!” just isn’t emotive enough — you have to swear and include lots of emojis.

    5 Attack of MAGA — Jussie Smollett edition

    I’ll reserve judgment until the evidence is in. By the way, it’s “Jussie” not “Jessie” or “Jesse”. I’d do “A boy named Sue” on a man who named me “Jussie”.

    My wife watches “Empire,” sadly. I think it’s stupid, and not because it’s about black people, but rather because it’s about stereotypes of black rapper culture. Oh, it may be accurate to some degree, but it’s meant as a sop to white audiences, hoping to make hip-hop culture romantic like the Godfather made mafia culture in the 1970’s, except it’s decided to work so hard on woke political correctness, it confuses every message in a mishmash of incoherent nonsense.

  9. #4: Yes and no- the amount of the refund is only tangentially related to how much tax you paid, and you have to address the amount withheld to get a clearer picture. If the amount withheld remained static and the refund went down then you DID pay more in taxes (regardless of whether you get taken in by the perception of refund as windfall). Lower withholding = lower refund if the tax paid stays the same, and increasing or decreasing taxes paired with adjusted withholding could lead to higher or lower refunds.

  10. 4. Jack, Jack, Jack. Getting a tax refund is a human right!

    2. Tony LaRussa is an angry, toxic, old school, and now evidently entitled, “baseball man.” I can’t believe the Red Sox have allowed him anywhere near their organization. Is this some sort of MLB Seniors Tour? He wreaked all sorts of havoc in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization before he was finally shown the door. He also brought in Dave Stewart, who was a disaster as well. Is the Old Timers committee now comprised of old timers? Wasn’t LaRussa managing in the late 1970s?

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