Monday Ethics Kick-Off, 12/9/19: Christmas Music, Wildfires And…You Know.

What Christmas song will we play today?

How about one of my favorites, that only professional singers can pull off? It’s a little bit like the “Star Spangled Banner” that way…and nobody nailed that any better than Whitney…

1. Christmas songs and singers. Pet peeve: playing “My Favorite Things” as a Christmas song. The song’s context in “The Sound of Music” has no connection to Christmas; the lyrics don’t mention it. You might as well say the song is about geese. Then there’s Susan Boyle. One of her Christmas songs turned up on the radio. and I was shocked. The winner  of “Britain’s Got Talent” some years back was so hyped, I assumed that she was the second coming of Karen Carpenter. No, her voice was just OK—I know literally dozens of amateur singers who are as good or better—  but she looked like Tug Boat Annie, so her singing was called remarkable not because of the product, but the misleading packaging. A  Jim Nabors Christmas song also turned up: he was like that. We see the same phenomenon in the Oscars frequently:  perfectly average performances are hailed as brilliant and garners awards because nobody thought the actors could be credible in a part at all.  Ed Wynn in “The Diary of Anne Frank.”  Ann Margaret in “Carnal Knowledge.”

This one reason so few Americans really know what great performing is.

2. Wow–I have to give ethics props to the New York Times and CNN in the same week. CNN’s Dana Bash confronted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler  over the position he asserted when Bill Clinton was facing impeachment in 1998. Nadler said:

There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment or an impeachment substantially supported by one of our major political parties, and largely opposed by the other. Such an impeachment would lack legitimacy, would produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come.

Bash asked how Nadler’s current pursuit of impeachment wasn’t hypocritical, as not a single Republican has appears to support impeachment. Good for her.

“So, right now, you are moving forward with impeachment proceedings against a Republican president without support from even one congressional Republican,” Bash asked. “Is it fair to say that this impeachment, in your words from back then, will produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come?”

Nadler literally ignored the question, and defaulted to insulting Trump.What could he say? “Sure it will, Dana, but remember, I’m a partisan hack. You expect consistency? Integrity? Don’t be silly.” He also uttered another example of an absurd hyperbole designed to mislead the ignorant members of the public. There’s been a lot of that spewing forth from the coup-mongers lately.   Nadler claimed that the Democrats’ case  against the President is so “rock solid” that any jury would return a guilty verdict “in about three minutes flat.”

3. Can’t forget to note this…Pacific Gas and Electric has a $13.5 billion settlement with victims of catastrophic wildfires if a judge and Gov. Gavin Newsom approves it. They have little choice but approve it: a larger amount would drive the company into insolvency. The catastrophic fires have been blamed on the utility’s faulty equipment. Strange, because the wildfires are also always cited as proof that climate change threatens us all. Somehow, I’d think that if there was sufficient scientific evidence to prove that it was the climate and not corporate negligence that caused the carnage, PG&E wouldn’t be in this fix.

4. Funny how many respected Constitutional scholars agree that this impeachment is dangerous and flawed…when a jury would convict “in about three minutes flat.” Here’s Josh Blackman at the Volokh Conspiracy, and HE references my favorite “A Man For All Seasons” quote!

The House Judiciary Committee released a report titled “Constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment.” The report conceives of two ways that an “impeachable abuse of power” could constitute “high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” First, “the exercise of official power in a way that, on its very face, grossly exceeds the President’s constitutional authority or violates legal limits on that authority.” Second, where “the exercise of official power to obtain an improper personal benefit, while ignoring or injuring the national interest.” That is, where the official “engag[es] in potentially permissible acts but for forbidden reasons (e.g., with the corrupt motive of obtaining a personal political benefit).”

The latter concept describes the legal theories behind many prominent challenges to President Trump’s exercises of authority. In case after case, both sides agreed that the President has the authority to take some action, but this President could not take those actions because of an improper motive: the travel ban, the citizenship question on the census, the DACA rescission, etc. Now, this well-worn argument will likely serve as the basis for an article of impeachment: the President can ask foreign governments to investigate possible corruption, but this President cannot make such a request because doing so could harm his political rival…My focus, as always, concerns the precedent this proceeding will establish. Yes, I am far less concerned about what happens to President Trump then I am concerned about what happens to the next President, whoever he or she will be…. impeachment for an “abuse of power” based solely on “corrupt” intent gives Presidents no notice, whatsoever, of what is expected of them. There is a nearly infinite range of conduct that can fall within this category. The House report explains, “[t]here are at least as many ways to abuse power as there are powers vested in the President.” Virtually anything the President does can give rise to impeachment if a majority of Congress thinks he had an improper intent…

On September 8, 1787–nine days before the conclusion of the convention–George Mason offered a proposal to expand the list of impeachable offenses. He would have added “maladministration,” in addition to treason and bribery. ..James Madison disagreed. He said, “So vague a term will be equivalent to a tenure during pleasure of the Senate.” Masons’s proposal was rejected.

I see little difference between “maladministration” and the allegations here: President Trump engaged in an “abuse of power” based on a “corrupt” intent, where there is no clearly identified offense. Such a capacious standard fails to accord with any notions of fairness for the accused, and risks transforming impeachment into an inescapable feature of our political order…

Jonathan Turley’s … analogy to A Man for All Seasons is apt. For many people, Trump is the embodiment of the devil. Evil incarnate. And resisting him, at all costs, has preoccupied much of the last three years of our polity. Impeaching the President for an “abuse of power” premised on a “corrupt” intent will serve that present purposes. It will make some people feel like they’ve served a bigger historical purpose, and stopped a corrupt, tyrannical president. But this process–already a foregone conclusion at this point–will trigger consequences far worse during the next battle over improper motives. And at that point, alas, “the laws [will be] flat.” We should “give the Devil benefit of law, for [our] own safety’s sake.”


23 thoughts on “Monday Ethics Kick-Off, 12/9/19: Christmas Music, Wildfires And…You Know.

  1. A pure operatic soprano may not be everyones idea of the perfect voice.
    But I will see Whitney and raise with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

  2. There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment or an impeachment substantially supported by one of our major political parties, and largely opposed by the other. Such an impeachment would lack legitimacy, would produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come.

    That was good advice.

    We should follow it.

    We should also heed the advice of the late Senator Dale Bumpers.

  3. 1. I’ve never understood this either. Must be the lines, “silver white winters…”, “snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes”, “sleigh bells”, “warm woolen mittens”… In other words, it’s got enough winter references to be tossed in with the Christmas music.
    2 & 4: Trump hate is all they’ve got. They only care about the here and now. It’s not about what will happen in the future. They’ve already proven they don’t think ahead to how bad rules and anger-inspired laws will affect them in some negative way some day. They only want to get rid of Trump any way they can. The Constitution is a tool to them to get back at Trump and say it’s all legit. Once they’ve got what they want, it reverts to being an archaic document written by rich old slaveholding white men.
    3. Don’t confuse them with facts. See above. Climate change is a means to an end. Science has nothing to do with it.

    • “The Constitution is a tool to them to get back at Trump and say it’s all legit. Once they’ve got what they want, it reverts to being an archaic document written by rich old slaveholding white men.”

      In “Joel World”, those qualify as at least “the Two Sentences of the Day.”

      3. “Man-made Catastrophic Climate Change” will some day be revealed as the greatest scam in the history of scientific research, and I don’t believe I’m speaking in one bit of hyperbole. Jack, you could probably have another full-time job (and a completely separate blog) just dealing with the unethical behavior from those peddling this nonsense.

    • 1) That’s accurate and closer in my opinion to qualifying than the Wham! song about getting over a one night stand by engaging in another one night stand simply because the song has the word “Christmas” in it. Certainly better than that cacophonous monstrosity by John Lennon about war because it says “Christmas”.

    • The Sound of Music has been played on TV during Christmas for decades now. Its signature song, mentioning various winter trappings, became a Christmas song by association.

  4. 1. Completely frustrated that winter, my favorite season, songs with Christmas carols and songs. Winter songs can be thrown in, but should not be restricted to Christmas season as they have.

    2. Perhaps there is sliver of light being seen through a crack of the propaganda wall. We’ll see if it widens or closes.

    4. How many reasonable Constitutional experts does it take to burn through a highly opaque bushel basket of media cover-up? (I hope we discover the punchline to this joke.)

  5. On point 4

    Someone please explain to me how the DOJ IG can find no intent (political bias) to undermine a candidate nor could James Comey find any intent on HRC’s part to violate US law – such that no reasonable prosecutor would take up – but all it takes is about ten words in several different paragraphs to know exactly Trump’s intent to personally benefit.

    • Democrats in the House have the ability to clearly see into the mind of the President and understand all motives and all intention.

      Alternatively, they are clearly blinded by bias, double standards, and hatred.

  6. 1. I dunno: uplifting songs are fine with me. We get such a crap burger of negative that I am willing to let something from “The Sound of Music” slide by. suspend disbelief (like in any movie) and your life is less stressful.

    2. Something about stopped clocks and CNN is tickling my hindbrain… If they wanted to impress me, Dana should have called Nadler on his diversion and his assertions about impeachment being ‘rock solid.’

    3. Why are not the environmental groups being sued? They have prevented the clearing of dead wood and underbrush (historically cleared by… fires) such that any fire is a disaster. They should be held accountable for their policies… yeah, I know: it’s the Peepul’s Republik of Kali, slick.

    4. Words no longer matter: they mean what the left says. Logic, consistency, and integrity have not mattered for decades. The progressives can change their beliefs and lies like I change underwear. When this little kabuki theater in the House fails, they will simply pick up the next bullshit fake news and take another run at it.

  7. I think that Turley is losing his patience with the Democrats;

    “The record in this case is as short as the timeline. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee quoted me as saying that the record is “wafer thin” and held up two binders to prove there is an extensive record for impeachment. To be clear, I testified that this record was comparatively not actually wafer thin. However, the mere fact that Jackson Lee could hold up the relevant record in two binders is precisely the point. If she were to show the record in the Nixon or Clinton cases, she would have had to drive a semitruck into the committee room. Of course, none of this matters.”

  8. 1. Favorite things

    Pet peeve: playing “My Favorite Things” as a Christmas song. The song’s context in “The Sound of Music” has no connection to Christmas; the lyrics don’t mention it.

    It mentions snowflakes and warm woolen mittens. That’s gotta count for something. And nothing screams “Christmas” like “whiskers on kittens,” right?


    Never mind.

    2. CNN and Nadler

    Nadler needs a hug. The again, there is something just… wrong about hugging a garden gnome.

    3. PG&E

    California should just take over the company in true socialist style. It would show the courage of their convictions.

    Of course, then they wouldn’t be able to blame the company for things like wildfires and electrical grid problems, at least not beyond a year or so.

    Decisions, decisions…

    4. Josh Blackman

    I think he guilds the lily here. President Trump is apparently presumed to exercise power only for improper motives. It is therefore mandatory for the judiciary to #resist his every edict and for the House to impeach him, because as we all know, motives are far more important than actions or the legitimate exercise of power granted to greater presidents like Obama.

    Corporate as well as the ghosts of countless crime victims can surely attest to this — “I didn’t mind being [killed, raped, robbed, extorted, beaten, defrauded, maimed, assaulted, stabbed, shot, threatened, etcetera], the motive was proper.”

    Said no one, ever.

    Just as an aside, like all Democratic proposals these days when it comes to language, who gets to decide what is corrupt and what is not? Apparently, only politicians with (D) beside their name are qualified to determine what’s in the heart of the president. After all, everyone else is a deplorable, so…

  9. Every time I hear “My Favorite Things” I immediately think of the first lines of one of the squadron songs from when I was in Korea many years ago:
    Kimchi and ramen in little green dishes,
    Raw squid with hot sauce and tasty dried fishes,
    Call girls that hundreds have loved in the spring,
    These are a few of my favorite things.
    It just doesn’t capture the Christmas spirit for me.

    My least favorite Christmas song though has to be “Last Christmas” with “The Little Drummer Boy” a distant second. I generally prefer female vocalist and both the the renditions of “O Holy Night” mentioned are great, but I also enjoy Nat King Cole performing this and other traditional Christmas classics.

  10. I wonder if unipartisan members of Congress can be removed from their offices for investigating a member of an opposing party, based on their own proposed standard? But then! Those investigators would have to be tried, and so on, forever! It seems like a foundational assumption which invalidates it’s own application is the sort of thing that literally can’t be taken seriously.

  11. #3: Perhaps PG&E would have been better served by spending the millions they invested in “diversity initiatives” and Green Energy on maintaining their utility lines? Just a thought.

  12. Serious question…did they explain how what Trump was doing was “against the national interest?” How are we all hurt if one of our allies investigates corruption by a former vice president in their country, the corruption is exposed, and we take measures to prevent that sort of thing from happening in the future?

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