Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 12/14/19: Insulting George Washington And Other Annoyances

Good Morning!

1. Now THIS ia an abuse of power! It sure looks as if outgoing Kentucky governor Matt Bevin—he’s a Republican, remember— has decided to take revenge on the state that narrowly defeated him for re-election. Right before he moved out of the Governor’s Mansion, Bevin issued 428 pardons and commutations, often without apparent regard to who or what he was pardoning. He pardoned a man convicted of homicide, after the murderer’s  family raised more than $20,000  to help Bevin pay off a debt owed from his previous gubernatorial campaign.  That wasn’t the only murderer Kentucky got back in its Christmas stocking; there were more, like the man who paid to have his business partner killed, and  another who killed his parents.. Bevin released a man convicted of raping a child.

While many of the pardons issued did involve cases where there were allegations of  sloppy police work and injustice, many did not. Bevin pardoned  Dayton Ross Jones, who pleaded guilty to the 2014 sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy, for example. That crime was captured on video and shared on social media. Jones was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016. Now he’s out.

“A young man was attacked, was violated, it was filmed, it was sent out to different people at his school,” Kentucky’s new governor, Andy Beshear said. “It was one of the worst crimes that we have seen. I fully disagree with that pardon. It is a shame and its wrong.”

But there isn’t a thing he or Kentucky citizens can do about it.

2. Let’s ask Chris Wallace about this sterling example of fair and balanced journalism...I know that Ethics Alarms has documented over many years what a partisan, biased, incompetent and dishonest hack Chris Cillizza is, so this is hardly news. Still, he has a job at CNN, which allows him to inflict his hackery on the public. An ethical news organization wouldn’t keep someone like Cillizza around., but as James Earl Jones used to say, “This is CNN.” The disturbing part is that he’s far from the worst hack on its payroll.

A Monmouth University poll this week claimed that Republican voters believed that George Washington was a better President than Donald Trump by only a 44%-37% margin. (Remember: polls.)  Cillizza said that fact that 37% of Republican respondents chose Trump over Washington provides “a useful way into understanding just how rote the fealty is to Trump within the ranks of the Republican Party at the moment.”

Let me just interject here that almost no Americans could tell you anything about George Washington’s terms in office other than the fact that he was the first President. (This is another reason to watch “John Adams.”)

While implying that Republicans are ignorant morons, however, Cillizza neglected to mention another alleged result of the poll: Democratic voters said former President Barack Obama was a better President than George an embarrassing 63%-29% margin.

3. KABOOM! Yes, this made my head explode. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bomber whom a jury properly sentenced to death, may get a new trial because the forewoman of the jury had retweeted a message before being selected that  praised “all of the law enforcement professionals who went through hell to bring in that piece of garbage.”

Unbelievable.

Now that the facts are out and the terrorist’s defense team is seeking  a new trial or at least a withdrawal of the death sentence. A panel of federal judges this week began examining whether Judge George A. O’Toole, who presided over Tsarnaev’s trial in 2015, adequately screened jurors for bias.  That’s an easy one: he didn’t. The Twitter fan who became the forewoman of  jury wasn’t even the only juror who had engaged in social media trashing of the defendant he had sworn to treat fairly and without prejudice. On the day of sentencing, that juror tweeted that  Tsarnaev was “scum” and “trash,” and that he belonged in a “dungeon where he will be forgotten about until his time comes.”

“It’s just very puzzling,” said Judge William J. Kayatta Jr, “You have a defendant who is clearly guilty of this heinous crime and you then stretch and don’t try to follow the rules that we’ve laid down for a trial.” Judge Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson  asked why the judge did not screen jurors in detail about where they received information about Mr. Tsarnaev. Great question.

“Why isn’t this the kind of case that would require probing that kind of information,” she said, “such that not doing so, even if it’s not an abuse of law, is simply an abuse of discretion because the circumstances simply require it?”

That’s a convoluted way of saying, “Are there really judges so out of touch that they don’t know that social media is everywhere, influencing users, creating bias, and making the selection of a truly objective jury more difficult than ever before?”

Yes, there really are.

4.  Score more ethics points for Jonathan Turley. Prof. Turley showed his commitment to open discourse by allowing a fellow George Washington law professor, Alan Morrison, to publish his rebuttal to Turley’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry on Turley’s own blog, Res Ipsa Loquitur.

If I were prone to be cynical—Me? Cynical?—I’d suggest that the reason Turley was so generous is that he knows Morrison’s arguments are weak. Here’s one, for example:

Turley downplays the significance of Trump’s holding up the aid to Ukraine on the ground that he finally released it before the end of the fiscal year and so it didn’t really matter at all. There are two major flaws with this argument. First, all of the evidence to date indicates that the President had no intention of releasing the funds and would not have done so if the whistleblower’s complaint had not surfaced. Of course, that may be a mistaken conclusion, but only the President and his closest advisers could refute that view – and they are not talking.

There’s no persuasive evidence at all about what the President’s “intention” was, just supposition. Morrison is adopting the speculative motive approach so popular among “the resistance” as they claim that conduct no other President would or could be impeached for is uniquely sinister in Trump’s case.

Read the whole thing. It shows how strong Turley’s reasoning is.

5. To Adblock or not to Adblock? My best website story sources are now overwhelmingly refusing to allow me access unless I disable my adblocker. I don’t care to read their bellyaching about how they need ads to pay for their content: I’ve got the Golden Rule on my side. I don’t inflict ads on my readers, and nobody but me is paying the bills. But I need Mediate, and the Daily Beast, and the Daily Caller and others. So I’m selectively disabling the adblocker, and what do you know? On those sites pop-up ads come so thick and fast it’s almost impossible to read anything.

32 thoughts on “Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 12/14/19: Insulting George Washington And Other Annoyances

  1. ” ‘Mr. Turley, are you that smart?’ ”

    You pulling that from one of the favorite sequences (Wilford Brimley as U.S. Ass’t AG James J. Wells to Paul Neumann’s Michael Gallagher) from one of my favorite flicks Absence Of Malice?

    Two of my other faves are Wells to federal prosecutor Elliott Rosen (Bob Balaban) about Don Hood’s DA James Quinn getting ingeniously snared by Gallagher, and Rosen’s well deserved fate:

    He’s a nice guy. He just forgot about the rules. and You ain’t no presidential appointee. The one that hired you is me. You got thirty days.

  2. #4 Over the last few days I’ve waded through document after document after document of accusations and so-called “evidence” related to the current impeachment of President Trump and I believe I have come to the only intelligent conclusion possible.

    CONCLUSION
    The only way people could come to the conclusion that what President Trump did in relation to Ukraine and the aid is impeachable is they have an overwhelming and all-consuming anti-Trump bias which predispositioned them to automatically believe the opposite of Halon’s Razor which states “never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity [or anything else]”; anti-Trump bias clearly dictates that they must “always attribute to criminal malice anything that President Trump does, period”. The assumption of criminal malice is the only core of the Washington DC Democrats and the partisan media’s arguments, without their assumption of malice all their arguments completely fall apart based on facts, period!

    This impeachment is setting a terrible political precedence that will certainly be used as a political tool from this day forward. What these Democrats are doing is what real abuse of power looks like and what the framers of the Constitution warned against. I hope absolutely every Democrat in the committee that voted for, or supports, the two articles of impeachment gets voted out of office and replace with moderate Liberals or Moderate Conservatives instead of these political extremists that are abusing their power and bastardizing the United States Constitution – this is intentional subversion.

    This has got to stop!

    • I also posted that on my Facebook page with the additional of a final statement…

      Now my anti-Trump friends (you know who you are) can join in a harmonious chorus of ad hominems attacks. Let the mud slinging begin.

  3. 1. The only way civilization was able to move past “eye for an eye” justice was by the creation of a system that was fair, fast, and final. When either of those three concepts is seriously weakened, faith in the system wanes and people start to think that eye-for-an-eye methods might be more effective. “Fair” is regularly called into question, “fast” seems to be long gone with endless continuances and delays, and “finality” jeopardized by continuing appeals, motions and petitions, and of course, ridiculous pardons that tempt folks to “get a rope,” as the saying goes. Devon Ross Jones should spend the rest of his days waiting for “the bullet he will not hear, coming from a place he will not see,” whether or not that shot is ever fired.

  4. The progressive argument that speculates what Trump would have done had it not been disclosed that someone contacted the IG about the call fails because it never let Trump act independently of that information. Given the allegations of abuse of office occuring on July 25 and then filing a whistleblower complaint some 25 days later, time was not of the essence. If they wanted to have a slam dunk case of witholding legally appropriated funds for personal gain they could easily have waited until Oct 1 to see exactly what his plans were.

    Thus, given that we presume innocence over guilt, he must be considered innocent.

    • f they wanted to have a slam dunk case of witholding legally appropriated funds for personal gain they could easily have waited until Oct 1 to see exactly what his plans were.

      These people also equate political gain for personal gain.

      Under that definition, was not the infamous 2011 Dear Colleague Letter (which dealt with college rape tribunals) just as illegal as President Trump withholding military aid from the Ukraine? For there is no doubt President Obama issued that letter for political gain. And if political gain=personal gain….

      • Michael

        I agree in the equivalency in your argument. However, when I said slam dunk case I actually meant their claim would have at least on leg to stand on. My main thesis is that a prosecution cannot speculate as to what might occur until they allow all the elements to exist.

        Scenario: black woman shopping in department store picks up item and carries it around. She sees another item of interest and unconciously puts item in personal shopping bag. Has she committed theft? The answer is no until she attempts to leave the store.

        If you pose that scenario in which the woman was accosted by security personnel while she continued to shop to African Americans most would see it as racial profiling and would be rightful in demanding an apology.

        I am no lawyer but I know you cannot simply assume a behavior will take place based on an interpretation of prior actions when those interpretations are themselves subject to claims of bias or animus.

        • I agree in the equivalency in your argument.

          good.

          I seem to be the first person in the whole world to bring up the equivalency.

          Scenario: black woman shopping in department store picks up item and carries it around. She sees another item of interest and unconciously puts item in personal shopping bag. Has she committed theft? The answer is no until she attempts to leave the store.

          If you pose that scenario in which the woman was accosted by security personnel while she continued to shop to African Americans most would see it as racial profiling and would be rightful in demanding an apology.

          Indeed.

          Racial profiling by store security still goes on.

          We ought to make racial profiling by store security a capital offense. And the store manager and the CEO should also be liable for this capital offense.

          Why do we limit the death penalty to murder, espionage, or treason? Imagine how much of society’s problems would go away if we executed the offenders causing the problem?

          • I’m not sure you are the only one bringing such things up.

            I have asked why the promise of a cash equivalent in the form of free college or obama phones or any of the other specific government handouts are not considered buying votes.

  5. 4. Morrison complains that the House cannot obtain the information they need to impeach Trump or not because Trump insists on is right as the head of an equal branch of government to have the House demands on the executive subjected to judicial scrutiny.

    Therefore, his claim is that the House has no choice but to infer whatever it can from the witnesses who have testified so they can get the President impeached before the election.

    This is not just a weak argument, but a completely specious one. The President:

    a) considers the investigation illegitimate and partisan, and;

    b) has a duty to protect his office against just such an illegitimate partisan investigation by legitimately referring such demands to the courts.

    Morrison doesn’t even consider these factors in his moan, adopting the position that the Congress is a superior branch of government because it has the power to remove a President, and the President should comply with their investigation whether he thinks it is legitimate or not.

    Impeachment isn’t the only remedy for an out-of-control chief executive. The nation has another remedy for such a person — it’s called an “election.” If it were obvious to the nation, as might happen in a prolonged and careful investigation, that Trump was such a threat, an election should prove as good a remedy as impeachment and removal. Even better, because claims of a partisan witch hunt will have been vindicated or not by the voters. Impeachment isn’t intended as a way to put a scarlet letter on a rogue executive, but to remove him to protect the country. So why the haste?

    The only reason the House can possibly justify its timeline is that the real intent of this investigation is to damage the political prospects of Trump so he won’t be re-elected. That is not the purpose of impeachment, and the founders rightly worried about it to the point of nearly excluding the impeachment remedy from the Constitution.

    Morrison isn’t making an argument, he’s just unhappy that Trump is exercising his rights — rights that he implies are totally legitimate, but he somehow expect that Trump should surrender them in order to facilitate his own removal from office.

    That is, frankly, insane. It’s prima facia evidence of a terminal case of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

    • I think I’m backed up with your Comments of the Day, but this is another one, and I’m especially grateful for it. As I read it, I thought, “Really? This respected scholar thinks THIS is a persuasive rebuttal of Turley? What happened to him?

      • Indeed. He doesn’t even appear to consider the possibility that the House may be, in fact, engaging in an illegitimate attempt to besmirch Trump, even while acknowledging Trump’s legitimate access to the courts to vindicate or reject his suspicion that it is.

        Morrison is effectively saying, “It’s the President’s duty to help the House investigate him, regardless of their motivation, as fast as possible so he can be impeached before the election.” And just as Trump’s motivation cannot be known by the available evidence, we cannot “know” the Democrats’ unless we take their word at face value. So he’s willing to take the House’s word for the purity of their motives, but not Trump’s word about his own.

        Whenever someone argues sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander, it’s likely they are throwing logic and reason out the window, and being dumbed down by bias.

        • …they are throwing logic and reason out the window, and being dumbed down by bias.

          Based on what the Democrats are doing with this impeachment, I think it what you wrote there is self evident. As I wrote above, “The assumption of criminal malice is the only core of the Washington DC Democrats and the partisan media’s arguments, without their assumption of malice all their arguments completely fall apart based on facts, period!”

    • The only reason the House can possibly justify its timeline is that the real intent of this investigation is to damage the political prospects of Trump so he won’t be re-elected. That is not the purpose of impeachment, and the founders rightly worried about it to the point of nearly excluding the impeachment remedy from the Constitution.

      The Democrats are openly abusing their power and bastardizing the United States Constitution. The Washington DC Democrats are a political hack pack that’s hacking away with their “the ends justifies the means” broad sword. This is the Democrats figurative hill to die on, they’ve been building up to this point since the day Trump was elected.

      • A few days ago I wrote…

        “…in the minds of the extreme political left the Constitution as a barrier, a system, standing in their way to their Socialist utopia, so if “the system” won’t allow them to remove President Trump then it’s easy to paint “the system” as being what’s wrong. Progressives and a large swath of the political left have become totalitarians and most of them can’t see what they’ve become. I firmly believe now that the totalitarian Democrats, progressives in particular, are actively constructing their hill to die on, I honestly think they want to bring down the entire system to put in place their “utopia”. The only way they can bring down the whole system is to convince a majority of the population that the whole system as evil and what better way than to portray a divisive Trump as evil and if the system won’t allow them to remove evil, then the system allows evil, therefore the system is evil too.”

        DECEMBER 10, 2019 AT 2:55 PM

        I’ll stick my neck out with a prediction. When the Senate refuses to convict and remove the President of the United States based on this faux impeachment the attacks on the system will begin. If the system won’t allow them to remove the perceived evil that they profess exists in the White House then the system is evil.

        This is not only a soft coup against the President of the United States it’s a soft coup against the Constitution. The extremists in the political left are engaging in an ongoing anti-Constitution propaganda war, a soft coup, that’s dragging the USA towards an inevitable Constitutional crisis.

        The totalitarian extremists in the political left are ALL IN to destroy the Constitution, are “you” all in to protect the Constitution?

        I hope the totalitarian extremists in the political left prove my prediction incorrect.

  6. 5. Ads are not only annoying but a vector for infections and malicious software. I ad block and refuse to let anybody serve then to my machine until the industry decides to solve that problem. Unsurprisingly there are a few sites that hand curate ads and those are generally more relevant, unobtrusive, and safe. Keep blocking and don’t feel bad about it. It would like muting your TV back when ads were louder than the accompanying program.

  7. Here is a link to a convwersation I had on Quora regarding the impeachment campaign.

    http://www.quora.com/Matt-Gaetz-R-said-We-didnt-impeach-Obama-even-though-a-lot-of-constituents-think-he-abused-his-power-what-did-Obama-do-that-qualified-for-impeachment/all_comments/Patrick-ONeill-45

    Here is my most recent reply.

    You actually make a good point.

    If “President Trump withheld all military aid from Israel unless Netanyahu gave him $5m in cash”, it would be beyond the pale.

    Similarly, if President Obama had written a Dear Colleague Letter to require universities to give him $5m in cash, it too would have been beyond the pale.

    But the pro-impeachers are equating personal benefits with political benefits. President Obama stood to politically benefit by gaining additional support from feminists and anti-rape activists in his re-election campaign. If that was a personal benefit, Obama should have been removed from office.

    Now here is how the Dear Colleague Letter violated male students’ rights.

    Betsy DeVos: The Era of Weaponized Title IX in Campus Rape Cases Is Over

    “The new guidance encourages—and in some cases requires—university administrators to neglect the rights of accused students. It specifies, for instance, that colleges should use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard for determining guilt; officials need only be 51 percent sure an accusation is credible to expel an accused perpetrator. It also discourages officials from allowing students to cross-examine each other, because that might be too traumatizing for a survivor of sexual assault. Never mind that cross-examination is one of the best ways for an objective jury to determine who is telling the truth.

    The problems with the Obama-era Title IX guidance are essentially threefold. First, it isn’t obvious that Title IX—a one-sentence statute—could or should be read as having anything to do with violent crimes.

    Secondly, the guidance raises constitutional questions, since it appears to many civil libertarians that a federal agency was instructing public institutions to violate the due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment. That isn’t the only way the guidance is legally suspect: The Office for Civil Rights never subjected it to public notice and comment—a process required by the Administrative Procedure Act—and so it was always unclear whether the letter’s dictates actually carried the force of law, even though dozens of universities rewrote their sexual misconduct policies to get the feds off their backs.

    Finally, since the guidance is legally dicey, it led to lawsuits left and right. Many students who were found responsible for sexual misconduct under the new guidelines have filed suit against their universities, and a nontrivial number of them have prevailed in court. On that front, DeVos couldn’t have picked a better campus to deliver her speech: A GMU student, “John Doe,” was expelled for engaging in BDSM sex that the university judged nonconsensual. He later sued GMU and won, since it was obvious to a Virginia district court that the administration’s investigation was biased against Doe and had deprived him of his due process rights.”

    For a political benefit, Obama threatened the constitutional rights of male students. By sharp contrast, Trump did not threaten anyone’s constitutuonal rights.

    But Obama’s actions regarding the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter were not properly impeachable.

    Neither was Trumps’ threat to withhold military aid from the Ukraine.

    Am I the only person in the whole world making the comparison between the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter and Trumps’ threat to withhold military aid fromt he Ukraine.

  8. #5 – install u-block origin. It is available in Firefox in both desktop and mobile.
    Any of the addblockers could block the blocker blockers but have decided that is unethical.
    U-block origin has decided it’s ok. It doesn’t do it as installed, but one of the filter lists lets you.

    • As I was playing around with it, the built in filter list “annoyances” that is not enabled by default is what will get you into the NYtimes, WaPost, Forbes, etc with add blocking intact.

  9. And Jack, I have one word for your problems viewing sites with ads — Brave (the browser, not the baseball team). Check it out.

  10. I can understand why the Monmouth University poll Democratic voters gave Obama a big edge over George Washington. After all, Obama was “woke” where Washington was not and Washington certainly had “White Privilege.” Not only that, but Washington was a slave owner!

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