Ethics Cleansing, 1/27/2021: I’m Afraid This Edition Exceeds The Limit For Disturbing Stories…

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As a prelude, I don’t know why some commenters are arguing that the 1876 William Belknap impeachment trial is a valid precedent for trying a private citizen no longer in office on a charge that has no other purpose but to remove that individual from his or her federal office. It’s just a bad argument, which is why Belknap has only been raised by desperate anti-Trump zealots. As I pointed out in the comments, an unconstitutional act doesn’t change the Constitution. There have been many, many unconstitutional actions by our government that were allowed to occur in the past (President Jackson’s defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court to forec the Trail of Tears is an especially egregious one.\); they still can’t be cited as proof that the actions were Constitutional, or precedent for violating the Constitution again. Balknap, who had resigned as Grant’s Secretary of War just as he was about to be impeached by the House, submitted to the Senate’s unconstitutional trial. I have always assumed this was because he was certain that he would be acquitted, so he could later claim innocence. (He was incredibly guilty.) Since he was acquitted, there was no occasion to challenge the trial, the issue being moot.

The entire system was in chaos in 1876; if the Belknap trial is binding precedent that a private citizen can be tried by the Senate to remove him from office when he isn’t in that office, why not make the same claim about the unconstitutional deal between Republicans and Democrats to install the loser of the 1876 Presidential election (Hayes) in the White House in exchange for removing federal troops from the former Confederate states?

1. An example of ethical trolling, I think:

Ironic Tweet

Miller is getting all sorts of outraged responses from critics online who seem to have missed the critical fact that he was just quoting Maxine Waters’ call for harassment of Trump administration officials. Normally I regard deliberate posting of positions one doesn’t believe as unethical unless the poster makes the sarcasm or irony obvious. This one is obvious, unless the reader wasn’t paying attention to how irresponsible and vicious Democrats were in the past four years, and if the such a reader was that ignorant, he shouldn’t be involved in the discussion at all.

2. When does this kind of thing constitute a conspiracy? Salon (I know, I know…Salon) issued a cheap shot attack on Senator Tom Cotton alleging that he falsely calls himself a Ranger. Salon reported that Cotton and his campaign described him as having “Volunteered to be an Army Ranger,” a term traditionally reserved for soldiers who served with the 75th Ranger Regiment based out of Fort Benning, Georgia. The 75th Ranger Regiment requires its soldiers to complete a special eight-week selection process, and upon completing the course, soldiers are allowed to wear a distinctive tan beret with their uniform.

Cotton only attended the U.S. Army’s Ranger School, an eight-week leadership course that teaches service members light-infantry tactics. The school is open to volunteers from all of the U.S. military’s branches, including the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. Ranger School graduates are allowed to affix a “Ranger tab” — a symbol denoting the completion of the course — on their uniforms. But not the beret.

Oh. The Horror.

Cotton’s staff contacted Newsweek (I know, Newsweek) to point out that its 2015 story described female graduates of the Ranger School as Rangers. Thus warned, Newsweek went back and edited the old story, so now, instead of saying that the women will be Rangers, it says they will be “allowed to wear the tab.” (But not the beret.)

Say thank-you, Salon! writes,

Being a “Ranger” and having earned a Ranger “tab” is often confused due to the similarity of their names. While the distinction is rarely brought up outside of military circles, it has been fiercely debated among veterans and encapsulates the nuances of military titles. To be clear, serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment or completing the Army’s Ranger School are both significant accomplishments.

How much clearer can you want? What’s really clear is the mainstream media and the left-wing activists (but I repeat myself) are already trying to take down Cotton, who has emerged as a potential leader in the Republican Party. [Pointer: 77Zoomie]

3. A Big Lie takes root. Last night, the local CBS channel covered a tribute to Kobe Bryant, as yesterday was the anniversary of his death. An African-American sports broadcaster ended the broadcast solemnly mourning Kobe’s America that was “gone forever” in the wake of subsequent transformative events: the pandemic, George Floyd, and “the insurrection.” What “insurrection”? There was no insurrection, just an incompetently executed and handled riot that had no effect on the government at all, was over with in hours, and which was dwarfed in significance and magnitude by actual take-overs of federal and state buildings by Black Lives Matters rioters over the summer. The media-wide effort to spread the–what,myth? Lie? Propaganda?—that the immensely stupid mob protest against the election was of epic significance is a work of public opinion manipulation in progress. Observe it accordingly.

4. Profiting from reporting your father to authorities? 18-year-old Jackson Reffitt reported his father to the FBI weeks before the attack on the Capitol. There seems to have been ample reason; Dad was a member of a radical right-wing organization, and he was planning on going to Washington, D.C., armed. “He would always tell me that he’s going to do something big,” Jackson told the Times. “I assumed he was going to do something big, and I didn’t know what.”

OK, he blew the whistle on his father. Reffitt the Elder was arrested on January. 16 and faces charges of obstruction of justice and of knowingly entering a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority. The danger Jackson’s father seemed to pose to others is sufficient to make this an ethical act, though many, even most, of those praising the son are doing so for political rather than ethical reasons. It’s the next chapter that is problematical.

Jackson Reffitt, after appearing on CNN with Chris Cuomo, set up a GoFundMe page. “Every penny is another course in college or me saving it for years to come,” he wrote there. “I might be kicked out of my house due to my involvement in my dad’s case, so every cent might help me survive.”

He has now received $20,000 in gifts. For turning in his father. Yechhhh.

Hey Jackson! If you can find a reason to turn in your mother and two sisters, you’ll be able to make some real money!

5. Sometimes cancelling is ethical. Police in Simpsonville, South Carolina have charged Ariel Robinson, 29, and her husband, Jerry Robinson, both African-Americans, with murdering their their adopted child, Victoria Rose Smith with a “series of blunt force injuries.” The little girl was three.

Ariel Robinson won Season 20 of the Food Network show, “Worst Cooks in America” in August 2020. She is also a local comedian and aspiring television personality who posted frequently on social media in hopes of becoming an “influencer.” Earlier this month, Ariel complained about “white privilege” in reference to her three adopted children, all of whom were white like Victoria Rose, tweeting in part while adding hashtags for “white privilege” and “Black Lives matter”:

“In my house, my black children get treated the same as my white children, and my white children get treated the same as my black children. It’s a shame that when they go out into the real world, that won’t be the case.”

Presumably Ariel was planning on beating one or more of her black children to death.

The Food Network has deleted the 2020 season to remove all references to Ariel. I assume that her career as a comedian and TV personality will meet a similar fate.


15 thoughts on “Ethics Cleansing, 1/27/2021: I’m Afraid This Edition Exceeds The Limit For Disturbing Stories…

  1. 3. I think the creation and promulgation of the “incitement to riot” and “the riot as a major catastrophe on the level of 9/11” (paving the way for the snap impeachment) needs to be given a letter and included in the list of AUC attempts to remove Trump from office, even though he’s no longer in office. I think it deserves to be on the list. Hopefully, it will be the last lettered entry, but you never know.

    • I think a better comparison to this ‘insurrection’ was the takeover of the Senate building by protesters during the Kavanaugh hearings. In both, the protesters interrupted the functioning of the Senate. In one, the protesters were Democrats, in the other Republicans. I seem to remember they even had to stop the Kavanaugh hearings at one point because of the protests.

  2. I would like to go back to the story of Jackson Reffitt. It has the irony of the son who murders his parents and throws himself on the mercy of the court due to the fact he is an orphan. There are times when he started to behave ethically by possibly preventing a major crime. To turn in into a fundraiser, that changes any ethical motive he had.

  3. Jack: “It’s just a bad argument, which is why Belknap has only been raised by desperate anti-Trump zealots.”

    I am no desperate anti-Trump zealot and I think there is certain merit to the argument. There have been 4 impeachments of Presidents and this will be the first to occur after a President has left office. That raises the question: Can you try an impeachment in such a case? I don’t think there is a definitive answer to be found in the Constitution.

    For that reason, the first question should be: has anything like this ever been done before. Is there a precedent. Belknap has been the only instance raised. So, analysis of that case is appropriate.

    However, looking at it more closely, it appears that Belknap resigned BEFORE he was even impeached. In other words, Belknap presents a slightly different question than Trump’s case. Trump involves whether or not the SENATE can TRY an impeachment of someone who has left office. Belknap involves the additional question of whether THE HOUSE can IMPEACH someone who has left office. Of course, there are ways to distinguish the two cases as well (Trump was elected and Belknap was appointed, etc.).

    Also relevant to both Belknap and Trump are the cases of Fortas and Nixon. Both of those cases, like Belknap, involved people who resigned prior to the completion of impeachment proceedings in the House. Subsequent to their resignations, the proceedings were dropped.

    However, all that tells us is that Trump is in a unique position, somewhere along a spectrum with Nixon and Belknap on one side, and Trump, Johnson and Clinton on the other; he is figuratively beside himself.

    Logically it does not make sense to proceed; politically, it does not make sense to proceed; legally, I am not persuaded that they have no authority to proceed.

    However, the impeachment of both Johnson and Clinton showed is that the impeachment process itself is destructive, whether impeachment is justified or not. If anything, the decision not to proceed with impeachment of Nixon after he left office (leaving aside the question of legal authority) was a wise decision.

    When the Clinton impeachment was going on, I was of the position that the impeachment was defensible, but ultimately unwise. At that time, I came to the conclusion that impeachment is really a tool to threaten with, but not use. The people who know they will get removed (Nixon, Fortas, and Belknap) will step down; if they don’t step down, they probably won’t be removed and maybe don’t deserve removal (Censure of Clinton and his ultimate disbarment preferable to the destruction caused by the futile proceeding, damage we are still seeing today). Nothing that has occurred since Clinton’s impeachment has served to make me question that conclusion.

    So, regardless of whether the Senate has the actual authority to proceed, the House should NEVER have taken up the matter and the Senate would be wise to drop it. Hopefully, the proceedings can drag out so long that Biden, patiently awaiting confirmation of his cabinet picks, acts like a leader and tells Schumer to get on with HIS business.

    I just don’t know if Joe has it in him.


    • But Jut—as you know, the rule of statutory construction is to never interpret it in a way that makes no sense, even if there are theoretical arguments in that direction. It makes no sense to interpret the somewhat ambiguous language to mean that the Founders intended that impeachment, a remedy for removing a corrupt federal official, could continue after the official was gone, whatever the reason. If that were accepted as the meaning, it opens all sorts of other absurd scenarios that do nothing to enhance the intent of the provision.

      When Nixon resigned, the House had made it clear that a bi-partisan impeachment was inevitable. When he resigned, there was no discussion anywhere—in the news media, among Washington officials, no where, that the impeachment might continue.No historian suggested that it was a possibility. A President being defeated isn’t less compelling to that point than a resignation, it is more so.

      By the way, Johnson would never have stepped down, but he almost certainly thought he would be convicted. He believed the process was illicit, and was forcing the Senate to go all the way.

      Andy had many flaws, but a lack of guts wasn’t among them.

      • Jack,
        Ultimately, I think I agree with you that the there is no jurisdiction; I have even suggested that it would be unconstitutional to impeach Trump for behavior that is protected by the First Amendment, rendering Pelosi etc. impeachable themselves. Nonetheless, it is an open question. And, part of why it is an open question is that it is not clear who is the person to make that call. As Justice Jackson said, “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.” Someone needs to decide this issue, finally. Maybe it will be the Supreme Court, eventually.

        Roberts’ decision not to preside was a good signal as to what he thought.

        However, I think Leahy deliberately or stupidly (it is so hard to tell with politicians) saw the loophole (or missed the sign from Roberts). Roberts stepped down because he is only charged with trying impeachments of Presidents. Now that Trump is not President, trying Trump is no different than trying Fortas or Belknap.


    • Joe’s a marionette. Who knows who is pulling his strings. I suspect John Podesta and all his forty-something acolytes. Ben Rhodes? The DNC? Various Clintonistas? Just not sure.

  4. Normally I regard deliberate posting of positions one doesn’t believe as unethical unless the poster makes the sarcasm or irony obvious.

    I suppose to someone incredibly uninformed, the clear sarcasm would be missed. However, criticizing a person based on a perception that requires profound ignorance of the subject matter is itself unethical. The fact that the angry Twitterati are so ignorant is hilarious, and illustrative (and not in a good way at all).

    So I guess in my own inimical, never-use-one-word-when-twenty-will-do way, I’m agreeing with you.

    What’s really clear is the mainstream media and the left-wing activists (but I repeat myself) are already trying to take down Cotton, who has emerged as a potential leader in the Republican Party.

    Yep. To be fair, they’ll do the same to every single potential Republican presidential candidate they can identify eventually. They just hate Sen. Cotton with a particular venom — Next to former President Trump, they hate him more than any other known 2024 Republican contender because of his outstanding resume, intelligence, wit, and oratory skill. They rightly see him as a legitimate danger to their socialist agenda, and they are correct to do so.

    What “insurrection”? There was no insurrection, just an incompetently executed and handled riot that had no effect on the government at all, was over with in hours, and which was dwarfed in significance and magnitude by actual take-overs of federal and state buildings by Black Lives Matters rioters over the summer.

    Well, Jack, that disinformation® is likely to get you banned in Boston, on Facebook, and… maybe WordPress? Beware!

    Seriously, you have to shake your head in awe at the determination of the Left to co-opt certain words and use them to emphasize their positions or demonize their opponents, even convincing former authorities like Merriam-Webster to change the definition to fit their preferred usage. They are giving the famously-relentless Tasmanian Devil a hell of a run for its money. I would not be surprised to see “insurrection” as the next M-W revision, perhaps including a photo of the January 6th riot by way of example.

    Shameless, but utterly in character.

    • Not so. Under a Communist regime, the child would be rewarded by position or power over her classmates. No money would be available, at least not publicly and for politiciians, but never for a child … unless she could manage a triple axel.

  5. 3. Thank you for pointing this out. I am so tired of the Left calling that mob action an “insurrection.” You don’t commit a coup attempt against the world superpower with a disorganized bunch like that mob. If it began as an planned, coordinated hostile act, it has to rank as the most ridiculously conceived, incompetently planned and ineptly executed insurgent action ever. I personally believe this “insurrection” lie is a part of the Left’s growing efforts to provoke someone on the right into a violent act that will be pretext to draconian actions against all of us.

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