Observations On The Acquittal Of Clinton Lawyer Michael Sussmann

A federal jury today delivered what is widely being called a major setback to special counsel John Durham’s effort to get to the bottom, or at least part of the bottom, of the partisan Democratic plot to bring down the Trump administration. It acquitted lawyer Michael Sussmann on the charge that he lied to the FBI in 2016 while acting on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign, thus causing it to pursue a false investigation.

I must say: I thought this might happen. The Washington Post has long posited a defense that I regarded as cynical and depressing, but it felt like something a jury, especially a C.C. jury, might swallow. Sussman’s lies to the FBI didn’t matter, and neither did Hillary Clinton’s efforts to use what she knew was false information to sic the FBI on Trump. The FBI already knew that the case against Trump was weak and based on garbage, but it didn’t matter. Like so many others, it was determined to keep digging until they got him. And like the Sheldon-maddening argument on “Big Bang Theory” that nothing Indiana Jones does in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” matters (the Ark ends up buried anyway), if Sussman’s lie didn’t have any impact, it’s all “no harm, no foul.” The “Deep State” FBI was already so committed to bringing down Trump that it didn’t need fake clues to justify its investigation investigation. The FBI, like most of the D.C. establishment, was so certain that Donald Trump was…well, cue “The Birds” lady… Continue reading

Post Memorial Day Weekend Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/31/2022

May 31st is one of the really bad dates in U.S. history.

On this date in1921, thousands of white citizens in Tulsa, Oklahoma attacked the city’s predominantly black Greenwood District, burning homes and businesses to the ground and killing hundreds of people. It was one of the worst incidents of racial violence in the nation’s history. Ethics Alarms noted the event last year, and the New York Times did an excellent retrospective here.

 Teaching such important race-related events in public schools isn’t “Critical Race Theory,” and the fact that the Tulsa race massacre—which is an accurate description whereas “Tulsa race riot,” the traditional name, is not—has been largely ignored (or covered up?) in school history curricula  is indefensible. The significant distinction is whether the event is placed in proper context with U.S. progress in race relations and equal opportunity.

Relegating it to the shadows of history, however, is not an option.

1. This time, Republicans really did “pounce.” EA has noted the observed phenomenon of the mainstream media deflecting from actual Democratic Party scandals by focusing on Republican/conservative reaction to the scandals. Indeed it is a marker of the mainstream media’s bias. However, this Newsweek headline is fair and appropriate: “MAGA Republicans POUNCE on Nancy Pelosi’s husband’s DUI.”

Why is a DUI offense by the Speaker of the House’s spouse worthy of so much commentary by the conservative media? It isn’t, that’s all. It is just a cheap way to try to embarrass Pelosi. Her husband wasn’t elected. He has no substantive importance to the nation at all. I don’t care about his DUI, his recent root canal, or the fact that he told a dirty joke to the plumber. None of that is news, or even interesting.

Every relative of a politician isn’t like Hunter Biden. Continue reading

So You’re A Bigot, Then, And Discard Fairness And Reciprocity As Guiding Values! Thanks, Malcolm Gladwell! Good To Know…

I was once a big Malcolm Gladwell (“The Tipping Point”) fan before I figured out the pop psychology and “airplane book” author’s shtick. This latest revelation completes my disenchantment. On his website, Gladwell, discussing interview questions, wrote that he never hired any job applicants who answered in the negative when asked whether they could drive a manual transmission automobile. Those who have mastered a shift and clutch, Gladwell says,realize that the most fun cars in the world to drive are sports cars with manual transmission, and they like the idea of being able to turn a rote activity (driving) into an enjoyable activity. That, and his belief that people who drive a shift like “knowing how to do things that most people do not,” causes him to conclude that these are the only people he wants to work with

Got it. He’s a bigot and an asshole. If I were asked that question and I wasn’t interviewing for a chauffeur, I would ask, “What does that have to do with anything?” The question is really no different from asking one’s religion or party affiliation, ethnic background or position on abortion. It’s a justification for bigotry. The question would be enough for me to terminate the interview, and walk out. I don’t want to work with unfair people.

Continue reading

Update On The Uvalde Massacre Extension Of The Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck, Part 5: The “Good Public Policy Comes From Creating Emotional Hysteria” Theory

“For a culture so steeped in violence, we spend a lot of time preventing anyone from actually seeing that violence,” says an Ethics Dunce quoted with reverence in the New York Times essay, “From Sandy Hook to Uvalde, the Violent Images Never Seen” “Something else is going on here, and I’m not sure it’s just that we’re trying to be sensitive.” Hmmm, what could that ‘something else’ be? It’s a mystery!

It’s ethics, you blithering fool. The Dunce is Nina Berman, a documentary photographer, filmmaker and Columbia journalism professor. See that least part? Is it any wonder that journalists are now our least ethical professionals? Jelani Cobb, incoming dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, is also quoted as saying, “I’m not at all certain that it’s ethical or right to display these images in this way.”

Continue reading

More Strange Tales Of The Great Stupid: Attack On The Mona Lisa

Silly me. I thought actor James Cromwell (“Babe,” “The Queen”) super-gluing himself to a Starbucks counter to protest the high price of vegan milk was the dumbest protest I had heard about in years, and it turns out that it wasn’t even the dumbest protest this month.

At the Louvre last night, a man disguised as a handicapped woman was rolling past Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” in a wheelchair when he leapt to his feet and threw a custard pie at the painting. Why? Can’t you guess? He attacked the lady with the ambiguous smile to protest climate change, of course!

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/30: Memorial Day Edition

That’s my Dad! Our family will be visiting his final destination (and my mother’s as well) at Arlington National Cemetery today. Major Jack Anderson Marshall, Sr. was a decorated war hero, a wounded veteran, and a man who hated war and guns but knew when they were necessary. World War II was the defining experience of his life, and his traumas, triumphs and travails in those years, which began for him before the U.S. entered the war (Dad signed up with the British to fight in Africa) crystalized an ethics code that he conveyed to his two children by example and through intense dinner-time discussions.

I think about him just about every day, so I don’t need this particular holiday for that purpose, but this particular Memorial Day reminds me that I still have to find time to get his fascinating and inspiring memoirs published, which have been languishing in my care since Dad died during a nap on December 1, 2009. (I can’t believe it’s been that long.)

My father was proud that he would rest at Arlington, and took me on periodic outings there in his eighties to “scout the neighborhood.” A Kentucky boy (and Boy Scout), Dad liked to say that he was going from Arlington, Massachusetts (where I grew up), to Arlington, Virginia, where my parents moved to be near their grandchildren, to Arlington National Cemetery. He loved the United States, Loved its history and culture, loved the military, and genuinely loved this holiday. He was one person I could say “Happy Memorial Day!” to and not feel a little goulish.

Happy Memorial Day, Dad.

And thank-you for your service.

1. A superb analysis of the Princeton and MIT ethics abuse of two distinguished professors has just been posted on his blog by Curmie. He provides context and details of the persecution of David Sabitini (MIT) and Jonathan Katz (Princeton), both of which were covered on Ethics Alarms but not nearly as well. I recommend it highly.

2. “Do something! Do something!” I was tempted to make this story a full post (and rant) as either an Unethical Quote of the Day or a mass Ethics Dunce. Before leaving the Uvalde church yesterday where he attended the obligatory service for the victims of yet another mass shooting , Biden encountered angry demonstrators gathered nearby, some of whom booed him as others chanted, “Do something! Do something!” The reason I didn’t make this a stand alone post is that I am applying some restraint in recognition that people in the grip of emotion say and do stupid things. Nonetheless, there are far too many Americans who, prodded by irresponsible politicians and pundits, are using “Do something!” as if it is a legitimate policy position. The chant is offensive, brain-dead, un-American and dangerous. We don’t run to the government to solve our problems, giving it an invitation to abuse its power. The President isn’t God, a King or a Magician, and making one feel omnipotent is suicidal for a democracy. Nor is demanding “something” fair or helpful.  Uvalde has some very specific problems that only its community can solve, like an incompetent, badly-led police force, teachers who leave school doors open that are supposed to be locked, and citizens who ignored one warning sign after another that an angry teen in their midst was potential menace. Meanwhile, telling aspiring totalitarians like the current crop of Democrats to “Do something!” in the midst of hysteria and exploitation is how democracies disappear. Felling insecure? Unsafe? Dissatisfied? Run to papa, have him kiss the boo-boo, trust him to make everything swell. Saying that to this regime is like sending the kid on the yellow inflatable raft out to play with the Great White Shark in “Jaws.” Continue reading

One General Ethics Lesson From Uvalde: We All Have A Duty To Be Proactive Citizens [Corrected]

As with virtually all of the previous mass shootings (and Salvador Ramos’s mother’s infuriating statements notwithstanding), there were a plethora of ominous signs that this 18-year-old was a virtual ticking time bomb, and that he had gun violence on his mind. Yet nobody with that information did anything. Yes, hindsight bias is, as the saying goes, 20-20, and yes, the fact that the Uvalde killer went through with his stated fantasies and desires and murdered 19 children and two adults is moral luck of the bad variety, just as his doing nothing would have been moral luck of the fortunate variety. The point is that pro-active citizenship could have prevented the tragedy, as it could prevent many tragedies.

More such information will probably emerge but so far we know…

  • For days, Ramos had been telling one girl online in Germany that he had “a secret” that he would eventually reveal. When he said he was about to attack the elementary school, she was not sure if he was serious and did not make any effort to contact the police.


This is basic ethics decision-making: if you are wrong about one course of action and the worst consequence is sounding a false alarm, and the consequence of the alternate choice is that people die, the decision should be clear. The girl now says she regrets her decision. That and 20 cents, my father used to say, will buy her a ride on the subway. Continue reading

Update On The Uvalde Massacre Extension Of The Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck, Part 4: ‘Don’t Confuse Us With Facts, Our Minds Are Made Up!’ Edition

Well, I tried again to discuss gun regulation with my next door neighbor following the Uvalde shooting. (The first time was a week before the shooting, discussed here.) We were talking over the proverbial fence about the Uvalde police chief, and her husband said, “Watch: now the whole thing will be blamed on him.” Before I could get out, “Well, not the whole thing, but you have to agree that the police share some resp…,” my neighbor said, “They’ll blame everything but the real cause: there is no reason to allow people to buy automatic weapons.”

“To be completely accurate,” I said cheerily, “you can’t legally buy automatic weapons. That guy in Texas had a semi-automatic.” She literally ignored that distinction. We talked for another 15 minutes, and she kept saying “automatic weapon.” “It’s just the difference between 400 bullets a minute and 300 anyway,” her husband offered. I assume he believes that; when I noted the same distinction between semi-automatic and automatic in a discussion on Facebook, my sister called it “semantics.” It’s not semantics! Moreover, an AR-15 can get off about 40 accurate rounds in the hands of a trained shooter, and about 25 when being used by someone like Ramos. An AK-47, a genuine “assault rifle,” fires about 600 rounds a minute. Hmmm…40 vs. 600. I’d say that’s a material difference. But my neighbor didn’t want to hear it, and didn’t. Continue reading

What’s This? An Unemotional, Unbiased, Rational Analysis Of The Gun Debate In The Wake Of The Uvalde Shooting?

Indeed. Not surprisingly, it comes from the fertile mind of Prof. Eugene Volokh, proprietor of the esteemed legal scholarship blog The Volokh Conspiracy, now hanging out at Reason, after a brief residency at the Washington Post a long tenure as an independent site. Volokh takes his cue from the recent story, predictably buried by the mainstream media but fortuitously timed in the wake of the tragedy in Texas, of a gun-owning and legally-carrying woman in West Virginia who was attending a party when a man who began firing an AR-15-style rifle into the crowd. She drew her weapon and shot him dead before anyone was wounded.

Volokh asks,

Continue reading

Law vs Ethics: A SCOTUS Decision Rings Ethics Alarms

It’s not surprising that last week’s decision in the Arizona case of Shinn v. Ramirez and Jones didn’t get much coverage outside of the legal media. The decision is procedural rather than substantive, and the majority opinion by Justice Thomas in the 6-3 holding is hard sledding. Nonetheless, it is a classic example of law trumping ethics. The Justice Sotomayor dissent, joined by the other two liberal justices, argues that it trumps law as well.

I would not argue that law must never trump ethics, for law requires consistency and systemic application over the long term to have credibility and integrity. However, Shinn involves a man facing the death penalty, and the decision by the conservative justices chose the virtues of finality over the possibility that the government might be executing an innocent man.

Continue reading