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.” Continue reading

The Damning Fake Video

During last week’s  impeachment hearings, Democratic Judiciary Counsel Norman Eisen (above, on the left) presented a video clip showing President Trump  saying: “Then I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as President.” Asked to comment on the video, Harvard Law School Professor Noah Feldman—you know, he’s the one who falsely told the committee and America that Nixon “sent burglars” to steal documents from the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in 1972. That guy— replied, “As someone who cares about the Constitution,” the statement “struck a kind of horror in me.”

Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, referenced the same quotation as it was heard in the clip , concluding that President Trump “believes that in his own words, ‘I can do whatever I want.’” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was referencing the same video when she said Thursday that Trump threatened  the Constitution by acting as a “king.”

Later in the week, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig twice cited the same clip.  So did MSNBC’s Chris Mathews during  “Hardball,” and  MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on “Morning Joe.” The Washington Post spread the same report about the video.

In all six cases, a video deceptively edited to misrepresent what the President was referring to was used to inflame and deceive.  Continue reading

Dress Code Ethics: Stupid, Yes, But Offensive? Seriously, American Airlines?

This is too dumb to poll on, so I won’t, but still…

Swati Runi Goyal, 49, was told that she would be kicked off the American Key West flight to Las Vegas unless she removed a black shirt with the text “HAIL SATAN”  along with“Est. 666” and an upside-down cross.

Goyal was seated with her husband  when an American Airlines crew member told her to remove her shirt or get off the plane. The flight was delayed until she changed into an extra shirt that her husband was wearing. “The gentleman asked me if I understood what ‘offensive’ meant, Goyal told the news media.  She says she is  an atheist and a member of the Satanic Temple, which she supports because one of its tenets is “kindness to all creatures.”

Observations: Continue reading

Now THIS Is An Unprofessional Lawyer!

And juuuuust a bit uncivil, I’d say. I  may be wrong…

In a motion to dismiss an insurance law suit, Allstate’s lawyers revealed this remarkable conduct on the part of plaintiff’s attorney Christopher Hook in his communications during the case. According to the declaration of those attorneys in their motion, Hook said or wrote…

  • “Fuck you crooks. Eat a bowl of dicks.” (Declaration of Peter H. Klee, Ex. 1, p. 5)
  • “I’m going to let the long dick of the law fuck Allstate for all of us.” (Id., p. 7)
  • “Hey Klee you Cumstain the demand is now 302 million. Pay up fuckface.” (Id., p. 8)
  • “Peter when you are done felating your copy boy tell Allstate the demand is now 305 million.” (Id., p. 9)
  • “[Other Sheppard Mullin attorneys] may not be too smart but at least they have some fucking dignity and honor unlike you two limp dick mother fuckers.” (Id., p. 10)
  • “What is Wright going to do when he finds out Allstate is using people who are borderline retarded to adjust complex claims. That’s what I’m going to do. Demand increases tomorrow.” (Klee Decl., Ex. 1, p. 11)
  • “Anytime now faggot.” (Id., p. 13)
  • “I want my clients’ money gay boys.”

Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, Pearl Harbor Day, 2019: Actual Crimes, Misdemeanors And Other Despicable Acts Edition

Remember.

1. The Bad Guys. This email message was received by George Washington Law School administrators urging it to punish Prof. Johnathan Turley for presenting a factual analysis of the Democrats’ contrived case against Donald Trump:

“I am writing you all after listening to Jonathan Turley’s disgraceful statement defending the corrupt and impeachable actions of President Trump at the House Judiciary impeachment hearing today. I know you all cringe inside knowing that you are affiliated in some way with Turley and have to work or study at the same institution in which he is employed. He is defending the indefensible and I hope that all of the Deans at GWU Law and the students will recognize that he is not serving in the best interest of our country and is a detriment to the success of your school’s future reputation. His actions today were spineless and shameful. He is clearly a lackey for the Trump Administration I trust you will act appropriately and reprimand this sad excuse of a man.”

The email was unsigned, but the school says it did not come from a student. Meanwhile, on his blog, Turley has stated that his “office and home have been inundated with threats from people irate over the fact that I would question the sufficiency of this record for impeachment.” He also has felt it necessary to respond to intentionally false arguments against his positions. That Turley’s employers would be told by anyone that the public courage and erudition of Prof. Turley could possibly be “a detriment to the success” of the “school’s future reputation” show how completely the  mass determination to “get” President Trump has entered the realm of Bizarro World ethics, or perhaps for younger fans of “Stranger Things,” the Upside Down.

A commenter on the post about the email at Legal Insurrection writes,

In The Coming of the Third Reich (2003), historian Richard J. Evans explains how, in the early days of National Socialist Germany, Stormtroopers (Brownshirts) “organized campaigns against unwanted professors in the local newspapers [and] staged mass disruptions of their lectures.” To express dissent from Nazi positions became a matter of taking one’s life into one’s hands. The idea of people of opposing viewpoints airing their disagreements in a civil and mutually respectful manner was gone. One was a Nazi, or one was silent (and fearful).

Today’s fascists call themselves “anti-fascists.” Just like the Nazis, they are totalitarian: they are determined not to allow their opponents to murmur the slightest whisper of dissent. Forcibly suppressing the speech of someone with whom one disagrees is a quintessentially fascist act.

Exactly.

2. The Legacy of Marion Barry.  Usually crooked D.C. politicians who are caught stealing money or passing it along to cronies —and there have been oh-so-many of them, resign, long-time member D.C. City Council member Jack Evans, however, became the first local scam artist to be kicked off the body, which voted this week that he  be expelled after a series of investigations found Evans, the city’s longest-serving lawmaker, used his public office to benefit private clients and employers who paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“He has betrayed each and every one of us,” said council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who is leading the internal investigation of Evans. “You would speak to him about council things, but he was speaking for the people who were buying him.”

This time, for a change, the elected crook is white, so there will be no demonstrations by D.C. residents claiming racism. Whew! Continue reading

Conclusion To The Written Statement of Prof. Jonathan Turley: “The Impeachment Inquiry Into President Donald J. Trump: The Constitutional Basis For Presidential Impeachment”

Jonathan Turley ended his epic testimony before the House Judiciary Committee with a flourish. His whole statement was remarkable, leaving no reasonable argument for impeachment standing—but then the now-insatiable desire to undo the 2016 election has never been rational, and it has relied, despicably, on the historical and legal ignorance of the vast majority of the American people. Turley provided an opportunity for responsible citizens to educate themselves: his language was easy and clear, and there were no pompous or especially academic turns of phrase. Nonetheless, few will read or watch the whole thing, allowing the news media, which has exceeded all previous villainy in this three-year long fiasco, to distort and minimize his patriotic achievement. To the degree that they succeed, it is do the detriment of the nation, and its future. Somehow, Turley makes this clear as well, yet does so without the kind of alienating condemnation that I, in his position, would be unable to resist.

No doubt about it, the professor is a far better scholar and advocate than I am, and a brilliantly talented teacher as well. Still, he made me feel good about the analysis I have been presenting here since 2016. I have studied Presidential history for a shockingly long time; I know my impeachment history well, and observed two of the three previous inquiries up close, live and carefully. I have been certain, certain, from the beginning that what we have seen here is an unprecedented crypto-coup, for virtually all the reasons Professor Turley explains. I’m glad to have the legal authority and the meticulous tracking of where the inquisition ran off the rails, but Turley validated the analysis I have  given readers here. That came as a relief and a confirmation.

It was naturally a special pleasure that the professor ended his testimony by referencing the scene in the video above, from “A Man for All Seasons,” my favorite ethics moment in any movie, and the clip most often used on Ethics Alarms. He also referenced the story of the Republican Senators who turned on their party and voted to acquit President Andrew Johnson, for me the most memorable chapter of “Profiles in Courage,” the book that introduced me to the topic of ethics when I was 12 years old. Turley quotes one of the Senators who was only slightly mentioned by credited author John Fitzgerald Kennedy, but it’s a stirring quote, and damn any politician or citizen who ignores its message.

Lyman Trumbull (R- Ill.) explained fateful decision to vote against Johnson’s impeachment this way:

“Once set the example of impeaching a President for what, when the excitement of the hour shall have subsided, will be regarded as insufficient causes … no future President will be safe who happens to differ with the majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate …I tremble for the future of my country. I cannot be an instrument to produce such a result; and at the hazard of the ties even of friendship and affection, till calmer times shall do justice to my motives, no alternative is left me…”

Those who endanger the future of my country because of their unrestained anger, hate, confirmation bias, partisan loyalty, prejudice, need to conform, and yes, ignorance and their lack of education, are contemptible. Those who lead them in pursuit of power are worse.

[Turley’s entire statement, with footnotes, is here. The Ethics Alarms edited version is here (Part I); here (PartII); here (Part III); here (Part IV), and here (Part V.) The video is here.]

***

V. CONCLUSION

Allow me to be candid in my closing remarks. I get it. You are mad. The President is mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My Republican friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog is mad . . . and Luna is a golden doodle and they are never mad. We are all mad and where has it taken us? Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad or will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration?

That is why this is wrong. It is not wrong because President Trump is right. His call was anything but “perfect” and his reference to the Bidens was highly inappropriate. It is not wrong because the House has no legitimate reason to investigate the Ukrainian controversy. The use of military aid for a quid pro quo to investigate one’s political opponent, if proven, can be an impeachable offense.

It is not wrong because we are in an election year. There is no good time for an impeachment, but this process concerns the constitutional right to hold office in this term, not the next.

No, it is wrong because this is not how an American president should be impeached. For two years, members of this Committee have declared that criminal and impeachable acts were established for everything from treason to conspiracy to obstruction. However, no action was taken to impeach. Suddenly, just a few weeks ago, the House announced it would begin an impeachment inquiry and push for a final vote in just a matter of weeks. To do so, the House Intelligence Committee declared that it would not subpoena a host of witnesses who have direct knowledge of any quid pro quo. Instead, it will proceed on a record composed of a relatively small number of witnesses with largely second-hand knowledge of the position. The only three direct conversations with President Trump do not contain a statement of a quid pro quo and two expressly deny such a pre-condition. The House has offered compelling arguments why those two calls can be discounted by the fact that President Trump had knowledge of the underlying whistleblower complaint. However, this does not change the fact that it is moving forward based on conjecture, assuming what the evidence would show if there existed the time or inclination to establish it. The military aid was released after a delay that the witnesses described as “not uncommon” for this or prior Administrations. This is not a case of the unknowable. It is a case of the peripheral. The House testimony is replete with references to witnesses like John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Mulvaney who clearly hold material information.

To impeach a president on such a record would be to expose every future president to the same type of inchoate impeachment. Continue reading

End of A Horrible Week Ethics Warm-Up, 12/6/2019…

Ho Ho Ho Crap!

1. “Radical? What radical?” Stanford law professor Pam Karlan, who stood out as a neon beacon highlighting 2019 Democratic Party extremism when she turned her House testimony on impeachment into an unhinged, Trump-hate rant including a cheeap shot at Barron Trump’s name, was apparently too radical for Barack Obama, says Legal Insurrection. He appointed far more moderate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, despite Democrats then being in control of both Houses.

“Fast forward to 2019, and this radical Obama SCOTUS reject is a star witness for the Democrat impeachment circus,” the blog notes. “It’s surreal how completely the Democrats have removed themselves from any semblance of rational thought when it comes to their impeachment obsession.”

If we regard the public as the jury and the House Democrats as prosecutors, how can one explain putting such an angry, ugly, biased and partisan fanatic on the metaphorical stand as an “expert witness”? Isn’t that gross incompetence? What’s going on here? In fact, let’s poll it. Who knows, maybe it will draw almost as much interest as the Peloton commercial poll, the second most active in Ethics Alarms history (so far). (But then there were more Google searches on “Peleton” than “impeachment” last week, so we know what American priorities are…)

2. Polls suggest that public opposition to abortion is rising again. Gee, I wonder why?

“Can you believe this?” wrote one on Facebook. “Knights of Columbus Belleville  (all men) organized this absolutely shameful act ….and also posted it on their facebook page.” Erecting a the memorial is shameful. Got it.

Well, they were just warts and parasites, so she has a point.

The National Post reported that the coordinator of a protest over the memorial stone, Elissa Robertson, accused the Catholic charity of “attacking a women’s right to choose,” saying,

“It was designed to shame people. I think it was absolutely uncalled for and that money they put into this anti-abortion monument could have done a lot of good somewhere else. It ties into patriarchal values and this idea that women’s bodies are meant to be controlled by men. It’s a broader issue that ties into violence against women, it ties into health care, it ties into safety.”

It ties into climate change! It ties into racism! It ties into tooth decay!

If one has no regrets or shame about snuffing out nascent human lives, then how does the monument shame you? The abortion argument is very difficult to win on a factual or ethical basis, but advocates have learned that “How dare you!” and “Shut up!” are very effective.

Actress Jameela Jamil certainly isn’t ashamed. She’s refreshingly honest…and scary. In a November Harper’s Bazaar interview with Gloria Steinem, she said,

“I’m very outspoken about the fact that I, similarly to you, feel very passionately about a woman’s right to choose I’m someone who’s had an abortion, and I feel like I need to make sure that we prove it’s not always just emergencies. People have abortions, sometimes a woman just wants her liberty, and we have to normalize that it’s okay just to make that choice for yourself, because your life is as important as a newborn life that doesn’t even exist yet.”

Wait, if it’s not living, then why do you have to kill it? Is it really a fair  to compare your avoiding an inconvenient responsibility or life disruption with another human being losing its life? Challenged on this, the actress responded on social media, “I SAID WHAT I FUCKING SAID and you’re clueless if you think I’m going to take it back. My life is more important to me than an unborn fetus’s one. Suck on THAT!”

Wait: I thought you said no life was involved.

This is the approximate level of thought, sensitivity and ethical analysis we hear from almost all pro-abortion activists. Basic competence and responsibility rules: if you can’t discuss a topic more articulately and thoughtfully than this, leave the issue to others. Here’s another one of Jamil’s clever arguments:

Or better yet, why not just kill them too? Continue reading