Category Archives: Government & Politics

Sunday Morning Ethics Hangover, 7/15/2018: “Animal House” And The Death Of Truth [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

(WordPress isn’t working properly this morning. Perfect…)

1. Not being biased helps you be non-stupid…Yesterday, chatting with lawyer attendees at my ethics seminar, a former government attorney told me that he had several ex-FBI colleagues who were horrified at many aspects of the Peter Strzok hearings, as was he. Among their concerns:

  • The news media was failing its duty to explain to the public the duties of professionals, and why Strzok’s conduct was unacceptable, unethical, and undermined the credibility of the investigations he was involved in.
  • Democrats were defending the indefensible, and also breaching their duty to the public. They ought to be exactly as outraged as Republicans at a figure as demonstrably biased as Strzok polluting important law enforcement inquiries, and also should have rebuked him for his defiant attitude.
  • The Strzok scandal was immensely damaging to the public image of the FBI, and should be. It demonstrates an agency that has been seriously mismanages, and that has a damaged culture.
  • The simple fact that Strzok would use FBI equipment to send his texts demonstrated outrageous incompetence and lack of judgement. Even setting aside the bias issue, for a key figure in an investigation to behave so recklessly proves that the current FBI is untrustworthy.

Naturally this is gratifying, since the positions are all consistent with those I have expressed here, and also because they are correct.

2.  When miscreants emulate “Animal House” and Democrats applaud...We also discussed Strzok’s ridiculous “Otter defense”in the hearing, as he emulated the cynical (but in that case, funny) argument offered by the “Animal House” character played by Tim Mathieson (“Take it easy! I’m pre-law!” “I thought you were pre-med!” “What’s the difference?”) in a student council hearing over his fraternity members’ outrageous conduct, especially his own:

” Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be brief. The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guests – we did. But you can’t hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn’t we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America!”

This, of course, is exactly the disingenuous tactic employed by Strzok when he pronounced himself grievously offended that his accusers would dare to impugn the integrity of the FBI, knowing well that the harm done to his agency was entirely due to his own actions. Continue reading

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I Don’t Know What You Call This, But I’m Pretty Sure It Isn’t “Honesty” Or “Integrity”…

This embarrassing cretinism is why Americans have no respect for politicians, and it is the kind of utter nonsense that explains how a non-politician was able to win the Presidency. It also makes me giggle, I must confess, in light of the serious statement of late by a generally  perceptive commenter  here that “only one party plays by the rules,” meaning Democrats.

Sure.

Over the Fourth of July, Democrats indulged their more deranged radical base by encouraging calls to “abolish ICE.” The motto is a direct challenge to common sense, national security, national integrity, sovereignty, oh, lots and lots of things, but you know: “think of the children,” the President is a Nazi, all of that. Hey, politics is only about figuring out how to govern effectively and responsibly, so why not encourage policy insanity, if it lets “the resistance” blow off steam between episodes of harassing Republicans in grocery stores and restaurants?

Former Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., attacked the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement  as being a part of a “cruel, dysfunctional immigration system.”  Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. said that ICE “has become a deportation force” which should be abolished. She was joined by New York City’s socialist mayor Bill de Blasio, who called the agency “broken” and “divisive,” and tweeted that it should be abolished. Then the grandstanding Democrats really got carried away in their dishonest political science fiction theater: some of them actually submitted a bill to abolish ICE. The Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act was introduced this week by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), and was instantly supported by major Democratic Party leaders  like Sanders, Gillibrand, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, as well as the party’s’ new rock star, House candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

And what did those mean old Nazi Republicans do to squash the illegal immigration lovers’ efforts? They announced that they will let the insane bill  go to the floor for a vote, thus forcing Democrats to go on record as opposing the enforcement of immigration laws, which the overwhelming majority of American citizens (aka “voters”) support.

The shocked response of the Democrats, having set a trap and fallen into it was priceless. They did a swell imitation of Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, when he was caught in one of his foolish schemes…

On the day after the GOP agreed to put ICE’s existence to a vote, the always risible Ted Lieu (D-Cal) insisted that “Abolish ICE!’ was never meant to be a cry to abolish ICE. “Democrats who have said this are not saying abolish ICE and do nothing,” he humina-ed. “They’re saying we should have a new agency that has principles and values more consistent with what the American people believe.”  Ah. So Democrats saying that they wanted to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement really want Immigration and Customs laws enforced! Thanks for clarifying that, Ted, you pathetic weasel.

But Lieu was instantly outdone by the double-talking sponsors of the bill.  Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Adriano Espaillat of New York—the Three Open Borderskateers who launched the faux  bill, told The Hill, 

“We know Speaker [Paul] Ryan is not serious about passing our ‘Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act,’ so members of Congress, advocacy groups, and impacted communities will not engage in this political stun.If Speaker Ryan puts our bill on the floor, we plan to vote no and will instead use the opportunity to force an urgently needed and long-overdue conversation on the House floor.”

Interesting theory. If the Speaker “isn’t serious” about passing a Democratic bill up for a vote, then it’s not a real bill? Not a good bill? Not a statement of Democratic policy?  Said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), admirably suppressing a grin,  “I think everyone ought to be on record about where they stand on that issue.”

You see, and I know you can see, the Democrats who were calling for the abolishment of ICE were posturing, faking, lying. They were faking their indignation, and pandering in the certainty that they would never have to back up their words with actions.

Snarks Ann Althouse: “This story is the perfect illustration of the phrase ‘It’s all politics.'”

That’s a nice way of describing it.

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Unethical Website Of The Month: HealthNews NJ.com

One of the most patently dishonest campaign tactics is for a candidate to put up a fake website purporting to report “news” that is really there to attack his or her political opponent. Who would do such a thing? Well, one good bet would be a U.S. Senator who already narrowly escaped conviction on bribery charges because his providing political favors to a “friend” who showered him with gifts could be proven to result from a quid pro quo arrangement.

Sure enough, the new website HealthNewsNJ.com, with the exception of a tiny-print disclosure at the bottom of its home page does all it can to convince readers that it is an independent news site.  In reality, it is a campaign-run hit site put up by the campaign of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) to attack his opponent, Bob Hugin, the former CEO of the pharmaceutical company Celgene. A typical post on the website, which runs below a byline crediting it to “HealthNewsNJ Staff,” is titled: “How greedy drug company CEO Bob Hugin gouged cancer patients and enabled Donald Trump.” On Facebook, the site’s page calls itself  a “news and media website.”  Neither it nor the HealthNewsNJ  Twitter account mentions a tie to Menendez or his campaign.

Putting up a fake website like this is signature significance. Menendez is willing to deceive the public. He’s a liar, by definition. He cannot be trusted.

Luckily for him, he’s running in New Jersey, so it probably won’t matter.

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From The Conservative Media: More Fake Stupid News

Boy I’m tired of falling for this kind of click-bait on the conservative news websites.

“Hillary Clinton Says Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Will Bring Back Slavery” shouted the headline on a story at PJ Media by Tyler O’Neill.  Uh, no, that’s not really what she said. This is; Clinton told the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) at its national convention:

“Let me say a word about the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,”  “This nomination holds out the threat of devastating consequences for workers rights, civil rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights — including those to make our own health decisions. It is a blatant attempt by this administration to shift the balance of the Court for decades and to reverse decades of progress,” the former Democratic presidential nominee declared. I used to worry that they [the Republicans] wanted to turn the clock back to the 1950s. Now I worry they want to turn it back to the 1850s.”

Says O’Neill, maybe with a straight face: “Clinton was clearly suggesting that Trump and Kavanaugh want to return to the days when slavery was legal in the South.”

What hypocrisy. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/13/2018: Trump And Strzok

Good Morning, London!

1. Trump Trump Trump. You know, I was on a political Facebook page in 2016 where an idiot kept posting “Trump Trump Trump” despite everyone, including the moderator, telling him to cut it out. Eventually he was banned from the site. Unfortunately, there is no similarly simple solution to this problem when a combination of the Trump-hostile news media and the President himself forces a variety of ethics issues on me, when I would rather be musing about baseball, old sitcoms, and guys in lobster hats.

  • The pardons. President Trump  pardoned Dwight L. Hammond, now 76, and his son, Steven D. Hammond, 49, a pair of Oregon cattle ranchers who had been serving out five-year sentences for arson on federal land, which had sparked the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in 2016. Naturally these pardons were attacked, because anything Trump does will be attacked. The resulting conflict brought widespread attention to anger over federal land management in the Western United States,and that’s a good thing. How can the federal government justify owning almost half of Western land?

As for the pardons, both men have served most of their sentences already, and not only were the sentences unusually harsh for their offenses, the cases had the whiff of political prosecutions about them. They were perfectly legitimate objects for Presidential pardons, but then so are hundreds of thousands of other cases. Presidents should issue as many pardons as possible, which means eliminating a lot of the red tape. So far, Trump has sucked the tape by cherry-picking beneficiaries in his own, eccentric, biased way, using his unique, unassailable Constitution-based power to court supporters, celebrities and particular constituencies—not that there’s anything wrong with that, as long as other deserving citizens also get pardoned, and really, all but the most unrepentant, vile and dangerous felons deserve mercy and compassion eventually. Unless the pardon power is used broadly and constantly, its blessings too often depend on who you know. In the case of the ranchers, for example, a large donor to Vice-President Pence lobbied for the pardons. Again, that doesn’t mean the pardons can’t be justified. It does mean the process is skewed by factors not related to justice or fairness.

I found this to be the most ethically intriguing paragraph in the Times story about Pence pal, tycoon Forrest Lucas, and his likely influence on the pardons:

“While other presidents have also gone ahead of Justice officials to pardon apparent allies, they have often waited until their final days in office to do so. Mr. Trump, by comparison, has issued high-profile pardons early and comparatively often — seemingly unconcerned by the appearance of leaning his ears toward those at the top.”

So is Trump being unethical in a more ethical fashion than his predecessors?

  • Bad host, worse guest. The President’s derogatory comments about the British Prime Minister were indefensible, of course. We know how he thinks: Great Britain, as he has said, with justification, has made him feel unwelcome—that insulting “Trump baby” blimp over London is a real diplomatic low—and thus, in Trump’s rudimentary ethics system, akin to that of a lizard, the proper response is tit-for-tat. None of this is unexpected, and nobody who voted for Trump can say that they didn’t give him license to behave this way by electing him.

I do wonder now why I ever thought that he would react to being elected by moderating the very conduct that, in his mind and probably in reality, got him where he is today. My role model for him was President Arthur, who was about as different in character and background from Donald Trump as a human being could be.

I’m an idiot. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/12/2018: The Cleveland Indians, “On The Waterfront,” And Garza v. Hargan

Good Mornin’!

(I know I’ve posted this “Singin’ in the Rain” showstopper more than once, but it makes me happy, so there.)

1. From the Cleveland Indians, a Robert E. Lee moment: As the Cincinnati Reds were threatening, with two outs, the bases loaded and the Indians clinging to a 4-3 lead, Tribe manager Terry Francona wanted to bring in left-hander Oliver Perez to face left-handed Reds slugger Joey Votto , the book move, a classic left on left matchup.  But pitching coach Carl Willis thought he heard Francona tell him to summon right-hander Dan Otero.“He thought I said O.T.,” Francona said, using Otero’s nickname. “I said O.P.” With the advantage of facing a right-handed pitcher (most lefties hit righties better) Votto promptly hit a three-run double off Otero, giving the Reds a 6-4 lead.

Even though it would have made no sense for Francona to ask for Otero, the manager emulated Robert E. Lee’s fine leadership moment, meeting with his battered troops after they were shot to pieces in Pickett’s Charge and telling them, “It was all my fault.” “It falls on me,” he told the press. “I actually talked to the team and told them that I thought I messed up.”

Some wags have suggested that the decline of creative baseball player nicknames was really at fault. If Francona had called for Vinegar Bend, The Big Train, , The Monster or “Death to Flying Things,” nobody would have been confused.

2. Forget the dishonest narrative and spin: here’s what really happened in Garza v. Hargan: No, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s eminently qualified nominee to fill retiring Justice Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court, did not try to block an illegal immigrant teen from having an abortion, as the desperate fear-mongering Democrats are claiming. 

In October 2017,  the ACLU filed suit against the Trump administration on behalf of “Jane Doe,” a pregnant teen from Cnetral America who had been arrested while entering the country illegally. Through  her guardian, Rochelle Garza, “Doe” sought release from the federal shelter where she was being detained to obtain an abortion. Eric Hargan, the acting secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services at the time, took the position that the government   had no obligation to facilitate Doe’s abortion.  She had the option of returning to her native country—where she belonged anyway— or being released to a sponsor. A federal trial judge ruled for Doe and the abortion, saying that the government’s refusal to release a minor from custody constituted an “undue burden” on Doe’s constitutional right to an abortion. HHS appealed to the D.C. Circuit, and on appeal, Judge Kavanaugh authored the majority opinion that reversed the lower court’s decision. Here is the crux of the opinion: Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Black Swan Books Owner Nick Cooke

The “A Nation of Assholes” scenario is in full sway when an entire side of the ideological divide attacks the owner of a public accommodation for insisting that his customers are not harassed and abused. That is a fair description of the fall-out from the recent episode at Richmond’s Black Swan Books, where the owner behaved like the owner of the Red Hen restaurant should have behaved: like an American, like a supporter of diversity of view, like a believer in our political system, like a foe of bias and discrimination.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Nick Cooke, owner of Black Swan Books on West Main Street in the Fan District, said Bannon was in the bookstore Saturday afternoon and that a woman confronted him, calling him a “piece of trash.” Cooke said he called 911 and that the woman left as he made the call.

“Steve Bannon was simply standing, looking at books, minding his own business. I asked her to leave, and she wouldn’t. And I said, ‘I’m going to call the police if you don’t,’ and I went to call the police and she left,” Cooke said. “And that’s the end of the story.”

The Richmond Police Department confirmed a call was made around 3:15 p.m. Saturday for a report of someone yelling at a political figure in the bookstore and that the call was canceled before any officers responded.

“We are a bookshop. Bookshops are all about ideas and tolerating different opinions and not about verbally assaulting somebody, which is what was happening,” Cooke said.

But it was not the end of the story, because so many Democrats and progressives have taken a dangerous turn to totalitarianism and the tactics of  Lenin and the Nazi Party, seeking to harass and abuse those with whom they disagree. The antifa is no longer on the far fringes of the Left: it is creeping toward the center, or perhaps the better metaphor is that the Left is creeping toward it, and I do mean creep. These are awful people, as I’ve said before. Not because of their beliefs, but because of their conduct. Unable to produce the political dominance that they thought had been assured with the election of Barack Obama, frustrated progressives are increasingly abandoning the values and processes of a constitutional democracy to resort to political and social warfare. The attempt to exclude conservatives and Republicans from the basic rights of citizenship, such as being able to walk down a street, shop, or have dinner without being accosted and hectored, represents an escalation, and is signature significance for an ideological movement that has forsworn ethics for the pursuit of power.

( And yes, I personally think Steve Bannon is also an awful person. As is President Trump. As are Maxine Waters, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, Joy Reid, Michael Cohen, Charles M. Blow, Barry Bonds, Stephen Colbert, Howard Stern, Joe Arpaio, Omarosa, Anthony Scaramucci, Harry Reid, Scott Pruitt, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. There are many millions of arguably awful people, all well short of being criminals, in this country, and every one of them has the right to live his or her life unmolested when they are not being overtly awful. Any political party that takes the position that this statement is not true should be disqualified from holding power.)

Speaking of awful people, Philippe Reines, a top aide in Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign, tweeted out the contact information for the bookstore on Sunday afternoon, in effect doxxing her and siccing the social media mob and the Maxine Waters Brigade on the book store and its owner. Typical of the illogic employed by the self-righteous harassers was this tweet:

Woman: Steve Bannon, you’re a piece of trash!

Bookstore Owner: We are a bookstore! We tolerate different ideas!

Also Bookstore Owner: *calls police on woman to have her removed because she expressed her different ideas*

No, you lying moron, the owner called the police because the woman was harassing his customers.  Presumably Nick would have called the police on Bannon if the former Trump aide had been harassing her.

Black Swan Books  is the anti-Old Town Sport&Health Club, which I wrote about as an Ethics Dunce here.

In that 2017 fiasco, a Georgetown professor named Fair, ironically enough, harassed white nationalist Richard Spencer while he was quietly working out, no Heil! gestures or anything, and the club revoked his membership.

(Remember: awful people. Do NOT let them get power.)

I wrote—and I’m sorry for such a long self-quote, but I think I wrote it well the first time:

I’m so weary of reading about restaurants that give discounts to diners who pray, and bar owners who declare that no Democrats are welcome and Maine propane dealers who tell their customers that they can freeze to death if they voted for Donald Trump. I’m tired of pointing out what should be obvious to everyone in a pluralistic society, but suddenly isn’t, particularly, it seems, to proto-totalitarians like the Georgetown professor, who is doubtless hard at work indoctrinating her young charges into believing that those with non-conforming views should have their rights taken away for the greater good. I detest Spencer’s views, but I consider Fair and her kind the far greater threat to the nation, in part because there are so many of them.

Why? She is a greater threat because her version of society doesn’t work, and soon devolves into armed camps. As I wrote in a post called, “Americans: End This Slippery Slope Now, Before It’s Too Late,” about a Washington, D.C. restaurant that publicly apologized for letting an alt-right group to eat there,

I know, I know: Neo-Nazis are really bad. Yet I don’t want my freedom to participate in life and society to be limited by someone else’s judgments about my beliefs or politics. Listen to the rhetoric from angry Clinton supporters since the election. If you want to enforce immigration laws, you hate Latinos. If you think the unborn deserve rights, you are a misogynist. If you voted for Trump, you are a blight on humanity. Thanks to the rhetoric of Black Lives Matters and the tacit approval of some well-placed politicians, police officers have been refused service in various establishments… The argument that this group or that group is special and doesn’t deserve the same courtesy and service as other groups is simply a rationalization born of bias, like… the position that the Vice President Elect, alone among all the millions of audience members who are allowed to attend theatrical performances as part of the community, ought to be subjected to personal harassment based on his political beliefs.

If we, as a culture,  approve of this abusive treatment of the alt-right, then we are approving similar treatment when the group being discriminated against is the Democratic Party, the ACLU, a mosque, the Shriners, the Boy Scouts, NARAL, or a newspaper editorial board. Rights mean nothing if the most unpopular, most controversial, most offensive individuals and organizations cannot exercise them….This is a slippery slope that leads right to the end of the principles and liberties that make the United States an ethical nation, and perhaps a nation at all.

Well, since I wrote that, self-righteous, proto-totalitarian progressives and “the resistance” have been greasing that slippery slope.

The Richmond bookstore owner’s effort isn’t enough by itself, but at least he demonstrated how to throw sand on it.

 

 

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