Foreign affairs is always an ethics-gray zone, with complex “ends justify the means” trade-offs amid cultural clashes and uncomfortable alliances are unavoidable. President Trump has apparently decided that the nation’s alliance with Saudi Arabia is more important than taking a hard moral-ethical stand regarding what the CIA has determined was a premeditated murder committed by a member of the Saudi ruling family against a journalist. In foreign policy, such trade-offs are the norm rather than the exception, “Everybody does it” is the operative rationalization because, for centuries, every country does do it. It’s not ethical. It’s practical. The American news media is making this episode special because a) it involves a journalist, so their interests are skewed and b) it is President Trump, and everything he does must be condemned to further the aims of the resistance.
Category Archives: Government & Politics
Me? I’m thankful that I’ve had the Warm-Up to fall back on when I’m too busy trying to sleep off this ^$$@!#^& endless chest cold, so I can at least keep a little bit current on Ethics Alarms. Today, the hell with it! Mind over matter, exhaustion be damned, I’m going to work, shop, make delayed client calls and research until I drop, literally. Time to stop being a weenie. Then tomorrow I can be thankful that I’m still alive.
1. Do not let the Clinton defenders off the hook. For me, this is head exploding: the New York Times is crediting an A&E series about “The Clinton Affair” with suddenly, remarkably, making it possible to see that Paula Jones, as well as Katherine Willey and Juanita Broaddrick, were not just “right wing conspiracy”- primed bimbos weaponized to bring down Bill Clinton. Ah! Now, through the sudden clarity provided by the #MeToo movement, the Times and the rest of the mainstream media feels that the truth, so impenetrable all those years ago, has been revealed! Jones was credible! Willey and Broaddrick were (and are) credible! What a shock! Who knew?
Excuse me if I barf. I knew, and, I submit, so did the New York Times et al,, including my hypocritical feminist lawyer friends at the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, where I worked during the Clinton years. “I believe Anita Hill!” boasted the button worn by the association’s first female President. “Really?” I asked her? Then why didn’t you believe Paula Jones? Clinton has had a history of sexual harassment and predator allegations; Clarence Thomas hasn’t.” Her answer was, to paraphrase, “Humina humina humina…’ She had no answer. She knew she had sided with a powerful man against a powerless woman for purely political reasons, and credibility and justice had nothing to do with the calculation. So did the New York Times. All of the defenses of Clinton were rationalizations—all of them, every one. I argued, and I taught at the time, that the Lewinsky affair was classic workplace harassment where the disparity of power made true consent impossible, even as such feminists as Gloria Steinem denied it, because, you see, Bill supported abortion rights. Of course he did. I’ll bet those rights served him well at one or more junctures in his rise.
Now, though, the realization of what Clinton was really doing has come into focus, as if it wasn’t deliberately blurred by the same forces now proclaiming it. In her essay for Vanity Fair earlier this year, Monica wrote that #MeToo had given her a “new lens” for seeing her own story, writing “Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern.”
Well, you’re slow, Monica, but at least you have an excuse. The New York Times is simply covering up a lie. It has no new lens: it was just pretending, along with the Democratic Party and most of the news media, that it didn’t know what was obvious to anyone with a neutral perspective. Bill Clinton was a serial harasser and sexual predator. He used his power in office to abuse women, and then to cover up his misconduct. Hillary Clinton was his accomplice, for her own gain. The President lied under oath in the Jones suit, a genuine, proven, “high crime.” It was not personal conduct, but professional, official, workplace misconduct, by well-accepted standards in the employment law field. That other Presidents, notably Kennedy, hasalso been sexual predators was not an valid excuse or a defense. The Democratic Party’s alleged feminism and dedication to women’s rights has been pure hypocrisy and cynical misrepresentation as long as the Clintons were embraced as allies and icons, a situation which existed right up through the 2016 election.
How dare the Times pretend all of this was unfathomable before 2018? Are Times readers really this corrupt and gullible? I know I especially resent it, because everything the paper says is suddenly, amazingly “in focus” was clear to me 20 years ago, and I got the same sneering condescension from my left-corrupted friends then that I get from them now, though on different topics. I’m thankful for the Clinton Ethics Train Wreck, because it started me writing about ethics on-line. But I am not letting these liars and hypocrites off the hook. Neither should you. Continue reading
Items of note…
1. The Johnny Bobbitt scam story continues...That heartwarming story I highlighted in an Ethics Hero post last year continues to deteriorate. Kate McClure, who conspired with homeless vet Bobbitt to persuade old softies to give over $400,000 to a GoFundMe campaign apparently blames her complicit boyfriend for the debacle. In a recording shared with “Good Morning America” by her lawyers, McClure is heard telling her now ex- ( I assume he’s now an ex…) Mark D’Amico, “You started the whole fucking thing, you did everything! I had no part in any of this, and I’m the one fucking taking the fall!”
I don’t understand the reasoning of people who make this kind of argument. McClure went on TV to tell her phony story, which was about her getting stranded and being rescued by Bobbitt. How can she accuse D’Amico of “starting the whole thing”? Even if the plot was his idea, all she had to do was say “no.” “He made me do it” was always a lame excuse, and when women use it to duck accountability today it is lamer than ever. Did D’Amico hold a gun to her head? Have her parents bound and gagged as hostages? Absent those forms of coercion or something equivalent, she has no argument for avoiding accountability.
2. “Sixteen Candles” ethics: Why didn’t anyone show this scene during the Kavanaugh hearings? Since I’ve been wiped out with my Three Year Killer Cold, I’ve been watching all sorts of strange things on TV. Late last night it was the John Hughes 1984 classic “Sixteen Candles,” now a special target of the Officially Offended and the Political Correctness Police. Ah, those golden, halycon days when a film could get laughs with a goofy Chinese character named Long Duc Dong who could be introduced with a gong sound every time he appeared and who inexplicably dived out of a tree shouting (in Japanese) “Bonzai!” Cringe-producing though it is, the film still provides valuable cultural perspective.
I had forgotten the scene in which awkward, scrawny, horny young teen Anthony Michael Hall jumps Molly Ringwald not once but twice in rapid succession, misunderstanding, somehow, her friendly demeanor as a come-on. She effortlessly pushes him away both times, he is abashed, she shrugs it off, and they continue talking. Hall’s actions nonetheless would be described by many today as a sexual assault, when in the film they were originally intended to represent—and did— a typical embarrassing experiment as a maturing child explores sexual norms.
I imagine that the “attempted rape” described by Dr. Blasey Ford might well have looked just as ridiculous if it had been filmed. I also imagined Ringwald’s character, now flushed with progressive fervor and “woke,” deciding decades later to reframe the absurd encounter all those decades ago as something it was not, and crashing a now mature Anthony Michael Hall’s reputation and career to the applause of the progressive echo chamber.
Anthony Michael Hall is just three years younger than Brett Kavanaugh. Here is what he looks like now, and how he appeared when he covered Molly Ringwald like an octopus in “Sixteen Candles.” . The time frame of the film is approximately the same as the alleged Kavanaugh-Ford incident.
How can anyone seriously—not just seriously, but self-righteously and angrily— argue that the conduct of the child in a completely different cultural context is relevant to the trustworthiness of the adult? Continue reading
Here are a couple passages from two reviews of audiobooks in the New York Times Review of Books, under the heading, “Two New Audiobooks Inspire Teenagers to Make Real Change.”
“Anderson, a professor of African-American studies at Emory — working with a capable assist from the children’s nonfiction writer Tonya Bolden — elaborates on the premise of her previous book “White Rage.” There she argued that while the fires and protests that characterized cities like Ferguson and Baltimore in 2014 and 2015 were seen as an explosion of black rage, quite the opposite was true. The murders of unarmed citizens and the subsequent acquittals of police officers charged in their deaths were just the latest expressions of a white rage that had terrorized the entire country since Reconstruction, making victims of blacks and poor whites alike.”
“Such a simple but profound shift of perspective — the changing from an ahistoric lens to a historical one — is where “We Are Not Yet Equal” excels. By meticulously tracing a path from the fateful deals white abolitionists cut with the Confederacy during Reconstruction right up to the contemporary efforts to roll back voter protections as a response to Obama’s ascendancy, Anderson paints a dire picture of a country that not only combats equal citizenship for black people, but prioritizes that combat over governmental responsibilities including national security, liberty and democracy.”
“Anderson’s book is a story of obsession, of a country’s obsession with denying rights to a people.”
The reviewer is Carvell Wallace, who, like all of us, has a right to his own opinion, as does Carol Anderson, the professor whose work he favorably reviews. Neither has a right to their own facts, however. Michael Brown was not “murdered.” Neither was Freddie Gray. Someone can opine that there was a cover-up in either case, or simply state a belief in contravention of all known evidence, but one cannot state, as fact, that these deaths were “murders of unarmed citizens” and that the acquittals, which were legally mandated by the lack of evidence sufficient to support convictions of murder, were “the latest expressions of a white rage.” They were both, in fact, the only possible expressions of the law regarding guilt and innocence of criminal offenses. Both statements are factually false. Similarly, the statement that the United States has an “obsession with denying rights to a people”—that is, black people, is a Big Lie, a propaganda falsehood so audacious and beyond reality that it warps public perception by being repeated and debated. Continue reading
Here we are.
After a brief recovery Friday the 16th, an early morning seminar for D.C. Bar admittees yesterday crashed me entirely, which is why there were no posts. I almost didn’t make it to the end of the program, which surprised and alarmed me; the last few minutes were excruciating. But I have never cancelled a seminar, and when I do, it will be because my metaphorical chips are about to be cashed. Those who know my theatrical history will recall that I damaged my lungs in college staging and performing a professional dinner theater show six days a week (during final exams) while I was suffering from a serious bronchitis attack; that I refused to cancel in-door performances of The American Century Theater (RIP) during snow storms, and one out-door performance during an electrical storm. Not being able to do my job and fulfill my responsibilities due to illness or injury absolutely crushes me (like many of my obsessions, this one is partially Dad’s fault: he refused to take sick days), and keeping Ethics Alarms current is the least burdensome of my responsibilities.
Once again, I apologize.
1. More apologies, Arlington High School Dept.: My ill-timed illness is also keeping me away from my 50th high school class reunion. I intended to make it, and wanted to make it: I had a wonderful time in high school, and met many of the best people I have ever known while I was there. Past reunions have been somewhat depressing for me: seeing people I remember vividly as young, vital and full of excitement for the future looking as old as they are and often feeling defeated by life makes me feel old, and the inevitable sad cases who feel he or she has to boast about successes and wonderful kids caused me stress as I barely controlled the urge to tell them off. Nonetheless, I regard attendance at such milestones as an obligation to the past, a demonstration of respect for where we have come from and the people and institutions that got us to where we are. And, of course, the more old friends who attend, the better the experience is for everyone. I wish there was a way to let my classmates know that I still think about them and care about them. This blog isn’t it.
2. Who made bad losers in politics respectable? When public trust in democratic institutions reached some yet-to-be-determined tipping point, a democracy is finished. Once, not too long ago, the tradition in American politics was that the defeated candidate—the office didn’t matter, nor did the margin of victory—conceded the race in a timely fashion, congratulated his or her opponent, and vowed to help and assist the victor as much as possible. This not only modeled graciousness and good sportsmanship, but also protected the system. Now every election shows this healthy model being further pushed into cultural obscurity, with a new low being established in Georgia last week, when the loser of the governor’s race, Stacey Abrams, blamed her loss on a failure of democracy, refused to officially concede while admitting that she had lost, and announced a lawsuit alleging that Governor-Elect Brian Kemp and Republicans had tampered with the election without offering any proof or evidence. Well, maybe this wasn’t the new low; it would be hard to top Roy Moore.
3. The new Title IX rules. The Education Department finally released new guidance on how Title IX, the federal statute that forbids sex and gender-based discrimination in public schools and colleges, should be enforced. This was desperately needed after the Obama Administration had muddled and corrupted the process with blatant gender bias and its infamous “Dear Colleague” letter, creating a culture that undermined free expression and due process on college campuses and due process rights for students accused of sexual misconduct. Continue reading
“Justice Breyer final (and actual) concern is with the death penalty itself. As I have elsewhere explained, it is clear that the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death penalty. The only thing “cruel and unusual” in this case was petitioner’s brutal murder of three innocent victims.”
—Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, rebutting the arguments of Justice Breyer, a long-time opponent of capital punishment regarding the denial of certiorari in a death-penalty case, Reynolds v. Florida.
Justice Breyer’s statement reiterated themes he has echoed before in death penalty cases:
- “Lengthy delays—made inevitable by the Constitution’s procedural protections for defendants facing execution—deepen the cruelty of the death penalty and undermine its penological rationale”;
- Jurors (in this or other cases in which the Court has recently denied review) might not have had sufficient information to “have made a ‘community-based judgment’ that a death sentence was ‘proper retribution’”; and
- The constitutionality of the death penalty should be reconsidered.
Justice Thomas’s entire statement in rebuttal, ending in the section quoted above, is excellent… Continue reading