Category Archives: Incompetent Elected Officials

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)

Usually the “Incompetent Elected Official” category comes down to some variety of a conclusion that can be summed up by the sturdy phrase, “What an idiot.”  This one is worse than that.

Representative Devin Nunes is chairman of the House committee investigating Russian interference in the Presidential election. This involves intelligence, investigations and secrets that are necessarily a matter of discretion until a final report can be released. No investigation can proceed in a trustworthy manner if every new shred of information becomes public, or worse, is revealed to parties who have a stake in the investigation. This has been understood by members of Congress since, oh, the first Congressional inquiry. The Constitution’s framers assumed that Congress would conduct investigations, just as as the British House of Commons did. James Wilson of Pennsylvania, Convention delegate, a future Supreme Court Justice and the Declaration of Independence signer that “1776” unjustly smears as a weenie , wrote in 1774 that House of Commons members were considered

“grand inquisitors of the realm. The proudest ministers of the proudest monarchs have trembled at their censures; and have appeared at the bar of the house, to give an account of their conduct, and ask pardon for their faults.”

During the First Congress in 1790, Robert Morris, who was the superintendent of finances during the Continental Congress and a financier of the American Revolution, asked Congress to investigate his handling of the country’s finances to clear his name of claimed improprieties. If Nunes doesn’t know the history of the legislative function he is involved in, he should.

Nunes had received intelligence that related to the President’s disputed claim that “he” (meaning who and what, it is unclear) had been wiretapped (meaning surveiled, presumably) by  “Obama” (meaning someone who reports to Obama, I’m guessing), and chose to bypass his committee members, Democrats, protocol and common sense by relaying it directly to the White House. The new information,  Nunes said, showed that American intelligence agencies monitoring foreign officials may have “incidentally” picked up communications from Trump transition team members, and thus the President’s much maligned accusation was kind-of, sort-of, bolstered.

Predictably, the President followed this good news with a tweet. Ugh.

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials

Unethical Presidential Tweet Of The Month

Ugh.

Hip hop artist Snoop Dogg is desperate for some publicity, I guess, so why not troll President Trump?  He’s issued a music video of the song  “Lavender,” in which a Trump-imitating actor in clown makeup is sort of assassinated by the singer. This is art. It poses no threat to the President. Tasteless? Ugly? Provocative? You decide. Whatever you decide, however, the President’s tweet is factually wrong. Ken White explains at Faultlines:

This is all nonsense…First Amendment analysis isn’t mathematics, but it’s not philosophy, either. The rules, and how they have generally been applied, are knowable. The rules for whether a statement can be taken as a criminal threat against the President have been clear for 47 years, since Vernon Watts talked about putting LBJ in the sights of a hypothetical rifle. The rules governing claims of “incitement” are even clearer. Unless Snoop Dogg’s video was intended to produce, and likely to produce, imminent lawless action, or was intended as and objectively understandable as a sincere expression of intent to do Trump harm, it’s not criminal. Period. This is not a close or ambiguous call.

Correct. Now, as regular readers here know, I have an abundance of tolerance for the President’s tweeting. It’s not dignified, and it undermines his authority and dignity, and it embarrasses the government and degrades the office. Most of the tweets, however, are just stupid.

This one, however, misstates the law, and, as White points out, the President is sworn to protect the laws of the United States. You don’t protect them by misrepresenting them, or by miseducating citizens who are just as ignorant of the law as the President is.

This can’t be put off any longer: if he is going to keep tweeting, the President’s tweets have to be vetted by a lawyer.

NOT this one, though.

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Social Media

In A Photo Finish Race For Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month, Ohio State Wes Retherford (R) Edges Texas State Rep. Jessica Farrar (D)

Both are embarrassments to their parties, their states, and the voters who elected them, however.

First the winner: Ohio State Representative Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, who was discovered over the weekend passed out drunk in his car with a loaded firearm at a McDonald’s drive-thru . Wes was arrested by Butler County sheriff’s deputies, and faces charges of operating a vehicle under the influence and improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, because there is no current criminal law covering unbelievably stupid conduct by an elected official.

Retherford was easily re-elected in November in the heavily Republican district, even though voters had to know he was a drunk. He had to defeat a challenger in the GOP primary after another candidate gained the party’s endorsement because Retherford had been criticized for “partying.” “Partying” is a euphemism, in this case, for “has a serious drinking problem and is likely to end up  passed out drunk in his car at a McDonald’s drive-thru with a loaded firearm. The Ohio House Speaker even had to order a drinks cart removed from Retherford’s office because it violated House rules. People voted for him anyway. They must be so proud.

Our runner-up is a different brand of fool, but a fool nonetheless: Texas State Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Democrat, offered what she termed a “satirical bill”  that would fine men for masturbating, allow doctors to refuse to prescribe Viagra and require men to undergo a medically unnecessary rectal exam before any elective vasectomy. Farrar says that she knows her bill will never pass, but says she hopes it will start a conversation about abortion restrictions. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

KABOOM! Unethical Quote Of The Month, And Maybe Hypocrisy Of The Century: Nancy Pelosi

I’m stunned. I honestly did not think it was possible for  Nancy Pelosi to surprise me any more, as my expectations for her utterances are so low as to be subterranean. I certainly didn’t think she could make my head explode again. Pelosi accomplished the impossible, however, by including this astounding line in a letter to Paul Ryan regarding a GOP replacement for the Affordable Care Act. She actually wrote…

“The American people and Members have a right to know the full impact of this legislation before any vote in Committee or by the whole House.”

KABOOM!

1. This is the same woman whose most famous quote, regarding the ACA, is “We have to pass the  bill so that you can find out what’s in it….” 

2. The law the Republicans want to replace with something the “American people and Members have a right to know the full impact of … before any vote in Committee or by the whole House” was one that almost no Democrats read before voting for it, so even they didn’t understand its “full impact.”

3. The ACA passed in this manner included a mandate that Pelosi and her party swore was not a tax but a penalty, and then when the law was challenged argued to the Supreme Court that it wasn’t a penalty, but a tax.

4. The President of the United States who signed the ACA materially misrepresented the impact of the law repeatedly by stating that it allowed Americans who wanted to keep their current health plans to do so.

How dare Nancy Pelosi make that demand? How astoundingly hypocritical, overflowing with gall, and immune to self-awareness can any human being be? This is like Bill Clinton lecturing Donald Trump about avoiding intimate relations with subordinates, but worse.

Of course she’s right, but Pelosi is the last person on earth, literally the last person, entitled to demand transparency regarding health care bills. How can she say something like this? Is she senile? Is she trying to look ridiculous? Is she so completely devoid of integrity that she can advocate the exact opposite of her own conduct and that of her party without a twinge of irony or shame? Does she believe that her followers are so blind, stupid an unable to hold a memory in their heads that they won’t see how offensive this is, coming from her?

Are they that blind and stupid?

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Kaboom!, Leadership

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer

breyer

“The state has a reason? Yeah, it does. Does it limit free speech? Dramatically. Are there other, less restrictive ways of doing it? We’re not sure, but we think probably. . . . Okay. End of case, right?”

—-Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, during oral argument in the case Packingham v. North Carolina, describing how state laws are traditionally seen by the Court as infringing on freedom of speech.

Lester Packingham was registered as a sex offender in 2002 after pleading guilty to statutory rape with a 13-year-old girl (he was 21). He served his time and probation, and then, in  2010, Packingham posted on Facebook to thank the Lord for a recently dismissed parking ticket, writing, “Man God is Good! How about I got so much favor they dismissed the ticket before court even started? . . . Praise be to GOD, WOW! Thanks JESUS!”

Jesus, however, did not stop him from being prosecuted for that message under a 2008 North Carolina law that prohibits registered sex offenders from accessing social media, on the theory that it gives them access to minors.

Packingham appealed the resulting conviction, arguing that the law violated his First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court accepted the case, which could  determine whether access to social media sites like Facebook, Youtube, and others are a fundamental right.

In oral argument this week, observers got the distinct impression that this is where the Court is headed. At least five justices, a majority of the temporarily reduced court, suggested during argument that they would rule against North Carolina and for Packingham , whose lawyer says that more than 1,000 people have been prosecuted under the law.

Reading various reports of what was said, I am stunned by how out of touch everyone involved sounds. The Washington Post story describes Justice Kagan like she’s a web-head because she’s “only” 59.  “So whether it’s political community, whether it’s religious community, I mean, these sites have become embedded in our culture as ways to communicate and ways to exercise our constitutional rights, haven’t they?” Kagan asked North Carolina Deputy Attorney General Robert C. Montgomery, who was defending the law.

Do we really have to ask that question today? The law was passed in 2008, which in technology and social media terms makes it archaic. Legislators can be forgiven for not understanding the central role of social media in American life nine years ago, but in 2017, when we have a President tweeting his every lucid thought (and many not so lucid), how can anyone defend the argument that blocking a citizen from social media isn’t an extreme government restriction on free speech? Laws related to technology should all have sunset provisions of a couple years (a couple months?) to ensure that they haven’t been rendered obsolete by the evolving societal use of and dependency on  the web, the internet, and new devices. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Facebook, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology, Social Media, The Internet, U.S. Society

Unethical Quote (And Tweet) Of The Month: Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA.)

open-borders

“It’s outrageous the administration is saying anyone who might have committed a crime qualifies for deportations.”

—-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), on Twitter, in response to the recent Trump Administration immigration order.

I know it’s Twitter,  but Senator Harris had 41 unused characters left, so we have to assume that she means this. And if she means this, she is unqualified to be an elected official representing the American public. In fact, she’s a fool.

It is not and cannot be “outrageous” to say that any illegal immigrant, criminal or not, qualifies for deportation. To maintain otherwise is to say that the United States cannot enforce its immigration laws, and not only that, it is “outrageous” to enforce the laws. Is that the position of the Democratic Party? Clarification is essential here. Is it? If so, by what set of values and principles do Democrats make this argument? Does the “it’s outrageous to enforce the law” principle apply to other laws? Presumably it does, or the party has no integrity or legitimate governing philosophy at all.

Why is enforcing the immigration laws against—The Horror!–only the portion of the law-breakers who have no right to be here who have additionally become involved with the violation of other criminal laws so “outrageous”? Does the Senator have some rationale for that contention, or is she just grandstanding? That is, lying.

Or does she accept the reasoning of Jorge Ramos, the openly partisan, pro-illegal immigration Univision anchor, who said at a the network’s annual entertainment awards show (Aside: Why would anyone watch an awards show today, as they have devolved into political rant sessions from one narrow perspective, largely by smugly ignorant hyperpartisans who deserve a nationwide platform no than the average ranting activist holding a placard?), as he erased any distinction between legal and illegal immigration, Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Jumbo, Law & Law Enforcement, Unethical Tweet

Few Political Stories Make Me Angry. This One Makes Me Angry. And Frightened.

brideg-collapse

In these three posts—Blame Everyone for Infrastructure Ruin: Unethical, Irresponsible Priorities from Reagan to Obama (2010); Ethics Heads-Up: When the President Talks About “Investment in Infrastructure,” Pay Attention (2011); Hole-in-the-Roof Ethics: If Obama Asks For Massive Infrastructure Renewal, the GOP Must Support It. (2011), I laid out the unanswerable case for making national infrastructure renewal a priority. Let me just quote from the three, to save me typing time…

In the early Eighties, I oversaw an independent study funded by the Highway Users Federation and the National Chamber Foundation called “Transport Tomorrow,” exploring the immediate need for transportation infrastructure repair and expansion in all modes of transportation: roads, railway, waterway, and airports. In the process of learning how dire the need for massive construction and repair was if America’s future commercial needs were to be met, the study commission made a disturbing discovery: urban water and sewer systems were crumbling too. There was literally not enough money to fix all the roads, bridges, tunnels, water mains and sewer pipes that had to be fixed, and the consequences of not doing so would be economic paralysis and worse, disease and even social unrest.In the face of this looming and undeniably real disaster, the Reagan Administration did—pretty much nothing. Neither did the Bush, Clinton and Bush II administrations…

Seldom is a solution to a problem so obvious, and so conducive to bi-partisanship. It is a solution to two problems, really: America’s dangerously rotting infrastructure, and the nation’s dismal unemployment rate. Spend the money, trillions if necessary, to repair and replace existing roads, railway beds, waterways, sewer systems, airports and bridges.  It still won’t get us where we need to be, but we’ll be much better off than if we let the current deterioration continue, and we’ll save money in the long run, too—real savings, not phony health care reform savings that evaporate once reality kicks in.

There is no justification not to do this, nor is there any legitimate excuse for any elected official not to vote for it. (And no, not wanting to give the President a victory is not legitimate…or ethical, or patriotic.) Repairing the infrastructure isn’t “discretionary spending,” it is essential, unavoidable and cost-effective spending, unless it is diverted into new boondoggles and pork. No new structures, unless they replace unrepairable old ones. No light rail systems or bullet trains; what is needed is basic maintenance and repair….everywhere. It is already late, but “better late than never” has seldom been as appropriate.Will fixing the infrastructure add to the deficit? Not really, because it already is an expense that we know will have to be made, or else. If the sewer systems and waterworks break down, we start dying. If bridges collapse, we die too. That isn’t even mentioning the increasing costs in energy and commerce caused by a decaying transportation system. The sooner we pay for it, the less it will cost, so sooner is per se better for the economy, and it is perfect timing given the employment crisis.

Yes, Obama better have a way to pay for it, with real budget cuts and reasonable taxes. If he plays politics with the proposal by making it impossible for the GOP to support (as some pundits, like the Post’s Eugene Robinson, have advised), shame on him. This has to be paid for, but it also has to be done…If Obama puts a fair, reasonable, relatively pork-free proposal on the table, Republicans would be despicably unethical to reject it.

As we now know, the Obama Administration proposed, and the GOP Congress opposed. This is a long-term bi-partisan failure, but it must be remembered that Obama had no credibility on this issue, and he never did propose a a way to pay for it “with real budget cuts and reasonable taxes.”

I was reminded of this issue when I read yesterday about how engineers have concluded that over 9% of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient. Bridges are just part of the infrastructure disaster to come—just wait until the 200-year old sewer and water systems in some cities start breaking down, and we have Flint, Michigan times a thousand—but they are illustrative of our government’s failure. Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership