Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/20/19: Ancient Icelanders And Others Behaving Badly

Good Morning!

1. Confession: I called a stranger an asshole on Facebook yesterday. I had patiently explained to a Facebook Borg-infected friend that no, the Justice Department report on Hillary’s email fiasco had not proven for all time that she hadn’t “done anything wrong,” quite the contrary. The report revealed that she was directly responsible for over 600 security breaches (after saying otherwise for more than a year). That means that she was reckless, incompetent, irresponsible and dishonest, and, since the applicable statute doesn’t require intent, could have been prosecuted. The report did find that there was no evidence that Clinton deliberately set out to endanger national security, which was never the issue.

Some clod following the thread wrote that you “could sure tell who follows Fox News talking points.” Well, I’m sick of that lazy deflection, and anyone who uses it, especially on me, is an asshole, and needs to be told.  maybe ist not too late to get treatment. It’s even more of an asshole thing to say than the reflex “But ….Trump!” retort.

2. Yes, this is unethical. Yes, it is newsworthy. No, it is receiving almost no national coverage outside of conservative news sources. Rep. Katie Hill, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, has been engaged in a three-way sexual relationship involving a  staffer and her husband. This would not matter to me, and should not matter to you, except that the woman involved is Hill’s subordinate. The workplace is not a dating bar or personal harem, not in the private sector, not in Congress. In addition, close personal relationships create conflicts of interest for the supervisor in any office. I would mention the inherent imbalance of power that makes it impossible for an employee to consent to a superior’s advances in such a situation, but of course Lee knows that, being an ardent #MeToo and Time’s Up! supporter.

The hypocrisy in the Democratic Party on this issue is wide, deep, and nauseating, except, I guess, to Democrats. Last week, discussing this issue with lawyers following my ethics seminar, a usually smart, fair, male attorney actually opined that Joe Biden’s serial non-consensual groping wasn’t really a problem because “he didn’t mean it to be sexual assault.” The lawyer really said this, though “I didn’t mean anything by it” has been the reflex excuse of every sexual harasser from Bill O’Reilly to Louis C.K.

3. Stipulated: President Trump’s harsh rhetoric in the aborted White House meeting with Democrats was one more stupid self-inflicted wound. Given the barrage of ad hominem attacks by the party that she leads, and the disrespect for the office that Pelosi herself has orchestrated (that mocking clap at the State of the Union speech alone was unforgivable), Trump was certainly provoked, but the President is not supposed to slide into the gutter just because his adversaries live there. It’s swell to be a “fighter”—Trump is probably correct that Mitt Romney would have been elected President in 2012 if he had a some Trump in him—but that doesn’t mean that gratuitous incivility and nastiness is a competent or responsible political strategy.

However, this image, part of a cartoon by Andy Marlette for the Pensacola News Journal earlier this year… Continue reading

Ethics Villains Of The Impeachment Coup, Part One

I admit it: just as I sensed that it was important for Ethics Alarms to lend ethical clarity to the potentially (and possibly already) disastrous effort by the Democratic Party to abuse its power and Constitutional processes to remove (that is, overthrow) the President of the United States, I was overcome with a crippling combination of unrelated professional responsibilities and crippling weariness. I’m sick of writing about this topic; I’m even sick of thinking about it. I’m definitely sick of arguing about it on social media. The tag “2016 post-election Ethics Train Wreck” has been appended to more posts than any other, with no end in sight.

I floated the idea of creating a spin-off website that would endeavor to provide one-stop shopping for members of the public who wanted to counter media spin and information suppression on the topic. I do think this is an important project, and I have received a few generous offers to help. I’m still trying to figure out if I have the time to do it right; if I don’t, then it would be unethical to do it at all.

The fact that some polls show that the relentless pro-impeachment propaganda has led to a majority of Americans believing the President should be impeached is troubling, though 1) polls, and 2) on this topic even more than others, all the number shows is how many ignorant Americans are willing to opine at the moment on topics they know nothing about. “Survey Finds More People Would Support Impeachment If They Knew What Crime Trump Was Supposed To Have Committed” snarked the Babylon Bee.

Exactly.

I have several longish essays that I need to write, notably one titled “The Ethics Context of the Trump Impeachment Push.” It should have been written last week, and I’ll be lucky if I can get it complete next week.  I know how important the Democratic Party/ “resistance” /mainstream media coup attempt is. As I have been writing here since January 2017, it is the most important ethics story of modern U.S. political history.

I’ve got to keep the analysis moving, even if it’s too slow.

Here, for reference purposes and future discussions, is a list of the Villains of the Impeachment Coup. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Hillary Clinton

“So get over it.”

Hillary Clinton, explaining why Joe Biden’s serial unconsented-to touching, hugging, sniffing, and other discriminatory, harassing conduct toward  women he encounters in the course of his professional activities shouldn’t matter to the “Party of Women” and the voting public generally.

This was prefaced by her saying , in response to a question about Biden’s #MeToo defying behavior,

“For goodness’ sake, I’m sorry, I have to jump in because I’ve heard a little bit about that. You could take any person who sticks their little head above the parapet and says, ‘I’m going to run for president,’ and find something that … a little annoying habit or other kind of behavior that people are going to pick apart and disagree with. But this man who’s there in the Oval Office right now poses a clear and present danger to the future of the United States. So get over it.”

The only remaining question, after that self-indicting outburst, is whether only Hillary Clinton among the Democratic leadership is a cynical, dishonest hypocrite who has no reliable core values or integrity, and whose utterances to the contrary are to be regarded as Machiavellian calculations to achieve power and nothing more.

The evidence suggests that she is not alone, but also that she is a bad as the rest of them could be.

Continue reading

Ethics Cool-Down, 9/25/19: Democracy On The Rocks

Ahhhhh…

I wish I had a martini, but since I don’t keep alcohol in the house, this will do…

1. More from the Ethics Alarms “res Ipsa loquitur” files:

The story is here.

I remember kindergarten classmates, boys and girls, frequently going on kissing sprees. Adults knew it was nothing decades ago. Had #MeToo really made people this unable to make obvious distinctions? Proportion is an ethical value.

2. Regarding today’s earlier post from the same files...Yes, I think that the transcript of the President’s call to the Ukraine, on its face, should make Democratic claims of an impeachable offense look as silly and contrived as they are. This does not, however, allow for confirmation bias, which is at fever pitch in “the resistance” with some toxic frustration and desperation mixed in. This is one reason the mainstream media keeps calling the transcript a “summary,” which implies that something material is missing, and your Deranged friends keep raising Nixon’s edited versions of White House meetings on Watergate matters, as if this has any similarity to that at all.

Calls with foreign leaders are typically not recorded, so this was a reconstructed transcript, which is as close to an exact one as we are going to get. For those who presume that everything this President does is impeachable, that’s a problem. For those who accept that he was elected President and should have the same opportunity to do his job as all the others, it isn’t, and there are too many like that in the public for this latest manufactured offense to work.

I guess this is Plan S.

I’m so, so sick of this.

3. I guess it’s time for another update:

The Complete Presidential Impeachment or Removal Plans A-S (Updated 9/25/2019)

Plan A: Reverse the election by hijacking the Electoral College.

Plan B: Pre-emptive impeachment. 

Plan C : The Emoluments Clause.

Plan D: “Collusion with Russia”

Plan E : ”Trump is mentally ill so this should trigger the 25th Amendment.”

Plan F: The Maxine Waters Plan, which  is to just impeach the President because Democrats want to, because they can.

Plan G : “The President obstructed justice by firing incompetent subordinates, and that’s impeachable.”

Plan H: “Tweeting stupid stuff is impeachable”

Plan I:  “Let’s relentlessly harass him and insult him and obstruct his efforts to do his job so he snaps and does something really impeachable.”

Plan J : Force Trump’s resignation based on alleged sexual misconduct that predated his candidacy.

Plan K: Election law violations in pay-offs to old sex-partners

Plan L: The perjury trap: get Trump to testify under oath, then prove something he said was a lie.

Plan M: Guilt by association. Prove close associates or family members violated laws.

Plan N: Claim that Trump’s comments at his press conference with Putin were “treasonous.”

Plan O: The Mueller Report proves the Trump is unfit for office even if it did not conclude that he committed any impeachable offenses. 

Plan P: Summarized here as “We have to impeach him because he’s daring us to and if we don’t, we let him win, but we can’t, but then he’ll win!”.”

Plan Q: Impeach Trump to justify getting his taxes, and then use the presumed evidence in his taxes to impeach him.

Plan R: Rep. Adam Schiff announced on July 24 that President Trump should be impeached because he is “disloyal” to the country. This desperate response to the fizzle of the Mueller Report was ignored and forgotten the second it came out of Schiff’s mouth, but it confirmed what the list above already proved: the Democrats don’t want to impeach the President for something he did; they want to find something he did to justify impeaching him.

Plan S: Trump should be impeached because his call to Ukrainian President Zelensky was really an effort to shake down the Ukraine and force it to find dirt on Joe Biden, thus “interfering” in the 2020 election even though Biden hasn’t been nominated (and won’t be), even though a President has every justification to seek evidence of a prior administration’s wrongdoing in foreign relations, and even though there isn’t a whiff of a threat of quid pro quo in the only transcript of the call.

Continue reading

Reporting The Mysterious Ukraine “Scandal”: Once Again, I’m Fighting The Urge To Conclude That These Are Just Corrupt, Terrible People

 

And losing.

When the first notice of the unnamed whistle-blower’s complaint about—well, something involving the President and the Ukraine surfaced on the New York Times front page, in an article that was so devoid of facts, details and corroboration that its only excuse for publication was to titillate Trump-Haters, I wrote,

“This is what the Times considers front page news now. Instantly, “resistance” members and Democrats will leap to the conclusion that whatever it is, it’s impeachable. Those who are thoroughly sick of the successive coup attempts will assume that this is one more concocted sliming by the Deep State, so we can have a “Russiagate” style investigation that will hamstring President Trump’s second term… For my part, I’ll wait for actual facts, thanks. I don’t trust “the intelligence community” not to manufacture ways to undermine the Presidency, not after Comey, McCabe, the FISA fiasco, the FBI lovebirds texts, and Mueller’s statements, among other smoking guns. I don’t trust the Times reporting, I don’t trust President Trump not to do or say something that crosses ethical or legal lines, and I certainly don’t trust Congressional Democrats to determine what are serious transgressions by this President and what are typical maneuvers that have only become ominous because he isn’t Barack Obama.”

Well, I’ve been waiting. As predicted, Democratic impeachment-mongers and Presidential hopefuls are screaming to the skies, and the mainstream media has been flogging the as-yet non-story, another species of fake news, as if it were the Second Coming. Yet here is how the New York Times itself explained the alleged scandal:

What did Mr. Trump do?

In a July 25 phone call, Mr. Trump is said to have pressed the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Mr. Biden’s younger son, Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Mr. Trump has seized on an unsubstantiated theory that Mr. Biden was trying to protect the company from prosecution when he called for the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor in 2016. Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers, has pushed the Ukrainian government to investigate the matter.

Is “said to have”? By whom? This is not news reporting, it’s gossip. The Biden theory is unsubstantiated? The theory the Times has published multiple stories about regarding the President’s interactions with the Ukraine is far less substantiated.

Why is this coming up now?

Because of an intelligence community whistle-blower who filed a complaint last month about the president’s actions. An inspector general deemed the complaint “credible” and “urgent” and forwarded it to the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, who has refused to share it with Congress….

Amazingly, it has now been revealed that the “whistle-blower” did not have  direct knowledge of the communications between President Trump and the foreign leader in question. An official who has been briefed on the matter, however, told CNN that the whistleblower “didn’t have direct knowledge of the communications.” The official said that the concerns and subsequent complaint came in part from the whistleblower “learning information that was not obtained during the course of their work.” That’s hearsay by definition, and means that the report has no probative or evidentiary value whatsoever until it is independently verified. Until then, it is also not news.

What did the whistle-blower claim?

The full extent of the whistle-blower’s complaint, as well as the whistle-blower’s identity, is not publicly known. Reporting by The New York Times and others has established that the complaint involves Mr. Trump’s interactions with Ukraine and a phone call with a foreign leader — possibly, but not necessarily, Mr. Zelensky. It is not clear if it includes other matters.

This is really what the Times itself says. A “whistleblower” from the intelligence community made a complaint about something he was told by an an unnamed party about a private phone call with a yet to be identified official.

Here’s my favorite, though: Continue reading

Ethics Observations On Justin Trudeau’s “Brownface” Scandal

Other than “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!” that is.

News item:Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, wore brownface makeup to a party at the private school where he was teaching in the spring of 2001. TIME has obtained a photograph of the incident. The photograph has not been previously reported. The picture was taken at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala. It shows Trudeau, then the 29-year-old son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened. The photograph appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school where Trudeau was a teacher.”

Also: “The re-election campaign of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada was thrown into turmoil on Wednesday when a photograph surfaced of him wearing brownface makeup at a 2001 private school party….Speaking with reporters aboard his campaign plane, Mr. Trudeau, who has long championed the rights of racial minorities in Canada, confirmed that he was in the photo and that he was dressed as Aladdin.

“This is something I shouldn’t have done many years ago,” Mr. Trudeau said. “It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time, but now I recognize it was something racist to do, and I am deeply sorry.”

Observations:

1. Wearing make-up to create an image along with a costume is not “racist.” Either Trudeau is just pandering  and grovelling to political correctness, or he’s not every bright. I’ve written about this before, most notably here (the post that got Ethics Alarms banned from Facebook). How is that make-up a negative commentary on the inferiority or inequality of a race? Not being sensitive to the hair-trigger offense reflexes of minorities and activists looking for a “gotcha!’ is not racist. It is not being sensitive to hair-trigger offense reflexes by minorities and activists looking for a “gotcha!” Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Week: President Donald J. Trump.

As readers here know, flat learning curves on the part of leaders, and certainly Presidents, drive me crazy. Leadership is hard, and the leader who refuses to learn the right lessons when his or her conduct when a particular act or decision has disastrous results is  seriously and perhaps irreparably flawed, as well as untrustworthy.

President Trump has displayed so many flat learning curves in his tenure as President that is tempting to say that refusing to learn from mistakes and disasters is a conscious stylistic choice. Or perhaps that’s not what’s going on; perhaps the problem is not flat-learning curves, but rather the President’s well-established recklessness, his what the hell attitude that no matter what he does, he’ll come through it all right. In this latter interpretation, he has learned, but the wrong lessons.

At this point, I barely care. The problem, whatever it stems from results in incompetence. Like his idiotic tweet about the members of “the Squad” going “back where they came from,” teeing up the “Trump is a racist” ball for all of his foes; like the still ongoing controversy about his trivial statement about a hurricane hitting Alabama,;like his provocative bravado during the 9/11 commemoration reviving his disputed boast about going personally to Ground Zero, like too many careless and embarrassing appointments to list, this latest fiasco was a self-inflicted wound that was completely needless and yet has real, serious, potential consequences….like making people wonder how wise and safe it is to be governed by an executive who presides over perpetual ineptitude, laziness, and stupidity. Continue reading