Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/24/2021: The Sarcasm Edition

First appearance in 2021 of my favorite Ethics Warm-Up intro. Maybe that’s why 2021 ethics has gotten off to such a rotten start…

In addition to its significance in the siege of the Alamo, yesterday’s date of February 24 has other important ethics markers, perhaps some more important than Travis’s iconic letter. Perhaps the most impact on U.S. history was this date in 1803, when Chief Justice John Marshall (no relation that has been shown to my satisfaction) handed down the landmark decision in William Marbury v. James Madison, Secretary of State of the United States, establishing the legal principle of judicial revie. That’s what gives the Supreme Court the authority to limit Congressional power by declaring legislation unconstitutional. I doubt very much that the United States would still exist as a free republic had not that case been decided as it was, yet the result was probably dictated more by partisan politics than philosophy.

Marshall, in his majority opinion, declared that acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution are not valid law and therefore are non-binding on the courts, and that the judiciary’s first responsibility is always to uphold the Constitution. And if two laws conflict, Marshall wrote, SCOTUS has the responsibility of deciding which law applies in any given case. Periodically members of Congress, pundits and even academics have criticized the decision, but there can be little doubt that had Marshall not led the Court to make this stand, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would have been quickly shredded.

This is particularly relevant now, when the Democrats in Congress have signaled that they want government authorities to decree what is factual and what is “disinformation,” while they also seek to weaken Second Amendment rights. Incidentally, there is a prominent statue of Marshall at the Supreme Court, and a recast in John Marshall Park, near Judiciary Square, also in D.C. Another recast is in Philadelphia. Marshall owned hundreds of slaves, which is entirely irrelevant to his essential influence on our government and values. Clearly, many, perhaps most, of the college students in the U.S. would prefer that a non-slave owner had headed the Court, even if it resulted in a nation that slipped into allowing the virtual slavery of all citizens to a national government that “knew what was best.”

1. Oh, sure. Why not? We all know that committees are so effective at leadership. A letter signed by three dozen House Democrats urge Joe Biden to relinquish full control over the country’s nuclear weapons in favor of a committee of legislators. “…Vesting one person with this authority entails real risks,” states the letter, inspired by Rep. Jimmy Panetta of California. “Past presidents have threatened to attack other countries with nuclear weapons or exhibited behavior that caused other officials to express concern about the president’s judgment.While any president would presumably consult with advisors before ordering a nuclear attack, there is no requirement to do so,” the letter adds. “The military is obligated to carry out the order if they assess it is legal under the laws of war. Under the current posture of U.S. nuclear forces, that attack would happen in minutes.”

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Ethics Inquiry: Did Sen. Cruz Do Anything Wrong?

Cruz trip

As Bill Clinton might say (and probably has, maybe more than once), it depends on what your definition of “wrong” is.

Millions of Texans were left without electricity this week in the middle of the state’s power crisis following a massive winter storm. The Senator’s wife Heidi sent text messages to friends and neighbors complaining that their home was “FREEZING,” and that she wanted the family to escape on the 17th to someplace warmer, at least until Sunday. The mission, if her husband chose to accept it: get to the luxury Ritz-Carlton in sunny Cancún, Mexico. The destination is apparently a family favorite. The GOP Senator did accept, and the Freezing Cruzes fled Houston, hopping an afternoon flight. The consensus of the news media, the commentariat and social media was that…

In fact, you would think Cruz had been caught having a secret romantic rendezvous with a goat. Incriminating photos of Cruz and his wife boarding the flight launched a full-fledged scandal. How dare he flee a crisis when his state was in misery? Ted responded by playing the Parent Card, explaining he had flown to Mexico “to be a good dad” and to chaperone his daughters and their friends, and he promised he was coming back yesterday, which he did.

When he returned, Cruz admitted that his family trip had been a mistake. That is undeniable.

But was it unethical? Was it wrong?

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A Presidents Day Encore: “How Julia Sand Saved A President And Changed The Nation”

Chester Arthur and Julia

I’m pretty sick of U.S. Presidents and Presidential history at the moment, so for my own state of mind and perhaps yours, I’m re-posting a 2015 article about my favorite story about a President ever. Here it is…

In my overview of the U.S. presidency (the four parts are now combined on a single page under “Rule Book” above), I noted that our 21st President, Chester A. Arthur, was one of my personal favorites and an Ethics Hero. He confounded all predictions and his previous undistinguished background, not to mention a career marked  by political hackery and toadying to corrupt Republican power broker Roscoe Conkling, to rise to the challenge of the office and to effectively fight the corrupt practices that had elevated him to power. Most significantly, he established the Civil Service system, which crippled the spoils and patronage practices that made the Federal government both incompetent and a breeding ground for scandal.

I did not mention, because I did not then know, the unlikely catalyst for his conversion. Recently a good friend, knowing of my interest in Arthur, his tragic predecessor, James Garfield, and presidential assassinations sent me a copy of Destiny of the Republic, the acclaimed history of the Garfield assassination and its aftermath by Candace Millard. It’s a wonderful book, and while I knew much of the history already, I definitely did not know about Julia Sand. Her tale is amazing, and it gives me hope. If you do not know about Julia and Chester, and it is not a well-known episode, you should.

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One Acquittal, Three Quotes, Four Reactions

Trump acquitted

Former President Trump was acquitted in the second impeachment trial stemming from the Democrats’ relentless effort to remove him from office after his shocking election in 2016. In both efforts, the two-thirds super-majority necessary to convict was always impossible, because unlike previous impeachment efforts, these involved no crimes, and were not bi-partisan . They were exercises in pure partisan warfare, despite the contrary intent of the Founders and the flood of exaggerated rhetoric from Trump’s enemies who had presumed he needed to be impeached from the moment he was elected.

The sudden vote yesterday came as a surprise, as the Senate had just voted to allow witnesses in the “trial,” and that would have extended the fiasco considerably. I assume, without knowing, that the Democratic leadership finally figured out that its plot wasn’t working, and that it was time for the party to cut its losses. They might still be considerable. I hope they are considerable. This has wounded the nation badly, and the party that has blathered on about accountability needs some, and hard.

Republican Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania voted guilty along with every Democrat. Interestingly, only two of the seven have a law degree, which may partially explain why they think a guilty verdict is defensible (it’s not.) The two lawyers, Romney and Murkowski, are barely Republicans and have been consistently anti-Trump. The fact that not a single Democrat had the integrity to buck the party’s mandate and oppose such a damaging precedent and such a dubious impeachment tells us all we need to know about the state of the current Democratic Party.

Now, three quotes following the vote:

Quote #1: From law professor and blogger Glenn Reynolds:

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Another Totalitarian Tell: In The House Of Representatives, Only One Party Has To Obey the Rules. Now What?

metal detector

I will not accept this, and if you do, have your prison jump-suit measured.

You’ll be needing it.

Last week, Democrats in the House passed a new rule requiring members to pass through a metal detector before they entered the House floor. After all several Democrats said they were all scared and stuff of those scary GOP members who support the Second Amendment. Some of them even own those evil guns! ,

Some House members tried evading the metal detectors and entered through what’s known as “the speaker’s lobby,” so Speaker Pelosi began issuing fines for that. Rep. Louis Gohmert was fined $5,000 after briefly leaving the floor to go to the bathroom. Then Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Il) —if it had been a Democrat, we never would have heard about it—caught Pelosi herself entering through the speaker’s lobby and avoiding the detectors. Because metal detectors are for the little people. The beaten people. The submissive or soon to be. Sort of like electric collars.

Fox News (of course Fox News-–you don’t think any of the regime supporting media sources would dare report this, do you?) said:

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The Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List Welcomes The Know-It-All’s Dodge,Or “I Knew This Would Happen”

Obama

The Know-It-All’s Dodge has been hanging around waiting for me to add it to the Rationalizations List for a long time. I should have added it when President Barack Obama exploded my head with this exchange, in 2015, regarding his pathetic and disastrous handling of the Syrian civil war.

In an interview with CBS’s Steve Kroft, who had earlier in Obama’s administration stated outright that his questions to the President would not be confrontational ones, there was this:

KROFT: You have been talking a lot about the moderate opposition in Syria. It seems very hard to identify. And you talked about the frustrations of trying to find some and train them. You had a half-a-billion dollars from congress to train and equip 5,000, and at the end, according to the commander of CENTCOM, you got 50 people, most of whom are, are dead or deserted. He said you’ve got four or five left.

OBAMA: Steve, this is why I’ve been skeptical from the get-go about the notion that we were going to effectively create this proxy army inside of Syria.

KABOOM!

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In This Week’s Very Special Episode of “The Conways”….

Claudia and Kellyanne

When we last left the lovable and unpredictable Conways, Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to President Trump, announced that she was exiting her White House post to focus on her family after her 16-year-old daughter, Claudia, claimed she was seeking emancipation from her parents over alleged “trauma and abuse.” At the same time, George Conway, the D.C. lawyer who repeatedly embarrassed his wife by attacking her boss and helping to create the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, quit his role with the group, also to deal with the family crisis.

In this week’s Very Special episode, a topless photo of Claudia was posted on Mom Kellyanne’s Twitter account using Twitter’s recently launched Fleets feature, which deletes posts after a 24-hour period. The Fleet was captured by many Twitter users anyway. Claudia then posted videos on TikTok, her favorite milieu (they are now deleted but also captured by others and reposted) confirming that the nude picture was authentic. Claudia speculated, “I’m assuming my mom took a picture of it to use against me one day and then somebody hacked her or something. I’m literally at a loss for words. If you see it, report it.” In one of the TikTok videos, Claudia Conway said that “nobody would ever have any photo like that, ever. So, Kellyanne, you’re going to fucking jail.”

Yesterday, Claudia announced that she and her mother will be “taking a break from social media” and will work on their relationship adding, “I know that my mom would never, ever post anything to hurt me like that intentionally, and I do believe she was hacked…… Please do not incite hate or violence on my family. Please, no threats, no calls to authorities. I love my mom and she loves me.”

Forgive me if I am skeptical that a daughter who just this month again said her parents abused her authored that voluntarily.

Observations:

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Ethics Reflections, 1/19/2021: Good-Bye, Thanks, And On Behalf Of America, I’m Sorry, President Trump

Trump 2020

As I have said before, every American President is owed the thanks and gratitude of U.S. citizens. It is a hard job, a lonely job and a often killing job. Nobody takes it on without suffering and sacrificing a great deal. Nobody takes it on and accepts the massive responsibilities the job entails without wanting to do a good job for his country and fellow citizens. Those who say or think otherwise are broadcasting their ignorance, and failing their own civic responsibilities.

Donald J. Trump was a fascinating President. All 45 have been different, but he is a true outlier, in background, experience, and orientation. I was never a supporter of Trump when he ran, nor an admirer before he ran, nor an enthusiastic adherent when he was in office. As an observer, a presidential history fanatic and a student of leadership and presidential character, I found him to be infuriating, surprising, troubling, and in the end admirable in some ways.

He was also surprisingly successful, though the news media would never give him credit, and though much of what he was successful at upset progressives, to put it mildly. President Trump was unlucky, but many Presidents are; a game I used to play was naming a period in U.S. history when a great President would have failed and another when a “failed” President would have been great. Trump was ultimately defeated by a worldwide pandemic that ruined the excellent economy that his policies had largely created. I doubt that the despicable effort by the AUC to blame the extent of the pandemic on him was ultimately the reason for his defeat; American Presidents usually get the credit when things are good, and get the blame when they aren’t, regardless of the reasons. One of the Big Lies wielded by Trump’s foes was that everything was terrible when in fact things were remarkably good. The pandemic ensured that much was terrible for many months leading up to the election. Few, if any, Presidents could have been re-elected under such conditions.

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The Biden Nomination of Kristen Clarke To Be Assistant Attorney General For Civil Rights

Biden Promise

Kristen Clarke is the African American attorney who Joe Biden announced will run the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, pending Senate confirmation.

From FOX News:

In 1994, Clarke wrote a letter to The Harvard Crimson in her capacity as the president of the Black Students Association to explain her views on race science.

“Please use the following theories and observations to assist you in your search for truth regarding the genetic differences between Blacks and whites [sic],” Clarke wrote.

“One: Dr Richard King reveals that the core of the human brain is the ‘locus coeruleus,’ which is a structure that is Black, because it contains large amounts of neuro-melanin, which is essential for its operation.

“Two: Black infants sit, crawl and walk sooner than whites [sic].

Three: Carol Barnes notes that human mental processes are controlled by melanin — that same chemical which gives Blacks their superior physical and mental abilities.

“Four: Some scientists have revealed that most whites [sic] are unable to produce melanin because their pineal glands are often calcified or non-functioning. Pineal calcification rates with Africans are five to 15 percent [sic], Asians 15 to 25 percent [sic] and Europeans 60 to 80 percent [sic]. This is the chemical basis for the cultural differences between blacks and whites [sic].

“Five: Melanin endows Blacks with greater mental, physical and spiritual abilities — something which cannot be measured based on Eurocentric standards.”

The technical term for such a screed is “Yikes!”

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Lessons In Legitimacy From The War Of The Roses

History-Wars-Roses-Europe-1024x575

Guest post by Steve-O-in NJ

In the year 1399 a nobleman of the House of Lancaster named Henry of Bolingbroke ousted Richard II of the house of Plantagenet, son of Edward III, from the throne of England, partly over alleged tyranny and mismanagement (possibly brought on by a personality disorder), but just as much over pride, power, and differences regarding how to govern. Henry IV’s reign was fraught with problems as the nobles battled for power and influence under an unconsolidated rule, including Henry “Hotspur” Percy’s revolt, an attempt to restore Wales’ independence by Prince Owen Glendower, even an attempt to restore Richard to the throne in something called The Epiphany revolt. After all, once someone has ousted a rightful ruler by force (or fraud or corruption), why can’t he be ousted by force?

Henry IV died at 45 due to less than wonderful health. Henry V, Prince Hal, followed his father to the throne. Though Shakespeare portrays him as a hero, and he did achieve some great feats on the battlefield, he died at 35 (previously thought to be of dysentery, but now thought of as probably heatstroke from hacking and banging in full armor in August) leaving a young and mentally infirm son to inherit the throne as Henry VI. The English nobles hadn’t forgotten the recent dynastic struggle, and there was no reason for another nobleman, named Richard of York (you need a scorecard to keep track of all these Richards and Henrys), also a cadet branch of the Plantagenet house, like the Lancasters were, not to decide to press his own claim to the throne, starting the 30-year dynastic struggle known as the Wars of the Roses, since the Lancaster symbol was a red rose and the York symbol was a white rose.

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