Written Statement of Prof. Jonathan Turley: “The Impeachment Inquiry Into President Donald J. Trump: The Constitutional Basis For Presidential Impeachment” [PART V]

Note the date…

In his final section before concluding, Professor Turley covers other theories being floated as justification for impeachment, and finds them startlingly weak and contrived.

The Hill has Turley’s lament regarding the  the Alliance of Unethical Conduct’s attacks on his thorough and objective dismantling of their coup efforts. (The AUC—that’s the Ethics Alarm shorthand for the Democratic Party-“resistance”-mainstream media alliance to remove Trump from office by any means possible, not Turley’s.)  He writes,

Despite 52 pages of my detailed testimony, more than twice the length of all the other witnesses combined, on the cases and history of impeachment, [Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank] described it as being “primarily emotional and political.” Milbank claimed that I contradicted my testimony in a 2013 hearing when I presented “exactly the opposite case against President Obama” by saying “it would be ‘very dangerous’ to the balance of powers not to hold Obama accountable for assuming powers ‘very similar’ to the ‘right of the king’ to essentially stand above the law.”

But I was not speaking of an impeachment then. It was a discussion of the separation of powers and the need for Congress to fight against unilateral executive actions, the very issue that Democrats raise against Trump. I did not call for Obama to be impeached….

In my testimony Wednesday, I stated repeatedly [as I stated in my testimony during the Clinton impeachment] that a president can be impeached for noncriminal acts…. My objection is not that you cannot impeach Trump for abuse of power but that this record is comparably thin compared to past impeachments…. … Democrats have argued that they do not actually have to prove the elements of crimes…. In the Clinton impeachment, the crime was clearly established and widely recognized…. [W]e are lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger…. 

Writes Ann Althouse in a post yesterday, “it seems to me that the real impeachable offense has always been that Donald Trump got himself elected.”

I wish Prof. Turley had dealt with that, the real justification, in their minds, for the House’s impeachment push.

Back to the professor:

C.  Extortion.

 As noted earlier, extortion and bribery cases share a common law lineage. Under laws like the Hobbs Act, prosecutors can allege different forms of extortion. The classic form of extortion is coercive extortion to secure property “by violence, force, or fear.”85 Even if one were to claim the loss of military aid could instill fear in a country, that is obviously not a case of coercive extortion as that crime has previously been defined.

Instead, it would presumably be alleged as extortion “under color of official right.” Clearly, both forms of extortion have a coercive element, but the suggestion is that Trump was “trying to extort” the Ukrainians by withholding aid until they agreed to open investigations. The problem is that this allegation is no closer to the actual crime of extortion than it is to its close cousin bribery. The Hobbs Act defines extortion as “the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear or under color of official right.”87

As shown in cases like United States v. Silver, extortion is subject to the same limiting definition as bribery and resulted in a similar overturning of convictions. Another obvious threshold problem is defining an investigation into alleged corruption as “property.” Blackstone described a broad definition of extortion in early English law as “an abuse of public, justice which consists in an officer’s unlawfully taking, by colour of his office, from any man, any money or thing of value, that is not due him, or more than is due, or before it is due.”89 The use of anything “of value” today would be instantly rejected. Extortion cases involve tangible property, not possible political advantage.90 In this case, Trump asked for cooperation with the Justice Department in its investigation into the origins of the FBI investigation on the 2016 election. As noted before, that would make a poor basis for any criminal or impeachment theory. The Biden investigation may have tangible political benefits, but it is not a form of property. Indeed, Trump did not know when such an investigation would be completed or what it might find. Thus, the request was for an investigation that might not even benefit Trump.

The theory advanced for impeachment bears a close similarity to one of the extortion theories in United States v. Blagojevich where the Seventh Circuit overturned an extortion conviction based on the Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, pressuring then Sen. Barack Obama to make him a cabinet member or help arrange for a high- paying job in exchange for Blagojevich appointing a friend of Obama’s to a vacant Senate seat. The prosecutors argued such a favor was property for the purposes of extortion. The court dismissed the notion, stating “The President-elect did not have aproperty interest in any Cabinet job, so an attempt to get him to appoint a particular person to the Cabinet is not an attempt to secure ‘property’ from the President (or the citizenry at large).” In the recent hearings, witnesses spoke of the desire for “deliverables” sought with the aid. Whatever those “deliverables” may have been, they were not property as defined for the purposes of extortion any more than the “logrolling” rejected in Blagojevich.

There is one other aspect of the Blagojevich opinion worth noting. As I discussed earlier, the fact that the military aid was required to be obligated by the end of September weakens the allegation of bribery. Witnesses called before the House Intelligence Committee testified that delays were common, but that aid had to be released by September 30th. It was released on September 11th. The ability to deny the aid, or to even withhold it past September 30th is questionable and could have been challenged in court. The status of the funds also undermines the expansive claims on what constitutes an “official right” or “property”:

“The indictment charged Blagojevich with the ‘color of official right’ version of extortion, but none of the evidence suggests that Blagojevich claimed to have an ‘official right’ to a job in the Cabinet. He did have an ‘official right’ to appoint a new Senator, but unless a position in the Cabinet is ‘property’ from the President’s perspective, then seeking it does not amount to extortion. Yet a political office belongs to the people, not to the incumbent (or to someone hankering after the position). Cleveland v. United States, 531 U.S. 12 (2000), holds that state and municipal licenses, and similar documents, are not ‘property’ in the hands of a  public  agency. That’s equally true of public positions. The President-elect did not have a property interest in any Cabinet job, so an attempt to get him to appoint a particular person to the Cabinet is not an attempt to secure ‘property’ from the President (or the citizenry at large).”

A request for an investigation in another country or the release of money already authorized for Ukraine are even more far afield from the property concepts addressed by the Seventh Circuit.

The obvious flaws in the extortion theory were also made plain by the Supreme Court in Sekhar v. United States, where the defendant sent emails threatening to reveal embarrassing personal information to the New York State Comptroller’s general counsel in order to secure the investment of pension funds with the defendant. In an argument analogous to the current claims, the prosecutors suggested political or administrative support was a form of intangible property. As in McDonnell, the Court was unanimous in rejecting the “absurd” definition of property. The Court was highly dismissive of such convenient linguistic arguments and noted that “shifting and imprecise characterization of

the alleged property at issue betrays the weakness of its case.”94 It concluded that “[a]dopting the Government’s theory here would not only make nonsense of words; it would collapse the longstanding distinction between extortion and coercion and ignore Congress’s choice to penalize one but not the other. That we cannot do.”95 Nor should Congress. Much like such expansive interpretations would be “absurd” for citizens in criminal cases, it would be equally absurd in impeachment cases.

To define a request of this kind as extortion would again convert much of politics into a criminal enterprise. Indeed, much of politics is the leveraging of aid or subsidies or grants for votes and support. In Blagojevich, the court dismissed such “logrolling” as the basis for extortion since it is “a common exercise.” If anything of political value is now the subject of the Hobbs Act, the challenge in Washington would not be defining what extortion is, but what it is not.

D.  Campaign Finance Violation

Some individuals have claimed that the request for investigations also constitutes a felony violation of the election finance laws. Given the clear language of that law and the controlling case law, there are no good-faith grounds for such an argument. To put it simply, this dog won’t hunt as either a criminal or impeachment matter. U.S.C. section 30121 of Title 52 states: “It shall be unlawful for a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a federal, state, or local election.”

On first blush, federal election laws would seem to offer more flexibility to the House since the Federal Election Commission has adopted a broad interpretation of what can constitute a “thing of value” as a contribution. The Commission states “’Anything of value’ includes all ‘in-kind contributions,’ defined as ‘the provision of any goods or services without charge or at a charge that is less than the usual and normal charge for such goods or services.’” However, the Justice Department already reviewed the call and correctly concluded it was not a federal election violation. This determination was made by the prosecutors who make the decisions on whether to bring such cases. The Justice Department concluded that the call did not involve a request for a “thing of value” under the federal law. Congress would be alleging a crime that has been declared not to be a crime by career prosecutors. Such a decision would highlight the danger of claiming criminal acts, while insisting that impeachment does not require actual crimes. The “close enough for impeachment” argument will only undermine the legitimacy of the impeachment process, particularly if dependent on an election fraud allegation that itself is based on a demonstrably slipshod theory. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/5/2019: Post Impeachment Hearing Meltdown Edition

Good Morning!

Somehow a picture of the so-called “unicorn puppy,” appropriately named “Narwhal,” seems appropriate today. The Democratic Party/”resistance”/mainstream media has been pushing its corrupt impeachment plot on the assumption that sufficient Trump-haters would find it cute, but as of yesterday the undemocratic motives and ugliness of the effort stood out like a tail on a puppy’s face. You can’t hide it, and lots of people will convince themselves that it’s attractive. But rationally, the damn thing has to come off.

1. On the Stanford law professor’s joke about Barron Trump’s name. Oddly, perhaps the most harmless part of the otherwise embarrassing testimony of Stanford constitutional law professor Pamela S. Karlan yesterday became the most controversial. “While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” she said.

HAHAHAHAHA! Good one, professor! Gratuitous and completely irrelevant to the issues at hand,  but hey, anything to throw fish to the seals! Based on the outrage around the conservative media, most of which only referenced this knee-slapper without quoting it, I assumed that she had actually insulted the teenager.  I kept reading about how this was one more example of the double standard: using Obama’s daughters for political warfare was off limits, but now this mean professor was getting laughs from Democrats by making fun of Barron Trump. Laura Ingraham tweeted that this joke was guaranteed to turn the public against the impeachment farce for good. (I don’t think so, Laura. You should get out more.) Naturally the First Lady piled on, tweeting at the professor, “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.” Trump 2020 national press secretary Kayleigh McEnany went even more overboard:

“Only in the minds of crazed liberals is it funny to drag a 13-year-old child into the impeachment nonsense,” she wrote. “Pamela Karlan thought she was being clever and going for laughs, but she instead reinforced for all Americans that Democrats have no boundaries when it comes to their hatred of everything related to President Trump. Hunter Biden is supposedly off-limits according to liberals, but a 13-year-old boy is fair game. Disgusting. Every Democrat in Congress should immediately repudiate Pamela Karlan and call on her to personally apologize to the president and the first lady for mocking their son on national TV.”

Oh come ON. Continue reading

Written Statement of Prof. Jonathan Turley: “The Impeachment Inquiry Into President Donald J. Trump: The Constitutional Basis For Presidential Impeachment” [PART II]

( Part I is here.)

Professor Turley’s testimony continues…

B.  The Nixon Inquiry

The Nixon “impeachment” is often referenced as the “gold standard” for impeachments even though it was not an actual impeachment. President Richard Nixon resigned before the House voted on the final articles of impeachment. Nevertheless, the Nixon inquiry was everything that the Johnson impeachment was not. It was based on an array of clearly defined criminal acts with a broad evidentiary foundation. That record was supported by a number of key judicial decisions on executive privilege claims. It is a worthy model for any presidential impeachment. However, the claim by Chairman Schiff that the Ukrainian controversy is “beyond anything Nixon did” is wildly at odds with the historical record. The allegations in Nixon began with a felony crime of burglary and swept to encompass an array of other crimes involving political slush funds, payments of hush money, maintenance of an enemies list, directing tax audits of critics, witness intimidation, multiple instances of perjury, and even an alleged  kidnapping. Ultimately, there were nearly 70 officials charged and four dozen of them found guilty. Nixon was also named as an unindicted conspirator by a grand jury. The convicted officials include former Attorney General John N. Mitchell (perjury); former Attorney General Richard Kleindienst (contempt of court); former Deputy Director of the Committee to Re-elect The President Jeb Stuart Magruder (conspiracy to the burglary); former Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman (conspiracy to the burglary, obstruction of justice, and perjury); former counsel and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs to Nixon John Ehlichman (conspiracy to the burglary, obstruction of justice, and perjury); former White House Counsel John W. Dean II (obstruction of justice); and former special counsel to the President Charles Colson (obstruction of justice). Many of the Watergate defendants went to jail, with some of the defendants sentenced to as long as 35 years. The claim that the Ukrainian controversy eclipses Watergate is unhinged from history.

While the Ukrainian controversy could still establish impeachable conduct, it undermines that effort to distort the historical record to elevate the current record. Indeed, the comparison to the Nixon inquiry only highlights the glaring differences in the underlying investigations, scope of impeachable conduct, and evidentiary records with the current inquiry. It is a difference between the comprehensive and the cursory; the proven and the presumed. In other words, it is not a comparison the House should invite if it is serious about moving forward in a few weeks on an impeachment based primarily on the Ukrainian controversy. The Nixon inquiry was based on the broadest and most developed evidentiary in any impeachment. There were roughly 14 months of hearings – not 10 weeks. There were scandalous tape recordings of Nixon and a host of criminal pleas and prosecutions. That record included investigations in both the House and the Senate as well as investigations by two special prosecutors, Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski, including grand jury material. While the inquiry proceeded along sharply partisan lines, the vote on the proposed articles of impeachment ultimately included the support of some Republican members who, again, showed that principle could transcend politics in such historic moments.

Three articles were approved in the Nixon inquiry alleging obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and defiance of committee subpoenas. Two articles of impeachment based on usurping Congress, lying about the bombing of Cambodia, and tax fraud, were rejected on a bipartisan basis. While the Nixon impeachment had the most developed record and comprehensive investigation, I am not a fan of the structure used for the articles. The Committee evaded the need for specificity in alleging crimes like obstruction of justice while listing a variety of specific felonies after a catchall line declaring that “the means used to implement this course of conduct or plan included one or more of the following.” Given its gravity, impeachment should offer concrete and specific allegations in the actual articles. This is the case in most judicial impeachments.

The impeachment began with a felony when “agents of the Committee for the Re- election of the President committed unlawful entry of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, District of Columbia, for the purpose of securing political intelligence.” The first article of impeachment reflected the depth of the record and scope of the alleged crimes in citing Nixon’s personal involvement in the obstruction of federal and congressional investigations. The article included a host of specific criminal acts including lying to federal investigators, suborning perjury, and witness tampering. The second article of impeachment also alleged an array of criminal acts that were placed under the auspices of abuse of power. The article addressed Nixon’s rampant misuse of the IRS, CIA, and FBI to carry out his effort to conceal the evidence and crimes following the break-in. They included Nixon’s use of federal agencies to carry out “covert and unlawful activities” and how he used his office to block the investigation of federal agencies. The third article concerned defiance of Congress stemming from his refusal to turn over material to Congress.

These articles were never subjected to a vote of the full House. In my view, they were flawed in their language and structure. As noted earlier, there was a lack of specificity on the alleged acts due to the use of catch-all lists of alleged offenses. Continue reading

Written Statement of Prof. Jonathan Turley: “The Impeachment Inquiry Into President Donald J. Trump: The Constitutional Basis For Presidential Impeachment” [PART I]

Today, at the impeachment hearings, Prof. Jonathan Turley performed a great public and national service by eviscerating the Democratic theory of impeachment legally, logically and historically. I cannot wait to see if his decisive testimony is given half the prominence by the New York Times as the various headlines shouting about how an official would have done things differently if he or she were President. Unlike almost all of the testimony so far, Turley’s was based on facts and law, and addressed the issue at hand: is there any justification for impeachment proceedings?

It’s a wonderful and clear piece of scholarship that addresses several approaches to the matter that I had wanted to address, notably how the three previous impeachment efforts compare with this one.

Every citizen should read it all; of course, almost none will. The testimony is long, because it is thorough; I have edited it for ease of reading, eliminating footnotes. If you want to read the original document, it is here. Ethics Alarms is going to present this in several parts. Send that link to your smug impeachment-cheering friends, relatives and social media contacts. Tell them that unless they read it, you really don’t want to hear any more on the subject from them, because they want to remain ignorant.

I am proud—relieved?—to find that this serious and admirable scholar embraces many of the positions I have discussed here, though in far more detail and with considerably more authority.

INTRODUCTION

Chairman Nadler, ranking member Collins, members of the Judiciary Committee, my name is Jonathan Turley, and I am a law professor at George Washington University where I hold the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Chair of Public Interest Law. It is an honor to appear before you today to discuss one of the most solemn and important constitutional functions bestowed on this House by the Framers of our Constitution: the impeachment of the President of the United States.

Twenty-one years ago, I sat here before you, Chairman Nadler, and other members of the Judiciary Committee to testify on the history and meaning of the constitutional impeachment standard as part of the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton. I never thought that I would have to appear a second time to address the same question with regard to another sitting president. Yet, here we are. Some elements are strikingly similar. The intense rancor and rage of the public debate is the same. It was an atmosphere that the Framers anticipated. Alexander Hamilton warned that charges of impeachable conduct “will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.”2 As with the Clinton impeachment, the Trump impeachment has again proven Hamilton’s words to be prophetic. The stifling intolerance for opposing views is the same. As was the case two decades ago, it is a perilous environment for a legal scholar.

I appear today in my academic capacity to present views founded in prior academic work on impeachment and the separation of powers. My testimony does not reflect the views or approval of CBS News, the BBC, or the newspapers for which I write as a columnist. My testimony was written exclusively by myself with editing assistance from Nicholas Contarino, Andrew Hile, Thomas Huff, and Seth Tate explores the technical and arcane issues normally involved in an academic examination of a legal standard ratified 234 years ago. In truth, the Clinton impeachment hearing proved to be an exception to the tenor of the overall public debate. The testimony from witnesses, ranging from Arthur Schlesinger Jr. to Laurence Tribe to Cass Sunstein, contained divergent views and disciplines. Yet the hearing remained respectful and substantive as we all grappled with this difficult matter. I appear today in the hope that we can achieve that same objective of civil and meaningful discourse despite our good- faith differences on the impeachment standard and its application to the conduct of President Donald J. Trump.

I have spent decades writing about impeachment and presidential powers as an academic and as a legal commentator. My academic work reflects the bias of a Madisonian scholar. I tend to favor Congress in disputes with the Executive Branch and I have been critical of the sweeping claims of presidential power and privileges made by modern Administrations. My prior testimony mirrors my criticism of the expansion of executive powers and privileges. In truth, I have not held much fondness for any president in my lifetime. Indeed, the last president whose executive philosophy I consistently admired was James Madison.

In addition to my academic work, I am a practicing criminal defense lawyer. Among my past cases, I represented the United States House of Representatives as lead counsel challenging payments made under the Affordable Care Act without congressional authorization. I also served as the last lead defense counsel in an impeachment trial in the Senate. With my co-lead counsel Daniel Schwartz, I argued the case on behalf of federal judge Thomas Porteous. (My opposing lead counsel for the House managers was Adam Schiff). In addition to my testimony with other constitutional scholars at the Clinton impeachment hearings, I also represented former Attorneys General during the Clinton impeachment litigation over privilege disputes triggered by the investigation of Independent Counsel Ken Starr. I also served as lead counsel in a bill of attainder case, the sister of impeachment that will be discussed below.

I would like to start, perhaps incongruously, with a statement of three irrelevant facts. First, I am not a supporter of President Trump. I voted against him in 2016 and I have previously voted for Presidents Clinton and Obama. Second, I have been highly critical of President Trump, his policies, and his rhetoric, in dozens of columns. Third, I have repeatedly criticized his raising of the investigation of the Hunter Biden matter with the Ukrainian president. These points are not meant to curry favor or approval. Rather they are meant to drive home a simple point: one can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president. To put it simply, I hold no brief for President Trump. My personal and political views of President Trump, however, are irrelevant to my impeachment testimony, as they should be to your impeachment vote. Today, my only concern is the integrity and coherence of the constitutional standard and process of impeachment. President Trump will not be our last president and what we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come. I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president. That does not bode well for future presidents who are working in a country often sharply and, at times, bitterly divided.

Although I am citing a wide body of my relevant academic work on these questions, I will not repeat that work in this testimony. Instead, I will focus on the history and cases that bear most directly on the questions facing this Committee. My testimony will first address relevant elements of the history and meaning of the impeachment standard. Second, I will discuss the past presidential impeachments and inquiries in the context of this controversy. Finally, I will address some of the specific alleged impeachable offenses raised in this process. In the end, I believe that this process has raised serious and legitimate issues for investigation. Indeed, I have previously stated that a quid pro quo to force the investigation of a political rival in exchange for military aid can be impeachable, if proven. Yet moving forward primarily or exclusively with the Ukraine controversy on this record would be as precarious as it would premature. It comes down to a type of constitutional architecture. Such a slender foundation is a red flag for architects who operate on the accepted 1:10 ratio between the width and height of a structure. The physics are simple. The higher the building, the wider the foundation. There is no higher constitutional structure than the impeachment of a sitting president and, for that reason, an impeachment must have a wide foundation in order to be successful. The Ukraine controversy has not offered such a foundation and would easily collapse in a Senate trial.

Before I address these questions, I would like to make one last cautionary observation regarding the current political atmosphere. In his poem “The Happy Warrior,” William Wordsworth paid homage to Lord Horatio Nelson, a famous admiral and hero of the Napoleonic Wars. Wordsworth began by asking “Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he what every man in arms should wish to be?” The poem captured the deep public sentiment felt by Nelson’s passing and one reader sent Wordsworth a gushing letter proclaiming his love for the poem. Surprisingly, Wordsworth sent back an admonishing response. He told the reader “you are mistaken; your judgment is affected by your moral approval of the lines.” Wordsworth’s point was that it was not his poem that the reader loved, but its subject. My point is only this: it is easy to fall in love with lines that appeal to one’s moral approval. In impeachments, one’s feeling about the subject can distort one’s judgment on the true meaning or quality of an argument. We have too many happy warriors in this impeachment on both sides. What we need are more objective noncombatants, members willing to set aside political passion in favor of constitutional circumspection. Despite our differences of opinion, I believe that this esteemed panel can offer a foundation for such reasoned and civil discourse. If we are to impeach a president for only the third time in our history, we will need to rise above this age of rage and genuinely engage in a civil and substantive discussion. It is to that end that my testimony is offered today. Continue reading

The Betrayal And Ultimate Triumph Of Dorothy Seymour Wills

There was an upsetting ethics story in the obituaries last week. It told the tale of the rank injustice perpetrated by a famous and much-honored researcher, historian and author on his collaborator, from whom he withheld  credit and recognition—because she was his wife.

Dorothy Seymour Mills collaborated for more than 30 years on a landmark three-volume history of baseball with her first husband, Harold Seymour. Their work, originally attributed only to him,  is regarded as the first significant scholarly account of baseball’s past.  (“No one may call himself a student of baseball history without having read these indispensable works.” John Thorn in 2010, then Major League Baseball’s official historian.)

“Baseball: The Early Years” (1960), “Baseball: The Golden Age” (1971) and “Baseball: The People’s Game” (1990) all were completed with substantial and indispensable contributions by Dorothy, who, unlike her husband, was not a baseball fan. (“You write a lot more objectively about a subject you’re not in love with,” she once observed.) She was the primary researcher, organized the projects, typed the manuscripts, prepared the indexes (ugh) and edited each book before it went to the publisher. Because of her husband’s failing health, she wrote a substantial portion of “Baseball: The People’s Game.” Yet her husband adamantly refused to give her an author’s credit. Each book bore only Harold Seymour’s name, and hers was relegated to the acknowledgments.  The first book in the trilogy, “Baseball: The Early Years,” received rave reviews.  Sports Illustrated compared Seymour to Edward Gibbon, the iconic historian who wrote “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” Dorothy was invisible, and her husband wanted it that way. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 11/5/2019: A Whistleblower’s Biases, A Technology’s Risks, And A Thinking Actor’s Values

Hi!

1. So now we know…The mysterious “whistleblower” is almost certainly Eric Ciaramella,  a CIA analyst, former National Security Council staffer,  and  a career intelligence officer.who has served in both the Obama and Trump administrations. It would have been nice and reassuring if he were not so strongly tied to the Dark Side, meaning the Democrats and various “resistance” figures, but he is. That doesn’t mean he had an agenda, but somehow all of the leakers and rebels who have been instrumental in keeping the Left’s coup fires burning have aspects of their backgrounds that justify skepticism.

From the generally useful and fair article about in Heavy:

Ciaramella has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for several years and was assigned to the White House during the end of the Obama administration. He worked closely with Biden in his role as an expert on Ukraine. Ciaramella also has ties to Sean Misko, a former NSC co-worker who now works for Representative Adam Schiff and the Intelligence Committee. According to The New York Times, the whistleblower first went to a CIA lawyer and then to an unnamed Schiff aide before filing the whistleblower complaint. The aide told the whistleblower to follow the formal process, but conveyed some of the information he learned from him to Schiff, without revealing his name, The Times reported.

“Like other whistle-blowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled committees, the whistle-blower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the intelligence community,” said Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Schiff, told The Times.

The whistleblower’s ties to Democrats, including Biden, Schiff, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of Intelligence James Clapper and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, have created controversy, with Trump and Republicans using his past work with them in an attempt to discredit him.

I did say generally fair. The fact that this guy who created the path to the latest impeachment excuse just happens to be a Democrat with connections to a veritable nest of anti-Trump zealots does and should discredit his objectivity to some extent. An “attempt” shouldn’t be necessary.

2.  Geewhatasurprise…. From the MIT Technology Review:

A study published today in JAMA Pediatrics warns that kids’ literacy and language skills suffer with screen use, and MRI scans of their brains appear to back up the findings…. Forty-seven 3- to 5-year-olds took a test to measure their cognitive abilities, and their parents were asked to answer a detailed survey about screen time habits. …The scans revealed that kids who spent more time in front of screens had what the authors call lower “white matter integrity.” White matter can be roughly thought of as the brain’s internal communications network—its long nerve fibers are sheathed in fatty insulation that allows electrical signals to move from one area of the brain to another without interruption. The integrity of that structure—how well organized the nerve fibers are, and how well developed the myelin sheath is—is associated with cognitive function, and it develops as kids learn language. …Lead author John Hutton of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital told MIT Technology Review there’s a clear link between higher screen use and lower white matter integrity in the children his team studied. That structural change appears to be reflected in the results of the cognitive test the kids took as well, which showed high screen time associated with lower levels of language and literacy skills. “The effect size is substantial, as these findings also rigorously controlled for multiple comparisons across the brain,” Hutton says.

One easy and ethical remedy would be for parents to make sure their kids don’t see them constantly staring at their phone.

3.  A terrific, ethical, extemporaneous speech from Richard Dreyfus. No, Richard Dreyfus is not, and has never been, a typical Hollywood knee-jerk leftist. Glenn Beck’s conservative website “The Blaze” was “astonished” when actor/educator Richard Dreyfus recently told Fox News host Tucker Carlson,

“You were talking about the speakers on university campuses. And I am totally, incontrovertibly on your side about this. I think any intrusion into freedom of speech is an intrusion into freedom of speech. And when one of the presidents of one of the colleges said, ‘this is a school, not a battlefield,’ I said, no, it is a battlefield of ideas and we must have dissonant, dissenting opinions on campuses and I think it’s political correctness taken to a nightmarish point of view

I have withdrawn from partisan politics. I am a constitutionalist who believes that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights must be central and the parties must be peripheral. What’s most important for me is what you just mentioned haphazardly, we are over 30. Civics has not been taught in the American public school system since 1970. And that means everyone in Congress never studied the constitution and the bill of rights as you and I might have. And that is a critical flaw because it’s why we were admired and respected for so long, it gives us our national identity, it tells the world who we are and why we are who we are, and without a frame that gives us values that stand behind the bill of rights, we’re just floating in the air and our sectors of society are not connected.

What’s really important is that the assumptions of the left and the right are all skewed wrong. We have to find areas of agreement and areas that we share. And we do share the notion that education accomplishes certain things. One, it turns students into citizens. And, two, it teaches students how to run the country before it’s their turn to run the country. And, three, it teaches the values of this nation.

People come from all over the world or are born into this nation without the values that we have here. That’s why they came here, to get them. And what are they? You can put them in opportunity, rise by merit, mobility, and freedom. That’s what we sell. And if you don’t want that, you’ve chosen the wrong place. And you don’t get a pass by being born here, you have to learn it. Even the Ten Commandments are not known at birth. You must learn them. And we must learn our values and if we don’t, we are fatally, fatally wounding ourselves. We will not have any way to really combat the ideas behind ISIS because we won’t know our own. And we have to.

Exactly.

Fox News should give Dreyfus a show.

Hispanic, Latino, Latinx…A Correction of Disinformation Perpetrated On Ethics Alarms!

I’m sure it wasn’t intentional,  but on October 25, in a thread in response to this post, the estimable and usually reliable commenter Still Spartan stated as fact, in no uncertain terms,

My point is simply that speech about race has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. When is the last time you’ve heard the word Oriental? Heck, we don’t even say Hispanic anymore. But we did 20 years ago….Most people now use the term Latina or Latino, and even that is being replaced with Latinx. 

Your host responded,

If [ “most people”], do,then they are mistaken. Latino is a subset of Hispanic (meaning those from Spanish-speaking nations or regions) , which is why most political organizations use Hispanic in their title. Actually, the various groups don’t particularly like being lumped together at all. Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Puerto Rican-Americans and others resent the generalizations. Just because one’s “crowd” does something doesn’t make it correct or virtuous, but it’s true that a shocking number of people reason that way.

I don’t mean to pick on Still Spartan, but as there is so much angst these days about misinformation being spread on social media and the web, I certainly don’t want Ethics Alarms to be part of the problem. And, I confess that it annoys me when someone curtly declares here something to be true here that I am fairly certain is not.

SS also suggested in the comment above that “Latinx” was replacing :Hispanic.” I was dubious about this too. By happenstance, a recent poll on the topic, the results of which you see in the graphic, was introduced thusly on Medium:

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