Open Forum!

I’m stuck in seminars until this afternoon, and I’m hoping the commentariat here can get a jump on some of the ethics-involved news of the day, like this,

Horowitz report is damning for the FBI and unsettling for the rest of us

contrasted with this…

Former top FBI lawyer: I want Trump ‘to apologize to me’

contrasted with this… IG Report Confirms Schiff FISA Memo Media Praised Was Riddled With Lies

…or anything else that moves you, related to ethics, of course.

Conclusion To The Written Statement of Prof. Jonathan Turley: “The Impeachment Inquiry Into President Donald J. Trump: The Constitutional Basis For Presidential Impeachment”

Jonathan Turley ended his epic testimony before the House Judiciary Committee with a flourish. His whole statement was remarkable, leaving no reasonable argument for impeachment standing—but then the now-insatiable desire to undo the 2016 election has never been rational, and it has relied, despicably, on the historical and legal ignorance of the vast majority of the American people. Turley provided an opportunity for responsible citizens to educate themselves: his language was easy and clear, and there were no pompous or especially academic turns of phrase. Nonetheless, few will read or watch the whole thing, allowing the news media, which has exceeded all previous villainy in this three-year long fiasco, to distort and minimize his patriotic achievement. To the degree that they succeed, it is do the detriment of the nation, and its future. Somehow, Turley makes this clear as well, yet does so without the kind of alienating condemnation that I, in his position, would be unable to resist.

No doubt about it, the professor is a far better scholar and advocate than I am, and a brilliantly talented teacher as well. Still, he made me feel good about the analysis I have been presenting here since 2016. I have studied Presidential history for a shockingly long time; I know my impeachment history well, and observed two of the three previous inquiries up close, live and carefully. I have been certain, certain, from the beginning that what we have seen here is an unprecedented crypto-coup, for virtually all the reasons Professor Turley explains. I’m glad to have the legal authority and the meticulous tracking of where the inquisition ran off the rails, but Turley validated the analysis I have  given readers here. That came as a relief and a confirmation.

It was naturally a special pleasure that the professor ended his testimony by referencing the scene in the video above, from “A Man for All Seasons,” my favorite ethics moment in any movie, and the clip most often used on Ethics Alarms. He also referenced the story of the Republican Senators who turned on their party and voted to acquit President Andrew Johnson, for me the most memorable chapter of “Profiles in Courage,” the book that introduced me to the topic of ethics when I was 12 years old. Turley quotes one of the Senators who was only slightly mentioned by credited author John Fitzgerald Kennedy, but it’s a stirring quote, and damn any politician or citizen who ignores its message.

Lyman Trumbull (R- Ill.) explained fateful decision to vote against Johnson’s impeachment this way:

“Once set the example of impeaching a President for what, when the excitement of the hour shall have subsided, will be regarded as insufficient causes … no future President will be safe who happens to differ with the majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate …I tremble for the future of my country. I cannot be an instrument to produce such a result; and at the hazard of the ties even of friendship and affection, till calmer times shall do justice to my motives, no alternative is left me…”

Those who endanger the future of my country because of their unrestained anger, hate, confirmation bias, partisan loyalty, prejudice, need to conform, and yes, ignorance and their lack of education, are contemptible. Those who lead them in pursuit of power are worse.

[Turley’s entire statement, with footnotes, is here. The Ethics Alarms edited version is here (Part I); here (PartII); here (Part III); here (Part IV), and here (Part V.) The video is here.]

***

V. CONCLUSION

Allow me to be candid in my closing remarks. I get it. You are mad. The President is mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My Republican friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog is mad . . . and Luna is a golden doodle and they are never mad. We are all mad and where has it taken us? Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad or will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration?

That is why this is wrong. It is not wrong because President Trump is right. His call was anything but “perfect” and his reference to the Bidens was highly inappropriate. It is not wrong because the House has no legitimate reason to investigate the Ukrainian controversy. The use of military aid for a quid pro quo to investigate one’s political opponent, if proven, can be an impeachable offense.

It is not wrong because we are in an election year. There is no good time for an impeachment, but this process concerns the constitutional right to hold office in this term, not the next.

No, it is wrong because this is not how an American president should be impeached. For two years, members of this Committee have declared that criminal and impeachable acts were established for everything from treason to conspiracy to obstruction. However, no action was taken to impeach. Suddenly, just a few weeks ago, the House announced it would begin an impeachment inquiry and push for a final vote in just a matter of weeks. To do so, the House Intelligence Committee declared that it would not subpoena a host of witnesses who have direct knowledge of any quid pro quo. Instead, it will proceed on a record composed of a relatively small number of witnesses with largely second-hand knowledge of the position. The only three direct conversations with President Trump do not contain a statement of a quid pro quo and two expressly deny such a pre-condition. The House has offered compelling arguments why those two calls can be discounted by the fact that President Trump had knowledge of the underlying whistleblower complaint. However, this does not change the fact that it is moving forward based on conjecture, assuming what the evidence would show if there existed the time or inclination to establish it. The military aid was released after a delay that the witnesses described as “not uncommon” for this or prior Administrations. This is not a case of the unknowable. It is a case of the peripheral. The House testimony is replete with references to witnesses like John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Mulvaney who clearly hold material information.

To impeach a president on such a record would be to expose every future president to the same type of inchoate impeachment. Continue reading

Cultural And Societal Poison, Pumped Into Our National Bloodstream [Corrected]

When I worked for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the 1970s, I was once dispatched to an Amway convention at the Atlanta Omni  to speak to the packed arena about carious Chamber citizen activism projects. Right before I was scheduled, the Amway “Diamond” hosting the thing (it was so strange and cult-like that “thing” is the best I can come up with this early in the morning) rallied the glassy-eyed crowd with a speech the likes of which I had never heard before. Among the crazy assertions he made to cheers and  cries of “Amen!” was that Jimmy Carter, then President, was card-carrying Communist and an agent of the Soviet Union, preparing as he spoke to turn over America to the Russians He also said, Joe McCarthy-like, that he had authentic documents to prove this.

As I sat in the wings, my mind raced to determine what I should do. I did not want to endorse or support what I had just heard in any way, but I also was on an assignment from my boss, who, I was and am quite sure, would have been just as horrified by what I had just heard as I was. Amway’s founders, Jay Van Andel and Rich De Vos were Chamber board members and big contributors to the Chamber’s PAC. Nothing I was promoting there was sinister. Still, I seriously considered leaving immediately, or even using my huge radio mic to denounce what I had just heard as outrageous lies, at least until I was brought down in a hail of bullets, or torn limb from limb by the infuriated mob.

In the end, I gave a shortened version on my planned speech—the crowd was very receptive—and got the hell out of there. When I returned to D.C., I announced that I would not appear at any more Amway conventions, or, for that matter, any John Birch Society meetings or KKK rallies, and my wishes were respected. I remained disturbed by the incident, and especially by the extremist bile that was apparently circulating quietly among the public that was barely hinted at in what was then naively called the “respectable media.”

Sunday, I read a column by Thomas Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author who writes for the New York Times. In a column called Iran Is Crushing Freedom One Country at a Time,”  this supposedly mainstream and eminently respectable pundit wrote, Continue reading

A Cautionary Tale: The Corruption Of Post Columnist Colbert King, Part II

Part I is here.

King refused to apply his usual ethics alarms to Obama, but continued to be a credible and objective analyst where the D.C. government was involved. He was an instant Donald Trump-hater, however. the second the 2016 results were known. I can understand reaction to the two-time runaway winner of the Ethics Alarms “Asshole of the Year” award. But King concluded Trump was a racist—his embrace of  birther accusations against his beloved Obama was enough to guarantee that—and once Trump was elected, King became the Post’s counterpart to Trump-deranged Times columnist Charles M. Blow, except that King at his worst is usually more endurable than Blow at his best.

King’s latest anti-Trump screed, however, shows how far a smart pundit can fall when the cognitive dissonance scale and confirmation bias work in tandem, especially when old age marches on and one is mired in both work and personal bubbles where a single bias dominates.

The column begins with one of my least varieties of fake news, future news, when a journalist sets out to push a negative view of a politician based on what he will do.  The headline is “It’s a good bet Trump pardons his felon allies. Here’s when that’s most likely.”

I don’t think it is a good bet, though it is certainly possible. King assumes it is a good bet, as his column makes clear (along with all of his previous columns relating to Trump) because he thinks of the President as a corrupt racketeer. King’s once nimble mind  is now incapable of imagining a justification for pardoning the “allies” in question, Roger Stone, Mike Flynn, and Paul Manafort. I can: arguably all three of them were indicted and convicted because of the “resistance”effort to try to drive Donald Trump from office, and to send a message to anyone who might be of value to his administration that they would instantly be in cross-hairs if they dared to try to support the President. President  Trump might feel responsible for their plight, and use his absolute clemency power to relieve their burdens. If so, it would not be an unprecedented political or personal use of the pardon and clemency power. King reallywas just using this question as a pretense to vent about the President, whom he detests, shredding his own credibility in the process. For example, Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: That Peloton Commercial

Hmmmm.

As regular readers here know, I often criticize TV ads for sending unethical messages or endorsing unethical conduct. I have even been accused of being hypersensitive on the subject. With the controversial Peloton commercial above,  I missed it, if there was  an it to miss.

The surprising thing is that a lot of the objections to the ad are coming from the Right. If I had bothered to think about the Peloton commercial, I would have perhaps detected that it was sexist, with a critical husband demanding that his already apparent fit and lovely wife get in better shape, and she dutifully complying. Indeed the Left was annoyed: Yashir Ali, who writes for HuffPo and New York Magazine (and you know what THAT means) captured the spirit of the objections:

Another tweeter wrote, “So sweet. My husband was inspired by the Peloton ad to get me a pair of pants in a child’s medium and a handwritten note that says “Don’t fucking touch me till you can fit into these.”

The Right, however, was equally disdainful. Allahpundit wrote,

The weird part is the … eagerness with which she shows her gratitude. It’s lovely to be grateful for an expensive gift, but she’s *really* grateful and *really, really* wants her husband to know it. It’s not just that she feels compelled to record herself using the bike repeatedly over a span of many months. She looks curiously anxious doing it, even when smiling into the camera. At the end of the clip, when she finally shows him the footage, her eyes are trained on his reaction, seemingly desperate for his approval. Is, um… How do I put this? Is everything okay between these two?

Another conservative wag, Steven Kruiser, wrote, Continue reading

Mrs. Q’s Corner: Political Mascot

 

by Frances Quaempts-Miller

Towards the end of British author Douglas Murray’s latest book The Madness of Crowds is a call to find significance beyond politics:

 “One of the ways to distance ourselves from the madness of our times is to retain an interest in politics but not to rely on it as a source of meaning.  The call should be for people to simplify their lives and not mislead themselves by devoting their lives to a theory that answers no questions, makes no predictions and is easily falsifiable.  Meaning can be found in all sorts of places.  For most individuals it is found in the love of the people and places around them: in friends, family and loved ones, in culture, place and wonder.  A sense of purpose is found in working out what is meaningful in our lives and then orienting ourselves over time as closely as possible to those centres of meaning. Using ourselves up on identity politics, social justice and intersectionality is a waste of a life.”

 Murray ends his book arguing, “To assume that sex, sexuality, and skin colour mean nothing would be ridiculous.  But to assume that they mean everything will be fatal.”

 In the last year and a half my wife and I have lost six loved ones, including two grandmothers last month, only three weeks apart.  Between us we have lost three grandparents, a cousin, an aunt, and my father. Ours has been a house of grieving that has prompted both of us to re-examine what has brought us a sense of purpose and what we need to focus our energies on in the future.  After spending not just years but decades fighting for equality, it has become clear, with so much death, that such supposed noble efforts have only rendered a more broken heart in a more broken world. 

 At the age of fourteen I went to my first protest to express concern for the United States involvement in El Salvador.  At the time, I didn’t really know what our country was doing wrong but I did know that the exhilaration of marching in the middle of the street, after the police told us through their bullhorns not to, while yelling various slogans repeatedly, was intoxicating.  All my frustration with whatever complications life had thrown my way dissolved instantly.  Suddenly I was a part of something bigger than myself while believing my actions and those of the other protesters were on “the right side of history” (see 1B. The Psychic Historian on the list of Unethical Rationalizations and Misconceptions). For a somewhat shy teenager, I was instantly transformed by that march into a powerful person.  Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Pre-Thanksgiving Day Ethics Wrap-Up, 11/27/2019”

Presidential Thanksgiving Addresses, which used to be a big deal but which have fallen by the wayside. Winston Churchill had a memorable one too, on November 23, 1944:

We have come here tonight to add our celebration to those which are going forward all over the world, wherever allied troops are fighting in bivouacs and dugouts, on battlefields, on the high seas, and the highest air. Always this annual festival has been dear to the hearts of the American people. Always there has been that desire for thanksgiving, and never, I think, has there been more justification, more compulsive need than now.

It is your Day of Thanksgiving, and when we feel the truth of the facts which are before us, that in three or four years the peaceful, peace-loving people of the United States, with all the variety and freedom of their life in such contrast to the iron discipline which has governed many other communities – when we see that in three or four years the United Sates has in sober fact become the greatest military, naval, and air power in the world – that, I say to you in this time of war, is itself a subject for profound thanksgiving.

We are moving forward in this struggle which spreads over all the lands and all the oceans; we are moving forward surely steadily, irresistibly, and perhaps with God’s aid, swiftly towards victorious peace.

There again is a fitting reason for thanksgiving, but I have spoken of American thanksgiving. Tonight here, representatives of vaster audiences and greater forces moving outside this hall, it is British and American thanksgiving that we may celebrate today. And why is that? It is because under the compulsion of mysterious and all-powerful destiny we are together.

We are joined together, shedding our blood side by side, struggling for the same ideals, and joined together until the triumph of the great causes which we serve has been made manifest.

In her Comment of the Day, on Pre-Thanksgiving Day Ethics Wrap-Up, 11/27/2019,” Alizia points us to one of Abe Lincoln’s Thanksgiving speeches:

The Proto-Fascist Lincoln wrote:

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.”

The first assertion I would make is that we now live in outcomes of the Civil conflict of the mid-1800s. Some historian, I forget who, said that the Civil War or War Between the States was the ‘defining event’ that frames everything. When I heard it, I didn’t understand. Now I think I understand better.

There are many aspects to this, of course, but the one that most strongly comes to my mind is this imperious (that is how I see it) declaration made by President Lincoln which is a rhetorical marvel but, in fact, a group of powerful lies. Did the ‘glorious being’ desire that a civil war divide a people? Did the glorious being ‘give thanks’ that 700,000 men were killed as a result of an internal war that fractured the Republic? Was the ‘glorious creator’ standing behind the North in its imperious claim to define a ‘nation’ whose identity it would control? The questions could go on & on & on… Continue reading