Tag Archives: Congress

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/9/2017: Inadvertent Confessions And Admissions

Good Morning, Columbus!

So glad you came!

1 Yesterday, on “Face the Nation,” Senator Diane Feinstein was continuing the Democratic Party’s latest use of a gun tragedy to see if the American public can be frightened, shamed, deceived or panicked into giving up one of the core individual rights guaranteed by our Constitution. The host asked her whether there were any proposed regulations that would have stopped Stephen Paddock or someone like him from committing mass murder.

Her answer, “No.”

Well there you have it, right? This tragedy has nothing to do with honest, good faith gun reform, and everything to do with the anti-gun left wanting to begin eroding the Second Amendment, until the right of law-abiding citizens to arm themselves to the extent they believe is necessary shrinks to insignificance.

I salute the Senator in one respect: at least she’s honest about the fact that the use of the Vegas Strip shooting by the anti-gun left is entirely cynical and exploitative. Contrast her blunt “no’ with the demagoguery of her fellow Congressional Democrat, civil rights icon John Lewis. (The news media always describes him that way, because “race-baiting, hyper-partisan  hack John Lewis” would offend African-Americans.). As I discussed earlier, Lewis erupted last week with this call to no-arms:

“The American people will not stand to see hundreds and thousands of their fellow citizens mowed down because the lack of action on the part of the Congress…We have to do something…The time is always right to do what is right. We waited too long. How many more people will die? Would it be a few hundred? A few thousand? Several thousand? We have to act. We cannot wait.”

The complete Feinstein-Lewis thought, then: “The American people will not stand to see hundreds and thousands of their fellow citizens mowed down because of the lack of action on the part of the Congress to pass laws that would do nothing to stop their fellow citizens from being mowed down in a massacre like the one we are demanding action in response to!”

In one of the many threads following the Vegas Strip shooting, commenter Charles Green asked me,

“Let me ask my basic question again: are there any constructive suggestions (hopefully a tad beyond outlawing bump stocks) that can be offered by the principled defenders of the Second Amendment to find common ground? Any? I for one am all ears.”

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/30/2017: The Price Is Wrong, Traveling Men The Trump Cabinet,And The Return Of “Will & Grace”

Good Morning!

1 Under pressure from President Trump, who shouldn’t have appointed him in the first place, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned  yesterday. He, along with other Trump officials, was under Congressional scrutiny for using expensive charter and military flights unnecessarily, costing taxpayers at a time when the administration is supposedly watching the budget. Under Federal Travel Regulations, officials are told to take the “most expeditious” means of transportation which “by no means should include personal use,” Chairman Trey Gowdy and ranking member Elijah Cummings had written to  letter to Price, 23 other agency heads, and the White House. Price has spent more than $400,000 on taxpayer-funded private jet travel since May.

Price’s abuses included a $17,760 round trip on a charter jet to Nashville, where the HHS Secretary stayed less than six hours, including lunch with his son. The day before he resigned and a day after the President publicly expressed displeasure over the travel abuses, Price had apologized. “Today, I will write a personal check to the U.S. Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes. The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes,” Price said in a statement, adding that he will no longer take private planes while serving as Secretary. “No exceptions.” This was deceit, however. The repayment was just $51,887.31, a fraction of the true cost to the government. That was, as Price said, the cost of  the secretary’s “seats” if had flown commercial.

Price is not the only Trump official whose travel practices and expenditures raise at least the appearance of impropriety, but if one had to be the symbolic whipping boy, Price was a great choice. He was also my choice back in January for “Trump Cabinet Appointee Most Likely To Make Money Off Of His Position.” In a post expressing disgust at Price’s appointment, I wrote,

“Last year, Price purchased shares in Zimmer Biomet, a medical device manufacturer right before he introduced  legislation that would have directly benefited the company. Price bought between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares in the company last March, and then, less than a week after the transaction,  introduced the HIP Act…to delay until 2018 a regulation that industry analysts believed  would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet, one of two companies most affected by a regulation that limits payments for joint implant procedures. Not only did Price have a financial stake in the regulation he tried to stall,but after Price introduced  his bill, Zimmer Biomet’s political action committee donated to the Georgia congressman’s reelection campaign.”

2. Losing one arrogant, travel-abusing high official may not be enough. It’s an interesting problem: is it fair to make one miscreant the focus of abuses that involve many? No; it’s also not practical, and therefore not responsible, to behead a significant portion of the Executive Branch because oversight was lax and an unethical culture had been allowed to take hold. I think Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin would be an excellent and deserving candidate to join Price as metaphorical head on a pike.

Shulkin took a 10-day trip to Europe this past July, for meetings with Danish and British officials about veterans’ health issues. He treated much of the trip as a vacation, taking in a Wimbledon championship tennis match, touring Westminster Abbey and taking a cruise on the Thames with his wife, whose expenses were also paid for by you and me. The federal government paid for the commercial flights for Shulkin and his wife, and provided a per-diem reimbursement for their meals and other expenses. How did Mrs. Shulkin rank reimbursements and taxpayer-funded airfare? A VA spokesman explained that she was traveling on “approved invitational orders” and had “temporary duty” travel expenses.

In other words: “Huminahuminahumina…” Continue reading

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Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: President Barack Obama

Yesterday’s U.S.  missile attack on Syria prompted by Assad’s use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians clarifies just how inept and feckless President Obama’s handling of foreign policy was.

In an article today in the reliably progressive and Democratic Party-boosting The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg writes,

“President Obama’s foreign policy doctrine, like many foreign policy doctrines, was contradictory at times, and it sometimes lacked coherence.”

1. At times?

2. Sometimes lacked coherence?

3. Notice the obligatory “like many foreign policy doctrines” to cushion the blow. Journalists are in permanent denial over just how epically awful the first black President’s administration was.

Goldberg eventually gets around to Obama’s “decision, in 2013, to go back on his promise to punish the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons on civilians. Early in the Syrian civil war, Obama publicly drew a red line concerning Assad’s behavior, but later decided to forgo military strikes, even after being presented with near-definitive proof that Assad had crossed the red line in grotesque fashion. “  This inadequate description intentionally leaves out the dispiriting details of that fiasco. Here is what Obama said in August of 2013 when the first “red line” appeared:

“We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people. We have been very clear to the Assad regime — but also to other players on the ground — that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus; that would change my equation….We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.” 

Ethics Alarms:

Now, lawyers and grammarians may argue over what “a red line” means, what constitutes “use” and “a whole bunch,” and what the President considers “enormous consequences.” None of that matters. What matters is what the statement was understood to mean around the world, and it was widely understood to mean this: If chemical weapons are used against the Syrian people by Assad, the United States will act decisively. Last week, reliable evidence indicated that indeed chemical weapons had been used, and that the “red line” had been crossed.

Obama’s response? Double-talk, backtracking and word-parsing:

  • The President to reporters Friday with Jordan’s King Abdullah in the Oval Office:  “What we have right now is an intelligence assessment. And as I said, knowing that potentially chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria doesn’t tell us when they were used, how they were used. Obtaining confirmation and strong evidence, all of those things we have to make sure that we work on with the international community. And we ourselves are going to be putting a lot of resources into focusing on this. And I think that, in many ways, a line has been crossed when we see tens of thousands of innocent people being killed by a regime. But the use of chemical weapons and the dangers that poses to the international community, to neighbors of Syria, the potential for chemical weapons to get into the hands of terrorists — all of those things add increased urgency to what is already a significant security problem and humanitarian problem in the region. So we’re going to be working with countries like Jordan to try to obtain more direct evidence and confirmation of this potential use. In the meantime, I’ve been very clear publicly, but also privately, that for the Syrian government to utilize chemical weapons on its people crosses a line that will change my calculus and how the United States approaches these issues. So this is not an on or off switch.”
  • A White House official to reporters Thursday: “I think what the Assad regime needs to know is that we are watching this incredibly closely. Were he to undertake any additional use [of chemical weapons], he would be doing so under very careful monitoring from us and the international community. There should be no mistaking our determination not just to get to the bottom of these reports, but to send a message … that Bashar al-Assad and his regime will be held accountable for these types of actions. We’re going to be methodical, rigorous and relentless … so we can establish exactly what happened…all options are on the table in terms of our response…If we reach a definitive determination that the red line has been crossed … what we will be doing is consulting closely with out friends and allies … to determine what the best course of action is.”

So those “enormous consequences ” of the “red line” being crossed is that the United States will start consulting with friends and allies?

Well, yes, in a word. Continue reading

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Why Health and Human Services Nominee Price’s Smoking Gun Ethics Breaches Won’t Disqualify Him

smoking-gun

There was good news on the Trump Administration Ethics Train Wreck, still just pulling out of the station. Despite the ethically-challenged reaction fro the Trump transition team when it was revealed that Monica Crowley had plagiarized in her latest book, somebody, somewhere, persuaded the conservative radio talk-show host to resign her new White House post. Good. But as many—most?—predicted, the muck is just beginning to bubble to the surface.

CNN reports that Rep. Tom Price,Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services who will have much of the responsibility for dismantling Obamacare  without triggering a health system crash, appears to have engaged in a flagrant instance of using his position for financial gain.  Last year, Price purchased shares in Zimmer Biomet, a medical device manufacturer [Full disclosure: I have one of their artificial hip joints, setting off metal detectors at airports all over the world] right before he introduced  legislation that would have directly benefited the company.

Price bought between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares in the company last March, and then, less than a week after the transaction,  introduced the HIP Act (Clever!) to delay until 2018 a regulation that industry analysts believed  would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet, one of two companies most affected by a regulation that limits payments for joint implant procedures. Not only did Price have a financial stake in the regulation he tried to stall,but after Price introduced  his bill, Zimmer Biomet’s political action committee donated to the Georgia congressman’s reelection campaign.

Merely a coincidence, I’m sure.

Price is scheduled to appear before the Senate Health Committee this week, and the Senate Finance Committee later. He should withdraw, or failing that, Trump should pull the nomination. Price’s purchase of the Zimmer Biomet shares isn’t the first time he’s used inside information (the inside information being “I’m going to propose a bill”) to buy shares in a company. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that he traded roughly $300,000 in shares over the past four years in health companies while pursuing legislation that could affect their bottom lines.

Yeccch. Continue reading

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Hillary Clinton: A Pre-Election Ethics Alarms Character and Trustworthiness Review: 2009-2016

hillary-testifies

The first Ethics Alarms post about Hillary Clinton ironically enough, in 2009, awarded her an Ethics Hero. (She has two.) “I know, I know. Truth and the Clintons have never been friends,” it began. And, looking back, it was a pretty generous award: all she did was describe how an ethical decision is made, and claimed that was how she decided to accept Obama’s invitation to be Secretary of State.  It didn’t prove she actually made the decision the way she said she did, and now, with the benefit of seven years’ hindsight, I think it’s likely that she was lying about it, as usual. Still, it proves that Hillary may know how to act ethically. This distinguishes her from Donald Trump.

Before heading to the voting booth, I decided to review all of the Ethics Alarms posts about Clinton. It is, I think it’s fair to say, horrifying. You can find them all here. 

There are unethical quotes of the week and month, Ethics Dunce designations, Jumbos, where Clinton denied what was in clear view to all, and KABOOMS, where the sheer audacity of her dishonesty (or that of her corrupted allies and supporters) made my skull explode skyward. If you have a recalcitrant Hillary enabler and rationalizer in your life, you should dare him or her to read this mass indictment—not that it will change a mind already warped, of course, but because the means of denying and spinning what they read will be instructive, confirming the symptoms of incurable Clinton Corruption.In July of 2015, I responded to complaints—including one from an ethics professor— that I was not objective regarding Mrs. Clinton, that I was picking on her. The response was a manifesto, stating my standards and objectives: Continue reading

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Comey’s Letter Ignites A Public Seminar On Spin And Disinformation

comey_letter_0_1477662300

From the New York Times (Note: the officially declared Trump  reviling/Clinton-favoring  Times is still a solid source on the matter of Hillary’s e-mails, because it broke the story about her private server in the first place.):

WASHINGTON — The presidential campaign was rocked on Friday after federal law enforcement officials said that emails pertinent to the closed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server were discovered on a computer belonging to Anthony D. Weiner, the estranged husband of a top Clinton aide.

In a letter to Congress, the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said the emails had surfaced in an unrelated case, which law enforcement officials said was an F.B.I. investigation into illicit text messages from Mr. Weiner to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina. Mr. Weiner, a former Democratic congressman from New York, is married to Huma Abedin, the top aide.

Mr. Comey’s letter said that the F.B.I. would review the emails to determine if they improperly contained classified information, which is tightly controlled by the government. Senior law enforcement officials said that it was unclear if any of the emails were from Mrs. Clinton’s private server. And while Mr. Comey said in his letter that the emails “appear to be pertinent,” the F.B.I. had not yet examined them.

That’s it, as of this morning. Anything else, at this point, is speculation or disinformation. However, this is undeniable: whatever was found on the computer was considered relevant enough to the question of whether Hillary Clinton knowingly violated federal law and endangered US security in her machinations to avoid FOIA scrutiny of her private dealings to mandate re-opening the investigation, which had been, as the Times notes, closed.

It seems fair to assume that this is all we will know until the election, which means that Hillary Clinton will face the verdict of voters while under FBI investigation. That isn’t good for her, but boy, does she (and the Democrats) deserve it. The Clinton way, as we learned from Whitewater and the other controversies during Bill’s administration, is that when one of their seamy deals provokes suspicion, the game plan is to deny, deny, stonewall, confuse, muddle the story, muddy the water, barely cooperate with authorities, count on the “friendly journalists” to assist, run out the clock, and wait for the public to become so frustrated and bored that the cry of “Let’s move on!” is effective. We have seen this time and time again, because it has worked. This time, her lies and delaying tactics backfired, and left the sword dangling over her head for all to see far too long. Now everyone will have to wonder if Clinton will be declared a felon while in the White House. I’d say that’s extremely unlikely, but you never know, especially with this bizarre election script.

What’s going on here?

What’s going on here is that James Comey played it by the book, and by book I mean the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct governing the ethical conduct of all lawyers within its borders, including Comey.

Rule 3.3 in all jurisdictions (except California, but it has an equivalent rule) requires  lawyers to correct any material representations of fact or law that they have presented in a “Tribunal,” which is defined as an “ajudicative body,” usually a court. Congress and congressional committees are not adjudicative bodies for the purposes of 3,3. However, the most obscure and infrequently cited rule in all of legal ethics, Rule 3.9, says this:

Rule 3.9 Advocate in Non-adjudicative Proceedings

A lawyer representing a client before a legislative or administrative body in a nonadjudicative proceeding shall disclose that the appearance is in a representative capacity and shall conform to the provisions of Rules 3.3, 3.4(a) through (c), and 3.5.

I have met few lawyers in the government or out of it that have ever read this rule. I know for a fact that lawyers who testify before Congress almost never “disclose” that. However, lawyers—ethical ones, anyway—will correct misleading testimony as Rule 3.3, though 3.9, requires. That’s what Comey did.

It is disgraceful that the FBI’s investigation into a matter bearing on the fitness of a Presidential candidate was closed prematurely and that its recommendation to the Justice Department in the matter was based on incomplete evidence, resulting in the current uncertainty. Nonetheless, once new evidence was uncovered that agents felt could change the results of that investigation, the Bureau had no choice. It had to investigate, and Comey had to correct his testimony that the investigation of Clinton’s conduct was over. It’s not.

Now Democrats, partisan agents of the Clinton campaign and corrupted journalists are giving a spectacular public seminar on how they spin, and, if we pay attention, a demonstration of who is interested in truth and whose function in life is to mislead the public. Continue reading

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Spectacularly Incompetent Candidate Of The Month: Paul Ryan Challenger Paul Nehlen

"This is Paul. Won't you help him? Paul, like millions of other victims across the land, suffers from Constitution Ignorance Syndrome. This dread malady causes its victims to advocate fascist  policies and to sound like idiots in their public statements. But there is hope for Paul, and those like him. Please give, and give generously, To "Educate Paul." a non-profit charity. Your gift is tax-deductible, and you will have made the United States a little less stupid with every penny you contribute to this vital cause."

“This is Paul. Won’t you help him? Paul, like millions of other victims across the land, suffers from Constitution Ignorance Syndrome. This dread malady causes its victims to advocate fascist policies and to sound like idiots in their public statements. But there is hope for Paul, and those like him. Please give, and give generously, To Educate Paul a non-profit charity. Your gift is tax-deductible, and you will have made the United States a little less stupid with every penny you contribute to this vital cause.”

This was the guy that Donald Trump was supposedly going to endorse as retribution for Speaker Ryan’s negative comments? It’s comforting, isn’t it, that Trump isn’t that irrational? Ann Coulter is, but Trump isn’t. (At least in this case.)

Paul Nehlen is the arch conservative and certifiable ignoramus who is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District’s Republican primary. Interviewed last week on “Chicago’s Morning Answer,” Nehlen said that he wonders why we have any Muslims in the country, and suggested that there should be a public debate about tossing Muslims out of the U.S.

Here’s a partial transcript of the relevant comments Nehlen made to hosts Amy Jacobson and Dan Croft: Continue reading

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