Tag Archives: impeachment

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/18/18: George Sanders Memorial Edition

Good morning….

1. Why George, you ask? “Dear World,” famed actor George Sanders wrote in his suicide note in 1972, ”I am leaving because I am bored.”

I can relate. I am so bored with the unchanging patters of the news media’s irresponsible obsession with “getting” Donald Trump, the unethical and obsessed Ahab-like mania of his foes, and the depressing–I’m really ashamed of all of you—conduct of my many left-wing friends who still, after all this time, erupt in unseemly barking and seal-flipper applause over any Trump-hating pundit’s warped analysis. I’m bored, and I don’t understand why everyone else isn’t bored. How can Saturday Night Live fans still pretend to think Alec Baldwin’s amateurish, fury-sweating, repetitive Trump mockery is interesting? We’re at the point now where everything is being repeated from months ago: the resistance is running through the alphabet AGAIN.  A few days ago an ex-Obama official went all the way back to the Resistance’s Plan C, the arcane Constitutional dead letter known as the Emoluments Clause, and like the lapdogs they are, the Democrats’ impeachment lynch mob and anti-Trump news media predictably followed suit. This was widely interpreted by cooler heads as a sign of Trump Derangement Desperation, and maybe so, but this is like “Groundhog Day.” I never dreamed that I would still have to write about this 18 months after the initial post-election freak-out—“He’s a Nazi!” “He’s insane!” He’s a racist!” “He stole the election!” “He’s a Russian puppet!” —which was embarrassing enough. And I do have to write about it, because it is, in the end, an ongoing story of Americans acting horribly toward their own institutions, and professionals, who are supposed to be trained to be better, leading the way while in many cases acting worse.

It just kills the blog, as well as the fun of writing it, which has always been the eclectic and broad influence of ethics in our lives. The issue has just gutted traffic here: the anti-Trump virus-infected  can’t bear to read any objective commentary that doesn’t drip with hatred of the President, so they retreat to the warm second-hand lies of social media, rapid Trump supporters don’t want to frequent a periodic defender who won’t ignore his flaws, and serious ethics followers who view the whole episode as a bad dream that they would rather not think about while pondering the nuances of utilitarianism find the essays on the topic of the Trump Wars repetitive—which, inevitably, they are.

2. “Animals.” Look at yesterday’s ridiculous effort by journalists and pundits to intentionally misinterpret the President’s off-the-cuff comments in response to a comment about the violent MS-13 gangs at a White House roundtable discussion on the subject of immigration and so-called “sanctuary cities.” Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims raised the problem of  Mara Salvatrucha gangs, better known as MS-13. “There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t have a certain threshold, I cannot tell [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] about it,” Mims said, thus triggering a typical Trump word cloud in which he described the gang members as “animals.” Never mind: multiple news sources deliberately omitted the context of Trump’s remarks to advance the “Trump is a racist and hates all immigrants” narrative. Incredibly, this was so blatant that CNN, of all people, decided to weigh in on the President’s side—all the better to allow them to claim objectivity when they smear him later. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day, Rebuttal #2: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018:…A Presidential High Crime…”

This is the second rebuttal to my criticism of the President’s effort to use his influence and power to harm Amazon. I’m very impressed with it, but I have to give a rationalizations alert, for there are several evoked here, including, a few versions of #1, Everybody does it,” #2 A. Sicilian Ethics, or “They had it coming,” #3. Consequentialism, or  “It Worked Out for the Best” #39. The Pioneer’s Lament, or “Why should [He] be the first?,” #45. The Unethical Precedent, or “It’s Not The First Time,” and probably others.

Here is Greg’s Comment of the Day on the #2 in “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018: Baseball Lies, A Presidential High Crime, And A Judge Makes A Panty Raid”:

There is nothing wrong, much less anything impeachable, about the President making valid, policy-based attacks that target specific companies, even though the attacks may “suppress the companies’ stock values.” Attacks on Standard Oil were justified, even though stockholders in Standard Oil may have suffered. Trump’s comments about Amazon are fair. In any case, there is no reason to think that his remarks were intended to drive down Amazon’s stock price and very little reason to think that they will cause any particular harm to Amazon or its stock.

Trump’s recent tweets have made three points about Amazon, all of which he has made many times before: (1) Amazon benefits from a sales tax loophole that unfairly costs states money and disadvantages brick-and-mortar retailers, (2) Jeff Bezos uses the Washington Post to lobby for the continuation of this advantage and (3) the US Postal Service undercharges Amazon and should negotiate higher rates.

Trump has been making the first two points since at least 2015. He made them repeatedly during his campaign in tweets, in interviews and in speeches. Here’s the earliest reference that I found: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/12/07/donald-trump-called-out-jeff-bezos-on-twitter-then-bezos-called-his-bluff/?utm_term=.8573b4279b6d.

Trump has continued to make both points since he became president. Here’s just one example: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-17/trump-s-bruising-tweet-highlights-amazon-s-lingering-tax-fight. His Treasury Department has been studying the sales tax issue for over a year, http://thehill.com/policy/finance/343972-mnuchin-trump-administration-is-examining-online-sales-tax-issue, and his Justice Department last month filed an amicus brief in South Dakota v. Wayfair, a case currently before the Supreme Court, arguing that the Court should close the sales tax loophole that benefits Amazon and other online retailers.

Trump has been making the third point (about USPS rates) since at least December last year. http://fortune.com/2017/12/29/trump-amazon-post-office.

None of those previous statements and actions by Trump and his administration caused Amazon’s stock price to fall. Trump could not have expected that thisweek’s tweets, repeating exactly the same points that he has made many times before, would have any effect on Amazon’s stock price.

Moreover, Trump’s tweets haven’t made any threats against Amazon and he doesn’t seem to have any intention of taking any unilateral action to hurt Amazon. To the extent that his tweets may have affected Amazon’s stock price, they most likely did that by drawing investors’ attention belatedly to genuine issues regarding Amazon’s business model, in particular the possibilities that the Supreme Court might actually close Amazon’s sales tax loophole and that the USPS might actually negotiate a better deal with Amazon. If his tweets have pointed out concerns that investors previously hadn’t given proper weight, then he has done a valuable service for the markets. If these concerns turn out to be unjustified, then Amazon’s stock price will soon recover and Trump’s tweets will have done no harm. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day, Rebuttal #1: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018:…A Presidential High Crime…”

Is Teddy looking down from Rough Rider Heaven and smiling at Trump’s Big Tweet?

Of course, I knew suggesting that President Trump’s deliberate attacks on Amazon via Twitter was an impeachable offense would set heads a-blowing. The resulting debate has been fascinating, with interesting historical parallels being proposed. This comment, by Chris Marschner, is the first of two erudite and well argued rebuttals.

Not to hold you in unnecessary suspense, I am not convinced or dissuaded. I do not see Teddy Roosevelt’s  policy-oriented attacks on the era’s monopolies, correctly leading a movement to reform an area of widespread capitalist abuses that eventually were agreed to be criminal, with Trump’s tweeting crudely phrased animus to the public. Nor do I find Obama’s general criticism of big money lobbying efforts by energy interests in general and the Kochs in particular at the same level of abuse of power as Trump taking aim at the owner of the Washington Post,

I am a lifetime fan of Teddy, but he crossed many lines, and could have been legitimately impeached himself. As I have stated before in multiple posts, the power of the Presidency is too great to be abused with casual wielding against individuals and named businesses. As always, there are exceptions.  I’ll concede that taking on the robber barons and the monopolists in the early 20th Century can be fairly designated as one.  Chris seems to feel that there is a close parallel in Amazon’s growing power, but that’s not the case the President chose to make, instead focusing on a deal Amazon forged with the Postal Service, as much to keep the latter in business as to benefit Amazon.

Basic lessons in POTUS leadership: if you are going to cross lines of appropriate uses of  power, 1) You better be right and 2) Be Presidential about it.

Other examples, like Obama designating Massey Energy as responsible for the Upper Big Branch mining disaster before the investigation was complete, can not be so easily excused, but can be fairly labelled a mistake. (Obama made many, too many, such mistakes.) Trump’s attack on Amazon is neither as limited as Obama’s mistake, not as carefully considered and justifiable as Roosevelt’s trust-busting. I would like to see future Presidents restrained from abusing power in this way, even if it takes a trail before the Senate to do it. If we don’t restrain it, we will be sorry.

But the other side has some good arguments: by all means, read them.

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the #2 in “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018: Baseball Lies, A Presidential High Crime, And A Judge Makes A Panty Raid”:

I would like to point you to this in 2015:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/08/26/war-words-obama-v-koch-brothers/32423959/

“When you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding, that’s a problem,” Obama said at the summit. “That’s not the American way.”

“Josh Earnest said the exchange illustrates the kind of president Obama set out to be.”

“This is exactly why the president ran for office, it’s why he ran for this office, is that for too long, we saw the oil and gas industry exert significant pressure on politicians in Washington, D.C.,” he said. And when Obama fights that influence, “the special interests, including the millionaires and billionaires that have benefited from that paralysis, start to squeal. And I guess in this case, at least one billionaire special interest benefactor chose to squeal to a Politico reporter.”

This type of rhetoric does not include Obama officials publicly stating (incorrectly and improperly) that one of the Koch brothers paid no income taxes. (http://freebeacon.com/politics/hazy-memories/)

Is it only an abuse of power when referencing specific individuals? Does it matter if you say the 1% don’t pay their fair share or is it an abuse of power only if you identify them by name?

I will concur with the Koch brothers that it is beneath the dignity of the president to go after a specific individual, but to suggest that it amounts to even a misdemeanor abuse of power is a stretch. If calling out a specific firm is an impeachable offense then why was there no call to impeach Obama when he routinely criticized and mocked Koch Industries, Fox News and others that did not line up with full throated support of his agenda.

But , Obama was not the first to chastise “punch down” on a business person. Who can forget the trust buster himself Teddy Roosevelt. JP Morgan was singled out for bad behavior. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018: Baseball Lies, A Presidential High Crime, And A Judge Makes A Panty Raid

Wake Up!

1 Fake history, baseball style. Broadcasts of Red Sox games from Fenway Park in Boston refer to “the Pesky Pole,” the official name of the tall, yellow foul pole in right field. It is named in honer of the late Johnny Pesky, who also is honored in a statue outside the park—it featured him and his team mates and longtime friends, Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, and Bobby Doerr. Pesky, with a couple of brief interruptions,was a Red Sox lifer, beginning with his 1942 rookie season, and ending with his death several years ago as an honorary coach. In between, he was Sox minor league manager, the big team’s manager, a hitting coach and a broadcaster.

The Pesky Pole got its name because the notoriously power-free shortstop reputedly hit several of the few he managed to slug in his career by knocking a pitch  around the marker, which arose from  what is now the shortest foul line in baseball. The  low Fenway right field fence veers sharply out from there to over 400 feet, so such homers are considered, and indeed are, lucky flukes. During his brief and undistinguished tenure as a Red Sox radio color man, former Red Sox pitching ace Mel Parnell repeatedly told the story about how Johnny won a game for Mel in 1948 with a pole-shot. This tale led directly to the team officially naming the pole on September 27, 2006, on Pesky’s 87th birthday, with a commemorative plaque placed at its base and everything.

Afterwards, and not before, someone actually checked the game records. Pesky never hit the home run  described by Parnell. He only hit six home runs in Fenway at all, and nobody knows how many hit the pole, looped around the pole, or even went to right field. (Pop-ups hit by Punch-and-Judy hitting shortstops sometimes landed in the screen over the left field wall for home runs, as the cursed Bucky Dent can attest.) Nevertheless, the fake history is in place: the Pesky Pole is named that because Johnny Pesky hit a famous home run off of it, or was famous for looping cheap homers around it, or something.

Baseball excels at creating fake history, the most notable being represented by the locale of its Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, New York. When the museum was envisioned, the accepted story about the game’s origin was the Union general Abner Doubleday invented the sport in 1839 and organized the first game in Cooperstown. After the construction was underway,  research suggested that everything about the Doubleday tale was rumor and myth, but baseball and the museum’s management, in one of the all-time classic examples of adopting the philosophy of the newspaper editor in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,” went to great lengths to keep the original story before the public. Eventually some hard evidence surfaced suggesting that the game was invented by Alexander Cartwright, who was eventually inducted into the Hall as the game’s creator, while Doubleday is not. Nonetheless, the myth survives. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, for example,  said in 2010 that “I really believe that Abner Doubleday is the ‘Father of Baseball.'” This is the equivalent of saying that one believes in the Easter Bunny.

Selig was later inducted into the Hall of Fame.

2.Believe it or Not! I would support impeaching  President Trump for his tweeting attacks against Amazon. This is such an abuse of Presidential power that it demands at least a Congressional reprimand or sanction. Amazon lost $53 billion in market value in the wake of the tweets, meaning that investors, retirees, and ordinary Americans lost wealth as well. It is unconscionable for a President of the United States to deliberately target a company, just as it is wrong for a President to punch down at a private citizen, but the consequences of doing what Trump has done to Amazon is far, far worse. The Wall Street Journal suggested in an editorial that if the attack on Amazon was politically motivated because Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, impeachment would be justified. Yes, that would be even worse, but it is not an essential element of this “high crime.” The President of the United States must not abuse his power by intentionally harming lawful businesses.

The foolish resistance is so focused on trying to impeach Trump based on exotic laws and imaginary conspiracies that it doesn’t see the real thing when it’s right in front of its face, and the anti-Trump media has so destroyed its credibility by embracing ridiculous impeachment theories that a valid one will just look like more of the same. Continue reading

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Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Al Green (D-Tex)

I’ve been neglecting the category, which is especially inexcusable since there are so, so many of them. Rep. Al Green, however, made his distinction easy, thanks to the most ridiculous impeachment theory yet.

 Representative Al Green burnished his credentials as an anti-Trump clown  by announcing that the President’s alleged, unproven and unprovable reference to “shithole–or was it “shithouse”?— countries” is  grounds for impeachment as a clear example of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Green drafted up new articles of impeachment on the theory that “the president’s hateful comments can impact policy.” ( This time 66 fellow Democrats voted for them: Every one of the 66 qualifies as an Incompetent Elected Official. Be proud, progressives! This is your party!) Actually, that better be about how the President’s hateful comments can impact policy if they are unethically publicized by double-crossing Democrats.

What a great theory Green has! All that is needed to impeach a President is for a member of the opposing party to come out and claim that a President said something that “can impact policy” in a private meeting. Then the news media chimes in with, “Sure sounds like something he would say!, CNN obsesses about it for days, ” there’s an impeachment and a conviction, and in just a few more easy steps, according to a Harvard Law professor, so this can’t be a crackpot theory, Hillary Clinton is President!

And they say Trump has mental problems…

There are many plausible explanations for Rep. Green’s nonsense:

…He’s never read the Constitution.

…He has read it, but doesn’t understand it.

…He understands it, but he doesn’t agree with it.

…He’s been hanging out too much with fellow Congressional Black Caucus member—Does this group have a function other than to embarrass African-Americans?—Maxine Waters, who is on record as believing that just being Donald Trump is grounds for impeachment.

…He’s been listening to Chris Cuomo and believes that speech he doesn’t like is criminal.

…He has some kind of weird vendetta against Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, and wants to be humiliated it for graduating someone like him—yes, Green is a lawyer. No, he really is. I’m not kidding! He is! I wouldn’t lie to you! ( Kaboom.)

…Somehow, the wrong Al Green got into the House. This isn’t the lawyer and former judge, who presumably knows something about law and government! This the soul legend “Reverend” Al Green! Sing, Al!

…He’s grandstanding for the increasingly reason-challenged Democratic base, which doesn’t care about law or facts when the President’s impeachment is involved. It’s the thought that counts.

…He’s an idiot.

Rep Green has vowed to continue to keep coming up with impeachment articles: “I plan to do this as long as the President continues to make bigoted statements that are harmful to American society.”
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California’s Ethics Rot

This is the prevailing culture in the state Hillary Clinton won so overwhelmingly that she was able to claim that she really “won” the election. You don’t want to live in that culture. It opposes the Freedom of Speech.

Opposing free speech is unethical. It also is undemocratic. But Californians are increasingly incapable of seeing this. It is a case study in how a culture rots. Some recent examples of how the rot is proceeding.

I. Mean Facebook posts are crimes.

In 2016, Mark Feigin posted five insulting comments on the Islamic Center of Southern California’s Facebook page. Among them:

  • “THE MORE MUSLIMS WE ALLOW INTO AMERICA THE MORE TERROR WE WILL SEE.”
  • “PRACTICING ISLAM CAN SLOW OR EVEN REVERSE THE PROCESS OF HUMAN EVOLUTION.”
  • “Islam is dangerous – fact: the more muslim savages we allow into america – the more terror we will see -this is a fact which is undeniable.”
  • “Filthy muslim shit has no place in western civilization.”

As a result, California is prosecuting him for allegedly violating Cal. Penal Code § 653m(b):

Every person who, with intent to annoy or harass, makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device … to another person is … guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith or during the ordinary course and scope of business.

A First Year law student of reasonable mental acuity could tell you in a trice that this was unconstitutional—that is, she could if she hadn’t been marinated in the anti-democratic culture that is 21st Century California. It is also an unethical and intellectually dishonest effort to use an ill-fitting law to punish “hate speach.” Here, in part, is the analysis of Prof. Volokh, a constitutional law specialist:

This can’t possibly be consistent with the First Amendment; indeed, in U.S. v. Popa (D.C. Cir. 1999), the D.C. Circuit set aside a telephone harassment conviction of someone who left seven racist messages on the voicemail of then-U.S.-Attorney Eric Holder; and the court focused on the “political message” of the speech, and not on Holder’s status as a government official. Given that insults targeted to a particular person, related to a political message, are thus constitutionally protected, so are more general insults aimed at an ideology and all its adherents, whether that ideology is Islam, Scientology, conservatism, gun rights, or anything else. Laws aimed at preventing unwanted repeated messages to particular private citizens shouldn’t be applied to messages sent to ideological organizations (or to public officials). And this is especially so when it comes to annoying Facebook posts, which the organization can simply block.

…I hope the court indeed promptly throws them out as unjustified under the statute, forbidden by the First Amendment, or both. But if the courts accept such charges, expect to see many more people, left, right, and otherwise, prosecuted for posting insulting messages on many groups’ web pages.

II. No free speech on campus without permission!
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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/22/2017: The Best Laid Plans….

GOOD MORNING!

I’m really trying hard to be positive today: guaranteed low traffic, behind the Christmas 8-ball, and last night I heard what is, along with the sound of an atom bomb, Nancy Pelosi’s voice, fingernails on a blackboard, and the screaming of the lambs, among the most horrible sounds in existence: that made by a fully decorated, 8-foot Christmas tree falling over….I don’t want to talk about it.

1 Leaks are unethical. What about this is so hard to understand? This story is being widely interpreted as meaning that the reassigned FBI attorney was one of the likely leakers in the agency. Lawyers leaking confidential information related to their representations is unethical, and ground for disbarment, and of course firing with cause. I hope to get to this in more detail  later, but the widespread attacks in the media on criticism from conservatives, Fox news and President Trump on the FBI is Bizarro World stuff. The FBI would have no leakers if it were professional, competent and trustworthy. None. The botched Clinton e-mail investigation and the Peter Strzok scandal are proof of deep, deep, incompetence and corruption.

2. Well, there goes Plan C! In discussing Plan J, also now on life support, I laid out the Democrats’ other nine plans to over-turn the election and overthrow the Trump Presidency by non-democratic means ( I also hope to get to this in more detail  later, but the widespread attacks in the media on statements from some conservatives and Fox News that Democrats and “the resistance,” aided by the news media, have been attempting a “coup” is Bizarro World stuff as well. The justification for the indignation is that the term coup usually implies a violent overthrow of a government, but there have been coups that were quiet, peaceful and non-violent as well. The key factor in coups is that they are illegal or extra-legal. Calling the various plans to undo a legal election too similar to a coup to ignore places what has been going on since last November in its proper, sinister perspective.

Again: Plan A was to reverse the election by hijacking the Electoral College. Plan B was pre-emptive impeachment. Plan C was the Emoluments Clause. Plan D was “collusion with Russia” (The New York Times, to give credit where it is due, actually created a chart to explain this one, and if it isn’t obvious to you how pathetically weak the case is, you played NFL football…), Plan E is”Trump is disabled because he’s a narcissist and a Republican, so this should trigger the 25th Amendment.”, Plan F, the Maxine Waters plan, is to just impeach the President because she really, really doesn’t like him, Plan G is “The President obstructs justice by firing incompetent subordinates,” Plan H is “tweeting stupid stuff is impeachable,” Plan I is “Let’s relentlessly harass him and insult him and obstruct his efforts to do his job so he snaps (see E) and does something really impeachable.” Plan J is to force Trump’s resignation based on alleged sexual misconduct that predated his candidac.

Plan C was just kicked out of court:

“Judge George B. Daniels of United States District Court in Manhattan found that the plaintiffs had failed to show that they had suffered as a result of specific actions by Mr. Trump intended to drum up business for his enterprises. . . . Beyond that, the judge found, the emoluments clauses of the Constitution are intended to protect the country against presidential corruption from foreign influences or financial incentives that might be offered by either states or the federal government. They were not meant to protect businesses from competition from presidentially owned enterprises, he ruled.”

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