Tag Archives: Iran deal

Wait: Does President Obama Consider THIS A Scandal? Because, You Know, It Is…

Every time either ex-President Obama or one of his slavish acolytes—you know, journalists?—make the statement that his tenure was “scandal free,” honest Americans who have been paying attention grind their teeth down a few more millimeters.

Of course, Obama had plenty of scandals, serious ones—at least they would have been serious in any other administration. The fact that the news media chose to minimize them or ignore them doesn’t make them less scandalous…in fact, that’s a scandal itself.  To name one example that especially rankles me, the IRS, an Executive Branch Agency, eventually admitted that it used its power to meddle in the 2012 Presidential election, against Obama’s opponent. However, the formula of lying, covering up, stalling, and having allies in the press call everything negative under Obama a “nothingburger” carried the day. This was SOP for eight years.

When Obama personally lied—20 times? 30?— about how his signature health care plan would work (All together now: “If you like your plan…”), somehow this Nixon-Clinton level of intentional dishonesty was shrugged off as “the ends justify the means.” The fact is that it was a real, calculated, intentional lie used to trick the American people, not just a case of a President being wrong. Bush didn’t know that Iraq didn’t have WMD’s. Obama had to know what his own health care bill would do.

Blecchh!. I can taste the tooth powder!

This week, another genuine Obama scandal was uncovered that would have had Democrats seeking impeachment votes if it had occurred under Reagan or Bush. The Obama administration secretly gave Iran access to the U.S. financial system, defying the sanctions still in place after the 2015 nuclear deal, despite repeatedly telling Congress and the public that it would not and did not do anything of the sort.

What would you call that?

After striking its bone-headed, constitutionally-dubious nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration wanted to give Iran the promised access to its freshly unfrozen overseas reserves, including $5.7 billion stuck sitting in an Omani bank.  Iran wanted to convert the money into U.S. dollars and then euros, but that would require our giving the rogue nation access to the U.S. financial system. Obama officials had  promised Congress that Iran would never gain such access. As was the usual solution for Obama when law, the Constitution or established procedure stopped something he had decided in his Wisdom was Good and Just, Obama had his Treasury Department issue a license in February 2016 that would have allowed Iran to convert $5.7 billion it held at a bank in Oman into euros by exchanging them for U.S. dollars. The scheme failed, for the Omani bank blocked the transaction, but this is just moral luck, and does not make the secret end-around the sanctions less wrong.

The license issued to Iran’s Bank Muscat made lies of public statements from the Obama White House, the Treasury and the State Department denying that the administration was contemplating allowing Iran access to the U.S. financial system. After the nuclear deal was announced  in July 2015, Obama Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testified under oath—lying to Congress is still a scandal, unless Obama officials do it, and they did it a lot—that even with the sanctions relief, Iran “will continue to be denied access to the world’s largest financial and commercial market.” A month after that, another Treasury official, Adam Szubin, testified that  “Iran will be denied access to the world’s most important market and unable to deal in the world’s most important currency.”

“The Obama administration misled the American people and Congress because they were desperate to get a deal with Iran,” said Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio).   Verdict: Fair and accurate. And what is the rebuttal by the Obama-ites?

Ooooh, lame. Lamer than usual, in fact. Continue reading

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Rare Species, Previously Believed Extinct, Sighted: A Balanced Analysis Of The Iran Nuclear Deal

On a matter of as much significance and complexity as the Iran nuclear deal, it is depressing to see that almost all commentary in the news media begins with a partisan bias, a “team” mentality, and the typical talking-point orientation that makes genuine public understanding unattainable today. People choose the position that already aligns with their friends and their loyalties, and adopt it uncritically. As a result, public discourse is useless.

This is no way to run a democracy.

Elliot Cohen is a prominent Never-Trump neo-con and foreign policy scholar, writing in the Atlantic, a generally “resistance”-favorable progressive publication. His analysis of the current contretemps involving the Iran deal is the closest I have seen yet to a fair and balanced one. That doesn’t mean I think he is right on all counts, especially ethically. The second half of this statement, for example is as  troubling as the first half is refreshing:

“The Iran deal was, in truth, a very bad one. It did nothing to inhibit Iranian behavior in the broader Middle East, did nothing to stop its ballistic programs, and opened the path for a resumption of the nuclear-weapons program in a decade or so. Some of us said so at the time. Walking away from it, however, will make matters worse not only because success is unlikely, but because this shredding of an earlier presidential agreement further undermines the qualities that those who look to American leadership have come to value—predictability, steadiness, and continuity. Even when American allies have doubted the superpower’s wisdom, they usually felt they could count on its constancy.”

They also have to be able to count on its competence, courage, and ability to change course when a current course is disastrous. It is unethical to make policies that are careless, expedient and dangerous in a setting where there is no recourse once the course is set.  Leaders have to undo mistakes and take new directions even when it means future distrust and present anger.  The previous President took unseemly joy in declaring previous Presidential policies wrong-headed, and reversing them forthwith. True: this is a bad habit, and all leaders should respect previous decisions and commitments by their predecessors, except in extraordinary circumstances. The standard should be similar to the Supreme Court’s rule of stare decisus, which means that previous SCOTUS rulings have the presumption of permanence, unless they are sufficiently bad for law and the nation. I am satisfied to move the Iran debate from the Obama-Kerry mythology to “it’s a bad deal.” The question is then whether it is sufficiently bad to justify a variance from the general rule that Presidents ought to leave agreements made before their election stand if at all possible.

To his credit, Cohen displays almost equal contempt for the Obama administration and President Trump. Some notable excerpts: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/9/2018: Iran Deal Exit Edition

Gooooooooooood Morning Tehran!

1  Goodbye to an illegal—hence unethical— treaty. To get the pure ethics issue out of the way at the start, the argument from critics of President Trump’s rejection of the Iran nuclear deal that, as MSNBC partisan-hack-disguised-but-none-too–well-as an-objective-journalist Andrea Mitchell wrote,

“So no matter what happens now, what they have basically said to the rest of the world is that we are not obeying an agreement that we signed. Now the United States of American under one administration can sign a deal, but it may not be accepted by future presidents.”

What was always the most undebatable objection to Obama’s deal was that it was a treaty that bypassed the Constitutional requirements for treaties. Such a significant agreement with such major risks and implications should have been submitted to the Senate as the Constitutional process demands. Thus it was illegal, as with so much of what the weak previous President foisted on the nation, the theory was that wrong and illegal or not, once “the deal” was in place it was a fait accompli. Note the irony of Obama’s worshipful congregation expressing fears that Trump is autocratic. All Trump could do was to submit the already established deal to Congress to un-do, and despite a majority in favor of doing just that, a filibuster by Democrats blocked it.

Verdict: This time President Trump has the Constitution on his side, and when the Constitution doesn’t suit Democrats, they ignore it.

2. An Ethics Hero for candor: Blogger Ann Althouse concluded her comments about the big news yesterday by saying, “I’m just looking at the public theater, of course. I have no idea what is really going on.”

Brava! And neither do I. And neither do you. Moreover, whether President Trump’s gambit turns out to be regarded as a brilliant masterstroke or a tragic blunder is entirely moral luck, just as his apparent success with North Korea is. All sorts of consequences, good, bad, and currently unimaginable, are possible.

3. Bias makes you CNN. This morning both CNN and CNN’s HLN were fearmongering with viewers, flogging the likelihood that Trump’s rejection of the Iran deal would raise gas prices, and also lose jobs because U.S. airline sales of passenger jets to Iran cannot be completed. Think about the ethical nature of that argument for keeping the deal in place. Lifting sanctions on Iran has allowed the nation to fund terrorism across the region, but its all worth it to Americans if gas prices stay low. Nice.

Then there was CNN’s openly partisan White House correspondent Jim Accosta, who tweeted this:

“Obama policies dumped by Trump: Iran deal, Paris Climate Agreement, Trans-Pacific Trade Deal, DACA, Obamacare Individual Mandate.”

Accosta apparently really thinks that this is res ipsa loquitur for how bad Trump is. A journalist so isolated by his political biases from reality can’t be a competent political reporter. I’m not a Trump supporter, but with the possible exception of the trade deal, I view all of the rest as positive developments, or at least arguably so, especially since most of them were examples of Obama skirting the Constitution or governing by edict. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/5/2018: “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” Edition

Good Morning!

(I’m happy to report that my Clarence Darrow ethics program for a lawyer group yesterday in Annapolis was received wonderfully, in no small part due to actor Paul Morella’s moving and powerful recreations of Darrow’s courtroom oratory. As is often the case, attendees said that they didn’t realize a legal ethics presentation could be so interesting. If fact, there is no excuse for any kind of ethics NOT being interesting…)

1. I call this “cultural defacing.” At 10:30 last night, I watched the end of “The Princess Bride,” and was thrilled to arrive just as the final showdown between Ingo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and Count Rugen (Christopher Guest). Here is the scene, a classic one, which begins with the Count apparently fatally wounding Inigo with a dagger:

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

[Inigo advances on Rugen, but stumbles into the table with sudden pain. Rugen attacks, but Inigo parries and rises to his feet again]

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

[Rugen attacks again, Inigo parries more fiercely, gaining strength]

Inigo Montoya: Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!

Count Rugen: Stop saying that!

[Rugen attacks, twice. Inigo avoids and wounds Rugen in both shoulders. Inigo attacks, bellowing:]

Inigo Montoya: HELLO! MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA! YOU KILLED MY FATHER! PREPARE TO DIE!

[Inigo corners Count Rugen, knocks his sword aside, and slashes his cheek, giving him a scar just like Inigo’s]

Inigo Montoya: Offer me money.

Count Rugen: Yes!

Inigo Montoya: Power, too, promise me that.

[He slashes his other cheek]

Count Rugen: All that I have and more. Please…

Inigo Montoya: Offer me anything I ask for.

Count Rugen: Anything you want…

[Rugen knocks Inigo’s sword aside and lunges. But Inigo traps his arm and aims his sword at Rugen’s stomach]

Inigo Montoya: I want my father back, you son of a bitch!

[He runs Count Rugen through and shoves him back against the table. Rugen falls to the floor, dead]

Except “you son of a bitch” was cut!

We settled this when the TV showing of “Gone With The Wind” let Clark Gable’s iconic exit line, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” remain uncensored, and later,when John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn uttered the words, “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” before charging Ned Pepper and his gang. It is unfair and disrespectful to wreck the best work of writers and actors for the few remaining people on earth who take to their fainting couches when rude language meets their ears. You don’t edit Rhett, or Rooster, or Inigo, or even John McLane when he says, “Yippee ki yay, mother fucker!” Show the movie, or don’t show the movie, but don’t ruin the movie for the most easily offended in the audience. Continue reading

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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.”

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/20/2017: Maybe It’s The Christmas Tree Lights That Are Putting Me In A Rotten Mood, But This Stuff Isn’t Helping…

(It only looks this way to me…)

Good morning, everyone!

Grrrrrrrr…!

1 Again I ask: how does democracy survive this? It is so discouraging to read about facts that “the public has a right to know,” that are”fit to print,” or that must be revealed if democracy is not to “die in darkness,” and know, know, that they will not be honestly or properly covered by the mainstream news media for purely partisan and ideological purposes. It is doubly discouraging to know that so many Americans are either so brainwashed or without integrity to begin with that they will defend this betrayal…and even attack those who try to let the truth out.

There was  a story published earlier this week by Politico, which is largely left-leaning but a major source of political news on the web. It was thoroughly sourced, and thoroughly shocking.

It described how Obama administration secretly quashed efforts to stop Hezbollah from funding its operations through criminal enterprises in the United States, deliberately sabotaging US law enforcement’s efforts to fight terrorist drug and money laundering operations, by  curtailing long-standing efforts to interdict cocaine shipments in the U.S. by Hezbollah, the terrorist organization closely allied with Iran.

The federal and international effort to root out Hezbollah’s crime network predated the Obama administration:

The campaign, dubbed Project Cassandra, was launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hezbollah had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.

But President Obama was determined to get his nuclear deal with Iran done in his second term, so this effort was suspended by executive directive. “This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” said Politico’s on-the-record source David Asher, a Defense Department official charged with tracking Hezbollah’s worldwide criminal enterprise “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-up: 8/18/17

Good Morning, Ethics Alarms Readers!!!!

1. I am so aggravated, offended and frankly frightened over how the Charlottesville politically-correct spin has been injected into the public’s brain by the familiar unholy alliance of the free speech-hostile left, the Soviet-emulating historical air-brushers, cowardly scholars and, of course, our impulsive and inarticulate President, that it is difficult for me to focus on anything else. As Billy Bigalow sings in “Carousel,” though, “I’ll try, by God, I’ll try…”

2.  Wolf Blitzer actually asked, on the air, whether the Barcelona terror attack was inspired by James Field’s homicide-by-auto in Charlottesville. I swear, this isn’t a Charlottesville commentary but a “How incredibly stupid does a journalist have to be before the public and his employers send him off to work at a bait shop?”  commentary. Is this some sinister effort to blame Robert E. Lee for terrorism in Barcelona? There have been  eight jihadi car-ramming terror attacks this year alone! Why in the world would a Spanish terrorist look to James Field’s for inspiration? Why would Wolf Blitzer even ask such a blitheringly idiotic question? How can we respect of trust major news media when it can behave like this?

As Ann Althouse wrote last week about a Washington Post story:

This is the kind of newspaper article I’m looking for, detailing what happened in Charlottesville, and I wish I felt more confidence that The Washington Post would tell it straight. Maybe this is straight, but how can I know? What trust has been shot to hell in the last few years of journalism! I’m still reading this, because it’s the closest I’ve come to the kind of careful report I want.

For me, once a major network anchor displays the utter stupidity (or contempt for the intelligence of its viewers) that Wolf’s speculation constitutes, I have enough information to never trust that news source….not that I didn’t already have sufficient justification for that conclusion.

3. I have come to the conclusion that all polls are inherently misleading, and those who cite poll results to justify or condemn policy decisions or initiatives are themselves untrustworthy. First of all, the polls reflect apples, oranges,  mangos and walnuts but treat them as if they are the same. When a majority of the public, for example, disapproves of Congress according to a poll, what does that mean? It means that some who disapprove do so because Congress is too conservative, while others regard it as not conservative enough. Since the two components of that disapproval diametrically oppose each other’s standards, the poll provides no genuine guidance or illumination. Such polls are also misleading because there is no way of knowing  how many of those polled are informed regarding the issues and legislative matters beyond reading headlines or watching Stephen Colbert. I don’t care what ignorant people think about things they haven’t bothered to think about, and neither should the news media or elected officials.  All polls should include the category, “I really haven’t studied this issue enough to have anything but a gut-level opinion.” “Don’t know/No opinion” is not the same thing. Continue reading

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