Tag Archives: Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck

The IRS Scandal: “I’m Sorry!” Is Not Enough, But That’s Apparently All Our Battered Democracy Will Get

 

I’ve been holding a draft of this post for two weeks until I calmed down. You should read the first version.

The Treasury Department  agreed to  a “very substantial” settlement covering damages to hundreds of tea party groups following a class-action lawsuit over the obstructive, discriminatory IRS scrutiny they received when applying for tax-exempt status leading up to the 2012 election. According to court documents,  the IRS admitted wrongdoing and apologized for its conduct. The IRS stated,

“The IRS admits that its treatment of Plaintiffs during the tax-exempt determination process, including screening their applications based on their names or policy positions, subjecting those applications to heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays, and demanding some Plaintiffs’ information that TITA determined was unnecessary to the agency’s determination of their tax-exempt status, was wrong. For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology.”

That’s nice. Isn’t that nice?

The department did not disclose the amount of money handed out to over 400 organizations: “The [Internal Revenue Service]’s use of these criteria as a basis for heightened scrutiny was wrong and should never have occurred,” Attorney General Sessions said in a statement.  “It is improper for the IRS to single out groups for different treatment based on their names or ideological positions.”

Ya think?

The scandal began in 2013, when an IRS official admitted the agency had been aggressively scrutinizing groups with names such as “Tea Party” and “Patriots.” It later emerged that some liberal groups had been targeted, too, but in less aggressive ways and although in far smaller numbers. I hate to be suspicious, but if a Democratic administration’s tax agency agency in advance of an election wanted to hobble Republican and conservative groups, picking out some progressive groups to harass would be the smart move. In “Jack Reacher,” a sniper who wants to kill one target shoots five, so it looks like a random mass shooting. Same theory.

The IRS accelerated its special treatment of conservative groups around 2010, as the election approached, and Tea Party applications for tax-exempt status surged. Some court decisions had eased the rules for tax-exempt groups to participate in politics. Something had to be done, and some obama loyalists in the IRS apparently decided to do it. Or it was all one big misunderstanding.

After the scandal broke, there was a mass exodus from the IRS’s management. Conservative groups sued. Congressional Republicans launched  years of hearings, amid allegations the Obama White House had ordered the targeting. It was a futile effort. In earlier administrations, the news media would have been asking questions. A non-political Justice Department would have investigated hard, but Obama’s Justice Department was entirely constructed to protect the President and Democratic interests. The situation screamed for a Special Counsel. This wasn’t a matter of speculation: Something was rotten in Washington, D.C. A supposedly apolitical agency of the US Government, in advance of a national election with a Democratic President in office, used its power to interfere with the rights of conservatives to organize and participate in the democratic process. If the IRS employees involved were sufficiently partisan—and they were–no explicit orders from the White House were necessary. They knew what to do. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: “The Stickering”

More than a dozen handmade stickers reading “It’s okay to be white” were posted around overnight in Harvard Square earlier as well as around the nearby Harvard Law School campus.

Law School Dean of Students Marcia L. Sells, who is black, wrote an email to law students in the wake of what Stephen King might call “The Stickering”:

“It seems likely that these anonymous postings, made in the middle of the night, were provocations intended to divide us from one another HLS will not let that happen here. We live, work, teach, and learn together in a community that is stronger, better, and deeper because of our diversity and because we encourage open, respectful, and constructive discourse”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Dayand watch your step!—is…

Do you think posting the stickers was unethical? Do you think the Dean’s response was responsible?

Continue reading

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Foundation For Individual Rights In Education (The FIRE) Report: America’s Top Universities Deny Students Fair Hearings

(If you don’t know what this photo has to do with the FIRE report, you haven’t been paying attention…)

The FIRE, the heroic non-partisan non-profit that is dedicated to fighting restrictions on student speech, expression and other civil rights, has issued an important report showing how badly respect for Constitutionally guaranteed rights eroded during the Obama Administration’s embrace of the “war on women” narrative and radical feminist propaganda regarding the “rape culture” at American universities. From the press release:

“Spotlight on Due Process 2017” surveyed 53 of America’s top universities and found that a shocking 85 percent of schools receive a D or F grade for not ensuring due process rights. The schools were judged based on whether they guarantee those accused of campus misconduct 10 core elements of fair procedure, including adequate written notice of the allegations, the presumption of innocence, and the right to cross-examine all witnesses and accusers. FIRE awarded each institutional policy a grade based on how many of those elements it guaranteed.

“Most people will probably be surprised to learn that students are routinely expelled from college without so much as a hearing,” said Samantha Harris, FIRE’s vice president of policy research. “This report should be a huge red flag to students, parents, legislators, and the general public that an accused student’s academic and professional future often hinges on little more than the whim of college administrators.”

FIRE’s report found that 74 percent of top universities do not even guarantee accused students the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Making matters still more unjust, fewer than half of schools reviewed (47 percent) require that fact-finders — the institution’s version of judge and/or jury — be impartial.

Additionally, 68 percent of institutions fail to consistently provide students a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine their accusers or the witnesses against them — despite the fact that the Supreme Court has called cross-examination the “greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”

Most universities try students under one set of procedures for sexual misconduct, and an entirely different set of procedures for all other offenses. Of the 49 institutions in the report that maintain separate policies for sexual and non-sexual misconduct, 57 percent grant students fewer procedural protections in sexual misconduct cases — even when those cases allege criminal behavior. Troublingly, 79 percent of top universities receive a D or F for failing to protect the due process rights of students accused of sexual misconduct….

The report later says that not one institution covered by the study received the top grade. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/15/2017

Gooooood Morning Ethics Alarms Readers in Vietnam (3, 501 views so far)!!

1. I am three new rationalizations and at least two Comments of the Day behind. Sorry.

2. One of the more creative efforts to make Donald Trump Jr.’s aborted opposition research meeting seem significant, sinister and one more step to the impeachment “the resistance” and the news media so, so desperately want is this article in the Washington Post, by a Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, the director of the Intelligence and Defense Project at Harvard’s Belfer Center, who was a director of intelligence and counterintelligence at the Department of Energy and previously a CIA intelligence officer in domestic and international posts. His analysis is a masterpiece of projection, supposition, unwarranted assumptions and exaggeration. Rolf’s argument is that the meeting is important because it constituted a “green light” to Russia that the Trump campaign approved of Russian meddling in the election, would not blow the whistle on it, would be open to more serious involvement, and would respond to such action with future quid pro quo favors. All of this, simply based on the willingness to meet on the hopes of acquiring dirt on Hillary Clinton.

It is useful a a microcosm of the entire Russia-Trump conspiracy theory, and indeed conspiracy theories generally. Applied to an agreement between a married man and a single woman to have drinks together, the fact that the man never tells his spouse about the meeting means that the man thought the meeting was illicit, was open to having adulterous sex with the woman, would react favorably to the woman’s subsequent efforts to undermine his marriage, and was a green light to the woman to escalate her seduction. But as in the case of Trump’s meeting, a married man having drinks with an unmarried woman is not illicit, no matter what Mike Pence thinks, and is not proof of any further actions or unethical intent no matter what conclusions the woman leaps to. There is also the disconnect that under Mowatt-Larssen’s analysis and his version of the Russian thinking, Donald Trump Jr was central to the Trump campaign rather than incidental. He also seems to think the right hand in this chaotic organization knew what the right hand was doing, which we know not to be true. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/10/17

Morning, All!

(That’s a Flat Earth sunrise! I couldn’t resist...)

1. I’m encountering Ethics Alarms ethics alarms. For example, is it unethical for me to choose not to fix the typos in a comment from an obnoxious commenter? I generally fix mistakes when they turn up in comments from regulars here, or missing words and letters in first posts by newcomers. But the other day an annoying commenter of recent vintage registered a comment that seemed as careless as it was badly reasoned, and had several typos.Yeah, I fixed them. But I didn’t want to.

Then, after a long period without any blog banishments, I banished a commenter yesterday whose first post was really poor, and whose last was insulting in response to my pointing out just how poor it was. As I told him in the exit response, he had triggered The Stupidity Rule. I really don’t allow stupid people to comment here once I determine that they are hopeless. Is that wrong? Elitist? Mean?

I don’t want to keep explaining things to people whose comments indicate that they have preconceived notions, unshakeable biases, inadequate education and training in critical thinking, and are under the impression that an uninformed opinion is worthy of publication because it’s theirs. Yesterday’s exile also made the fatal error of criticizing the blog because it was “judgemental.” Yes, it’s a blog in which we analyze whether conduct is right or wrong, or something else. That demands judgment, and being judgmental. The fact that the matter at issue was a lawsuit—you know, before a judge?—and the commenter still made that observation anyway sealed his fate, even before he wrote that I was bald and presumably “repulsive to women.”

Wait…I’m bald???

2.  The University of Missouri, aka Mizzou, is in crisis as a direct result of its administrators craven capitulation to race-based extortion triggered by general angst and the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck in 2015. Before the protests (which were based on nothing specific at the University that was ever demonstrated by the protesters, other than the President refusing to bow to demands that he condemn random reported racial incidents that didn’t involve students), Mizzou was thriving, growing, and building new dormitories. Now, in response to the nationally publicized meltdown of common sense and adult supervision (climaxed by a  protester-allied communications professor, Melissa Click, being caught on video calling for “some muscle” to prevent a student reporter from recording an ugly campus confrontation), enrollment is down 30%. The university is  closing seven dormitories and cutting more than 400 positions, including  faculty members.

Good.  But from the comments of students and remaining faculty members, it doesn’t sound as if the right lessons have penetrated the campus culture’s race-addled skull. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/12/17

1.Senator Diane Feinstein redeemed some of the Democratic Party’s integrity by stating that James Comey’s revelations regarding Obama AG Loretta Lynch’s directive that he lie to the news media and the American people so they wouldn’t think Hillary Clinton was being investigated warranted hearings and its own investigation. This was easily the biggest story to come out of Comey’s testimony, as the U.S. government using its power to influence a Presidential election by spreading misinformation is far more serious than a foreign power influencing an election by allowing the public to see what a candidate and her party have been covering up. (I have stated the issue this way before, and will continue to do so, since it is accurate and true.) That this damning account was mostly buried by the New York Times, the Washington Post and the broadcast media is yet one more smoking gun (as if more were needed) proving just how partisan and untrustworthy the news media has become. It also should focus more attention on the still-percolating IRS scandal, speaking of subordinates interpreting a leader’s expressed desires as directives, as well as  Barack Obama’s repeatedly demonstrated belief that the ends justifies the means in the 2012 campaign, the passing of the Affordable Care Act, the Iran deal, and more.

2. NY Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow, a smoking-gun himself since the Times’ refusal to discipline or can him when he repeatedly used anti-Mormon slurs to attack Mitt Romney, has become the loudest shill for “the resistance” at the paper–quite an achievement, since the whole paper is a shill for “the resistance”—reveals that 43% of the public (according to polls, remember, and we now know how reliable and unbiased they are) believe that Congress should commence impeachment hearings. Blow finds this tragic, but the only two interpretations of the data is that 43% of the public is civicly, legally and historically ignorant, that 43% of the public has been completely misled by the biased reporting of the news media, or that 43% have embraced the anti-democratic view of impeachment being pushed by progressives and “the resistance,” which is that it is a legitimate device to undo elections and ensure that the Left achieves permanent rule over us all. Writes Blow, sniffling,

“I know well that the very real obstacles to removal injures the psyche of those worn thin by the relentless onslaught of awfulness erupting from this White House. I know well that impeachment is one of the only rays of hope cutting through these dark times. I’m with you; I too crave some form of political comeuppance. But, I believe that it’s important to face the very real possibility that removal may not come, and if it does, it won’t come swiftly. And even a Trump impeachment would leave America with a President Pence, a nightmare of a different stripe but no less a nightmare.”

It should bother everyone that a man like this has a regular, high-visibility platform for his corrosive views. Impeachment is national convulsion that good citizens only hope for when a President has engaged in impeachable acts. Blow and other like him, who hope for those impeachable acts to justify removing a President they object to on ideological, personal or other grounds are just  people with busted ethical alarms,  bad citizens, bad neighbors, and dangerous to our democracy.

3. Here is an ethics train wreck from academia. A white professor at the University of Tennessee asserted via a multiple choice quiz ( Colleges use multiple choice quizzes?) that the statement “Black family bonds were destroyed by the abuses of slave owners, who regularly sold off family members to other slave owners” was wrong. A black student vehemently disagreed and challenged the teacher, who then threatened to “get” the student on Facebook. After the professor was pressured into resigning by the university, she emailed the class with a further attack on the student, without using her name. Naturally, the student has decided that this single incident shows the lurking perfidy of white social justice warriors, or to put it bluntly, “Can’t trust whitey!” How do people like the professor get hired? Since when is a professors position “unacceptable’ because it disputes conventional wisdom? Is race immune from non-conforming academic views? And why are college courses using multiple choice quizzes? [Pointer: Fred]

4.  Also from Ethics Alarms Super Scout Fred: this study, showing that Oakland police officers “tend to speak less respectfully to black people than to white people during traffic stops, using language in these everyday interactions that can erode community faith in the police, according to a first-of-its-kind study of body-camera footage released Monday by Stanford researchers.” Ugh. Now that’s “ microagression,” and maybe not so micro.

Ethics diagnosis: incompetent training, negligent oversight, and dead ethics alarms.

5. CNN has a lot of work to do before it can claim to be a professional and trustworthy news source, and one obvious step is to fire Brian Stelter, the network’s alleged journalism ethics watchdog. His predecessor Howard Kurtz was pretty bad, but Stelter is pure flack, seeing his main function as defending CNN and his secondary function as denying media bias, since he is so shockingly biased himself.

Yesterday on his ironically-named show “Reliable Sources,” Stelter and guest Jeff Greenfield blamed President Trump for polls that show a steep decline in public trust of the news media. Greenfield said,  “I think that has served that relentless campaign on Twitter and in his comments, fake news, fake news, fake news has been to convince that group of people that there is no such thing as a set of facts independent of your politics. And that has certainly served to continue and accelerate what you’ve talked about as a long process of declining trust in news.”

The downward trend will continue until prominent members of the news media admit that the reasons trust in journalism have  declined precipitously are

  • That the mainstream media’s partisan bias is obvious and palpable,
  • That has proven itself untrustworthy, and
  • Arrogant hacks like Stelter and Greenfield make it clear to all willing to see reality that the news media thinks that there’s nothing wrong with its reporting.

As for President Trump, he has an ethical and professional obligation to focus attention on the news media’s shift into a partisan political force, both to prioect his administration and  to ensure that the public isn’t deceived. The previous President was happy to ignore this dangerous development, because Obama  foolishly thought he benefited from it. In truth, he and the nation would have benefited more by journalism that held him to higher standards and criticized him when he deserved it, which was often.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/10/17

 

1. In the category of “Good!”, or maybe “Better late than never!” was the news that CNN, after a a full week of pondering, determined that maybe it wasn’t sufficiently professional for a host to call the President of the United States a “piece of shit,” or anyone a “piece of shit,” really, or use “shit”  under the CNN banner, so it fired “Believer” host Reza Aslan. I don’t know why CNN can’t figure out that an immediate firing sends the message that the organization has professional standards and enforces them, and the way CNN handled this says, “We were hoping this would blow over, but guess not.”

Aslan’s tweet after his hook raised other questions:

  • Wait, CNN is trying to be an unbiased new outlet???
  • Oh, is “piece of shit” how scholars express themselves now?
  • “I need to honor my voice” by being able to use vulgarity to express his measured views. Got it.
  • The “tenor” of discourse is entirely within the control of the speaker.
  • Why does CNN put people on the air who don’t understand or respect their professional obligations to the network or the audience?

2. Fox News’s Sean Hannity got web headlines yesterday by tweeting to Aslan: “I do not think you should be fired. You apologized.” Sean Hannity is really too dumb to be allowed out without a leash. His theory is that an apology magically returns everything to where it was before the conduct in question, as if there were no effects. This was serious breach of professionalism and responsibility showing the Aslan was too untrustworthy to be allowed to have his own TV show. It proved that he was a threat to CNN’s reputation (Crude News Network” is the current successor to “Clinton News Network,” and no organization can function if its announced policy is “Go ahead, do anything; as long as you apologize, your job is safe.” Continue reading

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