Tag Archives: Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck

A Popeye: I Just Can’t Let This Ridiculous Quote Pass…

I could headline this as an Ethics Dunce, an Unethical Quote, a “Stop making me defend Donald Trump” or even a KABOOM!, but it’s really a Popeye. The upcoming statement by Matt Miller, previously a spokesperson for the Holder Justice Department, could be easily ignored—who the hell is Matt Miller?—except that it breaks my chutzpah meter, and more than that, is designed to be recirculated as an indignant talking point by Democrats who haven’t cracked a history book since they were 12, or who are just plain liars.

After the Justice Department announced that it was taking another look at Hilary Clinton’s shenanigans with her secret email server (and perhaps the Clinton Foundation), Miller told The Daily Beast (echoing Holder, who has made similar statements),

“The president’s ongoing campaign to tear down the wall between the Justice Department and the White House seems to be working.”

Wall between the White House and the Justice Department? If there had been such a “wall,” President Kennedy obliterated it in 1960 when he appointed his brother as  Attorney General while Bobby was also serving as JFK’s primary political advisor. Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, had been the director of Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, and was one of Nixon’s closest personal friends. Ronald Reagan’s second Attorney General was his longtime friend and political aide Ed Meese, who had previously served as Reagan’s Chief of Staff! Some wall! Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On Pew’s “17 Striking Findings From 2017”

#1Partisan divides dwarf demographic differences on key political values. The average gap between the views of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents across 10 political values has increased from 15 percentage points in 1994 to 36 points today. Two decades ago, the average partisan differences on these items were only slightly wider than differences by religious attendance or educational attainment, and about as wide as differences across racial lines. Today, the partisan gaps far exceed differences across other key demographics.

I attribute this ominous development to both parties crossing previously observed lines of appropriate political tactics and rhetoric, picking at the seams that hold our society and democracy together. The GOP-advanced Whitewater investigation of the Clintons’ financial shenanigans began the criminalization of politics. President Clinton’s arrogance and recklessness as a sexual predator placed Democrats in the position of defending unethical conduct especially repugnant to conservatives, and the furious (and dishonest) efforts of both Clinton and Democrats to deny the legitimacy of his impeachment drove the parties further apart.

The essentially tied election of 2000 came at the worst possible time, but Democrats made its wounds to public comity worse that they had to be by using the false claim that the election was “stolen” to energize its base for years. The rise of hyper-partisan leaders in the House and Senate—Gingrich, Pelosi, McConnell, and worst of all, Harry Reid—continued to poison discourse.  The Iraq War fiasco, a Republican mistake, and the false Democratic mantra “Bush lied…” in response to it exacerbated the divide. Then the bi-partisan botches that led to the 2008 crash were widely attributed only to Republicans. Spurred by the prospect of a black President, the news media, always heavily tilted leftward, abandoned large portions of its ethical values to be an unapologetic cheerleader for the Democratic candidate, because having a black President elected would be so darn wonderful for everybody. Thus did the media fully embrace “the ends justifies the means” as an operating principle/

The inevitable racist response of a minority—but a vocal one—in conservative and Republican circles to the prospect of a black President caused further division, and Obama’s alliance with an openly racist Reverend Wright caused more racial polarization. Once elected, President Obama could have healed much of the damage since 1994 (as he promised to do) , but instead he chose to leverage divisions among races, genders, ages, classes, gays and straights, and legal and illegal immigrants for political advantage. His supporters, meanwhile, including those in the news media, began using accusations of racism to smother and inhibit legitimate criticism. Obama broke with Presidential tradition by repeatedly blaming his predecessor for problems he proved unable to solve, keeping partisan resentment hot.

Even with all of this, Obama could have healed much of the accumulated partisan antipathy if he had been an effective leader. He wasn’t. In contrast to his predecessor he was an effective (though over-praised) communicator,and in marked contrast to the current POTUS, he played the part beautifully, and that’s not inconsequential. The rest, however, was an ugly combination of misplaced priorities, incompetence, laziness, racial bias and posturing, with awful results. This hastened the divide, because Obama’s core base, the African American community, was inclined to view him uncritically no matter what he did. As other groups called out the President on his failings, that group’s loyalty and bias drove it, and allied groups, into defensive, knee-jerk ideological opposition, as the growing power of social media exacerbated hostility between the ideological polls.

Obama’s divisive administration, rhetoric and poor governing habits begat Donald Trump.

And here we are. Continue reading

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When Doing The Ethical Thing Is Ugly But Necessary: AG Sessions’ Retracts One Of Those Obama “Dear Colleague Letters”

By the way, “when doing the ethical thing is ugly but necessary” both refers to Sessions’ action and my writing this post…

 In March 2016 , President Obama’s Justice Department sent another one of the administrations patented (well, not really) “Dear Colleague letters” like the one that was used to bully colleges and universities into punishing male students for alleged sexual assault in the absence of sufficient evidence. This one was sent to state and local courts, urging them <cough>to review their procedures regarding fines and other punishments issued to the indigent  to ensure that they were consistent with “due process, equal protection and sound public policy.” The Justice Department’s 2016 release linked the letter to its description of a $2.5 million grant program to help agencies develop strategies that reduce unnecessary confinement of those who can’t pay fines and fees.” The letter said in part,

“Typically, courts do not sentence defendants to incarceration in these cases; monetary fines are the norm. Yet the harm caused by unlawful practices in these jurisdictions can be profound. Individuals may confront escalating debt; face repeated, unnecessary incarceration for nonpayment despite posing no danger to the community; lose their jobs; and become trapped in cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape.”

The letter also outlined “basic constitutional principles” regarding fee and fine enforcement. They included: Continue reading

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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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