Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/24/17: Sen. McCain, His Pal, And The Amazing Brain Of Hillary Clinton.

Isn’t it a beautiful morning?

1 Another mind-blowing Hillary Clinton note: in an interview on MSNBC, she said that women who supported candidate Trump publicly disrespected themselves, and expressed amazement that any women would be so foolish as to associate themselves, even distantly, with such a sexist.. I’d love to know what internal editing, re-casting of reality, obliteration of integrity and massive lack of self-awareness goes on in Hillary’s head to allow her, of all women, to say things like this, and even more remarkable, assume that nobody—rather than virtually everybody— would find it laughable.

I’m not even going to elaborate on why Hillary Clinton saying women disrespect themselves by supporting a sexist and misogynist is astounding, even for her. I respect my readers’ intelligence. I bet you can figure it out on your own.

2. Senator John McCain is suddenly a hero, twice, for again announcing that he will not support another apparently lousy, GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.  While I have my doubts about the nobility of the Senator’s motives—I think his bitterness at Trump goes deep, and that bias affects his professional actions—but it is worth reading McCain’s arguments for why he will not support the bill, which are solid and ethical, and hardly an endorsement of the ACA: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/28/17

Good Morning!

Thanks for dropping by.

1. Does anyone else wonder how John McCain would have voted last night if President Trump hadn’t gratuitously insulted his military service and suffering as a prisoner of war? I do. I know how much veterans care about their service and sacrifice on behalf of their country, and how deeply a public insult like Trump’s must have hurt. McCain has been seething all of this time. Maybe last night was a vote based on principle; probably McCain thinks it is. There is no doubt, however, that he hates Trump’s guts intensely, and that kind of bias is almost impossible to banish entirely. He is also probably more than a little angry that his colleagues and his party allowed someone who would treat him that way to be the nominee.

The astounding foolishness of Trump’s initial insult to McCain was framed as an insult to veterans, but the fee for his gratuitous nastiness was always going to come due in a setting like last night. Human nature can’t be taken out of politics; in fact, politics relies on human nature. These people aren’t automatons. It would be ethical to put grudges aside, but nobody should count on it.

The President reportedly called McCain to argue for a “yes” vote. I wonder if the Senator said, Scaramucci style, “Mr. President, this unheroic prisoner of war says, with all due respect, ‘Go fuck yourself.'”

I also wonder if Trump learned anything.

Nah. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/29/17

1.  The GOP’s travails as it tries to fix, replace or repeal Obamacare continues to be mocked in both the conservative and liberal media, and by the Democrats who caused the crisis in the first place. Ethically, the party is behaving like a responsible party should with major legislation: not moving in lockstep, with sufficient members of Congress withholding support until the new law appears to be competent and an improvement of the current one. The damned if you do/damned if you don’t game Democrats and the media are playing is wildly dishonest and calculated to win political points at the expense of getting a better system than the festering mess called the Affordable Care Act (irresponsibly passed with public misrepresentations and parliamentary tricks by the other party.)

True, many of the balking Republicans are basing their opposition to the current law less on principle than on polls, which now show a majority of citizens don’t like the proposed bill. On matters of complexity and national importance, polls should play exactly no role in legislation at all. How many of those polled have read the bill or understand it? A tenth of a per cent? Less? Uninformed opinions based on hearsay, ignorance and propaganda are worthless (and after the 2016 election, polls may be as well) ; this is why we have representative democracy and not a direct democracy. Legislators and executive who use polls as crutches are either incompetent, dishonest, cowards, or all three.

2. Especially in light of the despicable tactics of Democrats who are accusing Republicans of killing people by reforming Obamacare, the proper Republican response, which would have the advantage of being both fair and politically smart, would be to announce, through the President:

The failure of the Affordable Care Act is now no longer debatable. Projections for 2018 show massive premium increases. Insurers are pulling out of many markets. The optimistic CBO projections, which critics correctly called absurd at the time, have been decisively shown to be wrong. This law was passed by one party only, using public disinformation,  dubious methods and dirty politics. It has made health care for the public as a whole less affordable, and done nothing to lower health care costs or improve health care quality.

It is now clear that the Democratic Party’s strategy is to shift responsibility for this fiasco to Republicans, by viciously attacking any attempts to fix Obamacare while also preparing to condemn the party if the current law leads to disaster, as it almost surely will on its current course. The Democrats, in short, are placing political considerations over the nation’s health and welfare. Therefore, as of today, the Republican Party will not seek to pass, nor will I sign into law, any health care insurance law or any revisions of the current Affordable Care Act that does not originate from Congressional Democrats, and that Congressional Democrats do not accept accountability for in every respect. The Republican Party will support any such bill, reserving of course the right to suggest additions and changes, but only if there is no question regarding the Democratic Party’s ultimate responsibility for its drafting, as an admission that their original law was fatally flawed.

In the absence of such a bill, I and the Republican Congress will allow the  this “signature legacy of President Obama” to continue, with the understanding that its failure is a Democratic failure, and the lack of a timely fix is entirely due to the cynical tactics of the party that created it.

3. Unethical Quote Of The Day That Is So Predictable That It Isn’t Worth Posting As The Unethical Quote of the Day: Salon

This will be a short break, a one-day experiment: June 27 will be Trump-Free Tuesday here on Salon.

We’ve been thinking about this for a while, and it seems like the right moment. There are so many other things to talk about and think about, in politics, culture or our daily lives. We are stuck with this guy for the foreseeable future, which is a difficult truth for many of us to handle. If we cannot dislodge him from the White House anytime soon, maybe we can start to deflate the outsized role he plays in our national psychology. This is a baby step in that direction.

How will Trump-Free Tuesday work? We have established some rules for ourselves — which we are prepared to break under certain circumstances we have tried to define in advance. (Those circumstances seem unlikely. But who knows what counts as likely anymore?)

We will not publish the president’s name on Tuesday or use his picture. We will not cover his outrageous Twitter utterances or deride his surrogates for whatever stupid things they may or may not say on television. (We try not to do that the rest of the time, too.) We’re certainly going to cover American politics and the United States government, but we will avoid focusing on the dominant personality at the top of the pyramid. We will strive to focus on issues and policies and how they are likely to affect the lives of our readers.

Note the smoking-gun line “If we cannot dislodge him from the White House anytime soon…” Continue reading

No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not “Discrimination.”

Here is a prime example of how the news media’s intentional or careless use of words warps public perception and policy.

Yesterday, the New York Times front page story about the GOP House’s health insurance bill noted in its second paragraph that the bill wouldn’t do enough to prevent “discrimination” by insurance companies against those with per-existing conditions. I have seen and heard that term, discrimination, used over and over again to describe the per-existing condition, and I apologize for not blowing the whistle on it long ago.

Using the term, which is usually used in other contexts to signal bigotry, bias and civil rights violations, is misleading and virtually defamatory. Insurance companies are businesses. They are not charities. They are not public resources. If an automobile company turns down an offer of half what a car costs it to make, it is not discriminating against that customer who made the offer. If a restaurant customer says to a waiter, “I have just four bucks, but I want you to bring me a dozen oysters, a steak, and a nice bottle of wine,” the establishment isn’t discriminating against the diner for sending him to McDonald’s.

Insureds with per-existing conditions want to pay premiums that are wildly inadequate for the coverage they know and the insurance company knows they are going to need. Insurance companies are portrayed as villains because they don’t eagerly accept customers who they know will cost them money, often a lot of money. That’s not discrimination. That’s common sense, basic business practice, fiscal reality,and responsible management. The news media and the under-cover socialists among us want to create the illusion that a company not wanting to accept customers who lose money rather than add to profits is a mark of corporate greed and cruelty, hence the use of “discrimination” as a falsely pejorative term, when the fair and honest word is “problem.” Continue reading

The False Lesson Of The GOP Failure To Replace Obamacare

They called off the Charge of the Light Brigade, the incompetent fools!”

Ethics Alarms feels obligated to state what should be obvious, but increasingly is not, as abuse is heaped on the Republican House and President Trump for failing to be able, for now at least, to agree on a replacement/repeal/fix for the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare” its close friends….enemies too, come to think of it.

The headlines on stories all over the web describe the lack of a GOP bill are brutal:The failure of the Republican health care bill reveals a party unready to govern (Vox)…Republicans Land a Punch on Health Care, to Their Own Face (New York Times)…Inside the GOP’s Health Care Debacle (Politico). Those are the nicest ones. The conservative media’s headlines are even more contemptuous. This only reflects how much the prevailing delusion on the Left and by extension the Left’s lapdog media and punditry, has infected political common sense, leaving a Bizarro World* sensibility about what ethical governing is about.

It may be futile to point this out from this obscure corner of the web, but hell, I’m a fan of quixotic endeavors: the House health care bill was a bad bill. Virtually everyone who examined it thought so. If the thing had somehow been passed by the Senate (it wouldn’t have been, so this meltdown just got all the abuse and gloating out of the way early) and signed by the President (who admits that he has no idea what a “good” health care system would be), it would have thrown millions of lives and the economy into chaos. It isn’t responsible governance to pass bad laws. (Why is it necessary to even say this?) It’s irresponsible. The Republicans wouldn’t show they were “ready to govern” by passing an anti-Obamacare bill that made a bad mess messier; they would have shown that they were fools, reckless and incompetent.

You know: like the Democrats when they passed the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading

And The Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck Rolls On…

Barack Obama’s legacy is a series of ethics train wrecks of remarkable and depressing longevity. The oldest of them, the Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck. may never stop rolling, leaving destruction in its wake forever..

Observations:

1.   It is clear that the Republicans will not be able to repeal, undo, repair or reinvent Obamacare, aka The Affordable Care Act, consistently with their rhetoric and the wishes of the thoroughly messed-up law’s abundant critics. The many bills passed by the GOP-controlled House to that end during the Obama Administration were grandstanding only: they passed because there was 100% certainty they would be vetoed. Now that such bills actually risk becoming law, Republicans are, reasonably enough, not willing to take the leap into the void.

2. The President has told Congress that if they are not prepared to deal with the repeal and replacement of the ACA now, he will move on to other priorities.  This is entirely responsible, both politically and pragmatically. Passing a sweeping law in haste that will affect millions of Americans would be irresponsible.

3. This means, of course, that the President’s campaign pledge to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “great” “on Day One” was nonsense. On one hand, it was reasonable for him, or anyone, to assume that after seven years of complaining the party’s legislators had a viable plan ready to replace the affordable Care Act. On the other, it was dishonest to make such a pledge without ascertaining with certainty that what Candidate Trump was promising was within the realm of possibility. “Day One” is obvious hyperbole, but anyone making such a statement must assume that it will  be widely interpreted as “before the next Ice Age,” and thus should not be uttered unless the pledge can be fulfilled eventually. Continue reading

Without Courage, Integrity And Professionalism In The Legal Profession, The Rule Of Law Hasn’t A Prayer: The House of Representatives v. Burwell Saga

" Nice law firm you got here. Too bad if something were to happen to it..."

” Nice law firm you got here. Too bad if something were to happen to it…”

As I explained  here and here in 2015, the process of judicially determining whether the Defense of Marriage Act was constitutional or not was unethically sabotaged by  threats to and improper lobbying of the law firm that had agreed to defend it. The Justice Department and the President had refused to do their sworn duty to uphold the laws of the United States, and same-sex marriage activists pressured the biggest client of the firm that had accepted the case to pass the pressure along. It worked. The firm dropped the case, precipitating a resignation by the partner handling it and this ringing assertion of traditional legal ethics:

“…[D]efending unpopular positions is what lawyers do. The adversary system of justice depends on it, especially in cases where the passions run high. Efforts to delegitimize any representation for one side of a legal controversy are a profound threat to the rule of law.”

This was, we are learning, not an anomaly. On the Volokh Conspiracy, law professor Josh Blackmon relates how the same strategy of applying of unethical political pressure, and the unprofessional capitulation of major law firms to it, nearly made a legitimate challenge to illegal payments to insurers under Obamacare impossible. He explains in part: Continue reading

Rueful Observations On Obama’s Speechwriters Laughing About Writing Lies To Pass Obamacare

roselaughing

In the wake of Obama foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes boasting about how he managed to hoodwink the news media and the public regarding the negotiations with Iran, this disgusting display is not so much surprising and it is clarifying.

Monday’s edition of  the Charlie Rose show on PBS featured Charlie chatting with former Obama speechwriters David Litt, Jon Favreau, and  Jon Lovett  to discuss their collaboration with the President to assist  his (over-praised) communication skills. Much of the discussion centered on Obama’s stand-up comedy chops—Ah, what might have been! I’d gladly take my chances in that alternate universe—until the discussion turned to this:

CHARLIE ROSE: My point is do you have equal impact on serious speeches? Because it’s about style, use of language, etcetera?

JON LOVETT, FORMER OBAMA SPEECH WRITER: I really like, I was very — the joke speeches is the most fun part of this. But the things I’m the most proud of were the most serious speeches, I think. Health care, economic speeches.

JON FAVREAU, FORMER OBAMA SPEECH WRITER: Lovett wrote the line about “If you like your insurance, you can keep it.”

LOVETT: How dare you!

ALL: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

LOVETT: And you know what? It’s still true! No.

No.

Observations, somewhat diminished because this made MY HEAD EXPLODE: Continue reading

Of Shoes and Socks, and the Soothing, Unethical Device of Lowered Obama Leadership Goals and Aspirations

shoes and socks

I had a friend in college named David, a talented musician and a funny guy, who one regaled me with his new theory of how to be a success and eliminate anxiety and stress in the bargain.

“See, we make ourselves miserable and guarantee failure by setting our goals impossibly high,” he said. “The secret to a happy, successful, care-free life is to set one’s goals extremely low. Last week, I was depressed because I had aimed at attending all my classes, writing 50 pages on my thesis, and finishing my reading assignments. I didn’t come close to accomplishing this, and I was miserable and guilty as a result.”

“Then I had an epiphany! Today I set my goal, my only one, as putting on my shoes and socks,” David explained. “That was it, the whole thing. Look! I did it! And it’s only noon!” He laughed and skipped away, not a care in the world.

I’m pretty sure he was kidding. Yet the Obama Administration, and its increasingly zombie-like, denial-motivated supporters, appears to have adopted this approach to leadership. Continue reading

SPECTACULARLY Unethical Quote Of The Week: President Obama

“Don’t blame us for all the mistakes in the law—look at how long it is!”

…on the Affordable Care Act and King v.Burwell, at his news conference. When President Obama was asked about the soon to be announced Supreme Court decision in King v. Burwell, he launched in an epic of unethical assertions and rhetorical games. I’ll highlight the unethical—not merely dishonest in some cases—statements and elaborate afterwards.

THE PRESIDENT: What I can tell state leaders is, is that under well-established precedent, there is no reason why the existing exchanges should be overturned through a court case. (1) It has been well documented that those who passed this legislation never intended for folks who were going through the federal exchange not to have their citizens get subsidies. (2)That’s not just the opinion of me; that’s not just the opinion of Democrats; that’s the opinion of the Republicans who worked on the legislation. The record makes it clear. (3)

And under well-established statutory interpretation, approaches that have been repeatedly employed — not just by liberal, Democratic judges, but by conservative judges like some on the current Supreme Court — you interpret a statute based on what the intent and meaning and the overall structure of the statute provides for. (4)

And so this should be an easy case. Frankly, it probably shouldn’t even have been taken up. (5)And since we’re going to get a ruling pretty quick, I think it’s important for us to go ahead and assume that the Supreme Court is going to do what most legal scholars who’ve looked at this would expect them to do. (6)

But, look, I’ve said before and I will repeat again: If, in fact, you have a contorted reading of the statute that says federal-run exchanges don’t provide subsidies for folks who are participating in those exchanges, then that throws off how that exchange operates. (7)It means that millions of people who are obtaining insurance currently with subsidies suddenly aren’t getting those subsidies; many of them can’t afford it; they pull out; and the assumptions that the insurance companies made when they priced their insurance suddenly gets thrown out the window. And it would be disruptive — not just, by the way, for folks in the exchanges, but for those insurance markets in those states, generally.

So it’s a bad idea. (8)It’s not something that should be done based on a twisted interpretation of four words in — as we were reminded repeatedly — a couple-thousand-page piece of legislation. (9)

What’s more, the thing is working. (10)I mean, part of what’s bizarre about this whole thing is we haven’t had a lot of conversation about the horrors of Obamacare because none of them come to pass. (11)You got 16 million people who’ve gotten health insurance. The overwhelming majority of them are satisfied with the health insurance. It hasn’t had an adverse effect on people who already had health insurance. (12)The only effect it’s had on people who already had health insurance is they now have an assurance that they won’t be prevented from getting health insurance if they’ve got a preexisting condition, (13)and they get additional protections with the health insurance that they do have.

The costs have come in substantially lower than even our estimates about how much it would cost. Health care inflation overall has continued to be at some of the lowest levels in 50 years. (14)None of the predictions about how this wouldn’t work have come to pass.(15)

And so I’m — A, I’m optimistic that the Supreme Court will play it straight when it comes to the interpretation. (16)And, B, I should mention that if it didn’t, Congress could fix this whole thing with a one-sentence provision. (17)

Wow, that’s even worse that I thought. Have there been more dishonest, deceptive, irresponsible statements by a President of the United States? Maybe. I don’t see how there could have been one that was much worse, though.

I’ll try to be brief, or else this will be a book. The numbers correspond to the bolded sections above… Continue reading