Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/26/19: Character is IN Again, What Real Obstruction Looks like, And The Biden Follies Open

Wow, THAT week went by fast...

1 It’s the economy, stupid, except when the news media and Democrats want to overthrow the President…The Gross Domestic Product for the first quarter rolled in at 3.2%, considerably higher than the 2.5% predicted by “experts.” This is good news and big news, but because it’s favorable to Trump news, you can’t find it on the front page of today’s Times, or in the headlines at HLN. I’m an economics dummy—that’s one reason I majored in American Government, because I didn’t have to take major Economics course—but I worked at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce long enough to learn that all sorts of good things flow from a healthy GDP, which averaged well under 3 for the entire, benighted, protected and over-praised Obama administration.

There is no question that similar news—there was similar news in 2015—early in the Obama administration would have been heralded as cheer-worthy proof that Obama’s economic stimulus monster, derisively nicknamed “Porkulus” by critics, was working (it was an expensive failure), and that he was leading us out of the Wilderness, just as he had promised. Similarly, when Bill Clinton was running for re-election in 1996, his smug and slimy ways (“Where is the outrage?” asked poor Bob Dole) were already a matter of record even before Monica Madness, but the liberal news media and Democrats mocked the very idea that Presidential character should matter to voters.

That very year, my old theater company revived Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man,” a Sixties political satire on Presidential election politics. The play centered on an idealist candidate’s ethical dilemma of whether to release damning information on a competing candidate for the nomination, violating the good candidate’s ethics (the alleged scoop was that his competitor had dabbled in homosexual relationships in the army, not that there’s anything wrong with that: Gore Vidal certainly didn’t think so)  to win the nomination for himself and save the nation from the bad candidate, even though the Army rumors had nothing to do with why he was bad—the man was a Machiavellian right-wing monster (Gore believed all conservatives were monsters). The Washington Post reviewer panned the play, mocking the script as ridiculously outdated. “Who believes that character matters in choosing a President any more?” she asked. Continue reading

Easter Ethics Warm-Up, 4/21/19: As Ethics Lays Some Eggs…

Happy Easter!

1.  A cultural note: there is no discernible Easter programming anywhere on TV, cable or network. Oh, TCM is playing “Easter Parade” and “King of Kings” in prime time, but that’s it. ‘Twas not always thus.

2. Speaking of TCM…Bravo for the classic movie network’s teaming with Fandango to offer big screen presentations of John Wayne’s “True Grit” in May. They could have justifiably chosen many other Westerns equally worthy or more so, like “Shane” or “High Noon.” I like to think that choosing the Duke’s Oscar winning performance is an intentional rebuke to the recent attack on Wayne’s legacy by the social media mob, a true “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” to the cultural airbrushers and statue-topplers.

I’ll be there, cheering Rooster on.

3. Other than journalists, have any other professionals debased themselves and their professional integrity more flagrantly that lawyers and law professors in their determination to Get Trump? This article in Slate by a law professor argues that asking or telling one’s lawyer to do something that the lawyer refuses to do—like firing Robert Mueller—can be criminal obstruction of justice. By this theory, every time a client says that he wants the lawyer to assist in an illegal act, it’s a crime.  But that’s not how attorney-client relationships work. The attorney is obligated to say, when appropriate, “No, you can’t do that, and I won’t do that for you, and here’s why.” In the end, it is indistinguishable from the client asking the lawyer’s advice, because clients only have the power to order a lawyer to do a very limited number of things, like accepting a settlement.

The professor’s argument also assumes that Trump firing Mueller would be obstruction of justice. Not only is this unprovable—that would have to be his intent—the President had a perfectly good reason to fire the special counsel, just as he had good reason to fire James Comey. Mueller’s investigation had been tainted many ways, and since Trump knew he was innocent, he saw the exercise as a calculated scheme to make it impossible for him to do his job. Firing Mueller and ending the investigation  would have been really, really stupid politically, but it wouldn’t be obstruction.

This, however, is how desperate “the resistance” is to bootstrap some kind of impeachment theory. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: Last Day Before The Start Of The Baseball Season Changes Everything Edition

Good Morning!

1. The best explanation ever composed to explain why baseball helps keep us ethical, by preserving our ability to give a damn—-for in the end, the most important of the virtues, the one that makes all the others matter—is caring.

Roger Angell, from his 1975 essay “Agincourt and After,” about the ’75 World Series and Carlton Fisk’s iconic homerun in Game #6 (yes, I was there):

It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look—I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring—caring deeply and passionately, really caring—which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naïveté—the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball—seems a small price to pay for such a gift.

2.  Some Democrats are displaying integrity and patriotism...This morning’s Ethics Hero: Rep. Jim  Himes ( D-Ct), who disappointed MSNBC’s hack-fest Morning Joe by deploring his colleagues who are sorry the Special Counsel did not find collusion with Russia by the President. They  need to think, he told Joe and Mika, pointing out that he fact that a sitting President is not found to have traitorously conspires with a foreign power to pervert an election is cause for celebration, not regret.  Hey, do you think he reads Ethics Alarms? [Pointer: VinnyMick]

3. But most are not, especially this guy: Martha MacCallum  had Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) on her Fox News show last night. Along with Adam Schiff, he has been one of the worst offenders in asserting as fact, without evidence, that the President committed impeachable acts .  True to form, Swalwell told his host that nothing in the salacious and unverified dossier had been proven “not factual.” I am also hearing this Bizarro World legal standard being endorsed by some commenters and, naturally, the  Facebook Borg. In this country, people don’t have to prove themselves innocent, even people like Donald Trump, who seem especially ethics-impaired. Allegation,s rumors and accusations are not enough; in fact, they aren’t anything until they have been confirmed. The Steele Dossier is literally not anything, although it was used deceptively and probably illegally to justify spying on the Trump campaign. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Sessions Resignation And Reaction

In ethical, legal and Constitutional terms, there isn’t really very much legitimate controversy here. The key word here is “legitimate.” “The resistance” is trying its best to spin the issues and confuse the public—yet again. The news media wants to help. They have nothing.

—Attorney General Sessions should have resigned long, long ago. He debased himself by remaining in office. His boss, the President, was publicly abusive, and obviously did not want him to continue in the job.

—I cannot begin to express sufficiently my contempt for the dishonest and absurd argument that Sessions leaving office constitutes an “obstruction of justice” under even the most tortured interpretation of the term. A President can fire and replace his own Cabinet members; this was the issue that technically led to Andrew Johnson’s impeachment. Congress had passed a law (later ruled unconstitutional) that prohibited firing a Cabinet member without Congressional consent. The current theory is even more crack-brained than the claim that Trump firing James Comey, who was incompetent, devious and untrustworthy was obstruction. The “theory,” if you can call it that, is that replacing an AG who had a conflict of interest and had to recuse himself from an investigation is somehow sinister, because the new AG will actually be able to do his job, and supervise a Justice Department investigation.

—The investigation is officially about Russian interference with the 2016 election. Because the Trump campaign and its participants (not the Trump administration: this occurred before the election) might have been implicated or drawn into the investigation, Sessions, who was part of the campaign organization, had to recuse himself as a potential target, witness, or otherwise involved person, both for potential conflicts reasons and to avoid any appearance of impropriety. However, these do not apply to Sessions’ successor, much as Democrats and “the resistance” would want Mueller’s investigation to be completely without supervision by anyone approved by the President.

—There is no reason in the world why the acting AG, Matt Whitaker, should recuse himself from involvement in the Mueller matter. Claims to the contrary are made without grounding in law or ethics. Continue reading

Regarding The Stormy Daniels Affair

Ethics Alarms has not spent a lot of time or space discussing the Stormy Daniels scandal, and the reason is quite simple. I don’t care about Stormy Daniels,  and I don’t care what the President did or didn’t do with Stormy Daniels before he was President. What ever it was, it was not a crime, nor did it take place while he was President of the United States. As a result, the excessive coverage of this story is one more example of the press doing whatever it can to undermine and diminish this President, out of personal and partisan antipathy. The episode is embarrassing to the nation, and harmful as well, but no other President would have his pre-candidacy conduct obsessively covered like this. No talk late night talk show hosts induced any of Bill Clinton’s past conquests to dish on national TV, with the express desire of humiliating him and the First Lady. CNN’s carpet-bombing with this story is Exhibit A on how far Ted Turner’s promising baby has descended into squalor.

I assume that the porn star was paid hush money by sleazy Trump fixer Michael Cohen, with or without Trump’s knowledge, but probably with.  This is sordid, but not illegal or even unethical. It is also not unusual. I don’t want to speculate on how many Presidential candidates or their staffs have paid large  sums to women with whom they had adulterous or otherwise undignified relationships, but I’m sure, even outside of the secret sagas of Clinton and the Kennedys, it is a very large number. That Donald Trump had sexual adventures with women either physically or morally like Daniels was a certainty years ago, even before the campaign brought to light his primitive attitude towards women generally, which itself should have shocked no one. He’s had three trophy wives, and presumably cheated on all of them. He bought the Miss Universe Pageant, which is a pretty obvious tell. Donald Trump has always embodied the life-style and attitudes of a spoiled playboy.

Thus this is yet another example of the “resistance,” and its disgraced ally, the news media, trying to unseat Trump by pushing the narrative that he’s really, really, really an unsavory character, as if that matters any more. They are unable to accept that this man whom they find so repulsive was elected anyway, and think that just repeating over and over and over again how repulsive he is to them will somehow undo his election or change anyone’s mind. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/1/18: Obstruction Of Justice In Oakland, Virtue-Signalling At Walmart, And Common Sense At SCOTUS [UPDATED!]

 

Well, whaddya know! There IS a there there!

Good Morning!

(Why isn’t this another Afternoon Warm-up? Because I started it in the morning, and all hell broke loose here, that’s why.)

1  Injecting even more stupidity into the culture…Walmart’s virtue-signalling release yesterday reminded everyone that the big-box stores stopped selling AR-15 rifles three years ago. It also announced that it would be refusing to sell firearms to anyone under 21, and this

“We are also removing items from our website resembling assault-style rifles, including nonlethal airsoft guns and toys.”

Ugh. This is how we end up with no-tolerance fascists in public schools punishing students for chewing their Pop Tarts and pizza slices into the shapes of guns. I had a Mattel burp gun–a plastic model of a Tommy Gun—as a kid. I shot it off in the school auditorium as a stunt during my speech when I was running for president of the 8th Grade. (I lost) One of my favorite toys ever. Now corporations want to assist in the anti-gun indoctrination.

Writes Stephen Green: “‘If an object resembles something we think is bad, then it is bad,’ is the sloppiest kind of magical thinking.” It’s worse than that, though. The more sloppy thinking  injected into the culture, the less competent the culture becomes.

I hate memes as a rule, but this one is relevant:

2.  The all-time false equivalency champ…The calls to raise the age of legal gun purchasing, one of many gun regulation issues where the NRA’s absolutist opposition makes little sense except that it is an absolutist, no infringement means no infringement organization, is another in a long list of confusing, partisan-divide jumping controversies over “age of responsibility.” laws.  There are age limits on buying cigarettes, alcohol, driving, consent to have sex,  right to sign binding contracts, military service (and formally the draft), and some other activities, and they have always been used to bootstrap each other. This has been going on for decades despite the fact that physical maturity, mental maturity and emotional maturity are not always nicely synchronized, individuals vary greatly, and if we followed recent scientific studies, we would consider restricting what young men especially could legally do until about age 23. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/27/2018: “If You Want It, Here’s How To Get It” Edition”

Chris Marschner, who has had several, scored another Comment of the Day today with his reflections on the strange nature of “obstruction of justice ” charges, when justice would in fact be for no charges to be brought at all.

He was focusing on #3 in today’s warm-up,  which discussed yesterday’s “resistance” theory that  allegations  that the President wanted to fire the Special Prosecutor (but didn’t) prove that he was trying to obstruct justice when he fired James Comey, who so, so deserved it.

I see unmistakable signs that the “resistance” is losing its already tenuous grip on reality, and is increasingly yielding the raw hate and fury that long ago supplanted any rational criticism of Donald Trump. Consider has-been Leftist documentarian Michael Moore, who with fellow progressive performers Mark Ruffalo, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie Perez and Cynthia Nixon, who have to do something between jobs, is pushing  Monday’s Counter-State of the Union , which is only slightly more sensible than the “scream pointlessly at the sky” event. Remarkably, among Moore, Whoopie, Rosie, Cynthia and Mark there isn’t a single political science, history, economics, or government major. In fact, there isn’t a single college degree of any kind between them, or business, government or executive experience of any kind.

 Michael Moore, speaking on behalf  of MoveOn.org (Do the Time’s Up and #MeToo crowd recall that Move-On was spawned to protest Bill Clinton facing accountability for his cover-up of sexual misconduct? Nah.), sent out an email that read in part, before the fundraising pitch,

Donald J. Trump has proven himself to be completely unfit for office, a threat to our country, and an imminent danger to the world. He is not well; he is a malignant narcissist and an active sociopath. And because he holds the codes to fire nuclear weapons, he is a singular threat to humanity.

This situation is a nightmare. And the only reason that things aren’t FAR WORSE than they already are is that millions of us have come together to engage in our democracy, resist, and organize.

But our problems go far beyond one sociopath president. The mission that we are on and the work that we must do is to tear down the rigged system that produced Trump in the first place. We must imagine the America that we want to live in. We must create the post-Trump America.

And this is actually possible: The fierce, determined Resistance movement that began after Trump’s election could create an avalanche at the polls this November. Together, we can stop Trump and the GOP and begin the work of creating the country that we imagined.

The country the Moore imagined was called the USSR. But I digress.

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/27/2018: “If You Want It, Here’s How To Get It” Edition: Continue reading