Tag Archives: President Obama

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Secretary Of State John Kerry

mitchell-kerry_140226

“…I’m proud of all the efforts we made to try to lead people to a peaceful resolution.”

John Kerry, in an interview on MSNBC, when asked if he had any regrets about the Administration’s handling of Syria;

The Sec. of State’s full answer:

Well again, Andrea, I’m going to have a lot of opportunities to be able to look back and digest what choices might have been made. I’m not going to do it now… Except to say to you, very clearly, that I’m proud of all the efforts we made to try to lead people to a peaceful resolution. And in fact, the only solution to Syria will be a peaceful agreement along the lines of what we laid out… and the several communiques that we issued, and the United Nations resolution that we passed. 2254. Those will be the basis for whatever happens, if they get there.

No, I’m not going to call Kerry’s statement an unethical quote, even as close as it came to making my head explode. Fortunately my expectations of John Kerry are basement-level low, from long experience. However, the latest fatuous sentiment from this veteran doofus is provocative and instructive.

In many pursuits, as we discuss here often, whether someone has done the right thing, made the ethical choice, should be evaluated on the basis of whether the conduct was competently considered and arrived at according to facts and ethical considerations before the conduct commenced. Judging its ethical nature  afterwards, when factors the decision-maker could not have foreseen or controlled have affected the result, is a fallacy: “It all worked out for the best” and thus the decision must have been ethical. This is consequentialism, and “the ends justifies the means” in its most seductive form.

A very recent example was the Republican leadership’s decision not to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. No, the tactic wasn’t unconstitutional or illegal. It was unethical, however: obstructive, partisan politics defying tradition and fairness. It was also, as I pointed out at the time, stupid. When Obama, knowing of the GOP’s intent, appointed not a flame-breathing left-wing zealot but a moderate-liberal judge of impressive credentials, the GOP majority in the Senate should have rushed to confirm him, knowing well that a nomination by Obama’s presumed successor, Hillary Clinton, would unbalance the Court to a far greater degree.

The GOP lucked out, as we now know. Now President Trump will fill that vacancy on the Court, with major impact on important legal disputes for decades to come. That’s all moral luck, however. The ethics verdict on the conduct still stands. It worked, but it was wrong.

Success is not irrelevant to ethics, of course. Many jobs are ethically complex because getting a desired result is part of the mission. The result and the manner of achieving it are important. If your job is to win the war, you can’t say you did an excellent job if the war was lost. Competence is still an ethical value. A successful CEO’s company does not go belly-up by definition. Government is often analogized to sailing a ship to a destination, or flying a plane, with good reason. Part of the responsibility a government leader has is to make choices that work to the benefit of  those governed, and others as well. A captain whose ship sinks cannot say afterwards, “I did one hell of a job.” Continue reading

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Obamacare’s Epitaph: “Live By The Rationalization, Die By The Rationalization”

obamacare-gravestoneRemember in 2010, when the Democrats ensured that the Affordable Care Act would clear its final hurdle to passage this way?

Democrats will finish their health reform efforts within the next two months by using a majority-vote maneuver in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. Reid said that congressional Democrats would likely opt for a procedural tactic in the Senate allowing the upper chamber to make final changes to its healthcare bill with only a simple majority of senators, instead of the 60 it takes to normally end a filibuster.The move would allow Democrats to essentially go it alone on health reform, especially after losing their fillibuster-proof majority in the Senate after Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in Massachusetts.

Republicans have protested the maneuver as a hyperpartisan tactic to ram through a health bill, and have said that plans to use the reconciliation process make moot a bipartisan summit at the White House this week, where both GOP and Democratic leaders are supposed to present their ideas on healthcare.

At the time, Republicans, as is their wont, over-stated their objections to the maneuver, calling it unconstitutional and a breach of rules. No, it wasn’t quite that, nor was it as unusual as the GOP claimed. It was within Senate rules, but still the first time it was ever used to amend a bill that had already passed the Senate via cloture, and under such contentious circumstances.  Reconciliation was legal, all right, but since the Affordable Care Act was so revolutionary and controversial, its passage needed to be seen as democratic, and it wasn’t. Democrats ignored the Golden Rule, and extended the acceptable use of reconciliation by using a number of rationalizations, as well as “the ends justify the means.”

Let’s see: “Everybody Does It” wouldn’t work, because the problem with using reconciliation was that everybody didn’t do it, at least not very often.  So Democrats opted for 13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”23. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants”#24. Juror 3’s Stand (“It’s My Right!”)25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”28. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now” 40. The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”59. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”…and perhaps a few other rationalizations on the list. Continue reading

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The New York Times, And The Consequences Of Forfeiting Integrity

It was between Janus and the Four Season's song. "Two Faces Have I..."

It was between Janus and the Lou Christie song “Two Faces Have I…”

It would be extremely beneficial for the culture and enlightened civic discourse if there were a trustworthy, reliably objective observer with integrity and intelligence to provide fair, forceful pronouncements on the political controversies of the day. Such an observer would have to be seen as free of partisan and ideological bias, or at least show signs of actively trying to counter their effects. This, of course, is the idealized concept of what competent and ethical journalism is supposed to provide, and to the extent that any journalism organization was deemed capable of providing it, the New York Times was it.

Yesterday, the Times editors published an editorial called “The Stolen Supreme Court Seat” that was so partisan in tone and inflammatory, not to mention ridiculous, in content that it could only be taken as a biased political screed. Worse than that for the long term, however, is that the piece decisively disqualifies the Times as an arbiter of complex national issues whose judgment can ever be trusted as genuine and persuasive.  Many will argue that the Times’ biases have been blatant and unrestrained for many years, and this is true. That New York Times editorial may not be the first smoking gun, but it is the smokiest yet.

Do recall that Ethics Alarms substantially agreed with the Times in its main point that the Republican Senate’s refusal to hold hearings and consider President Obama’s nomination of federal judge Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated last year with the sudden death of Justice Scalia was unethical:

“For Senate Republicans, holding hearings on President Obama’s qualified and moderate nomination for the Supreme Court is both the ethical course and the politically smart course. It is also in the best interests of the nation. In fact, the Byzantine political maneuverings by the President and the Republican leadership, by turns petty and ingenious, have handed Republicans a political chess victory, if only they are smart enough, responsible enough, and patriotic enough to grab it. Naturally, they aren’t.”

Note: unethical, but not illegal or unconstitutional. By using the inflammatory term “stolen” implying legal wrong doing, the Times intentionally adopted the language of political hacker, and Democratic Party talking points. Strike One: You cannot be trusted as objective and non-partisan when you intentionally endorse partisan rhetoric: Continue reading

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“If That Was Transparency, Then I’m A Kumquat” And Other Reactions To Josh Earnest’s Multiple Unethical Christmas Quotes

This morning, Obama Administration paid liar Josh Earnest spoiled my Christmas mellow by telling CNN’s alleged news media ethics watchdog Brian Stelter that there’s really “no constituency in American politics for transparency in government beyond journalists,” as he deflected Stelter’s accounts of journalists complaining about administration foot-dragging on Freedom of Information Act requests. Then he really curdled the ethicist’s eggnog by saying,

“If this constituency of journalists are gonna be effective advocates for the issue that they care about, they need to remember that they have a responsibility not just to criticize those who are not living up to their expectations. Any activist will tell you that the way that you get people to support you and to support your cause is to give them credit when the credit is due, to applaud them when they do the thing that you want them to be doing.”

Finally, Earnest molded my mistletoe by claiming,  “President Obama has been the most transparent president in American history.”

Stelter, of course, being an incompetent, biased and unethical news media ethics watchdog, did not interjection with the mandatory, “WHAT??? You’ve got to be kidding! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ACK! ACK! ARRRGH! and drop dead in shock.

That statement is fake news if anything is, rivaling the news media lie that that the Obama years were devoid of major scandals. Before we begin shooting fish in a barrel and deal with that brazen-beyond-belief spin, let’s pause to consider the other stunner in Earnest’s Christmas morning performance:

1. What does Earnest mean that journalists are the only constituency for transparency? Does the Obama administration, and by extension Democrats, really believe that the public doesn’t mind being lied to? If so, that explains a lot, including the nomination of Hillary Clinton.

2. Journalists are not supposed to advocates and activists at all. They are supposed to be devoted to communicating facts and the truth.

3. Is Earnest saying that when a President generally defies a pledge of ethical conduct, he should nonetheless be praised when he doesn’t defy that pledge, and that journalists should highlight the Administration’s rare examples of  transparency while ignoring the overwhelmingly more copious breaches? It sure sounded like it.

That brings us back to the mind-melting quote that this has been a transparent administration by any definition of the word other than “not transparent at all.”

This episode from 2011 nicely encapsulates the issue:

“President Obama was scheduled to receive an award from the organizers of the Freedom of Information Day Conference, to be presented at the White House by “five transparency advocates.” The White House postponed that meeting because of events in Libya and Japan, and it was rescheduled…That meeting did take place – behind closed doors. The press was not invited to the private transparency meeting, and no photos from or transcript of the meeting have been made available. The event was not listed on the president’s calendar…Nor is the award mentioned anywhere on the White House website, including on the page devoted to transparency and good government. Were it not for the testimony of the transparency advocates who met secretly with the president, there wouldn’t seem to be any evidence that the meeting actually took place.”

That’s right: Obama wasn’t transparent about a transparency meeting. That same day, Obama went on TV  and tried to explain why he hadn’t been transparent to the U.S. Congress about his military plans in Libya.  Shortly after that, news leaked that the Fed had secretly sent billions in loans to foreign banks during the financial crisis.

Ah, memories! On his second day on the job, January 21, 2009, that…President Obama famously pledged, in one of his first memos to federal agencies

“We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”

He may be right about that last part, or maybe he discovered that it was naive and impractical dream. Under no circumstances, however, can it be said that Obama’s administration was transparent. An exhaustive list is impossibly, long, but here is an incomplete  sample just from the posts in Ethics Alarms: Continue reading

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More From The “When Ethics Alarms Are Devoured By Hysteria And Partisan Hate” Files: KABOOM!

Thank you and Merry Christmas, Carl Palladino.

Thank you and Merry Christmas, Carl Palladino.

How somebody in the public eye can utter opinions like this for publication is absolutely beyond comprehension.  Hence the inside of my head is now outside my head. The red on the walls and ceiling looks kind of Christmassy, I must say.

A Buffalo weekly called Artvoice asked several prominent local figures what they wanted for 2017, asking several questions.

Carl Paladino, a local developer Republican member of the Erie County school board who was Donald Trump’s campaign’s co-chair in New York answered the first two questions this way:

1. What would you most like to happen in 2017?

Paladino: “Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford. He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarret, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her.”

2. What would you like to see go away in 2017?

Paladino: “Michelle Obama. I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”

What is this? A breakdown? The equivalent of civic suicide? As I would assume the most mentally handicapped of socially-inept morons would expect, these vile comments, which Paladino knew would be published, immediately caused him to be condemned far and wide. Donald Trump’s transition team  called his remarks “absolutely reprehensible.”  Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz called on Paladino to resign immediately. Assemblyman Sean Ryan D-Buffalo said Paladino’s comments were “outrageous, dangerous and disturbing.” New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo described the remarks as “racist, ugly and reprehensible.”  Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown called the comments “terrible.”

By late yesterday, over a thousand people had signed an online petition calling for Paladino’s removal from the school board. Paladino’s response to the uproar?

“Yeah, I’m not politically correct,” he said. “They asked what I want, and I told them.” Continue reading

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President Barack Obama Has Appointed A Zealous And Competent Civil Rights Lawyer To the U.S. Commission On Civil Rights, And There Isn’t A Thing Wrong With That.

Perry Mason would have defended Mumia Abu-Jamal...

Perry Mason would have defended Mumia Abu-Jamal…

President Barack Obama has appointed Debo Adegbile,  who had served as an former attorney for convicted controversial police-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, to a six-year post on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The eight-member commission consists of four members appointed by the president and four appointed by Congress.

Adegbile worked at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund when he represented Abu-Jamal in the appeal of his conviction and death sentence for the  1981 shooting death of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal’s sentence was reduced to life in prison. Predictably, rightish-commentators and of course police groups are highly critical of the appointment, just as they were in 2014 when they and others convinced the Senate to reject Obama’s nomination of  Adegbile to lead the Justice Department’s Office on Civil Rights. Ethics Alarms noted then, in the post, The Right’s Unethical, Ignorant, Un-American And Dangerous Attack On Debo Adegbile,

“It says nothing of Debo Adegbile’s fitness as a public servant that he represented a convicted cop killer, a cannibal, Son of Sam, Spiro Agnew or Willie Sutton. It simply says that he is a lawyer, and one who embraces the traditional ethics and aspirations of the profession. Abraham Lincoln won fame getting an acquittal for a friend whom Lincoln knew was guilty of murder, but the prosecution didn’t have the evidence to prove it. Good. Does this mean he was pro-murder? Clarence Darrow used his extraordinary persuasive power to stop over a hundred men accused of murder—most of them guilty, some of them certifiable monsters— from being executed. Good. They were citizens, they had as much a right to use the laws that offered them protection as the government had to use other laws to threaten their lives and freedom. Was Darrow a fan of killers? No, he was fan of making sure ordinary people weren’t crushed by laws and systems they could never understand, use or survive without the help of a lawyer, in his case, the greatest lawyer of them all…. The principle [critics of Adegbile’s defense of Abu-Jamal] are advocating… is a sinister one, where lawyers rather than judges or juries pass premature judgment on the claims and needs of citizens, and withhold competent access to legal remedies according the their personal assessments regarding the validity of a citizen’s motives. This, of course, gives unacceptable power to lawyers, making it their choice who gets the protections of our justice system and who does not. The danger of this contention cannot be understated….let’s remind all the conservatives using this irresponsible tactic where it leads. It leads directly to citizens being slaves to their own nations’ laws, because they can’t possibly access them on their own, with lawyers deciding who is worthy of being able to take advantage of our “inalienable” rights, and who has the “privilege” of legal representation.”

Continue reading

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A Special Ethics Alarms “Fake News” Friday Bulletin: Obama Calls The Hacked DNC E-Mails “Gossip” [UPDATED]

gossip

As I write this, President Obama is using his press conference to spin the Russia-Wikileaks hacked e-mails story. In addition to snidely implying that Americans are idiots for allowing such relative trivia to sway their votes when so much of substance was at stake (note that there is no evidence that any votes were thus swayed), the President referred to the content of the DNC e-mails as “gossip.” Gossip is generally defined as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details which are not confirmed as true.” Calling the contents of Podesta’s e-mails and others “gossip” is deliberate disinformation by Obama—a lie. The most important revelations were definitely not “gossip.” Like these:

  • A 12-page memo written by Doug Band,  longtime aide to Bill Clinton, describes using his consulting firm to raise money for the Clinton Global Initiative as well as direct personal income for the former president. It describes how Band rallied clients of his firm, Teneo, to contribute directly to Mr Clinton for “in-kind services for the President and his family – for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like” referring to that fund as “Bill Clinton Inc”.

The memo confirmed that several companies directly paid the former president for his speeches or advice, while making contributions to the Clinton Global Initiative.  One client, Coca Cola, received a face-to-face meeting with the former president at his home in 2009, after contributing millions to the non-profit foundation.

Verdict: Not gossip, but smoking-gun evidence of Clinton influence peddling.

  • On the fateful day that news of a private email server broke, John Podesta emailed Neera Tanden, who worked for the Clinton campaign in 2008 and has remained a close adviser, to complain, saying, “We’ve taken on a lot of water that won’t be easy to pump out of the boat”, he wrote in September 2015 as Clinton staff feared that Vice President Joe Biden would join the Democratic primary race. “Most of that has to do with terrible decisions made pre-campaign, but a lot has to do with her instincts. Almost no one knows better [than] me that her instincts can be terrible.” In the email exchange, Mr Podesta also complained that Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall, and former State Department staffers Cheryl Mills and Philippe Reines “sure weren’t forthcoming here on the facts here”. Mrs Tanden responds “Why didn’t’ they get this stuff out like 18 months ago? So crazy.”

Tanden later answered her own question saying, “I guess I know the answer. They wanted to get away with it.”

Verdict: Not gossip. These were assessments of those who know Clinton best, and their questioning her judgment was significant, as is the last comment, which completely undermines the year-long Clinton camp denial that there was anything amiss with Hillary’s handling of e-mail at State. It would be admissible in court to show state of mind and that the Clinton camp had lied. Continue reading

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