Tag Archives: Separation of Powers

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/3/17: Democracy Dies In Darkness Edition

GOOD MORNING!

1 Related to the previous post is the fact that the President of the United States should not be recommending the death penalty for anyone before they are tried and fund guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, even vile terrorists who attack and kill children. Yet President Trump did this in his usual impulsive, infuriating fashion. It is not the first time he’s crossed this separation of powers line, either: his comments also caused problems in the prosecution of deserter Bowe Bergdahl,

The gratuitous interference with the justice system by premature pronouncements of guilt and deserved execution serve no purpose; the President is just grandstanding. President Obama made premature  comments on unresolved legal matters several times too; he did it more articulately, of course, but he still did it, and he’s a lawyer. Is this particularly stupid conduct “Presidential” now?

2. Speaking of the concept of presumed innocent until proven guilty: I wonder if there has ever been anything in U.S. history as widespread, unfair, and vicious as the assumption by so many in the public and the news media that the President of the United States engaged in criminal acts to steal an election—without any evidence whatsoever. It is like a mass delusion, and all, as far as I can see, because of three factors: past business dealings with Russian entities (which is not illegal) by many of Trump’s associates; Trump’s Trumpish and obviously facetious call on the campaign trail for Russia to reveal Hillary’s (illegally) spoliated emails, and the accusation from Clinton and others that Russia’s interference—you know, with brilliant, persuasive internet ads—explained Hillary Clinton’s loss and made Trump’s election “illegitimate.”

I had another conversation with a friend about this yesterday. He’s just certain that Trump did something illegal. What? He doesn’t know, but he’s sure. Why is he sure? because it’s Trump, that’s why, and because my friend still can’t believe that the man could have been elected without some kind of conspiracy. It’s stunning, and the news media is fanning these flames of delusion. Here’s a post on the Daily Beast; the title: “The Rise of George Papadopoulos, a Trump Adviser Who May Kill Trump’s Presidency.”

The title is blatantly dishonest ckickbait: I clicked. It’s out there for people like my Trump-Hating, Trump-Fearing friend, who reads this and thinks, “Yippee! My wait will soon be over!” Would you like to guess at how much factual support is revealed for the conclusion that Papadopoulos “may kill Trump’s Presidency’? None. Absolutely none. An equally accurate headline would have been, “The Rise of George Papadopoulos, a Trump Adviser Who May Eat a Honda,” or “The Rise of George Papadopoulos, a Trump Adviser Who Could Be  A Concert Cellist If He Practiced Really Hard.”

This is unethical, but it’s also nuts.

3. According to Newsbusters, who obsesses over such things,  neither ABC, CBS, nor NBC covered Donna Brazile’s explosive accusation yesterday that Hillary Clinton and her campaign bought the Democratic National Committee and rigged the nomination process. There is no excuse for this; it is a dereliction of journalism ethics and the profession’s duty to the public. There is also no benign explanation for it. It was obviously the top story of the day, and one with great national and civic significance. Newsbuster’s typical assessment:

“The reason the networks wanted to keep Brazile’s findings secret was simple: They didn’t want to ruin their narrative that Clinton was a pure angel who was a victim of Donald Trump and Russian collusion”

That seems harsh, but it’s not unfair. What other explanation is there? They just somehow never got the memo? They really believed that more coverage about how three Mueller indictments unrelated to illegal Russian contacts by the Trump campaign mean there were illegal contacts with Russia by the Trump campaign?  They have decided to prove, once and for all, that the news media is totally corrupt and biased? Hillary Clinton has bought the networks too?  What then?

4. I have to admit: this makes me angry, and it’s pretty unusual for ethics stories to make me angry. I’m not angry at the networks—disgusted, yes; saddened that our democracy, which can only be healthy with objective, competent journalism informing the public, is endangered, but not angry. Not after all this time: it was clear beyond debate that journalism had become largely partisan Democratic Party and progressive propaganda at least by the 2008 election. I’ve been documenting it, as have others. It’s not my imagination. Yet regular commenters on this blog, people of intelligence and (usually) honesty and perception, have protested that this just isn’t true, that the problem is MY bias.

There have been so many smoking guns that show the news media’s flagrant bias and news manipulation that if you gathered them all you could film Stephen King’s “The Mist” without any dry ice, but these people keep denying it.  PBS allowing Gwen Ifill to moderate the 2008 VP debate while she had a book at the publishers celebrating the election of Barack Obama?  Conflict of interest? What conflict of interest? CNBC’s prosecutorial GOP debate moderation? Eh, it wasn’t so bad, and besides, those bastards deserved it. Blaming the Tuscon shootings on Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh? OK, the media got carried away, and what about all those guns? The Boston Globe’s fake news front page about the dystopian hell of a Trump Presidency? Oh, it was just a joke! Newsweek sending out an edition announcing that Hillary was elected? Anyone can make a mistake! The New York Times announcing that it was now its duty to defeat Donald Trump? Well, he’s a special case! News anchors looking, sounding and acting as if their parents had just died of Ebola while announcing the 2016 election results? Come on! They’re only human!

CNN’s April Ryan screaming, “Is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong?” at Sarah Huckabee Sanders on live TV…the nearly total embargo on the Madeleine Leader story–still!—in the non-conservative media…there are hundreds and hundreds—thousands—of equally damning examples, and yet progressives and Democrats who I—we, all of us— should be able to trust as responsible citizens, Americans and ethical human beings  continue to refuse to say, “OK, I agree, this is a catastrophe, and we have to do something about it.”  And because they won’t, and don’t have the integrity to do it, the news media feels vindicated and empowered to continue spinning, lying, manipulating and refusing to practice honest journalism, as responsible citizen civic participation becomes literally impossible.

Yes. It ticks me off, and it ought to tick off everyone. And the fact that it doesn’t also ticks me off.

5. I’m going to say it: every American, liberal, conservative, moderate, should fall on their knees and thank the ghost of that creep Roger Ailes for Fox News.

Yes, it’s a sexist, misogynist, sloppy news network, and yes it employs shameless hacks like Sean Hannity, and yes “Fox and Friends’ is the worst TV abomination since “My Mother The Car,” and yes yes yes its Republican bias is persistent and palpable, and yes I’m still boycotting it as I have for almost two years. Nevertheless, if it were not for Fox, many genuine, imprortant stories the rest of the news media didn’t want the public to know about would have been successfully buried. That was the original justification for the establishment of Fox News, and it outweighs all the other flaws and garbage. Democracy DOES die in darkness, as the Washington Post, so often a purveyor of darkness in recent years, has the chutzpah to say, and without Fox it would be a whole lot darker than it is.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/27/17

GOOOD MORNING!

(he said through gritted teeth..)

1. I received a nice, polite e-mail from a new reader here who accused me of engaging exclusively in “partisan/political rants.” “Further,” he wrote,  “everything you say appears to be entirely one-sided (right/conservative/republican is good, left/liberal/democrat is bad).”

The man is an academic, so one might expect a little fairness and circumspection, but then, the man is an academic. His description is in factual opposition to the contents of the blog (I’m trying to think of the last Republican leader, conservative or otherwise, I designated as “good”), but I know from whence the impression arises: the fact that the entire American Left, along with its sycophants and familiars, the universities, show business and the news media, have gone completely off the ethics rails since November 8, 2016. I don’t know how else I am supposed to address that. It would have been nice, for balance’s sake, if a conservative cast of white actors in, say, a hit musical called “The Ray Coniff Story” had stepped out of character and harassed, say, Chuck Shumer, but this didn’t happen. If it had, I would have treated that breach of theater ethics exactly as I did the cast of Hamilton’s harassment of Mike Pence. (I would not, however, have been attacked for doing so by my theater colleagues, and no, I haven’t forgotten, and I’m not forgiving.)

If a GOP figure working for CNN as an analyst, say, Jeffrey Lord, had used his connections at the network to forward debate questions to Donald Trump and then lied about it when he was caught red-handed, I would have eagerly written about it in highly critical terms—but the Republicans didn’t cheat. Donna Brazile and the Democrats did. 

If Hillary Clinton had been elected President and Donald Trump and the Republicans formed an anti-democractic movement called “the resistance,” tried to use a single Federalist paper as a rationalization to change the rules of the election and then pressured performers not to allow the new President the privilege of a star-studded, up-beat inauguration to unify the nation, and if a large contingent of Republican Congressmen had boycotted the ceremony, saying that they did not consider Hillary as “legitimate President,” Ethics Alarms would have been unmatched in expressing its contempt and condemnation. If conservatives were trying to limit free speech according to what they considered “hateful,” a step toward dictatorship if there ever was one, I would be among the first to declare them a menace to society. They haven’t advocated such restrictions, however. Progressives have. The Mayor of Portland has called for a “hate speech’ ban. What party is he from? Howard Dean said that “hate speech” wasn’t protected. What party was he the Chair of? I forget. What was the party–there was just one— of the mayors who announced that citizens holding certain views should get out of town?

“Need I go on? I could, because the uniquely un-American, unfair and destructive conduct from Democrats, progressives and the anti-Trump deranged has continued unabated and without shame for 10 months now.  That’s not my fault, and I don’t take kindly to being criticized for doing my job in response to it. I have chronicled this as unethical, because it is spectacularly unethical, and remains the most significant ethics story of the past ten years, if not the 21st Century to date.

And the reluctance and refusal of educated and usually responsible liberals and Democrats to exhibit some courage and integrity and vigorously oppose this conduct as they should and have a duty as Americans to do—no, I am not impressed with the commenters here who protest, “Hey, I don’t approve of all of this! Don’t blame me!” as if they bear no responsibility—is the reason this execrable conduct continues. It is also why I have to keep writing about it.

2. I’m still awaiting the apologies and acknowledgement of my predictive abilities from all of my friends who chided me for suggesting that the Confederate flag and statuary-focused historical airbrushing mania would shoot down the slippery slope to threaten the Founders and more.  Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Day: Five Ninth Circuit Judges

“We are all acutely aware of the enormous controversy and chaos that attended the issuance of the Executive Order. People contested the extent of the national security interests at stake, and they debated the value that the Executive Order added to our security against the real suffering of potential emigres. As tempting as it is to use the judicial power to balance those competing interests as we see fit, we cannot let our personal inclinations get ahead of important, overarching principles about who gets to make decisions in our democracy.

For better or worse, every four years we hold a contested presidential election. We have all found ourselves disappointed with the election results in one election cycle or another. But it is the best of American traditions that we also understand and respect the consequences of our elections. Even when we disagree with the judgment of the political branches — and perhaps especially when we disagree — we have to trust that the wisdom of the nation as a whole will prevail in the end.”

—-Five judges of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals  (Judges Jay Bybee,  joined by Judges Alex Kozinski, Consuelo María Callahan, Carlos Bea, and Sandra Segal Ikuta, attacked what Bybee called the “fundamental errors” in the February decision of a three-judge panel upholding the temporary restraining order that blocked President Donald Trump’s first executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The opinion denounced the panel’s ruling as a “clear misstatement of law,” and stated that the five, constituting a larger number of judges than the three judge panel whose contrary holding was described as a “unanimous” 9th Circuit decision, had an”obligation to correct” it for the record.

“We are judges, not Platonic Guardians. It is our duty to say what the law is, and the meta-source of our law, the U.S. Constitution, commits the power to make foreign policy, including the decisions to permit or forbid entry into the United States, to the President and Congress,” the five judges stated.

Currently, the President’s revised order is held up by an even more widely criticized temporary restraining order issued by  U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson. As well as following many of the same lines of activist judicial reasoning the five judges criticized in their dissent, Judge Watson’s opinion heavily relies  on the campaign rhetoric of President Trump and statements by  chief aide Stephen Miller in TV interviews. This means, as several critical legal experts including Alan Dershowitz  have pointed out, that the exact same order, if issued by Barack Obama, would not have been blocked, and would have been found Constitutional.

Now that’s a double standard!

In criticizing their colleagues, the five judges said that the panel “brushed aside” the clearly controlling case law of Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753 (1972) and ignored entirely the rulings in Kerry v. Din, 135 S. Ct. 2128 (2015) and Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U.S. 787 (1977).  The Supreme Court in Mandel recognized that First Amendment rights were implicated by an executive action but decided…

“when the executive has exercised its authority to exclude aliens on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason, the courts will neither look behind the exercise of that discretion, nor test it by balancing its justification against the First Amendment 11 interests of those who seek personal communication with the applicant.”

Continue reading

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About the “So-Called” Judge’s TRO

robart

Ethics Alarms had a revealing comment on the post about the grandstanding and unethical ex-acting-Attorney General’s  breach of her duty to represent her client regarding the President’s Middle East immigration Executive Order. Following Judge Robart’s temporary restraining order (or TRO), the reader said, in essence, ‘See? She was right! The order was illegal, just like she said it was!’ The comment was idiotic on its face on many levels, yet it was also a fair summation of how partisan citizens have viewed the controversy. The various TROs validate the criticism of the Executive Order in their minds. They don’t, however. Judge Robart’s order particularly doesn’t. In fact, it is infuriatingly vague.

Now, a TRO doesn’t necessarily have to explain in detail what is wrong with a law, regulation or order. The purpose of this judicial act is to stall a measure that has the potential of causing a lot of disruption, unhappiness or expense from going into effect until there can be a decisive determination that it is legal, constitutional and within the power of the government entity that issued it. A judge issuing a TRO must conclude that the objection to the act is substantive, that the party applying for the TRO has a substantial chance of prevailing on the merits, and that the party has standing to object. The judge does not have to conclude that the party asking for the order is right, just that the party may be right.

However, reading Judge Judge Robart’s order, one can glean no clue as to why the TRO was justifiable, and why it is so sweeping. Although the judge writes in his conclusion that…

The work of the court is not to create policy or judge the Wisdom of any particular policy promoted by the other two branches. That is the work of the legislative and executive branches and of the citizens of this country who ultimately exercise democratic control over those branches. The work of the Judiciary, and this court, is limited to ensuring that the actions taken by the other two branches comport with our country’s laws, and more importantly, our Constitution. …

[T]he court is mindful of the considerable impact its order may have on the parties before it, the executive branch of our government, and the country’s citizens and residents. The court concludes that the circumstances brought before it today are such that it must intervene to fulfill its constitutional role in our tripart government.

…the order never states what is illegal or unconstitutional in his view.  This omission has led many analysts to conclude that there isn’t anything. He just doesn’t like the order. Much has been made of the fact that Robart was a Bush appointee, so the order isn’t “partisan.” Of course, the same people making this argument, in other settings, would maintain that a Bush appointment is just a bad judge. Many, many, many Republicans  and conservatives detest the President, and especially, one should remember, the Bush family. It is far from unlikely that bias against the President caused Judge Robart to employ poor judgment. Democrats cite the fact that Rorart is a conservative as part of a wonderfully convenient construct: if a conservative judge opposes them, the fact that he’s a conservative means he’s wrong, and if a conservative judge agrees with them, the fact that he’s a conservative means he’s right.
Some of the exchanges in the hearing that led to his order directly contradict his written statement that he is not questioning the wisdom of the order rather than challenging its legality.

Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The President’s “So-Called Judge” Tweet

Donald J. Trump - ø@realDonaldTrump The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned! 1:12 PM - 4 Feb 2017 Donald Trump Tweet

Ugh.

In case you were lucky enough to miss it, after Judge James Robart temporarily blocked  President Trump‘s Executive order halting  immigration from seven Middle East nations teaming with terrorists, nationwide, the President responded on Twitter yesterday:

Tweet 1.:

When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security – big trouble!

Tweet 2.:

Interesting that certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban. They know if certain people are allowed in it’s death & destruction!

Tweet 3.:

The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!

The last one inspired expressions of alarm and horror:

Senator Schumer: “POTUS’s attack on Judge Robart shows a disdain for an ind. judiciary that doesn’t bend to his wishes & lack of respect for the Constitution.”

Bernie Sanders: “Trump has to learn the very important truth stated by Washington AG Bob Ferguson: “No one is above the law, not even the president.”

Representative Jerry Nadler: ” No “so-called.” Judge Robart is a GWB appointee who was confirmed 99-0. We are watching closely your contempt for our Judicial Branch.”

Evan McMullin—remember, the Independent who ran to be President of Utah?—wrote,

“Disagreeing with a court decision is fine, but undermining the legitimacy of a judge and the Judiciary Branch is a threat to the Republic.”

(Somehow I just don’t think that a President who has for three months watched an entire political party seek to undermine the legitimacy of a duly elected POTUS–him–with protests, riots, recounts, an Electoral College rebellion, calls for impeachment, calls for military coups, Hitler comparisons, accusations of incest with his daughter,  insanity, and conspiracy theories involving Russia will take too seriously the argument that three words in a tweet is a “threat to the Republic.” I could be wrong…)

Naturally bloggers, pundits and social media users have reacted to the three words with even more intensity.

Ethics Observations: Continue reading

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Observations On Obama’s Executive Orders On Guns And The Golden Dancer Presidency

Rocking Horse

Before I begin, here are the orders, which almost none of the news media are explaining or in most cases, even mentioning. The list is from Forbes:

Gun Violence Reduction Executive Actions:

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

11. Nominate an ATF director.

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to developinnovative technologies.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

Observations:

1. I want to get this out of the way first, because it annoys me even more than other things connected with the announcement and its coverage. Jeb Bush was ready for the Obama orders with a signed op-ed titled, “Barack Obama’s executive orders trample on the Second Amendment.” Trample? They barely nick it. Maybe the orders infringe on the Amendment’s personal space. Bush wrote (or, more likely, had someone write for him) the essay before Obama’s measures were known. It’s obvious: Bush never mentions any of them. This is exactly the sort of idiocy from gun rights supporters that Obama, Democrats and anti-gun zealots are counting on, so they can say—with justification!—“See? Republicans don’t want to do anything to make us safer! They oppose measures before they even know what they are! How can anyone expect the President to work with these people?”

Jeb is an embarrassment, especially to himself. He should do everyone a favor and get out of the race.

2. Nicely timed to the orders is an excellent article in Reason called  “You Know Less Than You Think About Guns: The misleading uses, flagrant abuses, and shoddy statistics of social science about gun violence.” It would be nice, even responsible, if those clapping their hands like trained seals to Obama’s cynical grandstanding here actually read it.  A brief highlight: Continue reading

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If Anyone Starts Paying Attention To What Bernie Sanders Is Saying, He’s In Trouble

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, gestures as he speaks at the Californi Democrats State Convention in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, April 30, 2011. Sanders called on Democrats to work together to stop what he calls the GOP's attack on the middle class.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

So far, Bernie Sanders’ major function in the Democratic presidential nomination race is as a gauge of how badly Hillary Clinton is doing. The same function could be served by a wooden spoon or an Elmo doll, but Bernie will do: as Hillary’s machinations and lies about them sloooowly convince even Democrats that she should not be allowed near any office that includes a button labeled “Power,” he rises in the polls. So far, this had not required anyone actually thinking about Sanders himself, but the contents of a recent speech to a throng in Portland, Oregon should be cause for alarm. Sanders managed to announce his willingness to rig the Separation of Powers and eliminate judicial independence as well as his contempt for judicial ethics and his ignorance of how the Supreme Court works, all at once. All of this indicates that Sanders really isn’t qualified to be a U.S. Senator, much less President.

In his speech, to the sounds of cheers, Bernie shouted, “My nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court will in fact, have a litmus test and that test will be that they will have to tell the American people that their first order of business on the Supreme Court will be to overturn Citizens United.” Those cheers are interesting. My guess would be that not a single member of the audience, and quite possibly not even Bernie himself, has read the decision. Most people who turn red in the face and twitch when one mentions Citizens United do so because they think that it stands for the proposition that “corporations are people.”

It actually stands for the rather reasonable principle that the First Amendment protects the rights of people who band together for common purposes, and who wish to use such organizations to express their opinions regarding elections. The decision forbade the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation, and by extension to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations. Among other things, the law that was struck down in the case allowed the Federal Government to ban books and films based on content. Continue reading

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