Afternoon Ethics Round-Up, 2/12/2019: It’s Kamala Harris Day, Among Other Things…

Howdy…

1. Without the decency to say, “Well, we didn’t find anything.”  From CNN: “After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.”

The honorable, fair and honest thing for Senate Democrats (and Democrats generally) would be to state clearly and unequivocally that they found no evidence of “collusion,” and therefore were going to stop insinuating that collusion took place. But these are not honorable, fair and honest people, but people who are determined to undermine public trust in the President, elections, the government and democracy, because they would rather have power in a ruined, crippled government than not have power at all. Thus Committee co-chair, Sen. Mark Warner, D.-Va.,  told reporters, “I’m not going to get into any conclusions I have, [but] “there’s never been a campaign in American history … that people affiliated with the campaign had as many ties with Russia as the Trump campaign did.”  This ranks among the most weaselly statements in recent memory. “Ties” is a deceitful term wielded by the news media—by its definition I have ties to Russia. People “affiliated with the campaign” having business dealings with Russia or Russians, or communications with Russia, are not the same as the campaign having “ties” to Russia. Warner’s statement is, at its most trivial, sour grapes, and at its worst, a deliberate smear.

One Democratic Senate investigator told CNN (anonymously of course),”Donald Trump Jr. made clear in his messages that he was willing to accept help from the Russians. Trump publicly urged the Russians to find Clinton’s missing emails.” After all this, that’s the smoking gun? An obvious, off the cuff joke Trump made on the stump? “We were never going to find a contract signed in blood saying, ‘Hey Vlad, we’re going to collude,'” another Democratic aide sniffed. This is, of course, a dishonest version of Hillary’s “It wasn’t the best decision” (referring to her illegal decision to hijack official emails into a private server) rationalization. No, Hillary, not only wasn’t it the best decision, it was a terrible, suspicious, indefensible decision, and no, anonymous partisan hack, you were not only not going to find a contract signed in blood, you weren’t going to find any evidence of illicit, illegal, impeachable contacts at all.

The Democratic Party has allowed its defeat in 2016 to rot the party and its supporters to the core.

2. Baseball and lawyers! As I discussed here, Baseball’s Today’s Game Committee (formerly known as the Veterans Committee) elected OF/DH Harold Baines to the Hall of Fame in a decision that was not only logically indefensible, but obviously tainted by conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety, since associates and friends of Baines dominated the voting process. Now one of the pro-Baines voters, Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa (full disclosure: he works for the Red Sox now) has written an article  defending the decision. What is interesting about the article is that LaRussa, though few remember this, is trained as a lawyer, and his defense of picking Baines uses one legal advocacy device after another. Bill Baer, at NBC Sports, isn’t a lawyer, but he does an excellent job with his reply brief to LaRussa’s tortured and statistically deceitful arguments.

3. Let’s start a pool! Which of the gazillion Democrats running for President will commit the most verbal gaffes and require the rationalized defense, “Well he/she still doesn’t lie as much as Trump does!”? Obviously Joe Biden will be a popular choice for the title, as his foot is more or less positioned in his mouth up to the knee, but I think it will be a very competitive contest. For example (from Reason): Continue reading

Why We No Longer Trust Our Government, Reason #759: North Carolina’s Unethical Tax Stall

Every time Gallup  does a poll to find out who the public thinks is ethical and unethical, one result always comes out the same. Over 95% of those polled will say that most ethical person they know is…themselves. I used to make fun of this result in my seminars as a classic example of self-delusion. The used-car dealer really thinks he is the most ethical person he knows? Tom Delay and Charlie Rangel really think that they are the most ethical people they know? I don’t believe it.

But I recently had an epiphany. People don’t really think they are the most ethical. What we do think is that each of us is the one person  that we most trust. Not our spouses, not our parents, not our employers, not our elected officials…no matter how virtuous they may be, the person whom we know, with absolute certainty, won’t betray us  is our self. That is an especially American attitude, embodying self-reliance, autonomy, and independence, and I was wrong not to misread it. Those who deride us for not trusting the government to solve our problems are wrong not to recognize it too, particularly when the attitude is being reinforced by stories like this one, from North Carolina.

The North Carolina Department of Revenue is reviewing  230,000 unresolved tax returns going back to 1994, including cases in which taxpayers overpaid and are owed money by the state. The state, however, has rigged the rules to make it less likely that the refunds are ever made. Continue reading

Tax Refund Deception

From Wall Street Journal blogger-extraordinaire James Taranto:

“Tax refunds are evil, because they fool people into thinking they’re “getting” something from the government, when in fact all they’re receiving is their own money, months late. If the private sector tried this–say, your insurance or power company “borrowed” money by tacking $20 on to your monthly bill and refunded it, without interest, the following year–it would be a pretty clear case of fraud.”

Beyond the obvious hyperbole of “evil”—on this blog we would say “unethical”—is there any good argument against Taranto’s analysis?