Ethics Observations On Reactions To The Mueller Report, Continued: Quotes

1. The most revealing quote is the New York Times headline I’m looking at, approximately the same size as the one announcing that the Titanic had sunk: “Mueller Report Lays Out Russian Contacts And Trump’s Frantic Effort To Foil Inquiry.” What it reveals is that the New York Times has no interest in objective reporting on this matter, and is still in the mode it announced during the campaign: it sees its job as not to report the news, but to take down Donald Trump. The headline, as well as the cherry-picked excerpts from the 400 page report, are calculated to mislead the public and impede the President’s ability to govern. “Contacts” are not collusion or conspiracy, as the report itself showed. Meeting with Russians is neither illegal nor unusual. “Frantic” is a subjective characterization that does not belong in a headline, and “foil” is misleading. The President wanted the investigation to end, as it made doing his job difficult (as it was intended to do), and he wanted to “foil” its illicit (and obvious) objective of carrying out the Democratic Party’s and the mainstream media’s attempted coup.

The Times, the Post and the rest know that most citizens won’t read the report and couldn’t understand it if they tried, so they are pushing the same false and misleading narrative, an abuse of the news media’s critical role, to see if, somehow, they can still take “get” Donald Trump.

2. Andrew McCarthy, who has been an invaluable analyst throughout this fiasco, clarified the “obstruction of justice” controversy yesterday, and William Barr’s comments on them. McCarthy’s quote:

The attorney general stated that the special counsel evaluated ten incidents with an eye toward whether they amounted to an obstruction offense. Barr elaborated that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein disagreed with Mueller on whether these incidents even could have amounted to obstruction as a matter of law…. Barr was not saying that Mueller found one or more of these incidents to constitute obstruction; Mueller was saying that the incidents involved actions that could theoretically have amounted to obstruction.

A concrete example may make this easier to grasp: the firing of FBI director James Comey. Before a prosecutor considered evidence regarding that incident, there would be a preliminary question: Could the president’s dismissal of an FBI director amount to an obstruction offense as a matter of law? If prosecutors were to decide that, even if the evidence showed corrupt intent on the part of the president, a president’s firing of the FBI director cannot constitutionally amount to an obstruction crime, then the prosecutors would not bother to investigate and make an assessment of the evidence.

What Barr is saying is that he and Mueller did not agree, with respect to all ten incidents, on whether the incident could legally amount to obstruction. What the attorney general therefore did was assume, for argument’s sake, that Mueller was correct on the law (i.e., that the incident could theoretically amount to obstruction), and then move on to the second phase of the analysis: Assuming this could be an obstruction offense as a matter of law, could we prove obstruction as a matter of fact? This requires an assessment of whether the evidence of each element of an obstruction offense – most significantly, corrupt intent – could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. That is why Barr laid out the facts that the president could have shut down the investigation but did not; that he could have asserted executive privilege to withhold information from the investigation, but instead made numerous witnesses and well over a million documents available to the special counsel; and that – reportedly according to Mueller – the president sincerely felt frustrated that the investigation was unfairly undermining his presidency. The point is that these facts so cut against the idea of corruptly impeding an investigation that it is inconceivable the prosecutor could prove an obstruction case beyond a reasonable doubt.

What you keep reading and hearing the bitter-enders say is that Trump wanted to obstruct the investigation,  but his staff stopped him. Well, wanting to do something isn’t a crime or even unethical, and staffs and advisors saying “no” is what good staffs and advisors do. Continue reading

Fascinating: The New York Times Thinks The Public Has A Right To Know That It And Its MSM Buddies Obscured What It Had A Right To Know

The chart above comes from the New York Times, which apparently decided that it’s safe to spill the beans now: the Trump tax cut really is a tax cut for most Americans. The ironic thing about the Times article, “Face It: You (Probably) Got a Tax Cut”

is that it reveals one of the more effective anti-Trump, anti-Republican Big Lies, this one being that the 2017 tax cut was really a sham, benefiting the rich while soaking the poor. The Times, in many ways, large and small, helped sustain that lie, with the results above. What is this? Is it like the amateur magician who has to reveal how his trick was pulled off? Is it the practical jokester who has to shout “It was all a gag!” so he can see your shock? You can almost feel the Times’s metaphorical chest swell with pride as it writes,

If you’re an American taxpayer, you probably got a tax cut last year. And there’s a good chance you don’t believe it. Ever since President Trump signed the Republican-sponsored tax bill in December 2017, independent analyses have consistently found that a large majority of Americans would owe less because of the law. Preliminary data based on tax filings has shown the same. Yet as the first tax filing season under the new law wraps up on Monday, taxpayers are skeptical. A survey conducted in early April for The New York Times by the online research platform SurveyMonkey found that just 40 percent of Americans believed they had received a tax cut under the law. Just 20 percent were certain they had done so. That’s consistent with previous polls finding that most Americans felt they hadn’t gotten a tax cut, and that a large minority thought their taxes had risen — though not even one in 10 households actually got a tax increase.

The Times goes on, infuriatingly, Continue reading

Harassment At Starbucks: If This Were An Isolated Episode, It Wouldn’t Be Worth An Ethics Post—But It’s Not. Now What?

At a Palo Alto Starbucks this week, a man wearing a red Make America Great Again cap, minding his own business, was confronted by a furious Rebecca Parker Mankey,  an appointed member of Palo Alto’s North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan Working Group and co-chairs the Bayshore Progressive Democrats.

She began shouting that he was a”hater of brown people” and “Nazi scum,” and exhorted the other  Starbucks customers and employees to join her in shaming him, . Mankey later said she was “heartbroken” that other “white people”—like her target— didn’t join her assault.   “I called him more names and told him to call the police. Then I yelled and asked someone else at Starbucks to call the police. He wouldn’t call the police, so I called him a wimp. He got his stuff together to leave. I followed him to the register while he complained about me. Then chased him out of Starbucks yelling at him to get the fuck out of my town and never come back,” she wrote. One he was in the parking lot, she threatening  to post pictures of him on social media—which she did—along with her version of the incident. She asked the public for help finding him so she could make sure he was harassed, saying, “I want him to have nowhere to hide.” Continue reading

“Russiagate” Collapse Ethics: Don’t Trust These People Again…Ever.

Debra Heine has compiled a useful list of the worst liars, hate-mongers, ethics corruptors,  and civic disrupters in he past three years of framing the President of the United States as a traitorous usurper who conspired with Russia to steal his high office. I was happy to find that I already distrusted all of those on the list that I had heard of, for this was hardly their only example of unethical instincts and corrupt behavior. Heine, a conservative blogger and pundit, used a rather high standard to make her list; I would have added several more. For example, ex- MSNBC star Keith Olberman, now again doing sports punditry on ESPN, has repeatedly tweeted such messages to the President as “Resign, you traitorous fuck!” and “Read up on the ADX Florence Supermax prison in Colorado. You’ll be celebrating your next birthday there. Enjoy!” But maybe nobody pays any attention to Keith any more—I hope not—so Debra was wise leaving him off. I definitely miss seeing Richard Painter on the list. He was President Bush’s ethics counsel, and has abused that credential (unethically exploiting credentials to deceive is a theme) to make one  specious impeachment argument after another, from “emoluments” to obstruction of justice to collusion.

Here is her list, which I will periodically comment on, though she has added extesnive documentation on each. It  is important that there be consequences for what all of these public figures, journalists, politicians and others have done to the nation, its institutions and our culture by pushing the Big Lie that the President made a deal with Russia absent any evidence at all. As I see it now, most of these individuals are refusing to acknowledge what they did or make any effort to undo the damage they have done to all of us. Suggestions that they served Putin’s interests by promoting discord and distrust of our institutions more than anything the President has done are quite correct.

A related list, focused only on the news media’s “fake news” regarding the Russia investigation and other efforts to impugn the President, was released yesterday by rebel reporter Sheryl Attkisson. She also ended up with an incomplete list, but a full list of the news media’s deceptions, incompetent errors, false predictions and wildly biased analysis would require days to scroll through. You can read it here.

Now Heine’s list… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/25/2019: Woke Up Really Sick Of Democratic Party BS This Morning. I’m Sure I’ll Get Over It…

Good Morning!

…as the Mueller report lets the sunshine in…

1. Thank goodness judges don’t bake cakes…the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility have issued Formal Opinion 485. It holds that judges who perform marriages, either as an obligation of their office or by choice, may not refuse to do so for same-sex couples. The opinion emphasizes that regardless of their backgrounds, personal views or philosophies, judges must follow the law and act impartially, free from bias or prejudice.

I’d say the opinion is unassailable for a judge who regularly performs marriages  as a mandatory part of his or her job. A judge who is not so required, presumably, can choose not to perform any marriages at all. I bet some judge will challenge the proposition, however, that a  religion-based refusal to perform an optional civil wedding is per se “bias or prejudice.” [Source: Legal Ethics in Motion]

2. Welcome to my world...This week I am doing several ethics programs, one of which (not in legal ethics) I have presented over many years. Last year, I was told that the 2 hour program I had been presenting to the group only needed to be 90 minutes, so the materials I prepared and submitted indeed covered that amount of time, as did my presentation.  This year, I again prepared for 90 minutes. Now, looking at the conference’s two-day program, I see that my seminar is listed in the program as two hours again. That’s a mistake, but it’s too late to correct it: the attendees plan on getting professional credit. So what is my most ethical response? I could…a) stretch the material to two hours, but that’s a 30 minute stretch. b) At my own expense, create an additional 30 minutes of material, copy the materials, distribute them, and never mention that the conference manager, my long-time contact, screwed up. c) Use this crisis as leverage to negotiate a supplement to my fee for the necessary upgrade. d) End after 90 minutes, tell the attendees why, and suggest that they take up the matter of the missing credit with the conference organizers. e) Do the upgrade, present it, and then bill the conference for my time. Continue reading

Newsweek’s “Big Lie” cover (From The Ethics Alarms “Stop Making Me Defend President Trump!” File) [Part II]

Let’s finish the survey of the allegedly racist statements the “resistance’s” Big Lie strategy requires us to accept as part of its efforts to denigrate and marginalize the duly elected President of the United States.

Next up for debunking….

  • “Shithole countries.” This isn’t just a contrived race-bating gotcha, it’s a  hearsay contrived race-baiting gotcha. I wrote about this one enough here.

It’s pure crap, ironically enough.

  • Very fine people on both sides.” The Big Lie purveyors will flog this one forever. Once again Trump’s inability to use his native tongue with nuance gave his critics a club to beat him with when he declined to accept the “good vs evil” characterization of the Charlottesville riot that was being pushed by the media.  He should have said there were horrible people on both sides, for there certainly were. The protest march organized by a white supremacist group to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue by the history-censoring Left undoubtedly had non-white supremacists in the group: I, for example, strongly object to tearing down Lee’s statues, and I’m a very fine people. The group that arrived to turn a peaceful an d Constitutionally protected march into a battle did not deserve the blanket endorsement the Left insisted upon: they were in the wrong, and precipitated the violence. Moreover, the President stated clearly that there was no excuse for white supremacy or bigotry. Once, admitting the humanity of your adversaries and those you disagree with was regarded as virtue. Now, it makes one a racist.

Continue reading

Newsweek’s “Big Lie” cover (From The Ethics Alarms “Stop Making Me Defend President Trump!” File) [Part I]

[And before I begin, let me say: what a despicable, juvenile, vicious, unprofessional cover, even for Newsweek. Why not just run a photo of the President with a moustache, goatee, mean eyebrows and horns scrawled on it by a 5th grade member of the “Resistance”? Do these pathetic President-haters realize how gutter-level their constant assault has become, and how it it harms the nation, society and our institutions? If they do, they are betraying their country; if they don’t, they are too ignorant and badly socialized to regard as serious critics.]

The most persistent Big Lie narrative as part of the “resistance” soft coup effort is that President Trump is a racist. This week’s Newsweek cover is amusingly inept in its efforts to advance that libelous and slanderous narrative, because it demonstrates how weak their case is. The cover is plastered with the allegedly “racist” statements the President has made that prove his bigotry. None of them are racist. Big Lie-style, however, Democrats, complicit journalists and assorted Trump-haters have been citing these quotes so long and repetitively that Newsweek apparently thinks they are res ipsa loquitur—that the speak for themselves. What speaks for itself, or should, is that Newsweek thinks, or wants readers to think, that these quotes constitute evidence of any racial animus at all, and hasn’t a metaphorical leg to stand on.

When I challenge Facebook friends to back up their “Trump is a racist” claims, all they usually can muster are these same quotes. Sad.

Let’s examine and analyze them, shall we? Continue reading