Tag Archives: trust

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)

Usually the “Incompetent Elected Official” category comes down to some variety of a conclusion that can be summed up by the sturdy phrase, “What an idiot.”  This one is worse than that.

Representative Devin Nunes is chairman of the House committee investigating Russian interference in the Presidential election. This involves intelligence, investigations and secrets that are necessarily a matter of discretion until a final report can be released. No investigation can proceed in a trustworthy manner if every new shred of information becomes public, or worse, is revealed to parties who have a stake in the investigation. This has been understood by members of Congress since, oh, the first Congressional inquiry. The Constitution’s framers assumed that Congress would conduct investigations, just as as the British House of Commons did. James Wilson of Pennsylvania, Convention delegate, a future Supreme Court Justice and the Declaration of Independence signer that “1776” unjustly smears as a weenie , wrote in 1774 that House of Commons members were considered

“grand inquisitors of the realm. The proudest ministers of the proudest monarchs have trembled at their censures; and have appeared at the bar of the house, to give an account of their conduct, and ask pardon for their faults.”

During the First Congress in 1790, Robert Morris, who was the superintendent of finances during the Continental Congress and a financier of the American Revolution, asked Congress to investigate his handling of the country’s finances to clear his name of claimed improprieties. If Nunes doesn’t know the history of the legislative function he is involved in, he should.

Nunes had received intelligence that related to the President’s disputed claim that “he” (meaning who and what, it is unclear) had been wiretapped (meaning surveiled, presumably) by  “Obama” (meaning someone who reports to Obama, I’m guessing), and chose to bypass his committee members, Democrats, protocol and common sense by relaying it directly to the White House. The new information,  Nunes said, showed that American intelligence agencies monitoring foreign officials may have “incidentally” picked up communications from Trump transition team members, and thus the President’s much maligned accusation was kind-of, sort-of, bolstered.

Predictably, the President followed this good news with a tweet. Ugh.

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials

And Democrats Will Call This “Success.”

The GenForward poll, as reported by The Associated Press found that a majority of young adults, 57 %, regard Donald Trump as an illegitimate President. The number includes three-quarters of black respondents as well as large majorities of Hispanics and Asians.

President Trump is many things. Ethics Alarms began years ago documenting those aspects of his abilities, temperament, skills and character that made him, by the analysis here, an unqualified, undesirable President. One thing that he is not, however, is “illegitimate.” There is no basis whatsoever to consider him so. He was selected to run by the process put in place by the Republican Party, over a large number of experienced and accomplished politicians (and then there was Ben Carson.) He was extensively covered by a hostile press, that all but announced (and in the case of the New York Times, did announce) that it was dedicated to his defeat. His opponent was the allegedly unbeatable, anointed heir to Barack Obama and the previous Democratic President, her husband, both of whose policies were a matter of record. President Trump did not “buy the election,” as he spent about half what his opponent did. Illegal voters, to whatever extent they played a part in the election, probably did not vote for him.

Donald Trump was elected because the right number of voters chose him in the right combination of states, and under the rules in place since the U.S. Constitution was ratified, his was a legitimate election, and he is a legitimate President beyond question. There have been a few Presidents whose legitimacy could be challenged—John Quincy Adams, John Tyler, Rutherford B. Hayes—but not President Donald J. Trump.

So why does a majority of young Americans now regard the President of the United States as “illegitimate”? They believe this because a deliberate strategy has been followed by Democrats, progressives and the news media to make them believe that. They have been told that the Electoral College is undemocratic, as part of a two month long onslaught of propaganda to get a group of electors not chosen for the purpose to overturn the election results. Major figures in the Democratic leadership have declared the President “illegitimate,” without official rebuke. Most of the Congressional Black Caucus boycotted the Inauguration on that basis. Democrats have loudly claimed that an FBI conspiracy was afoot to wreck Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and then attributed her loss to Russian “interference.” Finally, Democrats have claimed that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to steal the election, essentially alleging treason. This last is the major artillery in the Delegitimize Trump battle plan, and it has always been intellectually dishonest, irresponsible, and reckless. Following on the theme, Democrats have even encouraged the use of the inflammatory term “the resistance” to sanctify those who claim the President is “illegitimate,” equating opposition to a duly, legally elected U.S. President with the underground French resistance to Nazi occupiers during World War II, a genuinely illegitimate government. This is indefensible and wrong. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Day: Charlotte Hogg, Ex-Bank of England COO

“However, I recognise that being sorry is not enough. We, as public servants, should not merely meet but exceed the standards we expect of others. Failure to do so risks undermining the public’s trust in us, something we cannot let happen. Furthermore, my integrity has, I believe, never been questioned throughout my career. I cannot allow that to change now. I am therefore resigning from my position. I will, of course, work with you through any transition.”

—-The Bank of England’s chief operating officer and incoming Deputy Governor for Markets and Banking, Charlotte Hogg, in her letter of resignation over criticism regarding a possible conflict of interest and her failure to report it.

Charlotte Hogg, a senior Bank of England official who had been named a deputy governor, resigned this week after a Parliament committee found that she had failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest: her brother held a senior position at Barclay’s during her time at the central bank. Hogg insisted that she never breached her duties or passed along any confidential information to her brother, but she had helped draft an industry ethics code of conduct policy required a disclosure of such conflicts. This creates doubts about her integrity, judgment competence, as well as the appearance of impropriety.

The Parliamentary committee recently issued a report finding that Ms. Hogg’s professional competence “short of the very high standards” required to be deputy governor, adding that her failure to disclose her brother’s role was a “serious error of judgment.”

This is one of my favorite kinds of conflicts, because it may be only appearances at stake. What if, as is often the case (sadly), Hogg and her brother are estranged? What if she doesn’t speak to him? What if they hate each other? Never mind: the public, not knowing this,  will suspect that she might use her position to favor him or his bank, so disclosure is crucial to maintaining public trust. Not disclosing, in contrast, raises suspicions. Why didn’t she let everyone know about her brother? What was she hiding? Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Ethics Quotes, Finance, Government & Politics, Public Service

A Very Bad Month For Price Waterhouse Coopers

Earlier this month, Big Four accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers sustained a high-profile hit to its reputation when  the senior accountants the firm sent to ensure the integrity of the Oscars broadcast, a job the firm has had for more than half a century,  couldn’t manage to hand out the correct envelope at the televised ceremony’s surrounding.  Now it looks like the chaos that this botch created was a prelude to far, far worse.  For years, federal investigators have been scrutinizing Catapillar’s overseas tax affairs, examining the complex maneuvers involving billions of dollars and one of the company’s Swiss subsidiaries.

Now, a report commissioned by the government accuses the equipment manufacturing giant of carrying out a massive tax and accounting fraud involving billions of dollars. And the accounting firm Caterpillar employed to perform its audits?

The envelope please?

You guessed it.

The report, part of a wide investigation being undertaken by the United States attorney’s office for the Central District of Illinois, the IRS and the Inspector General of the F.D.I.C., thus far is neither public nor made available to Caterpillar for review.  It  describes an illegal company strategy to bring in billions of dollars from offshore affiliates while avoiding federal income taxes.  Leslie A. Robinson, an accounting professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and the author of the report, concluded that…

“Caterpillar did not comply with either U.S. tax law or U.S. financial reporting rules. I believe that the company’s noncompliance with these rules was deliberate and primarily with the intention of maintaining a higher share price. These actions were fraudulent rather than negligent.”

Dr. Robinson’s 85-page analysis, based on publicly available and internal financial data from Caterpillar as well as bank data tracking wire transfers from Switzerland into the United States, found that Caterpillar brought back $7.9 billion into the U.S. structured as loans, over and beyond the income that had already been taxed overseas. The company failed to report those loans for tax or accounting purposes, though under U.S. law those profits would be subject to federal taxes.

For example, the professor  found  correspondence between the company and the Securities and Exchange Commission in which Caterpillar said it had $2.5 billion  in income eligible to be brought to the United States tax-free. The company, she wrote, did not have “anywhere near” that much money still available to be brought in tax-free.

No charges have been filed yet. Last week, federal agents raided three Caterpillar buildings near its headquarters in Peoria, Ill., as part of the investigation. Caterpillar said it was cooperating with law enforcement, but denied wrongdoing. The Internal Revenue Service is currently seeking more than $2 billion in income taxes and penalties on profits earned by the Swiss unit.

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From The Ethics Alarms “Doing The Right Thing For The Wrong Reason” Files: The President Snubs The White House Correspondents Dinner

trump-tweet-dinner

President Donald Trump has declined the invitation to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, becoming the first President to skip it since Ronald Reagan in 1981, who missed the dinner while recovering from an assassination attempt but still delivered remarks over the phone.

Good.

Once, before it was televised, over-publicized, and hyped, before Presidents started hiring comedy writers to give them professional qualify stand-up material, and especially before the last eight years of an event that looked like the President was fraternizing with complacent and sycophantic supporters and cronies—which he was— the dinner served the purpose of sending a salutary message that the relationship between the press and the President in power was adversarial but not personal, and that like all professionals, the adversaries could disagree intensely on important issues and have a congenial beer together later. It had become a classic example of the appearance of impropriety, however, going hand and in hand with Joe Biden’s “Super-Soaker” party for journalists that I examined in 2010.

Let me take you down on a stroll down Memory Lane. After Wolf Blitzer, Ed Henry and others appeared on You-Tube giggling and playing games with Vice President Biden, Rahm Emanuel and other Obama administration officials at the Biden-hosted party, Glenn Greenwald wrote,

I personally don’t think that these types of interactions ‘violate journalistic ethics,’ because I don’t think such a thing exists for them.  Rather, all of this just helpfully reveals what our nation’s leading “journalists” really are:  desperate worshipers of political power who are far more eager to be part of it and to serve it than to act as adversarial checks against it — and who, in fact, are Royal Court Spokespeople regardless of which monarch is ruling.  That’s why they’re invited into the heart of Versailles to frolic with the King’s most trusted aides:  it’s their reward for loyal service as Court courtiers.”

To which I added,

It’s not very complicated: if the public believes that journalists are inclined to be favorable toward government officials because they like them, get benefits from them, and seek their approval, then they cannot trust the objectivity of the news. The Biden party proves that some prominent journalists either don’t understand this, or don’t care.

Now, after 8 years,  we know: they don’t care. Their relentless partisan bias has become transparent, and journalists, as well as the beneficiaries of their bias, are content to continue denying it, pointing to the solid and fair reporting mixed in with the deceptive and incompetent stories. The White House Correspondents Dinner has been both the product of an illicit relationship between the White House and the press, and proof of it. To bolster the public’s trust, to avoid conflicts of interests and to reduce the appearance of impropriety, Presidents, Vice-Presidents and high government officials should not participate in this event or others like them—OR super-soaker parties at the VP’s mansion. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunces: The Catlettsburg (KY) Police Department

punisher-logo2

This story does not fill one with trust and respect for the judgment of our warriors in blue.

The Catlettsburg, Kentucky, Police Department placed large decals on its police vehicles that show the comic book character “The Punisher’sskull logo emblazoned with the “Blue Lives Matter” slogan. Behold:

punisher-logo

The city council and mayor approved the design and decals, which were funded by local taxpayers.

Morons.

The Punisher is a Marvel Comics anti-hero who is a murderous vigilante.  He summarily executes bad guys. From Wikipedia (which apparently they don’t get in Kentucky)…

The Punisher (Frank Castle) is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character… is a vigilante who employs murder, kidnapping, extortion, coercion, threats of violence, and torture in his war on crime.

Exactly the image that police departments want to convey to the public!

The Punisher’s  logo has become a symbol of “Blue Lives Matter,” featured on merchandise and Facebook posts supporting police officers against the “forces of evil,”  as in those who view the police as enemies of minorities and justice.  “American Sniper,” the 2015  film based on Navy SEAL  Chris Kyle’s life, popularized the Punisher comics, which Kyle admired. Catlettsburg Police Chief Cameron Logan thought it was just  a “warrior logo,” and didn’t know it was associated with the vicious and lawless comic book character, even though the comic itself was featured in the film. He knows now, though.

“We’re getting so many calls, and they’re saying that the Punisher logo [means] we’re out to kill people, and that’s not the meaning behind that,” Logan says. “That didn’t cross my mind.”

Wait…mind?

The logo is a death’s head! What do you think a death’s head means?

Now that his police have removed the car decals, the Chief say he regrets using the image, calling it an oversight, and  promises that in the future he’d do “a little more research” …before emblazoning death symbols associated with lawless killing on his vehicles.

That’s nice.

 

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Breaking Ethics Thoughts: The White House Bars The NYT And Others From Its Press Briefing

accessdeniedWASHINGTON (CBS SF/AP) — The Trump administration ramped up its war against the press Friday, blocking several major outlets from a scheduled White House press briefing.The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and Politico were among the news organizations excluded from the meeting, reportedly an untelevised gathering with the press instead of the usual on-camera briefing with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

I am not aware of the specific reasons for the action, but:

1.  I read the New York Times daily. It is routinely making every effort to present the actions of the Trump Administration in a negative light, often engaging in outright deceit to do it. It is behaving, as it has for years, as a Democratic Party organ.

2. CNN simply teems with anti-Trump hostility, in the tone of panel discussions, in the framing of the news, in the sneers and body language of its talking heads. This is not ethical journalism.

3. Politico is left-biased, but I haven’t followed it closely. The LA Times has conditions for use that I can’t meet. I’m not sure how biased they have been.

4. There is nothing per se unethical about a Presidential administration deciding that a news source it considers untrustworthy, unreliable and allied with groups that want to literally bring it down should be treated accordingly. Competent, unbiased, fair and ethical journalism is not an excessive requirement.

5. The response to Trump’s very clear warning to the news media last week was, “You can’t stop us, and we will be as hateful as we please.” This is his response to that. Hubris has its consequences. After MSNBC’s “Morning Joe’s” co-host Mika Brzezinski ‘s comment this week, some attitude adjustment seems to be mandatory. She said of the President,

“He is trying to undermine the media and trying to make up his own facts. And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that, that is our job.”

No, Mika, actually leaders always  lead, which always means trying to persuade the public.  That is their job. You job is to keep the public informed without telling them what to think, since as this statement proves, you don’t think all that well. At all.

6.  I am surprised that the Washington Post wasn’t shut out as well, especially after a slime job like this story.

7. Would I recommend this action by Trump? No. But it is a defensible response to a real threat to his ability to govern, and an informed democracy. It may not be a responsible or prudent response.

8. The best response would be for journalists to start doing their real job, and report the news fairly and competently without aligning themselves with political agendas.

____________________________

Pointer: Zoltar Speaks!

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