Tag Archives: U.S. Supreme Court

From The Ethics Alarms “Democrats Must Be So Proud” Files: An Obvious Observation On Today’s Kavanaugh Hearing

It is disgraceful,  embarrassing, and dangerous, and only two or three steps away from Charles Sumner being physically attacked by Preston Brooks on the Senate floor.

It emerged during the proceedings that Senate Democrats planned to disrupt the orderly process of the hearings as a strategy. Nice. I guess that’s their replacement for the filibuster. I think I prefer the device used by Lilly Tomlin’s character in the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie”: when she can’t rebut an argument, she starts singing “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” as loud as she can, so nobody else can talk.

“The hearing began with protesters breaking in, and continued with serial efforts by Democratic Senators to postpone the hearing. To the credit of committed chair Chuck Grassley, he bulled on through. As he did so, the Democratic side degenerated into a contest regarding which putative candidate for the Democratic 2020 nomination could pander to the base more. Here is how the day began:

GRASSLEY: “Good morning. I welcome everyone to this confirmation hearing on the nomination of —“
HARRIS: “Mr. Chairman.”
GRASSLEY: “— Brett Kavanaugh –”
HARRIS: “Mr. Chairman.”
GRASSLEY: “— to serve as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.”
HARRIS: “Mr. Chairman, I’d like to be recognized for a question before we proceed. Mr. Chairman, I’d like to be recognized to ask a question before we proceed. The committee received just last night less than 15 hours ago —“
HARRIS: “Mr. Chairman, regular order.”
HARRIS: “— 42.000 pages of documents that we have not had an opportunity to review or read or analyze.”
GRASSLEY: “You are out of order. I will proceed.”
HARRIS: “We cannot possibly move forward, Mr. Chairman. We have not been given the opportunity to have a meaningful hearing with Congress nominee–“[cross-talk]
GRASSLEY: “I extend a very warm welcome to Judge Kavanaugh, to his wife Ashley, their two daughters –[cross-talk]
UNKNOWN: “Mr. Chairman, I agree with my colleague, senator Harris. Mr. Chairman, we received 42.000 documents tat we haven’t been able to review —”
GRASSLEY: “— And everyone else joining us today.”
UNKNOWN: ” and we believe this hearing should be postponed —”
GRASSLEY: “I know this is an exciting day for all of you here and your you’re rightly proud —”
UNKNOWN: “Mr. Chairman, if we cannot be recognized I move to adjourn. Mr. Chairman, I move to adjourn.”
GRASSLEY: “— From Judge Kavanaugh —”
UNKNOWN: “Mr. Chairman, I move to adjourn. Mr. Chairman, we have been denied real access to the documents we need to advise —” (Audience cheering)
BLUMENTHAL: “Mr. Chairman, we have been denied the real access to the documents we need —[cross-talk] which turns this hearing into a charade and a mockery of our norms and, Mr. Chairman, I therefore move to adjourn this hearing.”
AUDIENCE: “This is a mockery. This is a travesty of justice. Cancel Brett Kavanaugh, adjourn the hearing. [ indecipherable].”
BLUMENTHAL: “Mr. Chairman, I ask for a roll call vote on my motion to adjourn.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER: “‘[indecipherable]'”
GRASSLEY: “Okay.”
BLUMENTHAL: “Mr. Chairman, I move to adjourn. I ask for a roll call vote.”
GRASSLEY: “We are not in executive session. We will continue as planned.”

A recurring theme was the disingenuous complaint that Democrats, who have received over 400,ooo pages of materials relating to Trump’s nomination to fill Justice Kennedy’s seat on the Court, as well as all of his judicial opinions which are what really matter, did not have time to read the most recently released batch of about 40, 000 pages. Everyone knows that what is in those documents doesn’t matter one bit, because the entire group of Democratic Senators have already made it clear that they are going to vote against Kavanaugh as a bloc. They are going to do it to express their outrage over Merrick Garland; they are going to do it to pander to the resistance narrative that Trump is an “illegitimate” President, they are going to do it because the party increasingly seeks to demonize conservatives, they are going to do it because they are afraid of their base. Oh, there are lots of reasons. All of the Democratic Senators, maybe most,  don’t seriously believe their party’s own scare-mongering that Kavanaugh will lead the Supreme Court to reverse Roe v. Wade, but there is the rapidly pro-abortion—not just pro-abortion rights but pro-abortion—feminist segment of the base to pander to as well.

Essentially, we are watching an entire political party embrace mob-style interference as an alternative to process, because they don’t like what the likely results of the established process will be. Of course this is dangerous to the nation and the Constitution. It is also a tantrum, just like the party’s reaction to President Trump’s election itself.

It was predictable that if the funeral of a Senator was exploited  as an opportunity to attack the President, the hearings on his Supreme Court nominee would certainly be. (I am not finished looking, but so far I can find no comparable direct attacks on Barack Obama during the hearings on his two nominees.) Here, for example, is the reliable demagogue Dick Durbin (D-Ill), doing his best Keith Olbermann imitation:

“You are the nominee of President Donald John Trump. This is a president who’s shown us consistently he’s contemptuous of the rule of law. He’s said and done things as president which we’ve never seen before in history. He dismissed the head of the FBI when he wouldn’t bend to his will. He harasses his attorney general on almost a daily basis in the exercise of his office, and I didn’t vote for Jeff Sessions, but I have to tell you there should be some respect at least for the office he serves in. And it’s that president who’s decided you are his man. You’re the person he wants on the Supreme Court. You are his personal choice. So are people nervous about this? Are they concerned about it? Of course they are.”

As in the hypocritical remarks by the McCain mourners. Durbin is hilariously self-indicting. Durbin’s party has been  contemptuous of the rule of law in areas where the President has been committed to enforce it, as with illegal immigration. Durbin and his party have undertaken direct assaults on the First, Second, and Fourth Amendments. The way Democrats are conducting themselves in this very hearing has never been seen before in history. Continue reading

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Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 8/29/2018: Amazingly, There Are More Important Ethics Developments Than How Long The White House Flag Was At Half-Mast…

Gooooood Morning!

1 It’s not just bias–ignorance also makes you stupid, Part I. On Fox News this morning, they were breathlessly talking about the importance of stopping the publishing of those evil blue-prints of 3-D printable guns. Why, last year, a plastic gun got through TSA security, and it was loaded! And those 3-D printed guns are cheaper than ever! (nobody mentioned that making a 3-D gun that shoots is still incredibly expensive.)

The report was like science fiction, and the woman in a protesting group who said that these guns needed to be stopped NOW! should have had her head wreathed in tin foil. Did Fox discuss the First Amendment issues? No. Did Fox explain that anyone can make their own gun without a 3-D printer? No. Did Fox explain anything relevant to the actual case? Of course not. Did Fox point out that the judge who just issued the injunction admitted that his action abridged speech? No, not that either.

And no, the other news networks weren’t any better.

2. California is ending cash bail. Good. It may backfire, but a statewide experiment somewhere is needed. Bail may be a necessary evil, but the long-time criticism of the system as being biased against the poor has validity, if not a solution. Not every idea Jerry Brown has is bad, just most of them. My guess is that this will be a PR and political disaster, but hey, I don’t live there. The first time a “non-violent” accused criminal kills someone while on his own recognizance, the someone won’t be anyone in my…oops, I forgot, I have a nephew and a niece in California. Well, they’re rabid Democrats and progressives, so they have consented to the risk, I guess.

Amusing reaction: The bail-bondsmen say that they’ll leave the state if this policy stays. Well, of course. Why wouldn’t they leave? What kind of a threat is that?

3. It’s not just bias–ignorance also makes you stupid, Part II A poll says that a majority of the public can’t name a single member of the Supreme Court, despite a large majority believing that the Court’s decisions greatly affect their daily lives. Worse, most of the public thinks the Court is a partisan body, like Congress, because most of the public doesn’t know the difference between the Supreme Court and an ice cream cones, and virtually none of the public has read a single Supreme Court opinion all the way though in their entire lives. No wonder  the Democrat fear-mongering about Judge Kavanaugh is regarded as a smart tactic. Ignorant people are the easiest to con. Conned people warp our democracy.

That’s why it is unethical to be ignorant. Continue reading

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Ken White Enlightens Us Regarding Judge Kavanaugh

Libertarian, free speech specialist lawyer/blogger Ken White has some news for the anti-Brett Kavanaugh fanatics who are claiming that he will lead an evil Republican plot to take away our civil rights. In a Popehat post titled “You”ll Hate This Post on Brett Kavanaugh”, —which tells you a lot about his readers, don’t you think?—Ken demonstrates that he. unlike the reflex foes of President Trump’s distinguished nominee to replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court, has done his home work, and has made a fair and objective analysis of Kavanaugh’s record on the crucial Constitutional issue of free speech.

His conclusion?

“In conclusion, Kavanaugh’s work on the D.C. Circuit show a judge strongly protective of free speech rights, and part of the trend of applying free speech doctrines both to classic scenarios and to government regulation. His stance on telecommunications and elections laws will get him painted as part of the “weaponize free speech” movement by results-oriented thinkers. He’s strong on First Amendment limits on defamation law and his approach to anti-SLAPP statutes do not, as some have suggested, signal that he wants to make defamation cases easier. But though he might help upset applecarts by applying the First Amendment to regulatory schemes, and will not uphold broad speech restrictions, he will likely not overturn doctrines that make it hard for individuals to recover for speech violations.”

Continue reading

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More From The SCOTUS Nomination Freakout—Unethical Quote Of The Week: Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)

“Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy.

America is a better and freer nation than Robert Bork thinks. Yet in the current delicate balance of the Supreme Court, his rigid ideology will tip the scales of justice against the kind of country America is and ought to be.

The damage that President Reagan will do through this nomination, if it is not rejected by the Senate, could live on far beyond the end of his presidential term. President Reagan is still our President. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate, and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and on the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice.”

From Senator Ted Kennedy’s speech on the Senate Floor on July 1, 1987, in response to President Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court

Kennedy’s outrageously unfair, vicious, and hyperbolic attack on Robert Bork, then one of the most respected jurists in the country, “worked,” in the sense that it catalyzed an unprecedented assault on a Presidential nominee who was not merely qualified but spectacularly qualified for a seat on the Court, shattering all previous norms and traditions regarding the confirmation of Justices by the Senate. It would not be inaccurate to mark Kennedy’s speech as the beginning of demonization as a standard tactic in mainstream politics, in which the mere fact of being liberal or conservative justifies the characterization of an individual or a group sinister or evil. (See: Southern Poverty Law Center) In hindsight, Kennedy’s rhetorical excess was eventually acknowledged on all sides of the political spectrum to be a false characterization of Bork as a judge and as a human being, though Kennedy, as far as I know, never apologized for it….but then he never apologized for a lot of things. Continue reading

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From “The Ends Justifies The Means” Files: Senator Feinstein’s Ugly Hybrid, And An Ethics Test For Democrats

The test is simple: how unethical are Democrats willing to be, and how flagrantly, as they desperately try to derail President Trump’s nomination to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, when the right to fill such a vacancy is one of the President’s unquestioned powers, as long as his choice meets basic minimum qualification standards?

Based on the recent tweets from superannuated California Senator Feinstein, fighting for her professional life and apparently pandering to the extreme Left as a result, the answer is “Very unethical, unfortunately.”  The Senator tweeted,

“Two-thirds of Americans don’t want women’s access to reproductive health care restricted. President Trump’s SCOTUS nominee could do just that by overturning Roe v. Wade and setting off at least 20 states’ “trigger laws” restricting abortions.

and…

“Overturning Roe v. Wade would take us back to the days of women being severely injured and dying because they can’t get basic medical care. We’ve come too far to go back to those days.

These are both ugly hybrids designed with malign intent, kind of like the Indoraptor in “Jurassic Park II,” except the components of the vile mutation in this instance aren’t a T-Rex and a Velociraptor, but misrepresentation and fear-mongering.

1. President Trump’s (at this point) un-named nominee can’t “overturn” anything; only the full court can do that. He or see could  ride in the Kentucky Derby, I suppose. Any of Obama’s appointees “could” also “overturn” Roe, if enough Justices went along with them. In a case presenting that possibility. Of which there are none currently before the Court. And which may not get before the Court.

Ethics offense: Deliberately making the public more ignorant. And fear-mongering.

2. Feinstein is falsely using “reproductive health care” as a substitute for “abortion.” They are not the same thing.  I don’t know what polling results the Senator is referring to, but if it involved “reproductive health care,” it wasn’t about abortion specifically. Pew, which is the closest thing we have to a fair and non-partisan survey organization, found only 25% of the public wants abortion to be legal in all cases, which is what no restrictions on access to abortion means, assuming Feinstein’s ” “reproductive health care” is the deceptive code it appears to be. (If she really means “reproductive health care,” she’s nuts. Who has ever stated an opposition to “women’s access to reproductive health care”?)

Ethics offense: Dishonesty. Deceit. Obfuscation. Misuse of statistics to confuse rather than clarify.

And fear-mongering.

3. The second tweet is irresponsible and flat-out false. Overturning Roe-–in that yet to be identified future case that has gone through the lower courts and poses the issue in a way that a majority of the Court deems appropriate for review, with the result accomplished by the presumed vote of the unidentified Justice who, like the rest of the yet to be assembled Court majority, will determine the case without regard for the facts or established law, stare decisus or the outcome of oral arguments—would not do anything but return the determinations of policies regarding what restrictions, if any, will be placed on abortion to the states, and to the voters in those states, with the results very much in doubt.

Ethics offense: Deliberately making the public more ignorant. Dishonesty. Deceit. Obfuscation.

And fear-mongering.

No elected official who deliberately engages in dishonest tactics like this can or should be trusted by the public with power or influence. We should all keep close watch on how much lower abortion advocates are willing to go. For the ends do not justify the means, and politicians, parties, and party leaders who signal otherwise are a menace to democracy, no matter what the issue may be.

 

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/8/18: Idiots, Bigots, Liars and Freakouts

Good Morning!

My favorite hymn, naturally: the first selection at my father’s 2010 funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, the stirring finale of “Mrs. Miniver,” and it was composed by none other than Sir Arthur Sullivan.

1. What’s the ethical response to these kinds of stories? I’m pretty sure I don’t have it, whatever it is. From today’s New York Times: “This year, a tourist in India was mauled to death when he tried to take a selfie with a wounded bear.” Last week, an Australian tourist was nearly killed when a shark that she was hand feeding dragged her into crocodile-infested waters. How should we feel about such people? “Serves the morons right” isn’t an ethical response, but that kind of clueless idiocy gets people killed all over the world, every day. Laughter is tempting, but seems cruel. I can’t apply the Golden Rule, because there is no way I can imagine myself behaving quite that stupidly. Is “I’m genuinely sorry that you’re an idiot” mockery, or compassion?

2. What’s going on here? I sure can’t figure it out. The quickest way for you to get up to speed is to click on the link and read the twitter feed backwards. Here’s a summary: two police officers claimed that they were harassed at a Raleigh, N.C. barbecue restaurant, with staff calling out “Fuck the police!” The police association wrote about the alleged incident on Facebook, the restaurant denied the account, and an investigation indicated that the complaints were exaggerated at most, and perhaps fabricated completely.  Then the association posted this:

Huh? The issue is NOT resolved until we learn what, if anything the officers were reacting to, why they made a false claim, and what kind of discipline they face, if any. Meanwhile, the story was reported on social media by a criminal defense attorney (all criminal defense attorneys hate and distrust cops, and vice-versa) whose characterization of the episode is that the police “terrorized a local business.” Terrorized? (Pointer: valkgrrl)

3. As the self-segregation of America continues...Outspoken conservative Hollywood actor James Woods was dropped by his agent, Ken Kaplan, who wrote, “It’s the 4th of July and I’m feeling patriotic. I don’t want to represent you anymore. I mean I can go on a rant but you know what I’d say.” Woods replied,

 “Dear Ken, I don’t actually. I was thinking if you’re feeling patriotic, you would appreciate free speech and one’s right to think as an individual. Be that as it may, I want to thank you for all your hard work and devotion on my behalf. Be well.”

Commenting on this, Constitutional Law expert Jonathan Turley opined, Continue reading

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Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, “Welcome July And Hope It’s Better Than June” Edition [UPDATED]

Happy July!

(On an especially dead weekend on Ethics Alarms. But ethics never sleeps…)

1. But I thought everyone wants open borders! The Harvard-Harris poll on illegal immigration, North Korea, trade and tariffs, and the Russia investigation certainly isn’t reflected in the news reports. But then, we can’t trust polls, and we certainly can’t trust Harvard.

I suppose the theory behind yesterday’s protests is that the squeaky, angry wheel gets the insane national policy. My guess is that this particularly squeaky, angry wheel  gets a Republican Congress.

2. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! (Cont.)  Yesterday’s New York Times op-ed page managed to contain two of the more outrageous anti-Trump screed of recent vintage. One, by Dave Eggers, attacks “the cultural vacuum in the White House.” I suggest reading this one as a template for anti-Trump propaganda, and the kind of dishonesty underlying so much of it.  He begins,

Since his inauguration in January 2017, there have been no official concerts at the White House (the Reagans had one every few weeks). No poetry readings (the Obamas regularly celebrated young poets). The Carters began a televised series, “In Performance at the White House,” which last aired in 2016, where artists as varied as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Patricia McBride performed in the East Room. The Clintons continued the series with Aretha Franklin and B. B. King, Alison Krauss and Linda Ronstadt.

But aside from occasional performances by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, the White House is now virtually free of music. Never have we had a president not just indifferent to the arts, but actively oppositional to artists. Mr. Trump disparaged the play “Hamilton” and a few weeks later attacked Meryl Streep.

Normally, this is where I’d quit reading—when the writer deliberately distorts the facts and employs deceit to make his case. The President disparaged the cast of “Hamilton,” not the show itself, after its performers unethically ambushed Vice President Mike Pence, who was then only another audience member, and should have been respected as one. I have launched (let’s see) three theater companies and two professional performing groups, and I disparaged that cast as well. Meryl Streep, the well-known pal of Harvey Weinstien, went on national television and gratuitously insulted the President, who does not turn the other cheek. He didn’t  attack Streep because she is an artist. He attacked her for being a grandstanding partisan shill.

He engages in this kind of deceit throughout, such as when he writes, in conclusion,

“Admittedly, at a time when Mr. Trump’s policies have forcibly separated children from their asylum-seeking parents — taking the most vulnerable children from the most vulnerable adults — the White House’s attitude toward the arts seems relatively unimportant. But with art comes empathy. It allows us to look through someone else’s eyes and know their strivings and struggles. It expands the moral imagination and makes it impossible to accept the dehumanization of others. When we are without art, we are a diminished people — myopic, unlearned and cruel.”

Funny: art hasn’t made Eggers less dishonest and deceitful. The illegal immigrants at the border were not “asylum-seeking,” because they didn’t follow the procedures for seeking asylum. They were apprehended foreign citizens trying to sneak into our country and claiming that they were seeking asylum to hamstring border enforcement,  and were using their children as human shields, placing the Trump administration into the Catch-22 of either waiving the laws or giving open-borders activists a club to beat it with—as the Times knows, since it has explained this dilemma itself. To attribute  pure law enforcement decisions to the dearth of piano and cello concerts in the White House is forced even by the Times’ standards. Mostly Eggers is just revealing the classist snobbery underlying much of the elitist attacks on President Trump.

As an artist, and someone who has worked in the arts and indeed would have made it my career if it were financially feasible, I could not care less how many concerts a President hosts, or how many artists he fetes. I want him to do his job, and I don’t particularly care to be paying for his glitterati  nights, either.

A President’s taste in art and culture doesn’t affect the public one whit. I don’t think I would pay a dime to hear any of President Obama’s hip-hop artists or rappers. Meanwhile, Clinton having “Aretha Franklin and B. B. King, Alison Krauss and Linda Ronstadt” at the White House didn’t make him empathetic enough not to exploit Monica Lewinsky. Jack Kennedy was a  stone-cold sociopath: what did he learn from dining with “Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Robert Lowell, Geraldine Page and George Balanchine”?

Hitler loved fine culture so much he had his Nazis steal thousands upon thousands of invaluable works of art across Europe, because he wanted a new explosion of creativity among the German people. Boy, if that made the Germans less “cruel,” imagine what they might have been like without their art!

And Nixon played the piano! Continue reading

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