Jack begins the week by replaying his pointless security clearance complaints:
Meanwhile, the many former intelligence officers that signed a letter of protest against the President’s pulling of Brennan’s security clearance have nicely made Trump’s point. Leave the government, lose security clearance. Employ an expedited procedure to restore it if an individual is again needed to assist or advise in a specific matter.
That is, in fact, how security clearances already work. If a person who had a clearance takes a job where they need one, they can get it very quickly if their Personnel Security Investigation report has not expired. Trump is trying to prevent that for people who have pissed him off.
Prompted by picque or not (of course it was prompted by pique), the pulling of Brennan’s clearance shines light on an anomaly and an anachronism. The assumption once was that a former government employee or official would never seek to used special status to undermine the government. That was never true, but now it is obviously fanciful.
The idea that these people are waving around their current security clearance to show how important they are is ludicrous. Whether a guy like Brennan has a clearance now is trivial compared to the fact that he used to run the entire CIA. Meanwhile, tons of ordinary national security workers will have their freedom of speech chilled by the possibility of losing their clearance for their political opinions.
Jack also thinks that Rudy Giuliani’s “Truth isn’t truth” gaffe is fake news. Jack’s argument is that he didn’t mean it literally. But everybody knows that. Nobody really thinks Giuliani really meant to deny the validity of logical identity. But that is what he literally said:
GIULIANI: …So, what I have to tell you is, look, I am not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury. And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he is going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, that’s silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth, not the truth. He didn’t have a conversation…
TODD: Truth is truth. I don’t mean to go like…
GIULIANI: No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth. The President of the United States says I didn’t…
What Giuliani is probably trying to say is that the level and type of truth telling required in these kinds of legal situations is very different from what we colloquially think of as “truth.” (Ken White explains why here.) The problem is that Rudy Giuliani has been a prosecutor and law-n-order Republican for so long that when he finds himself in the criminal defense roll, he has no idea how to make a good defense argument. As White puts it in a hilarious series of tweets,
Giuliani really has a talent for putting defense arguments as unconvincingly, unappealingly, and suspiciously as possible.
If his son were a Manhattan gynecologist he’d go around saying “my boy spends his days fingering women near the park.”
— VeryHiddenGeniusHat (@Popehat) August 19, 2018
Jack is offended:
Rudy may have lost his edge, but he’s no idiot, and he is not going to fall into an “alternate facts” gaffe like Kellyanne Conway. If you didn’t know that with relative certainty, if you didn’t assume that the biased news media was intentionally trying to make Giuliani, and hence the Trump Administration, and thus Trump himself, inherently dishonest and ridiculous, then you are gullible, dangerously ignorant of the complexity of language and the critical role of context, or stubbornly unwilling to accept what is res ipsa loquitur now, which is that journalism has become overwhelmingly partisan and cannot be trusted.
The news media may very well have it in for Trump, but when it comes to making “Giuliani, and hence the Trump Administration, and thus Trump himself, inherently dishonest and ridiculous,” it’s pretty clear that Giuliani and Trump have been doing all the heavy lifting on that.
The next day, Jack continued his weird pattern of being upset with comedians who make fun of Donald Trump. This time, it’s Kevin Hart at the Video Music Awards:
Wild applause. You’re so clever, Kevin! “Suck it!” How deft and witty, worthy of Oscar Wilde, Gore Vidal, Will Rogers, Dorothy Parker, Mark Twain or Oscar Levant! Where DO you come up with these bon mots?
My diagnosis: Hart was virtue-signaling. Yes, today telling the President to “suck it” is a demonstration of virtue to some Americans. It’s also virtue-signaling to use anti-white, ageist rhetoric, and to demonstrate that you have the ethical instincts of 10-year-old. You see, Kevin, it isn’t about what you can get away with, but rather what is the correct, fair, and civilized way to act.
That bit by Kevin Hart doesn’t sound very funny to me either. But Jack actually pronounces it unethical, apparently because it’s disrespectful and crude, and because Hart says “old white men.” I think it’s Jack who’s doing the virtue signalling here.
Up until this point, things had been going kind of slow for Jack, and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to do another post. But on Wednesday… Wednesday was golden.
Jack’s first post took Nabisco to task for caving to complaints from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that the animals on the box of Animal Crackers were depicted as being in circus cages, because Jack is of the opinion that once silly people demand that you do something, you must never ever do that thing. Not even if your product is technically named “Barnum’s Animal Crackers” after a circus that went out of business over a year ago and wouldn’t be recognized anyway by children who have never seen a circus.
The best part, however, is that Jack mocked PETA with this graphic:
Note the caption:
Yes, PETA really did protest the mistreatment of “Porgs” in “The Last Jedi.” Of course it did.
No, PETA really didn’t. Oh sure, that certainly sounds like something PETA would do, but as former Ethics Alarms commenter Chris has pointed out, the image Jack used is actually from a parody site called Faking Star Wars, where it is literally labeled “Fake News”:
Jack didn’t really get his full rage on until his next post, about the news that Paul Manafort, former president of Trump election campaign, had been convicted of financial fraud on the same day that Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, plead guilty to breaking campaign finance laws. And not only did Cohen explicitly admit to breaking campaign finance laws, but he also claimed to have done so at the request of Donald Trump.
This was pretty exciting news for everyone who dislikes Trump, and the happiness of Trump opponents angers Jack.
1. Explain to me, somebody...why Paul Manafort’s conviction on ten charges that occurred before Donald Trump ran for President and that have nothing to do with Russia or the Trump campaign somehow endangers Trump’s Presidency? Why is this significant news? Why is it on the front page?
Maybe because this convicted felon is the guy Trump chose to run his campaign? Or because it was important enough for the President of the United States to tweet about it:
A large number of counts, ten, could not even be decided in the Paul Manafort case. Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. “Justice” took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” – make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
Now, I can see why his acquittal would be big news, and it would raise fascinating questions about the Mueller investigation’s focus and competence, but the convictions? Please explain. Somebody?
So this case was so important that an acquittal would have been big news, but it’s also so unimportant that a conviction is practically no news at all? I’m at a loss here.
Right-wing blogger Liz Shield’s cynical explanation of why Manafort was involved in the investigation at all is beginning to look good to me. Shouldn’t it? She writes,
He was put on trial because he worked for Trump so that the left can interfere with Trump’s presidency by clouding everything he does with the threat of looming criminal investigations. That way the hyenas on the cable news network have something to squeak about on their nightly clown shows and most importantly, so that no one wants to work for Trump because the cost is too high.
Yes, that must be it. Robert Mueller, the former director of the FBI, appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Republican, who was himself nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, is doing the whole investigation as a media smear campaign to discourage people from working for Trump, even though, as I said earlier in this sentence, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was basically hired by Trump… Boy, when you lay it all out like that, it Just Makes Sense!
2. And speaking of “sleaze buckets” and “never-Trump maniacs danced around in glee”…The plea deal by ex-Trump fixer Michael Cohen is also being hyped absurdly, though it does have something to do with the President, and definitely raises all sorts of ethics issues. The funniest one is whether anything Michel Cohen says has any credibility at all. Astoundingly, Times columnist Bret Stephens wrote that Trump should resign or be impeached after Cohen guilty plea. This is an excellent example of how the resistance is so hungry for impeachment that it leaps at any theory, no matter how dubious. I seriously doubt that Jack the Ripper could be found guilty of a crime based on the testimony of Michael Cohen. Why does Stephens believe him? Because he wants to believe him, that’s all, even though there are few public figures alive with less integrity or trustworthiness.
Here Jack is moving the goalposts. Stephens is talking about impeachment, but Jack is asking whether Cohen is trustworthy enough that his testimony could be used to convict someone of a crime. The latter requires meeting a really high standard of proof. There’s no clear standard of proof for impeachment, but since impeachment is only an accusation — like an indictment — it’s not unreasonable to assume the same probably cause standard should apply. I think sworn testimony from an accomplice to the crime might well qualify.
Has Stephens read the Constitution? “High crimes and misdemeanors” is usually believed to mean “while in office.” A pre-election election law violation, even a serious one, would not, or should not, qualify.
Many people argue — and it sounds reasonable to me — that you can’t indict a sitting President. It would be too confusing if any random United States Attorney, or even the Attorney General, could unseat the elected leader of the executive branch. You first have to impeach him in the House and convict him in the Senate. Only then can he be charged with a crime.
But if that’s the case, then Jack’s interpretation of the impeachment process leads to perverse consequences. It would mean that an elected President gets an irrevocable four-year hold on prosecution for any crime he commits before he takes office. A President-elect could strangle someone to death on the morning of his inauguration, and as long as the the body isn’t discovered until after he takes the oath of office, then for the next four years no one — not the Department of Justice, not the court, not Congress, and not the voters — would have the power to remove him from office so he could be punished for his crime.
That’s just stupid. Admittedly, there isn’t a lot of precedent here, since no President has ever been removed from office through the impeachment process. But I’m pretty sure there’s got to be some principle of Constitutional interpretation that says you should assume the founding fathers were not a bunch of morons who wanted the presidency to be a keep-out-of-jail card.
(In 2010, Judge Thomas Porteous was impeached and removed from office, and the Articles of Impeachment included the accusation that he “knowingly made material false statements about his past to both the United States Senate and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in order to obtain the office of United States District Court Judge.” Clearly, any crime a person commits to obtain an office must come before the person takes office. There were other charges, but it appears that impeachment for crimes prior to taking office is possible for at least some Constitutional offices.)
The third section of Wednesday’s post brings Jack back to one of his favorite things: Hating illegal immigrants.
3. Right-wing media, left-wing media. Police in Iowa announced that the body of missing college student Mollie Tibbetts was found, and that she was killed by an illegal immigrant who had been in the US for several years.
Jack then finds a connection between the political stories and this one, engaging in a bit of whataboutism in the guise of media criticism.
On Fox News, this story was broadcast over the Manafort and Cohen events; everywhere else, it was third, especially the illegal alien component.
He goes on,
On CNN’s Headline News this morning, we learned that the alleged killer was an “undocumented immigrant.” A better example of how dishonest and misleading that left-biased description is could hardly be imagined. “Undocumented” sound like the killer had lost his library card.
Everybody knows what it means.
How is the fact that he is “undocumented” relevant to the murder? “Illegal,” however makes the relevance clear. He was already a law-breaker. He should not have been here, and thus had the law been properly and correctly enforced, Mollie Tibbetts would be alive today.
Zeke Miller, the AP’s White House reporter, re-tweeted a link to the Washington Post’s article about Tibetts’ body being found, and wrote, “Likely coming to a Trump rally near you…. Investigators: Suspect in Mollie Tibbetts death is in custody, subject to immigration detainer.” Yup. And there is nothing wrong with the President calling attention to that at all. Every murder, every crime committed by an illegal immigrant is a political story, because one whole side of the political spectrum wants illegal immigration to be regarded as natural and fair.
So Jack says every crime committed by an illegal immigrant reflects badly on the political left because the left doesn’t regard illegal immigration as a serious crime. On the other hand, Jack says crimes committed by close associates of President Trump have nothing to do with anything. Jack seems to be bending his ethical analysis to serve his politics.
On Thursday, Jack took on one of the criticisms of the anti-immigrant position. He quotes:
“Mollie Tibbetts was murdered b/c she told a man to leave her alone while she was jogging. Her murderer happens to be undocumented. This isn’t about border security. This is about toxic masculinity. Mollie Tibbetts lost her life b/c a man couldn’t take her saying no. Full stop…Her murderer actually might not even be undocumented. Regardless it is problematic for people to characterize an entire community based off the actions of one person. The majority of mass shootings in America are carried out by white men. So are we going to round them all up?…”
—Symone Sanders, former Bernie Sanders spokeswoman and current CNN contributor.
Jack’s response contains this remarkably dimwitted paragraph:
Sanders says that “it is problematic for people to characterize an entire community based off the actions of one person” immediately after she used the actions of one person to impugn his entire gender! How arrogant and dim does someone have to be not to realize that she’s contradicting herself in the same tweet series?
That’s her whole point! She’s attempting to criticize the mass blaming of illegal immigrants by offering a form of mass blame that she thinks is equally absurd. She’s arguing that we shouldn’t blame all illegal immigrants for this murder any more than we would blame all white men for mass shootings.
The argument that Sanders appears to be too slow to comprehend is not that all illegal immigrants (the terms is illegal, Symone, not “undocumented”) are killers, or even dangerous (unlike the assertion you made that being male makes us “toxic”), but that no crimes of any kind should be committed by people who are in the U.S. illegally, and if the laws were enforced as they should be, Tibbetts and other victims would be alive.
If we ignore Jack’s whinging about “undocumented” and let pass his misunderstanding of the phrase “toxic masculinity,” the core of his argument is this:
…if the laws were enforced as they should be, Tibbetts and other victims would be alive.
I can’t disagree with that statement as far as it goes. If the Department of Homeland Security had been 100% successful in its attempts to prevent people from immigrating without the proper paperwork, then this murder would not have occurred. But you can’t just magically wish for DHS to be 100% effective. It comes at a cost. It would require tens of thousands of additional employees hired away from other parts of the economy for billions of dollars per year. (Including about $21 billion for the Trump wall, if we’re that stupid.)
DHS has an annual budget of about $40 billion. If we take a conservative guess that this is just 20% short of what it would take for them to enforce the laws as Jack wants them to, that’s $10 billion a year. Given that the violent crime rate among illegal immigrants is not obviously higher than it is for citizens, this is an absurdly indirect and wasteful way to protect American citizens from violence. If we want to spend an $10 billion/year to save American lives, it would be far more effective to focus on measures that directly intervene in threats to their lives, such as funding more trauma centers in major cities. Heck, a $1 billion/year ad campaign to encourage people to wash their hands more often would probably save a ton of lives.
Increased government expenditures are not the only harm that would come from extremely strict immigration enforcement. There’s also the harm to the immigrants, who would be prevented from joining family members in the United States, and who would be forced to stay in countries that are far poorer and which might involve serious threats to their lives. Jack’s plan to keep out illegal immigrants would kill some of them and immiserate millions more.
And it wouldn’t just be the immigrants who suffer. Illegal immigrants do a lot of jobs for us citizens. They farm our food, or catch it at sea. They plant forests, care for them, and cut them into timber. They build and maintain buildings, and care for the grounds around them. They make our clothes, prepare our food, and clean our houses. Some of them save our lives as paramedics. They are our neighbors, they are fellow members of our churches, and they are members of our communities. They are our friends, our lovers, and our families.
This is an example of the recurring mistake Jack makes when tries to expand his ethics commentary to cover public policy: He takes something that is a legitimate social harm — murder, fatal drug overdose — and supports draconian law enforcement to stop it, without acknowledging that draconian law enforcement is itself harmful to society. Jack seems to either not understand or not believe in the concept of harm reduction: The idea that social policies should be judged by their total effect on harm to society, including the harm from enacting the policy.
“The majority of mass shootings in America are carried out by white men. So are we going to round them all up?” Gee, what a deft, apt, persuasive analogy! You see, Symone, unlike being in this country illegally, being a white male is not a violation of the law. Being in the country illegally, in contrast, is. This is both an intellectually dishonest comparison and a jaw-droppingly stupid one.
Legal or illegal has nothing to do with it. Rounding up 12 million white men and removing them from the country would do an enormous amount of harm to them and their families. Nothing changes if we swap in “illegal immigrants” for “white men” in that sentence: Rounding up 12 million illegal immigrants and removing them from the country would do an enormous amount of harm to them and their families. Whether the people concerned are legal or not, the amount of harm done to them is the same either way, and far outweighs the meager benefits to society.
Jack finished things off on Saturday with by bashing the news media. He has a point about the silly idea that Trump’s Supreme Court nomination is somehow improper because Trump is under suspicion, but Jack can’t resist attacking Trump’s opponents:
Nonetheless, the news media and the Democrats still somehow manage to out-misbehave the President.
Even granting that as true, there are over 40,000 people employed as journalists, and hundreds of Democrats in major elected offices, thousands if we include all the local positions. That some of them manage to be worse than Donald Trump is not surprising, but Donald Trump is just one guy and he sure gives all of them a run for the money.