Tuesday, January 3, 2017

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Ethics

 *Updated below.

Why wait until Donald Trump is sworn in for the oligarchic free-for-all to get started with a vengeance?

House Republicans met under cover of darkness at the end of the Christmas break to gut the independent body tasked with overseeing their ethics or lack of same. People are shocked, shocked I tell you. Because corrupt politicians usually don't brag so openly about how they pulled one over on their constituents.

It was momentarily heartening, therefore, to read the New York Times headline announcing that President-elect Trump "rebuked" the GOP politicians over their "bid to gut ethics office." Maybe he's at least semi-serious about draining the swamp after all.

But not so fast. If you had time to actually read the article past the headline, your newly hopeful heart would have plummeted like a turbo-charged rock straight to the bottom of the Washington muck.
In a pair of postings on Twitter, Mr. Trump called the Office of Congressional Ethics “unfair,” but he said focusing on it now was a case of misplaced priorities. He appended the hashtag “DTS,” an apparent allusion to his promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington.

With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it

  2h2 hours ago

........may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!
 The Times article, written by Eric Lipton and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, goes on to insist that Trump's alleged "rebuke" marks a major public break between Trump and the rank-and-file Republicans. The unannounced secretive move to effectively euthanize the independent ethics watchdog apparently caught even Donald Trump by surprise. And Donald Trump does not like to be caught by surprise. The congress critters were apparently "emboldened" to legalize their own corruption by the election of Trump, who has wasted no time signalling that his will be among the most corrupt administrations in American history.

You can't really accuse House Republicans of any actual creative genius here, either. After all, if the too-big-to-fail and jail banksters have been given the green light to police themselves, both in-house and under the protection of their revolving door government positions in the current administration, why shouldn't the lower legislative body openly and enthusiastically follow the same set of rules?

You'd think they were operating outside the de facto oligarchic norm or something, pulling a stunt like this.

 Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) had convinced his cohort that the Office of Congressional Ethics, set up in 2008 to investigate allegations of misconduct against lawmakers, should be run by the House Ethics Committee. Like vampires, Republicans voted to suck the blood out of oversight after sundown on Monday, without even bothering with the niceties of a seductive (public) debate beforehand.

As in other good public programs destroyed under the euphemism of "reform," Goodlatte said his proposal “builds upon and strengthens the existing Office of Congressional Ethics by maintaining its primary area of focus of accepting and reviewing complaints from the public and referring them, if appropriate, to the Committee on Ethics.” 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi then complained: “Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions. Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”

Notice that Pelosi carefully restricted her moral outrage to the "new" Republican congress. Because it might have been too challenging for her to remember the fate of the Stock Act, passed in 2011 to combat insider trading by members like Nancy Pelosi. She and her husband had profited handsomely when, right on the eve of the "surprise" 2008 financial meltdown, they bought Visa stock at rock-bottom prices and then made a cool $100,000 on the resale, literally overnight.  She was absolutely mum when Congress later gutted a key provision of the Stock Act outlawing insider trading by family members of congress critters. Pelosi's husband and other congressional spouses, siblings and spawn can still commit insider trading perfectly legally and with utter immunity and impunity.

But I digress. Here's my published comment on the New York Times piece giving undeserved immunity to Trump in its misleading headline:
 Trump's so-called rebuke of House Republicans is like the annoyed flick of one wet noodle.

He's not miffed that the gutting of the official ethics oversight body under cover of darkness is undemocratic and corrupt on its face. He's miffed because he thinks that the gutting of Obamacare, the ripping of health coverage away from millions of people should take top priority. He's miffed because such a ham-handed power grab by a group of miscreants will shine too harsh of a public spotlight on his more pressing need for rewriting the tax code in favor of the plutocrats who already have way, way too much.

So thanks, Goodlatte and company, for transparently putting your corruption right out there in the open for all to see, and also for, unintentionally or not, dumping some quick-sand in the way of Trump's authoritarian march to a full-fledged oligarchy.

Most people are no longer amenable to being fooled even some of the time.
An informed populace is tyranny's worst enemy.

*Update:  It seems that Goodlatte and Co. have seen the error of the timing of their ways, and have at least temporarily reversed course on their official ethics-gutting. Their evisceration of the safety net may now proceed apace... or so the bastards think.


Jay–Ottawa said...

Congressional ethics? An oxymoron. Same old Kabuki, just a new director. A director so authorial, so impetuous, Trump isn't even waiting until 20 January, the appointed time for him to take over. The Ethics Committee is a softball, a set up and a MacGuffin all at once, a set up to make Trump look like a good guy.

Lame Duck shone best when giving speeches; after which nothing happened. Donald Duck shines through his Twitter account--20 million followers; after which there follows a lot of scrambling to and fro, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Lights, camera, ACTION! How nice to see a director act like a leader. If Trump flops, he'll go down swinging. Obama, if you look at the front page, has already faded away.

Today, I feel good about The Donald. You should too. Forget about his grubber yung style. Look how he slapped down congressional leaders of his own party today after they dared to take an initiative. Besides, that initiative, pulling more teeth from the congressional ethics chicken, was bad Kabuki.

In strides our new director. He issues an order no longer than a twit, and the audience applauds. So, he backs the old ethics arrangement, such as it was.. Maybe he is a good guy, after all.

There's more, following the pattern of the Carrier job-saving act of a few weeks ago. Ford Motors, for reasons you'll have to guess, has just announced it will NOT follow through with the investment of $1.6 billion to expand its operations in Mexico. Upon the announcement, the peso dropped from 20 to 21 against the dollar. Viva Ford! Detroit will get more jobs, maybe, just as The Donald promised.

Taxes down; jobs up. That's what he promised. Soon to be followed by galloping inflation, according to naysayers. No matter, it's nice to see a man of action, for a change, who does not intend to betray each and every one of his campaign promises. Why wait for inauguration day to get started?

On second thought, Trump is not a stage director. He plays tackle football. He's the star in the mode of a fullback charging right down the middle. Obama's best play as a quarterback was the handoff. Often to a player from the opposing team.

Anonymous said...

Karen, I often read your blog, and often disagree with you, but I want to hear your point of view.

The thing I want to say is: You so often seem to say the two parties are just two sides of the same bad coin, and they are just involved in kabuki theater. But what about healthcare? Didn't the democrats make an honest effort to help the less fortunate? In light of republican obstructionism, didn't they at least move us in the right direction, a little ways? 20 million insured is not nothing. I of course recognize that it is far, far from an ideal system (which would be Medicare for all); but look at the actual results now: people losing their coverage completely; more people dying unnecessarily; more losing their savings to cover health care costs.

I mean, constantly saying they are equivalent I think is false and misleading.

Karen Garcia said...


On further reflection, I think the ethical brouhaha was much ado about nothing. Just can't figure out what evil it was supposed to deflect our attention from! Probably many, many evils.


Thank you for reading my blog even though you often disagree with me. Shows you have an open mind! Re health care, if you read my past blog entries, you will see I have often written that the Medicaid expansion aspect of Obamacare is the best part of an otherwise messed-up kludge of a product... and, remember, it IS essentially a brainchild of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

And yes, when it comes to the war and surveillance states, I really do think that the Democrats and Republicans are pretty much the same unified corporate enterprise. Usually this is an area where the libertarians and the progressives find some common ground, unlike the establishment wings of the duopoly. There is a very good reason that war and surveillance on ordinary people were never considered fit topics for discussion at the presidential "debates."

I think it was Gore Vidal who said that what we really need in this country in order for democracy to survive is a second political party!

Jay–Ottawa said...

@ Anonymous

If the US health insurance system in 2008 was deficient, Obama made it very much worse by enlarging the same damn system and enabling private insurers to charge much more. Obama bestowed a federal blessing on the same broken healthcare system, added 20 million more people to it and buried single payer. The expansion of a lousy system affecting millions more people should not be interpreted as an improvement.

It was giant health insurance corporations that benefited from Obamacare: those 20 million lucky people you keep pointing to were herded into a profiteering health insurance corral. The remaining 20 million or more who were also supposed to be covered by Obamacare cannot afford to buy in to this wonderful system.

Obamacare, in addition to making the healthcare system worse for more Americans, was the betrayal of a major campaign promise. He promised change, then doubled down on all the wrong programs that curiously but consistently benefited the sleek elites.

It is a pity you did not drop in on Karen's blog years ago. But since you are open-minded and clearly not a troll, I would not be wasting my time if I list the following link, yet again. The website of Physicians for a National Health Program is worth a long look.


As for the overall legacy of Obama, here's an outstanding, somewhat critical, account covering all eight years of the Obama Era. According to the author, one of the major reasons Donald Trump was elected president was––wait for it––Barack Obama himself.


annenigma said...

Here's an ethical dilemma that Congress and all Presidents have to face.

Chuck Schumer revealed an inconvenient truth today while discussing Trump with Rachel Maddow. He said Trump was being “really dumb” for picking a fight with intelligence officials, suggesting they have ways to strike back. “You take on the Intelligence Community and they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

Who’d want that threat hanging over their heads? Certainly not a spineless, gutless wonder like Barack Obama or the rest of the worms in Congress, but Donald Trump seems to actually have a spine. Watch your back, Donald.


Jay–Ottawa said...

There's a shocking story circulating that charges the Pentagon with deliberately causing the breakdown of a US-Russian-Syrian ceasefire back in September. If the ceasefire, originally worked out by Kerry and his Russian counterpart with Assad, had held, Russia and the US might have gained credibility working together to slow down the war in Syria. A group in the Pentagon, it seems, had their reasons for revving it up.

According to the after action report examining why US jets killed over 60 Syrian Army troops, the attack was deliberate. The reporter investigating that investigation provides a rationale for the Pentagon's ignoring the Obama-Kerry policy. Russia's UN representative at the time asked, rhetorically, who was really in charge in Washington: Obama or the Pentagon? That story never made it into US papers.

Talk about a lame duck. Truman relieved MacArthur in Korea, but such action would not reflect Obama's style. Here's a suggestion for a weekend movie: "Seven Days in May."