Tag: Ethics

Trump’s Lawyers Are Not the Most Contemptible Attorneys of this Season

Neither is it Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton whose plea for a pardon attempt to invalidate all the votes in 4 states was dismissed by the Supreme Court

In fact, the lawyer in question wasn’t working on the election at all.

Rather it was Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) stalwart and Clinton confidant Neal Katyal who aggressively supported the use of slaves by Nestle on chocolate farms, explicitly stating that companies that participated in the Holocaust should not be held to account for their actions.

Every one has a right to a lawyer, no mater how contemptible that client is, and the lawyer has an obligation to provide a competent and rigorous defense, but there is a ethical requirement that you not simply argue on behalf on evil.

Lawyers are not just advocates, they are officers of the court, and there is a requirement for basic human decency, and Neal Katyal has failed that test. (I need to note that I am an engineer, not a lawyer, or ethecist, dammit!*)

The United States has a political class that mistakes its professional norms for ethics. Mainstream political journalists mindlessly grant anonymity to professional liars. Elected officials put collegiality and institutional procedure over the needs and interests of their constituents. And as for lawyers, they have refined this tendency into what amounts to a religion of self-justification.

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution establishes that every American has the right to “the Assistance of Counsel” if they are prosecuted for a crime. This was a pointed rejection of English common law, which barred felony defendants from hiring counsel to represent them. Over time, the Assistance of Counsel clause came to mean that everyone prosecuted for a crime had the right to competent and effective representation, even if they could not afford it. From that right, the American legal community developed a core tenet: Everyone deserves representation.

But once the American legal community invented corporate law and the large firm, it continued developing that tenet until it became so divorced from notions of liberty or equality under the law that it now works as a kind of force field preventing lawyers from facing any social or professional repercussions for their actions on behalf of their clients. Everyone has a right to counsel, and every lawyer has a right to earn a buck.

It is that mutated creed that explains why Neal Katyal went to the Supreme Court last Tuesday to argue that children enslaved to work on cocoa plantations should not be allowed to sue the corporations that abetted their enslavement.

Katyal is among the most prominent and decorated attorneys in the country. He is a Democrat who has been in and out of government since Bill Clinton’s second term. He returned to his private firm, Hogan Lovells, after serving as acting solicitor general for Barack Obama’s Justice Department. He is omnipresent on television and newspaper op-ed pages as a voice of “The Resistance” to Donald Trump. He is about as close as you could come to the embodiment of Big Law’s connection to the institutional Democratic Party.

And last week he argued that because the corporation that supplied Zyklon B to the Nazis for use in their extermination camps was not indicted at Nuremberg, Nestle and Cargill should not be held liable for their use of child slave labor. In his argument before the court, Katyal espoused a view of corporate immunity so expansive that even the conservative judges seemed skeptical. If you took him at his word, he was effectively asking the Supreme Court to make it impossible for any foreigner to sue any company for any harm done to them, up to and including kidnapping and enslavement.

An argument that repulsive coming from such a high-profile attorney—someone who could very likely serve in the incoming Biden administration or end up a judge—naturally caught the attention of left-of-center critics of corporate power. Most of them were not very impressed with the argument and expressed some less-than-flattering opinions about the person making it.

As always, public criticism of a successful attorney led inevitably to the creation and publication of a new version of the inexhaustible opinion piece classic: It is simply unfair to criticize a lawyer for making any argument on behalf of any client.


The point is not that Katyal should be disbarred or something for representing a client. The point is that the cases Katyal chooses to take, the arguments he chooses to make, even the firm he chooses to work for, all speak to his values. He cannot separate his politics, whatever he thinks they are, and whatever he wants everyone else to think they are, from his decision to defend Nestle against the threat of potential lawsuits from enslaved children. That is a statement about how one believes the world should be organized and on whose behalf the legal system should operate.

To defend an accused murderer or rapist in a criminal trial is a straightforward endorsement of the idea of the presumption of innocence, not an endorsement of murder or rape. That’s the act enshrined in our Bill of Rights. To make a career out of defending and expanding corporate power at the expense of employee and consumer power, on the other hand, is simply to endorse those things.


Instead of continuing to argue about these ideas in public, the American legal community largely decided to close ranks around a highly ideological understanding of professionalism and independence that happens to support the right of an elite attorney to make a fortune. Now any time someone—take, for example, Richard Kahlenberg, who went to Harvard Law and wrote a book about how that institution turns would-be idealists into corporate stooges in training—broaches concerns like Berle’s, they are met immediately with derisive sneers from law professors about not understanding the majesty of the legal profession.

People like those law professors and Neal Katyal illustrate something I wish more professional Democrats understood: The professional norms of the political class are not only not a substitute for actual values, they are, frequently, actively harmful to the project of liberalism these people claim to be advancing.


Neal Katyal’s professional project—one that I believe to be sincerely ideological and not simply mercenary—has been to protect corporations from the consequences of harming consumers and workers. Liberals should find that horrifying. If you want to make a fairer society or more equitable economy, Katyal is not your ally, no matter how many good deeds he has done. The professional norms that allow people like Katyal to get a pass on their lucrative private sector work are not actually essential components of our political system; they exist because no one in revolving-door Washington wants to feel bad about how they pay the bills.

The Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) is a product of this amoral calculus.

They are subscribing to the philosophy of Ayn Rand crush William Edward Hickman, who said, “What is good for me is right.”

William Edward Hickman also  kidnapped a 12 year old girl, ransomed her, and dismembered her, which is pretty much what the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) has done to both the party, and the American people.

*I love it when I get to go all Dr. McCoy!

Annointed by Chuck Schumer

Deer, meet headlights

And flailing horribly in the primary.

Shumer’s “Great White Hopes” of the US Senate races this year are Amy McGrath in Kentucky and John Hickenlooper in Colorado, and things are not going well fore either of them.

Amy McGrath, who has a compelling life story but little in the way of policy, has had a terrible horrible no good very bad week.

The largest papers in the state endorsed her primary opponent Charles Booker, as has Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is part of the Democratic Party aristocracy in the state. (Useless, but all aristocracy is useless)

I’m thinking that her deer in the headlights performance when asked about police protests in the last debate which was lame beyond belief: (See vid)

Remember Amy McGrath? Maybe you do. In 2018, the Kentucky Democrat was briefly famous for a viral campaign ad and an ultimately doomed campaign to represent her state’s Sixth Congressional District. A moderate and a former Marine fighter pilot, McGrath is the apotheosis of a particular Democratic electoral strategy: to win in a conservative state, dispatch a veteran with lukewarm politics. That strategy didn’t put McGrath in the House in 2018. But two years later, Senate Democrats tried it again, pitting McGrath against a top prize: Mitch McConnell.

Now she might be lucky to win her primary race.

McGrath faces a robust challenge from Charles Booker, the youngest Black legislator in the Kentucky House of Representatives. Booker has run to her left, and while McGrath holds a major fundraising advantage, Booker is gaining significant momentum ahead of the primary on June 23. Two of the state’s largest newspapers have endorsed him, and on Tuesday, Booker earned another major supporter. Alison Lundergan Grimes, who challenged McConnell in 2014, endorsed him over McGrath.

Proud to endorse my friend @Booker4KY for U.S. Senate in the Kentucky Democratic Primary! Together, let’s elect a new generation of leadership in KY! #Booker4KY https://t.co/mv7TymBLIe pic.twitter.com/PsD43HrcEt

— Alison Lundergan Grimes (@AlisonForKY) June 16, 2020

The Grimes endorsement might be the clearest sign yet that McGrath is in real trouble. Booker already had the backing of a number of progressive politicians and groups, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, but Grimes is no leftist. She’s firmly part of the Kentucky Democratic Establishment, which makes her endorsement something of a surprise — and an unignorable vote of no confidence in McGrath. The retired Marine is backed by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, but locals are less convinced.

Also, Booker progressive icon Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) just endorsed Booker as well.

Her life story failed to defeat a vulnerable Republican Representative in the last election, and she has added nothing to her toolbox.

And then there is John Hickenlooper in Colorado, whose campaign is turning into a horror show, even if you ignore the fact that he literally drank a glass of fracking fluid to demonstrate his support for the fossil fuel industry.

Now, in addition to his record, we have his his being fined for serious ethical violations as well as having made jokes about slavery, both of which are EXTREMELY problematic in the current moment:

Democrats’ best pickup opportunity in their battle for the majority in the U.S. Senate has suddenly been complicated by not one but two unforced errors from their star candidate in Colorado, former governor John Hickenlooper. But it’s not clear whether either or both are enough to turn the tide of the race in favor of Republicans. The two controversies:

  1. An independent ethics commission in Colorado said Hickenlooper violated state law on gifts when he was governor in 2018 by accepting rides on a private jet and, separately, in a Maserati limousine.
  2. He appeared to compare a job as a political scheduler to the slave trade, in 2014 comments that were unearthed Monday. His campaign immediately apologized for them. “Imagine an ancient slave ship,” he said, “with the guy with the whip, and you’re rowing. We elected officials are the ones that are rowing.”


The first controversy carries a more immediate impact for Hickenlooper. The commission, which was set up as part of an anti-graft law Colorado voters approved more than a decade ago, fined him almost $3,000 for the luxury rides as he was traveling as governor. The commission also held him in contempt for not showing up for the first day of video hearings even though he was subpoenaed.


Hickenlooper’s most immediate contest is a June 30 primary. He’s facing Andrew Romanoff, a former Colorado House speaker, who has his supporters but is not seen as a major threat to Hickenlooper. Romanoff is campaigning on Hickenlooper’s left in support of Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal and has the support of some younger, liberal activists. (But no endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or his liberal allies in Congress.)

That may still be the case, given how late Hickenlooper’s ethics violation is coming in the primary and how much Hickenlooper has been billed as the best candidate to beat Gardner among Democrats. Romanoff is trying to leverage Hickenlooper’s ethics troubles to reverse that narrative. “He represents a threat we cannot afford,” Romanoff told The Washington Post recently.

I am not sure how much Romanoff is a long shot. Romanoff won the Democratic Party endorsement at the state convention, though that does not count for much in the primary.

Still, this raises serious questions about Hickenlooper’s electability, which is really the only reason to vote for him, because, as I have noted before, he literally drank a glass of fracking fluid to demonstrate his support for the fossil fuel industry.

The Latest Right Wing Flying Monkey Panic

Eric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell has achieved high rotational momentum

Almost a year ago, the U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on Codes of Conduct announced that it was listing that the Federalist Society was explicitly an advocacy organization, (patently obvious) and so it was prohibited for sitting federal judges to attend their events.
Now, the right wingers dedicated to subverting fair trials and just in the United States are throwing a sh%$ fit over this:

The left doesn’t care about judges; the right does. If you want proof, look no further than a major campaign underway in conservative circles around a new ethics rule that could undercut the power of the Federalist Society. Haven’t heard of it? That’s the point.

The rule change, which was proposed by the ethical advisory arm of the federal judiciary and began circulating in January, would ban judges from being members of groups like the Federalist Society, the right-wing legal group that has been central to Trump’s transformation of the courts, and the American Constitution Society, a liberal legal group. It wouldn’t affect the ability to attend and participate in Federalist Society and American Constitution Society panels and events; the proposal simply says that active membership in these organizations is inconsistent with a judge’s ethical obligations. And conservatives are up in arms.


Twenty-nine Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, sent a letter to the chair of the Committee on Codes of Conduct in March, urging they “withdraw this flawed draft opinion.” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., in a statement from his office, told National Review that it’s “wrong to target the Federalist Society,” calling the draft rule the “product of liberal smear campaign that will erode confidence in an independent and fair Judiciary.” Democratic senators, for the most part, have made no effort to publicly defend the rule or weigh in on the debate.

Shorter Ben Sasse, who is inadvertently channeling Groucho Marx, “Who ya gonna believe me or your own lying eyes?”

Needless to say, the rent-a-crowd is going insane over this.

Recognizing Reality

The Code of Conduct for Federal Judges has been changed, and it appears that it will prohibit sitting judges from attending Federalist Society events:


For anyone concerned about the unseemly mingling of politics and the judiciary, a little-noticed formal ethics opinion issued in February by the committee responsible for the Code of Conduct for United States Judges may offer hope.

Judges are bound by the Code of Conduct, which comprises five canons and associated formal opinions issued by the committee, which provide ethical guidance. Substantial speech and associational restrictions are imposed on active judges to preserve the judiciary’s independence and integrity.


For many years, the Code of Conduct committee ducked the issue of judicial participation in the Federalist Society, in part, it seemed, because many powerful judges (see above) either have been or are associated with the organization.

The committee now appears to have drawn a line with its issuance of advisory opinion No. 116 expanding the scope of prohibited political activity. The Federalist Society is not mentioned by name, but the opinion is directed to the propriety of participation by judges in programs or membership in groups engaged in public-policy debates.

The prohibited political activities include those involving “hot-button issues in current political campaigns” or that are “politically-oriented” or have “political overtones.” Public perception also plays a vital role, as the opinion bars judges from participation that would “give rise to an appearance of engaging in political activity” or “would otherwise give the appearance of impropriety.”

The committee also warned judges that they should stay away from groups “where the funding sources are unknown or likely to be from sources engaged in litigation or political advocacy.” The New York Times noted of the Federalist Society’s 2015 annual report, the organization “discloses who contributes most of its money. But it also takes anonymous contributions, from players including the Mercer family, which was a major backer of Donald Trump.” The annual report listed 14 anonymous donors on the “platinum” level — those giving $100,000 or more.


The expanded definition of prohibited political activity does not endanger the Federalist Society , nor its ability to function as a conduit of conservative ideology for lawyers and academia. It simply makes the continued participation of judges in the organization indefensible.

Sitting judge’s hobnobbing with a partisan group like the Federalist Society has always been indefensible and corrupt.

Now it’s just official.

I Just Had a Minor Epiphany

We were having a discussion of politics at the Stellar Parthenon BBS, and JR noted that his wife was a big fan of Corey Booker until he voted against drug re-importation from Canada, and now he is politically dead to her.

This developed into a discussion of what I call the, “political event horizon,” that point where a politician you are vaguely positive towards does something so hacktacular that that you wash your hands of them.

In the course of discussion, I realized that my two major downgrades of major Democratic Party figures from vaguely promising to weasels, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, were both about the same thing:  Throwing the LGBT community under the bus.

In Clinton’s case, it was “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and in the case of Barack Obama, it was his embrace of homophobe Donny McClurkin in late 2007 to appeal to socially conservative South Carolina primary voters.

LGBT rights are a moral stance, and when people throw them over for ephemeral political benefit, it says something profound about their profound lack of ethics.

Holy Sh%$

We now know why the Cole bombing lawyers at Guantánamo resigned, they found a microphone concealed in the room used for lawyer-client conferences, and the court has refused to discuss this. Under these conditions, now only would I have resigned, I’d have seriously considered defecting to Russia and revealing all the crap that they have pulled:

Lawyers for the alleged USS Cole bombing mastermind quit the capital case after discovering a microphone in their special client meeting room and were denied the opportunity to either talk about or investigate it, the Miami Herald has learned.

The narrative, contained in a 15-page prosecution filing obtained by the Herald, is the first authoritative description of the episode that caused three civilian defense attorneys to resign from the death-penalty case of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri on ethical grounds: Rick Kammen, a seasoned death-penalty defender, and Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears. In fact, the prosecution says the listening device that lawyers discovered in an early August inspection of their special meeting room was a legacy of past interrogations — and, across 50 days of ostensibly confidential attorney-client meetings, was never turned on.

The description, an eight-paragraph, declassified version of something the public was not allowed to know until this week, was contained in a prosecution filing at the U.S. Court of Military Commissions Review signed by the chief prosecutor for military commissions, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, and three appellate lawyers on his staff.

It says that, after the three lawyers quit the case in October, prison workers “removed flooring, walls, and fixtures” in an attorney-client meeting site exclusively used by Nashiri and his lawyers and “confirmed that legacy microphones, which were not connected to any audio listening/recording device nor in an operable condition, were removed.”

I don’t believe them, and neither do the lawyers who quit:

Kammen, reached by the Herald, called the prosecution account “outrageous” and “really grotesque selective declassification” designed to permit “some portion of the truth to seep out, but only in ways that the government feels will help it.”

At the time of their resignations, Kammen said he was only allowed to say that something had occurred, which he could not describe; that he sought discovery from the judge in order to investigate the episode as well as a hearing, and the requests were denied it. The judge’s denial is classified.

“Our concerns were much greater than what they appear to admit was there,” he said. He added, however, that even the portion the prosecution now permits the public to know “demonstrates that either Colonel Spath was lied to by the government or in many of his statements he was lying to the public, the press and the victims in a way that was absolutely shameful and disgraceful — by casting it as fake news.”


War court watchers wondered why the discovery was considered a national security secret in the first place.

“If this really was an innocuous slip-up with unplugged microphones, why has the government apparently tried so hard to cover it up?” Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, told the Herald.

“What else is being kept secret?” Hina Shamsi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said in a tweet.

These military commissions have always been a travesty, as this incident clearly shows.

I am a Complete Whore, So Where is My Money

It appears that it is a not uncommon practice for brands to buy coverage on blogs.

Despite my solicitations for such filthy capitalist lucre on the front page of my blog, (right hand column toward the bottom) I have not received any offers:

Please, send me free stuff, and I will consider doing a review.

I am a complete whore, so assume that any review is the result of free stuff, and/or under the table payments.

I will do my level best to reveal such conflicts when I remember to.

I am feeling very neglected right now.

The Motives of Leakers Don’t Matter

What matters is what they leaked, and the context of that information.

Case in point, if one looks at the history perhaps the most prominent leaker of all time, Mark “Deep Throat” Felt, it becomes clear that he was motivated by a desire to succeed J. Edgar Hoover as the head of the FBI, not concerns about either the bureau or the rule of law:

The unarticulated presumption, which Sullivan, Litman and Rich are not alone in making, is that Felt—the FBI’s deputy director in June 1972, and subsequently the parking-garage interlocutor who steered Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to reportorial heights—was an honorable, selfless whistleblower intent on exposing the lawlessness rampant in the Nixon White House. Or, as David Remnick spelled out in the New Yorker—echoing Deep Throat’s original hagiographers, Woodward and Bernstein—Felt “believed that the Nixon administration was corrupt, paranoid and trying to infringe on the independence of the bureau.” The president and his top aides ran, Felt believed, “a criminal operation out of the White House, and [Felt] risked everything to guide” the Post reporters. A new biopic about Felt, starring Liam Neeson, is due out on September 29 and shows every sign of continuing to portray Deep Throat as a profound patriot and dedicated FBI lifer.

But here’s a heretical thought: Mark Felt was no hero. Getting rid of Nixon was the last thing Felt ever wanted to accomplish; indeed, he was banking on Nixon’s continuation in office to achieve his one and only aim: to reach the top of the FBI pyramid and become director. Felt didn’t help the media for the good of the country, he used the media in service of his own ambition. Things just didn’t turn out anywhere close to the way he wanted.

Only recently, more than four decades after Nixon’s downfall, has it become possible to reconstruct Felt’s design and what really happened during those fateful six months following the Watergate break-in. Doing so requires burrowing through a great number of primary documents and government records against the backdrop of a vast secondary literature. Nixon’s surreptitious tape recordings rank first in importance, but only mark the starting point. One has to also research documents from the FBI’s vast Watergate investigation; the bureau’s subsequent internal leak investigation; records from the Watergate Special Prosecution Force; documents from Felt’s own FBI file; and lastly, two unintentionally rewarding books: Mark Felt’s original 1979 memoir, The FBI Pyramid, and the slightly reworked version published in 2006, A G-Man’s Life. What you’ll end up with is the real story of Deep Throat. And you might be left with this realization: No matter what happens to Donald Trump—whether he’s absolved, exposed or neither—you should hope there’s nobody as duplicitous as Mark Felt manipulating our understanding of Russiagate.

Here’s the important thing:  Felt’s motives do not matter.

Except to the degree that they effect credibility,* a source’s motives never matter.

What matters was that he was telling the truth.

What matters is the accuracy of the information and the significance of the information.

If reporters refused to take information from disgruntled bureaucratic climbers, there would be very little real news out there.

*Yes, I acknowledge that the trustworthiness of the source is a big f%$#ing deal. But once you are past that not inconsiderable hump, motive does not matter.

Quote of the Day

Travis Kalanick is the Darth Vader of the new economy but he makes it harder to accept him for his success and genius every time he tries to act like Yoda.

Thornton McEnery

He goes on further to state that, “A company predicated on exploiting inefficiencies in modern transportation and fighting for market share by using part-time labor who receive no protections or insurance and pay for their own cars is decidedly not a company underpinned by justice,” which may qualify as the understatement of the year.

He still believes that Uber has a viable business plan, an assumption which this analysis (Part 1 of a 7 part series, read the whole thing) thoroughly debunks, but still it is an amusing take-down of the myth of benevolence that many people see in the car service.

Can We Please Impeach Him?

No, I am not talking about the Donald, rather I am talking about the mass of conflicts and poor jurisprudence that is Clarence Thomas:

Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife is organizing in support of President Donald Trump’s agenda. And it might make her husband’s life a little complicated.

In an email sent to a conservative listserv on Feb. 13 and obtained by The Daily Beast, Ginni Thomas asked an interesting question: How could she organize activists to push for Trump’s policies?

“What is the best way to, with minimal costs, set up a daily text capacity for a ground up-grassroots army for pro-Trump daily action items to push back against the left’s resistance efforts who are trying to make America ungovernable?” she wrote.

“I see the left has Daily Action @YourDailyAction and their Facebook likes are up to 61K,” she continued.

She then linked to a Washington Post story about the group.

“But there are some grassroots activists, who seem beyond the Republican party or the conservative movement, who wish to join the fray on social media for Trump and link shields and build momentum,” she wrote. “I met with a house load of them yesterday and we want a daily textable tool to start… Suggestions?”


Heidi Li Feldman, a professor at Georgetown Law School and expert on legal ethics, told The Daily Beast that the email could be grounds for lawyers challenging Trump’s travel ban to ask Justice Thomas to recuse himself from the case—a move that could doom the executive order.

“You can imagine circumstances easily where such conduct on the part of the spouse of a Supreme Court justice would lead to a non-frivolous disqualification motion,” she said.

This is not the first time that Clarence and Ginni Thomas have ignored the most basic rules of judicial ethics. (That case involved him refusing to recuse himself from a case involving a man who Ginni’s advocacy group, set up a Clarence Thomas museum, gifted him a $19K bible, allowed him free access to a business jet, etc.)

Just Read This

Masha Gessen writes about her family history and Donald Trump.

What makes this difference is that her great-grandfather was part of the Bialystok Ghetto Judenrat, and her Grandmother was a censor for Stalin:

I grew up knowing that my great-grandfather smuggled guns into the Bialystok ghetto for the resistance, which staged an armed uprising there in August 1943. As an adult, researching a book about collaboration and resistance, using my own family history, I found out why my great-grandfather had been in a position to arm the resistance: he was one of the leaders of the Bialystok Judenrat, the Nazi-appointed Jewish council that ran the ghetto.

My great-grandfather’s story was at once an extreme and a typical example. Criminal regimes function in part by forcing the maximum number of subjects to participate in the atrocities. For nearly a century, individuals in various parts of the Western world have struggled with the question of how, and how much, we should engage politically and personally with governments that we find morally abhorrent.

With the election of Donald Trump—a candidate who has lied his way into power, openly embraced racist discourse and violence, toyed with the idea of jailing his opponents, boasted of his assaults on women and his avoidance of taxes, and denigrated the traditional checks and balances of government—this question has confronted us as urgently as ever. After I wrote a piece about surviving autocracy, a great many people have asked me about one of my proposed rules: “Do not compromise.” What constitutes compromise? How is it possible to avoid it? Why should one not compromise?

When I wrote about my great-grandfather in a book many years ago, I included the requisite discussion of Hannah Arendt’s opinion on the Jewish councils in Nazi-occupied Europe, which she called “undoubtedly the darkest chapter of the whole dark story” of the Holocaust. In her book Eichmann in Jerusalem she asserted that without Jewish cooperation Germany would have been unable to round up and kill as many Jews as it did. I quoted equally from the most comprehensive response to Arendt’s characterization of the Judenrat, Isaiah Trunk’s book Judenrat, in which he described the councils as complicated and contradictory organizations, ones that had functioned differently in different ghettos, and ultimately concluded that they had no effect on the final scope of the catastrophe.

When my grandmother—the Judenrat leader’s daughter—read the manuscript of my book, she demanded that I remove the Arendt quote. I told her I could not: as controversial as Arendt’s view was (and continues to be, forty years after her death), one cannot write about the Jewish councils and not acknowledge it. But I sincerely assured my grandmother that I viewed her father, who had been a local politician before the war, as a deeply moral man who did only what he thought was best for his people. My grandmother refused to understand; she and I did not speak for a few years after the book came out.


That was the argument [that the job would get done by someone anyway] my other grandmother used when she became a censor for the Soviet government. Her argument was by no means a moral cop-out. On the contrary, it was a moral choice. She had been trained to be a history teacher, but she decided that she could not engage in the act of active lying, especially to children. She did not want to use her charm, beauty, and kindness to make children think the way Stalin wanted them to think. So she became a censor. Her job was to open personal mail that arrived from abroad, read it, and block it if it contained banned material, such as a copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls or Western natural-science magazines that an émigré kept sending his scientist brother.


In Bialystok ghetto, my great-grandfather’s responsibility in the Judenrat was to ensure that the ghetto was supplied with food. He ran the trucks that brought food in and took garbage out, he ran the canteen and supervised the community gardens that a group of young socialists planted. He also discouraged the young socialists from trying to organize a resistance movement: it would be of no use and would only jeopardize the ghetto’s inhabitants. It took him almost two years to change his mind about the resistance efforts, as he slowly lost hope that the Judenrat, by generally following the rules and keeping the ghetto inhabitants in line, would be able to save at least some of them.

As in other ghettos, the Judenrat was ultimately given the task of compiling the lists of Jews to be “liquidated.” The Bialystok Judenrat accepted the job, and there is every indication that my great-grandfather took part in the process. The arguments in defense of producing the list, in Bialystok and elsewhere, were pragmatic: the killing was going to occur anyway; by cooperating, the Judenrat could try to reduce the number of people the Nazis were planning to kill (in Bialystok, this worked, though in the end the ghetto, like all other ghettos, was “liquidated”); by compiling the lists, the Judenrat could prevent random killing, instead choosing to sacrifice those who were already near death from disease or starvation. These were strong arguments. There is always a strong argument.


We cannot know what political strategy, if any, can be effective in containing, rather than abetting, the threat that a Trump administration now poses to some of our most fundamental democratic principles. But we can know what is right. What separates Americans in 2016 from Europeans in the 1940s and 1950s is a little bit of historical time but a whole lot of historical knowledge. We know what my great-grandfather did not know: that the people who wanted to keep the people fed ended up compiling lists of their neighbors to be killed. That they had a rationale for doing so. And also, that one of the greatest thinkers of their age judged their actions as harshly as they could be judged.

Armed with that knowledge, or burdened with that legacy, we have a slight chance of making better choices. As Trump torpedoes into the presidency, we need to shift from realist to moral reasoning. That would mean, at minimum, thinking about the right thing to do, now and in the imaginable future. It is also a good idea to have a trusted friend capable of reminding you when you are about to lose your sense of right and wrong.

She is right, whether there are realistic ways to work with Trump, they need to be viewed through a moral lens, and not whether they provide a temporary or minor respite.

Now is not the time to talk about the need to come together, it is the time to talk about right and wrong.

Why Trump, and Not an Anti Press Vendetta or Being a Literal Vampire?

As a result of his vociferous support of Donald Trump, people are refusing to do deals with organizations that Peter Theil is associated with.

I find this odd, since Thiel has engaged on a nearly decade long secret vendetta against Gawker, and that he is aggressively working on plans to harvest the blood of young people to extend his own life. (That is literally vampirism)

The vendetta, and the blood lust are OK, but the Donald is a bit too far for Silicon Valley.

They have a very weird set of priorities in the immediate vicinity of Palo Alto:

The divisions over Peter Thiel and his support for Donald Trump are deepening in Silicon Valley.

Dismay over the billionaire venture capitalist’s stance on the Republican candidate has been showing up all across the technology landscape — from a startup founder saying he regrets taking a Trump backer’s money to a prominent diversity group refusing to work with any company associated with Thiel. In one recent case, it also throttled the flow of cash into a fledgling VC fund.

Arlan Hamilton, managing partner at Backstage Capital, said she rejected a potential investor because the person refused to disavow and sever ties with Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies Inc. She declined to name the investor, saying the person offered to put $500,000 in her Los Angeles-based technology seed fund.

Thiel has been “Morally Problematic” since his days at Stanford, when he got his start as a venture capitalist by gay bashing and outing fellow students and faculty.

The fact that he is finally getting shunned, after a lifetime of being a truly awful human being, (He’s also belittled rape victims in the past) mitigates against to the conceit in Silicon Valley that they should be viewed as moral avatars.