Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues



Whither China?

Last week, after we discussed where Russia might be headed after the Prigozhin/Wagner Group mutiny, we said we might talk this coming Monday (17 July) about “Whither China?” I’d suggest narrowing that topic somewhat, to “Whither the China-US relationship?”

Some of the questions that we could discuss include the following:

After the Prigozhin/Wagner Group mutiny and the performance of the Russian military in Ukraine since last February, is China hedging its bet on its support for Russia? If so, to what extent?

The Biden Administration seems to be trying to take advantage of China’s apparent and tentative hedging on Russia (and other factors affecting China) to reduce mutual tensions. How is the Biden administration doing that? Is there more it should do in that regard, or is it already doing enough (or too much)?

How well is the US coordinating its China policy with our European and other allies? Are their interests in reducing tensions with China the same as ours? If not, how do they differ?

Will the US be able to successfully “contain” China, as it did fairly successfully with the USSR during the Cold War? What would a containment policy toward China look like today? Should we pursue such a policy? Is it likely to succeed? If we followed such a policy, would our allies follow suit? If not, why not?

Here are some links to recent articles and opinion pieces that seem relevant to this topic:

“Xi Jinping may be souring on his ‘best, most intimate friend'”

“Biden bets high-level diplomacy can cool fiery relations with China”

“EU’s van der Leyen calls for tougher policy on China ahead of Beijing visit”

“Can Europe forge a common China policy?”

“Why China has a huge pile of debt”

“‘Several things have shocked me’: an ex-insider on business in China”

“Why China’s young people are not getting married”

A brief description of the development and implementation of George F. Kennan’s containment policy toward the USSR, from the Office of the Historian of the US State Department

Should Congress adopt a Code of Ethics for the Supreme Court?

I just checked the Beyond Labels website and didn’t find a suggested topic posted for the next (or a subsequent) meeting. It’s the one I proposed in the comment I posted on 13 June: Should Congress enact legislation prescribing, or creating an independent commission to prescribe, a code of conduct binding on the US Supreme Court, analogous to the US Judicial Conference’s Code of Conduct for United States Judges (, initially adopted in 1973. The current version took effect in 2019.

The current Code of Conduct sets out some basic ethical considerations for judges in all federal courts and states that “[a]ll judges should [but are not obliged to] comply with this Code …”, with some specified exceptions for part-time and pro tem judges and a few others. The Code sets forth five basic ethical considerations (called Canons):

Canon 1: A Judge Should Uphold the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary
Canon 2: A Judge Should Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All Activities
Canon 3: A Judge Should Perform the Duties of the Office Fairly, Impartially and Diligently
Canon 4: A Judge May Engage in Extrajudicial Activities That are Consistent With the Obligations of Judicial Office
Canon 5: A Judge Should Refrain From Political Activity

The Code relies on self-regulation by judges; there is no enforcement mechanism. However, judges may request advisory (i.e., non-binding) opinions from the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Codes of Conduct regarding the applicability and meaning of its provisions.

One example of such an advisory opinion: No. 53: Political Involvement of a Judge’s Spouse. Perhaps Justice Thomas is familiar with that one. We’ll see what, if anything, he does about that issue if and when cases come before the Court involving the January 6 attack on the Capitol or Trump’s involvement in that attack or in attempts to subvert the 2020 Presidential election.

To me, one weakness of the Code of Judicial Conduct is its lack of transparency. The Committee on Codes of Conduct publishes some, but not all, of its advisory opinions, and the Code doesn’t require justices to make public when they’ve asked for an advisory opinion or when they’ve had to consider whether one of the Canons applies to them and, if so, how that judge resolved the question. Also, leaving ethical decisions to the affected judge violates the maxim “Nemo judex in causa sua [No one is judge in his own case]”, attributed to Edward Coke, the 17th-century English jurist who was one of the great common law legal scholars of all time.

Recently, reports have emerged of questionable ethical conduct by Justices Thomas and Alito; they are probably not alone among the current Justices. The justices of the Supreme Court are not subject to the Judicial Conference’s Code of Conduct, or to any other code of conduct or ethics.

Should that change? If so, how?  

Would adoption by Congress and the President of a code of ethics for the Supreme Court violate the Constitutional separation of powers? If so, how?

Is there a way to enforce a judicial code of ethics for the Federal Courts? If so, how?

Here are links to some websites and recent articles related to this topic:

Summary of the Department of Justice Ethical Standards for Executive Branch Employees (1993), adopted as a Federal Regulation and applicable to “… all employees of the executive branch ….”

President Biden’s 20 January 2021 Executive Order on enforcement of executive branch ethics standards (

Code of Official Conduct of the House of Representatives, adopted by the House Ethics Committee (, which is known for not enforcing the Code of Ethics.

22 February 2023 American Bar Association statement supporting adoption of a binding Supreme Court code of ethics (

17 April 2023 article in Politico ( discussing Supreme Court Justices’ questionable ethical decisions, current proposals to adopt a Supreme Court code of conduct and how it might be enforced, and related constitutional issues.

20 June 2023 article in Pro Publica (  about Justice Alito’s non-disclosure of his 2008 fishing trip to Alaska paid for by Paul Singer, a hedge fund manager and significant donor to Republican candidates and causes, who later had cases before the Supreme Court, and Justice Alito’s Wall Street Journal Op-ed defending his decision (

26 May 2023 New York Times editorial ( on the need for a Supreme Court code of ethics

Monday, 12 June – The Republican Primary Field

Last week, we decided to talk on Monday, 12 June about Ron DeSantis’s prospects to become the Republican Party’s nominee for President in the 2024 election. Given all the other Republicans who have already announced their candidacies, I suggest we broaden the topic to discuss the prospects of the people currently in the Republican field. This is an evolving situation, so the field may have changed by next Monday.

As of now (8 June, 4:25 pm), the following Republicans (in no particular order) have formally declared they’re running for the nomination:

He Who Shall Not Be Named

Mike Pence

Ron DeSantis

Asa Hutchison

Nikki Haley

Ryan Binkley

Doug Burgum

Chris Christie

Larry Elder

Perry Johnson

Vivek Ramaswamy

Tim Scott

In addition, Mike Rogers might decide to run (i.e., he hasn’t publicly ruled it out) and the following are considered to be possible but unlikely candidates who also haven’t yet publicly ruled out a run:

Greg Abbot

Kristi Noem

Marco Rubio

Glenn Youngkin

Finally, the following Republicans have ruled out a run in 2024:

Tom Cotton

Larry Hogan

Mike Pompeo

Rick Scott

Chris Sununu

For a brief rundown of the current candidates, see

If the 2016 election cycle is any guide, most of these candidates will probably drop out by Super Tuesday (Tuesday, 5 March 2024). See the 2024 primary calendar at

We might discuss the following questions next Monday, among others:

To the extent any of these candidates have actual policy positions, are there any material differences among them?

Which of the 12 currently declared candidates is likely to remain in the race after Super Tuesday?

Which of the 12 currently declared candidates has the least chance of getting the nomination? Assuming they understand that, why do you think they’re running?

Which of the currently declared candidates (other than He Who Shall Not Be Named) has, as of now, the best (or any) chance of winning the nomination?

What effect, if any, would one or more additional felony indictments brought between now and the Republican nominating convention (Milwaukee, 15-18 July 2024) have on the chances of He Who Shall Not Be Named being the nominee, assuming he gets the most votes during the primary season? Which potential felony indictment would be most likely to damage his chances, if you think any of them might?

If He Who Shall Not Be Named fails, for any reason, to become the Republican nominee, what are the chances he will run as an independent or third-party candidate?

In case I’m not able to attend next Monday’s meeting in person I’ll attend via Zoom, but someone who attends in person will need to use the computer in the Howard Room to start the meeting and make sure that the Owl speaker/microphone/camera is working. If necessary, Rich Boulet or someone from the Library’s circulation desk can help with that.

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