Tag Archives: honesty

“The Cynic”: Mitch McConnell And Political Dysfunction

Let's give credit where credit is due...

Let’s give credit where credit is due…

As we survey the irresponsible, unnecessary but apparently intentional explosion of the political process wreaked by the President’s unilateral action on illegal immigration (not “immigration,” and mark any news organization that uses this deceitful phrase as henceforward untrustworthy), it would be wrong to omit the responsibility of Mitch McConnell and his ilk–any it is a bipartisan ilk— for getting the nation to this dangerous place.

The Republican Senate leader, now Majority Leader, is the epitome of the cynical, power-hungry politician who now dominates our governmental processes, and make them all inefficient, corrupt, and undependable. As chronicled in the e-book soon to be published in hardback, “The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell,” in his more than three decades in public service McConnell has perfected the craft of the permanent campaign, careful calibrating positions and policy measures not so much to accomplish any goal in the interests of the public and the nation, but to hold power in the next election. This is the corruption of American democracy, and reporter Alec MacGillis makes a strong case that McConnell has been one of the primary forces making sure the political process only works for politicians. It is all about the game to McConnell, and as McGillis shows, he is as deft at playing it as anybody. MacGillis writes,
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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Ethics Alarms Salutes Ron Fournier, A Real Journalist And An Honest Man

RON-FOURNIER

National Journal senior political columnist Ron Fournier is a former Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press. He tends to get slammed from all sides of the political spectrum, because he is a liberal journalist with integrity and an open mind, capable of objectivity and willing to criticize those who would like to regard him, like the rest of the mainstream media, as a reliable bulwark against accountability.

Fournier’s recent column examining the serial Jonathan Gruber admissions regarding the mindset behind the effort to ram the Affordable Care Act down America’s throat without even warning us to hold our noses is a spark of hope for those of us who despair of U.S. journalists ever showing the character to practice journalism. Titled, appropriately, “A Foundation of Lies,” his column bolsters several ethics assessments made on Ethics Alarms. I was especially heartened to read this sentiment regarding media spin, a topic most recently discussed on the blog here:

“…a Washington Post story headlined, “Who Is Jonathon Gruber?”was an important and workmanlike report on the Obamacare adviser who bragged about the political advantages of deceiving voters, whom Gruber called stupid. ‘Those comments have struck a nerve on the right,” wrote Jose A. DelReal (emphasis added), “with some of the law’s critics pointing to Gruber’s comments as evidence that the administration intentionally deceived the American public on the costs of the programs.’

My first reaction was, ‘No! No! Not just on the right!’ I strongly support bipartisan efforts to expand the availability of health coverage to the working poor, and bending the cost curve that threatens federal budgets for years to come. While I think President Obama and congressional Democrats helped contribute to the 2009 standoff over what became the Affordable Care Act, I’ve openly rooted for Obamacare’s success. I’ve denounced the knee-jerk opposition from the GOP, a party that once embraced key elements of Obamacare. My ideology is amorphous; I am not “on the right.”All of that, and yet: Gruber’s remarks struck a nerve with me.”

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Wisconsin State Journal

“Critics accused her of copying campaign materials after parts of her jobs plan and other proposals included segments that were identical to those other Democratic candidates.”

—-Wisconsin State Journal reporter Mary Spicuzza, in a story for the paper about how  Democratic Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke felts she was abused and “dragged through the mud” while running, unsuccessfully, against Gov. Scott Walker, arguably the most savaged state politician in any state.

finger-pointingAs I wrote about here, Burke DID copy campaign materials. The “critics accused” deceit is increasingly common in today’s journalism, as in “conservatives accused Democrats of using racially divisive tactics in Congressional races.” It’s despicable, and I salute Ann Althouse, a Wisconsin resident, for flagging this unintentionally hilarious example.

Spicuzza wrote “Critics accused” as if the accuracy of the accusation was still a matter of dispute, then stated in the same sentence that “parts of her jobs plans and other proposals” were identical to those of previous candidates. It’s not an accusation then, is it? It’s a fact that her opponents accurately and correctly pointed out, and as I pointed out, one that should have bothered her supporters as much it did “critics.”

This is how partisan and biased journalists warp public perceptions. Burke is claiming to have been “dragged though the mud,” implying unfair treatment, by revelations of accurate and damning facts, and the journalist is supporting that narrative by misleading reporting.

This particular device has been bothering me for a long time. Is it trivial? Sure, each individual example is trivial. Cumulatively, all the examples result in significantly warped and distorted public perceptions. I had to mention it at least once, and how sick to death I am of journalists who can’t just give us facts fairly without pushing their own candidates and agendas.

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Filed under Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

The GOP’s Favorite Unethical Tactic: Deceptive Mailers

McConnell mailerIt’s not sufficient, apparently, that Senator Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky) Democratic opponent Allison Grimes has thoroughly disgraced herself (See here and here, and that’s not all, but I didn’t want to pick on her with so many other unethical candidates running under the banner of either political party) and probably squandered any chance she had of unseating the GOP Minority Leader. So  the Republican campaign geniuses decided to attack this not-ready-for-prime-time politician using a tactic out of former Republican Chairman Michael Steele’s playbook. That means unethical, for those of you who didn’t follow Steele’s slimy reign.

In 2010, Steele approved the GOP sending out mailers disguised as official U.S. Census documents twice, the second time after the House of Representatives had rebuked the despicable tactic and voted unanimously to make them illegal. Since then, the GOP has hectored those citizens foolish enough to contribute to a Republican candidate with mailings deceptively designed as renewal notices, as if something would expire if you didn’t send in another check. This is a sleazy method of inducing someone to open junk mail, and it shows how thoroughly mass mailing is dependent on influencing the dim, timid and too forgiving that such dishonestly packaged appeals work. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Marketing and Advertising

“The Firm” Ethics: Mitch Should Have Known What He Was Getting Into

I was just watching “The Firm” again after many years—my old friend and the terrific actor, the late Bart Whiteman, played “Dutch”—to get the ick of “Cabin Fever 3″ out of my head. (It was part of last night’s Halloween triple feature at my house.)

Pay attention, Tom...

Pay attention, Tom…

In an early scene in the film, Harvard Law student Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) is being courted by big law firms offering perks and cash. Then a small Memphis firm he never heard of —later, he learns that it is run by the Mob— blows him away with an offer he can’t refuse. The firms partners tell him that they wanted him so much, they bribed the clerk at Harvard’s placement office to learn what salaries the other firms had offered Mitch, then matched it plus 20% more. Tom is impressed, and flattered, and greedy, and takes the offer, even though the firm had openly revealed itself as unethical and proud of it.

He should have seen this as signature significance of a dangerously unethical culture in a profession with high ethical obligations, and walked out the door. A young lawyer with well-maintained ethics alarms would have. Who knows? Maybe this was a test the corrupt firm used to weed out ethical associates.

I always thought Mitch was just unlucky, but in the film, at least, he ended up in a bad firm because an ethics alarm wasn’t working.

 

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Popular Culture, Professions, Workplace

Misleading Legal Website Headline Of The Millenium: “Above The Law”

Here is the headline:

Wait---didn't I just hear the President say that the economic recovery was going just great? Someone tell Danielle, quick!

Wait—didn’t I just hear the President say that the economic recovery was going just great? Someone tell Danielle, quick!

“Graduate Of Elite Law School Forced To Live Off Welfare Due To Terrible State Of Job Market”

The law school is my alma mater, Georgetown Law Center; the student is a 2010 grad who subsequently passed the bar, Danielle Owens. The author of the overwrought article in Above the Law is Staci Zaretsky. Her tone made my mind flash back to “Queen for a Day.”

I don’t particularly want to poke the Lawscam hornet’s nest again, because I don’t especially enjoy having giant photos of my head placed on-line accompanied by obscenities, and I know a lot of bitter out of work lawyers with shaky interpersonal skills, huge debts, a computer and time on their hands have nothing better to do but to blame me and anyone else they can find for their plight (and yes, if I see a couple of them posting a photo like this on Facebook with the caption, “Hello, Ethics Alarms!” I am calling the police.). Nonetheless, I can’t let this pass without noting that the headline is dishonest, and Zaretsky’s commentary on Owens’ problems is exaggerated to the point of hysteria. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Education, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Workplace

If You Can’t See Both Sides Of The Ferguson Mess, Then You Are Too Biased To Be Anything But A Part Of The Problem

two sides

Unfortunately, the group that fits the description in the title appears to be “almost everyone.”

I. The Michael Brown Side.

  • Brown was young. He had his life ahead of him. It is tragic that he died.
  •  Whatever he did, it would not warrant a death sentence in the justice system.
  • He was shot dead, and he did not have a gun or a weapon on him.
  • He was black, shot by a white officer, in a town where African-Americans, for a variety of reasons, do not feel respected, believe they are often harassed, and feel subject to racial discrimination.
  • Brown was shot at multiple times. The average individual can see no reason why that would be necessary.
  • Eyewitnesses report that at the time of the fatal shooting, Brown posed no threat to the officer that would justify the use of deadly force.
  • Important, powerful, respected African-American officials and leaders trusted by the majority of black Americans have stated that that racism is rampant in U.S. society generally, and the justice system specifically.
  • Brown’s body was left lying in the street for hours, in what seemed to be a gesture of disrespect.

The items above do not include the many cynical, dishonesty, manipulative interpretations of the event and false or deceitful assertions that have been used by activists, journalists, advocates and politicians to distort public perception. Bill Maher, for example, flatly says that Brown was murdered. That is not a fact, and no one who didn’t witness the shooting is justified in stating that it is a fact. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society