Yet Soon We Will Be Missing Ann Curry On The Today Show

Pretty, perky, biased and incompetent—yup, perfect for NBC.

Fresh from highlighting the lack of professionalism exhibited by Ann Curry as she was booted off the Today Show, I was jostled by another blog’s link to this one reminding me that I already had an ethics run-in with her replacement, the fresh-faced, cute as a button, proudly biased and ignorant Savannah Guthrie, who continues the devolution of the female liberal mouthpiece co-anchor position on the show that began with Barbara Walters.

The hard conservative site Freedom Report alerted me that I had blown the whistle on Guthrie’s incompetence in an April, 2011 post, after she tried to “gotcha!” Donald Trump and exposed her own Constitutional illiteracy instead. I had forgotten the episode, perhaps because it forced me to defend The Donald, which was and is about as appealing to me as snorting skunks. You can read the post here. A quick summary: Guthrie attempted to argue against Trump’s pro-life views by asking the Constitutional equivalent of the automobile-tuning query asked of expert witness/hairdresser Marisa Tomei in the climax of  the classic,”My Cousin Vinnie,” to which she replies, “It’s a bullshit question!”: Continue reading

The Homophobic Counselor, the Ethical Bigot, and the One-Legged Tarzan

Jennifer Keeton was expelled from the graduate program at Georgia’s Augusta State University in 2010 because her Christian religious convictions dictate that homosexuality is sinful and voluntary conduct, rather than an innate sexual orientation. A court upheld the school’s right to expel her on the basis that her beliefs made it impossible for her to meet their counseling standards, which the court ruled were neutral, and did not discriminate against her speech or religion.

The case may raise legitimate constitutional issues. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a conservative legal group, and Constitutional Law professor Eugene Volokh (of Volokh Conspiracy fame) are assisting Keaton as she attempts to get reinstated. Ethically, however, I don’t think she has a leg to stand on.
In fact, I think her position resembles the old Dudley Moore-Peter Cook comedy routine where Moore is one-legged amputee who cries foul at being “discriminated against” by a film director who refuses to consider him for the role of Tarzan:

Similarly, how can a counselor claim to be able to provide full and competent services when her attitude toward gays dictates an unsympathetic, hostile and scientifically discredited point of view? Continue reading

Carolyn Hax Tackles An Ethics Classic

What do you do when you find out that the husband or boyfriend of one of your friends is cheating on her with another one of your friends?

This perennial advice column ethics teaser has been botched in more columns than I can count, so it was a pleasure to read the response to the dilemma by Carolyn Hax, the syndicated relationship advice columnist whose ethical instincts are invariably superb. Here was the substance of her answer:

“…to the husband or husband-poacher (whoever’s the closer friend), say something akin to: “I’ve heard this is happening, which means others have, too. That’s Issue 1. Issue 2: I want no part of this — I don’t even want to know what I already know. Issue 3: If Wife asks me something, I won’t lie. As someone who stands to lose friends in this mess, I hope you’ll clean it up.” Then butt out, knowing that if someone forces your hand, your next move has been declared in advance — and if your friend finds out that you knew, you can say: “I’m sorry. I did what I felt I could.” Continue reading

An Ethics Alarms Milestone

At 5: 14, EST, Ethics Alarms passed one million in total views since it was launched in late October of 2009.

I know that there are plenty of blogs that top that total in a week or less, but never mind: this blog is about ethics, which means, unfortunately, that it isn’t likely to attract a whopping readership…just a smart, caring and thoughtful one.

Thanks, everybody.

Ethics Quote of the Month: Chief Justice John Roberts

“We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions…Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”

—-Chief Justice John Roberts, in the introduction to his majority opinion in the case of National Federation of Independent Business et al. v. Sebelius, which upheld the Affordable Care Act on the grounds that the so-called “individual mandate” was a tax, not  government-mandated commercial conduct.

The Chief Justice’s statement is what is called dicta, commentary in a Supreme Court opinion that is neither binding on future courts nor a substantive part of the decision. Dicta, however, often has great influence in shaping future cultural consensus, and we can only hope that the Chief Justice’s wise and ethical words stick.

He is talking about process and accountability, and what is necessary for our democratic republic to work, and, frankly, survive. Reading letters to the editor and web site comments about yesterday’s decision, I find the overwhelming civic ignorance and “the ends justify the means” obsession of the vast majority of the writers more than depressing. The Supreme Court decision did not “vindicate” the Democrats and President Obama—only positive outcomes from the law they rammed through the system using every obfuscation and trick in the book could begin to do that, and even then it might be impossible, at least from an ethical standpoint. The Supreme Court’s decision raised the serious question of whether the law was passed under false pretenses, a tax disguised as something else so as not to call attention to its violation of the President’s promise not to raise taxes on the middle class. Once the Affordable Care Act began traveling through the courts, the Administration began suddenly calling the individual mandate a tax—a term that was not used in the 2500 page law itself—because it recognized that its Commerce Clause rationale for the individual mandate was shaky. Some courts found the bait-and-switch cynical and offensive, and refused to consider it. The bait-and-switch was offensive, or should be to citizens who believe that the public should know the truth about the laws Congress passes, but Roberts properly held that it isn’t up to the Supreme Court to protect the public from the curs, liars and knaves they regularly elect to high office because “character doesn’t matter.” In a democracy, this is the public’s job. We are accountable. The Supreme Court doesn’t exist to protect us from our own laziness, lack of principles and stupidity. It exists to make sure that if our elected officials pass lousy, ill-considered and un-read laws that roll the nation ever closer to a national diet of moussaka, at least they did it within the bounds of the Constitution. If We the People decide to tolerate cynical, dishonest, incompetent leaders and representatives and the nation ends up like Stockton, California, well, at least one branch of government did its job to make democracy work.

In the end, it will have been the people who failed to uphold their part of the experiment. That’s what the Chief Justice was saying.

I wonder if anyone is paying attention.


Source: National Federation of Independent Business et al. v. Sebelius

Graphic: Linda Life

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

The Ethics Of Getting Fired: Ann Curry’s Today Show Exit

“We love you, Ann!” “I hate you, Matt!”

I was going to make Ann Curry’s method of leaving the Today Show’s anchor chair an Ethics Quiz, but decided that there weren’t sufficiently compelling arguments for more than one conclusion: her farewell drama yesterday morning was unprofessional, and in her job and her industry, but also many others, professional obligations trump candor.

I will admit up front that I never liked Ann Curry, either as a news reader nor as Matt Lauer’s partner after Meridith Viera left the show. Her open-faced demeanor, which made it crystal clear with every story and interview where her own sympathies lay, was the antithesis of objective and fair reporting, regardless of the steadily increasing number of similar practitioners, like CNN’s eye-rolling, squinting, smirking morning tag-team of Soledad O’Brien and Carol Costello. Thus it was no surprise that having received the gift of being able to have an on-air good-bye and the trust of her NBC bosses to handle her farewell properly, Curry chose instead to (or perhaps it is fairer to say “couldn’t control herself sufficiently not to..”) make it obvious to viewers that she had been dumped, that she was hurt and angry about it, and that she blamed Matt Lauer, her co-host, who was widely reported to have made her ouster a condition of his new contract. The emotions Curry was wearing on her sleeve were especially glaring while Lauer was making the traditional speech about how much Curry would be missed and ended by trying to give her a show-biz hug and kiss. Curry refused to look at Lauer while he was talking, and ducked his kiss, looking for all the world like she was hugging Jerry Sandusky or someone similarly appealing. As we say in the theater in such situations: “Nice cover, Ann!” Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: DNC Executive Director Patrick Gaspard

And here, as our champion High Placed Political Official Doing His Part To Promote Cooperation and Civility in Public Discourse and Government, is Democratic National Committee executive director, Patrick Gaspard, sending the following tweet to the world following the Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare:

Stay classy, DNC!


Pointer: Twitchy

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

The Congressional Black Caucus Walkout: Racial Bias, and Nothing But

Of course, they would also be staging a walk-out if a white AG was being held in contempt.

The Congressional Black Caucus  plotted to walk out of Thursday’s contempt of Congress vote regarding Attorney General Eric Holder’s stonewalling regarding legitimate oversight of the deadly Fast and Furious fiasco, and did, taking most of the other Democrats along. In so doing, the CBC, as if there was any doubt, unequivocally demonstrated its virulent racial bias, which interferes with its ability to discharge its duties in a fair, honest and legitimate matter.

The CBC had circulated a letter explaining its supposed rationale, which oddly manages never to mention that Eric Holder is African American. Yet it is unimaginable that the Congressional Black Caucus would stage a walk-out if Holder was the white Attorney General appointed by a white President. This is politics, but it is also dishonesty and naked tribalism. It should not be, pardon the expression, whitewashed, or allowed to proceed without calling it what it is—racial bias in the halls of Congress, where none belongs.

Here is the offensive and disingenuous letter being circulated by the CBC—with some commentary by me in brackets: Continue reading

The Supreme Court Upholds The Individual Mandate and Obamacare: The Ethics Opinion

This morning the Supreme Court announced its decision upholding the key provision in the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare. It is apparently a huge and complex decision, and is now available in text form online here.

The political and legal analysis will be coming soon from others far more qualified than I [UPDATE: The legal dissections have begun, and you can’t do better than to start here] , and while I am deeply interested in them, that’s not my job. I won’t be able to read the opinions and the various concurring opinions and dissents, not to mention digest them, for quite a while, but some ethical verdicts are already evident from what I do know: Continue reading