Just Trying To Get The Rules Straight…[Updated]

(That’s me on the right…)

Pardon me for being obtuse, America, but I want to make sure I understand this.

Samantha Bee, the comic who called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt” yesterday on her TBS show “Full Frontal,” apologized today, saying on Twitter,

“I would like to sincerely apologize to Ivanka Trump and to my viewers for using an expletive on my show to describe her last night. It was inappropriate and inexcusable. I crossed a line, and I deeply regret it.”

No repudiation of her words were forthcoming from TBS, or Turner Broadcasting, which owns that network as well as CNN. [UPDATE: After this was posted, TBS stated that Bee’s words were “vile” and “inappropriate,” and that it was their “mistake” as well as Bee’s.]

Now, Roseanne apologized for her tweet connecting Obama-whisperer Valerie Jarrett to the Planet of the Apes, yet was not only fired, but had her show, and its entire cast and crew, tossed as well. ABC, which did the tossing, explained that her tweet, which was on Roseanne’s personal Twitter account, did not comport with the network’s values. Well, did anyone think for a nanosecond that Roseanne was speaking for ABC with her obviously spontaneous, not-very-well-thought-out slur? Of course not. In contrast, Bee’s line that was “inappropriate and inexcusable” was  scripted, vetted by the network, and prerecorded, as well as previewed by network personnel . So it is fair to assume that calling the President’s daughter a ‘feckless cunt” is consistent with the network’s values. Right? Am I missing something?

Now this is confusing to me. Roseanne’s line was obviously intended as a joke, and supposedly comics need to have wide tolerance when jokes misfire. Bee’s statement wasn’t even a joke; it was just a vulgar insult. Moreover, a pre-taped, scripted TV show is obviously a more consequential forum than a single tweet, and a personal tweet is viewed as less of a representation of a network than a show on that network. Correct?

I don’t get it. Continue reading

Dick Tuck, Ethics Corrupter

Dick Tuck, accepting an award from Democrats in 1973.

“Prankster-at-large,’ the New York Times pleasant obituary calls Dick Tuck, who died this week at the age of  94. He “bedeviled” Barry M. Goldwater, Richard M. Nixon and other Republicans, we are told. He was a “king gremlin of political shenanigans.” It all sounds so cute, so harmless.

This is inexcusable spin. Dick Tuck is the grandfather of such dirty campaign tricks as the infamous “Canuck” letter in 1972, and the “Pizzagate’ Hillary Clinton child trafficking rumor in 2016. He was an ethics corrupter, who “inspired” Richard Nixon to launch his own dirty tricks operation, a pioneer of political sabotage who helped make such unethical tactics as false flag operations and internet rumor-mongering the plague they are today. Nice job, Dick!

Writes the Times, admiringly… Continue reading

End Of May Morning Ethics Warm-Up: The Games People Play

Good Morning!

1. Too soon? On June 6,  “Active Shooter” will be released. The video game allows players to take part in a simulated school shooting scenario, assuming the role of either the shooter, a SWAT team member, or a student trying to survive. the simulation’s developer is Rival Games, and it be sold on the Steam online store. Naturally, the game is being condemned, and there are even calls to ban it.

I see nothing unethical about the game at all. Depending on how well it is constructed, I can even see some benefits of it. A simulation on-line makes more sense that silly active shooter drills in schools, which only increase student anxiety and create the illusion that such an event is more likely than it is.

Promotion for Active Shooter has a disclaimer stating: “Please do not take any of this seriously. This is only meant to be the simulation and nothing else. If you feel like hurting someone or people around you, please seek help from local psychiatrists or dial 911 (or applicable). Thank you.” This is a CYA message, of course. The company is considering removing the option of playing the shooter; I think this would be wise.

Yes, of course the game is offensive and upsetting to many, especially those whose family members and friends were involved in these tragedies. They definitely shouldn’t buy the game. But let’s take a poll:

2. Pantsgate. In what must be the longest running stupid legal ethics story ever, the District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility is recommending a 90-day suspension for  former judge Roy Pearson Jr., who sued his dry cleaners for $67 million for allegedly losing his pants in 2005. I wrote about this crazy story on the old Ethics Scoreboard, which is currently off line, but will be back soon, I swear.

Pearson first sought $1,150 as compensation for his lost Hickey-Freeman pants, but when the dry cleaners refused to pay, he escalated his litigation, finally reaching what the board called “the absurd” $67 million  claim. The board, like an earlier hearing committee, found that Pearson  violated ethics rules barring frivolous claims (Rule 3.1) and serious interference with the administration of justice (Rule 8.4). The board disagreed with the hearing committee’s lenient recommendation of a stayed suspension. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Roseanne Tweet Fiasco

1.  It is possible, after all, to revile Roseanne Barr’s gratuitously vicious “joke” about Valerie Jarrett, and to question the extended reaction to it. I feel especially emboldened, perhaps because you couldn’t have forced me to watch that show or anything associated with Barr had you been credibly threatening to blow up Fenway Park unless I tuned in. One of the ways the enemies of free discourse and thought further their agenda is by setting up these dilemmas, where to even suggest that a genuine miscreant’s punishment has exceeded reasonable bounds is to risk shunning and other serious cultural consequences—it’s the Cognitive Dissonance Scale again. “See, then we make them defend someone who would tweet something like that, and we’ve got em! Then they look like racists too! Bwahahahahaha!

2. No, I don’t think ABC and Disney were looking for an excuse to cancel “Roseanne” 2 because it was perceived as pro-Trump. The show was making money, and corporations place money above politics. However, there is no doubt that a conservative show has less margin for error in today’s biased media environment. It was up to Roseanne to understand that and moderate her conduct accordingly. This recent post is relevant.

3. I was not aware, until ethics alarms reader  Sue Denim pointed it out here, that Barr may have physiological reasons for her lifetime addiction to ugly humor: Continue reading

A Concise Ethics Rant On A Chance Encounter While Walking Rugby

It was cloudy and rumbling, and Jack Russell Terriers are notoriously difficult if they don’t get at least one good walk every day. So I decided to try to beat the rain and get Rugby out for a swing around the neighborhood. It kept getting darker, windier, and the distant thunder was getting louder. Rugby was in fine fettle, I must say, though he felt compelled to pee on every bush, rock, or tuft of grass. I have never seen a dog who seemed to enjoy a walk so much. I wish there was something, anything, I could get that excited about every day.

We were in the home stretch, about to loop around the church that faces our house across a parking lot and a row of trees. Then a young woman, maybe in her 20’s, dressed for the task, jogged toward us, pony tail swinging. She had that cold, stony, “I don’t want to acknowledge anyone” look on her face that so many younger people cultivate today. I looked at her and smiled anyway. That was how I was brought up, you see. We acknowledge each other. We signal good will, and that we are part of the same community. We are nice.

As she jogged past, I said, certainly loud enough that she could hear me, “Don’t get caught in the rain!” That is an incidental, spontaneous, friendly comment between strangers. I must engage in, and respond to, dozens of such comments a week, while shopping, teaching, or walking the dog.  They require a response: a nod, a smile, a brief answer like “I won’t!” What I got was a snub. No response at all.

I felt like I was being treated like an unfamous Morgan Freeman, as if my statement was, “Hey, honey, good form!” I wasn’t flirting with her, or harassing her. I was being a human being, and doing what human beings need to do to make life bearable.  And I felt insulted.

Yup, I’m old enough to be her father…grandfather, even. That, I was taught, makes showing some respect, like acknowledging that I spoke to her in a friendly, neighborly manner, even more mandatory as an ethical social response.

If this is where feminism, #MeT00, and  generational bias is leading young women today, they will poison the next iteration of our society, not cure it.

Meanwhile, I am pondering whether there is an ethical, effective follow-up response to the next jogger who treats me like a turd on the sidewalk.

The options I am thinking now clearly would not be  constructive.

Dinnertime Ethics Leftovers, 5/30/18: Whatthehellism, Greiten’s Resignation Gets Spun, And The Cubs Manager Demonstrates Rationalization #30 For The Class

(This post was all set to go up before noon. I just had the last item to finish..and then all hell broke loose here. I’m sorry. Now the meal is cold…)

1. Not whataboutism, but rather whatthehellism…It’s a trap, of course. A blatant racist tweet like Roseanne’s yesterday would get CEO fired, a Cabinet member fired, and I suspect, a tenured professor fired, though equally racist tweets have been survived by profs as long as they denigrated whites. Still, the media’s double standard is palpable, as well as undeniable. Thus I was amused when a sudden surge in visits to a post from last September led me to rediscover this, authored then by Keith Olbermann:

and these…

Can we assume, therefore, since it was recently announced that ESPN, like ABC owned by Disney, is bringing back Olbermann for a prominent role in its sports broadcasting, that the company does want to be associated with his kind of vulgarity, incivility and hate? Continue reading

Gee, Trump-Haters, Is Fox News Trustworthy And Reliable NOW?

 Two Fox News stalwarts, chief Fox News anchor Shep Smith and “Judge” Anthony Napolitano (he’s not a judge, not any more) took issue on the air with criticism of “Spygate.” Let’s take the two individually…

Shep said, in part,

“President Trump has also claimed that Feds spied on his campaign with an informant,” Smith concluded. “The President calls it ‘spygate.’ Fox News can confirm it is not. Fox News knows of no evidence to support the president’s claim; Lawmakers from both parties say using an informant to investigate suspected ties to Russia is not spying, it’s part of the normal investigative process.”

Ugh.

  • Smith is not the least bit sympathetic to Trump, though Fox-bashers like to ignore this when they accuse Fox of being blind shills for the President. He tries to be objective, but slants left like most of his colleagues at other networks. So this is not, as it is being represented to be, a stunning rejection by a media ally of President Trump.
  • This popular semantical defense of the FBI using a mole in the Trump campaign remains desperate and silly. The FBI recruited an individual to seek out contacts within the Trump campaign and pass along information learned thereby to the agency. An undercover informant is a spy—it’s just that spy is a pejorative term.
  • “Lawmakers from both parties say using an informant to investigate suspected ties to Russia is not spying, it’s part of the normal investigative process” is a horrible, unethical sentence. First, if some lawmakers from both parties say Trump is a rutabaga, it doesn’t make him a rutabaga—this is naked appeal to authority. Bad Shep.

Second, who is so certain “ties to Russia” is all the “informant” was investigating? Why are they so certain? Because the FBI says so? Continue reading

Ethics Dunce (But We Knew That): Roseanne Barr [UPDATED…Again!]

Ugh. The new, surprise hit reboot of “Roseanne” self-destructed when it’s star, not for the first time, couldn’t restrain herself from being objectively repulsive and tweeted a racist insult to former President Obama’s black chief-of-staff, Valerie Jarrett. This morning the comic—at least some people think she is comical—tweeted that Jarrett was the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood and “Planet of the Apes.” as in “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” Barr apologized, but ABC was quick: it cancelled the series, saying, “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.”

Rosanne didn’t just step on a landmine, she stepped on several, then jumped up and down on them to make sure they blew her to bits, or so it seemed. Can’t attack anyone associated with Obama. Can’t use “Muslim” as an insult. Can’t make monkey jokes about black people. Any of these can be career-killers, and Roseanne did all of them at once, in only ten words and two initials. Wow. It takes a Master Ethics Dunce to do that. I am in awe.

Does she deserve to lose her show over this? Of course she does. It was, by any standard, a racist, hateful tweet. No company, especially an entertainment company, especially a Disney company, can afford to be associated with that kind of  reckless, high-visibility employee,  She was on thin ice anyway, being a self-declared Trump supporter. She should have known that she had to be even more careful than other uncivil comics and celebrities, like Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert and Alec Baldwin, all of whom have  said or tweeted ugly and hateful things about the right kind of people—you know, whites, Republicans, the President, and his family.

One of Roseanne’s writers, stand-up comic Wanda Sykes, quit the show before it could be cancelled in protest over Roseanne’s “joke”, though Sykes herself was booed off the stage in 2016 after going on a hateful, expletive-filled rant against President-Elect Donald Trump, then flipping off the crowd as she exited to boos. Now that’s the kind of comic ABC is proud to employ! Continue reading

Lunchtime Ethics Warm-Up, 5/29/18: Lies, Boycotts, Boos, and More Lies

1. Update: We discussed earlier the accusations by former staff that Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) had used his Congressional staff to perform personal tasks for him, his wife, and his dog. Now he has announced that he will not seek re-election, because he needs to deal with his alcoholism. As we know from many previous example, alcoholism is the go-to excuse for all manner of misconduct. In truth, it doesn’t make anyone misuse public funds, it doesn’t make anyone turn their staff into domestic help. This is a face-saving lie in most cases. In any case, good riddance.

2. Never mind football, what matters most is division and protest. DNC co-chair Keith Ellison actually tweeted this:

Yes, he is advocating a boycott of the NFL because the owners have decided that their ticket-purchasers should not be required to watch protests on the field before kick-off. Ellison and the other fans of making every aspect of American life a source of political discord believe that the protests, incoherent as they are, are more important than the games. He would inflict financial losses on a business for a completely reasonable policy, because it doesn’t further a progressive agenda. And, of course, those most harmed by a successful boycott would be the players. Continue reading

Spygate Spin: “How Can Honest People Still Deny That The News Media Is Spreading Anti-Trump Propaganda As Fact?” Exhibit A

My New York Times headline this morning: “Trump Embraces Shadowy Plots, Eroding Trust..Theories from Fringes…Agencies Undermined By Claims of ‘Spygate” and ‘Deep State’

This is no better than, and no less than, actively perpetuating a Big Lie.

I won’t get into the murk of the Deep State for now. However, denying “Spygate” and claiming it is a “fringe” conspiracy theory is flagrantly dishonest, and a low even by the Times’ recent standards. The entire “Obama’s administration didn’t spy on the Trump campaign, like so many examples of political spin and denial, rests on Clintonesque rhetorical deceit” “It depends on what the meaning of spy is.” Really, New York Times? Really, CNN? Really, my furious, Trump-hating, echo-chamber bolstered Facebook friends? Really? That’s your argument?

Pathetic.

Two definitely non-fringe, non-conspiracy theorist, non-Trump flacks clarified this issue for anyone who doesn’t want to be brainwashed by the Times and its chums, who are now especially desperate because they are covering for Obama, whose administration—scandal free, you know!—looks sleezier and more incompetent in the rear view mirror by the day.

Here is Michael Barone, a Republican pundit but no Trump fan:

F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims,” read the headline on a lengthy New York Times story May 18. “The Justice Department used a suspected informant to probe whether Trump campaign aides were making improper contacts with Russia in 2016,” read a story in the May 21 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

So much for those who dismissed charges of Obama administration infiltration of Donald Trump’s campaign as paranoid fantasy. Defenders of the Obama intelligence and law enforcement apparat have had to fall back on the argument that this infiltration was for Trump’s — and the nation’s — own good.

It’s an argument that evidently didn’t occur to Richard Nixon’s defenders when it became clear that Nixon operatives had burglarized and wiretapped the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in June 1972.

Until 2016, just about everyone agreed that it was a bad thing for government intelligence or law enforcement agencies to spy — er, use informants — on a political campaign, especially one of the opposition party. Liberals were especially suspicious of the FBI and the CIA. Nowadays they say that anyone questioning their good faith is unpatriotic.

The crime at the root of Watergate was an attempt at surveillance of the DNC after George McGovern seemed about to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, just as the government misconduct in Russiagate was an attempt at surveillance of the Republican Party’s national campaign after Trump clinched its nomination.

…Both the Watergate wiretap and the Obama appointees’ investigator/spy infiltration were initially inspired amid fears that the upstart opposition might win. The Watergate burglary was planned when Nixon’s re-election was far from assured. A May 1972 Harris Poll showed him with only 48 percent against McGovern. It was only after the Haiphong harbor bombing and Moscow summit in early June made clear that US involvement in Vietnam was ending that Nixon’s numbers surged — just before the June 17 burglary.

In March 2016, it was conventional wisdom that Trump couldn’t be elected president. But his surprising and persistent strength in the Republican primaries left some doubtful, including the FBI lovebirds who instant messaged their desire for an “insurance policy” against that dreaded eventuality.

Their unease may have owed something to their knowledge of how the Obama Justice Department and FBI had fixed the Hillary Clinton emails case. Clinton wasn’t indicted but was left with a disastrously low 32 percent of voters confident of her honesty and trustworthiness.

There are two obvious differences between Watergate and the Obama administration’s infiltration. The Watergate burglars were arrested in flagrante delicto, and their wiretaps never functioned. And neither the FBI nor the CIA fully cooperated with the post-election cover-up.

That’s quite a contrast with the Obama law enforcement and intelligence appointees’ promotion of Christopher Steele’s Clinton campaign-financed dodgy dossier and feeding the mainstream media’s insatiable hunger for Russia collusion stories.

Has an outgoing administration ever worked to delegitimize and dislodge its successor like this? We hear many complaints, some justified, about Donald Trump’s departure from standard political norms. But the greater and more dangerous departure from norms may be that of the Obama officials seeking to overturn the results of the 2016 election.

Come on…this is all made up! It didn’t happen! It’s a conspiracy theory from the fringes! The New York Times says so!

Here was prominent White House advisor David Plouffe’s tweet in June of 2016:

Nah, that’s a fake tweet, right? Nothing sinister like this was really being discussed in Obama’s scandal-free White House! It all a paranoid conspiracy theory!

Now here is Andrew McCarthy—a conservative, but apparently there are no liberal journalists with any integrity where Trump is involved–in his article, “The Obama Administration’s Hypocritical Pretext for Spying on the Trump Campaign.” McCarthy is hardly Alex Jones. He is a rigorous analyst who was previously assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. He led the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others ultimately convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He knows how to construct a damning case, and wrote in part:

As I argued in my weekend column, it is hard to imagine a more idle question than whether the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign. Of course it did. If you want to argue the point, imagine what the professors, pundits, and pols would have said had the Bush administration run an informant against three Obama 2008 campaign officials, including the campaign co-chairman; any hair-splitting about whether that technically constituted “spying” would be met by ostracism from polite society.

Verdict: true. Continue reading