Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/16/18: Those Wacky Conways, And The Anti-Trump News Media Goes To The Dogs

Good morning.

1. A conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theorists...Last night, a CBS procedural that I am finally sick of, “Criminal Minds,” appeared to be taking sides in the Trump vs. the FBI wars, with a side-swipe at Alex Jones, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The episode set up a conflict between the Good FBI agents who are the stars of the show, and the crazy, paranoid, anti-government  “Truthers” who see government law enforcement as sinister and manipulative. (There was special focus on the ridiculous Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, with one of the tough serial killer hunter breaking down in tears remembering the massacre.) The most vocal anti-FBI character in the episode, who sneered out her every line about the series heroes (bad direction, in my view), was revealed at the end as the “unsub,” the psychopathic killer.

For some reason this was the first time it occurred to me how much prime  time network TV serves as a PR service for the FBI, with the virtue, bravery and unquestioned rectitude of the agency and its employees being central to multiple dramas. The propaganda is escalating too: Dick Wolf of “Law and Order” fame is launching a new CBS series called, creatively, “FBI.” You would think, would you not, that this would be an odd time to produce such a series, with the reputation and credibility of J.Edgar’s baby at an all-time, and most deserved, low. However, Hollywood and the entertainment industry now sees its role differently than seeking mere ratings.

There is nothing wrong with TV writers and producers bring their political agendas into our living rooms, and there’s not a thing we can do about it anyway, other than change channels. Rod Serling used to get awfully preachy sometimes on “The Twilight Zone.” This was mighty ham-handed pro-Peter Strzok advocacy, though by CBS, or at least it seemed that way to me.

2. Marital Ethics. This is weird. Ethics Alarms has discussed the unethical conduct of Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, who has become a popular “resistance” and #NeverTrump figure by tweeting virulent criticism of the President, who employs his wife. Now Kellyanne has escalated the problem with an interview criticizing her husband, telling a reporter that his sniping ” is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows.”  Then, according to an AOL report, she asked that her comments be attributed to “a person familiar with their relationship.” The reporter, correctly, refused.

It is a breach of loyalty and respect for one spouse to criticize the other in the news media. It is cowardly and a breach of honesty to criticize one’s spouse and to try to remain unaccountable for it by pretending the critique came from someone else.

What a fun couple! What a strange couple. What an unethical couple…

3. Headed to the Stunning Lack of Accountability Hall of  Fame: Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., led the Pittsburgh diocese from 1988 to 2006.  The  recently released report of grand jury findings says that more than 300 Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania molested more than 1,000 children since the 1940s, and that senior church officials, including Wuerl, who is mentioned by name in the report,systematically covered up the abuse and helped to protect the priests. Wuerl, however, does not admit culpability, and in a jaw-droppingly detached interview with D.C.’s Fox 5, indicated that he has no intention of stepping down. “I think I did everything that I possibly could,” he said. “One of the things that we did was that we put into place was a review board so there would be a way of looking into the allegations that would take it beyond just myself and my office looking at it.”

Wow. He did everything he could, and yet children continued to be molested by priests under his supervision for almost 20 years. The usefulness of Wuerl is now to be Exhibit A regarding the Catholic Church’s arrogance, incompetence, stupidity and absence of trustworthiness. Of course he has to resign. Cardinal Law, who oversaw the Boston cover-up described in “Spotlight,” died recently: maybe the high-ranking post at the Vatican where he was transferred is still vacant.

4. Not only an enemy, but a stupid enemy. Today is the day that over 350 news organizations, angry over President Trump’s accusation that the mainstream news media is leading a coordinated partisan effort to undermine his Presidency, engages in a coordinated attack on President Trump with cookie cutter editorials, led by the Boston Globe.

Good thinking, guys.

Meanwhile, here is an example of what is now acceptable journalism. President Trump, see, called Omarosa a “dog,” see, and meant that negatively. Thus NBC’s Brian Williams began his MSNBC show by introducing the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker, and asked his guest, “Does this president really physically not like dogs?” Rucker responded,  “That’s right, Brian. He’s actually the first president in more than 100 years who has not had a dog as a pet in the White House.” Then Rucker speculated that Trump when he had a  dog in the house when he was married to first wife Ivana,  that dog didn’t like him.

I guess that’s one more crucial Presidential norm that President Trump has defied.

In truth, it is very likely that some, if not many, of those Presidential dogs were political props. The tip-off is whether a President owned a dog before moving into the White House, when a staffer could do most of the dog-care jobs. A recent example of that sequence: the previous President, Barack Obama. Obama also said in one of his autobiographies that he had eaten dog meat, a detail scrupulously unreported by the news media when he was running for President in 2008. Of course, that doesn’t mean that he didn’t like dogs…

One clue that this is the case is that many 19th Century Presidents did not have dogs in the White House, including Presidents Madison, J.Q. Adams, Jackson (Andy liked fighting cocks. Of course he did…), Van Buren, W.H. Harrison, Taylor, Fillmore, and Andrew Johnson. All of them kept animals of some kind, except James K. Polk, who like Trump, didn’t have any pets. He just did his job, and extremely well.

Let’s see if the Boston Globe’s next move is to coordinate an effort to lose President Trump’s support from dog lovers.

5. Raising the question of whether he’s really any smarter than his brother. In addition to that one, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo raised several other questions when he told an audience in Manhattan ,

“We’re not going to Make America Great Again. It was never that great. We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged.”

The questions:

  • What does “engaged” mean here? Employed? Interested? About to be married?
  • Has the Democratic Party and progressives become so alienated from their own nation that saying that America was never great is a majority opinion? (A lot of Cuomo’s audience booed, by the way.)
  • Is this going to be the Democratic campaign theme in 2020?
  • What percentage of the public is as offended by Cuomo’s statement as I am?



70 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/16/18: Those Wacky Conways, And The Anti-Trump News Media Goes To The Dogs

    • Or that legal ethics practice. Or the seminar company. No sir. The government did all that. And you should be thankful it did.

  1. #4 Wasn’t there a big stink when a bunch local news channels owned by some corporation, Sinclair media, I think, all released an anodyne statement about how there’s been a lot of talk of fake news, but you can trust us, because we do the hard work and make sure you’re informed properly. All usual suspects mused how the Trump media complex is trying to brainwash us, ha! But now it’s the brave journalists storming Normandy beach. I guess it’s fair game to call this coordinated op-ed fest a globalist conspiracy headed by the Soros cabal to take down America! Cue “It’s totally not like that!”.
    #5 Gov Cuomo is such a politico, that I guess he’s ready sell his father’s legacy. I would suggest he should have worded his statement differently, by saying we will only achieve Greatness once we reach Full Communism. This reminds of funny sign on buildings in the Soviet Union. The sign was from the 70’s-80’s, and it said that Full Communisim will be achieved by 2000. It’s funny because Kruschev promised it in 1980, but they had to move down a bit.

  2. #4 I recall hearing that Obama promised his girls a puppy after the election was over. I don’t not believe it was true, but the PR in that certainly wouldn’t have hurt his image.

  3. #3 The Catholic Church has been in a cover their ass mode for many years. They’re covering up for their good ol’ boy’s club when they should be cleaning house in a very, very public way. They constantly use the King Pass rationalization to save face and some of their members eat it up, but not all. I have a whole lot of friends that have left the Catholic church because they can no longer stand the pompously dictatorial and hypocritical attitudes of the Catholic church. In my opinion, the Catholic church as a whole is quite lost and it may be more than temporary.

    • Having been raised thoroughly in the Church in the ’50s and ’60s, by the time I was in high school or thereabouts, I’d concluded the Catholic priesthood and brotherhood was nothing more than a huge, gay cabal. There’s no way it’s ever going to clean house. There’s no one there to clean it up. The laity have no say in anything. One way to clean it up would be to allow married priests. But that will never happen because then you’d have heterosexual priests and, God forbid, women (i.e. wives) in the rectory! I mean, come on, lesbian nuns are okay to have around, but honest to God women? Perish (or is it parish) the thought! In any event, the Church has been run by gay guys for millennia. It’s not going to change any time soon. It’s more likely pederasty will be decriminalized before the Church will change.

      • Because married men never molest children? I’m not convinced the prohibition on marrying is the source of the problem.

        • Forget married men molesting children. We’re talking about adult men molesting altar boys. Sure, a few priests and brothers are heterosexual and get the run of the place because they know if the gay guys try to put a damper on their little scene, the straight guys will blow the lid off the gay guys’ scene. And aren’t “married” guys who molest young boys just married for convenience and anonymity? Eg. Leonard Bernstein?

          Sure, my Marist Brother JV basketball coach was having an affair with my best friend’s mother who was getting a divorce. So what. A few outliers are irrelevant.

          You know what priests and bishops did when they learned of a pedophile? They’d move him to another parish. And hush it up. So the pedophile could predate at will in a new, fresh territory stocked with new game. I’ve seen this stuff as a kid growing up and as an adult.

          • Here’s a good essay from a person who’s essentially my contemporary. sure, I guess some priests raped girls. I forgot about a college friend who said two of his sisters were raped by Father So and So in their parish in Chicago. The girls were told to keep their mouths shut.

            Nonetheless, I’m convinced the senior management, from Bishops on up to the Pope, are a gay cabal. I seriously doubt that if you’re straight you get promoted above monsignor. You’re just not part of the club.

            Here’s a good paragraph from Margaret Carlson (less the gratuitous Trump swipe compulsively thrown in): “Efforts to blot the stain on the church are fractured. Conservative Catholics pretend there are no pederasts in their midst, the way evangelicals ignore infidelity to protect the president. Some liberal Catholics prefer to downplay the problem rather than have it seem like they are attacking gay men. One of the cures put forward is to end celibacy but it’s a change that wouldn’t help if the church didn’t also embrace gay marriage. Many young men enter the seminary at an age so young they scarcely know their sexuality. When they find out, whatever it turns out to be, most see that young males are targets of opportunity. They channel their urges accordingly.”

            From personal experience, what heterosexual fourteen year old would enter the seminary and forego girls when he about to be able to drive a car and take girls out? The kids I knew who went into the minor seminary rather than go to high school were obviously gay even then.

      • Hello OB. You said: In any event, the Church has been run by gay guys for millennia.

        Do you base that assertion on supposition or is your understanding based in some source? And if there is a source can you name it?

        • Observation and personal experience over the last sixty years since I became capable of committing a sin (age seven, as you doubtless know). Does that count for anything?

            • I am uncertain what to make of it.

              I do think that the Church has entered into crisis, and I have read Pius X ‘Pascendi Dominici Gregis’ and his warning about Modernism (it requires a special description as it is different from the modernism we know).

              Apologists that I read — still practicing Catholics of a traditional variety — are tremendously disheartened by these horrid revelations and try to likn them with this ‘Modernism’. They interpret it in prophetic terms and as one element of an attack on the Church, connected with the general destruction of Christianity.

              From personal experience, what heterosexual fourteen year old would enter the seminary and forego girls when he about to be able to drive a car and take girls out? The kids I knew who went into the minor seminary rather than go to high school were obviously gay even then

              I have read, and listened to, churchmen who have described the sexual seductions within the Church as arising concurrently with the same practices in society. I have also heard that shunting a homosexual off to the priesthood was one manner of dealing with a homosexually-inclinded child.

              Did this happen all throughout Church history? That is, for 1000 years of European church history?

            • I hope you will not get mad at me for attempting to respond to your observation:

              From personal experience, what heterosexual fourteen year old would enter the seminary and forego girls when he about to be able to drive a car and take girls out? The kids I knew who went into the minor seminary rather than go to high school were obviously gay even then.”

              Allow me this bold approach and please understand that I am using a ‘theoretical’ you:

              ::: clears throat :::

              Since you do not believe in God, nor do you have a concept of a God that asks for service; nor could you define what ‘service’ God might require, nor do you any longer have a notion of what a priestly person does or should do, or what his service to the community is or should be, you could not imagine it as good, proper and beneficial for any given person, young or old, to enter into that service with a total commitment, which is to say (according to the established doctrines) a marriage-relationship. And yet people had done this, many hundreds and thousands and millions of people over the course of Christian history. They made astounding personal sacrifices and ‘banked on’ higher benefits. (Indeed, Pauline Christianity if founded, radically, on such a metaphysic).

              What you do not take into consideration, or perhaps can’t, and perhaps simply don’t want to, is that at one point it was considered a tremendous virtue to make a sacramental sacrifice of that sort. It fit into a larger social pattern. And the sacrifice of a specific carnality was only a loss to the degree that one could not commit to developing the ‘higher relationship’.

              For you then, were some child or teenager or young adult to make such a decision, or to make such a sacrifice, it could only be understood as a sick action. That is, when the *whole world* of temporal delights is seen.

              But the foundation of Catholicism, and European Christianity, is based in a contempt for the mutable and the elevation of the transcendental; and the sacrifice of the temporal and the mutable is a million times repaid when a transcendent after-world is defined and understood to be real.

              But now, in our present, we might agree that what is ‘transcendent’ is no longer even defined. A transcendent object is therefor a pathological notion. Naturally, when the ‘conceptual pathway’ to a transcendency is obliterated, the ‘whole wide world’ of mutable experience opens up as the only dimension of reality considered real.

              I have sort of based this little essay on Pascendi Dominici Gregis, which foretold the trajectory indicated by choices made in that present and which, some say, are coming to fruition now. The metaphysical basis of Christianity is thus seen to have been largely undermined…

              … and we are cut off in the Sublunary World of mutable contingency.

              Zoltar has often expressed dislike of my ‘tangents’, but I see all things having to do with the decadence of our present as being connected.

  4. Re: Cuomo:

    If I were offended by every idiotic Democrat utterance, I’d be perpetually offended and probably dead from apoplexy. For me, this is honesty and sine qua non of the Democrat party majority. None of them think America was ever that great, and frankly, how could they? Because racism, because sexism, because cisgender white patriarchy, because borders… I could go on, but why?

    If you added the IQ of both Chris and Andrew together, you couldn’t get to room temperature. How can we expect two such august ignoramuses to utter anything that remotely resembles intelligence? It would be like a monkey sitting down at a computer and producing CAD drawings for the space shuttle – In other words, very, very unlikely.

    • I don’t know, if you leave a monkey with a typewriter for an infinite amount of time, I’m sure it could write the next great American novel.

    • ”None of them think America was ever that great, and frankly, how could they? Because racism, because sexism, because cisgender white patriarchy, because borders”

      But, but, but, but, but, but, but, but, but, but Glenn, I don’t get it.

      Lefties (most, not all) seem to desire, nay demand, unfettered access for, like, you know, everyone to a place they despise as inferior/inadequate/unfair/inequitable on so many levels, am I right?

      How much concentrated illogic does one need to mainline or ingest for that to make sense?

    • Zoltar wants the editor gone; I’m voting for the writer to go with. Did he really think that “vegan” and “vegetarian” were the most apt adjectives to describe the pair on their fools’ errand? (Tex would’ve agreed but he isn’t here so I don’t have to counter with the equally questionable self-doctoring-PC health-consciousness argument . . . Balanced is better than either, anyway.) Or maybe, for some weird reason, their eating habits were the only intimate detail about the couple the reporter had to hand. Or perhaps the early reports said they’d died of malnutrition. Then there’s the possibility that this is a fable (not the same as “fake news” y’know) designed as a warning for children not to travel to countries whose names end with “stan.”

      • ”Did he really think that “vegan” and “vegetarian” were the most apt adjectives to describe the pair on their fools’ errand?”

        Interesting catch, PA, which dutifully horrified me that I may have forwarded FAKE NEWS from a satire site.

        So much so that I revisited to do some hopefully not-too-freakin’-late recon.

        They have some…um…cutting edge stories (“Twitter Comic Banned After Calling for Feminist ‘Bleed-Ins’ at Public Pools Across America’…”Tucker Carlson Says He’s Anti-Illegal Immigration Because It Produces ‘Huge Amount of Litter’ ”) but don’t appear to be FAKE NEWS.

        Cross-reference that with the story being reported by a confirmed FAKE NEWS source:

        Anywho, IMHO the writer was just trying to hype the piece by enhancing the inanity of both the decedent and their endeavor by citing some unconventional/non-mainstream lifestyle choices to make them seem goofier than someone that would think that what they choose to do was life-n-safety affirming.

        And I’m sure you know I’d never sink to such a level to drive home a point…

    • Hilarious. My favorite part of the article:

      Some conservatives have framed the tragedy as a cautionary tale about not just the perils of travel but also naivete in general. In their telling, an overly generous understanding of human nature is behind much of today’s progressive movement, including calls to radically scale back immigration enforcement and policing and support for socialism.

      Some liberals, for their part, might view Austin and Geoghegan as martyrs in the struggle for a better world, or simply as unfortunate. Experts on ​told The Washington Post, “Central Asia generally is fairly safe.”

      Thank God for those experts!

        • Not sure he ever had vaginal sex with them, sw, just oral, on their part. Which is, of course, not sexual relations. Pay attention.

          • Oh, I think several (now deceased) Arkansas State troopers had something to say about that, as Slick Willy’s (ahem) ‘procurement arm,’ so to speak.

            Lots of stories about political groupies and a certain Arkansas State Governor. Oral sex may have been on the menu, but the smart money is on consensual canoodling with a variety of women in a variety of locations.

            • You’re probably right. He probably went all the way when he was younger. I think blow jobs gave him plausible deniability when he was in the White House and by the time HRC got older and grumpier and less tolerant?

  5. #4. That’s right, Brian. He’s actually the first president in more than 100 years who has not had a dog as a pet in the White House.”

    Socks the White House cat was the Clinton’s only pet while Bill was in office.

  6. 1. Criminal Minds, White Collar, The Blacklist, Blindspot, Quantico, The Mentalist, Bones, The X Files, Without a Trace, Numbers, 24, Fringe, Graceland, Limitless, The F.B.I. Perception, Twin Peaks, Scorpion… The number of shows involving FBI agents is huge, once you start to think about it.

    • And there’s never been one that showed them as anything but righteously upright, always suited and tied (is that so?), and …well …. role model-ish? But come to think of it, didn’t one of the missing agents write “Let’s Rock” on his car before disappearing? — or did he disappear because he wrote it . . . .

  7. The recently released report of grand jury findings says that more than 300 Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania molested more than 1,000 children since the 1940s, and that senior church officials, including Wuerl,

    Have you ever heard of the saying regarding grand juries and ham sandwiches?

      • Now wait a minute, Mr. Broad Overview! (hmmm, that would be a great name for a band…)

        (sputtering) anyway, what was I about to say? Oh yes: I am certain that as a child I was improperly touched by the sandwich in question, as it was forced upon me by certain parental units (who shall remain nameless, but whose name rhymes with “Rick Billy”) and the threat the loss of my right to a cookie after lunch, backed up by threat of bodily harm upon a most tender portion of my anatomy, to whit, that which I sit upon.

        Such a sandwich took advantage of a young and naive child, and deserves everything the justice system can throw at it!

  8. Point one
    Apparantly, Dick Wolf is bringing back a 60’s show starring Efram Zimbalist Jr. While shows that depict good versus evil in which truth justice and the American way always destroys evil add social value, the timing of this is suspect and is designed to rehabilitate the FBI’s image in its senior rank or reinforce the idea that the FBI is beyond reproach. Far too many cop shows seem slanted today. Fictionalized accounts of actual events appear to play to the consumer’s raw emotions and even my favorite NCIS creates rationalizations for unprofessional conduct.

    Most if these shows fail at describing real cases in which agents pore over accounting records, developing a detailed forensic analysis of the data. In every case the story they weave makes the evidence irrefutable. What people don’t care about is that such evidence can be interpreted differently. Ask the average lay person (no pun intended) about Enron and they will tell you that the FBI brought down the biggest scam in corporate history. Some will view the convictions as a witchhunt to place blame on someone because analysts never did a basic review of why Enron’s legitimate accounting methods created a financial income statement that differed tremedously from their IRS filiings. Irrational exhuberance ( read greed) drove investors to abdicate their own responsibility for due diligence as much as the use of swaps and SPE’s were said to constitute wire fraud.

    We all want the bad guy punished. The problem is who determines who are the good guy and who are the bad. Right now the Paramount network has created the Trayvon Martin story in which young Trayvon is the victim of racial animus.

    • CSI from way back then always seemed to talk about a pistol being ‘registered in the State of Nevada,’ which registry has never existed. Last night a Season 2 episode lamented that since a suspect gun was a rifle, it was not in the registry, long guns being excluded.

      Besides being a plot device, I always believed such references were meant to condition the viewer to believe that such registries exist, that they solve crimes on a routine basis, and to set the viewer up to be indignant when they find out such things are a fantasy of gun grabbing Hollywood.

      And the series ‘Bones’ always played fast and loose with civil rights while making the FBI a paragon of virtue.

      A Constitutionalist Conservative has to suspend indignation to enjoy such shows, a skill I have learned (with varying degrees of success) over the past 20 years.

  9. 1: By the time the show Bones was hitting its stride, I realized that most of these shows were showing fairy tale versions of law enforcement, too sunshiney and PR friendly to be believable. By the time the rebooted Hawaii 5-0 finished its first season and the Shield had ended, I found the total corruption to be far worse. These shows were normalizing the rot and setting up that pervasive corruption is normal, and ANYTHING was fine as long as you accomplished your goal. Fewer and fewer shows had any negative consequences for any bad or difficult decisions. We have probably an entire generation who have not learned from parents, schools, or the last-ditch place of media, that even the right decision can be painful and you have to accept that as part of being an adult. The right thing is rarely easy and gets you applause. The few shows that got it partially got canceled or lost their focus to set up a lame love triangle instead of the moral questions that made early episodes fun.

    But corruption seems to be the unwritten norm. They talk the big talk, but they throw out those pesky rules and laws and morality as soon as push comes to shove. And it comes to shove every forty-two minutes. It’s been several seasons since any new show with an enforcement emphasis tempted me enough to watch more than one show. I see no point in watching corrupt people shooting and locking up other corrupt people. Fiction should help answer why and meaning, not just the who and what. Drama shows the costs and the triumphs of the fight, on the cops and the robbers. Corruption spreads and we should not accept that as the norm in fiction, fiction and reality are always in a feedback loop. If we want to change the reality, first change the lauded fictions. Being good is not easy and full of scary challenges, just less C4.

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