1. Conflicts of interest on my mind. I narrowly averted a disastrous conflict of interest yesterday out of pure moral luck, so the topic is much on my mind; I’m still distracted by the near miss. Professionally, it was the equivalent of almost being picked off by a bus.
NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg reacted to the death of Justice Ginsburg with an essay on her 48-year friendship with RBG, saluting Ginsburg’s “extraordinary character.” That’s funny: Totenberg never told NPR’s listeners, nor did NPR, that she had a personal relationship with the Justice, despite being charged with covering the Court and critiquing its decisions. Kelly McBride, NPR’s public editor and senior vice president of the Poynter Institute, threw a metaphorical ethics foul flag,
“In failing to be transparent about Totenberg’s relationship with Ginsburg over the years, NPR missed two opportunities,”she wrote on the NPR website. “First, NPR leaders could have shared the conversations they were having and the precautions they were taking to preserve the newsroom’s independent judgment,” McBride said. “Second, having those conversations in front of the public would have sharpened NPR’s acuity in managing other personal conflicts of interest among its journalists.”
Ginsburg, who officiated at Totenberg’s wedding in 2000. Nonetheless, the correspondent, who wears her progressive bias on her sleeve as it is, denied that the conflict compromised to her journalism, telling the Washington Post that NPR’s listeners benefited from ther friendship because it gave her greater insight into and Ginsburg’s thinking.
And that justifies keeping the relationship secret from listeners how, Nina?
2. From the “When ethics alarms don’t work” files: Lawyer Phillip Malouff Jr. of La Junta, Colorado, was censured for a series of episodes of unprofessional behavior and sexual harassment.
In November 2016, Malouff winked at a magistrate judge and said, “When you get back from your vacation, I better be able to see your tan lines.” When he visiting the same magistrate’s chambers to discuss scheduling matters, he said, according to the female judge,: “Ask your husband a question for me when you get home tonight. Ask him what it’s like to have relations with someone who wears the robe. It has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but there have never been any women judges until now.”
Malouff was informed that his comments were unprofessional and a violation of the Colorado Judicial Department’s anti-harassment policy. Ya think?
In July 2019, Malouff asked a judicial assistant to check whether the mother in a parental rights hearing had an outstanding warrant. When the assistant replied, “She is good.” Malouff responded, “Her husband told me that she is good.”
Wink wink, nudge nudge.
The judicial assistant also recalled a prior incident in which she told Malouff that a case had been set for an 8 a.m. hearing. Malouff asked whether he would get to spend the night with her since he had an early-morning meeting at the courthouse.
“Malouff has since undergone online sensitivity training and engaged in counseling regarding appropriate boundaries,” according to the censure order.
Oh, I’m sure that will fix everything.
3. I recommend watching “The Ides of March” for perspective. Like Robert Redford, George Clooney is drawn to ethics themes; unlike Redford, he’s not an outstanding director. It is remarkable, however, how dated the film seems in just nine years: the political drama was timed to come out right as the 2012 Presidential campaign was heating up. It made a profit too, but vanished quickly; I missed the film entirely. The hypocrisy of anyone who thrives in the Hollywood culture attacking the hypocrisy and corruption of any other culture is irksome; it doesn’t help that Clooney, unlike Redford, can’t resist putting himself in most of the movies he directs. He somehow always strikes me as smug, something Redford avoided.
Clooney’s character is a familiar breed of progressive Presidential hopeful trying to nail down the nomination; he’s facile and quick when challenged on his beliefs, though the film made me wonder if director/actor Clooney knew his snappy arguments were facile. Were politicians really sounding dire alarms about our dependence on foreign oil in 2011? Isn’t the portrayal of the sole black pol in the film as an unprincipled and expedient weasel systemic racism? A intern knocked up by Clooney won’t ask for her parents to help her get an abortion because the family is Catholic…wait, isn’t devout Catholic Presidential candidate Joe Biden as “pro choice” as it gets? And how does anyone have a line in a 2011 political film in which someone tells a Democratic Presidential candidate, “You broke the only rule in politics. You want to be president? You can start a war, you can lie, you can cheat, you can bankrupt the country… but you can’t fuck the interns. They’ll get you for that.” Really?
4. Did anyone Factcheck this? Joe Biden’s campaign website says, or at least said this morning, “Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” Here was the exchange on the topic last night:
“Do you support the Green New Deal?” debate moderator t Chris Wallace asked Biden
“No, I don’t support the Green New Deal,” Biden said.
“Oh you don’t! Oh well that’s a big statement. That means you just lost the radical left,” the President said.
“I support the Biden plan that I put forward,” Biden replied.
Which is the Green New Deal.