Sundown Ethics Shadows, 9/22/2022: Mirabile Dictu!

I did not expect this; heck, I never expect this: an ethical, responsible decision, quickly and without public pressure, by the national Republican Party. The House GOP campaign organization canceled a $960,000 promotional campaign targeting Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), whom the GOP candidate, JR Majewski, was regarded as a good bet to unseat. But as your friendly neighborhood ethicist explained today, Majewski was exposed by the Associated Press as having fabricated his military record. The GOP was right to shun him, but it is unusual. The Democratic Party took no such action when it was revealed that Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal had lied for years about his service in Vietnam. Blumenthal is now a two term U.S. Senator from Connecticut.

I did not mention it, but Majewski has lied about other aspects of his career as well, describing himself as an “executive in the nuclear power industry,” which his former employer did not substantiate. Why do people do this? It is certain to be discovered. And why don’t political parties properly vet their candidates?

Morons. Our nation is in the hands of morons.

Also disappointing is the fact that most of the conservative media and rightish blogs were apparently going to ignore this story as long as possible. Instapundit, for example, the granddaddy of conservative blogs, hasn’t seen fit to mention Majewski’s disgrace yet, though it has had multiple notes about Stacey Abrams’ various ethics misadventures. This is a site that routinely mocks the mainstream media for burying stories that reflect poorly on Democrats, posting these two ancient tweets as a running joke:

Who can we trust?

1. Speaking of mainstream media bias and Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat who gets to deny the legitimacy of the election she lost without being called a threat to democracy made the fatuous and biologically false assertion this week that “there’s no such thing as a [fetal] heartbeat at six weeks.” NIH among other authorities states that in weeks 6 and 7: a “baby’s heart continues to grow and now beats at a regular rhythm.” But the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, who tries to be objective but just can’t do it because bias has made him stupid, rushed to “factcheck” Abrams and pronounce her correct. “The ultrasound picks up electrical activity generated by an embryo. The so-called “heartbeat” sound you hear is created by the ultrasound. Not until 10 weeks can the opening and closing of cardiac valves be detected by a Doppler machine,” he tweeted. Radiologist Pradheep J. Shanker quickly pointed out to Kessler that he was spreading misinformation. Ultrasound doesn’t measure “electrical activity,” it measures motion and density. “It is true that the valves in the heart develop later,” Shanker wrote.  “However, the cardiac muscles that are located in the embryological heart are contracting. They are in fact moving inward and outward. That is how you define a beat.”

Of course, the heartbeat debate is or should be irrelevant to the ethics issue in abortion. “Quick, kill it before it grows and we can’t deny that its alive!” is not what I regard as a persuasive ethical position.

2. The latest move against Trump by NY’s Attorney General is unethical—Letitia James announced that New York is suing Trump, Trump Organization officials, Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric, on allegations of widespread fraud involving financial statements made by the company and that at least $250 million in penalties is being sought—and Alan Dershowitz nicely explains why:

Dershowitz writes,

The first move former President Donald Trump’s attorneys should do to fight back against New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil lawsuit against him and his family members is to push that she be recused and disqualified from the case…she campaigned on the promise to get Trump before seeing any evidence, and so she is just fulfilling a campaign promise. You can’t have prosecutors even civilly prosecute a defendant if they made a campaign promise.

…It’s obvious that James is trying to use dubious legal theories to persecute a political opponent for her own political purposes. This used to be rare and done more clandestinely; now it’s more common (“lawfare”) and bragged about….Why does Letitia James have to be out there protecting and defending the biggest banks in the country who haven’t sued him at all? This doesn’t pass the test of a legitimate civil complaint, and I think they should be challenging it very vigorously…One thing we know about real estate assessment is it’s very open-ended and very subjective. You know apartments have sold in New York for double their assessment. It’s going to be a very hard case for her to prove because they have to prove deliberate, intentional, willful fraud, not just that he had a different opinion of the value of his properties and others.

“The Dersh” went on to make the obvious ethics point that when prosecutors bring a case, they have to be objective, adding,  “It can’t be somebody who thinks that this will help their reelection campaign, and if she didn’t bring the case, she would have been unelectable the second time around… [she probably] feels she’d be better off politically litigating and losing than not litigating, which is another reason for not allowing her to make that decision.”

Bingo! But why does Dershowitz have to resort to make these absolutely valid and important points on NewsMax, which is the conservative news equivalent of the National Enquirer?

3. As if one was needed, another reason to defund NPR…NPR Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenberg has a new book on her relationship with the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships. It apparently celebrates gross unethical journalism practices by Totenberg, which is no surprise to me. I’ve followed her smug, biased analysis of the Court and current events for years; the fact that she is regarded with respect is galling, frankly. Legal ethics expert Stephen Lubet, however, though firmly in the same ideological camp as Nina, writes in his review of the book and its revelations,

To protect Ginsburg from surprises, Totenberg routinely alerted her in advance to the topics she intended to cover, which is generally prohibited by NPR’s Ethics Handbook. The rule against “previewing” questions does not apply to side jobs, but even then the handbook cautions against “entanglements that conflict with our journalistic independence….Following an uproar about her flagrant breach of judicial ethics [when she talked about moving out of the country if Donald Trump were elected], Ginsburg issued a tepid statement of regret, calling her remarks “ill-advised” and promising to “be more circumspect” in the future. Totenberg was scheduled to interview Ginsburg a few days later. Following her “usual practice,” she told the justice that “I was going to ask her about what she had said.” “That’s my job,” she explained, “I’m going to ask you about it as I would anybody else,” telling Ginsburg, “she could get mad at me” if she wanted to. The interview was not much to get mad at. Totenberg asked Ginsburg why she decided to “say you were sorry,” rather than why she’d made the remarks in the first place. Ginsberg gave her prepared answer: “Because it was incautious.” Totenberg did not raise the ethics issue, suggesting instead that the justice had merely “goofed.” Even that was too much for Ginsburg. “It’s over and done with, and I don’t want to discuss it anymore.”

Totenberg accepted the stonewalling. The obvious next question – to anyone not tiptoeing around a friend’s embarrassment – was whether Ginsburg would recuse herself from cases challenging the election. That would have put Ginsburg on the spot – and any answer would have been extremely meaningful in light of later events – but Totenberg let it drop.

As it happened, Justice Ginsburg did not recuse when a case involving the Trump campaign reached the Court.

Conflicts of interest are insidious because those who are most affected are least likely to recognize the problem. NPR’s management evidently decided that Totenberg’s star quality justified the risk.

Oh PLEASE! What “risk”? like NPR, Totenberg has worn her Democratic, progressive biases like neon crown her entire time as a legal analyst. Why would this conflict of interest trouble her bosses? Like them, she is dedicated to advancing a progressive agenda  regardless of obstacles like journalism ethics.

4. Here’s a strange ethics controversy from “across the pond”: In Great Britain, ITV stars and “This Morning” hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield are under attack for “jumping the queue” in front of thousands of Brits waiting to see the Queen lying in state. A Change.org petition to remove the duo, titled “Axe Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby from TV” has collected more than 60,000 signatures.  The two deny any wrongdoing, insisting that they were just doing their jobs, reporting on the event for millions of people in the UK who couldn’t visit Westminster in person. “The rules were that we would be quickly escorted around the edges to a platform at the back. In contrast those paying respects walked along a carpeted area beside the coffin and were given time to pause, ” Willoughby said. “None of the broadcasters and journalists took anyone’s places in the queue and no one filed past the Queen.”

The controversy doesn’t seem to be going away, and while the network felt it necessary to announce its support, the perception that a popular set of journalists-light—think “Regis and Kathy Lee”—would feel too important to wait for hours in line with the “little people” to pay their respects to the Queen may sink Willoughby and Schofield yet.

An ethics alarms malfunction…

10 thoughts on “Sundown Ethics Shadows, 9/22/2022: Mirabile Dictu!

  1. 1) The best part of the revealed depravity of the pro-abortion crowd in all this they are now splitting hairs about the detail of when a heartbeat begins as if that ever mattered to them. They are ranting and raving that “NO! a baby’s heart beat begins 4 weeks AFTER you conservatives say it does! That is at the 10th week of gestation!”

    All the while knowing full well they don’t give a damn about 10th week or even heart beat standards at all, to kill an unborn child. Yet here they are accidentally defending that standard.

    • Any port in a storm, I guess. They do this all the time – take potshots over nitpicky things that wouldn’t make a difference in their overall argument anyway.

  2. 2. In twenty years of documenting real estate loans, I never saw a lender rely on a borrower’s valuation of the collateral. The lender always hired their appraiser of choice at the borrower’s expense.

    And on a related note, in probably my first year in the trenches, my supervising partner explained to me what “MAI” after an appraiser’s name meant: “Made After Instruction.”

    And then there was the cattle and land baron who’d take the county assessor out for a round of golf at a local country club every year before that year’s assessments were ready to be released and, lo and behold, the baron would somehow manage to lose all the really expensive wagers they made during their friendly round!

  3. I think it was on Politico that I read about Majewski’s situation regarding the GOP pulling their ads. Naturally, they were elated that the Democrats likely would save one of their vulnerable seats. I’ll admit to being surprised at the news, but it sounds better and better upon further reflection.

    Yes, I’m a GOP partisan, but in the past I like to think I have not been a blind partisan. Sadly, the Democratic Party has been doing its best to fix that in me the past few years. They’ve been so awful that I simply cannot justify much of anything other than a straight ticket here recently. The Democrats, when they have a candidate who has these sorts of blemishes, just double down on them.

    The GOP is certainly not perfect. However, I am happy to belong to a party that tries to judge people by the content of their character and not just the color of their skin. I think the Republicans are less racist and the Democrats more since Trump arrived on the national political landscape.

    We’ll see what November brings, but I’m more hopeful recently about the GOP flipping both houses of Congress rather than just the House.

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