Ethics Quote Of The Month: Glenn Greenwald

“The Mueller investigation is complete and this is a simple fact that will never go away: not one single American was charged, indicted or convicted for conspiring with Russia to influence the 2016 election – not even a low-level volunteer. The number is zero.Compare what cable hosts (let’s leave them unnamed) & Democratic operatives spent two years claiming this would lead to – the imprisonment of Don, Jr., Jared, even Trump on conspiracy-with-Russia charges – to what it actually produced. A huge media reckoning is owed. Don’t even try to pretend the point of the Mueller investigation from the start wasn’t to obtain prosecutions of Americans guilty of conspiring with Russia to influence the outcome of the election or that Putin controlled Trump through blackmail. Nobody will believe your denials”

Muckraking journalist Glenn Greenwald, in a series of tweets reacting to the end of the Mueller investigation and the announcement that there would be no further indictments.

Greenwald is hardly a Trump supporter and his reporting has a strong progressive tilt. He does strive to be a truth-teller however, and adjust for his biases, and unlike all the obnoxious gloating I’m seeing on the conservative media, his analysis should be respected.  That there were no indictable crimes related to “Russian collusion” should not have been a surprise except to the Hillary bitter-enders and Trump-deranged who were certain that the President had to have won the Presidency illicitly,  because…because….well, just because. Of course, it was just moral luck that an investigation like Mueller’s didn’t find more, because that kind of investigation would be likely to uncover bad deeds in the campaigns of any Presidential candidate. Continue reading

Newsweek’s “Big Lie” cover (From The Ethics Alarms “Stop Making Me Defend President Trump!” File) [Part I]

[And before I begin, let me say: what a despicable, juvenile, vicious, unprofessional cover, even for Newsweek. Why not just run a photo of the President with a moustache, goatee, mean eyebrows and horns scrawled on it by a 5th grade member of the “Resistance”? Do these pathetic President-haters realize how gutter-level their constant assault has become, and how it it harms the nation, society and our institutions? If they do, they are betraying their country; if they don’t, they are too ignorant and badly socialized to regard as serious critics.]

The most persistent Big Lie narrative as part of the “resistance” soft coup effort is that President Trump is a racist. This week’s Newsweek cover is amusingly inept in its efforts to advance that libelous and slanderous narrative, because it demonstrates how weak their case is. The cover is plastered with the allegedly “racist” statements the President has made that prove his bigotry. None of them are racist. Big Lie-style, however, Democrats, complicit journalists and assorted Trump-haters have been citing these quotes so long and repetitively that Newsweek apparently thinks they are res ipsa loquitur—that the speak for themselves. What speaks for itself, or should, is that Newsweek thinks, or wants readers to think, that these quotes constitute evidence of any racial animus at all, and hasn’t a metaphorical leg to stand on.

When I challenge Facebook friends to back up their “Trump is a racist” claims, all they usually can muster are these same quotes. Sad.

Let’s examine and analyze them, shall we? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/22/2019: “I’m Mad As Hell, And I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore!” Edition

Good Morning!

Time for “Singin’ in the Rain” again, when I’m in this kind of mood…It helps.

Fridays have been discouraging of late. The already diminished traffic here, which always slowed to a crawl on Saturdays, is now almost as weak on Fridays and Sundays too. I have no idea why this is, but it gets old devoting two to four hours a day on weekends producing blog content that I think is worthy of readers’ time and thought while knowing that it will be largely ignored. Of course, running a home ethics business, weekends have meant nothing  for many years, holidays as well, and I don’t know what this “vacation” thing is that my friends keep blathering about. To be clear, I love doing what I do, or I wouldn’t do it. I just wish I were more effective at persuading others to care about the topic of ethics as much as I do.

1. How to beat Facebook! I tried something this morning: I posted an essay without including a photo, and tried to post it on Facebook. It took! No error message! Then I added a photo after the link was on Facebook. The link still worked! I’m going to see if this was just a fluke or not, and I’m going to post a few things without graphics or videos to see if readers have the same luck posting and sharing them. If the photos being removed actually does get around whatever it is causing Ethics Alarms to be unsharable on Facebook, then I’ll have a decision to make. Obviously the photos and videos enhance the posts, and are sometimes essential. Is it worth the trade-off to stop using graphics if it allows more circulation on social media? My choices are…

  • Refuse to compromise the integrity of the blog to satisfy Facebook. (You know this is my default reaction.)
  • Leave photos off posts until I’ve put them on my Facebook page. This will allow people to access Ethics Alarms using that link.
  • Leave photos and videos off all posts.
  • Leave photos and videos off selected posts that I think are likely to be shared.

All of these, of course, assume that I continue to investigate and try to find out why Facebook won’t accept Ethics Alarms posts as they are.

2.  You don’t get business from an ethics company by lying in your introductory pitch. Just got an email beginning thusly…

We would like to share our observations pertaining to your website. Though, your website is great and has all the information that prospective customers of your niche will search for. However, it has a lot of scope for getting optimized in line with Search Engine Guidelines so as to come on the first page in search results.   We have conducted a meticulous SEO audit of your website and found that it can give you more return than it might be giving you at present.

Right. It is obvious that you have NOT read this website, because if you had you would know that it is not seeking “potential customers” (though my other website is) and that you currently have no clue about Ethics Alarms, its scope or its “niche.” This is a form letter, pretending, and badly, not to be. If you are this incompetent in your own marketing, why would I trust you to advise me regarding mine?

Go away. I hate you.

3. Watch “Network” again, if you haven’t lately. TCM has been running movies about journalism on Thursdays this month. Why do I suspect the network was lobbied to do this as CNN et al. try to make the false case that journalists are noble, ethical, devoted and trustworthy as a public defense against President Trump’s attacks on “fake news” and the “enemies of the people”? Well, most of the journalists portrayed in movies are like that. One reason I question the motives of the series is that it left “Absence of Malice” out, one of the very few negative (and  accurate) Hollywood portrayals of journalists.

TCM could not credibly neglect to show “Network, ” however, Paddy Chayefsky’s  wild satire of TV news that was a runner-up to “Rocky” as Best Picture at the 1977 Academy Awards, and is now on Broadway in a stage adaptation. (I agreed with that award then and do still: “Network”is intellectual and satiric, “Rocky” is visceral and emotional, they are both classics, but if they are both showing at the same time, I’m choosing “Rocky,” which makes me feel good, over Network, which makes me want to jump into the blender.) Watching it all the way through for the first time in many years, I realized that the film should be required viewing for all American citizens. What seemed hilariously cynical and over-the-top 40 years ago seems depressingly prophetic now.

The film (Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky was the sharpest and most flamboyant of the great quartet  of Golden Age TV writers; Rod Serling, Reginald Rose and Abby Mann were the others) portrays a TV network culture that is amoral and ruthless, willing to breach ethics, taste and decency, not to mention journalism ethics, to pursue ratings, dollars, and power. I don’t know if he was making a prediction, warning us, or just trying to be entertaining, but by brilliance or chance, Chayefsky was giving society a preview of what would constitute “news” in 2019. The result is that what was funny in 1977 is horrifying now.

The TV shows “UBS” puts on the air all have direct avatars today in reality shows and other genres that didn’t exist pre-cable. The veteran newscaster-gone-nuts whose live rants become a sensation, Howard Beale, the Mad Prophet of the Airwaves, no longer seems like an outrageous invetion. We have seen many “mad prophets” in alleged newscasts since “Network.” Glenn Beck may have been the closest to Beale, but Bill O’Reilly was in the ballpark, and Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and a raft of MSNBC talking heads  routinely say things at least as outrageous as Howard, before he would suffer a seizure in his passion and collapse at the end of every broadcast.

Moreover, the iconic moment in the film  where Beale spurs people all over America to run to their windows, open them, and shout, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” is another excellent metaphor for the 2016 election (though I like teh parade in “Animal House” best). The network executives are the personification of the smug, arrogant “elites” who were (and are) so, so confident that they knew what was best for the public, while they lied, manipulated, postured and profited. Donald Trump was elected less as an individual than as the physical manifestation of shouting out the window, and it was a symbolic and necessary message that the two parties and the news media  still haven’t received.

I am proud of Americans for sending it, and the unethical alliance of elites who refuse to understand are playing with dynamite.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/21/19: Planes, Tribe and McCain

Good morning!

I’m pretty groggy after one intense early morning seminar, five delayed flights,  the long trip home from San Diego, and a midnight arrival back in Virginia, but my ethics alarms seem to be functioning…

1. Today’s air travel ethics saga: I travel as light as possible for trips of two nights or fewer, carrying only my stuffed soft briefcase and a garment bag the is almost empty. I will not become part of the selfish flying hoards who lug ridiculous roller-boards onto the plane, slowing the loading process and hogging the limited storage space. (The airlines should charge passengers for bringing the luggage on board, not for checking it. Morons.) The barely filled garment bag (I wear my suit on the plane) always fits somewhere,  and even when they announce that all bags must be checked at the gate because there is no more space in the bins, I have always been allowed to bring my bag on board…until last night. Two rude and officious American gate monitors ordered me to surrender my bag or, they threatened, be forced to take a later flight. (“Hmmm..what does “later flight” mean to American since this flight is late taking off and the other four flights I’ve been booked on this trip were also late?” I queried. They just didn’t listen to what I was saying, and kept reciting the policy that I had to store one bag overhead and another under my seat.

I have always believed that you can’t take bureaucratic bullying passively, so I asked if there was a supervisor I could talk to. There was: a harried middle-aged guy with a bad toupe. He did listen, as I explained that I knew my own travel supplies, and that unless every compartment was filled with cement, I could easily find a place for my bag, because in nearly a hundred flights, I always have. Furthermore, I pointed out that it was unfair to treat me , one of the few passengers who carries minimal baggage as a matter of consideration and ethics, this way when other passengers were abusing the privilege of carry-on luggage. The guy said that he agreed with me, but since he hadn’t seen my confiscated bag, he couldn’t assess whether I was right or his subordinate Gate Nazis were. Having made my stand, I thanked him, and made my way down the jetway. Continue reading

Pacific Coast Time Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/20/19: Guys and Dolls

Good morning from San Diego!

Well, I was speaking to 600 seats just now, but only about 300 lawyers. Several came up to me afterward, inspired or stimulated, and thankful. In ethics, as in the theater, I have come to adopt William Saroyan’s creed that if just one person sings your song, your life as an artist has meaning. Like Saroyan, I have come to adopt that out of self-preservation and to stave off insanity.

1. It looks like a Saturday Night Live writer plagiarized at least two skits this season. The story is here.

The combination of SNL’s insane schedule, the pressure to be different and edgy week after week, and the temptation of YouTube made this inevitable. The rules on borrowing, adapting, copying comedy material has always been a gray area, often settled by the good faith and collegiality—or not—of the comics themselves. By accident, I just saw an old “Everybody Loves Raymond” episode which was an obvious rip-off of an even older Dick Van Dyke Show episode in which Laura writes a children’s book, and professional writer Rob offers to help her improve it.? Plagiarism? Comedy skits in vaudeville were passed around like the flu: Abbot and Costello weren’t the first to do the “Who’s On First?” routine, they just did it so much better than anyone else that they owned it. Was Lucy plagiarizing Red Skelton with her “Vitameatavegimin” skit, where a pitch woman gets drunk doing multiple takes of a TV ad that requires her to drink the alcohol-laced product, when Red had been doing the same routine for years as “Guzzler’s Gin”? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/18/2019: Paranoia, Pettiness, Pirro, Provoked Applicants, Piqued Students, Posturing And Progressives

Good Morning, Pacific Time Zone!

I’m heading to San Diego tomorrow to talk about “Five Looming Ethics Issues for Lawyers  and  Their  Corporate Clients”  to a group of over 600 lawyers. THEY don’t think my analyses of ethics issues violate community standards…okay. I admit it, I’m getting paranoid. Despite a lot of, I humbly believe, useful, timely and well-presented content, the weekend traffic was terrible, and comments were sparse, if excellent. This year, so far, is lagging behind last year, which seriously trailed the year before. What’s going on here? Has Google secretly joined Facebook in its efforts to keep the posts here from reaching an audience? Of could it be that I just suck? Maybe Donald Trump really has killed all belief in ethics…that’s the ticket! Blame the President!

1. Pettiness and vindictiveness vanquished. Good. The Judicial Council of the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals  has affirmed its December decision to reject 83 ethics complaints against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, all filed by bitter partisans who are determined to hurt the newest Justice because the Democrats’ slimy and unethical ambush tactics failed, as they should have. In a 6-1 decision, the judicial council affirmed its earlier finding that the federal law governing misconduct complaints against federal judges does not apply to justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Many of the complaints filed against Kavanaugh argued he had made false statements under oath during hearings on his nominations to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2004 and 2006 and to the U.S. Supreme Court last year—you know, like having an innocent recollection of what “boof” meant in his completely irrelevant high school year book.  Other complaints accused Kavanaugh of making inappropriate partisan statements in his inappropriately partisan hearings, or claimed he treated members of the Senate Judiciary Committee with disrespect, or as I would put it, the disrespect they deserved for attempting to smear his good name and reputation through demagoguery and calls to reject the presumption of innocence.

Let me remind everyone that Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in her confirmation hearings, stated under oath that she had no pre-formed opinions that would affect her objectivity in abortion cases. Nobody filed any ethics complaints. Continue reading

From The Elephantine Ethics Alarm “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias!” Files: Reuters, Beto O’Rourke, And The Cult Of The Dead Cow

Reuters reported Friday that newly declared Democratic Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke had been part of an infamous hacker group as a teen. (Hacking is illegal unethical, don’t you know.)

Reporter Joe Menn said that he learned about O’Rourke’s involvement in the group when he began researching The Cult of the Dead Cow, which he called “the most interesting and influential hacking group in history.”

He discovered that an alumnus of the group had a member who was sitting in Congress. “I didn’t know which one,” Menn said, “and then I figured out which one it was. And the members of the group wouldn’t talk to me about who it was. They wouldn’t confirm that it was this person unless I promised that I wouldn’t write about it until after the November 2018 election,” that being O’Roarke’s unsuccessful effort to defeat Texas Senator Ted Cruz last year. Reuters, to be clear, sat on the story, which may have interested Texas voters, for two years.
Continue reading