Afternoon Ethics Pick-Me-Up, 8/14/2018: Fools, Knaves And Hypocrites

Good afternoon!

1. Unethical tweet of the week, right wing nut division: Jerry Falwell Jr, who heads Liberty University. The acorn that didn’t fall far from the tree tweeted:

Are there any grownups w/ integrity left in the DOJ? When I was a kid, I watched Repubs join Dems to force Nixon out. Now Dems won’t join Repubs to lock up Comey, Lynch, Ohr, Rosenstein, Strzok, , & maybe even despite damning evidence!

Here’s an ethics tip for college age students and their parents: if the leader of a school has this tenuous a grip on basic Constitutional law, pay tuition to some place, any place, else.

2. Then we have the left-wing Pro Publica, which is trying to fuel the desperate Democratic efforts to find dirt on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and thus issued this…

3.  Which political party is more deranged today? Well, an  Ipsos public opinion survey claims that 43 % of self-identified Republicans agreed that “the President should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.”  Only 36% of surveyed Republicans disagreed with giving a President the power to shut down news outlets like CNN and The Washington Post.

First of all, this primarily raises legitimate concerns regarding the educational level and intelligence quotient of Americans.  99% of those polled could advocate repealing the First Amendment, just as a majority could proclaim its belief that the national language ought to be Finnish. It’s not happening. Professor Turley’s take-away is that “Trump has truly and irrecoverably changed the party and much of the country . . . and, in this case, not for the better.” Baloney. The fact that journalists have exposed themselves as being partisan operatives uninterested in conveying facts to the public in a fair and unbiased manner has changed the public perception of the value of the news media, and not for the better. Whether the change is “irrecoverable” depends on whether American journalism sees the dangerous error of its path over the past several decades, and becomes trustworthy again. Continue reading

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“Would Fredo Get In A Twitter War With Omarosa?” And Other Musings As I Rush To Get To My CLE Seminar

….Just when I become convinced that my previous assessments of President Trump’s intelligence were insufficiently nuanced, he does something like exchanging juvenile tweets with the reality show monster he created, Omaraosa Manigualt.

….For the President of the United States to lower himself and his office to engage with her isn’t just punching down, it is punching waaaay down, like yelling at bacteria, and brings to mind George Bernard Shaw’s quote, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” 

….Has the President never heard this quote? Does he know who George Bernard Shaw is?

….Would Fredo Corleone be so stupid as to get in a public pissing match with someone like this awful woman? I doubt it, and Fredo was brain-damaged. Not only is the President’s attention exactly what Omarosa wants, but she’s also black, so MSNBC will be citing that as more proof that Trump is a racist.

…Apparently John Kelly is dead, or perhaps tied up and locked in an oil drum. I can conceive of no other explanation for why he wouldn’t be able to explain to the President why this latest feud is idiotic and self-destructive, or, in the alternative, why he hasn’t resigned.

 

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Ethics Observations On The Rep. Chris Collins Insider Trading Indictment

Three-term GOP congressman Chris Collins was indicted for insider trading after prosecutors determined that after Innate Immunotherapeutics  alerted him to the failure of company’s clinical drug trials for a promising multiple sclerosis drug, Collins tipped off his son, allowing him and others to  save hundreds of thousands of dollars by selling their stock in the firm before the news was made public. Now Collins faces prison time if convicted.

 Collins was a member of the company’s board until May of this year, and at one point was its largest shareholder.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has stripped Collins of his seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee and asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate the allegations of insider trading. Collins has ended his re-election bid, but maintains that he is innocent. Such statements are like the puzzle about the White Foot and Black Foot tribes that look and sound identical but have one difference: the White Feet always lie, and the Black Feet always tell the truth. If you ask a member of either tribe, “Are you a truthful Black Foot or a lying White Foot?”, you will always get the same answer no matter what tribe the individual belongs to: “I am a truthful Black Foot!” And whether an indicted Congressman is guilty or innocent, he will always say, as Collins did, that the charges are “meritless” and that he will fight them to have his “good name cleared of any wrongdoing.”

Until the plea deal.

Collins’s involvement with Innate dates back all the way to 2005, before he ran for Congress. He organized support from wealthy friends and neighbors,  many of whom would later become his political donors,  to help bail out the company, which was flailing at the time. In addition to Innate Immunotherapeutics,  Collins has held leadership roles in other biotech companies.  Until his indictment, he was chairman of the board of directors of ZeptoMetrix, a private lab company based in Buffalo that he co-founded. That one has received millions of dollars in federal contracts, according to government records.

Collins reported owning between $25 million and $50 million in shares of  ZeptoMetrix. In June, he sold about a million dollars of stock in Chembio Diagnostics, a medical tests and equipment manufacturer, according to his ethics disclosure forms.

The congressional ethics office found last summer that  Collins may have violated ethics rules by asking the National Institutes of Health for help with the design of Innate’s now-failed clinical trial.

Observations: Continue reading

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No, It Isn’t Hypocrisy When A Gun Control Advocate Shoots Someone

In 2017, Kellie Collins (above, left) ran as a Democrat against incumbent Rep. Jody Hice, a Republican, to represent Georgia’s 10th District. She ultimately dropped out of the race, but while she was running, her major theme was gun control and responsible gun ownership.

Now her former campaign treasurer, Curtis Cain (above, right, in better days), has been found dead inside her apartment, apparently the victim of a gunshot wound. Collins turned herself into the McDuffie County Sheriff’s Office just as authorities in Aiken County, South Carolina found Collins, who had been dead for at least four days.

She must have noticed him.

The conservative news media is implying that this constitutes hypocrisy on Collins’ part. It isn’t. If she had shot him while she was campaigning for responsible gun ownership, then it might have been hypocritical. She might have changed her mind about guns in the intervening months, however. Hypocrisy is when you advocate a principle while you are violating it in a manner that proves you don’t believe in the principle at all. That’s not what happened here.

Even if she had shot him in 2017 in Georgia, though, it wouldn’t necessarily have been hypocrisy. She could still have been a responsible gun owner. Maybe she was acting in self-defense. She did not argue in 2017 that it was irresponsible for gun owners to ever fire their weapons; that would be ridiculous, not that gun control zealots don’t often say ridiculous things.  It isn’t even correct to call this ironic. Responsible gun owners kill people.

It may well be that the evidence will show that Kellie is a murderer.  Base on what we know, however, its is unfair to call her a hypocrite.

I just wanted to clear that up.

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Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/13/2018: Rally? What Rally? Bias? What Bias? Texts? What Texts? Spy? What Spy?

Huh. I didn’t know that ZZ Top were white supremacists!

Good Morning!

I just know this week will be better than last week…

…though these items certainly don’t inspire hope.

1. The dangers of “future news” That huge, scary rally in Washington where the nation’s capital was going to be descended-upon by all those white supremicists activated by Donald Trump’s election and rhetoric to celebrate last year’s Charlotteville riots? About two-dozen people showed up. I talked to friends in the District who said they were terrified of the rally. CNN, the networks, the Times and the Post had all headlined this major, major event, which would show just how much racism there is in America. This was fake news, straight up. It was imaginary, “future news,” a headline about what was going to happen because the mainstream news media wanted it to happen. Then they could bleat out the narrative that President Trump was inspiring racists to come out of the woodwork. Maybe someone would get killed, like in Charlottesville! Well, they could hope.

What investigation went into the determination that there was going to be a huge gathering of racists in D.C.? Clearly, not enough. 24? 24??? I could set up a rally of locals who think Gilbert and Sullivan should be taught in the schools that is five times that with some phone calls, texts and a Facebook post. It would take me a couple of hours. Yet the Times put the inevitability of this massive white supremacy rally on its front page. “After weeks of hype…” wrote the Times. Weeks of hype by the press.

Incompetent, dishonest, irresponsible. You know. As usual.

It is worth mentioning that the counter-demonstration to the imaginary demonstration was many times larger than two-dozen people.

2. In related news about non-news...The Boston Globe has been contacting newspaper editorial boards and proposing a “coordinated response” to President Trump’s criticism of the news media, especially his controversial “enemy of the people” rhetoric. “We propose to publish an editorial on August 16 on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press and ask others to commit to publishing their own editorials on the same date,” The Globe said in its pitch to fellow papers.

Talk about bad timing! We just had the explosion of the fake racist rally story. We have the Manafort trial being featured on the front page of most newspapers like it’s the O.J. trial, when  the majority of public has no idea who the man is and the trial details have nothing to do with anything newsworthy. We have the mainstream news media giving the claims of a reality show villain the kind of attention John Dean received for his Watergate testimony while it makes sure nobody knows that a Chinese spy infiltrated the staff of a powerful U.S. Senator for 20 years. Nah, the news media isn’t the enemy of the public! It just deliberately abdicates its duty to inform the public objectively , is engaged in a coordinated effort to bring down an elected President, has abused its First Amendment-bestowed immunity from the consequences of its conduct, and is working to divide the nation to the point where it cannot function. That’s all. None of this is good for the people or the nation, but that doesn’t make those intentionally harming both enemies, exactly….although off the top of my head,  I can’t think of a more accurate word for it. Continue reading

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Sunday Ethics Reflections, 8/12/2018: Division And Divisiveness

What time is it? I’ve lost track…

1. Keep being intentionally divisive, and eventually you’ll get division…I trace the irresponsible efforts to divide the nation and unravel the bonds of society to the 2000 election, and the false partisan claims that Bush’s was a “stolen Presidency.” Divisive rhetoric became an 8-year strategy of the Obama Administration, with blacks, Hispanics, illegal immigrants, Muslims, LGTB citizens and women being accorded special status as victims and groups in need of special consideration, while whites, men, straight citizens, wealthy citizens, Christians, and, naturally, conservatives and Republicans were consistently demonized and marginalized.  Critics of the first black President were racists, critics of illegal immigration were xenophobes, critics of Hillary Clinton were sexist, and opponents of gay marriage were bigots. The resentment over this long-term and cynical strategy bore misshapen fruit in the election of Donald Trump, and now, says a Zogby Analytics survey, 39 percent of the country support states breaking away from the national government and country, with 42% of Democrats, who have continued to escalate the divisiveness by refusing to accept the election of President Trump as  legitimate, leading the way.

This was where we were headed in 2000, and those who have been reading the Ethics Scoreboard and Ethics Alarms since then know I said so as forcibly as I knew how. Now we are at a point where one party’s leaders are calling for members of the opposing party’s administration to be harassed in public, an attitude that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

In the latest example , Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Houston last week and dines at two Mexican restaurants. The general manager of one of them posted on Facebook,  “We had the honor to serve Mr. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the United States. Thank you for allowing us to serve you.” The post attracted such an angry reaction that it had to be taken down. [Pointer: Neil Dorr]

2.  Of course! Why else would anyone not love Nancy Pelosi? The news media and its various pundits is deeply complicit in the unraveling of the bonds holding American together, as exemplified by the Washington Post’s jaw-dropping column claiming that Republican opposition to Democratic House leader Pelosi is entirely based on misogyny and sexism—you know, the same reasons I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Paul Waldman wrote,

“Can we stop treating this lie seriously once and for all? We all know what’s really going on. The Republican attack on Pelosi is about conservative identity politics, full stop. It’s partly the same kind of ugly misogyny that has driven conservatives for years, and that comes out whenever the prospect of a woman wielding genuine power rears its head. Women who display ambition are judged harshly, particularly by conservatives; it’s no accident that Bernie Sanders, whose policy ideas are much more opposed to conservatism than Pelosi’s, inspires nothing like the venomous loathing on the right that Pelosi and Hillary Clinton do.”

Oddly, I have found many reasons despite her gender to regard Nancy Pelosi as an unethical menace, and I haven’t come close to covering all of them. Continue reading

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Senator Feinstein’s Chinese Mole

In hindsight, Senator, that flag he kept putting on your limo should have tipped you off.

This month we learned that Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) had a Chinese spy on her staff for about 20 years, including while she headed the Senate Intelligence Committee . (Wait…did you learn that? See the poll below…) The mole was listed as an “office director” on payroll records and served as her driver when she was in San Francisco. Meanwhile, he reported to China’s Ministry of State Security through China’s San Francisco Consulate.

Confronted with this embarrassing information, Feinstein virtually pronounced it a “nothingburger.” (Current definition of “nothingburger”: any scandal involving the Obama administration or a prominent Democrat office-holder that would be headlines for weeks if the officials involved were Republicans.)  “Five years ago the FBI informed me it had concerns that an administrative member of my California staff was potentially being sought out by the Chinese government to provide information,” Feinstein said in a statement. “He never had access to classified or sensitive information or legislative matters.”

It’s not that simple, and if Feinstein really thinks that, then she was an extremely incompetent chair of the Intelligence Committee. In a Washington Post opinion column—the paper barely mentioned the story in its news pages–Mark Thiessen revealed what he was told by several former senior intelligence and law enforcement officials. The consensus: this was a significant breach:

A former top CIA clandestine officer explained to me what the agency would do if it had recruited the driver of a senior official such as Feinstein. “We would have the driver record on his phone all conversations that Feinstein would have with passengers and phone calls in her car. If she left her phone, iPad or laptop in the car while she went to meetings, social events, dinners, etc., we would have the driver download all her devices. If the driver drove for her for 20 years, he would probably would have had access to her office and homes. We would have had the source put down an audio device in her office or homes if the opportunity presented itself. Depending on the take from all of what the source reported, we would use the info to target others that were close to her and exhibited some type of vulnerability.”

“In short,” this officer said, “we would have had a field day.”

Continue reading

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