Tag Archives: 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck

Ethics Observations On The CNN/Acosta/Press Pass Ruling

From the Washington Post this morning:

Judge Timothy J. Kelly granted CNN’s motion for a temporary restraining order that will prevent the administration from keeping Acosta off White House grounds. The White House revoked the reporter’s press pass last week after a heated exchange between him and President Trump and a brief altercation with a press aide at a news conference. Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, is the first reporter with a so-called hard pass to be banned. CNN sued President Trump and other White House officials on Tuesday over the revocation. Kelly’s ruling was the first legal skirmish in that lawsuit. It has the immediate effect of sending Acosta back to the White House, pending further arguments and a possible trial. The litigation is in its early stages, and a trial could be months in the future.

Observations:

  • The ruling is a surprise. For me, it calls to mind once again my favorite Clarence Darrow quote, that “In order for there to be enough liberty, it is necessary that there be too much.” Apparently the judge, as courts have in other First Amendment cases, decided to leave a wide margin of safety around a constitutional right rather than interpret it narrowly, even reasonably narrowly.

I understand and sympathize with that instinct, and perhaps it is the right one.

  • Judge Kelly’s opinion  insisted that there be some basic procedural protections, requiring the White House to state clearly the grounds for revoking the clearance.  The Court did not find an express  violation of the First Amendment and Acosta might still be barred from the White House following appropriate due process.  Kelly said his ruling was “limited” and  temporary until a more detailed explanation and sufficient notice by the White House was established. (Not surprisingly, the White House viewed a tweet as notice enough.)
  • So a vague, traditional but unstated standard of not acting like an entitled jackass during a press conference and debating the President rather than asking questions while refusing to yield the floor is not, absent written standards and procedures, enough to get an unprofessional jerk like Jim Acosta banned. Got it.  It would be nice if previously acknowledged standards of basic respect for the office and the relative roles of the professionals involved were enough to avoid this kind of controversy, but apparently not.

Reflect on this episode the next time CNN or a pundit fusses about President Trump “defying established norms.” Continue reading

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Armistice Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/18: Pettiness, Tit-For-Tat, And Fake All-Stars

Good Morning!

Why Nora Bayes? Let me tell you a story…

I learned about Nora Bayes (1880-1928) while mounting a production of a “lost” musical, George S. Kauffman’s Hollywood satire “Hollywood Pinafore,” which was essentially a parody of Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic, “H.M.S. Pinafore.” Nora was mentioned in a laugh line in the script, so the 1941 show assumed that the audience knew who she was. I had never heard of her, so I did some research. She was a fascinating character, and a huge vaudeville and Broadway singing and comedy star, household name huge. “Over There” was one of her biggest hits; another was “Shine on Harvest Moon,” which she wrote with her second husband (she ultimately had five), Jack Norwith. He also wrote “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” another Bayes standard. According to one online biography, Bayes Bayes “provided some flamboyant, indeed extreme, examples of the broad social changes happening in the United States in the early twentieth century, namely the questioning of traditional roles for women as well as the challenges to male political and economic power that marked the women’s movement of the time.”

I almost wrote about her in April. As regular readers here know, I believe it is the our duty to honor the memories, accomplishments and cultural influence of past figures in American history, because the more we remember, the more we learn, and the wiser and more ethical we are. Somehow Nora Bayes, famous as she one was, had been in an unmarked grave for 90 years.  On April 21, a group of Nora Bayes enthusiasts placed a granite headstone over her plot. The New York Times told the strange tale here.

Now I think of Nora Bayes every time I hear “Over There,” “Shine on Harvest Moon,” and “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” Maybe you will too.

1. Truth in labeling. Major League Baseball has sent a team to Japan to play a series of exhibition games against a Japanese All-Star team, reviving a long-time tradition that had been suspended for several years. As you may know, the U.S. was critical in introducing baseball to Japan, and sent several major stars there to help get the sport established. Playing in Japan is mostly a lark for the American players, but the games are taken very seriously by the Japanese. In the first two games, the MLB All-Stars have lost, greatly pleasing the locals.

I don’t begrudge the Japanese fans their David and Goliath fantasies, but calling the U.S. team “All-Stars” is misrepresentation. For example, one of the pitchers who got clobbered in the last game, a 9-6  contest that began with the Japanese team jumping out to a 9-0 lead, was a Red Sox pitcher named Brian Johnson. I like Johnson, a crafty swing-man who had some good moments last season, but he’s a lifetime 6-6 pitcher who was left off the Red Sox post-season roster, and will have to battle to stay in the majors next season. I know you can’t sell tickets if the U.S. team is called the “All the players we could talk into coming to Japan Team,” but that’s what it is.

2. Tit for Tat  may be funny, but it’s not ethical. Representative Dan Crenshaw, the veteran who was mocked last week on Saturday Night Live for his disfiguring war wound, appeared on the show last night to mock the appearance of his tormenter, Pete Davidson. Crenshaw was unusually poised for a pol on a comedy show, and the bit successfully got Davidson and SNL, which had been widely criticized for its nasty routine, off the hook. Clever. Successful. Funny. Still wrong, however. This represents an endorsement of Donald Trump ethics, as well as the endlessly repeated rationalization for the non-stop ad hominem attacks the President has inflicted on him daily by the news media and others. The President famously—infamously around here—has always said that if you attack him, he’ll attack you back harder. His haters argue, in turn, that their tactics are justified by his. This is how the culture got in the escalating spiral to Hell it is in. I don’t blame Crenshaw: if he hadn’t accepted the invitation to get funny revenge on Davidson, he would have looks like a petty jerk. Nonetheless, he has now officially become part of the problem, not just a victim of it.

3. Stop making me defend President Trump Dept.  You see, I am kicked around on Facebook for not just falling meekly into line and declaring that everything Donald Trump does is an outrage and proof that he should be impeached. I tell you, it’s tempting. The mass bullying campaign to herd everyone into the undemocratic effort to overthrow an elected President using relentless criticism and flagrant double standards has been effective in stifling others, and it also serves as a kind of mass cultural hypnosis. I don’t like defending Trump. He is doing serious damage to his office, as are his unhinged foes, who are apparently willing to destroy the nation, democracy, and the Constitution to “save” it from him. But I will not be intimidated out of pointing out the revolting pettiness, hypocrisy and unfairness of his critics. Two examples surfaced yesterday. Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The Sessions Resignation And Reaction

In ethical, legal and Constitutional terms, there isn’t really very much legitimate controversy here. The key word here is “legitimate.” “The resistance” is trying its best to spin the issues and confuse the public—yet again. The news media wants to help. They have nothing.

—Attorney General Sessions should have resigned long, long ago. He debased himself by remaining in office. His boss, the President, was publicly abusive, and obviously did not want him to continue in the job.

—I cannot begin to express sufficiently my contempt for the dishonest and absurd argument that Sessions leaving office constitutes an “obstruction of justice” under even the most tortured interpretation of the term. A President can fire and replace his own Cabinet members; this was the issue that technically led to Andrew Johnson’s impeachment. Congress had passed a law (later ruled unconstitutional) that prohibited firing a Cabinet member without Congressional consent. The current theory is even more crack-brained than the claim that Trump firing James Comey, who was incompetent, devious and untrustworthy was obstruction. The “theory,” if you can call it that, is that replacing an AG who had a conflict of interest and had to recuse himself from an investigation is somehow sinister, because the new AG will actually be able to do his job, and supervise a Justice Department investigation.

—The investigation is officially about Russian interference with the 2016 election. Because the Trump campaign and its participants (not the Trump administration: this occurred before the election) might have been implicated or drawn into the investigation, Sessions, who was part of the campaign organization, had to recuse himself as a potential target, witness, or otherwise involved person, both for potential conflicts reasons and to avoid any appearance of impropriety. However, these do not apply to Sessions’ successor, much as Democrats and “the resistance” would want Mueller’s investigation to be completely without supervision by anyone approved by the President.

—There is no reason in the world why the acting AG, Matt Whitaker, should recuse himself from involvement in the Mueller matter. Claims to the contrary are made without grounding in law or ethics. Continue reading

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Boy, Will I Ever Want To Rub It In If The Democrats Don’t Take The House…

The Democrats deserve to lose these midterms more than any party has deserved to lose since Republicans got clobbered after Watergate. The corrupt Tom Delay-led GOP Congress during the Bush years was pretty bad, but that was just the elected officials. The whole Democratic Party has disgraced itself along with “the resistance,” the news media, Hollywood, academia and social media  for two full years.

This is hardly a new or original interpretation. Lindsey Graham, as close to an ethical member of Congress as I could name, put it pretty clearly squarely in his perfect rant during the Kavanaugh hearing: these people want power so much they will do and say almost anything. Over the past two years, they have relentlessly engaged in fearmongering, while accusing Trump of fearmongering. They have engaged in intimidation, defiance of democratic traditions and institutions, and rejection of core values that are bulwarks of democracy while accusing Trump of being a fascist. By enlisting the mainstream news media as a partisan ally when it is critical that journalists remain objective and neutral, it has crippled the integrity of a crucial component of what makes a democracy work. Graham accurately described this part of the tragedy as well:

“Well, one of the things we’ll learn from Kavanaugh is how in the tank the media really is for the other side. I don’t think they’re the enemy of the people. They’re just allies of the Democratic Party. If a Republican had done to a Democratic nominee what they did to Kavanaugh, it would be front page news everywhere. If Barack Obama’s jobs numbers were anywhere close to what we’re talking about, they would stop the Earth from rotating to make sure everybody heard about it. So the bottom line is it doesn’t work anymore. MSNBC and NBC have become one when it comes to the news cycle. Saturday Night Live is making fun of a guy who lost his eye in Afghanistan. There is a backlash growing in this country from the over the top effort by the left to portray everything conservative as bad and mean and un-American.

The news media deserves to lose the mid-terms, and imagine where we are when that statement actually makes sense. Continue reading

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On The “Trump Said Military Should Shoot Rock-Throwing Migrants” Train Wreck Ride

This was a classic leg of the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, the Horrible, Disuniting Ride That Never Ends.

On Facebook, one of my dear, hate-addled friends posted that President Trump had “ordered” the military to fire on any of the invasion-minded “caravan”—you know, these charming people,

laughing, dancing, singing, playing tambourines  and telling fortunes!—who threw rocks when they confront U.S. soldiers at the border. This statement, which seemed incredible to me but because it’s Donald Trump and he could literally say anything from “Give Peace a Chance!” to “I am the Lizard King!” at any moment for any reason, including his own amusement, I couldn’t be sure. All of my friend’s friends were sure, though, and the liked, sad-faced and angry-faced the post to death.

Of course, a President ordering the military to shoot unarmed civilians would be monstrous, as well as illegal. It would also be historically ignorant, as doing so would require cultural amnesia of the major national events that most closely mirror such a scenario, both with “massacre” attached: Kent State, and that little incident in Boston that where it was British soldiers doing the shooting.

That’s not what the President said, though. What he said was this:

“They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back. I told them to consider it a rifle. When they throw rocks like what they did to the Mexican military and police I say consider it a rifle.”

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/18: Scary Ethics Stories!

Good Morning!

(And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my brilliant, talented, always challenging, Trump-hating lawyer little sister, Edith Sophia Marshall!)

1 Quiz results: about 90% of responders found the drag Python sketch about a ladies club re-enactment of Pearl Harbor funny. Whew. As for the one voter who said that it was unfunny because it made light of human tragedy and violence, I’m glad you never attended any of the stage comedies I directed.

2. Ending birthright citizenship for illegal immigrant offspring? President Trump told Axios in an interview that he was preparing to issue an executive order to end birthright citizenship for children of immigrants here illegally. “It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t…You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”

I have found no authorities who agree with Trump’s lawyers, if indeed they are telling him that. If they are, I don’t blame him for listening to them: if there was ever a President who was legally clueless, it’s this one. Some conservatives are livid about the suggestion (obviously all illegal  immigration-boosting liberals are as well), noting that this proposal is exactly as unconstitutional as Obama’s immigration-related EOs. I tend to agree with them. Ethically, the birthright rule is an incentive to break the law and anachronistic, since it originated when there were no legal restrictions on immigration nor reasons to have any. if the question gets to the Supreme Court, however, it will pose an integrity test for the conservative justices. Their philosophy is that you can’t just re-write or ignore the Constitution when it gets in the way of desirable policy, and this is a perfect example.

It is also very possible—likely?— that the President was using this trial balloon to energize the anti-illegal immigration base as the “caravan” continued its march. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/29/2018: Codes, Cars, Carter And The Caravan

Boy, this really IS a good morning!

(The warm-up may rely a bit more on links and quotes than usual…as Bob Cratchit tells Scrooge, “I was making rather merry yesterday.”)

1. Breaking News: Jimmy Carter is right! Former President Jimmy Carter, now 94, has injected himself into the Georgia governor’s race by asking Republican candidate Brian Kemp to resign as secretary of state. Carter’s argument is that there is an appearance of impropriety in his being officially responsible for an election in which he is a candidate, and that his resignation is essential  to preserve public confidence in the outcome of Kemp’s race against Democrat Stacey Abrams. Carter’s made the request in an Oct. 22 letter .

“One of the key requirements for a fair and trusted process is that there be a nonbiased supervision of the electoral process,” Carter wrote, explaining that stepping aside “would be a sign that you recognize the importance of this key democratic principle and want to ensure the confidence of our citizens in the outcome.”

When he’s right, he’s right. Kemp should resign, and his lamer than lame rationalization for not doing so, that it isn’t really he who supervises the election but his staff, would be sufficient reason not to vote for him in the gubernatorial election.

2. Ethics Dunce: Red Sox owner John Henry. You would think the progressive owner of the Boston Globe could restrain himself from blatant virtue-signaling while his team was celebrating its historic season and World Series victory, but no. Henry saluted his team for being “diverse” in his post-game remarks. Nobody sane cares how diverse, whatever that means (Where were the women, John? Where were the Asians? The differently-abled? Muslims? LGBT representatives?), a pro sports team is as long as it wins, and if it doesn’t win, its check-offs on an EEOC form won’t make it any better or its losing more palatable. The 2018 Red Sox were assembled according to the skills and talents of its personnel, with race and ethnicity a non-factor. What mattered is that the team’s manager (he’s Puerto Rican, and I don’t care) proved himself a natural leader who created a selfless, courageous, professional culture on his team, none of whom mentioned race, religion or creed all season, and properly so.

The compulsion to spurt progressive cant at every opportunity is pathological. Continue reading

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