Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/13/2018: Trump And Strzok

Good Morning, London!

1. Trump Trump Trump. You know, I was on a political Facebook page in 2016 where an idiot kept posting “Trump Trump Trump” despite everyone, including the moderator, telling him to cut it out. Eventually he was banned from the site. Unfortunately, there is no similarly simple solution to this problem when a combination of the Trump-hostile news media and the President himself forces a variety of ethics issues on me, when I would rather be musing about baseball, old sitcoms, and guys in lobster hats.

  • The pardons. President Trump  pardoned Dwight L. Hammond, now 76, and his son, Steven D. Hammond, 49, a pair of Oregon cattle ranchers who had been serving out five-year sentences for arson on federal land, which had sparked the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in 2016. Naturally these pardons were attacked, because anything Trump does will be attacked. The resulting conflict brought widespread attention to anger over federal land management in the Western United States,and that’s a good thing. How can the federal government justify owning almost half of Western land?

As for the pardons, both men have served most of their sentences already, and not only were the sentences unusually harsh for their offenses, the cases had the whiff of political prosecutions about them. They were perfectly legitimate objects for Presidential pardons, but then so are hundreds of thousands of other cases. Presidents should issue as many pardons as possible, which means eliminating a lot of the red tape. So far, Trump has sucked the tape by cherry-picking beneficiaries in his own, eccentric, biased way, using his unique, unassailable Constitution-based power to court supporters, celebrities and particular constituencies—not that there’s anything wrong with that, as long as other deserving citizens also get pardoned, and really, all but the most unrepentant, vile and dangerous felons deserve mercy and compassion eventually. Unless the pardon power is used broadly and constantly, its blessings too often depend on who you know. In the case of the ranchers, for example, a large donor to Vice-President Pence lobbied for the pardons. Again, that doesn’t mean the pardons can’t be justified. It does mean the process is skewed by factors not related to justice or fairness.

I found this to be the most ethically intriguing paragraph in the Times story about Pence pal, tycoon Forrest Lucas, and his likely influence on the pardons:

“While other presidents have also gone ahead of Justice officials to pardon apparent allies, they have often waited until their final days in office to do so. Mr. Trump, by comparison, has issued high-profile pardons early and comparatively often — seemingly unconcerned by the appearance of leaning his ears toward those at the top.”

So is Trump being unethical in a more ethical fashion than his predecessors?

  • Bad host, worse guest. The President’s derogatory comments about the British Prime Minister were indefensible, of course. We know how he thinks: Great Britain, as he has said, with justification, has made him feel unwelcome—that insulting “Trump baby” blimp over London is a real diplomatic low—and thus, in Trump’s rudimentary ethics system, akin to that of a lizard, the proper response is tit-for-tat. None of this is unexpected, and nobody who voted for Trump can say that they didn’t give him license to behave this way by electing him.

I do wonder now why I ever thought that he would react to being elected by moderating the very conduct that, in his mind and probably in reality, got him where he is today. My role model for him was President Arthur, who was about as different in character and background from Donald Trump as a human being could be.

I’m an idiot. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/25/2018: Special “Was That Wrong? Should I Have Not Done That? I Gotta Plead Ignorance On This Thing Because If Anyone Had Said Anything To Me At All When I First Started Here That That Sort Of Thing Was Frowned Upon…” Edition*

Good morning, all.

Let’s get warmed up…

1  Social media censorship. Tom Champlin, who owns the libertarian news aggregator The Liberty Review and runs its associated Facebook page was banned from Facebook for 30 days under its “community standards” for posting this:

Facebook prohibits posts that promote harmful conduct, eating disorders and suicide, but no one but an idiot–is the Facebook community made up of idiots?—would misinterpret the meaning of that meme. It’s a political statement, and if it really violates Facebook’s “community standards,” then Facebook is demanding ideological conformity in its already largely mindless left-wing echo chamber. Either enough Facebook users who believe in free speech make a stink over this kind of attempted regulation of public opinion to force Facebook (and Twitter, and Google) to cut it out, or the open expression of ideas in social media will be doomed.

I suggest every Facebook user post this meme, not to chide Obamacare, but to show support for freedom of expression, and contempt for Facebook’s attempt to strangle it. Of course Facebook, as a private business, can ban what it wants. That doesn’t mean abusing its power and influence is any less dangerous or despicable.

I just posted this item, with the meme, to my Facebook page. I’ll be interest to see a) if I get banned, even with the above preface, and 2) how many of my knee-jerk progressive friends have the integrity to post the meme themselves.

2.  Predators who don’t get it, Part 1. Like many others, I wondered if the NPR banishment of Garrison Keillor and the deposit of his iconic “Prairie Home Companion” radio show  in the Void of Shame was just witch hunt mania. Keillor dismissed it as the result of a single ex-employee making a late fuss over an accidental laying on of hands. Finally, after being attacked by Keillor fans for Frankening him unjustly, Minnesota Public Television, which was the NPR station that investigated the plummy humorist, decided that it had to go public with the real story. Yesterday it posted a statement that said in part…

When Minnesota Public Radio abruptly severed ties with Garrison Keillor in November, the sole explanation offered by the company was “inappropriate behavior” with a female colleague.

For his part, the creator and longtime host of A Prairie Home Companion described his offense as nothing more than having placed his hand on a woman’s back to console her. An investigation by MPR News, however, has learned of a years-long pattern of behavior that left several women who worked for Keillor feeling mistreated, sexualized or belittled. None of those incidents figure in the “inappropriate behavior” cited by MPR when it severed business ties. Nor do they have anything to do with Keillor’s story about putting a hand on a woman’s back:

  • In 2009, a subordinate who was romantically involved with Keillor received a check for $16,000 from his production company and was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement which, among other things, barred her from ever divulging personal or confidential details about him or his companies. She declined to sign the agreement, and never cashed the check.

• In 2012, Keillor wrote and publicly posted in his bookstore an off-color limerick about a young woman who worked there and the effect she had on his state of arousal.

• A producer fired from The Writer’s Almanac in 1998 sued MPR, alleging age and sex discrimination, saying Keillor habitually bullied and humiliated her and ultimately replaced her with a younger woman.

• A 21-year-old college student received an email in 2001 in which Keillor, then her writing instructor at the University of Minnesota, revealed his “intense attraction” to her.

MPR News has interviewed more than 60 people who worked with or crossed professional paths with Keillor. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they still work in the industry or feared repercussions from Keillor or his attorneys…

Is it possible that Keillor really believes that he never did anything wrong? Yes, it’s very possible, and this Ethics Alarms post from yesterday in all likelihood applies to Keillor, another weird, homely guy that learned early in life that show business was a great way to attract women. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/17/18: Have You Heard About The Adulterous Governor?

Good Morning!

Just one issue to warm-up with today, but a juicy one, with sex, lies, and tape! Two kinds of tape, in fact…

I find it peculiar that the travails of Missouri Governor Eric Greitens have received such light coverage in the news media; after all, this is great chance to embarrass a Republican. If you missed the story, it goes like this:

During his campaign later during his first year in office as Missouri’s Governor (he began his term a year ago), Eric Greitens proclaimed himself a family values guy. During his campaign announcement, he stated: “I’m Eric Greitens, I’m a Navy SEAL, native Missourian and most importantly, a proud husband and father.” Rumors of past extra-marital dalliances surfaced, and the Governor denied them.

An un-named lover’s ex-husband,however, blew the whistle to the news media, providing an incriminating tape in which the woman said she had a single sexual encouter with Grietens  and that he tried to blackmail her to ensure her silence.  “He took a picture of my wife naked as blackmail. There is no worse person,” the ex-husband told reporters. There are also allegation that Grietens slapped her. The woman  has not made an on-the-record comment about the story.

In a recording released by CBS News, the unnamed woman is heard saying,

“I knew he was being sexual and I still let him. And he used some sort of tape, I don’t know what it was and taped my hands to these rings and then put a blindfold on me. He stepped back and I saw a flash through the blindfold and he said you’re never going to mention my name, otherwise, there will be pictures of me everywhere….He tried kissing my stomach and tried to kiss me down there but didn’t quite get there because I flipped out and I said you need to stop.”

Last week, the Governor and his wife released this statement:

“A few years ago, before Eric was elected Governor, there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage. This was a deeply personal mistake. Eric took responsibility, and we dealt with this together honestly and privately. While we never would have wished for this pain in our marriage, or the pain that this has caused others, with God’s mercy Sheena has forgiven and we have emerged stronger. We understand that there will be some people who cannot forgive – but for those who can find it in your heart, Eric asks for your forgiveness, and we are grateful for your love, your compassion, and your prayers.” 

Sheena Greitens added:

“We have a loving marriage and an awesome family; anything beyond that is between us and God. I want the media and those who wish to peddle gossip to stay away from me and my children.” 

The allegations of blackmail and now of battery are being investigated. Some lawmakers from both parties are calling on the Governor to resign.

Last week, an attorney for Governor Greitens released the following statement:

“We have been asked repeatedly by reputable news outlets why we believe this nearly three-year-old news story is coming out now. The latest reporting has finally disclosed that the reporting was being driven by a “source” who is the former Democrat state party chairman and who apparently has not spoken to the person in question. This goes a long way to explaining what is going on – this is a political hit piece.

This is and remains an almost three-year-old private matter with no matter of public interest at stake. Eric and Sheena have worked through those issues long ago and I think that Sheena put it best: ‘We have a loving marriage and an awesome family; anything beyond that is between us and God. I want the media and those who wish to peddle gossip to stay away from me and my children.’ Now we know who has been peddling that gossip.”

Thoughts: Continue reading

Monica Fails Another Accountability Test

This is the graphic the Times used above the Lewinsky op-ed. You didn’t know that the whole Clinton-Lewinsky scandal was staged by Roger Ailes, did you? Yes, it was all his fault. Really. And since he’s dead, this is the perfect time for the Times to say so.

In an New York Times op-ed prompted by the death of Fox News founder Roger Ailes, Monica Lewinsky demonstrates that she sees herself as a pathetic victim, and blames others for what happened to her after a President of the United States decided to indulge himself and use a star-struck White House intern as his sex toy. Yet Monica’s others barely include Bill Clinton (he is mentioned just once in her screed), who did victimize her. Instead, she is accusing  Ailes and Matt Drudge, who committed the sin, Lewinsky implies, of preventing the mainstream news media from burying the story, as it was in the process of trying to do.

Monica’s attack on Ailes is just the latest in the hate-fest from the Left in reaction to his death. His primary crime, in their eyes, was  interfering with the left-wing media’s ability to spin the news to recruit the public in uncritical and ignorant support of all things liberal. Many of the vicious tweets from reporters (When Al Sharpton stands out for being fair, you know something is amiss) focused on Ailes’s sexual harassment, but it is fair to assume that Clinton, another serial harasser, will not be memorialized by these critics in the same way. Ailes was a sexist, power-abusing pig, but these people work with and cover  and vote for sexist power-abusing pigs all the time. They revile Ailes because he broke up their monopoly.

The Times can only have decided to publish Lewinsky’s jaw-droppingly obtuse and self-serving column as part of its own post-mortem smear of  Ailes, even though it makes Monica look deluded and juvenile. Yes, she is being used again.

She writes in part: Continue reading

“Grace And Frankie” Ethics

“Grace And Frankie”Grace_and_Frankie_Season_1_poster_9 is a mostly fun Netflix series featuring Jane Fonda (as creepily “Death Becomes Her”- like,  70-going on 40-looking Grace Hanson) and Lilly Tomlin (Frankie Bergstein, an old, adorable hippie) as an odd couple of septuagenarians  brought together when their respective lawyer husbands, Robert ( Martin Sheen, looking very old) and Sol (Sam Waterson) declare that they have been carrying on a 20 year gay love affair. It’s now Season Two, both couples are divorced but friendly, and Robert and Sol are preparing an elaborate wedding.

Ah, but at the end of last season, cleaning out their old house and being soaked in photos, regrets and fond memories, Sol and Frankie had one last sexual fling (they had a kid: this was not unprecedented). The final episode saw Sol in anguish, feeling like he had betrayed the love of his life (that is, Robert) and not knowing how or whether to confess that he cheated with his former wife.

As Season Two gets underway, Robert has a heart attack, so the wedding is much reduced in grandeur with him still recuperating. Frankie officiates, having received her legal authority to do so over the internet. All is romantic bliss until Sol, after Robert, now recovered has prepared a romantic dinner and they have belatedly exchanged rings, can’t hold his terrible secret back any longer. He tells Robert about his one-night stand. [As he should. Everyone else in the extended family knows about his dilemma, and Robert and Grace’s children urge him to never reveal a secret that can only cause unhappiness. Sol, correctly, asserts that he can’t begin a marriage with secrets and lies. For better or worse, he has to come clean.]

And Robert throws him out! Continue reading

The Naked Mayor Principle?

Chip Johnson

Chip  Johnson, the  married mayor of Hernando, Mississippi, sent a photograph of himself naked in the shower to his mistress, who then widely circulated it on the internet after the mayor discarded her like an old sock, or something.  (This is the essentially same plot the the British series “Happy Valley” employed last season, except that ex-lover so exposed was a police detective, not a mayor.)

Chip defended himself by explaining that he had sent the  shower selfie last year to an adult woman who was fully consenting in the relationship; in other words, this wasn’t a Weiner situation. Now he’s playing the victim, whining that it was “hurtful” to have his trust violated while he was violating his wife’s trust as well as the trust of his constituency, which trusted him not to make an ass of himself and embarrass them by emailing his naughty bits to his mistress.  Johnson told the local paper that he was seeking legal advice. Here’s some ethics advice:

Resign. Mayors should, at very least, be reasonably trusted not to have their Johnsons get displayed far and wide. There is no good reason for any mayor’s Johnson to be so displayed. If a mayor’s Johnson, like Mayor Johnson’s Johnson, is so displayed, it is proof positive that said mayor is an irresponsible fool with terrible judgment. Nobody who is an irresponsible fool with terrible judgment should be a mayor. Sure, the ex-mistress’s conduct was cruel and vindictive, but she’s not the mayor.

It’s really quite simple.

He’s toast, and deserves to be.

Let’s call it “The Naked Mayor Principle.”

[ You can review the related Naked Teacher Principle here...]

The Ethics Of Judges In Love

gavel heart

When  attorney Joe Foley represented a client in a matter before Judge Scott Drazewski in early 2011, he was unaware that the married judge was involved a year-long secret romantic affair with Judge Rebecca Foley, the attorney’s wife.

Now both Illinois judges  have been disciplined by state legal ethics authorities for failing to reveal their romantic relationship and violating multiple ethics rules as a result. The ethics commission imposed a four-month unpaid suspension on Drazewski for “egregious” judicial ethics violations, and censured Judge Foley for assisting, aiding, abetting, and not reporting his violation or their affair. Continue reading