Tag Archives: appearance of impropriety

It’s Official: The Mueller Investigation Is An Ethics Train Wreck

The Russian election  interference  investigation is officially an Ethics Train Wreck, hence forth known here as “The Mueller Investigation Ethics Train Wreck.”

This is the one year anniversary of the official beginning of the Special Prosecutor’s investigation into Russia’ alleged interference with the 2016 Presidential election, and the question of whether the Trump campaign were involved in the effort, to the extent there was one. That the investigation has morphed into a huge, messy, almost perfect example of an ethics train wreck–the Ethics Alarms designation for an episode and its aftermath in which almost everyone who becomes involved in any way ends up compromised, corrupted, embarrassed or exposed as ethically misguided.

The impetus for the arguable late call was Glenn Greenwald’s jaw-dropping story on what he calls “an extremely strange episode.” Here is some of Greewald’s reporting,

Over the past several weeks, House Republicans have been claiming that the FBI during the 2016 election used an operative to spy on the Trump campaign, and they triggered outrage within the FBI by trying to learn his identity. The controversy escalated when President Trump joined the fray on Friday morning. “Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,” Trump tweeted, adding: “It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a “hot” Fake News story. If true – all time biggest political scandal!”

In response, the DOJ and the FBI’s various media spokespeople did not deny the core accusation, but quibbled with the language (the FBI used an “informant,” not a “spy”), and then began using increasingly strident language to warn that exposing his name would jeopardize his life and those of others, and also put American national security at grave risk. On May 8, the Washington Post described the informant as “a top-secret intelligence source” and cited DOJ officials as arguing that disclosure of his name “could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI.”

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, who spent much of last week working to ensure confirmation of Trump’s choice to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, actually threatened his own colleagues in Congress with criminal prosecution if they tried to obtain the identity of the informant. “Anyone who is entrusted with our nation’s highest secrets should act with the gravity and seriousness of purpose that knowledge deserves,” Warner said.

But now, as a result of some very odd choices by the nation’s largest media outlets, everyone knows the name of the FBI’s informant: Stefan Halper. And Halper’s history is quite troubling, particularly his central role in the scandal in the 1980 election. Equally troubling are the DOJ and FBI’s highly inflammatory and, at best, misleading claims that they made to try to prevent Halper’s identity from being reported.

To begin with, it’s obviously notable that the person the FBI used to monitor the Trump campaign is the same person who worked as a CIA operative running that 1980 Presidential election spying campaign. [From earlier in the article: “Four decades ago, Halper was responsible for a long-forgotten spying scandal involving the 1980 election, in which the Reagan campaign – using CIA officials managed by Halper, reportedly under the direction of former CIA Director and then-Vice-Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush – got caught running a spying operation from inside the Carter administration. The plot involved CIA operatives passing classified information about Carter’s foreign policy to Reagan campaign officials in order to ensure the Reagan campaign knew of any foreign policy decisions that Carter was considering.”]…Halper, through his CIA work, has extensive ties to the Bush family. Few remember that the CIA’s perceived meddling in the 1980 election – its open support for its former Director, George H.W. Bush to become President – was a somewhat serious political controversy. And Halper was in that middle of that, too…. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/8/2018: George Washington, Elaine Chao, Brown-Haired Fox News Babes And Clumsy Cheerleaders

Good Morning!

1. Diversity at Fox News! There was a brunette co-anchor sitting with Bill Hemmer this morning. I almost spit out my coffee, Now if the network would only hire a female newsreader who wouldn’t be a credible contestant in a beauty pageant, the culture might advance a bit…

2.  Can an employer refuse to hire an asshole? The NFL Players Association has filed a grievance  on behalf of free-agent safety Eric Reid,  alleging collusion that has denied him a job for the upcoming 2018 season, and arguing that no NFL rule mandates players stand during the playing of the national anthem, that the league has indicated it respects “the rights of players to demonstrate,” and the collective bargaining agreement states “league rules supersede club rules.”

The grievance loses, or the NFL is in big trouble. Well, it is already in trouble, but more trouble. Demonstrating players annoys fans and hurts business. The NFL may force teams to allow jerks like Reid and ex-player Colin Kaepernick to interfere with Sunday head-bashing frolic by imposing their half-baked politics on the proceedings, but team can certainly choose to pay million dollar contracts to players who have better judgment, and are thus more trustworthy employees.

3. At George Washington University, it’s The Political Correctness Morons vs. The Conflict-Averse Spineless! I can’t believe I’m writing this. No, of course I can: I’ve predicted it.

The following on-line petition has garnered the requisite number of signatures among George Washington University students, and now will get an official response:

“We, as students of the George Washington University, believe it is of great exigence that the University changes its official mascot. The use of “Colonials,” no matter how innocent the intention, is received as extremely offensive by not only students of the University, but the nation and world at large. The historically, negatively-charged figure of Colonials has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression. Alternative nickname recommendations are “Hippos,” “Revolutionaries”, or “Riverhorses.”

They apparently don’t teach American history at GW.  The nickname  for the athletic teams  is “The Colonials” because the United States, prior to its liberation, were called “the Colonies,” because they were colonies. Colonials are those who have been colonized, not those who do the colonizing. The mascot, meanwhile, is called “George,” because he is a caricature of George Washington, who led the Colonials to victory over Great Britain, and anyone who can’t puzzle that out shouldn’t be in college.

The petition represents the mutant offspring of a one night stand between The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck and The Niggardly Principles.

Who will win? Oh, the Morons, probably. On campuses the Morons almost always defeat the spineless administrators, as well as common sense and rationality. [Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur]

Oh…here’s George:

4.  Speaking of spineless…The cheerleading  coaches at Hanover Park High School in New Jersey decided that there would be no more try-outs for the squad. The school’s athletic director said that after a single mother complained about her daughter not making the cut, the policy would be changed in favor of “inclusion.” The school board released a statement saying: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 11, 2018: Caesar’s Wife At The EPA, Idiots On The Air, And Dreamers Demanding Discounts [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. Forgetting to heed the “Caesar’s wife” Principle. Whatever one may think about EPA head Scott Pruitt’s controversial policy directions as head of the environmental agency, all ought to be able to agree on this: he’s an idiot.

Here is a cultural literacy test: How many Americans under the age of—what, 45? 60? 104?—know what the term “like Caesar’s wife” means? When you have a target painted on your back because you are taking positions that are guaranteed to be anathema to powerful critics, like the news media, you are “like Caesar’s wife.” This should communicate something to you. In 63 BC, Julius Caesar, a man on the rise, was elected to the position of the Pontifex Maximus, the chief priest of the Roman state religion. The next year, his wife Pompeia hosted the festival of the Bona Dea (“Good Goddess”) in which no man was allowed to participate, at Caesar’s official residence. Publius Clodius Pulcher, a  rash young patrician, snuck into the celebration disguised as a woman, allegedly to seduce Pompeia. He was caught, prosecuted ( not for trying to shag Caesar’s wife but for the crime of sacrilege), and ultimately  acquitted. Nevertheless, Caesar divorced Pompeia, saying, “My wife ought not even to be under suspicion.”  Thus was born the saying, once well-known to educated individuals, that “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”

Either Pruitt doesn’t know the reference, or doesn’t understand it. He has made himself vulnerable and a political liability to the Trump administration by the kind of grubby ethics violations so many of the administration’s recruits from the corporate world have engaged in. (And what does this tell us about that culture?)

David J. Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, sent  a letter this week to Kevin Minoli, the EPA’s  top ethics official,  asking the agency to take “appropriate actions to address any violations.”

Among the issues raised were Pruitt’s $50-a-night rental  of a Capitol Hill condominium from the wife of an energy lobbyist (This may not have been market value, the letter speculates, raising the question of whether it was a gift, aka “bribe.” Ya think? You can’t rent a decent garden tool shed for 50 bucks a night…), Pruitt taking an excessive number government-funded flights home to Oklahoma and back (He’s about the 78th Trump official to be caught doing this kind of thing—do these guys read the newspapers?), and worst of all, reports that agency staff members who raised concerns about these and other actions creating “the appearance of impropriety”  found themselves transferred or demoted.

“The success of our government depends on maintaining the trust of the people we serve,”wrote Apol. “The American public needs to have confidence that ethics violations, as well as the appearance of ethics violations, are investigated and appropriately addressed.”

Why yes! And anyone who holds high government office is supposed to know that. Anyone holding high government office in this administration, which is in the position of the thug sprung from police lock-up on a technicality to which an angry detective says before he strolls out the door, “If you so much as spit on the sidewalk, I’ll be there to pick you up,” should know that especially. When they are gunning for you, you have to be like Caesar’s wife.

The President should fire Pruitt for these flagrant abuses. He won’t, because he literally doesn’t think ethics matter. I wonder if he thinks stupidity and unrestrained arrogance matter… Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/18/18: McCabe, Brennan, And “Fighting Joe” Hooker

Good Morning!

1 McCabe Ethics. If you want a starting place to find smoking guns regarding the stunning bias of the mainstream media, one need look no further than the overwhelming sympathy being expressed for Andrew McCabe, the senior FBI official just fired by AG Jeff Sessions.

 Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded that McCabe misled investigators about his role in directing other officials at the FBI to speak to “The Wall Street Journal” regarding his involvement in a public corruption investigation into the Clinton Foundation. Horowitz’s report on McCabe was referred to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the career officials there recommended McCabe’s termination.That means McCabe had to be fired. I never had a job in which I wouldn’t have been fired if an internal investigation showed I had lied on the job. Have you? In a law enforcement job, this is an even worse offense. Firing for cause is virtually mandatory. Of course it is. But here, for example, is “The Atlantic”:

“Andrew McCabe, a former acting and deputy FBI director who had drawn the ire of President Trump, was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions late Friday evening, a decision that raises troubling questions about the independence of both the Justice Department and the FBI.”

What? It raises no “troubling questions” at all! McCabe had to be fired. The fact that the President had criticized him is 100% irrelevant. He would have had to be fired if the President said he was the salt of the earth. He would have to be fired if the President said he was the spawn of Hell. McCabe lied. The internal investigation said so. He was fired. Good.

There were plenty of other reasons to be suspicious of McCabe. NBC News reported,  for example, that when McCabe’s wife, Jill, ran for the state Senate in Virginia in 2015, she accepted a donation from a political action committee controlled by then Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, one of the Clintons’ closest allies. Then, in 2017, McCabe became a key official in the investigation of Hillary’s e-mail tricks. He should have recused himself: it’s called the appearance of impropriety. James Comey should have forced him to recuse himself. Never mind: the lies alone were enough to mandate a firing.

The news media, many believe (including me), support McCabe because he was a source for leaks—in other words, he violated the law and legal ethics to pass along confidential information. For that, if it could be proven, McCabe ought to be disbarred and prosecuted.

To read my progressive Facebook friends’ rants, as their IQ and integrity declines further every day, the current outrage is over the fact that McCabe was fired a mere day before he could take early retirement. Again, good. A high-ranked FBI official who lies on the job must be fired, not allowed to escape accountability by retiring. Once he retired, the only recourse for the Justice Department would be to indict him. It doesn’t matter that he was a day away from retiring. So what? What if he was a month away? A year? A minute? He lied. He deserved to be fired, not to be allowed to retire. The quick retirement dodge was how the Obama Administration justified letting IRS officials that criminally misused the agency for partisan warfare escape accountability.

2. And this is why the President of the United States shouldn’t tweet like a junior high school student, or like Larry Tribe  Here is former CIA Director John Brennan’s tweet in response to McCabe’s firing”

When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you.

It is unprofessional, uncivil, misleading and unethical. However, when the President of the United States’ daily habits make such tweets a Presidential norm, this is what you get: not just a Nation of Assholes, but a government of assholes.

Kudos to journalist Sharyl Attkisson for tweeting the perfect response to Brennan’s thuggishness:

“A guy like this would never misuse intel or his authority—would he?” Continue reading

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Afternoon Ethics Cool-Down, 2/28/18: Honors, Bribes, Blackmail, And “Ugh!”

Good Afternoon.

Actually, that’s dishonest: it’s been a terrible day, morn to now.. A catalogue retailer took an email address my wife sent them a year ago and  bombarded her account with hundreds of promotional messages yesterday, crashing her email. Then her efforts to fix the problem resulted in a Proethics system email crash that I have been trying to address for the past five hours. I finally decided to get something productive done, so I’m getting up this post while talking to my tech people. UPDATE: They just gave up.

1 Trump Tweets. Ugh. The President criticizing his own Cabinet member, in this case Jeff Sessions, in public via tweet, is horrific leadership and management practice. If I were Sessions, I would resign, It is disrespectful, disloyal, undermines morale on the President’s team, and is just plain stupid. I don’t understand how Trump had any success at all treating employees and subordinates like this. While we’re on this perpetual subject. the fact that the President would say out loud that he would have rushed the Parkland shooter without a weapon is just more evidence of a) a flat learning curve b) the lack of the usual filters from brain to mouth and c) the unethical tendency of third parties to critique the actions of others in rescue situations. No question: the resource officer who was required by policy, assignment and duty to try to intervene in the shooting deserves all the criticism he has been getting, and is accountable. But the President of the United States announcing that he is Batman is something else entirely.

My objections to the non-stop personal ridicule of our elected leader stands, but he also has a duty, as the steward of the Office, not to make himself look ridiculous.

2. An unethical boycott tactic, but I repeat myself.  The anti-gun zealots have decided to attack a free and constitutionally protected Bill of Rights advocacy group as part of the news media-assisted effort to demonize the NRA as being somehow responsible for a school shooting that none of the proposed “common sense gun reforms” would have prevented. Now the Second Amendment-gutting crowd  is using the boycott, a particularly odious weapon favored by progressives, which depends on the venality and spinelessness of corporate executives to constrict free speech. Delta Airlines announced it was ending a promotional discount with the National Rifle Association after threats and a social media campaign, then tried the weaselly explanation that its decision to stop offering discounted fares to the N.R.A. “reflects the airline’s neutral status in the current national debate over gun control amid recent school shootings.”
Continue reading

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How Many Rationalizations Can You Spot In This Op-Ed? [UPDATED!]

 

At the beginning of the month we discussed the scandal in Nashville, Tennessee, where the female mayor, —the news media tried oh so hard to bury her party affiliation deep in reports, but she’s a Democrat— was carrying on an adulterous affair with the head of her security detail.  Some quotes from the Ethics Alarms essay to refresh your memory for the horrors to come:

—She apologized “for the harm I’ve done to the people I love and the people who counted on me” but said she won’t be resigning. In a news conference, she said nothing illegal happened and no policies were violated.

—“I know that God will forgive me, but that Nashville doesn’t have to,” Barry said. “And I hope that I can earn their trust and I can earn your trust back, and that you will forgive me

—-This is classic appearance of impropriety.

—-In the Bill Clinton mold, the mayor is framing this as a matter of marital fealty rather than official misconduct—which it is—so she can argue that it’s just “personal private conduct.”

—-The conduct is unethical whether there are policies or not.

—-This is sexual harassment. The officer was a subordinate, and she was his boss, with the power to fire him or worse. There can be no genuine consent in such situations. In these cases with the typical genders reversed, neither the news media, nor the public, nor, in all likelihood, a hypothetical jury, would see it that way.

—-Barry’s playing the God Card is grounds to remove her all by itself.

—-Come on, #MeToo, show some integrity. Get this workplace predator kicked out of office.

Interestingly, a prominent and respected female, feminist Democrat who comments here with distinction argued in the comments to that post that this wasn’t even a newsworthy story outside of Nashville. Also interestingly, the New York Times disagrees, and even published a spirited—but stupid!—defense of Barry’s conduct, arguing that unlike, say, Al Franken, who was forced to resign for pre-political career conduct and unproven post-political career allegations, the fact that a Democratic mayor—FEMALE! Don’t forget that she is female!–was using state-paid employees under her supervision as a personal, state-funded dating pool does not mean she’s untrustworthy or qualified for high office.

Okey-dokey then! What we have here is an old-fashioned convenient double standard!

And this just in! Nashville’s main newspaper, the Tenneseean, reports that Rob Forrest, the Mayor’s married lover, earned substantially more overtime than the other bodyguards on Barry’s secuirty detail, $173,843.13  between July 2015 and January 2017, which was nearly $53,000 more than the other four bodyguards received combined. But, as several internet wags have noted, let’s be fair: Rob was doing more for the mayor than those other bodyguards..

Now let’s all read the op-ed*, by Margaret Renkl , whom the Times proudly describes as ” a contributing opinion writer.” This time around, I won’t get into such matters as the odd silence of the #MeToo warriors, who have set out to destroy successful men who were accused of being boorish on a single date. I won’t even question the competence of the Times editors, allowing such unethical, illogical, poorly reasoned hypocrisy to make its way into its pages to make Times readers more ethically inept than they already are. No, I just want to focus on Renkle and her claim that Barry shouldn’t have to resign, and the unethical rationalizations for wrongful conduct she gainfully employs along the way.

Here is the complete current list (some new rationalizations will be added soon, but this is plenty). These are just the titles; go here to get the full descriptions. Continue reading

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When Ethics Alarms Not Only Don’t Ring, But Signal That They Might Not Have Ever Been Operable: PolitiFact Reveals Its Incompetence And Untrustworthiness Beyond All Reasonable Doubt

This is fortuitous timing! Yesterday Ethics Alarms praised a fact-check job by a supposedly non-partisan media bias watchdog site that critiqued Factcheck.Org’s analysis of the State of The Union. Today Bryan W. White informed us that the site in question favors PolitiFact, the vastly inferior factcheck site operated by the Tampa Bay Times. It is demonstrably one of the most left-biased and untrustworthy of all the fact-checking services. Bryan is a reliable authority on PolitiFact, having documented its partisan and dishonest work for years, and as co-creater of the PolitiFact Bias blog, for which he is the main writer.

Just in case there was any doubt about just how devoid of the necessary integrity and competence PolitiFact is for its mission, yesterday it announced that former Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson had been hired to critique PolitiFact and enhance its trust and credibility. Alan Grayson.

KABOOM!*

The same Alan Grayson who sent a complaint to then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to prosecute a Republican activist  for starting an anti-Grayson parody website www.mycongressmanisnuts,com, mocking  Grayson’s typically hyperbolic site, http://www.congressmanwithguts.com,  suggesting  to Holder that Langley should be imprisoned for five years.  Now there’s respect for the First Amendment for you! What a perfect ally for a non-partisan media fact-checking operation, right?

Alan Grayson, the same politician I wrote this about in 20o9…

“Grayson is the Congressman whose explanation of the GOP position on health care was that “they want you to die.” He said that Dick Cheney speaks with “blood dripping from his teeth.” His mode of debate and persuasion, in other words, is insult and hyperbole. Respect for opposing views: zilch. Civility grade: F… He has endorsed unethical rules and plays by them…Grayson’s actions once again confirm a reliable rule of human nature: individuals who are habitually uncivil do not merely have a bad habit or poor self-control. They lack humility as well as basic respect and fairness toward others. The common, often uncivil but sometimes accurate  term for individuals like  Rep. Grayson is “jerk.”

and this in 2010… Continue reading

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