Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/6/17: Comey’s Premature Draft, Obama’s Golden Rule Breach, Newspapers “Protecting Us,”And Thank-You, Boston Red Sox

 

1 I want to sincerely thank the Boston Red Sox for giving me, the sole baseball ethicist on the web who also devotes a disturbing amount of his time, energy and passion to following the team, the challenge and opportunity to address a major cheating scandal involving the organization and institution I love. Seriously, guys, thank you. This is exactly what I needed to face after staying up past 1 AM watching the Sox pull out a 19 inning, 6 hour game on Hanley Ramirez’s bloop single to center.

I’ll cover the issue in the next post. Ugh.

2. Ironically, just as the anti-Trump news media was hyperventilating over the fact that the Special Counsel was examining a draft letter by the President regarding his reasons for firing James Comey (draft letters have minimal probative value if any, but you know: Trump), it came to light that in May of 2016, Comey had drafted a statement declining to charge Hillary Clinton or her staff in the State Department e-mail scandal, months before key witnesses (like Clinton herself) had been interviewed or much of the evidence had been reviewed. President Trump, of course, tweeted that this proved there was a “rigged process,” but Comey’s draft is no more incriminating that Trump’s draft. (Now, Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton might suggest a rigged process, but that’s another story.)

Supreme Court Justices have drafted opinions before oral argument; that doesn’t mean they can’t change their minds. It is certainly odd that Comey would have drafted a statement that Clinton would not be indicted so long before the investigation was completed. It is odder still that Hillary’s interview was not under oath, that it wasn’t videotaped, that there was no transcript, and that she was allowed to have representing her as an attorney at the session a top aide who was also a potential witness.

Professor Turley, in a column at The Hill, agrees that the early draft doesn’t implicate the integrity of the investigation, but raises a related issue:

While I am inclined to accept assurances from Comey that he did not finally decide on charges until after reviewing all of the evidence, the details from the Clinton investigation hardly support a view of a robust and dogged effort in comparison to the type of investigation of people like Paul Manafort.

In pursuing Manafort, special counsel Robert Mueller has now enlisted an army of investigators, reached a cooperative relationship with staunch Trump critic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and actively pursued tax and financial dealings far afield of the original Russian collusion allegations. He also ordered a heavy-handed (and unnecessary) “no knock” search in the middle of the night on Manafort’s home.

The Clinton investigation looks like Club Fed in comparison. Clinton and her staff refused to cooperate with State Department investigators seeking confirm any damage to national security. Key laptops were withheld and only turned over after Comey’s staff agreed to destroy the computers after their review, despite the relevance of the evidence to congressional investigations. Comey then cut five immunity deals with key Clinton staff members, including former State Department staffer, Bryan Pagliano, who set up a server in Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y., and worked for her at the State Department.

Pagliano refused to cooperate after invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and destroyed evidence after being given a preservation order. Those deals raised the concern over a type of prosecutorial planned obsolescence, making a viable case less likely.

The amusing part is that all of this circles back to Comey’s firing, which was justified by his handling of the Clinton investigation regardless of any other factors.

3. The New York Times today reviews a festival play called “___hole.” That’s not really the title, however, although “___hole” was printed twice as the play title before the Times made this clear. A comment by the reviewer noted that the real title couldn’t “get past the editors.” Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Ryan Thompson

You may have heard about this guy: he took his girlfriend up in his private plane, and pretended that the plane was about to crash as part of his set-up to propose to her. As he supposedly tried to get the plane under control to save their lives, Thompson told Carlie Kennedy to read from an emergency protocol explaining how to pull the plane out of a dive. “I genuinely did believe that we were going to die,” Kennedy told ABC News. “I felt like our lives depended on me making it through that checklist.” Then, as she read through the list, it slowly dawned that it was actually an marriage  proposal leading up to the final bullet point: “Will you marry me?” She turned to the smiling pilot, who was holding a ring. She said yes.

And then they crashed.

No, not really. And I suppose this sadistic narcissist has found a perfect mate, a naive victim who will doubtless enjoy all the hell he puts her through for his own amusement. It was a pretty good test, when you think about it. What better way to let your intended know exactly what she’s getting into, and to find out whether she’ll tolerate despicable treatment and outrageous conduct with a smile and a kiss?

Good luck, Carlie, and I mean that sincerely. Your husband to be is an Ethics Dunce, an especially cruel one, and you’re an idiot.

You’ll need all the luck you can get.

Julian Assange: Not a Hero, Not a Terrorist, Not a Criminal, Just an Asshole

I know. Well, sometimes a vulgar word is the most accurate we have.

Our definition of journalism has yet to catch up with the cyber age, and freedom of speech does not distinguish among blogs, newspapers and dissidents. What ensures responsible use of First Amendment rights is ethics, not law. America allows journalists to act as information laundries, taking material that a private citizen was bound not to reveal by law, contract, or professional duty, and to re-define it to the world as what “the public has a right to know,” defined any way the particular journalist finds appealing.

Despite all the fulminating and condemnations by the likes of Mitch McConnell and Newt Gingrich on the Sunday talk shows, the U.S. can’t make Wikileaks founder Julian Assange a terrorist just by calling him one, nor can it fairly declare him a criminal for accepting the product of the unethical and often illegal acts of leakers, and making it public, just like the New York Times has done on many occasions…not under current laws.  Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who leaked many of the secret documents, is certainly a criminal. So was Daniel Ellsberg, who, to nobody’s surprise, is cheering Assange on and attacking his critics. . Assange, however, is not a criminal. He has not revealed any information that he accepted in trust while  promising not to reveal it. He is no more a criminal than the New York Times, if the New York Times was published in Hell. Continue reading