Spectacularly Incompetent Candidate Of The Month: Paul Ryan Challenger Paul Nehlen

"This is Paul. Won't you help him? Paul, like millions of other victims across the land, suffers from Constitution Ignorance Syndrome. This dread malady causes its victims to advocate fascist  policies and to sound like idiots in their public statements. But there is hope for Paul, and those like him. Please give, and give generously, To "Educate Paul." a non-profit charity. Your gift is tax-deductible, and you will have made the United States a little less stupid with every penny you contribute to this vital cause."

“This is Paul. Won’t you help him? Paul, like millions of other victims across the land, suffers from Constitution Ignorance Syndrome. This dread malady causes its victims to advocate fascist policies and to sound like idiots in their public statements. But there is hope for Paul, and those like him. Please give, and give generously, To Educate Paul a non-profit charity. Your gift is tax-deductible, and you will have made the United States a little less stupid with every penny you contribute to this vital cause.”

This was the guy that Donald Trump was supposedly going to endorse as retribution for Speaker Ryan’s negative comments? It’s comforting, isn’t it, that Trump isn’t that irrational? Ann Coulter is, but Trump isn’t. (At least in this case.)

Paul Nehlen is the arch conservative and certifiable ignoramus who is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District’s Republican primary. Interviewed last week on “Chicago’s Morning Answer,” Nehlen said that he wonders why we have any Muslims in the country, and suggested that there should be a public debate about tossing Muslims out of the U.S.

Here’s a partial transcript of the relevant comments Nehlen made to hosts Amy Jacobson and Dan Croft: Continue reading

The Darryl Glenn Affair: The Republican Candidate For U.S. Senator In Colorado Lied, Is Lying, And Thus Cannot Be Trusted Not To Lie In The Future

Darryl  Glenn is lawyer who is the Republican Party candidate for a United States Senate seat in Colorado in the 2016 election.  He is also getting, too late, a lesson in why public servants who try to lie their way out of embarrassing situations usually make things worse, and forfeit the public trust.

Glenn, who was largely unknown when he triumphed in the GOP state caucus, was asked about whether he had ever been arrested, and specifically about a rumored incident in which he attacked his father as a teen but was never charged. In May, Glenn told reporters he had never been interviewed by police for any reason. He said the incident being reported  might have involved another man named Darryl Glenn and that he sometimes gets phone calls about that person.

Then this month, Glenn told the Colorado Springs Independent that the rumored incident may have involved his half-brother, Cedric, who was 8 years older than Glenn and died in 1992.  Cedric, Glenn said, had a “criminal past.” The candidate pointed that he is an Air Force Academy graduate and that he would not have been accepted as a cadet if he had any kind of police record.

Now a recently uncovered  police report and other documents obtained by The Denver Post show that in November, 1983, Colorado Springs police answered a call from a father who said he had been struck in the face by his son, an 18-year-old high school senior  named Darryl Glenn. The documents include Glenn’s signature, which matches his signature on other documents.

This is Glenn’s latest explanation, fresh off his Facebook page. I’ll comment on it as we go along… Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Wisconsin State Journal

“Critics accused her of copying campaign materials after parts of her jobs plan and other proposals included segments that were identical to those other Democratic candidates.”

—-Wisconsin State Journal reporter Mary Spicuzza, in a story for the paper about how  Democratic Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke felts she was abused and “dragged through the mud” while running, unsuccessfully, against Gov. Scott Walker, arguably the most savaged state politician in any state.

finger-pointingAs I wrote about here, Burke DID copy campaign materials. The “critics accused” deceit is increasingly common in today’s journalism, as in “conservatives accused Democrats of using racially divisive tactics in Congressional races.” It’s despicable, and I salute Ann Althouse, a Wisconsin resident, for flagging this unintentionally hilarious example.

Spicuzza wrote “Critics accused” as if the accuracy of the accusation was still a matter of dispute, then stated in the same sentence that “parts of her jobs plans and other proposals” were identical to those of previous candidates. It’s not an accusation then, is it? It’s a fact that her opponents accurately and correctly pointed out, and as I pointed out, one that should have bothered her supporters as much it did “critics.”

This is how partisan and biased journalists warp public perceptions. Burke is claiming to have been “dragged though the mud,” implying unfair treatment, by revelations of accurate and damning facts, and the journalist is supporting that narrative by misleading reporting.

This particular device has been bothering me for a long time. Is it trivial? Sure, each individual example is trivial. Cumulatively, all the examples result in significantly warped and distorted public perceptions. I had to mention it at least once, and how sick to death I am of journalists who can’t just give us facts fairly without pushing their own candidates and agendas.

“How Can People Consider Voting For Candidates This Unethical?”: New York State Assembly Candidate Charles Barron (D) and Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis (R)

Barron (top); Ardis (bottom). Do your civic duty and vote: cyanide will be handed out when you leave...

Barron (top); Ardis (bottom). Do your civic duty and vote: cyanide will be handed out when you leave…

(“How Can People Consider Voting For Candidates This Unethical?” or HCPCVFCTU for short will flag the worst of the worst, the really awful politicians  whose lack of ethics should be a source of humiliation to all who support them.)

I have pledged to keep this category balanced between Republicans and Democrats, and since the first candidate featured was a Democrat and the utterly horrific candidate who came to may attention this morning also belonged to that party, I am featuring two politicians this morning to avoid the inevitable accusations that I take my orders from Glenn Beck and Fox News:

  • Charles Barron (D)  Barron is a New York City Councilman who is expected to coast to an easy victory after winning a Democratic primary for an open seat on the New York State legislature. He is an outspoken fan of Third World military dictators, Communist thugs and murderers, among them the late Libyan leader Muammar el-Quaddafi and former Cuban President Fidel Castro. “All my heroes were America’s enemies,” Barron proudly told the New York Observer in a recent interview. One of his favorite role models is Zimbabwe’s repressive President Robert Mugabe, whom he compares to Nelson Mandela. “I would love for him to come to Albany. I would love for him to come anywhere in the United States, really,”  Barron says. “I think he’s a shining example of an African leader on the African continent.”

Continue reading

How Can People Consider Voting For Candidates This Unethical? [The First In A Special Ethics Alarms Election Year Series]

Mary Burke

Mary Burke

With this post, Ethics Alarms launches a  special limited series, “How Can People Consider Voting For Candidates This Unethical?” or HCPCVFCTU for short. My goal will be to have approximately equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans named by election day. It should not be hard. Please send your nominations and suggestions to me at jamproethics@verizon.net.

The first candidate in the series: Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke.

A substantial portion of Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke’s published jobs plan for Wisconsin was lifted directly from the plans of three earlier Democratic candidates for governor in other states

Burke’s economic plan “Invest for Success” includes virtually word for word sections from the jobs plans of Ward Cammack, who ran for Tennessee governor in 2009, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (in 2008) and John Gregg who unsuccessfully ran for governor of Indiana in 2012. Buzzfeed has links to all of these, as well as Burke’s plan that uses them all.

Burke is blaming a campaign consultant, now fired, named Eric Schnurer. Apparently he also worked on the other campaigns, and engaged in self-plagiarism. Nevertheless, this is a pathetic excuse, and doesn’t relieve the candidate of full responsibility for trying to foist a phony plan on constituents:

  • This is supposed to be her plan, not a consultant’s off-the-shelf retreads.
  • Obviously, if it is substantially based on what was proposed for other states in plans as much as six years old, the “plan” has little to do with Wisconsin’s particular needs in 2014.
  • The “plan” proves that Mary Burke gave no thought to an important part of what she is allegedly running to accomplish in Wisconsin, and just rubber stamped something that sounded good by campaign fudging standards.
  • Is this the kind of employee Burke hires? Fakers and cheats? Is this the sort of oversight she provides? None? What is she doing, planning on running for President? Is this how much the public can trust her to be serious, substantive, attentive and trustworthy? Not one bit? It would seem so.
  • Then, when she is caught at being lazy, careless, dishonest, superficial and deceptive, Burke’s response is to deny responsibility, and blame someone else because she put her name on a stolen, recycled, vague and superficial “plan.”

How Can People Consider Voting For Candidates This Unethical?

__________________

Continue reading

A New “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” For Conservative Politicians? You Wish, Jennifer Rubin…

creationismOne of the Washington Post’s rare conservative columnists has a solution for GOP candidates and office holders whose views on some subjects are likely to make them targets of furious criticism: refuse to express them. She writes in her latest column:

“Not everything is a political issue, nor one on which politicians have any particular insight. Candidates are not asked their views on divorce, for example. Each state has laws on the topic, and one’s religious views aren’t a topic for public debate. It is not (and shouldn’t be) asked of nor answered by politicians…Creationism? Unless you are running for school board and intend to be guided by your religious convictions, it does not matter. Born again? None of my business.

“…[Q]uestions about creationism, gay marriage, the nature of homosexuality and other value-specific questions serve no purpose other than to provide targets for faux outrage. These questions are designed to divide the population into believers and nonbelievers, between those who share the same cultural touchstones and those who differ.

“If a topic has no relevance to public policy or character or fitness to serve, why ask the question and why answer it? We aren’t electing pastors, family counselors or philosophers; we’re electing politicians whose job description and qualifications don’t include a great many topics. If we are heading for a more tolerant society, we have to agree to disagree on some issues and to respect some realm of private opinion and faith. For Republicans running in 2016, I would suggest a simple response to the sort of question intended to provoke divisiveness over irrelevant topics: “I can’t think of a single instance in which [creationism/the origin of homosexuality] would be relevant. I’m not here to sow division or take sides in faith-based debates. Let’s talk about something germane to the presidency.”

Wrong.

Incredibly wrong. Continue reading

Incompetent Candidate For High Political Office—I Hope Of The Year, But Somehow, I Fear Not: Harley Brown

Harley BrownThe incompetence of  people like Harley Brown, a GOP candidate for Governor of Idaho, running in the primary, makes me angry and sad.

Some will protest that candidates for office have no ethical obligation to be competent. After all, running a bad campaign is its own punishment: you lose. That is not necessarily true, however, particularly in the states, but even if it is true, you can do a lot of damage while losing.

Like any other role, task, or job, running for a high elected office like governor of a state comes with responsibilities. For one thing, other people would like to run, work hard at it, and in the process, help democracy work better by giving voters a choice. Incompetent candidates like Brown not only block someone from running who might be good at it, they also give voters less choice, and sometimes, no choice at all. Those who complain about President Obama should review the pathetic campaign performance of John McCain. All these years to prepare, and he couldn’t master the skill of reading from a teleprompter without looking like he had been zapped by Dr. Strange and sounding like a Rotary Club awardee who begins his speech with “Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking…”?

There is more to resent about inept candidates, but let us focus on what makes Brown so awful. Many Idahoans were introduced to him during the recent Republican candidates debate, in which he began the night dressed like a superannuated biker, which is apparently what he is, or maybe Santa Claus in the throes of a mid-life crisis. Then he launched into what is obviously going to be his real schtick: blue collar, redneck sensibilities as imagined in the stereotyped  dreams of Bill Maher, delivered in wince-inducing bumper-sticker slogans and bad jokes that would be the low-lights of the worst stag party routine of all time.

Harley, as his website warns you, has declared war on “political correctness,” and he intends to campaign with what he egotistically calls “Harleyisms”:

“This is a unique compilation of American blue-collar attitudes, political philosophy and non-politically correct humor to both edify and entertain you.I am an opinionated grandfather trying to do what I can to help America become a better place for my grandchildren. To tell the truth, political correctness is in fact, “bondage to fear. “I am making a major political issue of FREEDOM from political correctness. I intend to walk the walk, not just talk the talk…I want to present myself as a much different “Candid Candidate” from the politically correct lawyers now dominating political circles. Perhaps then multitudes of righteous citizens ( particularly the hoards of my currently unregistered blue-collar brothers) will become politically active and help me fight for the futures of our grandchildren with tremendous passion motivated by love…I believe Harleyisms to be a splendid weapon against the vile bondage of political correctness…”

“Harleyisms,” however, really means “moldy and mostly unfunny jokes someone else made up that are only funny to bigots, fools and kids, and are certifiably embarrassing coming from anyone over the age of 12 who is claiming to be worthy of representing, leading, and looking out for the welfare of an entire state.” Continue reading

Rep. Kirk’s False Award

Thanks to Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk’s revelation that he has been knowingly misrepresenting (or “lying about”) the nature of a military honor on his official biography for years, following close on the heels of the Richard Blumenthal scandal, we must answer the question: how much dishonesty should the public tolerate in candidates for the U.S. Senate?

How about “none”? Continue reading

Cocoa Krispies and the Curse of the Transparent Lie

I have always been bothered by public lies that nobody could possibly believe. It is widely believed that such lies are harmless, since nobody could possibly be deceived by them. They are harmful, however, because their use suggests that lying doesn’t matter— it’s trivial, something everybody does, and nobody should expect truthfulness when a lie will serve.  The culture is already far too accepting of transparent lies. Politics is the most prominent example. Because the public expects candidates for high office to lie about their intent, they are amazingly forgiving when campaign lies become apparent. And because we  knowingly vote for well-meaning liars (or so we think), some  really dangerous, corrupt liars not only get elected, but can survive public exposure as liars. After all, say their supporters, enablers and henchmen, it is only a matter of degree.

Transparent lies, therefore, numb us to the hard stuff. They make us cynical, and the make us tolerant of liars. Then there is the possibility that the spokesperson who utters an obvious whopper really does think we’ll believe it. That’s an insult, profoundly disrespectful, and we should resent it.

The Ethics Scoreboard had a  feature called “The David Manning Trivial Liar of the Month” to highlight the public lies nobody could possibly believe. It was named for Sony’s “defense” when it was revealed that the movie critic, “David Manning,”  who they advertised as raving about lousy Sony films like “The Animal” (Starring Rob Schneider as a guy who accidentally has animal DNA grafted…oh, never mind.) was a fake invented by their marketing division. Sony said, in essence, that it was no big deal because everyone knows those critical raves in movie ads are mostly lies anyway. I didn’t carry the feature over to Ethics Alarms, because the kind of transparent, shameless, “I’m going to say this anyway even though it will have America rolling its eyes” lie the feature was designed to condemn didn’t come around every month. Naturally, the minute  Ethics Alarms debuts, here comes the Kellogg people with a classic.

Suddenly, boxes of Kellogg’s breakfast cereals like Cocoa Krispies have a huge yellow label across the front proclaiming “Now Helps Your Child’s IMMUNITY.”   Next to the banner is an announcement that the cereal is soaked with antioxidants, upping the daily vitamin requirement provided by a serving from 10% to 25%.  This has attracted the attention of the FDA , consumer advocates, and nutritionists, who say that the claim that a bowl of Cocoa Krispies that have been sprayed with extra vitamins can improve any child’s immunity to disease is either “dubious” or “ridiculous,” depending on whether you want to be nice about it.  USA Today quoted Marion Nestle, nutrition professor at New York University, as fuming, “The idea that eating Cocoa Krispies will keep a kid from getting swine flu, or from catching a cold, doesn’t make sense. Yes, these nutrients are involved in immunity, but I can’t think of a nutrient that isn’t involved in the immune system.”

The immunity claim isn’t  Kellogg’s obvious lie, however, as hard as that may be to believe. This is, also quoted in the USA Today story:

“It was not created to capitalize on the current H1N1 flu situation,” spokeswoman Susanne Norwitz says. “Kellogg developed this product in response to consumers expressing a need for more positive nutrition.”

Right. It is just a coincidence that in the middle of a swine flu epidemic, with dire predictions of world plague and the Dustin Hoffman movie “Outbreak” playing on every cable system, with parents sending their kids to the doctor as soon as they sneeze, scared silly by news reports of perfectly healthy children catching the H1N1 flu and dropping dead in days, Cocoa Crispies suddenly takes up a third of its box with claims that the cereal boosts immunity.

To be fair, it is obvious that Norwitz was trying to be deceitful, which is usually the antithesis of an obvious lie, since deceit depends on using the truth to deceive. She said the product wasn’t “developed” to exploit the H1N1 scare—no, no, it was “developed” because consumers wanted more nutrition. But nobody asked her why the product was developed. They asked her why Kellogg’s was making the dubious  immunity claim, and her answer that Kellogg’s wasn’t intentionally capitalizing on H1N1 fears, and that assertion, despite her attempt to qualify it, insults our intelligence.

What should she have said? She should have said this: “We know parents are concerned,with the current flu outbreak and all the publicity it is receiving, about their children’s heath and their vulnerability to the virus. Since we had recently increased the antioxidants added to our cereals, it seemed to be responsible to make sure parents knew about it, so we provided the banner. Antioxidents do contribute to immunity against disease. Did we think this would sell more cereal? Sure. We’re in the cereal business.”

But no. She and her employers didn’t have the integrity, honesty, brains, or respect for us to say that. They chose instead to play word games, and ended up with a foolish misrepresentation that even the most gullible couldn’t believe.