Saturday Ethics End Notes, 4/3/2021: “Let it be written, let it be done!”

You can’t blame me for featuring this ethics landmark today: On April 3, 1948, President Truman signed the Economic Assistance Act, commonly known as the Marshall Plan, which authorizing the a program to help the nations of a war-torn Europe to rebuild. The effort was designed to stabilize Europe economically and politically so that the Soviet Union would not be able to spread communism further. U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave the plan its name with a speech at Harvard University on June 5 of the previous year. He proposed that the European states meet to agree on a program for economic recovery, and that the U.S. would would help fund it. The same month Britain and France invited European nations to send representatives to Paris to follow-through with Marshall’s formula. The USSR, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland declined the invitation. The resulting Committee of European Economic Cooperation eventually presented its plan to Congress, which authorized the “Marshall Plan” on April 2, 1948. The next day, it was signed into law.

  1. It’s that time again! The Cecil B. DeMille classic “The Ten Commandments” airs at 7 p.m. tonight on ABC. I recommend renting it for a few bucks on Amazon Prime: commercials now add a full hour to the movie, which is already one of the longest U.S. films ever made. I watch the 1956 jaw-dropper at least once every year. No movie ever blew my mind like that one did when I saw it as a child, and, I noted with amazement last week when I watched it again, certain scenes still blow my mind now, like the Exodus, easily the greatest crowd scene that ever had been or ever will be. My top ethics notes:
  • The screenplay’s direct condemnation of slavery in Moses’ early speech is remarkable for the period, and gutsy for the most expensive movie ever made (to that point) that needed big audiences from the old Confederate states during the middle of a growing civil rights movement.
  • Like Ted Williams’ home run in his last at bat, DeMille bet everything on his biggest challenge at the end of his career when he had already made Hollywood history and was a living legend….and he succeeded. I admit, I’m a sucker for that. The movie killed him, essentially: CB suffered a heart attack while directing the huge scene where Moses leads the Jews out of Egypt, and never recovered. I’m sure he’d say it was still worth it.
  • As a director, I have learned that the greatest and most frightening challenge is trying to top yourself. I admire the artists who attempt it, and especially those who succeed. DeMille had already made a silent movie version of the story that stood as the top-grossing film of all time until his own talkies broke its record.
  • I cannot think of a better example of the ethical principle that if you are going to do something that matters, do it right and don’t cut corners. Like David O. Selznick’s “Gone With The Wind,” TTC is filled with astounding grace notes and details that are the mark of a perfectionist. On this week’s viewing, I noticed for the first time that when we see Egyptian princess Nefertiri primping in a mirror, her image is dark and indistinct. That’s because glass mirrors were unknown in ancient Egypt: the mirror is polished metal.
  • The 1957 Oscars , which largely snubbed De Mille’s masterpiece, show how bias makes you stupid, and how little the movie community understands its own medium. “The Ten Commandments” was the movie of the year and everyone knew it: it was the top grossing film and had scenes that were immediately recognizable as likely to become legendary (like the parting of the Red Sea.) But most of the Oscars, including Best Picture, went to “Around the World in 80 Days,” the over-stuffed “spectacular”—unwatchable now— made by industry darling Mike Todd. DeMille didn’t even rate a Best Director nomination. He was considered a conservative pariah and a dinosaur, and the “new Hollywood” wouldn’t bring itself to recognize an old pro doing his best work.

2. And now, speaking for the arrogant, biased, not as smart as they think they are people who lie to you daily, Lester Holt! At the 45th Edward R. Murrow Symposium at Washington State University, Holt received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, presumably because they had to find a black journalist to give the thing to. Among his comments, which generally proved the stunning lack of self-awareness of himself and his industry, he said, .

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April Fools Ethics Warm-Up, 4/1/2021: I Am Not Fooled Nor Fooling

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I have come to detest April Fool’s Day, and cultural developments have shown me that, as William Saroyan liked to say, “I’m right and everyone else is wrong.” Early in the history of Ethics Alarms, more than ten years ago, I dared to criticize—indeed, called unethical—a blogging criminal defense lawyer who falsely announced that he had taken on a new prestigious job (as I recall: it’s not worth checking what his exact lie was), and it was then reported as fact by the New York Times’ crack reporters. The announcement was an April Fool’s joke, you see, so my assertion that lawyers shouldn’t deliberately misrepresent facts, even on blogs, even in jest, even unrelated to cases and even on April First was set upon by the lawyer’s angry defense lawyer allies, who pummeled me here from all sides. I had, in fact, over-stated my complaint (Can you imagine ME doing THAT?), and I duly apologized to the lawyer. But his pals remained insulting and vicious, and I wasn’t wrong in the principle I was asserting. Professionals shouldn’t lie, ever. Even on April Fool’s Day.

1. Hart concedes. The rest of the story: Iowa Democrat Rita Hart announced late yesterday that she is withdrawing her demand that her loss in Iowa’s 2nd congressional district be overturned, so the House Committee on Administration will no longer be seeking a justification to do so. I wrote about the Democratic Party’s attempt to de-certify an election result after it proclaimed Republican efforts to decertify the Presidential election as “an insurrection” here. Apparently internal polls were showing that there are still some levels of perceived hypocrisy that the Democratic faithful won’t cheer on. That’s encouraging…

2. The concept at play here is “deceit.” I guess after having three straight Republican Presidents who couldn’t speak clearly, it shouldn’t be a shock that the GOP has allowed Democrats to get away with flagrantly dishonest language games. Still, the transformation of the term “voting restrictions” into something sinister is quite an accomplishment for the Blue team, as well as cynical and dishonest. Unless a nation is going to allow anyone alive on the planet to cast votes in its elections, “voting restrictions” are natural, logical and necessary. It’s the “restrictions” part that the pro-voting manipulation side has weaponized. “Restrictions” are baaaad. But the right, informative and descriptive word is voting qualifications. You have to be alive and living in the district where you vote: this is why voter rolls have to be purged of dead people and those who have moved away. You have to be a citizen, and who you say you are, which is why voting IDs are necessary. You have to register before elections, because otherwise vote harvesters will just pay large groups of poor, confused, bored or drunk passive citizens to the polls to vote as they have been instructed. You should have to vote in person, because all mail-in ballots, including early voting and absentee voting, create verification problems, and increase the chances of fraud.

I have neither the time nor functioning brain cells to delve into this issue competently here and now, but I would not find the imposition of other voting qualifications odious or unethical, including requirements of the minimal civic literacy we would expect of, say, a 12-year-old.

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: CNN

“We generally do not get involved in the medical decisions of our employees. However, it is not surprising that in the earliest days of a once-in-a-century global pandemic, when Chris was showing symptoms and was concerned about possible spread, he turned to anyone he could for advice and assistance, as any human being would.”

—-CNN spokesman Matt Dornic, in a jaw-dropping defense of anchor Chris Cuomo after it was revealed that he used  his brother’s influence to “cut in line” to get Wuhan virus testing when it was unavailable to the general public.

Earlier this week, the The Albany-Times Union and The Washington Post reported yet another scandal involving New York’s Francis Ford Coppola-redolant governor, Andrew Cuomo. As if the deadly NY nursing home cover-up and the expanding sexual harassment allegations were not more than enough, we learned that…

“High-level members of the state Department of Health were directed last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to conduct prioritized coronavirus testing on the governor’s relatives as well as influential people with ties to the administration. Members of Cuomo’s family including his brother, his mother and at least one of his sisters were also tested by top health department officials — some several times.”

The governor, in short, manipulated state resources to ensure that his brother, CNN’s Chris Cuomo, received Wuhan virus testing when tests were scarce and generally unavailable. “The CNN anchor was swabbed by a top New York Department of Health doctor, who visited his Hamptons home to collect samples from him and his family,” WaPo reported. The test specimens from Andrew and other Cuomo family members were then rushed, in some cases driven by state police troopers to a state public health lab in Albany, where they were processed immediately. Some employees in the state health laboratory worked overtime late into the night to process the results for Cuomo family members whose roles in society, while hardly essential to New York or the public, were favored by the Governor of New York.

In particular, the CNN anchor got specialized medical attention while “media reports were full of accounts from New Yorkers desperate to get tested — including some with symptoms and recent travel history who were turned away because of scarcity.”

Glenn Greenwald neatly sums up the import of this beyond the obvious fact that this is another example of elected officials using their power and influence for personal gain:

For more than a year now, CNN’s promotion of “interviews” conducted by Chris Cuomo of his own brother — in which the CNN host repeatedly heaped lavish praise on Gov. Cuomo and even hyped him as a presidential contender while the Governor was corruptly and possibly criminally covering up COVID deaths — was one of the most glaring breaches of journalistic ethics imaginable…it aggressively deceived CNN’s audience. That they knew it was corrupt was evidenced by the CNN host’s recent announcement that he would not cover his brother’s recent scandals: what conceivable framework makes it journalistically permissible for a news host to shower his own brother with praise, but then not cover his scandals?

But now Chris Cuomo is directly involved in a serious abuse of power scandal by his brother: in fact, he’s the prime beneficiary of that scandal. He sought special medical favors from his brother, depriving other sick people more in need of it than he, by exploiting the fact that his brother is Governor and thus rules the state. That’s a scandal by any measure — one involving not only the Governor but also the CNN host.

What’s even more remarkable is that on May 6 — just weeks after Gov. Cuomo provided special COVID testing and treatment for him — Chris Cuomo “interviewed” his brother and began the interviewing by noting that New York State lacks the resources to provide COVID testing to the public at large. So not only did they conceal that they had both just used state resources to get Chris that scarce testing, but they both acknowledged that there was a resource shortage to serve the general public, even as Gov. Cuomo was lavishing those resources on his own family.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/23/2021: Shots

This morning served as a perfect example of how the news is now automatically politicized and prioritized for partisan ends. On CNN, a panel was discussing the mass shooting in Boulder. Colorado, and instantly transforming the segment into gun-control mass rant. On Fox, the crisis of the day was the chaos at the border, where the virtual open-borders policies everyone—including those planning to be illegal immigrants—knew would come in along with the Biden administration is having the predictable effects. That segment was a diatribe against the wink-wink, nudge-nudge Democratic enabling of uncontrolled immigration.

CNN wins in the closely contested dubious ethics category by having “contributor” Andrew McCabe on the panel. McCabe epitomized the FBI’s corrupt and partisan efforts to injure the Trump Administration from within; he leaked information to the media and lied about it; he was fired, and deserved to be. McCabe’s high-profile anti-Trump conduct was sufficient to get him a gig on CNN, where being part of “the resistance” is all one needs to endear oneself to the Trump Deranged.

McCabe should have lost his law license, as any attorney who leaks confidential information should, and personally, I wouldn’t trust him to walk my dog.

1. You want to be paid $15 an hour for doing a job this poorly? This morning, having been forced to get up and move my car at 7 am, I decided to drive to the local McDoanld’s for my favorite guilty morning pleasure, a sausage biscuit and some hash browns. For once I could understand the heavily accented woman on the intercom, and I made a clear and distinct order. But given false security by this unusual development, for the first time in a long while I didn’t check the bag—this McDonald’s bats about .500 in getting orders right—and sure enough, when I arrived home, I found an Egg McMuffin instead of a sausage biscuit. I hate Egg McMuffins.

This isn’t brain surgery. I know it’s a crummy job, but it is what they are being paid for. Don’t tell me someone who is that inattentive deserves “a living wage.” Pay them for not working, if you foolishly want to treat them as charity cases; at least then they aren’t getting rewarded for doing a job badly.

2. Why can’t McDonald’s work this efficiently? My experience getting my first Wuhan virus vaccination (in Alexandria, Virginia) was excellent. The elaborate process, staged at a middle school about five minutes from my home, was well-planned, cheerful, and quick, even on a Saturday with long lines. I must have personally thanked ten volunteers.

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Ethics Warm-Up, 2/20/2021, Because Everyone Needs To Warm Up: CNN And An Unethical Historian Smear Nikki Haley, Who Had Already Kneecapped Herself

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Well, I went ahead and gently set the trap by asking my deranged Facebook friends if they knew that the narrative that Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick had not been killed by beating by the January 6 rioters, had not been “hit with a fire extinguisher,” and had not “died of his wounds” in the riot as reported by the news media long after that story had been debunked, and used as evidence of the “deadly insurrection” by Democrats during the impeachment trial. The response, from a really smart audience including many lawyers, was disappointing if not unexpected. So far, all of the responses tried to avoid the issue. “Are you saying that his stroke (the current cause of death theory) was not brought on by the riot?” No, and since nobody knows what brought on the stroke, one can’t say, and shouldn’t write as news, that it was. I asked about the “killed by the mob” and “died in the line of duty” story. “The park police website says he was killed in the riot!” That’s a novel approach: using an already false report in a biased source to insist that the false report must be true. “But..but…but…but,” “humina humina humina”…”well, what about…”…they just couldn’t admit it. It was a deliberately used false narrative, first without verification and then after the story was proven false, for the purpose of hyping the riot and inflaming public opinion against the President. Nothing about being a Democrat, progressive or a Trump-hater should prevent someone from acknowledging that. Yet they just couldn’t do it. Even the lawyers. Heck, especially the lawyers!

1. No zombie lawyers allowed in Florida. If you think trying to convict Trump after he was no longer President was bad, how about this: Sabrina Starr Spradley, a 41-year-old attorney in private practice in Delray Beach, Florida, was disbarred in December, 2020 though an official death certificate from the Florida Department of Health stated that she died in October of 2019. Nobody told the bar association or the Florida courts.

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It’s A Shame That Twitter Is Such A Deliberate Enabler Of Single Party Rule, A Hypocritical Speech Censor And An Enemy Of Democracy, Because There Is A Lot You Can Still Learn There….

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1. For example, you can learn that CNN is just as untrustworthy as Twitter is….

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Only occasionally I wish I had the complete absence of a life necessary to hang around Twitter and make trenchant, witty and withering responses to something like that tweet, which show either an epic lack of self-awareness by the tweeter, or a deep, deep belief that its consumers are complete idiots. I vote for the latter.

Here are some of the responses:

  • “It’s a show where they just run the @CNN logo for the hour”
  • “It’ll be a useless conversation if you fail to examine the role of @CNN in fueling and sustaining the division for ratings and profits”
  • “Any final shred of CNN sense of self-awareness was apparently surgically removed years ago.”
  • “Your fucking network, that’s what!”
  • “Here’s a good place to start: CNN covered up the mass killing of thousands of NY seniors because it has an anchor who is brother to sociopath.”

2. You can learn that many conservatives don’t comprehend the concept of “ethics”…

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Update: The SECOND Trump Impeachment Ethics Train Wreck

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When we last looked in on the destructive, divisive, unconstitutional and unethical fiasco known here as the Trump Impeachment Ethics Train Wreck II, Senator Rand Paul had delivered an excoriating speech about the unconstitutional nature of it all, every Democratic Senator had voted to continue with a trial that is, as Paul stated, unconstitutional on its face, Democrats openly discussed passing a Bill of Attainder (which is what any action barring a single private citizen, Donald Trump, from running for office would be), the Chief Justice refused to sully his name by any involvement with such an embarrassment, and President Biden, while vowing out of one side of his mouth to be a unifying presence, lifted nary a finger to stop his party from engaging in a trial that was based on hate, vengeance, and the craven need to satisfy the worst of its supporters. Meanwhile, the mainstream news media refuses to inform the American public why the whole thing is bad partisan political theater and little else.

Now we have the following fun developments:

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Saturday Ethics Nightcap,12/12/2020: Bad Journalism, Bad Governors, Bad Santas

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That’s just ginger ale, in case you’re wondering…

1. “Nah, there’s no outrageous, flagrant, shameless mainstream media bias!” April Ryan, arguably the worst, most unethical, most biased and most unprofessional of CNN’s reporters (but it’s such a lively competition), attacked the confidential sources responsible for leaking a recording of Joe Biden making weaselly comments about his stance toward the “defund the police” movement. Ryan demanded to know who was responsible for allowing the embarrassing comments to be made public, because, as we all should know by now, the job of the media isn’t to report the facts, but to empower and protect Democrats. (She didn’t come out and say the last part, but after her performance over the last four years, she doesn’t have to.) Jonathan Turley appropriately nailed this one:

The fact is that Ryan was just stating what has become the approach of many in the media. As we recently discussed, we are moving dangerously close to a de facto state media with the cooperation of Big Tech companies.  Ryan believes that it is outrageous to rely on unapproved material if it is critical of Joe Biden (despite her use of such material for the last four years against Trump)…CNN has not expressed any disagreement with Ryan’s view of the new journalism.

2. Santa Claus Ethics: If you can’t do any better than these Santas, you shouldn’t even try. But they do provide one reason to be grateful for social distancing. I think my favorite is this one…

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“What Is It With Democrat Leaders And COVID-19 Hypocrisy?” They’re Assholes, Obviously; What’s So Puzzling?

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CNN anchor Brianna Keilar gave her audience a segment yesterday, in which she unequivocally called out Democratic mayors , governors and other officials by name and party for their stunning pattern of hypocrisy regarding Wuhan virus restrictions that somehow never seemed to apply to them.

“A number of Democratic leaders, apologizing or reversing course, after multiple occurrences of “do as I say, not as I do, she began. “They have been caught, not following their own coronavirus guidelines.”

Keillar then documented with video and narration the arrogant conduct and subsequent apologies of some (but not all) of the leaders she referred to: San Francisco, Mayor London Breed, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, San Jose, California, Mayor Sam Liccardo, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock . She omitted, presumably for time considerations, D.C. Mayor Bowser, Chicago Mayor Lightfoot, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, Austin Mayor Steve Austin, Speaker of the House Nancy Peloisi, and others. There was another one caught today, as Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards confirmed the authenticity of a photograph taken of him socializing maskless and in close contact with others at the Baton Rouge Country Club in mid-November just before enacting stricter pandemic lockdowns for the state.

Keillar continued stating the obvious:

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/1/2020: Satchel Paige Edition

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Why Satchel Paige? The legendary Negro Leagues pitcher and member of baseball’s Hall of Fame once said, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” Satchel wasn’t fooling: having played most of his career when blacks were blocked from the Major Leagues, Paige was still good enough at 42 to join the 1948 Cleveland Indians as a relief pitcher, and was effective enough to be contender for Rookie of the Year. Then he became the oldest pitcher to start a Major League game, shutting out the Boston Red Sox for three innings at the age of 59.

In my case, the answer to Paige’s question would be about 18, or perhaps 10. Surely not the age my arithmetic tells me, which is depressing and a little frightening. Every December first since 2009 has been a day with bad connotations: I found my father dead in his favorite chair that year, when I checked to see if he was going to have dinner with me as we had planned. This year there are two. Well, Dad soldiered on to have 19 more productive and mostly happy years after he reached my age, and he was being treated for cancer by than, and I’m not. There aren’t many ways I can top my father, but at least that’s gives me something to shoot for.

1. Wow. You don’t get to see such naked bias and hate just put out there in the media like this very often…Just think: a Washington Post editor okayed this article attacking the White House Christmas decorations and using them to excoriate Melania Trump for existing. How petty and ugly can a writer be and still get published? I guess it depends on whether or not your target is the Trumps.

The “money quote”: “[T]he defenders of Melania have always insisted on comparing her to her predecessor, Michelle Obama, and it became hard to believe that “elegant” was a code word for anything other than “White.” Melania is “elegant” because she represented a very specific kind of White femininity: silent, lovely, delicately fingering the ornaments that her staff had assembled.” The author is Monica Hesse, the Post’s gender writer. She is a biased, vicious, jerk. It is so obvious that Melania Trump could design Michelle Obama’s White House decorations and Michelle could secretly design the Trumps’, and Hesse would pronounce what she thought was Michelle’s inclusive and brilliant, and would condemn what she thought Melania created.

You know, pretty much the way her paper covered the Obama and Trump administrations.

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