Ethics Dunce, But He Doesn’t Care: Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC)

I know this is unfair, but in almost every non-posed photo I found of Burr, he looks like he’s hiding something.

The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Richard Burr,  sold off  between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his stock holdings on February 13 in 33 separate transactions. At the time, Burr had received the government’s most highly classified Wuhan virus briefings. About a week after Burr unloaded stocks that figured to be affected, the stock market began its dive and has lost about 30% of its value since

Today  NPR revealed  a secret recording from February 27 in which the Senator gave a GOP group at an exclusive social club a gloomy preview of the economic impact of the approaching pandemic. According to the NPR report, Burr told attendees of a business executives group luncheon held at the Capitol Hill Club:

“There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history … It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”

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The Other Branch’s Persistant And Hypocritical Corruption

I subscribe to the Times, but I stopped routinely reading all of the editorials, op-eds and letters to the editor once I realized the stultifying and depressing sameness of it all: narrow viewpoints, deranged columnists, and ugly bias, day after day. This Christmas Eve-day dawned with my wife in a panic, the tree decorations still incomplete, and a recognition that I was going to have to get Ethics Alarms posts done in the midst of other tasks so the 30 or so readers likely to tune in here today wouldn’t be disappointed. I grabbed the wrong section of yesterday’s Times during a tree-breather, and had to consume the editorial section.

For once, the main editorial was not an anti-Trump screed.

Appropo of the Democratic candidates’ mantra of corruption (though the editors somehow never saw the connection), it was about the persistent insider trading and conflicts of interest that have made Senators and Representatives unethically rich for ages, and that surpass in genuine corruption anything President Trump has been accused of.  (Ethics Alarms covered the issue here, and here.) The Times editors began with the saga of former Rep. Chris Collins, who had to resign his office and also went to jail for breaking the insider trading laws. His crime was tipping off his son about a stock likely to go bad based on his early notice of pending legislation, The Times found it convenient to use Collins, a Republican, as the stand-in for all of Congress, but everything he did before crossing the line of the law is, if not routine, disturbingly common among Democrats and Republicans alike:

[H]e served on various congressional committees that played a role in directing federal health care policy. Mr. Collins was the company’s largest shareholder. He served on the company’s board. He solicited investments in the company, including from other members of Congress. (Tom Price, who served as a Republican representative from Georgia and then as secretary of health and human services in the Trump administration, was among the buyers.) Mr. Collins wrote legislative language to expedite drug trials, potentially benefiting Innate, and he pressed a staff member at the National Institutes of Health to meet with the company about its clinical trial.He also invested in other health care firms, some of which held federal contracts.

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Ethics Alarms Flashback Post Of The Week: “Ethics Quiz: The Sensitive Cop’s Facebook Confession”

[A  while ago I wrote that I might periodically re-post one of the more than 2000 Ethics Alarms essays that have appeared here since 2009. The criteria? Let’s see:

  • A post that I have completely forgotten about, and don’t remember even after I’ve read it again.
  • A post that may be interesting to consider in light of subsequent developments since it was written (in this case,  social media posts triggering workplace discipline, and police-community relations)
  • A lively discussion in the comments.

I think this post, based on a find by now-retired Ethics Alarms super-scout Fred, qualifies on all counts. It’s from May of 2014.]

“If there was any time I despised wearing a police uniform, it was yesterday at the Capitol during the water rally. A girl I know who frequents the Capitol for environmental concerns looked at me and wanted me to participate with her in the event. I told her I have to remain unbiased while on duty at these events. She responded by saying, ‘You’re a person, aren’t you?’ That comment went straight through my heart!”

Thus did Douglas Day, a police officer at the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, confess to Facebook friends his mixed emotions while doing his duty.

For this he was fired.

The day Day wrote his Facebook post, Capitol Police Lt. T.M. Johnson told him  that the post “shows no respect to the department, the uniform or the law enforcement community which he represents.”  About a week later, Sgt. A.E. Lanham Jr. wrote to Day that he “found the entire [Facebook] posting to be extremely offensive and shocking … This is just another episode of many incidents which show his bad attitude and lack of enthusiasm toward police work in general and toward our department in particular.”

Day was thunderstruck. “If they believed there was some sort of a violation I made, then why wasn’t it addressed? They never brought me in and never said anything to me,” Day said. “In 2½ years working there, I had no disciplinary action taken against me at any time. Nothing was ever written up and I received no reprimands.” So much for the “many incidents.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/14/2018: PolitiFact Lies About The Lie Of The Year, And What’s This Taboo Stuff Bing is Blathering On About?

Good morning.

1. So you think baseball ethics controversies end with the season? Not at Ethics Alarms!

  • Did you know that baseball has its own Colin Kaepernick, sort of? Free-agent catcher Bruce Maxwell can’t find a team, though he was once considered the front-runner to be the Oakland A’s starting catcher.  In 2017 Maxwell,  who is white, became the first and only major leaguer to kneel during the National Anthem. The buzz coming out of baseball’s winter meetings was that taking a knee was enough to make him persona non-grata among baseball owners.

Of course, the fact that Maxwellwas arrested on a gun charge in 2017 and later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, and also played poorly last season in the minor leagues doesn’t help. “This is not a Colin Kaepernick situation, said an anonymous source at the meetings. “This is if Colin Kaepernick had knelt for the anthem and also been arrested for a gun crime.”

Except that things like gun crimes are not that big a deal in the NFL…

  • In a debate with baseball commentator Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa inadvertently gave a lesson in why conflicts of interests are a problem while simultaneously showing that he has no idea what a conflict is. Russo correctly protested that Harold Baines, recently a shock election to the Baseball Hall of Fame by a 16 member committee that included  close associates of Baines, was unqualified, and noted that several members of the committee, includiing Baines’ long-time manager LaRussa, had a conflict of interest. LaRussa’s rebuttal: “Do you think the people who know him better than the average expert, fan or even other baseball executives, have actually been teammates with him … when they speak with more knowledge about the type of player he was, I think that speaks more to his credit, not less.”

No, Tony. Those who knew and admired him are biased, and Baines should have been elected or not elected by a panel that knew him no better or less than it knew the other candidates. That Baines’ pals have inside knowledge that he, let’s say,  likes puppies, always held the door open for the manager’s mother, once bailed a team mate out of jail and often played despite a sore toe has nothing to do with his qualifications for the Hall. And LaRussa has a law degree! Maybe this explains his ultimate career choice. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/31/18: The Self-Deception Edition

Goodbye, July, 2018!

(and don’t come back!)

1. Ethics translation time! Baseball’s current World Champion Houston  Astros just traded for young, exciting closer Roberto Osuna from the Toronto Blue Jays. This raised some eyebrows, because the 23-year-old Osuna is just completing a 75-game suspension from MLB for allegedly beating his wife. The Blue Jays had decided that they wanted no part of Osuna, and that he would not be a member of their team going forward, despite the fact that he is regarded as one of the best late-inning relievers in the game.

Anticipating some criticism from Houston fans and baseball fans in general, who usually don’t like cheering for disgusting people,Astros GM Jeff Luhnow released a statement  following the trade, saying,

 “We are excited to welcome Roberto Osuna to our team. The due diligence by our front office was unprecedented. We are confident that Osuna is remorseful, has willfully complied with all consequences related to his past behavior, has proactively engaged in counseling, and will fully comply with our zero tolerance policy related to abuse of any kind. Roberto has some great examples of character in our existing clubhouse that we believe will help him as he and his family establish a fresh start and as he continues with the Houston Astros. We look forward to Osuna’s contributions as we head into the back half of the season.”

Translation:

“Our team has had bullpen problems all season, and as of now we have no closer, even as the team has lost three games in a row [now it’s four], two of our best players are injured, and we’re beginning a series against the Mariners, who are just a few games behind us. So in the interest of winning and because the ends justify the means, we are suspending our “zero-tolerance” policy regarding “abuse of any kind” to tolerate a player who Major League Baseball has determined to be a very serious abuser. I don’t know how we’re going to tell another player who is credibly accused of less serious abuse that we won’t tolerate his presence on the team when we just voluntarily brought an abuser onto the team, but never mind: there’s a pennant to win. I’m pretending that Roberto has complied with all consequences related to his past behavior when he is currently pleading not guilty in his pending Canadian trial on battery charges, in the hope that most fans aren’t paying attention.”

“Thank you.”

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More On “Media Bias Report 3.1”

It is amazing how many desperate liberals  circulate or defend  the absurd, misleading and incompetent chart purporting to measure the bias of various news sources as if the thing had any integrity at all. First of all, they could not (I hope) have read the creator’s nonsensical criteria for her assessments. Second, it should be obvious that no single individual could possibly examine and compare over 40 news sources with anything approaching thoroughness and accuracy. How would this be possible, even as a full-time endeavor, which it most certainly was not in this case? A research group like Pew might be able to pull such a study off with a large budget, lots of time, and a substantial staff, and even then I’m very dubious.

The chart is a classic example of making fake research—garbage in, garbage out— look impressive through packaging. This is, of course, unethical.

For the record, here are some of the factors someone who was seriously interested in measuring bias objectively (and not primarily determined to show that mainstream media bias is a right-wing myth): Continue reading

Blue Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/7/2018: Fake Brain Death, Horrible History, Bad Bills And Worse Journalism

It’s Monday!

1  In thousands of little ways...Insidious, biased, deceitful, distorted and unfair information is fed to the public by the news media, unflagged or corrected by editors, presented as legitimate punditry and journalism either intentionally to warp public opinion for leftward political gain, or out of pure incompetence, depending on how much one accepts Hanlon’s Razor. The little ones, like the tiny repetitive concussions that over time give NFL players brain disease, may be more insidious than the whoppers.

Here is a typical example. Progressive op-ed writer David Leonhardt concludes his column about how Amazon is a dastardly monopoly endangering his beloved book stores by writing,

“Once the country emerges from the Trump presidency, I hope we will have a government that takes monopolies seriously.”

It takes magnificent gall to lay the power of Amazon at Trump’s doorstep. The internet giant built its virtual monopoly to its current power on Obama’s watch, with a Justice Department that looked the other way. Why? I wonder if it had anything to do with the massive co0ntributions Amazon magnate Jeff Bezos sent the Democrats’ way, or the fact that his newspaper, The Washington Post, was a reliable cheer-leader for Obama through is entire administration. Never mind: Leonhardt’s editors allow him to mislead readers into believing that Amazon is being allowed to do its worst because of Donald Trump.

Oh…did you notice the conflict of interest disclaimer pointing out the Post-Bezos-Amazon connection for those readers who might want to know that the Times’ rival for national newspaper primacy is owned by Amazon’s CEO? Neither did I. Maybe when the Times emerges from its fake news and blatant partisanship stage, it will start taking ethics seriously.

2.  Today’s Fox News incompetence note. I literally stopped on Fox News for 45 seconds this morning, and heard a lovely, buxom, Fox blonde clone report this story by saying, “the boy was brain dead for two months, then woke up.” [The original typo had “bot” instead of boy. A good time was had by all]

No, you idiot. He was not brain dead at all, because when you are brain dead, you’re dead, and you don’t wake up.  Doctors may have thought he was brain dead. He may have seemed to be brain dead. But he wasn’t brain dead.

Fake news, and stupid news.

Fox News.

3. The logic of Hollywood anti-gun zealots in a horror movie. A decent horror move could be made about the San Jose Mystery House, where Winchester rifle heir Sarah Winchester built a maze of rooms and stairways to keep her personal demons at bay. “Winchester” isn’t it, because its mission was to bludgeon audiences for two hours with perhaps the silliest anti-gun message ever devised. You see,  rumors persisted while Sarah was alive that she was building rooms for all the ghosts of victims of her father-in-law Oliver Winchester’s repeating rifle to reside. Thus workmen claimed the site was haunted. “Inspired by real events,” as the film says (the “real events” being the sensational tabloid tales), “Winchester” posits that the ghost of a Confederate soldier whose two brothers were killed in the Civil War has returned to get revenge. Sarah is racked with guilt, because, she says, the Rebel muskets were no match for the North’s repeating rifles, and “they never gave them a chance.”

Yup, those are the rules in war, all right: always give the soldiers trying to kill you a chance. Later, all the angry victims of the evil Winchester come out to glare: Native American, children, suicides, slaves. Continue reading