KABOOM! My Head Exploded Because I Underestimated Just How Bonkers The Values Of The Biden Administration Are. Again.

Talk about a flat learning curve. In my defense, I continue to bend over backwards (metaphorically) to believe that the people who work for Joe Biden are really trying to do the right thing, they just don’t have a clue what the right things are. Then they do something like putting corrupt Clinton operative John Podesta (remember his emails detailing the ways Hillary cheated during her campaign?) in charge of $370 billion for anti-climate change measures. Sure, put someone dishonest in control of $370 billion…what could go wrong? But hey, I think: it’s just a mistake. Joe is addled. Let’s not be too judgmental.

Then Biden puts the guy above as the White House monkeypox coordinator. That’s not a gag photo, and I’m not kidding. That’s Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, formerly the director of the CDC Division of HIV prevention. Okay, he’s flamboyantly gay: I have no problem with that, I guess. I’m old fashioned: I think government officials who represent the whole nation’s interests should avoid unprofessional demeanor and open exhibitions of fealty to particular groups, but I’ll keep an open mind.

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Weekend Ethics Loose Ends, 8/21-22/2022: Brian Stelter Does A Cheney

Now THAT was an insurrection! On August 22 in 1831, Nat Turner, an educated slave, killed his owner and escaped withe seven followers, planning on recruiting a slave army and capturing Virginia’s Southampton county armory. His strategy was then to march 30 miles to Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp, where his army could hide out and strike at will. Turner and his recruits attacked homes throughout Southampton County, killing about 60 white men, women and children. The Virginia state militia, with greatly larger numbers, ended the rebellion while killing many of those who had joined him. The episode resulted in vengeful lynching of many slaves, even those who were not involved in Turner’s revolt

Nat Turner eluded capture until the end of October. Unrepentant, he  was tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and hanged on November 11.

I noticed, in researching this story, that apparently the word “slave” is now taboo, and the politically correct term is “enslaved people.

They were slaves. That is what I will continue to call them. Next we will be commanded to refer to them as “non-volunteer unpaid employees.” The only way to stop creeping Orwellian linguistics is to refuse to tolerate it.

1. Careful…whatever it is that Liz Cheney has might be contagious. Cheney’ s vainglorious self-celebration and presumption of martyrdom after being justly crunched by Republican primary voters in Wyoming was quickly followed by an even more outrageous display of imagined virtue by the ridiculous Brian Stelter, now looking for some other news organization to help pervert. Among a myriad of other flaws, Stelter’s fake journalism watchdog show, “Reliable Sources,” had finally tanked in the ratings (along with CNN in general), perhaps because it no longer even pretended to report informatively on how well (and ethically) the news media was doing its job, and was only repeating anti-Trump, anti-conservative talking points and attacking Fox News.

In his final show, instead of leaving in an ethical and dignified manner, Stelter decided to perform a Cheney on steroids. Among his gagworthy declarations was that “teachers use segments from this show all the time in classrooms, in lessons, guiding and teaching the next generation.”

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Follow-Up: “Observations On A Potential Supreme Court Ethics Scandal…” Yup, It’s Fake News. (Well, Mostly…)

Mark Tapscott is a veteran Washington, D.C. political pro and investigative journalist (who has weighed in at Ethics Alarms a time or two). Late yesterday he focused on clarifying the troubling Rolling Stone story I wrote about here. 

That Rolling Stone piece was headlined, “SCOTUS Justices ‘Prayed With’ Her — Then Cited Her Bosses to End Roe,” an allegation that fed directly into the pro-abortion trope that the Dobbs decision was substantially motivated by theological fervor rather than legal analysis. In the Ethics Alarms post, I expressed skepticism that the story could be accurate because no mainstream media source had picked it up, and also because any Justices praying with a representative of a religious organization before ruling on a case in which  that organization had submitted a brief would create a neon-bright appearance of impropriety. On the other hand, I found it unlikely that the publication would drop such a “bombshell” without strong evidence, since its news reporting credibility was on lengthy probation after its phantom UVA “gang rape” story fiasco in 2015.

Now the verdict’s in, thanks to Tapscott: Rolling Stone apparently hasn’t learned anything about journalism ethics the last seven years. In a “Culture” column for PJ Media, Tapscott explains: Continue reading

Observations On A Potential Supreme Court Ethics Scandal That I Have No Idea What To Make Of…

What’s going on here? I wish I knew.

Rolling Stone has reported that during an evangelical victory celebration in front of the Supreme Court to celebrate the Dobbs decision,  Capitol Hill religious leader Peggy Nienaber got herself recorded saying that  she has prayed with sitting justices inside the SCOTUS building. “We’re the only people who do that,” Peggy Nienaber boasted. Nienaber is Liberty Counsel’s executive director of DC Ministry, as well as the vice president of Faith & Liberty, whose ministry offices sit directly behind the Supreme Court. Liberty Counsel frequently brings lawsuits before the Supreme Court, and filed an amicus brief in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

Rolling Stone says,

Liberty Counsel’s founder, Mat Staver, strenuously denied that the in-person ministering to justices that Nienaber bragged about exists. “It’s entirely untrue,” Staver tells Rolling Stone. “There is just no way that has happened.” He adds: “She has prayer meetings for them, not with them.” Asked if he had an explanation for Nienaber’s direct comments to the contrary, Staver says, “I don’t.” But the founder of the ministry, who surrendered its operations to Liberty Counsel in 2018, tells Rolling Stone that he hosted prayer sessions with conservative justices in their chambers from the late-1990s through when he left the group in the mid-2010s. Rob Schenck, who launched the ministry under the name Faith and Action in the Nation’s Capital, described how the organization forged ministry relationships with Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and the late Antonin Scalia, saying he would pray with them inside the high court. Nienaber was Schenk’s close associate in that era, and continued with the ministry after it came under the umbrella of Liberty Counsel.

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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Pledges To Recuse Herself From The Harvard University Affirmative Action Case

And that, as they say, is that.

I was wrong, Prof. Turley was right. He was certain that Jackson would recuse from the case because of the screaming conflict she faced by sitting on Harvard’s Board of Overseers. He wrote,

“It would be profoundly inappropriate for a jurist to sit on a case for a school in which she has held a governing position and a role in setting institutional policies. This would be akin to a justice sitting on a case on oil leases for Exxon while being a member of the oil company’s board of directors.”

I wrote, “That’s exactly right. But I bet Jackson doesn’t recuse.” Continue reading

Integrity Test: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Will Be Conflicted Out Of The Harvard Affirmative Action Case If She’s Confirmed. Which Progressives Will Have The Ethics To Say So? [Corrected]

And will she?

Stipulated: Judge Jackson is a fully qualified choice to succeed Justice Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court. Also stipulated: she should be and will be confirmed and by a large majority, unless Republicans are as petty and foolish as I think they are.

However, the soon to be Justice Jackson has an unwaivable conflict of interest in the contentious Harvard admissions case, which I would term a “scandal.” Harvard unambiguously discriminates against Asian-American applicants to inflate the numbers of lesser qualified black and Hispanic students admitted to the college. In the era of The Great Stupid, when racial discrimination is treated as “antiracism,” this SCOTUS case is a high profile and significant one, and Future Justice Jackson has a dog in the hunt, as they say. Jackson serves on Harvard’s board of overseers, one of the University’s two governing boards. The board plays “an integral role in the governance of the university.” End of controversy. She’s integrally involved with a party in the case. It is a classic conflict, and cause for recusal. Continue reading

“Ethics? What’s Ethics?” Mayor Adams Takes The Reins…[Updated!]

Next time a New York Democrat complains about an elected government official’s ethics when he or she identifies as Republican, breaking out into uncontrollable laughter would be appropriate.

New New York City Eric Adams, elected as the “anti-de Blasio,” almost immediately proved that he has at least one thing in common with New York’s “Worst Mayor Ever.” Just a few days ago, Ethics Alarms noted that the former mayor had defiantly continued to ask corporate contractors for the city to contribute to a de Blasio slush fund, in a time honored unethical shakedown ploy known as “pay to play,” even though he had been formally warned to cut it out by the city’s ethics board. Now the new improved mayor is also signalling that he isn’t very concerned about ethics, the appearance of impropriety, or conflicts of interest.

Adams appointed as his sole male deputy mayor (the other five are female) Philip Banks III, who comes with some interesting baggage. (That’s Banks above on the right, the new mayor is on the left.)

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Ethics And Those Wacky Cuomo Boys, 2: Andrew And His Book

Chris’s scandal may be more embarrassing, but Andrew’s latest problem may be more expensive.

In July 2020, then-New York Governor Cuomo, riding high in the public eye, asked the state ethics panel for permission to write a book about his leadership during the pandemic.

I must interject here that such books are virtually always unethical, often in multiple ways. I say “virtually” because there really may be some instance, buried deeply in the sands of time, when a book written while a popular elected official (or a First Lady) was in office and published with that official’s name as the author was really written by the official in his or her spare time, wasn’t just a government-funded campaign and propaganda tool, and also didn’t provide a way for supporters both individual and corporate to launder contributions. Maybe, but I doubt it.

For one thing, if an elected official spends any time at all writing a book during his or her work day, he or she is getting paid by taxpayers to do work that primarily benefits the official. Books are hard. Books take time. Trust me on this, I’ve co-written one, and would have five more (I have the titles and outlines!) out there if I could get out of my own way. But my time is my own: I don’t bill clients for writing this blog, and any time I spend writing a book is time I don’t get paid for. Governors, like Presidents, are paid to be on-duty every waking hour.

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Ethics And Those Wacky Cuomo Boys, I: Chris And CNN [Updated!]

Really, how can anybody be surprised?

Transcripts released yesterday revealed that CNN host and beefcake star Chris Cuomo actively worked with his brother’s aides to defend then Gov. Andrew Cuomo from the many sexual harassment accusers whose accounts eventually forced the Governor to resign. Chris Cuomo. aka. “Fredo,” had looked in America’s face—you know, like Bill Clinton when he said he never has sex with “that woman”—in August and assured it that he ‘never made calls to the press” on behalf of his brother. But New York Attorney General Letitia James’ report revealed texts where Chris told aide Melissa DeRosa he would take up the allegations with his “sources,” and offered to help draft statements for his brother’s team. Cuomo used his CNN contacts dig up information about his brothers’ his accusers, presumably to discredit them. Another revelation in James’ documents was that Cuomo was working through a friend to approach actor Alec Baldwin about making a video defending Andrew.

In summary, Chris Cuomo used his contacts, sources and influence as a CNN journalist to actively assist an elected official, indeed to assist an official in avoiding the consequences of illegal acts. This is, duh, wildly unethical, unprofessional, and a breach of trust with both CNN and the public. Apparently it is even so unethical that other unethical journalists of the Left, who are usually hesitant to throw stones at fellow propagandists and fake news purveyors from inside their glass houses, have pointed their fingers at poor Chris like pod people identifying their next target for assimilation.

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Ethics Pre-Daylight Losing Time Fallback, 11/6/202: So?…Go!…Oops! And More

Fall back

At this point in U.S. history, there is no justification whatsoever for not having daylight savings time year-round. The failure of Congress to kill Ben Franklin’s anachronistic brainstorm is pure cowardice and incompetence.

1. So? The NRA Foundation has twice paid attorney David Kopel, a Second Amendment activist, to write pro-gun rights amicus briefs in Supreme Court cases, according to a hacked document released last week. Since 2019, Kopel has submitted two briefs backing an NRA affiliate in cases before the court, including one involving New York’s ban on carrying licensed guns in public. The briefs did not disclose the source of funding, which is being condemned as unethical by the news media and the usual NRA bashers. “Attorneys who author these briefs must disclose whether they’ve taken money from either side to deliver a filing,” one source says.

Well, first of all, an amicus brief succeeds or fails based on its arguments, and who writes it or funds it should be irrelevant. This would be, at worst, a technical violation. However, the applicable rule in the SCOTUS amicus brief memo does not support the description above. “Rule 37.6 Disclosures” states,

“The first footnote on the first page of text of an amicus brief must include certain disclosures concerning contributions to the brief….It should indicate whether counsel for a party authored the brief in whole or in part and whether such counsel or a party made a monetary contribution intended to fund the preparation or submission of the brief. It should also identify every person other than the amicus, its members or counsel, who made such a monetary contribution; the Clerk’s Office views it as better practice to state explicitly that no such contributions were made if this is in fact true.”

This is astoundingly sloppy drafting, especially for the Supreme Court. “Must” and “should” are terms of art. “Must,” like “shall,” means some action is mandatory; “should” means that something is best practice, but not absolutely required. When two “shoulds” follow a “must,” it is impossible to determine what’s mandatory and what isn’t.

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