Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/6/2019: Rosenstein, Barr, Green, And “Oklahoma!”

Good morning!

Let’s make this an ethical week…

1 As we watch the desperate vilification of Attorney General Barr by Democrats…it is helpful to consider a recent speech by the now departed second in command at Justice, the ridiculously conflicted Rod Rosenstein. He said in part,

Rampant speculation here in D.C. is that Democrats are terrified that Barr’s promise of investigations of the Hillary Clinton inquiry and the process whereby the Trump campaign was surveilled will reveal serious misconduct in the Obama Administration.  This is, of course, mocked as a conspiracy theory by the people who just had their own conspiracy theory exploded. Here’s the usually reliable Kimberly Strassel in the Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall—sorry).

…Mr. Barr made real news in that Senate hearing, and while the press didn’t notice, Democrats did. The attorney general said he’d already assigned people at the Justice Department to assist his investigation of the origins of the Trump-Russia probe. He said his review would be far-reaching—that he was obtaining details from congressional investigations, from the ongoing probe by the department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, and even from Mr. Mueller’s work. Mr. Barr said the investigation wouldn’t focus only on the fall 2016 justifications for secret surveillance warrants against Trump team members but would go back months earlier.

He also said he’d focus on the infamous “dossier” concocted by opposition-research firm Fusion GPS and British former spy Christopher Steele, on which the FBI relied so heavily in its probe. Mr. Barr acknowledged his concern that the dossier itself could be Russian disinformation, a possibility he described as not “entirely speculative.” He also revealed that the department has “multiple criminal leak investigations under way” into the disclosure of classified details about the Trump-Russia investigation.

Do not underestimate how many powerful people in Washington have something to lose from Mr. Barr’s probe. Among them: Former and current leaders of the law-enforcement and intelligence communities. The Democratic Party pooh-bahs who paid a foreign national (Mr. Steele) to collect information from Russians and deliver it to the FBI. The government officials who misused their positions to target a presidential campaign. The leakers. The media. More than reputations are at risk. Revelations could lead to lawsuits, formal disciplinary actions, lost jobs, even criminal prosecution.

Quick! Let’s impeach Barr! Continue reading

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 4 of 4)

mamoru-samuragochi2

Outrageous Hoax Of The Year

Mamoru Samuragochi, the composer sometimes known as “The Japanese Beethoven” because he composed critically acclaimed works despite being deaf, was exposed as double fraud: he didn’t compose the works that made him Japan’s most popular classical composer, and he isn’t even really deaf!  Samuragochi hired a musical ghostwriter named Takashi Niigaki to compose more than twenty compositions for Samuragochi since 1996.

Funniest Outrageous Hoax

Fake Panda

This.

Unethical Artist Of The Year

Performance artist Maximo Caminero, who  walked into the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, entered a special exhibit of sixteen ancient Chinese vases painted over in bright colors by celebrated Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, picked up one of them, and immediately after a security guard instructed him not to touch the exhibit, allowed the vase to fall from his hands, shattering into bits. Caminero admitted that smashing the pottery, which was valued at a million dollars,  was intentional, and was his protest against in support of local artists like himself whose work is not exhibited at the museum while the art of international artists like Weiwei is.

Unethical Veterinarian Of The Year

Fort Worth, Texas veterinarian Lou Tierce lost his license for five years as a result of, among other transgressions, his telling the owners of a Leonburger (it’s a very big dog) that their pet was terminally ill and had to be euthanized, then secretly keeping the dog alive in a small cage so he could use Sid’s blood for transfusions to Dr. Tierce’s other canine patients. Eventually an assistant at the clinic blew the whistle and alerted Sid’s owners, who rescued their dog and sicced the law on the worst veterinarian since Dean Jones menaced Beethoven.

Unethical Doctor Of The Year

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s medical expert, endangered the public by defying a voluntary quarantine for possible Ebola exposure,  because she just couldn’t bear to be without her favorite soup.

Scam of the Year

Jonathan-Gruber-1

The Affordable Care Act.

 Unethical Federal Agency Of The Year

The Secret Service. Lots of competition in this category: the Veterans Administration, the I.R.S., the CDC, the Justice Department, NSA…but when you essentially have one job to do and do it badly, sloppily carelessly and dangerously, there’s really not much more to say Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Month: New York Magazine Columnist Frank Rich

Stay classy, Frank.

Stay classy, Frank.

Full disclosure: I went to college with Frank Rich. He gave me a rave review for a performance once. When he turned into the vicious, biased, hateful jerk he reveals himself to be in his not merely progressive but irrationally  hostile to conservatism op-ed columns and, prior to that, his vitriolic and hyper-critical theater reviews for the Times, I don’t know. Maybe if I had befriended him back then, he would not be the bitter misanthrope his is today. Maybe just an outstretched hand, a kind word, or a sharp, “Why don’t you stop being such a dick?” would have turned the tide of his life around. Alas, we shall never know.

Here is what Rich tweeted yesterday, upon learning of the guilty verdict handed down against former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife:

Rich Tweet

Continue reading

The 9-11 Photo And A Columnist’s Character

One thing I have learned about personal ethics: they are imposible to hide. Ethical individuals eventually show their values in grand style, and those without ethics, or whose ethical values are corroded, frayed and rotting, show their true colors as well. Thus it was no surprise to me when Frank Rich, once one of America’s most unfair drama critics who turned into one of the media’s most vicious opinion columnists, exposed the content of his character in grand style with a New York Time column last month about 9-11. Continue reading

Hypocrisy of the Year: The Islamophobic New York Times Company, Washington Post, Et Al.

The New York Times, as well as the Washington Post and other major newspapers, have piously condemned those who raised objections to the proposed Islamic center in Manhattan, near the site where nearly 3,000 Americans met their death at the hands of Islamic extremists. The Times, the Post, their fellow papers and many of their columnists and bloggers proclaimed that a peaceful religion was being smeared by bigoted Americans and political leaders smitten with “Islamophobia.”

Then, on October 3, a Sunday installment of the prize-winning comic strip “Non Sequitur” was censored from the pages of the Post, the Times-owed Boston Globe (the Times itself has no cartoons) and almost 20 others. The strip, you see, jokingly suggested that an image of Muhammad the Prophet, which strict Islamic principles decree must never be shown or ridiculed under threat of a fatwah, might be hidden among the depicted happy characters in the manner of the “Where’s Waldo?” children’s books. Continue reading

What Was Right and Wrong With Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” Rally

The pundits of the airwaves, newsprint and blogosphere have issued their assessments of the Glenn Beck rally at the Lincoln Memorial with predictable results: those who admired Beck before the rally liked it, and those who detest him ridiculed it. The New York Times, in its inimitable fashion, showed contempt for the proceedings by relegating its account to page 15, even though every past D.C. rally and march of equivalent or lesser size (especially those advocating social or political positions popular with the Times staff) received more prominent coverage. To Times columnist Frank Rich, Beck’s rally was part of a racist conspiracy hatched by billionaires—yes, Frank, sure it was. John Avlon, who long ago branded Beck as a wingnut, reasonably pointed out that it was a wee bit hypocritical for Beck to preach against divisiveness when his own cable show is one of the most polarizing, even by Fox news standards. And John Batchelor, who may be the most serious, erudite, and balanced public affairs radio talk show host in captivity, dismissed the rally as harmless and Beck as a clown:

“I think of him now and again as Quasimodo Lite, a deaf bell-ringer swinging from the Notre Dame of Fox, a man who is eager to confess his own unsightly warts—“I’ve screwed up most of my life”—and who is also heroically delighted to be our slightly stooped “Pope of Fools,” because this accidental role, in this Festival of Fools called 2010, wins the cheers of the crowd.”

Even less charitable was the Baltimore Sun’s TV critic, who accused Beck of “stealing Martin Luther King’s moral authority.” Less charitable still was MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who seems to have been driven a little mad—or at least a little unprofessional, perhaps— by the fact that Beck had the audacity to hold his rally on the anniversary of King’s iconic “I have a dream” speech. Matthews’s hyperbole was, well, Beck-like:

“Can we imagine if King were physically here tomorrow, today, were he to reappear tomorrow on the very steps of the Lincoln Memorial? “I have a nightmare that one day a right wing talk show host will come to this spot, his people`s lips dripping with the words ‘interposition’ and ‘nullification.’ Little right wing boys and little right wing girls joining hands and singing their praise for Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. I have a nightmare!”

Was Beck’s bash really a nightmare? Political biases aside (Chris), the question for Ethics Alarms is what was right and wrong about the “Restoring Honor” rally. Continue reading

Summer Rerun: “Ending the Bi-Partisan Effort to Destroy Trust in America”

[TV is full of reruns these days, and sometimes I am grateful for them, for it gives me a chance to see episodes of favorite shows I had missed for some reason or another. Back in early March, I posted the following essay about the origins of America’s current crisis of trust in our government, and how it might be cured by our elected leaders. Since then, the crisis has deepened, and as I was doing some routine site maintenance, I reread the post. It is still very timely (unfortunately), and since far fewer people were visiting Ethics Alarms in March, I decided to re-post it today, with just a few minor edits. I promise not to make this a habit. Still, trust is the reason why ethics is so important in America: if there is a single post of the more than 700 I have written here since October 2009  that I would like people to read, this is it.] Continue reading

Dr. Laura Schlesinger, Ethics Chicken

Dr. Laura Schlesinger turned tail and ran last night, telling CNN host Larry King that she was quitting her radio show in response to the manufactured controversy following her repeated use of the word “nigger” to quote (with complete accuracy) what could be heard from black comics on HBO. “I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors.” she told Larry. “I’m sort of done with that.” Continue reading

Unethical Pundit of the Week: The Daily Beast’s Dana Goldstein

I try not to consider political punditry unethical, except when the opinion rendered is unusually dishonest, misleading, uncivil, or unfair. Unfortunately, the current ideological blood sport fostered and nurtured by such outlets as Fox New, MSNBC, the Daily Kos and Breitbart, and carried on by such commentators as Ann Coulter and Frank Rich, make it increasing difficult to follow my own guideline. Occasionally there pieces so outrageously unfair that they make me angry, and those are ethically perilous: emotion is not conducive to balanced analysis. Usually I pass. The recent screed of Dana Goldstein on The Daily Beast, however, has to be condemned.

I just hope I can get through the process of explaining what without becoming furious.

It is entitled “Is Jan Brewer Anti-Immigrant Because She Didn’t Go to College?,” earning an ethics red flag right off the bat for intentionally equating Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law with being “anti-immigrant,” which it is not.  Continue reading

More Lessons from the Sherrod Ethics Train Wreck

Gordon Peterson, venerable host of “Inside Washington” and long-time Washington D.C. news anchor, began the show’s segment on Shirley Sherrod this way:

“Some of you may remember the good old days of newspapering and TV and radio news when you had hours to work on your story, and your editors and producers had plenty of time to sift through your stuff for accuracy. If you remember that, you’re a dinosaur. Welcome to the blogosphere, the burnout pace of online news and the 24 hour instant deadline. Which brings me to the story of ousted Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod who was let go on the basis of a single piece of internet video that was edited out of context, posted on a conservative website, picked up on Fox News, and bought lock, stock and barrel by the Obama administration.”

That’s right, Gordon. And, as Charles Krauthammer immediately pointed out on the show, you have succumbed to the blogosphere’s unethical standards, because you didn’t check the accuracy of that statement. Continue reading