Tag Archives: independence

A Popeye: I Just Can’t Let This Ridiculous Quote Pass…

I could headline this as an Ethics Dunce, an Unethical Quote, a “Stop making me defend Donald Trump” or even a KABOOM!, but it’s really a Popeye. The upcoming statement by Matt Miller, previously a spokesperson for the Holder Justice Department, could be easily ignored—who the hell is Matt Miller?—except that it breaks my chutzpah meter, and more than that, is designed to be recirculated as an indignant talking point by Democrats who haven’t cracked a history book since they were 12, or who are just plain liars.

After the Justice Department announced that it was taking another look at Hilary Clinton’s shenanigans with her secret email server (and perhaps the Clinton Foundation), Miller told The Daily Beast (echoing Holder, who has made similar statements),

“The president’s ongoing campaign to tear down the wall between the Justice Department and the White House seems to be working.”

Wall between the White House and the Justice Department? If there had been such a “wall,” President Kennedy obliterated it in 1960 when he appointed his brother as  Attorney General while Bobby was also serving as JFK’s primary political advisor. Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, had been the director of Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, and was one of Nixon’s closest personal friends. Ronald Reagan’s second Attorney General was his longtime friend and political aide Ed Meese, who had previously served as Reagan’s Chief of Staff! Some wall! Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes

From The Ethics Alarms “Doing The Right Thing For The Wrong Reason” Files: The President Snubs The White House Correspondents Dinner

trump-tweet-dinner

President Donald Trump has declined the invitation to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, becoming the first President to skip it since Ronald Reagan in 1981, who missed the dinner while recovering from an assassination attempt but still delivered remarks over the phone.

Good.

Once, before it was televised, over-publicized, and hyped, before Presidents started hiring comedy writers to give them professional qualify stand-up material, and especially before the last eight years of an event that looked like the President was fraternizing with complacent and sycophantic supporters and cronies—which he was— the dinner served the purpose of sending a salutary message that the relationship between the press and the President in power was adversarial but not personal, and that like all professionals, the adversaries could disagree intensely on important issues and have a congenial beer together later. It had become a classic example of the appearance of impropriety, however, going hand and in hand with Joe Biden’s “Super-Soaker” party for journalists that I examined in 2010.

Let me take you down on a stroll down Memory Lane. After Wolf Blitzer, Ed Henry and others appeared on You-Tube giggling and playing games with Vice President Biden, Rahm Emanuel and other Obama administration officials at the Biden-hosted party, Glenn Greenwald wrote,

I personally don’t think that these types of interactions ‘violate journalistic ethics,’ because I don’t think such a thing exists for them.  Rather, all of this just helpfully reveals what our nation’s leading “journalists” really are:  desperate worshipers of political power who are far more eager to be part of it and to serve it than to act as adversarial checks against it — and who, in fact, are Royal Court Spokespeople regardless of which monarch is ruling.  That’s why they’re invited into the heart of Versailles to frolic with the King’s most trusted aides:  it’s their reward for loyal service as Court courtiers.”

To which I added,

It’s not very complicated: if the public believes that journalists are inclined to be favorable toward government officials because they like them, get benefits from them, and seek their approval, then they cannot trust the objectivity of the news. The Biden party proves that some prominent journalists either don’t understand this, or don’t care.

Now, after 8 years,  we know: they don’t care. Their relentless partisan bias has become transparent, and journalists, as well as the beneficiaries of their bias, are content to continue denying it, pointing to the solid and fair reporting mixed in with the deceptive and incompetent stories. The White House Correspondents Dinner has been both the product of an illicit relationship between the White House and the press, and proof of it. To bolster the public’s trust, to avoid conflicts of interests and to reduce the appearance of impropriety, Presidents, Vice-Presidents and high government officials should not participate in this event or others like them—OR super-soaker parties at the VP’s mansion. Continue reading

22 Comments

Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Justice Ginsberg Has Reached Her “What The Hell” Stage, But That Doesn’t Mean It Can Extend To Ethics

ginsberg-jabot

Justice Ginsberg has been speaking out lately in intemperate fashion, first about Donald Trump, then about Colin Kaepernick. In both cases she received immediate criticism and issued apologies. It’s clear, however, that the liberal feminist icon, now 84 and in ill health, has reached the point in life where she feels she doesn’t need to be especially vigilant about what she says, a bit like Estelle Getty’s character Sophia on “The Golden Girls.” After all, what can anyone do to her?

Now that would normally be the time where ethics are paramount: ethics are what you do when you know you can get away with it (among other handy definitions). Ginsberg is a member of the one court that has no official Code of Judicial Ethics,  but since it is the highest court in the land, its judges are obligated to be exemplars, not rebels.

But what the hell. Justice Ginsberg affects ornate jabots when she is on the bench: they spruce up the unisex black judicial robes. In 2014, she revealed that some of them have special significance. She wears one Jabot, for example, when she is part of a majority which is about to deliver its opinion. She wears another when she is dissenting from the majority opinion. (That’s it above.)

Wednesday morning, following the election of Donald Trump, an event that she had earlier told an interviewer would cause her to move to New Zealand, Ginsburg sported the “dissent jabot” on the bench, though no opinions were being read. Reporters quickly picked up on the code, and took the choice as an expression of opposition to Trump’s election, which it almost certainly was. She has not disabused anyone of the assumption.
Cute, clever, unprovable, and unethical. It would have been a clear breach of decorum, independence and judicial dignity for Ginsberg to wear a Hillary button on her robes, or to sport any political statement. Judges typically oppose lawyers, clients and witnesses from bringing politics into court. For a judge to do it is asking for an official reprimand. For a Supreme Court Justice to do it, it doesn’t matter what the message is, shows a lack of respect for her own profession, as well as a lack of self-control.

The gesture is also unprofessional and a breach of the duty of all high government officials to publicly show respect and support for each other. For Ginsberg to “shout out” her dissent to a Presidential election (it doesn’t matter if it is code or not) in such a prominent public forum intentionally endorses divisiveness, at a time when divisiveness is a real threat to national stability.Naturally, her feminist, progressive and Democratic fans cheer this defiance, because they don’t know judicial ethics from corn flakes. Heck, after defending Hillary Clinton for so long, they don’t know any ethics from corn flakes. Justice Ginsberg knows, however. She just doesn’t care any more.

Ah, what the hell?

Continue reading

63 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Ethics Quote—But Not Necessarily ETHICAL Quote!—Of The Month: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

i-was-wrong

“On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them. Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect.”

—- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, officially apologizing for making remarks sharply critical of Donald Trump last week, including suggesting (in jest) that if her were elected President, she might “move to New Zealand.”

Observations:

1. Supreme Court justices almost never apologize, and I only say “almost” because I can’t do enough research right now to safely say “never.” They don’t apologize because the don’t have to: they are, ethically, a law unto themselves, and accountable to nobody unless impeached and convicted. (Justice Samuel Chase, was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 12, 1804, on charges of arbitrary and oppressive conduct of trials; it was a purely political attack. He was, correctly, acquitted by the U.S. Senate on March 1, 1805.)

2. An apology was appropriate, however. Justice Ginsberg proved herself smarter, better, more ethical and more principled than the embarrassing, crypto-facsist “these are not ordinary times” crowd, including the folks at Salon and other left-wing blogs, this guy, and too many of my dear friends on Facebook, whose expressed opinions really are beginning to make me wonder if they will solemnly send me to a Lobotomy Man when I oppose President Clinton’s declaration of open borders, ban on fossil fuels, race and gender quota in all hiring and admissions to (free) colleges, and confiscation of 50% of my property to help pay for national health care including late-term abortion on demand and tax-payer funded recreational drugs.

3. She apologized because any fool could see that her comments did undermine trust in the institution of the Supreme Court, and that her critics were right. Some of my more misguided colleague in the legal ethics field opined that it was silly to think that Justices don’t have political opinions and biases, just as it is silly to think journalists do not, so why shouldn’t she exercise her First Amendment rights? This  lame notion was decisively rebutted by a lawyer whose name I wish I could reveal, except that his comments were on a private list. He wrote in part… Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Rights

Donald Trump Candidacy Ethics Train Wreck Passenger List Update: Georgetown Law Prof. Paul Butler Scores A Perfect Rationalization #28

We're real sorry about this, but these are not ordinary times...

We’re really sorry about this, but these are not ordinary times…

The human ethics train wreck named Donald Trump is now in the process of exposing how thin the veneer of professionalism is for many alleged intellectuals, scholars and lawyers. On an e-mail list of most of the legal ethicists in the country, one of them posted this in reaction to Justice Ginsberg’s unethical and unjudicial shots at Donald Trump:

“I love RBG way too much to be critical of her in any way . Long may she live!”

This opne expression of willful denial, from not merely a lawyer, but an ethics specialist! It is the epitome of one of my father’s favorite quotes, “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts.” I responded to the list that it was the most depressing statement I had ever read from any of the list’s participants.

Paul Butler’s op-ed in the New York Times isn’t much better. The Georgetown Law Center professor defended Ginsberg’s indefensible comments by arguing that these times are special, and thus suspend the ethics principles that must govern judges if the judiciary is to engender any respect or trust at all. He writes:

“Normally Supreme Court justices should refrain from commenting on partisan politics. But these are not normal times. The question is whether a Supreme Court justice – in this case, the second woman on the court, a civil rights icon and pioneering feminist — has an obligation to remain silent when the country is at risk of being ruled by a man who has repeatedly demonstrated that he is a sexist and racist demagogue. The answer must be no.”

No, Professor, the answer must be “yes.” Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Research and Scholarship

Ethics Dunce: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ginsberg, not giving a damn.

Justice Ginsberg, no longer giving a damn.

Add one more bit of evidence to the pro- side of the debate over whether there should be a limit to Supreme Court tenure. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 83 and a cancer survivor, has now apparently entered the “What the hell: I’m going to say what I feel like saying” period of her life. How nice for her. The problem is that there are some things an ethical Justice should not and cannot say.

In an Associated Press interview published last week, Ginsberg opined that a Trump Presidency was too awful to contemplate, saying that she presumed Hillary Clinton will be the next president, and that she didn’t ” want to think about that possibility” of Trump being elected instead. Talking to The New York Times, she said, “I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”  Then, in a CNN interview, she got specific:

 “He is a faker…He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.”
Law professor Daniel W. Drezner, who teaches at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University,  minces no words over at the Washington Post, nor should he. Like me, he agrees with Madam Justice on the substance of her remarks about, yechh, Donald Trump. Nonetheless, he writes, Continue reading

22 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

Jon Stewart Betrayal Update: Concha Gets It Right

Jon-Stewart-and-BarackLast night Jon Stewart finally commented on the reports of his meetings at the White House, and by his smug demeanor and evasiveness, confirmed the assessments of Ethics Alarms and many others.  Joe Concha of Mediaite nailed it:

“Well, I mean, I don’t know if they were secret,” the 52-year-old said last night while pointing out his name (which one?) was clearly on the visitor logs. It all sounds so much like Stephanopoulos explaining that his donations to the Clinton Foundation that were also there for all the public to see… buried on his tax forms. All I know is this: If I met with the president and hosted a program which primarily focuses on politics, pretty sure I’d let my audience know at the very least that what had happened. Unless, of course, I have to carry out my PR orders in a way no White House Press Secretary or Sunday talk show appearance ever could…Why attend a meeting with the most powerful person on the planet if you can’t report back what was said? In the end, these people are there not for an interview, but for instructions. And that’s exactly why Stewart took the Acela down to DC: To come back to New York and serve as the Baghdad Bob of arguably the most influential news program—forget that it’s billed as fake—on the dial right now…No matter…Stewart will get the Letterman treatment next week when he leaves The Daily Show, and rightly so. He didn’t earn $25-$30M a year for hosting a show four days a week for nothing. His timing, delivery and intelligence is something you don’t teach or learn.

In the end, Jon Stewart will be looked back on as one of the great performers of our generation. He’s also one of the more dishonest, and about as phony as they come.”

Exactly.

20 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media