Tag Archives: James Comey

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/17/2017: Comey, Eminem,”Hustler”… And Cognitive Dissonance

ARRGH! I thought this was posted hours ago! Verizon is doing it to me again, going on and off every ten minutes. This is war.

 

Good Morning!

1 Nicely dovetailing with last night’s Ethics Alarms post, Christian Toto put his finger on the tragic and narcissistic delusions of Hollywood celebrities and athletes, without specifying what is really going on: a complete failure to comprehend the Cognitive Dissonance, and the perils of defying the scale. His post is called, “Celebrities make it official: Pick Trump or Us!”

He relates…

Eminem appeared at the BET Awards this week to do more than plug his new album. He unleashed a four-plus minute rap against President Trump…

That’s hardly worth a news item alone. Virtually every player at every level of the entertainment world is against this Commander-in-Chief. Trump…A few have wished him dead in colorful ways. Eminem didn’t go that far. Instead, he turned some of his ire against Trump towards those who support the president:

“And any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his

I’m drawing in the sand a line: you’re either for or against

And if you can’t decide who you like more and you’re split

On who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this:

Fuck you!”

The next night, “Late Night host Seth Meyers praised the rapper’s “powerful” rant-rap, and then said:

“And I was inspired by that, so tonight, I say to any fans of this show who are also big fans of Donald Trump, it’s time to make a decision,” said Meyers. “Get off the fence. Do you support him or do you support this show, that constantly mocks and denigrates everything about him? I know it’s a tough call, but the time has come to make a decision. Now, I’m not much of a rapper, but here it goes. My name is Seth and I’m here to say, if you like Trump, then go away.”

Then Meyers ended by flashing his middle finger.

Nice. Also incredibly arrogant,  stupid and ignorant. Whatever Donald Trump’s status on the public’s cognitive dissonance scale

…was before November 8, it was a lot better after. The Presidency is high on the scale for the vast majority of Americans, because the Presidency, no matter who occupies it presently, carries the respect and prestige of all of the former Presidents, including Washington, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, and yes, Obama. That yanks a new President up the scale, and hard. Part of the assault on Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Washington and Madison by progressives consciously or unconsciously seeks to counter this effect by tearing down the office—yes, “the resistance” would destroy the institution of the Presidency to save it—, but it doesn’t matter. The power of the office can’t fall far enough or fast enough to pass Seth Myers or Eminem on the lower rungs. These ludicrously confused semi-celebrities, just like the NFL stars that most people couldn’t pick out of a line-up, really think choosing between them and the President, the flag and the United States of America—you see, that is the team—and their minuscule and trivial personas is an easy choice. It is, but not the choice they think. When Trump wrongly injected himself into the foolish NFL kneeling protests, the players actually believed that if they showed “solidarity,” NFL would choose them over the President of the United States.

Brilliant.

2.  Yesterday, the FBI confirmed that James Comey indeed drafted his July 5, 2016 statement declaring that Hillary Clinton’s official and classified email machinations did not quite violate the law two months before he made it, and before Clinton had even been interviewed on July 2, 2016.

I initially was inclined to give Comey the benefit of the doubt here, but especially following on the heels of  the FBI  “discovering” last week 30 pages of documents related to the strange 2016 tarmac meeting between former President Bill Clinton and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch while the investigation of Bill’s wife was at a critical stage, I have to revise my opinion. Before the election, Comey’s FBI denied that any such documents existed. Are serious people really going to keep claiming that the President firing Comey was “obstruction of justice”? Increasingly it looks as if Obama’s keeping him in office was a travesty of justice. Or Justice.

 

The release of Comey’s prescient draft confirms information that Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of that committee, disclosed in a letter to new FBI Director Christopher Wray in August.  The Senate Judiciary Committee is reviewing Comey’s conduct as director and President Donald Trump’s firing him in May.

Some analysts are defending Comey, but that seems to be an increasingly forced exercise. “To me, this is so far out of bounds it’s not even in the stadium,” Chris Swecker, who retired from the FBI in 2006 as assistant director for the criminal investigative division and acting executive assistant director for law enforcement services, told reporters. “That is just not how things operate…. It’s built in our DNA not to prejudge investigations, particularly from the top.” Ron Hosko, an assistant FBI director under Comey, said that while drafting statements is not unusual, having such drafts include conclusions regarding matters that have not been thoroughly investigated is:
Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Quotes, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/15/2017: The All-Embarrassment Edition

Happy Sunday Morning!

(if I keep saying “good morning” the same way every day, you’ll think I’m insincere…)

1 I’m going to have a full post about the current status of the NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck later today, but in general: when will the players and the NFL just shrivel up with embarrassment? I’m thinking of absurdist theater like this: CNN contributor Donte Stallworth said yesterday that the NFL kneeling protests aren’t just about police brutality and racism, but also about…wait for it… the “gender pay gap.” (Which is largely fictional, by the way.) Stallworth, is a former NFL wide receiver. He actually had the guts to say,

“The number one stated goal was to bring awareness to a lot of these issues and again, its a broad spectrum of issues. Again, it’s not just police brutality and community policing. It’s also, again from what I’m hearing from players directly involved in these talks–they’re telling me it’s also about the gender pay gap, it’s also about housing discrimination, they have so many things that they are interested in and advocating for and they want the NFL to take ownership in and help be able to use the NFL’s platform. Not just the players platform but the NFL’s platform and that from what I am hearing is a big conversation.”

Yes, that’s another CNN contributor who is too ridiculous for an ethical news source to allow in a studio. So let me get this straight: the kneeling NFL players aren’t protesting the anthem that they are refusing to respect by standing, not the flag, nation, history and values it represents, but they are protesting over issues that nobody involved has breathed a word about, like gender pay gaps. What else? LGTB rights? Wait, football players aren’t too keen on gays, forget that. Free college, Bernie style? No, all of these bozos already got their college free. Please, tell us what your protest means. Are you protesting against Harvey Weinstein yet? Maybe you have been all along!

Embarrassing.

2. I remember when Slate was a fresh, shiny, diverse, certainly left-leaning but often incisive commentary e-mag, Its founder, Mike Kinsley (he’s a college classmate of mine, though I didn’t know him except through my room mate’s stories) is less of an ideologue than a detached cynical nihilist with a great sense of humor. Now, however, his baby is just a shrill progressive scold. On the home page, Slate urged me, “Support Jamelle Bouie’s coverage of Trump’s America: Join Slate Plus Today!” As anyone could discover by searching for Bouie in the Ethics Alarms archives, the writer is a stone-cold anti-white racist and race-baiter who left his fairness and integrity in a taxi years ago. The only reason what he writes weekly isn’t protested as hate speech is that only conservatives are accused of hate speech, them’s the rules. Any publication that promotes a writer like Bouie as a reason to become a reader has decided that it is acceptable to insult more than half of America.

I often wonder what Kinsley thinks about this. He probably thinks it’s funny.

It’s not. It’s embarrassing.

3. Hillary’s book tour involves going everywhere and explaining that she wasn’t at fault for losing the election, but that she takes full responsibility. Both Clintons are ethics corrupters of long standing, but the distaff Clinton threatens to permanently warp the concept of accountability for anyone who listens to her or reads her book without breaking into giggles. In a a recent interview, there was this exchange, for example,

And, yes, I take responsibility. Obviously, there were things I must have been able to do differently in order to have won. But at the end, there was this really perfect storm, and so you had the Comey letter and you had the enormous impact of the Russian theft of emails, the release of them by WikiLeaks, basically now a part of the Russian intelligence apparatus, and the weaponization of that. These were all new phenomena.

“So you’re still blaming others more than yourself?” her British interviewer asked, unlike any US interviewer, since Clinton won’t subject herself to being cross-examined by anyone in the US that didn’t weep on election night.

“No, I take ultimate responsibility, I don’t blame others, but I think it’s important that people understand what happened. It easy to say, ‘Well, you know she wasn’t a good candidate.’ Then why did lead all the way to the end, why did I get nominated overwhelmingly?”

Memo to Hillary: You were a terrible candidate, and always have been; the pollsters were incompetent and biased; and you were nominated because the process was rigged from the beginning. Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/20/17: More Factchecker Spin, More Hillary (Unfortunately), And A Thank-You [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

1 One comment thread over the last few days encompassed media fact-checkers and the consistent position here that they are intrinsically biased and untrustworthy. Law prof/blogger Jonathan Turley was so incensed (his term was “floored”) over one of the better factcheckers (Wapo’s Glenn Kessler) spinning for James Comey and against Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that he wrote a column for The Hill exposing it. (Hey! That’s MY job!) He writes on his blog about what prompted the column:

I have discussed previously how there has been a palpable bias in reporting on the Trump Administration. It is often that case that some journalists are not simply satisfied with disagreeing with the Administration. They sometimes take judgment calls or opinions and declare the Trump side to be simply factually incorrect. This relieves the need for readers to address the opposing view of controversies like the alleged misconduct of former FBI director James Comey. Those views are simply dismissed as untrue. This is a prime example.

The professor is right. It’s embarrassing. Read Turley’s whole piece, clearly prompted because Kessler refers to Turley’s repeated indictments of Comey (while saying that he does not believe Comey should actually be indicted). One respect in which the ever-polite and professorial Turley differs sharply from Ethics Alarms: he says that he has ” written for the Washington Post and [has] great respect for the publication. Indeed, I have objected to the attacks by President Donald Trump on the Post and the New York Times which remain two of our premiere journalistic organizations.”

Hmmm.

1) Turley obviously wants to keep writing for the Post, I guess, and 2) premiere members of a group that has become unprofessional and untrustworthy are still unprofessional and untrustworthy. Be that as it may, Turley concludes,

The Post concludes that the memos were, despite Comey’s denial, FBI material and that he violated FBI rules in removing and releasing such information. It also accepts that employees under Comey as director could well have been fired for such violations. It also agrees that the memos might have been either classified or privileged, even though there has been no final determination. Regardless, the Post awarded two Pinocchios for Sanders stating that Comey’s actions were “improper and likely could have been illegal.”

I have to give the Post two “Blue Fairies.” (I do not want to steal the Post’s Pinocchio signature motif so the Blue Fairy in the Disney story will do). After all, it was the Blue Fairy who said, “A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as clear as the nose on your face.”

2. There are two items about Hillary Clinton in the Warm-Up today, because she is simultaneously a human ethics train wreck of a failed Presidential candidate, but also needs as little publicity for being so as possible. Continue reading

23 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, War and the Military

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/6/17: Comey’s Premature Draft, Obama’s Golden Rule Breach, Newspapers “Protecting Us,”And Thank-You, Boston Red Sox

 

1 I want to sincerely thank the Boston Red Sox for giving me, the sole baseball ethicist on the web who also devotes a disturbing amount of his time, energy and passion to following the team, the challenge and opportunity to address a major cheating scandal involving the organization and institution I love. Seriously, guys, thank you. This is exactly what I needed to face after staying up past 1 AM watching the Sox pull out a 19 inning, 6 hour game on Hanley Ramirez’s bloop single to center.

I’ll cover the issue in the next post. Ugh.

2. Ironically, just as the anti-Trump news media was hyperventilating over the fact that the Special Counsel was examining a draft letter by the President regarding his reasons for firing James Comey (draft letters have minimal probative value if any, but you know: Trump), it came to light that in May of 2016, Comey had drafted a statement declining to charge Hillary Clinton or her staff in the State Department e-mail scandal, months before key witnesses (like Clinton herself) had been interviewed or much of the evidence had been reviewed. President Trump, of course, tweeted that this proved there was a “rigged process,” but Comey’s draft is no more incriminating that Trump’s draft. (Now, Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton might suggest a rigged process, but that’s another story.)

Supreme Court Justices have drafted opinions before oral argument; that doesn’t mean they can’t change their minds. It is certainly odd that Comey would have drafted a statement that Clinton would not be indicted so long before the investigation was completed. It is odder still that Hillary’s interview was not under oath, that it wasn’t videotaped, that there was no transcript, and that she was allowed to have representing her as an attorney at the session a top aide who was also a potential witness.

Professor Turley, in a column at The Hill, agrees that the early draft doesn’t implicate the integrity of the investigation, but raises a related issue:

While I am inclined to accept assurances from Comey that he did not finally decide on charges until after reviewing all of the evidence, the details from the Clinton investigation hardly support a view of a robust and dogged effort in comparison to the type of investigation of people like Paul Manafort.

In pursuing Manafort, special counsel Robert Mueller has now enlisted an army of investigators, reached a cooperative relationship with staunch Trump critic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and actively pursued tax and financial dealings far afield of the original Russian collusion allegations. He also ordered a heavy-handed (and unnecessary) “no knock” search in the middle of the night on Manafort’s home.

The Clinton investigation looks like Club Fed in comparison. Clinton and her staff refused to cooperate with State Department investigators seeking confirm any damage to national security. Key laptops were withheld and only turned over after Comey’s staff agreed to destroy the computers after their review, despite the relevance of the evidence to congressional investigations. Comey then cut five immunity deals with key Clinton staff members, including former State Department staffer, Bryan Pagliano, who set up a server in Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y., and worked for her at the State Department.

Pagliano refused to cooperate after invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and destroyed evidence after being given a preservation order. Those deals raised the concern over a type of prosecutorial planned obsolescence, making a viable case less likely.

The amusing part is that all of this circles back to Comey’s firing, which was justified by his handling of the Clinton investigation regardless of any other factors.

3. The New York Times today reviews a festival play called “___hole.” That’s not really the title, however, although “___hole” was printed twice as the play title before the Times made this clear. A comment by the reviewer noted that the real title couldn’t “get past the editors.” Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Popular Culture

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/12/17

Good Morning, everyone…

1. “Morning Joe” Scarborough went on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”-–where President Trump is officially referred to as Putin’s “cockholster”—and played to the anti-Trump audience by announcing that he was leaving the Republican Party as cheers rang out in Colbert’s echo chamber. More blatant pandering virtue-signaling and grandstanding would be hard to imagine.

Scarborough has followed up his short, undistinguished  career as a conservative GOP congressman by playing on-air conservative foil to his supposedly opposite-minded  co-host Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC while that network attacked Republicans on every show and all day long. In really, we have learned, he and Mika were sufficiently sympatico to be having a romantic affair while posing as journalists, meaning that the whole format was an act as well as an extended date. Scarborough was also complicit in helping Trump to the nomination of Joe’s alleged party by promoting him until he had nabbed the nomination. Once the Miracle of November 8, 2017 occurred, Joe made the obligatory U-Turn.

Never mind: I don’t care how Scarborough or anyone else registers; what matters is if they have the integrity to vote for the best candidate whatever party he or she represents. I do care that Scarborough used the smear that President Trump is a racist, and expressing to Colbert his disgust that GOP lawmakers, he claims, have refused to admonish Trump’s “racist” statements and election promises.  This is another sloppy chunk of the anti-Trump false narrative, and by resorting to it, Joe proves, not that he isn’t a Republican, but that he is a race-baiting character assassin.The evidence that the President is racist is elusive, but the smear is repeated among the resistance as truth so frequently that it has reached Big Lie status.

2. In February, the left-biased, Trump-reviling Huffington Post purported to list “16 Examples” of Trump “being a racist.” The whole campaign, his whole career,, with Democratic groups and activists repeating the slur for months, and this was what they could scrape up. (Spoiler: it’s pathetic…) Continue reading

73 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race, The Internet

The Comey Testimony, Part II

[Part I is here]

Now let’s look at some direct quotes from James Comey’s testimony: 

1. “Even though I was appointed to a ten-year term, which congress created in order to underscore the importance of the FBI being outside of politics and independent, I understood that I could be fired by a president for any reason or for no reason at all. And on May 9th, when I learned I had been fired for that reason, I immediately came home as a private citizen. But then the explanations, the shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me. They confused me because the president that I had had multiple conversations about my job, both before and after he took office, and he had repeatedly told me I was doing a great job and he hoped I would stay. And I had repeatedly assured him that I did intend to stay and serve out the remaining six years of my term. He told me repeatedly that he had talked to lots of people about me. Including our current attorney general. And had learned I was doing a great job. And that I was extremely well-liked by the FBI work force. So it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation. And learned, again, from the media that he was telling privately other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation. I was also confused by the initial explanation that was offered publicly, that I was fired because of the decisions I had made during the election year. That didn’t make sense to me for a whole bunch of reasons, including the time and all the water that had gone under the bridge since those hard decisions had to be made. That didn’t make any sense to me. And although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray. That it was poorly led. That the workforce had lost confidence In its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple. And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them and I’m so sorry the American people were told them. I worked every day at the FBI to help make that great organization better. As a help, because I did nothing alone at the FBI. There are no indispensable people at the FBI. The organization’s great strength is that its value and abilities run deep and wide. The FBI will be fine without me. The FBI’s mission will be relentlessly pursued by its people and that mission is to protect the American people and uphold the constitution of the United States. I will deeply miss being part of that mission, but this organization and its mission will go on long beyond me and long beyond any particular administration. I have a message before I close for the — for my former colleagues of the FBI. First I want the American people to know this truth. The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is and always will be independent. And now to my former colleagues, If I may, I am so sorry I didn’t get the chance to say good bye to you properly. It was the honor of my life to serve beside you, to be part of the FBI family and I will miss it for the rest of my life. Thank you for standing watch, thank you for doing so much good for this country. Do that good as long as ever you can. And senators, I look forward to your questions.”

Observations: This entire statement is unworthy of the emphasis that has been placed on it by the wildly spinning news media, The key piece of information to frame the entire episode is  “I understood that I could be fired by a president for any reason or for no reason at all.” Comey also presumably understood that a sub-fact within that understanding is that he could be told some of the reasons he was fired, no reasons, or the reasons the President felt like talking about. He was told he was doing a great job and then fired? Welcome to the work force. Telling an employee that he is doing a great job when he isn’t may be good management, usually isn’t, but is still well within the range of management discretion, and certainly not illegal.

Comey said that he also concerned that the President was saying that firing “had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation.” As we learn later, the President was not being targeted in that investigation, and we know that he regards it as a politically motivated effort to distract and derail his administration and its agenda. There was nothing sinister about the President’s desire that the investigation go away as quickly as possible. I would argue that he has an obligation to do whatever he can to speed it along. If he didn’t trust Comey’s judgment—and who would?—seeing his exit as a plus is reasonable. Naturally, Comey wouldn’t see it that way.

It is amazing to me that a fired employee saying that his superior’s assessment that his organization was in disarray, that he was a poor leader and that his staff had “lost confidence In its leader” is given any weight at all. What fired employee doesn’t think his firing is unjust and the criticism of him is unfair? Comey calls it a lie: how does he know what Trump had been told or heard? How does Comey know what his agents say behind his back?

Your opinion that someone’s negative opinion about you is wrong and based on erroneous information does not make that opinion a lie. As a lawyer, Comey should know that, and should not have thrown the word “lie” around to be misunderstood by people who don’t know what a lie is—that is, most of the public. Continue reading

27 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/10/17

 

1. In the category of “Good!”, or maybe “Better late than never!” was the news that CNN, after a a full week of pondering, determined that maybe it wasn’t sufficiently professional for a host to call the President of the United States a “piece of shit,” or anyone a “piece of shit,” really, or use “shit”  under the CNN banner, so it fired “Believer” host Reza Aslan. I don’t know why CNN can’t figure out that an immediate firing sends the message that the organization has professional standards and enforces them, and the way CNN handled this says, “We were hoping this would blow over, but guess not.”

Aslan’s tweet after his hook raised other questions:

  • Wait, CNN is trying to be an unbiased new outlet???
  • Oh, is “piece of shit” how scholars express themselves now?
  • “I need to honor my voice” by being able to use vulgarity to express his measured views. Got it.
  • The “tenor” of discourse is entirely within the control of the speaker.
  • Why does CNN put people on the air who don’t understand or respect their professional obligations to the network or the audience?

2. Fox News’s Sean Hannity got web headlines yesterday by tweeting to Aslan: “I do not think you should be fired. You apologized.” Sean Hannity is really too dumb to be allowed out without a leash. His theory is that an apology magically returns everything to where it was before the conduct in question, as if there were no effects. This was serious breach of professionalism and responsibility showing the Aslan was too untrustworthy to be allowed to have his own TV show. It proved that he was a threat to CNN’s reputation (Crude News Network” is the current successor to “Clinton News Network,” and no organization can function if its announced policy is “Go ahead, do anything; as long as you apologize, your job is safe.” Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Sports, U.S. Society, Workplace