Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/13/2019: Rhode Island On My Mind Edition

 

Providence, Rhode Island

Good morning!

I’m heading up to Little Rhodey in a few hours to once again collaborate with my brilliant Ethics Rock musician Mike Messer before the Rhode Island Bar, as well as to try to back about 7 hours of legal ethics and technology commentary into a 75 minute break-out session.

1. Once again, law vs ethics.The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld those lame duck laws the GOP legislature passed to hamstring the new Democratic Governor. It is the correct decision. The measures were unethical, but legal, just like Mitch McConnell’s gambit to refuse giving Merrick Garland a hearing, just like Harry Reid’s “reconciliation” maneuver to get the amended Affordable Care Act passed without having to send it  back to the House.

2. Correct, but futile.  From the Washington Post: Continue reading

TGIF Ethics Celebration, 1/10/19: Plenty Of People Who Need Firing or Something Close…

I don’t know why I’m celebrating a weekend: in a home business, there are no weekends…Maybe I’ll just celebrate the flowers that bloom in the Spring!

1. Poll: The firing of Mary Bubala. As you may know, the mayor of Baltimore got caught red-handed in a self-dealing scheme, tried  to take a leave of absence instead of resigning (thus preserving her salary), and finally had to resign anyway. Discussing the events on the air on Baltimore TV channel WJZ, news anchor Bubala asked  Loyola University Maryland Professor Karsonya Wise Whitehead,

“We’ve had three female, African-American mayors in a row.They were all passionate public servants. Two resigned, though. Is this a signal that a different kind of leadership is needed to move Baltimore City forward?”

Bubula is white. The station was bombarded with complaints that her question was racist, and the station quickly fired her, saying in a brief statement,

“Mary Bubala is no longer a WJZ-TV employee. The station apologizes to its viewers for her remarks.”

Well-respected conservative pundit Mark Tapscott called this “newsroom fascism,” writing, “I’ve never met now-former Baltimore TV local news anchor Mary Bubala, but I am outraged as an American and a journalist over her firing for a question that clearly wasn’t remotely related to the fact the city’s two most recent (corrupt) mayors were both Black and women.”

I would have fired her. There are two good reasons. First,  the question sure sounds  like “After three female black mayors who have either been corrupt or unsuccessful, do you think a white man might be worth a try?” to me. What else could it mean? Do you think it might be time to elect a GOOD mayor? Why mention their race and gender at all if it isn’t part of the question? Second, if the question wasn’t racist, she should be fired because she’s too inarticulate to have that job.

Tapscott concludes, “Either this …ends or liberty isn’t long for anybody in this country except those with approved opinions.”

Let me ask you, then…

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/16/18: Those Wacky Conways, And The Anti-Trump News Media Goes To The Dogs

Good morning.

1. A conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theorists...Last night, a CBS procedural that I am finally sick of, “Criminal Minds,” appeared to be taking sides in the Trump vs. the FBI wars, with a side-swipe at Alex Jones, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The episode set up a conflict between the Good FBI agents who are the stars of the show, and the crazy, paranoid, anti-government  “Truthers” who see government law enforcement as sinister and manipulative. (There was special focus on the ridiculous Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, with one of the tough serial killer hunter breaking down in tears remembering the massacre.) The most vocal anti-FBI character in the episode, who sneered out her every line about the series heroes (bad direction, in my view), was revealed at the end as the “unsub,” the psychopathic killer.

For some reason this was the first time it occurred to me how much prime  time network TV serves as a PR service for the FBI, with the virtue, bravery and unquestioned rectitude of the agency and its employees being central to multiple dramas. The propaganda is escalating too: Dick Wolf of “Law and Order” fame is launching a new CBS series called, creatively, “FBI.” You would think, would you not, that this would be an odd time to produce such a series, with the reputation and credibility of J.Edgar’s baby at an all-time, and most deserved, low. However, Hollywood and the entertainment industry now sees its role differently than seeking mere ratings.

There is nothing wrong with TV writers and producers bring their political agendas into our living rooms, and there’s not a thing we can do about it anyway, other than change channels. Rod Serling used to get awfully preachy sometimes on “The Twilight Zone.” This was mighty ham-handed pro-Peter Strzok advocacy, though by CBS, or at least it seemed that way to me.

2. Marital Ethics. This is weird. Ethics Alarms has discussed the unethical conduct of Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, who has become a popular “resistance” and #NeverTrump figure by tweeting virulent criticism of the President, who employs his wife. Now Kellyanne has escalated the problem with an interview criticizing her husband, telling a reporter that his sniping ” is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows.”  Then, according to an AOL report, she asked that her comments be attributed to “a person familiar with their relationship.” The reporter, correctly, refused.

It is a breach of loyalty and respect for one spouse to criticize the other in the news media. It is cowardly and a breach of honesty to criticize one’s spouse and to try to remain unaccountable for it by pretending the critique came from someone else.

What a fun couple! What a strange couple. What an unethical couple… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/25/2018: What Do Kellyann’s Husband And The NFL Kneelers Have In Common? [Updated]

Morning in my home town, Arlington Massachusetts (where they seem to have found another body in Spy Pond….)

Good Morning!

1. George Conway is unethical. It’s really as simple as that. Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, a lawyer, has decided to take advantage of his wife’s notoriety to grab unearned influence and fame for himself. He has become a regular twitter critic of the President, routinely blasting the Administration through mostly re-tweeted commentary from other sources. This, of course, makes the Trumpophobes ecstatic, embarrasses his wife, and gives George 15 hitch-hiked minutes of fame.

Let me count the ways this is wrong:

  • He’s not contributing anything valuable to the public debate, just bolstering his wife’s enemies.  Social media-users who can’t muster their own arguments and who only appeal to authority should not be taken seriously, and if George wasn’t undermining his wife, he wouldn’t be.
  • Who he is married to is the only reason anyone pays any attention to his tweeting. Surely he knows this. Surely he knows that the result is his wife’s embarrassment, and that he he is actively working against her. This is not a James Carville-Mary Matalin act, where both spouses are independently regarded as powerful political consultants. This is spousal sabotage.
  • He’s risking his wife’s career for his own aggrandizement. I’ll say this for Trump: he’s more forgiving than I would be. I would give Kellyanne an ultimatum: get your husband to stop undermining us, dump him, or quit. This is analogous to the crazy estranged husband who keeps coming to his wife’s place of business to harass her. The employer’s completely justified message: “We can’t have this. It’s your problem; fix it, or we will.”

2.  ‘We don’t care: he’s a racist whatever he does.’ President Trump announced his long-rumored pardon of black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson yesterday. (The Times has an interesting feature about Johnson’s travails here.) Praising the President for this long over-due exoneration, an NAACP spokesman said…nah, I’m kidding, the civil rights organization didn’t say anything. However, the Congressional Black Caucus, which had urged President Obama to finally right this decades-long wrong, said…no, they had nothing to say either.  [ Correction: Originally I wrote here that John McCain, who sponsored a resolution asking for Obama to pardon Johnson,, did not signal praise for the pardon. He did, and I apologize to the Senator for the error. Thanks to Dan Abrams for the information.]

There is no reasonable argument against pardoning Johnson, and there never has been. Apparently Obama was hesitant–but then he was always hesitant—this time because Johnson had a reputation for domestic abuse. Thus I presume that the female contingent in the White House pulling Barack’s strings—Valerie and Michelle—along with the all-important advocates for the Democratic Party’s feminist base wouldn’t let him do it. Obama, a lawyer, or so I hear, must have realized that Johnson’s racist persecution by the government for being a  famous and defiant black man who openly had white female companionship had absolutely nothing to do with domestic abuse, and that misconduct a controversial figure may or may not have engaged in unrelated to an unjust criminal conviction shouldn’t play any part in a pardon assessment.

That Barack. So principled. So courageous…

3. I like David French, but...his recent op-ed for the Times attacking the NFL’s ruling on National Anthem protests going forward—if a player won’t stand respectfully, the he must stay off the field, in the locker room—is ethically obtuse. French’s point is that conservatives should champion free speech at a time when the Left is trying to suppress it. That’s a good point, and I agree wholeheartedly, but it has nothing to do with the NFL’s kneelers. I suspect that French wanted to make this argument, and negligently grabbed at the NFL policy as his chance to make it.

He writes in part, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/29/18: White House Correspondents Dinner Edition (And Other Things…)

 

Good Morning!

1 The RedState purge.  Salem Media, the conservative website RedState’s owner, froze the site and fired many of its most read and respected writers, all of whom were distinguished by one other common feature: they are all NeverTrumpers, conservatives who revile the current POTUS almost as vehemently as the Left’s mainstream media.

I view this decision as a declaration of war of sorts, or perhaps an assertion that a war is already going on. The Democrats, progressives, the news media and “the resistance” have been trying to unseat the President of the United States by “any means necessary,” a strategy that not only every conservative but every responsible citizen ought to oppose as the dangerous and undemocratic strategy it is. The dilemma is that NeverTrumpers’ anti-Trump bias not only makes them less than effective in opposing this unethical plot, it arguably makes them accessories to it.

Salem’s action is depressing but significant. It is one more indication that the news media, new and old, is dividing down rigid ideological lines while embracing political agendas rather than ethical journalism’s traditional mission. There is a place for fighting “the resistance,” but objective journalism shouldn’t have to censor dissent to play its part. Its part is to report the truth. Actions, however, have equal and opposite reactions, and as the media on the Left, which is to say most of the media, openly and  unapologetically indulges its Trump Hate, confident that its market will approve (thus making the abandonment of fairness and responsibility profitable), the polarization of whatever news media remains becomes inevitable.

This is not good for journalism, punditry, the nation or democracy, but I don’t know what can halt it now.

2. Terrible…but kind of funny, you have to admit. More than half the paintings owned by a small art museum in Elne, France, 82 of its 140 works, are fakes.  “It’s a catastrophe,”  said Yves Barniol, the mayor of Elne, near the Spanish border. Ya think? Over $170,000 was paid out by the museum for the phony artworks—not a lot by art museum standards, but when most of your collection are forgeries, there’s an open question why anyone would trust such a museum again.

Dishonesty and incompetence are a destructive combination. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/7/ 2018: Murder, Fake Journalism, Hatch Act Games, And California Defiance

Good Morning!

1  “A Murder in the Park.” The 2014 documentary about how the Northwestern University “Innocence Project” freed a guilty murderer hours before his execution and framed an innocent man who was eventually exonerated is now available on Netflix. I wrote about the case, which had the unanticipated consequence of causing Illinois to ban the death penalty, in 2014. Then I concentrated on how badly the whole mess reflected on the justice system. As I watched the documentary last night, however, what struck me was the self-satisfied smugness and certitude of the journalism students who participated in selective investigation, advocacy instead of objective reporting, manipulation of witnesses, cause driven conclusions and more. The documentary shows us why journalism has become whatever it can be called now–certainly not journalism. Northwestern has one of the elite journalism schools in the nation, and David Protess, then the professor who ran “The Innocence Project,” was teaching students that corrupt journalism was honorable. Protess at the time was perhaps the most praised journalism teacher in the nation. It seems that he was less the exception than the rule.

2. Real discipline would be nice for a change. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) informed the Trump yesterday that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act twice.  The  findings were referred to President Trump “for appropriate disciplinary action.” The White House promptly denied the charges, so we should assume that Kelly won’t be disciplined at all.

The Hatch Act allows federal employees to express their views about candidates and political issues as private citizens, but forbids them from using their official government positions try to influence elections. Of course Conway violated the Act. On Fox and CNN, she made it clear that voters in Alabama should reject Democrat Doug Jones. The White House ludicrously claims that Conway did not advocate for or against the election of any particular candidate. Nah…she just told Fox viewers last November,

“Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don’t be fooled. He will be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime, weak on borders. He is strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners.”

On CNN,  she said in part,
Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin

 

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has pledged “not participate personally and substantially in any matter that has a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests” of his financial holdings, without obtaining an official waiver for doing so. He also had advance notice of how a Trump administration figure could breach ethics rules when Kellyanne Conway, in the course of criticizing organized boycotts of First Daughter Ivanka Trump’s merchandise line, blurted out  “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff!” during an interview on “Fox & Friends.”  The Office of Government Ethics and members of   the House Oversight Committee urged disciplinary action for Conway’s clear, if probably inadvertent, ethics violation. (None occurred. It should have.)

Never mind. During a C-Span broadcast interview last week, Secretary Mnuchin was asked for a movie recommendation (this was a set-up, but an easy one to duck), and said,

“I’m not allowed to promote anything that I’m involved in. So I just want to have the legal disclosure, you’ve asked me the question, and I am not promoting any product. But you should send all your kids to ‘Lego Batman.’ “

HAHAHAHAHA!!! ‘I’m not supposed to do this because it’s unethical, but I’ll do it anyway, because ethics rules are silly, the President doesn’t care about them, and besides, Kellyanne got away with it, and so will I!’ Continue reading