Ethics Warm-Up: I Wish I Were Surprised, But I’m Not

NOW what?

Quite a bit, actually…

1. Res Ipsa Loquitur #1 The Democratic National Committee has barred Fox News from hosting its Presidential primary debates. I guess the Democrats don’t want any tough questions interfering with their efforts to rig the nomination this time around.

If there was ever better proof that the Democratic Party considers the mainstream media their captive allies, I don’t know what it would be. In 2016, Republicans subjected their candidates to outright hostile questioning from CBS and CNBC journalists, and Fox treated Donald Trump as roughly as a candidate can be treated in the Republican debates. I watched all the pre-nomination debates: Fox’s Neil Cavuto was among the very fairest of all panelists, and as Fox News has correctly said in its protest about the Democratic slur, Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, the proposed Fox News debate questioners, are at least as objective and professional as any Left-media journalists.

DNC Chair Tom Perez’s excuse for this blackball move is self-evidently dishonest: “Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates.” Oh, the New Yorker says so! That settles it then!

The GOP didn’t pull out of the Vice-Presidential debates in 2008 even though the NPR’s debate moderator, Gwen Ifill, had her pro-Obama book sitting at her publisher  waiting for he candidate to win. CBS wasn’t barred from hosting debates, event though David Rhodes, then president of CBS News, is the brother of Ben Rhodes, Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser. Meanwhile, Ben Sherwood, president of ABC News, is the brother of Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, an Obama  special assistant.  Claire Shipman, a national correspondent for ABC’s “Good Morning America,” was married to Jay Carney when he was President Obama’s press secretary. These were real, hard, conflicts of interest. The bias of the Fox News journalists is apparently based on the fact that they may run into Trump pal Sean Hannity in the lunch room.

The Democratic Party is prepared to do everything in its power to make sure the American public does not get properly informed regarding the character, skills and beliefs of its 2020 Presidential candidate, and is confident that every network but Fox can be depended upon to assist them in achieving that goal.

2. Almost certainly untrustworthy study of the week, but great for confirmation bias purposes:  According to an article in “The Atlantic,”  a survey conducted by the polling firm PredictWise that assembled a county-by-county index of American political intolerance  based on poll results determined that ” the most politically intolerant Americans… tend to be whiter, more highly educated, older, more urban, and more partisan themselves.”

That would explain the posts by my Facebook friends… Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 8/22/18: Manafort, Cohen, and Mollie”

No, I wasn’t just looking for an excuse to post a photo of Stormy. This is an ethics blog!

Chris Marschner authored a Comment Of The Day this morning, which reminded me that another of his Comments Of The Day had been waiting on the runway for almost a month.

I’m glad of this, because the topic has nothing to do with the Kavanaugh hearings. Chris was writing about the then-popular impeachment plan–Plan K-— raised by Michael Cohen’s fixing activities. Would I rather think about Michael Cohen or Christine Blasey Ford? Would I rather be kicked in the head by a Clydesdale or a musk ox?

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 8/22/18: Manafort, Cohen, and Mollie:

In your post regarding Gulliani’s quote “the truth is not the truth.” I opined that the truth was what one wishes to believe.

The entire question of whether a payment made by or on behalf of another to obtain an NDA for acts that may be embarrassing is an election law violation begs the question regarding taxpayer funded settlements made to congressional staffers to settle harassment claims by members of Congress. These settlements appear to have similar codicils for non disclosure for the express purpose of avoiding personal embarrassment that could influence their reelection bid.

Michael Avenatti claims his fees are being paid through a crowdfunding site but there appears to be no way to determine if much of those funds that flow through the site are from 10,000 unique people or one person or group. For all anyone knows large sums could becoming from Tom Steyer, George Soros, or even the Russians. Mr. Avenatti does not publicize the fact that he claimed to be the originator of “The Apprentice” and sued Trump years ago. He also does not publicize the fact that he is closely tied to Rahm Emmanuel and the Obamas.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/28/2018: Short, But Disturbing…

Good Morning!

1. Am I a chicken? Today I am doing an early morning CLE seminar for prosecutors and government lawyers, and there are a lot of juicy issues that I am staying away from. Last year’s seminar on this topic with this audience bogged down almost immediately in political arguments, and later I received complaints, which I almost never do. Despite the fact that the ethics of government lawyers have never been more under a microscope than  now, today’sthree-hour course is going to almost (almost) completely avoid the controversies surrounding the Mueller investigation, Rosenstein, Strzok and the rest. I am going to mention Andrew McCabe’s use of GoFundMe, but only in the context of lawyers crossing ethics lines while using the web.

Is avoiding the political controversies wrong and cowardly when they are so relevant to the topic of government ethics? I’ve been thinking about this for months. In the end, I have decided that the distraction and static is more damaging to the mission—giving government lawyers a chance to tune up their ethics alarms—than the embargoed topics are essential. There is more to cover than I have time for anyway.

2. More on the baseball mind-control front. Back in 2015, then-Mets second-baseman Daniel Murphy said in an interview that he “did not agree with the lifestyle” of a gay former player. Now, two teams later, he is playing for the Chicago Cubs, and the news media has resuscitated the “scandal”—apparently not agreeing with someone else’s lifestyle when that lifestyle has been officially sanctified is a scandal now—and Murphy is being examined, prodded and watched. Are his anti-gay—apparently not “agreeing” with something is to be “anti-“ too—attitudes a burden on the team? Are they “harming” gay fans? Gays in general? It is clear that Murphy will never stop being a target of political correctness-besotted reporters until he publicly embraces his inner gayness, announces that he has forsworn his sincere religious beliefs (they are  behind the times), and publicly endorses every LGBT issue under the skies. Of course, gay baseball fans in Chicago will be happy with Murphy as long as he hits and helps the Cubs win games, which is all that should matter, and in fact is all that does.

The lesson of Murphy’s ordeal is, I suppose, that no celebrity or public figure should dare utter non-conforming opinions or views, unless they are willing to be hounded by the political correctness Furies to the grave.

I don’t believe this condition is compatible with freedom of thought and expression, but then, neither are the Furies. And those who would deny Murphy leave to “disagree” with whatever he choose to disagree with want freedom of thought and expression to be constrained, or as the Supreme Court put it, “chilled.”

3. Flag up, flag down. Apparently there are people who have nothing better to do than watch flag poles. In response to Senator McCain’s death, The White House lowered its U.S. flag to half-staff on Sunday, raised it back up and on Monday lowered it again after the death of Senator John McCain, in a break with the tradition following the passing of a national leader. Based on the reaction of my Facebook friends, this was far more outrageous than the Catholic Church facilitating child rape for the last 50 years or so. Finally, under pressure from the news media, veterans and members of Congress, President Trump  ordered flags to half-staff, and came out with a late, grudging tribute to McCain.

Yes, the President should have treated McCain like prior departed leaders of his stature and duration on the national scene.

Yes, his response was petty.

Yes, he is petty, and yes, apparently Trump being Trump will perpetually be news.

Yes, John McCain is dead, and his orders that the President of the United States isn’t welcome at his funeral still stand.

Yes, the news media’s attitude is that McCain’s pettiness was justified, because any anti-Trump attitudes are per se virtuous and just, and Trump’s pettiness is just more proof that he should be impeached.

Got it.

4. Lanny Lanny Lanny…In July, CNN published a story claiming that President Trump knew about the planned Trump Tower meeting with some Russians bearing gifts of dirt on Hillary Clinton, or so they had claimed delegation. According to their anonymous source, former Trump fixer and Olympics-level slimemeister Michael Cohen claims Trump was briefed on the meeting. It now appears that the only source for CNN’s story was Lanny Davis, Hillary Clinton’s and Bill’s fixer and Olympics-level slimemeister. Now Lanny is saying that he was somehow “misunderstood.” You see, his client testified under oath to Congress that Trump did not know, so Lanny’s leak to CNN implicated his own Client in a crime—one that he hasn’t pled guilty to yet. Now all of the media outlets, notably the Washington Post, that went into full impeachment heat over the CNN story are having to backtrack, just like Lanny. [Pointer: Liberty Girls]

Nah, Chuck Todd is right, there’s no news media anti-Trump bias!

Sarcasm aside, I find it impossible to believe that a majority of the public isn’t sick of this.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/27/2018: Petards, Conflicts, And Bullshit Edition

Good Morning!

1. Oh no! Hoisted by my own petard! I’m pretty certain that Clinton fixer Lanny Davis has an unwaivable conflict of interest in his representation of Trump fixer Michael Cohen. The legal ethics establishment is soft-peddling the issue because most legal ethicists apparently hate President Trump more than they like ethical lawyering, but I’ve been wrestling over whether to file a disciplinary complaint. The problem is that any complaint that has even a tinge of political motivation won’t be touched by the Bar (if prior performance is any indicator), so a complaint by me would be the proverbial lonely tree falling in the forest. The remedy would be to issue a publicity release about the complaint, but I’ve criticized that tactic as unethical right here, on more than one occasion. Rats.

It might be just as well. After the mere hint that I was defending Donald Trump (I was not) on NPR appears to have gotten me blackballed there after many years as an ethics commentator, I probably should not criticize the lawyer for the most popular sleaze in D.C. these days.

2. Neil Simon Ethics. In an alternate universe, my still operating professional theater company, dedicated to keeping unfairly buried, forgotten or unfashionable American theater works of the past in front of audiences who deserve a chance to see them, is looking at a lot of Neil Simon productions. The works of the —by far—most successful writer of comedies in Broadway history are already sneered at as sexist and “outdated,” and I can vouch for the fact that all it takes is one militant female board member with a checkbook and a chip on her shoulder to kill a production. Remember S.N Behrman? Seen any Philip Barry plays lately? How about Kaufman and Hart? Simon just died, and he’s already heading to obscurity along with those guys, and most of their plays are still funny too.

3. Here’s another topic it’s dangerous to get intoFrom CBS:

A pregnant Washington state woman said she was fired via text message from a sub shop where worked, with a store manager telling her “it’s not a good time to have somebody who is leaving for maternity leave in several months anyway.” Kameisha Denton told CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO-TV that she had told the manager she was pregnant and due in December, asking for maternity leave.

Denton said she realized that she hadn’t been assigned shifts at Jersey Mike’s sub shop in Marysville, Washington, so she sent a text to her manager inquiring about the hours. The response she says she received was shocking.

When Denton asked for her “updated schedule” she received something a bit different. The store manager named only as “Marcos” in Denton’s phone responded, “I am sorry to inform you but it’s not going to work out with Jersey Mikes. It’s not a good time to have somebody who is leaving for maternity leave in several months anyways. You also failed to tell me this during your interview.”

Denton posted the exchange on Facebook in a post that had garnered over 1,000 shares in just two days.  

Denton told KIRO-TV,  “I was just like in shock, it took me a minute to face reality — I was like this is really happening.”

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Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/23/2018: A Quote Fest!

Good Morning!

1. Now THIS is narcissism! It’s long, but go ahead and read it.  This  was Madonna’s “tribute” to the late Aretha Franklin at the VMAs this week:

Aretha Louise Franklin changed the course of my life. I left Detroit when I was 18. $35 in my pocket. My dream was to make it as a professional dancer.
After years of struggling and being broke, I decided to go to auditions for musical theater. I heard the pay was better. I had no training or dreams of ever becoming a singer, but I went for it. I got cut, and rejected from every audition. Not tall enough. Not blends-in enough, not 12-octave range enough, not pretty enough, not enough, enough. And then, one day, a French disco sensation was looking for back-up singers and dancers for his world tour. I thought, “Why not?” The worst that can happen is I could go back to getting robbed, held at gunpoint and being mistaken for a prostitute in my third floor walk-up that was also a crack house. So I showed up for the audition, and two very large French record producers sat in the empty theater, daring me to be amazing. The dance audition went well. Then they asked if I had sheet music and a song prepared. I panicked. I had overlooked this important part of the audition process. I had to think fast. My next meal was on the line. Fortunately, one of my favorite albums was “Lady Soul” by Aretha Franklin. I blurted out, “You Make Me Feel.” Silence. “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman.” Two French guys nodded at me. I said, “You know, by Aretha Franklin.” Again, “Mmmhmm.” They looked over at the pianist. He shook his head. “I don’t need sheet music,” I said, “I know every word. I know the song by heart, I will sing it a cappella.” I could see that they did not take me seriously. And why should they? Some skinny a– white girl is going to come up here and belt out a song by one of the greatest soul singers that ever lived? A cappella? I said, “Bitch, I’m Madonna.”

No, I didn’t. I didn’t say that. Cause I wasn’t Madonna yet. I don’t know who I was. I don’t know what I said. I don’t know what came over me. I walked to the edge of the pitch black stage and I started singing. When I was finished and drenched in nerve sweat. Y’all know what this is, right, nerve sweat? They said, “We will call you one day, and maybe soon.” So weeks went by and no phone call. Finally, the phone rang, and it was one of the producers, saying, (French accent) “We don’t think you are right for this job.” I’m like, “Why are you calling me?” He replied, “We think you have great potentials. You are rough for the edges but there is good rawness. We want to bring you to Paris and make you a star.” We will put you in a studio . . . it sounded good, and I wanted to live in Paris and also I wanted to eat some food. So, that was the beginning of my journey as a singer. I left for Paris.

But I came back a few months later, because I had not earned the luxury life I was living. It felt wrong. They were good people. But I wanted to write my own songs and be a musician, not a puppet. I needed to go back home and learn to play guitar, and that is exactly what I did. And the rest is history.

So, you are probably all wondering why I am telling you this story. There is a connection. Because none of this would have happened, could have happened, without our lady of soul. She led me to where I am today. And I know she influenced so many people in this house tonight, in this room tonight. And I want to thank you, Aretha, for empowering all of us. R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Long live the queen.

Another anecdote I would like to share: In 1984, this is where the first VMAs were, in this very building. I performed at this show. I sang “Like a Virgin” at the top of a cake. On the way down, I lost a shoe, and then I was rolling on the floor. I tried to make it look like it was part of the choreography, looking for the missing stiletto. And my dress flew up and my butt was exposed, and oh my God, quelle horreur. After the show, my manager said my career was over. LOL.

The fact that Madonna is getting flack for this is almost as funny as the fact that she would think a long monologue about herself qualified as an appropriate tribute to Franklin. This is a manageable mental illness, but it is pathological, and Madonna is an extreme narcissist in a business that produces them in bushels. But didn’t everyone know that? Why, knowing that this woman only sees the world in terms of how it can advance her interests, would anyone entrust  her with giving a tribute to anyone else? That’s rank incompetence.

Narcissists are incapable of ethical reasoning, since ethics requires caring about someone other than yourself.  Madonna’s “tribute” is a valuable window into how such people think. Madonna really thought the nicents thing she could say about Aretha Franklin is that she made a cameo appearance in Madonna’s epic life.

2. Next, a ventriloquist act! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 8/22/18: Manafort, Cohen, and Mollie

Gee, it’s good to be back home…

It took 9 and a half hours to get back to home and office after my CLE tour in rural Pennsylvania, an adventure that also featured a malfunctioning transmission and new Garmin GPS that went rogue, took us in circles once and 20 miles in the wrong direction another time. This is why the ProEthics, aka the Marshalls, never take vacations. It’s cheaper and safer to have such disasters at home.

1.  Explain to me, somebody...why Paul Manafort’s conviction on ten charges that occurred before Donald Trump ran for President and that have nothing to do with Russia or the Trump campaign somehow endangers Trump’s Presidency? Why is this significant news? Why is it on the front page? Now, I can see why his acquittal would be big news, and it would raise fascinating questions about the Mueller investigation’s focus and competence, but the convictions? Please explain. Somebody?

Right-wing blogger Liz Shield’s cynical explanation of why Manafort was involved in the investigation at all is beginning to look good to me. Shouldn’t it? She writes,

He was put on trial because he worked for Trump so that the left can interfere with Trump’s presidency by clouding everything he does with the threat of looming criminal investigations. That way the hyenas on the cable news network have something to squeak about on their nightly clown shows and most importantly, so that no one wants to work for Trump because the cost is too high.

Now, Liz unfortunately resorts to an “everybody does it” defense of Manafort himself, which undermines her credibility:

Manafort was charged with being a sleazy political consultant like many, many others who operate inside the beltway. Did I mention almost everyone in the consulting business in the D.C. area is a sleaze bucket?…Manafort is 69 years old and he faces decades of prison time. He has another trial with more charges in Washington, D.C., and that starts next month.The never-Trump maniacs danced around in glee in their sad Twitter reality, but no one, and I mean no one, could withstand the scrutiny of a federal investigation of this magnitude. I’d love to see any of these never-Trump sad sacks come out clean after a probe by a massive army of government lawyers and investigators.

There is nothing wrong with Manafort being charged, convicted and punished. If what Shield says is true, then more sleazy consultants should be investigated and face the same fate.

2. And speaking of “sleaze buckets” and  “never-Trump maniacs danced around in glee”…The plea deal by ex-Trump fixer Michael Cohen is also being hyped absurdly, though it does have something to do with the President, and definitely raises all sorts of ethics issues. The funniest one is whether anything Michel Cohen says has any credibility at all. Astoundingly, Times columnist Bret Stephens wrote that Trump should resign or be impeached after Cohen guilty plea. This is an excellent example of how the resistance is so hungry for impeachment that it leaps at any theory, no matter how dubious. I seriously doubt that Jack the Ripper could be found guilty of a crime based on the testimony of Michael Cohen. Why does Stephens believe him? Because he wants to believe him, that’s all, even though there are few public figures alive with less integrity or trustworthiness. Has Stephens read the Constitution? “High crimes and misdemeanors” is usually believed to mean “while in office.” A pre-election election law violation, even a serious one, would not, or should not, qualify. Continue reading

Mediaite’s Tommie Christopher Locks Up The Dishonest Spin Of The Year Award In Defense of Calling Ben Carson A “Coon”

spinning5

Hillary Clinton, hire this man!

Someone with such an evident talent for using deceit, rhetorical fog, logical fallacies and rationalizations with such assertiveness and certitude is invaluable to any political candidate, but especially one, like you, whose favorite tactic when caught in misconduct is to flood everyone’s consciousness with excuses, denials, irrelevancies and distractions until all but the most concerned and attentive are likely to give up and say “The hell with it. Nothing is worth listening to this.”

Tommie Christopher is described in online profiles as a liberal commentator, which means that he isn’t a journalist at all. He is a partisan, ideologically slanted advocate. That would be enough for me not to trust him already, but his recent post for Mediaite would cause me not to trust him even if he had just been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Thus his argument must stand entirely on its inherent validity, rather than the presumed acumen of its author. On that basis, it shouldn’t have been published at all. I would call it link-bait at best.

I wrote about University of Pennsylvania religious studies professor Anthea Butler, who wrote “If only there was a ‘coon of the year’ award …” when responding to a Daily Beast editor’s  tweet containing a link to a Sports Illustrated article on Ben Carson’s defense of flying the Confederate flag at NASCAR events. Christopher’s post is headlined “Ivy League Professor Didn’t Actually Call Ben Carson ‘Coon of the Year’”  Of course she did. Who else was there in the story that she was plausibly calling a “coon”? No one.

I think the headline may have been intended as a kind of an employment ad for Lannie Davis’s job as Shameless Clinton Defender When They Are Caught Red-Handed, in case he wakes up one morning, as he might some day, looks in his bathroom mirror, screams “OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE?”, rips his face off like that guy in “Poltergeist” and jumps out a window. The unspoken challenge from Christopher: “See this ridiculous headline, as crazy as Davis claiming that Hillary did nothing wrong in handling State Department secrets on an insecure private e-mail account? Now watch my spin wizardry, and be amazed!”

Unfortunately, Christopher’s  performance doesn’t equal the hype: Continue reading