A GOP Candidate Wins A House Seat In Montana Despite Attacking A Reporter The Night Before The Election. What’s Going On Here?

Yesterday, in an Ethics Alarms post pointing out that nobody should vote a person who physically attacks reporters, or indeed, who attacks anybody, into Congress, I wrote,

What kind of person would vote for Gianforte after last night’s display? The kind of person who argues that character doesn’t matter in elected officials, only their positions.

And idiots, of course.

Candidate/Thug Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate, won the election nonetheless with over 50% of the votes. Rob Quist, the Democrat, received only 44%. Does this mean that over 50% of Montana voters are idiots? No, that wouldn’t be a fair conclusion. An estimated 60% of voters had turned in their ballots already, so the Gianforte voters in that batch weren’t necessarily idiots. (As I implied in the post yesterday, the advocates for voting before election day, thus allowing late-arriving information about the candidates—as in, “Hey! This guy is an unstable, volatile jerk with the judgment of a bar room goon!” to have minimal effect on  election results, have embraced an irresponsible, idiotic even, policy.)

Gianforte’s victory illuminate  other ethics issues, hwoever:

1. Addressing supporters in his victory speech, Gianforte apologized to the reporter he body-slammed, the journalists who witnessed the attack, and Montanans, saying “When you make a mistake you have to own up to it. That’s the Montana way.”

Ugh, yecchh, gag, petui!

If that’s the Montana way, why did Gianforte sit back and allow his campaign to blame the episode on the reporter? Remember, the statement from Gianforte’s staff, which is to say Gianforte,  said that the reporter,

“entered the [campaign] office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions….After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

That isn’t owning up. That’s covering up, spinning and lying. Does the new Congressman’s apology mean that he acknowledges that his campaign was lying? When will he own up to that?  An apology now is cheap, cynical and meaningless, for Gianforte won, and Montana is stuck with him for two years.

2. A Montana TV station refused to inform its viewers that Gianforte had assaulted and battered a reporter. NBC affiliate KECI, recently purchased by the conservative media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting, adamantly kept the report of the attack and the audio of the incident,  arguing that “The person that tweeted [Jacobs] and was allegedly body slammed is a reporter for a politically biased publication.”  That “biased publication” was the Guardian, and the tweeter was Ben Jacobs, the victim. His account was confirmed by reporters from Fox News…you know, that liberal network that is always trying to make Republicans look bad. The anchor of the evening newscast, Laurel Staples, read a statement that said, in part, “NBC Montana takes pride in reporting only verifiable facts from an independent, reliable sources.”

 NBC News, including the Today show and affiliates across the country, played the audio of the altercation between Jacobs and Gianforte, who was charged with misdemeanor assault, indicating that reports of the episode were reliable. Continue reading

20 Ethics Observations On The President’s Charge That Obama Tapped His Phones

In the first week of March, in the midst of the over-blown flap regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ two meetings with the Russian ambassador, President Trump issued arguably his most explosive  tweet yet:

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!.

Later, he  tweeted,

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

It has been more than a week, and we know only a little more about what prompted this extraordinary accusation than we did then. However, there are some relevant ethics point to be made. Here we go…

1.  It is irresponsible and unpresidential to issue tweets like this. It is also unfair. If the Trump administration wants to make a formal complaint, charge or indictment, or announce an investigation, it should be made through proper channels, not social media. That stipulated, he will not stop doing this, and at some point we will have to accept it. Is this how Presidents communicate? It is now.

2. Thus the tweet is unethical even if it is true. However, the fact that it is unethical, or that Trump the Liar sent it, doesn’t mean it is untrue. An astounding number of pundits and journalists have made exactly that assumption, proving their bias against the President and their knee-jerk defensiveness regarding former President Obama.

3. The tweet cannot be called a “lie,” and anyone who does call it a lie based on what is known is revealing their confirmation bias.

4. One more point about the tweet itself: the fact that it has a typo and the level of articulation of the average 9th grader is itself an ethics breach. The President should not sanctify carelessness, or seem to embrace it. He is a role model.  Nor should a significant charge be written in haste, as this obviously was.

5. There seems to be a significant possibility that the President was trolling. Having had enough of the months long, absolutely evidence-free news media and Democrat innuendos that his campaign was coordinating election tampering with the Russians, he may have decided to make a sensational, unsubstantiated charge of his own to get the Russian hacking speculation off the front pages. If it was trolling, it was excellent trolling. The McCarthyism purveyors  deserved it; the accusation was a deft tit-for-tat,  one of the President’s favorite rationalizations.

6. As an example of what Trump has been and is being subjected to, we have Rep. Keith Ellison, vice-chair of the DNC.  He told Alisyn Camerota on CNN’s “New Day last week,”

“This is stunning when you think about it. Far worse than Watergate, when you believe a hostile foreign power engaged in an attempt, and with the collusion of the sitting administration to manipulate an election.”

By sheerest moral luck, Camerota that day was feeling ethical, so she actually corrected a Trump-basher from her own party, said, “Well you don’t know that,” and pointed out that there is no evidence of collusion.

“I’m not saying there was collusion, I’m saying those meetings indicate that there could be, and I think that needs to be investigated,” Ellison then said, immediately after saying there was collusion.

These are awful, vicious, conscience- free people who subcribe to total political war and the ends justify the means. They are trying to bring down an elected government without winning an election. Even that does not justify treating them unethically, BUT… Continue reading

The Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Best of Ethics 2015, Part II

DavisHand

The Awards continue (Part I is here)….

Most Important Ethical Act of the Year:

The US Supreme Court’s Decision in  Obergefell v. Hodges in which the Supreme Court considered whether states had to recognize a right to same-sex marriages, and narrowly decided that they must. The prejudice against homosexuality is ancient, deep, and complex, mixed up in confounding ways with morality and religion, and deeply divisive. Nonetheless, I felt that the opinion should have been unanimous; it’s a shame that it was not, but in the end, this will not matter. The result was preordained from the moment gays began coming out of the shadows and asserting their humanity and human rights. Since the Stonewall riot, the nation and the culture has learned a great deal about the number of talented and productive gay men and women in our society and our history, the pain, ostracizing, discrimination and mistreatment they have suffered, and the falseness of the myths and fears that lead to this suffering.  In the end, as Clarence Darrow said about blacks, it is human beings, not law, that will make gays equal. No topic immediately causes such emotional and intense debate, on this blog or in society, as this one, but the Supreme Court’s decision is a major step toward changing the ethical culture, by asserting  that gay men and women have the same rights,  in the eyes of the state, to marry those they love and want to build a life with, and by implication, that the beliefs of any religion regarding them or their marriages cannot eliminate that right.

Outstanding Ethical Leadership

Senator Rand Paul.   I am neither a Rand Paul supporter, nor an admirer, nor a fan.  However, his June filibuster-like Senate speech against National Security Agency counter-terrorism surveillance was a brave, principled,  important act, and a great public service. The point Paul made needs to be made again, and again, and again:  there is no reason to trust the NSA, and no reason to trust the current federal government either. The fact that on security matters we have no real choice is frightening and disheartening, but nevertheless, no American should be comfortable with his or her private communications, activities and other personal matters being tracked by the NSA, which has proven itself incompetent, dishonest, an untrustworthy.

 

Parent of the Year

Tonya Graham

Toya Graham, the Baltimore mother caught on video as she berated and beat on her son in the street for participating in the Freddie Gray rioting and looting. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Senator Rand Paul

Thanks, Snator, we needed that.

Thanks, Senator, we needed that.

Rand Paul has disqualified himself from being considered for the Presidency by rational voters in many ways. His suggestion to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he would have waited for market forces to end Jim Crow, and voted against portions of the Civil Rights Act was enough all by itself. Paul’s embrace of isolationism—he often sounds like Michael Moore on foreign policy—is as fanciful as it is dangerous.  He has no executive experience, and based on some of his statements (and positions), I’m convinced he’s just not very smart.

Not only that, but he is the most arrogant candidate in a field that may contain Chris Christie, and that’s incredible.

Nonetheless, his filibuster-like Senate speech against National Security Agency counter-terrorism surveillance, forcing key portions of the Patriot Act to expire, was a brave, principled, and important act. In the end it was also a futile act, and the Senate quickly passed provisions that Paul opposed. The Daily Beast headlined the story, “It’s NSA 1, Rand Paul 0.”

It was still a public service. Yes, Paul alienated most of his party, and he took a huge risk: a single terrorist attack here will automatically turn him into a national pariah, and coming the same week that we discovered conclusively that the TSA is a joke, the chances of such an event occurring seem likelier than ever. (Saying, however, as Paul did, that “people here in town …secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me” was inexcusably  stupid. Really? People want to see American citizens die to make Rand Paul look bad, when he makes himself look bad on a regular basis?) The point Paul made, however, and it needs to be made again, and again, and again, is that there is no reason to trust the NSA, and no reason to trust the current federal government either. The fact that on security matters we have no real choice is frightening and disheartening, but nevertheless, no American should be comfortable with his or her private communications, activities and other personal matters being tracked by the NSA, which is incompetent (See: Snowden, Edward) and which lies, or the Obama Administration, which doesn’t care if the NSA lies, and has repeatedly shown that it has no qualms about violating the Constitution until a Court stops it. Continue reading

Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck Update: The James Clapper Perjury Follies

NSA head James Clapper testifying, forgetting, speaking in code, misleading or lying. Something. Whatever.

NSA head James Clapper testifying, forgetting, speaking in code, misleading or lying. Something. Whatever.

The Obama Administration not only lies, but encourages and rewards lying. This is an inescapable conclusion. The saga of James Clapper’s perjury before Congress is a perfect, and depressing example.

At a March 2013 Senate hearing, Senator Ron Wyden, prompted by the leaks of classified information through Edward Snowdon, asked head of the NSA James Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No, sir,” Clapper replied. “Not wittingly.”

That means, by any assessment, “If we do, it’s not intentional.” That was a lie. Clapper knew it was false. Wyden later said that he had sent his question to Clapper’s office a day before the hearing, and after the hearing had given Clapper’s office a chance to correct the misstatement after the hearing, but it did not. In June, the nation learned that the agency was routinely collecting data on the phone calls of millions of Americans. (This was the program just declared illegal by a federal court.)

NOTE: The original post erroneously attributed the decision to the Supreme Court. It hasn’t heard the case yet. That was a bad and careless mistake, and I apologize for it. Nothing like not checking your own links, Jack.

The government, including Clapper, has now attempted a dizzying array of rationalizations, excuses and obfuscations to avoid the unavoidable conclusion that Clapper lied to Congress while under oath, that he should be prosecuted, or at very least be fired by that leader of the Most Transparent Administration in History That Somehow Manages To Lie every Time A Mouth Open, Barack Obama. Even by the standards of this sorry administration, it’s an ugly journey into the cold heart of an untrustworthy government. Continue reading

Will President Obama’s New Leadership Model Cripple U.S. Management Competence For Decades?

America in ruins

 It seems to be a distinct possibility.

The President of the United States is the culture’s most powerful, visible and influential leader. Like it of not, he is also a role model for leadership and management across society. He has the most responsibility, the largest organization to oversee, and the most vital interests at stake. The management and leadership techniques he uses necessarily set a standard others, especially young, inexperienced, aspiring leaders and management, will be encouraged to emulate.

What are they learning? To begin with, they are learning to accept a startlingly low standard for “confidence.”

The President has now issued two statements that he has “confidence” in the Secret Service. The assessment has special significance because the health and safety, the very lives, of the President, his wife, his young children and his staff is in the Secret Service’s hands, and the agency would seem to have demonstrated beyond all doubt that it is incapable of meeting any reasonable expectations or trust. We know that the agents are barely trained, and that they lack professionalism and self discipline. We know that agents availed themselves of prostitutes in South America, and got drunk on duty in Amsterdam. We know that  a gunman fired at least seven bullets that struck the upstairs residence of the White House in 2011, aided by a botched Secret Service response, and that just this month a deranged fence-jumper got into the residence and was running amuck before he was stopped.

The Service’s statement on that incident was jaw-dropping, saying agents “showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with” an intruder who could have had a bomb or deadly intent. How could this President, any President, any leader, any manager, have “confidence” in a security force under these circumstances, with its own management displaying such a bizarre attitude?

Well, I don’t know. It’s a brand new paradigm, the most lassez faire, gentle, kind,empathetic and understanding, hands-off, no-fault, no standards, no accountability leadership style I have ever seen at any management level higher than a lemonade stand. I’m sure many members of the public, especially those who goof off at their jobs, steal supplies, file fake reports, arrive to work stoned, never finish assigned tasks and think they have a right to keep their jobs and paychecks no matter how useless they are, would love to have Obama as a boss. Such a boss would express confidence in the most obviously inept and untrustworthy employee imaginable, and apparently mean it. And never, never fire him. Continue reading

KABOOM!! Dana Milbank’s New Record For Flagrantly Dishonest Punditry

Exploding head

I am through with Dana Milbank, and also with anyone who quotes him, relies on him, believes him or—take note, Washington Post—employs him. There must be some level of insulting, dishonest, toadying, intentionally misleading punditry that qualifies as intolerable, and Milbank’s latest column for the Washington Post—syndicated elsewhere so the maximum number of weak minds can be polluted—defined it. I’m not going to reprint a word of it for fear that it will poison the blog, or cause your head to explode like mine just did—but I can describe its thesis. Get this: Milbank decries a “crisis of the week political culture” in Washington, and blames the news media, Republicans and Congress for the shifting attention. I am suppressing a scream as I write this.

There is a “crisis of the week” political culture because the incredibly inept and incompetent President of the United States has mismanaged every conceivable aspect of the government’s policies, domestic and foreign, while maintaining incompetents and political hacks in key positions and sending the message that there will be no accountability for abject failure, and because, despite pledging unprecedented transparency, the standard operating procedure for this group of ideologically doctrinaire and skill-challenged group has been to posture, obfuscate, stall, mislead and lie until various ugly chickens come home to roost, and then to rely on the news media to accept absurd excuses, explanation and blame-shifting theories, chaos has been percolating beneath the surface in dozens of vital areas—oh yes, more bad news is coming—and the full measure of various disasters are finally becoming known.

There is a crisis of the week mentality because a new catastrophe caused by the epic incompetence of this Administration is being uncovered every week, and sometimes every day.

And Dana Milbank blames the political culture, as if it is making this stuff up.

And he expects readers to agree with him.

And a lot of them will.

Kaboom.

Continue reading

Bergen Community College Shows Us Why Justin Carter Is Being Persecuted

Can't have this. Terrifying. Dangerous.

Can’t have this. Terrifying. Dangerous.

Remember Justin Carter? Last I checked, he was being tried for making a joke on Facebook, because of the culture of fear and speech monitoring created by the irresponsible hysteria over guns and terrorism.  He faces prison time. That this is a freedom-suffocating societal illness that threatens any and all of us is chronicled in Ken White account, and accompanying commentary, on the astonishing mistreatment of Bergen Community College Professor Francis Schmidt by the school, which was sent into a frenzy of terror because he posted to Google+ “a cute picture of his young daughter wearing a Game of Thrones t-shirt in a yoga pose next to a cat.”  Inside Higher Ed reports what happened next: Continue reading

Why Are The Core American Rights Ethics Alarms Malfunctioning?

The spark for this post is the recent fiasco engineered by Modesto Junior College in California, which told a student that he could not pass out copies of the United States Constitution outside the student center on September 17, 2013, which happens to be Constitution Day. College police and administrators demanded that student Robert Van Tuinen stop passing out Constitution pamphlets and told him that he would only be allowed to pass them out in the college’s tiny free speech zone, and only after scheduling it several days or weeks ahead of time. Fortunately, as is almost always the case in such campus outrages, The Fire, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (and what does it tell us that this indispensable champion of individual rights is widely regarded as a “conservative” organization?) was at the ready, and ripped off a letter to the school administrators that served the dual purpose of warning it to back off and holding it up to national ridicule. Continue reading

Ken at Popehat Weighs In On The Justin Carter Persecution

justin-carter-1

At Popehat, where I hoped the Justin Carter arrest and imprisonment would eventually attract interest, Ken White—attorney, civil libertarian, blogger extraordinaire—writes in part…

“We have fully and foolishly subscribed to the “Think of the Children!” culture. In an era in which violent crime has plunged dramatically, we think it is up. We think so because the media — hungry for money and attention — serves us bloody context-free meat every night. We think so because law enforcement — hungry for more funding, more power, more toys — relentlessly tells us we are in danger and that our children are in danger and that the only answer is to trust and fear. We are bid to trust not ourselves and our good judgment, but law enforcement. We are bid to fear not the power of the state, but the criminal forces arrayed against us and our children — forces that only law enforcement can hold at bay. We accept this. But who poses more of a risk to us, and to our children: the Justin Carters of the world, or the state that will file dishonest and misleading warrant applications against him, the state that will confine him to be beaten and stripped naked in a cell, the state that will confine him for a crass joke?”

Read the entire, excellent post here.

Ethics Alarms hopes Popehat joins with us in promoting…

August 1, 2013

as “Quote Justin Carter On Social Media Day.” Even more, I hope that the charges against Justin Carter are dropped before the first, though the protest should go forward. The Justice Carter prosecution for free expression on his Facebook page is infinitely more significant and important to the nation than the show trial of George Zimmerman, though they are related: in both cases, deliberate efforts to inflame the public for political gain resulted in the flagrant abuse of prosecutorial power. It isn’t enough that Justin is spared…we need to make sure this stops now, and forever.

Note: You can register your support for the protest at Jeff Field’s event page, here.