Evening Ethics Update, 11/7/2019: Dr. King Is Un-honored, Virginian Republicans Are Non-Functional, Fox News Is Pro-Darkness, And Joy Behar Is Still An Idiot [CORRECTED]

Good evening…

1 . The progressive deterioration of the ridiculous Joy Behar. It’s clear the stress of engaging in issue debates for which she lacks the temperament, the education or the necessary data is stressing out Joy. On today’s edition of The View, some studio audience members who hadn’t received the memo that they were expected to only endorse the “views” of  the correct side of the political spectrum applauded guests Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle as they supported the President. Behar snapped at them, “This is not a MAGA rally!”  In such places there may be technically free speech, just not free non-conforming speech without abuse.

2. This makes no sense at all, nor is it ethical. Eric Ciaramella is the so-called whistle-blower who gave Rep. Adam Schiff the wisp of an excuse he needed to manufacture Plan S for removing the President, the supposed “quid pro quo” deal to make the Ukraine look for “dirt” on Joe Biden and his son. Lots of sources have published this—heck, I have—and no one has credibly denied it. In schoolyard terms, the cat is out of the bag. Nor is it in any way illegal for a news organization to publish what is increasingly public information. Okay, say he’s the “alleged” whistleblower.

Nonetheless, a Fox News executive sent out an email ordering Fox personnel, including hosts like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, not to mention the name on the air because the network “had not confirmed it.”

Fox News, as you know, is always so careful about the accuracy of what its talking heads say.

Fox News media ethics watchdog Howard Kurtz defended not releasing the name of the whistleblower, saying it would send a “chilling message” to whistleblowers in the future. What “chilling message?” That if you decide to fulfill your partisan goals and help your pals by trying to bring down a President with rumors and hearsay, you should have the guts to do it publicly and accept the consequences? It’s not the news media’s job to make things easy for whistleblowers, and it is especially not their job to pretend that information already being publicized is a mystery.

The background and professional connections of this “whistleblower”—he’s really a leaker—are relevant to his credibility and the legitimacy of the current impeachment push. The public has a right to know, and democracy dies in darkness. Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Overview, 10/24/2019: TV Ethics, Theater Ethics, Negotiation Ethics…You Know. Ethics.

This song is about ethics, right?

Well, to me it is…

1. Unethical non-traditional casting.  Harvey Fierstein is playing Bella Abzug on Broadway. I know that Harvey, being a very large, undisguisably gay, 65-year old actor with a voice that sounds like he gargles piranha, has a tough time finding outlets for his acting and comic ability (he can be terrific, as he was in his Emmy-winning performance in “Torch Song Trilogy”), but that’s no reason to take it out on the late New York Congresswoman. Abzug was a woman, and being a woman was central to her career, appeal, legend, and legacy. She was not, to say the least, an attractive woman, but that does not mean that it is fair or respectful to cast a 275 pound unattarctive MAN to play her on Broadway. Feirstein is an LGBTQ activist and icon, but he’s ethically confused here.

2. Trump shouldn’t have backed down from holding the Group of 7 Summit at the Trump luxery golf club in Miami. Apparently he did so because Republican members of Congress complained about it, and they complained about it because they knew it would spark more bogus accusations of Emoluments Clause violations (Impeachment Plan C).

Any and every negotiations specialist will tell you that holding a meeting of adversaries in your own territory is a massive advantage. That is why such meetings are often held in Switzerland, or other neutral sites. Holding the Summit at a Trump property makes the President stronger at the meeting, and that benefits the country.

It would have been nice—responsible, educational, fair, honest—if the news media explained this basic principle to the public, but it doesn’t want to justify the President’s decisions or find benign reasons for them. It is in thrall to “the resistance,” and doing a complete analysis of factors involved in a decision like where to hold the Summit just detracts from the effort to undermine President Trump and characterize him as a corrupt and crooked fascist who must be removed from office at all costs.

Republican joined the ignorant stampede because, unfortunately, they aren’t very bright, or very brave. Thus the U.S. voluntarily forfeited a diplomatic advantage because Republicans couldn’t articulate why there was nothing sinister, and much advantageous,  about a world leader holding a meeting at a property that bears his name. Continue reading

The Lying Game Continues: Was There A 9-11 Switcheroo In North Carolina?

A Paul Krugman column this week titled Republicans Don’t Believe in Democracy” began,

Item: Last week Republicans in the North Carolina House used the occasion of 9/11 to call a surprise vote, passing a budget bill with a supermajority to override the Democratic governor’s veto. They were able to do this only because most Democrats were absent, some of them attending commemorative events; the Democratic leader had advised members that they didn’t need to be present because, he says, he was assured there would be no votes that morning.

Elizabeth Warren (via tweet), the Washington Post and other news outlets repeated the same story. It wasn’t true. NPR’s North Carolina affiliate checked the facts with local reporter Paul Specht of the Raleigh News & Observer. He explained how the rumor—for that’s what it was, despite Warren, Krugman, the Washington Post et al. reporting it as fact—got started.

“It’s hard to tell where it started,” Specht told NPR.  “You know, in some cases the news and reporters and other observers were victims of circumstance.’

Baloney, by the way. The “circumstance” here was that reporters didn’t verify the story. Specht is covering for his habitually unethical colleagues.

“The vote happened the morning of September 11. And that morning, as we all know, there’s a national moment of silence…And you, know, I think people just took all that information — they heard keywords, they heard, you know, “Republicans vote,” “Democrats absent,” “9/11,” morning of. And then people jumped to assumptions about where the Democrats were. There were a few outlets both locally here in Raleigh, WTVD, and then national outlets, too, they got it wrong. Whether it was Now This, which posts viral videos, the Washington Post, also, its headline was inaccurate. It took it a little while to correct so misinformation was all over the place.”

Wow! Is American journalism terrific, or what? Continue reading

A Futile Call For Fairness And Integrity From Senator McConnell

I know this is a waste of time and words, but here goes nothin’…

Yesterday we got the news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 86 and already being treated for enough maladies to kill a normal human being  half her age, has pancreatic cancer. Treatment is going well, we are told, and Ginsberg isn’t even cutting back on her schedule.

Nonetheless, the proverbial writing is on the wall. Sheer will only can accomplish so much. If I participated in “dead pools,” Justice Ginsberg would be at the top of my list, even ahead of soon to be 103-year-old Kirk Douglas. Though she is apparently determined to hang on to her SCOTUS seat if it means that she will finish her tenure in a box that signals “yes” and “no” like  poor Captain Pike in that “Star Trek” episode, I would be stunned if there isn’t a vacancy on the court in the near future. That will mean that President Trump will have an opportunity to appoint a conservative justice to replace the most liberal voice on the current court, a result that will spark panic from the Left and delirious joy from the Right. If this happens after January, 2020, it will also create an integrity test for Mitch McConnell.

That is, it should.

When Antonin Scalia died on February 16, 2016, President Obama appointed moderate liberal judge Merrick Garland to replace him. McConnell, however, the GOP Senate Majority Leader, announced that the Senate would not consider the nomination, debate it, or vote on it. He concocted a rule that when a Supreme Court vacancy occurs in the last year of a Presidential term, it should not be filled until after the November Presidential election. The supposed justification for this was that SenatorJ oe Biden had once made a similar suggestion. Basing any policy or rationale on what Joe Biden says is like using the spontaneous utterances of Tourettes sufferers as life guidance, but never mind: Mitch was gambling that a SCOTUS vacancy would bring more Republicans to the polls than Democrats, and that the Garland nomination would eventually be moot.

The gambit was legal but unethical, but then, that’s Mitch. It was also stupid: Garland was no Scalia, but he was far more moderate than some of Obama’s other options, and if Hillary Clinton had won, as looked like a sure thing in January, she was likely to nominate a far more extreme progressive judge. But in the manner that has hooked suckers and created gambling addicts for centuries, Mitch’s long-shot bet paid off. Trump won; Neil Gorsuch replaced Scalia, and Merrick Garland joined Samual Tilden in the “What If?” Hall of Fame.

If RBG leaves the Court or this vale of tears in 2020, however, Mitch should find himself hoisted by his own petard. By his own words, that new opening on the Court should not be filled by President Trump’s choice unless Trump  is re-elected in November; the public should have the opportunity to include the composition of the Supreme in their calculations regarding who to vote for. So declareth Mitchi n 2016, as progressives and Democrats screamed and ripped their garments,

Having created a principle and a precedent, Senator McConnell should stick to it. The problem wasn’t that his theory in 2016 was indefensible in theory–it is.  The problem just that it was disingenuous. Mitch wasn’t interested in fairness or democracy, just expedient politics. Thus it comes as no surprise that McConnell has told his party members that if there is a Supreme Court vacancy, he will move to confirm a conservative nominee so fast it will break the sound barrier.

He should not, however. Doing so may be good old fashioned hard-ball politics, but it will also be a lost opportunity to start repairing a broken legislative branch that McConnell played a major part in breaking. Such a cynical reversal of his own stated “principles” will also make the public less trusting than they already are of the motives, honesty and integrity, not just of Mitch, but of the their elected officials and government. Our democracy can’t take much more distrust and cyncism. Democracy breathes trust.

Who knows? Maybe Mitch will hit the jackpot a second time. Maybe the delay will backfire, with more outraged Democrats being attracted to the polls than activated conservatives. Nevertheless, Mitch McConnell has an ethical obligation to treat the next SCOTUS vacancy during the final year of a Presidential term exactly like he did the last one, in the name of integrity, fairness, process, consistency, trust, and the health of our Constitutional system.

Political Fundraising Frauds And Scams, PART II: The Conservatives

(Except nobody was alerted…)

An intrinsic problem with members of a party that extols Capitalism is that so many  have a fondness for making money that often overwhelms their ethics alarms, assuming they have any….and many don’t.

In a brave and responsible article posted to day, National Review writer Jim Geraghty , lays out a devastating indictment. He writes in part,

“Why is the conservative movement not as effective as its supporters want it to be? Because day after day, year after year, little old ladies get called on the phone or emailed or receive letters in the mail telling them that the future of the country is at stake and that if they don’t make a donation to groups that might as well be named Make Telemarketers Wealthy Again right now, the country will go to hell in a handbasket. Those little old ladies get out their checkbooks and give what they can spare, convinced that they’re making a difference and helping make the world a better place. What they’re doing is ensuring that the guys running these PACs can enjoy a more luxurious lifestyle. Meanwhile, conservative candidates lose, kicking the dirt after primary day or the general election, convinced that if they had just had another $100,000 for get-out-the-vote operations, they might have come out on top.”

Continue reading

Bulletin: The GOP Has No Ethical Obligation To Undermine Its Own Chances Of Winning

Poor Chester. Never had a chance…

The Republican National Committee is being criticized for announcing that it will be holding no debates and no primaries for the upcoming GOP Presidential nomination process. That means, naturally, that the Republicans are planning on re-nominating President Donald J. Trump, as they should.

Every one-term President should be presented to the American people for their verdict regarding whether they want him to continue after four years in office. Since that is the case, there is no justification for holding a competition for the nomination that wastes time, money, and creates division in the party.

In the 21st Century, a sitting President seeking a second term will be renominated. The last time a President who wanted to serve a second term was denied the nomination was in 1884, when the Republican Party denied the nomination to President Chester A. Arthur, and a) he had not been elected (as Vice -President, he became President when Garfield died from the incompetent medical treatment he received for what should have been a non-lethal  bullet wound and b) was dying anyway. Since then, no sitting President who wanted to continue in office has been denied the chance to try. Continue reading

On The Other Hand, Georgia Republicans Who Think Their “Ethics in Journalism Act” Is A Solution To Mainstream Media Bias Are Incompetent

The previous post notwithstanding, “Ethics in Journalism Act” is a cure worse than the disease. It is disturbing to see Republicans imitating Democrats by trying to thwart core Constitutional rights, but there is no other way to describe this exercise in foolishness, grandstanding, pandering, ignorance and/or stupidity.

The Georgia House of Representatives is considering , HB 734, sponsored by six Republicans who have apparently never read the Bill of Rights. if passed into law, it  would create a Journalism Ethics Board with nine members appointed by Steve Wrigley, the chancellor of the University of Georgia—and if he supports this monstrosity, it’s time to send him packing. The board would design a process by which journalists “may be investigated and sanctioned for violating such canons of ethics for journalists, to include, but not be limited to, loss or suspension of accreditation, probation, public reprimand and private reprimand.”

Sure! What a great idea! Put a government-created body in charge of overseeing the content of what journalists write and publish! Why didn’t someone think of this before?

I wonder how many Supreme Court opinions directly or indirectly signal that such a scheme is illegal, impossible, and offensive to our Constitution? A hundred? Two hundred? I wonder how many appellate court and Supreme Court opinions, including dissents, could be cited to support the “Ethics in Journalism Act?” Actually, I don’t wonder at all. There are none, because one of those monkey-human hybrids they are creating in China could figure out that the act is unconstitutional through the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

As unethical, irresponsible and arrogant as the news media is, and as often as they abuse their rights, their immunity from government sanctions and control must be absolute. As Clarence Darrow said, “In order to have enough liberty, it is necessary to have too much.” No aspect of our society fits that description more perfectly than Freedom of the Press.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I wonder what part of “make no law…abridging freedom of speech or of the press” Republicans in George don’t understand?