Ethics Warm-Up, 9/18/2020: Boy, It’s Hard To Write About Ethics When What You Really Want To Do Is Run Amuck With A Bloody Sword

I don’t even want to talk about the last two days, except to note that what has me proto-homicidal has nothing to do with anything we’ve been discussing on Ethics Alarms.

1. Now THIS is incompetent phishing: “Verizon” contacted me to say,

Dear User :Your incoming mails were placed on pending status due to the recent upgrade to our database, and also exceeded the storage limit of 1 GB, which is defined by the administrator, are running at 99.8 gigabyte. You can not send or receive new messages until you re-validate your mailbox.

  • I no longer have any relationship with Verizon.
  • Verizon no longer runs an email service. It sold its email users to AOL.
  • The letter is ungrammatical.
  • I received that email, along with about 50 others at the same time, telling me I was no longer getting email.
  • “Verizon’s” address was “bavaria2@centurylink.net”
  • The “letter” was signed “VeriZon.”

If you fall for something like that, you are a walking, talking mark, and incompetent at life.

2.  Why doesn’t the public trust the news media? It must be all those Trump “fake news” lies!  CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell used a photo from a “Latinos for Trump”  event in Phoenix to accompany a report on Joe Biden’s Latino event in Florida. The CBS’s chyron read, “Biden pitches crucial Latino voters during Florida campaign stop.”

Here was what viewers saw: Continue reading

There Is No Ethics Alarms Category Sufficiently Derogatory To Describe The Corrupt Conduct, Reasoning And Statements Of Congressman Ken Buck (R-Colorado)

Be proud, Republicans!

I know there are a lot of members of Congress who are frighteningly devoid of ethics, but this story, involving  the GOP’s Ken Buck, who is also Colorado Republican Party Chair , is revolting. He needs to be sanctioned, removed from office, disbarred as a lawyer, and repudiated by his party and his constituents. What he did is no better than taking bribes.

At issue is the Republican primary for the District 10 seat currently held by Sen. Owen Hill, who’s term-limited. State Rep. Larry Liston and GOP activist David Stiver were on the ballot.  Liston received 75% of the vote and Stiver just 24%, according to documents filed later in Denver District Court. The law states that to qualify for the November ballot  a candidate must receive at least 30% of the vote from Republicans within the district.

But Stiver complained the election was unfair, and the issue was taken up with the state central committee, which consists of nearly 500 members, including elected officials and county officers. In an April 17 conference call with less than half on the line, the group voted to place Stiver on the ballot for the seat, even though he failed to receive 30% of the district’s votes. The problem with this is that doing so would violate the law.

Nevertheless, after the vote, Buck asked  Eli Bremer, the GOP chairman for state Senate District 10, to submit incorrect election results to get Stiver on the primary ballot for a state Senate seat. The phone call in which this was discussed was recorded.

Bremer refused, and went to The Denver Post to explain what happened.“You’ve got a sitting congressman, a sitting state party chair, who is trying to bully a volunteer — I’m a volunteer; I don’t get paid for this — into committing a crime,” he said. “To say it’s damning is an understatement.” Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)

Ugh.

Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said yesterday, “I think this door of impeachable whatever has been opened. Joe Biden should be very careful what he’s asking for because, you know, we can have a situation where if it should ever be President Biden, that immediately, people, right the day after he would be elected would be saying, ‘Well, we’re going to impeach him.’”

No, no, no. Someone should wash Ernst’s mouth out with soap. That door needs to be slammed shut, and Ernst is a fool for suggesting otherwise, even hypothetically.

What the Democrats did, by deciding from the moment Donald Trump was elected to seek a way to remove him, undermined our democracy and its institutions. It also threatened—threatens-— to institutionalize  a  precedent that would make every  elected President to come a permanent target  of a soft coup by those who lost the contest to decide who was “fit” to be President.  From the beginning, one of the main reasons the Democrats’ undemocratic strategy was so evidently dangerous was the powerful “tit for tat” reflex in politics. Sometimes, the understanding that in politics “what goes around comes around” is a restraining force on irresponsible and unethical partisan warfare. This time it wasn’t, but that does not mean that the Republicans should reciprocate in kind. That is exactly what they must not do. If that is their approach, they will complete the destruction that the Democrats started. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/13/2020: Oh Oh! The Oscars Are Racist And Sexist Again!

 

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning!”

1. Thoughts on the announced Oscar nominations. Well, very few African Americans made it, and no female director despite all the blatant lobbying for “Little Women” director Greta Gerwig.  Thus I have to conclude that the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences DOES have a measure of integrity after all,  because it will catch all sorts of hell for this. Even after adding many voters “of color” and kicking out some ancient, unwoke voters members, it’s still a mostly white field, maybe because the most deserving candidates happened to be the wrong color this year. It doesn’t matter: the Academy will be beseiged again for implicit racism. Watch. And it will seek “reforms.” The problem is that race-based categories looks like apartheid. The only other alternative is to have secret quotas, which is what I thought were already in effect.

It doesn’t help that both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci were nominated as Best Supporting Actors for, in Pacino’s case, standard issue Al, and in Pesci’s case, an embarrassingly  flat performance. If the Academy is going to give out legacy nominations, why not some token nominations for minorities? I bet there were 50 “of color” performances this year objectively superior to these two from the dead-fish “The Irishman.”

2. It amazes me that so many Americans defend Meghan Markle’s “Megxit.” I know, I already wrote about this, but her conduct appears to be a continuation of the Obama phenomenon, where a prominent individual exploits her race to declare all criticism as based on racial bias. “Black Britons” as the New York Times calls them, are lining up to support Markel because they allege she was “savaged” by the British tabloids because of her race. Similarly, the Times finds dark implications in the fact that the Royal Family didn’t rally to her side when she came under fire: they must be racists too. All the evidence I’ve seen suggests that they didn’t support Markel because she’s an annoying jerk: Occam’s Razor applies.

If she really married into the Royal Family and didn’t know that the tabloids would be dissecting her every word and move, she was negligent and foolish. Did she consider chatting with Sarah Ferguson, or did Markle think the Duchess of York was attacked because of media bias against redheads?

For once I agree with ex-CNN talking head Piers Morgan, who wrote, “I’ve seen some disgraceful royal antics in my time, but for pure arrogance, entitlement, greed and willful disrespect, nothing has ever quite matched the behavior of the ‘Duke and Duchess of Sussex.’

She has provoked a crisis in the monarchy to further her own goals of unearned mega-celebrity. I have a Facebook friend who argues that since royalty is unethical, Meghan should be praised for setting out to bring it down in England. (Yes, he’s a Communist.) The real Markle is already becoming more apparent. She has said that she will only move back to the U.S. after President Trump is out of office, already pandering to the Angry Woke. Disney announced that it had a voice-over deal with her, with her compensation to be donated to a charity….but she made that deal as a Royal, not a rebel. Disney has the right, but not the guts, to void the arrangement. Continue reading

Cancel Culture Ethics: Two Gaffes, Two Polls

Chuck Bonniwell and Julie Hayden, a husband and wife team, co-hosted the “Chuck and Julie “show  on KNUS AM TalkRadio in Denver. Riffing about the impeachment this week, Bonniwell said,  “All right, here, a little after 1:30, talking about the never-ending impeachment of Donald Trump. Then he added, chuckling, ” You know, you wish for a nice school shooting to interrupt the impeachment news….”  Julie quickly jumped in, saying, “No! No! Don’t even — don’t even say tha!. No, don’t even say that! Don’t call us. Chuck didn’t say that!”Still laughing,  Bonniwell tried a save, finishing his handing sentence with “in which no one would be hurt.”

Jason Salzman of the Colorado Times Recorder, who said that after hearing Hayden’s plea for listeners not to call their complaints about her husband’s joke, he “called anyway.” Sandy Phillips, who lost her daughter in the Aurora theater shooting, posted on Twitter: “This guy should be fired. Total ignorance. Shootings hurt us all … just ask witnesses and first responders. You don’t have to be shot to be wounded.”

Bonniwell isued an apology the next evening after 24 hours of criticism on the “Chuck & Julie” Twitter feed, saying,  “I made an inappropriate comment meant as a joke. I’m sorry it was not received that way.”  Too late. KNUS fired Chuck and Julie later that evening:

Was this a fair decision?

I’m not sure it was. As I have held here on other occasions, those who take extemporaneously for a living, especially when they are expected to be amusing, are constantly walking a high wire. Occasional gaffes, including moments when certain metaphorical landmines are tread-upon or lines are crossed, are inevitable, and the more creative and bold the talent, the more likely such events are. A no-tolerance policy is unreasonable, and it is virtually always the ethical approach to treat the first such error with a warning or punishment short of dismissal. Virtually, because there may always be single gaffes that are so terrible and potentially destructive to the talent’s employer that firing is the only response.

Thus the question here is whether Chuck Bonniwell’s comment falls in the latter category. My view si that it does not: Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 12/14/19: Insulting George Washington And Other Annoyances

Good Morning!

1. Now THIS ia an abuse of power! It sure looks as if outgoing Kentucky governor Matt Bevin—he’s a Republican, remember— has decided to take revenge on the state that narrowly defeated him for re-election. Right before he moved out of the Governor’s Mansion, Bevin issued 428 pardons and commutations, often without apparent regard to who or what he was pardoning. He pardoned a man convicted of homicide, after the murderer’s  family raised more than $20,000  to help Bevin pay off a debt owed from his previous gubernatorial campaign.  That wasn’t the only murderer Kentucky got back in its Christmas stocking; there were more, like the man who paid to have his business partner killed, and  another who killed his parents.. Bevin released a man convicted of raping a child.

While many of the pardons issued did involve cases where there were allegations of  sloppy police work and injustice, many did not. Bevin pardoned  Dayton Ross Jones, who pleaded guilty to the 2014 sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy, for example. That crime was captured on video and shared on social media. Jones was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016. Now he’s out.

“A young man was attacked, was violated, it was filmed, it was sent out to different people at his school,” Kentucky’s new governor, Andy Beshear said. “It was one of the worst crimes that we have seen. I fully disagree with that pardon. It is a shame and its wrong.”

But there isn’t a thing he or Kentucky citizens can do about it.

2. Let’s ask Chris Wallace about this sterling example of fair and balanced journalism...I know that Ethics Alarms has documented over many years what a partisan, biased, incompetent and dishonest hack Chris Cillizza is, so this is hardly news. Still, he has a job at CNN, which allows him to inflict his hackery on the public. An ethical news organization wouldn’t keep someone like Cillizza around., but as James Earl Jones used to say, “This is CNN.” The disturbing part is that he’s far from the worst hack on its payroll.

A Monmouth University poll this week claimed that Republican voters believed that George Washington was a better President than Donald Trump by only a 44%-37% margin. (Remember: polls.)  Cillizza said that fact that 37% of Republican respondents chose Trump over Washington provides “a useful way into understanding just how rote the fealty is to Trump within the ranks of the Republican Party at the moment.”

Let me just interject here that almost no Americans could tell you anything about George Washington’s terms in office other than the fact that he was the first President. (This is another reason to watch “John Adams.”)

While implying that Republicans are ignorant morons, however, Cillizza neglected to mention another alleged result of the poll: Democratic voters said former President Barack Obama was a better President than George an embarrassing 63%-29% margin. Continue reading

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.