Dick Tuck, Ethics Corrupter

Dick Tuck, accepting an award from Democrats in 1973.

“Prankster-at-large,’ the New York Times pleasant obituary calls Dick Tuck, who died this week at the age of  94. He “bedeviled” Barry M. Goldwater, Richard M. Nixon and other Republicans, we are told. He was a “king gremlin of political shenanigans.” It all sounds so cute, so harmless.

This is inexcusable spin. Dick Tuck is the grandfather of such dirty campaign tricks as the infamous “Canuck” letter in 1972, and the “Pizzagate’ Hillary Clinton child trafficking rumor in 2016. He was an ethics corrupter, who “inspired” Richard Nixon to launch his own dirty tricks operation, a pioneer of political sabotage who helped make such unethical tactics as false flag operations and internet rumor-mongering the plague they are today. Nice job, Dick!

Writes the Times, admiringly… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/5/2018: “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” Edition

Good Morning!

(I’m happy to report that my Clarence Darrow ethics program for a lawyer group yesterday in Annapolis was received wonderfully, in no small part due to actor Paul Morella’s moving and powerful recreations of Darrow’s courtroom oratory. As is often the case, attendees said that they didn’t realize a legal ethics presentation could be so interesting. If fact, there is no excuse for any kind of ethics NOT being interesting…)

1. I call this “cultural defacing.” At 10:30 last night, I watched the end of “The Princess Bride,” and was thrilled to arrive just as the final showdown between Ingo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and Count Rugen (Christopher Guest). Here is the scene, a classic one, which begins with the Count apparently fatally wounding Inigo with a dagger:

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

[Inigo advances on Rugen, but stumbles into the table with sudden pain. Rugen attacks, but Inigo parries and rises to his feet again]

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

[Rugen attacks again, Inigo parries more fiercely, gaining strength]

Inigo Montoya: Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!

Count Rugen: Stop saying that!

[Rugen attacks, twice. Inigo avoids and wounds Rugen in both shoulders. Inigo attacks, bellowing:]

Inigo Montoya: HELLO! MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA! YOU KILLED MY FATHER! PREPARE TO DIE!

[Inigo corners Count Rugen, knocks his sword aside, and slashes his cheek, giving him a scar just like Inigo’s]

Inigo Montoya: Offer me money.

Count Rugen: Yes!

Inigo Montoya: Power, too, promise me that.

[He slashes his other cheek]

Count Rugen: All that I have and more. Please…

Inigo Montoya: Offer me anything I ask for.

Count Rugen: Anything you want…

[Rugen knocks Inigo’s sword aside and lunges. But Inigo traps his arm and aims his sword at Rugen’s stomach]

Inigo Montoya: I want my father back, you son of a bitch!

[He runs Count Rugen through and shoves him back against the table. Rugen falls to the floor, dead]

Except “you son of a bitch” was cut!

We settled this when the TV showing of “Gone With The Wind” let Clark Gable’s iconic exit line, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” remain uncensored, and later,when John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn uttered the words, “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” before charging Ned Pepper and his gang. It is unfair and disrespectful to wreck the best work of writers and actors for the few remaining people on earth who take to their fainting couches when rude language meets their ears. You don’t edit Rhett, or Rooster, or Inigo, or even John McLane when he says, “Yippee ki yay, mother fucker!” Show the movie, or don’t show the movie, but don’t ruin the movie for the most easily offended in the audience. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Peggy Noonan

“Why does all this matter? Because we are losing history. It is not the fault of Hollywood, as they used to call it, but Hollywood is a contributor to it. When people care enough about history to study and read it, it’s a small sin to lie and mislead in dramas. But when people get their history through entertainment, when they absorb the story of their times only through screens, then the tendency to fabricate is more damaging. Those who make movies and television dramas should start caring about this. It is wrong in an age of lies to add to their sum total. It’s not right. It will do harm.”

—-Former Reagan speechwriter and current columnist Peggy Noonan, after citing the material historical misrepresentations in the Netflix series “The Crown” and the new Spielberg film, “The Post.”

I have written about the ethics of misrepresenting history in films many times, always facing the “Lighten up! It’s just a movie!” chorus. As Noonan explains deftly, the stakes are different now, in an age of rotten public education, mass media and internet indoctrination. The first time I wrote about this issue was 2010, in the post “Titanic” Ethics. It concluded in part,

I don’t blame Cameron for not basing his portrayal on evidence that only was clarified years after his film. I fault him for discounting the testimony of survivors, and misinforming the public by plastering a false version on a giant screen for millions to see, knowing that they would trust that a man who would insist that the doomed ship’s china pattern was accurate…Now the film is back, bigger than ever, and false representations of Officer Murdock, “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, the sinking itself, and other aspects of the iconic event will be embedded even deeper into our historical understanding. It didn’t have to be that way, and it is wrong that it is. History, the public, and the 1500 who died that night in 1912 deserve better.

I’ve seen “The Crown,” and like it a lot. The portrayals that Noonan complains about, however, especially the suggestion that Jack Kennedy abused Jackie, rang false immediately. As for “The Post,” which I haven’t seen, Noonan calls out a misrepresentation of a cultural villain whom the film-makers probably thought nobody would rise to defend: Continue reading

Ethics Verdict: Hillary Clinton Is The Worst Loser In US Presidential History (PART II)

You read PART I here.
As I was saying…
Following Clinton’s invention of a fake reason for her defeat for New York Magazine readers, she told Wellesley grads,

“When people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society,” Clinton said. “That is not hyperbole, it is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done.”

OK, technically Hillary is not in power, even though she says she won the election. Nonetheless, she is throwing around alternative facts like confetti. The news media was biased against her. “Voter suppression” cost her Wisconsin. My personal favorite was when she gave the cheering, indoctrinated Wellesley fems the alternative history that Richard Nixon was impeached. No, Hillary, your husband was impeached. Nixon had the requisite respect for the office to resign.

Yet I was willing to let bygones be bygones and let all of this go, until yesterday’s head-blowing interview. At Politico, another Hillary booster during the campaign, it was written that while Hillary “made a point to say that she took responsibility for her campaign and ‘every choice’ she made,” she then proceeded to blame everything and everyone else for her fate. This has been her pattern since the Benghazi hearings. Clinton uses some bizarre definitions of “accountability” and “responsibility” that allow her to believe she is being accountable while maintaining that nothing was her fault.

I’ll highlight her most outrageous statements yesterday, noting that neither of her interviewers had the professionalism or integrity to say, “Wait, WHAT???”

“[T]he use of my email account was turned into the biggest scandal since lord knows when. And you know, in the book I’m just using everything that anybody else said about it besides me to basically say this was the biggest nothing-burger ever. It was a mistake, I’ve said it was a mistake, and obviously if I could turn the clock back, I wouldn’t have done it in the first place, but the way that it was used was very damaging. Well, if you went all the way back, doing something that others had done before was no longer acceptable in the new environment in which we found ourselves. And there was no law against it, there was no rule, nothing of that sort. So I didn’t break any rule, nobody said, “Don’t do this,” and I was very responsible and not at all careless. So you end up with a situation that is then exploited, and very effectively, for adverse political reasons. And it was maddening, because in the middle of a hard-fought campaign, it’s hard to stop and say, “Wait a minute, what you think you know about this is not accurate, let me tell you.”

KABOOM!

Speaking of Big Lies…Clinton is even lying about her lies, and going back in time to repeat her false denials when the secret server story broke in 2015. I’m not going to re-hash why her e-mail machinations were unethical and incompetent, how we know that they violated her own department’s policy, and how the “it was done before” and “it was just a mistake” are transparently false. I made myself nauseous writing about it: you can look up the posts and all the supporting links if you have a masochistic streak. But for Clinton still to be selling this spin to misrepresent her deliberately endangering U.S. security so she could hide her personal schemes from the Freedom of Information Act is an act of self-parody.

“The other side was using content that was just flat-out false, and delivering it in a very personalized way, both sort of above the radar screen and below. And you know, look, I’m not a tech expert by any stretch of the imagination. That really influenced the information that people were relying on. And there have been some studies done since the election that if you look — let’s pick Facebook. If you look at Facebook, the vast majority of the news items posted were fake. They were connected to, as we now know, the 1,000 Russian agents who were involved in delivering those messages. They were connected to the bots that are just out of control. We see now this new information about Trump’s Twitter account being populated by millions of bots. And it was such a new experience. I understand why people on their Facebook pages would think, “Oh, Hillary Clinton did that, I did not know that. Well that’s going to affect my opinion about her.” And we did not engage in false content. We may have tried to put every piece of information in the best possible light, and explanations, but we weren’t in the same category as the other side.”

What fake news items on Facebook caused people not to vote for Hillary? The Russian hacks, if they were Russian, merely reveled the ethical rot within the DNC, Hillary’s campaign, and the Clinton Foundation. These were not “lies.” They were inconvenient truths, like the fact that Donna Brazile was using her position at CNN to give Hillary debate questions in advance.

I get the nomination. So I’m now the nominee of the Democratic Party. I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party. I mean it was bankrupt, it was on the verge of insolvency, its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong. I had to inject money into it …Donald Trump, who did nothing about really setting up any kind of data operation, inherits an RNC data foundation that, after the Republicans lost in 2012, and they thought they had a very good operation with the setup that Romney did called ORCA, they thought that was really state of the art, they lose.

So they raised — best estimates are close to a hundred million dollars, they brought in their main vendors, they basically said, “We will never be behind the Democrats again,” and they invested between 2012 and 2016 this hundred million dollars to build this data foundation. They beta tested it. They ran it … somebody was able to determine about 227,000 surveys to double check, triple check, quadruple check, the information.

So Trump becomes the nominee and he is basically handed this tried and true, effective foundation.”

The GOP also thought their data system was sound in 2012, too. No Presidential election data foundation is “tried and true” until it works in the election. Meanwhile, Clinton is blaming her party for her loss, though her campaign vastly out-raised and out-spent the Republicans.

“Seventeen agencies, all in agreement, which I know from my experience as a Senator and Secretary of State, is hard to get. They concluded with high confidence that the Russians ran an extensive information war campaign against my campaign, to influence voters in the election. They did it through paid advertising we think, they did it through false news sites, they did it through these thousand agents, they did it through machine learning, which you know, kept spewing out this stuff over and over again. The algorithms that they developed. So that was the conclusion. And I think it’s fair to ask, how did that actually influence the campaign? And how did they know what messages to deliver? Who told them? Who were they coordinating with, or colluding with?…so the Russians — in my opinion and based on the intel and the counterintel people I’ve talked to — could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided…Guided by Americans and guided by people who had polling and data information.”

This is pure conspiracy theory ranting. The most damaging information that came out were the actual e-mails showing the DNC’s and Clinton’s campaign’s corruption, and the transcripts of Hillary’s speeches pandering to Wall Street. Any idiot could see that these things would be damaging to Clinton without “polling and data information.” How much polling does one need to know that corruption, lying, influence peddling and cheating are bad?

Continue reading

Ethics Verdict: Hillary Clinton Is The Worst Loser In US Presidential History (PART I)

Yes, having to write this post makes me feel like Michael Corleone in “Godfather III.”

I considered giving Hillary her well-earned Worst Presidential Election Loser award after her embarrassing Commencement speech at Wellesley, but the wag who wrote “Why did Hillary dress up like Monica Lewinsky at Wellesley? to accompany this photo…

…made me laugh, and in my lightened state decided, “Nah! Why bother? Leave the poor woman alone.”

For I do feel sorry for Hillary Clinton. I feel sorry for anyone who loses the Presidency despite winning the popular vote. I would think it could drive someone crazy. In the play “Inherit the Wind,” there is a scene in which the wife of Matthew Harrison Brady (a thinly-disguised fictional avatar for three time Presidential loser William Jennings Bryan) begs for sympathy for her blow-hard husband, asking a critic to imagine what it must be like to have a Presidential election victory speech written and in his pocket three separate times and to never get to deliver it. Well, knowing you received the most votes and still can’t give the speech has to be much, much worse.

Then came yesterday’s orgy of excuses and recriminations as Clinton, looking and sounding angry and bitter, was interviewed at a tech conference hosted by Recode’s Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg. And she puuuulled me back!

So now I have to review Hillary’s revolting and self-indicting Blame Everyone tour. Let’s begin by stating that no defeated Presidential candidate has ever done anything like this before, not even Richard Nixon. Nixon’s poor loser meltdown was after he lost the California Governor’s race in 1962. When he lost to Kennedy in 1960, his conduct was exemplary, refusing to demand a recount even when there was evidence, as there frequently was with the Kennedys, of shady operations. For a loser to engage in repeated recriminations and bitter pronouncements less than a year after losing is unprecedented. It is also —and forgive me for repeating myself from prior posts–disgusting, despicable and shameful for a defeated candidate to join a “resistance” against the lawfully elected winner. This is especially true in Clinton’s case, when she furiously condemned candidate Trump for suggesting that he might not accept his defeat. 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

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Nebraska State Senator Bill Kintner (R)

bill-kintner

This ridiculous State Senator doesn’t even know how to resign intelligently. Kintner, who has represented southeastern Nebraska’s District 2 in the Nebraska Legislature since 2012, found a way to leave office almost as embarrassingly as the way he occupied it, which is impressive.

Where do Republicans find these people, and why does anyone vote for them?

In June of 2015, Kintner attacked the Nebraska Legislature’s attempted repeal of the death penalty by posting graphic photos of a beheaded woman on his Facebook account. Let me tell you, this is one classy guy. His constituents didn’t discover quite how classy, however, until later in 2015. Then it was revealed that Kintner and a woman he met on Facebook had engaged in cyber-sex over Skype a year earlier, while the Senator was in a Massachusetts hotel.  (This detail kept him from being indicted in Nebraska.) The episode constituted a misuse of a state-owned computer, but there were other problems with it, including the fact that Kintner and a woman engaged in cyber-sex (don’t make me explain it to you) over Skype, which makes what Anthony Weiner does look restrained.

Immediately after the session, the woman tried to blackmail Kintner, threatening to post the video to YouTube and share it with Kintner’s colleagues, including the governor. She reportedly has connections to an Ivory Coast crime syndicate, and demanded $4,500 from Kintner. Later, she contacted another State senator, offering to sell the video. That senator’s response was apparently, “No thanks, and by the way, ICK.”

Kintner rejected calls for his resignation from the legislature following the incident, after paying a $1,000 fine for misuse of public resources as part of a settlement with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. “I fully understand the gravity of my action and how it reflects upon the fact that I carry the title and responsibility of a state senator. I have taken personal responsibility for my action. I have apologized to God, to my wife, to you and to my constituents,” he wrote in a letter to his fellow lawmakers. At least part of that apology seems less than sincere, however. When demands for his resignation or impeachment continued, Kintner asked, “What standard are all 49 senators held to that I violated and embarrassed this institution? I would love to know.”

If we really have to explain that to you, Senator, it’s not worth our time.

Then, suddenly, Kintner resigned yesterday. Not over his Skyped masturbation, mind you; no, he resigned because the criticism he received for  giving a sexist tweet his endorsement by re-tweeting it was just too, too unfair. The re-tweeted tweet, by talk-show host Larry Elder, mocked demonstrators at last weekend’s women’s march by suggesting that they weren’t attractive enough to be sexually assaulted. Continue reading