Partisan Opportunism: The Media and the Arizona Massacre:

The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Federal judge, and 18 others yesterday has exposed media bias and unfairness at its despicable worst. That so many reporters, commentators and bloggers learned of  Arizona parking lot carnage and immediately thought, “Wow, what a chance this is to pin everything on Sarah Palin and the Tea Party!” speaks volumes about the ethics and integrity of America’s journalists. The Daily Beast, for example, began a column this way:

“No motives have emerged from today’s senseless shooting in Tucson, but Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has a long history of being targeted by the Tea Party—sometimes in violent terms.”

Is there a shred, an inkling, a hint or a clue anywhere that the man who did the shooting had anything whatsoever to do with the Tea Party? No. Is there anything at all linking Tea Party rhetoric to his motives for the shooting? No. So how can this paragraph be explained? Easy. The Daily Beast doesn’t like the Tea Party movement, and saw this horrific shooting as an opportunity to discredit it. Continue reading

Disrespect for a Sacred Document

Those seeking the perfect cautionary tale about the dangers of hyper-partisanship need look no further than the truly disgusting display in the last couple of days by the Democrats and liberals who criticized, ridiculed, mocked and derided the decision to read aloud the nation’s founding document, the Constitution, at the commencement of the new Congress. Continue reading

It’s Come to This: The Schoolboard Shooter Spin Competition

The frightening incident in which a man held a Panama City, Florida school board at gun point (he was ultimately shot and killed by a security officer) is somehow being used…or is being perceived as being used…to discredit both the Right and the Left in ultra-polarized America. Yet it has absolutely nothing to do with either. Continue reading

The Internet Censorship Bill and Escalating Abuse of Government Power: Why Do We Continue to Trust These People?

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill giving the U.S. Attorney General the power to shut down any website with a court order, if  he determines that copyright infringement is  “central to the activity” of the site.  It doesn’t matter if the website has actually committed a crime, and there is no trial, which means that the law is a slam dunk violation of the U.S. Constitution.  The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) is a little goody bought by the lobbyists and PACs of Hollywood, the recording industry and the big media companies, to block the rampant internet file sharing that has cost them a lot of money in lost sales and profits over the past decade.

I am adamantly opposed to filesharing and the ethically dishonest arguments used to defend it, most of which begin with “Everybody does it.” I sympathize with the artists whose work is being stolen, and the companies who have complained to Congress. But all the strong condemnation of filesharing by lawmakers and corporate executives doesn’t change a central fact: the Constitution says you can’t do what COICA allows. It says this in at least two places: the First Amendment, which prohibits government interference with free speech, and the Fifth Amendment, which decrees that property can not be taken from citizens without Due Process of Law. A law that lets a government official just turn off a website without a hearing or showing of proof? Outrageous. and unconstitutional. Continue reading

Ethics Advice to Joe Miller: At Least Lose With Integrity

Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller, who helped sink his candidacy by stonewalling and dissembling about his misconduct while working as a municipal attorney, is now trying a Hail Mary law suit to stave off a write-in victory by current GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski.

Miller has asked a judge to stop the state from making a judgment on a voter’s intentions if the voter wrote in something other than “Murkowski” or “Lisa Murkowski.” Alaska is about to start counting the more than 92,000 write-in ballots cast in last week’s election. The state counted about 27,000 absentee and early votes Tuesday, and at the end of the day, Miller remained 11,333 behind the write-in total.

The Alaska law covering write-ins states:

“A vote for a write-in candidate, other than a write-in vote for governor and lieutenant governor, shall be counted if the oval is filled in for that candidate and if the name, as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy, of the candidate or the last name of the candidate is written in the space provided.”

Miller’s argument embraces the dubious theory that a misspelled name isn’t the name it’s intended to represent, even if it is obvious who the voter intended to vote for. Such an interpretation would make it disproportionally difficult for candidates not named “Smith,” “Brown,” or, naturally, “Miller” to prevail as write-in candidates, and nearly impossible for candidates named Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carl Yastrzemski, or, just to pick a name out of a hat, Lisa Murchowski. Or Murkowski. Whatever.

In other words, it is unfair, and an effort on Miller’s part to undermine the intent of the voters and the democratic process so he can achieve a dirty, unprincipled, undeserved victory. If  Tea Party enthusiasts like Sarah Palin, who promoted Miller’s misbegotten candidacy, believe in core American values as much as they claim to, they need to shut down Miller’s disgraceful law suit by informing him that he’s embarrassing himself, the movement, his party, and Alaska.


Schemes, Slander and Deception: The Most Unethical Maneuvers of Campaign 2010

Well, I have to admit they were creative. And despicable.

2010’s most unethical maneuvers ran the gamut from lying to zombie exploitation, from false identity to extortion. Unfortunately, most of the worst stunts were pulled by or on behalf of Democrats; I say unfortunately because I try awfully hard to keep these kinds of lists in partisan balance. But the Democrats and their progressive fans were especially slimy this time around, and it it figures. When the going gets tough, the tough get unethical, and it is the Democrats who are facing ballot box carnage. They have been pushing the envelope, to say the least, in their campaign tactics, and I think it probably made their situation more dire rather than less.

Here, in reverse order of ethical outrageousness, are the Ten Most Unethical Maneuvers of Campaign 2010: Continue reading

Joe Miller’s Fallacy

When Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller finally came clean about his unethical, and probably illegal, misuse of a government computer when he was working as a part-time lawyer, he shrugged it off by pointing out that his flaws were actually a qualification for office: it proved that he was just like the people electing him. Continue reading

Palin, Ifill, Contempt and Respect: A Cautionary Tale

One reason why it is both right and prudent to treat others respectfully is that we seldom can know the true measure of an individual’s abilities and character. All human beings are complex, and all deserve an almost limitless benefit of the doubt before it is wise to dismiss them as unworthy of decent, respectful treatment. When we assume that someone whom we really don’t know very well is stupid, or evil, or not worth paying attention to, we not only treat them badly, we also put ourselves in peril, both of violating the Golden Rule, and also of looking foolish. Mockery, the child of contempt, is especially dangerous. When we mock others, we assume a superiority that may prove to be illusory.

Have I fallen victim to this ethical error? You betcha.

Which brings us to Sarah Palin. Continue reading

Christine O’Donnell’s Insult to Democracy

[NOTE: For reasons having to do with  brain synapses and carelessness, the earlier version of this post had Ms. O’Donnell identified as  Christine Whitman, who is not insulting democracy, at least not yet. I apologize to Ethics Alarms readers and the GOP candidate for governor of California for the error.]

As there is no defined “duty not to make the entire theory of representative government look like a terrible mistake” we’re just going to have to settle for applying the ethical duties of diligence, competence, and a few others in assessing Republican Senate nominee (in Delaware, which is collectively cringing in embarrassment) Christine O’Donnell’s disqualifying performance during her recent debate with opponent Chris Coons.  Continue reading

The Democrats’ Fake Tea Party Candidate

Gamesmanship or cheating? In everything from baseball to trial litigation that involved competition and adversaries, there is a large gray area where the distinction between clever tactics and dishonest manipulation is a source of continuing controversy. No arena is so rich with a tradition of dubious maneuvers as the political one, and when a campaign season is especially intense, as this one is, there are certain to be strategems that cross the line.

When the mysterious Alvin Greene won the South Carolina Democratic primary to run against Republican Jim DeMint, some Democrats cried foul, claiming that the Forrest Gumpish Greene (though Forrest never was charged with showing pornography to a student, or they cut that sequence out of the movie) was a Republican plant. Not a shred of evidence ever surfaced to support that accusation (the unsubstantiated accusation is itself an old campaign trick), and it never made much sense, either. Greene barely campaigned and his unfitness for office was blatantly obvious if anyone had bothered to pay attention to him; if he was a plant, he was a spectacularly bad one.

The decoy candidate device is being used this campaign cycle however, and it is being used, ironically enough, by Democrats, marking another instance of the useful principle that the people who are most suspicious of cheating are often the ones who are most likely to cheat.  Continue reading