To Be Fair, Sometimes Twitter Justifies Its Existence: The Hilarious Maria Shriver Takedown

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Maria Shriver, once a Peabody and Emmy award-winning journalist for NBC News and now an occasional guest host, took to Twitter to post, “I’m trying to take a beat to digest the Rittenhouse verdict. My son just asked me how it’s possible that he didn’t get charged for anything. How is that possible? I don’t have an answer for him. The idea that someone could be out with a semi-automatic weapon, kill people, and walk is stunning. I look forward to hearing from the jury. This is a moment for them to explain how they came to their decision.”

Shriver’s brain fart is reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s fatal debate fantasy on 1980 when he claimed that had been discussing nuclear policy with his daughter Amy. If anything, Shriver’s tale is more unlikely: her sons are 24 and 28. Aren’t these products of the best private schools better educated than to be mystified by the basics of criminal law? And how could Shriver think that Rittenhouse wasn’t charged with any crimes?

Knowing a hanging curve right over the plate when he sees one, Ted Cruz, as they like to say of Republicans, “pounced.” He tweetstormed,

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/6/2018: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Gooooood Morning!

1. From the Moral Luck files:

What you just saw is a bald eagle landing on Seattle Mariners starter James Paxton’s shoulder during the National Anthem before yesterday’s Mariners-Twins game.  Here’s a closer look…

The eagle got confused: it is supposed to go to his trainer, in one of the more spectacular Anthem displays that has ever been devised: I’ve seen this performance several times.  After the game, Paxton was asked why he didn’t try to escape. His answer:

“I’m not gonna outrun an eagle, so just thought, we’ll see what happens.”

Heck, he had already endured the horror of Dessa’s incredibly off-key rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” what’s a mere bald eagle attack? Seriously, Paxton’s quote is an ethics guide: Don’t panic, don’t act on emotion, assess the situation, see what happens, and act accordingly. Of course, the fact that this strategy worked out well helps: if the eagle had ripped his eyes out, everyone would be saying Paxton was an idiot not to run.

How I would have loved to see this happen to Colin Kaepernick!

2. How the President gets himself into ethics trouble. I just watched a clip of Trump speaking yesterday about California’s sanctuary cities. “The thing is that these cities are protecting bad people,” he said, with emphasis. Naturally, this will be characterized as racism. It’s not racism, however. The statement is just overly simplistic, and exacerbated in its inflammatory elements by the President’s rudimentary vocabulary, in which the only operable adjectives appear to be great, bad, horrible, wonderful, terrible, sad, and a few more. It is impossible to communicate about complex issues competently and fairly with such meager tools. Illegal immigrants have broken our laws and willfully so. That is not good, but it does not make all of them bad people….though many are. Continue reading

Why Dan Pabon’s DUI Stop Matters To Everyone, And Why He Must Resign

Pabon Apology

Colorado Rep. Dan Pabon (D. North Denver) was considered a rising political star. Among his well-publicized public policy triumphs was to  help pass a law forcing convicted drunk drivers to appear before a DUI victim-impact panel.

Then Pabon himself was pulled over in his vehicle on St. Patrick’s Day evening for driving under the influence of alcohol. Instead of Pabon accepting his fate as an honest lawyer and elected official should, the video of the stop shows the legislator trying to persuade the officer who stopped him not to make the  arrest. He tells the officer that he is a state representative who is driving a car without his legislative plates. He asks the officer to call a supervisor or the city attorney so they can direct the officer to give him mulligan. When Officer Brian Bienemann explains that he cannot let Pabon off and indeed would be subject to discipline if he did,  Pabon pleads,  “Is there any way we can avoid this possibility? This is going to change my life.”

After Pabon pleaded guilty and gave an emotional apology (above) to the public and the legislature, saying  “I have taken full responsibility. I have done everything above board,” the editors of The Denver Post begged to disagree. They called for his resignation in an edotorial. They were correct, but they weren’t clear enough about why.

The Post was upset that Pabon didn’t specifically apologize for trying to use abuse his position and power to avoid legal accountability for a serious violation of the law, even after the video of the stop was leaked to the news media. Of course he didn’t. Like most current elected officials, he didn’t see anything wrong with that. Don’t they deserve special consideration and privileges?

There can be no sufficient apology for what Pabon did. Elected officials and other government personnel must not view themselves as deserving special immunity from the laws and regulations they impose on society. Pabon’s attitude and attempt to play the “Do you know who I am?” card is poison to democracy, and exactly the kind of “fix” Donald Trump’s speech last night correctly condemned.

The public sees a Secretary of State expose sensitive information to discovery by the enemies of the United States, and not only is she not punished, she is selected to run for President. The public sees HUD Secretary Julian Castro blatantly violate the Hatch Act, combining an official appearance with campaigning for Clinton, and  then learns that the President will not discipline Castro in any way. Casrto is also considered a “rising political star.” A nation in which individuals who break the law are still considered “rising stars” and prospects for national leadership has its values in a tangle. Continue reading

Indeed He Deserved All Of It, But Denny Hastert’s Sentencing Hearing Was A Legal And Ethical Travesty

Hastert sentencing

“I am deeply ashamed to be standing here,” former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert  told a judge yesterday at his sentencing hearing.  “I know why I am here … I mistreated some of the athletes that I coached.”

Wait…what? That’s not why Hastert was in court at all. He was before a judge for one reason: he violated banking laws and lied to the F.B.I.. The fact that he was a sexual predator and molested members of the wrestling team he coached many years ago is not the reason he was in court. It couldn’t be. The statute of limitations on all of those crimes, horrible crimes all, had expired. Hastert couldn’t be charged, tried or convicted of any of them.

I don’t understand why this hasn’t been the focus of the coverage of Hastert’s ordeal yesterday. Why did the judge think it was appropriate to “angrily” lecture him about his crimes that in the eyes of the law he must be considered innocent of by the legal system, because he cannot be found guilty of these crimes any more?

“‘If Denny Hastert could do it, anyone could do it,'” U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin said. “Nothing is more stunning than to have the words ‘serial child molester’ and ‘speaker of the House’ in the same sentence.” Well, that’s very interesting, Judge. If  the late Ted Kennedy had been before you to be sentenced for, say, just a wild hypothetical, a drunk driving charge, would you lecture him about letting Mary Jo Kopechne drown in his car?

I may have missed it, but when O.J. Simpson was sentenced for burglary, I don’t recall the judge asking him to confess to murdering Nicole and Ron…did that happen?

Earlier this month, the judge and prosecutors allowed the trial to become a proxy trial for a crime that wasn’t on the docket, with prosecutors hammering at graphic details about the sex-abuse, describing how Hastert would sit in a recliner in the locker room with a direct view of the showers. The victims, prosecutors said, were boys between 14 and 17. Hastert was in his 20s and 30s. This is relevant to the charges against Hastert how, exactly? Answer: They aren’t. Continue reading

Victims, Victimizers, and Hypocrites: The Dennis Hastert Affair

12-20-98 Copy photo from 1976 Yorkville Yearbook which shows Dennis Hastert who coached the 1976 state champion wrestling team...

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, the longest serving GOP Speaker in history, has been indicted for lying to the FBI and elaborately evading reporting requirements on large cash withdrawals for  payments he allegedly made to a male former student whom Hastert sexually abused while he was a high school wrestling coach over 30 years ago. If you want to read what is known about the unfolding Washington scandal s far, as well as partisan attempts at spin, you can try Politico, The Week, Talking Points Memo, OpenSecrets.orgWashington Post, Bloomberg Business, The National Memo, NBC News, Washington Monthly, Outside the Beltway, The Hill, Daily Mail, Patterico’s Pontifications and The Daily Kos.

Ethics observations:

1. This is a personal and professional tragedy, no matter what else may be true. Hastert has a family, and once had a career and a relatively solid reputation. The family is still there, though wounded; the rest is gone, presumably forever.

2. Assuming that what is coming out as the reason Hastert was paying millions in hush money is in fact true, he abused his position of trust as a teacher and committed a heinous crime. Nothing that he did subsequently as a public servant, or endured as a consequence of his actions, mitigates the seriousness of that misconduct. Continue reading

Unethical Website Of The Month: Ranker

"One of these things is not like the others..."

“One of these things is not like the others…”

Lists, especially stupid celebrity lists (Worst plastic surgery…Most overpaid…Actors with famous siblings…Actresses with high IQs) are a staple of the internet, and there are sites like Cracked (which does them well), Buzzfeed (which occasionally does) and Bleacher Report (which is sloppy unless it is doing lists of hot women, in which case it is just undiscriminating) that often appear to do little else. That’s fine; everything on the web doesn’t have to be edifying, profound or useful. Still, there are some basic rules of competence and responsibility even in list-making on the web. One is that as with any conduct involving the conveyance of information, do your homework and don’t mislead readers or  create misconceptions.

Another is that when you are dealing with individuals to whom you owe your nation’s very existence and who are as superior to you as a human being as you are to an anteater, show some damn respect.

Ranker, a second tier list site apparently operated by junior high school drop-outs (but whose lists are “recommended” by more respectable and heavily trafficked sites like Mediaite and The Daily Beast) failed these two essential principles with their offensive list, “33 Celebrities Who Have Killed People,” introduced with this:

“…Many celebrities were involved in tragic accidents that resulted in deaths, while others committed cold-blooded murder. Some celebs have served time in prison stemming from convictions, and others have gotten away with murder; sure, maybe they were wrongly accused, or maybe they just had great lawyers. Several famous people were involved in deadly car accidents. Former First Lady Laura Bush missed a stop sign and slammed her car into another vehicle, accidentally killing her friend who was driving the other car. She was in high school at the time of the accident. Other celebs who killed people in car accidents include Keith Moon, Ted Kennedy, and Rebecca Gayheart. What do you think about all the celebrities who have killed someone?” Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Massachussetts Democrats

Then again, the values of Massachusetts Democrats in choosing Senate candidates has a certain consistency…

95.7 percent of the 3,500 delegates attending the Massachusetts state Democratic convention in Springfield, Mass. endorsed faux-Cherokee Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren for U.S. Senator.  Since Warren’s support exceeded 85%, Marisa DeFranco, the only declared opposition to Warren’s nomination to oppose Republican Senator Scott Brown’s bid for re-election, will not have the chance to test Warren in a primary.

Since no Democratic candidate had ever won more than 86 percent of the vote in the 30 years of the state party’s endorsement process, the party’s doubling down on the thoroughly disgraced Warren is a stunning rejection of ethical principles.

Warren, just this week, admitted that she had told Harvard that she was a Cherokee after she had been hired, prompting the University to list the blue-eyed, blonde-haired scholar as “a woman of color” in its diversity statistics. She had explicitly denied this for months. She has shown to be a plagiarist, a liar, a fake, and a hypocrite, and an inept politician as well. Her party’s response to all of this was to make it impossible for its members to reject her at the polls, and to nominate a candidate of integrity to oppose Brown.

What does the conduct of Massachusetts Democrats demonstrate? Continue reading

Ethics Progress: America Kicks Its Kennedy Addiction

For more than 60 years, descendants of tycoon/bootlegger/diplomat/influence-peddler Joseph P. Kennedy have held elite elected positions of power in the U.S. Government. The reason for this has not, in most cases, been the remarkable talents of the family members involved, nor their accomplishments, wit or demonstrated expertise on anything related to public affairs. Voters have elected the Kennedys because of their last name, because too many of them were lazy celebrity worshippers rather than responsible citizens. Continue reading

Omnibus Spending Bill Ethics

One silver lining in the despicable, 2000 page omnibus spending bill unveiled by Senate Democrats is that Republicans also have their grubby fingerprints all over it, so even though the bill lumps together a huge and expensive mess of pet Democratic projects, the richly deserved attacks on the monstrosity cannot be easily derided as “partisan.” Another is that it should put to bed forever the revolting slander that  the Tea Party movement was motivated by racism when it proclaimed that it wanted its country back. If there was ever a democratic institution that demonstrated utter contempt for the public, its legitimate and fervently expressed concerns, and the obligation of responsible government, the 2010 Lame Duck Congress is it. Continue reading

Chris Matthews and Politically Correct Racism On the Left

“Chris Christie is moon over New Jersey, he should not wear white shirts, I tell you that. I saw him the other day and I was amazed by it, he must be 300 plus, and that’s something he’s just gotta deal with because you’re not going to say, ‘I’m going to cut the budget,’ well, how about starting with supper?”

That was Chris Matthews during an appearance in Washington, D.C., mocking New Jersey Governor Chris Cristie, not for his positions, not for his performance in his job, but because of his looks, specifically his weight. Later in the same session, Matthews criticized Mississippi Governor Hailey Barbour for his waist size. It isn’t only Matthews; media liberals have been using Rush Limbaugh’s weight as a punchline for years. Ted Kennedy, Gerald Nadler, Madeleine Albright and Charlie Rangel, however, were immune: being fat is only a justification for insults if one is conservative and fat. Continue reading