Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 8/22/18: Manafort, Cohen, and Mollie” (#2)

This is the second Comment of the Day on this post, also item #2, regarding the Michael Cohen machinations. The news media is doing a negligent job examining exactly what’s going on so that the average voter with an IQ in three figures has a fighting chance of understanding it. Greg’s comment,  like Michael Ejercito’s before him, helps explicate what the politicized and biased profession that we foolishly trust to inform us does not.

Here is Greg’s Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 8/22/18: Manafort, Cohen, and Mollie:

I read the plea agreement and was mystified. It has been known for months that the National Enquirer paid Woman #1 (I forget her real name) for the exclusive rights to her story and that Cohen paid Woman #2 (Stormy Daniels) for a non-disclosure agreement. Democrats have been claiming that these hush money payoffs were illegal campaign contributions, but that theory is tenuous.

The mystifying news in the plea agreement was that before the election, Cohen bought the rights to the non-disclosure portion – not the story rights, which the Enquirer kept – of the Enquirer’s agreement by paying the Enquirer’s back their entire cost for the full agreement. Then after the election, Cohen sold the Enquirer the rights to the non-disclosure agreements of both Woman #1 and Stormy Daniels at his own cost, plus a tax gross-up payment that doubled the price to the Enquirer, plus a substantial fee for himself.

Has anybody offered an explanation for this odd series of payments? Why did the Enquirer sell the Woman #1 rights to Cohen in the first place, since buying them back with a tax gross-up made it much more expensive to them than just keeping the rights to the story? Why did they also buy Stormy Daniels’ NDA from him, again along with a tax gross-up? Why did they pay Cohen a big fixer fee for the trivial amount of work that he performed in buying and selling back the NDA rights? I haven’t yet thought of a good reason why they would do that. The plea agreement says that the buybacks were prearranged before the election, which could arguably be a campaign violation, rather than after the election, which certainly would not be a campaign contribution (although of course we have only Cohen’s word for that). But it never offers any purpose for the buybacks were arranged in the first place. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/9/17: Everyone Behaving Abysmally Edition

Let’s scream “Good Morning!” to the sky!

1 The FBI is now complaining that it’s too difficult to break into smartphones, since the Texas maniac, Devin Kelley, had one that has so far resisted cracking. By all means, let’s make sure we have no privacy from government intrusions into our lives and relationships. I’m sure—I really am sure—that the “think of the children!” mob and the “if it saves only one life!” brigade will happily surrender the right to privacy, which is, per the Supreme Court, is also in the Bill of Rights, just like the rights of free speech and the right to bear arms.

The solution is right in front of the FBI anyway.  Just take Kelley ‘s body on a plane trip to Bali, manipulate his dead thumb, and use it to unlock the phone.

2. I see little to choose from ethically between Facebook selling space for deceptive ads to the Russians and CNN selling time on their newscasts for a billionaire to make his personal, dishonest and ignorant demand that President Trump be impeached. I had heard and read about the ad, which is basically Maxine Waters’ warped version of the Constitution and the impeachment clause, with a little Richard Painter thrown in, but I assumed I would have to go online to see it. Nope, there it was this morning during a break on Headline News. Respectable news sources, not that CNN qualifies any more, have traditionally rejected factually misleading political ads from private interests, and a Constitutionally moronic rant from a rich guy with money to burn surely should qualify.

The rich guy is Tom Steyer, who apparently once was an intelligent human being even as you and I. His ad claims that “Donald Trump has brought us to the brink of nuclear war, obstructed justice, and taken money from foreign governments. We need to impeach this dangerous president.” Let’s see: the first is pure hysteria and an attempt to criminalize policy and international poker (I’d argue that the weak response to North Korea by the U.N. and previous administrations has been what has “brought us to the brink,” as well as, of course, the rogue country threatening nuclear attacks and firing missiles over Japan).

The second is a gonzo anti-Trump resistance theory that would be tossed out of any court, except maybe in Hawaii. The third is intentionally dishonest: this is the Emoluments Clause fantasy that holds the discredited theory a hotel owner has to be impeached if he doesn’t sell his hotels. Steyer’s ad also says that that Trump should be impeached for various tweets, half-baked opinions and comments. As one would expect from a  Democratic mega-donor, he apparently believes that speech qualifies as a high crime when it annoys progressives.

Naturally, again as one would expect, Steyer implies in his ad that Bill Clinton, who really did commit a crime as President and really did obstruct justice, was impeached by a Republican Congress for “far less.” This disqualifies him as a serious person.

3. Baseball fans know that Roy Halladay, a near-Hall of Fame pitcher with the Blue Jays and Phillies renowned for his durability until his arm fell off (metaphorically speaking), was killed this week when he crashed his single engine plane into the Gulf of Mexico. Observers say he was flying recklessly, and there is evidence that he wasn’t properly experienced to be operating the plane as he was. In Boston, radio sports jockey Michael Felger went on an extended rant excoriating the dead pitcher for being irresponsible, especially as a husband and father.  Here’s a sample: Continue reading

It’s Official: “Gore and the Masseuse” Is An Ethics Train Wreck

Ethics train wrecks, and readers of Ethics Alarms and the Ethics Scoreboard know, are controversies of escalating publicity and complexity in which so many participants engage in bad decisions and unethical conduct that it is difficult to extract any lessons or conclusions from the chaos and rubble.

“The Tale of Al Gore and the Masseuse” began last week as an inexplicably late revelation of a 2006 accusation of alleged sexual assault by Gore on a woman in his Portland hotel room. Initially, it was only unfair and unsubstantiated fodder for Gore’s enemies in the media to ridicule him and assail his character with innuendo. With the revelation, however, that the Portland police decided to re-open an investigation of the matter and the department’s admission of why that the masseuse’s complaint did not warrant a charge when it was finally made in January 2009, the incident can be officially upgraded (downgraded?) to the Ethics Train Wreck status. Continue reading