The Ethical Take

Published: February 8, 2016

By Jim Lichtman
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The Take had quite a range of recent stories to choose from.


The Weasel –

Martin Shkreli, the former hedge fund manager and head of Turing Pharmaceuticals, smiled and smirked his way through his testimony before Congress last week regarding questions related to securities fraud.

To watch Shkreli’s testimony is to watch a ludicrous stream of redundant answers to questions from lawmakers:

“I’m disgusted we’re here today to talk about drug price increases,” said Rep. Buddy Carter (R., Ga.). “None of these witnesses here today have had to look into the eyes of someone trying to decide between buying groceries or medication.”

Shkreli: “On the advice of counsel, I invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and respectfully decline to answer your question.”

Under Shkreli’s leadership of Turing, Daraprim, a drug used to treat a parasitic condition that can occur in pregnant women and individuals with HIV virus, went from costing $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill.

At one point, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) asked Shkreli if he pronounced his name correctly to which Shkreli responded, “Yes.”

“See,” Gowdy said, “there you can answer some questions—that one didn’t incriminate you! I just want to make sure you understand you are welcome to answer questions and not all of your answers are going to subject you to incrimination. You understand that, don’t you?”

Shkreli: “I intend to follow the advice of my counsel, not yours.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings, clearly exasperated by Shkreli’s unwillingness to respond, said, “I wish you could see the faces of people … who cannot get the drugs they need.”

Immediately after the hearing, Shkreli tweeted: “Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government.”

The Ethical Take: Finally, something that unites Republicans and Democrats; they both dislike Shkreli. Could this be the beginning of a beautiful friendship? (Don’t count on it.)

Culture Schlock –

In a report by The Associated Press (Feb. 3), “Bruce Vento Elementary in St. Paul is joining other public schools in opting out of holiday celebrations as school officials strive to be more culturally sensitive and inclusive. The school has a predominantly Asian and black student body, and English is a second language for more than half of its pupils, who come from a range of faith backgrounds.

“In a letter to parents last week, Principal Scott Masini said his rationale was to avoid ‘encroaching on the educational opportunities of others and threatening a culture of tolerance and respect for all.’ He acknowledged it would be an unpopular decision for some.

“ ‘I have come to the difficult decision to discontinue the celebration of the dominant holidays until we can come to a better understanding of how the dominant view will suppress someone else’s view,’ Masini said.”

The E.T.: Based on the decision, I guess all of us over the age of 20 have grown up culturally biased and, as a result, are subconsciously intolerant.

Get the Lead Out –

Flint, Michigan Mayor Karen Weaver stated that “…we must remove and replace lead pipes immediately and we want to start with the high risk homes of kids under 6 and pregnant women.”

After improperly treated water leached lead into the water system of Flint, 25,000 service lines have been affected.

“They have perfected a method,” Weaver said, “for replacing the lead service lines that’s more than twice as fast and only half the cost. The process takes four hours, instead of 10 hours at a cost of just $2,000 to $3,000 per line.”

The FBI has opened a criminal investigation to determine if any laws were broken after officials assured residents the water was safe.

E.T.: This rates just as high on the shameful scale as the lack of action by the VA for vets suffering from Hepatitis C.

She-Mail –

After months of fuss and fury over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for emails while she was secretary of state, and the subsequent retroactive determination that many of those emails were listed as classified, the State Department reported that staffers for former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice (she never directly used email) and Gen. Colin Powell who also used a private email account, received retroactively classified information.

According to a memo released by the Inspector General’s office (Feb. 3), “Based on the department’s responses and findings to date, additional potential classified material and/or highly sensitive information not intended for distribution may reside in the Department’s unclassified paper and electronic archives associated with Secretaries Powell and Rice and their respective staff.”

In a report by CNN (Feb. 3), former Secretary Powell said: “ ‘The State Department cannot now say they were classified then because they weren’t. If the Department wishes to say a dozen years later they should have been classified that is an opinion of the Department that I do not share. I have reviewed the messages and I do not see what makes them classified,’ Powell said.

In a telephone interview, Powell added, “That is an absurdity. If two seasoned diplomats could not discuss their views with the secretary in unclassified emails, we might as well shut the department down.”

The Take: Powell sums it up best: “an absurdity.”


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