Category Archives: Journalism & Media

Josh Gruber, Bad Law Ethics, The Corruption Of Democracy, And The Affordable Care Act

"Oh what a tangled web we weave..." You know the rest of Sir Walter Scott's famous quote. So why doesn't the Obama Administration?

“Oh what a tangled web we weave…” You know the rest of Sir Walter Scott’s famous quote. So why doesn’t the Obama Administration?

There are important democratic lesson to be learned from the ongoing Obamacare Ethics Train Wreck, and we could discuss them objectively if the beleaguered supporters (enablers? excusers? rationalizers? propagandists?) of the law would just start accepting facts rather than resorting to dishonesty in all of its forms. The law is a mess. The law is a mess because its proponents in Congress passed it without reading it, because the public was deceived and misled in order to pass it, and because Congressional leaders and the President, in addition to not reading  major legislation that have massive consequences to the nation’s population, businesses, and budget, pushed it through without the usual two House scrutiny and amendment process.

Fixing the mess, or trying to fix it, has caused as many problems as the misbegotten law itself. (Please note that I am not discussing the intentions of the law, or what good things it might accomplish for Americans show needed help getting health insurance. That is beside the point. Good intentions don’t make a good law, or a bad law good. Look at the chaos at the border generated by the 2008 anti-human trafficking law, when it was mixed with irresponsible Democratic rhetoric and administration policies suggesting that illegal immigration restrictions were a thing of the past where children were concerned. Yes: many Americans have benefited from the Affordable Care Act. That fact alone, stated without reference to all the chaos, uncertainty, corruption, division and misrepresentations that accompany it, does not mean the law has been a success.)

The law depended on a penalty for not buying health insurance, a penalty that Democrats insisted was not a tax (so the President didn’t have to defend a large tax increase.) But a penalty for not doing what citizens should be free to do was unconstitutional, so Chief Justice John Roberts, in the spirit of avoiding government by judge, allowed the ACA to slip by in a 5-4 decision by declaring that the mandate was a tax, regardless of what it had been called to get it passed, and thus was constitutional after all.

Then the President began delaying deadlines and waiving provisions in the law that weren’t ready to go into effect or that were obviously going to cause more embarrassments. This was an abuse of power: Presidents can’t change laws by fiat. It established a dangerous precedent that undermines Constitutional democracy and the Separation of Powers. But it’s a bad law, and an unpopular law; the Republican House obviously won’t agree to the fixes needed without also doing a major overhaul, and this is, in the ironic words we keep hearing, most recently by the New York Times, Present Obama’s “most significant legislative achievement“—how sad is that?—and must be preserved at all costs.

At all costs. So far the costs of the ACA have been complete partisan polarization, the public’s realization that the President who pledged “transparency” will lie repeatedly to get his way, judicial rescue or dubious validity, and the defiance of the lawmaking procedures delineated by the Constitution. And the ethics train wreck goes on.

In Halbig v. Burwell, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that those who purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act are only eligible for federal tax credits if they do so through an exchange established by a state.  (Another court ruled otherwise.) The court did this because this is what the miserably drafted, rushed, never-read by its own champions actually says, stating that tax credits are only available to those who purchase insurance in an “[e]xchange established by the State.” Obama-propping pundits, Democratic officials and the Administration’s spokespersons have attacked and indeed ridiculed the decision, saying that he court should have refused to enforce the actual wording of the law because it creates an absurd result. After all, the ACA’s stated goal is to expanding access to health insurance. Why would Congress try to limit it in this fashion—I mean, other than the fact that they had no idea what the law they were voting for actually had in it, just a general idea about what it was supposed to do? Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Incredible: The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck Is Still Rolling!

trains_collision

I didn’t think I’d get a post up this morning—I am rushing to get ready to travel to NYC to speak about municipal lawyer ethics—but I made the mistake of turning on CNN.

Boy, the media will never give up a fake narrative, will it? There was CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, whom I have now down-graded to “Untrustworthy Hack,” enlightening us regarding the Detroit trial of Theodore Wafer, 55, a white man who is charged with  killing an unarmed 19-year-old Detroit African- American woman on his front porch by shooting through the door of his home. Says Toobin: “His defense is even weaker than Zimmerman’s, because…”

With that one dishonest, despicable. misleading and inflammatory word—-even— CNN’s legal analyst continued the myth that Zimmerman was wrongly acquitted of the charges against him. Toobin is lying, and knows he is lying (because you have to know you are lying for it to be a lie), because every half-educated lawyer who watched the trial knows that the prosecution didn’t prove its case, and couldn’t. Wafer’s defense can’t be even weaker than Zimmerman’s, because Zimmerman’s defense to the charge of murder was not weak in any way. All the evidence prevented supported Zimmerman’s defense, which was the doctrine of self-defense against a reasonable threat of bodily harm. (That Zimmerman caused the situation that led to the shooting did not undermine the strength of  that defense.) By suggesting that defense was weak, Toobin continues the manufactured, racially-divisive narrative that Zimmerman “stalked” Martin, that the killing was racially motivated, and that the jury was racially biased to a acquit him-every element of which is false based on the actual facts of the case. Naturally, the CNN hosts didn’t have the wit, knowledge or guts to stop Toobin.

Or fire him

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Sixth Grader Lauren Arrington Is No Plagiarist—This Science Fair Ethics Train Wreck Is Adult-Engineered

You know, it's really all YOUR fault!

You know, it’s really all YOUR fault!

Florida sixth grader Lauren Arrington found herself a sudden media star when her science fair project was featured on NPR, CBS, and other media outlets for allegedly breaking new ground.  Rather than rub hormones on chicks or build models of volcanos, Lauren’s project focused on the Indo-Pacific lionfish, a troublesome invasive species that is causing ecological havoc in ocean waters along the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean. The NPR story, “Sixth Grader’s Science Fair Finding Shocks Ecologists,” was typical: it quoted Lauren’s “Eureka!” thusly…

“Scientists were doing plenty of tests on them, but they just always assumed they were in the ocean. So I was like, ‘Well, hey guys, what about the river?’ “

Gee, I wonder why a 12 year-old girl was thinking about that? Well, it seems that her father, Dr. Albrey Arrington is the executive director of the Loxahatchee River District, and has been involved in lionfish research. Not that there is anything necessarily unethical or unusual about a parent suggesting a science fair project to his child that is in that parent’s own area of expertise, or even providing access to resources for the child to accomplish the project, but as we will see, Dr. Arrington set his daughter up for trouble she couldn’t possibly understand. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Education, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship

Ethics Hero: Columnist George Will

George WillI just watched George Will stun the Fox News Sunday panel by arguing against virtually all conservative pundits by insisting that the U.S. should welcome the hoard of children being apprehended at the border as they accept the current Administration’s open invitation to illegal immigrants.

“We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America, you’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans,’” Will said. “We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 per county. The idea that we can’t assimilate these eight-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous.”

I think the policy that Will is advocating is foolish, wrong, and will continue to incentivize illegal immigration.Nonetheless, in giving his contrarian opinion Will demonstrated personal integrity, courage, and showed those who accuse him of being a knee-jerk mouthpiece for Republicans and conservatives that they are wrong. His independence from the right-wing echo chamber also encourages viewers to start thinking for themselves.

I pledge to give a matching Ethics Hero designation to the first liberal pundit who argues that the human weapons in this unethical “think of the children!” assault on our laws and sovereignty should be shipped home, thus demonstrating similar integrity and independence from progressive talking points.

I’m waiting.

_____________

Graphic: Mediaite

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

The Ray Rice Affair: Defending Stephen Smith (and Blaming the Victims Of Domestic Abuse When They Behave Like Rice’s)

The love birds. Luckily, she can take a punch.

The love birds. Luckily, she can take a punch.

I came close to writing about the latest disturbing turn in the Ray Rice affair—the fact that the Baltimore Ravens star’s ugly domestic abuse, caught on a hotel elevator camera, was recently deemed to warrant only a two game suspension by the NFL. I think this is a fairly accurate representation of how seriously that league and a segment of the professional sports culture take the problem of domestic abuse—wait until you hear all the cheers for Rice in his first day back on the field—but I had already registered my disgust at Rice’s lack of sufficient punishment for this incident. Then ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith was pilloried by female pundits for daring to suggest that the victims of domestic abuse sometimes share responsibility for what happens to them, and need to take action to prevent further beatings. ESPN colleague Michelle Beadle, noting that she was once in an abusive relationship, erupted in indignation, saying she “would never feel clean again” after taking reading Smith’s comments, and wrote,”I’m thinking about wearing a miniskirt this weekend…I’d hate to think what I’d be asking for by doing so… “Violence isn’t the victim’s issue. It’s the abuser’s. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting. Walk. Away.”

Of course,  other pundits, websites and blogs followed Beadle’s leaddid you know there’s a war on women?—because you just don’t dare get on the wrong side of this kind of issue. The problem is that in the context of the Ray Rice episode, Smith was making a valid point that is made too seldom because of The Beadle Rule, that women who are abused share no responsibility for their fate, and to even suggest otherwise is proof positive of misogyny. That is a politically correct lie, and Smith should not be attacked for telling the truth, albeit inarticulately. Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Romance and Relationships, Sports, U.S. Society

This Time, The Kid “Living His (Parent’s) Dream” Is Dead. Still Inspired?

teen-pilot-crash

Pointing out the breach of ethics when parents endanger children by allowing, encouraging, pushing, or forcing them to risk their lives before they are old enough to comprehend what risking their life means has been a periodic theme on Ethics Alarms. There was 16-year old Abby Sunderland, who had to be rescued from an attempt to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo. Paul Romero sent his son Jordan, 13, out to be the youngest to climb Mount Everest. In April of this year, the Coast Guard had to rescue the sick one-year-old of Eric and Charlotte Kaufman, who brought the baby and their three-year old along as they tried to circumnavigate the globe in their yacht. (Never mind, they all had life jackets.). Less likely to be fatal but epic in its length was the ordeal “the Biking Vogels” put their twin sons through, as they were forced to live on bicycles for years while their parents lived out their low-tech “Easy Rider” fantasies, peddling across America.

As was bound to happen, another set of parents in this unethical club  have met with tragedy of their own engineering. Haris Suleman and his father, Babar Suleman, from Plainfield, Indiana, were attempting to fly around the world with the newly licensed  teen piloting their single-engine aircraft. The journey, to be completed in 30 days, would have set a record. Gotta set those records!  The Biking Vogels were determined to set a record too.

As the plane piloted by a 17-year-old novice pilot took off from an airport in Pago Pago in American Samoa, it suddenly lost power and crashed into the water. The boy is dead; the father’s body has yet to be found. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Family, Journalism & Media

The Progressive Clown vs. The Apoplectic Conservative Radio Host On Gaza: Jon Stewart, Funny But Irresponsible…Mark Levin, Uncivil But Right

Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” riff on the Gaza conflict was praised to the skies by anti-Israel pundits, like MSNBC’s Cenk Uyger and the Daily Beast’s Dean Obeidallah as providing some kind of much needed moral clarity. In truth it was exactly the opposite, with the Obeidallah column unintentionally showing exactly what’s wrong with Jon Stewart.

Knowing that a disturbing number of Millennials (and an even more disturbing number of ignorant, impressionable older viewers who should know better) see the comedian as a truth-teller, Stewart makes no allowances in his comic routines for that fact. He intentionally encourages the idea that he is a legitimate pundit, then retreats to the convenient bunker of “Come on! I’m a comedian! Don’t take me so seriously!” when he is called out for lazy, misleading and biased—but funny! commentary. (Stewart criticizes Democrats with approximately the frequency of a lunar eclipse, which would be just fine for a comedian who didn’t pose as an objective critic of American politics.) Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, War and the Military

Flunking Responsibility, Honesty, Common Sense and Ethics: Gov. Deval Patrick, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Daily Kos, and Anyone Else Who Repeats This Idiotic Analogy

Deval Patrick

I thought I might run an ethics quiz asking whether this current and mind-bogglingly stupid argument that keeps popping up from my sentiment-addled Facebook friends is more unethical than the pro-Hamas hashtags being appended to twitter comments by the “Think of the children!” saps led by celebrities like Jon Stewart, Selena Gomez, and John Cusack. Pondering on it, however, I realized that as ethically misguided as Stewart at al. are, the above quote and its ilk are worse….especially since state governors and U.S. Senators have more credibility than comedians and Disney pop tarts. Not that they should, mind you.

If I really have to make a detailed argument explaining why Deval’s quote and  Leahy’s ( “Think of all those Jews that went to the ovens because we forgot our principles. Let’s not turn our backs now.”) are unforgivably irresponsible, we are just as dim-witted as those demagogues (or, more likely, as dim-witted as they hope and think we are.) The statements are no more nor less than an invitation to every parent of every child in every poor, war-torn, politically foul, culturally poisoned, dangerous, corrupt nation in the world to somehow get them to the U.S. border, paying shady and often treacherous agents to do so, because the United States will not “turn its back,” and turn them back. The question isn’t whether this is a legitimate, responsible or sane position worthy of debate and serious consideration: of course it isn’t. The question is how anyone can think it is. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes, The Internet

Deconstructing The Unethical “It’s Impossible To Be President Today!” Excuse For President Obama

Presidents since WW II

Chris Cilizza’s latest of several attempts to relieve President Obama of responsibility for his spectacularly incompetent and disastrous presidency is too full of falsities, fallacies, rationalizations and illogical assertions to let pass, as I would dearly love to. Duty calls, however, so here we go. I’m not going to comment on the quoted “terrific” Ron Brownstein piece, which is not essential. Cilizza is in bold, my comments are not….

“Being president is the most powerful job in the world. At which you will almost certainly fail.”

  • First, I must ask, fail at what? Fail at solving problems? Fail at being popular? Fail by leaving the country in worse shape than when the President took office? Fail at leadership, at management, at foreign policy, at vision? Fail at handling crises? Fail by not dealing with long-term problems? By not bothering to define the central concept of his thesis, Cilizza just betrays his ignorance and laziness. If he won’t define his terms, he can’t be challenged.
  • Let me give Mr. Cilizza, who is really, absurdly arguing that succeeding as President is harder now than it has ever been, a brief history lesson focusing on how difficult this job has proved to be for others. George Washington, numero uno, had by far the most difficult job, being President of an unstable, new, confused nation with no precedents for his office, all while being second guessed by some of the most brilliant minds the nation ever produced, who were fighting among themselves to steer the country’s culture and government in radically different directions. He did a superb job, because Washington was a natural leader, perfectly suited for his grand moment in history. The next three Presidents were not, and had a terrible time of it (Jefferson’s reputation was saved by having the Louisiana Territory fall into his lap, but he was no leader, and call me a stickler, but any time a foreign power burns down the White House, I’m calling that President–James Madison—a flop), but James Monroe got the job down, beginning with having Cabinet members–like Daniel Webster–who were smarter than he was and properly delegating and managing them. The job defeated John Quincy Adams, but the next natural leader, gutsy, crazy Andrew Jackson, managed to keep the nation from dissolving over regional differences, and solved potentially disastrous  financial problems, in part because he was able to project strong leadership. Being a killer will do that….

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Leadership

State Of U.S. Journalism: “Conflict of Interest? Oh, THAT Old Thing!”

At last report, rolling in his grave...

At last report, rolling in his grave…

I believe that the field of journalism ethics has been negated, as the news media now routinely ignores the most obvious conflicts of interest, and make no effort  to avoid them, address them, or disclose them.

Case #1: Taking orders from Hamas

 Hamas has published media guidelines instructing Gazans to always refer to the dead as “innocent civilians” and to never post pictures of armed Palestinians on social media. Hamas has prevented foreign reporters from leaving the area, and it is easy to see how foriegn journalists would conclude that the best way to ensure their safety is to avoid angering their “hosts.” Seemingly mindful of these concerns, the New York Times’ reporting on the Gaza conflict from Israel depicts tanks, soldiers, and attack helicopters, while virtually all images from Gaza are of dead children, weeping parents, bloody civilians, ruined buildings, overflowing hospitals, or similar images of pain, carnage and anguish. As Noah Pollack noted in the Weekly Standard website,  a Times photo essay today contains these images:

“…three of Gaza civilians in distress; one of a smoke plume rising over Gaza; and three of the IDF, including tanks and attack helicopters. The message is simple and clear: the IDF is attacking Gaza and harming Palestinian civilians. There are no images of Israelis under rocket attack, no images of grieving Israeli families and damaged Israeli buildings, no images of Hamas fighters or rocket attacks on Israel, no images of the RPG’s and machine guns recovered from attempted Hamas tunnel infiltrations into Israel.”

Is this just naked anti-Israel bias, or is the Times simply trying to report the story without getting its reporters’ into further peril? I’ll be charitable and presume the latter: fine. But that defines a clear conflict of interest that mars the objectivity of the Times’ reporting, and the paper has an ethical obligation, under its own guidelines, to disclose it in every report where it might be relevant.

It has not. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Journalism & Media, Professions