Tag Archives: “gotcha!”

Donald Rumsfeld And The Irony Of Hair-Trigger Race-baiters

chimp-jackLook around the web, and you will find some vituperative leftist bloggers and tweeters condemning Donald Rumsfeld as a racist, based on his criticism of Barack Obama. True, any criticism of Barack Obama is presumptively racist—did anyone predict that an unintended consequence of the first black President would be de facto suppression of legitimate political criticism?—-but Rumsfeld, we are told, really proved he’s just like all conservatives, Republicans and teapartiers because he recently said, criticizing the Obama administration’s eminently criticizable  policies in Afghanistan:

“A trained ape could get a status of forces agreement. It does not take a genius. And we have so mismanaged that relationship.”

GOTCHA! Comparing a black President to an ape! Proof positive of racial bigotry!

Continue reading


Filed under Animals, Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race

More Interview Ethics: Janet Mock Ambushes Piers Morgan


Piers Morgan, CNN’s imported British tabloid reporter turned Larry King replacement, invited trans author and activist Janet Mock on his show to promote her new memoir, “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More.” As I watched the interview (because of Mock and not Morgan, who makes my skin crawl), I was struck by how far such interviews have come since David Susskind would invite transgendered individuals on his PBS show—this was classy, remember—and essentially hold them out as freaks. Morgan was respectful and supportive, though the sensationalist aspect was still there but muted: the text under Mock during her interview read “BORN A BOY,” and “was a boy until age 18,” which are, though accurately describing how most CNN viewers would understand Mock’s journey, over-simplified and counter to how Mock describes herself.

Mock seemed happy, Morgan seemed gracious. Then Mock went on Twitter and Buzzfeed to pronounce Morgan a clueless, ignorant, biased jerk.  He was, shockingly, “trying to do infotainment” Mock said. Morgan’s show is the epitome of infotainment, and everybody knows it. She criticized him for “sensationalizing” transgender people while neglecting a substantive discussion about her book. The sales of Mock’s memoir depend on its sensational aspects, again, as she and her publisher well know. Mock accused Morgan of asking the same kinds of embarrassing questions about body parts and boy friends that non-trans people are inevitably curious about. Well, of course he did…because that’s what his audience is curious about.

None of this was communicated to Morgan either before, during, or after the interview. Morgan, who is no Sam Rubin, was incensed, and struck back via Twitter, since that is the forum where Mock chose to publicly attack him. In various tweets and exchanges he called Mock cowardly, “churlish,” and shameful, and criticized her allies as well, as she successfully brought down the progressive hoards on Morgan’s head. The same week, he invited her back to on the show along with a panel so he could defend himself while assailing her conduct. You can read the transcript of that show here.

What’s going on here? Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, The Internet

Ethics Quiz: Alex or Alexis?

Actually, his friends called him "Alex"...

Actually, his friends called him “Alex”…

The Daily Caller believes it has caught the White House in an attempt to erase a Presidential gaffe from history:

“White House officials have quietly changed an official transcript to hide President Barack Obama’s embarrassing historical error during his international press conference with French President Francois Hollande. Obama’s error came when he misnamed Alexis de Tocqueville, a clear-eyed Frenchman who explained the subtle miracle of American culture and democracy in the 1830s. His book is a classic, partly because his insights about Americans’ social equality and civic society have become commonplace among centrists and conservatives. But Obama called him “Alex” in front of the French and U.S. press, and while facing banks of TV cameras. The White House’s official transcript, however, hides the presidential error by using the correct name. It now says that Obama declared: “Alexis de Tocqueville — that great son of France who chronicled our American democracy.

“Obama’s error was slight, but badly timed, partly because Obama is holding a state dinner for Hollande tonight.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz:

Is the White House transcript alteration of the President’s shortened version of de Tocqueville’s first name a mere edit of a trivial and immaterial miscue by President Obama (ethical) or an attempted cover-up, as the Daily Caller argues, of “an embarrassment for a President who claims to have been a constitutional scholar, and a judicious student of American history” (unethical)?

My answer: Continue reading


Filed under Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Quizzes

Note To Conservatives: If You Keep Making Ridiculous Complaints, Don’t Complain When People Can’t Tell When You’re Joking

Hey! Get that foot off of your own desk! Who do you think you are, President of the...oh. Right."

Hey! Get that foot off of your own desk! Who do you think you are, President of the…oh. Right.”

RECONSIDERED:  I have been persuaded by the comment thread that followed this post that my initial position regarding Andy Levy’s objections to Stephen Colbert’s use of his critique from “Red-Eye” was mistaken: Colbert was indeed unfair to Levy, and it was unfair as well for me to hold Levy accountable for some of his conservative colleagues’ serious versions of the argument he properly labelled as absurd. Read the comments of James Flood and Ampersand below for the rebuttal that carried the day. As always, I am grateful for the passionate and well-argued perception of Ethics Alarms readers.

If you need more proof of how toxic and infantile the partisan wars are these days, you need search no farther than the manufactured controversy over President Obama’s disrespectful treatment of his own desk. When I first started seeing posts on major websites complaining about the photo of the President putting his foot on his desk in the Oval Office, I decided the controversy was too idiotic to waste time with. But, as is their tendency and their talent, conservatives escalated this one with exquisite gall, and now I have to take note.

This month, and not for the first time, conservatives had the vapors over President Obama being overly casual in his own office and “disrespecting” a desk that was sent to President Garfield by Queen Victoria. (It sure didn’t do him any good) There is only one description of this preposterous complaint that does it justice, and that would be “utter bullshit.” Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Prof. William Jacobson

“The incessant attempt to turn race-neutral phrases into racial testing grounds is part of a larger political war in which race agitators seek to turn everything into a discussion of race all the time in every sphere of life…Equating the race-neutral phrase “brown bag” used in the context of bringing lunch to work with some esoteric past-practice of inter-black skin tone testing is so ludicrous that it may have revealed a chink in the armor of the language police, which can be exploited by the vast majority of Americans of all races and colors who just want to get on with the conversation.”

—–Prof. William Jacobson, deriding yet another outbreak of mind-numbingly ridiculous political correctness word-censorship, an edict against using the term “brown bag” in Seattle, and the unwelcome return of one of the all-time silliest imaginary offenses, a CNBC reporter being criticized for using the phrase “chink in the armor.”

My family thanks you, Prof. Jacobson. This could have been me. And might yet...

My family thanks you, Prof. Jacobson. This could have been me. And might yet…

I (and my loving family, which really, really likes me) need to thank Professor Jacobson, the author of the blog Legal Insurrection, for writing his post about this topic—one I truly hate—-before I learned myself about the “brown bag” memo and especially the unwelcome sequel to the Jeremy Lin “chink in the armor” controversy. For one thing, after a long and infuriating day of traffic jams and car trouble, had I read the reports of these embarrassments to the human species in straight news accounts, some aneurism deep in my brain might well have popped, killing me on the spot. For another, he invested such obvious contempt and exasperation in his excellent post that I don’t have to risk death by working myself into a head-exploding rant-producing fury to do this continuing outrage justice. Jacobson pretty much knocks this hanging curveball right out of the park.

Among other things, he links to his discussions of previous examples of perfectly good, innocent and useful words, idioms and phrases that have been attacked by political correctness fanatics (which, unfortunately, includes a disturbingly large percentage of U.S. Democrats), including such “offensive” terms as black list, “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” rejigger, Providence Plantations, Black Friday, gobbledygook, illegal immigrant, undocumented immigrant, and master bedroom. Inexplicably, the professor left out the grandaddy  of them all and my personal favorite, “niggardly,”  the perfectly good word meaning “stingy” the use of which  once got a supervisor in the D.C. government fired, and which spawned Ethics Alarms’ indispensable Niggardly Principles, 1 and 2. He also chose to omit the long list of various words and phrases MSNBC’s Chris Matthews has declared as racist, including urban, “monkeying around,” welfare, food stamps, and even Chicago, but these are cynical “gotcha’s,” devised to show that every opponent of President Obama is secretly motivated by racial hate. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society, Workplace

Of Teenage Tweets, Politics, Fairness, and Acorns

How about scrutinizing the trees, and not the acorns?

How about scrutinizing the trees, and not the acorns?

Two GOP Congressmen are apologizing for the offensive tweets of their teenage sons, as well they should. But to what extent do the homophobic, racist and otherwise vile social network comment of a couple of high school students with famous fathers tell us anything about their legislator parents? Are such communications newsworthy? Should the kids be exposed to “Gotchas!” as if they were the elected officials, not their dads, and are their indiscretions legitimate clubs for political and journalistic foes to beat their fathers with?

I think these are difficult ethics questions, and I don’t much care for any of them.  Let’s examine the ethical conduct of some of the participants in this icky drama: Continue reading


Filed under Environment, Etiquette and manners, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: Holder’s “Brainwash” Comment

"You WILL feel differently about guns!"

The death of founder Andrew Breitbart hasn’t slowed down his website’s ability to dig up provocative and embarrassing videos one bit. Its latest is a bit of off-putting rhetoric from Eric Holder, when he was the Clinton Administration U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., telling a D.C. audience that the long-term solution to gun control is to “brainwash” the  public into opposing firearms. Holder said…

“What we need to do is change the way in which people think about guns, especially young people, and make it something that’s not cool, that it’s not acceptable, it’s not hip to carry a gun anymore, in the way in which we’ve changed our attitudes about cigarettes.”

He went on to outline steps that could be taken to “really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way.”

Seeing this as a major “gotcha” for the embattled Attorney General, who is already facing growing criticism both for his oversight (or lack of it) of the Fast and Furious gun-smuggling fiasco and his evasive testimony about it before Congress, conservative critics are jumping on the 1995 statement to bolster calls for Holder’s resignation.

Your Ethics Quiz today: Is it fair to criticize a U.S. Attorney General’s statement that he wants to “brainwash” the  public into rejecting a core Constitutional right, when the statement is more than 15 years old, and was made while he was in a different job? Continue reading


Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society

Gotcha Nation

"Don't you see? It's not a lunch, IT'S A SMOKING GUN!!!!!!!"

For once, I wasn’t sucked in on this one, despite multiple nudges from readers. The story was that a pre-schooler’s lunch, lovingly packed by her mom and containing a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips and apple juice, was vetoed by an elementary school diet-cop, who forced her to get an approved cafeteria lunch that consisted of three chicken nuggets. Then the girl’s mother got a “you’re not properly feeding your child’ notice from the school, and a bill for the cafeteria lunch. Pushed my Drudge, picked up by Fox (“Preschooler’s Homemade Lunch Replaced With Nuggets”) and flogged for days by Rush, Sean, Laura, Mark, Bill and the rest of the conservative airwaves and blogosphere, the tale was widely cited as the tipping point of Big Brother unleashed. This was the work of Michelle Obama’s food crusade, and the harbinger of jack-booted indignities to come! Parents told what to feed their kids! The end of Democracy! Barack Obama’s evil plot exposed! Continue reading


Filed under Education, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day on “The NAACP’s ‘Gotcha!’ Games”


An exchange between a spirited newcomer to Ethics Alarms, Roger, and me led to this Comment of the Day by Proam [ whom I keep meaning to ask whether his screen name is pronounced “Proam, ” and in “foam,” or “Pro-Am” } Here is his complex take: I’ll have a response at the end. Proam’s Comment of the Day on “The NAACP’s “Gotcha!” Games” :

“My $.02: the NAACP’s and Roger’s objections to what Santorum said are valid “gotchas.”

“It matters neither what Santorum really meant, nor what is the sum of Santorum’s character and values (call that his “heart”). What he uttered (“blacks”), insofar as how it matters to certain recipients, is off-putting and alarming, regardless of its timing, place, vehemence, or other quality, and therefore must matter to all recipients. It was worse than “lazy;” it betrayed a lack of sensitivity that others have (and are justified and deserving in having) about a matter of justice. It only takes one word – even part of one word; even no words at all but some other fleeting sound or sight, like a raised eyebrow – for one to make oneself clear, even clearer than ever had been intended, or than ever could be communicated with many words. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Race, U.S. Society

The NAACP’s “Gotcha!” Games

Somewhere there must be advocates for the African-American community who realize that the practice of lying in wait for white politicians to make a mis-phrased or politically incorrect statement and then pouncing on them with indignant press releases charging racial insensitivity is counter-productive, feeding mistrust on all sides and tempting many on the political right to just by-pass issues of concern to blacks as a lost cause with a hopelessly biased audience. Somewhere—but not in the NAACP, which has relied for decades on playing “gotcha!” games to flex its PR muscles and appeal to its most racially polarized core. I remember poor Ross Perot speaking to the group in 1988, and being pilloried for referring to an his all-black audience once as “you people.” Of course, Perot was appearing with the expectation that he would explain what a Perot presidency would do to address the problems of African-Americans, a group he was not a member of,  yet the completely self-explanatory and accurate, if clumsy, “you people” was attacked as patronizing and vaguely racist.

Now GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is under fire by the NAACP for this statement: “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.” Continue reading


Filed under Government & Politics, Leadership, Race