Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/11/17

1.  Mainstream media bias has been such a frequent topic on Ethics Alarms that I hesitate to focus on it even when, against all odds, what passes for American journalism has another rotting chunk fall off.  The reaction of most of the media to the Comey testimony was a huge chunk, once again shocking me when I didn’t think my regard for this unprofessional profession could sink lower. Some commentators yesterday (they were conservative, but there is no reason a fair and objective liberal wouldn’t and shouldn’t come to the same conclusion) said that we are witnessing the birth of a mainstream media-progressive fusion political party. This is not a hysterical analysis. The New York Times coverage of the Comey hearing, for example, was so misleading and dishonest as to eliminate that paper from ever being regarded as a reliable political analyst again, at least until it cleans house and issues an abject apology to the nation. Ethics Alarms reader Greg did an excellent job detailing the Times’ disgraceful anti-Trump/pro-resistance spin in the thread on the Comey testimony post, as did journalist commenter Tippy Scales.

The Times knows its first take was untenable; you can tell by its editorial today, in which it already is changing the subject. If Comey had laid a glove on Trump (and he didn’t) regarding  impeachable conduct and a route to removing him—which was the Left’s fervent hope and the resistance’s confirmation bias-driven fantasy—the Times would have been  shaking its fist and demanding action in it Sunday pronouncement. Instead, it offered an extended whine about how Paul Ryan excused Trump’s clumsy handling of his communications with Comey by citing Trump’s inexperience, but that he had condemned President Obama for his inexperience, as if the two positions are inconsistent. First, they are not: Ryan did not support Trump’s nomination, though political inexperience was the least of his disqualifications. Second, the President’s cluelessness is directly relevant to the weaker than weak argument that he was obstructing justice by having the kinds of conversations with a subordinate that is commonplace in a business setting. The Times, as it has been doing a lot lately, simply assumes away an insuperable obstruction to its “resistance” position, , saying that “The president obviously knows that it’s wrong to interfere in an investigation.”

Like Hillary Clinton, apparent cyber-dolt,  “obviously” knew that using a private server for State Department business violated classified communications law?

The same logic that Comey himself used to give Clinton a Stay Out Of Jail pass applies to Trump’s statements to Comey, but far more reasonably. Not only was he not, as Ryan said, “steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between D.O.J., F.B.I. and White Houses,” the President  wasn’t interfering in the Flynn  investigation by telling Comey he hoped it would end, and he couldn’t interfere in the Russian investigation by firing the FBI director. The Times editorial reveals the real impetus behind the paper’s determination to bring down the President who dared to be elected by “deplorables” who don’t march to the Times’ ideological lock-step: Trump “[struts] about at the head of the party, insulting everyone and everything in sight: staff members, allies, laws, diplomatic decorum and common sense.”

Yes, for once the Times is reporting accurately, but that’s not grounds for removing an elected President, and it does not justify misrepresenting facts to create a public groundswell based on bias, hate, fear and ignorance.

2. And when it is clear that the news media and the Democrats are coordinating in an “Anti-Trump” party, what is a responsible stance for the Trump Administration regarding news organizations who wave the anti-Trump banner at the expense of fair reporting?

3. Something moved me to revisit an Entertainment Weekly article about Michael Moore that I kept for a post that never got written. What is so remarkable about it is that Moore condemns Trump and Republicans for doing exactly what he and the “resistance” have been doing since November without a hint of self-awareness, irony or embarrassment. Consider this incredible statement from Moore:

“I think that we’ve gone through is 40 years of a country being dumbed down. We defunded our schools… the arts have been canceled, civics class is gone in a third to half of our schools now… a certain political party took over in 1980. I think that’s really where it began. I think the equation is simple. It’s the American equation: Dumb down the population and make them ignorant and stupid. Ignorance leads to fear, right? Fear leads to hate. Trump knew that part of the equation very well. Hate leads to violence, [and in this case you can] use your ballot as an act of violence against people you hate.”

Moore has made his fortune spreading disinformation in slanted propaganda documentaries that distort facts to push his political agenda. Who “defunded” schools? Schools have larger budgets now than ever. Department of Education edicts have overburdened public schools with tasks and responsibilities that have little to do with education. One of the Democratic Party’s greatest allies, the teachers’ unions, have blocked reform and accountability. Teachers overwhelmingly vote Democrat, but Republicans have dumbed down the schools?

In his this single paragraph, Moore makes anyone who takes him seriously more ignorant. “A certain political party “took over” in 1980?  That’s funny: my sources show the Democrats in charge of the House for 15 years after 1980,  then again from 2007-2011  (and the Senate from 2007-2015). It also has had 16 years of Democratic Presidents since 1980. Who’s trying to make tte public ignorant and stupid, Michael? As for “fear and hate,” what has the entire attack on President Trump by Democrats been based on since November 9, 2016? Hitler? Traitor? Racist? Dictator? Monster? Tyrant? “Illegitimate President?”  Moore said of Trump,  “You have to protect the population from him like you do with a pedophile,” and compared Trump voters to terrorists. What is this rhetoric designed for, if not to promote fear and hate?

Violence? You mean like circulating images of the President’s severed head?

The Public Theater’s  “Shakespeare In the Park” production this year between May 23 and June 18 is an adaptation of “Julius Caesar” with a Donald Trump avatar as Caeser , who is, as those literate among you know, stabbed to  death  in a political assassination. No similar public evocation was ever offered by Moore’s hated Republicans, even after they “took over.”

4.  I noticed yesterday that the MSM had begun spinning CNN’ dismissal of Reza Aslan as based on his “criticism of President Trump,” as if calling the President a “piece of shit” was incidental. Here is a jaw-dropping piece in Mediate, claiming that firing this crude, unprofessional demagogue who never should have been hired at all proves that CNN is “giving in to vigilante justice––even if just online” and that the firing “sets a dangerous precedent moving forward.”

Firing an employee who issues crude ad hominem attacks on the President of the United States is “a dangerous precedent.”  Colby Hall, the writer of this embarrassing thing, needs to be asked how long it would have taken CNN to fire any host who called Barack Obama a “piece of shit.” What was wrong with CNN’s conduct in this case is that it waited for the online critics to tell them what was the right thing to do, when a responsible and ethical network wouldn’t have had to be told.

5. The Huffington Post really did think this essay  was worthy of publication, a classic brain-eating  anti-Trump virus case in which a law professor (do NOT go to Thomas Jefferson School of Law!) argues that President Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris climate deal “constitutes an impeachable offense” and a crime against humanity. Prof. Marjorie Cohn’s theory is that since voters are supposed to “trust the president to act in their best interests and protect them from harm,” Trump’s decision on global warming has “violat[ed] the trust that ‘We the People’ have placed in him”:

“If the climate continues to change at a rapid rate, society itself will be injured. As the glaciers melt and the oceans swell, the land will recede. Crops will die. Mosquitos will increasingly carry diseases. The Earth will be hit with massive floods, devastating heat waves and drought. Polar bears will become extinct. People will lose their lands, their homes and their lives. Indeed, life as we know it will come to an end. Moreover, by withdrawing the United States from the climate accord, Trump has committed a crime against humanity, which also constitutes a High Crime.”

At the risk of insulting readers by pointing out the obvious, the professor’s reasoning would justify impeachment any time a majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate believes that a President’s policies are not in the best interests of the public, such as, for example, letting illegal immigrants stay in the country, allowing the national debt to grow, enacting a health care law that doesn’t work or paying Iran billions to wait a while before nuking Israel, and maybe us. The professor also seems not to have read the Paris climate agreement, which would have shown her the exiting the deal has no substantive effects at all, much less constituting a “crime against humanity.”

7 Comments

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7 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/11/17

  1. Jeff H.

    “Schools have larger budgets now than ever.”

    Do they? Is that just because of inflation? What’s the average spent per student, compared to what it was in 1960? There’s certainly more students around these days.

    • As best as I can determine from various studies, expenditures per student, not counting capital expenditures, has more than doubled in inflation adjusted dollars. By no interpretation have schools been “defunded.”

    • Mrs. Q

      Hi Jeff. This info comes from Sen. Ben Sasse’s book The Vanishing American Adult:

      In 2013 the US spent $620 billion on public & secondary schools or $12,300 per pupil (adjusted for inflation). Congress appropriated $67 billion for the Dept. of Edu. in 2014, up from $56 billion in 2004, $25 billion in 1994, and $14 billion in 1984.

      This would mean the federal spending on school has quintupled over the last 30 years.

      I have not verified Mr. Sasse’s figures personally however if they are correct, one thing to note is increased spending hasn’t improved math or reading scores in 8-12 graders.

  2. 2. And when it is clear that the news media and the Democrats are coordinating in an “Anti-Trump” party, what is a responsible stance for the Trump Administration regarding news organizations who wave the anti-Trump banner at the expense of fair reporting?

    I wrote this on another thread, in response to fattymoon’ assertion that headline create reality (among other things.). I think it applies here.

    “There is such a thing as objective truth, statutory law, and fair play, despite all progressive attempts to destroy them in this nation. Jack thinks you will come to your senses. I am not so sure, given your attitude. Your side was corrupt, condescending, pompous, incompetent, and just plain slimy; it was exposed and we got a joker in the deck (pushed on us by YOUR side, a proven collusion between your party and the MSM) as POTUS.

    Grow up. Accept that your side ran things for a decade, and now we have another direction, as dictated by the rules by which America has peacefully transferred power her entire existence. Otherwise your side is the party pushing for another civil war, just like the first time. How did that turn out for Democrats?

    Have progressives learned nothing? Democrats abused the rules, traditions, and process for decades, and Trump used the same tactics against them, the first time a GOP candidate got away with it, because enough of their self declared ‘deplorable’ enemies decided that enough is enough. What does that tell you? If progressives continue to lower the discourse, they will be met with the same by those they vilify, in simple self defense.

    Please stop this. The cost to my side is too high to stop you, but I fear stop you they will, losing who they are, what they stand for, in the process.

    This will not end well.”

    • It already has not ended well. Fatty, a smart, sensitive, wise man, has enlisted with the idea that it is acceptable to take the position that it’s all about which “truth” you accept, and that objective facts don’t exist. It’s hard to rank the Left’s most dangerous constructs, but this one is up there.

      I would advise Trump to require that any news organization seeking cooperation from his administration pledge objectivity in the future, sign a commitment to journalism ethics principles, and acknowledge its biased reporting in the past. Then deal with the new media only, applying the same standards.

  3. iRock

    Law Prof. Marjorie Cohn is actually emeritus of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law after “teaching” for 25 years and she no longer poisons students in the classroom but she continues to espouse those causes dear to the left in public forums. In truth, impeachment is a political decision and the House may draft charges based on whatever the legislature chooses even if the charges are unethical.

    • That’s not how the Constitution views it. Sure, the Congress can use illicit reasons to draft impeachment articles, and once that is done, we have no more popular Democracy. That was the Andrew Johnson lesson: don’t be smug. She used that old fave of the anti-democracy crowd, Alexander Hamilton, just like those who argued that the Electoral College should and could overturn the will of the people. Just because a process is “political” doesn’t mean anything goes.

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