Saturday Ethics Warm-Up: “Is Anybody There? Does Anybody Care?”

Ultimately, it will all come down to…

  • many Americans are paying attention.
  • …how many Americans are smart enough to connect the dots
  • …how many still want the United States to be the bastion of individual liberty it was designed to be, and
  • …how many American care.

1. I know, I know…polls. Still, the polls we have seem to indicate that outgoing, supposedly maligned and detested Donald Trump has a higher approval rating than incoming President Joe Biden…this, despite the news media drooling all over the latter and a pending second impeachment trial against the former, near constant hyper-insulting anti-Trump verbiage from all sides, and his own infantile, irresponsible and unpresidential behavior since the election. This itself is circumstantial evidence that the election was squirrelly.

Of course, one explanation is that Democrats and progressives hated Trump more vociferously than the President’s supporters cared about keeping him in office. In that case, Republicans and conservatives and whatever Trump’s non-Republican, non-conservative fans are have only themselves to blame, regardless of the shenanigans around the vote-counting.

I stated here many times that I did not believe a President could be elected based on hate. I guess I was wrong.

2. All bias, great and small….Tom Newton Dunn, a British journalist, highlighted the elitist, privileged, autocratic style of America’s now-former President with this tweet…

Diet coke button

It was quickly pointed out by others that President Obama had the same button on his desk.

O button

To be fair, I can’t find any evidence that Obama’s button summoned a Diet Coke. It may have brought a staffer with a mirror, so he could gaze at himself, a secret cigarette, or his Nobel Peace Prize. President Clinton’s button called for…oh, never mind.

3. Before I forget...Larry King died. King denied being a journalist, and certainly by today’s standards (or lack of them) he wasn’t. He was an interviewer, and gifted one, like David Frost, Tom Snyder, David Susskind and Jack Paar. He did not display any bias or political agendas, and I believe that he managed to suppress the former and did not possess the latter. As a result, King often gave his audiences more news than they would have received from a typical “60 Minutes” interrogation.

I have one trivial story about my only encounter with King. Decades ago, at a Hyatt in Kansas City during an association convention I was managing, I saw King walking briskly across the giant open lobby more than 50 years away. For some reason I was moved to call out to him, “Hey, Larry King!” He immediately stopped, turned around, and waved vigorously, smiling broadly. “Hey!” he yelled. “How are ya? Great seeing you!” and continued on his way.

That, I’d say, is signature significance for a nice guy.

4. Oh, no! The “appearance” of bias. On July 23, 2019, the Washington Post published this:

It was the Fourth of July, Independence Day, and Kamala Harris was explaining to her sister, Maya, that campaigns are like prisons.

She’d been recounting how in the days before the Democratic debate in Miami life had actually slowed down to a manageable pace. Kamala, Maya and the rest of the team had spent three days prepping for that contest in a beach-facing hotel suite, where they closed the curtains to blot out the fun. But for all the hours of studying policy and practicing the zingers that would supercharge her candidacy, the trip allowed for a break in an otherwise all-encompassing schedule.

“I actually got sleep,” Kamala said, sitting in a Hilton conference room, beside her sister, and smiling as she recalled walks on the beach with her husband and that one morning SoulCycle class she was able to take.

“That kind of stuff,” Kamala said between sips of iced tea, “which was about bringing a little normal to the days, that was a treat for me.”

“I mean, in some ways it was a treat,” Maya said. “But not really.”

“It’s a treat that a prisoner gets when they ask for, ‘A morsel of food please,’ ” Kamala said shoving her hands forward as if clutching a metal plate, her voice now trembling like an old British man locked in a Dickensian jail cell. “‘And water! I just want wahtahhh….’Your standards really go out the f—ing window.”

Kamala burst into laughter.

As Reason points out, Harris made her name as a prosecutor, and her track record includes defending dirty cops and laughing off criticism of her history of throwing poor parents in jail when their kids missed school. As I’ll point out, little of this record, and certainly not the Post anecdote, was brought up during the Democratic candidate’s debates, nor was it mentioned by the journalist moderators in those or the one Vice-President candidates debate. Of course, Harris apparently didn’t fool anyone, or not enough voters anyway, since she received no delegates from the primaries and was emphatically rejected by her party’s voters.

The nauseating story was removed this month from the Post’s profile of Harris, replaced with a new opening anecdote that compares Harris’ relationship with her sister to that of former President John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby. (Wait—the Harrises share adulterous sex partners?) The rest of the piece appears nearly identical to the version originally published in July 2019. Links to the original piece began redirecting to the Bowdlerized version.

After Reason blew the whistle, the Post restored the original interview. “‘We should have kept both versions of the story on the Post’s site (the original and updated one), rather than redirecting to the updated version,’ Kris Coratti, the Post’s vice president for communications, told Reason in yesterday. ‘We have now done that, and you will see the link to the original at the top of the updated version.”

Translation: “You caught us. Damn.”

Reason writes in part,

Still, the decision to remove that specific passage—and to replace it with a puffy opening about how Maya has “been a constant companion along Kamala Harris’s journey into history”—is questionable at best. Yes, Harris’ inauguration as America’s first female vice president is historic, but that’s no reason to ignore or erase her troubling history as a cop and politician. It also raises questions about the Post’s approach to covering Harris going forward. At a time when legacy publications are increasingly seen as playing for one political “team” or the other, this type of editorial decision will not do anything to fix that perception—is there any doubt that the Post would not have treated an inartful comment from Mike Pence in the same way?

Intentional or not, the memory-holing of the older version of the piece sends a message that the Post is willing to pave over its own good journalism to protect a powerful politician from her own words.

Oh, I have to comment on that…

  • Questionable“? Gee, I wonder if the Washington Post is going out of its way to protect a Democratic Party official, exactly as it went out of its way to make a Republican President and Vice-President as unpopular as possible.  Can anyone answer that “question”?
  • “It also raises questions about the Post’s approach to covering Harris going forward”? Does Reason really think nobody had previously noticed that the Post has become a propaganda agent for the Left? Was the Post’s intent ever in “question” for anyone paying attention?
  • “Perception”? There isn’t a perception that the news media is biased. That’s reality. This isn’t an unfortunate mistake that plays into a false “perception.” This is one more example of what had gone on for years.

5. Res ipsa loquitur! New York Times’ hate-monger Paul Krugman asks a stupid question, and independent (and disgusted) real journalist Glenn Greenwald slam-dunks him:

Krugman tweet

Greenwald tweet

13 thoughts on “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up: “Is Anybody There? Does Anybody Care?”

  1. This is embarrassing: my initial impetus for the title was all the news of pandemic measures being relaxed and the daily scaremongering about Wuhan deaths leaving the front pages now that a GOOD President is in office, and then I got distracted by other items and left it out.

    I’ll get to it eventually…

  2. 5. Wait. Paul Krugman is drawing attention to Plan Whatever it is, using the Capitol riots as an excuse to defeat Trump or put a stake through his political heart? That’s pretty brazen. He’s questioning his own team? Isn’t that treasonous?

    • I read Krugman’s tweet as a taunt. He’s trying to egg on the “insurrectionists”, because, as Greenwald perfectly calls out, it was always a damp squib, not a “threat to democracy”. Krugman and his disgusting ilk *need* their opponents to be violent and scary, because it’s hard to effectively demonize a bunch of middle class people who just want less authoritarian control over their lives.

        • Has Krugman ever been right about anything important? I mean, his predictions about the internet worked out so well. He usually is 100% wrong about the impact of policies on the economy. His Nobel Prize-winning theory doesn’t seem to be widely acclaimed as successful. He appears to be another academic that cultivates an appearance of being a well-respected authority, but just writes partisan justification for Democrats and Democratic policies. In other words, he is an academic Kardashian, with a less successful track record.

  3. #1. I can’t take credit for this, but it’s gold. Imagine what public polling for Biden would look like after 4 years of this kind of reporting:

    WASHINGTON—Joe Biden became the oldest president in American history on Wednesday under a cloud of controversy. Questions continue to swirl about his physical and mental health, while personal scandals continue to haunt the incoming commander in chief, potentially undermining his ability to lead the country in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

    Biden, 78, delivered a relatively short, reasonably coherent inaugural address in front of a sparse crowd of supporters and thousands of National Guard troops mobilized in an overzealous display of military force. Partisan media outlets hailed the speech as one of the greatest rhetorical achievements in the history of politics and described Biden’s inauguration as “a majestic day” and “the dawn of a new era.”

    Biden, who at one point likened himself—without evidence—to Abraham Lincoln, declined to address the still-unresolved claim of sexual assault by former staffer Tara Reade and did not discuss the federal government’s ongoing investigation of his son, Hunter Biden, who is suspected of laundering money and committing tax fraud related to his questionable business ventures in China and Ukraine.

    After the speech, which included an emotional (if unconvincing) appeal for “unity,” Biden proceeded to erase several years’ worth of Trump administration policies with the stroke of a pen. The president signed a whopping 17 executive orders to amend federal policy without the consent of Congress, further straining the historic bounds of the Constitution.

    The unprecedented display of executive authority was followed by Biden’s norm-shattering decision to fire Peter Robb, general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board, in a blatant effort to appease Big Labor organizations that spent millions backing Democrats in 2020. Robb, whose four-year term was set to expire later this year, was terminated after he refused to resign voluntarily.

    Meanwhile, Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Labor came under fire for funneling cash to one of the president’s top advisers. Months before he was announced as Biden’s nominee for labor secretary, Boston mayor Marty Walsh began using campaign funds to pay SKDKnickerbocker, the consulting firm founded by senior White House adviser Anita Dunn, for “consulting” services. The firm has raked in a total of $90,000 from Walsh since September 2020.

    Despite his nominal commitment to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Biden was photographed at the Lincoln Memorial flaunting his own executive order, signed hours earlier, mandating the use of masks on federal property. Other members of the Biden family were also seen disregarding the public-safety measure, as the U.S. set a record for most COVID-19 deaths in a single day (4,409).

    The following day, the Biden administration cynically accused the Trump administration of failing to produce a vaccine-distribution plan. Even hardcore Democratic loyalists such as Politico editor Sam Stein were forced to admit the accusations were “not true.”

    While the Biden administration scrambled to confront the pandemic, which began in a communist country with ties to the president’s son, the partisan press eagerly sought to change the subject by reporting on the problematic changes to the Oval Office interior. The new additions, which Biden reportedly approved, included portraits of Franklin D. Roosevelt, architect of the racist Japanese-internment policy, and Benjamin Franklin, a notorious brothel hound.

  4. 1, We grow up being taught that laughter makes the world go round and love is the most powerful force in the universe. It’s not. Great lovers usually don’t get farther than heading for a house just big enough for two by the shore or some other romantic location and letting the rest of the world go to hell. Once in a while you get some noble humanitarians motivated by love like some of the saints (if you can separate the legends from the facts), polymath Albert Schweitzer, missionary Mother Teresa, or apostle of nonviolence Gandhi (and all these people have their critics), but even they had their limits. Competition is a much more powerful force, it’s the force that drove the U.S. to put a man on the moon before the Soviets could beat them to it. Profit is a much more powerful force, it’s profit that drives most of the advances in science and technology. Finally, like it or not, hate is a much more powerful force. It’s hate that was the driving force behind most of history’s massacres, from the day Bai Qi ordered a quarter million defeated Zhao soldiers to be buried alive, to the Catholics hacking the Hugenots to death on the Feast of St. Bartholomew, to the Holocaust, up the Hutus and Tutsis chopping each other up this century. It’s hate that was a driving force behind the greatest wars in history – the Christians hated the Muslims and pagans and vice versa, the Huns hated everyone, and so on. It’s hate that led this group or that group to oppress the other. It’s also hate that flew airliners into buildings. It is totally and completely possible that people whipped up into hate could swing an election against the person they have been conditioned to hate.

    2. (shrug) This doesn’t come as a surprise. Hell, National Review is now stomping all over Trump, talking about he leaves mighty small, he’s probably destroyed the GOP, and they knew this day was coming all the way. Never kick someone when he’s down, right? Wrong.

    3. Pity, these celebrity deaths always seem to come in clusters.

    4. Just business as usual at Jeff Bezos’ very own version of Pravda.

    5. Glenn Greenwald is absolutely right. Domestic terrorism has been a favorite boogeyman of the Democratic Party since at least the Clinton years, with the botched raids on Ruby Ridge and Waco that led to multiple deaths, the subsequent painting of Federal agents as “jackbooted thugs” and the reaction from the not-so-crazy right including Bush the Elder, the far right “Just Us” township in Montana, and then the Unabomber, the bombings in Oklahoma and at the Atlanta Olympics, all attributable to racist or anarchist kooks. Obama didn’t really push the domestic terror angle, but he did push the racist angle, and he did push an anti-law enforcement angle. Right now there is a presumption in this country that anyone even vaguely conservative is a potential racist, or a closet racist who’s just hiding it well. There’s also a belief that anyone who isn’t black or brown has benefited from systemic racism, consciously or not. Finally, there’s a belief that anyone who challenges these beliefs is a potential domestic terrorist or enabler. It’s a similar attitude that some on the conservative side have about Islamic terror turned toward whites.

    I know that because I am one of those conservatives, and I am familiar with the idea that anyone Islamic is a potential terrorist, a potential terrorist supporter, or a terrorist supporter who just hides it well, and therefore none of them should be fully trusted. I’m familiar with the idea that everyone who believes like that can’t help themselves, because they are marinated from birth in hatred of the West and anything not Islamic. I’m all too familiar with the attitude that anyone who challenges these beliefs can be dismissed with a quip along the lines of “You know what the difference between a radical Muslim and a moderate Muslim is? The radical Muslim is the guy doing the bombing, and the moderate Muslim is the guy hiding him, protecting him, lying for him, supplying him, and telling the rest of the world all of Islam isn’t like him.”

    The attitude is applicable in some way or another to all groups: the women who believe every man is a potential rapist, the xenophobes who say everyone with a Spanish last name is a potential drug dealer or gang member, the emerging cop-haters who say every man with a badge is a potential racist killer, and you know the rest. This is a problematic attitude, because it splits society into two groups: your tribe, and the tribe you don’t trust. It’s not an acceptable attitude for government to have, and it’s not an acceptable attitude to allow to “bleed” into the enforcement and prosecutorial apparatus. Enforcement and prosecution need to be free of assumptions, free of bias, and free of passion. Otherwise, they’re just weapons for whoever gets in power, by whatever means.

  5. #5 – Anyone with a passing understanding of guerilla warfare knows why nothing happened on inauguration day. You don’t hit your enemy where they are strong, you hit them where they are weak and exposed.
    If DC stays in it’s present state with 26,000 soldiers and a wall around the capital that is better than Trump’s wet dream, the nutjobs who stormed the capital win. People will have an even stronger negative view of congress if it remains a fortress.
    The federal government also can’t protect the homes of every single member of congress, the offices in their home district, their family. Nor can they protect every family member, and even if they try, they turn them all into prisoners of the security.
    The mainstream media and tech giants are also quite vulnerable. I’m sure the big name CEO’s have some decent security, but the secret service they are not.

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