Category Archives: Character

I Forgot George Washington’s Birthday! In Penance…

portrait_of_george_washington

If there is any American whose birthday none of us should fail to note and celebrate, it is George Washington. In my case, he is in good company, since I have had difficulty my whole life remembering birthdays of close family members and friends, with the exception of my son’s, once the Boston Red Six finally won their first World Series in 86 years on the same date, and my own, which I have been trying to forget ever since finding my dad dead in his chair on that date eight years ago. Nonetheless, my failure to salute the first and indispensable President is especially disgraceful for an ethics blog, and I apologize both to George and to all of you.

Time flies: I hadn’t issued a post specifically devoted to George’s remarkable character since 2011. (Something has gone seriously wrong when one has 287 posts on Donald Trump and only six about Washington.) In penance, allow me to atone with my favorite entry’s on the list of ethical habits some historians believe made him the remarkably trustworthy and ethical man he was, ultimately leading his fellow Founders to choose him, and not one the many  more brilliant, learned and accomplished among them, to take on the crucial challenge of creating the American Presidency.

Directed to do so by his father, young Washington had copied out by hand and committed to memory a list called “110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation”  It was  based on a document  composed by French Jesuits in 1595; neither the author nor the English translator and adapter are known today. The elder Washington was following the teachings of Aristotle, who held that principles and values began as being externally imposed by authority (morals) and eventually became internalized as character.

The theory certainly worked with George Washington. Those ethics alarms installed by his father stayed in working order throughout his life. It was said that Washington was known to quote the rules when appropriate, and never forgot them. They did not teach him to be a gifted leader, but they helped to make him a trustworthy one.

The list has been available at a link here (under Rule Book, to your left), almost from the beginning of Ethics Alarms. Would that readers would access it more often. Here are my 20 favorite highlights from the list that helped make George George, and also helped George make America America: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Heroes, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy

Comment Of The Day: “The President Is Right About The Mainstream News Media, And It Can’t Handle The Truth, Part III: The Tweet”

sailfishReader Greg boldly ventures into the perilous waters of distinguishing among what the news media calls lies, especially when they involve President Trump. His piece is also a fortuitous companion to this post, which I was completing when his appeared.

Here is Greg’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The President Is Right About The Mainstream News Media, And It Can’t Handle The Truth, Part III: The Tweet”:

The media coverage of “Donald Trump’s lies,” and most recently of the stupid Sweden controversy, conflates several different categories of statements and treats them all as being equally serious. For example, let’s suppose Trump tells this story at one of his rallies:

“I was out on the boat – last week with Bill Clinton – just off the coast a few miles away from Mar a Lago – one of the great resorts of the world, by the way — and pulled in a 9-foot sailfish, the biggest sailfish ever caught. The biggest in those waters. It was a hell of a fight – gigantic fish almost pulled me overboard, one of the hands grabbed me and saved me really, kept me from going in – (Trump mimes himself almost falling into the water and being pulled back, to comic effect) – a Cuban immigrant by the way, a legal one and America can be proud of him.”

And let’s suppose that the next day the New York Times prints a front page story hysterically denouncing this story as a lie. When we read the article, we may find out that Trump’s story was any of the following:

1. An outright lie: Trump has never caught a sailfish in his life.

2. An exaggeration to make Trump look better: The exaggeration may be relatively slight (the sailfish wasn’t 9 feet long; it was 8 feet, which is still an awfully big fish) or gross (it was a 4-foot sailfish, which is puny).

3. An enhancement to make the story more entertaining: Trump is actually a terrific fisherman. He didn’t need any help and never came close to falling into the water.

4. A statement that Trump made without regard to its truth or falsity: The hand has a Hispanic accent but Trump has no idea whether he is a Cuban immigrant or not. He added that part to the story because it supports one of his pet policy positions. Actually, the hand is an American citizen born in Miami, and he is of Guatemalan ancestry, not Cuban.

5. An ignorant, lazy but honest error: The captain flattered Trump by telling him that his sailfish was the biggest ever caught in those waters, and Trump never bothered to look up the facts in a reputable reference source. Actually Trump’s fish was a full foot short of the record.

6. Mis-remembered: The way he remembers it, he was fishing off Mar a Lago that day, but actually he was 1,000 miles away, off the coast of the Dominican Republic.

7. True, but Trump’s thoughts are so much faster than his tongue and his syntax is so garbled that the story gives a false impression: Trump actually caught the fish 5 years ago while fishing with Tiger Woods. Trump didn’t mean he caught the fish with Bill Clinton last week. He meant that he just now had a fleeting thought about an interview with Bill Clinton that he saw last week on TV, which reminds him that he once read in the New York Post that Clinton had gone deep-sea fishing with Ron Burkle, which reminds him of his own triumph with the sailfish. As Trump so often does, he was sharing his train of thought, in a disjointed way, with his audience. The surprising thing is that, often, his gestures and tone of voice convey his meaning clearly to his friendly audience, even though it is completely lost on a hostile press and in transcripts.

8. Either true or false, depending on your point of view: Trump was actually fishing near the Bahamas, 100 miles away from Mar a Lago, which he considers pretty close but the Times considers pretty far. The Times accuses Trump of lying in order to attract fishermen to his resort at Mar a Lago and boost his own profits.

9. True, but said in a context that creates an unfortunate impression, at least in the mind of a hostile press: After the sailfish story, Trump segues into a story about the movie, Jaws, where the protagonist shot a great white shark with a high-powered rifle (“a great, great thing,” says Trump, “and there are a lot of good people in this country – second amendment, NRA – Obama and Clinton wouldn’t let you shoot a shark like that — but now that I’m president you and good Americans like you will have the freedom to do that”), which leads the Times to accuse Trump of shooting sailfish and supporting people who shoot endangered great white sharks and other species of endangered fish and possibly having shot endangered fish himself and maybe even having shot endangered whales and dolphins.

10. True in every detail, but the Times is calling it a lie anyway: The Times says the story creates the false impression that the fishing is good near Mar a Lago, which Trump is implying in order to boost profits from his resort, but the truth is that big sailfish over 7 feet long are rare in those waters and Trump’s record-setting catch was a fluke. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

It’s Presidents Day! Our Special Guests: the 22nd and 24th Presidents, Grover Cleveland [UPDATED]

grover-2

Grover Cleveland has all sorts of unusual distinctions among the Presidents. (No, he wasn’t “normal,” either.)  He was one of several Presidents to drop a more prosaic first name for his less common middle one (like Grant, Wilson,  and Eisenhower). He was the second biggest President at over 250 pounds, and had the largest collar size. Despite his reputation for being a tough guy, Grover ended a string of Civil War heroes elected President by being the only POTUS who had paid a poor man to take his place in the Union army. That was legal, but it was not especially admirable.

Cleveland was one of only two bachelors elected President, and was the only one married in the White House (to a 21-year old beauty, the Melania of her day, who was less than half his age). Grover also lost the Presidency when he ran for re-election despite winning the popular vote, in the most similar election (1888) to our last one. This set up his most famous distinction, serving split terms, as he came back to beat President Harrison in 1892.

My favorite Cleveland tale is how the President pulled off the amazing feat of having part of his jaw removed and replaced with a rubber prosthetic without the public learning about it, by secretly having the operation performed on a yacht.

Ah, but all of these pale compared to his central role in the worst scandal ever to strike in a Presidential campaign, which he survived, incredibly, by telling the truth.

Or so we have been told.

Maybe not.

On July 21, 1884, a bit more than three months from the Presidential election, , the Republican Buffalo Evening Telegraph broke a story that seemed like it would determine who was to be President. Ten years earlier, a Buffalo woman named Maria Halpin had given birth to a son with the surname Cleveland, and then been taken to a mental asylum while the child was adopted by another family. The mother claimed that former Buffalo mayor and current New York Governor and Democratic Presidential nominee Grover Cleveland was the father.

In a remarkably quick display of candor, then or now,  Cleveland admitted that indeed he and  Halpin had been “illicitly acquainted,” and the son might indeed be his. As the only unmarried man among several Cleveland friends who, the campaign implied, may have “known” the woman,  Cleveland had claimed paternity and helped Halpin place the boy with a caring family. Still, this was the Victorian era, and the clergy, in particular, was disgusted.  “It seems to me that a leading question ought to be: do the American people want a common libertine for their president?”  wrote a preacher from Buffalo to the editor of the Chicago Tribune.

While Cleveland, whose nickname was “Grover the Good,” had sex problems, Maine Senator James G. Blaine, the Republican candidate, had been caught taking bribes. Why he was nominated with such a record of dishonesty and influence peddling, I will never understand. (No modern political party would do something that stupid, fortunately.) being able to use the catchy mocking anti-Cleveland chant, “Ma, ma, where’s my Pa?” was a godsend for the struggling Blaine campaign.

To make things worse for Grover, reporters tracked down Halpin, and her version of the relationship differed from the candidate’s in unpleasant ways. Days from the election, the Chicago Tribune quoted her as saying, darkly, “The circumstances under which my ruin was accomplished are too revolting on the part of Grover Cleveland to be made public.”

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History

The President Is Right About The Mainstream News Media, And It Can’t Handle The Truth, Part III: The Tweet

trump-tweet-enemies

Part I in this series began with a random choice of a New York Times anti-President hit piece of the day. This is the one of truths that the mainstream media wants to pretend  doesn’t exist: the intentionally, relentlessly negative, innuendo-filled reporting regarding the Trump administration, with the goal of alarming the public, undermining its trust in the government, weakening his Presidency, or bringing it down entirely. Just to be up to date, let’s look at today’s front page…and what do we find? “A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates.”  The article includes a prominent graphic titled “Donald Trump’s Connections in the Ukraine.” But the article itself, and any research into the individuals shown in the graphic, show no association between Donald Trump and the Ukraine whatsoever. We see…

Andrii V. Artemenko: Ukrainian politician with a peace plan for Ukraine and a file alleging that its president is corrupt.

Felix H. Sater: Russian-American businessman with longstanding ties to the Trump Organization.

Michael D. Cohen: Trump’s personal attorney, under scrutiny from F.B.I. over links with Russia.

Paul Manafort: Former Trump campaign manager with pro-Russian political ties in Ukraine now under investigation by the F.B.I.

There is no evidence or even allegation that Artemenko has even spoken to Trump. Sater was involved in helping businessman Trump seek deals in Russia, and that is all the article tells us about him. Cohen is Trump’s lawyer, and a lawyer’s clients are not “linked” to other clients, unless you think Patty Hearst was “linked” to O.J. Simpson through their mutual lawyer, F. Lee Bailey.

Then there is Manafort, who is not  in the Trump Administration, and was fired from the campaign before the election. Back when he was the campaign manager, Politifact did a “check” on him, and found that he had done political consulting work for Ukrainian politicians. Among the international clients Clinton consultant James Carville lists on his website are politicians in Argentina (lots), Columbia, Bolivia,  and yes, the Ukraine, that’s just “some” of the them, meaning that some of the others either don’t want to be known or wouldn’t make Carville look good if they were known. Was Hillary Clinton “associated” with everyone on Carville’s client list? (Also a Carville client: the late Senator Ted Kennedy, serial pussy-grabber and un-prosecuted negligent homicide suspect). Of course not, but that’s the degree of “association” with the Ukraine that the Times article pins on the President, once you get past the front page headline and graphic. The photo over the online version of the article even shows President Trump, who is barely mentioned in the substance of the piece at all, except in such references as “Mr. Trump’s lawyer.”

Might all of these “associations”—this use of guilt by association would be too attenuated even for Joe McCarthy–eventually add up to something sinister, and a scandal that involves the Trump administration? Sure, anything is possible. THAT would be news. THAT would belong on the front page. THIS story, however, is a dog’s breakfast of innuendo, speculation, “hmmmm..” and nothing. It is fake news…not fraudulent in its facts, fraudulent  in its presentation, placement in the paper and intentional suggestion that what is known justifies suspicion of the President. The defenders of the ongoing journalist attacks on the President continue to argue that fact-based smears and rumor-mongering stories published in major news sources are not “fake news,” and after a story like this, I have to wonder about their honesty too. There is only one way this kind of smoky article makes a front page above the fold.

Now on to the Tweet Heard ‘Round The World. As discussed in Part II, the President was performing  a public service when he told the newsmedia to its reporters’ smug  faces that they were biased, hateful, incompetent and dishonest. Somebody had to do it. Their supposed “watchdogs” like CNN’s Brian Stelter won’t do it, because he is too busy bashing the President himself while defending his pals.

It would be much better if someone in academia, or a prominent journalist pointed out how terrible a biased and untrustworthy news media is for the nation, but this is the Left’s attempted coup, after all. Try finding an objective authority in academia or journalism. So the leader of the nation, on national television, has to tell the self-congratulatory journalists that they are failing their duty to the nation, which is to inform the public. They see their duty as bringing down a President their Progressive Masters hate.  In other words, the President is saying, essentially..

The follow-up tweet elaborated by specifying just how much of a betrayal this is, saying,

The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

Look at this as the second slap. Better yet, look at it as the journalism version of Ronald Reagan slapping the Soviet Union with the well-deserved label, “The Evil Empire.”  Many commentators, including former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, traced the beginning of the unraveling of the Iron Curtain to Reagan’s brutal frankness. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Rights, Social Media, U.S. Society

The President Is Right About The Mainstream News Media, And It Can’t Handle The Truth, Part II: The Press Conference

press-conference

Based on the hysterical—yes, that’s a fair word—reaction from pundits and reporters to the President’s news conference last week, I assumed there had to be something that the transcript didn’t pick up, like he was wearing a Gooney bird on his head, or naked, or bit someone. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews called the President “manic” and compared him to Soviet spy Alger Hiss.  Brian Williams described it as an unhinged” press conference “brought to you by narcissism, thin-skinned chaos, and deeply personal grievances.” CBS This Morning’s  co-host Norah O’Donnell called the 77 minute affair “astonishing…an unprecedented display of accusations and exaggerations.” Fellow co-host Gayle King chimed in: “The President’s outburst of frustration left many observers bewildered.”

A response to the session that really was unhinged came from New York Times columnist David Brooks, who clarified for  me what the indignant political elite sound like when they have finally been backed into a corner, writing,

“Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.”

From this, Brooks concluded, disgracefully,

“This does not feel like a sustainable operation. On the other hand, I have trouble seeing exactly how this administration ends. Many of the institutions that would normally ease out or remove a failing president no longer exist.”

Damn elections! What does Brooks think he is talking about? Trump has accomplished many things he promised to do in less than a month; it is one of the most productive first 30 days any President has had in history. He has appointed an excellent Supreme Court Justice. The stock market is booming. When has any President been judged “failing” or been “eased out” after a month, or three, or six, or ever, absent criminal activity? Never. Brooks, like Democrats and the news media, are pronouncing the Trump Presidency dead because they don’t like him, his style, or what he wants to do. That does not justify writing as if he has done anything to justify removing him, except that this is the theme of the “resistance.”

Citing cherry-picked negative polls, like, say, the ones that said Trump had no chance of winning the election, Brooks then gives his blessing to undemocratic, insubordinate and seditious conduct to undermine an elected President:

“The Civil Service has a thousand ways to ignore or sit on any presidential order. The court system has given itself carte blanche to overturn any Trump initiative, even on the flimsiest legal grounds. The intelligence community has only just begun to undermine this president.”

A responsible newspaper doesn’t publish this.

Then I watched the whole conference.  I thought back to the first debate, which I thought Trump blew horribly. Charles Krauthammer sneered after the debate and said it was the end of Trump’s candidacy, and that everyone could see now that he was shallow, clownish, and unfit to lead. I agreed heartily.

Clearly, Charles and I missed something. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, U.S. Society

Weekend Ethics Alarms Challenge: What’s The Best Headline For This Story?

turning-tables

[The winning headline will be added to the post, and an appropriate graphic will replace “the turning table.”]

April Ryan, a reporter for American Urban Radio Networks,  accused White House aide Omarosa Manigault of telling her, during a tense exchange at the White House last week,
that Ryan  she was among a group of reporters on whom the White House is keeping dossiers with negative information. Ryan claimed that she was  “physically intimidated” by Manigault, and described Manigault’s behavior as threatening enough to be “Secret Serviceable,” implying  that it warranted intervention by law enforcement officers. The accusation was widely circulated on the web as an example of the President’s “Nazi” conduct toward the news media.

Manigault denied Ryan’s accusations, and called them “fake news.” Ah, but now we learn that a White House media employee recorded the encounter, and the recording backs up Omarosa.

Ryan, amusingly, is outraged and claiming to be a victim of a surreptitious  recording  she never consented to. “This is about her trying to smear my name. This is freaking Nixonian.” April says she may sue… for slander?

Here is one more example of how smug and self-righteous journalists are also often as ignorant as a pile of dog collars. Making such a recording is legal under D.C. law, which has a “one-party consent” law that recordings  if one person in the conversation consents. As for a slander suit, how would that work? The tape would be evidence that April Ryan slandered Manigault, not the other way around.

Ryan claims that the tape must have been altered. Sure she does. The Washington Post and other sources report that other journalists on the scene do not back Ryan’s account of the argument between the two women, and nobody heard anything about “dossiers.”

Manigault told reporters that White House media staff regularly record interviews between reporters and officials. “We do it all the time,” she said. “When you come into [the press staff’s offices], you’re on the record.”

When you know that the entire mainstream news media is out to get you, and that there are reporters like Ryan, taping everything makes perfect sense.

Nah, the news media isn’t “the opposition party.” Nah, it’s not biased–whatever would give you that idea?

(Kudos to the Washington Post for reporting this media bias smoking gun, incidentally.)

______________________

Pointer: Powerline

Source: Washington Post

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts, and seek written permission when appropriate. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work or property was used in any way without proper attribution, credit or permission, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

From The “You Keep Using That Word…I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means” Files: A Cheap Shot From The Heroes

Many conservatives are cheering this open letter from 14 Medal of Honor recipients to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.):

Dear Sen. Richard Blumenthal,

You recently called upon your Senate colleagues to subject Judge Neil Gorsuch’s record to “extreme vetting,” questioning both his qualification and biography. The Senate certainly has the right and obligation to closely review any nominee for the United States Supreme Court. Conversely, it is our right as Americans and veterans to scrutinize your hypocrisy in doing so.

We are veterans of the Vietnam War. We fought alongside our brothers in arms, many of whom died or were gravely injured there. We saw the treatment meted out on us and our fellow military personnel upon our return, yet we never questioned our commitment to our nation’s freedom. But perhaps more relevant to this discussion is that we know you were not there with us.

The fact you repeatedly and consistently claimed to have served in Vietnam is a gross case of stolen valor in our opinion. You obtained at least five military deferments between 1965 and 1970, at least two of which were seemingly political favors to you so that you could avoid joining us in a war zone. Here are just a few examples where it appears that you have chosen to buttress your political resume by shamefully inflating your record of military service:

In 2003, you apparently stated, “When we returned [from Vietnam], we saw nothing like this [a public outpouring of support for deployed military personnel].”

In 2008, the New York Times reported you said, “We have learned something important since the days I served in Vietnam …”

At a Vietnam War memorial in 2008, it is reported you stated, “I served during the Vietnam era … I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even the physical abuse.”

We recognize that military service of any kind is valuable to the protection of our nation’s freedom. There is no shame in engaging in “Toys for Tots” campaigns, recycling efforts, or assisting in the improvement or construction of various facilities, which appears to be a fair description of the bulk of your duties during the Vietnam War.

What is offensive to those who fought in a most brutal conflict, some of us who were captured and tortured by our enemy, is any comparison of those most brutal experiences to the ones of people like you who never even sniffed the air in Vietnam.

The letter’s description of the Senator’s lies before being elected a U.S. Senator is accurate. The fact that he did not withdraw from consideration when those lies were exposed, that the Democratic Party allowed him to stand for election anyway, and worst of all, that Connecticut voters debased their state and the U.S. Senate by electing him demonstrated the creeping progressive ethics rot among liberals that has only worsened since.

However, Blumenthal was not engaging in hypocrisy by calling for extreme the judge’s vetting. It would have been hypocrisy if he proclaimed that no public official who has inflated his biography or faked credentials is worthy of public office. That’s not what he said, however. Indeed, if there is anyone qualified to testify to the importance of vetting the qualifications of apparently qualified nominees, it’s Sen. Blumenthal.

No, the letter is an ad hominem attack, and the ethics breach has been committed by its signatories. If they have an objection to his call for “extreme vetting, ” they should rebut it on the merits. Instead, they attacked the individual rather than his argument. That is the essence of ad hominem. Their attack was “to the man” rather than to his position.

The two terms for unethical conduct most often used inaccurately to sustain accusations are, ironically, hypocrisy and ad hominem attacks. You don’t often see both misused in the same matter, though.

______________________

Pointer: Washington Examiner

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Public Service, Quotes, War and the Military