Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/23/2020: You Know, If People Keep Putting Impeachment Ethics Fouls In Front Of Me, I May Have To Comment On Them

Good Morning!

January 23 is a big day in ethics, good and bad. In 1964, poll taxes were finally banned via the 24th Amendment. In 1973, peace was finally declared in the Vietnam War (though it was hardly the “peace with honor” President Nixon called it.)In 1977, “Roots” debuted as a TV mini-series, helping to educate millions of Americans who knew very little about slavery.  In 1988, the Challenger exploded as a result of an engineering ethics breakdown. On this day in 1998, Bill Clinton looked America in the eye and denied having sex with Monica. Of course, he wasn’t lying, because he meant “sexual intercourse.” Sure. And finally, in 1989, Ted Bundy was electrocuted. Good.

1. Impeachment notes. I will not watch the trial, but these kinds of things that come to my attention cannot be ignored:

Instead, we are here today to consider a much more grave matter, and that is an attempt to use the powers of the presidency to cheat in an election. For precisely this reason, the President’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box—for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won. In corruptly using his office to gain a political advantage, in abusing the powers of that office in such a way as to jeopardize our national security and the integrity of our elections, in obstructing the investigation into his own wrongdoing, the President has shown that he believes that he is above the law and scornful of constraint.

Good Lord. Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Month, “Enemy Of The People” Division: CNN Reporter Joe Lockhart

Yup…a CNN journalist tweeted out a lie , let it go viral, then came back later and said he made it up, but we “know” it’s true.

A trustworthy news organization would fire a reporter who did this immediately. CNN has not and will not, because CNN is  not a trustworthy organization.

On a related track, Matt Laszlo, a journalist who works at The Daily Beast and NPR, tweeted, 
Continue reading

Why Ethics Alarms Won’t Cover The Impeachment Trial

I’m not going to waste time watching the impeachment trial, nor will I waste time reading what the media says about it. The ethics issue was settled before the House vote impeaching Trump was even completed. That issue is simple: the effort by the Democrats to abuse the impeachment clause in the Constitution as a partisan tactic designed to obstruct and harass the President and harm his chances for re-election is one of the most dishonest, dastardly, undemocratic political schemed in U.S. history. It is terribly damaging to the stability of the republic and creates a disastrous precedent that threatens all future Presidents.

For this reason, the impeachment effort must fail. It would be important for it to fail even if the Democratic Party’s articles of impeachment stated genuine impeachable  offenses, which they do not. Only failure, followed by an overwhelming  public rejection of the party responsible for in the coming election might begin to heal the gaping wounds the past three years have opened.

Since the House process was a sham, the Republican majority’s determination to give the impeachment articles the bum’s rush and end the trial as quickly as possible is fair, legally justified and politically wise. The Democrats want to use the process as a free anti-Trump infomercial, much as they exploited the Mueller Report for the same purpose. Some measure of that is unavoidable, but it must not be permitted to go on one second longer than absolutely necessary (though some Republican rebuttals may have their own strategic value). Continue reading

Does It, At This Point, Make Any Difference That Hillary Clinton Continues To Reveal Herself As Dishonest And Untrustworthy? Sure It Does.

Besides, it’s so easy, and it’s fun.

My sister, among others, has adopted a “Who cares what Hillary Clinton does and says?” attitude as, I think, a defense mechanism. Because Clinton won’t slink off under a rock with her husband, however, it is important to flag Hillary’s periodic reminders of how vile she is just to shake in the faces of the dishonest Trump Deranged who keep pretending that the only reason anyone would vote for this President is because they liked him. I won’t waste my brains cells trying to decide whether she was and is a worse human being than Donald Trump—they are awful in very different ways—but together they make a quartet with Richard Nixon and Woodrow Wilson as the four worst people ever to run for President. This we must always remember, along with the fact that but for the Electoral College, we would have had her in the White House.

Thus it is that I feel Hillary’s latest outbursts are still worthy of note here. Continue reading

Martin Luther King Day Ethics Overview, 1/20/2020: Another Warren Lie, The Times’ Misandry, Doris Kearns Goodwin Gets Dorian Grayed, And More

Let us be grateful today for Rev. Martin Luther King.

I have no doubt that the nation would be a worse place today without the leadership of Martin Luther King, and I believe a holiday dedicated to honoring him is appropriate. He is also a symbol, perhaps, of the toxic hypocrisy dividing the nation, as well as the excesses and exploitation of the civil rights movement since his death.

From Jonathan Rauch’s review of Christopher Caldwell’s new book, “The Age of Entitlement”:

In Caldwell’s telling, the Civil Rights Act, which banned many forms of discrimination, was a swindle. Billed as a one-time correction that would end segregation and consign race consciousness to the past, it actually started an endless and escalating campaign of race-conscious social engineering. Imperialistically, civil rights expanded to include “people of color” and immigrants and gays and, in short, anyone who was not native-born, white and straight — all in service of “the task that civil rights laws were meant to carry out — the top-down management of various ethnic, regional and social groups.”

With civil rights as their bulldozer, in Caldwell’s view, progressive movements ran amok. They “could now, through the authority of civil rights law, override every barrier that democracy might seek to erect against them”; the law and rhetoric of civil rights “gave them an iron grip on the levers of state power.” And so, today, affirmative action discriminates against whites and then lies about it; public and private bureaucracies trample freedom of association; political correctness stigmatizes dissent and censors language and even thought; “every single state must now honor” Martin Luther King Jr., “and affirm its delight in doing so.”

1.  Senator Warren’s latest lie! The previous post about Warren lying omitted her most recent one, which came up while I was drafting it.

Campaigning in Iowa,  Warren was asked  when she plans on using presidential authority for some of her policy agenda instead of relying on Congress. She responded in part,

“Let me remind you, I think, I’m the only one running for president whose actually been on the executive side. Remember, after the consumer agency was passed into law, Barack Obama, President Obama, asked me to set it up. So I set up a federal agency. We effectively went from two employees the day I walked in the door to about 1000 and spent a year getting it up and operational.”

Now, as I did yesterday regarding an alleged Trump lie, the use of “I think” can be a defense to an accusation of lying, since it means, “I could be mistaken.” In Trump’s case, what he erroneously thought (that he had been on more TIME covers than anyone else) could have plausibly been caused by not knowing facts that were not well known or easily found. There is no way that Warren could have thought that her smidgen of executive experience exceeded that of her competition for the nomination. Joe Biden was Vice President, also on the “executive side,” and was in charge of more than helping to set up one tiny agency. Bernie Sanders was once mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Mayor Pete is, after all, a mayor. Mike Bloomberg was Mayor of New York City, which many regard as the equivalent of being a governor. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “The Many Species Of Fake News”

Few things make me happier than when a commenter relieves me of the duty of writing about a topic.

In 2017, after the New York Times published a spectacularly dishonest list of President Trump “lies” since his inauguration,  I wrote a post demonstrating just how outrageously the Times was warping the meaning of “lie,” and also applying a biased standard to Trump’s statements. I wrote,

In presenting this unethical project, the Times took unethical advantage of its readers’ confirmation bias. When the “Lie” list was printed, the Times made certain that it would require super-human dedication and extraordinary eyesight to read it, through the devices of listing every item and the Times commentary in horizontal sequence and in half the usual size type-face. (See above) This ensured that almost no readers would make the Herculean effort to read the whole thing , especially since the well-trained Times readers already “knows” that Donald Trump is a liar. In addition, the explosion of tiny words created the visceral response of “Wow! Look at all those lies!” which is exactly the effect the Times editors wanted.

But that isn’t reporting, and it isn’t journalism. The “list” was a page-size, visual, ad hominem attack. The Times wasn’t seeking close scrutiny of its list, nor was it interested in making any rebuttal easy or likely.

We have learned that the Times list was largely assembled from various fact-checker columns. That is a red flag, and explains many of the most embarrassing inclusions on the list. None of the fact-checkers are trustworthy. All of them are biased, Snopes and PolitiFact worst of all, and they consistently register opinions that the writer disagrees with as “false.” Many, many of the items on the Times list are in this category.

The entire exercise was an extension of #16 on the Fake News list, “Dishonest Factchecks. Here was a typical “lie” according to the Times, and its “proof”:

Jan. 21 “A reporter for Time magazine — and I have been on their cover 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.”

Says the Times, “Trump was on the cover 11 times and Nixon appeared 55 times.”

Trump was making the general point that he had been on TIME’s cover a lot. He guessed that the number was 14 or 15; it was 11. That is what is known as a  non-material misrepresentation: it’s meaningless and harmless, and certainly not an intentional deception. (“Heh, heh…I’ll make those poor, gullible fools think I was on TIME”s cover 14 times when it was ONLY ELEVEN!! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!) Then he said he “thinks” that’s a record. When someone says “I think” it means the speaker is acknowledging that he may be wrong. But Trump is not accorded the usual leeway given to everyone else, including other elected officials.

When a list includes something this clearly contrived, that list has no credibility. I found going through the Times list annoying, then shocking, and finally infuriating. So when the Washington Post pulled the same stunt, I kept putting off giving it the same treatment that I did the Times’ exercise in lies about lying.

Thus I was thrilled to receive this Comment of the Day from stalwart Steve Witherspoon, on the post, The Many Species Of Fake News: Continue reading

The Tipping Point Nears…

You know, Vince, in Iran they’d cut your hand off for this. Maybe in Hollywood too, now that I think about it…

Two episodes in recent days have pushed me closer to the tipping point at which I am forced to conclude that even as an ethicist who has held fast to the principle that no one who both reveres the office of the President of the United States and who believes that the office must be held by a man (or a woman, Bernie!) of outstanding ethical character with strong supporting ethical values can ever vote for Donald Trump or want to see someone like him, if there is such a creature, leading this nation.

I am not there yet, but I would have never dreamed at any time in 2012 through most of 2019 that I could get this close. It is true that President Trump has been far more successful than I expected in the narrow category of policy, domestic and foreign. It is true that he has displayed some admirable character traits, though they have all been in the category I call “enabling virtues,” meaning that they are traits that can serve both good and bad motives and objectives. It is also true that this President has never been given a fair chance to do his job, as he has been undermined, harassed and obstructed since the moment he took office in unethical ways never experienced by any of his predecessors with similar intensity and duration.

Nonetheless, voting for someone like Donald Trump to lead the United States of America is ethics antimatter to me, and professionally impossible—right now. However, the behavior of the “resistance” and  Democrats increasingly indicates that they must be decisively defeated so their current approach to American culture, society, rights and political conduct is sufficient ruinous that they begin a period of urgent reform.

Relatively small events often are tipping points with me, and both of these are small as well. However, when conduct is undeniably signature significance, proving that a group or individual is corrupt and untrustworthy because only the corrupt and untrustworthy would behave in such a way even once, my mind’s made up. I consider these two episodes frightening and if not quite constituting tipping points for me, coming too close for comfort.

I. The Vince Vaughn Affair Continue reading