Category Archives: Government & Politics

Ethics Hero: George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley

I almost included this in yesterday’s ethics warm-up, but realized that the point was too important not to have the focus of an entire post.

During the Post 2016 Election Ethics Train Wreck that threatens the stability of the United States and its future as a functioning democracy,  Prof. Turley has been one of the select few to meet the qualifications laid out by Rudyard Kipling in my late father’s favorite poem “If.” He has managed to keep his head while all about him, especially in academia, his realm, but also most professionals, have been losing theirs, mostly in response to crushing peer pressure, unsupported conventional wisdom, and partisan bias.

It’s remarkable how much easier it is to analyze complex problems accurately when one can maintain sufficient objectivity and remove, and can overcome bias and resist the lure of rationalizations. In The Hill, Turley demonstrates the benefits of his integrity with a sharp and accurate post—it happens to be consistent with my own conclusions of more than a year’s duration, but I don’t have to hang out in a faculty lounge—explaining the dynamics of the unprecedented efforts by the FBI and the Justice Department to undermine the Trump Presidency before it even began.

Turley’s article begins by mentioning  the New York Times “bombshell” about the FBI launching an investigation of whether the President of the United States was a Russian asset…

However, the real benefit of the investigative story may not be the original suspicion, but rather how it could explain the course that both sides have taken into our current quagmire. What if there were no collusion or conspiracy but simple cognitive bias on both sides, where the actions of one seemed to confirm precisely the suspicions of the other?

Let me focus the professor’s words here. There are all kinds of cognitive bias, and several may be at work. However, the main one is clearly confirmation bias, the human tendency to interpret information in ways that confirm what we believe already. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

Comment Of The Day: “The Infuriating, Incompetent, Border Wall Debate”

Zoe Brain weighs in with a typical (for her) carefully researched and detailed comment—two, actually, that function as one— regarding border walls as a matter of science and practicality, an obviously deserving Comment of the Day. Even if Zoe’s quoted experts were 100% correct on a factual basis, and they might be, it does not necessarily mean that a wall/fence/some kind of barrier would not have value. I particularly object to this statement from the first of the experts:

The whole situation needs to be addressed, and building a wall is a feel-good solution that is being pushed more because it pisses off Democrats than because it is a practical solution.

That’s anti-Trump bias, flat-out and undeniable, and untrue. President Trump did not propose a wall while running for President to piss off Democrats. He obviously believes a wall is necessary, and if Democrats showed that they would support a wall, he would not suddenly declare that he didn’t want a wall. At this point, he wants a wall because he promised one, and because he believes that he must fulfill that promise to keep faith with the people who elected him. There is no question, however, that the reverse is true. Democrats are willing to cause all sorts of collateral damage to deny the President a political victory and to signal to their open-borders base that they really don’t want the flow of illegals into the U.S. to stop. They could trace DACA for the wall, which would be effective, pragmatic, traditional politics. Trump would agree to that. A biased statement like the above makes me doubt the starting point of any analysis.

I also object to what follows this statement,  a random list of alternative ways to spend the same amount of money. Playing that game with 5 billion dollars is intellectually dishonest, because one could easily find that amount by cutting all sorts of wasteful expenditures. NPR and PBS cost about a a half billion dollars, for example, and there is no excuse whatsoever for taxpayers to pay for commercial television and radio. It also assumes that it will be any easier getting more practical or realistic measures funded, because, again, Democrats only talk about “comprehensive immigration reform” so people can imagine whatever they want. The last time they seriously discussed stemming illegal immigration, they were talking about fences and walls. What that party has been promoting since is a “path to citizenship” for anyone who illegally enters or stays in the country and who doesn’t break other laws, and sometimes even for the ones who do. This is a message has the effect of increasing illegal immigrants, of course. 

It doesn’t take a genius, an expert, an engineering degree or a lot of thought to conclude that there is a lot wrong with a border wall as long as the one proposed. However, at this point, a giant sign in multiple languages that reads, “To those who are tempted to enter the United States without following the appropriate procedures and laws, STAY OUT. You are not welcome. Your children are not welcome. We mean it.” The Government of the United States of America.

Sending that message alone is worth 5 billion dollars.

Finally, this statement (By Zoe’s Expert 1) is fatuous and dishonest:

At the same time, set up a program to accept people as economic refugees under temporary visas contingent on locating a job and keeping out of trouble. Spend some time on outreach in Central and South America to counteract rumors and misinformation about immigration to the United States. This comes back to the point about simplifying the immigration system. If you can’t explain it to a Guatemalan peasant, then saying “obey the law” is meaningless because he cannot understand the law. For that matter, you can’t understand immigration law. Immigration lawyers don’t understand immigration law. The f*cking INS doesn’t understand immigration law – ask any immigrant.

Illegal immigrants can understand THIS much: There are procedures and laws governing who is eligible to enter the United States, and if you are tying to storm the border, sneak across the border, get into the country on false pretenses and scatter, or get a temporary visa and then violate it, you’re breaking the law. I don’t think that’s too hard to “understand.”

Here is Zoe Brain’s Comment of the Day on the post, The Infuriating, Incompetent, Border Wall Debate: Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/13/19: Walking Through The Ethics Woods On A Snowy Evening

Good evening!

1. Pro tip for James Comey: appealing to the Cognitive Dissonance Scale is the tactic of a scoundrel. Also an idiot. Comey, responding to one of President Trump’s anti-Comey tweets—it doesn’t matter which–responded yesterday,

It takes only a rudimentary knowledge of world history to recognize how many absolute villains, psychopaths and sociopaths could and would make that statement. Vlad Tepes (aka “Dracula,”), feared foe of the Turks. Joseph Stalin, enemy of Hitler. Hitler, enemy of Stalin. Comey and President Trump are both equally loathed by Hillary Clinton: puzzle that out.

How did someone with Comey’s character deficits last as long as he did, and what damage did he do over that time that we don’t know about? The mind boggles.

2. And speaking of mind-boggling: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Apparently not capable of figuring out that her problem is her own big mouth and some serious critical thinking issues, the irrepressible Congresswoman from New York is playing the pity AND the victim cards simultaneously. Unfortunately, as is her wont, she also inadvertently played the “unqualified to be in Congress because she never read the bill of Rights” card. “When does nonstop criticism of me by the Daily Caller rise to the level of ‘harassment’?” she tweeted plaintively.

Of course, as any reasonably well-educated 6th grader should be able to explain, the answer is “never,” or perhaps, “Never, you idiot,” even if the frequent criticism wasn’t warranted, which it obviously is.

3. Political Hot Stove suggestion. This is the time between baseball season known as the “Hot Stove League,” where baseball fans concentrate on free agent signings and trades, real, hoped for, or imagined. Here’s one involving politics: the Republicans should offer to trade Steve King (R-Iowa) to the Democrats for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. The problem is that even the Democrats aren’t stupid enough to take the bait. King is a long-running disgrace and embarrassment, the embodiment of what the news media and Democrats want the public to think every Republican and conservative is really like. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

The Infuriating, Incompetent, Border Wall Debate

Those entrusted with arguing for particular contentious public policy options have an obligation to do so competently and honestly. Few things in the public arena are more infuriating tha watching the wise and responsible point of view go spinning down in flames because its advocates are inarticulate, confused, repulsive (thus letting the Cognitive Dissonance scale take over), illogical, addicted to rationalizations,or stupid.

Unfortunately, most of our public policy controversies fall into this category. There might have been an intelligent social policy debate to be had over whether marriage should be extended to same-sex couples, but one the opponents resorted to religious dogma or straight-up bigotry, the argument was lost. Affirmative action is on the way to extinction in part due to blatantly hypocritical, pretzel-like arguments from its advocates: in a holiday discussion, an Asian-American woman told me that she did not support the lawsuit against Harvard for res ipsa loquitur discrimination against Asian students because the suit was being pushed by racists.

Oh.

Bye!

The debate over  tightening security at our boarders is literally a no-brainer—of course the U.S. should take necessary measures to prevent illegal immigration—that is increasingly brainless. Give President Trump the prize for starting it down this route. Either intentionally or because the man simply cannot express himself with precision, he initially framed the need to enforce our immigration laws with the confounding statement, “They (that is, Mexico) aren’t sending us their best people.” Well, yes, I guess it would be nice if a better class of illegal immigrants breaking our laws and defying our procedures was getting into the country to steal as many benefits of U.S residence that they can, but in truth it doesn’t matter whether illegal immigrants are the best people or the worst people. I don’t care if every one of them is a candidate for sainthood; it’s not up to foreign citizens to unilaterally decide who lives in the United States, and they have no right to defy our sovereignty. That’s it. That’s enough. It would be nice if no terrorists could gain access to their hunting ground through the porous enforcement Democrats and cheap labor-loving business interests have inflicted on us, but it would be no less imperative to enforce out borders if there were no terrorists. There is no valid, sensible, logical or honest argument from any perspective that we should allow people who come here a) to do so and b) to avoid enforcement of the laws they broke as long as they don’t break other laws. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

The John Lasseter #MeToo Conundrum

What is the appropriate treatment for a leader, executive or artist who has been dismissed, disgraced, and exiled because of credible or proven instances of workplace sexual misconduct?

John Lasseter, the genius Pixar co-founder who was forced to resign from the Walt Disney Company in June after complaints that he engaged in unwanted “grabbing, kissing, and making comments about physical attributes” suddenly raises the question, because he is all of these, and now is one of the first men facing ruin in the #MeToo era to find a new position as impressive and lucrative—seven figures—as his old one.

David Ellison,  “Mission: Impossible” producer and founder of Skydance Media, a newish production company affiliated with Paramount Pictures, announced this week that Lasseter would become Skydance’s head of  animation and will start this month. “John is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated,” Mr. Ellison said in a statement. “We look forward to John bringing all of his creative talents, his experience managing large franchises, his renewed understanding of the responsibilities of leadership and his exuberance to Skydance.”

BUT, he  continued: “We did not enter into this decision lightly. John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them.”

On his own behalf, Lasseter, who was the moving creative force behind multiple Pixar classics like “Toy Story” as well as Disney’s “Frozen,” said that he that he had engaged in “deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made many colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for.” He added that he planned to build Skydance Animation in the same way he built Pixar, but with renewed dedication to the need for “safety, trust and mutual respect.”

Good enough? No, #MeToo is not pleased. Time’s Up, the #MeToo-spawned political group founded by Reese Witherspoon and Shonda Rhimes among others, protested in response to the announcement that offering a high-profile position to an abuser who has yet to show true remorse, work to reform their behavior and provide restitution to those harmed is condoning abuse.” The hire, Time’s Up added in a statement, “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”

Got it. Women, at least these women, want to see men ruined, shunned and reduced to living by crowdfunding and begging on the street if possible, without the certainly of due process and regardless of circumstances. How does someone like Lasseter show “true remorse”? They get to decide. What work do they have to do to reform their behavior? That’s the activists’ call too, I suppose. Meanwhile, absent a trial, what is restitution? If the women involved have a lawsuit, let them bring it. What is the cost of an unwanted workplace hug? Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Romance and Relationships, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/10/2019: Rabbits, Time Lords, Elephants And Fools

Good morning.

This a reluctant warm-up, and I was tempted not to create distractions from the previous post, which is important, especially so because there is a near complete media embargo on what the Times did. Has anyone seen a mention of it anywhere besides here and in the conservative media? I haven’t. Yet a more convincing example of  what the news media has become could not be imagined, and the public has the right to know. I want people to be outraged about this. I want people to shake the story in the face of their biased journalism-defending friends. I want to see the cowards who fled the discussions here accusing me of bias return and explain how this could happen innocently, or try to justify it, or continue to insist that there is no organized effort to destroy the Trump Presidency and with it our democratic institutions.

I admit it: this episode makes me as angry as I am disgusted and worried.

1. In a lighter vein, on the topic of life competence…In  Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, a 41-year-old man was reportedly trying to impress other tourists by getting out of his car (which is illegal) and attempting to hypnotize an elephant. The man’s name has not been released, but now they call him Matt, because the unimpressed elephant trampled him flat. Now watch them blame the elephant. Says Professor Turley, who found this story, ” some at the scene suggested that alcohol may have played a role.”

Ya think?

What is the ethical response to someone who gets himself killed like this?

2. It looks like we have at least two ethically-challenged new Congresswomen...Rep. Tlaib of “impeach the motherfucker fame” unreeled a combination of Authentic Frontier Gibberish (AFG) AND ethical ignorance as she continued to dig her hole following the outburst. Tlaib told CNN on this week that she’s “very unapologetically me” [Rationalization #41 A. Popeye’s Excuse, or “I am what I am.”] and her constituents “are kind of used to my realness, used to this passion that I have” [Excuse me a second…Gag! Uck! Gack! Yecch! Ptuii!…This is #44, The Unethical Precedent, or “It’s Not The First Time.”

“And I know for many people, it did — it did get the best of me at that moment and for many people it might have been very much a distraction…”what I want to do is not allow women like myself that have every right to be angry and upset and mad and to curse — that somehow they’re not allowed to do it in some sort of public forum.”

Ah! She’s an idiot. Women and everyone else have a right to be vulgar, uncivil, insulting, obscene, undignified and generally rude in public. The fact that they have the right to act badly doesn’t mean it is right. Most relatively educated 12-year-olds understand this, and Tlaib, who is in Congress, doesn’t. Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Literature, Popular Culture, Rights

The New York Times Puts Another Fake “Collusion” Scoop On Its Front Page

This was going to be my headline, but I decided it was too long:

You Know, When This Is All Over, Probably In 2024, American Journalism Will Look Like Post-Bomb Hiroshima, Except The Profession Will Have Done It To Themselves”

And I’m getting bored with “Nah, there’s no mainstream news media bias,” since I have occasion to use it so often, but then, that’s the point, isn’t it?

Yesterday, the left hand column above the fold of my daily Times, delivered to my door, screamed out,

It continued:

As a top official in President Trump’s campaign, Paul Manafort shared political polling data with a business associate tied to Russian intelligence, according to a court filing unsealed on Tuesday. The document provided the clearest evidence to date that the Trump campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russians during the 2016 presidential race.

I know, and you know, that this sent the “resistance,” and Democrats, and all my hateful, coup-seeking Facebook friends and yours into a frenzy.  The news media too, that an old friend and Ethics Alarms self-exile whose name I won’t use (though I sure am tempted) repeatedly insisted wasn’t biased or “enemies of the people” —how could I suggest such a thing?–and that didn’t traffic in fake news because they were careful, honest, trustworthy professionals of integrity. Here’s an example of how they reacted to the Times story:

Exclusive: Mueller Is Holding Top Secret Intelligence That Will Sink the Trump Presidency

That’s from the Observor, which breathlessly continues,

Another day, another bombshell emanating from the Special Counsel investigation into President Donald Trump and his links to the Kremlin. We now have more proof that Robert Mueller really does know everything about 2016—and I can exclusively tell you how he knows it.

This latest reveal comes from a legal screw-up of gargantuan proportions. Yesterday, attorneys for Paul Manafort, the president’s disgraced campaign manager for the decisive phase of the 2016 election, filed papers with the Justice Department trying to prevent their client from spending the rest of his life in a federal penitentiary. They asserted that Manafort did not lie to Team Mueller, as the Special Counsel believes, but in the process, they made an epic redaction fail that blows the case wide open.

Manafort’s lawyers accidentally revealed that Team Mueller believes—and Manafort confirmed—that their client shared campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, one of Manafort’s closest friends and a longtime business partner. Moreover, Manafort conceded, he had discussed a “Ukraine peace plan” with Kilimnik “on more than one occasion.” Worst of all, Manafort met with Kilimnik in Madrid to discuss these matters, he admitted, without saying when (Manafort’s spokesman later stated the Madrid meeting was in January or February 2017).

Once you know who Konstantin Kilimnik is, the gravity of these revelations comes into clear focus. The elusive Russian fixer was indicted by Team Mueller last June on obstruction of justice charges for assisting Manafort with witness tampering; previously, the Special Counsel described Kilimnik as having “ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016.”

The story is still up online, as are many similar ones from other “reliable sources.” Then, quietly, well into yesterday afternoon, the Times put out a tiny correction:

A previous version of this article misidentified the people to whom Paul Manafort wanted a Russian associate to send polling data. Mr. Manafort wanted the data sent to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, not Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin.

In other words, “Never mind!”

Yes, we all know that Manafort had business contacts with the Ukranians, but Mueller isn’t investigating what the Ukraine did or didn’t do to influence the 2016 election.  Well, come on now, Ukraine, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Whateverstan—who can keep those old Soviet Union countries straight? They’re all basically the same, right?

Yup, “the clearest evidence to date that the Trump campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russians during the 2016 presidential race” is a completely false story, in place of the actual story that didn’t belong on any front page, except maybe the All About Paul Manafort Hooterville Gazette. Except this was the New York Times, the Mother Ship, the ne plus ultra of trustworthy American journalism, and yet they rushed a fake story onto the front page because confirmation bias has eaten the professionalism of their reporters and editors,  and they hate Donald Trump more than they respect their profession or their readers.

Am I being too harsh?

No.

Indeed, I should be harsher, but this astoundingly long-running outrage had drained my capacity.

Oh, how they want President Trump to be guilty of impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors!  I’m sure they’ll wag their tails and jump into the laps of Tlaib and Waters and the other totalitarian-minded Democrats when they try to impeach the elected President of the U.S., aka “the motherfucker,” for simply existing and not being them, but they so want the impeachment to be based on something real so the coup has some cover. Thus they close their eyes and leap, knowing their progressive, biassed readers will be happy, without expending the basic professionalism and due diligence required to get me a B in Mr. Stewart’s journalism class at Arlington High School.

Of course American journalism itself is accountable for its self-defilement, though its members and co-conspirators will doubtless say that Trump makes them behave like a two-bit Pravda. The real culprits, however, are the democracy-rending fake Americans who have set out to undermine our system, elections, politics and government, and are begging for ammunition from the weak and lazy reporters who have betrayed the nation by joining their ranks.

 

 

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