Signature Significance (Again) From the New York Times: A Trustworthy Newspaper Does Not Do This [CORRECTED]

That would be a more useful rule, of course, if there were any trustworthy newspapers.

The most recent Ethics Alarms filing under “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!” appeared yesterday.  A story headlined Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not appeared in the Sunday Times, with the sub-head, “Deborah Ramirez’s Yale experience says much about the college’s efforts to diversify its student body in the 1980s.” And why were Yale’s efforts to diversify in the Eighties suddenly worthy of a Times feature in September, 2019? Because the real purpose of the article was not to talk about Yale, but to smear Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh —again.

Ramirez was Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate  who had told The New Yorker last year during the justice’s confirmation hearings that she’d been severely inebriated at a party at Yale in her freshman year when “something” had happened. She said that “a male student pointed a gag plastic penis in her direction” and  a “third male then exposed himself to her.” The assumption is that the flasher was Kavanaugh, though Ramirez never directly named him. New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly tried to verify the story, and could not. Never mind: they wrote a book anyway.

In “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation,”  they quoted the same individuals the New Yorker had tracked down who said that they “heard about” the incident, as well as Ramirez’s mother, who says—now this is a smoking gun if there ever was one—that  she was told at the time that “something happened” at Yale.

Nevertheless, the Times reporters are convinced that Ramirez’s claim is correct. They wrote,

A classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student. Mr. Stier, who runs a nonprofit organization in Washington, notified senators and the F.B.I. about this account, but the F.B.I. did not investigate and Mr. Stier has declined to discuss it publicly. 

Not “fit to print,” apparently, was the that Stier was not only a non-profit executive but also had served as one of Bill Clinton’s defense attorneys. Heck, why should that be relevant to his credibility? But I digress… Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Dave Chappelle

I know: just a week ago, I began the last section of the  day’s warm-up with “He’s not exactly an Ethics Hero, but…Dave Chappelle’s new concert video, now streaming on Netflix, is thought-provoking, brave, and full of ethical insights and analysis. I could do a two hour ethics seminar using just his material.” Several things have changed since then, however…

  • I am desperate for ethics heroes. We all are. If the Democrat candidates debate proved anything, it was that.
  • Chappelle is being attacked, hard, by the very same cancellation culture and political correctness dictators he has been willing to  challenge.
  • There is an organized effort to try to discourage the public from watching his Netflix special “Sticks and Stones,” not because it won’t be funny to anyone still capable of finding things funny, but because it will inspire people to think. Can’t have that…
  • Only one reader, the usually intrepid and culturally aware Humble Talent, commented on the issue last week. Sometimes I think that including a topic in the warm-up rather than devoting a whole post to it causes some Ethics Alarms readers to gloss over the issues involved, or maybe miss the item itself, as if each warm-up topic  is only 20% of a serious ethics topic because there are typically five in a post. The benefit to me of this format is that it saves time (you would not believe how long it takes to set up an individual post after the text is written) and helps me avoid an ethics backlog, but sometimes whether a particular issue is covered in a warm-up item or in a full post is arbitrary, a matter of timing, what else has occurred and my mood at the time.
  • Upon further reflection, I have concluded that Chappelle is an Ethics Hero.

Continue reading

Regarding Felicity Huffman’s Slap-On-The-Wrist

Before actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced for her participation in the rigged college admissions scandal, also known as “Varsity Blues”, the leftist website Salon had already pronounced her treatment by the justice system as racist. It said in part,

Back in 2011 Tanya McDowell was homeless and living in her van. She wanted her five-year-old son to receive a quality education, so she enrolled him in Brookside Elementary of the Norwalk School District. He was later kicked out due to a residency issue, so he transferred to Bridgeport schools.

Police investigated McDowell and charged her with fraud. A year later she pleaded guilty to first-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny; for these offenses, she received a five-year sentence. Before McDowell started serving it out, she was charged with selling narcotics to an undercover police officer, an offense that killed her community support. McDowell was ultimately given 12 years, to be suspended after she served five, and followed by five years of probation; the narcotic sentence to run concurrently with a five-year sentence she had already received in the Norwalk school case. All of this story, from the over-policing of this mother to the severity of her sentence, along with everything she did, was obviously driven by poverty, which remains synonymous with “guilty” in our lopsided system of so-called justice.

On the other hand, you have a person like Felicity Huffman, who enjoys the many privileges that come with being a rich “Desperate Housewives” star…and having the resources to expose her daughter to educational advantages that McDowell may not have even been able to dream of: tutoring, unlimited books, technology, a safe learning environment, and even an SAT specialist who helps struggling kids obtain high scores. …[T]he actress was arrested in March on mail fraud and conspiracy charges as an outcome of the FBI’s Operation Varsity Blues investigation, and pleaded guilty to mail fraud, after paying $15,000 to allegedly rig her daughter’s SAT scores. Huffman is scheduled to be sentenced in Boston on Friday — for one month in prison, if the federal prosecutors’ recommendation is followed. Huffman’s attorneys have instead asked for a year’s probation, plus community service and a $20,000 fine.

Let’s begin with the fact that this is unethical and dishonest advocacy. Searching for an admittedly terrible prosecution from eight years ago  to contrast with Huffman’s case is contrived racism. The fact that the mother was later legitimately charged with selling narcotics renders the comparison a stretch at best.  In the absence of sufficient numbers of cases across the country to make a valid generalization, Salon’s assumptions are just cheap muckraking.

Stipulated: charging McDowell with larceny for trying to sneak her child into a better school district was a cruel and unethical prosecution; charging her with fraud and seeking a significant punishment was not. The idea was to discourage similar deceptions, no matter how well-intentioned they were.  That is a valid law enforcement objective, and an important one.

What Huffman’s attorneys proposed as appropriate punishment was irrelevant to Salon’s thesis. Their job is to get the actress as light a sentence as possible, and if possible, no sentence at all. We are not told what McDowell’s attorney’s argued on her behalf, because it is also irrelevant, but, I suspect, it was omitted because their recommendations were not that different from those of Huffman’s case. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/15/2019: Opinions, Ethical And Not

It’s a glorious day here in Northern Virginia!

Makes me feel like things are looking up, even though they probably aren’t.

1. I refer you to the most recent post about “the resistance’s” arsenal of big lies. specifically Big Lie #5, “Everything is terrible.” In the Times’ Sunday Review section, usually a resistance nest to one degree or another, though less so in recent months, Trump Deranged Times columnist Michelle Goldberg offers a long essay beginning with the assumption that current day America is a dystopian society. How does she justify this ridiculous assertion? Referencing the science fiction novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in which women in the U.S. “are stripped of their identities and consigned to reproductive slavery for the elite.” Goldberg writes,

“It’s hardly surprising that in 2016 the book resonated with people — particularly women — stunned that a brazen misogynist, given to fascist rhetoric and backed by religious fundamentalists, was taking power despite the wishes of the majority of the population.”

I especially like the “despite the wishes of the majority of the population” part, but the whole statement is dishonest  agitprop. Nobody “took power;” an election took place under Constitutional constraints. Goldberg cannot possibly gauge the “wishes” of the majority, since, as usual, the majority didn’t feel sufficiently concerned about the Presidential election’s outcome to bother to vote, meaning they didn’t “wish” for either candidate to win with enough seriousness or commitment to be  part  of any persuasive analysis. Meanwhile, the President was elected according to the system the United States has operated under since its inception. And describing Trump, who is about as religious as most recent Presidents, which is to say, not at all, was “backed by religious fundamentalists” is as accurate as saying that Barack Obama was backed by anti-white racists.

Read the whole stupid thing. It is irresponsible for a legitimate newspaper to publish such crap, but no more so than for one to employ a biased disinformation specialist like Goldberg as a regular contributor.

2. Once again, Andrew Sullivan finds his way toward calling out unethical journalism. In a recent essay for New York Magazine, the occasionally conservative, gay, religious, emotional but determined truth-teller—as he sees it, anyway—declares  the New York Times a publication that has abandoned journalism for activism.

Two quick reactions: a) Ya think, Sherlock? and b) THIS was your first clue?

He concludes strongly, though, writing, “To present a truth as the truth is in fact a deception. And it is hard to to trust a paper engaged in trying to deceive its readers in order for its radical reporters and weak editors to transform the world.”

Hard? The right word is “irresponsible.”

Related: This excellent essay by Peter Wood expounds further on the duplicity of the Times’ much heralded “1619 Project.” Continue reading

Friday Ethics “Kung Fu” Reflections, 9/13/2019: “Seek Not To Know The Answers, But To Understand The Questions.”

Welcome, Ethics Grasshoppers!

Come to think of it, grasshoppers are not particularly ethical. Does anyone even recognize references to “Kung Fu” and Master Po any more?  It had a Caucasian actor (David Carradine) playing an Asian hero, so I guess it’s considered racist now.

Never mind.

I need a drink…

1. One more note about last night’s debate...I was listening to NPR’s efforts to spin the debate this morning. A Democratic consultant, who hardly could have been surprised by the question, was asked “Who won?” He paused, stammered and said, unconvincingly, “The Democratic Party?”  Exactly! As conservative wag Stephen Kruiser wrote today,

They don’t want you armed and able to protect yourself.

They don’t want you taking care of your children.

They don’t want you making your own decisions about your healthcare.

They want you to pay more in taxes for the privilege of losing your freedoms.

What’s not to like?

2.  The new book “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement” reveals more details about the efforts by lawyers David Boies and Lisa Bloom (the victims advocate and daughter of Gloria Allred) to protect Harvey Weinstein from having his predations on women revealed. In one memorable memo the book shows to the world, Lisa Bloom wrote to Weinstein in December 2016 laying out a multistep playbook on how to intimidate accusers or represent them as liars. Regarding actress Rose McGowan, who claims to have been raped by Weinstein and who has since become a visible activist regarding his conduct and that of other Hollywood figures, Bloom wrote,

“I feel equipped to help you against the Roses of the world, because I have represented so many of them….We can place an article re her becoming increasingly unglued, so that when someone Googles her this is what pops up and she’s discredited.”

Not surprisingly, McGowan is furious, and said of Bloom, “Her email is staggering. Staggering! …This woman should never work again. Lisa Bloom should be disbarred. So should David Boies.” Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The ABC Democratic Candidates Debate

1, The overwhelming impression one—well, this one—got from last night’s depressing Democratic candidates debate is that the United States of America has somehow painted itself into a corner where one of the worst characters in American political history is nonetheless the shaky human firewall against a calculated overthrow of the American experiment by a sickening conspiracy of power-seeking demagogues, democracy-defacing socialists , individual liberties-rejecting totalitarians, and, of course, and a news media that self-righteously views itself as the propaganda agent for all of these.  In the immortal words of Chester A. Riley,  wing riveter at the fictional Cunningham Aircraft plant in California, “What a revoltin’ development this is!”

But here we are.

2. Symbolic of the plight was the sight of long-time Clintonista and Democratic Party operative George Stephanopoulos  sitting in the debate moderator’s chair last night. No one who is aware of the ABC host of the news division’s morning and Sunday  show could possibly view his presence as anything but an overlay of bias and a guarantee of soft-ball questions and general favoritism. The problem is that many, perhaps most, of the target audience of last night’s fiasco are not aware of it. Remember 2015, when the GOP hopefuls subjected themselves to the sneering contempt of such leftist moderators as CNBC’s  panel of Becky Quick, John Harwood, and Carl Quintanilla? Their questions and interjections from the moderators were, as I observed at the time, ” so hostile, so disrespectful, so obviously concocted from a biased perspective,” that there was criticism from all sides of the political spectrum. Nonetheless, at least the Republicans were challenged, and they knew that partisan opponents facing them were not going to countenance flagrant misinformation. This is why the DNC’s cowardly decision to freeze Fox News out of the debates was such a transparent effort to avoid fair vetting of the candidates, fair meaning in this case, something more challenging than boot-licking submissiveness. “It was a great debate. I think we learned a lot tonight,” the lackey enthused after it was all over. Did anyone really think that was a great debate? That kind of self-evident spin is supposed to be reserved for people like Tom Perez. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 9/12/2019: It’s The Ethics Derby, With The Obamas In The Lead, Ms. Monopoly Close Behind, Apple Coming Up On the Rail, And The News Media And The Democratic Party Bringing Up The Rear!

Post time!

I’m stunned at how little publicity and outrage has been generated by the just-revealed Triple Crown scandal. I’m hoping it’s because thoroughbred horse racing is such a marginal sport today that nobody cares about it—quite a fall for “the sport of kings,” which was once among the three most popular sports in the U.S. I fear it is because the public has become so cynical about sports generally that ethical breaches don’t surprise of bother them much.

1. Speaking of ethics insanity in sports: A female teen  champion swimmer for Anchorage’s Dimond High School easily won the 100-yard freestyle during last week’s night’s meet against a rival school. Then she learned that she had been disqualified, because her swimsuit was exposing too much of her buttocks, according to an official. The swimmer was wearing the exact same suit as her team mates and her competition; the problem was, apparently, her body, which was “curvier” than the typical female swimmer, perhaps because she was a mixed-race competitor in a sport that is almost exclusively white.

Another official who was working during the meet, told the Anchorage Daily News that one of the female  refs complained that the bottom of the girl’s suit “was so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek.’’

The Horror.

From the Washington Post: “Anchorage School District officials  have announced that they  reviewed the incident and concluded that the teenager “was targeted based solely on how a standard, school-issued uniform happened to fit the shape of her body,” and that the referee’s decision was ‘heavy-handed and unnecessary.’ The district is appealing to the Alaska School Activities Association, asking to reverse the swimmer’s disqualification, return all points to her team, and revoke certification for the referee who made the call. The district is also seeking to suspend and eventually revise the guidelines in place for appropriate swimsuit coverage, which officials said were ambiguous and left room for biased interpretation.”

They should also ask that rudimentary ethics alarms be required of all swimming judges.

2. There is hope! Two recent polls—stipulated: any poll is likely to be misleading and worthless–suggest that Ethics Alarms hasn’t been entirely futile in its—to some—excessive coverage of what I believe to be the two most important ethics stories on our times: the Democratic Party’s rejection of its duty to uphold American institutions and respect elections, and the corruption of American journalism. Oh, I have no illusions that this oft-censored little blog has contributed much to enlightening the public, but I’m satisfied that it contributes in a small way to the zeitgeist, which is vital if the nation is going to survive the assault on its values.

The first study comes from the PR agency, Bospar, in collaboration with Propeller Insights. Its survey of 1,010 American adults found that more than 95% are troubled by the current state of the news media, with 53% citing “reports on fake news,” 49% citing “reporting gossip,” and 48% citing “lying spokespeople,” as concerns. 67% believe ethics in journalism will be worse during the 2020 presidential campaign–I’d say that’s a safe bet. I’m amazed that anyone wouldn’t expect this.

Oddly, almost all of my Facebook friends reside in that less than 5% who feel the news media is as pure as the driven snow, and anyone who impugn its objectivity is a Nazi, racist, moronic Trump supporter.

The second comes from the more reliable Pew Foundation. Pew data from last year showed that most Americans had a favorable opinion of the Democratic party, and a negative view of the GOP. 53 % of respondents last September said that they viewed the Democratic party favorably, compared to 42% who said they viewed it unfavorably. In the same survey, 43% had a favorable view of the Republican Party compared to 52% who had an unfavorable view. This September’s Pew survey shows that most Americans view both the Democratic and Republican parties with disfavor, and in exactly equal proportions: 45 % positive,  52%  negative.

Good. The Democratic Party has been behaving crazy and irresponsibly for more than three years, a I’ve tried to document; they deserve this result. Continue reading