Category Archives: Leadership

A Concise, Clear, Elegant, And Willfully False Unethical Tweet Of The Month From Howard Dean

Howard Dean wants to make sure the Left’s war on free speech and expression continues, so he decided to misinform trusting Democrats and progressives—who trust the damnedest people lately!—with a Big Lie level tweet. His immediate target was Ann Coulter, whose speaking gig at Berkeley was first cancelled because of the campus’s rampant embrace of “the heckler’s veto” (as well as the “the thug’s veto,” “the bully’s veto,” and”the rioter’s veto,” all increasingly au currant on the Left) by the school’s students, then cleverly re-scheduled by the University to a day when there would be no classes. [Full disclosure: I wouldn’t move from my living room into my dining room to hear Ann Coulter speak.] Dean is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, arguably the worst of a terrible lot, and is an expert on “hate speech”, or at least hateful speech, having engaged in it himself often. Notably, for example, he insinuated that President Trump was a cocaine user during the 2016 campaign because a badly set microphone picked up his sniffling during a debate.

The nice thing about the progressive definition of “hate speech” (it has no legal definition, which is also convenient) is that it only includes statements that progressives disagree with or find disruptive to their world view and fondly held beliefs. Hateful speech from Democrats is just the hard truth, so it isn’t “hate speech.” Hate speech from everyone else is unprotected, and should carry criminal penalties.

There is no question that Dean knows “hate speech,” whatever it is, is protected by the First Amendment, but it suits his purpose and his party’s to imbed the lie that it isn’t in the mushy brains of the easily confused. This will greatly assist the Left’s ongoing efforts to stifle debate and make any dissent with progressive cant as difficult as possible. That’s the plan.

And again: progressives and Democrats should be as offended by this kind of dishonesty by their leaders as I am. Why aren’t they? Do they think Dean is correct? Do they think he should be correct? Or is it just that they believe that the ends justify the means? Democrats? Progressives? Hello? Integrity? Honesty? The Constitution? Bueller?

What the hell is the matter with them?

Constitutional law expert and law professor Eugene Volokh mostly controls his exasperation as he tries to set Dean and his uneducated acolytes straight. He begins a thorough dismembering of Dean’s tweeted lie in the Washington Post thusly: Continue reading

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Sexual Harassment, Victim Blaming, Toxic Corporate Cultures, President Trump’s Defense and Other Ethics Notes On Bill O’Reilly’s Fall (Part II))

The Ethics Alarms audit of the Bill O’Reilly canning by Fox (okay, technically it wasn’t a firing, but it was) continues…

9. One problem with the Left’s thinly veiled joy at getting O’Reilly is that it encourages the Right’s narrative that O’Reilly’s only crime was being conservative. Also not helping were President Trump’s interview statements about O’Reilly to the New York Times, in which he said in part,

“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person… I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”

Stupid, stupid, stupid; irresponsible. Maybe two stupids and two irresponsibles. Do otherwise good people engage in sexual harassment? Of course: good people do bad things. But when a prominent individual says publicly that a sexual harasser is a good person, it sends a message that sexual harassment, like all abuse, doesn’t create a rebuttable presumption that someone is not a good person. Add to that Trump’s last statement, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” and the toxic messaging is complete. Either that statement means that the President is, based on nothing, claiming that the allegations against O’Reilly are untrue, or worse, he is saying that there is nothing wrong with sexual harassment. Based on his infamous exchange with Bill Bush, there is good reason to believe that this is exactly what he means.

10. That interview, in turn, led inevitably to this fatuous and offensive article by conservative blogger Roger Simon. Sure, Roger, you dummy, O’Reilly did nothing wrong except support Donald Trump. Count the rationalizations in this piece of offal by one of the shimmering stars in the Pajama Media firmament of conservative thought-leaders.

The sad truth is the many conservatives—most?—really don’t think sexual harassment is a big deal. It is one of many ethics blind spots.

11. One conservative who lacks that blind spot—though she has lots of others—is Sarah Palin, who had this exchange yesterday with CNN’s Jake Tapper: Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: President Trump

 

The White House announced this week that President Trump called Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  to congratulate him on winning a sinister referendum that will lock-in his autocratic rule over the country and further erode Turkey’s democratic institutions, which are already on life-support, or maybe not even that. It is reported that 140,000 Turkish citizens have had their passports canceled. More than 100,000 people are at risk of imprisonment or worse  for being suspected of complicity in the recent the attempted coup: so far  71,000 of these have been detained, and 41,000 have been arrested.  Six thousand academics have lost their jobs, 4,000 judges and prosecutors, 24,000 policemen and security personnel, and 200 governors and their staff members. Seven thousand military personnel have been relieved of their posts. Fifteen universities, 1,000 schools, 28 TV channels, 66 newspapers, 19 magazines, 36 radio stations, 26 publishing houses and five news agencies have been shut down.

Erdogen has also imprisoned moderate Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas on the charge of inciting violence with his criticisms of the regime, and thousands of members of Demirtas’s political party, H.D.P., have been detained or arrested.

Our President’s irresponsible official response, if indeed he is aware of these developments  (it is all a mouse click or briefing paper away) was, in essence, “Hell of a job, Ergie!” Continue reading

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The Dishonest Tax Day Anti-Trump Protests

All such Anti-Trump protests should be called “We Are Furious That Our Terrible Candidate And Her Corrupt Party Lost The Election And Are Throwing An Infantile Tantrum While Rejecting  Democracy and American Institutions Until We Get Our Power Back.”  That’s all they are, every one of them. At least then the demonstrations by un-American hypocrites who want to overthrow an election that didn’t go their way would deserve props for being honest.

The Tax Day protests were the electoral college protests, the illegal immigrant protests, the women rights protests (coming up: the science protests) and all the others with just a different hook. I’m sure by now there is a well-paid public relations team charged with coming up with the next one. The amount of ill-used time, public expense , inconvenience, wasted news coverage space and accumulated idiotic rhetoric such protests will generate over the next four years should be measured somehow, because it will be staggering. Is this going to be the longest, most costly, most devisive and unethical national tantrum in U.S. history? It already is.

Just to get the alleged justification for the latest sham out of the way: President Trump has no obligation, legal or ethical, to release his taxes at this point. It would be irresponsible for him to do it, in fact.

Of course, as Ethics Alarms noted during the campaign, candidate Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns was unethical: unfair to voters, a breach of transparency; and disrespectful to the process. His oft repeated reason why he “couldn’t” release them was also an obvious lie. This episode, like so many others during the campaign, demanded consequences, and there probably were some.

Who knows how many votes it cost Trump? The conduct alone did not disqualify him for election: If he were the most qualified, competent, brilliant, trustworthy, inspiring candidate the nation had seen for decades, would the mere failure to release his tax returns have caused me, or any reasonable voter, to refuse to vote for him, and instead vote for, yechhh, Hillary Clinton? Of course not.

Whatever reason there was for Trump to take this risk and refuse to abide by long practice and tradition, the gamble worked. Now, however, there is no ethical reason to reverse that decision.The original reason the decision was unethical doesn’t exist: voters had a right to see the details of that aspect of his life before choosing him to be President. He’s not running for office now, however. Now his duty is to try to do the job he was elected to do. Yes, I know the “resistance” refuses to accept or acknowledge this, but facts are stubborn things. Now, releasing the tax returns is only demanded by one set of citizens: those who already hate his guts, reject his Presidency, want to see it fail, are willing to see the nation fail if that’s what it takes, want to cobble together reasons to impeach him, and are only interested in using the returns, whatever is in them—it literally doesn’t matter—to further disrupt his attempts to do his job.

Literally nobody who either voted for the President or who wants him to succeed in dealing with the wave of problems left festering by the inept and feckless administration before his would say that allowing Democrats and other Trump foes to have a new weapon to level against his Presidency is in the best interest of the nation. The only people who want to see his tax returns  right now want them solely as a stick to beat him with.

“Show us your fucking taxes, you emotional child!” alleged comedian Sarah Silverman screamed from the podium to appreciative  Tax Day protesters. That was representative of the attitude of every individual at every one of the Tax Day protests. I wouldn’t put any ammunition, no matter how ineffective, in the hands of someone like that. It would incompetent. It would be self-destructive. It would be stupid.

Naturally, reporters are incapable of comprehending this, because they also want to bring this President down so intensely they can taste it. The pundits are already deranged: here’s Salon’s Heather Digby Parton, explaining why Maxine Waters, a career embarrassment to Congress, is a leader because she insists that she wants to impeach Trump now:

“It may seem that Waters just has a pugilistic personality and is out front because it’s her political style to mix it up. But there is a strategy at work in this. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that a president was impeached for only the second time in history and this was over a “crime” that seems laughably insubstantial compared to the possibilities that Donald Trump could face. Just for starters, Trump’s presidential campaign is being investigated in a counterintelligence probe, and the list of his conflicts of interest are so wide-ranging and so deep that almost anything could implicate him in a corruption scandal. Impeachment is really not a far-fetched proposition.”

Again, facts are stubborn things. First of all, impeachment is always a far-fetched proposition, and was intended to be.  Conviction requires two-thirds of the Senate, and unless that is feasible, the exercise of impeachment by the House is a waste of time that paralyzes the government. Bill Clinton lied under oath in a court of law and used the government to engineer a cover-up. That’s not insubstantial, except to Democrats whose position then as now was that their Presidents can do no wrong and are never accountable. Bill’s crime is insubstantial, Salon says, “compared to the possibilities that Donald Trump could face.” “Could face!” Savor that one for a bit. That’s the mindset of the entire “resistance.” These unhinged and totalitarian-listing Americans are just certain that “something is out there,” like “The X-Files,”  because it might be out there, at least in their hyper-partisan dreams. The investigation is part of the partisan anti-Trump Presidency play-book, and is about as meaningful as Republican investigations aimed at proving that the Obama Administration intentionally allowed our Libyan ambassador to die.

You see, investigations are not proof of wrongdoing. They have become weapons to insinuate wrongdoing: Joe McCarthy paved the way, As for Trump’s conflicts, “almost anything” would not constitute an actual scandal.  “Almost anything” will allow Trump-haters to claim there is a scandal, and the news media to support such claims as long as they can do undermine the President as much as they can…which brings us back to the tax returns.

If the President could plausibly believe that the news media would be fair and objective, maybe he would release his returns. All we hear is that the only explanation is that he has something nefarious to hide. That is not the only explanation. The other explanation that the news media has provide every reason for him to believe  that almost all the major news organizations are allied with his enemies, and will not fairly report on what is in the returns. Do you doubt that?  How? MSNBC reporter Morgan Radford  interviewing actress Debra Messing at a Tax Day protest, heard the former “Will & Grace” star state as fact that American democracy was “attacked and infiltrated by Russia,” ( a hysterical characterization, and pure Hillary campaign talking point—I wonder, would Messing be saying this if Russia hacked Trump’s tax returns before the election?) and responded by asking Messing the  “best way to make our voices heard” in order to “neutralize” the threat posed by the “current administration to democracy.”

Reporters aren’t even trying to be objective, don’t want to be, and are convinced their market doesn’t want them to be journalists, but activists. Thus their news organizations are refusing to enforce even minimal journalism standards. Why would any leader determined to do the daunting job facing him give these unethical, hateful hacks any assistance in warping public opinion?

CNN’s Chris Cillizza graphically illustrates how bias makes journalists stupid and untrustworthy in his feature called “The big thing Trump gets wrong about his taxes and the 2016 election.”

Taking off from the President’s typical and unhelpful “Nyah nyah, I won” tweet about the protest, Cillizza writes,

The Trump logic appears to go like this:

Democrats hit me for not releasing my tax returns during the campaign.

I won.

Ergo, no one cares about my taxes.

This isn’t the first time this sort of thinking has been deployed by Trump and his senior staff. Back in January, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway insisted that “we litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care.”

Conway’s point didn’t make sense then. And Trump’s doesn’t now.

No, Chris, your point is the umpteenth example of  journalists misreading sloppy Trump team rhetoric to make an invalid point.  What Conway meant was not that “people didn’t care.”  It was that the people who voted for Donald Trump cared about other things more. They still do. The election, after all, wasn’t about tax returns. (Similarly, those who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton may care very much about women’s rights, but cared more about keeping the corrupt Clinton machine from getting its grubby hands on the levers of power.) The people who cared about other things more than Trump refusing to reveal his taxes still care more about those things, which now includes his having to deal with very real and very pressing problems which the tax returns cannot do a thing to solve. Because the election is over and Trump is President for the next four years, they care about his taxes even less than before in comparison to wanting him to be successful. Trump, and Conway, I and I hope you KNOW the taxes matter to the people who want to wreck his Presidency; we all know Chris cares, because it can only cause harm to the administration.

The President’s point makes perfect sense, and not releasing his returns now also makes sense.

Anything else would be deliberately crippling his ability to lead, and no responsible leader does that intentionally.

President Trump does too much of that unintentionally already.

[And may I add, boy, I’m sick or having to write about this. But then, Samuel Pepys got tired of writing about the plague.]

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U.S. Journalism’s Continued Unraveling, And CNN’s Unprofessional, Unethical, Destructive Disrespect For The President Of The United States

And the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck’s carnage continues…

The degree to which the Post 2016 Election Ethics Train Wreck has engulfed the news media has shocked even me, and readers know that Ethics Alarms had  swamp-level regard for U.S. journalists long before the 2016 campaign. It has obliterated any legitimate trust a citizen could have in the mainstream media’s news judgment, objectivity and competence, and with the exception of tiny pockets of professionalism here and there (Jake Tapper comes to mind), has declared itself a partisan foe of the electoral system, and the Presidency. The double standards applied regarding Democrats and Republicans as well as the smug shamelessness with which the media has applied them cannot be condemned too harshly. Naturally, the equally corrupted members of the so-called “resistance” see none of the harm and betrayal in this, since it suits their own ends.

Ethics Alarms  can’t catalogue all of the worst examples of this; there isn’t time. Last month, for example, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who once had a conscience and a mind even as you or I, authored one of the ugliest and most disgusting pieces I have read in any reputable publication. In the disgrace titled “There’s a Whiff of Treason In The Air” Kristof issued a conspiracy theory that would be at home in the archives of Alex Jones,  Mike Cernovich, or Donald Trump in his birther days, except that so many hopeful Democrats endorse it. The column is one long, vicious smear, claiming that President Trump engaged in treason, while citing absolutely no evidence whatsoever that supports such an inflammatory accusation. I considered flagging all of the slimy, dishonest, hypocritical rhetorical techniques Kristof brings to his efforts to undermine his nation’s President, but I decided to do so would insult my readers’ intelligence: it is so obvious, particularly when one considers the Russian “ties” the Clinton campaign had to Russia. Why do the business dealings of Trump campaign personnel with Russian figures spell TREASON to the Times columnist, and the more ominous ties between Russia and the Clintons get a pass? Simple: he wants Donald Trump to be proven a traitor; his readers want it; and he, the Times and the Democratic Party that has sold its integrity and soul intends to push the accusations as long as they can cripple and delegitimize the government they oppose. Continue reading

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From The “Saint’s Excuse” Files:The Catholic Church, Penn State, and Now Choate…What Have We Learned?

Protect the hive. Always protect the hive…

The renowned private boarding school school Choate Rosemary Hall, alma mater of such luminaries as John Dos Passos, Edward Albee, Glenn Close, multiple Kennedys and dozens more of the rich, famous and powerful, , just revealed that at least twelve former teachers had sexually molested, and in one case, raped, students without the crimes being reported to police. The pattern continued over decades. In some cases, teachers were allowed to resign after being confronted with evidence of abuse, and administrators wrote still letters of recommendations for them after they were fired. The predators then went to other schools, sometimes in positions of power and authority.

After the similar institutional conduct revealed by the Catholic Church and Penn State, does anyone believe that this is a rare occurrence in institution, including the most prestigious—and virtuous!—ones? The lesson is that established, powerful, iconic institutions are programmed to protect themselves above others, and regard their own missions and continued vitality more precious than any single individual, even a child.

Revisiting one of the most important of the Ethics Alarms’ 92 rationalizations:

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

This rationalization has probably caused more death and human suffering than any other. The words “it’s for a good cause” have been used to justify all sorts of lies, scams and mayhem. It is the downfall of the zealot, the true believer, and the passionate advocate that almost any action that supports “the Cause,’ whether it be liberty, religion, charity, or curing a plague, is seen as being justified by the inherent rightness of the ultimate goal. Thus Catholic Bishops protected child-molesting priests to protect the Church, and the American Red Cross used deceptive promotions to swell its blood supplies after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Saint’s Excuse  allows charities to strong-arm contributors, and advocacy groups to use lies and innuendo to savage ideological opponents. The Saint’s Excuse is that the ends justify the means, because the “saint” has decided that the ends are worth any price—especially when that price will have to be paid by someone else.

Continue reading

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Arrgh! They Made Me Defend Sean Spicer!

Yes, he’s an idiot. Still...

The latest Sean Spicer controversy was so, so stupid that I swore—swore I tell you!—that I would not lower myself to write about it.

The Trump Administration spokesman, making the dumb assertion that Assad is even worse than Hitler because Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” was absurdly—gleefully?— attacked as a Holocaust denier.ThnkProgress, which I am going to have to place on my “never trust these hacks” list, wrote that Spicer “argued that the Nazis never used chemical weapons during the Holocaust,” which is a lie, flat out. Spicer didn’t mention the Holocaust at all. Then The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect released a statement saying,

“On Passover no less, Sean Spicer has engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death.”

This is perhaps not quite a lie, since the combination of confirmation bias and paranoia could make this organization see Holocaust denial behind every rock, but it is no less ridiculous, inflammatory and unfair. Then some of my 2016 election-deranged friends—I now picture them wrapped in tin foil, wearing Groucho glasses and spreading DDT around as they sit cross-legged in a teepee with a flaming penguin on their heads—began citing the Anne Frank Center slander with approval, and garnishing likes from a lot of people who I usually like and who once had brains larger than marbles.

So now I have to defend Sean Spicer. Yecchh.

Observations:

1. Everyone is calling for Trump to fire Spicer. Of course he should fire Spicer. He should have fired Spicer  months ago. Sean Spicer is incompetent, bumbling, inarticulate and gaffe prone. He is even more incompetent, bumbling, inarticulate and gaffe prone than Robert Gibbs, who was the most incompetent, bumbling, inarticulate and gaffe prone press secretary I ever had the pain of watching. (Obama’s subsequent press secretaries were just liars.). Spicer is much worse than Gibbs, though he doesn’t say uh-uh-un-um-um-um as much. I wish he would: they would be an improvement over what he does say. Spicer looks stupid and sounds stupid, so he represents the President and his entire administration as stupid WHICH THEY MIGHT BE, but his job is to place both in the best light possible. He does the opposite. This Hitler botch was just the most recent example.

2. Trump promised to appoint and hire “the best people,” so having one of the worst people imaginable representing his Presidency to the news media and the public leaves “incompetent” in the dust as “suicidal” takes over. This is especially true since the President knows that the news media is actively hostile to his leadership and is actively allied with the Democrats to bring him down and cancel out that damned election by any means possible. Trump’s situation screams out for a spokesman with the credibility, suave and wit of the late Tony Snow or the fierce intellect and articulateness of the very much alive Laura Ingraham. The fact that Trump can’t see that, and that his advisors haven’t threatened to walk out and join an anti-Trump rally if he refused to fire this clod and send him back to the Budget car rental desk or wherever he came from is really ominous. If “best people” means people like Spicer…well, I don’t like to think about it. And if the “You’re fired!” executive won’t fire someone who performs as horribly as him, who will he fire?

3. The Hitler statement was, no question, idiotic. At best, it was the most egregiously warped use of Rationalization # 32. The Unethical Role Model imaginable: Spicer was really saying, “why couldn’t Assad be more like Hitler?”! At worst, it  was like walking into the buzz-saw of the Trump-hate narrative that the President and his team are virtual Nazis and secret anti-Semites. It was so dumb that the fact that Spicer didn’t physically try to stuff the words back into his mouth as they started coming out is signature significance that the man belongs in a home. Continue reading

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