The Pulitzer’s Deliberate Ethics Blindness [Corrected]

It was incredible: the only qualified candidate for the Pulitzer Prize just happened to be the spouse of a Pulitzer board member! What are the odds?

[Note: an incompletely edited and proofed version of this post was mistakenly published. I apologize. Thanks to Tim LeVier for flagging the problem.]

All awards and prize organizations are subject to fair suspicion about their integrity, and collectively, they undermine each other. The Academy Awards get criticized by prominent blacks, and suddenly the number of black nominees explodes. The Nobel Prize committee, once the epitome of a well-respected and trusted awards program, exposes its political bias by giving a Peace Prize to Barack Obama for no good reason whatsoever.

Then, beginning in late 2017, in an expose published late last year by a Swedish newspaper, the Swedish institution was rocked by accusations  from18 women who said they were sexually harassed or assaulted by French arts promoter  Jean-Claude Arnault, who is married to poet Katarina Frostenson and is friends with Horace Engdahl, both  members of the  Academy that awards the Nobel Prize in literature.  Arnault was sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of raping a woman in 2011. This ugly publicity cast unwelcome light on more unethical conduct: a club called Forum that Arnault and Frostenson owned received a subsidy from the Academy. Yes, the members were voting finnacial benefits to themselves.  There were also credible reports of Frostenson giving names of winners to Arnault before they were announced,, allowing him place wagers and win money with insider information. As the scandal expanded, Frostenson and Engdahl refused to resign. Three other members of the Academy left in protest.

Nice. The Committee decided not to award a Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018.

I’m surprised they didn’t just give it to Barack Obama.

This brings us to the Pulitzers, which have always been suspect. Continue reading

The Brazen Dishonesty Of Move-On.Org

If you know the background, this is hilarious…but not surprising.

Move-On.org has been an ethics burr under my saddle since they first sullied the political scene with their emergence during the Clinton impeachment drama. The name of the organization stood for the proposition, an out-growth of the ethically corrupting Democratic defenses of President Clinton’s conduct, that we should all get along, that the President and the nation had suffered enough, it was all just a big misunderstanding over sex and “private personal conduct,” and in the interests of everyone, we should just “move on to pressing issues facing the country.’”

This was transparent and dishonest partisan garbage at the time, and I wrote about it extensively on the old Ethics Scoreboard (which will be back on-line as soon as I have the stomach to fight via-email with the cheap hosting site that refuses to allow any direct phone contact, and is improperly holding my website hostage.) The group’s underlying supposition was and is corrupt: yes, the President illegally used an intern as his sex toy in the White House, lied under oath in a court proceeding, and used his power to hide evidence and cover-up his acts, but we should just let that go because there are more important things to worry about. The “ethically corrupting Democratic defenses of President Clinton’s conduct’ that spawned the cynical Move-On efforts were 1) It’s just sex. 2) lying about sex under oath isn’t really lying, because “everybody does it” 3) the President using his power and position to get sexual favors from an intern and U.S. government employee is no big deal; and 4) Come on, lots of other Presidents did bad stuff. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/20/19: Fighting Fake Hate Crimes, Mueller Report Spin, Journalism Incompetence, And Being Mean To Beto

Good morning!

1. Nah, there’s no mainstream media ignorance and stupidity…

Mecca!

These are the people we trust to keep us informed about the world, and explain what we don’t have the time to study.  Great. [Pointer: Instapundit]

2.  Please circulate to your tantrum-throwing Impeach Trump friends...Yet another sharp column by Glenn Greenwald cutting through the fog and wind, and explaining that, as he puts it, “Robert Mueller Did Not Merely Reject the Trump-Russia Conspiracy Theories. He Obliterated Them.”

Unlike the New York Times, which intentionally cherry-picked quotes from the Mueller Report to give solace to its Trump-Deranged readers, Greenwald reproduced the substantive conclusions that put the nails into the collusion fantasy. Like…

  • “The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation”
  • “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Greenwald concludes,

In sum, Democrats and their supporters had the exact prosecutor they all agreed was the embodiment of competence and integrity in Robert Mueller. He assembled a team of prosecutors and investigators that countless media accounts heralded as the most aggressive and adept in the nation. They had subpoena power, the vast surveillance apparatus of the U.S. government at their disposal, a demonstrated willingness to imprison anyone who lied to them, and unlimited time and resources to dig up everything they could.

The result of all of that was that not a single American – whether with the Trump campaign or otherwise – was charged or indicted on the core question of whether there was any conspiracy or coordination with Russia over the election. No Americans were charged or even accused of being controlled by or working at the behest of the Russian government. None of the key White House aides at the center of the controversy who testified for hours and hours – including Donald Trump, Jr. or Jared Kushner – were charged with any crimes of any kind, not even perjury, obstruction of justice or lying to Congress.

These facts are fatal to the conspiracy theorists who have drowned U.S. discourse for almost three years with a dangerous and distracting fixation on a fictitious espionage thriller involved unhinged claims of sexual and financial blackmail, nefarious infiltration of the U.S. Government by familiar foreign villains, and election cheating that empowered an illegitimate President. They got the exact prosecutor and investigation that they wanted, yet he could not establish that any of this happened and, in many cases, established that it did not.

Precisely. Continue reading

Friday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/19/2019: There’s More To Ethics Than Mueller Freakouts, You Know…

Happy Easter weekend

(For me and other Greek-Americans, Easter presents a yearly choice: Greek Easter is calculated on a different calendar (it also has only boring red eggs), and just once in a red moon coincides with the non-Greek holiday.  This year it’s a week later, so we’re not putting our eggs in any baskets until next Sunday. We celebrate Greek Easter in honor of my Mom, who was fanatic about all holidays. The Greek Orthodox Church was dead to us once a priest told the congregation that the offspring of “mixed marriages”–that is, Greek and non-Greek spouses like my parents—were considered illegitimate by the Church. (My dad walked out of the service.)

(The other Churches became dead to us a bit later, and for varying reasons.)

1 A brief Mueller interlude…a) Rep. Gerald Nadler is grandstanding by demanding the full, unredacted report. Giving secret grand jury testimony to Congress would be  illegal. Anything to inflame the public, I guess…b) It’s incomplete, but Scott Horton, a smart libertarian who has been tracking the various complexities of the Russiagate investigation far more closely than I have, tears the Mueller report to shreds in convincing fashion. I’m accepting the conclusions of the report on faith, but Horton demonstrates how open to attack the investigation may be. The post is long and overly colloquial, and I don’t have time to check Horton’s facts, but it is worth reading. c) April Ryan, the CNN hack who has a long history of attacking Trump press secretary Sarah Sanders, now says Sanders should be fired for “lying.” Sanders at one point said that “countless” FBI agents had said that they had lost trust in James Comey, then later said that “countless” was a misstatement. With very few exceptions over the last 50 years, Sanders’ job is that of a paid liar and obfuscater; I got tired of flagging all of the lies and spin issued by Obama’s three spokesmen. They all should be fired, I guess, but not for offenses like using the word “countless” when the correct word would be “plenty.” Heck, I even heard through contacts and back-channels that FBI agents were disgusted with Comey. How could they not be?

2. And now for something completely different: Walrus Ethics. This isn’t a Climate Change Denial post, it’s a “See, this is why so many people don’t trust climate change doomsday scenarios” post.

Netflix’s climate change propaganda documentary  “Our Planet,” narrated by David Attenborough, showed masses o the walruses climbing up cliffs in northeast Russia because, we were told, of a lack of sea ice. Then we saw the large pinnipeds over the cliff edges onto the rocks below, leaving hundreds of dead animals piled on the shore. Attenborough said their poor eyesight made it hard for them to return safely to the ocean.

 Dr. Susan Crockford, a Canadian zoologist specializing in evolution and the ecology of Holocene mammals (including polar bears and walrus), claims that the scene was a hoax. She called Netflix’s narrative over the “Our Planet” scene i“contrived nonsense… fiction and emotional manipulation at its worst”:

“The walruses shown in this Netflix film were almost certainly driven over the cliff by polar bears during a well-publicised incident in 2017.” Even if the footage shown by Attenborough was not the 2017 incident in Ryrkaypiy, we know that walruses reach the top of cliffs in some locations and might fall if startled by polar bears, people or aircraft overhead, not because they are confused by shrinking sea ice cover.”

Anthony Watts, a weather technology expert and author,  also suspects the footage captured was the 2017 Siberian incident.

I’ve been able to show that Crockford’s supposition about the geographical origin of the footage is correct: analysis of the rock shapes in the film and in a photo taken by the producer/director both match archive photos of Ryrkaypiy. The photo was taken on 19 September 2017, during the events described by the Siberian Times.

But whereas the Siberian Times and Gizmodo website, which also reported on the 2017 incident, were both quite clear that the walruses were driven over the cliffs by polar bears, Netflix makes no mention of their presence. Similarly, there is no mention of the fact that walrus haulouts are entirely normal. Instead, Attenborough tells his viewers that climate change is forcing the walruses on shore, where their poor eyesight leads them to plunge over the cliffs.

This is all very troubling as it raises the possibility that Netflix and the WWF are, innocently or otherwise, party to a deception of the public.

If the climate change urgency is as real as we are constantly told, why can’t it be demonstrated with real facts rather than fakery like this?  Is it any wonder the public is skeptical? [Pointer: Legal Insurrection] Continue reading

Exhibit A On Why It Is Crucial To Understand Moral Luck: The Samuel Lee Scott Affair

St. Louis Bail Project is under attack for bailing out Samuel Lee Scott, who was in jail pending domestic abuse charges and couldn’t pay the court-ordered bond. Once Scott was free, he went home and killed his wife.

The bail system, which is being re-examined across the country, obviously discriminates against the poor. The idea underlying bail is to get the accused out of jail before trial, since he or she is by definition not guilty, and to create  a financial incentive for the accused to appear for trial. The system penalizes poverty, so non-profits like  the St. Louis Bail Project use their resources to allow poor defendants to have the same options rich ones do. It is an ethical mission.

The fact that this one bailee committed murder is pure moral luck regarding the Bail Project. The Project does not second guess the judge’s decision to allow bail, or the system’s determination that Scott wasn’t a flight risk or a danger to the community. Indeed, there may have been no reason to expect that Scott would kill anyone. That he did was moral luck, and cannot be logically or fairly applied retroactively to the St. Louis Bail Project’s decision to pay his bail. The fact that bail was set indicates that the system did not regard him as a threat.

The episode could justifiably spark a debate regarding when and if domestic abusers should be provided with an opportunity to go home, and whether bail in such situations should include a requirement that they live apart and stay away from the alleged victim. What it should not do is cause organizations like the St. Louis Bail Project to doubt the importance of their mission.

Ethics Dunce, And Cowards Too: The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation

The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, named for the journalist beheaded in 2014 by ISIS forces, had announced that at its dinner Tuesday night at the National Press Club, Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo would receive the “2019 Foley American Hostage Freedom Award.”  The award would recognize Pompeo and the administration’s success at  freeing Americans-held prisoners around the world.

The honor was posted online, as you see above, and Pompeo was duly invited to receive his award. However, the group’s “media sponsors” objected to a member of the Trump Administration being honored, even when the honor was well earned, and prestigious journalists, not that there are such beasts except in their own fantasies, threatened to boycott the event. Why look! There’s Christiane Amanpour as the keynote speaker! Surely she would never engage is such despicable behavior. Surely not.

Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/26/19: A “Who’s The Most Unethical?” Poll

Good Morning!

Let’s play “Who’s the Most Unethical?” Today’s contestants…

1. About that missed call. In last weekend’s NFL play-off game won by the Rams over the Saints, the refs missed blatant pass interference that all agree should have been called, but wasn’t. Most also agree that the officiating botch probably cost New Orleans a title the team deserved to win, as well as a trip to the Super Bowl. Some fans are even suing the league, demanding that the game be replayed from the moment of the infraction. Of course, in the age of TV replays, there was no excuse for any of this. An official watching the game on video in a booth somewhere had to know there was interference, as did everyone watching the game in bars and living rooms around the nation. NFL rules, however, don’t permit reversals of calls on that particular kind of play, at least until Locking the Barn Door After The Horse Has Gone, NFL-style, kicks in after the season, and the rule is changed.

I’m always thrilled to see pro football embarrassed, especially when it has significance for baseball. All season long, in discussions among broadcasters, ex-players and sportswriters about whether Major League Baseball should computerize ball and strike calls as they easily can, I kept hearing the fatuous argument that human error was “part of the game.” The point is ridiculous, and thank you, NFL, for graphically illustrating why. In a sports competition, the team that has played the best and deserves to win after all the vicissitudes of the game—the bad bounces and lucky breaks—have taken their toll should triumph, and fans of the game should be able to trust that it will. For the wrong team to win because a non-player makes an error of omission or commission that is obvious to everyone cannot be tolerated by a sports organization with any respect for its sport or its followers. Allowing a championship to be wrongly decided because of an official’s error isn’t charming, it’s horrible. If it can be prevented, and it can, then it is unethical not to. Continue reading