Tag Archives: 2016 Presidential election

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/3/17: Democracy Dies In Darkness Edition

GOOD MORNING!

1 Related to the previous post is the fact that the President of the United States should not be recommending the death penalty for anyone before they are tried and fund guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, even vile terrorists who attack and kill children. Yet President Trump did this in his usual impulsive, infuriating fashion. It is not the first time he’s crossed this separation of powers line, either: his comments also caused problems in the prosecution of deserter Bowe Bergdahl,

The gratuitous interference with the justice system by premature pronouncements of guilt and deserved execution serve no purpose; the President is just grandstanding. President Obama made premature  comments on unresolved legal matters several times too; he did it more articulately, of course, but he still did it, and he’s a lawyer. Is this particularly stupid conduct “Presidential” now?

2. Speaking of the concept of presumed innocent until proven guilty: I wonder if there has ever been anything in U.S. history as widespread, unfair, and vicious as the assumption by so many in the public and the news media that the President of the United States engaged in criminal acts to steal an election—without any evidence whatsoever. It is like a mass delusion, and all, as far as I can see, because of three factors: past business dealings with Russian entities (which is not illegal) by many of Trump’s associates; Trump’s Trumpish and obviously facetious call on the campaign trail for Russia to reveal Hillary’s (illegally) spoliated emails, and the accusation from Clinton and others that Russia’s interference—you know, with brilliant, persuasive internet ads—explained Hillary Clinton’s loss and made Trump’s election “illegitimate.”

I had another conversation with a friend about this yesterday. He’s just certain that Trump did something illegal. What? He doesn’t know, but he’s sure. Why is he sure? because it’s Trump, that’s why, and because my friend still can’t believe that the man could have been elected without some kind of conspiracy. It’s stunning, and the news media is fanning these flames of delusion. Here’s a post on the Daily Beast; the title: “The Rise of George Papadopoulos, a Trump Adviser Who May Kill Trump’s Presidency.”

The title is blatantly dishonest ckickbait: I clicked. It’s out there for people like my Trump-Hating, Trump-Fearing friend, who reads this and thinks, “Yippee! My wait will soon be over!” Would you like to guess at how much factual support is revealed for the conclusion that Papadopoulos “may kill Trump’s Presidency’? None. Absolutely none. An equally accurate headline would have been, “The Rise of George Papadopoulos, a Trump Adviser Who May Eat a Honda,” or “The Rise of George Papadopoulos, a Trump Adviser Who Could Be  A Concert Cellist If He Practiced Really Hard.”

This is unethical, but it’s also nuts.

3. According to Newsbusters, who obsesses over such things,  neither ABC, CBS, nor NBC covered Donna Brazile’s explosive accusation yesterday that Hillary Clinton and her campaign bought the Democratic National Committee and rigged the nomination process. There is no excuse for this; it is a dereliction of journalism ethics and the profession’s duty to the public. There is also no benign explanation for it. It was obviously the top story of the day, and one with great national and civic significance. Newsbuster’s typical assessment:

“The reason the networks wanted to keep Brazile’s findings secret was simple: They didn’t want to ruin their narrative that Clinton was a pure angel who was a victim of Donald Trump and Russian collusion”

That seems harsh, but it’s not unfair. What other explanation is there? They just somehow never got the memo? They really believed that more coverage about how three Mueller indictments unrelated to illegal Russian contacts by the Trump campaign mean there were illegal contacts with Russia by the Trump campaign?  They have decided to prove, once and for all, that the news media is totally corrupt and biased? Hillary Clinton has bought the networks too?  What then?

4. I have to admit: this makes me angry, and it’s pretty unusual for ethics stories to make me angry. I’m not angry at the networks—disgusted, yes; saddened that our democracy, which can only be healthy with objective, competent journalism informing the public, is endangered, but not angry. Not after all this time: it was clear beyond debate that journalism had become largely partisan Democratic Party and progressive propaganda at least by the 2008 election. I’ve been documenting it, as have others. It’s not my imagination. Yet regular commenters on this blog, people of intelligence and (usually) honesty and perception, have protested that this just isn’t true, that the problem is MY bias.

There have been so many smoking guns that show the news media’s flagrant bias and news manipulation that if you gathered them all you could film Stephen King’s “The Mist” without any dry ice, but these people keep denying it.  PBS allowing Gwen Ifill to moderate the 2008 VP debate while she had a book at the publishers celebrating the election of Barack Obama?  Conflict of interest? What conflict of interest? CNBC’s prosecutorial GOP debate moderation? Eh, it wasn’t so bad, and besides, those bastards deserved it. Blaming the Tuscon shootings on Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh? OK, the media got carried away, and what about all those guns? The Boston Globe’s fake news front page about the dystopian hell of a Trump Presidency? Oh, it was just a joke! Newsweek sending out an edition announcing that Hillary was elected? Anyone can make a mistake! The New York Times announcing that it was now its duty to defeat Donald Trump? Well, he’s a special case! News anchors looking, sounding and acting as if their parents had just died of Ebola while announcing the 2016 election results? Come on! They’re only human!

CNN’s April Ryan screaming, “Is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong?” at Sarah Huckabee Sanders on live TV…the nearly total embargo on the Madeleine Leader story–still!—in the non-conservative media…there are hundreds and hundreds—thousands—of equally damning examples, and yet progressives and Democrats who I—we, all of us— should be able to trust as responsible citizens, Americans and ethical human beings  continue to refuse to say, “OK, I agree, this is a catastrophe, and we have to do something about it.”  And because they won’t, and don’t have the integrity to do it, the news media feels vindicated and empowered to continue spinning, lying, manipulating and refusing to practice honest journalism, as responsible citizen civic participation becomes literally impossible.

Yes. It ticks me off, and it ought to tick off everyone. And the fact that it doesn’t also ticks me off.

5. I’m going to say it: every American, liberal, conservative, moderate, should fall on their knees and thank the ghost of that creep Roger Ailes for Fox News.

Yes, it’s a sexist, misogynist, sloppy news network, and yes it employs shameless hacks like Sean Hannity, and yes “Fox and Friends’ is the worst TV abomination since “My Mother The Car,” and yes yes yes its Republican bias is persistent and palpable, and yes I’m still boycotting it as I have for almost two years. Nevertheless, if it were not for Fox, many genuine, imprortant stories the rest of the news media didn’t want the public to know about would have been successfully buried. That was the original justification for the establishment of Fox News, and it outweighs all the other flaws and garbage. Democracy DOES die in darkness, as the Washington Post, so often a purveyor of darkness in recent years, has the chutzpah to say, and without Fox it would be a whole lot darker than it is.

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THIS Was Supposed To Win The Election For Trump?

My sister, who is one of the smartest people I know, is also convinced that the Russians won the election for Trump with their secret Facebook ads, Twitter trolling and, of course, hacking of actual emails that showed exactly how sleazy and corrupt the Democrats were. (I admit, I have a hard time understanding how the latter was a bad thing for the country, a classic example of an unethical action having a fortunate result. In any event, “They let the truth out!” is a complaint that I find hard to get all choked up about.)

About the ads and fake news, however—the more I see, the more I find the evidence unconvincing, to say the least. If the Russians were just trying to make the campaign a little uglier, I guess that’s something, but from everything I’ve seen so far, they were wasting their time and money. I do find a lot of the Russian ads insulting, though. Boy, they really think we’re morons. On the other hand, except as a matter of principle, why is an incompetent Russian pro-Trump ad that wouldn’t convince anyone with the IQ of a salad fork more significant than any other idiotic ad? If Russia hired homeless people to fart around polling places, would we really regard this as an attack on democracy? Proportion is an ethical value, after all.

Exhibit A is above, a fake ad by the “Army of Jesus” inviting people to elect “a president with godly moral principles,” calling Hillary Clinton “a Satan.” I thought it was an Mad Magazine parody. Anyone so cretinous as to have his or her vote influenced by this silliness is too dumb to operate a voting machine.  This junk is what Clinton bitter-enders really think turned the tide? No wonder Hillary’s excuses sound plausible: compared to this, they are compelling.

Did anyone regard Trump as having “godly moral principles”? Ever? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/2/2017: Goodbye Baseball, Hello Incompetence, And Isn’t It Nice Of Twitter Look Out For Us?

Good Morning, Everybody!

(Goodbye, baseball…)

1 The 2017 World Series ended last night, with the Houston Astros winning a hard-fought and exciting seven game battle over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Otto Von Bismarck famously observed that providence seemed to be looking out for the welfare of drunkards, fools, and the United States of America, and Major League Baseball should be added to Otto’s list. With the NFL simultaneously alienating civilized fans who don’t like seeing their heroes crippled for their entertainment, and more bloodthirsty fans who don’t want their entertainment polluted by half-baked political protests, baseball, whose ancient status as “The National Pastime” had been mocked as wishful thinking, entered the Fall at its best, and showed TV audiences a wild, passionate game featuring diverse and likeable players who seemed genuinely proud and privileged to be Americans.

Now comes the long, bleak winter…

2. From one of my smart, informed, anti-Trump obsessed progressive Facebook friends:

“So… we can talk about visa regulations right after an immigrant kills people, but we can’t talk about rational restrictions on guns when someone uses a gun to kill people?”

Rushing to take political advantage of a tragedy, as President Trump did by immediately using the terrorist attack in New York to push for his immigration reforms is, indeed, exactly as reprehensible whether it is done by Democrats or Republicans. A tactic sure looks uglier when it’s done to oppose your interests than when its done to advance them, isn’t it? (By the way, my friend, restrictions on immigration are not prohibited by the Constitution; “rational restrictions on guns,” aka “incremental elimination of the Second Amendment,” because it is now clear that this is the goal, is.)

3. A few hours after Trump’s Cabinet meeting, CNN’s Jim Acosta  asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “Why did the president call the U.S. justice system a joke and a laughingstock?”

“That’s not what he said,” Sanders replied. “He said that process has people calling us a joke and a laughingstock.”

In fact, the President had indeed said at the meeting, “We need quick justice and we need strong justice — much quicker and much stronger than we have right now — because what we have right now is a joke, and it’s a laughingstock.”

Observations: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/31/2017: A Hate Outbreak, A Bigoted Judge, A Lost Post, And More Halloween Ethics

Good Morning!

1 On Facebook, many of my progressive friends literally expressed glee at yesterday’s indictments, especially at the charge that Paul Manafort had engaged in “conspiracy against the United States.” Lots of social media users were expressing similar sentiments, the thrust being that they were excited that two individuals who worked for the Trump campaign were facing criminal charges…simply because they worked for the Trump campaign. This cackling mob hadn’t read the indictment, or if they did, they didn’t understand it. They just were engaging in free-standing hate by association.

The reaction is not sort of like, but exactly like, what I called  the “Ugliest moment of election night”: Trump’s crowd chanting “Lock her up!” as the upset electoral victory approached. Criminalizing the political process is not the way of democracy, and rooting for people’s lives to be ruined because of their partisan alliances is disgusting. Who among the people so thrilled to see Manafort and former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos being prosecuted know anything about them other than the fact that they worked for the President’s campaign? What do they think justifies cheering their indictment? Papadopoulos pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI about when he tried to meet with Russians claiming to have damning Hillary Clinton e-mails—which, I hope you know (and I bet the Facebook mob doesn’t) isn’t a crime.

Last night, Stephen Colbert, the full-time attack jester of “the resistance,” said of the indictments, “I know it’s almost Halloween, but it really feels more like Christmas!” What an idiotic and hateful thing to say, as well as a statement that is misleading to his audience, who naturally would think that the action implicates the President and the White House in something. (It doesn’t.)

2. Colbert also engaged in gratuitous race-baiting, because dividing the country along racial lines and promoting racial distrust is apparently what progressives think is funny and cool. Noting that the charges against Paul Manafort were filed on Friday but that he didn’t have to turn himself in until Monday Colbert smirked,  “Wow, we white people really do get arrested differently.” The “joke” is untrue, and racist in its own implications, suggesting that only whites commit white collar crimes and are regarded as low flight risks, while blacks commit the violent crimes and robberies that lead to immediate arrests.

These are ugly, mean-spirited people, poisoned by ugly, mean-spirited thoughts.

You can quote me.

3. Judge W. Mitchell Nance, a Kentucky judge, resigned after judicial ethics charges were filed against him as a result of his refusing to preside over any same-sex couple adoption cases. Nance announced that he would not  participate in  gay adoption matters in April, when he issued an order saying he was recusing himself from such case, arguing that adoption by a gay couple would never be in the best interest of a child.

The judicial misconduct complaint filed last month argued that Nance’s order violated the judicial ethics canons requiring judges to promote confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, to be faithful to the law, and to refrain from showing bias or prejudice.

It does. Good riddance. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/17/17: Boy Scouts, “Will and Grace,” An Actress Whines, Wedding Cakes, And (I’m Sorry!) More Hillary

Good Morning!

1 I’m giving an ethics talk to a Boy Scout troop this afternoon. Figuring out how to use example that are appropriate to ages 11-14 while avoiding hot-button issues like race, sexual orientation, police, guns and politics in general is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. What pop culture reference points will work is also a conundrum. What movies are they likely to have seen? In the Sixties, I could have referred to Westerns, many of which routinely embodied ethics lessons. But they also often involved shooting people, and kids don’t see Westerns now. In the Eighties, I might have sent Boy Scouts to episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which was virtually all about ethics. But Patrick Stewart is just an old guy doing commercials now, and there have been four TV incarnations of the franchise since Data packed it in, not counting the movies. Pixar movies are usually ethics-rich, but a lot of kids will bristle at being presumed to be cartoon fans. Superhero movies? The ones that raise ethics issues usually do so badly, or the issues are too complex—or too dark– for a Boy Scout Troop. Here we see the serious cultural problem of declining cultural literacy and deteriorating cross-generational communications as a result of the loss of common experience. and interests.

Well, it’s early. I’ll figure out something.

One approach I considered was to suggest they practice ethical analysis by reading the newspaper, picking out the ethics dilemmas and controversies that appear, thinking about them and arguing about them. Of course, that was foolish: they would probably ask, “What’s a newspaper?” However this morning’s Sunday Times is a perfect example. I could teach a four hour ethics seminar based on the stories in this edition alone. Look…

2. The baker who refused to sell a cake to a gay couple is back on the front page, thanks to the case winding its way to the Supreme Court. This time, the focus isn’t on Freedom of Religion (in this case, freedom to act like a jackass using your religion as an excuse), but Freedom of Speech. The government cannot compel speech, nor will the law compel specific performance of an artistic nature. The baker claims that his cakes are artistic creations, and he doesn’t have to make them for anyone or anything if he doesn’t want to.  The gay couple says that they weren’t asking for him to create an artwork, just to sell them a wedding cake. If the cake is a commodity, then the bake shop should be a public accommodation, and subject to applicable laws. Then the baker has to sell his cakes to anyone. If the cake is an “artistic creation” made specifically for the couple, then the law cannot force the baker to make it, or punish him if he refuses. Art is speech.

I hate these kinds of cases, and I’m sure the SCOTUS justices do too. A cake is sometimes just a cake, and sometimes a work of art. The confrontation should have been handled with ethics rather than law. The baker is a bigoted jerk, that’s all. I think he has a right not to make a cake for a gay couple, but exercising that right is cruel and insulting. Continue reading

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I Hate To Say This, And Believe Me, I REALLY Hate To Say This, But The More I Read Of “What Happened” And The More I Hear Hillary Spin Her Defeat, The Less Upset I Am That Trump Is President

Exhibit A:

Yes, Hillary Clinton thinks the lesson of Orwell’s “1984” is that the public needs to rely on leaders, the news media and “experts.”

This would have exploded my head, thus earning a KABOOM! tag, if it was much of surprise. There is no benign reading of this passage, which was presumably either written by Clinton or approved by her, as well as by editors who one would assume had her interests in mind. Hillary is saying that it is authoritarian to try to define reality, and that the public should trust the government, leaders, the press and approved experts to define reality.  Their authoritarianism is evil; OUR authoritarianism is good, because, of course, we are right. Hillary Clinton thinks this way. She just told us, if we didn’t know already.

Terrifying.

Or, perhaps, “Whew! That was a close one!”

This is, as readers of Ethics Alarms will recall, the reason I ultimately abandoned my decision to vote for Clinton as the horrible but obviously better candidate than Donald Trump. I realized that Hillary and her party now embodies exactly this anti-democratic and creepily (and creeping) totalitarian mindset. We know what’s best; we are manipulating the news, facts, and public opinion (and the nomination, debates, statistics, FBI investigations, the Constitution, Senate procedures, IRS policies, whether Benghazi was caused by a YouTube video…) for your own good, so trust us; when they do it, it’s wrong and sinister, but when we do it, it’s gooooood… Continue reading

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I’m Sorry To Have To Do Again This So Soon, But I Promised…Unethical Quote Of The Week: NYT Book Reviewer Jennifer Senior

I’m going to kill this fake history if it’s the last thing I do…

“But one thing we know for certain: History conspired against Clinton. No non-incumbent Democrat has succeeded a two-term Democratic president since 1836, and 2016 was a year when voters were pining for change.”

—-New York Times book reviewer Jennifer Senior, spinning for Hillary in her review of “What Happened”

I promised. I promised myself and Ethics Alarms readers that every time Presidential historian Doug Brnkley’s false election night statement that voters seldom elect the same party into the White house 12 years running is quoted as an explanation for Hillary Clinton’s loss, I would point out that this is a lie, and an especially awful one when issued on national TV by a supposedly-credible historian

Based on today’s New York Times review of Hillary Clinton’s excuse-and-blame fest in the wake of her defeat last November, I, and the truth, are making a little joint headway. Reviewer Jennifer Senior has refined Brinkley’s false history and now has a technically accurate but equally misleading version.

Yes, it is true: No non-incumbent Democrat has succeeded a two-term Democratic president since 1836. There is a threshold problem with even this reduction: why does the “rule” only apply to Democrats? Apparently Democrats can use the excuse that voters never vote in non-incumbents of the same party after 8 years, but Republicans can’t. Sorry, John McCain! Tough luck, Richard Nixon!

Democrats are so comfortable with the concept of double-standards when it benefits them. It’s scary.

The larger problem with this factoid is that it is deceitful. Using 1836 sounds impressive: Wow, this hasn’t happened for almost 200 years! No wonder Hillary lost! It’s not so impressive when one points out, as Senior doesn’t have the integrity to do, that there have been only three elections before 2016 when a non-incumbent Democrat had a chance to succeed a two-term Democratic President. Three. 3. III. I can flip heads with a coin three times in a row (or tails) any time I want to, in less than five minutes. The fact that in just three elections cheery-picked for certain similarities (though they were anything but similar) the same party lost proves, or even indicates, nothing. Suggesting it does is either ignorant or dishonest. (In Senior’s case, I vote dishonest, but I could be wrong.) Continue reading

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