Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/5/2019: Knaves, Idiots, And Fools

Good Morning!

1. Stupid lawsuit update. The bitter ex-Ethics Alarms commenter now appealing the obvious ruling by a Massachusetts judge that his vindictive defamation suit against me continued his abuse of process by filing a spurious motion accusing me of contempt of court and perjury, and calling for sanctions.. It’s 100% baloney, but I still have to file an answer, thus wasting more of my time, which is the point. I’m debating whether to note in my opposition to the motion that the man is an asshole.

2. What an idiot, #1: You have been signed to a ridiculous contract by the Philadelphia Phillies, 13 years for $330 million dollars. You waited four months to do so, jamming up the careers and lives of dozens of lesser players because you really didn’t want to play there, and were determined to get a record setting amount. You know the city’s fans are dubious about your loyalty and commitment, though you have stated that you took such a long contract to demonstrate that commitment. Now you are being introduced to your new team, city and fan base after spending all of your career playing for one of their rival in the National League East, the Washington Nationals. Do you carefully plan out what you will say, when you have your turn at the microphone, knowing that one has only one chance to make a good first impression?

Not if you are Bryce Harper. Yesterday, at his press conference, he said that he wanted to bring a World Series title to Washington D.C.

It’s going to be a long 13 years. For everyone.

3.  What an idiot, #2: Special counsel Robert Mueller notified federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Roger Stone had sent  an Instagram post which containing a photo of Mueller under the words “Who framed Roger Stone,” despite Stone being under Jackson’s gag order barring him from speaking in public about Mueller’s team and its investigation.
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Unethical Quote Of The Week, Cross-Filed to “The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck,” “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias,” AND “Bias Makes You Stupid”: ABC Correspondent Terry Moran

“Overturning Roe vs. Wade by an all-male majority, two of whom have had credible accusations of sexual misconduct lodged against them, would not be a legitimate action.”

—–ABC correspondent Terry Moran, on an ABC news broadcast, as he discussed what would happen to the nation’s highest court if the Senate confirms Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh,

It doesn’t get much worse than this. The statement is irresponsible, unfair, ignorant, partisan, incompetent, inflammatory and untrue. It involves multiple distortions of law and fact. It is an opinion presented as fact by an individual lacking the credentials or authority to issue such an opinion. It also encourages defiance of lawful authority.

Moran is a journalist, trained as a journalist and as nothing but a journalist. His current role at ABC is as a foreign correspondent. He is no lawyer, and apparently has no idea what a conflict of interest is. For him to use his air time to make such a pronouncement, sure to be sucked up by the eager, empty brain cells of social media junkies everywhere, is an abuse of his position and influence. That is, however, what he and his colleagues increasingly call “journalism” in 2018. It isn’t journalism, not the ethical kind. It is propaganda, and worse.

For the sake of brevity, since these are major misrepresentations that could each be the subject of scholarly essays, allow me to just bullet point them:

  • More fake news, Future and Psychic News Division. Why is Moran talking about Roe v. Wade being overturned? There is no case before the Supreme Court that would do that. There is no pending case in the system that would lead to that. None of the sitting justices or Kavanaugh have argued that Roe should be overturned, and the conservative justices have all declared their fealty to the concept of stare decisus, in which established SCOTUS decisions are regarded as settled law except in extraordinary circumstances.

For a broadcast journalist to discuss a remote hypothetical—and it is remote by definition, since none of the conditions necessary for it to occur appear to exits—is brazen fear-mongering and misleading the public.

  • More fake news, Future and Psychic News Division, Part II.  Then Moran forsees what individual Justices will decide in this imaginary case that hasn’t been argued, or briefed. In this he reduces the Supreme Court, which analyzes difficult questions of law, to a group of agenda-driven knee-jerk hacks, which they are not.

Journalists like Moran are the agenda-driven knee-jerk hacks, and at least in his case, are unable to imagine anyone else treating important controversies objectively

  • Gender stereotyping. There is no justification for assuming that a male justice would automatically vote to overturn Roe, and the assumption is historically ignorant. After all, an all-male SCOTUS majority established Roe.

Moran also assumes that no woman on the Court would vote with the male members even if the particular facts and law related to the imaginary, hypothetical future case that may never exist required an honest, objective female Justice to do so. This is  simple-minded, biased thinking that reduces both genders to their lowest common denominators.

  • The misleading word, “credible.” “Credible” means “capable of being believed” by itself. I could state here that I am five foot three inches tall and once worked as Latin tutor to make extra money in school. Those are both credible claims: there’s nothing that makes them unbelievable. They are also untrue. Being credible is not the test for whether any statement of evidence should be believed, and in any dispute, such statements must be considered in the context of other evidence. Brett Kavanaugh’s denial is also credible, except to those who have a vested interest in disbelieving it.

In this nation, and in any just society, we do not make judgments about people based on “credible accusations.” The accusations must be corroborated and substantiated to some extent. Dr. Ford named witnesses, and none of them have confirmed her story. That does not make her accusation incredible, but no conclusions can be drawn from it either.

  • There’s no conflict of interest. I don’t know what tortured definition of conflict of interest Moran thinks he knows, but whatever it is, it doesn’t exist in law or ethics. I’m assuming that a conflict is what he thinks would undermine the legitimacy of his imaginary, future hypothetical SCOTUS decision. If mere gender created a conflict, then neither women nor men could consider abortion cases. Blacks couldn’t rule on civil rights cases. Motherhood, fatherhood, whether a judge had an abortion or chose not to have one, these at most create biases, not conflicts, which occur when a judge’s current tangible, real life, current interests will be affected by a decision he or she is obligated to make. Judges are pledged to ignore their biases, not to never have them. All human beings have biases; judges are professionally trained and obligated to do a better job than the rest of us recognizing them and overcoming them.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/7/17

1. I am afraid that today’s posts may be heavily tilted to the ongoing mainstream media implosion, depending on what other issues surface and what the Ethics Alarms ethics scouts sleuth out. Afraid, because I know that many readers here, like the news media itself (not surprisingly, but tellingly, the legacy news media isn’t reporting this story, but it is being thoroughly reported in the “new”–as in online–news media) want to pretend that it isn’t a story at all. The repeated deflection—they are deflecting, whether the mainstream media defenders can admit it to themselves or not, because the news media is destroying itself with unrestrained anti-Trump bias, and its defenders like anti-Trump bias, as they are suffering from it themselves—is “Isn’t an untrustworthy President worse than an untrustworthy news media?” The answer is absolutely not. A President’s job isn’t to be trustworthy, though being trustworthy is crucial to doing the job and maintaining the vitality of his Office. A President’s job is lead the government and use his power to keep the nation safe, free and prosperous while upholding the Constitution. A trustworthy President is more likely to accomplish those goals, and I insist that a trustworthy (that is, ethical) individual should always be preferred over an untrustworthy one who claims to have more popular policies in mind. Nevertheless, untrustworthy Presidents can have successful administrations, and have before in our history. Moreover, a President who is untrustworthy can be replaced in four years.

We don’t elect journalists. What is happening to our pampered, privileged, arrogant  journalistic establishment cannot be remedied at the ballot box, and indeed impedes effective elections. A news media that increasingly sees its function as manipulating public opinion to serve its own ideological and partisan ends threatens democracy itself. That makes the rogue news media of today a far greater threat than one incompetent President, and the more urgent ethics concern.

How will this professional ethics abdication be addressed and repaired? It must be, and the starting point has to be the journalism field’s  own recognition that there is a crisis.

2. There was a flicker of hope on the self-recognition front yesterday, when former CNN chairman and CEO Walter Isaacson, being interviewed on Bloomberg’s “What’d You Miss, lamented the current state of the media, saying that news coverage and bias was the at least partially at fault for the “enormous political divide” in the U.S.  Now leading the Aspen Institute’s education and policy studies, Isaacson said that the polarization and partisan hostility “have been exacerbated by all forms of media. People are getting more and more partisan.” He also pointedly refused to accept the standard “It’s all Fox News’ fault” rationalization, saying, “I put everybody [in the media] in the category, including all of us, that we can step back from knee-jerk partisan elections…that would be good.”

Isaacson’s statements are too mild and meek, and not exactly a ringing rebuke, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’ll take what I can get. Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Presents “Fake News” Friday! Episode I: Poynter’s Code of Principles

fake-news-sites

Poynter is a serious and justly respected  nonprofit school for journalism and journalism ethics organization. Naturally, it has been drawn into the “fake news” debate, which is unfortunate, since the issue itself has arisen not so much as part of a much-need effort to purge the new and old news media of biased and misleading news reporting, but as part of partisan attempt by the mainstream news media and others to find some explanation, any explanation, for Donald Trump’s election that doesn’t involve a genuine public rejection of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Poynter, as far as I’ve been able to determine, is scrupulously non-partisan, or perhaps hides its Democrat tilt better than the rest of its profession. Now it is being used by those who are not so trustworthy.

Poynter was in the news yesterday as a result of Facebook’s announcement that it will start “fact-checking, labeling, and burying fake news and hoaxes in its News Feed. Mark Zuckerberg announced that his social media platform will collaborate with a small list of media organizations, including Snopes, Factcheck.org, ABC News, and PolitiFact to accomplish this, and noted that these are part of an international fact-checking network under the guidance of Poynter.

Here’s a fact to check: Snopes, Factcheck.org, ABC News, the Associated Press, and PolitiFact are all partisan-biased operations to a greater or lesser extent. Facebook itself is a partisan biased organization. That Facebook would blandly cite three of these four to reassure anyone but the Democratic National Committee is proof positive that this is a cynical, untrustworthy exercise. Continue reading

George Stephanopoulos Grills Hillary

"Hi, Hillary! Gosh, it's good to see you!"

“Hi, Hillary! Gosh, it’s good to see you!”

On ABC’s Sunday morning talking heads show, Hillary Clinton is being interviewed right now “one on one” by former Clinton machine insider George Stephanopoulos. This is, as I have pointed out before without rebuttal because there is no rebuttal, a grotesque example of unethical journalism, a screamingly obvious conflict of interest, and an insult to ABC’s viewers.

I resolved not to watch this inevitable loogie in the eye of respectable and fair campaign coverage, because until viewers refuse to be treated with such contempt, news departments will continue to be contemptuous. Some strange impulse forced me to light on ABC for exactly 23 seconds, and I got to hear Hillary go through the same focus group-tested talking points, rationalizations and lies she has been using to defend her e-mail machinations for a year—“Colin Powell did it too,” “national security wasn’t endangered,” “it wasn’t the best choice,” etc.—and to thank the President for compromising the integrity of the investigation while he was saying that he wouldn’t compromise the integrity of the investigation. There was enough ammunition in that single snippet to give any competent and objective interviewer an opening to expose her deceit for all to see. George’s response, delivered with a benevolent smile and the dreamy gaze of a true blue admirer…

“So, are you confident about this Tuesday?”

Res ipsa loquitur.

 

This Just In: George Stephanopoulos Still Has A Conflict Of Interest

Steph-and-Bill-ClintonI just watched George Stephanopoulos grill Bernie Sanders on his Sunday morning show on ABC.

It was a fair, professional interview. It doesn’t matter. George Stephanopoulos has a bright, shining, unshakable conflict of interest of long-standing, and both he and his employer, ABC, pretend it doesn’t exist.  He is a former Clinton staffer. He has a previous relationship with Hillary Clinton. He withheld the fact that he had contributed $75,000 to  the Clinton Promotion Slush Fund And Under The Table Influence Peddling Machine, also known as the Clinton Foundation. In 2006 he was a featured attendee and panel moderator at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). He was also a 2008 panelist at the CGI annual meeting. In 2009, he served as a panel moderator at CGI’s annual meeting. In 2010 and 2011, he was an official member of the Clinton Global initiative.In 2013 and 2014, he served with Chelsea Clinton as CGI contest judges for awards.

This long, obviously close and supportive relationship with the Clintons would dictate Stephanopoulos’s removal from any reporting of the Democratic Presidential competition between his former patron and current favored candidate and Bernie Sanders, if ABC was the least bit interested in promoting fairness, professionalism and objectivity in its journalism. Obviously, it isn’t. It isn’t even interested in avoiding a giant, blinking, neon appearance of impropriety that suggests that the fix is in.

At the very least, Stephanopoulos should have been required to give viewers a full account of his ties to the Clintons, so viewers can decide for themselves how objective he is. At very least, if he was an ethical journalist, George should have done this on his own. Continue reading

Thoughts Upon Watching George Stephanopoulos Interview Another Hillary Clinton Advisor This Morning

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1. Why is George Stephanopoulos still being allowed to interview anyone connected to, critical of or opposing the campaign of Hillary Clinton? He has an irreparable conflict of interest and the appearance of impropriety. He was deceptive regarding his continued support for the Clintons, by not reporting serial large contributions to their foundation/political slush fund. ABC is essentially ignoring basic journalism ethics.

2. Interviewing another one of Hillary’s paid liars--I didn’t catch his name, and frankly, they are fungible: let’s call him :Lanny Davis 2016″—George asked the same question about trade that Jake Tapper did, but barely pressed on after receiving the same evasive answer. Why? Because Tapper is a real journalist and George isn’t? Or because George was attempting to show he is objective by asking the question, but is still essentially an undercover, though not so covered, Clinton booster?

3. George then asked another tough question, asking Lanny 2016 about what he said about Clinton in 2008 when he was working for candidate Barack Obama against Hillary, saying that Clinton couldn’t be believed and that she adopted positions according to political calculus rather than sincere beliefs. The honest answer would have been, “Well, you understand this, George: Obama was paying me then, Hillary’s paying me know, just as the Clintons paid you once, and now ABC does.” Instead, Lanny II replied with a canned statement that didn’t address George’s question at all, and George let him get away with it. Why? Because he’s a hack? Because he’s dumb? Or because he’s in the tank for Hillary Clinton?