So…Carl Bernstein Really Thinks President Trump Is Innocent Of Collusion With Russia After Telling Us For A Year That He Is Guilty. Nice.

A bad month for Carl Bernstein: first the film Bernstein, Dustin Hoffman, is revealed as a sexual predator, and now the real one is revealed as a lying partisan hack.

Brava to Ann Althouse for catching this.

I’ll let Ann describe her own scoop…

I was stunned by this amazing slip this morning on CNN’s “State of the Union.” The moderator Dana Bash had this question:WOODWARD: You have to look at the crimes.

[T]he investigation has been going on for over a year, at least in the Justice Department, the FBI. We still don’t know about any evidence that the president knowingly colluded with Russia. Does that give the president’s claim that this is a witch-hunt some credence?

Bernstein’s answer:

“He believes it’s a witch-hunt. There’s no question he believes it’s a witch-hunt.”

What?! The only way that Bernstein can make those assertions about what Trump believes is if Bernstein is sure Trump is not lying. Trump knows what he did with respect to Russia, but he’s saying it’s a witch-hunt. Trump’s saying that it’s a witch-hunt could happen if: 1. He knows there’s nothing there (i.e., Mueller is searching for for something, like a witch, that doesn’t exist), or 2. He’s worried about something that he did and he wants to hide it. Bernstein’s remark excludes #2. But Bernstein doesn’t have access to the inside of Trump’s head, so why did Bernstein say that? I’d say Bernstein, on his own, knows that there’s nothing there, and he blurted out an answer without thinking about what he was saying about what’s in his own head.

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The NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck, Part Two

The overview of our latest Ethics Train Wreck continues from Part One

  • Slate published an essay by African-American musician John Legend that itself makes an excellent case against the protests while supposedly glorifying them. Never mind the standard anti-Trump spin at the beginning about “Islamophobia” and the rest, though it is nice for any author to state up front that he’s completely biased and his opinion should be discarded as such. Legend and Slate have the audacity to evoke actual protests that were clear and targeted in comparison the all-purpose “knee”:

“Protest is patriotic. Protest has played a critically important role in elevating the voices of the most vulnerable in our nation. Protest in America has been essential to ending war, to demanding equal rights, to ending unfair practices that keep citizens marginalized. If we quell protest in the name of patriotism, we are not patriots. We are tyrants.

Would there have been a Civil Rights Act without the Birmingham protests? When Bull Connor unleashed his fire hoses and dogs on the schoolchildren taking to the streets, racial disparities and the violence facing people because of the color of their skin became the issues of the times. With savage images of the brutal attack in the news every day, President John Kennedy had little choice but to push for a Civil Rights Act that demanded equal services and equal rights.

Protests in Selma, Alabama, changed the trajectory of this nation and catapulted the Voting Rights Act into being.”

A recipe for tapioca would be as germane to the NFL protests as the Selma march. There is no definable law, principle or position these protests bring into focus. Let’s check the Ethics Alarms Protest Ethics Checklist against the NFL grandstanding:

1. Is this protest just and necessary?

No. How is it just? How is it necessary?

2. Is the primary motive for the protest unclear, personal, selfish, too broad or narrow?

Unclear and too broad by definition, since no two protesters make the same argument.

3. Is the means of protest appropriate to the objective?

Obviously not. What does football have to do with “racial justice”?

4. Is there a significant chance that it will achieve an ethical objective or contribute to doing so?

None whatsoever.

5. What will this protest cost, and who will have to pay the bill?

It’s already cost the NFL millions. But nobody is protesting the NFL…

6. Will the individuals or organizations that are the targets of the protest also be the ones who will most powerfully feel its effects?

No.

7. Will innocent people be adversely affected by this action? (If so, how many?)

Sure: every single fan who wants to just watch football.

8. Is there a significant possibility that anyone will be hurt or harmed? (if so, how seriously? How many people?)

The relentless politicizing of sports and entertainment harms U.S. society and frays the fabric of democracy. That means everyone.

9. Are you and your group prepared to take full responsibility for the consequences of the protest?

Clearly not: witness the constant complaining that NFL teams won’t hire Kaepernick so their season is dominated by racial politics rather than, you know, football..

10. Would an objective person feel that the protest is fair, reasonable, and proportional to its goal?

No.

11. What is the likelihood that the protest will be remembered as important, coherent, useful, effective and influential?

My guess: no chance whatsoever, unless unintended consequences count, like getting more votes for President Trump and crippling the NFL count.

12. Could the same resources, energy and time be more productively used toward achieving the same goals, or better ones?

It’s hard to imaging what wouldn’t be a better use of resources, energy and time.

Verdict: It’s an unethical protest. There is nothing patriotic about unethical protests. We have a right to protest; as with free speech, that doesn’t make all examples of exercising that right good, and certainly not “patriotic.”

  • However, let me argue in the alternative, as lawyers often do. Let’s say that, as Legend claims, all protests are patriotic. Fine. Then then Charlottesville protest against tearing down a statue of Robert E. Lee was also patriotic. Why, the, was the President attacked—by Legend and Slate, among others, for not condemning it?

The Left believes that protests are sacrosanct only when they are doing the protesting. There is nothing wrong or unpatriotic about accurately labeling a dumb, badly-conceived or destructive protest, and this one is all three.

“Football was down. The end. We, the good people who read the NYT, must say no to football. What is known cannot become unknown except by willful, immoral forgetting. No decent person can take pleasure in football. No fit parent can allow a child to take up the game. The era of American football is over. Bury it. We can end the misery through the simple and necessary refusal to watch anymore. Say no, America… or hey, wait a minute. Here’s that nasty President of the United States and he’s calling for a boycott of football…

So, watch the liberal media endeavor to save football from bad old President Trump. He’s a racist. This is his racism once again, stirring up the stupid people who voted for him. Here‘s the NYT today:

“The tweet suggested that the president, who used an expletive on Friday night to refer to players who kneel or sit in protest during the anthem — a practice that took hold last season among some African-American players after Colin Kaepernick, the now-former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, did so to protest racial and social injustice — is bent on deepening a bitter culture-war fight with the N.F.L.

It is a highly charged debate, with unmistakable racial undertones, pitting advocates of free speech who argue that professional athletes should have a right to use their positions to call attention to social issues against those who contend that refusing to honor the anthem disrespects the military and the nation, and that sports is no place for such displays.”

 Ann’s line:

“Let the brain damage continue. We’ve got a culture war to fight.”

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The NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck, Part One

Ah, the post unwritten!  Just three days ago, I was considering a post about the ethics dilemma I face regarding the NFL. On September 21 I read that four  NFL players ( Seattle Seahawks’ Michael Bennett, Philadelphia Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins, Eagles’ Torrey Smith and former NFL player Anquan Boldin) sent a letter beseeching Commissioner Roger Goodell to make November a month of “social activism,” meaning a month of promoting Black Lives Matters, attacking as police’ and the nation whose public they protect as racist.

“Since 2016, police have shot over 300 men and women in this country. Some of the names and stories are familiar—Jordan Edwards, Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling, but hundreds of others are not,” the memo says. This is typical of the level of erudition much of the news media, and many voices  on the Left, including President Obama, have been enabling and praising since Colin Kaepernick began his showboating, incoherent  protest against the National Anthem last year. The officer who shot Jordan Edwards was fired and indicted. Trayvon Martin wasn’t shot by police. I can’t imagine how Mike Brown was left off the list, with a reference to “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” Probably a typo.

The next day, we learned that Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots star convicted of murder who hanged himself in prison in April, suffered from a severe case of CTE, “the most severe case” ever seen in a former football player so young.” He was 27. Of course, not a lot of 27 year olds are in a position to have their brains dissected. CTE is the progressive brain disease caused by repeated brain trauma, and there is convincing evidence that the NFL is crippling its players.

My post was going to be about the ethics conflict I face, as one who believes that it is unethical to support the NFL’s profitable mayhem and who also believes that sports should not be made a party to the current progressive indoctrination strategy of making everything in American life a political lecture. The NFL would hasten its own demise, the post would argue, by agreeing to the ridiculous social activism proposal, thus saving brains and lives. Yet this would also exacerbate the divisive and obnoxious trend in the culture wars to politicize aspects of society that should unify us.
What’s a responsible ethicist to do? But it was a busy week, and I thought I could get the piece written over the weekend, which would have been timely if President Trump hadn’t jumped into the issue with both feet. The President ad-libbed an attack on the Kaepernickies during a rally in Alabama, saying,

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump said. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country…But do you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.”

This immediately turned the National Anthem protest stunt launched by the correctly-unemployed former 49ers quarterback into a late-developing ethics train wreck, and rendered my planned ethics quiz moot. So before anything else stupid happens, let me get down what I hope will be some clarifying observations.Observations:

  • This one is simple, and paramount: Nobody pays to go to sporting events to see continuations of the political disputes and debates they watch sports to avoid. Sports is entertainment, and entertainment is escapism. The same goes for music concerts, movies, plays and musicals. A football player making me watch his half-baked “protest” on the field is no more welcome than the cast of a musical making me sit still to hear its partisan ranting after the show.

Sporting events and other popular entertainment are crucial because they unite society, even if its members disagree passionately on other matters. It is dangerous and unhealthy to remove this crucial oasis of relief from debate, especially now. This should be obvious. It isn’t obvious only to full-time activists who don’t care about the purpose of entertainment or the needs of their audiences. Their objective is to achieve a political agenda by any means possible, regardless of the damage to civil society.

  • A term being used a lot lately on conservative websites is “normals,” describing the Americans who don’t regard politics as the sole focus of their waking hours, and who resent, as the Wall Street Journal termed it, The Politicization Of Everything.

It’s a useful distinction, and there is no question that the President, as misguided and inappropriate as his remarks were,  wins the argument with the many, many millions who just want to watch their favorite teams without being bombarded by political bombast and grandstanding.

  • The NFL could have and should have stopped this train wreck before it left the station by simply re-stating the same standards it had consistently maintained for decades. Players are welcome to have political views and to take part in demonstrations and other activism, but not while wearing their uniforms, and not on the field. Almost exactly a year ago, a player was told by the NFL that he could not wear cleats commemorating 9/11.

Why then did pro football allow Colin Kaepernick to make a far more divisive and incoherent political statement on the field later in the year? The answer is cowardice and abandonment of integrity in the face of race-based politics, the same reason the University of Missouri capitulated to racialist demands by its football team. Most of the players in the NFL are black, so the mostly white leaders of the NFL decided to avoid a confrontation. In doing so, it aligned itself with groups and positions that a large segment of the NFL’s fan base abhors, resulting in lost ratings and revenues. This was a breach of business ethics. The NFL’s business is football, not picking sides in the culture wars.

  • Yesterday, over a hundred NFL players “took a knee” during the National Anthem to protest…something…as the news media cheered them on. This was predictable, and the big question is whether the President prompted the reaction intentionally. I am certain he did not; we know by now that Trump  just blurts stuff out without considering consequences of any kind. The US doesn’t need any more division now, and Trump’s crude outburst was indefensible. Presidents should not comment negatively on the conduct of citizens when they are acting within their Constitutional rights. Nor should they interfere with the policies and disciplinary decisions of private businesses, which he did, and which President Obama also did when he endorsed and defended Kaepernick’s stunt last year.

Both were equally inappropriate and unethical, and abuses of power, influence and position. Of course, Obama’s statement was more dignified and articulate than Trump’s—whose wouldn’t be?—and everything Obama did was greeted with swooning and cheers from the media, while anything this President does is presumed to be an abomination.  They were still two sides of the same unethical coin. Continue reading

Obama, Trump, And The Avoidable “Two Presidents” Ethical Dilemma

trump-and-obama

Yesterday, Donald Trump sent out not just one but three tweets that directly interfered with current U.S. policy efforts, involving the costs of a new jet fighter plane, nuclear weapons, and a U.N. resolution criticizing Israel. This understandably is causing consternation in the Obama administration, because Trump is exercising influence without authority. Until January 20, 2017, Donald Trump has no official position or authority in the government at all. He does have power and influence, however, because everyone knows that he will have authority very soon.

What constitutes abuse of the power and influence? Should a President Elect be a mute and invisible presence until he is officially sworn in, so as not to interfere with the current President’s discharge of his duties?

For the lame duck Chief Executive, with slightly more than two months left in office and vastly diminished influence, the ethical problem is different. How much should he defer to the incoming President, and not take actions that will seriously interfere with the policy directions the new President  may choose to take? Once the will of the people has been made clear at the ballot box, is it fair and responsible for current President to actively work against the likely agenda of the incoming President?

Finally, if a lame duck President is attempting to undermine the objectives of the incoming President before that President Elect takes office, is it unethical for the President Elect to use his influence and power to stop him, or at least mitigate the damage? Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Week: Martina Navratilova”

social-media

Chris Marschner has weighed in with an exposition on social media’s impact on public opinion and society, sparked by the post here about a tennis icon’s claim that other sports stars had an obligation to use their fame to push their own often half-baked opinions on their fans.

Here is his Comment of the Day on “Unethical Quote of the Day: Martina Navratilova”:

…Social media is built on the construct of group think. That is why I think it is more dangerous than anything Trump or Clinton may do. The medium is the message.

It is not surprising that every platform uses similar concepts such “followers”. The psychology is that the larger the number of followers the higher the relative credibility. Facebook started this charade by placing a “Friends” counter on the person’s time line. “Likes” are another tool for the message makers. “Likes” are a reinforcement mechanism. Just click the thumbs up sign to validate the idea- don’t add anything- just positively reinforce the thinking. Ever wonder why there is not a dislike icon – thumbs down? Yes there is a means to comment but be prepared to have many weigh in against you if you challenge the group think. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Martina Navratilova

"Hey, Kershaw! Martina wants to know why you're afraid to give us your position on fracking!"

“Hey, Kershaw! Martina wants to know why you’re afraid to give us your position on fracking!”

“So many athletes are afraid to use their platform to do the right thing and speak what they feel, and that’s very depressing.”

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova to approving New York Times sports reporter Juliet Macur, as the former tennis great prepared for her keynote speech at a human rights event at the Department of State.

Wrong, Martina. There is no “platform.” You earned credibility and influence regarding social and political issues by intelligently and boldly standing up for your own rights and privileges, on issues that affected you directly and about which you had an important perspective and a legitimate reason to speak out. Female athletes. Discrimination. Gay rights. Feminism. You had credentials and authority in all of those areas, and using your status as a sports star to spark intelligent debate was responsible and fair.

Once you had established your credibility, analytical abilities and skill at articulating issues while taking informed positions on them, then you had earned added legitimacy separate from your athletic prowess and stardom. You’re a smart person: smart people’s informed opinions should be listened to and considered no matter what the topic. Many other athletes have expanded their legitimate authority and influence this way. Muhammad Ali. Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Ted Williams. Billy Jean King. Bill Bradley.

Athletic stardom, however, confers no more assumed expertise regarding issues unrelated to sports than being a paper-hanger or a busboy. The difference is that famous athletes, like famous singers and actors, are admired and idolized by many people, especially among the young, who are incapable of resisting the siren influence of their heroes. There is nothing good about this, and everything wrong about it. Tom Brady supports Donald Trump, and the only reasonable reaction to that is to conclude that Tim Brady is a moron. However, that’s not how blank-slate sports fans react to his endorsement. For too many of them, the sequence is pure cognitive dissonance: Continue reading

On Climate Change And The First Amendment, Yale’s Law School Dean Gives Us A Reason To Be Very Afraid

I just wrote in a comment thread,

“The one thing that could change my mind to believe that Trump is less dangerous than Clinton is that the trappings of Trump and his followers reek of stupidity, and the trappings of Hillary and her allies are redolent of totalitarianism.”

The effort by Democrats and anti-gun zealots to deliberately breach the Fifth Amendment to allow “pre-crime” anti-gun laws was one example of the Obama/Clinton/Sanders left’s creeping embrace of totalitarian principles.

Here is another.

Over the weekend, Robert Post, the current dean of Yale Law School where both Bill and Hillary learned to be unethical lawyers, authored a shocking 0p-ed for the Washington Post. In it, he attached his influence and credibility to the idea that the government should use the power of prosecution to intimidate opponents of government policy and widely accepted left-wing agenda items. I have never seen such a disgraceful breach of academic prestige. If I were a Yale grad, I would be heavily involved in calling for Post’s resignation.

Post is supporting the attempts by Democratic, climate change policy-supporting attorneys general to target Exxon-Mobil for fraud because the company opposes certain climate change measures. This comes after eco-facists like Robert Kennedy, Jr. and climate change shills like  Bill Nye (The Self-Promoting Not-Really-The-Expert-He- Pretends -To-Be  Science Guy) have suggested that “climate change deniers” should be jailed. That’s not the theory, though. The theory is that Exxon-Mobil has defrauded investors by misleading them about the results of their own research. Thus the company has been hit by demands for documents by the Massachusetts and New York attorneys general to reveal all of that research.

Exxon-Mobil, as well as others, has condemned this effort as an attempt to chill First Amendment debate. Post, who has allied himself with the censors because climate change is “settled science,”  bolsters the political inquisitioners’ deceit. “It may be that after investigation the attorneys general do not find evidence that Exxon-Mobil has committed fraud. I do not prejudge the question. The investigation is now entering its discovery phase, which means it is gathering evidence to determine whether fraud has actually been committed,” the esteemed dean writes.

Cute. Of course, once the precedent had been established that the government can force someone into expensive legal defense for “the fraud” of disagreeing with the pronounced truths of the State, then dissent and political opinion will be repressed, suppressed, and discouraged. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces (All-Star “Shut Up And Sing ” Edition): Cher, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Jackson Browne,Nick Jonas, Sia, Zayn Malik, Barbra Streisand, Beck, Questlove, Pusha T, Ringo Starr, Sting, Ricky Martin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Selena Gomez, Stevie Nicks, Michael Bublé, Melissa Etheridge, Trent Reznor, Kesha, Katy Perry, Tony Bennett, Yoko Ono…

Billborad letters

A couple hundred famous singers and musicians have banded together to sign a fatuous and misleading “open letter” to Congress dictating U.S. gun policy. The letter which is being used as a publicity gimmick by Billboard (and the stars, of course), reads:

As leading artists and executives in the music industry, we are adding our voices to the chorus of Americans demanding change. Music always has been celebrated communally, on dancefloors and at concert halls. But this life-affirming ritual, like so many other daily experiences—going to school or church or work—now is threatened, because of gun violence in this country. The one thing that connects the recent tragedies in Orlando is that it is far too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on guns.

We call on Congress to do more to prevent the gun violence that kills more than 90 Americans every day and injures hundreds more, including:

  • Require a background check for every gun sale
  • Block suspected terrorists from buying guns

Billboard and the undersigned implore you—the people who are elected to represent us—to close the deadly loopholes that put the lives of so many music fans, and all of us, at risk.

The letter is many things:

1. It is scaremongering nonsense. Gun deaths are way down, and the odds of any citizen being killed in a mass shooting is beyond minuscule. Based on 2015 statistics by the broadest definition, you have a 0.00000143% chance of getting killed in a mass shooting. These wealthy and privileged people, who often have bodyguards (with guns) have much less of a risk than that. Nothing is “now threatened.” We are safer from gun violence now than five years ago, ten years ago or 20 years ago. Continue reading

There’s Nothing To Do About This, But “13 Hours” Is Unethical

13-hours-poster-image-2015

“13 Hours,” directed by Michael Bay,dramatizes the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the Benghazi consulate in Libya, a tragedy, and also the center of an ongoing controversy over Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State and her truthfulness. The movie hits theaters today,  two weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses.

“The release of ’13 Hours’ will re-start the conversation over Benghazi and introduce a whole new audience to the events of that night,” says Brian O. Walsh, president of Future45, a conservative, Clinton-hating super PAC.  “Coming just weeks before the first votes are cast and in the form of a major motion picture from Hollywood, the timing couldn’t be worse for Secretary Clinton.”

He’s right. I haven’t seen the film, but the subject matter is bad enough. It is brutally unfair and an abuse of its influence and power over public opinion for Hollywood to release a feature film distorting a relevant historical event during the run-up to a national election. Doing so turns entertainment into propaganda, and confuses an already bewildered, ignorant and intellectually lazy public. It is irresponsible. Continue reading