Reluctant Additional Ethics Notes On A Manufactured “Crisis”: The Comey Firing Freakout

1. When this ridiculous episode is recounted in history books, if it is, it will only be as an example of how the news media worked in tandem with Democrats to undermine the President of the United States, and deeply wounded American democracy and the public trust as a result. I suppose if it is recounted, it will either be as one of the many factors that led Americans to express disgust for both the news media and the Democratic party, forcing the first to shape up and the latter to re-invent itself, or, under the worst case scenario, to explain how the United States lost its Constitutional government.

2. A President of the United States fired an FBI director who deserved to be fired, and everything else is political warfare and public disinformation. A President firing someone he had the power to fire and that most Americans rightly believed should be fired cannot be a scandal, a crisis, or anything else worthy of the hysterical coverage this story has received. The coverage of the story is the antithesis of the journalism ethics tenet that journalists cover stories but do not create them.

3. President (and candidate) Trump is certainly at fault for handing his enemies sticks to beat him with. I put this is exactly the same category with a voluptuous woman walking into a bar full of drunken, rowdy men and doing a provocative dance to the jukebox as they hoot and drool. She should be safe, but she isn’t, and she should know that she isn’t. The drunken dogs should be trustworthy not to sexually assault her, but they aren’t,   When she ends up like Jodie Foster in “The Accused,” it is her sexual assailants who are guilty, but it is not blaming the victim to ask, “What the hell were you thinking?”

4. Of course, as has been proven at nauseating length here and elsewhere, President Trump does not think, at least in the professional sense of the word. It was stupid to throw out compliments to Vladimir Putin. It was stupid to make defensive-sounding comments about the Russian hacks because he didn’t want to admit that any factors led to his election other than his essential brilliance. One  indication that there are no sinister connections between Trump and Russia is that if there were, it would be mind-numbingly moronic for Trump to do anything but show hostility to the country and its leaders. It is only slightly less moronic for him to say these things when he has nothing to hide regarding “Russian ties.”

[An aside: a recent commenter on another thread repeated the oft-cited nonsense that Trump must be smart (like he says) because he has an IQ of 160. If Donald Trump scored 160 on an IQ test, then IQ tests should be thrown out and never used again. However, that claim is imaginary. (IQ tests don’t prove you are “smart,” either, but that’s a different issue.) A researcher once estimated Trump’s IQ based on his admission to Wharton and the gross average IQ of Wharton grads, which is itself a phony number. Then this  (incompetently) estimated figure was used by other hacks in some of those “Who was the smartest President?” articles, which estimate the IQs of the Presidents using the same kind of bad reasoning as the process that arrived at the figure for Trump (it was 156, not 160). In truth, nobody knows what Trump’s IQ is. Everybody knows, however, or should, that he does and says an astounding number of dumb things, many of which mostly have the effect of harming him, or his ability to do his job.] Continue reading

The Washington Post’s Very Bad, Very Revealing Day: How Often Does This Have To Happen Before Journalists Decide Their Bias Is Making Them Stupid…And Untrustworthy?

Yesterday, the Washington Post, one of the three alleged standard-bearers of U.S. print journalism, published gossip and lies as news, got caught and humiliated..twice!.., and again illustrated vividly why the distinction between hoax stories, what the mainstream media condemns as “fake news,'” and their own false reporting due to incompetence and bias, is illusory.

First, the Post published a weird and alarming story about how Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was behaving like a sultan and ordering subordinates to lower their gaze in his presence:

“Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact”

This, of course, sparked widespread ridicule by the Left’s bloggers, commentators, journalists and other tweeters, despite the fact that no sources were named to back up the claim. We have here an example of confirmation bias at its most foolish,  on the part of the reporter, the editor, the paper, and the eager partisan bigots who think businessmen are monsters and the Trump administration is made up of freaks and creeps.  The Huffington Post happily published a collection of celebrities, politicians and random social media users reacting to the  story, including Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu , who said he found the article “disturbing.”

So do I. I find it disturbing that the Post, like the New York Times, cannot be trusted to check out inflammatory slurs against public official before declaring them facts. Note that the quote says the diplomats SAY they have not met him, but that some HAVE been instructed not to make eye contact. The Post stated what sounds like obvious holdover-staff rumor-mongering and sabotage as truth, opening the door for widespread contempt and disrespect of the Secretary of State without justification. Yes, that’s disturbing.

It was fake news. I didn’t believe it. I assumed this was the Post’s anti-Trump bias once again seeping into its deteriorating organizational brain. To his credit, Associated Press reporter Mike Lee immediately called foul, B.S., and fake news. Lee said that he had heard the allegation about employees being forced to avert their gaze in the presence of the Secretary of State two weeks before the Post’s story was published, and after checking into the claim,  determined that it was a rumor without basis.

“It’s compelling gossip. I have looked him  in the eyes and not turned to stone. At least not yet…This is not true and people repeating it are making it more difficult to address very real issues.”

When challenged to back up his statement that the story was false, Lee replied,

“Because I have covered State since 1999. Because I know people who didn’t start in 2009 [that is, Obama era partisans].”

Can anyone defend this Post sliming as anything but biased hackery?

But wait, there’s more! Continue reading

Confounding Update To The United/Tahera Ahmad/Diet Coke Episode

Question_markWhen I posted with disgust on the Tahera Ahmad story (a Muslim-American woman who reported on Facebook that she was discriminated against by a stewardess and subjected to verbal abuse by a passenger on a United Airlines flight, and that no passengers came to her aid of defense), I noted that the facts seemed hard to believe, and that my commentary was based on a presumption that the account was true without knowing whether they were.

Now there have been two developments that provide additional perspective on the incident, and no enlightenment whatsoever.

First, United announced that it has investigated the incident, and fired the flight attendant. This would suggest that Ahmed’s account had at least some validity…or that the flight attendant got a fat settlement as United fired her to avoid a public relations battle with Muslim groups.

Second, this was posted on FlyerTalk Forums: Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Un-Named Members Of Mitt Romney’s Campaign Staff

My guess? This whole Secret Service mess makes Clint want to throw up. Then there's that Mediaite headline...

My guess? This whole Secret Service mess makes Clint want to throw up. Then there’s that Mediaite headline…

 Inside Sources Reports:

“Multiple sources inside the Romney presidential campaign confirm that a Secret Service agent provided details of President Obama’s schedule several days prior to the President’s campaign stops becoming public….In the closing weeks of the 2012 campaign, a Secret Service agent was on the ground in a key swing state to coordinate security ahead of several campaign stops by the President. The agent, who was married, made advances towards a Romney campaign staff member.

InsideSources spoke with two staffers who witnessed the events in question. Each spoke on condition of anonymity and independently confirmed the details.

In one particular incident at a bar in late October 2012, the Secret Service agent, who had a number of drinks during the meeting, unprompted and in an apparent attempt to impress one of the staffers, began providing details of President Obama’s schedule. The information included times and locations of the President’s events in the final days of the election. The President’s campaign would not release these details of the President’s schedule publicly until several days later.

The sources state that the same agent on a separate occasion provided joy rides in a Secret Service vehicle with the lights flashing.

The leaked schedule was later passed on within the campaign. Others inside the campaign recall seeing the schedule, but the source of the information was not revealed. The schedule, therefore, was met only with skepticism. The details of the President’s schedule later proved to be accurate.

Former advisers to the Romney campaign note that the leaked schedule, which was not widely circulated within the campaign, did not impact the campaign’s strategy. It received little attention as the election was days away.”

Wait...what????

Multiple members of Mitt Romney’s staff knew that a Secret Service agent was endangering the President by revealing sensitive details about his schedule in 2012, and they waited until now to let anyone know?

They had an absolute duty—as Americans— to reveal this to the Secret Service itself immediately. Were they just waiting for a juicy time to reveal it, say, after this same idiot with an earpiece got the President killed? Did Mitt Romney approve the lack of the proper response? Or some campaign strategist who feared that the revelation would backfire, and cost votes? How many Romney staff members knew the President was at risk, and kept it to themselves? Do we even know now who this agent was, and whether he is still on duty?

The damage done by the incompetence of the Democratic government is substantially amplified by the ethical obtuseness of its Republican critics.

BONUS: The Mediaite headline on this story has to be one of the worst-composed in recent memory:

“Secret Service Agent Allegedly Told Someone Obama’s Movements to ‘Impress a Woman'”

I read it two ways, and neither was what the headline was supposed to convey:

#1: Obama was trying to impress some woman

#2: Ew!

_____________________________

Pointer: Mediaite

Facts: Inside Sources

“Being White In Philly” And Mayor Nutter’s Unethical Attack

phillymagcoverPhiladelphia Magazine published an article this month titled “Being White in Philly.” Written by Robert Huber, who includes his personal reflections as well as interviews with white Philadelphians, the piece raises troubling and real problems in current U.S. race relations in an open and fearless way that does not usually characterize the media’s handling of the topic. The letters from readers, which you can also read at the link provided above, demonstrate that the article drilled directly into a nerve, and exposed feelings by white citizens, not just in Philadelphia but elsewhere in America, that need to be considered, analyzed, and dealt with whether or not one believes that they are justified or fair. Huber uncovered some of the most stubborn obstacles to a post-racial U.S., and they persist because we remain reluctant to discuss them

It’s an excellent piece of journalism that reminded me of my late roommate in law school, a young, Irish Catholic ex-Marine from the “rough” parts of Philly, who opened my eyes about racial attitudes like no one else I have ever known. He was intelligent, observant, and beyond any question, a racist, and openly admitted it. He also vividly describe the Philadelphia experiences that he felt justified his racism. I could see his handsome smile as I read Huber’s piece. The article itself, however, is not racist in any way.

Mayor Michael Nutter, however, either out of careless reading, racial identification, foolishness or willful blindness, decided to attack the article and the magazine for running it.  He wrote a furious letter of protest to Philadelphia Magazine, a letter which, as I will shortly demonstrate, crossed bright lines of ethical reasoning and appropriate conduct by a government official. Philadelphia Magazine’s editor, Tom McGrath responded perfectly:

“I applaud the mayor for asking for an inquiry into the state of racial issues in Philadelphia. The need to have a deeper discussion about race in Philadelphia is exactly why we ran our story in the first place. Like any reader, the mayor is entitled to think and say what he wants about the story. That said, his sophomoric statements about the magazine and mischaracterization of the piece make me wonder if he’s more interested in scoring political points than having a serious conversation about the issues. Furthermore, his call for a “rebuke” of the magazine by the PHRC is rich with irony. This is the same mayor who just yesterday was shouted down by an unruly mob in City Council; now he himself wants shut down conversation about an important issue in our city. In short, the mayor loves the First Amendment–as long as he and the government can control what gets said.”

Now let’s consider, piece by piece, Nutter’s letter to the magazine, and why it deserved McGrath’s criticism, and more. My comments will be in bold. Continue reading

Unethical Trio: An Ambush, An Incompetent Diagnosis, and Partisan Journalist Hackery

Doctors and Kurtz

There were three notable unethical performances last week from professionals who should know better:

I. Dr. Benjamin Carson, neurosurgeon. Carson was invited to give the keynote speech at the National Prayer Breakfast (don’t get me started about why there even is a National Prayer Breakfast, and why the President should feel obligated to attend it) last week and turned what is traditionally understood to be a non-partisan, non-political speech into a direct attack, without explicitly designating it as such, on President Obama’s policies. Yes, it was a well-written, well-reasoned and well-delivered speech, but it was an ambush. Many conservatives were pleased to have President Obama  subjected to an articulate complaint that “spoke truth to power,” yet the objectives and specific content of the speech doesn’t matter: that wasn’t what Carson was invited to do, and it wasn’t what he should have done. Dr. Carson has subsequently justified his actions in self-congratulatory terms as an act of courage, but in reality it was an instance of a citizen seizing an opportunity to grab national attention and a prominent soapbox that weren’t his to grab. His actions made the President of the United States a captive audience to his amateur analysis of national affairs. It was disrespectful, and because it was given under false pretenses, dishonest. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Day: Slate’s David Weigel

“The Washington Post condemned Reid for “smear tactics not unlike those of Joseph McCarthy,” which makes sense if you think that refusing to release your tax returns is like being unfairly accused of membership in the Communist Party. It’s a nice idea, that the majority leader of the United States Senate should operate under some rules of decorum about truth, even if it is only randomly applied.”

—-Slate’s David Weigel, in a post dismissing Harry Reid’s Big Lie attack on Mitt Romney as “politics as usual.”

Somewhere at the bottom of the journalism barrel you may see David Weigel, mangling ethics

David Weigel is a Democratic flack posing as a political reporter, and my standards for his writing is low—but not this low.

The Post’s quite correct condemnation of Reid does not, as Weigel disingenuously suggests, amount to saying that “refusing to release your tax returns is like being unfairly accused of membership in the Communist Party.” It amounts to saying that publicly accusing a political adversary of evading his taxes for ten years using nothing more than hearsay from anonymous, dubious and unrevealed sources is like accusing a political adversary of belonging to the Communist party using similar tactics. Romney’s choice not to release his taxes doesn’t justify or excuse Reid’s smear, any more than McCarthy’s victims’ associating with Americans who exercised their Constitutional rights by espousing Communist sympathies justified McCarthy’s smear. Weigel is using a false and flawed analogy to excuse the inexcusable, because, like Reid, he’s on Team Obama. Continue reading