Brief Notes: Healthcare.gov’s Contractor, Netanyahu, and Charles Blow

life-preserver

I am drowning in important ethics topics and short of time, so I’m reluctantly employing the rarely-used (here) flotation device of briefly noting three stories that would normally warrant full posts. I’ll reserve the right to change my mind and fully explore one or more of them later.

1. Wait: who’s the journalist here?

Six days after Ethics Alarms noted the ridiculous fact that the IRS has hired—for about 5 million dollars of taxpayer money— the same group of incompetents who botched their 800 million dollar job of getting Healthcare.gov up and running, the Washington Post ran the story (on page 18). The new contract itself dates from August: I regard my nausea over it as late, but I regard the Post’s failure to report the story until now a) suspicious, b) incompetent and c) indefensible.

2. Netanyahu lobbies Congress Continue reading

It’s STUPIDITY SATURDAY, Celebrating That Fascinating Nexus Between Dumb and Unethical! First Up: The IRS Picks A Contractor

Fool_Alfred

Perusing the many ethics issues that have slopped into my inbox, I realized that a fascinating theme was developing: wanton, willful, inexcusable stupidity. Being stupid is not intrinsically unethical, for in many cases it is a malady, a Nature-dictated state like being short or bald, just one that is more limiting than most. Being stupid and allowing yourself to be placed in a position where your stupidity will harm others, however, is unethical.

Incompetence is not the same thing as stupidity necessarily, but it is a kind of stupidity and it generates stupidity: stupid risks, stupid decisions, stupid statements, stupid policies, stupid results. The recent Pew study showing that the two most common descriptions of President Obama were “good” and “incompetent” was intriguing on that issue. A man can be both “good” and “incompetent,” but a leader cannot. Obama can be a good man (though after hearing his defiant, dishonest, petulant and self-destructive State of the Union address, I find that hard to believe), but he cannot be a good leader while being an incompetent one.

The President is incompetent, and the incompetence has, as it always will with those serving under incompetent leadership, metastasized throughout his administration into incontrovertible stupidity of a sort that it is unethical for a leader to tolerate or allow to continue. Yet he does.

This brings us to the IRS. Believe it or not, just even months after federal officials fired the firm CGI Federal for its botched work on the Obamacare website Healthcare.gov, the IRS awarded these same bunglers a $4.5 million IT contract for its new Obamacare tax program.

Let me say that again, slowly, so it sinks in: Continue reading

Cartoon Ethics: The Washington Post’s Stupid Elephant Trick

Trainwreck Cartoon

The above cartoon, by reliably liberal op-ed cartoonist Mike Luckovich, who draws cartoons for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was run in the Washington Post this Saturday. It immediately reminded me of why, in a previous post, I suggested that the simple-minded, factually misleading art of editorial cartoonists needed to be retired. I wrote:

“Cartoons, by their very nature, deal in caricature, exaggeration and extremes for metaphorical and humorous effect. The practical effect of this, however, is that the opinions expressed through cartoons are also “supported” in a manner that would be outrageous in a written opinion piece. I know: you can’t hold a cartoon to the same standard as an op-ed. Fine—then don’t put it on the editorial pages.”

This, if anything, was worse than the Tom Toles cartoon that provoked that commentary. This Democratic talking point—more like ducking point–got graphic representation the day following another wave of bad news about the dysfunctional Affordable Care Act and how thoroughly it has been botched by the Administration. Right before Christmas, the Post’s front page carried an infuriating story about how, after waiting two years before considering how to set up the Obamacare website, the Administration chose a company that even cursory due diligence would have revealed as untrustworthy and incompetent:

“Not considered in the 2011 selection process was the history of numerous executives at CGI Federal, who had come from another company that had mishandled at least 20 other government ­information technology projects more than a decade ago. But federal officials were not required to examine that long-term track record, which included a highly publicized failure to automate retirement benefits for millions of federal workers.”

Republicans caused that trainwreck? The same day the cartoon ran, this was in the news:

The Iowa Department of Human Services says problems with the federal healthcare website has led to a delay in processing policyholder information and is asking 16,000 Iowans to reapply for Obamacare using the state website or call center.”

And did Republicans force the President to lie repeatedly about how the law wouldn’t take away anyone’s current plan or doctor? Indeed, they warned that what happened would happen, and were attacked and ridiculed while the media bolstered the President’s disinformation campaign. That, as much as the website, has made the public perceive Obamacare as a trainwreck. The mean old GOP elephant is to blame for that? As I noted in the earlier post, an editorial cartoon shouldn’t be permitted to spread falsehood and misunderstanding, and a respectable newspaper shouldn’t actively engage in the blame-shifting and denial process, which is the full-time occupation of Affordable Care Act defenders these days.

Then I searched for the cartoon on line, to determine who drew it (his signature was illegible in the size published), and for the first time, was able to read the date. The cartoon was drawn on July 29, 2013! This was after the “trainwreck” label was being wielded by Republicans because Democratic Senator Max Baucus used that term to describe his—as it turned out, accurate—assessment of how the Administration’s public information campaign was going, not the law itself. Yes, the Republicans were working to impede the progress of the ACA then, because they were convinced the law would lead to disaster. Still, Luckovich’s cartoon, while partisan, was hardly unfair or misleading—in July.

Now, however, it assumed a different meaning. The date wasn’t noted by the Post: I thought it was a new cartoon, which means I thought Luckovich was engaging in MSMNC-style historical air-brushing. The cartoonist wasn’t, however.

Was the Post? Was it deliberately using Luckovich’s dated cartoon to bolster its desperate Obama-defending readership with the baseless accusation that the GOP was really behind the law’s current travails? Or was it just being careless, reckless, inattentive and unprofessional–you know, like most of the news media. most of the time?

I don’t know. I do know that the Post owes its readers and Luckovich an apology, the former for treating them like idiots, and the latter for making him look like one.

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Sources: Opposing Views, Washington Post