Stop Making Me Defend Stacey Abrams!

tucker-stacey-abrams

Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson thought it would be cute last night to have his senior producer “perform a dramatic reading of the most titillating moments” from one of the pulpy romance novels Georgia politician Stacey Abrams wrote before she started running for office. The excerpt was objectively awful, but that’s irrelevant: Carlson’s stunt was an unethical cheap shot, and the equivalent of an ad hominem attack. Abrams’ bad prose tell us nothing about the validity of her political positions, and bringing them into the discussion is designed to mislead.

I hate this tactic, and I have condemned it before regardless of who was the target and who was the slime artist. Minnesota Republicans tried to discredit Al Franken when he was first running for U.S. Senate by digging up a sexually-provocative humorous piece he had written for “Playboy”—you know, the epitome of evil—eight years before when he was a full-time comedy writer. “When Republicans do things like this,” I wrote on the old Ethics Scoreboard, “they insult voters by assuming that they are narrow-minded and illiterate, celebrate humorlessness, and willfully blur the difference between entertainment and public policy.”

Continue reading

Straining To Smear Merrick Garland, The National Review And Conservative Lawyer Ed Whelan Beclown Themselves…

fantasticks-archive-b0a32b1dd6

TUESDAY, MARCH 16, 2010 – The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis’ production of “The Fantasticks”. ©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

…because they don’t know what the hell they are talking about.

I, on the other hand, do.

Whelan, who is usually much better than this, writes in “Yes, Merrick Garland Found ‘Hilarious’ a Song About ‘Rapes for Sale’,

Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland, as a college student, wrote a review of the musical The Fantasticks in which he labeled “hilarious” a song that (in his words) “provides a shopping list of rapes for sale (e.g. ‘the military rape—it’s done with drums and a great brass band.’).” But the Breitbart account turns out to be accurate. (Here is Garland’s article from the Harvard Crimson’s archives.) I have no interest in defending Garland’s observation from his college days nearly fifty years ago,* but I will try to put it in some context. What a theatrical performance can make amusing is often difficult to fathom in the abstract, as Mel Brooks’s “The Producers,” involving a musical comedy about Hitler, demonstrates. I will note that “The Fantasticks” (according to this Wikipedia entry) ran, on and off Broadway, for 42 years (from 1960 to 2002), “making it the world’s longest-running musical.” So it would seem that many folks shared Garland’s enjoyment of the song. Not surprisingly, controversy arose at some point over the “rape” lyrics, leading lyricist Tom Jones to revise them—to eliminate the word “rape.”

It is hard for me to tamp down my contempt for Whelan’s piece, but I’ll try.

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A Banner Day For Unfairness, Pettiness, Dishonesty, And Hypocrisy, Raising The Ethics Query: How Low Can Democrats And The News Media Go?

Actually, mudslinging would be an improvement...

Actually, mudslinging would be an improvement…

…as well as the related queries..

1. How low do they think they can go without alienating every American with a conscience and a brain?

2. Does any leader with integrity, courage and influence exist in either journalism or the political left to call out this escalating madness?

Yesterday was a stinking garbage scow of unfiltered anti-Trump hate and public deception.

The Prayer Breakfast Freak-Out: I wondered if the Washington Post, which has made very clear its own attitude regarding prayer (and religion generally), would have the gall to criticize the President for not being sufficiently pious during yesterday’s Prayer Breakfast. Just two weeks ago, the Post mocked the Secretary of Agriculture nominee for once “praying for rain.” (The mocking headline has been scrubbed now) Sure enough, the Post did have such gall; so did MSNBC and other media outlets that regularly display contempt for the genuinely religious, a significant majority of whom are conservative and Republican.

The critics of the President’s comments care nothing about prayer, basically like me, but unlike Ethics Alarms they are willing to plow new ground in hypocrisy by using this superfluous event to launch more gratuitous outrage. The Prayer Breakfast has the same origins as the addition of God to the Pledge of Allegiance. It was an anti-Godless Communism grandstanding stunt by Fifties era Republicans at the height of their Red-Baiting mode.  Now the same anti-religion liberals who routinely condescend to the faithful, and lobby for taking all references to “God” out of official documents, the same anti-religious  zealots who have condemned Betsy DeVos for her support of Catholic schools, are deeply, deeply offended that the President joked about “The Apprentice” at a Prayer Breakfast.

The Frederick Douglas freakout: The President spoke of Douglas in the present tense in his random remarks about Black History Month on February first, prompting multiple cheap shots and despicable contrived insults. The Post wrote yesterday, Continue reading

Abusing Fairness And Decency To “Get” Ted Cruz

Cruz college

I am in full sympathy with anyone who gets the creeps from Ted Cruz. The news media’s problem with Cruz, however, is also soaked with pure ideological bias. It doesn’t like his religiosity, nor his conservative fervor. If they turned one-fifth of the intensity of their anti-Cruz zeal on Hillary Clinton, maybe a few more of her more zombified followers  might finally feel some neurons firing.   (I don’t know if Trump shooting someone would dissuade his herd, but I have talked to Hillary supporters who would either refuse to believe it or claim it was set up by Republicans.)

Apparently Cruz’s kamikaze legislative tactics, mendacity and dirty tricks in his current campaign isn’t enough ammunition for those who want to derail his ambitions: now the news media is just looking for dirt, or manufacturing. Supposedly legitimate news organizations have scraped the bottom of the academic barrel to find lawyers who would argue that Cruz isn’t a natural born citizen, even though the same editors would have leapt out of their windows before seeking scholarly endorsement of Obama birther theories. Even non-political publications are doing it: Psychology Today just disgraced itself by publishing the ultimate pseudo-science junk piece from  a professor of neurology at George Washington University, Dr. Richard E. Cytowic, who explains in clinical terms why he, at least, finds Ted Cruz creepy. It is nothing but an ad hominem attack based on his opinion that Cruz is funny-looking, exactly as wrong as criticizing Obama’s ears, Hillary’s calves or Bernie’s wrinkles.

Ah, but Ted Cruz deserves this, you see, because he is conservative, Republican, genuinely rather than tactically religious—can’t have that—and one of the “Cuban guys.”

Piling on after the cheap shots taken at Cruz via Twitter by his jealous Hollywood jerk Princeton roommate, journalist Ellie Shechet decided to track down as many of Cruz’s college acquaintances as possible. allegedly to investigate a “rumor” of young Ted doing something disgusting, but really to see who would trash him. Here’s an example of her “investigative journalism”: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Matt Drudge

SAG

Matt Drudge, on his Drudge Report,  posted the above photo of Susan Sarandon with the caption, “SAG.”

Nice.

The link was to this story, a really stupid one, about criticism the 69-year old actress is receiving for dressing this way to deliver an award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The Drudge Report, I must note, is the favorite, go-to source for political news for conservative pundits.

The gag is per se nasty, ageist, misogynist, and creepy. Sarandon is roundly hated by conservatives for being an outspoken feminist and supporter of liberal causes. The “joke” is an ad hominem attack and a despicable cheap shot. Somewhere, someplace there might be someone who has standing to make fun of Susan Sarandon’s looks, but I don’t know of any. By the way, here is Matt Drudge:

Drudge

One can debate the tastefulness of her attire, but Sarandon, as always, looks smashing.

Ethics Dunce: RedState’s Moe Lane, Cheap Shot Artist

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Bernie Sanders, or most likely someone on his staff since I doubt that the Bern is a micro-manager, made his campaign look foolish by sending Wikipedia a DMCA take-down notice demanding that Wikipedia remove  images of Sanders campaign logos on its Sanders page, on the dubious grounds that such use was a violation of copyright law. More embarrassing than the specious copyright complaint is the rather obvious fact that a campaign should want Wikipedia to publicize everything about it. The complaint, to be blunt, was dumb. (The take-down notice was retracted in short order.)

Moe Lane is a fairly nasty right wing blogger, and he gleefully reported Sanders’ Shame, which is certainly fair game for critics. He could not, however, resist this cheap shot headline:

Bernie Sanders yells at Wikipedia, cloud over… campaign logos?

If you don’t get the reference, it’s this: Continue reading

29 Reasons Why “81 Things Mike Huckabee Has Denounced” Should Be Denounced

 

Republican National Convention

Political reporter—not humorist, not feature-writer, but reporter—David Farenthold of the Washington Post wrote a long feature (it is a hit piece, disguised) called “81 Things Mike Huckabee has denounced.” It doesn’t matter to me which politician this kind of junk is written to trash: Huckabee’s as deserving a target as anyone. On my rapidly growing list of candidates I would take a hacksaw to my neck before voting for, he is filed somewhere among Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal and The Donald. Farenthold’s  article itself would be unethical if it was written about The Green River Killer. It is in that horrible abuse of journalism category known here as “Making Readers Dumber and Less Ethically Astute Than They Already Are.

Here are the 29 reasons why I am denouncing “81 Things Mike Huckabee has denounced.”

Reasons #1-7 It is dishonest.

It’s pretty obvious what the post is about, but the author doesn’t have the guts or the honesty to admit it. The real title should be, “Mike Huckabee opposes gay marriage, so it’s okay for me to trash him about everything I can think of whether it’s fair or not.”  After correctly noting in his reasons 3 (“Same-sex marriage”) and 4. (“The Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.”) that Huckabee is not a fan of gay marriages,  Farenthold also devotes 68 though 79, plus 81, on his list of his  “things” directly to this, and in deceitful fashion  places the last 13 of them at the end of his list. Many are misleading in the context of his stated purpose, giving me seven reasons to denounce his list:

  • #68. claims that Huckabee “denounced”  “Homosexuality, in general” when he referred to it as  “a sin” 41 years ago in a Baptist newspaper advice column.  That’s not a denunciation. To a Baptist, that’s a statement of fact.  (Reason #1 )
  • In #70,  Farenthold says that Huckabee denounced “Homosexuality, in general” is this quote: “I’ve had people who are gay that worked on my staff. It’s not like I’m some homophobe. If you ask me is it the normal pathway? I don’t think so.” “I don’t think homosexuality is a normal pathway” is a “denunciation”? No, it’s an opinion, and not even an inflammatory one. Gays comprise less than 10% of the population: that alone is sufficient to justify “not normal.” (Reason #1)
  • In #71. Farenthold accuses the Republican of “denouncing”  gay parents by saying, “The children…really cannot, get critical early-life lessons in how a heterosexual family functions successfully.” OK, maybe, and so what? And adopted boys raised by a lesbian couple can’t get critical  early-life lessons in how to use a urinal. (Reason #3 )
  • For his 72nd  item, Farenthold calls this statement…

“Of the seventy-three sex scenes shown that week…two involved male homosexual couples.”

…a denunciation of  “Same-sex couples in TV shows.” Pointing out a statistic is now “denunciation”? (Reason #4)

  • #74 alleges that  “It actually became easier to get out of a marriage than to get out of a contract for the purchase of a used car!” is a denunciation of “Allowing heterosexual couples an easy path to divorce. ”  In fact, he was talking about divorces generally, in a book about strengthening families,  marriage, and commitment. (Reason #5)
  • The stretching gets absurd in #75. Huckabee  declared that citizens should engage in civil disobedience after the Supreme Court’s decision declaring same sex marriage a right. He did not, in any way, denounce “States allowing same-sex couples to marry, after the Supreme Court said they could.” He said that he would do something else.  (Reason #6 )
  • For his last “denunciation,” the Post’s Congressional beat reporter cites this question—“Do you want a president who follows? Or do you want a president who leads?” as one encompassing “President Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, for changing their minds and embracing same-sex marriage.”I could make this one about three reasons for an ethical denunciation , so dishonest is it, but I’ll be kind. Farenthold is spinning. Everyone in D.C., and most out of it, know that both Clinton and Obama based their public views on gay marriage on the polls and the opinions of the Democratic base, and didn’t have sudden epiphanies. Huckabee was quite accurately and fairly criticizing political cowardice and a lack of integrity on the parts of both Democrats, not the fact that they “changed their minds.” Just because a political reporter is playing in the sandbox of the Post “Style” section doesn’t mean that his blatant display of partisan bias is any less disturbing, or that it implicates his trustworthiness as a journalist any less.  (Reason #7 )

We get it, Dave. You really, really dislike politicians who don’t support gay marriage and believe it should not be made a right. You could make that point legitimately rather than grossly mischaracterizing the nature of the arguments of one of them who disagrees with you. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Day: Hillary Clinton

“We have to have a candid national conversation about race and about discrimination, prejudice, hatred. But unfortunately the public discourse is sometimes hotter and more negative than it should be, which can, in my opinion, trigger people who are less than stable. For example, a recent entry into the Republican presidential campaign said some very inflammatory things about Mexicans. Everybody should stand up and say that’s not acceptable. You don’t talk like that on talk radio. You don’t talk like that on the kind of political campaigns. I think he is emblematic. I want people to understand it’s not about him, it’s about everybody.”

—Democratic Presidential Anointee Hillary Clinton, in an interview with KNPB’s Jon Ralston, discussing the Charleston church shooting of nine African-American worshipers

Note that this is just the unethical quote of the day, rather than week or month, and to be fair, it probably wasn’t even the most unethical quote of the day on this particular topic. Later today I hope to announce the top ten most unethical public statements on the Charleston tragedy (so far), and it is not certain that Hillary’s comment will even make the list.

It’s that bad out there.

I wonder if anyone in the Democratic Party is at all concerned that Clinton is apparently incapable of speaking without a script and avoiding saying absurd and outrageous things? Or do Democrats not recognize that they are outrageous? Which is more disturbing, that they seem ready to hand the most powerful job on earth to this awful, addled, corrupt woman knowing how terrible her judgment and political skills are, or that they can’t tell how terrible they are?

Or that there isn’t a single qualified individual in the entire party that they think is far superior? Or two? Or a hundred?

Well, like wading through day old garbage, let’s analyze this mess. Yuck:

1. To suggest that Donald Trump’s crude statements about illegal immigrants (which was, you know, literally accurate, just needlessly offensive) did have, could have had or is “emblematic” of rhetoric that might have “triggered” Dylann Roof’s act is slimy, gutter level politics at its worst. Clinton implicates Republicans in a murder by linking the party to a self-promoting fraud who is not a serious candidate. Nice.

2. She doesn’t have the guts or fairness to name the man she is sliming (the host asked her to). Who campaigns like that? “I’m not going to name names, but a certain Republican who just entered the race and said this...”  Feminists should throw up: this is girly campaigning…for 7th grade class president.

3. Does Hillary not recall that the Democrats and various pundits thoroughly disgraced themselves by accusing Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin of “triggering” the Tuscon shooting that wounded Rep. Giffords, in a flagrant effort to shut down the speech of political opponents and tie them to the act of a madman? Or did she approve of that miserable, censorious tactic? Presumably it is the latter, because this statement exemplifies the same foolish, dishonest lack of ethics.

4. Hillary begins by saying that we need to have a candid conversation, and then goes on to condemn Trump for being candid. Trump has nothing to recommend in his character or leadership ability whatsoever, but candor is not a quality he lacks. Clinton can’t  maintain honesty and integrity in the span of one short statement in an interview! How can there be candor on race, if  everyone should stand up and say that candor is not acceptable? Hillary’s version of candor is “candor that doesn’t disagree with what my party has declared as acceptable speech and belief.”

Perhaps worst of all, Clinton made a victim out of Donald Trump, and allowed him to say in response, “politicians are just no good.” This is as close to correct as Trump will be in his entire life, except that Hillary Clinton makes other politicians look good by comparison.

 

Obama’s Remarks On The Charleston Shooting Were Unethical, And Here’s Why:

Because every tragedy is a chance to sell policies on emotion alone...

Because every tragedy is a chance to sell policies on emotion alone…

President Obama’s comments this morning again emphasized his tendency to stoop to reckless, careless and divisive rhetoric when far better is called for.

He said in part:

We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.

Now is the time for mourning and for healing. But let’s be clear. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.

And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it’d be wrong for us not to acknowledge it, and at some point, it’s going to important for the American to come to grips with it and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.

The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked, and we know the hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals….

Observations:

1.  How does Obama know that the shooter had “no trouble getting their hand on a gun”? He doesn’t know that, and it is a misstatement  to say that this assumption of his is a fact. We know that the shooter had a gun when he used it, and that’s all. For all Obama knows, he had a very difficult time getting his hands on a gun. For all Obama knows, it took the killer months, accomplices, money, elaborate maneuvers. Or is he saying that having a gun at all is proof that it was too easy to get one? What does that suggest?

2. Obama waited barely a few hours before politicizing a tragedy, and using it to stump for his gun policies. This was inappropriate, disrespectful, crass and cynical.

3. Reasonable and enforced gun regulations are necessary and rational, but it is intellectually dishonest —and politically inept—to use this kind of an incident (or Newtown) to promote them. Nothing short of outright gun banning will stop people like the Charleston shooter from acquiring guns, and gun banning is not going to happen, ever, nor should it. The anti-gun zealots who would love to see guns banned just respond to the Pavlovian stimulus of this kind of rhetoric, and the pro-gun nuts will see this as an outright effort to repeal the Second Amendment. This kind of statement accomplishes nothing but to gin up “the base,” and, frankly, I think that’s all it’s intended to do. Continue reading

CNN Brings Us The Anti-American Cheap Shot Of The Year In Response to The South Carolina Massacre

Roof

Seconds ago, I just heard a guest on CNN—I didn’t notice his name, and I don’t want to know his name—tell Carol Costello that not only was church shooter Dylann Roof (above, and now in custody) sick, but that there was a great “sickness in a country that could produce a Dylann Roof,” who could pray with a congregation and then slaughter the people he just prayed with.

Carol Costello, true to her shameless, unthinking, knee-jerk jerkish soul, just nodded in agreement. Heaven forbid that she might contradict a solemn African-American race-baiting hack who had just impugned an entire nation based on the conduct of a single deranged man among 319 million.

Why stop with judging the nation by this act? Surely it proves the vile attitudes of the white race, the toxic values of males, and the inherent evil of gun owners. It proves that churchgoers are hypocrites, and that 21 year-old males are the violent, potential rapists that college campuses are now being urged to so treat them.

This CNN guest was succeeded by Costello favorite Michaela Angela Davis, daughter of the infamous Berkeley Sixties radical (and criminal) Angela Davis, who proclaimed that Roof was typical, that before this administration such crimes went unnoticed—gee, I wonder how many church massacres were covered up by those racists in the Bush Administration?— and that the attack was definitely racist terrorism, particularly because this Charleston church was important in civil rights history, and the oldest African American church still standing in the South.

Again, Costello uncritically went along with these ideological leaps.

How did Davis know that Roof chose that church for its historical significance, or was even aware of its significance? She didn’t; nobody did. Do we know that he was only interested in shooting blacks, or that when he reportedly stated that he wanted to kill blacks, he wasn’t planning on visiting other churches to announce, “I want to kill Hispanics/Asians/Catholics/Jews/ Whites”? No, we don’t.

Airing such inflammatory, premature, evidence-free assumptions is incompetent and irresponsible journalism. Endorsing an unconscionable anti-U.S. culture, history and values cheap shot like that of Costello’s previous guest is a breach of citizenship as well.

To be fair, though, CNN is getting faster at inflaming public opinion following race-related tragedies.

Practice makes perfect.

 UPDATE: CNN’s John Berman just interviewed an African-American pastor in Charleston who said, “If you can’t be safe being black in a church, where can anyone be black in the country?”

What the hell does that mean? Berman’s awkward response:

“Good point.”

No, John, it is an emotional, incoherent, inflammatory, fear-mongering point.