Emergency Fake News Alert!

Map 2020

I have now seen several reports that Joe Biden is certain to be elected. This is fake news—a lie—and needs to be debunked immediately, not that it’s difficult. Many are pushing the narrative: Chris Wallace, who has pretty much outed himself as a biased, anti-Trump hack this election cycle, stated as fact that if the former VP wins Nevada and Michigan, he’s the next President. Apparently Chris can’t add.

I can, at least better than Chris. The President at this point has 214 electoral votes, fewer than Biden’s 253. he is certain to win Alaska’s 3 votes, making his total 217.

Even Nate Silver, CNN and MSNBC have conceded today that it looks like Trump may pull out a win in Arizona, winning 10 more electoral votes there. That makes 227.

By the way: good election night state-calling there, AP and Fox News.

Trump has to win North Carolina and Georgia, where it is close, but he is leading in both states with only 5% left to count. That’s 31 more in the Electoral College, giving him 258.

At that point, Pennsylvania, where the President is also leading, would give Donald Trump re-election with 8 votes to spare.

This is far from a certain scenario, but it isn’t unlikely either. And we’re not even considering whether the suspicious vote totals in Wisconsin and Michigan stand up to scrutiny.

Carry on.

Ethics Observations On 2020 Presidential Debate #1 [Comments Restored!]

 

Ten Ethics Observations:

1. I showed a photo from the first Presidential debate in 1960 to introduce the post Chris added his comments to, earning his Comment of the Day. Maybe I should have shown a video. Jack Kennedy was a Machiavellian phony of more style than talent, and Richard Nixon was more talented but just as ruthless and more unstable. Yet both conducted themselves as dignified aspirants to an honored office and role in our government, with sober and substantive answers to neutral questions that never betrayed the intense dislike the two men had for each other. Compare that event to what was on display last night. There are reasons for it, but no excusing it. Both men harmed the nation and the office last night with their ugly attitudes toward each other. As a result, they harmed the process, and democratic institutions.

2. The lack of a handshake was inexcusable, and shame on both campaigns and the debate commission for permitting this departure from traditional civility, as well as all concerned for giving the fake excuse of caution regarding the Wuhan virus. The two adversaries could have worn gloves and masks; hell, they could have worn suits of medieval armor for all I care. They needed to signal the traditional respect of each other even if they have none.

Shame on everyone.

 3. Trump’s constant interruptions of Biden and “bullying,” as it is being described in many forums, were bad form and poor strategy: Biden was vague and sometimes incomprehensible. Ethically, the President’s rudeness raises a familiar tit for tat dilemma. In his 2016 debate with Paul Ryan, Biden’s tactic was to mug, sigh, cackle, mock, and generally do everything he could to interfere with poor, polite Paul Ryan’s attempts to talk about policy, while moderator Martha Raddatz  made Ryan look weak. Trump decided that if that was going to be Biden’s game again—and it was—he wasn’t going to make Ryan’s mistake and be passive. So he acted as rude and jerkish as Biden, and made his contempt for and distrust of the moderator clear from the beginning.

4. I suspect Biden was drugged. He looked drugged last night; his pupils looked huge. The Trump team wanted to require a drug test, and though that was partially gamesmanship, it was also a fair request, given legitimate questions about Biden’s health, which should be the equivalent in this race of what Trump’s taxes were in 2016.

5. I don’t like either of these men as personalities, as elected officials, and as leaders, potential or otherwise. The difference is that President Trump has never pretended to be any different than he appears and sounds. W.S. Gilbert had a libretto he was inexplicably obsessed with about a magic lozenge that turned people into whatever they were pretending to be. (It helped break up his partnership with Sullivan, who refused to set it to music.) If Donald Trump ate that lozenge, it would have no effect at all. If Joe Biden did, he would turn into a nice guy. His supposed appeal is that he’s decent, trustworthy official, whatever his other deficits. He isn’t, and last night it was obvious that he isn’t. I can’t see anyone who was inclined to vote for Trump being put off by last night’s debate, but I can see Biden losing the votes of those who want someone more “Presidential.” Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: The First 2020 Presidential Debate.

[The transcript is here]

I’ll make my comments regarding last night’s debate relatively brief. Right now I’m going to give the floor to Chris Marschner, whose lengthy comment shortly after it concluded is both fair and thorough. This is an ethics blog that has been forced into commenting on politics far more than it should or that its writer wants to, and for that I blame, as a depressed friend said yesterday, “the politicization of everything.” I am going to try, as I have all along in matters relating to President Trump and the unconscionable methods the Axis of Unethical Conduct has employed to undermine and remove him regardless of the long- and short- term harm they inflict on the nation, to keep my observations on the debate to ethical issues . I think, for the most part, Chris does too, which is one reason I admire his Comment of the Day.

One of his main complaints is the incompetence of the President in failing to clearly explain and defend his response to the Wuhan virus. I won’t touch on that at all;  Chris is right,  but it’s Julie Principle territory. Yes, it would be great if this President could articulately marshal facts and statistics to kill false narratives, as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton could. The man just doesn’t do that, can’t, and never will. It is true that Biden provided many opportunities that a more verbally adept President could have exploited, but complaining that Trump is Trump seems pointless now.

My own observations, which I will restrict to just ten, are here—I wrote them up before reading Chris’s analysis.. Meanwhile, here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on last nights debate, nominally on the post, “Pre-Debate Ethics Distraction, 9/29/2020: Prediction: Whatever Happens, I’m Going To Hate It, And The News Media Will Lie About It”:

I can’t believe American politics has devolved in to the one of those circuses elsewhere when the the two sides clear the benches for physical free for all. Chris Wallace is ill suited for what our debates have become and his questions being so long allowed the two candidates to go off into their preferred areas of attack instead of giving relatively succinct answers.

It also appeared to me that the questions were structured in such a way that Trump had to defend his decisions while Biden was given the opportunity to lay out his ideas. Having to defend the measurable and complex issues of a pandemic response coupled with widespread unrest in major cities fomented by race-baiters while your opponent merely has to give unmeasurable platitudes is sort of unreasonable. The only one challenging Biden on his record was Trump while Trump was challenged by Wallace and Biden.

Trump may come across as overbearing tonight but I recall Biden’s debate with Paul Ryan in which he behaved as Trump did tonight. Perhaps the game plan was to not let Biden pull that again. Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Calisthenics, 7/19/2020: Fig-Heads!

1. Our trustworthy news media, which we can trust to behave like this... From my AOL news feed: “Trump says he may not accept 2020 election results.” From the transcript of the Chris Wallace interview that the headline is referring to:

WALLACE: Are you suggesting that you might not accept the results of the election?

TRUMP: No.

What the President would not do is promise to accept the results if there were a  valid reason not to accept the results. Once Al Gore challenged the Florida vote count after Bush had been declared the winner in 2000, the long standing precedent, followed by election losers like Andrew Jackson, Samuel Tilden and Richard Nixon, all of which had reasons to question the results in their contests, of accepting defeat without a challenge was erased. If any of it remained at all, Hilary Clinton’s pursuit of some way of reversing the Electoral College tally in 2016 completed the job. Trump’s refusal to promise a return to the old tradition is reasonable,  especially with the chicanery enabled by mail-in ballots. What Joe Biden has suggested, despicably, is that Trump will not give up the Presidency even if he is defeated unequivocally and fairly. There is no justification for suggesting this. There is far more reason to believe that any Trump victory, even a resounding one, will send angry and frustrated Democrats into the streets

Trump, as usual, was trolling with his coy response here…

WALLACE: There is a tradition in this country — in fact, one of the prides of this country — is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?

TRUMP: What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?

TRUMP: And you know what? She’s the one that never accepted it.

WALLACE: I agree.

TRUMP: She never accepted her loss and she looks like a fool.

This isn’t a topic he should be playing with, because the Democrats and the news media will claim that something sinister is in the works. Trump gives a strong hint of his real meaning: if Hillary looked like a fool by refusing to accept the election results, he wouldn’t want to behave like Hillary. But the President should have simply said, “If I lose, fair and square, of course I will accept the results.”

He also should have answered Wallace’s question as I would have, by saying, “Chris, the tradition you speak of has been rejected twice by losing Democratic candidates since 2000.”

2. There’s no excuse for this in 2020. I could not believe my ears as I watched “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”last night.

I thought that a TV version of “The Hard Way” (1991)  I watched a bit of until I couldn’t stand any more had wrapped up the all-time prize for idiotic Bowdlerization of movie dialogue with such substitutions as “slug in a ditch” for “son of a bitch.”  I mistakenly assumed that the days of red-penciling movie dialogue on the theory that a film’s audiences would be made up of six-year-old Mennonites and 88-year old nuns were long gone. But here was a a 2017 movie with a lot of rough language being made ridiculous by word censorship. “Fuck” was alternately represented by “flock,” “flip,” and “freak.” “Mother-fucker” became “flipper”—in a bar scene, I at first thought a fight started because one character called another a dolphin. “Bitch” for some reason was removed in favor of the word “cuck,” except it was pronounced like “cook.” A character complained about there being “too many cucks in here,” and for a second I thought I was watching “The Great British Baking Show.” All of these strange words ruined the movie, first because the silly replacements turned a smart and moving drama into a absurdist Monty Python skit, and second because the word substitution was so eccentric that I was constantly taken out of the story by wondering, “What word was supposed to be in there?”

In one scene, the protagonist played by Frances McDormand burst  into the police station calling the officer played by Sam Rockwell a “fig-head.” Another officer indignantly shouts at her, “You can’t come in here and call a law enforcement officer a fig-head!” Wait–what the hell is a fig head?

This is incompetent and unfair to the film, the artists who made it, and the audience.

3. OK, I admit it, I have no idea what Kanye West is doing. And I don’t care. After announcing he was running for President, then implying that he wasn’t, the mentally ill rapper held a campaign event yesterday highlighted by his criticism of Harriet Tubman on the grounds that she “never actually freed the slaves, she just had them work for other white people.”

This is gallactically stupid, but it’s still smarter than Candidate Trump’s criticism of John McCain’s war heroism. At least Tubman, her family and friends aren’t alive to exact their revenge on West should he get elected.

Chris Wallace Is Sincere And Deluded, But To Be Fair, It’s Understandable.

“I believe President Trump is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history,” Fox anchor Chis Wallace told the audience at an event honoring the First Amendment. “The president’s attacks have done some damage..A Freedom Forum Institute poll this year found 29 percent of Americans think the First Amendment goes ‘too far.’ And 77 percent say ‘fake news’ is a serious threat to our democracy,” Wallace continued.

“Ours is a great profession — maybe the best way to make a living anyone ever came up with. Think of it. We are paid to tell the truth—to cut through all the spin—all the distractions — and tell the American people what is really going on.”

Chris Wallace is a smart guy; I knew him a little when I was a sophomore and he was a senior in the same residential House in college. He’s also a journalist with integrity, the antithesis of stereotypes and smears that are routinely used to delegitimize Fox News reporting, often the only broadcast news source to counter the Left’s propaganda.  It would be weird if Wallace didn’t believe the myth about journalism, given his pedigree (icon Mike Wallace was Chris’s father) and the fact that he was immersed in his father’s world virtually from birth.

So I sympathize, but what an obviously ridiculous statement to make in public, literally from beginning to end! This might be the best example of how “Bias makes you stupid” of all time; I can’t think of a better one. Imagine: Wallace asserts one false position after another, then says “We are paid to tell the truth.” He would be lying, except I’m sure he believes it all. Chris, I’m sure, does try to tell the truth. He is apparently incapable of telling the truth about his friends and colleagues, because he is incapable of seeing it.

Let’s see:

We all have a right to do many terrible, unfair, wrongful and harmful things. People have a right to have children they can’t take care of, for example. They have a right to be unfaithful to their spouses, to misrepresent their affections to partners who think they are loved. Parents have a right to warp the values and education of their children. People have a right to accept jobs that they are unqualified to do well; they have a right not to retire long after they know they have become incompetent. We have a right to be biased, to be prejudiced, and to hate irrationally. We have a right to vote, even if we vote ignorantly and without meeting our duty to be informed citizens. The issue in which this rationalization was raised on Ethics Alarms was a news story about a grandmother who killed her cat and kittens to punish her grandchildren. Yes, she had a right to kill them, for they were her property. A billionaire could buy a great work of art and destroy it on a whim, too. Gratuitous, wanton or cruel destruction of property that others derive joy or practical use from, however, is still unethical.

Yes, we often have a right to do something wrong. Using rights that way, however, is to abuse them.

Wallace is really and truly saying that criticizing how a right is exercised poses a threat to the existence of that right. This is now a reflex defense by journalists, which is itself, ironically, a tactic designed to suppress speech. They want to criticize those they oppose, but criticizing the manner in which they frequently do it—incompetently, recklessly, dishonesty and with bias—is deemed an attack on their right to do it. Chris Wallace is smart enough to understand the distinction, or was, before his bias softened his brain. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/2/2018: Bad Neighbors And Bad Journalism

Good Morning…

1. Ah, now THAT’S the ol’ Spirit of 1776!  In a subdivision near Sterling Heights in Chesterfield, Michigan,  a resident sent an anonymous letter to other residents, threatening  to take dire measures against them if they set off fireworks after 9 PM  this week. Here’s the letter…

Yikes.

I’m presuming that the real spirit of 1776 still breathes deeply in this nation, and that the reaction of the recipients of that letter will be to make certain that the noisiest fireworks possible are exploding every second during the time they are permitted to be by law, from the start of the week to the end. The neighbor is a coward, a jerk and a bully, and his bluff must be called as a matter of justice and honor. (Pointer: HLN)

2. Nah, the mainstream news media isn’t biased! In an absolutely correct and justified editorial note, Fox News’ Chris Wallace excoriated media outlets on “Fox News Sunday” for attempting to connect President Donald Trump to the newsroom shooting at Capital Gazette in Maryland. (This will, of course, be called an example of Fox News pro-Trump toadying by those same media outlets.) This was indeed one of the most transparent recent episodes of fake news peddling by CNN, Reuters and others in the mainstream media, who worked hard to make the case that the killer of five was motivated by the President’s repeated accusation that the media is “the enemy of the people.” We now know that the shooter swore that he would kill the Capital Gazette writer whom he targeted in the attack years ago, when everyone assumed that Hillary was going to be the next President. Continue reading

Debate Ethics: Trump’s “Breathtaking Repudiation Of American Democracy”

debate3

Substance, of course, is officially irrelevant to the 2016 Presidential election. This is a bitter “be careful what you wish for” realization for Ethics Alarms and its author, as I have long argued that leaders’ values and character are more important and should be given more weight in any choice of candidates than their political affiliations or official policy positions. I did not foresee  a race in which both candidates have definitively proven that they are unfit for office and corrupt beyond repair or redemption, and one of those candidates is so unfit that even the epic dishonesty and democracy-corroding conduct of his opponent cannot begin to justify a vote for him by anyone with the sense of a bivalve mollusk.

Thus, once again as in the first two debates, the leading story coming out of last night’s snark-fest relates to character, not substance. In this case, it doesn’t even relate to practical reality. Donald Trump was asked by debate moderator Chris Wallace,

Your running mate Governor Pence pledged on Sunday that he and you, his words, will absolutely accept the result of this election. Today your daughter Ivanka said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight, do you make the same commitment that you’ll absolutely accept the result of the election?

..and after talking around the question interminable, as usual, Trump finally answered,

What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?

Hillary Clinton immediately pronounced the answer “horrifying,” and her assessment is currently being echoed on editorial pages and by pundits and analysts as if Trump announced that he was raising an army of NRA members to take the White House by force. Gasped the Washington Post this morning, in an editorial titled, “Trump’s Breathtaking Repudiation of American Democracy,” “Respecting the will of the voters has since the end of the Civil War allowed for a peaceful transition of power that has made this country the envy of the world….[Clinton’s flaws] fade to the status of trivia in the face of an opponent who will not accept the basic rules of American democracy.”The New York Times, in its editorial titled “Donald Trump’s Contempt for Democracy,” pontificated,

Mr. Trump’s meltdown in the closing weeks could be dismissed as a sore loser’s bizarre attempt at rationalizing his likely defeat. But his trashing of the democratic process, in service of his own ego, risks lasting damage to the country, and politicians of both parties should recoil from him and his cynical example.

It in no way excuses Donald Trump to take notice of the “breathtaking” dishonesty here.

Continue reading

Hillary’s New Tactic: When Caught Lying, Resort To Gibberish

Yesterday in Washington, D.C., Hillary Clinton took questions at a meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She was asked by NBC’s Kristen Welker to explain her jaw-dropping lie on Fox News Sunday a week ago, when she claimed  that FBI Director James B. Comey had said all of her statements had been “truthful,” when anyone who heard Comey’s public statement or Congressional testimony could see that he actually stated that her public statements—for more than a year—were not true. Incredibly, Clinton had no coherent or credible answer for this, though she had to know—didn’t she?—that the question would be asked.

Her answer began with this:

“I may have short-circuited it, and for that I will try to clarify.”

On “The Honeymooners,” Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) used to stutter out, when confronted with his own whopper or otherwise trapped, “Huminahuminahumina…” “Short-circuited” is as meaningful as that. It’s gibberish, but just as obviously means “you caught me lying through my teeth, and I don’t have a good explanation.” Ralph, however, was a humble, none-too-bright bus driver, and not running for President, so the standards in his case can be relaxed a bit.

(Please also note Clinton’s equivocal “might.” )

Ralph always followed  “huminahuminahumina…” with facial expressions and body language showing silent humiliation, and then an abject apology. Hillary, being Hillary, just started lying again. The AP fact-checked her response, and determined that she had trotted out the same shifting, mendacious assertions we have heard so many time before. Concluded the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, 

Er, what? What Clinton appears to be saying is that Comey said that everything she said to the FBI was truthful (he did) and since she said publicly exactly what she said to the FBI, therefore everything she said was truthful.

Oh, so that’s what “short-circuited” means! Continue reading

Jumbo, Ethics Dunce, Kaboom And Unethical Quote Of The Month: Hillary’s Jaw-Dropping Lie To Chris Wallace

hillary and Wallace

“Director Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the emails.”

—-Hillary Clinton to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, asserting that what was demonstrably false was true, regarding a public statement by Comey that can be Googled and watched on YouTube instantly.

My reaction when I saw that: KABOOM! The top of my head blew right off, bounced off the ceiling and knocked over the lamp. Wallace asked Clinton directly about what she had been saying to the public about her e-mails since May of 2015: that she did nothing wrong, that her private, secret e-mail server was approved by the State Department, that she never received or sent a classified e-mail…okay, that didn’t work, that she never knowingly sent a classified e-mail…wait, wait, that she never sent or received an  e-mail that was marked classified. Comey, in his televised, live statement announcing his decision not to recommend prosecution for Clinton, directly contradicted her.

In his careful statement Comey said,

“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.,,,seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. …There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation…even if information is not marked ‘classified’ in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.”

There is no way that an individual of normal facility with the English language can listen to or read that statement and conclude that Comey was saying that Hillary’s answers to questions about the e-mails to the American public and the news media–for over a year!–were truthful, as in “full of truth.” A technical argument can be made, if one wishes, that  Comey didn’t say that Clinton lied, because maybe she is an idiot and incompetent, and didn’t know or understand what “any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position” should have known and understood, leading to her factually false (and constantly evolving as more facts where uncovered) explanations over months and months. Continue reading

Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Authentic Frontier Gibberish In Defense Of Hillary

Gabby Johnson for head of the DNC!

Gabby Johnson for head of the DNC!

I am going to add “authentic frontier gibberish” (or AFG ) to the Ethics Alarms glossary of special terms. It comes, of course, from a memorable moment in “Blazing Saddles,” but on Ethics Alarms it is usually used to describe either intentional or incompetent blather from politicians or others attempting to confuse the public, duck a question, or mislead everyone. It is deliberate communication malpractice, with the motive of not communicating but pretending to.

Seldom will you encounter a more ringing example of AFG than the foregoing. Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a master at AFG,  was asked by Fox News’ Chris Wallace why she called the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s possible national security violations in her handling of official e-mails “ludicrous.”

Here was her response… Continue reading