Tag Archives: CNN

The Dishonest Tax Day Anti-Trump Protests

All such Anti-Trump protests should be called “We Are Furious That Our Terrible Candidate And Her Corrupt Party Lost The Election And Are Throwing An Infantile Tantrum While Rejecting  Democracy and American Institutions Until We Get Our Power Back.”  That’s all they are, every one of them. At least then the demonstrations by un-American hypocrites who want to overthrow an election that didn’t go their way would deserve props for being honest.

The Tax Day protests were the electoral college protests, the illegal immigrant protests, the women rights protests (coming up: the science protests) and all the others with just a different hook. I’m sure by now there is a well-paid public relations team charged with coming up with the next one. The amount of ill-used time, public expense , inconvenience, wasted news coverage space and accumulated idiotic rhetoric such protests will generate over the next four years should be measured somehow, because it will be staggering. Is this going to be the longest, most costly, most devisive and unethical national tantrum in U.S. history? It already is.

Just to get the alleged justification for the latest sham out of the way: President Trump has no obligation, legal or ethical, to release his taxes at this point. It would be irresponsible for him to do it, in fact.

Of course, as Ethics Alarms noted during the campaign, candidate Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns was unethical: unfair to voters, a breach of transparency; and disrespectful to the process. His oft repeated reason why he “couldn’t” release them was also an obvious lie. This episode, like so many others during the campaign, demanded consequences, and there probably were some.

Who knows how many votes it cost Trump? The conduct alone did not disqualify him for election: If he were the most qualified, competent, brilliant, trustworthy, inspiring candidate the nation had seen for decades, would the mere failure to release his tax returns have caused me, or any reasonable voter, to refuse to vote for him, and instead vote for, yechhh, Hillary Clinton? Of course not.

Whatever reason there was for Trump to take this risk and refuse to abide by long practice and tradition, the gamble worked. Now, however, there is no ethical reason to reverse that decision.The original reason the decision was unethical doesn’t exist: voters had a right to see the details of that aspect of his life before choosing him to be President. He’s not running for office now, however. Now his duty is to try to do the job he was elected to do. Yes, I know the “resistance” refuses to accept or acknowledge this, but facts are stubborn things. Now, releasing the tax returns is only demanded by one set of citizens: those who already hate his guts, reject his Presidency, want to see it fail, are willing to see the nation fail if that’s what it takes, want to cobble together reasons to impeach him, and are only interested in using the returns, whatever is in them—it literally doesn’t matter—to further disrupt his attempts to do his job.

Literally nobody who either voted for the President or who wants him to succeed in dealing with the wave of problems left festering by the inept and feckless administration before his would say that allowing Democrats and other Trump foes to have a new weapon to level against his Presidency is in the best interest of the nation. The only people who want to see his tax returns  right now want them solely as a stick to beat him with.

“Show us your fucking taxes, you emotional child!” alleged comedian Sarah Silverman screamed from the podium to appreciative  Tax Day protesters. That was representative of the attitude of every individual at every one of the Tax Day protests. I wouldn’t put any ammunition, no matter how ineffective, in the hands of someone like that. It would incompetent. It would be self-destructive. It would be stupid.

Naturally, reporters are incapable of comprehending this, because they also want to bring this President down so intensely they can taste it. The pundits are already deranged: here’s Salon’s Heather Digby Parton, explaining why Maxine Waters, a career embarrassment to Congress, is a leader because she insists that she wants to impeach Trump now:

“It may seem that Waters just has a pugilistic personality and is out front because it’s her political style to mix it up. But there is a strategy at work in this. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that a president was impeached for only the second time in history and this was over a “crime” that seems laughably insubstantial compared to the possibilities that Donald Trump could face. Just for starters, Trump’s presidential campaign is being investigated in a counterintelligence probe, and the list of his conflicts of interest are so wide-ranging and so deep that almost anything could implicate him in a corruption scandal. Impeachment is really not a far-fetched proposition.”

Again, facts are stubborn things. First of all, impeachment is always a far-fetched proposition, and was intended to be.  Conviction requires two-thirds of the Senate, and unless that is feasible, the exercise of impeachment by the House is a waste of time that paralyzes the government. Bill Clinton lied under oath in a court of law and used the government to engineer a cover-up. That’s not insubstantial, except to Democrats whose position then as now was that their Presidents can do no wrong and are never accountable. Bill’s crime is insubstantial, Salon says, “compared to the possibilities that Donald Trump could face.” “Could face!” Savor that one for a bit. That’s the mindset of the entire “resistance.” These unhinged and totalitarian-listing Americans are just certain that “something is out there,” like “The X-Files,”  because it might be out there, at least in their hyper-partisan dreams. The investigation is part of the partisan anti-Trump Presidency play-book, and is about as meaningful as Republican investigations aimed at proving that the Obama Administration intentionally allowed our Libyan ambassador to die.

You see, investigations are not proof of wrongdoing. They have become weapons to insinuate wrongdoing: Joe McCarthy paved the way, As for Trump’s conflicts, “almost anything” would not constitute an actual scandal.  “Almost anything” will allow Trump-haters to claim there is a scandal, and the news media to support such claims as long as they can do undermine the President as much as they can…which brings us back to the tax returns.

If the President could plausibly believe that the news media would be fair and objective, maybe he would release his returns. All we hear is that the only explanation is that he has something nefarious to hide. That is not the only explanation. The other explanation that the news media has provide every reason for him to believe  that almost all the major news organizations are allied with his enemies, and will not fairly report on what is in the returns. Do you doubt that?  How? MSNBC reporter Morgan Radford  interviewing actress Debra Messing at a Tax Day protest, heard the former “Will & Grace” star state as fact that American democracy was “attacked and infiltrated by Russia,” ( a hysterical characterization, and pure Hillary campaign talking point—I wonder, would Messing be saying this if Russia hacked Trump’s tax returns before the election?) and responded by asking Messing the  “best way to make our voices heard” in order to “neutralize” the threat posed by the “current administration to democracy.”

Reporters aren’t even trying to be objective, don’t want to be, and are convinced their market doesn’t want them to be journalists, but activists. Thus their news organizations are refusing to enforce even minimal journalism standards. Why would any leader determined to do the daunting job facing him give these unethical, hateful hacks any assistance in warping public opinion?

CNN’s Chris Cillizza graphically illustrates how bias makes journalists stupid and untrustworthy in his feature called “The big thing Trump gets wrong about his taxes and the 2016 election.”

Taking off from the President’s typical and unhelpful “Nyah nyah, I won” tweet about the protest, Cillizza writes,

The Trump logic appears to go like this:

Democrats hit me for not releasing my tax returns during the campaign.

I won.

Ergo, no one cares about my taxes.

This isn’t the first time this sort of thinking has been deployed by Trump and his senior staff. Back in January, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway insisted that “we litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care.”

Conway’s point didn’t make sense then. And Trump’s doesn’t now.

No, Chris, your point is the umpteenth example of  journalists misreading sloppy Trump team rhetoric to make an invalid point.  What Conway meant was not that “people didn’t care.”  It was that the people who voted for Donald Trump cared about other things more. They still do. The election, after all, wasn’t about tax returns. (Similarly, those who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton may care very much about women’s rights, but cared more about keeping the corrupt Clinton machine from getting its grubby hands on the levers of power.) The people who cared about other things more than Trump refusing to reveal his taxes still care more about those things, which now includes his having to deal with very real and very pressing problems which the tax returns cannot do a thing to solve. Because the election is over and Trump is President for the next four years, they care about his taxes even less than before in comparison to wanting him to be successful. Trump, and Conway, I and I hope you KNOW the taxes matter to the people who want to wreck his Presidency; we all know Chris cares, because it can only cause harm to the administration.

The President’s point makes perfect sense, and not releasing his returns now also makes sense.

Anything else would be deliberately crippling his ability to lead, and no responsible leader does that intentionally.

President Trump does too much of that unintentionally already.

[And may I add, boy, I’m sick or having to write about this. But then, Samuel Pepys got tired of writing about the plague.]

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U.S. Journalism’s Continued Unraveling, And CNN’s Unprofessional, Unethical, Destructive Disrespect For The President Of The United States

And the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck’s carnage continues…

The degree to which the Post 2016 Election Ethics Train Wreck has engulfed the news media has shocked even me, and readers know that Ethics Alarms had  swamp-level regard for U.S. journalists long before the 2016 campaign. It has obliterated any legitimate trust a citizen could have in the mainstream media’s news judgment, objectivity and competence, and with the exception of tiny pockets of professionalism here and there (Jake Tapper comes to mind), has declared itself a partisan foe of the electoral system, and the Presidency. The double standards applied regarding Democrats and Republicans as well as the smug shamelessness with which the media has applied them cannot be condemned too harshly. Naturally, the equally corrupted members of the so-called “resistance” see none of the harm and betrayal in this, since it suits their own ends.

Ethics Alarms  can’t catalogue all of the worst examples of this; there isn’t time. Last month, for example, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who once had a conscience and a mind even as you or I, authored one of the ugliest and most disgusting pieces I have read in any reputable publication. In the disgrace titled “There’s a Whiff of Treason In The Air” Kristof issued a conspiracy theory that would be at home in the archives of Alex Jones,  Mike Cernovich, or Donald Trump in his birther days, except that so many hopeful Democrats endorse it. The column is one long, vicious smear, claiming that President Trump engaged in treason, while citing absolutely no evidence whatsoever that supports such an inflammatory accusation. I considered flagging all of the slimy, dishonest, hypocritical rhetorical techniques Kristof brings to his efforts to undermine his nation’s President, but I decided to do so would insult my readers’ intelligence: it is so obvious, particularly when one considers the Russian “ties” the Clinton campaign had to Russia. Why do the business dealings of Trump campaign personnel with Russian figures spell TREASON to the Times columnist, and the more ominous ties between Russia and the Clintons get a pass? Simple: he wants Donald Trump to be proven a traitor; his readers want it; and he, the Times and the Democratic Party that has sold its integrity and soul intends to push the accusations as long as they can cripple and delegitimize the government they oppose. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: Syrian Refugee Kassem Eid

If only more guests of the President Trump-Resistance enabling broadcast news media would expose the disgraceful journalistic bias like Kassem Eid, a victim of an earlier chemical weapons attack by Assad, now living in Germany.

Asked by CNN/s Brooke Baldwin about his reaction to the US missile response to Assad’s use of  Sarin against Syrian civilians., Kassem said he cried with joy.  “I thanked God…I was overwhelmed,” he said.

Then Baldwin noted, “At the same time, [President Trump] doesn’t want Syrians to come into this country with this refugee ban.”

(so please tell us why you hate him as much as we do, even though this interview is supposedly about yesterday’s news, the missile attack, and not the travel restrictions…)

To help feed the refugees expected anger and outrage, Baldwin then showed a clip of Hillary Clinton condemning the temporary travel ban,  in which she said,  “We cannot speak of protecting Syria’s babies, and in the next breath close America’s doors to them.”

“Quickly Kassem, how do you see that?” Baldwin fished…(and please, spare no emotion in showing your anger and outrage toward our racist, xenophobic and illegitimate President….)

Kassem responded…

“With all due respect, with all due respect,I didn’t see each and every person who was demonstrating after the travel ban… I didn’t see you three days ago when people were gassed to death…I didn’t see you in 2013 when 1,400 people were gassed to death. I didn’t see you raising your voice against President Obama’s inaction in Syria that left us refugees. If you really care about refugees, if you really care about helping us, please — help us stay here in our country. We don’t want to come to the United States. We want to stay in our country. We want to stay in our country. With all due respect, this is hypocrisy. If you really care, if you really care…help us stay in our country. We don’t want to become refugees. We want to stay in our country. Help us establish safe zones…Help us stay safe in our country. And if you’ll just give me a few seconds just to tell President Trump, once again. Please sir, what you did was amazing. What you did was a powerful message of hope for a lot of people inside and outside of Syria. Please don’t stop on this. Please. Help Syrians stay in their country! Please take out Assad’s air forces so they won’t be able to commit more atrocities using traditional weapons. 500,000 people were killed with traditional weapons — just so people can know what we’ve suffered in the past six years.”

Perfect.

Brooke looked like she had eaten a bug.

Good.

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

Ethics Hero: CNN’s John King

Things are pretty bad in the profession of journalism when a reporter can be an Ethics Hero by simply staying objective and stating the obvious, but such is the wretched state of journalism ethics in 2017.

As mentioned in the earlier post, CNN immediately avoided journalism and defaulted to partisan Obama Administration defense mode when it was revealed that Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice “unmasked” Trump campaign personnel whose conversations were inadvertently picked up in security surveillance. Rather than examining the story, objectively, factually, CNN anchors Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo declared the story, respectively, a Trump-manufactured  diversion and “fake news.” (The New York Times did its part by burying the Rice story on page A-11.)

CNN’s John King, however, bravely eschewed the company line, that line being “partisan spin.” Showing a video from last month, King began…

“This is Susan Rice a short time ago on the PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff. When asked at first, her name was not involved at first in the conversation at this point. When asked at first the House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes says there was unmasking done by Obama administration officials.”

Now he runs the tape…Woodruff’s question was, ” I began by asking about the allegations leveled today by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that Trump transition officials, including the president, may have been swept up in surveillance of foreigners at the end of the Obama administration.”

SUSAN RICE: I know nothing about this. I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today. I really don’t know to what Chairman Nunes was referring. But he said that whatever he was referring to was a legal lawful surveillance and that it was potentially incidental collection on American citizens.

The clip ends.

KING: Uh, remember the beginning of that. “I know nothing about this.” This is the same Susan Rice moments ago on MSNBC.

He runs the second clip.

RICE: There occasions when I would receive a report in which a U.S. person was referred to. Name not provided. Just U.S. person. And sometimes in that context in order to understand the importance of the report and assess its significance it was necessary to find out or request the information as to who that U.S. official was.

The clip ends.

KING: Not to be a jerk here but will the real Susan Rice please stand up?

Added guest Yahoo! News chief Washington correspondent Olivier Knox:

KNOX: The second part of that on MSNBC there a perfectly logical explanation on how unmasking works but the problem is the previous comment in which she denies any knowledge of it so she can’t in the same breath…

KING: Welcome to the witness list.

KNOX: Yeah, I mean, come on!

Translation: If what Rice did was innocent and unremarkable, why did she initially deny she did it? Continue reading

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Case Study Of A Story News That Media And Web Bias Makes Impossible To Check: Susan Rice’s “Unmasking”

I am not going to write about the ethics issues in the latest Susan Rice controversy, but I am going to write about why I can’t get an objective enough assessment of what the story is to write about it competently.

Susan Rice, President Obama’s National Security Advisor,  sought to “unmask” the identities of members of President Trump’s campaign and transition team who were incidentally mentioned in foreign surveillance intelligence reports. This was first reported over the weekend by conservative conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, which meant that no commentators on the Left believed it, but then it was confirmed yesterday by Bloomberg’s Eli Lake.

Many conservatives treated this as confirmation of President Trump’s much-derided claim that the Obama administration “wiretapped” him. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board issued an op-ed this morning, saying,

All this is highly unusual — and troubling. Unmasking does occur, but it is typically done by intelligence or law-enforcement officials engaged in anti-terror or espionage investigations. Ms. Rice would have had no obvious need to unmask Trump campaign officials other than political curiosity.

On Medium, Mike Doran wrote,

“In late December, the administration launched an information campaign designed to depict President-elect Trump as Moscow’s Manchurian candidate. Vladimir Putin had installed Trump in office by “hacking the election,” so the argument went; Hillary Clinton, therefore, was the rightful president.

The claim that Susan Rice was unmasking merely to arrive at the ground truth of Russian behavior would be easier to swallow if the information she gleaned from unmasking had not been used to perpetrate a fraud on the American public. The leak to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius about General Michael Flynn’s conversations with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak (which I discuss in this article) is the most egregious example of a senior administration official using material gathered from illicit unmasking in order to tell a very big and very pernicious lie.”

The New York Times, sadly predictable in its knee-jerk defense of Democrats rather than resolving to get at the truth,  immediately argued that there was nothing to the story at all: 

Former national security officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described the requests as normal and said they were justified by the need for the president’s top security adviser to understand the context of reports sent to her by the nation’s intelligence agencies.

Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum mocked the story as pure conservative fantasy regarding a favorite villain:

But! Susan Rice is also a Republican bête noir, the villainess of Benghazi who LIED ON TV repeatedly and tried to get everyone to believe that the attacks were due to an INTERNET VIDEO when we knew all along they were really the work of RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISTS, a phrase that OBAMA WAS UNWILLING TO UTTER.Here’s what we can say about the Rice situation at this point.

Sarcasm is used by Drum here to hide the fact that Rice did lie about Benghazi, and was part of an Obama administration effort (that included Hillary Clinton) to blur the fact that it was a planned terrorist attack, not a spontaneous reaction to a video, which would have undermined Obama’s campaign assertions that he had “decimated” Al Qaeda. ( Mother Jones readers will not believe anything negative about Obama, Democrats, or progressives.)

The Federalist, meanwhile, called foul on CNN, which immediately moved to discredite the latest Rice story: Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “From The Ethics Alarms ‘Do The Ends Justify The Means?’ Files: The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Inspiring Scam”

Glenn Logan took off from the post about Paulette Leaphart’s self-promoting breast cancer awareness 1,000-mile walk and CNN reporter Jessica Ravitz’s strangely equivocal exposé to muse on the toxic influence of social media. It’s a great post, as usual for Glenn, and I’m especially grateful because I’m behind on posts today but I have an ethical obligation to watch the Red Sox Opening Day game. (Pirates-Red Sox tied 0-0 in the 5th.)

Here is Glenn Logan’s Comment of the Day on the post “From The Ethics Alarms “Do The Ends Justify The Means?” Files: The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Inspiring Scam”:

This is yet another social media-driven disaster. We have proven ourselves unable to handle the medium, either as consumers or producers of content. In the grand scheme of things, social media has probably been the vehicle for more scams, dissociation from the real world, submersion into self-congratulatory alternate reality, fake news, and general mayhem than any innovation in my memory.

I have occasionally referred to Twitter as “the Devil,” and my loathing for Facebook knows no bounds. I still use it once a week or so just to check on friends and family (for which it is at least useful), but 99% of my input to Facebook consists of “Happy birthday, (first name here). Many happy returns” or to message Jack a link. No Luddite I, as I have been using the Internet since the early 1990’s Usenet days, and Linux as my primary operating system since 1997, so technology and I are old, old friends.

But the temptation of social media to generate attention in the name of good causes is, to me, the lesson here besides the obvious ethical wreckage caused by “the ends justify the means.” Many of us see the apparent benefits of fame, and want our 15 minutes of it very badly, usually for entirely selfish reasons. When we can achieve that in the name of a good cause, it becomes all the more insidious as a rationalization for otherwise self-serving and dishonest behavior. Continue reading

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From The Ethics Alarms “Do The Ends Justify The Means?” Files: The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Inspiring Scam

At one point, profiling the double-mastectomied Paulette Leaphart’s 1,000-mile walk from  Mississippi to Washington, D.C….topless…CNN reporter Jessica Ravitz writes,

“If even one woman’s life was saved thanks to a conversation Paulette started, wasn’t that enough? So what if our hero was flawed?”

Oh, no: the “just one child/just one life” rationalization again! (Which, I now notice, isn’t on the Rationalizations List, and it should be.)

Ravitz writes this to begin a long, detailed, infuriating narrative about the well-publicized and much-hyped crusade of Leaphart, whose journey, displaying her scarred chest,  was to ostensibly demand more funds for cancer research cure and  better and more affordable health care. She said she was a champion for women without breasts “to believe in their beauty and be proud of their strength.”

“By showcasing and embracing her scars, she hoped to inspire others to do the same,” Ravitz writes. “Her journey was bold, visual, moving. It offered a hero to admire and, given Paulette’s audacious decision to walk shirtless in the face of strangers, a rich spectacle to witness. It spoke to African-American women, who face the highest breast cancer mortality rate. It inspired legions of survivors. And it spoke to many who’d lost someone to the disease.”

Ravitz is conflicted, clearly, as she tells the complicated story of the woman whose official cause is admirable, but whose motives are murky, and whose credibility is non-existent. While explaining the mounds of evidence she uncovered that the woman has a record of deception, venality and financial flim-flam, that she sees the long walk as a ticket to fame and cash, and that she has lied and fabricated aspects of her ‘inspirational story” repeatedly while the efforts of journalists to pin her down. Yet Ravitz still ends up by  being wishy-washy and equivocal:

“There’s no way to measure how much of a difference Paulette Leaphart made in shaping the conversation about cancer in this country. She touched many minds and hearts, but whether she did so in the most honest and transparent way remains questionable.”

What? There is nothing questionable about whether Leaphart has been honest and transparent—she hasn’t. Ravitz documents her deceptions impressively. She lied about her cancer treatment. She lied about her eligibility for Medicaid and financial resources. She lied to a documentary team that had arranged to follow her, leading them to end the relationship. She lied on her Facebook page, representing her health travails by using the experiences of a friend. Her unguarded comments suggest that she began the walk as a way to make money for herself as well as research. She accepted contributions under false pretenses.  Yet the journalist still seems to want to say that all of this doesn’t matter,  if some good resulted from it: Continue reading

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