Tag Archives: conspiracy theories

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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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Infowars’ Alex Jones, Purveyor Of The Most Untrustworhy Political Website North Of “The News Nerd,” Provides One Of The Most Disingenuous Apologies Imaginable

A few stipulations:

1. Anyone who for a second thought it was anything more than a bad spoof that John Podesta and Hillary Clinton were engaged in a child sex ring operating out of a D.C. pizza joint has gone waaaay beyond “Bias Makes You Stupid” to “Bias Makes People Who Are Stupid Already Too Dangerous For Human Companionship.”

2. Anyone who believes anything that appears on the conspiracy blog “Infowars” is a sitting duck for the next Ponzi scheme.

3. My theory is that Breibart pays Jones to make it look reliable and objective by comparison. And it gets its money’s worth..

The so called Pizzagate conspiracy theory held that top Democratic officials were involved with a satanic child pornography ring centered around Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C. There was never any evidence to support it, and more importantly, was ridiculous on its face. It did not originate with Alex Jones, the proprietor of far right Infowars, but since it was uncomplimentary to Democrats, Jones was supporting Donald Trump, and he has also claimed on Infowars that the 9/11 attacks were  carried out by the United States government and that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown  was a hoax concocted by anti-Second Amendment fanatics, the Pizzagate theory fit right in to the rest of the BS. Thanks in great part to Jones,  the hoax circulated on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, flourished in online forums frequented by idiots, and produced more static interfering with a rational approach to a crucial election.

This hoax, unlike, say, the claim that the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump, had measurable consequences. The pizzeria, its owner and his employees received death threats. Their business has suffered. Nearby businesses have also been adversely affected, and the hoax even spread to several other pizzerias around the country for some reason.The restaurant was closed for two days in December after Edgar M. Welch, one of the above referenced idiots,  showed up at Comet Ping Pong to “investigate,” and fired a semiautomatic rifle  inside the pizzeria. Welch pleaded guilty on Friday to assault with a dangerous weapon and interstate transportation of a firearm. Good. One idiot down.

Now Jones has issued an apology. It was obviously crafted by lawyers: Comet Pizza had demanded one in February, and by law Jones had one month to retract his libel (arguably liable) to avoid being sued. The month would have been up this weekend. Here is that apology, with key sections bolded and numbered to make commenting here easier: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet, Unethical Websites

Comment of the Day: “Update On The Jeff Sessions-Russian Ambassador Fiasco: A Confederacy Of Ethics Dunces”

1984, Washington State, USA --- A fierce bear growls and bares its teeth. | Location: Washington, USA.  --- Image by © Michael T. Sedam/CORBIS

Glenn Logan undertook the herculean task of reading and critiquing one of the New Yorker’s endless partisan essays, this one by Ryan Lizza, who has foun himself in the Ethics Alarms bomb-sights before. It’s a masterful job by Glenn, and nicely dissects a persistent and contrived Democratic excuse for Hillary Clinton blowing the election, thus triggering one of the most amazing instances of self impeachment—by her party and supporters–in world political history.

Here is Glenn’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Update On The Jeff Sessions-Russian Ambassador Fiasco: A Confederacy Of Ethics Dunces”:

I read the article, which confirmed my suspicions of almost everything coming from The New Yorker and similar left-leaning news sources — that they accept the idea, as yet still both unproven and highly suspicious, that the Russians were working to get Trump elected.

This is exactly where bias always leads; once you have evidence of a conclusion you want to reach, you stop looking for other possible explanations.

There is no real information in this article worth knowing. It tells us Democratic senators are all wound up about possible Russian interference in the election, but we knew that. It mentions every Democrat’s favorite Republican — John McCain — and tries very hard to lead us to believe that all the Democrats’ worst fears about Russia and Trump are not just true, but being hidden, apparently by both the Obama and Trump administration, although for different reasons.

In other words, this article is a conspiracy theory. It offers nothing new, no penetrating analysis or new revelations. It describes, in very long and unnecessarily complex style meant to appeal to “intellectuals,” Putin and Russia as using a hacking strategy as a prong in geopolitical disinformation campaigns, and using Obama’s own feckless foreign policy to annex Crimea and generate a plebiscite so fast that American leadership’s heads were still spinning in the opposite direction.

But this is exactly what I would be doing in Russia’s place if I were a despot like Putin. They are opponents, and are trying to weaken our country just as we tried for years under Reagan to weaken them. If you want to shape the world, and Putin clearly does, you use information to shape perception so that when you do use force, it won’t be universally condemned. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

The NBA’s Integrity And Trust Problem Bites It In The Finals

NBA_2015_Finals_Game6

I don’t watch the NBA any more. The reason is that the games are so obviously subject to manipulation by bias that it is, well, not quite as dubious for legitimate sport as professional wrestling, but still too much so to be worth my time…or yours, frankly, but people spend time cheering for pro wrestlers too.

The problem is the referees, who have so much discretion in calling fouls that they can make the game turn out any way they choose. The fact that the NBA has such a huge home court advantage despite the fact that all courts are the same is also suspicious. Baseball, in contrast, with fields that vary materially in size and dimensions, has a very small home team edge. Biases, intentional or subconscious, control pro basketball, accounting for oddly frequent games decided in the last ten minutes, a propensity for allowing superstars to get away with infractions that lesser players do not, and seven game play-off series.

Sorry, I don’t like being a patsy, so I refuse to care.

There’s going to be a huge Game 7 of the NBA Finals  on ABC Sunday, because the underdog Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors and denied them the NBA  Championship for the second straight game last Thursday night. Game Six’s exciting finish was greatly affected by the fact that Warriors uber-star  Steph Curry got ejected in the closing minutes of play after receiving a technical foul. Ayesha Curry, his wife, alleged a different kind of foul, tweeting…

ayesha-curry-tweet

Lots of other fans came to the same conclusion, though Ayesha was quickly informed by the league that they knew where her mother lived, or something, and she deleted the tweet.  Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr wrote after the loss, “He gets six fouls on him; three were absolutely ridiculous.” Kerr knows that referees will usually move heaven and earth not to let a superstar foul out in regulation of a play-off game…unless, perhaps, there’s a good reason to let it happen. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: Me, On the Presidential Candidacy Of Donald Trump

uncle-sam-suicide

From my post in 2011 titled, Unethical U.S. Presidential Candidacies: Is Trump’s the All-Time Worst?, which suddenly became green again in the wake of the horrifying news that The Donald is running for Presient again, for real, this time, or as close to real as Trump ever gets. I wrote:

“Donald Trump is perfectly happy to make a mockery of the presidential nomination and election processes while distorting them too. If he manages to convince enough fools to vote for him, hell, sure…he’d have a blast running for President. If his run peters out, it’s still worth lots of publicity, and increases the value of the Trump “brand.” Even the most unethical of the previous candidacies were based on a sincere, if misguided belief that the country’s welfare would be served by it. Does Trump have that belief? I wonder. No, his can’t be called the most unethical candidacy. But it is reckless, and it is intentionally appealing to the worst in 21st Century American character: fear, celebrity worship, ignorance, and materialism. Meanwhile, every second of attention his candidacy distracts from serious consideration of our nation’s leadership reduces the chances of the public doing its hardest and most important job carefully and competently.”

More heartfelt and truer words have never been composed in my brain.

You can read some selected examples of Trump’s miserable character here, and I have only scratched the surface. Every other candidate for President, including Hillary Clinton, was just elevated in stature by Trump’s announcement.

Anyone, indeed anything, looks good compared to him.

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Leadership

Celebrity Ethics Rule: If You Are Going To Be Stupid And Ignorant, Don’t Make Other People Stupid And Ignorant Too

Jenner on Twitter

The author of the above embarrassment via Twitter, is Kylie Jenner. I feel sorry for Kylie Jenner. She’ll probably be rich, and she’s already famous, but the chances of her life being anything other than an interminable smut-storm of scandals, bad relationships, marriage-less pregnancies, rehabs, reality show spin-offs and episodes that would embarrass anyone not named Kardashian are close to nil. She is part of the latest generation of the culture-rotting clan of lucrative media freaks created by the Machiavellian Kris Jenner, widow of late O.J. Simpson lawyer Bob Kardashian. Kylie was doomed from conception, birthed by a mother lacking scruples, morals or shame, growing up on reality TV shows, with three slutty sisters as her role models and controlled by a mom who would have been a bordello madam, pimping out her daughters, in the era before cable.

Troubled narcissist transsexual Bruce Jenner is her father; professional rapping narcissist Kanye West is her brother-in-law. There has never been a whiff from any member of the extended family that any of them sees or is capable of seeing any value in literature, history, civics, science, knowledge, thought, thinking…anything involving the brain at all—in fact, anything that doesn’t involve self-promotion, exhibitionism, money, conspicuous consumption, atrocious taste, and sex.

OK, so Kylie’s an idiot. That’s too bad, but the girl has 9 million twitter followers, and it’s not too much to ask that she doesn’t use her undeserved prominence and outsized megaphone to make millions of idiot clones. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Popular Culture, Science & Technology, The Internet, U.S. Society

Ethics Dunce: Phylicia Rashad

COSBY-AND-RASHAD

Phylicia Rashad, the African American actress best known for playing “Claire Huxtable,” Bill Cosby’s wife on his legendary sitcom, was resolute about not be dragged into the crisis facing her on-screen hubby, as woman after women has come out with allegations that she was raped, sexually assaulted or drugged by funny, ol’ Bill. She should have stayed that way. Unfortunately, she allowed a Hollywood celebrity reporter to pull some quotes out of her, and now she has a crisis of her own. Now we know she values loyalty, group identification, show business protocol and her own financial interests over decency, fairness, honesty, justice, compassion, respect for women, and truth.

Or, I suppose, she might be an idiot.

Rashad’s take on Cosby’s problems was also odd, as it focused very little on the man being accused of such heinous acts. She didn’t say, or at least such remarks weren’t reported, that he was a wonderful human being, or that she could not imagine the man she worked so closely with all these years doing what so many alleged victims claim. She said that she “loves” him. In show business, this is like the host of a TV talk show saying a guest is a close personal friend: it is routine, and means nothing.  Rashad’s defense of Cosby consisted of dismissing his victims’ stories as baseless, and this:

“What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who’s doing it, but it’s the legacy. And it’s a legacy that is so important to the culture….Someone is determined to keep Bill Cosby off TV. And it’s worked. All his contracts have been cancelled…This show represented America to the outside world. This was the American family. And now you’re seeing it being destroyed. Why?”

Why. Huh. That’s a head scratcher isn’t it? Yes, why would the entertainment value of family situation comedy about a wise, loving father , the wife whom he adores and his brood of adorable, normal, kids, including three, and ultimately four, teenage girls be diminished in the least by overwhelming evidence that the actor playing said father is a sick, ruthless, sexual predator and the King of Hypocrites? Continue reading

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