Addendum And Correction To The Complaint Form Revision Discussion [Updated]

In Item #3 of this morning’s Warm-Up, I wrote, “The intelligence community quietly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings that had existed since May, 2018. The revised version of the whistleblower complaint form was not made public until after the transcript of the President’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. It had eliminated the first-hand knowledge requirement, allowing government employees to file whistleblower complaints even if they lack direct knowledge of underlying evidence and only “heard about [wrongdoing] from others.”

I now know that this description was misleading and incorrect, because my source had confused a change in the reporting form, which it documented with screen shots, with a change in the whistleblower law, which had remained the same. This was explained in a twitter thread by Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a  technology and privacy expert. I will note that based on the Federalist’s screen shot above, one can understand their confusion.

Twitter is terrible format to make a substantive argument or explain anything, but I guess Sanchez doesn’t have a blog or a Facebook account, or something.  He writes that he contacted the site’s editor Mollie Hemingway and she didn’t correct the post.

[Notice of Correction: I had written here, erroneously, that the Federalist doesn’t allow comments. It does: I missed the tiny link at the bottom of the page. In fact, there are a lot of comments to that post. They are not helpful…]

I considered trying to put the following in coherent chronological order, but I’m just going to post Sanchez’s tweets as they appear on his feed: Continue reading

LATE Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow”

My inexcusable failure to previously post this Comment of the Day by Curmie, originally offered nearly two months ago, is especially bad because of the rapidity with which the news media concocts, hypes, or otherwise featured new tangential assaults on President Trump every day. I had forgotten about this one: the White House posted an incorrect version of the Helsinki press conference transcript. Boy, that seems like a hundred scandals, real, manufactured, and imagined, ago!Allow me to refresh your memory and mine:

MSNBC hostess Rachel Maddow, along with many of her fellow journalist members of “the resistance,” pounced on the mistake, accusing the White House of intentionally editing the transcript. Then, after the Washington Post explained  that the omission was not the fault of the White House, Maddow, who is often cited as a trustworthy left-wing journalist simply because she is so much less flagrant than her MSNBC colleagues, denied that her reporting was incorrect, saying,

“This is one possible explanation for why the White House transcript & video from Helsinki doesn’t include Putin saying he wanted Trump to win. But Putin really did say that in Helsinki…..and the White House transcript & video still does leave it out. WaPo now says it has updated its own transcript. Will the White House? After more than a week of reporting on the bad transcript (see link below)…

(1): White House has let it stand uncorrected, and

(2): POTUS now asserts that Putin wants *Dems* to win, not him.

I love WaPo with the heat of 1000 suns, but nothing here from WaPo disproves our report.”

 Washington Post reporter Philip Bump, quickly pointed out Maddow’s dishonesty, writing,

“Your report asserts that the video was edited and implies that the incomplete transcript was posted intentionally. There’s no evidence for the first point and my piece provides context to suggest that the second was unintentional.”

With that background, here is Curmie’s much delayed Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Dunce: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. He also gets extra points for the baseball reference at the end…

Apparently I’m one of the few lefties who comment here even occasionally these days. I trust I will not become an “exile.”

This story becomes an intriguing example of the partisan fragmentation of the country that has been happening for about a generation. Some people will believe everything Rachel Maddow (or Sean Hannity, or…) says; some will believe nothing. Too few will parse the content.

Maddow’s allegation that someone intentionally edited the tape/transcript is unsupported by facts, and her smug reassertion of a discredited argument is, to say the least, problematic.

But I’ve written on my blog about two variations on what I call the Christine Vole effect, named for the character in the Agatha Christie short story/play and subsequently Billy Wilder movie who intentionally allows her absolutely truthful testimony describing her husband’s guilt to seem instead to be the vengeance of a jealous wife. The jury was influenced by the implosion of her testimony, which was, by the way, unnecessary to the prosecution’s case; they acquit.

The variation, as we saw often in the likes of James O’Keefe, and here with Maddow, is the unintentional corollary: by making an extreme statement, the speaker undermines the rest of an otherwise persuasive argument. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow

“Do they teach beauty queens how to apologize? Because you suck at it!”

        —Ed Masry (Albert Finney) chiding Erin Brockavich ( Julia Roberts) in the final scene of the film.

Now substitute “smug, arrogant, incorrigibly biased, anti-Trump MSNBC anchor” for “beauty queens,” and the line is a perfect response to the awaited “correction and apology” from Rachel Maddow for getting the story of the mistranscribed White House transcript of the Helsinki press conference.

I explained the mistake here, and made it myself here, yesterday morning.  The White House did not, as Maddow and others reported, intentionally misrepresent the exchange. The Washington Post clarified what happened. Nonetheless, Maddow and MSNBC dragged their feet in correcting the story, not doing so until 2:45 PM (I updated Ethics Alarms at about 1 pm, the second I read the Post story, and I’m not a full-time news network) and afterwards, here is Maddow’s pathetic attempt to keep spinning…

“This is one possible explanation for why the White House transcript & video from Helsinki doesn’t include Putin saying he wanted Trump to win. But Putin really did say that in Helsinki…..and the White House transcript & video still does leave it out. WaPo now says it has updated its own transcript. Will the White House? After more than a week of reporting on the bad transcript (see link below)…

(1): White House has let it stand uncorrected, and

(2): POTUS now asserts that Putin wants *Dems* to win, not him.

I love WaPo with the heat of 1000 suns, but nothing here from WaPo disproves our report.”

No, it is the explanation, and the Washington Post reporter, Philip Bump,  quickly pointed out Maddow’s dishonesty, writing, Continue reading

Correction: No, The White House Did NOT Try To Airbrush Away A Key Q & A In The Helsinki Press Conference…

 

Call this not “Fake News,” but “Confirmation Bias Leaping To Conclusions News.”

Many sources prone to assume the worst of anything related to President Trump, including MSNBC and my source here, Jonathan Turley, reported  that the White House had intentionally excised a question asked of Russian President Vladimir Putin during last week’s news conference in Helsinki and his answer.  Maddow gleefully reported in her best “gotcha! you bastards!” tone,

“We can report tonight that the White House video of that exchange has also skillfully cut out that question from the Reuters reporter as if it didn’t happen!”

Ah, but the good, MSNBC-allied, “resistance”- friendly Washington Post also had posted the same transcript, and set about putting Maddow et al, straight, as much as it must have hurt.

“No, the White House didn’t intentionally edit a question to Putin out of a video,” explained the Post’s usually Trump-a-phobic Phillip Bump: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/17/ 2018: For Whom The Rex Tolls…

Good morning!

1. Another “growing crisis” to fear: Rorschach innuendo that people can interpret to confirm their own biases... Deposed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told graduates in his commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, that American democracy was threatened by a growing “crisis of ethics and integrity”:

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom. When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth even on what may seem the most trivial matters, we go wobbly on America.”

Verdict: True.

The New York Times, without hesitation, calls Tillerson’s remarks a “veiled rebuke” of President Trump, and “veiled” doesn’t even make it into the headline.

Why isn’t this just as much of a “veiled rebuke” of Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama (“If you like your plan…”), James Comey, Andrew Cuomo, Elizabeth Warren (I’d say her continuing Native American lie is a perfect example of a trivial matter that matters), Chris Christie, Senator Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, Rep. Nancy Pelosi ( The U.S. Supreme Court is “five guys who start determining what contraceptions are legal.”, “I don’t know who (Jonathan Gruber) is,”  “In the first year of the Obama administration, more jobs were created in the private sector than in the eight years of the Bush administration.”…and so on, and on…), Newt Gingrich, Senator Richard Blumenthal, new head of the NRA Oliver North, and many, many others in both parties?

You know why: the media’s agenda is focused only on denigrating Trump. As for Tillerson, his statement is consistent with what The Ethics Scoreboard and Ethics Alarms have been trying to explain for nearly two decades now, with one major, ethical difference: I don’t use weasel words and innuendo, and Tillerson did. If the ex-Secretary of State has a whistle to blow, let him blow it, and not litter the scene with whistles so anyone can blow them to their own ends. Statements like his are worthless without specifics, and merely arm partisans, hacks and character assassins.

I also don’t accept ethics lectures from oil company executives. I’m funny that way.

2. And speaking of a crisis of ethics and integrity…and trustworthiness…Here is the New York Times correction yesterday on a story attacking a piece on Foundation for Defense of Democracies chief executive Mark Dubowitz:

I don’t know what the maximum number of errors in a single story is that can be corrected before a responsible reader has to say, “The hell with this rag; I’m going back to the Weekly Reader!”, but whatever the limit is, this easily exceeds it. The New Yorker used to publish such corrections  as humor, except the excerpt would be from The Hooterville Register, not the New York Times. Don’t you love the equivocal “referred inaccurately” weasel words? Saying that a salary that is actually in line with similar salaries in the field is twice such salaries isn’t “inaccurate,” it is a gross and inexcusable mistake.

Gee, I wonder if Rex was rebuking the leading news media…. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/16/2018: First They Came For Wonder Woman….[CORRECTED and UPDATED]

Good Morning

… to end a frantic ethics week…

(An unusual number of the items this morning deserve a free-standing post. I’m not sure what to do about that; it’s been happening a lot lately.)

1 Not fake news, just a false news story that everyone ran with...Oops. All the angry condemnations of new CIA director designate Gina Haspel and President Trump (for nominating her, along with existing) were based on a mistake. From ProPublica:

On Feb. 22, 2017, ProPublica published a story that inaccurately described Gina Haspel’s role in the treatment of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida leader who was imprisoned by the CIA at a secret “black site” in Thailand in 2002. The story said that Haspel, a career CIA officer who President Trump has nominated to be the next director of central intelligence, oversaw the clandestine base where Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods that are widely seen as torture. The story also said she mocked the prisoner’s suffering in a private conversation. Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them. It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended.

ProPublica, unlike, say, CNN, knows how to accept responsibility for a bad journalism botch. Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief, sums up the episode after explaining how the story was misreported:

A few reflections on what went wrong in our reporting and editing process.

The awkward communications between officials barred from disclosing classified information and reporters trying to reveal secrets in which there is legitimate public interest can sometimes end in miscommunication. In this instance, we failed to understand the message the CIA’s press office was trying to convey in its statement.

None of this in any way excuses our mistakes. We at ProPublica hold government officials responsible for their missteps, and we must be equally accountable. This error was particularly unfortunate because it muddied an important national debate about Haspel and the CIA’s recent history. To her, and to our readers, we can only apologize, correct the record and make certain that we do better in the future.

Perfect. This is a news source we can trust.

2. That was ProPublica. This is CNN (The Chris Cuomo post was here originally, but it got so long I posted it separately.) Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms “Confirmation Bias” Files: GQ’s Reasonable Assumption

After all, the New York terrorist was a Muslim, and the Las Vegas shooter was a white guy, and you know that Trump…oh.

Oh yeah.

Right.

You know, this wasn’t hard to check. The biased national news media is so eager to pounce, so devoid of even the tiniest sense of obligation to give the benefit of the doubt to the President of the United States, that they make fools of themselves over and over again.

Just to connect the dots, and maybe it’s stating the obvious and I apologize if I’m spelling this out unnecessarily, but this is the same phenomenon that leads to excited news stories representing an indictment of Paul Manafort for sleazy activities unrelated to the Trump campaign or Russia as the beginning of the end for dastardly Trump-Russia collusion cover-up.  Exactly the same.

We can’t trust people whose news judgment is so polluted by hate and bias….unless, of course, we want to be influenced by hate and bias. And a depressing number of people do want to be.

This is not an ethical state of mind. Have I mentioned lately that bias makes you stupid?

________________

Pointer and Source: Instapundit