Dan Rather, Ethics Villain; Esquire, Ethics Villain Enabler

My, this is ironic! In an essay defending journalism while attacking President Trump for labeling current day journalists as “enemies of the people,” Esquire writer Ryan D’Agostino both manages to prove Trump correct, and while lionizing disgraced journalist Dan Rather,  inspires Rather to show how he exemplifies what’s rotten within his profession.

“In a wide-ranging interview,” the essay/interview ‘s description says, “the legendary reporter gives a clinic on journalism, its intersection with politics, civil rights, and the future of American culture.” This alone would normally keep me from reading such a piece, were it not part of my job to expose unethical mind rot. Rather is a legend, as the cliche goes, in his own mind. Having him give a clinic on journalism would be like  Sweeney Todd giving a clinic on barbering, and no one should care what he says or thinks about anything, having proven himself to be untrustworthy and afflicted with warped reasoning.

Here, for example, is Rather’s description of the fake news scandal that cost him his reputation and career. Well, let me take that back: first read part of D’Agostino’s self-indicting introduction of it:

There were proven technical and even journalistic flaws in the evidence Rather’s team found—but no one questioned the truth of what they were saying. Bush never disputed the veracity of the claims. It was a strange situation: By way of a possibly forged document, they had uncovered a damning truth about the sitting president.

Wow.

  • Equivocation and deceptive verbiage: “Proven technical and even journalistic flaws in the evidence Rather’s team found.” The “technical flaw” was that the only tangible evidence Rather found was a forgery, and the journalistic “flaw” was that Rather’s report was built on a lie, which is what a forged document is.

That’s not “flawed” journalism; it’s a political attack disguised as journalism. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 5/13/2020….Oh, So WHAT If It’s Morning Or Not? Who CARES? Who Cares About ANY Of It?

1. I miss Ken. Ken White used to troll people who would ask him to post their sponsored content on Popehat. Now that he’s writing for The Atlantic, which morphed into a “resistance” organ and which I refuse to read on principle unless a particular screed is brought to my attention, I no longer get to chuckle at his nonsense mockery post about ponies and the rest. Now I’m getting this junk too. Faith Cormier writes,

I was visiting your website, ethicsalarms.com, and it had me wondering: do you accept outside submissions? If so, we’d love to create an original piece for you!Because it would include a totally natural reference to one of our clients, we’re prepared to pay you $100 for your time and effort. (Payments made through PayPal.) Shall we send you a draft, Jack? Alternatively, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Yeah, I have a question, Faith. How could you read this blog, with the title “Ethics Alarms,” and make a proposal like that? “Totally natural reference” means a promotion, and that this would be deceptive marketing.  My integrity may have a price some day, but if it does, it will be a hell of a lot higher than a hundred bucks.

2. Ethics movie spoiler.  “Standoff,” is a 2016 film that critics mostly slammed because critics don’t understand ethics movies. A hit man (Lawrence Fishburne) who is chasing a 12-year-old girl who took a photo of him while he was executing people tracks her down to a run-down house where a depressed and alcoholic veteran (Thomas Jane) is living. The veteran, who has some facility with firearms (and who lost his own young son, sending him into his tailspin) decides to protect her, though the hit man demands that he turn her over to be shot. The veteran faces several ethics conflicts after making the altruistic decision to risk his own life to try to save a child who showed up on his doorstep by random chance. The hit man captures a police officer and tortures him to force the girl’s surrender. He then threatens to kill the officer, and does, as the veteran rejects the proffered exchange. Finally, the hit man captures the veteran’s ex-wife, and says he will kill her if he doesn’t get the little girl. (“How do I know I can trust you?” the vteran asks as they are negotiating. “You can’t!” the hit man replies.)

Now that’s an ethics conflict! Continue reading

“Tiger King” Ethics…If You Can Control Your Gagging

You should watch the current hit Netflix documentary “Tiger King” as an ethics exercise, if you can keep focused. It’s difficult. The seven episode horror show/freak show/ “Well, it’s time for another shower!” thing is rife with revelations about America and its culture as well as the infinite variety of humanity that breeds and mutates under rocks and over them. But it is also so teeming with freaks, sociopaths and morons that it often makes you feel like you are watching “The Anna Nicole Show” or one of the other reality shows that exploits its dumb, attention addicted stars.

Focus, Jack! Focus! There are a lot of ethics issues here, largest among them the icky exotic animals trade.  (Fun Fact!  There are more tigers in the U.S. than in the rest of the world combined. Now: Is that a good thing for tigers, or a bad thing?) There are also clinical cases of  corrupt business owners, narcissism on steroids, marriages that make Bill and Hillary Clinton look like John and Abigail Adams, toxic personalities (once you have met series star “Joe Exotic,” you may never think of anyone as a narcissist again…no, not even you-know-who), astounding hypocrisy, the infuriating twilight world of young, healthy people (well, physically healthy anyway) whose lives consist entirely of getting stoned or waiting to get stoned, abuse of the legal system, idiots with guns… the list is ridiculously, depressingly long. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce, But He Doesn’t Care: Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC)

I know this is unfair, but in almost every non-posed photo I found of Burr, he looks like he’s hiding something.

The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Richard Burr,  sold off  between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his stock holdings on February 13 in 33 separate transactions. At the time, Burr had received the government’s most highly classified Wuhan virus briefings. About a week after Burr unloaded stocks that figured to be affected, the stock market began its dive and has lost about 30% of its value since

Today  NPR revealed  a secret recording from February 27 in which the Senator gave a GOP group at an exclusive social club a gloomy preview of the economic impact of the approaching pandemic. According to the NPR report, Burr told attendees of a business executives group luncheon held at the Capitol Hill Club:

“There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history … It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”

Continue reading

It’s Time Again For The Ethics Alarms Mailbag! The Question: Wait, What? Your Vote In 2016 Was A Write In?

Here I was, all set to write a substantial post  updating the newly launched Coronavirus Ethics Train  Wreck, and I encountered this question in the comments to today’s Warm-up, in reaction to my reply to another commenter:

“Wait…at the time you were lecturing all the commentariat about how it was unethical to “throw away your vote” by not voting for one of the two major political party candidates? When did you change your mind on that a do a write-in?”

The questioner was Tim Levier, one of five active Ethics Alarms regular commenters who date back to the old, still off-line (but coming back!) Ethics Scoreboard, so attention had to be paid. If he could have missed my late campaign reversal of the position he described–I would describe my stated logic a bit differently, as “the lesser of two evils is still the lesser of two evils—then that critical moment could have been missed by anyone, or even everyone.

Thus I went back into the October and November 2016 archives, which was fascinating.:

  • As always when I do this, I start wondering what became of some previously active commenters. Whither THE Bill? Where have you gone, wyogranny, T Bird, carcarwhite, joed68?

I know I take this too personally, but it still bothers me.

  • You know, this is damn good blog: thorough, extensive, unpredictable, well-written, diverse, funny, educational. I like it! The only one that comes close to being as interesting without descending into periodic eccentric weirdness or ideological rigidity was the old Popehat, and that’s gone now.  I worked hard on it that year, and have ever since. It should have a lot more traffic and influence than it does, but that’s a reflection on the inadequacies and bad taste of those who don’t come here. I’m proud of the product.

There. I said it.

  • The first time I expressed doubt in my position that I would have to hold back my gorge, defy my principles, and vote for Hillary Clinton was earlier than I thought. It was here, on September 25, 2016. The subject of the post was Clinton’s campaign manager, Robbie Mook, saying that  debate moderators should run interference for her and intervene to contradict and rebut Trump’s assertions, “unlike every other Presidential debate and every legitimate and fair debate of any kind, where that responsibility rests with the debaters.”

I responded to his  Unethical Quote Of The Month by writing, in part, Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Leroy Schumacher, Grieving Grandfather”

“I usually tone down the “prophet Jeremiah” flavor notes when I reread these,” wrote Benjamin after I told him that his previous comment was the COTD. I’m glad he didn’t. I prefer strong assertions of ideas and principles ( as you might have noticed ) because they encourage strong reactions.

I  decided to write about a two-year-old story about a grandfather who opined that it was “unfair” for a man in a home his grandson was breaking into to shoot the teen and his two fellow home invaders with an AR-15, because they only were carrying a knife and brass knuckles. His absurd lament  crystallized nicely the “logic” of anti-gun zealots, who now are about to ban that semiautomatic weapon (among other anti-gun ownership  measures) in Virginia, where I live. Benjamin, however, saw larger significance in the the episode.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Dunce: Leroy Schumacher, Grieving Grandfather,” which takes off from a quote by another commenter:

“I’m sorry he lost his grandson.”

I’m not. Such are the grandsons who ought to be lost. Mercy would be best, of course, but his survival would’ve necessitated the death of the innocent as a direct consequence of his direct intentions. Mercy is an elevated form of justice, so no unjust intention can ever be merciful. But, going one further, this grandfather’s response to losing his grandson belies a total abandonment of principle for the sake of immediate self-interest. No doubt, these are “values” he instilled in his children and they in his grandchildren. If we’re going to move for the mutilation of our laws, for the sake of bargaining, we could at least make a far less ridiculous mistake in steering the public support to seeking to penalize this grandfather for his not-totally indirect involvement in (and perpetuation of) the crime.

Such are the grandfathers who ought to be lost. At the very least it would be an effort (maybe the first I’ve seen in my life) to reverse the engineered-and-enforced public tolerance for addictive ideas corrosive to public decency. It would be better to instill in society (rather than the laws) an intense rejection of ideas like this and the people who hold them, but politics takes place in the realm of the possible, as they frequently tell me. Continue reading

Verdict: Worst Candidates Debate Ever, Part III: “Oh, The Hypocrisy!”

OK, it’s not exactly on point, but this is my favorite meme, and I hadn’t used it this year….

The debate seems like old news now, I know, but I’m going to finish this ethics review if it kills me. There was valuable, if depressing, ethics revelations throughout.

A. No, really, the economy is terrible. Really. Trust us.

Let’s begin Part III with this exchange:

My question to you, Mr. Vice President, is what is your argument to the voter watching this debate tonight who may not like everything President Trump does but they really like this economy and they don’t know why they should make a change.

BIDEN: Well, I don’t think they really do like the economy. Go back and talk to the old neighborhoods and middle-class neighborhoods you grew up in. The middle class is getting killed. The middle class is getting crushed. And the working class has no way up as a consequence of that.

Well, which is it: is Biden lying here, or is he completely ignorant of what is going on?

The question is particularly timely now, after the Christmas season was a smash hit. So called “Super Saturday” had the most money spent by consumers ever. Amazon  had record-breaking holiday season drove its stock up 4.5% and helped lift the Nasdaq composite index above 9,000 for the first time ever. This doesn’t happen, Joe (Bernie, Liz) in an unpopular economy, and what’s not to like? Unemployment is the lowest it can go; wages are rising across the board. Black employment is up, jobs generally are up. It isn’t just the stock market. Obviously consumer confidence is high.

Do the Democrats really believe they can convince the public that the economy is bad by just lying over and over again, and saying it’s bad, like Biden did? Apparently. Buttigeig, Yang, Sanders, Steyer and Warren followed Biden claiming that the middle class—you know, all those people who spent that money on Christmas gifts, was “hollowed out” in Warren’s words. “[We should beat Trump] on the economy where he thinks he’s king and where, in fact, he’s a fraud and a failure,” said Steyer.

Because they know that good economies almost always re-elect Presidents, the Democratic candidates are adopting the Sanders-Warren, or Marx-Lenin, definition of what a “good economy” is. As Sanders keeps saying, the problem is income inequality: if there are people making a lot more than you, you should be miserable, and it’s time for a revolution.  This was the justification for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez saying last week that the U.S. was a fascist country. Her comments , noted John Daniel Davidon of the Federalist, were characteristic of what he called the Left’s “economic illiteracy” and their belief that some people don’t have money because others are simply hoarding wealth. He said,

“She complained about America not being an advanced society, because it doesn’t matter how much gold you amass, you know, if people aren’t taken care of. It was a perfect illustration of the the economic and historical illiteracy of the left. Nobody is amassing gold. GDP doesn’t stand for gold deposit pile. That’s not how the economy works…Wealthy Americans are investing [their money]. They are creating jobs. That is why wages are going up, that is why unemployment is down. That is how the real world works. These people are out to lunch on the stuff.”

And the candidates for President, based on their debate performance, desperately want to keep them “out to lunch” as well. Continue reading

The Other Branch’s Persistant And Hypocritical Corruption

I subscribe to the Times, but I stopped routinely reading all of the editorials, op-eds and letters to the editor once I realized the stultifying and depressing sameness of it all: narrow viewpoints, deranged columnists, and ugly bias, day after day. This Christmas Eve-day dawned with my wife in a panic, the tree decorations still incomplete, and a recognition that I was going to have to get Ethics Alarms posts done in the midst of other tasks so the 30 or so readers likely to tune in here today wouldn’t be disappointed. I grabbed the wrong section of yesterday’s Times during a tree-breather, and had to consume the editorial section.

For once, the main editorial was not an anti-Trump screed.

Appropo of the Democratic candidates’ mantra of corruption (though the editors somehow never saw the connection), it was about the persistent insider trading and conflicts of interest that have made Senators and Representatives unethically rich for ages, and that surpass in genuine corruption anything President Trump has been accused of.  (Ethics Alarms covered the issue here, and here.) The Times editors began with the saga of former Rep. Chris Collins, who had to resign his office and also went to jail for breaking the insider trading laws. His crime was tipping off his son about a stock likely to go bad based on his early notice of pending legislation, The Times found it convenient to use Collins, a Republican, as the stand-in for all of Congress, but everything he did before crossing the line of the law is, if not routine, disturbingly common among Democrats and Republicans alike:

[H]e served on various congressional committees that played a role in directing federal health care policy. Mr. Collins was the company’s largest shareholder. He served on the company’s board. He solicited investments in the company, including from other members of Congress. (Tom Price, who served as a Republican representative from Georgia and then as secretary of health and human services in the Trump administration, was among the buyers.) Mr. Collins wrote legislative language to expedite drug trials, potentially benefiting Innate, and he pressed a staff member at the National Institutes of Health to meet with the company about its clinical trial.He also invested in other health care firms, some of which held federal contracts.

Continue reading

Verdict: Worst Candidates Debate Ever, Part II: Everything Is Terrible!

  • The most publicized statement during the debate that has been described as horrifying by conservative pundits was this one, by Joe Biden, after he was asked, “As president, would you be willing to sacrifice some of that growth, even knowing potentially that it could displace thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of blue-collar workers, in the interest of transitioning to that greener economy?'”

Biden answered immediately, “The answer is yes.”

“Displace,” of course, is a euphemism for “put out of work.” The relative nonchalance with which Biden, who is supposed to be the practical, sensible candidate, immediately said he was willing to disrupt hundreds of thousands of middle class lives in order to “transition” to “that greener economy,” whatever that means, reveals Biden as a first-rate panderer. He has also endorsed the ridiculous “Green New Deal,” which also means nothing.

  • The climate chance section of the debate was an ethics trap for several of the candidates. Amy Klobuchar, who was generally praised for her performance, said,

“And the problem right now is that this climate change is an existential crisis. And you are seeing it here in California with the fires that you just had. You saw it in Northern California, as was mentioned with Paradise. And the most moving video from that to me was the 30-second video of that dad driving his little girl through the lapping fires with his neighborhood burning behind him and singing to her to calm her down.”

Every time one of the candidates uses doomsday rhetoric regarding climate change, he or she is laying the foundation for government control, and totalitarian measures. Rep. Octavio-Cortez’s political Svengali admitted as much, and had to be fired for his candor. A candidate who says climate change is an existential crisis and then follows that hysterical assessment  with stating that the California wildfires are proof has told us that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but is pretending she does. Then she pivots to a single “moving” video, as if it proves anything at all. Message: I’m talking to emotion-driven ignoramuses now. I’m betting there’s enough of them.

Then Amy kow-towed to the Green New Deal too, endorsing draconian regulations, including the mind0blowingly expensive “upgrading” of existing buildings. I did like the transcript’s typo that quoted her as wanting to build a “fridge to the next century.” Now there’s a solution for global warming. But I’m pretty sure she said “bridge.” Continue reading

A Cautionary Tale: The Corruption Of Post Columnist Colbert King, Part I

Colbert King is 80 now, but he is still a regular columnist with the Washington Post. As a recent column demonstrated, he has finally fallen prey to the Post culture and no longer is what he once was: the rare pundit, in his case, a liberal one, who could be counted upon for fairness and integrity regardless of the topic. The one-two punches of Barack Obama and Donald Trump showed how cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias can corrupt the best of us, and make no mistake about it, King was once one of the best.

Although he is an African-American, he stood out for decades among his corruption- enabling black colleagues in consistently calling out the D.C. government’s corrupt leadership—notably Marion Barry but many others—on their arrogantly dishonest, venal and untrustworthy practices and attitudes.

Then Barack Obama happened. I listened in surprise on a local Sunday talking head show as King defended Barack Obama’s quiet, decades long assent to the black liberation (that is, anti-white, anti-American rantings of Reverend Wright, Obama’s “spiritual mentor.” Were these rationalizations I heard Colbert King uttering? King reliably mocked rationalizations, and yet here he was using them, notably “Everybody does it,” to defend  a black Presidential candidate’s approval and association with a black racist and demagogue.

Once Obama was elected, King got worse. Not only could Obama do no wrong, but those who criticized were enemies in his eyes; worse, King treated Obama’s appointees and cronies with similar reverence, a complete reversal from his approach to the  parade of incompetent or criminal black politicians in D.C.  Notably, he defended Obama “wing man” Eric Holder, the racialist Attorney General, when he was refusing to comply with a legitimate Congressional inquiry into the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious fiasco. His excuses for Holder and his attacks on Republicans were so redolent of partisan hackery that in 2012 I was moved to write my one-time Ethics Hero the “Open Letter”: Continue reading