Tag Archives: credibility

“Fake News” Friday Continues! Episode II: The CIA Says Russia Was Helping Trump [UPDATED]

trump-tweet

Yes, those emails.

(No, it wasn’t illegal, just incredibly unethical.)

It all began with this story in the Washington Post:

“The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.”

When the New York Times later came out with a story headlined  “C.I.A. Judgment on Russia Built on Swell of Evidence,” non-partisan law prof/blogger/ skeptic Ann Althouse inquired, as the mainstream news media did not, whether the content of the article supported that headline “because there’s so much fake news these days.” (Ann is funny.)

She wrote in part,

“There’s a lot of material in the article that is not about [ Russia helping Donald Trump win]  at all. I’m excluding that, which is padding if the headline is the correct headline. Go to the link if you want to see what it is. The first relevant material comes in the 16th paragraph: The DNC’s servers and John Podesta’s email account were hacked and a lot of damaging and embarrassing material was released onto the internet.

“Next:

American intelligence officials believe that Russia also penetrated databases housing Republican National Committee data, but chose to release documents only on the Democrats. The committee has denied that it was hacked.

“So here’s the crucial disputed question of fact: Were the GOP servers also hacked? We’re not told what evidence supports the belief that the GOP servers were also hacked, but the GOP says they were not. Yet some “intelligence officials believe” it was. Why? Where’s the “swell of evidence” you were going to tell me about?

“Even if that fact were nailed down, there would still be more leaps needed to get to the conclusion. First: Was there any embarrassing material? What? If I knew what, I could begin to think about the next question: Why would embarrassing material be withheld? All I can see from the supposed “swell of evidence” here is an assumption that if the DNC was hacked, the GOP committee was also hacked, and that if bad material was found in the DNC server, bad material would also be found in the GOP server, and since we only saw the DNC material, there must have been a conscious decision — by whom?! — to leak only the DNC things and that decision must have been made to help Trump win. That’s not evidence itself, only inference based on evidence.

“Finally, there are a few paragraphs about why “Putin and the Russian government” might be thought to prefer a Trump presidency to a Clinton presidency. Trump and Putin have given each other some compliments.

“That’s no swell of evidence! That’s a lot of leaping guesswork. And this is nothing more than I already read in the article the NYT put out on December 9th, which I put effort into combing through and rejected for the same reasons I’m putting in this new post.

“This might be the biggest fake news story I’ve ever seen!” Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet

The UN Officially Admits It Has No Integrity

"It is true: I am a weenie, and the U.N. can be rolled..."

“It is true: I am a weenie, and the U.N. can be rolled…”

The United Nations’ 2015 “Children and Armed Conflict” report originally listed the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen under “parties that kill or maim children” and “parties that engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals.” Based on the work of U.N. researchers in Yemen, the report attributed 60 percent of the 785 children killed and 1,168 injured to the bombing coalition.

But  Saudi Arabia  threatened to stop its funding of other U.N. projects, so, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon admitted,  the U.N. was revising the report to “review jointly the cases and numbers cited in the text,” in order to “reflect the highest standards of accuracy possible” ….and to “temporarily” remove the Saudi-led coalition countries from the report’s annex in the interest of protecting these programs.

Ban said he made a the difficult decision based on the need “to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would de-fund many U.N. programs.”

“It is unacceptable for member states to exert undue pressure,” Ban said, absurdly. If it is unacceptable, why does the U.N. accept it?

The UN published a factual report, and has now announced that the report will be inaccurate because it yielded to extortion in involving the lives of children.

Corruption. What justification is there to trust an organization that allows a member to do this?

The news media should stop quoting United Nations reports on health, climate change, hunger, or anything else. It has admitted that it can be bullied, pressured and bought. It has no credibility, and should not be treated as if it does.

_______________________

Sources: NPR, The Intercept

 

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Leadership

How Conservatives Make Themselves Untrustworthy: A Case Study Starring Brent Bozell

Brent-Bozell-SC

Brent Bozell, founder of the Media Research Center, is one of the heroes of the hard right. Joined by  reporter Tim Graham on Bozell’s media watchdog website ( it only bites liberal media, but that’s still a mouthful) Newsbusters,  he provides a depressing example of how conservatives sabotage their credibility and end up crippling their ability to persuade even when they are right, which is frequently.

In a column called “America’s Wrong To Love Football?,” Bozell and Graham complain about an NPR segment that makes the exact same point Ethics Alarms has made many times.[ You want one? Here’s one.]  After citing just some of the waves of evidence that professional football (and probably college football too) is maiming and, in slow motion, killing a large percentage of its players, they write one dishonest, irrelevant, fallacious and rationalized argument after another:

“Count on flower children at NPR to go over the edge with this issue..”

Conservatives used to use the ad hominem tactic of denigrating all liberals as hippies–drugged out, long hair, unwashed, funny clothes, pacifists, Communist sympathizers–in the Nixon era. It was a cheap shot even then—Counter their positions, don’t make fun of their haircuts!—but 50 years later it’s pathetic, and screams “I’m estranged from reality!” How many people under the age of 60 even know what “flower children” were?

Bozell and Graham continue..

“The problem isn’t the size and strength, and therefore power of professional football players. No, it’s — ready? — the evil game of football itself…”

This is devoid of logic. If the huge athletes and the way the game of football is played maim human beings, then the sport—game, sport, sport, game– of professional football maims human beings. No, Brent, it’s true, the rule book never hurt anyone. Nevertheless, the sport of pro football, as it is played, results in a large number of young men losing their minds before they are sixty. That doesn’t make the game of football “evil,” it makes the sport unacceptably dangerous. No, that doesn’t make the game “evil”—Deford never says it was “evil.” It makes people–like you, in fact—who pretend the game isn’t unreasonably dangerous and misrepresent the arguments that it is—complicit. It corrupts them. It corrupts society to have the culture spend so much money, passion and time on a sport once we know it kills people and ruins lives.

“Commentator Frank Deford used to love football, but now he just drops bombs on it. On Wednesday’s Morning Edition on National Public Radio, Deford’s weekly commentary was titled “What Is Football Doing to Us as a People?” He asked on air “So what is football doing to us as a people? How do we explain an America that, alone in the world, so loves this savage sport?…”

It is a legitimate and revealing question. Bozell and Graham just don’t like the answer. Yes, Deford loved football, until he learned that it was turning healthy young men into sad, tortured, middle-aged dementia victims while the NFL’s  leadership tried to cover up that fact. Like any decent, ethical person, he changed his mind according to new information, something conservatives like Brent Bozell often regard as heresy. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, Sports, U.S. Society

A Conflict of Interest Lesson: The New York Observer’s Donald Trump Endorsement

Trumps

Stipulated: Jared Kushner, who is married to Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, and who owns the The New York Observer, which he purchased in 2006, was in a difficult situation regarding the New York Republican primary. (That’s Jared on the right in the photo above.)

He had a clear and unresolvable  conflict of interest. If his paper endorsed Trump, the endorsement would appear to be dictated by family loyalty rather than objective analysis, and would harm whatever credibility the paper has left (it has been falling in influence and quality for a long time). If The Observer endorsed anyone else, in addition to whatever problems it would cause Kushner behind closed doors (and they would undoubtedly be considerable), a rejection by a paper with such a strong Trump family connection would be interpreted as having special significance, and would be handing a potent weapon to Trump’s adversaries.

Kushner’s dilemma was made worse by the fact that for any newspaper to endorse Donald Trump for President without a conflict of interest that at least would explain such an idiotic position would be tantamount to an admission of collective insanity, instantly turning such a  paper into the successor of the late, lamented Weekly World News, which was prone to breaking scoops like this one:

Weekly_World_News_-_Cover_Art_4800

Faced with these two mutually unacceptable alternatives, there was only one ethical, rational, responsible course that would acknowledge the conflict of interest without falling prey to it: endorse nobody, and explain why.

Nah! Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

#BlackZombiesMatter: When The Most Ethical Response To Race Activists Is Mockery

Wait, what color is that hand? I'm keeping track here...

Wait, what color is that hand? I’m keeping track here…

I have no idea what it would like to be black. I accept the truth of  Clarence Darrow’s empathetic words in his defense of Ossian Sweet: I assume being black must be overwhelming at times, all consuming, distorting how everything is seen and experienced. Nevertheless, it does not justify everything, It does not excuse anything. There are some reactions to the black experience that can be fairly labelled destructive, or foolish, or paranoid, or racist. Or ludicrous. When we see these reactions, we ought not to indulge them, nor hesitate for a second to call them exactly what they are. The fact that black Americans are reacting to being black does not mean that the reaction is always worthy of respect, and if there is a mass delusion born of emotion or demagoguery or fanaticism or despair, the best response may well be a bucket of cold water, or to point and laugh. Hard.

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and it’s prequel “Fear the Walking Dead” are among the most diverse TV shows on network or cable, filled with villains, victims, heroes and martyrs of all races and combination of races, most of whom are doomed. Yet these shows have become yet another target of the Black Lives Matter movement, an even wackier one than Bernie Sanders. Apparently the shows discriminate against black characters. Well, it does if you are so besotted with racial grievances and suspicion of American culture that you can’t think straight.  Just as the group sees hands upraised when there were none, it sees, along with lunatic race-baiter/author Tananarive Due,  racial bias against black men in two shows that are thoroughly post-racial—you know, when the dead are eating the living, color really, really doesn’t matter. Black men was an essential qualification of this latest grievance, because arguably the most admirable and interesting character oin either show so far is a black woman, Michonne, played by Danai Gurira. Never mind, it’s black men that the show, like America, hates.

I know these shows rather well, in part because they  contain great ethics hypothetical. I’ve been trying to think of any white character that these race obsessed guilt-mongers wouldn’t find offensively-treated if they were black. The putative star of “The Walking Dead,” Rick, is a weak leader, not too bright, and unstable. Make him black, and he’s an insult to black men; right now, he’s just an insult to police, Southerners, fathers, leaders, and American characters played by British actors. If Due and the rest can be insulted by the  fates of the wide variety of black characters that have appeared on both shows so far, they can find a way to be insulted by any characters, plot developments, costuming make-up, or manner of death. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Popular Culture, Race, U.S. Society

The Last Word—Words, Really—On The Ridiculous Rachel Dolezal: “Signature Significance”

Rahcel-Dolezal-plagiarized-painting

From the Ethics Alarms “Concepts and Special Terms” page:

Signature Significance: The concept is the creation of baseball statistics genius Bill James, who applied it to baseball performance. Signature significance posits that a single act can be so remarkable that it has predictive and analytical value, and should not be dismissed as statistically insignificant. Thus, in James’ example, certain outstanding pitching performances can prove that the pitcher involved is an outstanding one, because average pitchers literally never reach such levels of excellence, even as a one-time fluke.  Ethics Alarms employs the term to describe an extreme ethical or unethical act that similarly reveals the true character of the individual responsible for the conduct, and that can be reliably and fairly used to predict future conduct and trustworthiness.

My immediate assumption about now-ex NAACP executive Rachel Dolezal’s charade as a black woman her conduct was signature significance, that anyone who would construct and benefit from such an audacious deception was unreliable, untrustworthy, and a likely sociopath. My posts never got into this issue, in part because I was waiting for a unanimous consensus that the woman was lying–sadly, a lot of stubborn progressives, civil rights advocates, celebrities and culture warriors either ducked the issue or, to their eternal discredit, denied that she couldn’t be black is she said she was. I was waiting for the “she just made a mistake” arguments, and the “anyone can get confused about what race they are” rationalization by playing the signature significance card, and never got to play it.

Fortunately, the Dolezal saga has become its own signature significance card. William Salatan at Slate amassed an impressive list of Dolezals many fictions, scams, fudges, deceptions, false statements and deceits here, but the best is this: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Race