Tag Archives: David Brooks

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/16/2017

 Isn’t it a lovely morning?

1. This isn’t the first post of the day: I woke up around 4 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep (“As My Guitar Gently Weeps” was playing over and over in my head, don’t ask me why, and images from the Red Sox 16 inning loss to the Yankees was giving me the night terrors), so I went to the office and wrote this post. Charlie Green, critic and friend, properly pointed out that my comment in passing that incorrectly alluded to rumors about Joseph P. Kennedy being a bootlegger was exactly what my  post was criticizing David Brooks for doing in his attack on the entire Trump family, going back generations, a truly ugly op-ed.

What I was sorely tempted to say was that I’m just an ethics blogger, trying to focus attention on ethics standards in a daily blog from which I receive no income and intangible professional benefits if any. I mange to get 2000-4000 words published every 24 hours, working in short bursts while I try to earn a living, run a business, do research and be as good a father and husband as I can be. I have no editors, no researchers (except generous volunteers) and my blog is not a “paper of record” for journalists, seen by millions and paid for by subscribers. Is it really fair to hold Ethics Alarms to the same standards as David Brooks and the New York Times?

Make no mistake: my own standards are that no typo, no misstated fact, no misleading argument, are acceptable on an ethics blog, or any blog, or anything published on the web. Charles was right: using an unproven accusation of long-standing (Until Charles flagged it, I thought the bootlegging charge was a matter of public record) undermines my case against Brooks. Nonetheless, Brooks has absolutely no excuse. This is all he does, he has all week to produce a column or two, and he has a staff.

I’ve also corrected my error within hours of making it. What are the chances that Brooks and the Times will ever admit that they intentionally impugned the character of Fred Trump using rumors and innuendo as part of their ongoing effort to demonize the President of the United States?

My guess: Zero.

2. The big story this morning appears to be O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing. Will he be paroled and released after serving just nine years of the three-decade sentence he received for his participation in a burglary? Assuming that it is true that O.J., now 70 and unlikely to stab any more ex-wives and innocent bystanders to death, has been a model prisoner, yes, that would be the ethical result. O.J. got away with a double murder—he will not be asked at the hearing, “Once you’re out, can we assume that you’ll renew your relentless hunt for the real killer?”—but he wasn’t put in prison for that crime. Officially, he’s innocent. His fellow burglars were all put on probation, while the judge threw the book at the former football star, presumably to exact a measure of societal revenge for Nicole and Ron. The sentence was unethical. I don’t feel sorry for O.J. at all; I’m glad he had to serve hard time, just as I would have been happy if he had been squashed by a meteor. Justice, however, demands that he go free.

The bastard. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: NYT Columnist David Brooks [UPDATED}

“Biographies describe a man intent on making his fortune and not afraid of skating near the edge to do so. At one point, according to Politico, federal investigators found that Frederick used various accounting measures to collect an extra $15 million in rent (in today’s dollars) from a government housing program, on top of paying himself a large “architect’s fee.” He was hauled before investigating committees on at least two occasions, apparently was arrested at a K.K.K. rally in Queens (though it’s not clear he was a member), got involved in a slush fund scandal with Robert Wagner and faced discrimination allegations.”

—New York Times columnist David Brooks arguing that Donald Trump, Jr.’s conduct in holding the controversial meeting  with some Russians and Russian-Americans to acquire useful negative information about Hillary Clinton for his father’s campaign came about because his family is just no damn good, as shown by the conduct of Fred Trump, the President’s storied father.

Unlike some commentators, I have no ethical problem with Brooks’ basic thesis. Culture molds ethics, children are influenced by the conduct and values modeled by their parents, and I have pointed out too many times to  count that Donald Trump doesn’t know ethics from a merry-go-round, and appears to have no  conventionally functioning ethics alarms at all. It makes perfect sense that Donald Jr. would grow up similarly handicapped.

However, Brooks’ evidence that Trump family patriarch Fred Trump was corrupt and without scruples is all innuendo and supposition, and thus dishonest, incompetent, and unfair. Let’s examine the components of Brooks’ attack:

  • “federal investigators found that Frederick used various accounting measures to collect an extra $15 million in rent (in today’s dollars) from a government housing program, “

Were the accounting measures illegal? Apparently not. Was the  “architect’s fee”? I guess not: Fred wasn’t indicted or prosecuted. Being investigated by the feds does not prove or indicate wrongdoing. Maybe Fred was cheating; I wouldn’t be surprised. But Brooks has no facts to support that assumption, just a pejorative characterizations.

  • “He was hauled before investigating committees on at least two occasions…”

I love the “hauled.” Being asked to testify isn’t evidence of wrongdoing either. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Finance, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

The President Is Right About The Mainstream News Media, And It Can’t Handle The Truth, Part II: The Press Conference

press-conference

Based on the hysterical—yes, that’s a fair word—reaction from pundits and reporters to the President’s news conference last week, I assumed there had to be something that the transcript didn’t pick up, like he was wearing a Gooney bird on his head, or naked, or bit someone. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews called the President “manic” and compared him to Soviet spy Alger Hiss.  Brian Williams described it as an unhinged” press conference “brought to you by narcissism, thin-skinned chaos, and deeply personal grievances.” CBS This Morning’s  co-host Norah O’Donnell called the 77 minute affair “astonishing…an unprecedented display of accusations and exaggerations.” Fellow co-host Gayle King chimed in: “The President’s outburst of frustration left many observers bewildered.”

A response to the session that really was unhinged came from New York Times columnist David Brooks, who clarified for  me what the indignant political elite sound like when they have finally been backed into a corner, writing,

“Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.”

From this, Brooks concluded, disgracefully,

“This does not feel like a sustainable operation. On the other hand, I have trouble seeing exactly how this administration ends. Many of the institutions that would normally ease out or remove a failing president no longer exist.”

Damn elections! What does Brooks think he is talking about? Trump has accomplished many things he promised to do in less than a month; it is one of the most productive first 30 days any President has had in history. He has appointed an excellent Supreme Court Justice. The stock market is booming. When has any President been judged “failing” or been “eased out” after a month, or three, or six, or ever, absent criminal activity? Never. Brooks, like Democrats and the news media, are pronouncing the Trump Presidency dead because they don’t like him, his style, or what he wants to do. That does not justify writing as if he has done anything to justify removing him, except that this is the theme of the “resistance.”

Citing cherry-picked negative polls, like, say, the ones that said Trump had no chance of winning the election, Brooks then gives his blessing to undemocratic, insubordinate and seditious conduct to undermine an elected President:

“The Civil Service has a thousand ways to ignore or sit on any presidential order. The court system has given itself carte blanche to overturn any Trump initiative, even on the flimsiest legal grounds. The intelligence community has only just begun to undermine this president.”

A responsible newspaper doesn’t publish this.

Then I watched the whole conference.  I thought back to the first debate, which I thought Trump blew horribly. Charles Krauthammer sneered after the debate and said it was the end of Trump’s candidacy, and that everyone could see now that he was shallow, clownish, and unfit to lead. I agreed heartily.

Clearly, Charles and I missed something. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, U.S. Society

Does The Pentagon Hiding Its Waste Of 125 Billion Dollars Qualify As An Obama Administration Scandal? Nah! Don’t You Know That The Obama Administration Is Scandal Free?

the_pentagon

Scandals? In the Obama Administration? Of course not! David Brooks said so, remember?

“President Obama has run an amazingly scandal-free administration, not only he himself, but the people around him. He’s chosen people who have been pretty scandal-free. And so there are people in Washington who do set a standard of integrity, who do seem to attract people of quality.”

The IRS targeting conservative groups to blunt their influence on an election? Not a scandal! HHS rolling out a non-functional website for Obamacare that cost 2 billion dollars? The Veterans Administration being mismanaged at epic proportions while veterans died waiting for care? Jonathan Gruber’s declaration that Obamacare depended upon the “stupidity of American voter”? The Secret Service showing utter incompetence repeatedly? The head of the CIA giving classified information to his mistress? The NSA allowing a low-level contractor to steal and publish crucial secrets? The Office of Personnel Management allowing hundreds of thousands of government employees to have their sensitive information hacked? Unprecedented sexual harassment and assault in the Armed Services? Fast and Furious? Wait, wasn’t there a Secretary of State who violated her own department’s security policies, covered it up, lied about it, and did so with the knowledge of the President? The Attorney General meeting with the husband of a target of an FBI investigation, when that husband was the former President who once promoted that AG? No scandals?

Nah, President Barack Obama administration is scandal free!

I was watching CNN and Headline News this morning specifically to see if the Washington Post’s scoop last night was deemed worthy of mention. Of course, it wasn’t, and so far, almost all of the mainstream news media apparently believes that it’s less important for Americans to know about than, well, just about everything. Here what Google’s software ways are the top stories based on what the web is reporting:

Donald Trump
Oakland
Manchester United F.C.
College football
Westworld
Seattle Seahawks
Manuel Valls
OPEC
New York Jets
Pat McCrory

Clearly, what the  Post’s Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward  reported last night is trivia—fake news, really, since we know there are no scandals in the Obama Administration: Continue reading

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David Brooks’ Dirty Hit On Ted Cruz: How Pundits Lose Credibility

That's some role model you've chosen there, David

That’s some role model you’ve chosen there, David

…or at least deserve to.

Here is how New York Times columnist David Brooks begins his character evisceration of Ted Cruz:

“In 1997, Michael Wayne Haley was arrested after stealing a calculator from Walmart. This was a crime that merited a maximum two-year prison term. But prosecutors incorrectly applied a habitual offender law. Neither the judge nor the defense lawyer caught the error and Haley was sentenced to 16 years.

Eventually, the mistake came to light and Haley tried to fix it. Ted Cruz was solicitor general of Texas at the time. Instead of just letting Haley go for time served, Cruz took the case to the Supreme Court to keep Haley in prison for the full 16 years.

Some justices were skeptical. “Is there some rule that you can’t confess error in your state?” Justice Anthony Kennedy asked. The court system did finally let Haley out of prison, after six years.”

From this, Brooks goes on to conclude…

…Cruz’s behavior in the Haley case is almost the dictionary definition of pharisaism: an overzealous application of the letter of the law in a way that violates the spirit of the law, as well as fairness and mercy….Cruz’s speeches are marked by what you might call pagan brutalism. There is not a hint of compassion, gentleness and mercy. Instead, his speeches are marked by a long list of enemies, and vows to crush, shred, destroy, bomb them.

Cruz’s behavior in the Haley case [Dretke v. Haley] does nothing of the sort. The columnist intentionally—I’m assuming that he read the case, now—misrepresented what the case was about, how the court reacted, and what Cruz’s ethical duties were regarding it. As it happens, I share much of Brooks’ dislike of Cruz’s rhetoric. This case, however, tells us nothing about Cruz’s character. It tells us that that as Solicitor General of Texas, Cruz did his job, which was to represent his client’s position.

James Taranto, the pretty damn brilliant Wall Street Journal blogger, wit and conservative pundit, nails Brooks to the wall. He writes in part… Continue reading

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TSA’s Incompetence: Combining David Brooks’ Scandal-Free Fantasy With United’s Anti-Soda Can Policy For Muslem Passengers

mashupmonday

Now we have this:

Washington (CNN)Airport screeners failed to detect explosives and weapons in nearly every test that an undercover Homeland Security team conducted at dozens of airports, according to an internal investigation.

The Transportation Security Administration found that “red teams” with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General were able to get banned items through the screening process in 67 out of 70 tests — 95% — it conducted across the nation.

In other words, since those deadly Islamic terrorists can easily smuggle explosives and weapons on board United flights (or any others), it’s really silly to rob them of the pleasure of sipping a Diet Coke from a freshly opened can as they wait to send everyone to Allah.

In more words, all of the hundreds of thousands of hours, pointless inconvenience and hassle, emptying of pockets, taking off of shoes and belts, moving laptops in and out of bags, showing IDs and boarding passes, as well as the occasional intrusive and unpleasant feel-up pat-downs by strangers wearing rubber gloves that have been inflicted on air passengers (like me) have been stupid, useless, and as effective at keeping airplanes safe as being checked by a blind marmoset with a divining rod.

Of course, David Brooks wouldn’t call the TSA’s gross failure an example of inexcusable incompetence, lack of oversight and breach of trust a scandal either, because it doesn’t involve sex (well, at least in most of the patdowns)  or criminal acts, and is the responsibility of Barack Obama, whose administration is amazingly scandal-free, so this can’t be a scandal by definition.

I beg to differ. The stunning incompetence and lack of competent management, accountability (watch: nobody will be fired for this) or oversight exemplified by this latest fiasco is an ongoing scandal of the worst kind, one of many, or, if you prefer, just the single, devastating, huge, two-term scandal that is the Barack Obama presidency, the most arrogant and incompetent administration in U.S. history.

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Ethics Observations On NYT Columnist David Brooks’ Astounding Quote

scandal

Amazingly, Obama hasn’t had any.

Here is the quote:

“President Obama has run an amazingly scandal-free administration, not only he himself, but the people around him, not only he himself, but the people around him. He’s chosen people who have been pretty scandal-free. And so there are people in Washington who do set a standard of integrity, who do seem to attract people of quality. And I think that’s probably true of the current group.”

Yes, it was almost a Kaboom!, causing my head to explode. Yes, I think it is stunning thing for anyone to say, but especially a pundit who is respected–by some, anyway—for his careful thought and moderation. Yes, it is ridiculous on its face.

Fascinating and enlightening though!

1. Brooks, though he has wavered occasionally, has always had a man-crush on Obama. Acknowledging this as he has, it shows remarkable lack of bias-control to let it run wild to this extent.

2. It is a terrific example of how linguistics can warp ethics, and vice-versa. The only possible way someone can make such a statement honestly—yes, I do believe Brooks really thinks this, as plainly counter-factual as it is—-is to consciously or sub-consciously define “scandal” so extremely that it omits anything connected to the Obama Administration. If Brooks believes that “scandals’ only involve theft, criminal activity and sex, he has a barely supportable thesis. Barely. Well, not really even then.

3. Not just scandal-free, but “amazingly” scandal free! This gets into Big Lie territory; perhaps “Big Hyperbole” is a bit more accurate. To be “amazingly scandal free,” we would hold up this Administration as the ethics model for all future administrations. Be still, my expanding head…

4. Is this clinical denial? I have mentioned here before that a disturbing number of Democrats and progressives, as well as African Americans, defend Obama by just asserting that everything is wonderful, no matter what goes wrong, and that Obama himself is a great President, despite near complete incompetence in every sphere. Some of these are professional liars and ideological warriors, of course; some are also just not too bright. Brooks, however, doesn’t fit in those categories. Continue reading

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