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Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 6/9/18: PART I, Bee’s “Apology”

Hi!

1  Bee gets an Eff. If I didn’t find Samantha Bee so loathsome and her transparent grab for headlines and attention by the cynical device of intentionally violating all standards of public civility and fairness, her on-air apology might warrant a full post here. “Where does it fall on the Apology Scale?,” I have been asked. She really does richly deserve to be shunned and ignored, however, not that she didn’t before. Her act is monotonous, obnoxious (Is there anything more revolting than someone who aggressively  presents themselves as smart and clever who obviously is neither?) and divisive. Like others, she exists to constantly reassure the “resistance” that they are justified in acting and talking like assholes because they lost an election.

Boy, they must need a lot of reassurance.

But since her apology on her show was an abomination (distinct from her apology on Twitter, which was a lie), I have to talk about it. What a crappy way to start a weekend. I’ll save time by commenting as we go. Yes, this is as long as a full post; it’s as long as a long full post. I know it’s silly, but even if it’s just a technicality, I refuse to give someone as contemptible as Samantha Bee more than Warm-Up status.

She said:

“You know, a lot of people were offended and angry that I used an epithet to describe the president’s daughter and adviser last week.”

In other words, “some people” were offended, not you, team member, because you LIKED me calling Ivanka a cunt, but we still have to deal with “those people,” who might be sponsors. Essentially Bee makes it clear immediately that this isn’t an apology  at all. The “you know” is a verbal shrug, and signals, “I don’t think this is a big deal, but I have to say something.”

This sentence, like the whole apology, is signature significance for a terrible human being. If she were my employee, I would stop her and say, “Start again.”

“It is a word I have used on the show many times..”

First rationalization in the second sentence! This is a subset of “Everybody does it”: “I do it all the time.”

“…hoping to reclaim it. This time, I used it as an insult. I crossed the line. I regret it and I do apologize for that. The problem is that many women have heard that word at the worst moments of their lives.”

Doubletalk. The word she used was “cunt.” It has never been anything but an ugly gutter word. What’s to “reclaim?” How it might have been used at other times is irrelevant, making this theme a flagrant act of misdirection, which is itself the theme of the whole phony “apology.” Imagine a male comic under fire for calling one of Obama’s daughters a “bitch”  saying “I have used that word many times–as a dog breeder, to describe swishy men, and in the phrase ‘son of a bitch’…” So what?

Bee’s bait-and-switch also cleverly reframes the issue. The offense was describing Ivanka Trump, on television, using a denigrating, misogynist word. Bee is now declaring that her offense was the rhetorical mistake of  misusing “cunt” as an insult. That was the line she crossed, according to her. Then: “The problem is that many women have heard that word at the worst moments of their lives.” Oh, the problem is when they heard it, not the use of the word itself.

Imagine a comic trying to weasel out of calling, say, Barack Obama a “nigger” making that argument in a parallel “apology.”

“A lot of them don’t want that word reclaimed. They want it gone, and I don’t blame them. I don’t want to inflict more pain on them.”

Wow—I hadn’t read this atrocity for a couple of days. It’s even worse than I thought.

Now Bee says the problem is that her using the word to denigrate the President’s daughter (who had done absolutely nothing to inspire such an attack) inflicted pain on other women—the good ones, you know. The ones who hate President Trump and his family.

“I want this show to be challenging and I want it to be honest, but I never intended it to hurt anyone, except Ted Cruz.”

Translation “You all know Ivanka IS  a cunt, but I didn’t want to hurt any other women by saying so, at least none who voted for Hillary.” Continue reading

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Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/2/2018: Goodby, Shut Up, My Condolences, WHAT??, And Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You!

Feelin’ groovy!

1.  The Republicans keep robocalling, and the Democrats...keep emailing. I have protested both. However, right now I am really ticked at the Democrats, whose endless lists I have dutifully asked to be deleted from, then been told that my cyber-door would not be darkened by them again, only to have Tom Perez, Nancy Pelosi and Keith Ellison, plus  show up in by in-box the next day. Do they think this direct violation of my privacy along with their own assurances doesn’t reflect on their fitness to govern? If so, they are wrong.

2. Great news! Now you can identify as British for no good reason whatsoever. I love this story: Thomas J Mace-Archer-Mills Esq. and his insight into the British monarchy a regular feature TV  during that royal wedding I missed because of a sock drawer crisis. His website lists  many media appearances, and one article described him as “the most interviewed man” on the subject of the Wonderful Nuptials.

It has now been revealed that Thomas J Mace-Archer-Mills Esq. is really  Tommy Muscatello, a 38-year-old Italian-American who grew up in upstate New York. But he says he  identifies more as  British than American, so there is that.

Now imagine how well anonymous sources are vetted by crack journalists. [Pointer: Curmy)

3. About that “fever”…An esteemed commenter here proclaimed his exit because of Ethics Alarms’ characterization of the so-called (actually “cleverly-called” is appropriate) “Spygate” scandal (here and here), saying that he would be gone until “the fever” had passed as if questioning the integrity of the Justice Department’s Trump investigation/ “resistance” assistance is obviously a partisan delusion. I almost made that post a Comment of the Day, except that I concluded that denial shouldn’t be mocked. It is, after all, the first of the seven stages of grief, and apparently one which Democrats and progressives are stuck in, while others have progressed at least as far as anger (Stage #3), culminating in episodes like a female comic calling the President’s daughter a “cunt” on television to reactions like this.

Anger, however, only makes one seem overcome with emotion. Denial makes us look blind and gullible. I do not understand the Left suddenly trusting the FBI (Hoover? Felt?) and the Justice Department as if they have always been paragons of virtue. This is pure denial, or, if you prefer, ignorance. If anything, there should be a presumption of politicization in the Justice Department, particularly the Obama version and particularly in light of the post-election conduct of its holdovers like McCabe, Comey and Yates. The FBI, meanwhile, is permanently scarred by Comey’s self-celebration tour, his book, his botching of the Clinton investigation, his dubious testimony before Congress, and his probably illegal leaks of classified information specifically to cause problems for President Trump.

A beloved relative, also in denial, actually tried to tell me last week that the astoundingly suspiciously-timed tarmac meeting between Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton shouldn’t have raised any alarms. She’s a lawyer. She’s brilliant. She’s sincere. She’s also in denial, Stage 5. That was such a perfect example of the appearance of impropriety that a photo of it should be on Wikipedia under “appearance of impropriety.”) When the leaders of the FBI do things like that in the middle of a Presidential campaign, how can someone of good faith and full cranium argue that it’s irrational to question the act of the same people placing a mole in the Republican candidate’s campaign?   This is the pot calling the Corningware black.

Those in denial have their perceptions warped by their own fever, one that causes them to assume, absent any evidence whatsoever, that President Trump must have been working to steal the election. (They also assume he is guilty of other impeachable crimes, they just don’t know which ones.) Hillary lost, you see, and the polls said it was impossible, so he must have cheated. It can’t be that Trump won because he was running against an epically terrible candidate smugly presenting herself as the “third term” of a spectacularly inept and divisive President. It just can’t. Continue reading

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Spygate Spin: “How Can Honest People Still Deny That The News Media Is Spreading Anti-Trump Propaganda As Fact?” Exhibit A

My New York Times headline this morning: “Trump Embraces Shadowy Plots, Eroding Trust..Theories from Fringes…Agencies Undermined By Claims of ‘Spygate” and ‘Deep State’

This is no better than, and no less than, actively perpetuating a Big Lie.

I won’t get into the murk of the Deep State for now. However, denying “Spygate” and claiming it is a “fringe” conspiracy theory is flagrantly dishonest, and a low even by the Times’ recent standards. The entire “Obama’s administration didn’t spy on the Trump campaign, like so many examples of political spin and denial, rests on Clintonesque rhetorical deceit” “It depends on what the meaning of spy is.” Really, New York Times? Really, CNN? Really, my furious, Trump-hating, echo-chamber bolstered Facebook friends? Really? That’s your argument?

Pathetic.

Two definitely non-fringe, non-conspiracy theorist, non-Trump flacks clarified this issue for anyone who doesn’t want to be brainwashed by the Times and its chums, who are now especially desperate because they are covering for Obama, whose administration—scandal free, you know!—looks sleezier and more incompetent in the rear view mirror by the day.

Here is Michael Barone, a Republican pundit but no Trump fan:

F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims,” read the headline on a lengthy New York Times story May 18. “The Justice Department used a suspected informant to probe whether Trump campaign aides were making improper contacts with Russia in 2016,” read a story in the May 21 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

So much for those who dismissed charges of Obama administration infiltration of Donald Trump’s campaign as paranoid fantasy. Defenders of the Obama intelligence and law enforcement apparat have had to fall back on the argument that this infiltration was for Trump’s — and the nation’s — own good.

It’s an argument that evidently didn’t occur to Richard Nixon’s defenders when it became clear that Nixon operatives had burglarized and wiretapped the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in June 1972.

Until 2016, just about everyone agreed that it was a bad thing for government intelligence or law enforcement agencies to spy — er, use informants — on a political campaign, especially one of the opposition party. Liberals were especially suspicious of the FBI and the CIA. Nowadays they say that anyone questioning their good faith is unpatriotic.

The crime at the root of Watergate was an attempt at surveillance of the DNC after George McGovern seemed about to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, just as the government misconduct in Russiagate was an attempt at surveillance of the Republican Party’s national campaign after Trump clinched its nomination.

…Both the Watergate wiretap and the Obama appointees’ investigator/spy infiltration were initially inspired amid fears that the upstart opposition might win. The Watergate burglary was planned when Nixon’s re-election was far from assured. A May 1972 Harris Poll showed him with only 48 percent against McGovern. It was only after the Haiphong harbor bombing and Moscow summit in early June made clear that US involvement in Vietnam was ending that Nixon’s numbers surged — just before the June 17 burglary.

In March 2016, it was conventional wisdom that Trump couldn’t be elected president. But his surprising and persistent strength in the Republican primaries left some doubtful, including the FBI lovebirds who instant messaged their desire for an “insurance policy” against that dreaded eventuality.

Their unease may have owed something to their knowledge of how the Obama Justice Department and FBI had fixed the Hillary Clinton emails case. Clinton wasn’t indicted but was left with a disastrously low 32 percent of voters confident of her honesty and trustworthiness.

There are two obvious differences between Watergate and the Obama administration’s infiltration. The Watergate burglars were arrested in flagrante delicto, and their wiretaps never functioned. And neither the FBI nor the CIA fully cooperated with the post-election cover-up.

That’s quite a contrast with the Obama law enforcement and intelligence appointees’ promotion of Christopher Steele’s Clinton campaign-financed dodgy dossier and feeding the mainstream media’s insatiable hunger for Russia collusion stories.

Has an outgoing administration ever worked to delegitimize and dislodge its successor like this? We hear many complaints, some justified, about Donald Trump’s departure from standard political norms. But the greater and more dangerous departure from norms may be that of the Obama officials seeking to overturn the results of the 2016 election.

Come on…this is all made up! It didn’t happen! It’s a conspiracy theory from the fringes! The New York Times says so!

Here was prominent White House advisor David Plouffe’s tweet in June of 2016:

Nah, that’s a fake tweet, right? Nothing sinister like this was really being discussed in Obama’s scandal-free White House! It all a paranoid conspiracy theory!

Now here is Andrew McCarthy—a conservative, but apparently there are no liberal journalists with any integrity where Trump is involved–in his article, “The Obama Administration’s Hypocritical Pretext for Spying on the Trump Campaign.” McCarthy is hardly Alex Jones. He is a rigorous analyst who was previously assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. He led the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others ultimately convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He knows how to construct a damning case, and wrote in part:

As I argued in my weekend column, it is hard to imagine a more idle question than whether the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign. Of course it did. If you want to argue the point, imagine what the professors, pundits, and pols would have said had the Bush administration run an informant against three Obama 2008 campaign officials, including the campaign co-chairman; any hair-splitting about whether that technically constituted “spying” would be met by ostracism from polite society.

Verdict: true. Continue reading

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Let’s Play “Fake News, Professional Incompetence, Or Just Plain Stupid”!

NEWS FLASH from MSNBC: Most Americans don’t do this…

Hello everybody!

It’s time to play the game show that is sweeping the nation, thanks to the escalating bias and partisan activism of the mainstream news media!

For today’s episode, our question concerns veteran broadcast news reporter Andrea Mitchell, once widely considered a trustworthy professional, now  member of the cabal of hacks that fill up the slanted hours on MSNBC.

Today, pumping for the NFL to turn itself into a weekly infomercial for anti-Trump protests, Black Lives Matter propaganda, and general progressive agenda agitation, Mitchell said this about the NFL’s ban on kneeling during the pre-game playing of the National Anthem:

The hypocrisy is so profound Take a look at any NFL stadium and people are getting hot dogs, people are getting beers. They’re not standing and saluting the anthem for a large part. They’re not. They’re distracted. They’re fans at an event.

Of course, as anyone who has ever attended a sporting event knows—and anyone who has any understanding of this nation and its poeple should know anyway–virtually everyone stands, respectfully, hats off, many with hands over their hearts, during the National Anthem at every sporting event, at every level from high school to the pros. What was Mitchell doing? Was she just lying to make her case? Was she stating as fact something she assumed was true but had not bothered to check, a gross  breach of professionalism? Or is Andrea Mitchell just dumb as stuffed cabbage?

So without any further ado,  let’s play “Fake News, Professional Incompetence, Or Just Plain Stupid”!

 

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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

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 13, 2018: Past, Present, And Future

Happy Morning, everybody!

1. On the Future News front…The Michael Cohen raid has prompted a new outbreak of this particularly odious journalism and punditry trend: writing hysterically about what might happen. I spend so much time telling my wife that it is absurd and self-destructive to spend energy and emotion on dire “what if?” speculation, when sanity only reigns when we deal with what happens, when it happens, and not freak out because it might happen. Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer isn’t just for alcoholics, you know:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time;enjoy ing one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace…”

The news media, however, pummels us with dire future news to undermine serenity, create fear, encourage anxiety, distrust, panic and hysteria. All the better to undermine President Trump, after all.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid, for example, admittedly one of the worst of the worst, speculated about what might happen should the president refuse to allow himself to be arrested by federal marshals. Note that there is no evidence that there is anything to arrest him for, but never mind. This is Future News. “What if he refuses to open the White House door? What if he fires any Secret Service agent who would allow the federal marshals in? What if Donald Trump simply decides, ‘I don’t have to follow the law? I refuse to be held under the law. No marshal can get into this White House and any Secret Service agent who defies me is fired,'” she asked.

Today I am reading that Michael Cohen might have incriminating tapes of Donald Trump saying incriminating things. Yes, and he might have 12 toes and three nipples, too. Cohen apparently surreptitiously taped some of his conversations. Now, it is true that Cohen is a uniquely sleazy lawyer, but surreptitiously taping a client is a serious legal ethics breach that would pretty much end his career, not to mention his bar license, it it were proven. Never mind though: what if he taped Trump having sex with a marmot? What if he taped the President speaking Russian?

What might happen isn’t news. There are exceptions, but extensive concentration of speculation and projections, as with the Russian investigation coverage, is misleading and unethical journalism.

2. Incompetent prosecution to the rescue! For some reason, Bill Cosby’s prosecutors, allowed to choose from the more than 70 alleged victims of the serial sexual predator a representative five to show his  modus operandi that victimized Andrea Constand, chose Janice Dickinson, an aging ex-model, huckster, reality show star and publicity hound with the approximate trustworthiness and credibility of Stormy Daniels. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 11, 2018: Caesar’s Wife At The EPA, Idiots On The Air, And Dreamers Demanding Discounts [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. Forgetting to heed the “Caesar’s wife” Principle. Whatever one may think about EPA head Scott Pruitt’s controversial policy directions as head of the environmental agency, all ought to be able to agree on this: he’s an idiot.

Here is a cultural literacy test: How many Americans under the age of—what, 45? 60? 104?—know what the term “like Caesar’s wife” means? When you have a target painted on your back because you are taking positions that are guaranteed to be anathema to powerful critics, like the news media, you are “like Caesar’s wife.” This should communicate something to you. In 63 BC, Julius Caesar, a man on the rise, was elected to the position of the Pontifex Maximus, the chief priest of the Roman state religion. The next year, his wife Pompeia hosted the festival of the Bona Dea (“Good Goddess”) in which no man was allowed to participate, at Caesar’s official residence. Publius Clodius Pulcher, a  rash young patrician, snuck into the celebration disguised as a woman, allegedly to seduce Pompeia. He was caught, prosecuted ( not for trying to shag Caesar’s wife but for the crime of sacrilege), and ultimately  acquitted. Nevertheless, Caesar divorced Pompeia, saying, “My wife ought not even to be under suspicion.”  Thus was born the saying, once well-known to educated individuals, that “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”

Either Pruitt doesn’t know the reference, or doesn’t understand it. He has made himself vulnerable and a political liability to the Trump administration by the kind of grubby ethics violations so many of the administration’s recruits from the corporate world have engaged in. (And what does this tell us about that culture?)

David J. Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, sent  a letter this week to Kevin Minoli, the EPA’s  top ethics official,  asking the agency to take “appropriate actions to address any violations.”

Among the issues raised were Pruitt’s $50-a-night rental  of a Capitol Hill condominium from the wife of an energy lobbyist (This may not have been market value, the letter speculates, raising the question of whether it was a gift, aka “bribe.” Ya think? You can’t rent a decent garden tool shed for 50 bucks a night…), Pruitt taking an excessive number government-funded flights home to Oklahoma and back (He’s about the 78th Trump official to be caught doing this kind of thing—do these guys read the newspapers?), and worst of all, reports that agency staff members who raised concerns about these and other actions creating “the appearance of impropriety”  found themselves transferred or demoted.

“The success of our government depends on maintaining the trust of the people we serve,”wrote Apol. “The American public needs to have confidence that ethics violations, as well as the appearance of ethics violations, are investigated and appropriately addressed.”

Why yes! And anyone who holds high government office is supposed to know that. Anyone holding high government office in this administration, which is in the position of the thug sprung from police lock-up on a technicality to which an angry detective says before he strolls out the door, “If you so much as spit on the sidewalk, I’ll be there to pick you up,” should know that especially. When they are gunning for you, you have to be like Caesar’s wife.

The President should fire Pruitt for these flagrant abuses. He won’t, because he literally doesn’t think ethics matter. I wonder if he thinks stupidity and unrestrained arrogance matter… Continue reading

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