1. The Canadian Broadcast Company edited Donald Trump’s cameo out of “Home Alone II” when the Christmas-themed family film was aired this week. That sets some kind of record for pettiness, don’t you think? The CBC lamely denies that they meant anything by it, responding to an inquiry, “As is often the case with features adapted for television, Home Alone 2 was edited to allow for commercial time within the format.” Sure. I believe that! Don’t you believe that? Continue reading
They are whooping it up at the Trump-Haters Club, because President Trump will have to pay $2 million in damages to nonprofit groups as a penalty for what can only be called a fraudulent use of his foundation in 2016. As part of the settlement agreement, the President had to admit misusing funds raised by the Donald J. Trump Foundation, accessing them to assist his campaign, pay off debts of businesses he owned, including Mar-a-Lago and the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, and, as an especially obnoxious move, purchasing a $10,000 portrait of himself to hand in one of his Florida hotels. New York’s Attorney General filed suit accusing the Trump family of using the foundation to benefit various businesses and assist Trump’s presidential run. You can’t use a non-profit like that; this is the kind of scam that got Tom DeLay thrown in prison.
The President admitted that the alleged charity charity gave his campaign complete control over the $2.8 million that the foundation had raised at an Iowa fund-raiser for veterans in January 2016. It was in fact a fund-raiser for the campaign, not veterans.
The Boston Globe is the first newspaper I ever read, admittedly because it long had (no more, alas) the best sports section in the country. Even after fate took me away from my beloved home town and deposited me, apparently forever, in Washington, D.C., I continued to subscribe. Many times, notably when the paper’s special investigative unit blew the top off of the city’s deep and long-rotting child molestation scandal among its Catholic priests, leading to the exposure of the unimaginable world-wide scandal that went all the way to the Vatican, the paper validated my loyalty and admiration.
But political bias was always the Globe’s Achilles Heel. The editorial staff was a Kennedy family lapdog, and this metastasized into knee-jerk Democratic Party support even when it could not be logically justified. Eventually, it was obvious that the paper’s ethics alarms, if not dead, were barely pinging. in April of 2016, the paper suffered a crippling Donald Trump-sparked nervous breakdown, turning itself into a print version of Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds.” It featured a phony front page —a portent of the fake news to come, but not just at the Globe—showing the dystopian future that awaited in the hopefully alternate dystopian universe where Trump was elected President:
So disturbed is the editorial staff of the Boston Globe over the nauseating threat of a Donald Trump presidency that it has jettisoned all established principles of journalism ethics in an embarrassing, self-destructive effort to “stop” him. Mark this down as one more wound on the culture that Trump has inflicted with his luxury ego trip, with the assistance of his irrational supporters, of course….
“This is Donald Trump’s America. What you read on this page is what might happen if the GOP frontrunner can put his ideas into practice, his words into action. Many Americans might find this vision appealing, but the Globe’s editorial board finds it deeply troubling,” the editor’s note reads. Then follows an editorial urging the GOP to stop Trump.
The editorial is fine. The Globe could have even chosen to place it on its real front page instead of creating a National Lampoon imitation and been well within journalism ethics standards. Publishing fake news stories about what a theoretical President Trump might do? This is a spectacular failure of professionalism and a journalistic disgrace. A newspaper is pledged to report the news, not imagine it. It is not ethically entitled to morph into Saturday Night Live or the Onion because it really, really, really feels strongly about an issue.
(Gee, I really called the news media’s eventual total abandonment of journalism ethics, didn’t I? Where are my bouquets? My Pulitzer?)
That was the end of my regular reading of the Boston Globe. This is the end of my regarding it as a newspaper. The correct term is “rag.” Come to think of it, that may be an insult to rags. Continue reading
In response to my recent question in a comment thread about when Ethics Alarms first noted that the Democratic Party was embracing totalitarian attitudes, tactics and principles, reader and commenter Zoltar Speaks tracked the post down, which, as I had speculated, was published in late October, 2016, right before the election. It was interesting, in light of having just passed the two year mark in the Trump Presidency, to review my thoughts at the time. Upon re-reading it, I conclude that there is nothing in that post I would retract, and that I wish I was as smart every day was I was on October 20, 2016. This section, however, really stood out in light of what has occurred since; the context was the last debate between candidates Trump and Clinton: Continue reading
There are so many posts here that I forget I wrote many of them, and definitely forget exactly what I wrote in them. I do check old posts when I stumble upon them to see how I assess Past Me as kind of an integrity check. It is remarkable, or maybe its an indictment, that I still agree with myself 99% of the time, no matter how much time has passed. As is often the case when an old post comes back into view, it was a new comment—nothing substantive– that unearthed this one, a post on the topic tagged as the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck here.
Two years ago I was getting complaints that I was spending too much time and print writing about the progressive/Democratic Party/ news media/”resistance” efforts to ensure the failure and rejection of Donald Trump as President before his administration even got started. I had been writing about the dangerous divisiveness and government dysfunction that this conduct would inevitably lead to if it didn’t stop for just two months. I wrote this post in response to those complaints.
Incredibly, shockingly, depressingly, dangerously, nothing has improved. Indeed, it has gotten worse. A lot has happened: impeachment plans A though O have been floated, advocated and pursued. The news media has been transformed into a virtual vigilante arm of “the resistance.” It is also one of the many democratic institutions that has been weakened, losing public trust and deserving to do so. Meanwhile, Ethics Alarms, in great part because it has refused to capitulate to this culturally suicidal madness, has lost readership and support. The problem is that opposing the broad-based effort to destroy an elected President regardless of the deep wounds it inflicts on democracy and society is seen by the deranged as endorsing the persona, character, methods and all of the policies of Trump himself—seen as, or cynically and dishonestly characterized as such to avoid confronting my analysis. (Hello, Facebook!)
Reading this post after everything that has happened since, I can only wish I was as right every day as I was on the day I wrote this, and I also wish that I had been wrong.
I recommend that you read it too. I may break in here and there. I will not take back a single word.
Ethics Alarms is intended to be a pan-ethics colloquy on our efforts to set ethical standards in our society, using, for the most part, current events and controversies to apply ethics analysis to dilemmas, conflicts and gray areas as they arise. Silly me: I really thought that once the election was over, I could shove political ethics back into the pack, and get back to more balanced and diverse commentary. I did not expect the Left—is there a better word for progressives, Democrats, Hollywood, academia, artists and the mainstream media?—to behave so abominably and irresponsibly for such an extended period.
Because I believe with all my heart that this mob-tantrum is doing far more damage to the nation and society than unethical IKEA ads, incompetent judges and even sexual predator 6th grade teachers, I have to chronicle this awful national ethics phenomenon at the expense of other topics. I am thoroughly sick of it. I feel like Keith Olbermann, who quit his first non-sports news commentary job because couldn’t stand reporting on the Monica Lewinsky scandal every night. And believe me, I don’t like feeling like Keith Olbermann.
This is the major ethics story of the month, the year, and maybe the decade. A coalition of ideologically inflexible groups are deliberately seeking to undermine a duly elected President of the United States, and to destabilize the United States government, because their candidate—and a terrible, corrupt, incompetent candidate she was—somehow managed to lose. They are doing this in full knowledge that their actions directly contradict their leaders’ statements before the election. You know, like this one… Continue reading
1. How can CNN, or anybody, continue to justify employing Don Lemon as a “journalist”?
He defaults to emotion regularly. He is incapable of objectivity. His partisan and ideological bias is palpable. ( He gets drunk on the air every New Years…) And he says idiotic things like this. Good for Scalise, the perfect individual to flag Lemon’s incompetence. His Twitter followers have also noted many other cases of Democrats “killing people.” Or is Lemon and CNN going to stand on the fact that nobody was killed by the Bernie Sanders-supporting sniper who seriously wounded Scalise? I wouldn’t be surprised.
2. Stop making me defend Hillary Clinton! During an interview with Recode executive editor Kara Swisher (full disclosure: I had some unpleasant experiences dealing with Swisher in her Washington Post days, and wouldn’t trust her to walk my dog around the block.) in New York City over the weekend. Swisher asked Clinton a question regarding a quip that was previously made by Holder, but mistakenly attributed it to Senator Spartacus, Cory Booker. “What do you think of Corey Booker … what do you think about him saying ‘Kick them in the shins,’ essentially?” “Well, that was Eric Holder,” Clinton said. “Yeah, I know they all look alike.” “No, they don’t,” Swisher responded.
Now Clinton is being called “insensitive” by her party’s political correctness posse. It was a joke, and also a rebuke of Swisher. The former was absolutely fine (and funny); the latter was a mean-spirited “gotcha!” suggesting unfairly that Swisher thinks of all blacks as fungible, a bigoted attitude, when she just made a mistake. (I get Cory Booker confused with Kirk Douglas sometimes.) Then Swisher turned the finger-pointing back on Hillary, implying that Clinton meant her remark literally rather than sarcastically. Continue reading
The recent barrage of anti-Trump stories, self-inflicted Presidential wounds and media smears has the President’s approval ratings down again, back to his unshakable 37% or so core, presumable the American who, as he so memorably joked, would support him if he shot someone in Times Square. It has also been as high in some polls as 50% in the not so distant past, and substantively, not much has changed, except that the economic news keeps getting better. “There’s Never Been a President This Unpopular With an Economy This Good,”writes Bloomberg, and I’m sure that’s true. There was also never an individual as unpopular as Donald Trump elected President of the United States before he was.
The “disapproval rating” of his performance is incoherent, of course, because it is an undecipherable mess of apples, oranges, and wooden shoes. Some disapprove of Trump because of his almost completely revolting character. Some disapprove of him because they disagree with his policies, since they are socialist, statist One Worlders who believe, against all evidence, that Barack Obama was a great leader. Some are Republicans who are embarrassed to have such a man representing their party, no matter what policies he pursues. Some are conservatives who regard Trump as not sufficiently conservative, for indeed he’s not a conservative at all. Some are classist snobs. Some are morons who just believe what social media and the mainstream media tells them to believe. I’d love to know how this group breaks down, but we’ll never have that information.
Still, I find it encouraging that Trump remains unpopular despite his many positive achievements, some arguable, some not. It is good that the idea that there is more to being a respectable and admirable President than presiding over positive economic times, strong foreign policy, and military success. It is especially encouraging to see Democrats and progressives being driven to that position after stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that the character of a national leader is important during the Bill Clinton years, and after nominating Hillary. The President of the United States is not a CEO, and not a mere policy wonk (Yes, I recognize the absurdity of calling someone like Donald Trump a “wonk” of any kind). Leadership is as much a symbolic role as a pragmatic one. Leaders shift cultural values and norms; they define, or should, what a nation and its public regard as good, bad, right, wrong, admirable, and unacceptable. This was the basis of my initial, long-held, endlessly expressed, and unyielding opposition to his leadership style and personal demeanor, perhaps most forcefully explained here.
The importance of a President’s character goes far beyond being an automatic role model, however. A President, while he is in office, defines the Presidency itself. If he defines it in negative terms and values, everything connected to the Presidency suffers as well (See: the Cognitive Dissonance Scale): our system, democracy, the separation of powers, constitutional government and its institutions. A President has a duty to strengthen his office for future occupants, and to uphold the highest standards that his predecessors set. Donald Trump does not understand this aspect of his job, and never has. The reasons for this can be debated; he is obviously not a student of history, and as someone who has succeeded by breaking rules and defying conventional wisdom, he would be unlikely to understand why this role should be regarded as different from any other executive post. Continue reading