Why American Presidents Need A Fair News Media To Be Competent, And More Evidence That They Won’t Get One Anytime Soon, If Ever…

fakenews

It’s my own fault. I’ve written so many essays here since 2009 about the disgraceful descent of the news media into partisan propaganda that I can’t find the relevant post I was looking for on my own blog. That would be the one during the Obama administration in which I pointed out that being assured that no reporters and virtually no pundits would have the guts or integrity to criticize Obama’s performance as President had made him lazy, arrogant, and reckless. If you know anything you do will be extolled whether it deserves praise of not, and any mistakes and blunders will be covered up or spun, why be careful, especially if you’re an arrogant narcissistic like Barack? The same principle operated on President Trump, but in reverse (I honestly don’t recall if I noted this, but I noticed it). If a President is certain that whatever he does will be attacked by the news media, there is no reason for him to consider the press in his policy considerations. Summary: bad journalism makes bad Presidents.

Several commentators are finally waking up to this phenomenon now, as they try to find some other than Joe Biden to blame for Joe Biden’s incompetence. I have now read several pieces opining that the President was certain that the press would have his back no matter what happened in Afghanistan.

That was really foolish on Biden’s part (but then…Biden) for two reasons. First, he is not nearly as popular as Obama, and nobody was going to call a reporter “racist” for criticizing him. Second, and more importantly, journalists destroyed their influence and credibility during their four year campaign of fake news and glorified rumors to bring down Donald Trump. Most of the public doesn’t trust the mainstream media—good!—because it is untrustworthy. The days when it could cover a President’s botches effectively have passed.

One would think that this would spur the news media to be more careful about the lies they present to the public as truth, and one would be tragically wrong. Two recent examples from last week demonstrate that no “Oh-oh, we better start practicing honest journalism!” alarms are ringing yet.

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WHAT? Snopes Has Had An Unethical Culture All These Years??

What a surprise.

You know, I hate to resort to mockery, sarcasm and “I told you so” on an ethics blog, but sometimes nothing else will do. Snopes fooled me for a while: in 2010, I described the fact-checking site as doing “a superb job tracking down and clarifying web hoaxes, rumors and other misinformation.”As late as early 2016 I was relying on Scopes, and then it began to dawn on me that, like most factchecking sites (Factcheck.com is better than the rest), Snopes miraculously only saw false stories when they either impugned conservatives, or were non-political, like the three-breasted woman. 2016 saw Snopes joining the mainstream news media in shilling for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, and the jig was up. After tracing many examples Snopes partisanship, I kissed the site off with this post, marking it as an Unethical Website Of The Month (July, 2016).

I wonder if I should contact all the furious commenters defending Snopes on that post and ask them their thoughts on today’s revelations.

A BuzzFeed News investigation found that David Mikkelson, the site’s co-founder and chief executive, authored and published dozens of articles plagiarized from other news outlets. His objective, we are told, was ” to scoop up web traffic.” Gee, you mean pandering to progressives and Democrats, doing regular hit-jobs on Republicans and issuing biased and dishonest “factchecks” with clickbait titles wasn’t enough? Fascinating.

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Mid-Day Ethics Interruptions, 6/4/2021: After the First Item, You May Not Want To Read Any More…

Screamfest

1. When ethics alarms were never installed...The question here is not whether this was unethical. Of course it was. The question is how such an episode could happen anywhere in this country. Eight high school football coaches at McKinley Senior High School in Canton, Ohio have been placed on paid leave after apparently forcing a 17-year-old player, a Hebrew Israelite whose faith forbids the consumption of pork, to eat a pepperoni pizza in front of the team as punishment for skipping a practice. The family is suing the school district for violating the student’s First Amendment rights.

The head football coach, Marcus Wattley, allegedly told the boy that if he didn’t eat the pizza, his team mates would be punished. I don’t comprehend this. How can someone live in the U.S. and think forcing a child to violate his faith is anything but abuse? How does someone like Wattley get hired by a public school and entrusted with the welfare of children? Why would any high school have eight assistant football coaches?

If the facts are confirmed in an investigation, more than the coaches should be fired and, one hopes, prosecuted. The principal and other administrators should also be canned. [Pointer: JutGory]

2. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias…The dozens of ways the mainstream media warps the news and manipulates public opinion becomes oppressive once you are sensitized to it. The headline in the Times two days ago, for example, was “GOP Challenges Teaching of Racism’s Scope.” That headline presumes as fact that “Critical Race Theory” and the “1619 Project” fairly and accurately convey “racism’s scope.” “GOP Challenges What It Calls Anti-White, Anti-America Indoctrination In the Schools” would be a neutral headline. Later in the same article, the news story refers to President Trump’s “racist comments, ” which is just a continuation of a narrative build on a media-fueled Big Lie. President Trump made many insensitive, provocative and politically incorrect comments. None were “racist.”

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Evening Ethics Exorcism, 12/2/2020: Boy, I Hate Thinking About This Stuff Before Bed…

pazuzzu

1. This is too stupid to devote a post to, but too stupid to ignore. Some group of wackos calling itself the We the People Convention is advocating that President Trump invoke “limited martial law” and hold a new election by fiat. The group somehow scraped up the money to call for this in a full page Washington Times ad, not that the Times is a particularly prominent newspaper, but it is a conservative one, which I guess is why they thought it was okay to accept money for such junk. It isn’t.

As for the WTPC’s argument, it is based on bad history, bad law, and bad thinking. The press release “explains”:

The Ad compares the Extraordinary Executive actions implemented by President Abraham Lincoln in his efforts to save the Union during the Civil War and the literal civil war that is dividing our nation today. Without full confidence that our courts or Congress will indeed follow the 12th Amendment of the Constitution and defend our electoral process, the ad calls upon President Trump, like Lincoln, to exercise the Extraordinary Powers of his office and declare limited Martial Law to temporarily suspend the Constitution and civilian control of these federal elections in order to have the military implement a national re-vote that reflects the true will of the people.

Cue “Murder by Death”:

What the ad and petition are arguing for is wildly unconstitutional. Lincoln’s various excesses were also unconstitutional and among the most serious abuses of Presidential power in our history, but at least he had an actual Civil War to deal with. There is not, obviously, any “literal” civil war today. If something as unprecedented and nationally disrupting as a voided election and a do-over is going to happen (it won’t), it would have to occur through the courts, which is to say, through the rule of law.

The ridiculous, offensive, reckless and foolish suggestion would have probably received the scant attention it deserved had not, if what I have seem reported is correct, recently-pardoned Mike Flynn and pro-Trump lawyer Linn Wood, who looks and sounds more like Michael Avenatti every day, publicly endorsed it. (Wood is not a member of the Trump legal team, incidentally, though I keep seeing that reported.)

Well, shame on them both, but Flynn is a notorious loose cannon, and Wood, well, is Wood. Their approval won’t make the petition any less ridiculous, and their poor judgement reflects badly on nobody but themselves.

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Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/11/2020: Epstein And Facebook And Barr, Oh My!

It’s Thaturday!

Time, once again, to salute the courage of Karen Carpenter’s much less talented brother Richard, who nonetheless had the courage to offer, as his only notable solo offering for the Carpenters, a song that highlighted his speech impediment. Why did he do this? We’ll never know.

And yes, I have “The Wizard of Oz” on the brain. It was so much better when that wonderful movie was only on TV once  a year: then it was special. Now, especially over the holidays (and what it has to do with Christmas, I don’t know) I had to repeatedly change channels to avoid it. Well, after Judy sang “Over the Rainbow, anyway…

1. Is it really so unreasonable and a “right wing conspiracy theory” to wonder about how Jeffrey Epstein, who could have implicated such powerful people as Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew in criminal activities, ended up dead in his cell?

The latest forehead-slapping development: The video  made outside of Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan jail cell when during his failed suicide attempt seemed to be missing, and even possibly destroyed. The jailhouse video turned up, however, muting suspicions about whether Epstein’s successful  suicide at the Metropolitan Correctional Center wasn’t something more sinister.  Prosecutors confirmed that the video had been saved. This week, however,  prosecutors revealed that the jail staff  had preserved video from the wrong jail cell, and the Epstein footage no longer existed.

Meanwhile, two guards who were on duty when  Epstein killed himself are being charged with falsifying records and conspiracy. The guards surfed the internet and dozed instead of checking on the prisoner every half-hour, as they were required to do.

Conspiracy or not, this is epic incompetence, and rather convenient incompetence at that. Hanlon’s Razor, however, applies. I guess.

My only other observation is that government efficiency and job performance is obviously so reliable that I don’t know why Bernie Sanders isn’t running away with the Democratic nomination race. Of course we should put government employees in charge of our lives. It’s a no-brainer. Continue reading

Evening Ethics Cool-Down, 8/12/2019: Invasion! Exaggeration! Extreme Injustice!

Did you have an ethical day?

Ethics are cool, you know.

(So was Bing…)

1. The New York Times this morning, apparently determined to double down on the deliberately dishonest assertion that El Paso’s Walmart shooter was channeling the sentiments of “right wing pundits” and the President, plastered a tiny print excerpt from the manifesto—which, last I checked, it has still refused to publish in complete or readable form—on the front page, with the word “invasion” highlighted every time it appeared. As I wrote in Part Two of the Ethics Alarms’ post about the screed (and the news media’s unconscionable conspiracy to withhold it from the public while journalists misrepresent its contents…)

“Yes, it is true that both President Trump and the shooter use the term “invasion,” and to many critics this single convergence is sufficient to claim that the President is “responsible” for the El Paso shooting. “Invasion” is a word, not a theory or a philosophy, and the two apply it differently. President Trump has used it to describe illegal immigration, for which it is a defensible, if inflammatory, description.

Describing legal immigration as an invasion is not defensible—invasions are not legal—and is materially different. Ironically, it is the President’s foes, who intentionally refuse to distinguish between the validity of illegal and legal immigration—just like the shooter!—who have spread the lie that the President has called immigration itself “an invasion.”

Invasion is a loaded and pejorative term, but still a fair and accurate one. Illegal immigration advocates don’t like it because the term frames the unlawful migration as destructive and wrong, which it is. The word is not misleading, as the illegal immigration apologists ‘ use of “immigration” to describe illegal immigration, and “immigrants” (or “migrants”) to describe illegals is. Nor is it deceptive, like calling support for ending the lives of unborn children support for “choice,” or calling the President’s statements “racist: when they meet no definition of racism, or calling thge standard law enforcement procedure of separating children from law-breaking parents when the parents have brought their children along as they breached the law, “putting children in cages.” The obsession with “invasion” is both hypocritical and petulant: it’s a more powerful and more accurate framing of an issue than the progressive cover-words. Yesterday a Level-5 Trump-Deranged Facebook friend started using the word “inaction” as a substitute for “The Second Amendment,” “individual rights,” and the refusal to pass useless, symbolic, incremental laws in hopes of eventually reaching gun confiscation—the real objective. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 7/27/19: Updates And News!

Saturday morning came!!

At points yesterday I was beginning to have doubts…

1. A win’s a win, and right is right, but the ACLU outs itself again.  In the wake of the SCOTUS 5-4 decision to let stand the executive order reallocating funds for a wall to address the national emergency at the border and allow construction to commence, the ACLU flagged its own bias (though it is supposed to be non-partisan) by referring to the wall in a statement as “xenophobic.”

Its lawsuit was based on alleged environmental harm risked by the wall’s construction, but the use of that word, a deliberately dishonest characterization that can only mean an endorsement of open borders , proves that the lawsuit is a sham, using environmental concerns to mask a pro-illegal immigration agenda, which most of the public opposes….as they should.

Merits of the wall aside, the game Democrats are playing with this issue, calling for undefined “comprehensive immigration reform” while opposing enforcement and refusing to recognize a genuine emergency to keep the President from a political victory, is electoral suicide. (Yet most of the field of Democratic challengers have endorsed decriminalization of border breaching, which is like an invitation to invade. Madness. Even Hispanic-Americans oppose this.)

A blind pig can find a truffle or two, and on this existential issue, the President has law, history, sovereignty, the national interest and common sense on his side.

2.  A clueless harasser gets a second chance.   Neil deGrasse Tyson, the pop-culture astrophysicist who leads the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, has been cleared to continue in his job  after the museum competed  an investigation into three sexual misconduct accusations against him. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/10/19: On Chaos, Pots, Bigotry, Hate Speech And Proving the Obvious.

GOOD MORNING!

And hang in there, David.

1. Ethics and Mortality.  My first harsh experience with the random cruelty of life came in 1967, when Red Sox slugger Tony Conigliaro, young, handsome, dating Hollywood starlets, playing for his hometown team and already a local idol while looking like a cinch to have a glorious Hall of Fame career, was hit in the face by an errant fastball thrown by Angels pitcher Jack Hamilton. That moment violently changed the course of Tony C’s  life, which ended with him in a semi-conscious state at the age of 45 after suffering a catastrophic heart attack seven years earlier that left him brain-damaged and disabled. I get choked up every time I think about Tony, but his tragedy taught me hard lessons. Don’t be smug; don’t get cocky. Do all the good you can and make the most of your life as quickly as you can, because random disaster can strike at any time.

I’m not sure that I needed to have that lesson refreshed, especially since it was also a cornerstone of my father’s philosophy that included refusing to worry about what he could not control. Nevertheless, last night came the news that David Ortiz, Red Sox Nation’s beloved “Big Papi,” had been shot in the back in his home town of Santo Domingo.  The assailant was apparently a motorcycle-riding thief (whom bystanders mobbed and held for the police—don’t you love it when that happens?). So far the news on David is promising, but the bullet pierced his stomach and damaged his liver, gall bladder and colon.

Prior to the attack, it would have been difficult to imagine anyone with a better life than Ortiz. He was still young, rich, with a thriving and stable family, recognized everywhere, and universally admired and loved as a symbol of unity and community. Ortiz’s biggest problem, he said in an interview last year, was deciding among the many attractive options  open to him in baseball, business, philanthropy, broadcasting and entertainment.

Well, he’s got bigger problems now.

I just saw an internet poll in which only 54% of the responders knew who David Ortiz is. I wonder how many know about Tony Conigliaro.

I’m depressed now.

2. When trying to defeat Kettle, running Pot may not be the ideal choice. One of the most common mantras of the Trump Deranged is that the President lies so much. One would think, would one not, that this theme would make it incumbent upon those trying to defeat the incumbent to keep their own public lies, hypocrisies and misrepresentations to a minimum. This, apparently, they cannot do.

For a while there the New York Times appeared to have chosen Senator Kamala Harris as its favored candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination, but the paper shows signs of  concluding, as any objective observer should by now, that she is a loser. Harris also does not have a friendly relationship with facts, as a recent Times “factcheck” of her recent statements on the stump demonstrated.

They didn’t find that any recent contentious substantive statement by Harris were true. They did find that three statements were “misleading” and one was an “exaggeration” (when the Times purported to list all of Trump’s mendacities, fudges, fantasies, exaggerations and misleading statements were referred to as “lies”), but this one they didn’t bother to spin: Harris had tweeted,

“Members of our military have already given so much. Raiding money from their pensions to fund the President’s wasteful vanity project is outrageous. Our service members deserve better.”

This is false, sayeth the Times:

“To build his border wall without the approval of Congress, Mr. Trump will draw from an account for military construction projects, a Treasury Department forfeiture fund and a Pentagon drug interdiction program. He has not announced plans to “raid” military pensions.”

To be fair, most of the Democratic field has been lying at a prodigious rate.

3.  Shut up, RBG. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s  remarks at a judges conference in New York last week included praise for rookie Justice Kavanaugh for hiring only women for his team of law clerks.  “Justice Kavanaugh made history by bringing on board an all-female law clerk crew. Thanks to his selections, the Court has this Term, for the first time ever, more women than men serving as law clerks,” she said.

Wow, that’s excellent progress, since we all know that men are toxic, rape-prone, violent,  sex-obsessed blights on humanity, as, in fact, Kavanaugh was accused of being at his confirmation by Justice Ginsburg’s fervent supporters. Kavanaugh’s hiring choices appear to have been grandstanding and pandering to the admirers of RBG who called him a sexual predator.  Ginsburg’s comments are bigoted. Why is having women rather than men as clerks intrinsically  wonderful?

4. Again: Progressives neither understand nor support the First Amendment. At last week’ s California Democratic Party Convention, Resolution 19-05.94 read as follows…

WHEREAS, Protecting First Amendment rights is critical, but is also limited to exclude hate speech using the concept that offending statements first should be viewed through the lens of the party experiencing the hate, and that Jews, LatinX, African-American, Asian Pacific Islander, Muslims, Disabilities and LGBTI communities can be targets of oppression and hate speech for a variety of reasons.

It is fair to say that we have been sufficiently warned that progressives believe that only they are qualified to define “hate speech,” which includes, for example , “Make America Great Again” and “The Triumph of the Will,” as well as, to generalize, any speech they find inconvenient.  Such an exception in the First Amendment would permit the Left to muzzle dissent and opposition using the iron boot of the law…which is exactly what they seem to want to do.

Serious question: How can anyone in their right mind trust these people?

5. Just musing here...but is it ethical to spend scarce research funds to prove what is, or should be, obvious? I know, I know: lots of conventional wisdom is wrong, so many things that “everybody knows” turn out to be false when researchers look closely. Still—does the fact that dog-owners get more exercise than those without dogs really need independent confirmation? If I don’t take my Jack Russell Terrier, Rugby, out for a good 45 minute walk, he will do everything short of pulling a gun on me to exact his revenge. (My previous Jack, Dickens, did pull a gun on me once. I’m not kidding.)

Another recent study revealed the shocking conclusion that people who are attractive and conventionally good-looking have an automatic advantage in all aspects of social interaction over those who are not attractive or disfigured. Is there anyone on Earth who doesn’t know that? Beautiful people know it, and rely on it. Ugly people know it because they experience the bias every day.

 

Bleary-Eyed Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/12/2019: Omar, Warren, Hillary, Morrissey, And Bradley/Chelsea

good morning.

The previous time I traveled, I couldn’t get to sleep in the hotel ( as usual) until the early morning hours, and the hotel neglected to give me a wake-up call. I woke up two hours late and almost missed my engagement. Last night I couldn’t sleep (and this is a terrific hotel), finally got to sleep around 5 am…and my wake-up call came 30 minutes early. When I ignored it, the staff knocked on the door to see if I was dead…still before the time I had requested for a wake-up.

1. Facebook being Facebook. The social media giant doesn’t just censor Ethics Alarms, it censors Elizabeth Warren. Facebook removed several ads that Senator. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign published on the its platform. The ads promoted the Massachusetts Senator’s proposals to break up tech company monopolies like Facebook. The company quickly back-tracked when it got the obvious reaction for such ham-handed suppression of dissent, and claimed that it was all a big mistake. The ads were restored, it said, in the interests of “vigorous debate.”

Sure. Why am I still on Facebook?

2. Certainly we respect your moral objections to the law, Chelsea. And we expect you to respect the fact that you have to go to jail. Chelsea Manning, who in her previous incarnation as Bradley Manning committed treason by sending classified documents to Wikileaks, endangering U.S. personnel and aiding its enemies. Now she is defying a judge and refusing to testify before a grand jury despite having been given immunity, on the grounds that she has a “moral objection” to grand jury secrecy. Manning, who has never been the sharpest knife in the drawer, is not a lawyer, is not a philosopher, and as a traitor (whose prison sentence was commuted by President Obama), her assessment of what is moral or ethical should carry as much weight as R. Kelly’s endorsement of women’s rights. Grand jury secrecy is essential to the justice system, of course. A judge has said that Manning will stay in jail until she testifies, and since she ought to be in jail anyway, let’s hope she maintains her “moral” stand. In reality, she is likely to only stay jailed until the grand jury is through, which will be 18 months. Pity. Continue reading

The Kamala Harris-Willie Brown Saga (That The News Media Wants You To Think Doesn’t Matter)-UPDATED

( A missing link to the “Truth or Fiction” site has been added.)

Enter this one under “Tales of Media Double Standards For Hypocritical Democratic Presidential Contenders Aren’t Elizabeth Warren.”

The mainstream news media has anointed Kamala Harris as one of its favorite Democrats, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see much objective or accurate analysis about her unethical relationship with Willie Brown while he was Mayor of San Francisco.  (Harris also appears to be on the road to dinging herself irrespective of this problem.) Watch a progressive “factcheck” site try to spin the Brown connection:try to spin the Brown connection:

Accusations that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) had an affair with a married man have hovered around her since the 2000s, back when Harris first made a run for public office.

These rumors stem from a relationship Harris had with former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, but what it had to do with the beginning of her political career has been largely misrepresented.

Kamala Harris was elected to serve as the district attorney of San Francisco in 2003. In 2010, she was elected to serve as California’s state attorney general. Harris held that role office until she was elected to the United States Senate in November 2016.

Throughout her career, rumors that Harris had an affair with a married man (Willie Brown) and used it to launch her political career, have followed. We’ll take a look at the facts and provide a brief overview of the situation.

The Kamala Harris-Willie Brown connection

Kamala Harris and Willie Brown had a relationship in the mid 1990s. At the time, Harris was working as an attorney in various city offices. Brown, who is nearly 30 years older than Harris, had been elected mayor after serving in the state legislature for more than 30 years.

Willie Brown has led an eccentric, outspoken life, and his exploits with women have been well-documented. In 2001, news broke that Brown had impregnated his top fundraiser, for example. However, the claim that Kamala Harris had “an affair” with Brown, implying not only that they had a relationship but that it was furtive and seedy, doesn’t check out.

It’s true that Brown has technically been married since 1958. However, Brown and his wife separated amicably in 1982 — more than 10 years before his relationship with Harris began — according to a 1984 New York Times profile of Brown.

So again, claims that Kamala Harris had an affair with a married man just don’t check out.

Did Kamala Harris use her relationship with Brown to launch her political career?

Kamala Harris and Willie Brown made no effort to hide their relationship in the early 1990s. When Harris first ran for public office in 2003, long after the relationship ended, her previous relationship with Brown didn’t help her chances — it actually hurt them.

Harris’ opponents, incumbent District Attorney Terence Hallinan and local attorney Bill Fazio, turned her previous relationship with Brown into a campaign issue, arguing that Harris could not be trusted to hold Brown accountable as DA because they had been previously involved.

…Brown himself leapt into the fray in late January 2019 with a brief commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle just after Harris announced that she would be running for president, appearing to take credit for helping start her career:

“Yes, we dated. It was more than 20 years ago. Yes, I may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions when I was Assembly speaker. And I certainly helped with her first race for district attorney in San Francisco. I have also helped the careers of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and a host of other politicians. The difference is that Harris is the only one who, after I helped her, sent word that I would be indicted if I “so much as jaywalked” while she was D.A. That’s politics for ya.”

Is this a masterpiece of obfuscation and spin, or what? Wow. Let’s look at a few details: Continue reading