Lunch Time Ethics Appetizer, 2/13/2019: Rail, Restaurants, Resignation And Reality

Yum Yum!

1. When reality meets ideology… California Gov. Gavin Newsom  announced that

[He’s] abandoning a $77 billion plan to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco and will focus instead on completing a 119-mile (190-kilometer) segment in the state’s agricultural heartland. Voters approved a ballot measure in 2008 calling for the linking of Northern and Southern California, a rail project initially estimated to cost $33 billion and be completed in 2020. Subsequent estimates more than doubled the cost and pushed the timeline to 2033. Newsom pledged to finish the segment already under construction through California’s Central Valley. He rejected the idea critics have raised that it will be a “train to nowhere” and said it can help revitalize the economically depressed region.

We’ll see how much that part costs, if it’s ever completed. Meanwhile, Democrats are going to have to declare their fealty to the “Green New Deal,” which pledges to eliminate air travel nation-wide with “high speed rail.”

2. What part of “convenient double standards” is unclear to you? Kelli Goff writes at the Daily Beast (relayed by Ann Althouse, since I have the DB on my Ethics Alarms  Untrustworthy Black List):

“When Rachel Dolezal was unmasked as a white woman who misrepresented her racial and ethnic identity in part to bolster her professional bona fides as a voice of the disenfranchised, she was penalized—heavily. She went from rising media star to late-night punchline, unemployable and impoverished. I don’t wish poverty on Warren, but I don’t understand how her only punishment for a similar fraud seems to be that she may become president.”

Warren, a polished demagogue, got rave reviews for her recent speech throwing her war-bonnet  into the 2020 ring; like Barack Obama, skillful public speaking is the full extent of her qualifications for leadership. But wow—with the Democrats more or less trapped into nominating another woman to run against Donald Trump, what an awful field of openly unethical females they have assembled so far! Warren’s a fraud; Gillibrand is an anti-male bigot; Gabbard is running away from strong anti-gay positions, Harris has attacked the Catholic faith as a disqualifying feature for a judge, and then there’s Hillary, who looks outstanding in this field. Continue reading

Death By Hypocrisy

Fake Newseum…

Johns Hopkins is buying the Newseum building in Washington, D.C., ending a depressing saga. The Freedom Forum, which ran the failed institution, made predictable brave statements about soldiering on, but the Newseum is dead, and deserved to die.

It is tragic, however. There should be a museum in the nation’s Capital chronicling the history of Freedom of the Press in America: John Peter Zenger, Nellie Bly, Horace Greeley, Hearst, Woodward and Bernstein, New York Times v. Sullivan, the Pentagon papers, the Boston Globe’s exposure of the Catholic Church child molestation cover-up and so much more. The problem is that today’s journalists no longer believe in or can be trusted to practice the kind of journalism that the Newseum celebrated, but had to pretend they did or the place would be more of a memorial than a museum.

Here , for example, was a laughable section, since removed, from 2009—you know, after the news media mugged John McCain, attacked Sarah Palin relentlessly for lacking “qualifications” to be Vice President while coronating Barack Obama, whose qualifications for the Presidency were far fewer, and generally acted as part of the Democratic Party’s campaign organization because electing a black President justified abandoning all objectivity and independence: Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Andrew Sullivan

I understand now: if someone beats a drum inches from my face and insults me, and I just stand there, I’m taunting HIM. My mistake. I did not know that….

“To put it bluntly: They were 16-year-olds subjected to verbal racist assault by grown men; and then the kids were accused of being bigots. It just beggars belief that the same liberals who fret about “micro-aggressions” for 20-somethings were able to see 16-year-olds absorbing the worst racist garbage from religious bigots … and then express the desire to punch the kids in the face. How did this grotesque inversion of the truth become the central narrative for what seemed to be the entire class of elite journalists on Twitter? That’s the somewhat terrifying question.”

—Andrew Sullivan, in “The Abyss of Hate Versus Hate” in New York Magazine.

He goes on…

Ruth Graham on Slate saw a 16-year-old she’d seen on a tape for a couple of minutes and immediately knew that he was indistinguishable from the “white young men crowding around a single black man at a lunch counter sit-in in Virginia in the 1960s” or other white “high school boys flashing Nazi salutes.” Even after the full context was clear, Graham refused to apologize to the kid, or retract her condemnation: The context didn’t “change the larger story” which, she explained, was bigotry toward Native Americans. She cited Trump’s use of the name “Pocahontas” for Elizabeth Warren as evidence. But using a bullhorn to call Native Americans “savages” and “drunkards at the casino” to their faces a few minutes earlier on the same tape was not worth a mention?

Graham was just one media voice among countless others, and I don’t mean to single her out. The reason I do is because her argument about the fuller context is now the norm in elite media, and it’s the underlying reason for the instant judgment. “Racism” now only means “prejudice plus power,” so what the adult Black Israelites yelled was nowhere near as bad as what a white teenager didn’t say. No empirical evidence could ever deny that underlying truth, as a piece at Deadspin insisted, after admitting that, well yes, there were “four black men who seem to belong to the Black Israelites … yelling insults.” No mention of the content of those insults, of course.

Across most of the national media, led by the New York Times and the Washington Post, the narrative had been set. “I’m willing to bet that fifty years from now, a defining image of this political era will be that smug white MAGA teen disrespecting a Native elder and veteran. It just captures so much,” Jessica Valenti tweeted. “And let’s please not forget that this group of teens … were there for the March for Life: There is an inextricable link between control over women’s bodies, white supremacy & young white male entitlement.” This is the orthodoxy of elite media, and it is increasingly the job of journalists to fit the facts to the narrative and to avoid any facts that undermine it.

There’s a reason why, in the crucial battle for the legitimacy of a free press, Trump is still on the offensive. Our mainstream press has been poisoned by tribalism. My own trust in it is eroding. I’m far from the only one.

Continue reading

Ethics Hero, Covington Catholic Students Fake News: Dusty Smith

Who is Dusty Smith? That’s him above. He’s a pundit, activist and atheist who runs the “Humanist Society of Mississippi, ” is a self-proclaimed progressive, and detests Donald Trump. Unlike so many progressives and Trump-Haters however, truth and integrity still mean something to him. Thus it is that after initially reacting in knee-jerk, Pavlovian fashion to a false news story that seemed to bolster all sorts of mainstream news media, 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, “resistance” narratives—Catholics are bad, white males are toxic, whites are racists, Trump supporters are racists, pro-life advocates are fools, “The Age of Trump” has energized racism, just to name a few—-he actually reviewed the evidence, and realized that the story was, in his words, “bullshit.” He was disgusted, and made this video…

Nice job, Dusty.

His is one of many examinations of this fiasco emerging on the web now, not that it has discouraged many on social media from still citing the original story so they can signal to their “Orange Man Bad” friends that the posteris right-thinking and virtuous and deserves  a tsunami of “likes” and  “loves.” I bear an ugly truth:  there is no excuse for this. It is irresponsible, incompetent, and destructive. You don’t denigrate a kid and paint a target on his back…

Reza Aslan

@rezaaslan

Honest question. Have you ever seen a more punchable face than this kid’s?

…without being damn certain of your facts. (Actually, you never paint a target on a kid’s back, but let’s start with baby steps, since Trump-Hate has eaten so many consciences and ethics alarms.) Oh, but these kids were wearing MAGA hats, so they deserve it, right? That was the instant approach of the biased journalists and their inexcusably credulous readers, who then joined the social media mobs. It is not just because I was suspicious of the story from the beginning that I state now that everyone should have smelled a rat. After all, just the day before, the mainstream media whipped itself into an impeachment orgy based on a fake “bombshell” from the internet equivalent of the National Enquirer, BuzzFeed. Nor was that the first clue (or the hundredth)  that the media can’t be trusted, particularly when it comes to conservatives and MAGA hats. Journalists have disgraced themselves progressively (in both definitions of the word)  since at least the 2008 Presidential campaign; they cannot be trusted, and their abdication of ethical journalism now poses a direct threat to democracy. The members of the public who eagerly accepted the attack on the Covington school kids as fact aided and abetted divisive propaganda that they want to be true.

Writes Marta Hernandez about this incident in part at Victory Girls (which I am adding today to the Ethics Alarms links): Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Round-Up, 1/20/2019: Blogging Angry

Yeeee-hah!

I’ve been angry all day about the absolute perfidy and vicious dishonesty of the news media, magnified by the hate-fed gullibility of my friends on social media. I wanted to wait until my fury subsided before composing the warm-up. No luck.

1. The most egregious example of incompetent, biased, mob journalism yet? Meh. That story of how online left-wing gossip site BuzzFeed concocted a fake report that suggested impeachable conduct by Donald Trump, and how it was accepted without question by the mainstream media which spent all day feeding a buzz about imminent impeachment until the Mueller investigation had to make a public announcement that the story was crap? The New York Times had it on page 11. The original false story, of course, was on the front page, above the fold. Just for giggles, I checked to see what Rachel Maddow was saying at MSNBC, since she is supposed to be the Best of the Worst, and MSNBC had been reveling in a virtual impeachment orgy. I guess she has been learning at the knee of Al Sharpton; maybe his office is next to hers. She went full Tawana Brawley. Rachel’s spin was that just because this didn’t happen doesn’t mean it couldnt have happened, because we all know that Trump should be impeached and thus this doesn’t really change anything. Then she brought on the editor of BuzzFeed who told her audience that he stands by his story.

I’ve been feeling a lot like Cassandra lately. Long ago I concluded that Maddow was a charismatic fraud, smug and pursuing an agenda, and completely untrustworthy. “Oh no!” protested several of my moderate and progressive friends in the ethics field. She’s wonderful! Funny! Fair! Never biased!

One reason I’m angry is that so many of my friends have allowed themselves and their integrity to be corrupted. I expected better of them. Maddow is an ethics corrupter.

2. Then there was the Catholic schoolboy in the MAGA hat. This was a flash Ethics Train wreck I stumbled upon it on Facebook: one of my friends there posted a CNN link with a video about an ugly episode after the March for Life in which a group of Catholic school teens wearing MAGA hats harassed and mocked an elderly Native American man who was engaged in some kind of religious ritual. In response to a comment, my friend wrote that this was one more ugly example of what the current “racist environment” had created—in other words, it’s all Trump’s fault. Since the guy is in a profession in which integrity as well as objective and unbiased consideration of facts is part of the job description, I felt this cheap shot was not only unwarranted but misleading to others who might regard him as more than just the usual Facebook goof, and so I noted that a) wearing a Trump campaign cap doesn’t make you racist and b) because someone misbehaves wearing a Trump hat no more implicates him than wearing a Boston Red Sox cap implicated Alex Cora. His response was to write me a terse note demanding that I not comment on his edicts, and then he blocked me.

That turned out to be just  the beginning. I hadn’t followed it, but the story turned out to be yet another manufactured fake news story in support of an anti-Trump narrative. The video was deceptively edited. The Native American Man confronted the kids, not the other way around, and a couple of them smirked at the old wacko beating a drum in their faces. He turned out to be a serial activist who had pulled such stunts before, trying to provoke confrontations. He, it turned out, was mocking the boys, not the other way around. Meanwhile, a radical Black Nationalist group was also shouting at the kids. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/19/19: It’s Fake News Day!

Welcome to the Ethics Alarms Dead Zone!

Increasingly, almost nobody comes here on Saturdays. For me, Saturday is when I have time to catch up on ethics issues, and that’s fun for me. Everybody else doesn’t find ethics fun? How strange…

1. Another day, another fake news story designed to thrill and energize the “resistance.” BuzzFeed published a “bombshell” about Michael Cohen, that impeccably reliable witness, telling investigators that President Trump instructed him to lie to Congress about his pre-election hotel plans—odd that, since there is nothing illegal about planning to build a hotel in Moscow. Without checking sources, without considering the media source’s record of those of the reporters (one of whom has a well-documented pattern of making stuff up), the mainstream media was off to the impeachment races, with CNN and MSNBC in particular talking about almost nothing else all day.  Then, as the day edged into evening, the Mueller investigation dropped its own bombshell, taking the remarkable step of declaring the BuzzFeed story a lot of hooey.  Some pundits on the Right who trust today’s incompetent news media as much as I do even suggested that BuzzFeed knew its claim was false all along, but were confident that nobody could prove it except the Mueller investigation itself, and of course it would never speak up. The same logic was behind Clifford Irving’s Howard Hughes autobiography hoax (Irving assumed that the reclusive Hughes would never come forward to expose him—but he did.)

The Daily Caller quickly compiled a list of eleven previous botched news reports related to the “collusion” narrative, and it was not all of them by any means. I haven’t checked, but I am quite sure that there were not this many mainstream media headline-generating news stories that proved to be false in the past ten Presidencies combined. What will it take for the industry to declare its performance a crisis? What will it take for even the “resistance” to conclude that their pals the journalists are hacks? Blogger Ann Althouse is so disgusted that she has taken to drawing rat cartoons and diagramming the sentences in anti-Trump screeds. “How embarrassing for the Trump haters,” she writes. “I didn’t even write about the BuzzFeed story myself. I’m so jaded about the latest impeachment bait.”

Why isn’t everybody? It isn’t just bias that makes you stupid. Hate makes you stupid too. Worse than that, it makes you LOOK stupid.

Entertaining accounts of the BuzzFeed fiasco are here and here. Continue reading

The New York Times Puts Another Fake “Collusion” Scoop On Its Front Page

This was going to be my headline, but I decided it was too long:

You Know, When This Is All Over, Probably In 2024, American Journalism Will Look Like Post-Bomb Hiroshima, Except The Profession Will Have Done It To Themselves”

And I’m getting bored with “Nah, there’s no mainstream news media bias,” since I have occasion to use it so often, but then, that’s the point, isn’t it?

Yesterday, the left hand column above the fold of my daily Times, delivered to my door, screamed out,

It continued:

As a top official in President Trump’s campaign, Paul Manafort shared political polling data with a business associate tied to Russian intelligence, according to a court filing unsealed on Tuesday. The document provided the clearest evidence to date that the Trump campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russians during the 2016 presidential race.

I know, and you know, that this sent the “resistance,” and Democrats, and all my hateful, coup-seeking Facebook friends and yours into a frenzy.  The news media too, that an old friend and Ethics Alarms self-exile whose name I won’t use (though I sure am tempted) repeatedly insisted wasn’t biased or “enemies of the people” —how could I suggest such a thing?–and that didn’t traffic in fake news because they were careful, honest, trustworthy professionals of integrity. Here’s an example of how they reacted to the Times story:

Exclusive: Mueller Is Holding Top Secret Intelligence That Will Sink the Trump Presidency

That’s from the Observor, which breathlessly continues,

Another day, another bombshell emanating from the Special Counsel investigation into President Donald Trump and his links to the Kremlin. We now have more proof that Robert Mueller really does know everything about 2016—and I can exclusively tell you how he knows it.

This latest reveal comes from a legal screw-up of gargantuan proportions. Yesterday, attorneys for Paul Manafort, the president’s disgraced campaign manager for the decisive phase of the 2016 election, filed papers with the Justice Department trying to prevent their client from spending the rest of his life in a federal penitentiary. They asserted that Manafort did not lie to Team Mueller, as the Special Counsel believes, but in the process, they made an epic redaction fail that blows the case wide open.

Manafort’s lawyers accidentally revealed that Team Mueller believes—and Manafort confirmed—that their client shared campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, one of Manafort’s closest friends and a longtime business partner. Moreover, Manafort conceded, he had discussed a “Ukraine peace plan” with Kilimnik “on more than one occasion.” Worst of all, Manafort met with Kilimnik in Madrid to discuss these matters, he admitted, without saying when (Manafort’s spokesman later stated the Madrid meeting was in January or February 2017).

Once you know who Konstantin Kilimnik is, the gravity of these revelations comes into clear focus. The elusive Russian fixer was indicted by Team Mueller last June on obstruction of justice charges for assisting Manafort with witness tampering; previously, the Special Counsel described Kilimnik as having “ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016.”

The story is still up online, as are many similar ones from other “reliable sources.” Then, quietly, well into yesterday afternoon, the Times put out a tiny correction:

A previous version of this article misidentified the people to whom Paul Manafort wanted a Russian associate to send polling data. Mr. Manafort wanted the data sent to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, not Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin.

In other words, “Never mind!”

Yes, we all know that Manafort had business contacts with the Ukranians, but Mueller isn’t investigating what the Ukraine did or didn’t do to influence the 2016 election.  Well, come on now, Ukraine, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Whateverstan—who can keep those old Soviet Union countries straight? They’re all basically the same, right?

Yup, “the clearest evidence to date that the Trump campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russians during the 2016 presidential race” is a completely false story, in place of the actual story that didn’t belong on any front page, except maybe the All About Paul Manafort Hooterville Gazette. Except this was the New York Times, the Mother Ship, the ne plus ultra of trustworthy American journalism, and yet they rushed a fake story onto the front page because confirmation bias has eaten the professionalism of their reporters and editors,  and they hate Donald Trump more than they respect their profession or their readers.

Am I being too harsh?

No.

Indeed, I should be harsher, but this astoundingly long-running outrage had drained my capacity.

Oh, how they want President Trump to be guilty of impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors!  I’m sure they’ll wag their tails and jump into the laps of Tlaib and Waters and the other totalitarian-minded Democrats when they try to impeach the elected President of the U.S., aka “the motherfucker,” for simply existing and not being them, but they so want the impeachment to be based on something real so the coup has some cover. Thus they close their eyes and leap, knowing their progressive, biassed readers will be happy, without expending the basic professionalism and due diligence required to get me a B in Mr. Stewart’s journalism class at Arlington High School.

Of course American journalism itself is accountable for its self-defilement, though its members and co-conspirators will doubtless say that Trump makes them behave like a two-bit Pravda. The real culprits, however, are the democracy-rending fake Americans who have set out to undermine our system, elections, politics and government, and are begging for ammunition from the weak and lazy reporters who have betrayed the nation by joining their ranks.