Trump Tweets: The Movies

Stipulated: the ethics position here has been since long before the Trump years that Presidents should keep their opinions of persons, places, things and events having nothing to do with their duties or responsibilities to themselves.

Presidents are not kings, nor popes, nor universal authorities on everything. They have a role to fill, and they should fill it; it’s not like there should be plenty of time left over for weighing in on such matters as sports, popular culture, celebrities, and local controversies.

President Obama did far more of this than was responsible or good for the country, notably during race-related controversies. President Trump, obviously, has taken this misuse of his position into the stratosphere with his addiction to Twitter. His unrestrained tweets have done him at least as much harm as good; my own guess is that if he eschewed social media, his approval ratings would be 10% higher than they are.

It is also, I think, beyond argument that Trump’s use of Twitter guarantees that future Presidents will also use it to opine on matters that are none of their business. This is not a good thing.

The President’s latest self-made controversy, actually two controversies, came when he tweeted in part last week,

“How bad were the Academy Awards this year? Did you see? And the winner is: a movie from South Korea. What the hell was that all about? We’ve got enough problems with South Korea, with trade. On top of it, they give them the best movie of the year? Was it good? I don’t know? I’m looking for — where? — can we get ‘Gone with the Wind’ back please? ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ So many great movies. The winner is: from South Korea. I thought it was Best Foreign Film. Best Foreign Movie. No. Has this ever happened before? …”

And then he went off on Brad Pitt’s gratuitous crack about John Bolton. Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Week: President Donald J. Trump.

As readers here know, flat learning curves on the part of leaders, and certainly Presidents, drive me crazy. Leadership is hard, and the leader who refuses to learn the right lessons when his or her conduct when a particular act or decision has disastrous results is  seriously and perhaps irreparably flawed, as well as untrustworthy.

President Trump has displayed so many flat learning curves in his tenure as President that is tempting to say that refusing to learn from mistakes and disasters is a conscious stylistic choice. Or perhaps that’s not what’s going on; perhaps the problem is not flat-learning curves, but rather the President’s well-established recklessness, his what the hell attitude that no matter what he does, he’ll come through it all right. In this latter interpretation, he has learned, but the wrong lessons.

At this point, I barely care. The problem, whatever it stems from results in incompetence. Like his idiotic tweet about the members of “the Squad” going “back where they came from,” teeing up the “Trump is a racist” ball for all of his foes; like the still ongoing controversy about his trivial statement about a hurricane hitting Alabama,;like his provocative bravado during the 9/11 commemoration reviving his disputed boast about going personally to Ground Zero, like too many careless and embarrassing appointments to list, this latest fiasco was a self-inflicted wound that was completely needless and yet has real, serious, potential consequences….like making people wonder how wise and safe it is to be governed by an executive who presides over perpetual ineptitude, laziness, and stupidity. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/15/2019: Opinions, Ethical And Not

It’s a glorious day here in Northern Virginia!

Makes me feel like things are looking up, even though they probably aren’t.

1. I refer you to the most recent post about “the resistance’s” arsenal of big lies. specifically Big Lie #5, “Everything is terrible.” In the Times’ Sunday Review section, usually a resistance nest to one degree or another, though less so in recent months, Trump Deranged Times columnist Michelle Goldberg offers a long essay beginning with the assumption that current day America is a dystopian society. How does she justify this ridiculous assertion? Referencing the science fiction novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in which women in the U.S. “are stripped of their identities and consigned to reproductive slavery for the elite.” Goldberg writes,

“It’s hardly surprising that in 2016 the book resonated with people — particularly women — stunned that a brazen misogynist, given to fascist rhetoric and backed by religious fundamentalists, was taking power despite the wishes of the majority of the population.”

I especially like the “despite the wishes of the majority of the population” part, but the whole statement is dishonest  agitprop. Nobody “took power;” an election took place under Constitutional constraints. Goldberg cannot possibly gauge the “wishes” of the majority, since, as usual, the majority didn’t feel sufficiently concerned about the Presidential election’s outcome to bother to vote, meaning they didn’t “wish” for either candidate to win with enough seriousness or commitment to be  part  of any persuasive analysis. Meanwhile, the President was elected according to the system the United States has operated under since its inception. And describing Trump, who is about as religious as most recent Presidents, which is to say, not at all, was “backed by religious fundamentalists” is as accurate as saying that Barack Obama was backed by anti-white racists.

Read the whole stupid thing. It is irresponsible for a legitimate newspaper to publish such crap, but no more so than for one to employ a biased disinformation specialist like Goldberg as a regular contributor.

2. Once again, Andrew Sullivan finds his way toward calling out unethical journalism. In a recent essay for New York Magazine, the occasionally conservative, gay, religious, emotional but determined truth-teller—as he sees it, anyway—declares  the New York Times a publication that has abandoned journalism for activism.

Two quick reactions: a) Ya think, Sherlock? and b) THIS was your first clue?

He concludes strongly, though, writing, “To present a truth as the truth is in fact a deception. And it is hard to to trust a paper engaged in trying to deceive its readers in order for its radical reporters and weak editors to transform the world.”

Hard? The right word is “irresponsible.”

Related: This excellent essay by Peter Wood expounds further on the duplicity of the Times’ much heralded “1619 Project.” Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/3/19: Lies and Ridiculous Lies

Bad day, right from the start.

An old friend, and one of my favorite people in the world, just suffered a terrible tragedy, one of those random, devastating, lightning strikes to the heart. He is much loved, and will be hearing from many, including me, once I figure out what to say. I’m always flummoxed in such situations, hating to mouth platitudes (I’m so sorry for your loss), but unable to think of anything more helpful.

1. The Washington Post factchecker is trying to be non-partisan again. I wonder how long it will last this time? He gave Cory Booker four Pinnochio’s for his statement during the last debate, “We lost the state of Michigan because everybody from Republicans to Russians were targeting the suppression of African American voters.”

That one missed the cut in the Ethics Alarms post. It is a complete lie, absolutely baseless. It is exactly as false and irresponsible as President Trump’s claim, unmoored to anything but wild speculation that widespread voter fraud cost him California. That, of course, was roundly mocked and condemned by some of the same pundits who are rooting for Booker.

Glenn Kessler explains in his article that there are absolutely no facts that support Booker’s claim. It is just made up. No data exists that indicate that Russian social media hi-jinks cost Clinton votes in Michigan, or anywhere, for that matter, much less the thousands of votes needed to flip the state. Nor does Michigan have any new measures that that would have suppressed African American voters. Indeed Clinton lost because the African American turn-out was not as strong as 2012, but that was expected, and the fall-off was approximately what was predicted. Kessler concludes, “[W]e could not find any specific examples of new laws enacted between 2012 and 2016 that could have reduced African American turnout. In fact, the Republican governor in 2012 vetoed a bill that would have required a photo ID for absentee voting.”

The worst thing  about Donald Trump, we are told, is that he habitually makes statements like Cory Booker’s. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms “Presidential Flat Learning Curve” Files…

Sitting on the sidelines watching the party that has been calling him a traitor, a liar, an imbecile and a Nazi for over three years explode into self-destructive but nicely revealing internecine, generational, ideological warfare, with key leaders calling each other racists and other uncomplimentary things, President Donald J. Trump decided that the most responsible course was for him to tweet this:

This is gross incompetence and stupidity.

I did like the Red State headline regarding this inexplicably self-destructive behavior:

“As Democrats Fight a Civil War, Trump Strips Naked and Runs Onto the Battlefield.”

 

Afternoon Ethics Cool-Down, 2/28/18: Honors, Bribes, Blackmail, And “Ugh!”

Good Afternoon.

Actually, that’s dishonest: it’s been a terrible day, morn to now.. A catalogue retailer took an email address my wife sent them a year ago and  bombarded her account with hundreds of promotional messages yesterday, crashing her email. Then her efforts to fix the problem resulted in a Proethics system email crash that I have been trying to address for the past five hours. I finally decided to get something productive done, so I’m getting up this post while talking to my tech people. UPDATE: They just gave up.

1 Trump Tweets. Ugh. The President criticizing his own Cabinet member, in this case Jeff Sessions, in public via tweet, is horrific leadership and management practice. If I were Sessions, I would resign, It is disrespectful, disloyal, undermines morale on the President’s team, and is just plain stupid. I don’t understand how Trump had any success at all treating employees and subordinates like this. While we’re on this perpetual subject. the fact that the President would say out loud that he would have rushed the Parkland shooter without a weapon is just more evidence of a) a flat learning curve b) the lack of the usual filters from brain to mouth and c) the unethical tendency of third parties to critique the actions of others in rescue situations. No question: the resource officer who was required by policy, assignment and duty to try to intervene in the shooting deserves all the criticism he has been getting, and is accountable. But the President of the United States announcing that he is Batman is something else entirely.

My objections to the non-stop personal ridicule of our elected leader stands, but he also has a duty, as the steward of the Office, not to make himself look ridiculous.

2. An unethical boycott tactic, but I repeat myself.  The anti-gun zealots have decided to attack a free and constitutionally protected Bill of Rights advocacy group as part of the news media-assisted effort to demonize the NRA as being somehow responsible for a school shooting that none of the proposed “common sense gun reforms” would have prevented. Now the Second Amendment-gutting crowd  is using the boycott, a particularly odious weapon favored by progressives, which depends on the venality and spinelessness of corporate executives to constrict free speech. Delta Airlines announced it was ending a promotional discount with the National Rifle Association after threats and a social media campaign, then tried the weaselly explanation that its decision to stop offering discounted fares to the N.R.A. “reflects the airline’s neutral status in the current national debate over gun control amid recent school shootings.”
Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/15/18: Icons, Shitholes And Chianti

Good Morning, and Happy Martin Luther King Day.

1 Priorities, priorities…Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga) has made his career out of the fact that he was an associate of Dr. King during the civil rights movement.  On Sunday’s”This Week” on ABC’, Lewis said on he would not vote for legislation that prevents a government shutdown if it did not first resolve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “I, for one, will not vote on government funding until we get a deal for DACA,” the alleged icon said.

That’s right: Lewis, and presumably many of his colleagues, would waste millions of dollars and interfere with life and daily needs of American citizens to obtain a path to citizenship for 800,000 currently illegal residents, and create a permanent incentive for foreign citizens to break our laws so they can get their kids an entitlement.  It’s more important to give illegal residents what they have no right to have, then to ensure legal citizens what their taxes pay for. This is the unethical result when ideology takes precedence over common sense.

2. Fake news also takes precedence, apparently. “Trump’s Words Eclipsing Deal For Dreamers” reads the above-the-fold headline on today’s New York Times. There are many other similar headlines on display. If, in fact, it is true that the President’s (alleged, disputed, reported initially via hearsay, denied by the speaker, and intentionally misrepresented by critics even if the alleged version is accepted) words have a decisive impact on a DACA deal, then the DACA adherents were posturing all along. What difference does it make to DACA what the President says off-the cuff in a private meeting? Apparently it is more important to Democrats and the “resistance” to denigrate the President than to accomplish substantive policy goals. Good to know.

UPDATE: I just read the opinion of conservative blogger Liz Shield after I wrote this. She said,

My position on sh!ithole-gate is this: It’s not appropriate for the President of the United States use this kind of language. Now, this was a private meeting and perhaps Trump did not think the Democrats would sabotage the DACA negotiations and, in this regard, Trump is terribly naive. There will be no good faith discussions on any policy because the policy of the Democrats is that Trump must FAIL, even at the expense of the Democrat constituencies they claim to be fighting so hard for. That is their position and I hope the president gets hip to this soon. Instead, the conversation we are having is not about policy but rather that Trump is a RACIST. Which is, coincidentally, the sole platform held by his political enemies.

Pretty much. The last sentence is unfair, though: their platform is that the President is a racist, senile, crazy, stupid, a Nazi, a traitor, a liar, a sexual predator and not really President. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/12/2018: Sigh. It Never Ends. (Part II) [UPDATED]

A Nigerian locale, and not an atypical one.

From the Washington Post:

President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.

Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt that they help the United States economically.

In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. “Take them out.” 

Ethics Observations:

I. “According to several people briefed on the meeting”? What? Not even according to people AT the meeting?

Based on this, without any attributions, the news media is stating that Trump making those alleged comments are fact. Here’s the Times version,

“…according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation.

No, they don’t have “direct knowledge.” What someone tells you about what someone else said at a meeting you were not attending is indirect knowledge. It is, in fact, hearsay. If the Times and the Post did not get confirmation on the record from someone who heard what he said, then this is not fact, but rumor, inadmissible in court because of extreme prejudice and lack of reliability.

Never mind. The Times headline is Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa, as if the second-hand accounts were  confirmed fact. This is unethical journalism. Outrageously so, in fact. Meanwhile, all of the news channels, including Fox, were basing hours of reporting on it.

This is not acceptable. It is not professional, and it is not justifiable. It is a disgrace, and if you accept it, you should be ashamed of yourself.

II. Trump denies that he uttered those words, on Twitter, of course:

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!…Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!”

The denials mean nothing, I know. The President has such a bizarre view of reality and such a record of misstatements and reversals that he has no credibility and deserves none. However, that doesn’t mean that he did make the alleged statements either. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. I certainly wouldn’t be “shocked.” It sounds like something he would say, because nuances of language and tone, not to mention civility ande diplomacy, are alien concepts to him. In other words, it rings true. That doesn’t mean it’s ethical to report it as fact. Continue reading

“Why Is Madeleine Leader Still Employed?” And Related Puzzles

That was an email from Democratic National Committee Data Services manager Madeleine Leader, announcing that the Technology Department is looking to fill several positions and asking interested parties to forward the openings to their colleagues.

Note the last sentence:

“I personally would prefer that you not forward to cisgender straight white males, since they’re already in the majority.”

Nice.

Seven questions bubble up to the surface as I ponder this:

1 Why is Madeleine Leader still employed by the DNC? I can answer that one: her email accurately reflects the culture of the Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Party. If she wasn’t completely confident that such an open expression of prejudice and discrimination would be acceptable, she would not have dared to put such a sentiment into print.

Even so, if the Democrats had an ounce of sense or even aspired to decency, they would have fired Leader with expressions of horror, and proclaimed her a rogue employee. However, the party apparently believes that its base and perhaps even the typical Democrat will read Leader’s message and say, “What’s the matter with that?”

2. Do progressives and Democrats really think there is a difference between saying “no white, straight males need apply” and “no black lesbians need apply”? I can answer that one too. Of course they do. They really think the latter is despicable, racist, sexist homophobia, and the former is just virtuous diversity at work.

They really do. No, seriously. They do.

3. Why was this story first reported at the Daily Wire, a conservative website, then at several other conservative websites, then on Fox News, and finally at The Hill, a political website that tilts left, but not yet at any mainstream media sources?

See #1 above. One reason the DNC thinks it can pretty much duck this embarrassment is that it knows the mainstream media will cover the party’s  tracks by not reporting the story. “Democracy dies in  darkness,” pompously proclaims the Washington Post on its front page. Right. The Post doesn’t want independents or anyone who isn’t in lock-step with whatever the Democratic Party does or says to know how low the party of Jefferson, Jackson and FDR has sunk, and how much it has abandoned democratic ideals. It has been three days since Leader’s email became public. The Post has kept the story in darkness.  So has the New York Times, apparently because blatant bigotry at the DNC isn’t news fit to print. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/17/17 [UPDATED]

Good morning, everyone!

1. President Trump is upset about an ABC-Washington Post poll that among other things indicates that 70% of those polled believe that he has acted “un-Presidential” since being elected. Several analysts have suggested that pollsters have slanted their polling pools toward Democrats (remember the election?), but my question regarding this poll is, “What the hell is the matter with the other 30%?”

How in the world could anyone conscious argue that Trump is “Presidential,” other than on the rather technical basis that since he’s President, what he does is by definition Presidential? It would be mighty nice if an aide, a Cabinet member, a daughter, a White House chef or someone would explain this to him, but I’m convinced: he doesn’t get it, he won’t get it, and what weve  seen is what we’ll continue to get.

2. ALERT! The forgoing was written after I was fooled by a fake news site, aided and abetted by Instapundit, which either was also fooled or linked to the site as its own joke.  Thanks to reader Tom Adams for being  more alert than I was and quickly flagging this.

And by the way, screw them. I’m taking off the link, and I will probably give the site an Unethical Website designation. The only hint that the site is a hoax site is the other stories (“GOP Adopts Christie’s Sad, Bewildered Face As New Party Mascot”), but I read dozens of stories every day, and if i stopped to check all the other boxed and highlighted pieces I would never have time to do my job. There is nothing on the home page designating the site as satirical. Unethical.

I apologize to anyone I led astray. Somebody alert Instapundit. I’m not speaking to it.  Here was the original post…

That said and mournfully accepted, he won, he’s President, and the fevered efforts to somehow turn back time (I would not be surprised to see a new Bon Jovi Direct TV ad on the subject)  by “the resistance,” the Democrats and the news media are profoundly anti-democratic. This is what Jake Tapper was alluding last week with his tongue stuck so firmly in his cheek that it almost broke through his face. “The conspiracy goes much deeper than anyone expected,” Jake Tapper said on his news segment “The Lead.” “We’re talking tens of millions of people involved in this secret plot to make sure Hillary didn’t make it into the White House and to prop up Donald Trump as the winner….It’s far more sinister than we thought.”

Yes, some conservative websites and others took Tapper’s pointed gag seriously. This tells us…

…how little trust CNN has left with many Americans..

…how dumb a lot of conservatives are…

…why broadcast news hosts and reporters, even fair and clever ones like Tapper, should avoid sarcasm, satire, or facetious statements, and stick to the facts.

…Jake Tapper should get away from CNN before its toxic culture ruins his reputation. Continue reading