Cold Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/10/18: You’ve Got Ethics To Keep You Warm!

Brrrrr!

Maybe this will help...

1. Starting with the important stuff: Baseball’s badly-named Today’s Game Era Committee announced that long-time right-fielder/designated hitter Harold Baines and towering closer Lee Smith had been voted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Smith, who retired as the all-time saves leader and is now third behind two Hall of Famers, was a defensible pick, but not Baines. The Committee’s job is to look back on players who were rejected in the regular Hall of Fame voting process and see if some of them fell through the cracks who were Hall caliber. There are only 16 members of the committee, and an ex-player needs 12 votes to enter Cooperstown. The sixteen members included at least four with strong ties to Baines, and they  presumably argued eight more members into letting him squeak by.  Bias made them stupid. Those four, which included Baines’ former manager and the owner of the Chicago White Sox, which retired his number, should have had to recuse themselves because of conflicts of interest.

Baines led the league in an offensive category, once, when he had the best slugging percentage in the American League. He never finished high in the Most Valuable Player voting. Most of the players who compare most closely to him are not in the Hall. The big thing Baines had going for his candidacy as a very good but not great player was that everybody liked him. He’s sort of the opposite of Curt Schilling, who is clearly Hall-worthy but whom most sportswriters hate—too religious, too conservative, too mouthy.

Now the argument for admitting other good but not great players will be, “But he was better than Harold Baines!” This is how conflicts of interest undermine the integrity of institutions.

2. When Naked Teachers have no excuses.  The Naked Teacher Principle holds that when a teacher allows a nude photo of herself or himself to circulate on the web where it can be seen by students, that teacher cannot complain when and if it leads to their dismissal.  A teacher really can’t complain if she sends the photo to a student intentionally, which is what Ramsey Bearse, 28, a former Miss Kentucky now teaching at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, did with a 15-year-old former student , according to the sheriff’s office. She faces four felony counts of distributing or displaying obscene matter to a minor.

3. Pondering whether to include an open Ethics Alarms forum as a regular feature. Many of the blogs I frequent for story ideas do this late at night. Ethics Alarms has done it once when I was forced to be away from a keyboard for most of the day, and I was impressed with the results. Those forums on the other blogs often devolve into silliness, bad jokes, memes and worse, and I would insist that an “open forum” on Ethics Alarms be restricted to raising and discussing ethics and ethical topics. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Reflections, 8/12/2018: Division And Divisiveness

What time is it? I’ve lost track…

1. Keep being intentionally divisive, and eventually you’ll get division…I trace the irresponsible efforts to divide the nation and unravel the bonds of society to the 2000 election, and the false partisan claims that Bush’s was a “stolen Presidency.” Divisive rhetoric became an 8-year strategy of the Obama Administration, with blacks, Hispanics, illegal immigrants, Muslims, LGTB citizens and women being accorded special status as victims and groups in need of special consideration, while whites, men, straight citizens, wealthy citizens, Christians, and, naturally, conservatives and Republicans were consistently demonized and marginalized.  Critics of the first black President were racists, critics of illegal immigration were xenophobes, critics of Hillary Clinton were sexist, and opponents of gay marriage were bigots. The resentment over this long-term and cynical strategy bore misshapen fruit in the election of Donald Trump, and now, says a Zogby Analytics survey, 39 percent of the country support states breaking away from the national government and country, with 42% of Democrats, who have continued to escalate the divisiveness by refusing to accept the election of President Trump as  legitimate, leading the way.

This was where we were headed in 2000, and those who have been reading the Ethics Scoreboard and Ethics Alarms since then know I said so as forcibly as I knew how. Now we are at a point where one party’s leaders are calling for members of the opposing party’s administration to be harassed in public, an attitude that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

In the latest example , Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Houston last week and dines at two Mexican restaurants. The general manager of one of them posted on Facebook,  “We had the honor to serve Mr. Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the United States. Thank you for allowing us to serve you.” The post attracted such an angry reaction that it had to be taken down. [Pointer: Neil Dorr]

2.  Of course! Why else would anyone not love Nancy Pelosi? The news media and its various pundits is deeply complicit in the unraveling of the bonds holding American together, as exemplified by the Washington Post’s jaw-dropping column claiming that Republican opposition to Democratic House leader Pelosi is entirely based on misogyny and sexism—you know, the same reasons I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Paul Waldman wrote,

“Can we stop treating this lie seriously once and for all? We all know what’s really going on. The Republican attack on Pelosi is about conservative identity politics, full stop. It’s partly the same kind of ugly misogyny that has driven conservatives for years, and that comes out whenever the prospect of a woman wielding genuine power rears its head. Women who display ambition are judged harshly, particularly by conservatives; it’s no accident that Bernie Sanders, whose policy ideas are much more opposed to conservatism than Pelosi’s, inspires nothing like the venomous loathing on the right that Pelosi and Hillary Clinton do.”

Oddly, I have found many reasons despite her gender to regard Nancy Pelosi as an unethical menace, and I haven’t come close to covering all of them. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce Who Exemplifies Why This Anti-Gun Freakout Won’t Be Any More Successful Than The Last One: Senator Bernie Sanders

Bernie is still the presumptive leader in the 2020 Democratic Presidential sweepstakes, right? No wonder Democrats are running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

Senator Sanders said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last week  that “We have to end the absurdity of the gun show loophole. Forty percent of the guns in this country are sold without any background checks.”

This is a fake stat that has been disproved many times. Obama used it. As always happens, the anti-gun advocates simply won’t play fair and try to win this policy debate using facts and reason. They always default to emotionalism, fear-mongering, dishonest journalism (I’ll be writing about CNN’s disastrous “town meeting” later), lies, distortions, and fake statistics. When the emotional rush of the particular tragedy is over, and non-substantive cries like “Never again!”, “Your right to own a gun shouldn’t trump a child’s right to live!”, “Do something!” and “Kill the NRA!” lose their power to persuade people no longer in grade school, sufficient numbers of citizens stop and think, “You know what? We can’t trust these people! They lie.”

And so they do.

As some wags have said today, when the Washington Post can’t even resist pointing out that your anti-gun claims are nonsense, you’re really in trouble.

Glenn Kessler, the Post’s Factchecker, made short work of Bernie, hitting him with four Pinocchios and calling his “gun show loophole” a “zombie claim, false facts that keep getting repeated, no matter how often we fact-check them.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/20/17: More Factchecker Spin, More Hillary (Unfortunately), And A Thank-You [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

1 One comment thread over the last few days encompassed media fact-checkers and the consistent position here that they are intrinsically biased and untrustworthy. Law prof/blogger Jonathan Turley was so incensed (his term was “floored”) over one of the better factcheckers (Wapo’s Glenn Kessler) spinning for James Comey and against Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that he wrote a column for The Hill exposing it. (Hey! That’s MY job!) He writes on his blog about what prompted the column:

I have discussed previously how there has been a palpable bias in reporting on the Trump Administration. It is often that case that some journalists are not simply satisfied with disagreeing with the Administration. They sometimes take judgment calls or opinions and declare the Trump side to be simply factually incorrect. This relieves the need for readers to address the opposing view of controversies like the alleged misconduct of former FBI director James Comey. Those views are simply dismissed as untrue. This is a prime example.

The professor is right. It’s embarrassing. Read Turley’s whole piece, clearly prompted because Kessler refers to Turley’s repeated indictments of Comey (while saying that he does not believe Comey should actually be indicted). One respect in which the ever-polite and professorial Turley differs sharply from Ethics Alarms: he says that he has ” written for the Washington Post and [has] great respect for the publication. Indeed, I have objected to the attacks by President Donald Trump on the Post and the New York Times which remain two of our premiere journalistic organizations.”

Hmmm.

1) Turley obviously wants to keep writing for the Post, I guess, and 2) premiere members of a group that has become unprofessional and untrustworthy are still unprofessional and untrustworthy. Be that as it may, Turley concludes,

The Post concludes that the memos were, despite Comey’s denial, FBI material and that he violated FBI rules in removing and releasing such information. It also accepts that employees under Comey as director could well have been fired for such violations. It also agrees that the memos might have been either classified or privileged, even though there has been no final determination. Regardless, the Post awarded two Pinocchios for Sanders stating that Comey’s actions were “improper and likely could have been illegal.”

I have to give the Post two “Blue Fairies.” (I do not want to steal the Post’s Pinocchio signature motif so the Blue Fairy in the Disney story will do). After all, it was the Blue Fairy who said, “A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as clear as the nose on your face.”

2. There are two items about Hillary Clinton in the Warm-Up today, because she is simultaneously a human ethics train wreck of a failed Presidential candidate, but also needs as little publicity for being so as possible. Continue reading

The Media’s Unethical Reporting On Trump’s Refugee Pause Order: Does Telling The Whole Story Fairly And Accurately Even Matter To These Hacks Any More? Does Their Trump-Hating Audience Even Care?

How many of these protesters have read the Executive Order they are protesting? My guess; none of them.

How many of these protesters have read the Executive Order they are protesting? My guess: none of them.

I didn’t intend this to become Outrageously Unethical Journalism Sunday, but that’s how it is turning out. Not my fault. Don’t blame the messenger.

Here, for the sake of organization and clarity, are some things that you may not have been told about the Trump refugee order that all the Sunday Morning TV shows are and the news sources yesterday were going nuts over. I couldn’t watch all of the former, of course, and some are going on as I write this. Maybe some responsible journalism snuck in, and if it did, please let me know who was responsible, in both senses of the word. So far, however, the mainstream news media is doubling down on its determination not to allow facts to get in the way of its 24-7 effort to demonize President Trump, and my increasingly bats Facebook friends, and yours, I assume, are taking it all as the Utter Truth…

I. Calling the Trump Executive Order a “Muslim Ban” is a lie. Nothing less.

II. In 2011, President Obama ordered a halt to the acceptance of refugees from Iraq for six months (that’s twice the three months of the Trump order yesterday) with no adverse reaction from the news media whatsoever.

III. The seven nations targeted in Trump’s order were not his administration’s collection, but Obama’s, with the addition of Iran.

IV. All of this had to be included in any competent, fair and truthful report about yesterday’s order. As of yesterday, none of it was, at least in major news sources, or the information was buried deep in the reports under hysterical headlines.

Got all that?

It is 100% true. If you were not aware of it before, you are misinformed. If you or your family, friends or acquaintances were on social media proclaiming that the order proves Trump is Hitler, just as you suspected, without knowing the above, you are spreading fake news. If you did this while knowing the above, you are deliberately misrepresenting reality to press your misguided false narrative. Or, in the alternative, you are a rationalizing fool.

Remember, no ethical analysis can proceed without accurately establishing the answer to the question, “What’s going on here?” If one does not have the facts, one cannot perform the analysis. Answering the question incorrectly, as in “What’s going on here is that a xenophobic madman just violated the Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion!!!! ARGGGHHH!” also guarantees a flawed analysis.

You will note that the best sources for establishing the shockingly biased and unethical reportage of this event are conservative sources. This is because this right-biased alternative to the left-biased news media developed specifically for situations like this, in which the truth is deliberately skewed by political bias from the exact same people the public has been taught to trust to keep it informed. As the previous post also demonstrates, that trust is no longer warranted.

Right up front, I want to credit Prof. William Jacobson of Cornell Law School. Every single news source had an obligation to include the information he researched and posted on his blog, but none did.  Now, some details:

1. Read the order itself. Scroll past it if you want to my commentary, but as the professor says, “You should read the actual EO, because most of the media and leftist pundits either have not or are lying if they have.” It is long; I have formatted it for easier reading, but it is long. Nonetheless, the news media have proven beyond, not just a reasonable doubt but the shadow of a doubt that its journalists cannot be trusted to digest this kind of document and relay it truthfully.

Res ipsa loquitur: CNN, from which I obtained the text, headlines the order,

Full text of Trump’s executive order on 7-nation ban, refugee suspension

But there is no ban! That headline is fake news. If you don’t read the order yourself, and yet start ranting on Facebook about the suspension of freedom of religion or some other non-factual nonsense, then you are irresponsible, and you are spreading disinformation. Read it yourself, ascertain what it means if you are uncertain, or shut up about it.

And welcome the era of biased, untrustworthy, partisan journalism.

Here is the EO: Continue reading

Let Us Praise The Even-Handed Fact Checker

pinocchio_4

Glenn Kessler, as I have noted before, tries. The primary Washington Post fact checker leans to the left, and often his biases get the better of him, but he tries. His bias showed up recently when he balked at directly calling the oft repeated propaganda that Obama had an administration that was “historically free of scandal,” the falsehood that it is, but I give him credit for touching the issue, which has become cant in his world of partisan loyalists. Kessler refused to give the claim a rating, saying that there were arguments for and against the proposition.

Kessler brushed up against reality when he wrote, “One thing that is apparent is that Obama has benefited from the fact that the independent counsel law lapsed in 1999, since in another era some of the controversies that have enveloped his administration might have resulted in an independent prosecutor.” Right. And that’s because there were many scandals—the IRS, Fast and Furious, Clinton’s e-mails, the Bowe Bergdahl exchange, the  pay-off for Iran hostages and its cover-up, the VA—that a complicit press didn’t pursue, and a political Justice Department allowed to fade away. Kessler’s job is to debunk false partisan narratives, and that’s is a whopper of one. He blinked.

He did come through last week with a post on Obama’s biggest lies, Four Pinocchios in Kessler-speak. And today, Kessler chose one of the many, many absurd assertions made at the Women’s March, by one of the truly embarrassing members of Congress. Maxine Waters (D-Ca), who said regarding Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos,

“What about that Betsy DeVos? A billionaire who he is picking to head Education who has never seen the inside of a classroom. She has no experience, she has no background. That’s dangerous for our children.”

Kessler takes the gloves off and not only festoons Waters with Pinocchios, he calls her statement “ridiculous,” which it is. Continue reading

Trump, Master Of Rationalizations, Scores A Perfect #4 AND A Perfect #5!

Former District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry attends a news conference on the steps of Washington's city hall Monday, July 6, 2009. At the news conference Barry's attorney Frederick Cooke said Barry vehemently denies the allegation by Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, and that he's confident the stalking charge will be dropped. Barry, 73, stood behind Cooke but said nothing. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Somewhere, Marion Berry is smiling…

This is juuuust the beginning…

I have noted before that our President Elect never expresses any ethical awareness, and uses rationalizations exclusively to explain and justify his conduct. This is typical of say, 12-year-olds, but is less common among professionals in responsible positions.

Trump just authored a classic example, following the expression of concerns about his conflicts of interest, which are massive, unavoidable, and which should have been addressed seriously long ago, like in a Presidential debate, and at length. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton and various journalists felt it would be more helpful to their cause to spend time talking about what Trump had said about an over-weight Miss Universe and in a private conversation with Billy Bush. How did that work out for you, guys?

Now various lawyers and ethics experts are saying that Trump “must” sell off his business holdings because his company’s myriad business entanglements will cast many White House decisions under a cloud. The President Elect has a neat answer for them, to wit:

“The law’s totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

— Donald Trump, interview with the New York Times, Nov. 22, 2016

Bravo! This is a perfect expression of Ethics Alarms Rationalizations #4, and #5

4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.”

The late D.C. Mayor and lovable rogue Marion Barry earned himself a place in the Ethics Distortion Hall of Fame with his defense of his giving his blatantly unqualified girlfriend a high-paying job with the DC government. Barry declared that since there was no law against using the public payroll as his own private gift service, there was nothing unethical about it. Once the law was passed (because of him), he then agreed that what he did would be wrong the next time he did it.

Ethics is far broader than law, which is a system of behavior enforced by the state with penalties for violations. Ethics is good conduct as determined by the values and customs of society. Professions promulgate codes of ethics precisely because the law cannot proscribe all inappropriate or harmful behavior. Much that is unethical is not illegal. Lying. Betrayal. Nepotism. Many other kinds of behavior as well, but that is just the factual error in the this rationalization.

The greater problem with it is that it omits the concept of ethics at all.  Ethical conduct is self-motivated, based on the individual’s values and the internalized desire to do the right thing. Barry’s construct assumes that people only behave ethically if there is a tangible, state-enforced penalty for not doing so, and that not incurring a penalty (that is, not breaking the law) is, by definition, ethical.

Nonsense, of course. It is wrong to intentionally muddle the ethical consciousness of the public, and Barry’s statement simply reinforces a misunderstanding of right and wrong.

Continue reading