Tag Archives: headlines

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/17/2018: Mockingbirds, Headlines, And Reasonable Doubt

Good Morning, Scout!

1 Assorted blog stuff. I’m going to have to fly to Boston next month for the hearing on my motion to dismiss the specious defamation suit against me by an Ethics Alarms  commenter to whom my responses were no more defamatory than what I have said to many of you when provoked…Every now and then some blog or social media participant with a huge following links to an old post here, and I am swamped with visits from a lot of individuals with no serious interest in ethics. They almost never comment, and if they do, the comments typically don’t meet my posting standards. Still, they swell the traffic stats, and I’ll take ’em. In 2017 I had none of these fluky hit avalanches, after a 2016 that had several. This time, the post suddenly drawing interest is a 2014 essay about a letter written to director Terry Gilliam in 2005. You just never know…Expect a lot of Comments of the Day this weekend: I am way behind, and I’m sorry. Tough week.

2. Keep hope alive! Yesterday’s New York Times front page headline perfectly embodied the fake news-by-innuendo tactic that has marked the mainstream media’s efforts to pander to the “resistance.” The Special Prosecutor’s fishing expedition just subpoenaed the business records of the Trump organization relating to its dealings in Russia. Says the Times headline: “Investigation nears President.” Ooooh! Scary!

Hype, and unprofessional. This is the “He’s getting closer! And closer!” narrative the anti-Trump journalists have been flogging for a year. Yeah, I guess any time an investigation involves someone’s business it is “near” the owner, but why would that obvious fact justify a headline?  The reality is that Trump’s organization had business dealings in Russia (legal and unremarkable), the fact that Mueller is looking does not prove or suggest that those dealings had any connection to the campaign, and Mueller could have asked for these records a year ago. There is nothing ominous about the request from the President’s perspective at all, unless, as this whole fiasco has presumed from the moment Democrats seized on Wikileaks and fake Facebook news as the designated excuses for Hillary’s inexcusable defeat, there really was “collusion.”

That an investigation has been launched does not imply, suggest, or indicate wrongdoing. The news media’s reporting continues to suggest otherwise because they want the President to be guilty of something heinous. Imagine that: there are Americans who want their elected President to be proven guilty of wrongdoing.

3. To kill a “To Kill A Mockingbird.”  Harper Lee’s estate filed a complaint last week in federal court in Alabama, arguing that a Broadway bound stage adaptation of “To Kill A Mockingbird” by “The West Wing” creator and “A Few Good Men” writer Aaron Sorkin violates a contract, between Harper Lee and the producers that stipulates that the characters and plot must remain faithful to the spirit of the book. (I wrote about the complexities surrounding Atticus Finch’s character in a 2015 post.) Continue reading


Filed under U.S. Society

Well, I Guess There’s No Way Around It: Considering The President’s Fake News Awards

I don’t really care what the President says is fake news. What matters on Ethics Alarms is what I decide is fake news. His much ballyhooed list of fake news items ignore that many inexcusable examples that have nothing to do with him, like various stories designed to impugn conservatives and normal people because journalists think they are stupid, or intentionally misleading headlines, or when reporters sneak false characterizations into their “news stories” as facts, or publishing gossip as fact using anonymous sources,  or passing along falsity in the course of reporting a related matter, as in this instance, when NBC’s reporter said, “President Donald Trump returned to one of his most derogatory insults Friday, referring to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” — a jab at her Native American ancestry.” (Psst! NBC! Senator Warren has no Native American ancestry.)

However, Ethics Alarms is duty bound to assess the President’s “2017 Fake News Awards,” which he released last week.

No, I don’t believe he should be releasing such awards. It’s beneath the Office,  and he isn’t Seth Myers. (If there were a a fair, satirical comic who made any attempt at partisan balance, this would be a good gimmick for him or her. There isn’t. That’s another problem.) Here is the list, with comments from me:

#1. “The New York Times’ Paul Krugman claimed on the day of President Trump’s historic, landslide victory that the economy would never recover.”

Comment: Ugh. Signature significance for bad staff work and stupidity: the very first item isn’t fake news, wasn’t news at all, and didn’t even occur in 2017.  On election night in 2016, Krugman stated a prediction and an opinion, and made as ass out of himself. That’s certainly not news. So right off the bat, we know that the 2017 “Fake News Awards” are more about using these items as an excuse to trumpet Trump’s successes.Got it.

If I didn’t have to, that would be sufficient to make me stop reading, or caring.

#2. “ABC News’ Brian Ross CHOKES and sends markets in a downward spiral with false report.”

#3. CNN FALSELY reported that candidate Donald Trump and his son Donald J. Trump, Jr. had access to hacked documents from WikiLeaks.

Comment:  #2 and #3, both covered on ethics alarms, are the crown jewels of the fake news collection, among the  hundreds that shredded the mainstream media’s reputation for trustwortiness durin the year.  For the Whataboutists out there—and you know who you are!—these two alone destroy the “But Fox News was just as unfair to Obama!” baloney. In 8 years, no story broken by Fox were as unforgivable as Ross’s bombshell claim that Brian Ross went live on ABC last week and announced the fake news story that then-candidate Donald Trump had instructed Michael Flynn to make contact with the Russians, that smoking gun that all “the resistance” had been searching for, dreaming about, wishing were out there. It triggering a massive stock market sell-off. Seven hours later, ABC sheepishly admitted that it was President-elect Trump who had made the request of Flynn, which is called “being President.”    Ross was suspended for four weeks without pay, and ABC said he wouldn’t be trusted to cover the President any more. This itself was outrageous: if he’s so biased that he can’t cover the President, Ross is too unprofessional to be a journalist at all, certainly at ABC News. (Maybe for the Hooten Holler Gazette.) So far, Ross has yet to resurface, though his exile was supposedly up.
Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Pssst! Climate Change Activists? This Is Why Nobody Trusts You…

Here is Houdini showing the Scientific American panel how spiritualists and mediums made bells ring. See his foot?

I once subscribed to Scientific American. We had to read it in high school, and I often used articles from the magazine in research projects. I also was a fan of its history, which intersected with my long-time love of magic and magic history. It was Scientific American, back in the 1920s, that created the special cash prize for anyone who could prove they had supernatural powers, or that paranormal phenomena was real. After a while psychics and other miracle workers stopped applying for the prize, because SA’s panel of experts always exposed them as frauds. The star member of that panel was Harry Houdini, in his post-performing second career as the enemy of charlatans and frauds

Thus it pains me to see the once great, dumbed-down vestige of Scientific American publish an article with this unforgivable headline, in front of content that is little better:

Climate Change May Have Helped Spark Iran’s Protests

And space aliens may have built the pyramids.

Actually, the article still has educational value, though no teacher is likely to use it properly. It is a wonderful example of poor critical thinking, bad science, the result of mixing science with politics, and how bias makes you stupid.  The author, Scott Waldman, doesn’t even try to hide the article’s weak logic and lame premise, beginning it with this:

The impacts of climate change are among the environmental challenges facing Iran that helped spark protests in dozens of cities across the Islamic republic.At least 20 people have died in the uprising, driven by the sudden collapse of financial institutions, low wages and mistrust of national leaders. Rising temperatures are seen by some experts as an underlying condition for the economic hardships that led to the unrest. A severe drought, mismanaged water resources and dust storms diminished Iran’s economy in recent years, according to experts who study the region. While the protests are largely driven by resistance to the country’s hardline conservative government, such environmental factors might have contributed to the largest protests inside Iran in years.

That tells any objective reader all he needs to know: junk ahead.  The old “some experts” ploy, eh? You can find “some experts” who will say anything, especially on TV. We just went through weeks of unethical speculation on whether the President was suffering from dementia based on “some expert,” a Yale professor of psychiatry who breached the American Psychiatric Association (APA) ethics protocols and was revealed as not to be licensed to practice anymore.You know. An expert.

Waldman himself isn’t an expert on climatology or even science: he’s a reporter, and his degree was in journalism. Funny, I’m so old, I remember when the articles in Scientific American were written by scientists. How quaint. Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/21/2017: Shut Up And Act, Tom…


Finally! I get to hang the collected history of three families that are our tree ornaments. You know, the fun part…

1 And this is why actors speak from scripts. Tom Hanks, pimping for the mainstream news media-extolling Washington Post movie, the one with Harvey Weinstein enabler Meryl Streep playing Katherine Graham, actually uttered this Authentic Frontier Gibberish:

“It is relatively obvious, I think, what is trying to go forward, when you tear down these institutions to a level of, so you can’t believe anything that is in any of them. That raises the stock of those agenda-filled other institutions and whatnot, so that if you can’t believe them, well, that means you get to believe some of the other stuff that is in these.”

I have generally thought Hanks unusually thoughtful for an actor, but this is disgraceful. First, whatever diminishment journalism has suffered in credibility is 100% the fault of journalists, their arrogance, their incompetence, their bias, and their deliberate abandonment of their own stated ethics principles. 100%. Second, Hanks needs a primer on trust, and to read B.F. Skinner’s work on the effects of intermittent negative reinforcement on rats. (Quick summary: it drives them nuts.) If news sources are sometimes telling the truth and sometimes spinning, sometimes lying and sometimes hiding the ball, and major, revered “institutions” like the New York Times announce mid-Presidential campaign that their mission is no longer to report facts but to stop a particular candidate, then those news sources cannot be trusted, as in “believed.”

Third,  anyone, in light of, oh, the past 20 years, who does not believe that the mainstream media organizations have “agendas” is certifiably stupid. I don’t believe Hanks is stupid, despite the fact that his statement easily makes the Garbled Syntax and Logic Hall of Blather. What he is arguing, however, is that other sources of information have agendas, while those he follows are just Undeniably Correct. Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Finance, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/17/2017: Sick Of Train Wrecks, Sick Of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside!,” Sick Of Being Lied To. Merry Christmas!

Good Morning, And Merry Christmas!

(and no, my tree isn’t decorated yet. As usual, there were complications…)

1 “You’re one of THEM, aren’t you?” Curse everyone on all sides of the political spectrum who have, by shear repetition, turned the mere act of saying “Merry Christmas!” into a presumptive partisan greeting. A recent study indicates that about 90% of the public celebrates Christmas, not some amorphous holiday, either in its religious or secular form on and around December 25th. There should be nothing malign about the salutation at all, and yes, the polite and pleasant response to “Merry Christmas!” is “The same to you!” or “Merry Christmas!” Yesterday, I received a silent glare and a scowl from a merchant to whom I gave the happy wish, and he was selling Christmas tree stands!

2. Not AGAIN! This is one of those periods during a year when the same ethics issues hang around like a bad odor, and I am faced with the choice of intentionally avoiding them, even though they continue to make news and to be the topic of conversation online and on TV, or to keep covering them no matter how bored I get. In fact, all of 2017 feels that way. Every day now, I have to face a new swerve of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, and its cultural, ethical, and political implications. (Chris Matthews! Rep. Bobby Scott!). The news media disgraces itself daily in its partisan hatred of the President of the United States. “The resistance” and Democrats (but I repeat myself) continue to unethically push the nation into a constitutional crisis as their remedy for the longest loser’s tantrum in recorded history, and, yang to their yin, President Trump continues to be as unpresidential in his manner, words and actions as I thought he would, but hoped he wouldn’t, feeding the flames of division.

3. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside!”  Here is an article protesting the movement to “ban” (figuratively, not literally), the seasonal duet “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”  for “being insufficiently PC in the sexual assault/harassment realm.” Ethics Alarms called the song “date-rapey” two years ago, so while I don’t exactly want to ban the thing, I am sick of hearing it on Christmas playlists. On Sirius-XM’s “Holly” station, I’d estimate that over 50% of the “Holiday songs” have to do with sex (none have to do with the religious holiday, by design), and I blame “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which on the alternative Christmas channel, “Traditions” —where every song is sung by someone who is dead, with the exception of a few hangers-on like Tony Bennett and Johnny Mathis, either of whom could drop any second—“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is played every hour, sometimes more than once. Pearl Bailey (dead), Steve and Eydie (dead and dead), Sammy Davis Jr, and Carmen MacRae (both dead), Dean Martin (dead). Writes the blogger, Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy, The Internet

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/29/2017: Featuring Vital Questions Such As: Will Women Now Try To Look Unattractive? Should A Hospital Employ A Nurse Who Hates White People? Is That Man Trying To Rape A Manniquin With An Ice Dildo?

Good Morning!

1  Documented insanity. The New York Times has been on an extended binge of highlighting the suffering of deported illegal residents. I could probably post several more episodes of the Ethics Alarms “Good Illegal Immigrant ” series every week. The intellectual dishonesty of almost all of these Times stories, like the pro-illegal immigrant movement itself, is impressive. Essentially, they all can be reduced to, “Isn’t it terrible that these lawbreakers have to endure the consequences of their own actions?”

Complementing these stories are periodic opinion pieces like “ICE’s Courthouse Arrests Undercut Democracy,”‘ by César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, an associate professor of law at the University of Denver. He writes a pro-illegal immigration blog, identifiable in motive by its habitual use of the cover word “migrant” to mean “illegal immigrants” and the deliberately misleading word “Immigration” to mean “illegal immigration.” Hernández’s op-ed’s argument follows as the night follows day:

“In El Paso, ICE arrested a woman moments after she requested a court’s help keeping away an abusive partner. Fear and uncertainty caused by this type of courthouse arrest are already keeping people away from the halls of justice. In Denver, the city prosecutor gave up on four domestic violence cases because the victims said they were too afraid of ICE to appear in court. In a nationwide survey conducted in April by the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center, four out of 10 social service providers working with immigrant survivors of abuse said they had clients who had abandoned legal claims because of fear of what will happen if they call the police or go to court.”

Wait: why were these people afraid of ICE? By immigrant survivors, doesn’t Hernandez mean illegal immigrant survivors? If he does, why doesn’t he say so? His favorite terms are “unauthorized” immigrants, and here and there “undocumented” immigrants, poor things. Whatever happened to their documents?

It’s not a threat to democracy if illegal immigrants are afraid to come to court. They should be afraid to come to court. They should be afraid to take advantage of any aspect of  our government or American society. Underlying the professor’s claimed concern for democratic institutions is his contempt for the rule of law. He wants to blur the distinction between illegal and legal immigration to the vanishing point. He quotes the California chief justice as she writes that “the vast majority” of “undocumented immigrants” “pose no risk to public safety.” Is that the desired standard for law enforcement now? As long as a known law-breaker poses no risk to public safety, he or she should be immune from arrest when they turn up in court?

The Times is apparently committed to bombarding its readers with this unconscionable position in perpetuity: our monstrous government has decided to enforce its immigration laws, and the very fabric of our democracy is threatened as a result.

2. CNN Tales.   On a related note, this morning I saw a slick TV ad on CNN supporting “Dreamer” legislation. The terms “illegal,” and even the cover words “undocumented” or “unauthorized” were never used, as various Presidents were shown extolling “immigrants.” “Dreamers” were described as “immigrants” who came here as children.

An ethical broadcast news organization should not accept money to run ads that intentionally misinform its viewers.

But THIS is CNN!…and so is this:  A CNN spokesperson told Politico…
Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Professions, Rights, Social Media, Workplace

Two Unethical News Stories, One Conclusion [Updated With Poll]

Story One, from Fox News:

Roy Moore accuser worked for Clinton campaign as interpreter, reports say

This is horrible, insulting, boot-0lick journalism. First, the proper response is “So what?” It is ridiculous to presume that anyone who works on a Democratic campaign is a Democrat. The janitors? The drivers? The caterers? Nonsense. It is ridiculous to suggest that someone who worked in the Clinton campaign in a non-political job would be inclined to falsify a story—to attack a Senate candidate in Alabama.  It is also ridiculous for Fox or anyone else to rush to defend a candidate whose presence on any ballot from Senator to dog-catcher is a blight on democracy, even if he had the romantic scruples of George Bailey.

Furthermore, of the four ex-teens who described encounters with Moore, Clinton’s interpreter is the one who painted Moore in the best light, saying that “nothing bad happened.”

Such forced and inept partisan defense maneuvers just reinforce the worst stereotypes about Fox  News, and also give credence to the rumor that the network is run by bonobos.

Bias makes you stupid. Stupidity makes you biased. And biased and stupid news reporting only works with biased and stupid viewers.

Story Two, from NBC News:

Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media