“Rarrit!” Joe Biden Produces An Epic Example Of Authentic Frontier Gibberish, And It’s Not Funny

Two days ago, Joe Biden did an interview on ABC’s “This Week…”  that produced an  indecipherable utterance that makes “Blazing Saddles'” Gabby Johnson seem like Winston Churchill.  Tanned and rested, which no travel during the week to exhaust him and having not appeared on TV for several days, Joe offered America this bit of wisdom:

“We cannot let this, we’ve never allowed any crisis from the Civil War straight through to the pandemic of 17, all the way around, 16, we have never, never let our democracy sakes second fiddle, way they, we can both have a democracy and … correct the public health.”

You know, his words reminded me of an episode when I was the editorial page editor of my high school’s weekly newspaper. The submissions from my “staff” were particularly terrible one week, and no amount of re-writing by me could produce enough quality opinion to fill the page. I decided to take one particularly incomprehensible screed, cut out each line of text, pull them randomly out of a hat, paste them in their new sequence, then punctuate the mess and capitalize letters so it appeared to be an article. I published the result under the headline, “Discrimination in Portugal” without a byline.

Nobody noticed. One student told me that she found the editorial “Thought-provoking.” This has bothered me ever since. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On A Case Study In Combining Bad Journalism With Bad Science

Yes, it’s the New York Times again. I use that paper for the majority of the Ethics Alarm unethical journalism posts for a few reasons. One is that the paper comes to my door every day, so I read a lot of articles that I might miss on the web.  Another is that the Times is the most successful and influential newspaper in the country,  and its work is more closely followed and more criticized than any other paper, and most news sources generally. The Times also advertises itself as the nation’s “paper of record,” placing itself on a pedestal with standards of integrity and reliability that it is obligated to meet….and does not. Finally, the paper is unacceptably biased in its political coverage and editorial product.

Today’s “Where America Didn’t Stay Home Even as the Virus Spread”  is far from then times at its worst. It is, however, unacceptable and unethical. I’m not even in disagreement with the piece’s main thesis, which is that the regions that have not imposed shelter at home restrictions on the public are at more risk of exploding Wuhan virus cases. That makes sense; that’s even obvious. However, the Times’s main tool in making a case was the map below, which it explained this way:

“Stay-at-home orders have nearly halted travel for most Americans, but people in Florida, the Southeast and other places that waited to enact such orders have continued to travel widely, potentially exposing more people as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates, according to an analysis of cellphone location data by The New York Times. The divide in travel patterns, based on anonymous cellphone data from 15 million people, suggests that Americans in wide swaths of the West, Northeast and Midwest have complied with orders from state and local officials to stay home.”

Continue reading

Is This The Most Unethical Book Review Ever?

It has to be close, because I don’t know how a book review can be more unethical.

The book in question is Ruth Marcus’s unconscionable hit piece on Justice Brett Kavanaugh, “Supreme Ambition.” The forum is the book review section of the New York Times, which has been trying to smear Kavanaugh since he was nominated for the Supreme Court, and even since the contrived attempt to defeat him by ancient and uncorroborated accusations of misconduct when he was a teenagerwhen he was a teenagerwhen he was a teenager (no three times is not enough repitition to emphasize how despicable this was) failed, as it should have. The objective, trustworthy reviewer the Times chose to assess the book was Adam Cohen. He writes speeches for and advises New York’s socialist mayor Bill de Blasio, and authored “Supreme Inequality: The Supreme Court’s Fifty-Year Battle for a More Unjust America,” coming out next month.

Yup, the perfect guy to provide an objective review of an anti-Kavanaugh book.

It is clear by now that progressives and the mainstream media have added the Brett Kavanugh confirmation hearing to the shooting of Mike Brown, the death of Trayvon Martin, and the fake Russian Collusion theory as narratives they will falsely characterize until the stars turn cold. Incredibly,  Cohen writes at the end of his review,

“As important as the Kavanaugh battle was for the court, however, there was something even more profound at stake: whether, on the most important questions, our nation is capable of putting the public interest ahead of partisanship, and whether the truth matters. The forces aligned for partisanship and against truth are stronger than ever.”

Cohen’s review is a prime example of the condition he claims to be condemning. What “truth”? Not a single fact was produced during the hearing that had any relevance to Brett Kavanaugh’s fitness to be a Supreme Court Justice. His record as a judge was impeccable and beyond reproach. Ah, BUT…Marcus and Cohen point to this: Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/12/2020: Broken Ethics Alarms, An Ethics Conflict, And “Who Are You Going To Believe, Me Or Your Own Eyes?”

Well, Hel-LO!

“Seinfeld” fans remember Jerry’s Uncle Leo, whose trademark was an over-enthusiastic, “Hel-LO!” The recurring character was played by the late Len Lesser, an obscure Hollywood bit player until the “Seinfeld” gig made him a familiar face. Well, I was watching “Bells Are Ringing, the 1960 film version of the hit Broadway musical known for the standards “Just in Time” and “The Party’s Over” (one of my Mom’s favorite songs), on TCM. The film is a reminder of just how luminous Judy Holliday was; she had won the Tony for playing the musical’s starring role on Broadway, and attention should be paid. Tragically, his was her last movie—during filming she was fighting the cancer that eventually killed her —-and I don’t know if there has ever been a female musical comedy star of greater range and presence. Anyway, there’s a number in the film where Judy tells Dean Martin that New York’s grim mass of humanity during rush hours will thaw if strangers only say “hello” to each other. Dean is skeptical, but he tries it on a dour-looking man waiting in the mob, whose face instantly breaks into a brilliant smile at the greeting. “Hel-LO!” the man responds to a surprised Dino, and soon everyone is happily saying hello to each other. You guessed it: the dour-looking man was played by “Uncle Leo” himself, Len Lesser. His catch phrase in “Seinfeld” was a deliberate reference to that bit, one of the very few memorable moments in the elderly actor’s career.

This is really a long introduction to a different point: I get a lot of ethics ideas from watching old movies. For example, I watched 1967’s “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, one of schlockmeister Roger Corman’s few films with an A-list cast and a big budget. The film’s solemn narrator is uncredited, but he is obviously meant to make the casual audience member think it’s Orson Welles. It wasn’t Welles, however: it was master vocal artist Paul Frees, who had a great, and often used, Welles impression. I assume he was uncredited so no one would realize that the narrator wasn’t the weighty Welles, but the voice of Boris Badinov from “Rocky and Bullwinkle.”

I don’t know how Corman got away with this.

1. Ah, the accurate, trustworthy news media. Reuters reports, “A South African military plane crash-landed on Thursday at the Goma airport in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a U.N. spokesman said….two sources at the airport, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there did not appear to be major damage to the plane.”

Here’s the plane:

2. Apparently the Democratic Party’s strategy regarding the economy is to just flagrantly lie about it. “The U.S. economy is working just fine for people like me. But it is badly broken for the vast majority of Americans,” Mike Bloomberg said this week. That counter-factual statement echoes Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders…pretty much the Democratic field, and it is demonstrably false.

The Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank’s monthly Wage Growth Tracker shows that Americans in the lower wage brackets are making more money, and at a better rate than they have for a very long time. Here’s a graph: Continue reading

As If Another Was Necessary, Here’s Smoking Gun Evidence Of Politically-Motivated News Media Distortion

I am not certain any more which is more infuriating: the increasingly brazen abdication of American journalism’s duty  to inform the public fairly, objectively and without distortion and manipulation, or the refusal of members of the public whose personal political objectives are served by the abdication to acknowledge that it is occurring.

Yesterday, the New York Times carried a front page story headlined Kentucky Vote Drew Out Trolls In 2020 Omen. It contained numerous ethics alarm-ringers, such as…

A few hours after polls closed in Kentucky last Tuesday, a Twitter user writing under the handle @Overlordkraken1 posted a message to his 19 followers saying he had “just shredded a box of Republican mail-in ballots”…..just in case anyone missed the significance of the destroyed-ballots claim, @Overlordkraken1 added a final touch to his tweet: “Bye-Bye Bevin,” he wrote…Within hours of @Overlordkraken1’s tweet, as it became apparent that Mr. Bevin was trailing in the vote tally, hyperpartisan conservatives and trolls were pushing out a screenshot of the message, boosted by what appeared to be a network of bots, and providing early grist for allegations of electoral theft in Kentucky. High-profile right-wing figures were soon tweeting out their own conspiracy theories about the election being stolen — messages that were in turn pushed by even more trolls and bots — and the Bevin campaign began talking about “irregularities” in the vote without offering any specifics or evidence.

Yes, there we have an excellent example of how social media and the speed and reach of the internet can start rumors and facilitate disinformation, as well as serve the sinister objectives of those seeking to benefit from seeding untruths and distrust. Except..1. The Times has no idea whether or not the tweet was “trolling” and 2., The Times and other supposedly accurate news sources have been responsible for disinformation of their own that also started rumors and spread disinformation.

The Times also noted with approval that Twitter suspended the account, though there is no way Twitter could have determined that an anonymous poster had not shredded ballots. Never mind: the news media and social media are self-appointed guardians of the truth, at least the truth as they want it perceived.

Then we got this: “Kentucky is shaping up to be a case study in the real-world impact of disinformation — and a preview of what election-security officials and experts fear could unfold a year from now if the 2020 presidential election comes down to the wire.”

The message is insidious, implied but clear—Republican disinformation. We are told that…

“…allegations of irregularities echo the Trump playbook. Mr. Trump has sown doubts about a “rigged election” system since before his own election, including openly questioning the mail-in ballot process in Colorado. He then contended that fraud had lost him the popular vote (which Hillary Clinton won by 2.9 million votes). And he has amplified similar theories while in office, tweeting at least 40 times about unfounded voter fraud allegations, according to an analysis by The New York Times, including a claim after the midterm elections last year that “many ballots are missing or forged” in Florida.”

Then we get the pious lecture:

“Such divisive rhetoric after close elections has always risked shaking public faith in essential democratic institutions. But in a profoundly polarized country where narrow margins are hardly uncommon, sophisticated networks of social media users — human and bot — can quickly turn partisan rancor into grave threats, rapidly amplifying disinformation and creating an initial veneer of vast discord that can eventually become self-fulfilling….While the Kentucky election, held in an off-year, remains a sideshow to most people outside the state, election security experts see in it a worrying sign of what Americans may be forced to contend with next November.”

Damn Republicans. Continue reading

Wait, Why Was This News Not A Bigger Story? And What ELSE Have They Been Covering Up?

Apparently about  six weeks ago, the U.S. Navy finally publicly admitted that the government is aware of so-far unexplained aircraft that operate beyond mankind’s presumed technological limits, at least in this country. On September 18th, it publicly acknowledged that the advanced aircraft depicted in several recently declassified gun-camera videos are what have been referred to for decades as UFOs, though just to be contrary,  the Navy prefers to use the term “Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon” or UAPs.I guess this is so they can keep saying that various conspiracy theorists and “They’re out there!” kooks have been wrong about UFOs, as in, ‘UFO’s are all fiction and swamp gas. UAP’s, however, are another story!’

Got it.

Jerks.

We all owe  thanks to “The Hill” for posting a story about this yesterday for those of us—like almost everybody— who missed it:

The vehicles observed and recorded by U.S. Navy fighter pilots seem impervious to altitude or the elements; they are able to maneuver above 80,000 feet; they can hover and then instantly accelerate to supersonic and even hypersonic speeds; they have very low radar cross-sections and use a means of propulsion and control that does not appear to involve combustion, exhaust, rotors, wings or flaps.Since the Navy asserts these are not U.S. aircraft, we are confronted by the daunting prospect that a potential adversary of the United States has achieved the ability to render our most sophisticated aircraft and air defense systems obsolete.

The Hill article raised some of the questions I have about this: Continue reading