Tag Archives: Iraq War

The New York Times’ Lies About “Trump’s Lies”

In a grandstanding stunt that was even beneath the fallen role model of U.S. journalism, The New York Times printed what it claimed to be “the definitive list of Donald Trump’s lies” since his inauguration. To say the the list was itself full of lies, and that the over-all assertion that these were “Trump’s lies” was a misrepresentation, is not in any way to excuse the President’s lazy, careless, incompetent use of language, impulsive habits of communication, shockingly inept reasoning and  reckless tweeting. Almost all of the statements quoted by the Times contain misinformation, irresponsible opinions  or unwarranted conclusions, and it is dangerous and disruptive for any leader, indeed anyone, to express themselves this way. Nevertheless, the statements are not all lies. Most of them, in fact, are not lies.

Does it matter? It does. When the New York Times call a list “definitive,’ that list should at a minimum meet the definition of what the New York Times claims to be exposing. It does not. The definition of a lie is a “a deliberately false statement designed to deceive.”

If we assume that the New York Times knows what a lie is, and if the Times does not then it should have no credibility at all, since a journalist’s mission is to report the truth, then the list proves that the New York Times deliberately set out to deceive its readers.

At one point, the Times says,

“We are using the word “lie” deliberately. Not every falsehood is deliberate on Trump’s part. But it would be the height of naïveté to imagine he is merely making honest mistakes. He is lying.”

This is a self-contradictory statement. If a falsehood isn’t deliberate, then it isn’t a lie.

In presenting this unethical project, the Times took unethical advantage of its readers’ confirmation bias. When the “Lie” list was printed, the Times made certain that it would require super-human dedication and extraordinary eyesight to read it, through the devices of listing every item and the Times commentary in horizontal sequence and in half the usual size type-face. (See above) This ensured that almost no readers would make the Herculean effort to read the whole thing , especially since the well-trained Times readers already “knows” that Donald Trump is a liar. In addition, the explosion of tiny words created the visceral response of “Wow! Look at all those lies!” which is exactly the effect the Times editors wanted.

But that isn’t reporting, and it isn’t journalism. The “list” was a page-size, visual, ad hominem attack. The Times wasn’t seeking close scrutiny of its list, nor was it interested in making any rebuttal easy or likely.

We have learned that the Times list was largely assembled from various fact-checker columns. That is a red flag, and explains many of the most embarrassing inclusions on the list. None of the fact-checkers are trustworthy. All of them are biased, Snopes and PolitiFact worst of all, and they consistently register opinions that the writer disagrees with as “false.” Many, many of the items on the Times list are in this category.

I’m not going to go over the entire list here and distinguish between the lies and non-lies, though I have done the analysis. My template for an undisputed Presidential lie would be Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”—he did, and he said this deliberately to deceive; and Barack Obama’s “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” declaration that he made repeatedly to sell Obamacare to the American people in 2009. The “women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same job” is a fake statistic that both Clinton  and Obama (and Hillary and Bernie) used, but that would not qualify as a lie on my scale.  I think they believe it, or believe that it’s close enough to true that they aren’t lying when they refer to it. Many of the “lies” on the list fall into this gray area. Of course, the Times never set out to list all of Obama’s lies, or Clinton’s, because they never wanted to suggest either of them were untrustworthy, though a good argument could be made that Clinton was, and Obama regularly engaged in deceit and misrepresentation. To its credit, the Post’s Factchecker did create a list of outgoing President Obama’s “Top Ten Whoppers.”

Many statements that Obama made that were much like dozens of the items on the Trump list were never called “lies” in the mainstream media, as when he attacked the Supreme Court and the Citizens United ruling in a State of the Union address by saying that the decision “will open the floodgates for special interests”…“ including foreign corporations”…” to spend without limit in our elections.” (Justice Alito was seen mouthing “not true” and shaking his head.”)

Unfortunately for the Times, listing “Trump’s lies” chronologically exposed the dishonest and biased nature of the exercise from the start. The first three “lies” are not lies.: Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: Secretary Of State John Kerry

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“…I’m proud of all the efforts we made to try to lead people to a peaceful resolution.”

John Kerry, in an interview on MSNBC, when asked if he had any regrets about the Administration’s handling of Syria;

The Sec. of State’s full answer:

Well again, Andrea, I’m going to have a lot of opportunities to be able to look back and digest what choices might have been made. I’m not going to do it now… Except to say to you, very clearly, that I’m proud of all the efforts we made to try to lead people to a peaceful resolution. And in fact, the only solution to Syria will be a peaceful agreement along the lines of what we laid out… and the several communiques that we issued, and the United Nations resolution that we passed. 2254. Those will be the basis for whatever happens, if they get there.

No, I’m not going to call Kerry’s statement an unethical quote, even as close as it came to making my head explode. Fortunately my expectations of John Kerry are basement-level low, from long experience. However, the latest fatuous sentiment from this veteran doofus is provocative and instructive.

In many pursuits, as we discuss here often, whether someone has done the right thing, made the ethical choice, should be evaluated on the basis of whether the conduct was competently considered and arrived at according to facts and ethical considerations before the conduct commenced. Judging its ethical nature  afterwards, when factors the decision-maker could not have foreseen or controlled have affected the result, is a fallacy: “It all worked out for the best” and thus the decision must have been ethical. This is consequentialism, and “the ends justifies the means” in its most seductive form.

A very recent example was the Republican leadership’s decision not to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. No, the tactic wasn’t unconstitutional or illegal. It was unethical, however: obstructive, partisan politics defying tradition and fairness. It was also, as I pointed out at the time, stupid. When Obama, knowing of the GOP’s intent, appointed not a flame-breathing left-wing zealot but a moderate-liberal judge of impressive credentials, the GOP majority in the Senate should have rushed to confirm him, knowing well that a nomination by Obama’s presumed successor, Hillary Clinton, would unbalance the Court to a far greater degree.

The GOP lucked out, as we now know. Now President Trump will fill that vacancy on the Court, with major impact on important legal disputes for decades to come. That’s all moral luck, however. The ethics verdict on the conduct still stands. It worked, but it was wrong.

Success is not irrelevant to ethics, of course. Many jobs are ethically complex because getting a desired result is part of the mission. The result and the manner of achieving it are important. If your job is to win the war, you can’t say you did an excellent job if the war was lost. Competence is still an ethical value. A successful CEO’s company does not go belly-up by definition. Government is often analogized to sailing a ship to a destination, or flying a plane, with good reason. Part of the responsibility a government leader has is to make choices that work to the benefit of  those governed, and others as well. A captain whose ship sinks cannot say afterwards, “I did one hell of a job.” Continue reading

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The New York Times Proves Why Journalists Can’t Be Trusted To “Fact-Check” Since They Don’t Know What A Lie Is

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Ugh.

I finally grabbed a barf bag and read the New York Times attack piece from the weekend titled “A Week of Whoppers.” Silly me: Donald Trump lies so often that I simply took it on faith that the Times would have no trouble finding real and substantive lies to expose from The Donald. Instead, what I found were a few genuine lies of no great significance lumpod with statements that were obviously not meant literally, off-the-cuff remarks that any objective listener would assume were just generalizations, self-evident hyperbole, or opinion. None rose to the level of outright attempts to deceive on the magnitude of “I never sent or received classified material,” or “wiped? Like with a cloth?”

Needless to say, but I’ll still say it, none came within a Washington mile of lies like “I did not have sex with that woman,”  which is one Hillary Clinton attempted to facilitate. It is depressing that any reporter, editor or reader would find the analysis that all 31 of these alleged “lies by Trump were “lies” fair, rational or convincing. Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman prove themselves to be partisan hacks with this weak piece of anti-Trump hype. The statements flagged here are so clearly the result of a concerted anti-Trump bias that editors must have assumed that few would actually read them, and just take the headline and sheer size of the feature as proof that the Times had legitimately proven massive dishonesty.

And it had: its own.

Here are all 31 alleged Trump “lies,” with the Ethics Alarms verdicts on each. Continue reading

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For The Donald Trump Files: Now THIS Is Signature Significance!

trumpence 60 minutes

I confess that I started to watch the Leslie Stahl “60 Minutes” interview with Donald Trump and his newly-named running mate Mike Pence, but I abandoned ship almost immediately. It was too horrible. Watching Trump (I have a similar reaction to watching Hillary) just makes me depressed, furious, and confused. As John Adams sings at the musical climax of 1776, does  anybody see what I see?

Well, I know millions do, but not nearly enough, soon enough. This Republican National Convention is a part of a national tragedy. The only question is how great the tragedy will be.

Now that I have read the transcript, I realize that I bailed shortly before the smokiest smoking gun of the many in the whole interview. This exchange, more than any other in the segment, compels the question to any Trump supporter: How can you possibly want to hire a guy like this to be your leader?  Perhaps it is more appropriate  to pose a different question, to pose it to the staggering party gathering in Cleveland to nominate this fool: How could you allow this to happen?

I wouldn’t hire someone who speaks and reasons like this to work for me in any capacity, however lowly, requiring trust, judgment or intelligence. It is signature significance as a whole, and in its parts. An intelligent, trustworthy, ethical person could never give such an interview, not in private, not in public, certainly not on national TV.

Here is the jaw-dropping exchange; I’ll mark the important sections A-K for exposition: Continue reading

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Bad News Bernie Fans: Your Hero Is Just As Ethically Clueless As Donald Trump

rose and Bernie

From the transcript of Bernie Sanders’ interview with CBS’s Charlie Rose:

ROSE: But take a listen to this, this is what you’ve said. You said that, “Clinton should apologize for Iraq war deaths.”

SANDERS: This is after I was asked to apologize for the tragedy in Sandy Hook. You know, put these things into context.

ROSE: Tit for tat.

SANDERS: It is tit for tat. But I’m responding to attacks that are being made against me.

ROSE: I’m asking where the tenor of this campaign is going. And is that going too far to say she bears responsibility for Iraqi war deaths?

 SANDERS: Do I bear responsibility for the tragedy and the horrors of Sandy Hook? So, you know, let’s get off of that. Of course she doesn’t bear responsibility. She voted for the war in Iraq. That was a very bad vote, in my view. Do I hold her accountable? No.

ROSE: I just wanna come back to the Iraqi thing one second, and one more question. You have said that she voted for the Iraqi war. Other people did as well. Many other people. Do you hold all of them responsible for the deaths of Americans?

SANDERS: No. 

ROSE: Then why say it, Senator? That’s the question.

SANDERS: I am saying it because I was attacked.

NOTES: Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On An Ugly–But Entertaining!—GOP Debate

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I knew this time would come, and it came the same week for both parties: I’m getting sick of the debates, and it’s harder and harder to find new illumination and conclusions with each one. For some reason, however—the effect of the unsettling news of Justice Scalia’s sudden death. perhaps?—last night’s Republican debate (transcript here) was nastier and more personal than any of the debates this cycle, and Charles Krauthammer may be correct that that it was the most ugly Presidential candidates debate ever.

Observations:

1. This was 100% the fault of Donald Trump. I keep reading that the Republicans should be embarrassed—-what control does the party have over Trump? He’s in the race, and that means that he will drag down the conduct in the race. Arguing with him is like arguing with a 12-year-old—I was reminded of Erma Bombeck’s line that it is impossible to argue with a six-year-old without sounding like a six-year-old. Sometimes I think all the debaters should agree to turn their backs on Trump when he’s ranting, like all the jurors do in “Twelve Angry Men” when the racist finally lets it all out.

I wrote months ago that Republicans should have told Trump he wasn’t a Republican and thus wasn’t welcome in the debates, the nomination race or the party. They had neither the foresight, principles nor guts to do that, and now they are stuck with him polluting the debates and the race, engaging in the equivalent of belching and farting, as the juveniles supporting him cheer and snicker. Good job, everybody.

2. That was excellent, fair, competent moderation by John Dickerson. You know the debate has been a mess when the moderator is the star.

3. I have really come to resent Ben Carson’s sleepy, arrogant, useless statements and observations, wasting precious time, blathering platitudes, appealing only to those ignorant souls, like him, who really think the most challenging and consequential job on Earth should be handed to a proud amateur. In that respect, he is the most unethical individual on the stage. Continue reading

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The Washington Post Drops Its Resident Op-Ed Socialist. Good.

Workers Unite

The Washington Post has jettisoned Harold Meyerson, who has been the leftest of the leftists on the Washington Post op-ed pages for about 13 years…not surprising, as he also serves as editor at large for The American Prospect. Mayerson, according to his last column, was told that he was a goner because he was losing readers and because his columns were repetitious, which they certainly were. How many times, after all, can one read “Workers Unite!”?  From Occupy Wall Street to BlackLivesMatter, there was no revolt of the oppressed and downtrodden that Meyerson didn’t support, nor any standard issue socialist/progressive position that he did not wholeheartedly embrace.

The Post has other kneejerk leftists among their pundits, a disproportionate number in fact (this was also part of the Post’s motivation to let Meyerson go), but I found Meyerson more infuriating than the others because he seemed so much more intelligent than his positions and statements would suggest. He was the epitome of an opinion journalist whose opinions seemed to be calibrated to achieve a grander agenda, rather than honest expressions of truth or even what he really believed. He is a columnist in the Saul Alinsky tradition of liberalism, willing to bend truth for the greater good, to win converts for the Great Worker Rebellion, or whatever it would be.

No newspaper should employ a journalist who is willing to deceive its readers, even on the pretense of saving the world.

Continue reading

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