The News Media-“Resistance” Alliance On Ugly Display In The “Spygate” Spin

The revelation that there was a mole, Stefan Halper, planted in his campaign by the FBI, prompted President Donald Trump to demand an investigation into whether the FBI or Justice Department infiltrated his campaign for political purposes.  The “resistance” and the mainstream news media have been in panic mode ever since, and have been actively bad at it. Heaven forbid that journalists could admit that when they mocked the President for suggesting that his campaign was surveilled, they were wrong and he was right.

Scott Adams neatly exposed the hypocrisy and dishonesty, tweeting,

“Four things to understand about SPYGATE: 1) There was no spy in the Trump campaign. 2) The spying that did NOT happen was totally justified. 3) It would be bad for national security to identify the spy who doesn’t exist. 4) His name is Stefan.”

Ann Althouse deserves applause for her analysis as well:

James Clapper was on “The View” yesterday and it went like this:

BEHAR: “So I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump’s campaign?”

CLAPPER: “No, they were not. They were spying on, a term I don’t particularly like, but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence which is what they do.”

BEHAR: “Well, why doesn’t [Trump] like that? He should be happy.”

CLAPPER: “He should be.”

Well, Trump seems happy that the word “spying” slipped out of Clapper as he was talking about what the FBI was doing. Clapper obviously knew he slipped, since he immediately tried to (subtly) erase it.

Trump displayed his happiness by tweeting: “‘Trump should be happy that the FBI was SPYING on his campaign’ No, James Clapper, I am not happy. Spying on a campaign would be illegal, and a scandal to boot!” And, talking to reporters: “I mean if you look at Clapper … he sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign yesterday inadvertently. I hope it’s not true, but it looks like it is.”

Then Ann dissected CNN toady Chris Cillizza’s embarrassing attempt to cover for Trump foe Clapper—which, you know, is not the job of a real journalist, only that of a biased hack: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/25/18: “March For Our Lives” Hangover Edition

Good Morning!

1 Exploitation carnage. I feel so sorry for David Hogg. No teenaged male so obviously locked into the arrogation asshole stage of the maturation process, should be exposed to public scrutiny like this. His intemperate and foolish rhetoric will haunt him for the rest of his life. He will either be humiliated when his brain cells kick in, or he will develop into a full-fledged monster. What if he wants to go in a different direction in his life and career? I wouldn’t hire him. Who would? He’s restricted to left-wing activists until he changes his name or does a high-profile mea culpa and goes on a reinvention tour. Celebrity, as Paul Petersen has spent his life trying to teach us, is disastrous for kids; never mind: the cynical, ruthless partisan operatives who made Hogg into their weapon and shield don’t care about him, just the momentary political advantages he represents. When he is chewed up and spit out, as he certainly will be, they will have forgotten his name.

2. A half-Fick sighting! A (she says) transgender woman who calls herself “Lauren” on Twitter claimed to be drugging attendees of a conservative conference in Phoenix, Arizona yesterday, tweeting

“I love my job at the phoenix convention center starbucks and i love slipping my spare estradiol pills in the coffee of anyone wearing a #WesternConservativeConference lanyard.”

A GOP Candidate Wins A House Seat In Montana Despite Attacking A Reporter The Night Before The Election. What’s Going On Here?

Yesterday, in an Ethics Alarms post pointing out that nobody should vote a person who physically attacks reporters, or indeed, who attacks anybody, into Congress, I wrote,

What kind of person would vote for Gianforte after last night’s display? The kind of person who argues that character doesn’t matter in elected officials, only their positions.

And idiots, of course.

Candidate/Thug Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate, won the election nonetheless with over 50% of the votes. Rob Quist, the Democrat, received only 44%. Does this mean that over 50% of Montana voters are idiots? No, that wouldn’t be a fair conclusion. An estimated 60% of voters had turned in their ballots already, so the Gianforte voters in that batch weren’t necessarily idiots. (As I implied in the post yesterday, the advocates for voting before election day, thus allowing late-arriving information about the candidates—as in, “Hey! This guy is an unstable, volatile jerk with the judgment of a bar room goon!” to have minimal effect on  election results, have embraced an irresponsible, idiotic even, policy.)

Gianforte’s victory illuminate  other ethics issues, hwoever:

1. Addressing supporters in his victory speech, Gianforte apologized to the reporter he body-slammed, the journalists who witnessed the attack, and Montanans, saying “When you make a mistake you have to own up to it. That’s the Montana way.”

Ugh, yecchh, gag, petui!

If that’s the Montana way, why did Gianforte sit back and allow his campaign to blame the episode on the reporter? Remember, the statement from Gianforte’s staff, which is to say Gianforte,  said that the reporter,

“entered the [campaign] office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions….After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

That isn’t owning up. That’s covering up, spinning and lying. Does the new Congressman’s apology mean that he acknowledges that his campaign was lying? When will he own up to that?  An apology now is cheap, cynical and meaningless, for Gianforte won, and Montana is stuck with him for two years.

2. A Montana TV station refused to inform its viewers that Gianforte had assaulted and battered a reporter. NBC affiliate KECI, recently purchased by the conservative media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting, adamantly kept the report of the attack and the audio of the incident,  arguing that “The person that tweeted [Jacobs] and was allegedly body slammed is a reporter for a politically biased publication.”  That “biased publication” was the Guardian, and the tweeter was Ben Jacobs, the victim. His account was confirmed by reporters from Fox News…you know, that liberal network that is always trying to make Republicans look bad. The anchor of the evening newscast, Laurel Staples, read a statement that said, in part, “NBC Montana takes pride in reporting only verifiable facts from an independent, reliable sources.”

 NBC News, including the Today show and affiliates across the country, played the audio of the altercation between Jacobs and Gianforte, who was charged with misdemeanor assault, indicating that reports of the episode were reliable. Continue reading

“Fake News” Friday Continues! Episode II: The CIA Says Russia Was Helping Trump [UPDATED]

trump-tweet

Yes, those emails.

(No, it wasn’t illegal, just incredibly unethical.)

It all began with this story in the Washington Post:

“The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.”

When the New York Times later came out with a story headlined  “C.I.A. Judgment on Russia Built on Swell of Evidence,” non-partisan law prof/blogger/ skeptic Ann Althouse inquired, as the mainstream news media did not, whether the content of the article supported that headline “because there’s so much fake news these days.” (Ann is funny.)

She wrote in part,

“There’s a lot of material in the article that is not about [ Russia helping Donald Trump win]  at all. I’m excluding that, which is padding if the headline is the correct headline. Go to the link if you want to see what it is. The first relevant material comes in the 16th paragraph: The DNC’s servers and John Podesta’s email account were hacked and a lot of damaging and embarrassing material was released onto the internet.

“Next:

American intelligence officials believe that Russia also penetrated databases housing Republican National Committee data, but chose to release documents only on the Democrats. The committee has denied that it was hacked.

“So here’s the crucial disputed question of fact: Were the GOP servers also hacked? We’re not told what evidence supports the belief that the GOP servers were also hacked, but the GOP says they were not. Yet some “intelligence officials believe” it was. Why? Where’s the “swell of evidence” you were going to tell me about?

“Even if that fact were nailed down, there would still be more leaps needed to get to the conclusion. First: Was there any embarrassing material? What? If I knew what, I could begin to think about the next question: Why would embarrassing material be withheld? All I can see from the supposed “swell of evidence” here is an assumption that if the DNC was hacked, the GOP committee was also hacked, and that if bad material was found in the DNC server, bad material would also be found in the GOP server, and since we only saw the DNC material, there must have been a conscious decision — by whom?! — to leak only the DNC things and that decision must have been made to help Trump win. That’s not evidence itself, only inference based on evidence.

“Finally, there are a few paragraphs about why “Putin and the Russian government” might be thought to prefer a Trump presidency to a Clinton presidency. Trump and Putin have given each other some compliments.

“That’s no swell of evidence! That’s a lot of leaping guesswork. And this is nothing more than I already read in the article the NYT put out on December 9th, which I put effort into combing through and rejected for the same reasons I’m putting in this new post.

“This might be the biggest fake news story I’ve ever seen!” Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “An Ethics Mystery: Why Can’t Democrats Be Honest Or Responsible Regarding The Syrian Refugees?”

No risk too small...

No risk too small…

I asked for a single reasonable, rational explanation of Democratic/progressive enthusiasm for allowing Syrian refugees, including an unknown number of potential terrorists, to enter and reside in the United States. I cited the pathetic attempts at such arguments made by various officials, candidates for President, and journalists. What has come in from comments so far does not meet my standard of reasonable or persuasive, and frankly deepens the mystery of why liberal leanings force people to take such positions. One of the most revealing articles of the liberal mindset came from extreme-left journalist Kevin Drum, writing on the web site of the “by any means necessary” leftist publication Mother Jones. He wrote:

“Here’s the thing: to the average person, it seems perfectly reasonable to be suspicious of admitting Syrian refugees to the country. We know that ISIS would like to attack the US. We know that ISIS probably has the wherewithal to infiltrate a few of its people into the flood of refugees. And most voters have no idea how easy it is to get past US screening. They probably figure it’s pretty easy.

So to them it doesn’t seem xenophobic or crazy to call for an end to accepting Syrian refugees. It seems like simple common sense. After all, things changed after Paris.

Mocking Republicans over this—as liberals spent much of yesterday doing on my Twitter stream—seems absurdly out of touch to a lot of people. Not just wingnut tea partiers, either, but plenty of ordinary centrists too. It makes them wonder if Democrats seriously see no problem here. Do they care at all about national security? Are they really that detached from reality?

The liberal response to this should be far more measured. We should support tight screening. Never mind that screening is already pretty tight. We should highlight the fact that we’re accepting a pretty modest number of refugees. In general, we should act like this is a legitimate thing to be concerned about and then work from there….”

How damning and obnoxious. Drum never actually explains why the concern aren’t legitimate; he just condescendingly assumes that his compatriots understand they just are, because…why? Obama, who has been wrong about just about everything, says so, I suppose. Or because progressives are just enlightened. Maybe because Democrats believe open borders are a great thing, because the minority migrants, legal or illegal, mean more votes. I have no idea why he is so smugly superior, but he gives only one substantive argument: “Never mind that screening is already pretty tight.”

Oh is it now? From that far-right conservative, Republican wacko xenophobic newspaper, the Washington Post:

While they say U.S. security measures are much better than in the past, vetting Syrian refugees poses a quandary: How do you screen people from a war-torn country that has few criminal and terrorist databases to check?

The United States has resettled more than 3 million refugees since the mid-1970s, and the screening system in the post-9/11 era includes multiple background checks, screenings against FBI and other databases and an in-person interview. Debate over the program has intensified since the deadly terrorist strikes in Paris blamed on the Islamic State, though each attacker identified so far whose nationality has been confirmed has been found to be a European national, not part of the wave of refugees from Syria.

“I don’t, obviously, put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees, so that’s a huge concern of ours,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a security industry conference in September, using another name for the Islamic State. He added that the government has “a pretty aggressive program” for screening refugees but that he is less confident about European nations.

FBI Director James Comey added in congressional testimony last month that “a number of people who were of serious concern” slipped through the screening of Iraq War refugees, including two arrested on terrorism-related charges. “There’s no doubt that was the product of a less than excellent vetting,” he said.

Although Comey said the process has since “improved dramatically,” Syrian refugees will be even harder to check because, unlike in Iraq, U.S. soldiers have not been on the ground collecting information on the local population. “If we don’t know much about somebody, there won’t be anything in our data,” he said. “I can’t sit here and offer anybody an absolute assurance that there’s no risk associated with this.”

Then the story follows with an extensive description of what screening is supposed to be, an was with Iraqi refugees—none of which appears to be relevant to the reality of screening the Syrian. The story concludes:

But one of the senior administration officials at Tuesday’s briefing acknowledged the limitations inherent in screening refugees from Syria, where it’s very difficult to determine something as basic as an applicant’s criminal history.

“We do the best with what we have,” the official said. “We talk to people about what their criminal histories are, and we hear about that. That’s pretty much where we are.”

Talk to people about what their criminal histories are. Yup, nothing to worry about. Only xenophobes and racists would see any deficiencies or risks here. Let’s just pretend to respect what they say; they can’t stop it anyway.

Here is Beth’s Comment of the Day on the post, An Ethics Mystery: Why Can’t Democrats Be Honest Or Responsible Regarding The Syrian Refugees??

Yes, I’ll be back at the end.

And still ticked off. Continue reading

Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck Update: The James Clapper Perjury Follies

NSA head James Clapper testifying, forgetting, speaking in code, misleading or lying. Something. Whatever.

NSA head James Clapper testifying, forgetting, speaking in code, misleading or lying. Something. Whatever.

The Obama Administration not only lies, but encourages and rewards lying. This is an inescapable conclusion. The saga of James Clapper’s perjury before Congress is a perfect, and depressing example.

At a March 2013 Senate hearing, Senator Ron Wyden, prompted by the leaks of classified information through Edward Snowdon, asked head of the NSA James Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No, sir,” Clapper replied. “Not wittingly.”

That means, by any assessment, “If we do, it’s not intentional.” That was a lie. Clapper knew it was false. Wyden later said that he had sent his question to Clapper’s office a day before the hearing, and after the hearing had given Clapper’s office a chance to correct the misstatement after the hearing, but it did not. In June, the nation learned that the agency was routinely collecting data on the phone calls of millions of Americans. (This was the program just declared illegal by a federal court.)

NOTE: The original post erroneously attributed the decision to the Supreme Court. It hasn’t heard the case yet. That was a bad and careless mistake, and I apologize for it. Nothing like not checking your own links, Jack.

The government, including Clapper, has now attempted a dizzying array of rationalizations, excuses and obfuscations to avoid the unavoidable conclusion that Clapper lied to Congress while under oath, that he should be prosecuted, or at very least be fired by that leader of the Most Transparent Administration in History That Somehow Manages To Lie every Time A Mouth Open, Barack Obama. Even by the standards of this sorry administration, it’s an ugly journey into the cold heart of an untrustworthy government. Continue reading

Will President Obama’s New Leadership Model Cripple U.S. Management Competence For Decades?

America in ruins

 It seems to be a distinct possibility.

The President of the United States is the culture’s most powerful, visible and influential leader. Like it of not, he is also a role model for leadership and management across society. He has the most responsibility, the largest organization to oversee, and the most vital interests at stake. The management and leadership techniques he uses necessarily set a standard others, especially young, inexperienced, aspiring leaders and management, will be encouraged to emulate.

What are they learning? To begin with, they are learning to accept a startlingly low standard for “confidence.”

The President has now issued two statements that he has “confidence” in the Secret Service. The assessment has special significance because the health and safety, the very lives, of the President, his wife, his young children and his staff is in the Secret Service’s hands, and the agency would seem to have demonstrated beyond all doubt that it is incapable of meeting any reasonable expectations or trust. We know that the agents are barely trained, and that they lack professionalism and self discipline. We know that agents availed themselves of prostitutes in South America, and got drunk on duty in Amsterdam. We know that  a gunman fired at least seven bullets that struck the upstairs residence of the White House in 2011, aided by a botched Secret Service response, and that just this month a deranged fence-jumper got into the residence and was running amuck before he was stopped.

The Service’s statement on that incident was jaw-dropping, saying agents “showed tremendous restraint and discipline in dealing with” an intruder who could have had a bomb or deadly intent. How could this President, any President, any leader, any manager, have “confidence” in a security force under these circumstances, with its own management displaying such a bizarre attitude?

Well, I don’t know. It’s a brand new paradigm, the most lassez faire, gentle, kind,empathetic and understanding, hands-off, no-fault, no standards, no accountability leadership style I have ever seen at any management level higher than a lemonade stand. I’m sure many members of the public, especially those who goof off at their jobs, steal supplies, file fake reports, arrive to work stoned, never finish assigned tasks and think they have a right to keep their jobs and paychecks no matter how useless they are, would love to have Obama as a boss. Such a boss would express confidence in the most obviously inept and untrustworthy employee imaginable, and apparently mean it. And never, never fire him. Continue reading