Sad Saturday Ethics Distraction, 8/24/2019: The Let Sean Spicer Make A Fool of Himself If He Wants To Edition

I hope you are feeling much happier than I am today.

I just returned from a memorial gathering for a very dear friend’s wife of 37 years, who died suddenly, painfully, and based on what I have heard, unnecessarily at the end of July. One positive take-away from the event: People really aren’t so bad. My friend was stunned and touched beyond measure by the turn-out, with nearly 200 people attending just to say good-bye to her and express their love and support for him. Some traveled great distances,  interrupted vacations, or made it despite illness and handicaps.  I saw friends, former colleagues and acquaintances that had been out of this region for decades, but all it took was an email informing them that their friend, who  is one of those rare people who is always there to render help and support, now needed their support himself.

Gee, those endings of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Easter Parade” aren’t as corny as I thought...

1. What a surprise! Only 35% of those polled support impeaching a President who has done nothing impeachable! Choose: Either the Democrats and the resistance have been lying about there being real and substantive high crimes and misdemeanors in order to sabotage the elected President, or there are such offenses, and they don’t have the guts to do their Constitutional duty and act to remove a President who is the existential threat to the nation they have claimed he is since, uh, before he was sworn in, somehow.

The same poll says that 57% would prefer someone else as President. That number is astoundingly low. The Someone Else dude is terrific! What a great President he’d be; I can’t fathom why he’s never made it! I know I sure wish he was President;  I’ve wished he were President ever since Ike left the White House.

Today’s quote from a “someone else” who I would rather set my face on fire than see have any power whatsoever: Bernie Sanders, who, while bloviating that “Climate change is an existential threat to the entire country and the entire world and we must be extraordinarily aggressive,” proposed an impossible, bankrupting, irresponsible 16 trillion dollar plan to “fix” what he doesn’t personally understand, couldn’t explain with a gun to his head, cannot say with certainty how it can be addressed effectively, and could be stumped by a cross examination by any climate change skeptic with a science degree. Bernie doesn’t even understand political science, and that was his college major. Proposing spending trillions of dollars on something you don’t understand is unethical. Isn’t that obvious? Continue reading

Ethics Update On The “Shithole” Scandal: More Dunces, Hacks, Hypocrites And Liars

When we last left the ‘Shithole’ scandal, now being cited routinely up and down the news media as proof positive that the President is a racist, we knew the following:

1 Unnamed sources “briefed on” or “familiar with” the President’s meeting with select lawmakers regarding an immigration deal told the Washington Post and others that President Trump “grew frustrated with lawmakers” when he learned that part of the proposed deal protected immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries, and said,

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

2. Despite the fact that these “sources” had no direct knowledge of what was said in the meeting they did not attend, the New York Times characterized them as having “direct knowledge,” which was impossible. The news media also represented these accounts based on briefings as fact, with headlines such as the Times’ “Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa.”

3. In a series of tweets, the President denied the characterization of what he had said.

4. Senator Dick Durbin, while not expressly quoting the President, told reporters that Trump had said things “in the course of his comments which were hate-filed, vile and racist,” and added, “I use those word advisedly. I understand how powerful they are. But I cannot believe in the history of the White House in that Oval Office that any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday.”

5. Nonetheless, the news media, in its subsequent coverage in cable news shows and on the web, treated the claim that Trump had said what the second-hand, anonymous sources had claimed, and used this as a departure point for a general discussion of how racist and vulgar the President was. CNN commentators used the term “shithole” over a hundred times.

6. Websites and blogs with commentators capable of fairness and objectivity, like Ethics AlarmsAlthouse, and Powerline, were forced to accept arguendo (I’m sorry, but I love using that word) the anti-Trump narrative’s assumptions in order to point out that calling countries that are, in fact, “shitholes” is not a racist statement about the people in those countries. This, of course, is how Big Lie propaganda works. You have to accept the lie in order to debunk it.

To sum up, then: The news media reported as fact what were in truth  disputed comments in a private meeting, and the representation of these as truth solidified during the day and evening, and through yesterday.  Now we get headlines like this one, in Entertainment Weekly: “Anderson Cooper chokes up while discussing Trump’s ‘sh–hole’ comment”

Updated Comments and observations: Continue reading

Sean Spicer, The Great Crowd Size Controversy, And A New Ethics Train Wreck

 trains_collision

Today the talking heads’ heads couldn’t stop talking about the Great Crowd Size Controversy.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer called a special press conference yesteray evening to berate the news media for, he said, misrepresenting the size of Friday’s Inauguration crowd. He said, 

“[P]hotographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall…This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period —both in person and around the globe.  These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

This was gleefully pounced upon by Spicer’s targets, who then ran story after story showing that 1) the 2017 Inauguration crowds were smaller than the previous two Inaugurations, 2) Spicer was lying, and 3) hence Trump was lying, so 4) Trump had berated the news media for simply telling the truth, and 5) Spicer had forfeited all credibility on his first day on the job, the fool.

Points of ethical clarification and exposition:

1. The news media had already destroyed its own credibility regarding the Trump administration before Day One, with its unfettered hostility and bias against the incoming President. No assessment of the Great Crowd Size Controversy can commence without understanding that context. Everything the mainstream news media prints or says about Trump from here on–unless the journalistic establishment changes course—will be interpreted in that light by fair-minded, non-gullible  people. In addition, nobody sane, or not determined to diminish Trump in any way possible no matter how petty, gives an urban rodent’s derriere how the crowd at Trump’s Inauguration compared to Barack Obama’s. Quick: was Truman’s crowd bigger or smaller than the assembled at FDR’s second swearing-in? Was Polk’s throng larger or smaller than Lincoln’s? Was Wilson’s larger than Taft’s? I’m a Presidential trivia nut, and I don’t know or care. it just doesn’t matter. At all. Ever.

2. Other “scoops” from last week prove how derangedly anti-Trump the news media has been.. The New York Times intentionally misrepresented facts to make Secretary of Energy Rick Perry look ridiculous, when one hardly has to misrepresent anything to make Rick Perry look ridiculous.  TIME published a demonstrably false story about Trump removing the bust of Martin Luther King from its place in the White House. Why did it do this? Why do you think? The average reporter has adopted the Democratic narrative that Trump is racistxenophobicmisogynisthomophobic, so TIME’s reporter believed bad information without checking it, because it reflected badly on Trump, and TIME’s editors did the same. Is this crappy journalism? Yes. Fake news? Yup. Did Trump have every reason to resent this? Sure. Does it reaffirm his own biases against the news media? Bingo. Continue reading

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 3)

ellen-selfie

2014 Conflicts of Interest of the Year

  • Conflicted Elected Official: Philadelphia State Senator LeAnna Washington. This is always an entertaining category. Washington was convicted of using her tax-payer financed staff to organize a yearly campaign fundraiser around her birthday party. When one staffer complained that this was illegal, she reportedly replied, according to his grand jury testimony:

“I am the fucking senator, I do what the fuck I want, and ain’t nobody going to change me. I have been doing it like this for 17 years. So stop trying to change me.”

  • Conflicted Journalist: CNN sent Jay Carney, fresh off his assignment as President Obama’s official spokesman, defender and spinmeister, to cover his ex-boss’s speech.
  • Conflicted  “Non-partisan” Watchdog: CREW. The Center For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and its chief, Melanie Sloan, finally came clean (after falsely claiming non-profit status as a non-partisan organization for years) by making David Brock, head of the openly partisan, foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Republican media watchdog Media Matters its Chairman of the Board, essentially merging the two groups.
  • Appearance of Impropriety Award: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La), Republican Whip. It is not certain yet whether Scalise knowingly spoke to a group of white supremacists in 20o2, inadvertently spoke to the group, or just spoke to another group meeting in the same venue before the David Duke-affiliated group of racists started comparing sheets. It isn’t even clear that Scalise knows, but everyone should agree that it looks awful no matter how you categorize it, making the fiasco a classic appearance of impropriety situation. If the Republicans were smart, they would dump him.

Unethical Attire of the Year

Offensive shirt

This.

Unethical Political Candidate of the Year

Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, whose campaign materials were largely plagiarized from the materials other candidates.

Ethically Clueless Voters of the Year

New York’s 11th Congressional District, which contains Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. These alert and ethical citizens sent back to Washington thuggish and crooked Rep. Michael Grimm (R), then facing a 20-count indictment by federal authorities for fraud, federal tax evasion, and perjury, having earlier distinguished himself by threatening to kill a reporter and being recorded doing so.

  Unethical Advertising of the Year

Lawyer Division:

Public Service Announcement Division:

TV Program Division:

The Discovery Channel’s campaign for “Eaten Alive!” which did not, in fact, feature anyone being “eaten alive,” or at all.

Private Sector Product Division:

Halos. Or perhaps this is the Child Abuse Division:

Political Campaign Division:

Wendy Davis, Democratic candidate for Texas Governor, offered an ad attacking her wheelchair- bound opponent that 1) appealed to bias against the disabled 2) misrepresented the duties of a state attorney general 3) misrepresented the facts of the cases the ad referred to and  4)  deceived the public regarding the ethical duties of lawyers, which Davis, a lawyer, presumably understands. Continue reading

NUCLEAR KABOOM! CNN Assigns Jay Carney To Cover Obama’s Speech: Could It Be More Contemptuous Of Fairness And Objectivity?

head explodes

My head hadn’t exploded for a while, and I thought perhaps it had built up some immunity from the detonating effects of ethics breaches that defied all reason. Then I read this in Politico:

Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney will join CNN as a political commentator, the network announced Wednesday.

He will start Wednesday night as President Barack Obama makes a primetime statement about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant , Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief said in a statement.

“Jay’s unique experience as both a journalist and a White House press secretary make him an invaluable voice for the network as we cover the final two years of the Obama Administration and look ahead to the coming campaigns,” Feist said. “We’re fortunate to have Jay on our air tonight to provide analysis and insight surrounding the President’s address to the nation.”

KABOOM!

Get the squeegee and the ladder, hon—my brains are on the ceiling.

Continue reading

Good!

Carney

Breaking news:

Jay Carney has resigned as Presidential spokesman.

Observations:

  • It would be nice if the reason stated was that he had lost all credibility by virtue of his evasive, deceitful, and often flat-out dishonest answers to the press. Of course, that won’t be the case.
  • Is he the most dishonest press secretary ever? That’s hard to say. Would it be possible for one to be more dishonest?
  • I knew Ron Ziegler, the much-maligned press secretary through much of the Nixon administration. I would trust Ron before I would trust Jay, who would have been a perfect fit for Tricky Dick.
  • PresumablyCarney has a job lined up. Who would trust this guy, who was accurately described as a paid liar? I wouldn’t believe a thing he wrote or said. Nor would I hire him even if he personally was an honest individual. An honest individual who nonetheless lies and deceives the American public to keep his job has no integrity, and is a coward as well.
  • Yeah, it’s a tough job. So is hit man.

Everyone says Jay Carney is a hell of a nice guy. There are a lot of nice guys I wouldn’t trust, and he’s one of them.

Good riddance.

 PS: I wrote this a year ago.

 

 

 

I Repeat: April Fools Day Is Not For Ethical Professionals

april-fools-day-banner

In a much attacked post here way back in 2010, I offered some ethical guidelines for April Fool’s Day, which was just beginning to get out of hand. I was right, my critics were wrong, and maybe some of the mockers who are now trying to figure out when their favorite news organization is lying to them today for fun, as opposed to the rest of the year when it lies to them out of bias or incompetence, are beginning to appreciate my position.

I just watched three different morning news shows that contained fake news or commentary that the reporters and anchors, at least, seemed to think was hilarious. In one case, on Fox, conservative talk-show host Laura Ingraham dead-panned a remarkably even-handed and fair explanation for HHS Secretary Sibelius’s much-maligned TV silence when asked about the Affordable Care Act’s unpopularity.  April Fool! Laura wasn’t being fair or objective, she was just tricking Fox’s audience into being angry at her for being fair and objective, or, in my case, admiring her integrity for pointing out that the incident had more than one plausible interpretation. Got me, Laura. I just heard an NPR host plead with the audience not to regard the upcoming segment as a hoax because of the date, an especially difficult plea since NPR springs virtual hoaxes on its audience all year.

The first and most important of my April Fools guidelines was this:

1. April Fools’ Day tricks are not for professionals to play on those who depend on them, trust them, or otherwise rely on them for information or services, unless there is a special relationship as well. The risks of harm and abuse are too great.

The succeeding four years have validated my position. Journalism, government and politics are the prime examples. CNN played a video that showed Jay Carney crowing yesterday about the Affordable Care Act’s success even as the Healthcare.gov website had crashed. Wait..is this a joke? Did the Obama White House film this for fun and games? They wouldn’t do this, you say? Government officials don’t use their high office for jokes and hoaxes? Really?

Sen. Ted Cruz, also on Fox, showed his new tattoo, apparently an April Fools’ joke, but also said he was certain that the Affordable Care Act would be repealed. Which is more likely, that the AFA will be repealed, or that wacky Ted Cruz would get a tattoo? Slate has a post up by someone called Rehan Salan, which is, clearly, a clever anagram for “En Anal Rash” or something, arguing that adults without children should be forced to pay extra taxes to support parents. Hah! Good one, Slate! That should turn the “pro choice” crowd on its head: lets; punish the choice not to have children via a penalty—I’m sorry, Chief Justice Roberts, a tax, wink-wink. Wait…that isn’t a joke? Ok, well, I’m sure about this, then: that fake video showing famous tough guy Don Baylor, a record holder for being hit by pitches when he played and now a coach for the Los Angeles Angels, “breaking his leg” catching the ceremonial first pitch of the baseball season. April Fools, right ESPN? No????

Continue reading

“Fuck the EU”

Victoria Nuland, meet Earl Butz.

Victoria Nuland, meet Earl Butz.

In today’s news, Victoria Nuland,  Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and the top American diplomat in Europe, is heard in a viral Youtube video saying “Fuck the EU,” meaning the European Union, meaning the United States’ allies in Europe, meaning the constituency it is her job to get along with,and not insult like a middle schooler.

A U.S. government competent in international diplomacy, serious about international affairs, and familiar with the concepts of damage control and accountability would sack the unfortunate Ms. Nuland immediately. Waiting until she becomes completely useless and the gaffe escalates into a serious international rift with substantive consequences would be incompetent, lazy and stupid. But this, remember, is the Barack Obama Amateur Diplomacy Era. Nuland has apologized for saying “Fuck the EU,” and that, for now, is the best the European Union will get, because the President Obama and his subordinates (fish-rots-head-down) doesn’t acknowledge the ethical principle of accountability, nor professionalism and competence, as far as I can see.

In its actions, if not its words, the administration has been saying “fuck the rest of the world” with some regularity.  Obama’s nominee for Ambassador of Argentina revealed in last week’s confirmation hearings that he has never been there, nor does he speak Spanish. Unlike the many other countries’ languages that our ambassadors assigned to them can’t understand, it really isn’t hard to find qualified diplomats who speak Spanish. Noah Bryson Mamet, however, wasn’t nominated to head the embassy in a major South American nation because he has a clue of how to do that job. He bundled $500,000 for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, you see, and no fewer than 23 such “bundlers” have received ambassador posts as their pay-off. Continue reading

Ethics Heroes: Senate Republicans

crack

Just say “No.”

Sneaking expensive entitlements into long-term national policy is craven, dishonest, and continues the dangerous trend of sloppy, election-driven legislating that has become virtually standard operating practice in recent years. Senate Republicans generated some hope for transparency and the future of honest debate on governing philosophy by using the threat of a filibuster to block yet another extension of the supposedly “short-term” extensions of unemployment benefits.

I’ve written about this recently, so I won’t belabor it, but there was nothing in Democratic rhetoric surrounding the extension to disprove my suspicion, which was  full-blown three years ago, that this is nothing but a strategy for embedding  a permanent government subsidy of unemployment without a national debate regarding the consequences of such a policy. A ‘temporary” benefit is permanent if elected representatives lack the integrity and courage to end it; for an example one need only look to the supposedly short-term “Bush tax cuts,” which a Democratic President and legislature, despite exorbitant rhetoric about how irresponsible they were (and irresponsible they were), extended, and they are in place still. There is not a single Democratic argument in favor of the supposedly temporary extension that would not apply to a policy of paying the unemployed forever. Here are some quotes from “The Hill” yesterday:

  • “We’re one Republican vote away from restoring benefits to 1.7 million Americans.  There is one Republican vote standing in the way of a lifeline to these 1.7 million people.”-Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

1.7 million, 1 million, 657,000…when would such benefits not qualify, in Reid’s words, as a “lifeline”? If the answer is never, and it is, why would anyone believe these are intended to be temporary benefits? Isn’t the money just as crucial to an unemployed worker whether he or she has 1.7 million companions in misery, or fewer? Continue reading

Manipulated: “The Fact Checker’s” Top Ten Lies Of 2013

liars2Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post “Fact Checker,” came out with his list of the ten worst “Pinocchios” of the year (Kessler rates lies from one little growing-nosed puppet to four.) The Post’s version of this kind of column is fairer than most (The fairest and least tarnished by bias is FactCheck.org, by a mile. Its list of worst lies is here.), and I don’t want to quibble with him too much, but it is clear to me that the top ten was rigged not to embarrass the President and his administration more than it already does.

The list gives Obama’s infamous pledge about Obamacare letting everyone keep the plan and doctors they want the #1 slot, which was unavoidable and most deserved. (Want to know how a really left-biased source handles the same statement? When Dick Chaney stated in an interview that this was a lie, the Daily Beast’s headline was “It takes one to know one..”) Obama also was rewarded two more top lies on the list, relating to the sequester and Benghazi, giving him the year’s championship and a total of three, but some of his statements in the post-Newtown gun control push were equally dishonest, and this one absolutely deserved a place: Continue reading