Ethics Warm-Up, 7/19/2020: And The Hits Just Keep On Coming!

1. Final plug, as the bat above (and in my hands) reminds me: If you are set up with Zoom (it’s free, you know), you still have time to register for the Smithsonian Associates program  tomorrow evening (at 6:45 pm, EST) wherein I hold forth on how baseball has influenced American culture, values and history. Yes, it’s $35 bucks, but it goes to a good cause, and may help the Institute hire more competent employees who don’t peddle junk like the chart on “whiteness.” You’ll be able to ask questions, and I’m storing these experiences for the Ethics Alarms Zoom experience to come. Read all about it here…

2. If a left-wing dim bulb like Jonathan Chait can figure this out, surely more are to follow. He writes in New York Magazine…you know, where Andrew Sullivan was regarded as too conservative?

The ideology of the racism-training industry …collapses all identity into racial categories. “It is crucial for white people to acknowledge and recognize our collective racial experience,” writes [ Robin DiAngelo, of temporary White Fragility” fame,] whose teachings often encourage the formation of racial affinity groups. The program does not allow any end point for the process of racial consciousness. Racism is not a problem white people need to overcome in order to see people who look different as fully human — it is totalizing and inescapable. Of course, DiAngelo’s whites-only groups are not dreamed up in the same spirit as David Duke’s. The problem is that, at some point, the extremes begin to functionally resemble each other despite their mutual antipathy…. In some cases its ideas literally replicate anti-Black racism.”

Ya think??? Continue reading

He’s An Ethics Hero! He’s An Ethics Dunce! He’s A Hero! A Dunce! Yes, CNN’s Jake Tapper Is An Ethics Hero Again. Sort of.

Jim Acosta is the epitome of a CNN anti-Trump hack, one of many. Jake Tapper, once a reliable oasis of integrity in the expanding desert of corrupt and biased mainstream media reporting, has understandably rotted on the CNN vine since joining the network, but now and then Good Jake surfaces.

In a White House briefing last week, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany discussed President Trump’s call for children to go back to school in the fall.

“The science should not stand in the way of this, but as Dr. Scott Atlas said — I thought this was a good quote, ‘Of course, we can do it. Everyone else in the Western world, our peer nations are doing it. We are the outlier here.’ The science is very clear on this. For example, you look at the JAMA pediatric study of 46 pediatric hospitals in North America that said the risk of critical illness from COVID is far less for children than the seasonal flu. The science is on our side here. We encourage localities and states to just simply follow the science. Open our schools.”

Acosta, who was there, deliberately redacted her words  to make it appear that McEnany was dismissing the relevance of science, thus confirming a persistent mainstream media narrative about the Administration being science-deniers.

Other sources and websites followed the same course; here, for example, is ABC social media editor Evan McMurry:

And the shameless Trump-hating site Boing Boing…

I’ve been tempted to see how many of my Trump Deranged, biased media-enabling Facebook friends have passed on the lie to the acclaim of many “likes,” but I have enough aggravation.

Whether Acosta was Liar Zero or whether he got the idea from another reporter doesn’t matter. He circulated  deliberate fake news, and could have no innocent justification.  Later, after being called out on social media, Acosta added the missing context, but the fact is, he was caught.

He should be suspended at the very least for this, and probably fired. A news source with any journalism integrity at all would immediately discipline him. Of course CNN has said nothing and done nothing.

Jake Tapper did, though: Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2019: “If An Ethics Blog Expounds And Nobody Reads It…”

 

Like that proverbial tree falling alone in the forest...

Epic lack of interest in Ethics Alarms today…

Oh, well…

1 . Today’s “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!” note for the day. Here’s that objective, professional, fair CNN reporter Jim Acosta (I’m fooling: he’s really a toxic, partisan, grandstanding hack) tweeting about the Presidents rally in Minneapolis:

How can anyone who tweets such offal continue to be employed as a White House correspondent? How can a news network that employs such a biased, dishonest jerkbe taken seriously?

The Q sign reference is especially egregious. “QAnon” is a weird conspiracy theory-driven sect, and the fact that some attendees at a Trump rally seem to support the nonsense—which is not worth explicating—proves nothing at all. But the rest of Acosta’s tweet is embarrassing too: the Trump campaigns have never bashed immigrants, just illegal immigrants, who ought to be bashed; hated of the press is stoked by the conduct of unethical journalists like Jim Acosta, and disruptive protesters are properly ejected from the political rallies of candidates from both parties. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The CNN/Acosta/Press Pass Ruling

From the Washington Post this morning:

Judge Timothy J. Kelly granted CNN’s motion for a temporary restraining order that will prevent the administration from keeping Acosta off White House grounds. The White House revoked the reporter’s press pass last week after a heated exchange between him and President Trump and a brief altercation with a press aide at a news conference. Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, is the first reporter with a so-called hard pass to be banned. CNN sued President Trump and other White House officials on Tuesday over the revocation. Kelly’s ruling was the first legal skirmish in that lawsuit. It has the immediate effect of sending Acosta back to the White House, pending further arguments and a possible trial. The litigation is in its early stages, and a trial could be months in the future.

Observations:

  • The ruling is a surprise. For me, it calls to mind once again my favorite Clarence Darrow quote, that “In order for there to be enough liberty, it is necessary that there be too much.” Apparently the judge, as courts have in other First Amendment cases, decided to leave a wide margin of safety around a constitutional right rather than interpret it narrowly, even reasonably narrowly.

I understand and sympathize with that instinct, and perhaps it is the right one.

  • Judge Kelly’s opinion  insisted that there be some basic procedural protections, requiring the White House to state clearly the grounds for revoking the clearance.  The Court did not find an express  violation of the First Amendment and Acosta might still be barred from the White House following appropriate due process.  Kelly said his ruling was “limited” and  temporary until a more detailed explanation and sufficient notice by the White House was established. (Not surprisingly, the White House viewed a tweet as notice enough.)
  • So a vague, traditional but unstated standard of not acting like an entitled jackass during a press conference and debating the President rather than asking questions while refusing to yield the floor is not, absent written standards and procedures, enough to get an unprofessional jerk like Jim Acosta banned. Got it.  It would be nice if previously acknowledged standards of basic respect for the office and the relative roles of the professionals involved were enough to avoid this kind of controversy, but apparently not.

Reflect on this episode the next time CNN or a pundit fusses about President Trump “defying established norms.” Continue reading

Sick-Bed Ethics Warm-Up, 11/14/18: Ethics Among the Sneezes [UPDATED]

Good whatever it is….

1. Bottom line” Don’t trust Facebook. From the Times: “Facebook failed to closely monitor device makers after granting them access to the personal data of hundreds of millions of people, according to a previously unreported disclosure to Congress last month.” Surprised? As with Google promising moths ago that it was no longer reading our mail, then admitting months later that it had resumed the practice, the big tech companies have proven repeatedly that that we cannot believe what they say, or their motives, or their pledges of good will and public service. More from the Times story:

Facebook’s loose oversight of the partnerships was detected by the company’s government-approved privacy monitor in 2013. But it was never revealed to Facebook users, most of whom had not explicitly given the company permission to share their information. Details of those oversight practices were revealed in a letter Facebook sent last month to Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, a privacy advocate and frequent critic of the social media giant.

In the letter, a copy of which Mr. Wyden provided to The New York Times, Facebook wrote that by early 2013 it had entered into data-sharing agreements with seven device makers to provide what it called the “Facebook experience” — custom-built software, typically, that gave those manufacturers’ customers access to Facebook on their phones. Those partnerships, some of which date to at least 2010, fall under a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission drafted in 2011 and intended to oversee the company’s privacy practices.

Read the whole thing. I just assume that anything I put on Facebook, regardless of the alleged settings,will be sold to or otherwise obtained by potentially malign entities.

2. Just what we need now, a rogue First Lady. First Lady Melania Trump publicly called for the President’s deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel, to be fired.  In a word, well, two: Shut up. The felicitous circumstance of marrying someone who is later elected President of the United States confers no expertise or authority. The position of First Lady has no Constitutionally recognized duties, nor does it carry any real power. There is nothing anyone can do to diminish the influence and spouse may have with the President behind closed doors—and that is a problem—but she or the inevitable he must not confuse, confound or otherwise seek to influence affairs of state with public comments and opinions. Why Melania wants Ricardel fired is irrelevant. It’s none of her business.

I just want to point out that I sneezed six times while typing those last four words. Applause, please. Continue reading

Evening Ethics Leftovers, 11/8/2018: Acosta, Beto, Tucker, And Claire

Good evening…

1.  The Jim Acosta Affair. I suppose my analysis of this hypocritical flap will surprise no one. No White House reporter who behaved as Jim Acosta did at the press conference yesterday would have been defended by his employers or other journalists. Dan Rather (with Nixon) and Sam Donaldson (with Reagan) were rude and confrontational (Funny how the only examples of journalists being disrespectful to Presidents involve Republicans–nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!), but nothing like Acosta was and has been. Imagine a journalist defying President Obama like that! It wouldn’t happen, but as with so much else, the rules are somehow different for President Trump.  This news media’s reporters have decided, consistent with the attitude of progressives and the “resistance,” to withhold even minimum respect and deference to the Presidency as long as Donald Trump occupies the office.

Acosta was not asking questions, but arguing his position with the President. That’s not his job, or his privilege. When the President told him repeatedly “That’s enough,” Acosta did not stop. That, all by itself, justified pulling Acosta’s credentials. The White House was foolish to concentrate on Acosta pushing the intern away. He had crossed the line before that; indeed, he had crossed the line of what the White House should require from a journalist many times before.

If Acosta apologizes to the intern and the President, and promises not to abuse his opportunity to ask questions at press briefings and press conferences, to exhibit a minimal level of respect, then the White House should give him another chance.

Commentators calling Acosta’s punishment a First Amendment violation should be ridiculed for the hypocrites they are. Ann Althouse points out that journalists were up in arms when  Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with battery for grabbing Michelle Fields, a reporter. The level of contact in the two cases is similar. “Either both instances of battery matter or neither does. Pick one,” says Ann. But there’s a problem that Ann somehow doesn’t see. She writes, “I found myself thinking that Trump and Acosta are both in control and choosing to do this theater of mutual hate.” Acosta and Trump are not equals, however. Acosta is obligated to give due respect to the President of the United States, but the converse does not apply. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/2/2017: Goodbye Baseball, Hello Incompetence, And Isn’t It Nice Of Twitter Look Out For Us?

Good Morning, Everybody!

(Goodbye, baseball…)

1 The 2017 World Series ended last night, with the Houston Astros winning a hard-fought and exciting seven game battle over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Otto Von Bismarck famously observed that providence seemed to be looking out for the welfare of drunkards, fools, and the United States of America, and Major League Baseball should be added to Otto’s list. With the NFL simultaneously alienating civilized fans who don’t like seeing their heroes crippled for their entertainment, and more bloodthirsty fans who don’t want their entertainment polluted by half-baked political protests, baseball, whose ancient status as “The National Pastime” had been mocked as wishful thinking, entered the Fall at its best, and showed TV audiences a wild, passionate game featuring diverse and likeable players who seemed genuinely proud and privileged to be Americans.

Now comes the long, bleak winter…

2. From one of my smart, informed, anti-Trump obsessed progressive Facebook friends:

“So… we can talk about visa regulations right after an immigrant kills people, but we can’t talk about rational restrictions on guns when someone uses a gun to kill people?”

Rushing to take political advantage of a tragedy, as President Trump did by immediately using the terrorist attack in New York to push for his immigration reforms is, indeed, exactly as reprehensible whether it is done by Democrats or Republicans. A tactic sure looks uglier when it’s done to oppose your interests than when its done to advance them, isn’t it? (By the way, my friend, restrictions on immigration are not prohibited by the Constitution; “rational restrictions on guns,” aka “incremental elimination of the Second Amendment,” because it is now clear that this is the goal, is.)

3. A few hours after Trump’s Cabinet meeting, CNN’s Jim Acosta  asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “Why did the president call the U.S. justice system a joke and a laughingstock?”

“That’s not what he said,” Sanders replied. “He said that process has people calling us a joke and a laughingstock.”

In fact, the President had indeed said at the meeting, “We need quick justice and we need strong justice — much quicker and much stronger than we have right now — because what we have right now is a joke, and it’s a laughingstock.”

Observations: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/3/17

Baaaaad Morning for me, GOOD MORNING to you, I hope.

1.  The New York Times, I thought, has an unusually fair story on the two phantom Trump phone calls that roiled “the resistance” yesterday. The President had said that he had received “calls” from the President of Mexico and the Boy Scout leadership, the former to salute him for getting tough at the border and the other to praise his controversial remarks at the annual Jamboree. There were no such calls, as the Mexico and the BSA had strongly suggested, and the White House confirmed this yesterday. In its piece this morning, the Times included a germane quote from pre-politics Trump in his 1987 book “The Art of the Deal”:

“People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”

Germane, except that we already know that he thinks this way—and I don’t think referring to a conversation (in the case of Mexico) or multiple members of the Boy Scouts leadership”praising his speech in person after he was done (“Nice job!” “Great speech!” “The boys really appreciated it!”) as phone calls qualifies as “hyperbole,” truthful or otherwise.

These are examples of the President’s well-established addiction to speaking in word clouds and approximations. He “saw” (well, maybe not literally) “thousands of Muslims” (Okay, maybe he didn’t see them, but they were there! ) celebrating the doom of the Twin Towers in New Jersey. He never supported the Iraq invasion (saying otherwise to Howard Stern doesn’t count). Now add the hundreds of others we either discussed here or that were flashpoints during the campaign. The President’s attitude toward these little and large imprecisions of language has been, apparently since childhood, “Whatever.” He really doesn’t think they matter, because to him the difference between, for example, “calls” and other communications doesn’t matter.

It’s a terrible habit. It undermines his credibility. It weakens his ability to persuade and lead. It makes him look foolish, careless and stupid, and shows a lack of discipline. It gives his intractable foes easy bullets to shoot at him. It’s also an established trait, at this point. This is, again, the Julie Principle. This is how he is, and both his supporters and detractors know it. What  is accomplished by treating each new example as a major scandal? “Well, you can’t just let him get away with it!” is the reply.

He doesn’t get away with it. It undermines his credibility. It weaken his ability to persuade and lead. It makes him look foolish,  careless and stupid, and shows a lack of discipline.

2. The Times seems to make a mild “everybody does it” excuse for the President, citing the examples of two Presidents the Times also hated, LBJ and Reagan, mostly Reagan. “It is hardly unprecedented for a president to use a story to inspire or motivate, or to embellish a yarn for the sake of punctuating a poignant message,” the Times says. Then it recounts this: Continue reading