Tag Archives: John Kerry

Addendum: The Dishonest Tax Day Anti-Trump Protests (And The Misleading Defenses Of Them)

How quickly we forget…

I wasn’t going to post any more on this topic, but in 2012 CBS helpfully provided some historical perspective on the supposed “tradition” of candidates releasing tax returns. Some revelations:

1. Donald Trump was not the “first candidate since Nixon” to refuse to release his returns.

Who else didn’t? Why H. Ross Perot, the third party candidate who cost George H.W. Bush re-election in 1992! And what a coincidence: Perot was also a billionaire with complex finances and conflicts! Had he been elected, and that was not beyond the realm of possibility, he, not Trump, would have been the first President since George Washington without elected office experience or experience in military command.  Perot got almost 20 million votes  from Americans who presumable cared about other issues more than Perot’s tax returns, or his refusal to release them.

So Trump was following tradition and practice: the tradition and practice of all billionaires running for President to refuse to release their taxes. The tradition even extends to some half-billionaires: Steve Forbes, another businessman who made a strong run at the GOP nomination in 1996, also refused to release his returns.

(By the way, Perot’s returns were not a major issue in the election, nor did the mainstream media harp on it. But there was some semblance of fair journalism then.)

2. When tax returns are released by candidates, the opposition will still find reasons to object, raise suspicions, and claim that they are not enough. Mitt Romney released two years of returns, and Democrats said he was hiding something nefarious.

In 2008, Barack Obama released seven years of tax returns, then accused Hillary, his opposition for the nomination, of hiding something. “Senator [Hillary] Clinton can’t claim to be vetted until she allows the public the opportunity to see her finances — particularly with respect to any investment in tax shelters,” Obama’s spokesperson Robert Gibbs said. Continue reading

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Filed under Finance, Government & Politics, History

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Secretary Of State John Kerry

mitchell-kerry_140226

“…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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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Leadership

Update: Generalissimo Franco* Is Still Dead, And Snopes Is Still An Unethical Website

Snopes.com's favorite in "The Wizard of Oz," and I don't mean Ray Bolger...

Snopes.com’s favorite in “The Wizard of Oz,” and I don’t mean Ray Bolger…

The July 31 Ethics Alarms post detailing how snopes.com, usually referred to as the “fact and rumor check website,” has quietly morphed into just another progressive Democrat online spin-merchant nailed these frauds based on their tortured spin to protect Hillary Clinton and her election prospects from legitimate criticism and, in the case of Clinton’s decade-old defense of a child rapist, illegitimate criticism based on genuine facts that Snopes denied anyway.

That is…don’t ask me why…the most read, linked and shared Ethics Alarms post ever. It even was the target of some of Hillary’s paid online trolls, whom I recognized when I realized they were writing from the same (false) talking points memo. Just to be clear, there is no longer any legitimate dispute that Snopes can’t be trusted, is subject to partisan bias, and is thus 100% useless as a “fact and rumor check website,” since their writers warp facts and debunk the truth when they feel like it.

I ended the July pots on this depressing note for me, because I once used and recommended the site with confidence:

That’s the end for Snopes. Even one example of bias-fed misrepresentation ends any justifiable trust readers can have that the site is fair, objective and trustworthy. Snopes has proven that it has a political and partisan agenda, and that it is willing to mislead and deceive its readers to advance it.

Can it recover? Maybe, but not without…

…Getting out of the political fact-checking business.

…Firing Dan Evon, who used the misleading flag photos, as well as Kim LaCapria.

…Confessing its betrayal of trust and capitulation to partisan bias, apologizing, and taking remedial measures.

With all the misinformation on the web, a trustworthy web site like Snopes used to be is essential. Unfortunately, a site that is the purveyor of falsity cannot also be the antidote for it.

I’ll miss Snopes, but until it acknowledges its ethics breach and convinces me that the site’s days of spinning and lying were a short-lived aberration, I won’t be using it again.

Two developments since this was written are worth noting. The weird one is that the site has been prominently cited as an authority more often since that post than before it. NBC’s FBI action drama “Blind Spot” had a character settle an argument by referring to Snopes, a first, and increasing numbers of news reports and op-eds have cited Snopes as well. Obviously the scriptwriters, reporters and pundits don’t read “Ethics Alarms,” but this is pure negligence. Snopes can’t be trusted. It’s as simple as that.

I have received from readers more examples of Snopes Spinning For Democrats, but this one, flagged by the Daily Caller, is worthy of this brief return to the issue. Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, The Internet, Unethical Websites

Since Nobody In The Mainstream Media Will Flag President Obama’s Outrageous Hypocrisy, I Guess It’s Up To Ethics Alarms. Rats.

I hate this. I really do.

Boy, can you believe Donald Trump suggesting that a Presidential election can be stolen? This guy is a monster!

Boy, can you believe that Donald Trump suggesting that a Presidential election can be stolen? This guy is a monster!

I hate that the astoundingly biased and partisan news media and pundit class refuse to even make a fair pass at doing its job, forcing an ethics blog to place itself in the position of being accused of defending Donald Trump.

Yeccch.

[Rueful but amused aside regarding the biased and partisan news media: Late Sunday evening,  Chris Cillizza, who authors the political blog for the Washington Post, tweeted: “Let me say for the billionth time: Reporters don’t root for a side. Period.” This was a manifestly absurd assertion, and made me wonder about Cillizza, who may not “root for a side,” but whose own left-leaning and pro-Clinton bias creeps into his work at regular intervals. But the gods of irony were ready: Monday morning the Center for Public Integrity released its 2016 campaign analysis that showed that U.S. journalists gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to  Clinton’s campaign. CPI identified 430 people as “journalists, reporters, news editors or television news anchors ­— as well as other donors known to be working in journalism.” 96 % gave money to Clinton, according to federal campaign finance filings. That’s 96. Ninety-six. NINETY-SIX. As in “all but 4%.” Got that? Are we clear? Those 430 journalists gave $382,000 to Clinton and $14,000 to GOP nominee Donald Trump. Fifty journalists  gave to Trump; 380 gave to Clinton. Many more members of the media almost certainly donated, and almost certainly in a similarly unbalanced split, but the law only obligates candidates to disclose the names of donors giving more than $200 in a single election cycle. In its report, CPI noted that even though many news organizations have policies against donating to politicians, those organizations’ reporters donated anyway. Poor, naive, Chris Cillizza, having proven that as a reporter, his confirmation bias prevents him from seeing what is all around him, at least had the integrity to follow up his previous tweet (“Period.”) by tweeting…

“Well this is super depressing. NO idea why any journalist would donate $ to politicians.”

Well why don’t you think about it, Chris? I’m sure it will come to you. But I digress...]

I know this is a political campaign and that hyperbole and loose facts are as American as apple pie. However, Barack Obama is President of the United States, and he, even more than most, must not actively seek to re-write history, especially since so many of his supporters have the historical perspective of mayflies. Therefore he must not be allowed to escape proper condemnation for these statements he made  in a campaign speech attacking Donald Trump. Yes, only condemnation will do, for his statements were dishonest, untrue, and constituted hypocrisy as its worst. Presidents should be better.

Obama had the gall to lecture Donald Trump with two head-exploding statements for anyone whose memory extends back before the Bush presidency, and one that should have triggered mass cranial eruptions from anyone conscious during the past 8 years: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Leadership, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Secretary of State John Kerry

Kerry Hiroshima

“It is a stunning display. It is a gut-wrenching display. It is a reminder of the depth of the obligation every one of us in public life carries … to create and pursue a world free from nuclear weapons.”

—-Secretary of State John Kerry in Japan, as he toured the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Museum this week before meeting foreign ministers at the G-7 Summit.

I couldn’t quite bring myself to call this an unethical quote, though it is an infuriating one. It is certainly a stupid quote, but we all know John Kerry’s verbal and intellectual deficiencies, and he was indeed in a tough spot. What would have been an appropriate statement to make in this setting, that would not risk insulting his hosts and setting off yet another debate about Hiroshima that would be a distraction from the G-7 Summit’s objectives?

While I agree philosophically with the editors of the Federalist that it would have been more satisfying if Kerry had said that the display was “a reminder of the depth of the obligation every one of us in public life carries to stop extremist regimes like Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons” or perhaps that it was “a reminder of the depth of the obligation every one of us in public life carries to ensure that we are well prepared for the next force that threatens peace,” each carried its own diplomatic and political risks. So would “Sorry you made us do this, but we didn’t bomb ourselves at Pearl Harbor,” which is what I would have been tempted to say. I’m no diplomat, however, as you may have noticed. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, War and the Military

Ethics Hero: Democratic U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD.)

Cardin

Last week, Senator Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, authored an op-ed announcing his opposition to the Iran Nuclear aggreement. In doing so, he placed himself in the line of fire of President Obama and his allies, including Minority Leader Harry Reid, who, in the words of one observer, were “breaking arms and legs” to ensure sufficient support to get the measure approved and veto proof. The President, disgracefully, had already compared principled opponents of the risky and irresponsible agreement—essentially the apotheosis of the President’s crippling phobia about projecting U.S. power abroad in the interests of peace when it might require threats backed by the willingness to carry them out. (We are seeing the devastating results of this leadership failure in Syria)—as the moral equivalent of terrorists. His allies in the news media had ignored all objectivity to marginalize Democratic opponants of the deal while tarring Republicans as warmongers, and effort that hit ethics rock bottom with the New York Times “Jew-Tracker” that implied that loyalty to a foreign government and faith, not consideration, analysis and principle, were behind opposition to the President’s scheme. Here is the Times graphic…

Jew-tracker-copyNice. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Leadership, War and the Military

The Washington Post—Finally—Admits The Truth About President Obama

fingers-pointing

I will reprint The Washington Post’s lead editorial here nearly in full. I will have comments after, though I will make this one now: every character trait and leadership deficit the Post points to  was evident to objective observers—like me—from the beginning of Obama’s administration. That one of the most consistent and prominent Democratic Party and liberal policy boosters in the national news media finally mounts the integrity, honesty and integrity to admit it now is not all that satisfying.

Here is, with a few omissions so you will link to the site and read the whole thing (it’s only fair), is the damning and undeniable editorial:

Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) decided he would vote against President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, he explained his reasoning in a 1,700-word essay. On balance, he concluded, “the very real risk that Iran will not moderate and will, instead, use the agreement to pursue its nefarious goals is too great.” We disagree with that conclusion, but not with serene confidence; we share the senator’s concern that Iran will use the lifting of sanctions to intensify its toxic behavior in the region. We understand and respect Mr. Schumer’s decision; also, it’s generally better to treat policy disagreements in good faith.

That has not been the spirit in which Mr. Obama and his team have met his Iran-deal critics. The president has countered them with certitude and ad hominem attacks, the combined import of which is that there are no alternatives to his policy, that support for the deal is an obvious call and that nearly anyone who suggests otherwise is motivated by politics or ideology. Mr. Obama’s rhetoric reached its low point when he observed that the deal’s opponents value war over diplomacy and that Iranian extremists were “making common cause with the Republican caucus.”

Continue reading

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