Early Ethics Observations On Reactions To The Mueller Report

It was exactly 12:45 pm when I was informed by NPR that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer had issued a joint statement claiming the Attorney General Barr’s four page summary of the report released today had misled Congress. The report had been released at 11:00 am, and was over 400 pages long, as well as extremely dense, full of detailed legal arguments that even lawyers…like me…would have to read slowly and maybe more than once. What are the chances that Chuck and Nancy had read the report  by 12:45? I think “none” is a fair answer. It’s highly unlikely that any of their staff had read the report by them either. The accusation against Barr was a lie.

See that graphic above? That’s the dishonest fundraiser Democrats sent out almost immediately to inspire indignation from Democrats who haven’t read the report. If there are any ethical Democrats whose reaction to this isn’t “How dare my party treat me like I’m an idiot and give me false and misleading information and analysis to separate me from my money?” I’d like to hear from them. Maybe there just aren’t any ethical Democrats at all. At this point, I’m willing to entertain that possibility.

By the way, I’m about 40% through the report, though not in sequence. It is thorough, professional and appears to be fair. Continue reading

Yes, It’s Come To This…Bernie Sanders Is Attacked By Progressives For Rejecting Discrimination

Senator Bernie Sanders told  Vermont Public Radio,

“We have got to look at candidates, you know, not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or their gender and not by their age. I mean, I think we have got to try to move us toward a nondiscriminatory society, which looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for.”

Wouldn’t you agree that this position is unassailable based on basic American values and principles? True, it is a self-serving position for Bernie, who is almost certainly too old, male and white to be a viable candidate in the  female, minority, youth dominated Democratic Party, but surely even progressives concede that favoring candidates based on their color, age and gender is bigotry. Right? They have some shred of integrity left, don’t they? Right?

Well, not these progressives apparently:

Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress on Twitter:

“At a time where folks feel under attack because of who they are, saying race or gender or sexual orientation or identity doesn’t matter is not off, it’s simply wrong.”

(Her statement doesn’t even make internal sense.)

Former Hillary Clinton aide Jess McIntosh: “This is usually an argument made by people who don’t enjoy outsized respect and credibility because of their race, gender, age and sexual orientation.”

(You mean like by blacks discriminated against during Jim Crow, and by women for most of our history, and by gays even now in many communities, Jess?)

 Stephen Colbert: “Yes, like Dr. King, I have a dream—a dream where this diverse nation can come together and be led by an old white guy.”

(I used to think Colbert was witty. It is now clear that he is simply a vicious, hyper-partisan, cheap-shot jackass.)

Writes Prof. Turley, who gets the pointer for this story:

“The Democrats are clearly all-in on identity politics despite the fact that it is viewed by many as inherently discriminatory and divisive. It is a reminder that the best thing going for Trump in the 2020 election remains the Democratic establishment.”

I don’t think anyone paying attention needs any reminders of THAT, professor. That was true in 2016, and has been ever since.

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/17/2019: Best People, Worst Candidates, Noisiest Spectators, Battiest Activists

This where Clarence Darrow and I are headed…

Weekend Greetings from Ethics Alarms!

1. I’m on the way to New Brunswick, New Jersey for a President’s Day legal ethics CLE seminar for the New Jersey Bar. This is my Darrow program, and my long-time Clarence (18 years!), Paul Morella, is unavailable, so taking on the role will be Bruce Rauscher, who received a Helen Hayes nomination (that’s the D.C. Tonys) for playing the prosecutor in my production of “The Andersonville Trial.” Like so many expert prosecutors, Bruce is now moving over to the defense because the money is better.

2. KABOOM! Ann Althouse found this disturbing dead canary in the mine: over 10 thousand people online thought the cartoon below was racist:

Althouse seems to miss the significance of this: she asks if anyone “gets” humor any more. That’s not what’s going on here. A stunning number of people really believe that voting—or hiring, or admitting college applicants—on the basis of merit is racist. This belief itself is racist, as well as destructive, illogical and batty, but that’s what culture will do to you eventually, if you don’t have a strong foundation of ethical values and critical thinking skills.

How can you argue with someone who “thinks” like this? Are they beyond hope?

3.  More Warren The Demagogue. I was going to let this go, because so many Democrats are embarrassing themselves of late and I don’t want to give more ammunition to those who accuse me of right wing bias. But Professor Turley flagged this blatant example of Senator Warren’s demoagoguery and his reaction was identical to mine, so I’ll let him take over:
Continue reading

Ethics Hero: George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley

I almost included this in yesterday’s ethics warm-up, but realized that the point was too important not to have the focus of an entire post.

During the Post 2016 Election Ethics Train Wreck that threatens the stability of the United States and its future as a functioning democracy,  Prof. Turley has been one of the select few to meet the qualifications laid out by Rudyard Kipling in my late father’s favorite poem “If.” He has managed to keep his head while all about him, especially in academia, his realm, but also most professionals, have been losing theirs, mostly in response to crushing peer pressure, unsupported conventional wisdom, and partisan bias.

It’s remarkable how much easier it is to analyze complex problems accurately when one can maintain sufficient objectivity and remove, and can overcome bias and resist the lure of rationalizations. In The Hill, Turley demonstrates the benefits of his integrity with a sharp and accurate post—it happens to be consistent with my own conclusions of more than a year’s duration, but I don’t have to hang out in a faculty lounge—explaining the dynamics of the unprecedented efforts by the FBI and the Justice Department to undermine the Trump Presidency before it even began.

Turley’s article begins by mentioning  the New York Times “bombshell” about the FBI launching an investigation of whether the President of the United States was a Russian asset…

However, the real benefit of the investigative story may not be the original suspicion, but rather how it could explain the course that both sides have taken into our current quagmire. What if there were no collusion or conspiracy but simple cognitive bias on both sides, where the actions of one seemed to confirm precisely the suspicions of the other?

Let me focus the professor’s words here. There are all kinds of cognitive bias, and several may be at work. However, the main one is clearly confirmation bias, the human tendency to interpret information in ways that confirm what we believe already. Continue reading

The Democrats’ “Insurance Policy”

No, this isn’t the real Steele Dossier. But then, there’s not much real about the Steele Dossier…

I wonder how many Ethics Alarms readers know about this, thanks to the responsible reporting on the news media?

Jonathan Turley, who is only called a conservative because he refuses to bow to the extreme Left like most of his law prof colleagues, provided an interesting a crucial update to the Steele Dossier scandal. You should read the whole thing, but he reveals,

  • British spy Christopher Steele was recently called for a deposition in London in a defamation action filed by three Russian bankers for allegedly false claims in the dossier. He siad that the Clinton campaign paid him and research firm Fusion GPS to compile his controversial dossier on Donald Trump as “insurance” against his being elected.
  • Though the Clinton campaign denied any involvement in the creation of the dossier that was later used to secure a secret surveillance warrant against Trump associates during the Obama administration,   the  campaign hid the payments to Fusion as a “legal fees” among the $5.6 million paid to the U.S. law firm of Perkins Coie. Times reporter  Maggie Haberman  wrote: “Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year.”
  • When Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta was questioned by Congress on the matter, he denied any contractual agreement with Fusion GPS. Sitting beside him was Elias, who helped devise contract. Later, confronted with the evidence, Clinton and her campaign finally admitted that the dossier was a campaign-funded document that was pushed by Steele and others to the media. 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

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/25/2018: Parlor Games! [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

I know that’s a photo from last night’s Red Sox World Series victory, but thinking about this catch by Andrew Benintendi it has certainly brightened MY morning…

(Psst! Joe, you idiot: George Wallace was crippled for life by an attempted assassination.) Said Joe Biden at a political rally two days ago, “This president is more like George Wallace than George Washington!” Long before Trump came along, Joe told African Americans that Mitt Romney would but them back in chains. I know it’s unfair to focus on Simple Joe (or Hillary, or Maxine, or Elizabeth, or Nancy, or Keith…) to characterize Democrats, but according to polls, this guy is currently the party front-runner for the Presidential nomination. [Pointer: Ann Althouse, who rejoined, “Because he doesn’t own slaves?”] Joe really is a boob, but he makes for good parlor games. My favorite comments in the Althouse thread…

“He’s more like George Washington…they both got elected president.”

“Trump is more like Elizabeth Warren because they’re both not Indians.”

“Because he doesn’t own slaves?” No, because he worries about black unemployment. Washington never worried about that.

“Because Wallace was a Democrat, like Trump was his whole life until 15 minutes before he ran for president?”

2. Fake News. New York Times headline:Pipe Bombs Sent to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and CNN Offices.”

How much more dishonest can a single headline be? There were no “pipe bombs,” but hoax bombs, and the hoax bomb sent to “CNN offices” was addressed to John Brennan. The headline deceitfully aims to suggest that the target was the news media.

3. I figured this out when I was 17 years old. A new book called The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing, by Merve Emre, (Doubleday, 336 pages, $27.95) explains that the iconic personality test is junk science. I first took the test in high school, when my parents paid a psychologist to advise me where to apply to college. He complained that the battery of tests I took had contradictory results. Yes, that would be because it was so obvious how to manipulate them, and also how insulting they were, since any fool could see the little pigeon holes the tests were trying to stuff you into. Essentially, the test was designed to create bias on the part of employers. Writes Reason,

“This book is a useful study of how a dubious idea can gain traction if it arrives at the right time.”

There’s another parlor game: which dubious ideas are gaining traction now, supported by junk science, junk research, or false assumptions? Continue reading