Tag Archives: Jonathan Turley

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

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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

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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

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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

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Observations On The Kanye West Episode

Writes Professor Turley:

“In one of the most bizarre (and frankly demeaning) moments for the White House, President Donald Trump invited Kanye West into the Oval Office for what became an unhinged and profane rave sessions in front of the world’s press. As with the high-level visits with a Kardashian to talk policy, these sessions have a freak show quality more fitting a reality show than the Oval Office. For anyone who reveres that office, West raving about how he is a “crazy motherf***er” is an utter disgrace.”

Meanwhile, back in the land of “nah, there there’s no mainstream media bias,” CNN was being pretty disgraceful itself. Leading up to the visit, Don Lemon hosted a segment on CNN Tonight that declared West to be “mentally ill,” ” the token negro of the Trump administration” and an “attention whore” showing the perils of  “what happens when negroes don’t read.”  Then, after West’s performance, Lemon went on Wolf Blitzer’s show and demonstrated what he considers a good rant:

“What I saw was a minstrel show him in front of all these white people — most white people — embarrassing himself and embarrassing Americans, but mostly African Americans because every one of them is sitting either at home or with their phones, watching this, cringing. I couldn’t even watch it. I had to turn the television off because it was so hard to watch. Him sitting there, being used by the President of the United States. The President of the United States exploiting him and expl — I don’t mean this in a disparaging way — exploiting someone who needs help, who needs to back away from the cameras, who needs to get off stage, who needs to deal with his issues and if anyone around him cares about him, the family that he mentioned today or whomever, his managers, maybe some other people who are in the music business who know him, they need to grab him, snatch him up and get Kanye together because Kanye needs help. And this has nothing to do with being liberal or a conservative. This has to do with honesty and we have to stop pretending, sitting here on these CNN panels or whatever network panels, and pretending like this is normal and let’s have this conversation about Kanye West. Who cares? Why are you sending cameras to the Oval Office for Kanye West? Did you send cameras to the Oval Office and carry it live when Common visited the White House? Common visited the White House and did a beautiful poem, spoken word, talked about how black people are kings and queens, how we need to rise up and do better. He didn’t disparage anybody. He didn’t speak in non-sequiturs. He didn’t do anything awful and, you know, the only people who criticized him, the only people who really covered it were Sean Hannity and his band of hypocrites who are now — who are now applauding Kanye West, the same people that many in that group called the n-word because of Taylor Swift and because of George Bush and now all of a sudden, he is the person who represents the African-American community? He doesn’t. We need to take the cameras away from Kanye and from a lot of this craziness that happens in the White House because it is not normal and we need to stop sitting here pretending that it’s normal. This was an embarrassment. Kanye’s mother is rolling over in her grave. I spoke to one of her friends today or texted with one of her friends today from Chicago. Donda’s friends. I used to live there. I know him. She said Donda would be — would be embarrassed by this. She would be terribly disturbed by this and Kanye has not been the same since his mother died. He kept talking today about oh, “I put the hat on and the hat made me feel strong and wearing a cape.” He needs a father figure. He needs someone to help him and to guide him and he needs a hug more than anything. Kanye, back away from the cameras. Go get some help and then come back and make your case. Nobody — if you want to be conservative, if you want to support Donald Trump, that is your business. But as you’re doing it, have some sense with it. Make sense. Educate yourself.”

Believe it or not, calling West a “token negro” and referring to his appearance as a “minstrel show” was not the lowest that CNN could go. After showing video of West animatedly discussing a variety of issues in the Oval Office (Note”: Fox News played only West’s coherent moments, CNN played exclusively his most bizarre), the CNN anchor went to its reliably unprofessional correspondent April Ryan, who was standing on the White House lawn. She immediately referred to singer Ray J during her analysis, saying, “I talked to someone who is very familiar with the Kardashians, or used to be, text messaging with Ray J. You know who Ray J is, he was once close with Kim Kardashian.”

Nice. The only reason anyone knows Ray J is because he made the infamous sex tape with West’s now-wife, Kim Kardashian, that launched the whole Kardashian phenomenon.

Asks Turley, “Is this seriously what CNN considers responsible journalism?”

Observations: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/21/18: “Ho Ho Hey Hey!”

Good morning!

1.  Oh! You’re bigots and fools, then! Got it. I was watching a mob of—I don’t know, feminists? The “resistance”? chanting yesterday at the Senate: “I believe Anita Hill! I believe Blasey Ford!” I believe that the only reasonable translation of this particular chant—all chants make protesters sound dumb, some chants more than others; at least this one doesn’t start with “Ho ho, hey hey!”—is “I believe whatever story supports my political agenda, and I believe people according to what they are, rather than based on any objective criteria!”

I guess it’s not sufficiently catchy.

2. In case you aren’t nauseous enough...Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be one of the eight honorees of Harvard University for their contributions to black history and culture, the university announced yesterday.

Kaepernick, distinguished for his incoherent on field protest  during the national anthem, instantly setting off the NFL’s version of  #MeToo, as in “I want make my own pointless, annoying protest that I can’t adequately explain!,” thus costing the NFL fans and billions of dollars, will receive the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard’s  Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. The deliberately divisive honor to Kaepernick, who favors socks with cartoons of pigs in police uniforms, is apparently the work of Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the Hutchins Center and Barack Obama pal. You may remember Professor Gates as the race-baiting catalyst for Obama’s “beer summit,” after Gates impugned the character of a Cambridge police officer. No personal agendas here!

The award supposedly honors individuals who “Emerging from a variety of backgrounds and professions…represent the quest for knowledge, freedom of expression, and pursuit of truth that are foundational to black history and culture, and that were foundational to Du Bois as a thinker and activist.”

Yup, that sure sounds like Colin Kaepernick!

3. Ed Whelan, call your ethicist! Ed Whelan, an attorney and president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, upped the craziness quotient in the Kavanaugh confirmation process and took a First Class seat on the Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck by announcing that Ford’s accusation from three decades ago was based on mistaken identity, and that another student, whom Whelan named and thoroughly doxxed, along with publishing his yearbook photo, was the real alleged assailant.

Well, you can’t just accuse a random private citizen of sexual assault, or even alleged, unsubstantiated sexual assault while a drunken high schooler. I know Ed went to Harvard College and Harvard Law School, but even then, he’s no idiot. I have to believe that this isn’t just an unfounded accusation, because  Ed knows that he’s asking for a lawsuit if it is. He wrote:

“By one week from today, I expect that Judge Kavanaugh will have been clearly vindicated on this matter. Specifically, I expect that compelling evidence will show his categorical denial to be truthful. There will be no cloud over him.”

Whelan has to deliver on a statement like that, or have his own reputation permanently scarred. The only explanation I can come up with is that Kavanaugh’s  twin has already agreed to admit to being at the infamous party and having some kind of episode involving Ford. Of course, there will be no reason to believe him, either.

Still, I may go to the Senate and chant, “I believe Brett Kavanaugh, I believe his secret twin!”

Just for fun. Continue reading

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/8/18: Idiots, Bigots, Liars and Freakouts

Good Morning!

My favorite hymn, naturally: the first selection at my father’s 2010 funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, the stirring finale of “Mrs. Miniver,” and it was composed by none other than Sir Arthur Sullivan.

1. What’s the ethical response to these kinds of stories? I’m pretty sure I don’t have it, whatever it is. From today’s New York Times: “This year, a tourist in India was mauled to death when he tried to take a selfie with a wounded bear.” Last week, an Australian tourist was nearly killed when a shark that she was hand feeding dragged her into crocodile-infested waters. How should we feel about such people? “Serves the morons right” isn’t an ethical response, but that kind of clueless idiocy gets people killed all over the world, every day. Laughter is tempting, but seems cruel. I can’t apply the Golden Rule, because there is no way I can imagine myself behaving quite that stupidly. Is “I’m genuinely sorry that you’re an idiot” mockery, or compassion?

2. What’s going on here? I sure can’t figure it out. The quickest way for you to get up to speed is to click on the link and read the twitter feed backwards. Here’s a summary: two police officers claimed that they were harassed at a Raleigh, N.C. barbecue restaurant, with staff calling out “Fuck the police!” The police association wrote about the alleged incident on Facebook, the restaurant denied the account, and an investigation indicated that the complaints were exaggerated at most, and perhaps fabricated completely.  Then the association posted this:

Huh? The issue is NOT resolved until we learn what, if anything the officers were reacting to, why they made a false claim, and what kind of discipline they face, if any. Meanwhile, the story was reported on social media by a criminal defense attorney (all criminal defense attorneys hate and distrust cops, and vice-versa) whose characterization of the episode is that the police “terrorized a local business.” Terrorized? (Pointer: valkgrrl)

3. As the self-segregation of America continues...Outspoken conservative Hollywood actor James Woods was dropped by his agent, Ken Kaplan, who wrote, “It’s the 4th of July and I’m feeling patriotic. I don’t want to represent you anymore. I mean I can go on a rant but you know what I’d say.” Woods replied,

 “Dear Ken, I don’t actually. I was thinking if you’re feeling patriotic, you would appreciate free speech and one’s right to think as an individual. Be that as it may, I want to thank you for all your hard work and devotion on my behalf. Be well.”

Commenting on this, Constitutional Law expert Jonathan Turley opined, Continue reading

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