Increasingly, the sheer unreasoning anti-Trump hate members of the media allow to scramble their judgment, common sense and brains is spewing out like Linda Blair’s vomited pea soup, leaving no question for anyone with a soupçon of honesty and fairness that these people cannot and should not be trusted.
The entire 2017 Emmy Awards Show was seasoned with relentless Trump Hate, but there was a moment that could have played in a less poisonous atmosphere as a rare uniting moment.
Ex-Trump press mouthpiece Sean Spicer made a cameo appearance on the show, taking the podium and saying that “this will be the largest audience to witness the Emmys, period — both in person and around the world.” He was obviously satirizing his ex-boss’s ridiculous but typical insistence that his inaugural crowd was larger than it obviously was, and his dutiful endorsing of that view, rather than saying what the news media wanted him to say, “What can I do? The President is an idiot.” The real Sean Spicer was also relevant to the broadcast because actress Melisssa McCarthy’s deft imitation of Spicer for the now all Trump hate all the time Saturday Night live helped nab it an Emmy nomination.
Spicer was a lousy, untrustworthy, bumbling and embarrassing press secretary. This, however, was someone making fun of himself on national television. In a less poisonous environment, citizens who believe an elected President deserve a minimal amount of respect—you know, good citizens—would have laughed at Spicer’s gag, and so would those who want to see an elected President removed before an election, because he’s not who they voted for—Democrats, in other words, or progressives, or totalitarians, or journalists…in this matter they are all the same. Laughter unites us.
But no. Here is former White House reporter for the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza, who moved over to a news organization that is really dedicated to getting Trump, on Spicer’s appearance. Since it is such an unethical outbreak of deranged bias, I’ll stop periodically and flag the worst parts.
Not only was the Spicer bit not funny, it shouldn’t have happened at all… Continue reading →
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia directed a vast cyberattack aimed at denying Hillary Clinton the presidency and installing Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office, the nation’s top intelligence agencies said in an extraordinary report they delivered on Friday to Mr. Trump.
The officials presented their unanimous conclusions to Mr. Trump in a two-hour briefing at Trump Tower in New York that brought the leaders of America’s intelligence agencies face to face with their most vocal skeptic, the president-elect, who has repeatedly cast doubt on Russia’s role. The meeting came just two weeks before Mr. Trump’s inauguration and was underway even as the electoral votes from his victory were being formally counted in a joint session of Congress.
Soon after leaving the meeting, intelligence officials released the declassified, damning report that described the sophisticated cybercampaign as part of a continuing Russian effort to weaken the United States government and its democratic institutions. The report — a virtually unheard-of, real-time revelation by the American intelligence agencies that undermined the legitimacy of the president who is about to direct them — made the case that Mr. Trump was the favored candidate of Mr. Putin.
The Times story is a mostly fair, if incomplete, description of the report itself, which is a provocative, disturbing and infuriating document. Damning? I don’t know about that. Anyone can damn something, but to be sure the damning is just requires evidence.
Observations and Questions:
1. The report isn’t evidence of anything. It just isn’t, and anyone or any source that states otherwise is misleading us. It would not be admissible as evidence if Russia or Putin were on trial in the U.S. for trying to influence the 2016 election. The document is a statement of opinions after analysis of material and sources we are not allowed to see. At the beginning, the report goes to great lengths to explain why this is, and the explanation is sound. Unless, however, the position we are supposed to take is that the intelligence community is to be assumed to be 100% correct, uninfluenced by bias, and ought to be believed without reservations despite the presence of hard evidence, the declassified report is a statement by experts of an analysis based on experience and study, of exactly what, we don’t know.
2.Regarding the Times story: the intention of the news media to undermine the Trump Presidency and bolster Democrats who want to blame their candidate’s defeat on anything but her own weaknesses and conduct appears to be on display in the Times story. For example, we have this statement:
“The Russian leader, the report said, sought to denigrate Mrs. Clinton, and the report detailed what the officials had revealed to President Obama a day earlier: Mr. Trump’s victory followed a complicated, multipart cyberinformation attack whose goal had evolved to help the Republican win.”
The leaping to the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefor because of it”) is both a human tendency to be avoided and well-known. This statement appeals to it, intentionally, or incompetently. The fact that Trump’s shocking victory came after the cyber-attacks does not mean or even suggest that the attacks were responsible for that result. The Times immediately, in the next sentence, even states that “The 25-page report did not conclude that Russian involvement tipped the election to Mr. Trump.” Well, those are mixed messages. Do I, based on the uninterrupted anti-Trump attitude of the Times in its headlines, placement of stories, tone and pitch of news reports, op-eds and editorials, conclude that the mixed message is intentional or sparked by negligence seeded by bias?
This morning, Obama Administration paid liar Josh Earnest spoiled my Christmas mellow by telling CNN’s alleged news media ethics watchdog Brian Stelter that there’s really “no constituency in American politics for transparency in government beyond journalists,” as he deflected Stelter’s accounts of journalists complaining about administration foot-dragging on Freedom of Information Act requests. Then he really curdled the ethicist’s eggnog by saying,
“If this constituency of journalists are gonna be effective advocates for the issue that they care about, they need to remember that they have a responsibility not just to criticize those who are not living up to their expectations. Any activist will tell you that the way that you get people to support you and to support your cause is to give them credit when the credit is due, to applaud them when they do the thing that you want them to be doing.”
Finally, Earnest molded my mistletoe by claiming, “President Obama has been the most transparent president in American history.”
Stelter, of course, being an incompetent, biased and unethical news media ethics watchdog, did not interjection with the mandatory, “WHAT??? You’ve got to be kidding! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ACK! ACK! ARRRGH! and drop dead in shock.
That statement is fake news if anything is, rivaling the news media lie that that the Obama years were devoid of major scandals. Before we begin shooting fish in a barrel and deal with that brazen-beyond-belief spin, let’s pause to consider the other stunner in Earnest’s Christmas morning performance:
1. What does Earnest mean that journalists are the only constituency for transparency? Does the Obama administration, and by extension Democrats, really believe that the public doesn’t mind being lied to? If so, that explains a lot, including the nomination of Hillary Clinton.
2. Journalists are not supposed to advocates and activists at all. They are supposed to be devoted to communicating facts and the truth.
3. Is Earnest saying that when a President generally defies a pledge of ethical conduct, he should nonetheless be praised when he doesn’t defy that pledge, and that journalists should highlight the Administration’s rare examples of transparency while ignoring the overwhelmingly more copious breaches? It sure sounded like it.
That brings us back to the mind-melting quote that this has been a transparent administration by any definition of the word other than “not transparent at all.”
“President Obama was scheduled to receive an award from the organizers of the Freedom of Information Day Conference, to be presented at the White House by “five transparency advocates.” The White House postponed that meeting because of events in Libya and Japan, and it was rescheduled…That meeting did take place – behind closed doors. The press was not invited to the private transparency meeting, and no photos from or transcript of the meeting have been made available. The event was not listed on the president’s calendar…Nor is the award mentioned anywhere on the White House website, including on the page devoted to transparency and good government. Were it not for the testimony of the transparency advocates who met secretly with the president, there wouldn’t seem to be any evidence that the meeting actually took place.”
That’s right: Obama wasn’t transparent about a transparency meeting. That same day, Obama went on TV and tried to explain why he hadn’t been transparent to the U.S. Congress about his military plans in Libya. Shortly after that, news leaked that the Fed had secretly sent billions in loans to foreign banks during the financial crisis.
Ah, memories! On his second day on the job, January 21, 2009, that…President Obama famously pledged, in one of his first memos to federal agencies
“We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”
He may be right about that last part, or maybe he discovered that it was naive and impractical dream. Under no circumstances, however, can it be said that Obama’s administration was transparent. An exhaustive list is impossibly, long, but here is an incomplete sample just from the posts in Ethics Alarms: Continue reading →
From the chess term “zugzwang,” describing a board where the player with the next move worsens his position regardless of which move he chooses. Ethics Zugswang occurs when all the opportunity to choose ethical options has passed. Any course of action will have unethical consequences.
I often talk about ethics zugswang in my ethics seminars as well. It is a situation where no ethical decision is possible, because of poor choices and a failure to play competent ethics chess, not thinking ahead, not anticipating worst case scenarios, and thereby creating a situation where ethical options are unavailable. All that is left are options that do tangible harm. The idea is to avoid such messes by not blundering through life being governed by non-ethical considerations, emotions, rationalizations, recklessness and ignorance. Sometimes, however, despite all of one’s best efforts, ethics zugswang arrives anyway.
Such is the plight of the American citizen on Election Day, 2016. For months, thoughtful voters who care about democracy and want to participate in choosing their President responsibly have been trying to decide which of several unethical decisions is the best—the most ethical, or rather least unethical– of the available options. Being angry or indignant, or holding one’s breath until one turns blue, will not do. A decision has to be made, and refusing to make a decision is still a decision. (In chess, the most common response to ethics zugswang is to resign, to quit. But one cannot quit being a citizen in a democracy.)
In past posts, mostly in the comments, I and others have exchanged proposed analogies to describe the choice between choosing Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump to lead the country. Arguing that it was a binary choice that could best be compared to having one’s commercial airline flown by an untrustworthy pilot of questionable skill, motivations and objectives or, in the alternative, a seven-year old, a monkey or a spaniel, my position was that one choice was terrible and the other was infinitely worse, but the terrible one as at least survivable, with luck. Classical literature provides another useful analogy: the myth of Scylla and Charibdis.
In Greek mythology, they were two immortal and deadly monsters who lived on opposite sides the narrow waters in the Strait of Messina, between Italy and Sicily. Odysseus, trying to return home after the Trojan War, faced the dilemma posed by having to choose between them in Homer’s Odyssey, Book XII. Scylla had been a lovely a sea nymph who was loved by the sea god Poseidon, but Poseidon’s jealous wife Aphrodite treacherously cursed the waters in which Scylla bathed. The god-poisoned water turned Scylla into huge and vicious monster with twelve legs, six heads on long, snaky necks, with each head having a triple row of shark-like teeth. The transformed Scylla’s loins were also covered by the heads of baying dogs. (Note to self:don’t mess with Aphrodite!) When ships passed close to her, Scylla’s six heads would each snatch one sailor, then devour them in her cave.
Charybdis was also once a nymph, a daughter of Poseidon, who angered Zeus, Poseidon’s brother. Zeus turned her into an even worse monster than Scylla. The transformed nymph lurked under a fig tree on the opposite shore from Scylla’s rock, drinking down and belching out the sea three times a day, causing fatal whirlpools no ship could survive. Odysseus managed to get the worst of this dual monster dilemma, sailing close enough to Scylla to doom six of his sailors (who he never warned about the threat) and still seeing his chip wrecked by Charybdis, with him being the only survivor. The shipwrecked Odysseus barely escaped her clutches by clinging to a tree until the improvised raft that she swallowed floated to the surface again after many hours. To be “between Scylla and Charybdis” means to be caught between two equally horrible alternatives.
As today loomed and this metaphor appeared more and more accurate, I sought wisdom from various versions of the story, only to gradually realize that I was not as certain as I once had been which candidate was which monster. Continue reading →
“My conscience — as an activist, a strategist — is very clear…if I had to do it all over again, I would know a hell of a lot more about cybersecurity.”
—-Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile, refusing to apologize for forwarding debate and town hall questions to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, thus breaching journalism ethics and betraying the trust of CNN, which was employing her as an analyst.
When you vote for Hillary Clinton—and voting against Donald Trump does not change the fact that you are still voting for Clinton—do understand what this statement, in an interview yesterday on satellite radio, really means. It means that the Democratic Party officially embraces the anti-ethical principle that the ends justifies the means. It means that the party endorses lying and cheating, which was what Brazile did, as long as the “right” people lie and cheat. It means that the Democratic Party—-not just Hillary and her staff, who we know have the core political ethics of Lenin and Goebbels, but the entire party—agrees with Brazile. Her mistake was not cheating, but failing to get away with it, by hiding her conduct insufficiently.
She, like the party she leads, is so confident that the American public, at least the voters she and the party care about, accepts these ugly and undemocratic values that she is not even pretending to regret her actions. If it helps elect Hillary Clinton, it’s fine. It it acquires power for the Democrats, it’s fine. If it deceives the public to the “right” end, it’s fine.
The Democratic Party hasn’t condemned Brazile’s actions, and won’t condemn her smug words of endorsement of lying and cheating. It hasn’t asked her to step down, as her predecessor was made to step down after she was caught rigging the nomination process for Clinton. Thus it endorses Brazile’s values, and openly so. President Obama also endorsed Brazile’s values, explicitly, by directing his spokesman Josh Earnest to praise her, and only praise her, as “a person of integrity and ..high character” after being asked about the first of Brazile’s cheats on behalf of Clinton (more have since been uncovered.)
Is that clear? The President of the United States publicly stated, through his agent, that an individual who lies and cheats has integrity. This is what integrity has come to mean under this leader, to his party. Continue reading →
Once again, a memorable line from the best ethics film of them all, “A Man For All Seasons,” came rushing back to me as I observed another example of professionals abandoning their ethical principles to assist the most demonstrably corrupt Presidential candidate in U.S. history, Hillary Clinton.
Not just her, however, to be fair. The Thornton Law Firm in Boston has used an illegal and unethical maneuver to circumvent election laws and give millions of dollars to the Democratic Party and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Harry Reid, President Obama and, of course, Hillary, among others. The scheme was revealed by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Spotlight investigative team at the Boston Globe.
The firm has just ten partners, but is one of the nation’s biggest political donors. A whistle-blower sent firm documents showing that firm members have been making large donations to Democrats, only to be reimbursed by the firm days or even hours later with bonuses matching the amounts donated exactly.
Federal law limits partnerships–law firms are almost all partnerships—to maximum donations of $2,700 per candidate. This was what is called a “straw donor” plot. “Straw donor reimbursement systems are something both the FEC and the Department of Justice take very seriously, and people have gone to jail for this,” Center for Responsive Politics editorial director Viveca Novak told CBS. Continue reading →
9. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign circulated a draft letter critical of James Comey to former federal prosecutors, implicitly inviting them to comment publicly. (This is an implied but unenforceable quid pro quo. These people are good...) Eric Holder, naturally, former US attorney general Michael Mukasey and poor, disgraced former Bush AG Alberto Gonzalez heeded the dog whistle, all disgracing themselves in the process.
Not one of them are privy to the evidence involved, and for these men to be using their positions and reputations to level charges and accusations at a high-placed law enforcement official based on speculation and partisan warfare is unethical. It is unfair, and undermines the public trust. This is always something that former officials should avoid, as a near absolute. The Golden Rule also applies. These men know how hard these jobs are, and what they would have thought about ex-officials criticizing them. Basic professional ethics principles discourage this.
Holder, of course, is a proven Clinton hack. Gonzalez might even make Comey look better by criticizing him, so thoroughly discredited is he. (My guess is that he’s desperately attempting to fashion a new pubic image.)
“This wasn’t Comey’s call. It is not his function as director of the FBI to decide who gets charges and doesn’t. It’s his function to gather evidence. And he didn’t fulfill that function very well. But it’s certainly not his function to get up and pronounce on whether charges should be brought or whether a reasonable prosecutor would ever bring them.I don’t think he should have been this fix. I don’t think he should have put either himself or the bureau or the Justice Department in this fix.”
Wrong (1): it was Comey’s call, because Loretta Lynch told the public that Justice would accept the recommendation of the FBI regarding Clinton’s possible prosecution. Did Mukasey follow the story? I guess not.
Wrong (2): Comey’s extensive public statement in July was necessary to ensure transparency and trust after Loretta Lynch stupidly allowed Bill Clinton to appear to be brokering a deal with her. Presumably Mukasey wouldn’t have done that.
Wrong (3): So Comey did not “put either himself or the bureau or the Justice Department in this fix.” Obama put them in this fix, by allowing his Secretary of State to skirt security policies. Holder put them in this fix, by operating such a blatantly partisan and political Justice Department that public trust in a fair investigation of the presumptive Democratic Party presidential candidate was impossible. Lynch put them in this fix, by not resigning.
To his credit, Mukasey did dismiss Harry Reid’s and Richard Painter’s Hatch Act nonsense with appropriate disdain, saying, “That’s baloney. I mean, you know, it’s sort of an amusing talking point for three and a half seconds, but it’s not serious.”
10. The issue is not whether Donald Trump is as corrupt and dishonest as Hilary Clinton, or even more so. In trying to shift focus to Trump to allow Clinton, as usual, to wiggle out of the well-earned consequences of her own wrongdoing by distraction, confusion, and diversion, Clinton’s corrupted allies are throwing every accusation and innuendo at Trump that they can concoct or dig up. It-Doesn’t-Matter. Trump is horrible, the bottom of the barrel, UNDER the barrel, at the bottom of a long, narrow pit under the barrel. Understood. That still doesn’t make Hillary less corrupt, less untrustworthy, and less dishonest. Nor less ruthless, cynical, manipulative, venal and totalitarian.
“Those of us who have known Donna a long time, know that she is a person of integrity and she is a person of high character.”
—-White House spokesman Josh Earnest, responding to a press briefing question about whether DNC chair Donna Brazile, revealed to have unethically used her CNN connection to acquire questions to be posed to Hillary Clinton in a town meeting and a televised debate, and to have passed them along to the candidate, who then pretended to answer them spontaneously.
Thus we now know what the President, his spokesman and Democrats officially regard as “integrity” and “high character.”
“Wait, I didn’t hear you say, ‘Thank-you, sir, may I have another!”
It is heartening, I suppose, that the subjugation of independent journalism to the Democratic party and its leadership is not yet total, and that there are still limits to how much toadying and boot-licking the once-principled professional will tolerate.
Incredibly, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest wrote a letter to the New York Times complaining that the paper “did not acknowledge the important and unprecedented steps that the Obama administration has taken to fulfill the president’s promise to lead the most transparent White House in history.” He concluded, “If President Obama’s government transparency effort is not even noted by The Times’s media columnist, then why would future presidential candidates make it a priority?”
This required breath-taking gall. Indeed, journalists and others do remember the President’s transparency pledge, which he has breached at every turn. Indeed, the lack of transparency in the administration has been a topic of discussion, complaint and anger for nearly eight years. It is especially bold for Earnest to make such an absurd claim—and indignantly!— as the President stumps for his former Secretary of State, who risked national security and breached protocol by employing a private server in order to avoid Freedom of Information Act access to her communications.
How could Earnest (which is to say, his boss) even attempt to squeeze a statement from the press that would be the exact opposite of the truth, and have the chutzpah to demand that it be in the form of praise? The answer should be obvious: the President has no reason to respect the news media, which has been incompetent, timid, fearful and compliant with Administration propaganda and spin from the start.
In addition, a theme of this administration has been to employ Orwellian interpretations of the administration’s performance at every turn, usually with media assistance. Failures are successes, marginal improvements are miraculous victories. An epic decline in racial trust and comity qualifies as improved race relations. An irresponsible deal with a rogue state determined to fry Israel makes the world safer. A doubled national debt shows progress in fiscal management. We are winning the war against terrorism, and Bowe Bergdahl was a military hero. Day is night and white is black. No wonder Earnest felt that a President who has consistently defied his transparency promise could get away with claiming that he had kept it, and could command applause.
But eventually even the most lowly worms can turn if you abuse them enough, and the journalists, to their credit, decided this was one filthy boot they would not lick clean while crying out on cue, “YUM YUM!” In a letter sent to Earnest (and copied to the President) the Society of Professional Journalists and a coalition of 40 groups set the record straight: Continue reading →
Abigail Fisher: Not dark enough to get “an equal shot”
The under-populated U.S. Supreme Court recently made four decisions on issues with ethical principles involved. This is the first of four posts reviewing the ethics implications of the decisions.
I. Affirmative Action: Fisher v. University of Texas
The University of Texas’ admissions program guarantees admission to top students in every high school in the state. It is dubbed the Top 10 Percent program, though the percentage cutoff is flexible. A second part of the admissions program admits other students from Texas and elsewhere using standards that take into account academic achievement and other factors, including race and ethnicity. Many colleges and universities base all of their admissions decisions on such grounds. The case before the Court challenged that part of the program, and presented an opportunity for the Supremes to finally declare affirmative action unconstitutional, as previous opinions hinted they might do some day.
This was not the day, however. Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, said courts must give universities significant but not total autonomy in designing their admissions programs, writing:
“A university is in large part defined by those intangible ‘qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness.’ Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission.But still, it remains an enduring challenge to our nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.”
This defines either an ethical dilemma, which the Court’s majority is punting, or an ethical conflict…which the Court majority is punting. Is diversity an ethical objective, or a practical one, that is, a powerful non-ethical consideration? It is hard to argue that diversity in a student body isn’t desirable—to enhance the educational experiences of students, to avoid having a permanent, under-credentialed underclass, to “look like America.” However, fairness and common sense argue that admitting one candidate over another who is better qualified simply because of ethnicity or race is per se wrong. I don’t blame the Court at all for not making a clean call.
As usual, President Obama described the result in simplistic terms. “I’m pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the basic notion that diversity is an important value in our society,” he told reporters at the White House. “We are not a country that guarantees equal outcomes, but we do strive to provide an equal shot to everybody.”
Thank you, President Obvious. The crux of the case, however, was what should be done when using race as a standard for admission to attain that diversity denies an “equal shot” to someone who has the misfortune to be white, like Abigail Fisher, or Asian-American.Continue reading →