Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/25/2019: Julian, Conan, Naomi, and Ousamequin

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

It’s going to be a Sousa weekend here. The piece above is one I bet you haven’t heard before. President Chester A. Arthur ordered Sousa to compose a replacement for  1812’s   “Hail to the Chief,” which had announced Presidents since John Quincy Adams, although it went in and out of fashion. (President Polk, it is said, always had “Hail to the Chief” played because he was so physically unimpressive that nobody noticed when he entered a room without the fanfare!) After Arthur left office, Presidents returned to to”Hail to Chief,” and Eisenhower made it the official tune of the office in 1954.

1. A First Amendment stretch. Julian Assange has been indicted. Good. He conspired with a weak-minded and troubled soldier to prompt him, now her, to steal U.S. secrets so he could publish them and promote his anarchist website, Wikileaks. The act almost certainly got U.S. agents killed and did other irreparable harm. Assange isn’t a journalist, and publishing stolen classified information isn’t journalism. Naturally journalists are lining up to defend Assange, especially the New York Times, which was the beneficiary of the Pentagon Papers ruling. They see a conviction of Assange the way abortion zealots see bans on late-term abortions: a camel’s nose in the tent, the slippery slope.

The use of journalistic publications as illegal document laundering devices has always been the least compelling aspect of First Amendment protection of freedom of the Press. I have never believed that it was a wise and fair protection, and if Assange’s just desserts weaken the right of newspapers to publish troop movements,  private citizens’ tax returns, and grand jury proceedings, good.

2. Did Conan O’Brien steal a writer’s jokes? You decide! Here is a joke Robert Kaseberg wrote on Twitter on June 9, 2015: Continue reading

Lunch Time Ethics Regurgitation, 4/11/2019: Meltdowns, Mistakes And More

Are you hungry for some ethics???

1. Good! Julian Assange was arrested yesterday after Ecuador withdrew its protection of him, which has gone on for six years. His defense will apparently be that he’s a journalist, and published true information. It’s still illegal to publish classified documents, and I doubt this will stand up, but even if he is legally cleared, the ethics verdict is easy. His objective was to cause chaos, and he knowingly got people killed. He facilitated a flat-out traitor with poor, sad, dumb, confused Bradley, now Chelsea, Manning. Even the good Wikileaks did by exposing the corruption and rot in the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s orbit doesn’t begin to mitigate his status as an ethics villain. (See: The Ruddigore Fallacy)

2. Stop making me defend Rep. Omar! Republicans and conservative media are having a meltdown (we’ll get to the Left’s meltdown in a bit) because loose cannon Democratic Congresswoman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) referred to the 9/ll terrorist murders occurring because “some people did something.” This is exactly the kind of “gotcha!” President Trump has been attacked with repeatedly, almost daily, because he uses words with the care and precision of an infant playing with matches. The trick is to choose the most negative intention and meaning imaginable—and sometimes not imaginable  without dishonest spin—and then to launch that damning meaning into the public discourse. It stinks, and the method stinks whether the speaker is the President or a rogue, anti-Semite Democrat.  An example of the smear used against Trump was some news media and my Facebook Trump-Deranged friends claiming that this, in a tweet complaining about Saturday Night Live, was a serious call for a federal investigation:

…Should Federal Election Commission and/or FCC look into this? There must be Collusion with the Democrats and, of course, Russia!

 

Bias makes you stupid. Continue reading

The “Russian DNC Hacks”: Who Do You Believe, And Why Should You Trust Them?

russia-sign

Here at Ethics Alarms, the starting point for ethical analysis is the question, “What’s going on here?” It’s impossible to reach a fair and useful conclusion about where any conduct falls on the right/wrong scale unless one has a clear picture of what the conduct is--what happened and why. The still percolating saga of the  hacked Democratic National Committee e-mails so far defies ethical analysis, because so many of the key facts are in doubt, so much of their impact is a matter of speculation, and virtually all of the participants, sources and advocates for one interpretation or another are untrustworthy.

I have never seen anything like it.

“What’s going on here?” I really have no definitive answer, but lets slog though the muck:

I.   Some of what’s going on here is that Democrats, progressives and Clinton bitter-enders are making a concerted effort to use the fact that troubling DNC e-mails were released to the news media and the internet late in the Presidential campaign to prove the theory that Russian interference with the election was responsible for the victory of Donald Trump. This, they argue in turn,  justifies regarding Trump as an “illegitimate President,’ thus justifying ignoring the election results, defying the election results, impeaching Trump immediately, blocking his swearing in, treating him in discourse and conduct as if he had just been convicted of beastiality rather than elected President, “doing something” to “stop him,” and obstructing anything he tries to do to govern.

Another way of putting it is that Democrats want to throw the nation into something perilously close to a Constitution crisis, a revolution, a civil war, and the unraveling of the nation itself because they couldn’t manage to win an election that should have been a breeze, and they refuse to accept accountability.

2. This, I can say without restraint, is unethical beyond question, and despicable as well.

3.The Russian hacks theory is the fourth wobbly leg of the Democratic Party’s  “We refuse to accept the results of the election because Trump is unfit to be President as shown by the fact that he said he might not accept the results of the election” position. The other legs: 1)  the Electoral College isn’t a legitimate way to choose a President, even though it would have been if it elected Hillary Clinton, and should be retroactively repealed, discarded or defied 2) Trump was elected by morons, racists, xenophobes, woman-haters and morons, while the virtuous, intelligent Americans voted for Hillary, and they know best, and 3) The head of the FBI, who saved Clinton’s candidacy by a very generous interpretation of her highly suspicious conduct after a strangely informal interrogation, thus causing Republicans to question his independence and integrity, intentionally sabotaged Clinton’s coronation by keeping his public promise to Congress that he would alert it if there were any new developments.

Since these are 1) ignorant 2) anti-democratic and 3) ridiculous, all adding up to pathetic and desperate, the weight of the whole effort now rests on Leg #4.

4. Much of the mainstream news media is bolstering that leg by short-handing the story in headlines and print as Russian “hacking of the election.” This characterization is a lie. The ongoing Ethics Alarms Fake News Project, which is dedicated to settling on what “fake news” is (another “What’s going on here?” inquiry) questions how this is any less fake news than “Pope Tells Followers To Support Trump.” Both are intentional lies, designed to confuse and mislead, with the mainstream media lie far more insidious, since only microcephalics are even a long-shot to buy the Pope story, whereas the Democratic Deranged, unhinged by confirmation bias and an inexplicable trust in journalism, are eager to accept the Russian lie. Fact: nobody, anywhere, has alleged that the Russians “hacked the election.” The only way an election gets hacked is when there is interference with the vote totals. “The claim that the ‘election was hacked’ is a bit of a misnomer,” writes former CBS reporter Sheryl Atkinson. “There’s no standing allegation by U.S. officials that the Russians (or anyone else) “hacked” into our elections system or altered vote counts.”

No, the term “bit of a misnomer” is a misnomer for “lie.” I would describe Atkinson as a hack by engaging in such equivocation to shield her colleagues, but that might confuse people. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Post-Election Freak-Out, or “A Nation of Assholes” Reconsidered

2016 Election California Protests

I have to adapt, with acknowledgement, a long-running gag wielded by Prof. Glenn Reynolds on his iconic conservative website Instapundit thus:

“I wrote if Donald Trump was elected President, we’d have a nation of assholes, and I was RIGHT!”

The problem is that the joke isn’t funny in this case. It’s tragic. What I am seeing in the news, watching on social media and reading on the web and in editorial pages shows me that the last eight years have done even more damage to American unity and ethics than I had realized.

First, a brief defense of the word “asshole.” It is a vulgar term, and I fully expect President Trump to use it in a press conference or rant some day. I first employed it here in 2010 to describe Julian Assange. I trust nobody will take issue with that decision. ( “Assange’s real priority is Assange, and everything and everyone else is secondary. Luckily, there is a word for such people, a useful label that will help us assess his actions and motives. Asshole.”)

Next was Rev. Terry Jones in 2011. Remember him? He was the self-righteous pastor who announced that he was going to publicly burn the Koran, knowing that the act would incite anti-American riots abroad, and probably get people killed. I wrote,

“What do you call someone who pours gasoline on a brush fire to get attention? Jerk is too mild. What do you call someone who intentionally makes a difficult problem of international perception even more difficult—intentionally? Fool is too kind.  Unethical, my staple, is too abstract. There just is no civil term for someone like Jones. He is an asshole. There are others running loose right now—Julian Assange, Michael Moore, Charlie Sheen—but none come close to Jones.”

Frankly, I don’t know how Donald Trump escaped that last sentence.

Last year, as part of my plea to get the Republican Party and its primary voters to be civicly responsible Americans and prevent the nomination of Donald Trump—in my most fevered nightmares, like the ones where my son’s head has turned into an eggbeater and he is dating Miley Cyrus, I never conceived that Trump would actually be elected—I explained that having a President, always the nation’s most influential role model, who spoke and acted like Trump did would transform the culture of the U.S. and give us a whole generation of boorish, mean-spirited, impulsive and self-righteous young citizens, of which misogyny would only be the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. I still fear that this will be the effect of the Trump years, even if he proves to be a popular and successful president. Especially, if he is a popular and successful president.

What I did not fully comprehend is how the divisive actions and rhetoric emanating from the White House, prominent progressives and  the complicit popular culture and news media have already turned a substantial segment of the public into assholes. There have now been four days of violent tantrums across the U.S. as “disappointed” progressives, Democrats and illegal aliens “protest” the results of the election.  MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, an old-school Democrat and unabashed lover of the political process, was gobsmacked, despite his network’s official derogation of Donald Trump.

“What kind of a statement is it really there to make?” Matthews asked. “They lost!”

Of course, there is no statement, just self-indictments, like “We think we know what is best, and will scream and set fires until we get it,” “We have no respect for anyone who disagrees with us,” and “We only believe in the institutions of the nation we live in when they do what we want.” Most obvious of all: “If you don’t fall into lockstep with the policies and rhetoric of the last eight years, you’re a racist.”

Or perhaps “We’re assholes” is  clear enough.  They are assholes nourished and encouraged by the Obama/ Democratic party culture of arrogant and intolerant progressivism, the demonization of sincere dissent, and the ends justify the means.

OBSERVATIONS: Continue reading

The Irony Of Wikileaks: Yes, It Is Despicable…But It’s Still Useful To Know That PBS, Ben Affleck And Prof. Henry Lewis Gates Are Despicable Too.

Batman is ashamed of you, Ben...

Batman is ashamed of you, Ben…

Once a secret is out, it isn’t a secret any more. Once privacy is shattered, it’s gone: that egg can’t be put back together again. I wish Sony’s e-mails hadn’t been hacked: everyone who isn’t operating under a policy that mandates that their communications must be archived and available for media and public examination, like, oh, say, Hillary Clinton, has a right to have private business and personal communication.

Julian Assange is a fick, and an uncommonly arrogant one. He encourages, aids and abets the theft of proprietary information in the interests of world anarchy, which is in the interests of nobody. So let’s see now…North Korea hacks Sony to chill our First Amendment rights, and Wikileaks helps magnify the damage by spreading private e-mails and documents far and wide.

Yechhh.

But it’s all out there now, and there is no virtue in averting our eyes and plugging our ears. There is a lot of unethical conduct exposed in those 30,000 documents and 170,000 emails hacked from Sony, and while the means by which it was exposed was illegal and wrong, we should still learn from what is now public information.

The fact that PBS and Harvard prof Henry Louis Gates Jr. can’t be trusted, for example, is good to know. Continue reading

Professional Chauvinism At “Above The Law”

Clooneys

Lawyers really need to get over themselves. This post, by Staci Zaretski at the legal gossip site “Above the Law,” was introduced in my e-mail inbox with this line:

“Amal Clooney’s lifetime achievements are far greater than those of her husband, George Clooney. Where’s her award?”

The flip answer would be: “George Clooney.” But to the point: one has to have an enhanced regard for the profession of the law and a dismissive and culturally ignorant attitude towards the arts to state that “Amal Clooney’s lifetime achievements are far greater” than those of George Clooney.” Zaretski is welcome to her biases, but by any fair measure, the lifetime achievements of an actor of Clooney’s popularity, daring and prominence far outstrips those of a lawyer like Amal Alamuddin Clooney.  “Above the Law” makes its case thusly:

“Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an adviser to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and was selected to a three-person U.N. commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip.”

Hundreds of lawyers worked on the Enron case(s): you will have to prove to me that she had some special impact that another lawyer with similar skills, and there are thousands, would not have. So she was an adviser to Kofi Annan regarding Syria: is Zaretsky aware that Annan’s misguided and naive efforts to broker a Syrian peace saved not a single life, and may well have blocked more substantive and effective initiatives? Then she served on a commission “investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip.” Translation: she is a willing participant in the U.N. effort to demonize Israel for defending itself from Hamas shelling.  She also is defending Julian Assange. I don’t hold that against her: he’s a criminal, but he deserves a defense. Would he have not gotten one without Amal Clooney? Of course he would have. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Month: #1 American Asshole, Rev. Terry Jones

...or "The Rev. Terry Jones Story"

“If you want to be technical, I guess we broke our word. We thought twice about it.”

—-Rev. Terry Jones, agreeing with criticism that he had promised last September not to burn the Quran, but did so anyway last month when he felt that his anti-Islam campaign was not getting enough headlines.

If you want to be technical, Rev. Jones is probably the biggest asshole in the United States right now. I know, I know—civility. But there are rare situations in which only our crudest, most insulting words can fairly describe individuals and acts. Rev. Jones richly deserves the asshole label, indeed the U.S. Champion, Gold Plated, #1 Asshole label, because nothing else adequately describes his reckless, self-promoting, hateful, irresponsible, deadly, virtually treasonous conduct—all completely legal, of course.

What do you call someone who pours gasoline on a brush fire to get attention? Jerk is too mild. What do you call someone who intentionally makes a difficult problem of international perception even more difficult—intentionally? Fool is too kind.  Unethical, my staple, is too abstract. There just is no civil term for someone like Jones. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Red Medicine Owner Noah Ellis

Red Medicine is a Beverley Hills restaurant; Noah Ellis is the owner. S. Irene Virbila is the Los Angeles Times restaurant critic, who, like most U.S. food critics, works at staying anonymous, which she had successfully done for sixteen years. Not being recognized served the needs of diners, who want to know what the food and service is likely to be at an eating establishment when the customer isn’t preparing to write a critique that can make the difference between a restaurant’s long-term success or failure.

Last week, Noah Ellis intentionally destroyed Virbila’s ability to perform this service, or at least made it more difficult. Continue reading

Ethics Fouls and Julian Assange’s Rape Case

Well, well, well, Mr Assange!

How does it feel to have your own embarrassing and confidential information leaked to the media and publicized to the world?

On the sound ethical principle that two wrongs doesn’t make a right, The Guardian acquiring and publishing the leaked police report relating to Assange’s rape charges in Sweden is no less unethical because Assange is a smug foe of confidentiality. Nevertheless, it is hard to recall an instance when seeing the tables turned on someone was so satisfying. Ethics foul: Whoever leaked the records, and The Guardian for printing them. But thanks anyway.

It is satisfying for reasons other than delicious irony. Continue reading

The Ethics Of Refusing To Help Wikileaks

Do private corporations have an ethical obligation to allow Wikileaks to use their services? MasterCard, Visa and PayPal stopped processing Wikileaks donations. Amazon kicked the site off its server. Twitter stopped its tweets; Facebook stopped its interfacing.

Columbia University Professor Tim Wu rhetorically asked them:

“Since when are you in the business of deciding who is and who isn’t a good civil disobedience movement?”

Before I address the Professor’s question, let’s make some distinctions. Continue reading