No Good Guys Or Innocent Victims In The Tucker Carlson-New York Times Spat

Carlson 3

Apparently the New York Times got tired of Tucker Carlson’s two faces, so media reporter Ben Smith did a hit piece on the Fox News star. He revealed that Tucker, despite his oft-expressed disdain for the mainstream media and its reporters, “spends his time when he’s not denouncing the liberal media trading gossip with them. He’s the go-to guy for sometimes-unflattering stories about Donald J. Trump and for coverage of the internal politics of Fox News (not to mention stories about Mr. Carlson himself).” Smith adds, “I won’t talk here about any off-the-record conversations I may have had with him. But 16 other journalists (none from The Times; it would put my colleagues in a weird position if I asked them) told me on background that he has been, as three of them put it, ‘a great source.’”

In other words, Carlson is a hypocritical double agent. condemning the mainstream media on his TV show and doing favors for them behind the scenes. One especially nauseating tale is how Tucker related a private conversation with President Trump that made Carlson look good and Trump look foolish for an coming book by the Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender, “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost.” Since only two people were on the line, and Trump didn’t reveal it, Carlson is the only possible source. But the whole article is nauseating, including the casual way all the participants excuse such “double games” as business as usual. Everybody does it, you see, so it’s OK. “It’s so unknown in the general public how much he plays both sides,” one reporter for a prominent publication who gets dirt from Carlson regularly told Smith. Another Washington journalist explained how Carlson benefits by assisting the same reporters he says he “hates,” saying, “If you open yourself up as a resource to mainstream media reporters, you don’t even have to ask them to go soft on you.”

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Observations On The Trump Tax Returns Dud

Someone at the IRS finally leaked the President’s taxe returns to the Times. That’s a crime, just as it would be if someone leaked my taxes or yours. Of course, this was inevitable, filled as the government bureacracy is with unethical employees who feel it is their duty to try to undermine their ultimate supervisor. Those who cheer on this per se wrongful conduct are enabers and rationalizers.

Other points:

1. In “An Editor’s Note on the Trump Tax Investigation,” the Times felt it necessary to remind readers, “Some will raise questions about publishing the president’s personal tax information. But the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the First Amendment allows the press to publish newsworthy information that was legally obtained by reporters even when those in power fight to keep it hidden. That powerful principle of the First Amendment applies here.” That’s right, the news media has a right to encourage others to break the law and to publish the results. It’s still unethical, except in the rare circumstances where the public interest is indisputably served by furthering an illegal act, as with (arguably) the Pentagon Papers. Publishing documents protected by law that show no wrongdoing only to encourage partisan attacks in an election year is not such a situation.

The Times can’t be punished, but whoever leaked the documents can, and should.

2. I guess this is the time to post this tweet by CNN’s Brain Stelter, which proves his stunning ethical deficits as well as anything he has ever said on CNN. He was responding to another tweet pointing out that leaking tax returns is a crime, as I just did.

Oh! So if Stelter knows he has received embezzled funds from a bank employee, Stelter can spend the cash on a hairpiece because the thieving employee had legal access to the cash!

Has any news network simultaneously employed three dolts as mentally deficient as Stelter, Don Lemon, and Chris Cuomo? Continue reading

The U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Affair

Captain Brett Crozier was the  commander of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt which had been docked in Guam following a Wuhan virus outbreak among the crew of more than 4,000. With about a hundred members of his crew infected, he decided to take the extraordinary step of sending a letter to the Navy pleading  for resources and to have the afflicted sailors quarantined from the rest. In the four-page letter sent via a “non-secure, unclassified” email that included at least “20 to 30” recipients in addition to the captain’s immediate chain of command, including some crew members.

Crozier wrote that only a small contingent of infected sailors had been off-boarded, with most of the crew remaining  on board the carrier, where following official guidelines for 14-day quarantines and social distancing was physically impossible. He wrote

“Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this. The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating…Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. … This is a necessary risk…We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors….Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

Of course, the letter leaked to the press, and the situation became a news story and a subject of unwelcome controversy for the Navy. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly initially told CNN in response to questions about the appeal,

“I know that our command organization has been aware of this for about 24 hours and we have been working actually the last seven days to move those sailors off the ship and get them into accommodations in Guam. The problem is that Guam doesn’t have enough beds right now and we’re having to talk to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space, create tent-type facilities.”

Although the letter had the desired result, with members of the crew gradually being removed from the carrier, the Captain had broken the cardinal military rule never to go outside the chain of command. Crozier had multiple conversations with the chief of staff to Modly before his letter was publicized in the San Francisco Chronicle. The Navy had told Crozier to  “call us any time day or night,” and gave him  Modly’s personal cell phone number to update the situation and raise further concerns.

Then the e-mail leaked. Crozier was dismissed as captain by the acting Navy Secretary for what Modly called “extremely poor judgment,” going outside the chain of command, and  disseminating the memo over an unsecured system. President Trump backed his appointee’s unpopular decision. Continue reading

Ethics Train Wreck Analysis: The Richard Jewell Case

“Richard Jewell,” Clint Eastwood’s excellent but much maligned film about a historical episode with many ethics twists and turns, is extremely accurate and fair in all respects, except for the glaring exception of the screenwriter  Billy Ray’s representation that reporter Kathy Scruggs obtained the information that Jewell was under suspicion by the FBI in exchange for one night stand with the agency’s lead investigator. This was the point where the Richard Jewell Ethics Train Wreck of 1996 acquired a car containing the 2019 movie “Richard Jewell.”

Let’s look at those other cars.

I. Jewell

Jewell was a socially awkward, lonely, obese man who lived with his mother. He was in many ways a stereotypical misfit with low  self-esteem, who developed ambitions about becoming a law enforcement officer, a job that would would provide him with the respect and power that he lacked and wanted. The film begins with Jewell’s stint as an office supply clerk in a small public law firm, where he becomes friends with attorney Watson Bryant. Jewell quits to pursue his dream of becoming a law enforcement officer, and Bryant, in saying good-bye, asks his friend to promise that if he ever acquires the authority he seeks, he won’t become a jerk, and abuse it.

This was a real life conversation. Bryant recognized that Jewell was a border-line Asperger’s sufferer, whether or not he knew the name or the clinical condition, and exactly the kind of personality who should never be given a shield and a gun.

Jewell took a job as a campus security officer at Piedmont College, and rapidly realized Watson Bryant’s worst fears by reacting to his authority by abusing it, being over-zealous and generating an unusual number of complaints from students. Jewell was fired, but the need for security personnel at the upcoming Atlanta Olympics gave Jewell another chance at some authority at least. He probably shouldn’t have had such a chance. Jewell was not a man who should have been in the security field or the law enforcement field; his judgment was poor, and his emotional problems made him a bad risk.

Thus the conditions for the ethics train wreck were put in place. It was up to moral luck whether hiring Richard Jewell would turn out to be a disaster, or a  fortunate near miss. Instead, it turned out to be something else entirely, a classic example of a bad decision having a good result—at least for a while.

2. The Bomb

In the early morning of July 27, 1996, Jewell, now working in Atlanta’s Centennial Park as part of the Summer Olympics security force, noticed an abandoned backpack by a bench. Over-zealous, officious and a fanatic about following procedure, Jewell insisted on reporting the pack as a “suspicious package,” despite the chiding of his colleagues, who wanted to take it to Lost and Found. If, as was overwhelmingly likely, the backpack had been just a backpack, Jewell probably would have been mocked. But again moral luck took a hand. He was right. It was a bomb. Jewell and other officers began clearing the area, and the bomb went off, killing one victim, Alice Hawthorne, and wounding many, still  far less serious damage than what might have occurred had Jewell not been so scrupulous in his discharge of his duties.

3. The Hero, the Scapegoats, and the Tip
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Comment Of The Day: “Labor Day Weekend Kick-Off Ethics Warm-Up: The ‘I’m Baaaack!’ Edition” [Item #3]

I’m still not ready to post the COTD from the Battle of the Ethics Alarms Stars in the recent open forum, but that will be up tomorrow. This comment by Greg involves the ongoing news media effort to spin and bury the Inspector General’s report yesterday explaining what an untrustworthy disgrace to the FBI James Comey was.

I like Greg’s comment for three reasons: it is concise and well-written, it is about one of the most important topics here, which is how the news media has abandoned integrity and responsible reporting for propaganda and efforts to manipulate public opinion,  and because it saved me a post, since I had been preparing to write a similar essay after reading and listening to the usual media suspects.

I will say up front that Greg’s last sentence is too pessimistic. Abe was right, as I know I say too many times: you can’t fool all of the people all the time. The news media is destroying its own credibility even with those who are naive, lazy and gullible. It keeps doing this—burying stories that the pubic has a right to know but that undermine the media’s narrative, what Joe Biden and the Democrats regard as “the truth” that doesn’t  rely on facts, and little by little even its most stubborn defenders (those who aren’t corrupt) are figuring out that they have been conned. Right now I’m thinking of a lamented Ethics Alarms exile who accused me of “drinking the Kool-Aid” before he left. He’s biased, and he was gullible, but he’s not an idiot, not by any means. He knows he was wrong, and I was right by now. Sadly, he apparently doesn’t have fortitude to come crawling back with the apology he owes me. Well, that’s his tragedy.

Here is Greg’s Comment of the Day on Item #3 of the post, “Labor Day Weekend Kick-Off Ethics Warm-Up: The “I’m Baaaack!” Edition.”

The frustrating thing, though, is that most of the public has been misinformed and deceived about the Inspector General’s report. Comey immediately claimed the report had cleared him, on the grounds that it said he did not leak “classified” information. You know and I know that nobody had ever accused Comey of leaking national security secrets, so the report had “cleared” him of an accusation that had never been made, while finding him guilty of all of the accusations that had actually been made. But most people have no idea about this.

For a few minutes after the report came out, MSNBC, CNN and the other usual suspects played it straight: they admitted that the report was damning of Comey. But then they immediately fell into line: The IG had “cleared” Comey of leaking classified information but “criticized” him for “violating departmental policy.” It had “criticized” him, “scolded” him and “reprimanded” him; but it had “failed to vindicate” Trump and had “contradicted Trump’s accusations.” The IG’s report “found that no crimes were committed” and “acknowledged that Comey was candid with investigators.” It contained “nothing new that hasn’t been known for two years.” And, of course, Republicans have “pounced” on the report to make a “power grab.” The New York Times editorialized that the report was “boring,” while criticizing the IG for making a fuss about nothing. The Washington Post editorialized that “Comey saved democracy with his memos.” Continue reading

Labor Day Weekend Kick-Off Ethics Warm-Up: The “I’m Baaaack!” Edition

Excellent work in the Open Forum, everybody.

Thank-you.

As it happened, there would have been no way I could have written a post yesterday, except after I arrived home following a 6 hour drive from New Jersey following my three-hour seminar. At the point, however, my IQ had fallen below Joe Biden levels, so it would have been unethical for me to opine or analyze anything. I’m slightly better now, at the Kamala Harris level and rising, so I’m going to get right back on the metaphorical horse.

I hate missing a day like that, mostly because it puts me behind in covering the ethics news, but also because I view Ethics Alarms as a commitment to the loyal readers who come here.

1. Well this is good news…The College Board is dropping its proposed “adversity score” from the SAT. The ill-considered device, which Ethics Alarms metaphorically spat at here, would have assigned a score based on the socioeconomic background of each student, artificially raising his or her score based on socioeconomic circumstances.

Of course, this was an unusually transparent ploy to facilitate race-based college admissions .As I wrote in May,

This is a cynical and dishonest device to give cover to colleges and universities as they try to base their admissions on race and ethnicity while avoiding legal prohibitions on discrimination based on race and ethnicity. That is all it is, and exactly what it is.

2. And MORE good news! A new Rasmussen Reports survey shows that most voters believe the average journalist is liberal, and few are conservative. Moreover, a majority believe it is appropriate for politicians to criticize reporters and hold them to the same scrutiny as those they cover.

Of course  it is. For more than three years, we have been hearing that President Trump’s condemnations of the news media and specific news organizations and journalists represent a threat to the freedom of the press and democracy. For those same three years, the Ethics Alarms position has been that while the President’s rhetoric and tone is often irresponsible, the threat to democracy is being created by a mainstream media journalistic establishment that is no longer interested in being fair or objective, not by criticism of this dangerous trend.

The survey analysis found that 61% of likely U.S. voters believe reporters at major news organizations are public figures who deserve critical scrutiny of their conduct and biases.  Only 61%? 19% directly disagree with that contention. How  can they disagree? What would give journalist the unique right to be immune from criticism of bias, competence, and abuse of power? Elected officials are not immune, nor are scholars, artists, lawyers or judges. Continue reading

Another White House Closed-Door “Gotcha,” Another Chunk Gouged Out Of Our Liberties

The icky ethics category of private or limited audience statements that get unethically publicized by malign third-parties to embarrass and harm the speaker has been explored here many times, notably in the case of Donald Sterling, the NBA owner and billionaire who lost his franchise, millions of dollars and his reputation over a remark he made in his own bedroom that was surreptitiously recorded and released by a treacherous girlfriend.. The position of Ethics Alarms on these incidents, which also includes spurned lovers sharing private emails to the world in order to humiliate a correspondent, the Democratic Senators who leaked the President’s course rhetoric about “shithole” countries that took place during a meeting that was supposed to be private and confidential, and Donald Trump’s infamous “pussy-grabbing” statements, is simple. Once the embarrassing words have unethically made public, they can’t be ignored. Neither should the circumstances of their making, or the unethical nature of their subsequent use was weapons of personal destruction.

 

There is not a human being alive who has not made statements in private meetings or conversations, whether  those statements be jokes, insults, rueful observations or deliberate hyperbole, that would be horribly inappropriate as public utterances. Thus the feigned horror at such statements by others is the rankest kind of Golden Rule hypocrisy. In addition, the opprobrium and public disgrace brought down on the heads of those whose mean/ugly/politically incorrect/vulgar/ nasty/insulting words are made public by a treacherous friend, associate or colleague erodes every American’s freedom of thought, association and expression, as well as their privacy.

The most recent example of this unethical sequence occurred after Kelly Sadler, a White House special assistant, stated in a closed-door policy meeting that Senator John McCain’s opposition to Trump’s nominee for CIA director “doesn’t matter” because “he’s dying anyway.” Some saboteur in the meeting, determined to harm both Sadler and her boss, leaked this small moment in a private meeting, in which participants reasonably assumed they did not have to be politically correct, nice, kind, civil or careful because everyone in the meeting had tacitly agreed that the meeting was confidential. That, and only that, is the ethical breach here. (Nah, there’s no “deep state”…there are just nefarious moles in the White House who coordinate with the news media to undermine the President. That’s all!). Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/27/18: Everything Is Spinning Out Of Control!!!

Good MORNING, everyone!!!

(And good morning, little Louie..)

1. The state of American journalism, CNN’s Headline News quadrant: A recent poll claims that 50% of Republicans regard the news media as “enemies of the people.” Just because it is actively manipulating the news to try to topple the President of the United States? How unreasonable! No, I am beginning to believe that the 21st Century U.S. news media is really the Enemy of the Cerebral Cortex. On HLN this morning, James Comey’s disastrous interview on Fox News yesterday (among about 400 other stories of more relevance to Americans) was deemed newsworthy, but not one but two royal family stories were: the wedding dress for the American woman whose name I can’t remember who is going to marry the British prince who doesn’t matter on a date I don’t give a damn about, and, again, what the new royal great-grandchild’s name will be. The breathless reporting on these two world-altering events took over 10 out of the 40 minutes the network devotes to news rather than pharmaceutical commercials, a full 25%.

But that’s not all. HLN newsbabe Robin Meade emulated “Best in Show’s” Fred Willard’s cruelly hilarious send-up of Joe Garagiola’s embarrassingly lunk-headed turns as a “color man” at the Westminster Dog Show by asking the dumbest question, I think, I have ever heard on the air. If you haven’t seen “Best in Show” a) What’s the matter with you? and b) here are typical questions asked by Willard during the fictional dog show’s broadcast as “Buck Laughlin,” an ex-pro athlete, to his British dog expert  (“Trevor Beckwith”) co-host and others:

“Now tell me, which one of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?”

“Doctor, question that’s always bothered me and a lot of people: Mayflower, combined with Philadelphia – a no-brainer, right? Cause this is where the Mayflower landed. Not so. It turns out Columbus actually set foot somewhere down in the West Indies. Little known fact.”

“Now that looks like a fast dog. Is that faster than a greyhound? If you put them in a race, who would come in first? You know if you had a little jockey on them…”

Robin, however, against all odds, topped Buck, asking the British reporter, after learning that the new total would be named, “Louis,”

“Now in American, when we hear that name we immediately think, “Louie Louie, oh no, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.” Is that the way it is in England too? “

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Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/18: A Train Wreck Update And A Post On “Democratic Norms”

Good Afternoon…

Why is the warm-up so tardy today? You don’t want to know...

1 The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck takes an unexpected turn, which is hard to do for a train...Feminist Katie Roiphe is being widely attacked by the #MeToo mob for her  Harper’s essay ,“The Other Whisper Network: How Twitter Feminism Is Bad for Women.” Her thesis: with women reveling in a new-found power to destroy men’s reputations and careers with mere accusations of sexual misconduct in the workplace or on a date, women’s advances in society are likely to be reversed based on basic suspicion and fear.  The mere news that she was preparing the piece was enough for Roiphe to be called, on social media, Roiphe reported, 

“pro-rape,” “human scum,” a “harridan,” a “monster out of Stephen King’s ‘IT,’?” a “ghoul,” a “bitch,” and a “garbage person”—all because of a rumor that I was planning to name the creator of the so-called Shitty Media Men list. The Twitter feminist Jessica Valenti called this prospect “profoundly shitty” and “incredibly dangerous” without having read a single word of my piece. Other tweets were more direct: “man if katie roiphe actually publishes that article she can consider her career over.” “Katie Roiphe can suck my dick.” With this level of thought policing, who in their right mind would try to say anything even mildly provocative or original?”

The threat of criticism of the online “shitty media men” spreadsheet that gathered anonymous allegations of sexual misbehavior for the purpose of destroying the careers of those on it prompted the  unethical website’s creator, Moira Donegan, to out herself, which she did proudly and to remarkably little criticism from women, who feel pressure to remain silent from peers, Roiphe says. Asks Kyle Smith in the National Review,  “Is a movement that effectively silences even mild dissent by mostly like-minded people something to be proud of?”

One feminist who has been critical of the #MeToo witch hunt tendencies from the start is “Advice Goddess” Amy Alkon, who writes, “Women of past generations worked so hard to be treated as men’s equals. Now every woman has to be looked at like a walking lit fuse.” Of course this is happening: I predicted it too. As Smith writes at another article in the NY Post, many men are no longer willing to be alone with female colleagues: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/15/18: Icons, Shitholes And Chianti

Good Morning, and Happy Martin Luther King Day.

1 Priorities, priorities…Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga) has made his career out of the fact that he was an associate of Dr. King during the civil rights movement.  On Sunday’s”This Week” on ABC’, Lewis said on he would not vote for legislation that prevents a government shutdown if it did not first resolve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “I, for one, will not vote on government funding until we get a deal for DACA,” the alleged icon said.

That’s right: Lewis, and presumably many of his colleagues, would waste millions of dollars and interfere with life and daily needs of American citizens to obtain a path to citizenship for 800,000 currently illegal residents, and create a permanent incentive for foreign citizens to break our laws so they can get their kids an entitlement.  It’s more important to give illegal residents what they have no right to have, then to ensure legal citizens what their taxes pay for. This is the unethical result when ideology takes precedence over common sense.

2. Fake news also takes precedence, apparently. “Trump’s Words Eclipsing Deal For Dreamers” reads the above-the-fold headline on today’s New York Times. There are many other similar headlines on display. If, in fact, it is true that the President’s (alleged, disputed, reported initially via hearsay, denied by the speaker, and intentionally misrepresented by critics even if the alleged version is accepted) words have a decisive impact on a DACA deal, then the DACA adherents were posturing all along. What difference does it make to DACA what the President says off-the cuff in a private meeting? Apparently it is more important to Democrats and the “resistance” to denigrate the President than to accomplish substantive policy goals. Good to know.

UPDATE: I just read the opinion of conservative blogger Liz Shield after I wrote this. She said,

My position on sh!ithole-gate is this: It’s not appropriate for the President of the United States use this kind of language. Now, this was a private meeting and perhaps Trump did not think the Democrats would sabotage the DACA negotiations and, in this regard, Trump is terribly naive. There will be no good faith discussions on any policy because the policy of the Democrats is that Trump must FAIL, even at the expense of the Democrat constituencies they claim to be fighting so hard for. That is their position and I hope the president gets hip to this soon. Instead, the conversation we are having is not about policy but rather that Trump is a RACIST. Which is, coincidentally, the sole platform held by his political enemies.

Pretty much. The last sentence is unfair, though: their platform is that the President is a racist, senile, crazy, stupid, a Nazi, a traitor, a liar, a sexual predator and not really President. Continue reading