On one level, my head blew because this is such a cynical, flagrantly biased act that rejects any concept of ethical journalism. On another, it blew up in shame. With all the nauseating evidence I’ve discussed here pointing to a rotting American journalism that sees itself as the engine of partisan propaganda rather than the means to an informed public, I somehow didn’t think it was this bad. This is my own bias at work: I’m a sap. I want to believe that somewhere, buried deep in the mainstream media, there is integrity and the spark of respect for democracy.
Page was the FBI attorney engaged in an adulterous relationship with Mueller investigation team member Peter Strzok. Their text messages raised legitimate questions about the anti-Trump bias in the FBI and among those handling the “collusion” matter. In particular, the reference to the FBI investigation as “insurance” if Trump was elected in an exchange between the lovebirds in August 2016 seemed to be a smoking gun.
Recently, Page’s name has surfaced in the Michael Flynn case. In newly released texts between Page and Strzok, who was significantly involved in the pursuit of Flynn, Page suggested that Flynn could be set up using the federal law that criminalizes lies to federal investigators. She suggested to Strzok that “it would be an easy way to just casually slip that in,” reinforcing other evidence that there was a “get Flynn” mentality at the FBI. Thus Page’s conduct will be a live topic in the upcoming inquiries in Congress and the Justice Department surrounding the methods and motives of the FBI as it pursued Flynn and sought to undermine the Trump Administration. It is outrageous to have an analyst who will be analyzing events that involve herself…or once was considered so, when journalists paid attention to ethics. Continue reading →
I’m going to deal with the Peter Strzok/Lisa Page Congressional testimony in a full post, but I’ll give a preview here.. As I will elaborate then, this makes me feel like I am going crazy, and also creates dilemmas regarding what this blog is about, and how to keep it trustworthy. The story that has developed over the past week is almost incredible in its objective implications for the Obama administration’ legacy (Did you know that there were NO SCANDALS under President Obama?), the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, the Mueller investigation, the Justice Department, the Democratic Party, and the efforts to undermine the Trump Presidency, and by extension, our democracy. When I write about all of this, however, the result will sound like an over-heated conspiracy theory from the depths of Breitbart. I know that’s what my bubble-dwelling friends on Facebook will say, and what the Ethics Alarms exiles who were, and, I’m sure, still are, incapable of believing anything but “resistance” and Democratic anti-Trump talking points will think as well. I checked yesterday’s New York Times page by page: there was nothing about what Peter Strzok and Lisa Page revealed under oath…not in the news, not on the op-ed page, not in the letters to the editor. How can that be, in a paper that claims to present “all the news that’s fit to print?” I didn’t check the Washington Post (I don’t get the paper version) , but I assume a similar black-out from the paper that hypocritically proclaims that “Democracy Dies In Darkness.” Senator Lindsay Graham s calling for a new Special Prosecutor, and if we had an honest, non-partisan news media, I assume—I hope—that the informed public, at least the uncorrupted portion that has principles that transcend politics, would be doing the same. I know U.S. government and Presidential history better than most, and what I see—and can see only because I do not trust the mainstream media–is worse than Watergate (that over-used phrase) and far, far scarier, because this time, the press is part of the cover-up.
1. Addendum. One legacy that may be ticketed for oblivion is that of John McCain. We learned yesterday that a close McCain associate aggressively circulated the discredited, Trump-smearing Steele memorandum to media outlets all over D.C. after the President was elected. From the Daily Caller:
David Kramer, a former State Department official, said in a deposition on Dec. 13, 2017 that he provided a copy of Christopher Steele’s dossier to reporters from McClatchy, NPR, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and BuzzFeed and CNN’s Carl Bernstein. He also shared the report with State Department official Victoria Nuland, Obama National Security Counsel official Celeste Wallander and Illinois GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger.
If Senator McCain knew about this, or worse, engineered it, he was trying to undermine the sitting President. Based on his petty and vindictive conduct in the period between the election and his death, this seems very plausible, and even likely.
2. Meanwhile, here’s another irresponsible Trump Tweet storm…which has received more publicity in major news sources than indications that the Obama Justice Department was working to manipulate the 2016 Presidential election. The President tweeted that “airplanes are becoming too complex to fly” two days after the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed all 157 people aboard, and before any official assessment of the causes of the crash was made, “Split second decisions are needed, and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cost yet very little gain. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!”
Ugh. Talk about abusing a position to make the public dumber. This is just Luddite blathering from someone who has no more expertise regarding airplanes than my mailman. It is not an informed opinion, and the comments can do no good, while causing tangible damage in unfounded fear.
I do agree that Albert Einstein would be a poor choice as a 737 pilot, as would Genghis Khan, Ed Wynn, and Katherine the Great, being untrained in flying AND being dead as mackerels.
The Southern Poverty Law Center fired Morris Dees, the nonprofit civil rights organization’s co-founder and former chief litigator. SPLC President Richard Cohen said in a statement Dees’ dismissal over his misconduct was effective on Wednesday, March 13. When pressed for details on what led to the termination, the organization declined to elaborate. “As a civil rights organization, the SPLC is committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world,” Cohen said in the emailed statement. “When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action.”
The Law Center is literally an extension of Dees; he has been its face and founder. I’ve been at an award ceremony for Morris Dees. An organization doesn’t treat its progenitor this way unless it has to, and Dees, according to reports, was no longer active in the SPLC’s activities. There is an undropped shoe, and I’m betting the Oxford is one more sexual harassment scandal involving a liberal icon. What other “conduct” would get Dees fired, unless the hate-group labeling group’s founder was using shoe-polish to imitate Michael Jackson?
3. So how long before college tuitions come down, people stop assuming those with degrees from Harvard are smarter than those who don’t, and higher education admits that a complete overhaul is overdue and mandatory, since colleges have become political indoctrination centers rather than educational institutions? Commenting on the college admission scandal, George Mason University professor Bryan Kaplan writes at TIME:
…The admissions scandal is an opportunity to separate the lofty mythology of college from the sordid reality. Despite the grand aspirations that students avow on their admission essays, their overriding goal is not enlightenment, but status. Consider why these parents would even desire to fake their kids’ SAT scores. We can imagine them thinking, I desperately want my child to master mathematics, writing and history — and no one teaches math, writing and history like Yale does! But we all know this is fanciful. …Most majors, however, ask little of their students — and get less. Standards were higher in the 1960s, when typical college students toiled about 40 hours a week. Today, however, students work only two-thirds as hard. Full-time college has become a part-time job….Why do employers put up with such a dysfunctional educational system? Part of the answer is that government and donors lavish funding on the status quo with direct subsidies, student loans and alumni donations….The deeper answer, though, is that American higher education tolerably performs one useful service for American business: certification.
… When I was in high school, my crusty health teacher loved to single out a random teen and scoff, “You’re wanted … for impersonating a student.” If you can get your less-than-brilliant, less-than-driven child admitted, he’ll probably get to impersonate a standardly awesome Ivy League graduate for the rest of his life.
…[T]ruth be told, this salacious scandal proves next to nothing. It just illustrates the obvious. Though we casually talk about our “institutions of higher learning,” little learning is going on. Sure, college is an intellectual banquet for the rare students with a passion for ideas and the energy to locate the also-rare professors with a passion for teaching. The vast majority, however, come in search of a stamp on their foreheads that says grade a — and leave with little else. If the parents accused by the FBI are guilty as charged, don’t say they failed to understand the purpose of a college education. Say they understood its purpose all too well.
1. Trump Trump Trump. You know, I was on a political Facebook page in 2016 where an idiot kept posting “Trump Trump Trump” despite everyone, including the moderator, telling him to cut it out. Eventually he was banned from the site. Unfortunately, there is no similarly simple solution to this problem when a combination of the Trump-hostile news media and the President himself forces a variety of ethics issues on me, when I would rather be musing about baseball, old sitcoms, and guys in lobster hats.
The pardons.President Trump pardoned Dwight L. Hammond, now 76, and his son, Steven D. Hammond, 49, a pair of Oregon cattle ranchers who had been serving out five-year sentences for arson on federal land, which had sparked the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in 2016. Naturally these pardons were attacked, because anything Trump does will be attacked. The resulting conflict brought widespread attention to anger over federal land management in the Western United States,and that’s a good thing. How can the federal government justify owning almost half of Western land?
As for the pardons, both men have served most of their sentences already, and not only were the sentences unusually harsh for their offenses, the cases had the whiff of political prosecutions about them. They were perfectly legitimate objects for Presidential pardons, but then so are hundreds of thousands of other cases. Presidents should issue as many pardons as possible, which means eliminating a lot of the red tape. So far, Trump has sucked the tape by cherry-picking beneficiaries in his own, eccentric, biased way, using his unique, unassailable Constitution-based power to court supporters, celebrities and particular constituencies—not that there’s anything wrong with that, as long as other deserving citizens also get pardoned, and really, all but the most unrepentant, vile and dangerous felons deserve mercy and compassion eventually. Unless the pardon power is used broadly and constantly, its blessings too often depend on who you know. In the case of the ranchers, for example, a large donor to Vice-President Pence lobbied for the pardons. Again, that doesn’t mean the pardons can’t be justified. It does mean the process is skewed by factors not related to justice or fairness.
I found this to be the most ethically intriguing paragraph in the Times story about Pence pal, tycoon Forrest Lucas, and his likely influence on the pardons:
“While other presidents have also gone ahead of Justice officials to pardon apparent allies, they have often waited until their final days in office to do so. Mr. Trump, by comparison, has issued high-profile pardons early and comparatively often — seemingly unconcerned by the appearance of leaning his ears toward those at the top.”
So is Trump being unethical in a more ethical fashion than his predecessors?
Bad host, worse guest. The President’s derogatory comments about the British Prime Minister were indefensible, of course. We know how he thinks: Great Britain, as he has said, with justification, has made him feel unwelcome—that insulting “Trump baby” blimp over London is a real diplomatic low—and thus, in Trump’s rudimentary ethics system, akin to that of a lizard, the proper response is tit-for-tat. None of this is unexpected, and nobody who voted for Trump can say that they didn’t give him license to behave this way by electing him.
I do wonder now why I ever thought that he would react to being elected by moderating the very conduct that, in his mind and probably in reality, got him where he is today. My role model for him was President Arthur, who was about as different in character and background from Donald Trump as a human being could be.
1 Thanks, Leo! I think..Althouse reminded me of a Tolstoi quote that offers the perfect explanation of why bias makes you stupid:
“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.”
“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their life”.
The quotes explain more of what is going on in the culture, journalism and politics right now than I am comfortable thinking about…which means that I am perpetually uncomfortable.
2. Someone please explain why we have not had this made crystal clear to us...This morning I heard Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican Senator whom I regard as an honorable and ethical public servant, note while talking about the unfolding FISA scandal that Christopher Steele, the author of the so-called Russian dossier, was paid in part by the DNC and the Clinton campaign to assemble the material, for which he visited Russia and engaged with sources there. Wait…what? This made Steele an agent of the Clinton campaign by definition, and means, therefore, that the Clinton campaign was “colluding” with Russia during the Presidential 2016 campaign, to “meddle” with U.S. elections.
[UPDATE and Correction: This is what the honorable and ethical Senator said. In fact, since Steele was a former spy, he couldn’t go to Russia. He did, however, engage sources who did, and who made contacts with Russians. Legally, this makes little difference. An agent who uses an agent to do the work of the principle is still responsible for what THAT agent does. ]
But the statement above is inaccurate. ] This constitutes more evidence of Clinton “collusion” than Mueller’s year-long investigation has uncovered regarding the Trump campaign, since, as far as we know, it has uncovered no such evidence at all. Is Mueller investigating Democratic “collusion”? If not, why not? The argument that Clinton was engaged in exactly the kind of activities Trump’s campaign is being accused of has been brushed off as crazy Fox News talking points by the mainstream media. It seems pretty clear now that this is a false and deliberately misleading representation, even before we arrive at the problematical use of the document by the FBI and the Justice Department. Continue reading →
1. Say please..…. A group of “Dreamers” blocked an entrance to Disneyland yesterday, as part of a protest demanding a Congressional OK for DACA. I am willing to accept the will of Congress and the President if somehow the illegal immigrants who were brought here as children and never took the initiative to become compliant with the law get a break via DACA. However, they are supplicants. The US has no obligation to accommodate their predicament. I don’t want any demands from them, and the more they demand, the less I am inclined to be sympathetic to their plight.
Ask nicely. Say please. Their sense of entitlement is redolent of the attitudes of the advocates of the usual, everyday, garden variety illegal immigrants. How dare the country we entered illegally enforce the law? If the “Dreamers” want to ask for a compassionate exception, I’ll listen, just as I’ll consider the pleas of panhandlers and homeless veterans. But don’t you dare tell me I have to give you a handout. And as non-citizens, “the “Dreamers” have no basis to protest anything.
2. Is it news yet? If you had no inkling that the FBI somehow “lost” thousands of text messages sent between those lovebirds, FBI counterintelligence expert Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, at the exact point where their conversations and expressed desire to “stop” President Trump may have been especially interesting, you are not alone. There is an internal Justice Department investigation about the communications that went on during the extramarital affair, in part because both were involved in the Mueller investigation into whether there is some way that Democrats can find a legitimate reason to impeach President Trump. Strzok also helped lead the FBI’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s private email server—also now under renewed scrutiny, since more evidence suggests that it might have been rigged; did you know that?— and was initially involved in Special Counsel Mueller’s inquiry into Russia’s 2016 election meddling. Strzok was kicked off the task force after Mueller learned that there was smoking text message evidence that he detested the President, and Strzok and Page had texted about the need for an “insurance policy” against Trump being elected, creating a prima facie case that the investigation included supposed objective seekers of truth who had a political agenda. Page, Strzok’s secret squeeze, was also on Mueller’s team before returning to the FBI. That makes two potential anti-Trump moles. Continue reading →