Pre-Thanksgiving Day Ethics Wrap-Up, 11/27/2019

Be thankful tomorrow, everybody.

There’s always something…

1. On unethical misleading language, Part A: Today’s “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias” note: I was suddenly struck after reading one, two, three, four impeachment-related stories in a row in four separate news sources that they all used the phrase “dirt on Joe Biden.” Isn’t that strange? “Dirt” isn’t a description, it’s a characterization, and a deliberately  pejorative one that assumes that Biden is a victim of a dastardly action. It’s widespread use is one more smoking gun that demonstrates mainstream media bias aimed at smearing President Trump. The term “dirt” presupposes that if the President sought to persuade the Ukraine to aid the U.S. in an investigation, something it is obligated by treaty to do, it was only to assist his re-election chances. When the term “dirt” has been used in conjunction with a politition seeking damning information on Bill Clinton, either George Bush, or Trump himslef, it was always in the context of an election campaign. Few wrote that the Mueller investigation was a “dirt” seeking operation (though in truth it was). But it’s always “dirt on Joe Biden” that the Ukraine was allegedly asked/forced/extorted into looking for. When Jeffrey Epstein was being investigated, nobody said the FBI was seeking to smear him with “dirt,” because news sources accepted that an investigation was appropriate.

Yet there are many reasons and strong evidence suggesting that an investigation of Joe Biden’s alleged machinations to benefit his son by abusing his office and misusing his influence was (and is) also appropriate. The United States should not just shrug off corruption in its highest offices because a complicit individual is running for President, but that is the thrust of the current impeachment push by House Democrats. For the media to intentionally choose terminology—and slang, which is usually not in a newspaper style-book— to lead readers away from the argument that an investigation of Joe Biden was necessary and valid whether he was running for President or not shows a disturbing disinterest in fair reporting, and a preference for anti-Trump propaganda. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The ABC Democratic Candidates Debate

1, The overwhelming impression one—well, this one—got from last night’s depressing Democratic candidates debate is that the United States of America has somehow painted itself into a corner where one of the worst characters in American political history is nonetheless the shaky human firewall against a calculated overthrow of the American experiment by a sickening conspiracy of power-seeking demagogues, democracy-defacing socialists , individual liberties-rejecting totalitarians, and, of course, and a news media that self-righteously views itself as the propaganda agent for all of these.  In the immortal words of Chester A. Riley,  wing riveter at the fictional Cunningham Aircraft plant in California, “What a revoltin’ development this is!”

But here we are.

2. Symbolic of the plight was the sight of long-time Clintonista and Democratic Party operative George Stephanopoulos  sitting in the debate moderator’s chair last night. No one who is aware of the ABC host of the news division’s morning and Sunday  show could possibly view his presence as anything but an overlay of bias and a guarantee of soft-ball questions and general favoritism. The problem is that many, perhaps most, of the target audience of last night’s fiasco are not aware of it. Remember 2015, when the GOP hopefuls subjected themselves to the sneering contempt of such leftist moderators as CNBC’s  panel of Becky Quick, John Harwood, and Carl Quintanilla? Their questions and interjections from the moderators were, as I observed at the time, ” so hostile, so disrespectful, so obviously concocted from a biased perspective,” that there was criticism from all sides of the political spectrum. Nonetheless, at least the Republicans were challenged, and they knew that partisan opponents facing them were not going to countenance flagrant misinformation. This is why the DNC’s cowardly decision to freeze Fox News out of the debates was such a transparent effort to avoid fair vetting of the candidates, fair meaning in this case, something more challenging than boot-licking submissiveness. “It was a great debate. I think we learned a lot tonight,” the lackey enthused after it was all over. Did anyone really think that was a great debate? That kind of self-evident spin is supposed to be reserved for people like Tom Perez. Continue reading

When Your Friends Insist That There Is No Mainstream Media Partisan Bias, Ask Them To Explain This…

The won’t and can’t, but they’ll deny that there’s bias anyway. Like Joe Biden, they choose “truth” over facts.

In an infamous 2017 editorial, New York Times Editorial Page Editor James Bennet wrote, “In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.”

Not only was this false, the theory had been thoroughly dsiproven years before. Palin’s map had nothing to do with violence. “20 House Democrats from districts we carried in 2008 voted for the health care bill,” the caption said. “IT’S TIME TO TAKE A STAND.”

It was a call to defeat Affordable Care Act supporters, not to shoot them. The theory, pushed by the Times’ Paul Krugman among other left-wing pundits after the Tucson shooting,  that Palin’s unremarkable advocacy inspired the attack, was unmoored to facts or logic. Loughner’s motives were vague, and he was insane, politically liberal,  and unlikely to have been following Palin’s website. Linking Palin to the tragedy (others blamed Rush Limbaugh) was just the kind of dishonest cognitive dissonance game we are seeing now, with Democrats and the news media blaming President Trump for recent shootings.

On the theory that the Times crossed the line from opinion to malice when it intentionally publicized a false,  six-year old smear, Palin sued the Times for libel. This week a federal appeals court revived the lawsuit, which had been thrown out by a lower court on First Amendment grounds. Continue reading

And This Is Why We Have No Trustworthy News Media: The Phantom Somali Hammer Attack.

A week ago, conservative writer Matt Vespa wrote,

There’s media silence in Minneapolis over an attack executed by a group of Somali teens that reportedly attacked bystanders East Bank Light Rail station last Friday. It looks like it was racially motivated. According to reports, anyone who was white or looked like they had money was targeted. The teens used hammers and bars as weapons. … [T]here’s been literally no media coverage of this attack. The only outlet to even mention or ask about it was the crime watch site “2ndPrecinct  Minneapolis Crime Watch and Information. They posted on their Facebook page to note that this attack did happen and that “We were told that we were the ONLY media to inquire to MPD about it. Further proof of our “incurious” local lamestream media”

Several conservative sites, including the frequently dubious Red State and the Granddaddy of Them All, Instapundit, passed on the story in the same vein, hinting darkly that the news media was burying this story because it evoked Muslim-on-white “hate crime”, and because the Left is circling the wagons around besieged Somali immigrant, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

The episode began with a police call, in  a police dispatcher states:

“[University of Minnesota Police Department] is asking for assistance from Metro Transit [Police] and Minneapolis [Police] for a group of eight to 10 males at the East Bank light rail station chasing people around with hammers. They do have some people injured. They’re sending us more information, but they’re requesting assistance.”

The rest of the story seems to have been based on an alleged eye-witness report posted on Facebook  by“Jay Hall,” who  wrote “… It was a group of Somali young males with hammers and bars. They were attacking anyone who looked like they had money or were white.”

However, by the time the episode had played out, police were describing it like this in the  report on the incident,:

Around 9.45 p.m. on Saturday 17 May, UMN police officers were dispatched to the East Bank train station on Washington Avenue Southeast, next to the University of Minnesota, after receiving reports of a group of Somali youths with weapons.

Officer Amanda Carlson:

“Upon arrival to the East Bank LRT I saw a group of Somali juveniles running away from officers traveling westbound on Washington Ave SE and turn southbound between Moos Tower and [the] Molecular and Cellular Biology building. I ran after them and heard officers yelling at the juveniles to stop. I turned onto Delaware St SE where officers had several Somali juveniles lying prone with their arms spread out. I placed a male….in handcuffs and performed a search incident to arrest. All other parties were placed in handcuffs and detained by other officers that had arrived on scene…Through further investigation, it was found that …[they were] the two individuals brandishing metal pipes towards others on the light rail platform. Dispatch sent recorded images of the incident on the East Bank LTR which showed [them] holding a metal pipe and handing it to [each other] [They] were placed in the rear of a squad car and transported to UMPD by Officer Brackett….All other parties that had fled on foot and were detained were ultimately released from police custody at the scene. I issued a citation … for disorderly conduct as he engaged in offensive, abusive, boisterous and noisy conduct tending to arouse alarm, flee police as he attempted to evade or elude peace officers, who were acting in the lawful discharge of official duty, by means of running, and false information to police as he provided a fictitious name and false date of birth.”

Carlson further wrote that two metal pipes were taken from the two young men who received the citations. Continue reading

Memorial Day Ethics Warm-Up, 5/27/19: Gee, Can We Celebrate Those Who Die For Our Nation And Not Be “Nationalist”?

 

This, of course, was my father’s favorite Sousa march; he once mortified my mother by standing and doing a parade ground march routine on the Mall when they played it on the Fourth of July. You knew it has words, right?

1. Nah, there’s no mainstream media confirmation bias! Political scientist Time Magazine columnist and Donald Trump critic Ian Bremmer intentionally tweeted as fact a fake Donald Trump quote:

“Kim Jong Un is smarter and would make a better president than Sleepy Joe Biden.”

Immediately, the quote was picked up on social media by the Trump Deranged, mainstream media pundits, and some elected officials. Here’s ridiculous CNN contributor Ana Navarro, who exists on the network solely to attack the President as a “Republican”:

“Don’t shrug your shoulders. Don’t get used to this insanity. The President of the United States praising a cruel dictator who violates human rights, threatens nuclear attacks, oppresses his people, and kills political opponents, IS NOT FREAKING NORMAL.”

Note she also gets in one of the top anti-Trump Big Lies, that the President is “abnormal.”

Bremer’s quote was retweeted thousands of times, until he admitted that he made it up. This is using the web to spread falsehoods. He should be banned from the pages of Time and dismissed as an analyst and a pundit.

Incredibly, Ann Althouse defended the lie as satire, writing,

“Stupid of journalists and congressmen to retweet it as an actual quote, but there’s nothing wrong with “fabricating” it. Are we so humor deaf that we’re going to start denouncing comedians as liars?”

Ann needs an ethics check-up. There’s nothing funny about lying in a setting where many will believe you, whether the liar is a comedian or not. Nor was the quote humorous. Bremer was doing exactly what the unethical hoax news sites do when they deliberately publish fake news in a style and manner designed to fool people into believing it.

I guess we can’t assume that what Ann states as fact is true either. It might be “satire.” Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, 1/24/19: Return To The Ethics Trenches Edition

Bvuh.

My old friend Robin Langer claimed when we were kids that “Bvuh” was the stupidest-sounding syllable that could be uttered in any language. It accurately expresses my state today, after a business trip that involved 6 hours of delays in two flights into and out of Ft. Lauderdale.

1. Is this fair? I’m in no shape to judge. Our second flight, last night, was delayed over an hour because Jet Blue delayed take-off for more than an hour so a plane of travelers from Aruba could make their connection to D.C. That’s funny: I’ve missed connections when my flight was a half-hour late landing. So the deal with Jet Blue is that your flight is late if your plane or its connections have problems (like the late arriving aircraft that caused me to arrive the night before at 12:30 am instead of 7:30 pm), and it’s also going to be late if any other flights are late, is that it? We got on the plane last night with the entire front of the plane empty, waiting for the Arubans.

2. CNN is now completely insane. Both airports play nothing but CNN on the TVs in the terminal—someone might want to review that policy, which probably originated from the period when it was a news channel, like when Bernie Shaw was on the air—and the guy sitting next to me on Jet Blue last night had CNN playing on his seat screen the whole three hours we were on the plane. It’s incredible: there are virtually nothing but anti-President Trump stories on CNN, without a break or end. Anti-Trump spin (“Of course Nancy Pelosi should block his speech!”), unsubstantiated anti-Trump hearsay (“Cohen says he was “threatened” by Trump!”), anti-Trump panels (“What has Mueller found and how soon should the House impeach him?”), and anti-Trump gloating (“The art of the deal hasn’t produced a deal, has it? Nyah nyah!”) One after another. Relentless. It is much, much worse than it was on my last trip, and the CNN obsession with feeding hatred and anger against the President was absurd then. No other stories appeared to be being covered except in the crawls across the bottom of the screen. Is it possible that people aren’t sick of this? Even the most drooling, deranged Trump-hater? It isn’t just propaganda; it’s more like brainwashing, a constant drum-beat of “Trump bad! Hate Trump!,” usually devoid of anything approaching fair analysis.

3. Today’s baseball ethics note: Yankees relief ace Mariano Rivera, who was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame this week, is  being praised to the skies in the sports media and elsewhere because the vote was unanimous for the first time in the Hall’s 80 year history. (A retired player needs 75% of the vote to be enshrined.) Nobody disputes that Rivera deserved to be admitted, and that his qualifications were beyond argument, but the fact that this time some idiots didn’t choose not to vote for him has nothing to do with the pitcher whatsoever. It certainly doesn’t mean that he’s somehow more deserving that the other slam-dunks (is that a mixed metaphor?) who didn’t get every vote they were due, like Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Willie Mays, Ted Williams and Hank Aaron.

If everyone before you has been treated unjustly, the fact that you weren’t mistreated isn’t something to be proud of. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/27/18: It’s Video Thursday!

Happy inevitably confusing and disorienting period between Christmas and New Years!

1.. Is this a racially problematic TV ad, or an encouraging one that signals progress?

For me, the commercial raises the question: Have we reached a point when depicting an entire black family acting as moronic as white people are routinely depicted on TV is permissible and white people are allowed to laugh at it?

It made me uncomfortable. Am I alone?

2. Charley Parkhurst. The New York Times project to catch up on all the significant and remarkable women who never received the recognition of an obituary in its pages has been fascinating, and there has been no more interesting entry than this month’s remembrance of Charley Parkhurst, 1812-1879. Parkhurst was a famous driver of six-horse stagecoaches during California’s Gold Rush, a challenging job requiring strength, skill, and unusual honesty. Parkhurst was described as “short and stocky,” a hard-living whiskey drinker, cigar smoker and tobacco chewer, who wore  a patch  over the empty eye-socket where a horse had kicked out the eyeball. Charley was also universally regarded as male until a doctor discovered, post mortem, that she wasn’t. At a time when a women’s options  were severely limited, Parkhurst decided at a young age to live as a man, and was mighty good at it. She even registered to vote in 1868, and some give her the distinction as the first woman to vote in a Presidential election, though there is scant proof of it.

Looking at and thinking about a women “identifying a male” in a different cultural context is fascinating. Was Charley a woman, a male, trans, gay, a fraud, a hero (a heroine?), or just an opportunist and a gutsy realist who did what she wanted to do the only way it was possible for her to do it?

And does it matter? Should it matter?

We are told that Charley also was a lumberjack for a time. I wonder what she would have thought of the Monty Python song?

3. An Althouse quote: Continue reading