Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/19/2019: Easy Ethics Edition [Corrected]

I’m baaaack!

Ann Althouse has boasted that she has only missed one day of blogging since she started the Althouse blog, long before Ethics Alarms took its first metaphorical breath. This has enlightened me regarding how much time tenured professors must have on their hands. Missing a full two days of ethics commentary, as I did this week, makes me feel like an irresponsible slug-a-bed who is betraying loyal readers who depend on a service, but it was literally impossible for me to research a post, never mind write one, between hotels, meetings with my teaching partner, meals, travel and the seminars themselves. When I finally arrived at home and office, I almost immediately had to handle a long conference call in which I was quizzed on some tricky legal ethics issues, and then was officially brain dead for the rest of the evening. It is hard to think clearly about ethics when one is exhausted. And I still am, but the warm-up format is a relatively safe way to ease myself back into the saddle.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

1. Getting the really important stuff out of the way first...Sean Spicer made his debut on “Dancing With The Stars.” I posted last month about the double -standards and bias of the pundits who criticized the show for having the former White House spokesman as a contestant, and their animus is still one more example of unethical mainstream media partisanship. However, Spicer taking a pay-off to look ridiculous on national television—he gets $125,000 for each week he “dances” before he is mercifully voted off—is unprofessional, even though increasing numbers of public servants are doing it. Spicer is giving media critics of the President another stick to beat him with, and denigrating his own role as well as the administration by casting himself as a clown.

Spicer was a slow loris even by the miserable recent standards of press secretaries, and emblematic of how the President’s pledge to appoint and hire “the best people” appears in retrospect as a cruel joke. I can’t say I feel sorry for him, still, in presenting himself as target, he has provoked the mistreatment media into exposing its pettiness and apparently irrepressible gratuitous hostility to the President. The New York Times covered Spicer’s terpsichoral misadventures in the politics section, so it could write sections like…

In the White House, Mr. Spicer held a job that has usually been considered a golden ticket to future respectability and financial comfort. His predecessors have landed in lucrative corporate gigs at Amazon and United Airlines, or become the hosts of their own television programs. But trading in his famously ill-fitting suit to become a trending neon GIF felt like the culmination of a different kind of post-White House journey, one that is q.uintessentially Trump.

The job has been a “golden ticket” for “respectability” for recent press secretaries of Democratic administrations, because the mainstream news media seldom had adversarial relationships with Presidents they helped elect. Of course, the Republican varieties who have been hired by Fox News aren’t respectable. Spicer’s fate is “quintessentially Trump” because the current President is the first that the press has refused to grant even minimal respect from the beginning of his administration. Continue reading

Joe Biden’s Eye

“Joe Biden’s eye just started bleeding? This isn’t a joke what in the hell just happened,” tweeted one individual who for some reason had nothing better to do than to watch CNN’s “climate change town meeting.” Indeed it had, and in some universes, like social media, this was the big story of the night. The Washington Times and Washington Examiner reported it; so did Fox News and The New York Post.  If you couldn’t figure it out from those clues, it was the conservative news media that thought this was an event worth knowing about. In the parallel an corrupt universe of the mainstream news media—you know, the ones determined to  influence the election so Donald Trump is a one-term President? That one?—it was “Eye? What eye?”

The New York Times hasn’t mentioned it yet. On Memeorandum, the useful news aggregator that I thought was non-partisan but now I’m wondering, didn’t have a single link about it. Even CNN, which hosted the debate, ignored the moment. I couldn’t believe it, so I searched for “eye” in the debate coverage  on the CNN website, and got only “At times, candidates waged a bidding war to show liberal activists their plan was the most audacious — and even expensive. But with an eye on November 2020, others warned against throwing the economy out of the window.” The story was headlined “What happened during CNN’s climate town hall and what it means for 2020,” so as far as CNN is concerned, nothing happened. Politico, the left-leaning website, at least alluded to the eye by joking, “Even the shallow matter of what we now call “optics” went badly for Biden. He chose to sit through his appearance—Harris, Sanders, and Warren all stood—and by the end of it, a burst blood vessel in his left eye was noticeable.” Optics, get it? AOL, which I would call anti-Trump, distingished itself by importing coverage from the Wrap headlined, “Biden’s mysterious bloody eye overshadows CNN climate town hall.”

Wait: how could something “overshadow” the event, and simultaneously not be worthy of news coverage? Continue reading

Late-Starting Week Ethics Warm-Up, 9/3/2019: Why We Have Fake News

A post-Labor Day mess in San Francisco…

Good morning!

1. Why we have fake news, Part A: “Journalists just make stuff up.” From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

A survey of American Jews showed continued disapproval of President Donald Trump, with anti-Semitism high and Israel low on the priority list for Jewish voters. The survey, conducted for a liberal-leaning Jewish organization, the Jewish Electorate Institute, by Greenberg Research, which does polling for Democratic candidates, showed 71 percent of likely Jewish-American voters disapprove of Trump and 29 percent approve, commensurate with polling since Trump’s election…The survey released Wednesday of 1,000 Jewish voters nationally was taken between May 6 and 12, and is consistent with past polling of a constituency that leans strongly Democratic…The poll showed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s favorable/unfavorable score as 45/38. Netanyahu used to score high approval among American Jews, but his sustained clashes with Obama on Palestinian and Iran policy, and his closeness to Trump appear to have eroded American Jewish support.

Gallup:

….Our aggregate from January through August of this year shows a 29% Trump job approval rating among Jews, with 69% disapproval….

Now here’s ABC News Chief Political Analyst Matthew Dowd on Twitter:

Dowd is just citing statistic pulled out of the air, apparently. How can anyone trust these people? Continue reading

Mid-Labor Day Weekend Ethics Barbecue, 9/1/2019: Good Quotes, Bad Quotes, And Someone To Avoid Forever

Boy, it seems like everyone’s on strike this week. I can actually see tumbleweeds rolling across the Ethics Alarms traffic stats…

1. Ethics quote of the weekend: Former GOP House member Trey Gowdy, on the astounding gall of James Comey (and Rep Adam Schiff, who apparently lacks the embarrassment gene) to call on Gowdy to apologize for his criticism of Comey’s unquestionably unethical conduct, after it had been thoroughly confirmed by the recent Inspector General’s report.  Comey even said Gowdy “defamed” him, an inexcusable hyperbole for a lawyer—even he knows better. Gowdy said,

“I never said Comey would or should go to jail. I’m certainly not going to apologize to anyone who violated FBI and Department of Justice policy, who violated an employment agreement, who shared sensitive information about an ongoing investigation, who sent classified information to an unauthorized person and then had amnesia when the FBI came to his home to try to retrieve government property…I will give him a piece of unsolicited advice: You should aspire to more in life than simply skating by without having been indicted.”

Bingo!

2.  What is the proper societal response to this horrible, horrible human being? Because it was her last day on the job and she had given her two weeks notice, Donna Reneau, a 911 operator, decided she would take out all of her grudges and frustrations on emergency callers she didn’t know and was obligated to assist. After all, what could her employers do, fire her?

So, when a flash flood swept away  Debbie Stevens’ car, with her in it, a week ago in  Fort Smith, Arkansas and she desperately called 911, instead of the trained professional she needed,  she reached Reneau, suddenly an avenging operator from Hell.

“Please help me, I don’t want to die!”, Stevens pleads at the start of the  22 minute recorded call. “I can’t swim! I’m scared! I’m going to drown!” Reneau reponded by telling the terrified woman that rescuers would “get there when they get there,” and even told her to  “shut up” as Reneau’s hysteria grew.

As the water began filling Stevens’ SUV and she cried, “I’m scared! I’ve never had anything happen to me like this before,” the 911 operator jeered. “Well this will teach you, next time don’t drive in the water,! I don’t see how you didn’t see it, you had to go right over it…”

When police were finally able to reach the swamped car, Debbie Stevens was dead, drowned. Fort Smith Interim Police Chief Danny Baker, in a statement, acknowledged public outrage but said  Reneau had not  broken any laws nor “violated policy.” THAT’S got to be a mistake, unless the policy in Fort Smith is to razz citizens in crisis.

Now the question is what should be done with, to, and about Reneau. Her performance on the recording is signature significance: nobody behaves like that who is fit for human association. She can’t be trusted as an employee, a neighbor, a colleague or a friend. She lacks empathy and decency; if she isn’t a psychopath or a sociopath, she’s too close for comfort. I don’t want her in my cul de sac…do you? I don’t want her associated with my city, or anything related to me, and that’s how every resident of Fort Smith should feel…and behave toward her accordingly.

And if, because she can’t find a job and no one wants her in their establishment or business—there is no law preventing discrimination against individual blights on society—she ends up living in a shack somewhere in the Okefenokee Swamp with the company of  snakes and leeches,  if they’ll have her—GOOD.

Be on the look-out! Here she is…

Reneau had her chance at living with civilized Americans, and blew it. [Pointer: Reg Fife. Keep those ethics story tips coming, everybody!] Continue reading

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

The Andrew McCabe Hiring: At Least CNN Doesn’t Seriously Try To Hide Its Hypocrisy. That’s Something, I Guess. I Guess…

Andrew McCabe. If only he could dance…

I really am not trying to pick on Brian Stelter, CNN’s indefensible blight on broadcast media ethics, but wow. He tweeted,

Then, seemingly a blink of the eye later, his employer announced that it was hiring Andrew McCabe as a commentator. Never mind the fact that Stelter spends his own position of “fame and privilege”—Did he really refer to Sean Spicer’s gig on “Dancing With The Stars” that way? —-lying his head off, shamelessly spinning for his rotting network, and generally making “broadcast news ethics watchdog” as much of an oxymoron as “Hart to Hart” dramaturg. CNN’s hiring McCabe is infinitely more outrageous than either of the hires he was criticizing.  It’s so obvious it hurts. Yet like Sgt. Schultz in “Hogan’s Heroes,” Stelter sees nothing. Continue reading