Movie Flop Ethics, Part I: “Richard Jewell” And The Alleged ‘Female Reporter Trading Sex For Scoops’ Smear

The two big flops among movies that opened last weekend were director Clint Eastwood’s “Richard Jewell” and “Black Christmas,” the second attempt to re-boot the 1976 slasher cult film. Both disasters have ethics lessons to teach, or not teach. Let’s look at Clint’s movie first.

“Richard Jewell” made lass that $4.5 million in its first weekend, and has also been snubbed by the various year-end awards. It is based on the now mostly forgotten  story of how Jewell, initially hailed as a hero for his part in foiling the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing plot,  was falsely accused  of complicity by local law enforcement, the FBI, and the news media. Conservative outlets loved the film, but the other side of the divide focused on a subplot, as the film’s screenplay  suggested that a named Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter, now deceased,  used sex to persuade a source to break the story.  The Journal Constitution has been attacking the film, denying that Kathy Scruggs would ever used he body to get a scoop. Her colleagues, friends and  family all insist that she would not have slept with a source, and reporters around the country circled the metaphorical wagons to proclaim they were shocked–shocked!—that anyone would even suggest such a thing. Jeffrey Young, senior reporter for HuffPost tweeted,  “The lazy, offensive, shitty way screenwriters so often treat female journalists infuriates me. Depicting women using sex to get stories is disgusting and disrespectful. It’s also hacky as hell. I was planning to see this movie but not anymore.’ Melissa Gomez of the Los Angeles Times wrote,  “Hollywood has, for a long time, portrayed female journalists as sleeping with sources to do their job. It’s so deeply wrong, yet they continue to do it. Disappointing that they would apply this tired and sexist trope about Kathy Scruggs, a real reporter.’ Susan Fowler, an opinion editor at the New York Times tweeted “The whole “female journalist sleeps with a source for a scoop” trope doesn’t even make any sense…”

This would be damning, except that while it may not be standard practice, there are plenty of examples of female journalists doing exactly what Eastwood’s film suggests.  Last year the Times—yes, Susan Fowler’s paper—reported on the three-year affair between  Times reporter Ali Watkins and James Wolfe, senior aide to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a regular source for her stories. In October,  an employee of the United States Defense Intelligence Agency was arrested for leaking classified material to two reporters, and he was involved in a romantic relationship with one of them. Both reporters are still employed by their respective news organizations, the  Times and CNBC, so its hard to argue that sex-for-scoops is being strongly discouraged.

Continue reading

Fairness To Pete Buttigieg

Yeah, this kind of thing does not engender trust…

Yikes. Just as he is surging in the Iowa polls, “It” guy Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s campaign organization made an epic botch of sufficient scope as to raise competence, honesty and responsibility questions.

On October 24, Buttigieg released an op-ed claiming more than 400 South Carolinians had endorsed his “Douglass Plan for Black America.”  The mayor of South Bend  has a strained relationship with African Americans, so this was obviously an important initiative. The problem: the three black politicians listed at the top of his press release never endorsed his him, and while the campaign had implied otherwise, 40 % of the endorsement names listed were not black but white. “There is one presidential candidate who has proven to have intentional policies designed to make a difference in the Black experience, and that’s Pete Buttigieg. We are over 400 South Carolinians, including business owners, pastors, community leaders, and students. Together, we endorse his Douglass Plan for Black America, the most comprehensive roadmap for tackling systemic racism offered by a 2020 presidential candidate,” the press release read.

The Intercept interviewed the three black politicians and determined that none of them endorsed Buttigieg. Only one of the three endorsed his plan, which includes reparations for slavery.

Incredibly,  Buttigieg’s campaign sent out an email telling black politicians they needed to opt out if they did not want their name on the endorsement list. That’s outrageous. No candidate can assume an affirmative endorsement because an individual doesn’t explicitly deny one. Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official, Unethical Quote Of The Week, And Ethics Dunce: Democrat Rep. Mike Quigley (IL) [UPDATED]

And let me add, 

KABOOM!

“And, if gets to closed primer on hearsay, I think the American public needs to be reminded that countless people have been convicted on hearsay because the courts have routinely allowed and created, needed exceptions to hearsay…Hearsay can be much better evidence than direct … and it’s certainly valid in this instance.”

—-Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), making an ass of himself, misinforming the public, but nicely illustrating the lack of integrity and honesty at the heart of the current Democratic impeachment inquiry.

And how proud Loyola Law School must be to have graduated this idiot!

The Honorable Rep. is trying, I assume, to slide by the fact that much of the testimony being presented against the President is hearsay, which means, “not valid evidence.” There is a good reason for that: when what someone else says is repeated by another party as evidence of the proof of the statement’s truth, it obviously cannot be given much weight. For one thing, the actual speaker cannot be cross-examined, making the admission of such a statement as evidence reversible error. A witness can testify to what he or she heard someone else say, but that’s not hearsay.  The testimony is good evidence that the statement was made, just not that the speaker was necessarily telling the truth.

However, nobody, and no legal authority, rationally believes that “hearsay can be much better evidence than direct.” The statement is ridiculous on its face. It literally means that it is better to have someone who heard a statement testify that the statement was true rather than have the individual who made the statement.

Nor do courts “routinely” create exceptions to the rule against hearsay. The exceptions are old and well-established, and have not changed or had additions in many decades.

Here is the list from the Federal Rules of Evidence: Continue reading

The Misleading Nature Of Media-Hyped Research

Aaron Carroll is an American pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, as well as the Vice Chair for Health Policy and Outcomes Research and the Director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research. He favored the New York Times with an unusually clear and unbiased explanation of why so much “consensus” research used to panic the public is dubious, and mirabile dictu, they published it. For some reason, however, it ended up inside the Times Business section, despite Times having a perfect forum for it, its weekly Science insert.

I’m going to apply Hanlon’s Razor and attribute this to lunk-headedness rather than sinister instincts, even though Carroll’s observations clarify much of what’s wrong with “climate science.” Professor Carroll’s specific complaint involves the myths, as he calls them, declaring that diet soda is deadly, but his points apply to other scientific research and public opinion manipulation as well. Among them:

The public’s fear of “chemicals”

“Everything is a chemical,” Carroll writes, “including dihydrogen monoxide (that’s another way of saying water). These are just words we use to describe ingredients. Some ingredients occur naturally, and some are coaxed into existence. That doesn’t inherently make one better than another.”

[As an aside, the same kind of intentional confusion occurs regarding the term “drugs.” I saw a TV ad last might for melatonin tablets that repeated over and over that the pills were “100% drug free.” Melatonin is a hormone, and hormones are drugs, defined as any substance “that causes a change in an organism’s physiology or psychology when consumed.” Ah, but chemicals and drugs are scary.] Continue reading

The Complete El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto, With Ethics Commentary, PART II [UPDATED]

[Before continuing with the Ethics Alarms commentary to follow, readers should take the time to read the entire El Paso shooter’s manifesto here, in Part I.]

Observations (cont.):

4. To be clear, the man is mad as a hatter. He is surprisingly articulate and thoughtful, however—more than many of the pundits that have tried to exploit his screed for their own purposes.

5. The basic inspiration for both the manifesto itself and the attack it preceded was the “Great Replacement,” a fevered  conspiracy theory posited by Renaud Camus, a French writer. The idea is neither novel nor complicated. It is like the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” although it is more like the invasion of the culture snatchers. Unrestrained immigration by an alien culture allows the majority, predominant culture to be replaced before it knows what has happened.

In the introduction to his manifesto, the shooter says, “My motives for this attack are not at all personal. Actually the Hispanic community was not my target before I read “The Great Replacement.” For the record, President Trump has never said or written anything that echoes or references the  “Great Replacement” paranoia. Pat Buchanan, when he was the champion of the GOP far right in the 80s and 90s, espoused similar theories, but never Trump. The President has never attacked the concept of immigration, only illegal immigration. Tying the manifesto to the President is another despicable example of representing opposition to illegal immigration as a variety of xenophobia or racism.

6. The manifesto is not partisan. “The inconvenient truth is that our leaders, both Democrat AND Republican, have been failing us for decades,” it states early on. This is true, incidentally, regarding illegal immigration. Like most conspiracy theories, there are elements of truth in the shooter’s arguments; the problem is the extreme and unwarranted conclusions they lead him to adopt.

The shooter does finger the Democratic Party as the greater culprit, because they “intend to use open borders, free healthcare for illegals, citizenship and more to enact a political coup by importing and then legalizing millions of new voters.” Again, there’s nothing crazy about that theory, which has been posited by many for decades by non-crazy people, and it still seems more likely than not. Again, it contains elements of truth, and there is nothing about objecting to such strategy or finding it cynical and unethical that makes the argument racist. Still, “the Republican Party is also terrible,” the shooter writes.

7.  Most of the shooter’s ideological positions could hardly be more contrary to Trumpism (whatever it is) or conservatism: Continue reading

The Complete El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto, With Ethics Commentary, PART I

The “manifesto” follows; some of my my observations precede it, the bulk of them, after, in Part II.

1. The fact that the news media went to such lengths to avoid making the manifesto easily accessible to the public is as alarming as the manifesto itself. This is elite and powerful institutions accountable to no one deliberately manipulating information for their own agenda and political motives. It doesn’t matter if they,”mean well,” and are emulating New Zealand’s measure, unconstitutional and thus unacceptable here, to censor the Christ Chruch shooter’s manifesto as a means of not spreading hate, or hare speech, or bad thoughts, or “giving the shooter what he wants.” It’s wrong, it’s un-American, it’s an abuse of power, and like so much else wafting over from the Left, reeks of totalitarianism. I know I mentioned this before, but, frankly, I’m angry: How dare the Washington Post wrap its reporting in “Democracy Dies in Darkness” and then turn off the lights when it suits their purposes?

2. The link turned up on the Drudge Report, which I suppose is why Powerline thought it could say that it was easily found online. Drudge is a muckraking, untrustworthy link-farm mostly followed by conservatives: I don’t consider it any more of a news site than Fark.com. Upon reflection, yes, I should have thought of it, but I shouldn’t have had to. Every published report that purported to interpret or analyze the El Paso manifesto had an ethiacl obligation to link to it or publish the whole thing.

Google was complicit in making it difficult to find. I googled “text of El Paso shooter manifesto,” “pdf of shooter manifesto,” and every conceivable combination, searched and scanned the results, and still found nothing. That would not happen if Google were not deliberately helping to hide it—if you want to use the term “conspiring,” be my guest.

Jerry Goedken (thanks, Jerry) revealed that the magic Google term is “drudgereport link to el paso manifesto.” Ah! So you have to know where it is to search for it! Seems logical.

Are we scared yet?

3. No, I’m not using the crazy’s name. That IS easily accessible, and his name is irrelevant. What matters is that what he wrote, which is essential for anyone who wants to try to understand what happened in El Paso, and why, and not to be at the mercy of contrived propaganda from the Left, the “resistance” and the news media,  must be available. The rationalizations for burying it are disingenuous and absurd, particularly the idiocy that it might inspire others or inflame hatred. There are equally inflammatory screeds and posts on social media every day. There are blog posts and columns in major newspapers and websites that are more inflammatory; there are screaming talking heads on CNN and MSNBC and Fox every day who are as hateful and incendiary.

4. Why is this rant being hidden? I think it is so the President of the United States can be falsely implicated in a slaughter for partisan political gain—that is, to foment hate, but the good kind–you know, against our elected leader. Those, like Beto O’Rourke, who are shouting to the skies that the shooter was virtually doing Trump’s bidding would not dare to make such a claim if they thought their audience read the manifesto.

5. Here’s the bottom line: There is no way a reasonable, objective, fair analyst could conclude that the El Paso shooter was in any way motivated by the President, his rhetoric, or his policy positions. Any pundit or journalist that claims otherwise is biased to the point of delusion, or lying. As I will explicate later, the rhetoric of Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and other hard Left progressives are arguably more directly consistent with the shooter’s beliefs than anything Donald Trump has ever advocated. I assume that the shooter’s own direct rejection of the thesis being throttled into the public by the mews media will be denied as some kind of loyal attempt to protect his white nationalist hero, or similar garbage. It’s classic conspiracy thinking: when the manifesto can be twisted to support a grand narrative, the writer is lucid and convincing; when it contradicts the narrative, well, what do you expect? He’s nuts, and why would you trust a murderer?

He writes below:

In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto…My ideology has not changed for several years. My opinions on automation, immigration, and the rest  predate Trump and his campaign for President. I [am] putting this here because some people will blame the  President or certain presidential candidates for the attack. This is not the case. I know that the media  will probably call me a white supremacist anyway and blame Trump’s rhetoric. The media is infamous for fake news. Their reaction to this attack will likely just confirm that.

The last two sentences are 100% accurate, and the sanest thing in his statement.

Here is the manifesto, which I formatted to allow for easier reading, another task journalists were obligated to do: Continue reading

Here’s A Useful Article If You Want To Try To Explain To The Environmental Hysteric In Your Life Why The Current Heat Wave Does NOT Prove Anything About Climate Change

 

Not that they’ll listen, of course.

Over at Reason, Ronald Bailey has a nicely balanced, fair and calm piece explaining why The New York Times’ recent “Heat Waves in the Age of Climate Change: Longer, More Frequent and More Dangerous” is not exactly true, like much climate change advocacy.

It begins,

As evidence, the Times cites the U.S. Global Change Research Program, reporting that “since the 1960s the average number of heat waves—defined as two or more consecutive days where daily lows exceeded historical July and August temperatures—in 50 major American cities has tripled.” That is indeed what the numbers show. But it seems odd to highlight the trend in daily low temperatures rather than daily high temperatures.

As it happens, chapter six of 2017’s Fourth National Climate Assessmentreports that heat waves measured as high daily temperatures are becoming less common in the contiguous U.S., not more frequent.

What is so consistently infuriating in almost all mainstream media discussions of climate change is that they intentionally understate the continuing uncertainty in representing scientific estimates and extrapolations as unchallengable  conclusions. “The panel’s latest report notes that there is “medium confidence” that “the length and frequency of warm spells, including heat waves, has increased since the middle of the 20th century” around the world,” the Reason article explains.  “Medium confidence means there is about a 50 percent chance of the finding being correct.” Continue reading