Martin Luther King Day Ethics Overview, 1/20/2020: Another Warren Lie, The Times’ Misandry, Doris Kearns Goodwin Gets Dorian Grayed, And More

Let us be grateful today for Rev. Martin Luther King.

I have no doubt that the nation would be a worse place today without the leadership of Martin Luther King, and I believe a holiday dedicated to honoring him is appropriate. He is also a symbol, perhaps, of the toxic hypocrisy dividing the nation, as well as the excesses and exploitation of the civil rights movement since his death.

From Jonathan Rauch’s review of Christopher Caldwell’s new book, “The Age of Entitlement”:

In Caldwell’s telling, the Civil Rights Act, which banned many forms of discrimination, was a swindle. Billed as a one-time correction that would end segregation and consign race consciousness to the past, it actually started an endless and escalating campaign of race-conscious social engineering. Imperialistically, civil rights expanded to include “people of color” and immigrants and gays and, in short, anyone who was not native-born, white and straight — all in service of “the task that civil rights laws were meant to carry out — the top-down management of various ethnic, regional and social groups.”

With civil rights as their bulldozer, in Caldwell’s view, progressive movements ran amok. They “could now, through the authority of civil rights law, override every barrier that democracy might seek to erect against them”; the law and rhetoric of civil rights “gave them an iron grip on the levers of state power.” And so, today, affirmative action discriminates against whites and then lies about it; public and private bureaucracies trample freedom of association; political correctness stigmatizes dissent and censors language and even thought; “every single state must now honor” Martin Luther King Jr., “and affirm its delight in doing so.”

1.  Senator Warren’s latest lie! The previous post about Warren lying omitted her most recent one, which came up while I was drafting it.

Campaigning in Iowa,  Warren was asked  when she plans on using presidential authority for some of her policy agenda instead of relying on Congress. She responded in part,

“Let me remind you, I think, I’m the only one running for president whose actually been on the executive side. Remember, after the consumer agency was passed into law, Barack Obama, President Obama, asked me to set it up. So I set up a federal agency. We effectively went from two employees the day I walked in the door to about 1000 and spent a year getting it up and operational.”

Now, as I did yesterday regarding an alleged Trump lie, the use of “I think” can be a defense to an accusation of lying, since it means, “I could be mistaken.” In Trump’s case, what he erroneously thought (that he had been on more TIME covers than anyone else) could have plausibly been caused by not knowing facts that were not well known or easily found. There is no way that Warren could have thought that her smidgen of executive experience exceeded that of her competition for the nomination. Joe Biden was Vice President, also on the “executive side,” and was in charge of more than helping to set up one tiny agency. Bernie Sanders was once mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Mayor Pete is, after all, a mayor. Mike Bloomberg was Mayor of New York City, which many regard as the equivalent of being a governor. Continue reading

Is This The Most Unethical Book Review Ever?

It has to be close, because I don’t know how a book review can be more unethical.

The book in question is Ruth Marcus’s unconscionable hit piece on Justice Brett Kavanaugh, “Supreme Ambition.” The forum is the book review section of the New York Times, which has been trying to smear Kavanaugh since he was nominated for the Supreme Court, and even since the contrived attempt to defeat him by ancient and uncorroborated accusations of misconduct when he was a teenagerwhen he was a teenagerwhen he was a teenager (no three times is not enough repitition to emphasize how despicable this was) failed, as it should have. The objective, trustworthy reviewer the Times chose to assess the book was Adam Cohen. He writes speeches for and advises New York’s socialist mayor Bill de Blasio, and authored “Supreme Inequality: The Supreme Court’s Fifty-Year Battle for a More Unjust America,” coming out next month.

Yup, the perfect guy to provide an objective review of an anti-Kavanaugh book.

It is clear by now that progressives and the mainstream media have added the Brett Kavanugh confirmation hearing to the shooting of Mike Brown, the death of Trayvon Martin, and the fake Russian Collusion theory as narratives they will falsely characterize until the stars turn cold. Incredibly,  Cohen writes at the end of his review,

“As important as the Kavanaugh battle was for the court, however, there was something even more profound at stake: whether, on the most important questions, our nation is capable of putting the public interest ahead of partisanship, and whether the truth matters. The forces aligned for partisanship and against truth are stronger than ever.”

Cohen’s review is a prime example of the condition he claims to be condemning. What “truth”? Not a single fact was produced during the hearing that had any relevance to Brett Kavanaugh’s fitness to be a Supreme Court Justice. His record as a judge was impeccable and beyond reproach. Ah, BUT…Marcus and Cohen point to this: Continue reading

A Fake News Story About Fake News!

The New York Times end-of-year whine about how mean President Trump has been to the news media was headlined (in the print edition), “Trump Attacked News Media Even More in 2019.” That’s an assertion of fact. What does it mean? Well, the first sentence of the story reads, “On Twitter, President Trump deployed the phrase “fake news” 273 times this year — 50 percent more often than he did in 2018.” Is calling a story published by the news media “fake news” an “attack”? What if the story is objectively false or misleading as most—not all, but most—of those in question were?

For example, last week MSNBC aired an Iranian state media claim that the second round of rocket attacks on U.S. military installments in Iraq killed 30 U.S. soldiers, and that “we have just stepped over the precipice.” That’s irresponsible and lousy journalism. MSNBC hadn’t checked the claim, it just rushed it on the air. I don’t want to hear the Clintonian rationalizations that this wasn’t technically fake news, because the report was that the Iranians were saying that the 30 soldiers had been killed. It was a false report; it was misleading; it would upset the families of servicemen in the area (one journalist criticized it as “journo-terrorism”), and there was no excuse for it. If this kind of unprofessional hackery is criticized, by me, for example, is that an attack?

Such a characterization is more fake news. The news media is constantly pushing the dishonest and self serving position that to criticize journalists for their proven ethical breaches and betrayal of their duty to keep the public informed is to attack them, ergo this is an attack on journalism itself, hence it is an attack on Freedom of the Press, therefore it is an attack on democracy itself. Calling the news media on its now near complete transformation into a left-wing propaganda machine is, they surmise, is tarred by this false characterization built on successive unwarranted leaps of logic.

Journalists appear to really believe their own fake news in this case. I hear and read it over and over again: the decline in the public’s trust in news reporting, as reflected in many surveys and polls, is President Trump’s doing, as part of his grand plan to become a dictator. (See Big Lie #3). Their narcissistic delusion that they and their profession are beyond reproach is self-evidently in direct opposition to reality: the reason for the decline of American journalism’s credibility is its own, reckless , escalating dishonest, incompetence, bias and untrustworthiness.

The article is a good example of this itself. The second sentence in the piece says that the President “demanded ‘retribution’ over a ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch.” Yes, that was self-evidently stupid, but what does a late night comedy show have to do with the news media? Nothing.

The article then moves on to another Big Lie it has repeatedly advocated,  #6: “Trump’s Defiance Of Norms Is A Threat To Democracy.”

The “norm” in this case is, I guess, a President remaining passive and prostrate while most of the journalistic establishment openly allies itself with your adversaries—even foreign adversaries, like Iran— and dedicates its reporting to destroying your ability to govern. The Times writes, “Mr. Trump’s vilification of the news media is a hallmark of his tenure and a jagged break from the norms of his predecessors: Once a global champion of the free press, the presidency has become an inspiration to autocrats and dictators who ape Mr. Trump’s cry of ‘fake news.’”

Calling this a “jagged break from the norms of his predecessors” is another variety of fake news: fake history, in which the news media deliberately or incompetently makes the largely historically ignorant public more ignorant by falsely describing the past. My “favorite” example of this kind of fake news was when Presidential historian Doug Brinkley was put on the air by CNN on election night to salve the despair of Hillary supporters by explaining that America seldom elects the same party to the Presidency three terms in a row. What he said was completely wrong on the facts, not wrong as an opinion, just false. Nobody challenged him; there was no correction. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 1/6/2020: On The Eve Of Destruction Edition!

ARRGH! WE’RE DOOMED! DOOMED!

Just kidding.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned Barry McGwire’s hilariously overwrought rendition of P.F. Sloan’s silly lyrics before. Everyone should listen to this song every few months or so to remind them that we were pronounced doomed 55 years ago, yet here we are. The lack of historical perspective and general knowledge about the real world of geopolitics is driving so much of the over-heated laments we are hearing and reading—I think laughing is a better response that rolling one’s eyes, but I’m open to being convinced otherwise. Yes, sometimes leaders and countries have to draw red lines, and it is always best if the world believes them when they do. It never believed Barack Obama.

1. Fake news, headline-style...Yesterday, the New York Times headline, in bold,  “this is really important!!!” point type, told us that Trump’s military advisers were “stunned” at his decision to kill Iran’s head terrorist. Oh, no! His decision was surprise? Tt came out of the blue? They had recommended against it? Well, no. The story under that intentionally misleading headline says that the President was presented with several options, and the pros and cons of all were discussed. They expected him to choose one of the other options, that’s all. “Stunned” carried negative implications that the facts didn’t warrant, so naturally that’s what the Times editors chose. All the better to undermine trust in the President.

2. Not all celebrities are America-hating dolts:

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“Authentic Frontier Gibberish” Ethics

On Ethics Alarms, the term “Authentic Frontier Gibberish” is used to describe “intentionally (or sometimes just incompetently) incoherent double-talk used by politicians, advocates, lawyers, doctors, celebrities, scientists, academics ,con artists and wrong-doers to deceive, obfuscate, confuse, bore, or otherwise avoid transparency, admitting fault, accepting accountability or admitting uncomfortable truths. The term comes from “Blazing Saddles,” in this memorable scene.

It sometimes arises from incompetent communication skills, which are unethical for anyone in the public eye to employ. Sometimes it is more sinister than that, and occurs when someone chooses to create a vague word cloud that obscures the speaker’s or writer’s real purpose…and sometimes the fact that they are frauds. Sometimes AFG is designed to convey a feeling while avoiding sufficient substance to really explain what he or she means.

Sometimes, it feels like gaslighting.

A New York Times article was ostensibly about “Dealing with Bias in Artificial Intelligence.” This was, obviously, click-bait for me, as the topic is a developing field of ethics. The introduction stated in part, “[S]ocial bias can be reflected and amplified by artificial intelligence in dangerous ways, whether it be in deciding who gets a bank loan or who gets surveilled. The New York Times spoke with three prominent women in A.I. to hear how they approach bias in this powerful technology.” The statements of the first two women—I see no reason why only female experts on the topic were deemed qualified to comment—were useful and provocative.

Last, however, was Timnit Gebru “a research scientist at Google on the ethical A.I. team and a co-founder of Black in AI, which promotes people of color in the field, [who] talked about the foundational origins of bias and the larger challenge of changing the scientific culture.”

Here’s what she said (Imagine, the Times said this was “edited and condensed”! ). The bolding is mine.. Continue reading

The Other Branch’s Persistant And Hypocritical Corruption

I subscribe to the Times, but I stopped routinely reading all of the editorials, op-eds and letters to the editor once I realized the stultifying and depressing sameness of it all: narrow viewpoints, deranged columnists, and ugly bias, day after day. This Christmas Eve-day dawned with my wife in a panic, the tree decorations still incomplete, and a recognition that I was going to have to get Ethics Alarms posts done in the midst of other tasks so the 30 or so readers likely to tune in here today wouldn’t be disappointed. I grabbed the wrong section of yesterday’s Times during a tree-breather, and had to consume the editorial section.

For once, the main editorial was not an anti-Trump screed.

Appropo of the Democratic candidates’ mantra of corruption (though the editors somehow never saw the connection), it was about the persistent insider trading and conflicts of interest that have made Senators and Representatives unethically rich for ages, and that surpass in genuine corruption anything President Trump has been accused of.  (Ethics Alarms covered the issue here, and here.) The Times editors began with the saga of former Rep. Chris Collins, who had to resign his office and also went to jail for breaking the insider trading laws. His crime was tipping off his son about a stock likely to go bad based on his early notice of pending legislation, The Times found it convenient to use Collins, a Republican, as the stand-in for all of Congress, but everything he did before crossing the line of the law is, if not routine, disturbingly common among Democrats and Republicans alike:

[H]e served on various congressional committees that played a role in directing federal health care policy. Mr. Collins was the company’s largest shareholder. He served on the company’s board. He solicited investments in the company, including from other members of Congress. (Tom Price, who served as a Republican representative from Georgia and then as secretary of health and human services in the Trump administration, was among the buyers.) Mr. Collins wrote legislative language to expedite drug trials, potentially benefiting Innate, and he pressed a staff member at the National Institutes of Health to meet with the company about its clinical trial.He also invested in other health care firms, some of which held federal contracts.

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Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/08/2019: Bulletin! The New York Times Reports Pro-Trump News Straight!

You wouldn’t believe what I am dealing with right now, so I’m not even going to tell you.

Let’s just say that in this case, writing ethics stories is a welcome respite..

1. Let’s give credit to the New York Times. On its front page Saturday, the Times highlighted three large graphs, one showing that “monthly job gains under President Trump have shown strong, consistent increases “even after a decade of economic expansion”; one showing that wage growth has “picked up momentum,” and the other showing that unemployment has dipped below “full employment.”

All of this, plus a record high stock market, are just as candidate Trump promised and predicted.

The Times then says,

“With 11 months to go before the 2020 election, a polarized electorate is dividing itself by which story line it views as more pertinent — the president’s potential abuse of power, or the comfort of a steady paycheck credited to his leadership.”

Gee, let’s see…. “potential abuse of power” that was not an abuse of power at all, or jobs, higher wages, and rock bottom low unemployment. Tough choice. What a dilemma.

Give the Times credit for making it ridiculously clear what a big lie Big Lie #5 (“Everything is Terrible!”) is.

2. But let’s not get carried away! Here’s another Times headline from the same edition: Continue reading