Signature Significance (Again) From the New York Times: A Trustworthy Newspaper Does Not Do This [CORRECTED]

That would be a more useful rule, of course, if there were any trustworthy newspapers.

The most recent Ethics Alarms filing under “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!” appeared yesterday.  A story headlined Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not appeared in the Sunday Times, with the sub-head, “Deborah Ramirez’s Yale experience says much about the college’s efforts to diversify its student body in the 1980s.” And why were Yale’s efforts to diversify in the Eighties suddenly worthy of a Times feature in September, 2019? Because the real purpose of the article was not to talk about Yale, but to smear Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh —again.

Ramirez was Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate  who had told The New Yorker last year during the justice’s confirmation hearings that she’d been severely inebriated at a party at Yale in her freshman year when “something” had happened. She said that “a male student pointed a gag plastic penis in her direction” and  a “third male then exposed himself to her.” The assumption is that the flasher was Kavanaugh, though Ramirez never directly named him. New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly tried to verify the story, and could not. Never mind: they wrote a book anyway.

In “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation,”  they quoted the same individuals the New Yorker had tracked down who said that they “heard about” the incident, as well as Ramirez’s mother, who says—now this is a smoking gun if there ever was one—that  she was told at the time that “something happened” at Yale.

Nevertheless, the Times reporters are convinced that Ramirez’s claim is correct. They wrote,

A classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student. Mr. Stier, who runs a nonprofit organization in Washington, notified senators and the F.B.I. about this account, but the F.B.I. did not investigate and Mr. Stier has declined to discuss it publicly. 

Not “fit to print,” apparently, was the that Stier was not only a non-profit executive but also had served as one of Bill Clinton’s defense attorneys. Heck, why should that be relevant to his credibility? But I digress… Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/15/2019: Opinions, Ethical And Not

It’s a glorious day here in Northern Virginia!

Makes me feel like things are looking up, even though they probably aren’t.

1. I refer you to the most recent post about “the resistance’s” arsenal of big lies. specifically Big Lie #5, “Everything is terrible.” In the Times’ Sunday Review section, usually a resistance nest to one degree or another, though less so in recent months, Trump Deranged Times columnist Michelle Goldberg offers a long essay beginning with the assumption that current day America is a dystopian society. How does she justify this ridiculous assertion? Referencing the science fiction novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in which women in the U.S. “are stripped of their identities and consigned to reproductive slavery for the elite.” Goldberg writes,

“It’s hardly surprising that in 2016 the book resonated with people — particularly women — stunned that a brazen misogynist, given to fascist rhetoric and backed by religious fundamentalists, was taking power despite the wishes of the majority of the population.”

I especially like the “despite the wishes of the majority of the population” part, but the whole statement is dishonest  agitprop. Nobody “took power;” an election took place under Constitutional constraints. Goldberg cannot possibly gauge the “wishes” of the majority, since, as usual, the majority didn’t feel sufficiently concerned about the Presidential election’s outcome to bother to vote, meaning they didn’t “wish” for either candidate to win with enough seriousness or commitment to be  part  of any persuasive analysis. Meanwhile, the President was elected according to the system the United States has operated under since its inception. And describing Trump, who is about as religious as most recent Presidents, which is to say, not at all, was “backed by religious fundamentalists” is as accurate as saying that Barack Obama was backed by anti-white racists.

Read the whole stupid thing. It is irresponsible for a legitimate newspaper to publish such crap, but no more so than for one to employ a biased disinformation specialist like Goldberg as a regular contributor.

2. Once again, Andrew Sullivan finds his way toward calling out unethical journalism. In a recent essay for New York Magazine, the occasionally conservative, gay, religious, emotional but determined truth-teller—as he sees it, anyway—declares  the New York Times a publication that has abandoned journalism for activism.

Two quick reactions: a) Ya think, Sherlock? and b) THIS was your first clue?

He concludes strongly, though, writing, “To present a truth as the truth is in fact a deception. And it is hard to to trust a paper engaged in trying to deceive its readers in order for its radical reporters and weak editors to transform the world.”

Hard? The right word is “irresponsible.”

Related: This excellent essay by Peter Wood expounds further on the duplicity of the Times’ much heralded “1619 Project.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/11/19: September 11, 2001, And Other Cataclysms

The flag is still there…

Good morning.

1. A question that shouldn’t even have to be asked.  The New York Times asks if the “right thing to do” is for films and TV shows to edit out the Twin Towers in pre-2001 productions so as not to “trigger” sensitive audience members. Productions debuting in 2002, soon after the 9/11 attacks, are a special case: several films re-shot scenes to avoid references to the disaster, and that was just common sense. The suggestion that historical airbrushing is appropriate for works release before 2001 is disturbing, however, and symptomatic of the current belief that historical records cand and should be manipulated and censored for “the greater good.” Taking out the Twin Towers is a close unethical cousin of removing Robert E. Lee statues and references to slavery.

Director Michael Bay, who had a shot of one of the towers burning (from a meteor strike) in “Armageddon,” made an appropriate “slippery-slope” argument to  the Times, saying,

“Movies are shot, edited and finished for the world to see. They don’t get re-edited because history changes. If we go there, that means every movie must change. Every book, every short story, every painting of New York in the past 30 years. It would never end.”

I would add that it will be difficult to remember the September 11. 2001 attacks if we try to eliminate visual records of the Twin Towers.

2. Meanwhile, here’s how the New York Times wants us to remember the attackers: Continue reading

Anti-Trump Hate Porn

I’ve written my quota of “resistance” ethics articles today I know, but I can’t help posting this one.

I was stuck in the DMV, and read a New York Times book review titled Which Came First, Trump or TV?” The reviewer is , who is described in biographies as a writer of satire. The book he reviews is “Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America” by James Poniewozik, the Times TV critic.

Both the positive review and the book it describes cannot be justified except as salacious efforts to slake the hate of the most Trump-Deranged among Americans. Poniewozik‘s book, described as non-fiction, is full of negative characterizations of the President, his thinking and his personality that are not justified by the author’s education, background, research or expertise. Poniewozik is a TV critic, and that’s pretty much all he has ever been. He has no special expertise or experience in politics or history; he is not a biographer; he isn’t a psychologist. This is his only book, and he is obviously using Trump hate to attract readers and sales, as well as positive reviews by writers who also have no qualifications to justify their getting the assignment. Both the book and the review are the product of bias, designed to foster bias.

Early in the review, we get this:

But Poniewozik, the chief television critic of this newspaper, uses his ample comedic gifts in the service of describing a slow-boil tragedy. If humor is the rocket of his ICBM, the last three years of our lives are the destructive payload.

Everything is terrible! Where have I heard that Big Lie before? I would have stopped reading right there, but you know: Department of Motor Vehicles.

Almost immediately after that moment of signature significance from the reviewer, we get this… Continue reading

Funky Winkerbean vs. The NFL [CORRECTED]

The National Football League is moving inexorably toward another brain-wrecking season with scant resistance from the mainstream media or the ethics-blind public. It is heartening, therefore, to see comics section stalwart (since 1972) “Funky Winkerbean,” drawn and written by cartoonist Tom Batiuk, try to educate society, especially children, regarding the perils of football.

One of the rare comics that allows its characters to age and even die, “Funky Winkerbean” is beginning a 10 week story involving the deterioration of a regular character who once played in the NFL, as the symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, take over and destroy his life.

Such enlightening of the nooks and crannies of our culture is vital if the public is ever going to stop enabling this unconscionable sport, in which, on the professional level, the disabling of young athletes is monetized by paying them to risk a slow, early, horrible death that is far enough in the future that they can rationalize their choice to accept the deal.

The New York Times article about the strip’s latest story arc is odd, as well as suspicious. It never mentions the NFL. It refers to CTE as the result of “sports-related concussions” that “in extreme cases, can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a form of degenerative dementia.”

I classify this a deliberate misdirection, and I wonder why the Times would stoop to it. This is primarily a football problem that also can affect those who play soccer, hockey, boxing, lacrosse and baseball, but the CTE threat in pro football is hardly restricted to “extreme cases.” There is evidence that the condition may begin at the high school level of football or even earlier, and that nearly all NFL players may suffer from it to various degrees. Is the Times burying the lede here because its readers are passionate NFL fans, and in denial over their beloved barbaric sport? New York City does have two NFL teams.

When a comic strip shows more responsibility and candor than the nation’s “paper of record,” there is a problem.

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/25/19: The Rotten Standards Edition

I feel like hearing my favorite hymn this morning.

1. How TV makes the public ignorant and unethical. On a 2008 “Law and Order” episode, “Knock Off,” a New York Assistant DA tells a lawyer that since his former client is dead, attorney client privilege no longer applies. “The privilege does not survive the client,” he says, authoritatively. This is exactly 180 degrees wrong. Privilege and client confidences do survive clients; lawyers are bound by them forever, with some rare exceptions.

The show had legal advisors.  There is no excuse for this. What were Law and Order’s standards? Would it deliberately misstate law and regulations just to accommodate the plot? Apparently so.

2. According to the New York Times, we’ve been mistaken. People don’t kill people, Guns kill people, apparently all by themselves. One of the infinite ways news organizations practice unethical and biased journalism is by falsely framing facts and issues to encourage a particular public perception. The “paper of record” just went for a new record in this event with a piece titled “One Handgun, 9 Murders: How American Firearms Cause Carnage Abroad.”Incredibly, the article personifies a gun:

She came to Jamaica from the United States about four years ago, sneaking in illegally, stowed away to avoid detection. Within a few short years, she became one of the nation’s most-wanted assassins. She preyed on the parish of Clarendon, carrying out nine confirmed kills, including a double homicide outside a bar, the killing of a father at a wake and the murder of a single mother of three. Her violence was indiscriminate: She shot and nearly killed a 14-year-old girl getting ready for church.

With few clues to identify her, the police named her Briana. They knew only her country of origin — the United States — where she had been virtually untraceable since 1991. She was a phantom, the eighth-most-wanted killer on an island with no shortage of murder, suffering one of the highest homicide rates in the world. And she was only one of thousands.

Briana, serial number 245PN70462, was a 9-millimeter Browning handgun.

The thrust of the rest of the article is that the terrible murder rate in Jamaica and other third-world counties is the fault of the U.S. for guaranteeing its citizens gun rights, and not the corruption, weak government, poverty and rotten cultures, not to mention the killers they produce, in those nations themselves. “Law enforcement officials, politicians and even gangsters on the street agree: It’s the abundance of guns, typically from the United States, that makes the country so deadly,” the article says. “And while the argument over gun control plays on a continual loop in the United States, Jamaicans say they are dying because of it — at a rate that is nine times the global average.”

That’s right: all those murderous Jamaicans would become as harmless as lambs if the United States would just get with the program.

This isn’t news reporting, it’s anti-gun propaganda. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: The “I Should Be At The Beach” Edition…

Good Morning!

Is everyone vacationing this week but me? I can detect such things from blog traffic—this week has been sparse. Unfortunately this is the legal ethics CLE busy season, so I have been furious preparing materials for three new three-hour programs: “The Legal Ethics Mine Field,” “Legal Ethics Squeeze,” and a new musical ethics seminar for the New Jersey Bar Association, “Ethics Blues,” with the talented Esther Covington. It features legal issues-stuffed parodies of such songs as “Copacabana,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Piano Man,” “You Made Me Love You,” “Isn’t It Romantic” and “Let it Be,” among others. I’ve been writing parody song lyrics since I was 9, and much as I enjoy it, it is mentally exhausting in a way nothing else is.

1.  The anti-Trump news media is all a twitter because former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh might challenge President Trump for the nomination. Joe Walsh!  He’s the only member of Congress ever designated a fick by Ethics Alarms, in this post, about how Walsh, a Tea Party fiscal responsibility hawk who once lectured Barack Obama about how he was placing a burden on the backs of Walsh’s children, owed  $117,437 in unpaid child support to his ex-wife and those already burdened, kids, three of them. For this and other transgressions he was defeated for re-election, and Joe’s now a talk show host, presumably with the same audience that took guidance from former radio bloviators Ollie North and Gordon Liddy.

2. On the innocent until proven guilty front…there has been a spate of defamation lawsuits lately in which priests accused of sexually molesting boys accuse the Catholic Church of ruining their reputations based on publicizing unsubstantiated accusations of pederasty.

A Fresno, California priest,  Craig Harrison, who is facing multiple allegations of sexual abuse, is suing an established  Catholic watchdog group Roman Catholic Faithful (RCF). seeking “unlimited” damages as a result of RCF President Stephen Brady’s “appearance at a press conference in Bakersfield” that addressed “allegations of sexual misconduct” made against Harrison. The lawsuit and summons were filed this month after the Bakersfield Police Department (BPD) concluded an investigation that it said  exonerated Harrison. Brady says that the lawsuit may be intended to discourage other ongoing RCF investigations. Continue reading