Tag Archives: Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck

Comment of the Day: Signature Significance: President Obama’s Farewell Speech Jumbo

Accusation

I woke up this morning to not one but three Comment of the Day-worthy posts from readers, and there was already one waiting in the queue. We have to begin with this lovely post by Pennagain, in the discussion about President Obama’s remarkable conviction that U.S. race relations have improved on his watch, in defiance of all apparent evidence. ( Adding to the evidence countering the President’s self-serving delusion, a new Pew survey shows (among a lot of other things) that 75% of police officers report “increased tension between cops and the black community.” )

Here is the first Comment of the Day Of The Day, on the post, Signature Significance: President Obama’s Farewell Speech Jumbo:

My experience over the last four years – in my half-baked melting pot of a city – has been that the economic status has improved for self-identified non-whites who were already educated and on career paths. As far as social status goes, however, there has grown up a new “separate but equal” world mandated as Black which does not welcome non-melaninated visitors. This is not the Harlem of the 20s! It has a presence in nearly every neighborhood and does not require white financial investment, advertisement nor approval. It speaks its own language (particularly body language) that eschews the obviousness of Ebonics but has instead a sly, wry, deliberate anti-Establishment pronunciation to it that isn’t heard in the weekday workplace. Black people I did not previously so designate, those whom I have worked with for decades in many different jobs and at least three different professions, are not unfriendly; if anything, they are better comrades and easier bosses than ever before. But there is no longer any doubt that we will not be discussing Travon or Trump. The gates are closed. Continue reading

16 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Race, U.S. Society

Signature Significance: President Obama’s Farewell Speech Jumbo

jumbo-film

“Now, I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, no matter what some folks say.”

It’s funny: when I was searching Google after entering this quote, I found one site the had as a headline, “2o Quotes From President Obama’s Farewell Speech That Will Melt Your…” and that’s where it cut off.  Which was it, I wondered, “heart” or “brain”? It was heart….and the 20 also included the quote about race relations.

I also checked the Washington Post, which “fact-checks” major speeches with annotations. In the transcript, that line was indeed highlighted—I thought there was a 50-50 chance, knowing the Post’s pro-Obama bias, that it would let that whopper slide. The annotation by reporter Aaron Blake in its entirety:

Obama has seen the polls. A July Washington Post-ABC News poll [showed 6 in 10 thought race relations were bad, and a majority thought they were getting worse](Poll: Majority of Americans think race relations are getting worse)

Now that’s a tentative fact-check! Obama has seen the polls, so …he must know something we don’t? Obama has seen the polls, so…he’s basing this certitude on his own impeccable wisdom? Obama has seen the polls, so….he’s having a little fun with us? Obama has seen the polls, so…he’s lying through his teeth? What is the Post saying?

For this is rather significantly counter-factual. Yet demonstrating the hard-hitting investigative reporting that the Post is renowned for, the paper recently launched an investigation into whether Donald Trump was LYING when he told the Times, in one of his typical, off-hand, “this just popped into my head” moments, “There will be plenty of movie and entertainment stars [at the Inauguration] All the dress shops are sold out in Washington. It’s hard to find a great dress for this inauguration.” AHA!  This is NOT TRUE! This is further proof that the man is NOT FIT TO BE PRESIDENT! And EEEEVIL!!! A Post reporter actually interviewed multiple dress shop owners, and concluded,

“It’s hard to imagine how Trump came to his conclusion, and a transition team spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But for all of the president-elect’s promises about economic stimulus, it doesn’t seem that he’s making Washington dress-shopping great again.”

In contrast, when the first African-American President of the United States, having seen his performance lead to the devastation of his party and the installment of a new President so antithetical to his world view as to risk the two of them exploding if they shake hands, makes a completely ridiculous assertion about a crucial American problem like race relations, we get a 27 word shrug and a link.

American journalism in 2017. Continue reading

50 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Jumbo, Race, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Secretary Of State John Kerry

mitchell-kerry_140226

“…I’m proud of all the efforts we made to try to lead people to a peaceful resolution.”

John Kerry, in an interview on MSNBC, when asked if he had any regrets about the Administration’s handling of Syria;

The Sec. of State’s full answer:

Well again, Andrea, I’m going to have a lot of opportunities to be able to look back and digest what choices might have been made. I’m not going to do it now… Except to say to you, very clearly, that I’m proud of all the efforts we made to try to lead people to a peaceful resolution. And in fact, the only solution to Syria will be a peaceful agreement along the lines of what we laid out… and the several communiques that we issued, and the United Nations resolution that we passed. 2254. Those will be the basis for whatever happens, if they get there.

No, I’m not going to call Kerry’s statement an unethical quote, even as close as it came to making my head explode. Fortunately my expectations of John Kerry are basement-level low, from long experience. However, the latest fatuous sentiment from this veteran doofus is provocative and instructive.

In many pursuits, as we discuss here often, whether someone has done the right thing, made the ethical choice, should be evaluated on the basis of whether the conduct was competently considered and arrived at according to facts and ethical considerations before the conduct commenced. Judging its ethical nature  afterwards, when factors the decision-maker could not have foreseen or controlled have affected the result, is a fallacy: “It all worked out for the best” and thus the decision must have been ethical. This is consequentialism, and “the ends justifies the means” in its most seductive form.

A very recent example was the Republican leadership’s decision not to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. No, the tactic wasn’t unconstitutional or illegal. It was unethical, however: obstructive, partisan politics defying tradition and fairness. It was also, as I pointed out at the time, stupid. When Obama, knowing of the GOP’s intent, appointed not a flame-breathing left-wing zealot but a moderate-liberal judge of impressive credentials, the GOP majority in the Senate should have rushed to confirm him, knowing well that a nomination by Obama’s presumed successor, Hillary Clinton, would unbalance the Court to a far greater degree.

The GOP lucked out, as we now know. Now President Trump will fill that vacancy on the Court, with major impact on important legal disputes for decades to come. That’s all moral luck, however. The ethics verdict on the conduct still stands. It worked, but it was wrong.

Success is not irrelevant to ethics, of course. Many jobs are ethically complex because getting a desired result is part of the mission. The result and the manner of achieving it are important. If your job is to win the war, you can’t say you did an excellent job if the war was lost. Competence is still an ethical value. A successful CEO’s company does not go belly-up by definition. Government is often analogized to sailing a ship to a destination, or flying a plane, with good reason. Part of the responsibility a government leader has is to make choices that work to the benefit of  those governed, and others as well. A captain whose ship sinks cannot say afterwards, “I did one hell of a job.” Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Leadership

Comment Of The Day: The Russian Cyber-Attack Report: Observations And Questions

putin

Ethics Alarms is grateful to reader Greg, the author of this first Comment of the Day of the New Year, for supplementing the recent post here, and providing a critical and more detailed assessment of the intelligence community’s much ballyhooed report on its conclusions regarding Russian cyber-attacks during the 2016 election, with the alleged purpose of defeating Hillary Clinton.

I am particularly relieved that he shares my own reaction to the report, which simply did not deliver on what was promised by James Clapper in the hearings earlier in the week. Oddly, the news media and almost everyone I know miraculously seem to think it did.  The two key issues I, and I assume everyone, wants clarified is 1) whether Russia was indeed trying to elect Donald Trump, as opposed to generally gumming up the works, embarrassing the likely President (Clinton, of course), undermining public faith in the democratic system, and basically making everyone involved look like fools, knaves, and boobs (Note that Trump appeared to be handling his side of that task all by himself) , and 2) did their efforts in fact have any effect on the results? Answering the first clearly and decisively is essential to understanding the second: to most people, if Russia’s actions were designed to make Trump President, and in fact Trump did shock the world by becoming President, this creates a rebuttable presumption that in fact the Russian Government, and Vladimir Putin in particular, did affect the results of the election. That millions of people regard the matter in this way is certain, because we know that millions of people are desperately searching for some conspiracy or sinister outside agency to explain an event that shattered their expectations and world view.

We also know that the false belief that the sequence Conduct  A is intended to cause Result B, A occurs,  B occurs after A, ergo A caused B, is widely accepted, because public school  teachers are too busy teaching that the United States oppresses minorities  to get around to logic.  Now, that sequence is utter crap, validating, among other things, superstitions and rain dances, but never mind most people think that way.

Yet the report provides no evidence to support the intelligence community’s conclusions in either matter. I find that incomprehensible, and also irresponsible. What the report does  say, in essence, is, “Trust us, we’re experts,”  and leaves the rest to confirmation bias. Could the authors not have provided some evidence to support these conclusions? If not, why not?

Here is Greg’s Comment of the Day on the post, The Russian Cyber-Attack Report: Observations And Questions:

This so-called “25-page report” is almost entirely padding and filler. I read it and I don’t see anything in it that adds to what we knew before the report was issued. Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology

The Russian Cyber-Attack Report: Observations And Questions

The first page of the Joint Analysis Report narrative by the Department of Homeland Security and federal Bureau of Investigation and released on Dec. 29, 2016, is photographed in Washington, Jan. 6, 2017. Computer security specialists say the technical details in the narrative that the U.S. said would show whether computers had been infiltrated by Russian intelligence services were poorly done and potentially dangerous. Cybersecurity firms ended up counseling their customers to proceed with extreme caution after a slew of false positives led back to sites such as Amazon and Yahoo Inc. Companies and organizations were following the government’s advice Dec. 29 and comparing digital logs recording incoming network traffic to their computers and finding matches to a list of hundreds of internet addresses the Homeland Security Department had identified as indicators of malicious Russian intelligence services cyber activity. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

From The New York Times today:

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia directed a vast cyberattack aimed at denying Hillary Clinton the presidency and installing Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office, the nation’s top intelligence agencies said in an extraordinary report they delivered on Friday to Mr. Trump.

The officials presented their unanimous conclusions to Mr. Trump in a two-hour briefing at Trump Tower in New York that brought the leaders of America’s intelligence agencies face to face with their most vocal skeptic, the president-elect, who has repeatedly cast doubt on Russia’s role. The meeting came just two weeks before Mr. Trump’s inauguration and was underway even as the electoral votes from his victory were being formally counted in a joint session of Congress.

Soon after leaving the meeting, intelligence officials released the declassified, damning report that described the sophisticated cybercampaign as part of a continuing Russian effort to weaken the United States government and its democratic institutions. The report — a virtually unheard-of, real-time revelation by the American intelligence agencies that undermined the legitimacy of the president who is about to direct them — made the case that Mr. Trump was the favored candidate of Mr. Putin.

The Times story is a mostly fair, if incomplete, description of the report itself, which is a provocative, disturbing and infuriating document. Damning? I don’t know about that. Anyone can damn something, but to be sure the damning is just requires evidence.

Observations and Questions:

1. The report isn’t evidence of anything. It just isn’t, and anyone or any source that states otherwise is misleading us. It would not be admissible as evidence if Russia or Putin were on trial in the U.S. for trying to influence the 2016 election. The document is a statement of opinions after analysis of material and sources we are not allowed to see. At the beginning, the report goes to great lengths to explain why this is, and the explanation is sound. Unless, however, the position we are supposed to take is that the intelligence community is to be assumed to be 100% correct, uninfluenced by bias, and  ought to be believed without reservations despite the presence of hard evidence, the declassified report is a statement by experts of an analysis based on experience and study, of exactly what, we don’t know.

2.Regarding the Times story: the intention of the news media to undermine the Trump Presidency and bolster Democrats who want to blame their candidate’s defeat on anything but her own weaknesses and conduct  appears to be on display in the Times story. For example, we have this statement:

“The Russian leader, the report said, sought to denigrate Mrs. Clinton, and the report detailed what the officials had revealed to President Obama a day earlier: Mr. Trump’s victory followed a complicated, multipart cyberinformation attack whose goal had evolved to help the Republican win.”

The leaping to the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefor because of it”) is both a human tendency to be avoided and well-known. This statement appeals to it, intentionally, or incompetently. The fact that Trump’s shocking victory came after the cyber-attacks does not mean or even suggest that the attacks were responsible for that result. The Times immediately, in the next sentence, even states that “The 25-page report did not conclude that Russian involvement tipped the election to Mr. Trump.” Well, those are mixed messages. Do I, based on the uninterrupted anti-Trump attitude of the Times in its headlines, placement of stories, tone and pitch of news reports, op-eds and editorials, conclude that the mixed message is intentional or sparked by negligence seeded by bias?

I do.

3.  Much further down in its story, the Times admits, Continue reading

21 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Science & Technology

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen

'Oh, all right, here's what I really think, since I'm already ticked off...'

‘Oh, all right, here’s what I really think, since we’re way past the 2012 election and I’m already ticked off...’

 “The Russians managed to do what they wanted to do in Syria. Why not the United States? The answer has always been clear to me. Obama did not care enough. Not from him ever came a thundering demand that Russia and Iran get out and stay out. Behind the arguably persuasive reasons to do little in Syria was an emotional coldness. This was not Obama’s fight. Kellyanne Conway keeps pointing out that Hillary Clinton had no message. True. Neither for that matter did Obama. He waved a droopy flag. He did not want to make America great again. It was great enough for him already. The banner he flew was one of American diminishment. One could agree, one could not be proud . . . Since the end of world War II, American leadership has been essential to maintain world peace. Whether we liked it or not, we were the world’s policeman. There was no other cop on the beat. Now that leadership is gone. So, increasingly, will be peace.”

Richard Cohen, reliably liberal Washington Post op-ed columnist of long-standing, in his latest titled, “Thanks to no-drama Obama, American leadership is gone.

Good for Cohen. Like George Will on the conservative side, Cohen will occasionally break through his biases to pronounce hard truth. Except to pacifists and isolationists, Obama’s foreign policy has made the world a far more dangerous place, and created a power vacuum that is being filled by Russia, Iran, China and terrorist organizations. Weak, feckless and inept, the President’s foreign misadventures and evasions have been substantially shielded from accountability by public apathy, media alibis, and Hillary Clinton’s bind, which prevented her from articulating her own criticisms of our current foreign weakness  for fear that it would lose her the support of the blind Obama cheering section. Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership