Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/2019: Bad Leadership, Bad Punditry, Bad Journalism…Looking For Silver Linings And Failing Miserably

Good Morning!

The news is ugly, but the snow is beautiful.

1. Who’s really to blame for the shutdown? A weak and feckless GOP Speaker was the culprit, the wishy-washy, onflicted and above-it-all Paul Ryan.He had a Republican majority in the House, and lacked the leadership, resolve and political skills to take care of the border issue when the opportunity was there. Is there any doubt that Nancy Pelosi, Tip O’Neil or Newt Gingrich couldn’t have gotten the job done?

We were constantly told that Ryan was a reluctant Speaker. Reluctant leaders are almost never effective leaders; leaders want to lead and like to lead, and it is unethical to assume the role of a leader when you don’t have the spine or the skills to do the job.

2. Stop making Ann Althouse defend Donald Trump! Ann, with assists from Seth Barrett Tilman and Glenn Reynoldsdoes a nice job debunking writer John McWhorter’s cheap shot criticism of the President in his  “Trump’s Typos Reveal His Lack of Fitness for the Presidency/They suggest not just inadequate manners or polish, but inadequate thought.”

He wrote,

“The president of the United States has many faults, but let’s not ignore this one: He cannot write sentences. If a tree falls in a forrest and no one is there to hear it … wait: Pretty much all of you noticed that mistake, right? Yet Wednesday morning, the president did not; he released a tweet referring to ‘forrest fires’ twice, as if these fires were set by Mr. Gump. Trump’s serial misuse of public language is one of many shortcomings that betray his lack of fitness for the presidency. Trump’s writing suggests not just inadequate manners or polish—not all of us need be dainty—but inadequate thought. Nearly every time he puts thumb to keypad, he exposes that he has never progressed beyond the mentality of the precollegiate, trash-talking teen.”

My contribution: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/11/17

1.  Mainstream media bias has been such a frequent topic on Ethics Alarms that I hesitate to focus on it even when, against all odds, what passes for American journalism has another rotting chunk fall off.  The reaction of most of the media to the Comey testimony was a huge chunk, once again shocking me when I didn’t think my regard for this unprofessional profession could sink lower. Some commentators yesterday (they were conservative, but there is no reason a fair and objective liberal wouldn’t and shouldn’t come to the same conclusion) said that we are witnessing the birth of a mainstream media-progressive fusion political party. This is not a hysterical analysis. The New York Times coverage of the Comey hearing, for example, was so misleading and dishonest as to eliminate that paper from ever being regarded as a reliable political analyst again, at least until it cleans house and issues an abject apology to the nation. Ethics Alarms reader Greg did an excellent job detailing the Times’ disgraceful anti-Trump/pro-resistance spin in the thread on the Comey testimony post, as did journalist commenter Tippy Scales.

The Times knows its first take was untenable; you can tell by its editorial today, in which it already is changing the subject. If Comey had laid a glove on Trump (and he didn’t) regarding  impeachable conduct and a route to removing him—which was the Left’s fervent hope and the resistance’s confirmation bias-driven fantasy—the Times would have been  shaking its fist and demanding action in it Sunday pronouncement. Instead, it offered an extended whine about how Paul Ryan excused Trump’s clumsy handling of his communications with Comey by citing Trump’s inexperience, but that he had condemned President Obama for his inexperience, as if the two positions are inconsistent. First, they are not: Ryan did not support Trump’s nomination, though political inexperience was the least of his disqualifications. Second, the President’s cluelessness is directly relevant to the weaker than weak argument that he was obstructing justice by having the kinds of conversations with a subordinate that is commonplace in a business setting. The Times, as it has been doing a lot lately, simply assumes away an insuperable obstruction to its “resistance” position, , saying that “The president obviously knows that it’s wrong to interfere in an investigation.”

Like Hillary Clinton, apparent cyber-dolt,  “obviously” knew that using a private server for State Department business violated classified communications law?

The same logic that Comey himself used to give Clinton a Stay Out Of Jail pass applies to Trump’s statements to Comey, but far more reasonably. Not only was he not, as Ryan said, “steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between D.O.J., F.B.I. and White Houses,” the President  wasn’t interfering in the Flynn  investigation by telling Comey he hoped it would end, and he couldn’t interfere in the Russian investigation by firing the FBI director. The Times editorial reveals the real impetus behind the paper’s determination to bring down the President who dared to be elected by “deplorables” who don’t march to the Times’ ideological lock-step: Trump “[struts] about at the head of the party, insulting everyone and everything in sight: staff members, allies, laws, diplomatic decorum and common sense.”

Yes, for once the Times is reporting accurately, but that’s not grounds for removing an elected President, and it does not justify misrepresenting facts to create a public groundswell based on bias, hate, fear and ignorance.

2. And when it is clear that the news media and the Democrats are coordinating in an “Anti-Trump” party, what is a responsible stance for the Trump Administration regarding news organizations who wave the anti-Trump banner at the expense of fair reporting? Continue reading

“What’s Going On Here?”: The 8th Grade’s Speaker Of The House Snub

It is fair to say that no primary school class of any grade level would have snubbed a Speaker of the House by boycotting a scheduled meeting with him or her ten years ago, twenty years ago or ever. That this happened last week is worth paying heed to, and worthy of careful consideration. It is another symptom of a seriously ill culture, society and democracy.

Half of the D.C. field-tripping 8th grade from South Orange Middle School, about a hundred students, rejected their photo op with Speaker Paul Ryan, and were allowed to wait in the parking lot while Ryan greeted the other half.

What’s going on here?

What’s going on here should be easy to diagnose. The vicious, anti-democratic partyism, partisan incivility and hatred that has poisoned public and private discourse that has moved the United States toward governmental paralysis and the worst societal division since the Civil War is being passed on to the next generation. Anyone who cheers this as a positive development is a lousy, unethical citizen. It’s that simple.

The snub is 100% the product of irresponsible and ignorant parents, aided and abetted by incompetent teachers, seeded by the open warfare and excessive rhetoric of political leaders, though not, ironically enough, by Paul Ryan. Ryan has always comported himself, in this office and his previous one as an ordinary House member, by traditional statesman standards. He is polite and respectful, indeed was too much so  when Joe Biden snorted, rolled his eyes, sneered and interrupted him repeatedly during the 2012 Vice-Presidential debate. Ryan is a gentleman and a professional. He has also dedicated himself to public service and the best interests of his country as he sees it, like all honest elected officials, at great personal sacrifice. As Speaker of the House, a job he did not seek but accepted because he was needed by the institution, Ryan has immense responsibility and daunting challenges. Nobody has to agree with his political views, support his initiatives, or hesitate to criticize, lobby, advocate or vote against what he does or tries to do. Every responsible and civil American, however, should respect him for serving the nation as best he can. As for children, and that is what 8th graders are, they have only one duty: be respectful to the elected leaders of their towns, states and nation. Yes, every single one of those leaders.  Children have neither the standing nor the knowledge nor the wisdom to be otherwise.

Matthew Malespina, one of the grand-standing 8th graders who waited in the bus, was interviewed by ABC about why he snubbed the Speaker of the House. “It’s not just a picture,” the indoctrinated, arrogant kid told the reporter. “It’s being associated with a person who puts his party before his country.”

Gee, I wonder where he learned that empty phrase? What do you mean by this, Michael? Members of both parties belong to them because they believe their party’s governing philosophy is in the interests of the United States. Give me an example of Ryan “putting his party before his country” that doesn’t mean “if Republicans cared about the country, they’d be Democrats.”

Explain the complexities of fixing the evident flaws of Obamacare while not creating unacceptable risks to the health care system. Tell us how you would have negotiated the ethical dilemma of either supporting your party’s Presidential candidate whom you believe to be unqualified, or risking splitting your party and giving control of the government to an opposition party that you believe is pushing the nation in dangerous and untenable directions.

Go ahead, you’re 13, you know everything. What’s your plan? Tell us how you would begin fixing the crumbling infrastructure, a multi-trillion dollar task, without raising taxes to crushing levels or pushing the national debt over the brink. Tell us how the U.S. should help its poorest citizens without making them permanent government sycophants. Tell us how society can take away money earned by corporations and wealthier citizens without destroying the incentive to innovate, take risks, create jobs.

You know nothing. It’s very likely that the parents who have been programming you know nothing as well other than party-fed talking points, but at least they are adults in a democracy, and empowered to be part of government even though our broken news media and education establishment has left them below the minimal level of civic literacy for the process to work as designed.

“The point was, ‘I don’t want to be associated with him, and his policies and what he stands for,'” said Elissa Malespina, Matthew’s mother, a smug hyper-partisan fool who undoubtedly agrees with the attitude of the Georgetown professor who refused to work out in a gym that had a member whose views she found offensive. No, Elissa: a photo is a photo, not an endorsement, just like using the gym didn’t make the professor an honorary white supremacist. But I’m sure you’ve carefully discussed the competing issues of shunning, pluralism, democracy, the political advocacy system, governmental theories, Locke, Rousseau, Jefferson, Hamilton, Burke with your impressionable son, right?

Just kidding. We know what you have been doing since November is telling your child along with anyone else who would listen that Donald Trump is an illegitimate President and anyone who supports him in any way has enlisted in Evil’s Legions, which of course includes the Republican Party and Paul Ryan. Nice work.

It is not damaging enough that progressives are trying to turn the U.S into an ideologically segregated society where citizens of varying opinions can’t work and play civilly together, and where every citizen respects the leaders chosen by our elections, as they must if democracy is to function. They are determined to spread this cultural poison to the next generation before they have the ability to think for themselves.

This is what the conduct of the South Orange Middle School’s 8th grade means, and that’s what’s going on here. It is one more ugly, harmful and perhaps permanent side effect of the “resistance”—including much of the media and Democratic Party—rejecting democratic principles and institutions because they didn’t create the results the Left wanted this time.

Now that’s putting party before country.

Comment Of The Day: “Donald Trump ‘When You’re A Star, They Let You Do It’ Apology, Take Two!”…Plus The Last Comments I’m Going To Make About Trump’s “Pussy” Tape, Because Life’s Too Short

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Ethics Alarms works best when commenters take a post and extend the issue to the next stage, expanding the inquiry and making useful observations. This Comment of the Day by Charles Green is an example. I had just written three posts (including this, and this, that related to Charles’ commentary more closely than the post it actually followed) about various ethics aspects of the Trump-Billy Bush tape and the reaction to it, and Charles flagged enough additional material for a fourth.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Donald Trump “When You’re A Star, They Let You Do It” Apology, Take Two! (I’ll be back to add a bit to Charles’ points at the end.)

Trump is of course a troglodyte. But Jack, this is an ethics swamp – look at all the other arguments showing up.

The most obvious one is Billy Bush’s “It was a long time ago.” So, there’s a statute of limitations on unethical behavior? (Trump went him one worse, saying that was ten years ago – and look at what Clinton did 20 years ago!).

But there’s another meme that keeps showing up. For example, Mitch McConnell saying, “I have daughters, and I…” So, is what Trump said inoffensive if you only have sons and brothers?

Mike Pence says, “As a husband and a father” he was offended. So, my single childless son shouldn’t be offended?

Jeb Bush says, “As the grandfather of two girls…reprehensible…degrading…” Jeez, do you have to be a grandpa before you can be offended?

What about Paul Ryan, saying, “Women should be championed and revered.” As a friend of mine says, “Would that be like a Special Olympics athlete? Or the biblical Mary?”

In their own bizarre way, these conditional statements are as ethically suspect as Trump apologizing “if I offended anyone.”

The common logical construct is a leading clause which SOUNDS like it should have something to do with what follows. But really, does “I’m a grandfather, so what he said was reprehensible” make any more ethical sense than “I’m a vegetarian, so what he said was reprehensible.”

As someone might have said, “What difference does it make!?”

Continue reading

Republicans Leaders Are Shocked…Shocked!…That Donald Trump Is Donald Trump

Cynical, principle-free morons, every single one.

Everyone knew that Donald Trump was a low-life, belonging in the political genus containing human leaches and anthropomorphic pond scum, long before he even announced his candidacy. They knew or should have known, to apply a common legal standard. I’m no genius, but the millisecond his joke candidacy for President began smelling viable back in August 0f 2015, I wrote here what GOP leaders with any sense or integrity should have known without me having to write a word. They needed to tell Trump to go haunt a casino somewhere, because he wasn’t fit to represent the Republican party as a candidate—not as President, not as dogcatcher, not as a gag on a Saturday Night Live skit.

Nahh! GOP Chair Reince Priebus —Fun Fact: Did you know that “Reince” means “spineless tool”? Well, it does now!-–apparently thought Trump would bring a little pizzazz, publicity and new voters to the GOP primary campaign. Well, it sure did that, didn’t it, Reince, you pathetic failure as a leader, manager, Republican and an American? Continue reading

Spectacularly Incompetent Candidate Of The Month: Paul Ryan Challenger Paul Nehlen

"This is Paul. Won't you help him? Paul, like millions of other victims across the land, suffers from Constitution Ignorance Syndrome. This dread malady causes its victims to advocate fascist  policies and to sound like idiots in their public statements. But there is hope for Paul, and those like him. Please give, and give generously, To "Educate Paul." a non-profit charity. Your gift is tax-deductible, and you will have made the United States a little less stupid with every penny you contribute to this vital cause."

“This is Paul. Won’t you help him? Paul, like millions of other victims across the land, suffers from Constitution Ignorance Syndrome. This dread malady causes its victims to advocate fascist policies and to sound like idiots in their public statements. But there is hope for Paul, and those like him. Please give, and give generously, To Educate Paul a non-profit charity. Your gift is tax-deductible, and you will have made the United States a little less stupid with every penny you contribute to this vital cause.”

This was the guy that Donald Trump was supposedly going to endorse as retribution for Speaker Ryan’s negative comments? It’s comforting, isn’t it, that Trump isn’t that irrational? Ann Coulter is, but Trump isn’t. (At least in this case.)

Paul Nehlen is the arch conservative and certifiable ignoramus who is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District’s Republican primary. Interviewed last week on “Chicago’s Morning Answer,” Nehlen said that he wonders why we have any Muslims in the country, and suggested that there should be a public debate about tossing Muslims out of the U.S.

Here’s a partial transcript of the relevant comments Nehlen made to hosts Amy Jacobson and Dan Croft: Continue reading

Ethical Quote Of The Week: CNN’s Mike Rowe

In this case, it’s unfair to Mike Rowe’s brilliant and measured rebuttal to MSNBC’s race-baiting talking head Melissa Harris-Perry’s latest ethics pollution to just quote a brief paragraph or two, so I’m going to quote virtually  his entire Facebook post.

Rowe, the man’s man star of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” show and now CNN’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” was responding to Melissa Harris-Perry’s dressing down of a guest who referred to new House Speaker Paul Ryan as “hard-working.” This woman’s mission in life seems to be to make it impossible for white people to speak, since she is meticulously eliminating all words and phrases as either racist, homophobic, misogynist or insensitive. (Donald Trump should send her a bonus, for this kind of thing is what is driving his support) In her latest assault, she said this:

“I want us to be super careful when we use the language “hard worker.” I actually keep an image of folks working in cotton fields on my office wall, because it is a reminder about what hard work really looks like. But in the context of relative privilege, when you talk about work-life balance, the moms who don’t have health care aren’t called hard workers. We call them failures. We call them people who are sucking off the system.”

Rowe’s diagnosis of Harris-Perry’s world-view was this: Continue reading

The Ryan Soup Kitchen Photo: Everybody Does It, But It’s Still Unethical

In the early 1960s, as the Great Leap Forward led China into political, social and economic disasters, the opposition to Mao Zedong’s leadership grew; Chairman Mao’s reaction was to purge the party leadership of intellectuals and officials in what is now termed, “the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.”

Mao Zedong’s hold on the leadership of China was shaky as he passed 70; even slaughtering more of his enemies and rivals wasn’t working. On July 16th 1966, Mao sought to debunk rumors that he was frail and ill by staging photographs of him vigorously swimming in the Yangtze River.  It was called, “The Swim Seen Round the World.” The Chinese press did its job, describing Mao’s cheeks as “glowing” and “ruddy,” his stroke steady and strong. “Our respected and beloved leader Chairman Mao is in such wonderful health!” one press report enthused.

In the West, however, there was more skepticism. Time reported that Mao swam “nearly 15 km in 65 minutes that day–a world-record pace, if true.” The photos of the swim, which showed an oddly solemn group of floating heads, were widely believed to have been doctored. As it turned out, the photos were real; Mao really did take a swim, though the event was staged, and nobody knows how long the swim lasted or how far Mao paddled. What are such photo ops? Are they deceptive? Are they ethical? Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Vice-President Joe Biden

“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy — any hospital — none has to either refer contraception. None has to pay for contraception. None has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”

—– Vice-President Joe Biden, in a rare moment during Wednesday’s Vice Presidential candidates debate when he wasn’t interrupting, mocking, shouting, or otherwise setting new lows for national debate civility and decorum, on the topic of the Administration’s contraception and abortion mandate. The problem: it isn’t a fact. In fact, it isn’t true at all.

I was not going to touch on the substance of any of the debates, because I do not want to play the “fact check” game that has already warped the campaign and given partisan journalists the opportunity to misrepresent any the statement of any politician—usually a Republican—whom they disagree with as “a lie.” Perhaps inspired by this trend, the Obama-Biden campaign’s strategy has devolved into calling Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan “liars” when 1) they may be mistaken, they may be inexact, they may be overstating, and they may be wrong, but are not lying, and 2) President Obama and Vice-President Obama, not to mention other Democrats involved in the campaign, have not set their own bars for accuracy, honesty and fairness any higher than the GOP side. But the refrain of “Liar!” has been so emphatic and repetitive that the fans of the Democratic ticket are adopting it as a rallying cry, usually without the slightest idea of whether there have been any actual lies or not. Meanwhile, the tactic demeans the electoral process and our democracy. Columnist Dan Henniger expressed my feelings on this topic well when he wrote, before Wednesday’s debate: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Joe Biden

We don’t have to belabor this, do we? The Vice-President’s performance in his debate with Paul Ryan was rude, uncivil, obnoxious and undignified.

Did it “lose” the debate? Nah. It appealed to the red-meat progressives who were screaming for President Obama to be more assertive in the first Presidential debate, and they were getting panicky. It made Al Gore’s eye-rolling, sighing act during his infamous first debate with George Bush in 2002 look positively restrained, so Al benefits, and it was certainly less damaging to the Democratic ticket’s prospects than Biden shouting out “I am the Lizard King!” or something else ridiculous, as is his wont. Chris Matthews, over at MSNBC, even thought Biden’s constant interruptions and rude demeanor “won” the debate, which figures, since this is exactly how Matthews has treated his guests for years. Continue reading