Ethics Observations On The Realization That Al Sharpton Is Dead-Fish Ignorant Of Basic U.S. History And Has A Network Platform To Spread His Ignorance Thoughout The Nation

Confusion is completely understandable…

On Saturday’s PoliticsNation , MSNBC host Al Sharpton led a panel discussion regarding the crisis of the  Trump administration delaying the release of the new $20 bill with Harriet Tubman’s image replacing that of President Andrew Jackson. Sophia Nelson, Dean Obeidallah, and Michael Hardy were Sharpton’s guests.

At one point in the discussion, Sharpton said,

“The blatant thing here is you’re talking about a black woman abolitionist that is going to replace a slave owner who was one that fought against many of the things that his immediate predecessor, Abe Lincoln, stood for. “

Later he said, just in case you might think this was a slip of the tongue,

“They used to call it the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, both of whom were opposed to what Jackson ended up doing after Lincoln’s assassination, and both of whom were allied and stood with Harriet Tubman.”

Yes, it’s true. Al Sharpton, whom MSNBC allows to host a national public affairs show based on his supposed authority and acumen, thinks that Andrew Jackson, 1767-1845, hero of the Battle of New Orleans, creator of the modern Democratic Party, vanquisher of the Bank of the United States and foe of states’ rights, who served two transformative  terms and was one of our most important Presidents, is Andrew Johnson, 1808-1875, Lincoln’s second term Vice-President, who was impeached by the House for opposing Republican Reconstruction plans.

Observations: Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: CNN Reporter April Ryan

“Sarah, is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong? Sarah, does this administration believe slavery was wrong?”

CNN’s April Ryan, yelling to White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders as today’s press briefing ended. She really did.

President Andrew Jack…no, that’s wrong. It’s President …Johnson, right? Lyndon Johnson? No, no..Barry Lyndon? No…Barry Goldwater? Barry Bonds? U.S. Bonds? U.S. Grant? Boy, history is hard

I assume that this was intended as a rhetorical rebuttal to the position of President Trump and those non-totalitarian-minded citizens—I hope not just conservatives and Republicans— who regard toppling statues and memorials of important figures in America’s past as a form of Orwellian thought control and manipulation of the historical record. Maybe she attends Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

Whatever it was, it wasn’t journalism, fair, or professional. Since Ryan knew the only answer that could or would be given, if Sander had been foolish enough to dignify the insult with a reply, it was really just partisan harassment and race-baiting, the equivalent of  a reporter shouting out at a Johnson era press conference, “How many did LBJ kill today?,” calling out after a Bush briefing, “Hey, any signs of those weapons of mass destruction?,” or calling out after an Obama White House briefing, “Does the President still promise that if we like our health plan, we can keep it?”

A news organization that doesn’t immediately discipline a reporter behaves like this at a White House press briefing—and Ryan should have been suspended, removed from the White House beat, or exiled to cute kitten stories on Headline News—it is announcing one of the following:

a) This new organization will  no longer apply minimal standards of respect, fairness and professionalism to coverage of this President.

b) This network no longer has any standards.

c) This network will allow gross demonstrations of bias and partisan animus by its reporters.

Under these conditions, the White House has no obligation to permit such an organization to attend press briefings, any more than it has an obligation to permit anti-Trump demonstrators to attend, or to tolerate reporters chanting slogans and carrying placards. And it should not. If CNN won’t uphold minimal standards of professional journalism, then the White House must. CNN should be told that until it receives a public apology for Ryan’s outburst, she is replaced by a trustworthy reporter, and the network pledges that it will not permit such conduct by its employees to occur again, CNN will no longer be invited to briefings. Its place will then be taken by Ethics Alarms, or Weekly Reader, or any entity with a concept of journalism ethics superior to CNN’s.

Meanwhile, while we are on the topic of professionalism, I have this to report: Continue reading

From The “Stop Making Me Defend Donald Trump” Files: The President’s Civil War Musings

It took Dan Rather to force me into this quagmire.

As you may have heard by now, the President was being interviewed and the topic of Andrew Jackson came up, the great, flawed, fascinating man who was the first populist President and who reshaped the Presidency and the American political system. Donald Trump quite logically identifies with Jackson, and if he can show half the governing skill and leadership abilities of Old Hickory, the U.S. will be ever in his debt. at one point, Trump said…

As we have seen again and again, if Donald Trump said that the sky was blue, pundits and journalist would erupt with indignation and mockery about the statement, because everyone knows that the sky isn’t blue, it just looks blue. This is the Left and “the resistance” telegraphing their complete abandonment of fairness, good will and proportion regarding the President of the United States. It is transparent, it is intellectually dishonest, and it is now boring and annoying, since it began more than  a year ago. In this case, talking heads who know virtually nothing about Andrew Jackson were screaming on CNN about how “stupid” Trump’s statement was. At The Washington Post,  Aaron Blake wrote in his essay, “Trump’s totally bizarre claim about avoiding the Civil War”:

Historians with more academic experience than Trump have indeed asked this question about the Civil War often… It’s generally assumed that a deal to avert the Civil War would have included concessions to Southern states having to do with their right to own slaves — the central dispute of the Civil War. Is Trump saying he would have been okay with a more partial or gradual phasing out of slavery? Was there really a deal to be cut on that front? Or does he think Jackson, a slave owner himself, would have convinced the South to abandon slavery immediately, somehow?

Ann Althouse nailed this one: if Trump’s question about the Civil War is so “bizarre,” how come historians have asked the question “often”?

The simple and ugly answer is to much of  Left and the news media,  what Trump says is presumptively stupid or sinister, even if others saying the exact same thing would be ruled reasonable and benign. (See: Loyalty Day)

But I am so tired of this game. Until a friend posted an attack on Trump’s statement by Dan Rather, I had decided to let this round pass. After Dan’s ignorant and biased take, I couldn’t stay on the sidelines.

He wrote on Facebook, the only forum regularly available to him because no legitimate news organization would sully its credibility by having a journalist who tried to influence a Presidential election by representing a forged document as authentic, and who still won’t admit that there was anything wrong with that…

I wanted to let this story go. I really did. I don’t want to be distracted from all the important things taking place. Where are we on the Russia investigation again?

But the sheer craziness of this obsession by Donald Trump with Andrew Jackson and the Civil War is a carnival act unlike anything I have ever seen at the White House. And not to let something drop, there is Mr. Trump on Twitter just recently pouring gasoline on the fires of his ignorance.

Never mind that Mr. Trump’s knowledge of American history seems below that of most gradeschoolers. Never mind that in many people’s view, Jackson is not exactly the kind of president, or man, you would want to hold up as an example. And never mind that there is an implicit criticism of arguably our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. (It reminds me of his slam against John McCain and how war heroes aren’t captured. Apparently great presidents don’t wage a war to keep the Union together).

These are the rantings of someone who really should be focused on the job of governing. Should we not conclude that he approaches policy decisions with the same half-baked conspiracies with which he apparently approaches history?

To be President of the United States is to part of the great American story. To not understand that story is to not understand the presidency. Maybe Frederick Douglass can give Mr. Trump some advice. Apparently, he’s “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more.”

This is a post that demonstrates Rather’s ignorance and poor reasoning, not President Trump’s. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The President’s “So-Called Judge” Tweet

Donald J. Trump - ø@realDonaldTrump The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned! 1:12 PM - 4 Feb 2017 Donald Trump Tweet

Ugh.

In case you were lucky enough to miss it, after Judge James Robart temporarily blocked  President Trump‘s Executive order halting  immigration from seven Middle East nations teaming with terrorists, nationwide, the President responded on Twitter yesterday:

Tweet 1.:

When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security – big trouble!

Tweet 2.:

Interesting that certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban. They know if certain people are allowed in it’s death & destruction!

Tweet 3.:

The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!

The last one inspired expressions of alarm and horror:

Senator Schumer: “POTUS’s attack on Judge Robart shows a disdain for an ind. judiciary that doesn’t bend to his wishes & lack of respect for the Constitution.”

Bernie Sanders: “Trump has to learn the very important truth stated by Washington AG Bob Ferguson: “No one is above the law, not even the president.”

Representative Jerry Nadler: ” No “so-called.” Judge Robart is a GWB appointee who was confirmed 99-0. We are watching closely your contempt for our Judicial Branch.”

Evan McMullin—remember, the Independent who ran to be President of Utah?—wrote,

“Disagreeing with a court decision is fine, but undermining the legitimacy of a judge and the Judiciary Branch is a threat to the Republic.”

(Somehow I just don’t think that a President who has for three months watched an entire political party seek to undermine the legitimacy of a duly elected POTUS–him–with protests, riots, recounts, an Electoral College rebellion, calls for impeachment, calls for military coups, Hitler comparisons, accusations of incest with his daughter,  insanity, and conspiracy theories involving Russia will take too seriously the argument that three words in a tweet is a “threat to the Republic.” I could be wrong…)

Naturally bloggers, pundits and social media users have reacted to the three words with even more intensity.

Ethics Observations: Continue reading

NBC’s Chuck Todd Offers Dubious History To Cover For Democrats

One of these things is not like the other...

One of these things is not like the other…

[A frequent and valued commenter asked Ethics Alarms to examine this, and I am, as many of you know, always eager to delve into the history of My Favorite Men, the Presidents of the United States.]

Yesterday, NBC presented the nauseating display of a prominent member of Congress attempting to undermine the peaceful transfer of power after a legal and fair election. This was unprecedented, and not surprisingly. Only a hyper-partisan ethics dunce who believed that he was beyond criticism and accountability and who was confident that journalists would rationalize his conduct would do such a thing.  In this regard, at least, Rep. John Lewis was correct. The news media had his back.

Before the actual interview was broadcast, news of Lewis’s statement was out regarding Lewis’s attack, and Donald Trump, as he has with Gold Star parents, beauty queens and others and award-winning actresses, had foolishly reacted with an insulting tweet that allowed his critics to shift public attention from the provocation to the target. Is Trump really incapable of learning how stupid this is, no matter how many times he suffers for it? Apparently.

Meanwhile, it was time for the news media to play defense for Lewis, because that’s what they do when Democrats misbehave.

Chuck Todd, the host of “Meet the Press,” used hsiMSNBC show “Meet the Press Daily” to argue that a prominent member of Congress claiming that an elected President isn’t legitimate is just not that big a deal, saying

In case you missed it, Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), civil rights hero and icon, said Donald Trump does not believe is a legitimate president because of the Russian meddling in the election. Leaving aside how you feel about Lewis’ position, it’s not first time a president’s legitimacy has been questioned.”

Then, no doubt thanks to some intern’s searches on Google, he regaled his audience with misleading American history:

In 1824 when John Quincy Adams won the presidency over Andrew Jackson, despite getting clobbered in the popular vote, a lot of people questioned the legitimacy of his victory. In fact, this happens pretty much every time the popular vote loser moves into the White House.

After the 1876 election, Rutherford Hayes, who was called Ruther-fraud Hayes when Congress gave him the electoral majority.

The same in 1888 with Benjamin Harrison. You may remember the occasional cry of foul in 2000 when the Supreme Court stopped the Florida recount and George W. Bush won the election.

Sometimes, though, it has nothing to do with voting. When William Henry Harrison died a month after taking office in 1841, a lot of people didn’t accept the idea that as vice president John Tyler or any vice president for that matter could legitimately ascend to the presidency. A lot of people just called him an ‘acting president.’

Most recently, of course, the conservative right and and some Republicans claimed to doubt President Obama’s citizenship and therefore the legitimacy of his right to serve in the office of the presidency.

None of this is meant to pass judgment on John Lewis’ position, it’s just to remind us all this isn’t the first time someone has questioned the legitimacy of an American president. Surely won’t be the last.

This is what our political system does, we have this back and forth. It doesn’t make it any less shocking, frankly, to some of us when you do hear it from people with big influence. That’s all for tonight.

See? No big deal! Happens all the time! Everybody does it! Continue reading

Sweet Briar College’s Fate And Fait Accompli Ethics

high-noon-clock

 UPDATE (6/15): I am officially nominating this post as the Most Typo-Riddled Ethics Alarms Article of 2015. At least I hope it is—alerted by a reader, I just found and fixed about 10, and I have no idea what happened. I suspect that I somehow pasted the next-to-last draft instead of the final. My proofreading is bad, but not THAT bad. I am embarrassed, and apologize to all: that kind of sloppiness is never excusable, but I especially regret it on a topic this important.

****

Sweet Briar College was officially scheduled for termination, date of execution later this summer, by a board that chose not to offer alumnae and other interested parties a fair opportunity to raise objections, propose solutions, or mount a rescue effort. Indeed it was almost an ambush.

Although the distinguished graduates of Virginia’s unique and venerable all-female college have mounted a spirited effort to reverse this dubious move, time is not on their side. Amherst County Attorney Ellen Bowyer, working with the passionate opposition to Sweet Briar’s closing, argued in court that this would violate the terms of the will upon which the college was founded, and that the college’s board has engaged in malfeasance or misfeasance, violating its fiduciary duties and misusing charitable funds. A circuit court refused Bowyer’s request for a temporary injunction that would at least delay the closing —Tick-Tick-Tick!—and the case was appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court. Those  justices concluded that the lower court, in denying the injunctive relief, erred by concluding that that the law of trusts do not apply to a corporation like the college.  It does. So now the case returns to the circuit court to reconsider the merits.

Tick-Tick-Tick!

I find this infuriating and heart-breaking. As I’m certain the college’s treacherous board knew in March, legal challenges and court decisions take time, and the realities of the academic year halt for no man, or woman. It’s June now, and Sweet Briar has no 2015 entering class. Its sophomores and juniors are seeking, or have found, other schools as well. One of Sweet Briar’s problems—not an insuperable one to a board appropriately dedicated to is traditions and mission—was increasingly lagging enrollment. Whatever the solutions to that may be, skipping a year of entering freshman is not one of them. Faculty have to eat: presumably most, if not all of them, and the staff, are seeking employment elsewhere. The battle to save Sweet Briar, as noble and as important as it is, may have been lost from the start, simply because the clock, and the calendar, keeps moving.

This was, I fear, a fait accompli of the worst variety, an unjust, unfair, even illegal action that is successful because once set in motion, there is no way to stop it. Using the fait accompli strategy is intrinsically unethical, and the mark of an “ends justifies the means” orientation. It is based on the principle that an omelet, once made, cannot be unmade, because eggs can’t be put together again. In a situation where the ethical, fair, procedurally just approach is to debate and challenge a proposed policy action before it takes place, the fait accompli approach operates on the practical maxim that if you have no options, you have no problem. In essence, it says, “Yes, you may be right, but what are you going to do about it?” Continue reading