Tag Archives: President Barack Obama

Unethical Tweet Of The Month: “Civil Rights Activist” Danielle Muscato

“In the event of an impending head explosion, immediately place both hands, fingers spread,  firmly around your skull, applying pressure to both the top and the sides, until the pressure begins to subside…”

This could have been an Ethics Dunce, or an Unethical Quote of the Month. It was nearly a KABOOM!, if I hadn’t immediately clasped my hands, hard, over my skull when I read it, just in time to stop my brain from exploding. I also almost included it in draft post called A “This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President” Potpourri.

Upon reflection, I decided that a self-described “civil rights activist” tweeting this was so unethical, so ignorance-promoting, not to mention hateful, bigoted and sexist, that it deserved to stand alone.

An ethical,  sane, democracy and American values-supporting “lady” , confronting such a curfew, would realize that a totalitarian regime had taken over, and either join a citizen rebel army, or get the hell out of the country. Yeah, I read the thread, being a “dude,” and realized that what passes for feminism in a lot of cases is misandry and hypocrisy. Also that what passes for a “civil rights activist” is occasionally a crypt-fascist who neither understands civil rights nor supports them.

Imagine if her tweet had substituted “African-Americans” or “Muslims” for “men,” and “dudes”, and “White, law-abiding citizens” for “Ladies.”

If Muscato is to be believed, and frankly, I wouldn’t believe someone who tweets something this stupid to tell me what number comes after “3”, Danielle is often featured in or on the New York Times, Time, CNN, NPR, and Rolling Stone.

What does that tell you? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/12/17: Hurricane Reports, And Poor Charles M. Blow Needs A Vacation

Good morning.

1 There is supposedly a controversy regarding the on-the-spot hurricane reports: is it ethical for networks and news stations to place reporters and camera operators in mortal peril by having them scream into a mic while being buffeted by wind, rain and debris?

What’s the controversy? Of course it’s unethical. In addition to sending ridiculously mixed and self-contradictory messages—“I’m standing here in the storm telling citizens in the area that they shouldn’t be in the middle of this storm!”—it is also bad Ethics Chess. This stunt will continue until the first reporter is blown into a wall and sustains permanent brain damage, or is injured by a flying piece of debris that impales her, maims her, or cuts her in half. It is entirely predictable that this will happen eventually, and once it does, reporters will stop doing it. Why not stop this before a the inevitable tragedy occurs?

TV stations do it for ratings, that’s all. It’s great visual programming. It’s not necessary. Half the time, we can’t make out what the reporter is screaming, and what they are screaming is redundant and stating the obvious.

Apparently the first reporter to do this was Dan Rather.

Figures.

2. What is the mission of a pundit, a talking head, a columnist? It has to be—don’t you think?—to enlighten readers, to convey a constructive, useful analysis of complex issues, to reliably filter facts and controversies through a unique view-point without so completely tainting his or her output with bias that it actively misleads.

Yesterday New York Times columnist Charles Blow issued a column titled “Soul Survival in Trump’s Hell on Earth.” This was the apotheosis of the kinds of columns Blow has been writing almost exclusively now for months; at least I hope it’s that, for I can’t imagine where he goes from here. This column, like the others, is nothing, literally nothing, but a nearly fact free exposition on the theme, “I hate the President. I really do. I do so, so much. I know you do too, and if you don’t, I hate you too. ARRRGGGGHHH!”

The headline isn’t hyperbole; Blow, if he is to believed, really thinks Americans are living in Hell because Donald Trump is President. Not because there is a Great Depression hovering over the land, not because we are embroiled in a Civil War, or the existential threat of a world war, or the daily threat of an  international stand-off igniting into world-wide thermonuclear obliteration, but because a President was elected that offends the ideological and partisan sensitivities of Charles M. Blow.

Hell.

Seriously.

How can the New York Times continue to justify publishing the weekly primal screams of this pompous, doctrinaire, and now apparently deranged pundit? Exaggerating problems and pronouncing that we are all but doomed is not a service. It is harmful. The only readers who will be persuaded by a column like this are the ones who decide that something has to be done and that it’s time to build that bomb. Moreover, when a pundit reaches the stage that Blow has, where the simple act of a government not agreeing with his views and enacting policies that he does not favor launches him into hysteria, that pundit needs a vacation. Or maybe another career.

What are Blow’s arguments that justify his diagnosis that the United States is now Hell on Earth? Is it that a major party and its supporters have set out deliberately to undermine American institutions by rejecting a national election, seeking to remove an elected President by non-electoral means? Is it that the  international fumblings and ditherings of the previous administration are, as predicted, resulting in increased threats to the United States and the rest of the world? Is it that American journalism and its uniquely free news media, beyond question the app that makes democracy function, has now become, by its own abuses, so completely politicized and untrustworthy that it has become a threat to the nation, rather than its watchdog?

Nah, none of this appears to bother Blow at all; as far as I can detect, he approves of all of it. Here is his Bill of Biased Generalities that add up to Hell on Earth: Continue reading

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A DACA Popeye For NYT Pundit Paul Krugman

“That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands no more!”

—Popeye, before downing a can of spinach and beating the crap out of someone who richly deserves it.

Readers often accuse me of being angry. I’m almost never angry about the stories I write; I just write that way. In this case, however, I am angry.

Paul Krugman, a nasty, smug, narrow-minded New York Times pundit who epitomizes the infuriatingly common progressive mindset of condescending to anyone who disagrees with his various, so often biased and ignorant positions on a plethora of issues he knows little about and understands less, used today’s op-ed column to call me a racist. Not just me, of course: all the various constitutional scholars and lawyers, elected officials—and Hillary Clinton, once upon a time—who don’t believe that the United States should be obligated to allow illegal aliens to stay in the United States however they got here, or who don’t believe Presidents should use edicts instead of the legal process described by the Constitution to pass laws, or who don’t believe it is responsible or sensible to create incentives for individuals to break our laws so their children will benefit. For they are all racists according to Krugman. And of course,the President is a racist. Krugman writes,

To yank the rug out from under the Dreamers … is a cruel betrayal. And it’s self-evidently driven by racial hostility. Does anyone believe this would be happening if the typical Dreamer had been born in, say, Norway rather than Mexico?

“Rug”: what rug? There was never a rug, just an incompetent  President who wrongly sent the false message that the United States wouldn’t enforce its sovereignty. What the “dreamers” had was a contrived loophole, and loopholes have a way of closing.

“Cruel” : enforcing a law isn’t cruel unless the law itself is cruel. A nation cannot permit illegal immigration, nor can it tolerate illegal border-crossers inflicting sentiment-inducing problems for the nation in which they have no justification for invading. Thus the law isn’t cruel.

“Betrayal” implies that someone has breached a duty on which another had a reason to rely. The United States has a duty to its citizens to enforce its laws. It owes no duty to law breakers, in this case  illegal immigrants whatsoever. If they relied on misrepresentations by cynical and self-serving politicians and activists, it is their own responsibility.

“Self-evidently driven by racial hostility.” When the progressive collective—you know, like Star Trek’s Borg—have no fair, substantive arguments left, crying racism (sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia…) is so routinely the default tactic that I’m amazed they can keep doing it without covering all their mirrors with towels. This is how low they have sunk: “If you don’t see it our way, you are an evil bigot.” That’s it. That’s all they have, when they run out of rhetorical bullets.

If Norwegians were sneaking into the country, using our resources,  hanging around in parking lots waiting to be hired to clean attics, mow lawns and pick fruit, while ducking law enforcement, voting illegally, forging documents, and some of them now and then raping and killing Americans after being depoter multiple times, yes, Paul, you race-baiting demagogue, this would still be happening. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/6/17: Comey’s Premature Draft, Obama’s Golden Rule Breach, Newspapers “Protecting Us,”And Thank-You, Boston Red Sox

 

1 I want to sincerely thank the Boston Red Sox for giving me, the sole baseball ethicist on the web who also devotes a disturbing amount of his time, energy and passion to following the team, the challenge and opportunity to address a major cheating scandal involving the organization and institution I love. Seriously, guys, thank you. This is exactly what I needed to face after staying up past 1 AM watching the Sox pull out a 19 inning, 6 hour game on Hanley Ramirez’s bloop single to center.

I’ll cover the issue in the next post. Ugh.

2. Ironically, just as the anti-Trump news media was hyperventilating over the fact that the Special Counsel was examining a draft letter by the President regarding his reasons for firing James Comey (draft letters have minimal probative value if any, but you know: Trump), it came to light that in May of 2016, Comey had drafted a statement declining to charge Hillary Clinton or her staff in the State Department e-mail scandal, months before key witnesses (like Clinton herself) had been interviewed or much of the evidence had been reviewed. President Trump, of course, tweeted that this proved there was a “rigged process,” but Comey’s draft is no more incriminating that Trump’s draft. (Now, Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton might suggest a rigged process, but that’s another story.)

Supreme Court Justices have drafted opinions before oral argument; that doesn’t mean they can’t change their minds. It is certainly odd that Comey would have drafted a statement that Clinton would not be indicted so long before the investigation was completed. It is odder still that Hillary’s interview was not under oath, that it wasn’t videotaped, that there was no transcript, and that she was allowed to have representing her as an attorney at the session a top aide who was also a potential witness.

Professor Turley, in a column at The Hill, agrees that the early draft doesn’t implicate the integrity of the investigation, but raises a related issue:

While I am inclined to accept assurances from Comey that he did not finally decide on charges until after reviewing all of the evidence, the details from the Clinton investigation hardly support a view of a robust and dogged effort in comparison to the type of investigation of people like Paul Manafort.

In pursuing Manafort, special counsel Robert Mueller has now enlisted an army of investigators, reached a cooperative relationship with staunch Trump critic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and actively pursued tax and financial dealings far afield of the original Russian collusion allegations. He also ordered a heavy-handed (and unnecessary) “no knock” search in the middle of the night on Manafort’s home.

The Clinton investigation looks like Club Fed in comparison. Clinton and her staff refused to cooperate with State Department investigators seeking confirm any damage to national security. Key laptops were withheld and only turned over after Comey’s staff agreed to destroy the computers after their review, despite the relevance of the evidence to congressional investigations. Comey then cut five immunity deals with key Clinton staff members, including former State Department staffer, Bryan Pagliano, who set up a server in Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y., and worked for her at the State Department.

Pagliano refused to cooperate after invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and destroyed evidence after being given a preservation order. Those deals raised the concern over a type of prosecutorial planned obsolescence, making a viable case less likely.

The amusing part is that all of this circles back to Comey’s firing, which was justified by his handling of the Clinton investigation regardless of any other factors.

3. The New York Times today reviews a festival play called “___hole.” That’s not really the title, however, although “___hole” was printed twice as the play title before the Times made this clear. A comment by the reviewer noted that the real title couldn’t “get past the editors.” Continue reading

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Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Ethics

President Trump, we are told, is considering or has decided to end President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, reportedly with a six month delay to give Congress a chance to  pass a law addressing the issue. The Obama-era program, instituted by executive order,  grants two-year renewable work permits to those brought into the country illegally as children.

There are legitimate arguments for and against this policy. Even saying this is blasphemy for its supporters, whose brains, reasoning and sense of national interest have been completely swallowed by Ethics Alarms Rationalizations #55, “We’re Better Than This!” and #56, “Think of the Children!”

Jenifer Rubin, the conservative Washington Post blogger who has been driven both leftward and also near madness by her hatred for Donald Trump, authored a post titled “Ending DACA would be Trump’s most evil act.” Evil! Naturally, she attributes the decision to racism. On Facebook, the progressive echo chamber where most of my friends dwell doesn’t even require an explanation  of why eliminating DACA is proof of a malign soul. “Trump will end DACA Tuesday!” a distinguished Trump-hater writes, as if it were self-explanatory, like “Trump will broil and eat Nancy Pelosi with a nice Chianti.”

I guess I’m evil too. To begin with, Obama violated the Constitution with his unilateral edict that should have been a bill, passed the old-fashioned way, with it being voted on by Congress and signed into law, or not, by the President. The President should end every single one of Obama’s over-reaching, unconstitutional end-arounds of Due Process that exceeded his office’s powers, whether Trump agrees with them or not. The integrity of our system is the most important thing of all, and he is sworn to protect it.

That is the procedural and precedentiary justification to end DACA. There are ethical and legal reasons too. Never mind, apparently. What matters in this issue are feelings. The argument is so marinated in sentiment and emotional blackmail—if you don’t love “the dreamers,” then you are a monster—that a coherent and responsible debate is literally impossible. All of the emotion-based arguments employed to argue that the illegal immigrant children who piled up at the border during the Obama administration should be allowed to cross the border, or that the U.S. should accept, barely vetted, refugees from nations packed with terrorist activity because their children weren’t terrorists have been repurposed in this debate, plus others. I am especially unmoved by the Hurricane Harvey line of argument: because some “dreamers” have done yeoman rescue work  in the wake of the flooding, the fact that they are in the country illegally should be forgiven, and not only that, take that fact as validation of the desirability of ALL “dreamers.” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/22/17

Good Morning from sunny Daytona Beach, Florida, where I recently arrived to prepare for an ethics seminar I will be giving to a most ethical law firm. Ironically, the law firms that least require my guidance are the only ones that hire me. The law firms that desperately need ethics training don’t care.

1. Today in line (Group 6) to board my 6:45 AM American Airlines flight and wishing I were dead, my eyes were treated to the brilliant yellow jacket being worn by a young woman in front of me. In part because I wasn’t awake, I blurted out, “Thank-you for that jacket! The yellow is exactly the stimulation I need right now!” She smiled broadly and said, I think sincerely, “Thank you!” And suddenly I was reminded of the  phony anti-Trump outrage of ten days ago, when the President allegedly embarrassed the nation and showed that he was a pig by daring to say to Mrs. Macron, “You’re in such good shape!”

By the reaction across the media, you would have thought he said, “What a great rack!” while drooling. There is nothing inherently inappropriate abut a spontaneous compliment on a woman’s appearance. It’s dangerous in the workplace, because there are women who are locked and loaded to cry harassment at such comments, no matter how mild or innocent, and if a women feels harassed, sayeth the law, you’re probably a harasser. However, actual human interaction involves reading people and situations, and every one is different.

Trump’s comment can easily be justified. I’m sure he’s used to women feeling like trolls when forced to stand next to his model wife, and a sincere sounding compliment is probably well-received. I was once passing through a receiving line that included a woman whom I had not seen for a year or so, and she had lost a great deal of weight. “You look great!” I said without thinking every hard about it. She appreciated the compliment; she had worked hard to lose the weight, and was glad I not only noticed, but that I said so.

Another encounter came when a young woman got on the elevator with me at a hotel a few months ago. She was wearing a sleeveless something or other, and her bulging biceps were hard to ignore. “Nice guns!” I said. She responded immediately with, “Thank you! I worked hard for them. Most guys think they’re gross.”

“Nah, they’re just insecure,” I said. “Being jerks. Don’t let them discourage you.”

“Thanks for that too!” she said, smiling, and got off on her floor.

Lots of factors go into whether a compliment is taken as a benign social gesture or a rude salacious intrusion. My actors in the ProEthics sexual harassment seminars do a skit in which “Good morning” is delivered in a way that could be sexual harassment, and “Wow, you look terrific this morning!” is said in a manner that raises no red flags at all. A chraming and skilled speaker can make comments that would have gotten me thrashed by that female bodybuilder sound like a sonnet. Continue reading

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The New York Times’ Lies About “Trump’s Lies”

In a grandstanding stunt that was even beneath the fallen role model of U.S. journalism, The New York Times printed what it claimed to be “the definitive list of Donald Trump’s lies” since his inauguration. To say the the list was itself full of lies, and that the over-all assertion that these were “Trump’s lies” was a misrepresentation, is not in any way to excuse the President’s lazy, careless, incompetent use of language, impulsive habits of communication, shockingly inept reasoning and  reckless tweeting. Almost all of the statements quoted by the Times contain misinformation, irresponsible opinions  or unwarranted conclusions, and it is dangerous and disruptive for any leader, indeed anyone, to express themselves this way. Nevertheless, the statements are not all lies. Most of them, in fact, are not lies.

Does it matter? It does. When the New York Times call a list “definitive,’ that list should at a minimum meet the definition of what the New York Times claims to be exposing. It does not. The definition of a lie is a “a deliberately false statement designed to deceive.”

If we assume that the New York Times knows what a lie is, and if the Times does not then it should have no credibility at all, since a journalist’s mission is to report the truth, then the list proves that the New York Times deliberately set out to deceive its readers.

At one point, the Times says,

“We are using the word “lie” deliberately. Not every falsehood is deliberate on Trump’s part. But it would be the height of naïveté to imagine he is merely making honest mistakes. He is lying.”

This is a self-contradictory statement. If a falsehood isn’t deliberate, then it isn’t a lie.

In presenting this unethical project, the Times took unethical advantage of its readers’ confirmation bias. When the “Lie” list was printed, the Times made certain that it would require super-human dedication and extraordinary eyesight to read it, through the devices of listing every item and the Times commentary in horizontal sequence and in half the usual size type-face. (See above) This ensured that almost no readers would make the Herculean effort to read the whole thing , especially since the well-trained Times readers already “knows” that Donald Trump is a liar. In addition, the explosion of tiny words created the visceral response of “Wow! Look at all those lies!” which is exactly the effect the Times editors wanted.

But that isn’t reporting, and it isn’t journalism. The “list” was a page-size, visual, ad hominem attack. The Times wasn’t seeking close scrutiny of its list, nor was it interested in making any rebuttal easy or likely.

We have learned that the Times list was largely assembled from various fact-checker columns. That is a red flag, and explains many of the most embarrassing inclusions on the list. None of the fact-checkers are trustworthy. All of them are biased, Snopes and PolitiFact worst of all, and they consistently register opinions that the writer disagrees with as “false.” Many, many of the items on the Times list are in this category.

I’m not going to go over the entire list here and distinguish between the lies and non-lies, though I have done the analysis. My template for an undisputed Presidential lie would be Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”—he did, and he said this deliberately to deceive; and Barack Obama’s “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” declaration that he made repeatedly to sell Obamacare to the American people in 2009. The “women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same job” is a fake statistic that both Clinton  and Obama (and Hillary and Bernie) used, but that would not qualify as a lie on my scale.  I think they believe it, or believe that it’s close enough to true that they aren’t lying when they refer to it. Many of the “lies” on the list fall into this gray area. Of course, the Times never set out to list all of Obama’s lies, or Clinton’s, because they never wanted to suggest either of them were untrustworthy, though a good argument could be made that Clinton was, and Obama regularly engaged in deceit and misrepresentation. To its credit, the Post’s Factchecker did create a list of outgoing President Obama’s “Top Ten Whoppers.”

Many statements that Obama made that were much like dozens of the items on the Trump list were never called “lies” in the mainstream media, as when he attacked the Supreme Court and the Citizens United ruling in a State of the Union address by saying that the decision “will open the floodgates for special interests”…“ including foreign corporations”…” to spend without limit in our elections.” (Justice Alito was seen mouthing “not true” and shaking his head.”)

Unfortunately for the Times, listing “Trump’s lies” chronologically exposed the dishonest and biased nature of the exercise from the start. The first three “lies” are not lies.: Continue reading

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