Tag Archives: President John F. Kennedy

A Popeye: I Just Can’t Let This Ridiculous Quote Pass…

I could headline this as an Ethics Dunce, an Unethical Quote, a “Stop making me defend Donald Trump” or even a KABOOM!, but it’s really a Popeye. The upcoming statement by Matt Miller, previously a spokesperson for the Holder Justice Department, could be easily ignored—who the hell is Matt Miller?—except that it breaks my chutzpah meter, and more than that, is designed to be recirculated as an indignant talking point by Democrats who haven’t cracked a history book since they were 12, or who are just plain liars.

After the Justice Department announced that it was taking another look at Hilary Clinton’s shenanigans with her secret email server (and perhaps the Clinton Foundation), Miller told The Daily Beast (echoing Holder, who has made similar statements),

“The president’s ongoing campaign to tear down the wall between the Justice Department and the White House seems to be working.”

Wall between the White House and the Justice Department? If there had been such a “wall,” President Kennedy obliterated it in 1960 when he appointed his brother as  Attorney General while Bobby was also serving as JFK’s primary political advisor. Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, had been the director of Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, and was one of Nixon’s closest personal friends. Ronald Reagan’s second Attorney General was his longtime friend and political aide Ed Meese, who had previously served as Reagan’s Chief of Staff! Some wall! Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: Peggy Noonan

“Why does all this matter? Because we are losing history. It is not the fault of Hollywood, as they used to call it, but Hollywood is a contributor to it. When people care enough about history to study and read it, it’s a small sin to lie and mislead in dramas. But when people get their history through entertainment, when they absorb the story of their times only through screens, then the tendency to fabricate is more damaging. Those who make movies and television dramas should start caring about this. It is wrong in an age of lies to add to their sum total. It’s not right. It will do harm.”

—-Former Reagan speechwriter and current columnist Peggy Noonan, after citing the material historical misrepresentations in the Netflix series “The Crown” and the new Spielberg film, “The Post.”

I have written about the ethics of misrepresenting history in films many times, always facing the “Lighten up! It’s just a movie!” chorus. As Noonan explains deftly, the stakes are different now, in an age of rotten public education, mass media and internet indoctrination. The first time I wrote about this issue was 2010, in the post “Titanic” Ethics. It concluded in part,

I don’t blame Cameron for not basing his portrayal on evidence that only was clarified years after his film. I fault him for discounting the testimony of survivors, and misinforming the public by plastering a false version on a giant screen for millions to see, knowing that they would trust that a man who would insist that the doomed ship’s china pattern was accurate…Now the film is back, bigger than ever, and false representations of Officer Murdock, “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, the sinking itself, and other aspects of the iconic event will be embedded even deeper into our historical understanding. It didn’t have to be that way, and it is wrong that it is. History, the public, and the 1500 who died that night in 1912 deserve better.

I’ve seen “The Crown,” and like it a lot. The portrayals that Noonan complains about, however, especially the suggestion that Jack Kennedy abused Jackie, rang false immediately. As for “The Post,” which I haven’t seen, Noonan calls out a misrepresentation of a cultural villain whom the film-makers probably thought nobody would rise to defend: Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: ‘“The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting…”, And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting

This comment by Humble Talent, one of several COTD entries he has made lately, has to get up today before the ick that was the Alabama Senate Race subsides, and the comment feels moot—though it would not be.

But first, my epiphany about investigative reporting…

Humble’s comment made me realize something that was right in front of my eyes, and has been for a long time, and yet I never before connected the dots. This is especially galling because it involves distrust of the news media, and as you know, I think about this a lot.

What I only now realize, thanks to Humble Talent,  is that investigative reporting is virtually always partisan or agenda-driven one way or the other. It isn’t the highest form of journalism, as we of the post-Watergate era have been taught to believe. It may be the most sinister.

Journalists can’t investigate everything. They have to choose what to investigate, and when, and those choices are inevitably determined by biases and political agendas. If choices are made, and they have to be—what do we investigate, about who? When do we know we have something worth printing? When do we run it? What will happen if we do?—the choices will reflect biases, unless coins are flipped and lots are drawn.

I never thought about whether the timing of the Roy Moore teen dates stories the Post ran were timed to come out when they did. But Humble makes me think: did the Post bother to look for dirt on Jones? I doubt it. I think an editor said, “This guy Moore is horrible. I bet there’s some scandal out there that can take him down, maybe a sex scandal. Let’s dig.” The Post sees that as a public service—Moore is objectively horrible—but the “investigative reporting”  is essentially opposition research to benefit the Democratic candidate. Then the damning results of the investigation were published when they were deemed to be able to cause the most chaos in the campaign.

Why didn’t this occur to me when I was watching “Spotlight”? We see, in that film about the Boston Globe’s investigation into child abuse in the Boston Catholic Diocese, how the story was held up for months as a mater of tactics and politics. The story almost wasn’t run at all. Now, why did I just assume that it was random chance that…

  • The Harvey Weinstein esposé wasn’t released before the 2016 election?
  • Provocative passages in Barack Obama’s books about “considering” homosexuality and eating dog never were investigated or explored by the mainstream news media during the 2008 campaign?
  • The revelations about Hillary Clinton’s illicit private server were published by the Times 18 months before the election, giving her plenty of time to make them harmless?
  • No major news organization sought to do a Watergate-style investigation of the IRS sabotage of conservative group participation in the 2012 Presidential campaign, although the Obama Justice Department investigation was obviously a sham?

I’m an idiot. Was I the only one this gullible? I knew that the press could have ended JFK’s Presidency almost at will, but was intimidated out of doing so and wasn’t that unhappy about it. I knew the press intentionally kept the Clinton rape allegation from the public, for fear it would affect the impeachment outcome. I knew that CBS and Dan Rather’s investigative reporting about President Bush’s National Guard conduct was  devised and timed (and falsified) to give Kerry the election.

Investigative reporting regarding politics is always politically driven. It has to be.

Duh.

I am completely dedicated to the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of a free and unencumbered press. A democracy without a free press is doomed. I am also convinced that a free press that abuses its power and influence is as great a threat to democracy as no free press at all.

Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting, Democrats, But You Can’t: Continue reading

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“The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting, Democrats, But You Can’t

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

—Popeye the Sailor, when he felt like I did while so many of my progressive friends were posting this op-ed by David Brooks.

Democratic posturing and moral outrage over Roy Moore’s support by Republicans is too much to bear. The hypocrisy and historical amnesia their caterwauling requires is truly nauseating. I could not believe that David Brooks of the Times would write about how the REPUBLICAN PARTY is rotting while the Democratic Party was wildly oscillating between defending a Congressman who had apparently harassed multiple staff members while in office because he was an “icon,” to playing the race card against its own Senator because he had been accused of conduct he denied years before he was elected, to dispensing with due process to demand that another Democratic Congressman resign, to forcing the Senator to resign (but probably only because their party controlled that State House), to forcing a vote on a shamefully contrived impeachment resolution, to all but guaranteeing the election of Moore because of revelations of the astounding sexual hypocrisy of their core allies among the news media, their key donors and their mouthpieces in Hollywood, while their bitter, losing Presidential candidate’s claim of a conspiracy to excuse her inexcusable defeat became less and less tenable as the investigation it spawned revealed itself to be incompetent and conflicted.

But the Republican Party is rotting.

Now, Ethics Alarms, unlike Brooks, unlike the Times, unlike MSNBC , unlike Hillary Clinton and unlike the Democratic party and any citizen so devoid of integrity to align with such a crew, can say the Republican Party is rotting. In fact, like Mr. Kimball would say on “Green Acres,” I will say it: the Republican Party is rotting. I can say it now because I said two years ago that it would commence rotting if it could not and would not stop Donald Trump from getting its nomination, something the party leaders had the power to do but neither the will nor the integrity. I said this, in various ways and with assorted provocation, right up to the convention.

Roy Moore? He’s minor rot, comparatively, and the Democrats don’t even honestly or competently argue what is most rotten about him. They want to concentrate on his “Deliverance,” hillbilly, low-life, dating preferences enabled by ignorant Alabama mothers forty years ago, when the man  today thinks he can defy the Supreme Court and the Constitution, thinks America was at its best under slavery, thinks women should be kept barefoot and pregnant, would love to see gays stoned to death, and wants a Christian theocracy to rule the land.

But that’s quibbling: Moore is certainly rotten, and the GOP doing anything but declaring him a human pathogen for the Senate and democracy is certainly proof of rot. Until, however, Republicans make Moore the keynote speaker in a future convention dedicated to condemning a “war on children,” I’ll handle the rot assessments, thanks, along with any other commentators, academics and citizens who didn’t spend the last, oh, half century or so extolling the likes of Jack Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Teddy Kennedy, and the Clintons.

The Democratic Party has happily celebrated, covered up and profited from rot. As Obi Wan would say, “The Rot is Strong Within Them.” Thus they are estopped from calling out rot anywhere. Continue reading

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Ten Ethics Observations On Ben Carson’s Statement That A Muslim Should Not Be President

ben-carsonSunday, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson told Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” that a Muslim should not be President of the United States, saying that Carson “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

After that ignited the proverbial “media firestorm,” Carson went further, telling The Hill in a subsequent interview:

“I do not believe Sharia is consistent with the Constitution of this country. Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.”

He qualified his objections by saying that he would have no problem with a Muslim candidate who  “publicly rejected all the tenets of Sharia and lived a life consistent with that.”

Observations:

1) Since the likelihood of a Muslim being elected President before human beings proceed to the next stage of evolution, be it brains the size of watermelons or tentacles in place of legs, this issue really isn’t about having a Muslim President. The controversy is over whether Dr. Carson is espousing bigotry, or just talking common sense, and this in turn is about the bizarre dedication of progressives and Democrats to the false proposition that Islam has nothing to do with domestic and foreign terrorism, ISIS, and world unrest. Thus such a statement is immediately condemned as fear-mongering and bigotry, and the news media and Democrats (but I repeat myself), as well as others, are behaving as if Carson said that redheads can’t be President. In general, Carson’s undiplomatic and clumsy comment—again, he has no business running for President, as he is an incompetent candidate who  has no relevant experience whatsoever—provides an easy route for Democrats and their media allies to paint Republicans as bigots. That’s what the episode is really about.

2) I will say, with absolute confidence, that no one should advocate that we put an unqualified, opinionated, politically naive, neurosurgeon in charge of this nation.  (Dr. Carson also has dead eyes. So does Scott Walker. I don’t trust leaders with dead eyes.)

3) Carson has a legitimate point buried in his statement. The strict tenets of Islam are inconsistent with American ideals and principles, among them the separation of religion and state, individual autonomy, treatment of women and acceptance of those of other faiths. Treating his comments as if they are the rantings of a mad man, as CNN’s New Day was doing this morning, is not proportional, responsible, fair or helpful. Continue reading

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A Presidents Day Celebration (PART 4 and Final): The Wild, Wild Ride From FDR to W.

smiling-presidents

All of the Presidents (except FDR) in this last section were alive and kicking while I was, and so to me they are both more real and less fascinating to some extent. Familiarity breeds, if not contempt, a tendency not to idealize. These leaders are no more flawed than their predecessors, they just seem that way thanks to mass media.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin Roosevelt

Three terms plus, a World War, a Depression, a transformative Presidency and an epic life spent in public service: FDR is another President who can’t be summed up in an anecdote, one book, or a hundred. He accomplished enough great things to be a deserving icon; he committed enough wrongs to be judged a villain. (He was pretty clearly a sociopath, but a lot of great leaders are, including a fair proportion of ours, including some of the best.) The only completely unfair verdict on this Roosevelt is not to acknowledge the importance and complexity of his life. Here are some of my favorite items about him:

  • FDR wrote down a plan when he was still in school outlining the best way for him to become President. The plan was essentially to follow his distant cousin Theodore’s career steps: Harvard, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, Vice-Presidential candidate, and President. (He skipped “Rough Rider.”) Amazingly, he followed it, and it worked.
  • Conventional wisdom holds that FDR’s polio transformed his character, and that without that crisis and challenge he would have been content to be a rich dilettante. I doubt it, but there is no question that he fits the Presidential survivor template, and that his ordeal made him stronger, more formidable and more determined.
  • Many Presidents had strong mothers, especially, for some reason, many of our Chief Executives from Roosevelt to Obama. Franklin’s mom, however, wins the prize. It’s amazing Eleanor didn’t murder her. But Mrs. Roosevelt is why Eleanor was there in the first place: all of our Presidents raised by strong mothers married very strong wives.
  • If a computer program were designed to create the perfect American leader, it would give us FDR. He was the complete package; his charisma, charm and power radiate from recordings and films that are 90 years old. That smile! That chin! That head! That voice! He is one of the very few Presidents who would be just as  popular and effective today as the era in which he lived.
  • And just as dangerous. FDR is also a template for an American dictator, which, I believe, he would have been perfectly willing to be. It’s no coincidence that Franklin was the only President to break Washington’s wise tradition of leaving office after two terms.
  • Political and philosophical arguments aside, at least four of Roosevelt actions as President were horrific, and would sink the reputation of most leaders: 1) Imprisoning Japanese-Americans (and German-Americans, too); 2) Ignoring the plight of European Jews as long as he did, when it should have been clear what was going on; 3) Handing over Eastern Europe to Stalin, and 4) Knowing how sick he was, giving little thought or care to who his running mate was in 1944.
  • Balancing all that, indeed outweighing it, is the fact that the United States of America and quite possibly the free world might not exist today if this unique and gifted leader were not on the scene. Three times in our history, the nation’s existence depended on not just good leadership, but extraordinary leadership, and all three times, the leader we needed emerged: Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin. I wouldn’t count on us being that lucky again.

I left the bulk of reflection about the character and leadership style of Theodore Roosevelt to one of Teddy’s own speeches to embody, and I’ll do the same for his protege.

On September 23, 1932, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech at Manhattan’s Commonwealth Club. (Everyone, conservative, liberal or moderate, should read it….here.) It was a defining statement of progressive principles and modern liberalism, redefining core American values according to the perceived needs of a changing nation and culture.  It is a radical speech, and would be regarded as radical by many today, even after much of what Roosevelt argued was reflected in the policies of the New Deal.

After sketching the origins and progress of the nation to the present, he flatly stated that the Founders’ assumptions no longer applied:

A glance at the situation today only too clearly indicates that equality of opportunity as we have know it no longer exists. Our industrial plant is built; the problem just now is whether under existing conditions it is not overbuilt. Our last frontier has long since been reached, and there is practically no more free land. More than half of our people do not live on the farms or on lands and cannot derive a living by cultivating their own property. There is no safety valve in the form of a Western prairie to which those thrown out of work by the Eastern economic machines can go for a new start. We are not able to invite the immigration from Europe to share our endless plenty. We are now providing a drab living for our own people….

Just as freedom to farm has ceased, so also the opportunity in business has narrowed. It still is true that men can start small enterprises, trusting to native shrewdness and ability to keep abreast of competitors; but area after area has been preempted altogether by the great corporations, and even in the fields which still have no great concerns, the small man starts with a handicap. The unfeeling statistics of the past three decades show that the independent business man is running a losing race. Perhaps he is forced to the wall; perhaps he cannot command credit; perhaps he is “squeezed out,” in Mr. Wilson’s words, by highly organized corporate competitors, as your corner grocery man can tell you.

Recently a careful study was made of the concentration of business in the United States. It showed that our economic life was dominated by some six hundred odd corporations who controlled two-thirds of American industry. Ten million small business men divided the other third. More striking still, it appeared that if the process of concentration goes on at the same rate, at the end of another century we shall have all American industry controlled by a dozen corporations, and run by perhaps a hundred men. Put plainly, we are steering a steady course toward economic oligarchy, if we are not there already.

Clearly, all this calls for a re-appraisal of values.

So Franklin Roosevelt re-appraised them: Continue reading

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Nobody Should Be Cheering The Poll Showing President Obama As Regarded As “The Worst President Since World War II”

News Item:

“In a new Quinnipiac University Poll, 33% named Barack Obama the worst president since World War II. Only 8% named Obama as the best president.”

Comments:

1. The conservative blogosphere, and I assume conservative radio and Fox News, are crowing about this. That’s revolting. No citizen or patriot should rejoice at a failed Presidency, which this one surely is.

2.The United States desperately needed–and needs—a uniting, skilled, strong and non-ideological leader with the ability to solve problems while maintaining a positive image of his (or her) iconic office and the United States itself.  That a President who promised so much and created such hope has proven to be none of these is no less than a tragedy, and quite possibly a catastrophe.

3. Polls aren’t always meaningless. This one is important, I think, because it shows that the American people are paying attention, and that the incredible covering, bolstering, spinning and enabling efforts by the mainstream media to prop up President Obama and blame others for his inadequacies have failed. This is good news.

4. The bad news, in addition to what I already mentioned above is… Continue reading

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