Monday Morning Ethics Calisthenics, 7/19/2020: Fig-Heads!

1. Our trustworthy news media, which we can trust to behave like this... From my AOL news feed: “Trump says he may not accept 2020 election results.” From the transcript of the Chris Wallace interview that the headline is referring to:

WALLACE: Are you suggesting that you might not accept the results of the election?

TRUMP: No.

What the President would not do is promise to accept the results if there were a  valid reason not to accept the results. Once Al Gore challenged the Florida vote count after Bush had been declared the winner in 2000, the long standing precedent, followed by election losers like Andrew Jackson, Samuel Tilden and Richard Nixon, all of which had reasons to question the results in their contests, of accepting defeat without a challenge was erased. If any of it remained at all, Hilary Clinton’s pursuit of some way of reversing the Electoral College tally in 2016 completed the job. Trump’s refusal to promise a return to the old tradition is reasonable,  especially with the chicanery enabled by mail-in ballots. What Joe Biden has suggested, despicably, is that Trump will not give up the Presidency even if he is defeated unequivocally and fairly. There is no justification for suggesting this. There is far more reason to believe that any Trump victory, even a resounding one, will send angry and frustrated Democrats into the streets

Trump, as usual, was trolling with his coy response here…

WALLACE: There is a tradition in this country — in fact, one of the prides of this country — is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?

TRUMP: What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?

TRUMP: And you know what? She’s the one that never accepted it.

WALLACE: I agree.

TRUMP: She never accepted her loss and she looks like a fool.

This isn’t a topic he should be playing with, because the Democrats and the news media will claim that something sinister is in the works. Trump gives a strong hint of his real meaning: if Hillary looked like a fool by refusing to accept the election results, he wouldn’t want to behave like Hillary. But the President should have simply said, “If I lose, fair and square, of course I will accept the results.”

He also should have answered Wallace’s question as I would have, by saying, “Chris, the tradition you speak of has been rejected twice by losing Democratic candidates since 2000.”

2. There’s no excuse for this in 2020. I could not believe my ears as I watched “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”last night.

I thought that a TV version of “The Hard Way” (1991)  I watched a bit of until I couldn’t stand any more had wrapped up the all-time prize for idiotic Bowdlerization of movie dialogue with such substitutions as “slug in a ditch” for “son of a bitch.”  I mistakenly assumed that the days of red-penciling movie dialogue on the theory that a film’s audiences would be made up of six-year-old Mennonites and 88-year old nuns were long gone. But here was a a 2017 movie with a lot of rough language being made ridiculous by word censorship. “Fuck” was alternately represented by “flock,” “flip,” and “freak.” “Mother-fucker” became “flipper”—in a bar scene, I at first thought a fight started because one character called another a dolphin. “Bitch” for some reason was removed in favor of the word “cuck,” except it was pronounced like “cook.” A character complained about there being “too many cucks in here,” and for a second I thought I was watching “The Great British Baking Show.” All of these strange words ruined the movie, first because the silly replacements turned a smart and moving drama into a absurdist Monty Python skit, and second because the word substitution was so eccentric that I was constantly taken out of the story by wondering, “What word was supposed to be in there?”

In one scene, the protagonist played by Frances McDormand burst  into the police station calling the officer played by Sam Rockwell a “fig-head.” Another officer indignantly shouts at her, “You can’t come in here and call a law enforcement officer a fig-head!” Wait–what the hell is a fig head?

This is incompetent and unfair to the film, the artists who made it, and the audience.

3. OK, I admit it, I have no idea what Kanye West is doing. And I don’t care. After announcing he was running for President, then implying that he wasn’t, the mentally ill rapper held a campaign event yesterday highlighted by his criticism of Harriet Tubman on the grounds that she “never actually freed the slaves, she just had them work for other white people.”

This is gallactically stupid, but it’s still smarter than Candidate Trump’s criticism of John McCain’s war heroism. At least Tubman, her family and friends aren’t alive to exact their revenge on West should he get elected.

Ethics Verdict: Hillary Clinton Is The Worst Loser In US Presidential History (PART II)

You read PART I here.
As I was saying…
Following Clinton’s invention of a fake reason for her defeat for New York Magazine readers, she told Wellesley grads,

“When people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society,” Clinton said. “That is not hyperbole, it is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done.”

OK, technically Hillary is not in power, even though she says she won the election. Nonetheless, she is throwing around alternative facts like confetti. The news media was biased against her. “Voter suppression” cost her Wisconsin. My personal favorite was when she gave the cheering, indoctrinated Wellesley fems the alternative history that Richard Nixon was impeached. No, Hillary, your husband was impeached. Nixon had the requisite respect for the office to resign.

Yet I was willing to let bygones be bygones and let all of this go, until yesterday’s head-blowing interview. At Politico, another Hillary booster during the campaign, it was written that while Hillary “made a point to say that she took responsibility for her campaign and ‘every choice’ she made,” she then proceeded to blame everything and everyone else for her fate. This has been her pattern since the Benghazi hearings. Clinton uses some bizarre definitions of “accountability” and “responsibility” that allow her to believe she is being accountable while maintaining that nothing was her fault.

I’ll highlight her most outrageous statements yesterday, noting that neither of her interviewers had the professionalism or integrity to say, “Wait, WHAT???”

“[T]he use of my email account was turned into the biggest scandal since lord knows when. And you know, in the book I’m just using everything that anybody else said about it besides me to basically say this was the biggest nothing-burger ever. It was a mistake, I’ve said it was a mistake, and obviously if I could turn the clock back, I wouldn’t have done it in the first place, but the way that it was used was very damaging. Well, if you went all the way back, doing something that others had done before was no longer acceptable in the new environment in which we found ourselves. And there was no law against it, there was no rule, nothing of that sort. So I didn’t break any rule, nobody said, “Don’t do this,” and I was very responsible and not at all careless. So you end up with a situation that is then exploited, and very effectively, for adverse political reasons. And it was maddening, because in the middle of a hard-fought campaign, it’s hard to stop and say, “Wait a minute, what you think you know about this is not accurate, let me tell you.”

KABOOM!

Speaking of Big Lies…Clinton is even lying about her lies, and going back in time to repeat her false denials when the secret server story broke in 2015. I’m not going to re-hash why her e-mail machinations were unethical and incompetent, how we know that they violated her own department’s policy, and how the “it was done before” and “it was just a mistake” are transparently false. I made myself nauseous writing about it: you can look up the posts and all the supporting links if you have a masochistic streak. But for Clinton still to be selling this spin to misrepresent her deliberately endangering U.S. security so she could hide her personal schemes from the Freedom of Information Act is an act of self-parody.

“The other side was using content that was just flat-out false, and delivering it in a very personalized way, both sort of above the radar screen and below. And you know, look, I’m not a tech expert by any stretch of the imagination. That really influenced the information that people were relying on. And there have been some studies done since the election that if you look — let’s pick Facebook. If you look at Facebook, the vast majority of the news items posted were fake. They were connected to, as we now know, the 1,000 Russian agents who were involved in delivering those messages. They were connected to the bots that are just out of control. We see now this new information about Trump’s Twitter account being populated by millions of bots. And it was such a new experience. I understand why people on their Facebook pages would think, “Oh, Hillary Clinton did that, I did not know that. Well that’s going to affect my opinion about her.” And we did not engage in false content. We may have tried to put every piece of information in the best possible light, and explanations, but we weren’t in the same category as the other side.”

What fake news items on Facebook caused people not to vote for Hillary? The Russian hacks, if they were Russian, merely reveled the ethical rot within the DNC, Hillary’s campaign, and the Clinton Foundation. These were not “lies.” They were inconvenient truths, like the fact that Donna Brazile was using her position at CNN to give Hillary debate questions in advance.

I get the nomination. So I’m now the nominee of the Democratic Party. I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party. I mean it was bankrupt, it was on the verge of insolvency, its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong. I had to inject money into it …Donald Trump, who did nothing about really setting up any kind of data operation, inherits an RNC data foundation that, after the Republicans lost in 2012, and they thought they had a very good operation with the setup that Romney did called ORCA, they thought that was really state of the art, they lose.

So they raised — best estimates are close to a hundred million dollars, they brought in their main vendors, they basically said, “We will never be behind the Democrats again,” and they invested between 2012 and 2016 this hundred million dollars to build this data foundation. They beta tested it. They ran it … somebody was able to determine about 227,000 surveys to double check, triple check, quadruple check, the information.

So Trump becomes the nominee and he is basically handed this tried and true, effective foundation.”

The GOP also thought their data system was sound in 2012, too. No Presidential election data foundation is “tried and true” until it works in the election. Meanwhile, Clinton is blaming her party for her loss, though her campaign vastly out-raised and out-spent the Republicans.

“Seventeen agencies, all in agreement, which I know from my experience as a Senator and Secretary of State, is hard to get. They concluded with high confidence that the Russians ran an extensive information war campaign against my campaign, to influence voters in the election. They did it through paid advertising we think, they did it through false news sites, they did it through these thousand agents, they did it through machine learning, which you know, kept spewing out this stuff over and over again. The algorithms that they developed. So that was the conclusion. And I think it’s fair to ask, how did that actually influence the campaign? And how did they know what messages to deliver? Who told them? Who were they coordinating with, or colluding with?…so the Russians — in my opinion and based on the intel and the counterintel people I’ve talked to — could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided…Guided by Americans and guided by people who had polling and data information.”

This is pure conspiracy theory ranting. The most damaging information that came out were the actual e-mails showing the DNC’s and Clinton’s campaign’s corruption, and the transcripts of Hillary’s speeches pandering to Wall Street. Any idiot could see that these things would be damaging to Clinton without “polling and data information.” How much polling does one need to know that corruption, lying, influence peddling and cheating are bad?

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Ethics Verdict: Hillary Clinton Is The Worst Loser In US Presidential History (PART I)

Yes, having to write this post makes me feel like Michael Corleone in “Godfather III.”

I considered giving Hillary her well-earned Worst Presidential Election Loser award after her embarrassing Commencement speech at Wellesley, but the wag who wrote “Why did Hillary dress up like Monica Lewinsky at Wellesley? to accompany this photo…

…made me laugh, and in my lightened state decided, “Nah! Why bother? Leave the poor woman alone.”

For I do feel sorry for Hillary Clinton. I feel sorry for anyone who loses the Presidency despite winning the popular vote. I would think it could drive someone crazy. In the play “Inherit the Wind,” there is a scene in which the wife of Matthew Harrison Brady (a thinly-disguised fictional avatar for three time Presidential loser William Jennings Bryan) begs for sympathy for her blow-hard husband, asking a critic to imagine what it must be like to have a Presidential election victory speech written and in his pocket three separate times and to never get to deliver it. Well, knowing you received the most votes and still can’t give the speech has to be much, much worse.

Then came yesterday’s orgy of excuses and recriminations as Clinton, looking and sounding angry and bitter, was interviewed at a tech conference hosted by Recode’s Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg. And she puuuulled me back!

So now I have to review Hillary’s revolting and self-indicting Blame Everyone tour. Let’s begin by stating that no defeated Presidential candidate has ever done anything like this before, not even Richard Nixon. Nixon’s poor loser meltdown was after he lost the California Governor’s race in 1962. When he lost to Kennedy in 1960, his conduct was exemplary, refusing to demand a recount even when there was evidence, as there frequently was with the Kennedys, of shady operations. For a loser to engage in repeated recriminations and bitter pronouncements less than a year after losing is unprecedented. It is also —and forgive me for repeating myself from prior posts–disgusting, despicable and shameful for a defeated candidate to join a “resistance” against the lawfully elected winner. This is especially true in Clinton’s case, when she furiously condemned candidate Trump for suggesting that he might not accept his defeat. Continue reading

Why Journalists Can’t Shoot Straight

George probably wasn’t lying, but Bill sure was.

The issue in the Washington Post’s weekly Outlook section concerned the virtues and dangers of honesty in a Presidential campaign, a matter that interests me from the perspective of ethics, presidential history, and citizenship. Two Post reporters were given the assignment of creating sidebars to the main article, one on candidates who told the truth and were punished for it, the other on campaign lies that came back to haunt the Presidents involved.

These are not difficult assignments, by any means. Either would be a legitimate term paper topic for a high school senior’s history class; both would be rejected as a history major’s thesis topic as overly simplistic. Yet both Rachel Weiner and Aaron Blake botched their tasks, and would have earned D’s at best in high school history, and that’s only because of grade inflation. The reasons for their failures exemplify the inadequacy of the mainstream media for the job we need it to do during a Presidential election.

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