A “Bias Makes Professionals Stupid And Unprofessional” Update

Trump photo defaced

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck and the resulting mass effort to bring down Donald Trump was the corruption of virtually all of our society’s professions, and the vast majority of their members. Educators, psychiatrists, teachers, judges— journalists, of course, though they were already pretty far gone; broadcasters, of course. Entertainment professionals and performers, heaven knows (That’s the Dixie Chicks and their clever and subtle political commentary above.) In addition to theater professionals, two more of my professions have disgraced themselves: lawyers and ethicists. The listserv of a legal ethics organization I belong to was virtually cackling with joy over Rudy Giuliani’s partisan and dangerous interim suspension in New York, while the same group has been notably unenthusiastic about criticizing out-of court hyperbole by anti-Trump lawyers like the recently sentenced Michael Avenatti. (I may have missed some more balanced attention because I dropped out of the group for about 18 months in disgust over its bias.) Here is a tweet by a conservative attorney that was just offered to the group for comment on whether it raised issues of professional misconduct:

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Friday Ethics Dry-Off, 6/11/2021: Apple Pie, The Duke, “Lillibet,” The “Only If You’re The Right Kind Of Black Caucus” And Shut Up, Donald

It’s raining like crazy here, so…

1. And now for something completely stupid…Poe’s Law is getting a workout as The Great Stupid heads into its final stage, and I have to discipline myself not to write about too many episodes like this one, which once would have been regarded as parody because it would have been parody. Raj Patel, an apparent communist, explains in this unhinged piece by The Guardian about “food injustice,” that the apple pie is a symbol of American imperialism and white supremacy, like this…

Not that apples are particularly American….Apples traveled to the western hemisphere with Spanish colonists in the 1500s in what.. is now better understood as a vast and ongoing genocide of Indigenous people….

Not that the recipe for apple pie is uniquely American….By the time the English colonized the new world, apple trees had become markers of civilization, which is to say property….John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, took these markers of colonized property to the frontiers of US expansion where his trees stood as symbols that Indigenous communities had been extirpated.

Not that the gingham on which our apple pie rests is uniquely American….this war capitalism enslaved and committed acts of genocide against millions of Indigenous people in North America, and millions of Africans and their descendants through the transatlantic slave trade. In the process, cotton laid the basis of finance, police and government that made the United States.

Since this is quite a lot to acknowledge, it is easier to misremember. In the drama of nationalist culture, the bloody and international origins of the apple pie are subject to a collective amnesia.

This, though extreme, is the weaponization of the cognitive dissonance scale that has become a prime part of the strategy to unmake the United States, cancel its freedoms, and turn its values inside out. Consistent with Critical Race Theory, literally everything in our culture, including the best and most innocent of it, must be traced to something evil.

Even apple pie. Conservative websites are having fun mocking this article. They are foolish. Patel is deadly serious, and our children will be taught this perspective unless there is relentless resistance.

2. John Wayne died on this date in 1979. “The Duke” had the biggest impact on American culture and ethics of any performer; there really isn’t anyone close. And it was a positive impact; John Wayne (really Marion Morrison) the man is an interesting subject, but what mattered was his art. He dedicated his career to portraying the independent American male individualist with all his virtues and flaws, aided by some of the greatest film-makers in Hollywood history, notably John Ford and Howard Hawks. Even before Hollywood took its disastrous turn to the hard Left, Wayne suffered because of the enmity liberals and the academic elite held (and hold) toward the core American values that Wayne’s characters, often incompletely, tried to embody. Pauline Kael, much idolized as a film critic (I detested her), refused to do anything but ridicule Wayne’s performances out of pure political bias. For me, especially as I became more experienced as a stage director, Wayne’s acting impressed me more the more I watched him, and I have watched him more than I have watched anyone.

There has been an effort of late to “cancel” the Duke, but they’ll have more luck with apple pie. The John Wayne character remains strong, inspiring, and complex. Over 40 years after his death, Wayne’s movies are still featured on TV regularly; no actor made more great ones, and the good ones are still entertaining. My favorites? “Stagecoach” (of course), “Red River,” “Rio Bravo”, “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,” “The Searchers,” “Hondo,” “True Grit”, “The Quiet Man,” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,” with Hawks’ “Hatari!” as a special guilty pleasure.

I miss him. America misses him.

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Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Joe Biden”

I bet Michael, when he submitted this Comment of the Day, had a feeling I’d groove on it. After all, it’s about a President, I’m a Presidents nut,  and he ends up agreeing with me, which is always welcome.

He also raises and interesting question that was not considered in the post. If we judged Presidents on a racism scale that weighted their attitudes according to how they compared to the culture and predominant beliefs of the day, which Presidents would come out looking best? That’s how baseball stat analysts judge players across eras, and it makes sense: players are compared to league averages while they were playing, and then the stats are adjusted accordingly.  For example, Carl Yastrzemski’s .301 average in 1968 was more impressive, and represented better hitting  in his offensive context, than Lou Gehrig’s .354 mark in 1936, when ten players hit at least .350.

Analyzed that way, Woodrow Wilson comes out as the most racist President, more than the slaveholders. Jefferson, despite being a slaveholder, looks relatively good in the context of his times. So, I think, does Teddy Roosevelt, unapologetic white supremacist that he undoubtedly was.

Here’s Michael’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Joe Biden”: Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “The Siena Research Institute’s Lousy Independence Day Gift: Misleading, Biased and Incompetent Presidential Rankings”

Now and then an old post suddenly get a lot of clicks. Often this will draw my attention to an essay I had forgotten: such was the case with this post from 2010. Someone on Reddit put it up for discussion, and last week the old post had hundreds of views. I was intrigued and re-read it. Good post!

I would change a few observations—in the intervening years we have learned that Woodrow Wilson was even worse than I thought—and add some, but the post was long, and a thorough evisceration of this embarrassing survey’s results would require a book.

***

The Siena College Research Institute persuaded over 200 presidential scholars to participate in a survey designed to rank America’s forty-three Chief Executives. There is great deal to be leaned from the resulting list that the Institute proudly released on July 1; unfortunately, very few of the lessons have anything to do with the men on it.

The list shows us that:

  • A survey is only as good as its design
  • Historians who call themselves “presidential scholars,” working together, could do no better in their supposed area of expertise than to arrive at a ranking that would get most 7th Graders a C in junior high school History, raising serious questions about how history is taught in our universities, but perhaps explaining why Americans choose to be so ignorant of their nation’s past.
  • Historians are, as a group, biased toward liberal causes, against conservatives, and in favor of people who are like them.
  • They are unable to recognize their biases, even when a list like this one makes them stunningly obvious.

Lists are mostly for fun and to start arguments. When one purports to make historical judgments, however, and the individuals doing the judging are supposed to be experts, there is still a responsibility to try to do the task fairly, competently, and responsibly. Continue reading

Oh, This Will Be Fun! How Ignorant And Misleading Was David Frum’s Vicious Attack On President Trump’s Physical Condition? [PART 2] [CORRECTED!]

David Frum’s assertion that President Trump is one of the “least physically capable” Presidents only shows that his knowledge of the Presidents is an inch deep and about as wide….or, in the alternative, that he knows what he is saying is false but is counting on the public’s ignorance of history and CNN’s complicity in gratuitous Trump bashing to get away with it. Well, at least on Ethics Alarms he’s not going to get away with it.

Let’s look first at Trump’s predecessors after FDR. Recall that Frum’s  statement was that Trump is “the least physically capable president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in a wheelchair.”

  • George H.W. Bush, tough old bird that he was, dealt with more health issues as President than Trump. He suffered from bleeding ulcers, arthritis,  atrial fibrillation and the autoimmune disorder Graves’ disease.
  • John F. Kennedy was a sick man throughout his short term in office; he just had his staff and reporters cover it up.  His 1947 diagnosis of Addison’s disease, an incurable disorder of the adrenal gland, was kept secret until well after his death. JFK’s chronic back pain caused him to develop an addictions to painkillers, stimulants, and other medication; historians suspect that he made important decisions while “bombed out of his mind.”
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower had three major medical incidents during his two terms in office: a heart attack, a stroke, and Crohn’s disease. Saying Eisenhower was more “physically able” than Donald Trump is either gross ignorance on Frum’s part, or a lie. Of course, Stelter couldn’t correct him, because he’s an idiot, and wouldn’t correct any false attacks on President Trump anyway.

Going back before Franklin Roosevelt (who was beyond question the least physically able President in history when he won his final term in 1944, since he was dying of heart disease and worse, knew it; it had nothing to do with his whellchair) we have a veritable Presidential intensive care unit. Let’s skip over Harding, who suffered his whole life from anxiety and emotional problems, and who had undiagnosed heart problems that ultimately killed him, and go to the runner up champ of physically disabled Presidents, Woodrow Wilson. Afflicted with untreatable (then) hypertension, Wilson was plagued by chronic headaches and double vision until he had  a series of strokes. One affected his right hand, leaving him unable to write normally, then more serious strokes rendered Wilson blind in his left eye, paralyzed on his left side, and eventually unable to discharge his duties as President. This was hidden from the public and Congress, with his wife and his doctor handling most of Wilson’s presidential tasks.

President Taft, as we all know, was morbidly obese at well over 300 pounds, and as a result suffered from sleep apnea (he dozed off during meetings), high blood pressure, and heart disease. Teddy Roosevelt managed to exude health with his ostentatiously vigorous lifestyle, but he wasn’t healthy. TR battled clinical depression his whole life, and despite what you will often read, he never overcame his childhood asthma. He was also diagnosed with a heart murmur, and advised to live a sedate life.  He did not.

This may well have contributed to the fact that he was dead shortly after his 60th birthday.

In addition to being the second most obese President, Grover Cleveland suffered from many maladies while President, most notably cancer, necessitating a secret operation that replaced his upper palate with a rubber prosthetic. My favorite obscure President, Chester A. Arthur, was ill during his entire three years in office, and died shortly after. He had progressive kidney failure from Bright’s Disease.

Before Arthur, the previous physically-limited President was, surprisingly, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was another depressive, but his symptoms probably had a physical cause: likely permanent brain damage from being kicked in the head by a horse when he was young. Lincoln also had malaria flare-ups, and got smallpox during the Civil War. He may have suffered from mercury poisoning from pills that were frequently prescribed at the time.  Abe’s  photographs indicate drmatic weight loss and muscle wasting during the war, and some doctors believe he  was afflicted with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B (MEN2B) or Marfan syndrome, rare genetic disorders, although he lived longer than either of those conditions usually permit.

Two Presidents before Lincoln we had poor, broken Franklin Pierce in the White House, perhaps the most disabled of all.  He spent his entire, disastrous term in office in deep depression following the horrible death of his young son before his eyes in a train accident as his family headed to Washington after his election. Pierce’s wife Jane was never the same after teh accident, and Pierce’s alcoholism became intermittently debilitating.

Donald Trump, as you probably know, is a lifetime abstainer from alcohol.

Jumping past Presidents Taylor and William Henry Harrison, neither of whom were sufficiently physically able to last a single term before succumbing to illness  (Taylor less that a year and a half, Harrison about a month), we finally reach the all-time champion of unhealthy Presidents, Andrew Jackson.

When he finally won the Presidency at the age of 62 (after having been robbed of victory four years earlier), Old Hickory was plagued by the lingering wound from two of his less successful pistol duels. One bullet was lodged in his arm, where it festered and gave him chronic pain. ( This bullet was finally removed when Jackson was President) A second bullet, lodged in his chest near his lung and  heart, was considered inoperable. It caused serious pulmonary problems and caused Jackson to cough up blood periodically. The bullets also caused lead poisoning.

Jackson was seriously underweight, and there was a good reason for that: his digestive tract was permanently damaged. He suffered from recurring flare-ups of malaria, typhoid, typhus and dysentery, progressive heart failure, and some sources say he had tuberculosis as well. Like Lincoln, Jackson was poisoned by mercury pills given to him by his doctors.

I think I’ll stop with Andy, the President that Trump most identifies with, and justly so.  There is more than sufficient evidence that David Frum didn’t know what he was talking about, and that CNN allowed him to misinform its viewers by adding fake history to its usual fare of biased and fake news.

Oh, This Will Be Fun! How Ignorant And Misleading Was David Frum’s Vicious Attack On President Trump’s Physical Condition? [PART I]

Answer: Spectacularly ignorant and misleading.

As you know, I love fake history about the Presidents, a specialty on CNN. Add to this the feature that Atlantic contributor and former Bush speechwriter David Frum–he’s also a prominent NeverTrumper, as are virtually all former members of the Bush camp—had his gratuitous ad hominem attack outburst on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” fake media ethicist Brain Stelter’s reliably unreliable bias-fest, and debunking Frum’s blather is  like Christmas morning for me.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Here’s what Frum said:

“One of the ideas that Donald Trump tried to spread in 2016 is that Hillary Clinton was somehow physically incapable of managing the presidency. It’s audacious, Donald Trump was the oldest presidents ever, one of the fattest presidents ever, the least physically capable president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in a wheelchair…He can’t pick up a ball, never mind throw it. But he was able to put in the minds of tens of millions of people the idea that Hillary Clinton, who is a very vigorous woman in good health, was somehow too sick to be president.”

First up, Frum’s mischaracterization of Hillary’s health issues. She had episodes of uncontrolled coughing fits throughout the 2016 campaign, and actually collapsed during a 9/11 event in New York while suffering a bout of pneumonia. Then she lied about it, until video made it necessary to admit she was ill. When a candidate tries to cover up the truth about her health, her health becomes a legitimate issue. This would be true no matter who the candidate was.

Another easy one is Frum’s absurd remarks about how Trump can’t pick up or throw a ball, wherever that came from. This is the kind of statement that would be defamatory if it wasn’t about the President—I’m up on my defamation law after having to defend myself against a defamation suit for the past two years. That’s the kind of inherently slanderous  allegation that suggests unrevealed sources or evidence that the listener has no access to, when in fact such evidence doesn’t exist, because the claim is malicious and false. The President is constantly criticized for playing golf—and he cheats at it, according to Mike Bloomberg’s billboards—but he can’t pick up a ball? What proof does Frum have that Trump, who played baseball as a young man, can’t throw a ball now? Frum made all that up.

Now comes my favorite part, Frum’s claims about where Trump fits in the spectrum of Presidential health. As a starting point, all that matters is that a President is healthy enough and able enough to do his job, and by the evidence of the results so far, that’s not a problem. The health of other Presidents have been a problem for them in discharging their duties, as we shall see.

The oft-stated point that Trump was the oldest President at the time of his election is true, but misleading. He was 70 when he was elected, but the significance of age is relative, as well as what constitutes “old” in our society. The average life expectancy of a white male in the US today (and in 2016) is just under 80; if you make it to 70, your life expectancy jumps into the mid-80s. Many Presidents before Trump were well over the nation’s life expectancy for their demographic group when they were elected, including all of the 19th century Presidents, who were relatively “older” than Trump.

In fact, it wasn’t until 1920, when Warren G. Harding was elected, that a President wasn’t over the average mortality age, and Harding was right at it: 54. He also died in office, three years later. Herbert Hoover became the first US President to be elected at a younger age than the average age of death for white males,  in 1928. After that, no American President has been elected after he reached the average morality age.

Is Trump one of the fattest Presidents? No doubt about it, but he’s also in a group of hefty Presidents who were all about the  same degree of obese. Here is a chart of the fattest Presidents as measured by their body mass index, which admittedly is a blunt instrument, not distinguishing between muscle mass and fat:

So it is fair to say that Trump is in the top 25% of overweight Presidents, and who cares? Of the porky POTUSes on the list, only Zachary Taylor wasn’t able to complete his term, and there is no evidence that his weight had anything to do with his demise.  Among the Presidents ahead of Trump on the fat list is Theodore Roosevelt, who nobody ever dared call “fat” when he was running amuck across the political landscape, not while he was climbing mountains and seemingly in perpetual motion.  In short, that part of Frum’s rant is pure cheap shot.

I’ll debunk the best part of Frum’s garbage in Part 2.

“Mini-Mike” Height Ethics

When President Trump tweeted that Michael Bloomberg was a  “5’4” mass of dead energy,”this instantly was seized upon by “the resistance” and the news media (like NPR) as one more Trump “lie” to add to the list. Why, all you have to do is google Bloomberg’s height to learn that the ex-NYC mayor and media mogul currently trying to buy the Democratic  nomination for President is a full 5’8″ tall, and also to be informed that 5’8″ is average for an American male!

The tweet was, of course, as infantile as it was Trump-like, redolent of candidate Trump’s mockery of Marco Rubio as “Little Marco.” It was also a lot closer to accurate than Google’s bias-driven mythology. Heck, I knew that Bloomberg was short—anyone who has seen him in a group does—and 5’8″ isn’t short. Edward Welsch, who worked for Bloomberg, writes in Commentary,

As a former Bloomberg News employee, I heard this and shook my head in disbelief. Google is lying. I’ve seen the man in person, and he’s strikingly short. My colleagues and I estimated him at 5’5”. Reviewing morning news reports, I note that Google isn’t the only one that inflates Bloomberg’s height. The Daily Caller and NBC News give him 5’7”, the Washington Free Beacon 5’6”. Apparently Bloomberg himself has said 5’7”,  but then he’s also claimed to be 5’10”, which is taller than I am and contrary to my memory of having to tilt my head downward when I stood near him on one occasion several years ago.

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Schultz Bails. Good. [CORRECTED]

Howard Schultz, the Starbucks CEO who had announced a third party, independent  run for President, has withdrawn. Here, in part, is his statement:

Eighty-four percent of Americans do not consider themselves far right or far left. Among them are an “exhausted majority” who want common sense, collaborative and truthful governing. …Statistically and anecdotally, there is an undeniable appetite for meaningful political reform in America. I had hoped to represent this common-sense view, but I’ve come to face a few truths…First, despite a variety of efforts to initiate conversations about political reform, extreme voices currently dominate the national dialogue, often with a vitriol that crowds out and discourages thoughtful discussions. And despite their hunger for reform, the exhausted majority has largely tuned out of political life online and in the news, leaving the extreme voices to define the debate. In addition, not enough people today are willing to consider backing an independent candidate because they fear doing so might lead to re-electing a uniquely dangerous incumbent president. There is considerable concern that four more years of a Trump administration pose a graver threat to our democracy than four more years of political dysfunction. I agree, but I’m also concerned that far-left policy ideas being advanced by several Democratic candidates will further alienate voters who believe those ideas will inflict more economic harm than good. The nomination of a far-left Democratic candidate could result in more votes for Trump—unless a moderate independent is also on the ballot….If I went forward, there is a risk that my name would appear on ballots even if a moderate Democrat wins the nomination, and that is not a risk I am willing to take. Finally, a back injury in April and three subsequent surgeries have required a level of recovery that has prevented me from continuing my travels and engaging with people to the degree that is necessary. My belief in the need to reform our two-party system has not wavered, but I have concluded that an independent campaign for the White House is not how I can best serve our country at this time.I will spend this election cycle and the years ahead supporting bold and creative initiatives to transform our broken system and address the disparity of opportunity that plagues our nation. The money that I was prepared to commit to a presidential campaign will instead be used to invest in people, organizations and ideas that promote honesty, civility and results in our politics, and that move the country beyond two-party gridlock. Common-sense policies and initiatives that can help address widening inequality at home, while strengthening America’s standing in the world, will be a priority. Among my early efforts will be to advocate for increased national service opportunities for young people…. Let us agree that we will always have differences, because that is the nature of the republic we have created, but let’s also acknowledge that we are stronger when we unite under shared values. Let’s agree that we owe our children a less divisive America, and that we have the power to create a healthier climate, one where opinion and truth can stand side by side, where disagreement is followed by compromise, extremes are tempered by moderation, and divisiveness is eclipsed by decency.

Observations: Continue reading

We Probably Had A Gay President, But Not For The Reason Pete Buttigieg Says [UPDATED]

Democratic Party Presidential contender Pete Buttigieg is supposed to be brilliant, but when people who are supposed to be brilliant say dumb things in public, I suspect two things: either they aren’t as smart as  we thought, or they are deliberately trying to make the public more stupid than it is.

Buttigieg, who is trying to become the first openly gay Presidential nominee of a major party, told “Axios on HBO” over the weekend, arguing that his characteristics were not electoral handicaps,

“People will elect the person who will make the best president. And we have had excellent presidents who have been young. We have had excellent presidents who have been liberal. I would imagine we’ve probably had excellent presidents who were gay — we just didn’t know which ones. Statistically, it’s almost certain.”

Ugh.

1. Buttigieg’s party has spent three years arguing that the people elected a President who is unfit for office, mostly because those who voted fro him are racist, sexist idiots. Will someone ask him during the debates how he reconciles his party’s position with his statement?

2. We’ve had excellent Presidents who were “young,” but none nearly as young as Buttigieg. JFK was the youngest elected President, at 43. Pete is a full six years younger than that. This is deliberate obfuscation for the historically challenged.

3. Even if Buttigeig were correct about some of the Presidents being gay, it doesn’t have any relevance to whether an openly gay candidate can get elected. Doesn’t Buttigieg know this (See above: he’s either making a stupid argument or a dishonest one.) A similar situation exists regarding Presidential faith. Officially, all Presidents believed in God; it is highly doubtful that this was true in reality, however. Nonetheless, even today a professed atheist would have a difficult time getting elected. Continue reading

Late Night Ethics Refresher, 10/20/18: Bad Art And Baseball Roshomon

Having a nice weekend?

Literally nothing can spoil my mood now that the Red Sox are going to the World Series…and playing the Dodgers.

1. White House art ethics? I’ve been wanting to post about this all week.  Here is the painting President Trump has hung in the White House:

I love it. It makes me smile every time I see it. But because there is nothing President Trump could do that the news media and the “resistance” wouldn’t mark as shameful; and scandalous, he is actually being attacked for his choice of art.

Well, to hell with them, which I’m sure is Trump’s attitude. Sure it’s a tacky painting; I’m pretty sure the artist knows that, and doesn’t care. Called “The Republican Club,” it is the work of Missouri artist Andy Thomas. Trump is President and for at least four years he’s living in the White House: he can put up whatever art he likes. If it makes him smile like it does me, then that’s a good enough reason to hang it. It’s bad art, but so was Obama’s official portrait showing him being slowly devoured by plants with the sperm on his face, and that one didn’t make anyone smile, except the artist.

 

By the way, CNN displays its ignorance by writing that “Chester Arthur, Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield are presumably in the crowd, but impossible to identify.” I could identify Arthur easily. Can you? Garfield, Hayes, and Benjamin Harrison, whom CNN’s reporter apparently never heard of, were all similarly bearded, and there are two bearded faces near Arthur that could be two of them. I can’t find McKinley anywhere, so maybe the artist was minimizing the presence of the murdered Presidents—given the tenor of Democratic rhetoric,  that might be prudent—which means the bearded figures are Hayes and Harrison. Also missing is the only impeached Republican President, Andrew Johnson. Yeah, poor Andy would be a skunk at the picnic too. Continue reading