‘Twas Two Nights Before Christmas Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/23/18: Ho-Ho-Hypocrisy

Merry Christmas!

1. Yes, Merry Christmas, dammit. Those responsible for that moment of doubt and ethical uncertainty every time I encountered a stranger on my just completed Ethics Rock Extreme road trip to New Brunswick, New Jersey deserve to be entombed alive in peppermint and plum pudding.  The greeting simply says, “I wish you to be joyful and happy in a season where people are a little less selfish and a little more ethical: I’m not trying to indoctrinate you into Christianity!” Much of this completely unnecessary addition to holiday stress is due to to jerks—yes, I think the word is fair—like Julia Ioffe, the author of  “Please don’t wish me ‘Merry Christmas’/It’s impolite and alienating to assume I follow your religion.”

I thought Charles Dickens slam-dunked that nonsense definitively in “A Christmas Carol,” followed by almost all the Christmas movies that make the same obvious point except to deliberate holiday wet-blankets like Ioffe. No, jerk, the greeting is an expression of cultural unity among human beings, and the celebration of values that need have not be restricted to religious Christmas holiday because this is also a secular tradition as well. As soon as I get this post up, I’m going to re-post the Ethics Alarms Christmas commentary.

Somebody send it to Julia.

2. 2018 Hypocrisy Award, locked up! It doesn’t matter if you are happy or disappointed to see President Trump pull U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan; you should still be able to marvel at the blatant, shameless, pandering, hateful and, really, laughable—if the cultural fad of denigrating the President of the United States regardless of what he does wasn’t so destructive and wrong— hypocrisy by news media Trump-haters, among others. Glenn Greenwald, who sees the world from a leftward perspective but maintains his integrity, called out MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who could be the symbol of the whole nauseating. He tweeted,

The most bizarre aspect of Rachel Maddow’s deep anger over troop withdrawal from Syria is that she wrote an entire book in 2012 denouncing illegal US Endless War without congressional approval – exactly what Syria is. I interviewed her about it here: Funny: citing that interview I did of Maddow’s book on the evils of Endless War without Congressional approval reminded me that she asked me to blurb that book, which I did. Here’s what I said – so ironic in light of her anger over Syria troop withdrawal

This upset Glenn’s loyal progressive followers, one of whom sent this fascinating retort:

“The most bizarre aspect of Glenn Greenwald’s inexplicable credibility is his ability to appear as first an advocate and then an opponent of almost everyone and everything. Can’t choose one perspective.”

See? To people like this—the commenter’s handle is IstandwithMaxine, which pretty much explains everything—is that they have been brainwashed to believe that is is bizarre unless adopts a single  view—theirs. of course, otherwise you are evil–and never alters it or admits that it may need re-thinking when that view leads to dead ends, disasters and pitfalls, no matter what new information arises. Someone like Greenwald, who tries to apply the same standards of analysis and ethical judgment to all regardless of whether it advances an ideology, is just untrustworthy, a traitor.

This cartoon has been circulating online. It is 100% fair and accurate regarding Trump’s critics self-indicting reaction: Continue reading

LATE Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow”

My inexcusable failure to previously post this Comment of the Day by Curmie, originally offered nearly two months ago, is especially bad because of the rapidity with which the news media concocts, hypes, or otherwise featured new tangential assaults on President Trump every day. I had forgotten about this one: the White House posted an incorrect version of the Helsinki press conference transcript. Boy, that seems like a hundred scandals, real, manufactured, and imagined, ago!Allow me to refresh your memory and mine:

MSNBC hostess Rachel Maddow, along with many of her fellow journalist members of “the resistance,” pounced on the mistake, accusing the White House of intentionally editing the transcript. Then, after the Washington Post explained  that the omission was not the fault of the White House, Maddow, who is often cited as a trustworthy left-wing journalist simply because she is so much less flagrant than her MSNBC colleagues, denied that her reporting was incorrect, saying,

“This is one possible explanation for why the White House transcript & video from Helsinki doesn’t include Putin saying he wanted Trump to win. But Putin really did say that in Helsinki…..and the White House transcript & video still does leave it out. WaPo now says it has updated its own transcript. Will the White House? After more than a week of reporting on the bad transcript (see link below)…

(1): White House has let it stand uncorrected, and

(2): POTUS now asserts that Putin wants *Dems* to win, not him.

I love WaPo with the heat of 1000 suns, but nothing here from WaPo disproves our report.”

 Washington Post reporter Philip Bump, quickly pointed out Maddow’s dishonesty, writing,

“Your report asserts that the video was edited and implies that the incomplete transcript was posted intentionally. There’s no evidence for the first point and my piece provides context to suggest that the second was unintentional.”

With that background, here is Curmie’s much delayed Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Dunce: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. He also gets extra points for the baseball reference at the end…

Apparently I’m one of the few lefties who comment here even occasionally these days. I trust I will not become an “exile.”

This story becomes an intriguing example of the partisan fragmentation of the country that has been happening for about a generation. Some people will believe everything Rachel Maddow (or Sean Hannity, or…) says; some will believe nothing. Too few will parse the content.

Maddow’s allegation that someone intentionally edited the tape/transcript is unsupported by facts, and her smug reassertion of a discredited argument is, to say the least, problematic.

But I’ve written on my blog about two variations on what I call the Christine Vole effect, named for the character in the Agatha Christie short story/play and subsequently Billy Wilder movie who intentionally allows her absolutely truthful testimony describing her husband’s guilt to seem instead to be the vengeance of a jealous wife. The jury was influenced by the implosion of her testimony, which was, by the way, unnecessary to the prosecution’s case; they acquit.

The variation, as we saw often in the likes of James O’Keefe, and here with Maddow, is the unintentional corollary: by making an extreme statement, the speaker undermines the rest of an otherwise persuasive argument. Continue reading

OK, Is Being A Double-Talking Idiot Justification Losing Security Clearance?

Doesn’t it make you feel secure that this guy was in charge of the CIA?

John Brennan, talking to broadcast journalist Rachel Maddow on anti-Trump news network MSNBC:

“And for Mr. Trump to so cavalierly so dismiss that, yes, sometimes my Irish comes out and in my tweets. And I did say that it rises to and exceeds the level of high crimes and misdemeanors and nothing short of treasonous, because he had the opportunity there to be able to say to the world that this is something that happened. And that’s why I said it was nothing short of treasonous. I didn’t mean that he committed treason. But it was a term that I used, nothing short of treasonous.”

Oh.

What?

To Maddow’s credit, she did point out that “nothing short of treasonous” means “committed treason,” but to her shame, she did not press Brennan to make sense out of this self-contradiction, perhaps because that is impossible, and also because she isn’t about to be properly tough on a Trump critic who was put on the air to bash the President. The whole interview shows Brennan to be an arrogant, presumptuous partisan warrior. I think my favorite quote is when he says

I gave him a year. I said, maybe he is going to adapt and change. But it seemed like day after day, week after week, month after month, things just got worse. He did not live up to I think what Americans expect of the president of the United States, to speak with great forcefulness but to do it with integrity and honesty. Mr. Trump, time after time, I think has really just disappointed millions of Americans, which I’m trying to give voice to.

And so, I know a lot of people think a former intelligence official shouldn’t be doing this. I don’t consider what I’m doing as political at all. I never registered as a Republican or a Democrat, you know, for my entire life. But I feel such a commitment to this country’s security and its reputation.

How generous of John Brennan, arbiter of the Presidency, to give our elected President a year. That’s better than the Congressional Black Caucus, I guess, which boycotted his inauguration and gave him no time at all. The Constitution, however, gives an elected President four years.

Brennan’s comments have shown that he should never have been trusted with security clearance in the first place.

________________

Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur

Ethics Dunce: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow

“Do they teach beauty queens how to apologize? Because you suck at it!”

        —Ed Masry (Albert Finney) chiding Erin Brockavich ( Julia Roberts) in the final scene of the film.

Now substitute “smug, arrogant, incorrigibly biased, anti-Trump MSNBC anchor” for “beauty queens,” and the line is a perfect response to the awaited “correction and apology” from Rachel Maddow for getting the story of the mistranscribed White House transcript of the Helsinki press conference.

I explained the mistake here, and made it myself here, yesterday morning.  The White House did not, as Maddow and others reported, intentionally misrepresent the exchange. The Washington Post clarified what happened. Nonetheless, Maddow and MSNBC dragged their feet in correcting the story, not doing so until 2:45 PM (I updated Ethics Alarms at about 1 pm, the second I read the Post story, and I’m not a full-time news network) and afterwards, here is Maddow’s pathetic attempt to keep spinning…

“This is one possible explanation for why the White House transcript & video from Helsinki doesn’t include Putin saying he wanted Trump to win. But Putin really did say that in Helsinki…..and the White House transcript & video still does leave it out. WaPo now says it has updated its own transcript. Will the White House? After more than a week of reporting on the bad transcript (see link below)…

(1): White House has let it stand uncorrected, and

(2): POTUS now asserts that Putin wants *Dems* to win, not him.

I love WaPo with the heat of 1000 suns, but nothing here from WaPo disproves our report.”

No, it is the explanation, and the Washington Post reporter, Philip Bump,  quickly pointed out Maddow’s dishonesty, writing, Continue reading

About That “Secret Tape”…[UPDATED]

From CNN:

“The FBI is in possession of a recording between President Donald Trump and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen in which the two men prior to the election discuss a payment to a former Playboy model who has alleged an affair with Trump, Rudy Giuliani and a source familiar with the matter told CNN Friday.

Cohen has other recordings of the President in his records that were seized by the FBI, said both a source with knowledge of Cohen’s tapes and Giuliani, who described the other recordings as mundane discussions. Another source with knowledge of the tape, however, said the conversation is not as Giuliani described and is not good for the President, though the source would not elaborate.”

Now here are some ethics matters that the news media would be obligated to tell you, if journalists were, you know, competent, objective, and fair:

  • It is equivocally unethical for a lawyer to surreptitiously record a client without the client’s knowledge or consent. Always, no exceptions. It is usually unethical for a lawyer to surreptitiously record anyone without their knowledge or consent, even in states that permit non-lawyers to do it.

Such conduct is a direct violation of the universal legal ethics rule that prohibits a lawyer from engaging ” in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

  • This fact is crucial to the story, and should be prominent in any discussion of it. I have not seen or heard this mentioned in any news reports.

Let me know if you do, please.

  • The recording is also privileged, which means that it was information that a client provided to his lawyer in the course of seeking legal services or advice. As such, it cannot be used as evidence, unless the client, in this case, President Trump, consents. The client owns the privilege, not the lawyer who received the information, and not other lawyers the client may have.

I haven’t seen this critical information explained in any of the news reports either. Continue reading

Ethics Observation On The Trump 2005 Tax Return

Yesterday, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow endlessly hyped the fact that  veteran investigative reporter David Cay Johnston had obtained President Trump’s 2005 federal tax return. When it was revealed, the scoop didn’t justify the hype. Trump  paid 38 million in taxes that year,  24% of his income—not the top rate, but not “nothing,” which was the rumor Democrats were selling during the campaign.

Ethics points:

1. Whoever leaked the return broke the law, and doing so was unethical.  No, it’s not illegal for the news media to take material stolen by others and sanctify it via their First Amendment protections.  It should be though. When they do this, they aide and abet a crime, and Freedom of the Press wasn’t supposed to allow THAT. At very least, journalists should be required to reveal the names of the criminals who steal and release our proprietary documents. The publication of these makes such thefts worse, not better.

2. I don’t see why the President’s tax returns from 12 years ago has any genuine relevance to anything now. The returns were relevant to the decision of whether or not people wanted to vote for him. Now, the tax documents have no purpose, except for the insatiable Trump-bashers to have something new to bash him with. Anything will do.

3. David Cay Johnston was dishing about his “scoop” with GMA’s George Stephanopoulos, and decided to start a new rumor. He speculated that Trump leaked the return himself.  No evidence, not a drop, and yet that’s what this veteran reporter felt was justifiable to say on national TV. Gee, can we call THAT fake news?

4. Then, as he did with Maddow, the reporter went on about all the conflicts of interest that Trump’s financial dealings have created. Again, this is re-litigating the election. At this point, there is no practical way to eliminate Trump’s conflicts and the appearance of impropriety that they create, and he’s not going to bother trying. Johnston, and others, including me, never made a clear case to the public why the President’s unprecedented financial entanglements should have been disqualifying; nor did Hillary, in part because her own financial entanglements were disqualifying. Well, the train left the station, y’all. You had your chance, and botched it. Johnston, like so many of the other bitter-enders who want to turn back time, ultimately get back to, “But…but…but…we never should have elected this guy! Surely there is something we can do to undo it!”

No, there isn’t. Cut it out. Continue reading

Inauguration Day Ethics Dunces

dunces

Three of many…

Ethics Dunce: ABC’s Byron Pitts

Wow.

Earlier today I wrote,

A friend posted on Facebook yesterday that she was “disgusted” by all the white people wearing “Make America Great Again” hats around the Capitol yesterday. This struck me as akin to the joke about the boy who murdered his parents seeking mercy from the court because he was an orphan. African Americans, especially around D.C., have been urged and in many cases bullied to boycott everything having to do with Trump, and now people like my friend are suggesting that blacks are being excluded, proving the racism of the new President.

I actually deleted a section that said: “Just watch: some inveterate news media race-baiter will cite the abundance of whites to impugn Trump and Republicans. Which will it be?” The answer, we now know, is Byron Pitts. Virtually the entire Congressional Black Caucus boycotted the event, blacks who expressed support for Trump or even hinted that the supported the Inauguration faced shunning and threats, and this guy had the gall to say, during the ABC coverage today,

“Think about this crowd and think about the divided America. We talked about the noise of the racial divide, this is the whisper of the racial divide in America. Think back to when President Obama took office for the first time. How diverse the crowd was. You saw the rainbow of America. Today this looks like the ice cream of America. Right? It is an overwhelmingly white audience.”

What does that tell Pitts? It tells me that one segment in society is willing to put color and politics aside and support a duly elected leader, and one is not.

Ethics Dunce: George Will

Continue reading

More Post-Election Ethics: “Bias Makes You Stupid” Edition

Dewey Wins!

Dewey Wins!

1. Ugliest moment of election night: Trump’s assembled chanting “Lock her up!” as the electoral victory approached.

2. Anti-Trump bias made the entire journalism profession and punditry class incompetent, forming an almost impenetrable echo chamber that assured its smug occupants and Democrats that Hillary Clinton literally couldn’t lose. “Bias makes you stupid” is a frequent refrain here, and I cannot think of a more powerful example.

In a terrific if rueful article in Slate, Jim Newell writes of how the whole Democratic establishment convinced itself that Hillary couldn’t lose:

I think of the lawmakers, the consultants, the operatives, and—yes—the center-left media, and how everything said over the past few years leading up to this night was bullshit…Think of how wrong the entire national media conversation was—and yes, I contributed my fair share—about how the Republicans were being torn apart as a party. I prewrote a piece Tuesday afternoon, to be published in the event of the expected Clinton win, pushing back against both myself and other members of the media, arguing that Democrats and Republicans were both in existential trouble and that, in the short-term context of a decaying political system, Republicans might even have the edge…This was wrong. Republicans don’t have a slight edge over Democrats in a decaying political system. Republicans are ascendant.

The whole point of experts and analysts is that they use facts and objectivity to cut through rationalizations and bias. If they can’t or won’t do that, they are useless. They are frauds. Here’s the Washington Post’s media columnist, Margaret Sullivan, who proves elsewhere in the essay, even as she writes about bias, that she is still a partisan to her core:

To put it bluntly, the media missed the story. In the end, a huge number of American voters wanted something different. And although these voters shouted and screamed it, most journalists just weren’t listening. They didn’t get it.They didn’t get that the huge, enthusiastic crowds at Donald Trump’s rallies would really translate into that many votes. …It would be too horrible. So, therefore, according to some kind of magical thinking, it couldn’t happen.

Journalists — college-educated, urban and, for the most part, liberal — are more likely than ever before to live and work in New York City and Washington, D.C., or on the West Coast. And although we touched down in the big red states for a few days, or interviewed some coal miners or unemployed autoworkers in the Rust Belt, we didn’t take them seriously. Or not seriously enough….We just kept checking our favorite prognosticating sites and feeling reassured, even though everyone knows that poll results are not votes.

The news media anti-Trump bias might have even lost Hillary the election, not just by outraging the public–it was so, so blatant–but by deceiving the Democrats. Clinton didn’t bother to campaign in Wisconsin, so convinced was she that voters there would blindly follow the party, as usual. The state was one of the big victories for Trump.

Yes, bias has made U.S. journalism incompetent, stupid, self-satisfied and useless. It will take more than one fiasco to reform it—if it can be reformed. I hope it can because democracy doesn’t function well with an untrustworthy newsmedia, Continue reading

Observations On The New Hampshire Democratic Candidates Debate

NH debate

I’m sure that there are loyalists who just love watching Clinton or Sanders no matter what they are doing and saying, just as I will watch even a lousy Danny Kaye movie just to see Danny Kaye. But wow, I’d really like to see the results of a post-mortem on the brain of anyone who said last night’s debacle was anything but excruciating and depressing. If I were a Democrat, I’d be on a three-day drunk after last night. I’m not, and I’m still considering it. This was easily the worst presidential candidates debate I’ve ever seen, read about or analyzed.

Why? Well, how many other debates had two candidates, their faces contorted in anger, shouting at each other (Bernie is always shouting, really) when they hardly disagree about anything of substance? How often is it so obvious that one candidate isn’t trying to win, and avoids every opening and opportunity to take down his opponent? As I have said before, if I had contributed to Sanders, I’d demand my money back. I thought losing the pathetic Martin O’Malley would be a plus, but it wasn’t. Focusing only on the irredeemably absurd Sanders and the unquestionably corrupt Clinton just made the question more vivid: after two and a half centuries as a major party, how could the Democratic Party have so little respect for the American public and so little devotion to its role in selection of the Presidency to leave us with this?

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here are specific observations. The transcript is here.

1 More than any debate in 2016, this was performed as if  only hard-left loyalists were watching, and the moderators behaved that way as well. Agenda items like the minimum wage and “equal pay for jobs” were tossed off as shorthand and givens, without any fear that anyone would say, “Hey, wait a minute..” Yesterday, for example, data was revealed showing that in six major cities that enacted large minimum wage hikes last year, employment has suffered—as predicted by anyone without “progressive” blinders on. That would have been a good question to raise, but nobody was there to raise it. Rachel Maddow? Right.

2. The debate was deja vu, and little else. How many times do we need to hear Sanders’ generalized rap about the economy being rigged, Wall Street being a den of thieves, and single-payer health care being obviously the way to go because “everybody does it”? How many times do we have to hear that Hillary is going to “improve [Obamacare]… build on it, get the costs down, get prescription drug costs down” without being given a clue how, and without anyone even asking the question? How is she going to do all this without having the country “plunge back into a contentious national debate that has very little chance of succeeding.” What does that mean, Hillary? Funny, I thought debate was how policies get made in a democracy. Please explain: what is your substitute for democracy? Don’t “progressives'” have a totalitarian ethics alarm any more?

3. Clinton’s responses to the Sanders accusation that she’s not progressive enough—the Democratic doppleganger of the annoying and equally silly Republican accusation that a candidate isn’t a “true conservative,” were something to behold:

  • “I am a progressive who gets things done.” A bumper sticker slogan, and by the way, what things? Honestly, I can’t name any at all: she was a Senator, didn’t create any major legislation, and wasn’t a successful Secretary of State. What things does she get done? Again, Bernie won’t ask a real question….but then, he hasn’t accomplished anything either. Later, to prove her credentials in getting things done, Hillary talked, as she always does, about “fighting” for this or that, even going back to her days with the Children’s Defense fund and the DOA Hillarycare bill that crashed and burned in her husband’s first term. A 69-year-old candidate for President who  actually “gets things done” wouldn’t have to dig this deep—and a candidate trying to defeat her wouldn’t hesitate to say so.
  • She actually compared Sanders’ criticism of her progressive bona fides with not regarding a liberal Democratic Senator as progressive enough when that Senator, Paul Wellstone, has been dead since 2002, and Sanders has never mentioned him during the campaign at all! This was a straw man for the ages.

4. Having finished that pointless “debate,” they moved on to whether Hillary was the “establishment.” This sounded like a an acid-flashback from 1968, but never mind: here was Hillary’s rebuttal:

“Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment.”

Sexist, insulting, tribal and dumb. Merely having two X chromosomes means that you are by definition not part of the existing power structure even when you have been part of that power structure for decades? This is just a dog-whistle to vagina-voters, who themselves are a disgrace to democracy, fairness and civic responsibility. What is it about Hillary Clinton’s career since hooking up with Bill that has shown her to be a power-seeker and broker distinguishable in conduct and motives from a man? Oh, that’s right: when her husband serially abused women as well as betraying their marriage, she sided with..him, against them.

5. Ethics alarm: “The reality is that we have one of lowest voter turnouts of any major country on earth because so many people have given up on the political process,” says Sanders. Sanders really does believe that when the United States is different from all those other less successful countries, it must be wrong. This “reality” just cynical poison that Sanders likes to say, even though it contradicts his own rhetoric. If Obama is such a great President, wasn’t he elected over Romney and McCain? Doesn’t Bernie think that makes a difference, and that the difference was votes? The GOP Congress he and Hillary are complaining about was elected when Democrats stayed home and Republicans came out in force, was it not?  If the impression that their participation makes no difference is wrong, as it is, why does Sanders keep citing it as if he agrees? What does “so many people have given up on the political process”  mean? Is he really attacking democracy itself Continue reading

Fairness To Ben Carson: There Is Nothing Wrong With Considering A Presidential Candidates’ Religion And Its Influences

It's true: if you don't think an Amish man should be President, you're violating the Constitution. Or something. Wait...What was the question again?

It’s true: if you don’t think an Amish man should be President, you’re violating the Constitution. Or something. Wait…What was the question again?

As with Donald Trump, I am once again faced with having to defend a Presidential candidate who should not be running and should have fewer supporters than Ted Nugent has functioning brain cells. For the second time in two days the victim is dead-eyed, hubris-infected, “I’m not a politician so I am allowed to be a lousy speaker and campaigner” Ben Carson, the candidate for those who are so disgusted with a President with no executive experience that they want a new President with no government experience or executive experience.

The gleeful news media freak-out spurred by the doctor’s silly generalities about the qualifications of Muslims for the U.S. Presidency was already embarrassing and intellectually dishonest (hence yesterday’s post) before the latest nonsense. The current narrative is that Dr. Carson doesn’t understand the Constitution. No fewer than three columns this morning in the Washington Post alone carried that message, and all quoted the same passage: Article VI’s directive that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office.”

Dr. Carson didn’t say that there should be a religious test for the Constitution. It is critics like Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Eugene Robinson, not Carson, who apparently don’t understand the Constitution. See, Eugene, Dana Milbank, Michael Gerson, Ted Cruz, The Nation, Whoopie Goldberg, Rachel Maddow, and too many others to name, the Constitution doesn’t tell citizens, including citizens you don’t like to see running for President, that they can’t use a religious test for any office, it says that the government can’t.

Did you miss that part?

I don’t know how! Continue reading