Tag Archives: “Russiagate”

Late Verdict On The Helsinki Press Conference Freak-Out: I’m Convinced. It’s Just More Unethical, Double-Standard, Anti-Trump, “Resistance” And News Media Coup-Fodder, Only Noisier And Dumber Than Usual

I don’t appeal to authority very often.

What I do occasionally do is look for someone with judgment, experience and honesty I trust whose assessment of a particular situation jibes with my ethical analysis at times when I have begun to judge my own sanity. When I started reading people writing, in horror-stricken tones,”Can you believe what Trump said at that joint press conference?,” which I initially missed because these events are always stagey, insincere, all-puffery affairs, I assumed that President Trump finally done something really over-the-top this time, like spitting at CNN reporter, or singing “The Volga Boatman” to irritate Putin. When I read what he in fact did say, and saw the videos, my brain literally couldn’t reconcile it with the hysterical claims that it was “treasonous,” or like “Pearl Harbor,” or “Kristallnacht” or warranted impeachment (Plan N). It didn’t compute, as the robot in “Lost in Space” used to say.

I know I don’t often seem like it, but I have my doubts sometimes. I write as if I am certain I am right, because that’s my style, but often within me there meet a combination of antithetical elements which are at eternal war with one another. Driven hither by objective influences — thither by subjective emotions — wafted one moment into blazing day, by mocking hope — plunged the next into the Cimmerian darkness of tangible despair, I am but a living ganglion of irreconcilable antagonisms. All right, that was from my favorite exchange in “H.M.S. Pinafore,” but I’m not completely facetious. When I read almost every one of hundreds of Facebook friends writing, to universal agreement from their echo ch..freinds, that an extemporaneous statement in a Finnish press conference proves that Putin “has something” on the President, I begin to think, since I don’t see it at all, that the problem must be me. I am so thoroughly sick and disgusted at the relentless unethical and unprecedented efforts to interfere with this President, and his efforts to do the job he was elected to do, by Democrats, progressives, “the resistance” NeverTrumpers and the news media, that maybe my indignation against their dangerous, democratic institution-eroding vengeance because this odd and offensive man shattered the dreams of the Obama Worshipers and the Clinton Conned, had finally metastasized into bias, and made me impervious to something that should have me, for once, agreeing with them. For bias makes us all stupid, you know.

That is why I was so relieved to read this, the transcript of the comments of NYU Russia expert Stephen F. Cohen, a contributing editor at “The Nation,” the most extreme leftist magazine of national prominence in the country. He is clearly NOT being driven by bias, but his analysis was exactly the same as mine:

“The reaction by most of the media, by the Democrats, by the anti-Trump people is like mob violence. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. This is the president of the United States, doing what every president… since FDR in 1943 with Stalin, meeting with the head of the Kremlin. And every president since Eisenhower, a Republican by the way, has met with the leader of the Kremlin for one existential purpose: To avoid war between the two nuclear superpowers. Today, in my considered, scholarly, long-time judgment, relations between the U.S. and Russia are more dangerous than they have ever — let me repeat, ever — been, including the Cuban missile crisis. I want my president to do — I didn’t vote for this president– but I want my president to do what every other president has done. Sit with the head of the other nuclear superpower and walk back the conflicts that could lead to war, whether they be in Syria, Ukraine, in the Baltic nations, in these accusations of cyber attacks. Every president has been encouraged to do that an applauded by both parties. Not Trump. Look what they did to him today. They had a kangaroo court. They found him guilty. And then you had the former head of the U.S. CIA, who himself ought to be put under oath and asked about his role in inventing Russiagate, calling the President of the United States treasonous. What have we come to in this country? And what is going to happen in the future?”

Whew! What a relief: I thought I was going crazy. Like Cohen, except not close to matching his scholarly efforts, I know quite a bit about how past Presidents treated Russian leaders in their various summits, meetings and diplomatic encounters. Only Trump was expected to insult the Russian leader to his face. Only Trump was asked an outrageous question inviting him to insult a Russian leader to his face. (The reporter should have been ejected from the conference.) President Trump was not only criticized for behaving as every other President has and should have behaved, but was excoriated for doing so.

I wish, of course, that the President’s rhetorical skills were not so blunt and confounding, so he could defend his own conduct without resorting to “fake new!” retorts. I wish he had the nuance and sense to simply dodge such a disruptive and irresponsible question without walking into a true “when did you stop beating your wife” question that made him choose between undermining U.S. intelligence or undermining the whole reason he was at the summit in the first place. I wish that the President was not so much like Donald Trump, in other words, but unlike Anderson Cooper, George Will, Chuck Schumer, John McCain and my hysterical Facebook Friends, I regard constantly becoming more and more irrational over something that happened 19 months ago  to be civic incompetence. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: Lee Smith, Making It All Clear

“Yet for its advocates, the questionable veracity of the Russiagate story seems much less important than what has become its real purpose—elite virtue-signaling. Buy into a storyline that turns FBI and CIA bureaucrats and their hand-puppets in the press into heroes while legitimizing the use of a vast surveillance apparatus for partisan purposes, and you’re in. Dissent, and you’re out, or worse—you’re defending Trump…In other words, there’s the truth, and then there’s what’s even more important—sticking it to Trump. Choose wrong, even inadvertently, …no matter how many times you deplore Trump, and you’ll be labeled a Trumpkin.”

Lee Smith in his essay, Who Believes in Russiagate?”

Later he adds,

“What unites [critics of Russiagate on the Left and the Right] obviously isn’t politics—rather, it’s the recognition that the Russiagate campaign represents an attack on American political and social institutions, an attack on our liberties, an attack on us. Russiagate is a conspiracy theory, weaponized by political operatives, much of the press, as well as high-level intelligence and law enforcement bureaucrats to legitimize an American election and protect their own interests, which coincide with those of the country’s larger professional and bureaucratic elite.”

You might wonder why I chose to highlight the first quote  rather than the second. The second tells me nothing I don’t know, or that readers of Ethics Alarms don’t know: I’ve made it a theme here since early in 2017. I learned something from the first quote, however. This is the phenomenon I have been experiencing on Facebook, where periodically pointing out unfair and intellectually dishonest attacks on President Trump and pointing out the news media’s horrific bias increasingly get me labelled as a Trump supporter, apologist or enabler. Meanwhile, I recently had a follow-up exchange  with NPR over my objections to Prof. Butler’s “Oh, come on!” outburst when I was correctly pointing out what was ethically dubious about late accusations of sexual harassment against political figures.  Oh, no, I was told. He wasn’t saying “Oh come on!” because I misrepresented sexual harassment law. He was saying that because he thought I was making excuses for Trump. Continue reading

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The Mueller Indictments: Observations And A Spin Report

Late yesterday afternoon the Justice Department announced that it had indicted thirteen Russians and three Russian companies for participation in a scheme to interfere in the United States political system. From the Justice Department website:

“The Department of Justice announced that a grand jury in the District of Columbia today returned an indictment presented by the Special Counsel’s Office. The indictment charges thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 Presidential election. The defendants allegedly conducted what they called “information warfare against the United States,” with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

The full 37-page indictment is here, giving citizens a rare example to read everything reporters know and to thereby be able to gauge exactly how accurate and fair their reporting is, if the citizens are so inclined. SPOILER ALERT: The spin efforts thus far have been staggering.

The press release also tells us in part:

According to the allegations in the indictment, twelve of the individual defendants worked at various times for Internet Research Agency LLC, a Russian company based in St. Petersburg, Russia. …Internet Research Agency allegedly operated through Russian shell companies. It employed hundreds of persons for its online operations, ranging from creators of fictitious personas to technical and administrative support, with an annual budget of millions of dollars. Internet Research Agency was a structured organization headed by a management group and arranged in departments, including graphics, search-engine optimization, information technology, and finance departments. In 2014, the agency established a “translator project” to focus on the U.S. population. In July 2016, more than 80 employees were assigned to the translator project….To hide the Russian origin of their activities, the defendants allegedly purchased space on computer servers located within the United States in order to set up a virtual private network. The defendants allegedly used that infrastructure to establish hundreds of accounts on social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, making it appear that the accounts were controlled by persons within the United States. They used stolen or fictitious American identities, fraudulent bank accounts, and false identification documents. The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans, advocating for and against particular political candidates. They established social media pages and groups to communicate with unwitting Americans. They also purchased political advertisements on social media.

Also:

The Russians also recruited and paid real Americans to engage in political activities, promote political campaigns, and stage political rallies. The defendants and their co-conspirators pretended to be grassroots activists. According to the indictment, the Americans did not know that they were communicating with Russians.

Thirteen paragraphs into the release is this statement: “There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Talk about burying the lede!

Observations: Continue reading

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Well, I Guess There’s No Way Around It: Considering The President’s Fake News Awards

I don’t really care what the President says is fake news. What matters on Ethics Alarms is what I decide is fake news. His much ballyhooed list of fake news items ignore that many inexcusable examples that have nothing to do with him, like various stories designed to impugn conservatives and normal people because journalists think they are stupid, or intentionally misleading headlines, or when reporters sneak false characterizations into their “news stories” as facts, or publishing gossip as fact using anonymous sources,  or passing along falsity in the course of reporting a related matter, as in this instance, when NBC’s reporter said, “President Donald Trump returned to one of his most derogatory insults Friday, referring to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” — a jab at her Native American ancestry.” (Psst! NBC! Senator Warren has no Native American ancestry.)

However, Ethics Alarms is duty bound to assess the President’s “2017 Fake News Awards,” which he released last week.

No, I don’t believe he should be releasing such awards. It’s beneath the Office,  and he isn’t Seth Myers. (If there were a a fair, satirical comic who made any attempt at partisan balance, this would be a good gimmick for him or her. There isn’t. That’s another problem.) Here is the list, with comments from me:

#1. “The New York Times’ Paul Krugman claimed on the day of President Trump’s historic, landslide victory that the economy would never recover.”

Comment: Ugh. Signature significance for bad staff work and stupidity: the very first item isn’t fake news, wasn’t news at all, and didn’t even occur in 2017.  On election night in 2016, Krugman stated a prediction and an opinion, and made as ass out of himself. That’s certainly not news. So right off the bat, we know that the 2017 “Fake News Awards” are more about using these items as an excuse to trumpet Trump’s successes.Got it.

If I didn’t have to, that would be sufficient to make me stop reading, or caring.

#2. “ABC News’ Brian Ross CHOKES and sends markets in a downward spiral with false report.”

#3. CNN FALSELY reported that candidate Donald Trump and his son Donald J. Trump, Jr. had access to hacked documents from WikiLeaks.

Comment:  #2 and #3, both covered on ethics alarms, are the crown jewels of the fake news collection, among the  hundreds that shredded the mainstream media’s reputation for trustwortiness durin the year.  For the Whataboutists out there—and you know who you are!—these two alone destroy the “But Fox News was just as unfair to Obama!” baloney. In 8 years, no story broken by Fox were as unforgivable as Ross’s bombshell claim that Brian Ross went live on ABC last week and announced the fake news story that then-candidate Donald Trump had instructed Michael Flynn to make contact with the Russians, that smoking gun that all “the resistance” had been searching for, dreaming about, wishing were out there. It triggering a massive stock market sell-off. Seven hours later, ABC sheepishly admitted that it was President-elect Trump who had made the request of Flynn, which is called “being President.”    Ross was suspended for four weeks without pay, and ABC said he wouldn’t be trusted to cover the President any more. This itself was outrageous: if he’s so biased that he can’t cover the President, Ross is too unprofessional to be a journalist at all, certainly at ABC News. (Maybe for the Hooten Holler Gazette.) So far, Ross has yet to resurface, though his exile was supposedly up.
Continue reading

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December 8, 2017, When Our Old And New News Media Proved Beyond A Doubt That They Were Untrustworthy And If Not Completely Useless, Close Enough For Horsehoes

I am marking down today to cite the next time someone tells me that the news media isn’t disastrously biased, or that President Trump is threatening the First Amendment when he tweets about “fake news” or untrustworthy journalists.

Or perhaps, as an alternative, I will hurl myself into a woodchipper.

Democracy cannot survive, must less thrive, without an informed citizenry, which can only be achieved with an objective, independent, competent journalism sector.

We no longer have one. Behold the nauseating developments of today: Continue reading

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Two Unethical News Stories, One Conclusion [Updated With Poll]

Story One, from Fox News:

Roy Moore accuser worked for Clinton campaign as interpreter, reports say

This is horrible, insulting, boot-0lick journalism. First, the proper response is “So what?” It is ridiculous to presume that anyone who works on a Democratic campaign is a Democrat. The janitors? The drivers? The caterers? Nonsense. It is ridiculous to suggest that someone who worked in the Clinton campaign in a non-political job would be inclined to falsify a story—to attack a Senate candidate in Alabama.  It is also ridiculous for Fox or anyone else to rush to defend a candidate whose presence on any ballot from Senator to dog-catcher is a blight on democracy, even if he had the romantic scruples of George Bailey.

Furthermore, of the four ex-teens who described encounters with Moore, Clinton’s interpreter is the one who painted Moore in the best light, saying that “nothing bad happened.”

Such forced and inept partisan defense maneuvers just reinforce the worst stereotypes about Fox  News, and also give credence to the rumor that the network is run by bonobos.

Bias makes you stupid. Stupidity makes you biased. And biased and stupid news reporting only works with biased and stupid viewers.

Story Two, from NBC News:

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/17: The New Truthers

I have an early morning D.C. Bar program to do, and my goal of getting up at six after watching the second season of “Stranger Things” on Netflix (and waiting for someone to accuse Eleven  of sexual assault …this is how Netflix’s luck is running these days) until 1:30 am was missed spectacularly, to this is a quick ethics thought rather than a true warm-up.

The thought?

The “Russiagate” is this President’s “Birther” conspiracy, his “Truther” smear, and the 2016-17 model of “Bush stole the election.”

I realized this while reading one of our esteemed commenters who obviously believes Donald Trump made some nefarious deal with the Russians to sabotage Hillary. He really believes this. So does my sister, who I know a lot better, and has never before been prone to seeing Bigfoot under her bed or Nessie in her toilet.

This idiot also believes:

“We just have to, like the slogan says, stay woke; just stay woke, be careful, because I can see the wheels turning now…we’re marching toward impeachment, there’s no question about it. If that happens, are we prepared? Because it’s going to happen, So we have to make sure, Rev. Sharpton, that we are prepared when this happens so we don’t just wake up one day blindsided. I think it’s just going to get so tight and it’s going to close in and then everybody is going to be indicted around this president, and then he is going to realize he is probably next on the list. And I think he is going to come up with an excuse like ‘somebody is trying to kill Barron, and so I’m going to resign.’”

Who actually said this in public, so it could be recorded fr posterity? Why, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), that’s who, the objective member of the Congressional Black Caucus who the news media relied on to give an objective assessment of the tone of President Trump’s bereavement call to the widow of a serviceman killed by ISIS in Niger. Her characterization of Trump’s remarks as “insulting” and, by extension, racist, were sufficient to launch more than a week of attacks on the President’s competence and compassion.

I don’t doubt the good Congresswoman’s sincerity; I’m sure she believes this fantasy. I’m sure she believes those hats she wears aren’t ridiculous too. Nonetheless, there is no justification for her certitude, and only hate, confirmation bias and a refusal to abide by basic rules of logic cause her to believe what is now the fourth in a 17 year line of unethical partisans manufacturing a narrative to delegitimize an elected President.

Once again I am sorry that the Ethics Scoreboard is offline (I have to get around to fixing that), because in several posts there during the Bush administration I predicted where the Democratic strategy of claiming that Gore actually won Florida would lead: massive distrust, polarization, and a tit-for-tat payback cycle that would do massive harm to U.S. society. Many Democrats still claim that the 2000 election was stolen. Then the more hyper-partisan and conspiracy theory-prone of them moved on to Truther theories that Bush and Cheney somehow and for some reason engineered the 9-11 attacks.

I’ve talked to these people. I’ve read their websites. They are mad as hatters, but it all begins with the fact that they don’t trust Bush, Cheney and the Republicans because they stole the election. Actually, these crackpots have more substance to base their conviction on than the “Russiagate” theory contains. When Obama was elected, the same thing occurred: conservatives (and racists) could not accept that an inexperienced, far left ideologue like Barack Obama, with ties to America-haters like Bill Ayers and Reverent Wright, could be President. So they came up with, and many somehow believed— the Birther foolishness, easily the most absurd of the anti-President disinformation slanders yet. Continue reading

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