Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/3/19: Lies and Ridiculous Lies

Bad day, right from the start.

An old friend, and one of my favorite people in the world, just suffered a terrible tragedy, one of those random, devastating, lightning strikes to the heart. He is much loved, and will be hearing from many, including me, once I figure out what to say. I’m always flummoxed in such situations, hating to mouth platitudes (I’m so sorry for your loss), but unable to think of anything more helpful.

1. The Washington Post factchecker is trying to be non-partisan again. I wonder how long it will last this time? He gave Cory Booker four Pinnochio’s for his statement during the last debate, “We lost the state of Michigan because everybody from Republicans to Russians were targeting the suppression of African American voters.”

That one missed the cut in the Ethics Alarms post. It is a complete lie, absolutely baseless. It is exactly as false and irresponsible as President Trump’s claim, unmoored to anything but wild speculation that widespread voter fraud cost him California. That, of course, was roundly mocked and condemned by some of the same pundits who are rooting for Booker.

Glenn Kessler explains in his article that there are absolutely no facts that support Booker’s claim. It is just made up. No data exists that indicate that Russian social media hi-jinks cost Clinton votes in Michigan, or anywhere, for that matter, much less the thousands of votes needed to flip the state. Nor does Michigan have any new measures that that would have suppressed African American voters. Indeed Clinton lost because the African American turn-out was not as strong as 2012, but that was expected, and the fall-off was approximately what was predicted. Kessler concludes, “[W]e could not find any specific examples of new laws enacted between 2012 and 2016 that could have reduced African American turnout. In fact, the Republican governor in 2012 vetoed a bill that would have required a photo ID for absentee voting.”

The worst thing  about Donald Trump, we are told, is that he habitually makes statements like Cory Booker’s. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/28/19: Ethics Avalanche!

ARRGH!!!

Too many festering ethics issues to cover in as much detail as they deserve…

1. The deterioration of the New York Times, and with it respectable print journalism, continues. Over the weekend, the Times published a very large, front page diagram showing the President in the middle of a circle of indicted aides, advisers and others with some connection to his campaign. (I’m looking at it right now; I can’t find a version on the web to post.) It belongs in the Guilt by Association Hall of  Shame, and some other shameful halls as well. Literally none of the indictments involve any campaign activities by Trump or his campaign that would constitute illicit cooperation with Russia to affect the 2016 election—you know, the supposed point of having a Special Counsel. The bulk are so-called “process” violations, which means that the individuals lied in some aspect of the investigation, and was charged to pressure him to “flip” on the President.The one individual whose charges are linked to Trump is Michael Cohen, whose actual crimes had nothing to do with Trump, and whose alleged crime involving Trump–paying off an adulterous sex partner to keep quiet—is probably not a crime at all, even though Cohen pleaded guilty to it to save his skin.. The graphic proves nothing and clarifies nothing. It is just raw meat for Trump-haters, asserting guilt without substance. Similar circles could be assembled around many, many national figures and politicians (Bill Clinton comes to mind, and Barack Obama), especially following two years of targeting their associates.

2. Ann Althouse vivisects Tom Brokaw.  Just go to this link and read Ann’s expert commentary on Tom Brokaw’s bizarre turn on “Meet the Press,” and the even more bizarre tweets he issued to apologize to the social media mob for opining that “Hispanics should work harder at assimilation.” (Hispanics assimilate just fine, especially when they are here legally.)

Yes, poor Tom really did tweet, ” my tweet portal is whack i hv been trying to say i am sorry i offended and i so appreciate my colleague.” 

3. This would be an unethical quote of the day except that CNN fake media ethics watchdog Brian Stelter says and writes unethical things so often that it is no longer worth highlighting. Stelter re-tweeted with favor this quote from a panelist on his show as they discussed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex:

“She’s got a target on her back because she ticks every box that makes conservative men uncomfortable.”

Of course, this is pure race- and gender-baiting, the progressive and media reflex response to any criticism of female or minority Democrats, and insulting to women and progressive men as well. I assume many of the latter—the smart ones, anyway—are also made “uncomfortable” by arrogant, ignorant, under-qualified, anti-Semitic, Socialist naifs who garner a disproportionate amount of publicity while advocating absurd and irresponsible policies. A member of Congress who blathers like AOC would be like fingernails on a blackboard if she were a midde-aged he of Nordic descent.

Boy, Stelter is terrible. I hereby apologize to Howard Kurtz for being so hard on him when he had Stelter’s job. Compared to Stelter, Howard is me. Continue reading

THIS Was Supposed To Win The Election For Trump?

My sister, who is one of the smartest people I know, is also convinced that the Russians won the election for Trump with their secret Facebook ads, Twitter trolling and, of course, hacking of actual emails that showed exactly how sleazy and corrupt the Democrats were. (I admit, I have a hard time understanding how the latter was a bad thing for the country, a classic example of an unethical action having a fortunate result. In any event, “They let the truth out!” is a complaint that I find hard to get all choked up about.)

About the ads and fake news, however—the more I see, the more I find the evidence unconvincing, to say the least. If the Russians were just trying to make the campaign a little uglier, I guess that’s something, but from everything I’ve seen so far, they were wasting their time and money. I do find a lot of the Russian ads insulting, though. Boy, they really think we’re morons. On the other hand, except as a matter of principle, why is an incompetent Russian pro-Trump ad that wouldn’t convince anyone with the IQ of a salad fork more significant than any other idiotic ad? If Russia hired homeless people to fart around polling places, would we really regard this as an attack on democracy? Proportion is an ethical value, after all.

Exhibit A is above, a fake ad by the “Army of Jesus” inviting people to elect “a president with godly moral principles,” calling Hillary Clinton “a Satan.” I thought it was an Mad Magazine parody. Anyone so cretinous as to have his or her vote influenced by this silliness is too dumb to operate a voting machine.  This junk is what Clinton bitter-enders really think turned the tide? No wonder Hillary’s excuses sound plausible: compared to this, they are compelling.

Did anyone regard Trump as having “godly moral principles”? Ever? Continue reading