Tag Archives: spin

Ethical Quote Of The Month: Jake Tapper

“Hillary Clinton today accepting full responsibility for the election loss, except for the part when she blamed Comey, Putin, Wikileaks, misogyny, and the media.”

—-CNN’s Jake Tapper in his show intro yesterday, referring to Hillary Clinton’s comments at the Women For Women lunch in New York while being interviewed by Christiane Amanpour.

Bravo, Jake.

What prompted Tapper’s stinging irony was Clinton ‘s first one-on-one interview with a journalist, CNN anchor ( and fan) Christiane Amanpour, since she lost the 2016 election. The setting was a Women for Women International event in New York. Clinton discussed the 2016 election, and framed her answers regarding the stunning loss with this…

“Of course. I take absolute personal responsibility. I was the candidate, I was the person who was on the ballot, and I am very aware of the challenges, the problems, the shortfalls that we had.”

You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it does. Continue reading

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The 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2016, Part 1

bad-2016

Welcome, if that’s the word, to the 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards.

Last year, in a burst of self-pity as I began this annual task, I wrote,

“It is depressing and discouraging: 2015 was much worse than 2014, which was considerably worse than 2013. What am I doing here? What is the point of spending all of this uncompensated time—it is more profitable bagging groceries!—trying to nurture a more ethical culture and a more ethically competent public when all evidence points to utter futility as the result? Well, that way madness lies, I guess. I’m just going to grit my teeth and do my duty. Last year I began by saying that 2014 was the year of the Ethics Train Wreck. There were far more of them in 2015, and they were more serious and damaging. That should give you sufficient warning of the horrors to come…”

Then came 20i6.

To paraphrase  Margo Channing, “Fasten your seatbelts: It’s going to a bumpy post…”

Ethics Train Wreck of the Year

train-wreck-air

The Hillary Clinton E-Mail Scandal Ethics Train Wreck

I thought last year was the Year of the Train Wreck. Wrong. In 2016, we had the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, the Campus Sexual Assault Witch Hunt Ethics Train Wreck, the Freddie Gray Ethics Train Wreck, the old stand-by Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck, the still active Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, and the Ethics Train Wrecks of both Presidential candidates campaigns. Hillary’s e-mails and their related lies in the long trail of cars called the Hillary Clinton E-Mail Scandal Ethics Train Wreck, was a clear winner though.

Passengers included President Obama, Bernie Sanders, Anthony Weiner, the F.B.I., Loretta Lynch, Bill Clinton, James Comey and more. And, of course, it played a significant and perhaps decisive role in bringing us President Trump.

Runner-Up: 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck. It had less than a month to get up steam, but it caused lots of ethics carnage, and is still going strong.

Fraud of the Year

The Trump Foundation, which revealed itself to be a near total sham. RUNNER-UP: Fake lawyer Kimberly Kitchen, who worked as an estate planning lawyer at BMZ Law in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, and served as president of the county bar, though she never went to law school, and never took the bar exam, but forged documents to fool everyone that she had.

Most Unethical Act By A Major Church

The Catholic Church, which, incredibly, restored a convicted rapist to the priesthood. Father Joseph Jeyapaul,  a Catholic priest from India, while serving in the Crookston, Minnesota diocese from 2004 to 2005 raped at least two adolescent girls.  After being charged with the crimes, including rape and forcing at least one of his victims to perform fellatio on him, Father Joseph  escaped to India, where an Interpol warrant got him extradited back to Minnesota.  There he confessed, and as part of a plea bargain, received an outrageously light sentence of a year and a day for pleading guilty to one count of molestation. Jeyapaul was suspended from the priesthood and served his time in Minnesota. The U.S. deported him back to India, while the Minnesota diocese had to pay millions in a civil lawsuit, during which we learned that the rapist priest had told one of his victims  in the confessional that she was at fault, and had made Jeyapaul “impure” by letting him abuse her. In February, the Vatican lifted Jeyapaul‘s suspension and restored him to the priesthood. It then assigned him to a new parish in India, where he is now the diocesan head of its commission for education. 

Tell me again why that fake news story that the Pope endorsed Trump was supposed to help The Donald.

Incompetent Elected Official of the Year

kkane

Kathleen G. Kane (D), Pennsylvania’s ex-Attorney General.  In October, a judge sentenced her to 10 to 23 months in prison for her conviction on charges of perjury and abuse of her office. You can’t be more incompetent, I’d say, than an elected attorney general who can’t stay out of jail herself. I regret not writing about the Kane saga last year, but her ethical void was fairly apparent back in 2013, the only time I did write about her, after she leaked grand jury testimony, which is illegal. I wrote at the time (I must have been in a bad mood)…

“Leaking grand jury testimony is both illegal and spectacularly unethical for a lawyer, yet Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, appears to have done it for the slimiest of reasons, and is offering the most cynical of defenses in the most offensive of ways. (Incidentally, I don’t understand how this could happen. After all, Kane is a woman, the first Democrat and the first woman to be elected to the post, and since having a vagina alone is supposed to imbue a candidate with trustworthiness, surpassing competence and virtue, this makes no sense at all.)”

Unethical Elected Official of the Year

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The Ethics Alarms “Fake News” Project: Seeking Ethics Distinctions Among Web Hoaxes, False Narratives,”Fake News” And Negligent, Incompetent or Biased Reporting (PART I: The New York Times School Voucher Headline)

I LOVE this story! I wish it WERE true!!!

I LOVE this story! I wish it WERE true!!!

Yesterday’s New York Times included a story headlined  Free Market For Education: Economists Generally Don’t Buy It, and it stated,

The odds are good that privatizing education will be part of the agenda for President-elect Donald J. Trump’s administration. […] You might think that most economists agree with this overall approach, because economists generally like free markets. For example, over 90 percent of the members of the University of Chicago’s panel of leading economists thought that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft made consumers better off by providing competition for the highly regulated taxi industry.But economists are far less optimistic about what an unfettered market can achieve in education. Only a third of economists on the Chicago panel agreed that students would be better off if they all had access to vouchers to use at any private (or public) school of their choice.

While economists are trained about the value of free markets, they are also trained to spot when markets can’t work alone and government intervention is required.

That summation, however, was misleading to the point of falsehood. As the Scott Alexander points out at his blog Slate Star Codex,  the source for the story indicated something quite different—materially different:

economists_views

Got that? Scott Alexander writes:

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, language, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: The Truth About Snopes

"So what? What matters is the quality of work we do, not how we do it!"

“So what? What matters is the quality of work we do, not how we do it!”

Ethics Alarms had already declared the fact-checking website Snopes.com untrustworthy,  based on a series of partisan posts that intentionally muddied the factual waters rather than purifying them, when Facebook named it as one of its select gate-keepers to protect its readers from “fake news.” This was not wise,  since a fact-checker who slants the facts is as useful as an accounting firm that will cook the books for a price. I laid out a series of conditions before I would ever use the service again, and so should Facebook. My non-negotiable demands before I would visit the site, reference it positively, or use it as authority were:

  • Getting out of the political fact-checking business.
  • Firing researchers who have been conclusively shown to engage in biased and shoddy research
  • Confessing its betrayal of trust and capitulation to partisan bias, apologizing, and taking remedial measures.

However, there is more to consider. In an exclusive report so lurid that I assume it is credible only because publishing it without iron-clad verification would be asking for a lawsuit and worse, the Daily Mail has just revealed that…

  • When Snopes  was founded by spouses Barbara and David Mikkelson, they used a letterhead claiming they were a non-existent society to give credibility to their research.
  • The couple is divorced, and Barbara claimed in legal documents that David embezzled $98,000 of company money to spend on “himself and prostitutes.”
  • Now operating Snopes himself, David Mikkelson’s new wife Elyssa Young is employed by the website as “an administrator.” Before that, she  worked as an escort and porn actress.
  • She also ran  for Congress in 2004 as a Libertarian on a ‘Re-Defeat Bush’ platform
  • Kim LaCapria, one of the site’s  main researchers and the author of the baised and misleading “fact-check” on Hillary Clinton’s representation of a child rapist, previously had a blog called “ViceVixen.”

The article also includes this:

David Mikkelson told the Dailymail.com that Snopes does not have a “standardized procedure” for fact-checking “since the nature of this material can vary widely.’” He said the process “involves multiple stages of editorial oversight, so no output is the result of a single person’s discretion.” He also said the company has no set requirements for fact-checkers because the variety of the work “would be difficult to encompass in any single blanket set of standards. Accordingly, our editorial staff is drawn from diverse backgrounds; some of them have degrees and/or professional experience in journalism, and some of them don’t.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Should any or all of the items in the Daily Mail story, it it is accurately reported, disqualify Snopes from being trusted by Facebook, its readers, or anyone else?

Continue reading

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A Special Ethics Alarms “Fake News” Friday Bulletin: Obama Calls The Hacked DNC E-Mails “Gossip” [UPDATED]

gossip

As I write this, President Obama is using his press conference to spin the Russia-Wikileaks hacked e-mails story. In addition to snidely implying that Americans are idiots for allowing such relative trivia to sway their votes when so much of substance was at stake (note that there is no evidence that any votes were thus swayed), the President referred to the content of the DNC e-mails as “gossip.” Gossip is generally defined as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details which are not confirmed as true.” Calling the contents of Podesta’s e-mails and others “gossip” is deliberate disinformation by Obama—a lie. The most important revelations were definitely not “gossip.” Like these:

  • A 12-page memo written by Doug Band,  longtime aide to Bill Clinton, describes using his consulting firm to raise money for the Clinton Global Initiative as well as direct personal income for the former president. It describes how Band rallied clients of his firm, Teneo, to contribute directly to Mr Clinton for “in-kind services for the President and his family – for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like” referring to that fund as “Bill Clinton Inc”.

The memo confirmed that several companies directly paid the former president for his speeches or advice, while making contributions to the Clinton Global Initiative.  One client, Coca Cola, received a face-to-face meeting with the former president at his home in 2009, after contributing millions to the non-profit foundation.

Verdict: Not gossip, but smoking-gun evidence of Clinton influence peddling.

  • On the fateful day that news of a private email server broke, John Podesta emailed Neera Tanden, who worked for the Clinton campaign in 2008 and has remained a close adviser, to complain, saying, “We’ve taken on a lot of water that won’t be easy to pump out of the boat”, he wrote in September 2015 as Clinton staff feared that Vice President Joe Biden would join the Democratic primary race. “Most of that has to do with terrible decisions made pre-campaign, but a lot has to do with her instincts. Almost no one knows better [than] me that her instincts can be terrible.” In the email exchange, Mr Podesta also complained that Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall, and former State Department staffers Cheryl Mills and Philippe Reines “sure weren’t forthcoming here on the facts here”. Mrs Tanden responds “Why didn’t’ they get this stuff out like 18 months ago? So crazy.”

Tanden later answered her own question saying, “I guess I know the answer. They wanted to get away with it.”

Verdict: Not gossip. These were assessments of those who know Clinton best, and their questioning her judgment was significant, as is the last comment, which completely undermines the year-long Clinton camp denial that there was anything amiss with Hillary’s handling of e-mail at State. It would be admissible in court to show state of mind and that the Clinton camp had lied. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Leadership, The Internet

Update: Generalissimo Franco* Is Still Dead, And Snopes Is Still An Unethical Website

Snopes.com's favorite in "The Wizard of Oz," and I don't mean Ray Bolger...

Snopes.com’s favorite in “The Wizard of Oz,” and I don’t mean Ray Bolger…

The July 31 Ethics Alarms post detailing how snopes.com, usually referred to as the “fact and rumor check website,” has quietly morphed into just another progressive Democrat online spin-merchant nailed these frauds based on their tortured spin to protect Hillary Clinton and her election prospects from legitimate criticism and, in the case of Clinton’s decade-old defense of a child rapist, illegitimate criticism based on genuine facts that Snopes denied anyway.

That is…don’t ask me why…the most read, linked and shared Ethics Alarms post ever. It even was the target of some of Hillary’s paid online trolls, whom I recognized when I realized they were writing from the same (false) talking points memo. Just to be clear, there is no longer any legitimate dispute that Snopes can’t be trusted, is subject to partisan bias, and is thus 100% useless as a “fact and rumor check website,” since their writers warp facts and debunk the truth when they feel like it.

I ended the July pots on this depressing note for me, because I once used and recommended the site with confidence:

That’s the end for Snopes. Even one example of bias-fed misrepresentation ends any justifiable trust readers can have that the site is fair, objective and trustworthy. Snopes has proven that it has a political and partisan agenda, and that it is willing to mislead and deceive its readers to advance it.

Can it recover? Maybe, but not without…

…Getting out of the political fact-checking business.

…Firing Dan Evon, who used the misleading flag photos, as well as Kim LaCapria.

…Confessing its betrayal of trust and capitulation to partisan bias, apologizing, and taking remedial measures.

With all the misinformation on the web, a trustworthy web site like Snopes used to be is essential. Unfortunately, a site that is the purveyor of falsity cannot also be the antidote for it.

I’ll miss Snopes, but until it acknowledges its ethics breach and convinces me that the site’s days of spinning and lying were a short-lived aberration, I won’t be using it again.

Two developments since this was written are worth noting. The weird one is that the site has been prominently cited as an authority more often since that post than before it. NBC’s FBI action drama “Blind Spot” had a character settle an argument by referring to Snopes, a first, and increasing numbers of news reports and op-eds have cited Snopes as well. Obviously the scriptwriters, reporters and pundits don’t read “Ethics Alarms,” but this is pure negligence. Snopes can’t be trusted. It’s as simple as that.

I have received from readers more examples of Snopes Spinning For Democrats, but this one, flagged by the Daily Caller, is worthy of this brief return to the issue. Continue reading

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