Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/29/2019: Good Kool-Aid, Bad Kool-Aid

Good morning!

1. No, it’s not yet clear what happened in the Jussie Smollett debacle, just that  whatever it was, it was unethical as hell. Smollett is no less guilty of faking a hate crime than he always was; the evidence is just as overwhelming; and the fools lining up to support him are asking for trouble. For example, the writers for Smollett’s show (it seems likely that it is no longer his show, and the producers would be certifiably mad to let him back on the air) seem to be under the delusion that charges were dropped against the African-American actor because there wasn’t evidence to try him. That is not what happened, whatever happened. But here is “Empire” writer Cameron Johnson  tweeting to a Chicago-based reporter  who has been covering the case since it first broke in January.

No, in fact everything reported about Smollett—that he faked the attack, lied to police and the news media, and that the two men he recruited and paid to carry out the hoax with him have fingered Smollett—appears to be true. Meanwhile, the NAACP is going forward with Smollett’s nomination for an award for his work on Empire. I wouldn’t put it past them to let him win, meaning that they would be applauding a divisive–but woke! And gay! And black!—hate crime hoaxer.

So again, what’s going on here? The former chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama had contacted Cook County prosecutor Kim Foxx about the case on behalf of a member of Smollett’s family.  Foxx is an openly racialized African-American prosecutor whose past words and conduct suggest that she might adopt the Sharpton-like theory that the fact that a hate crime is a hoax is less important than the fact that it could have been true. Also, prosecuting Smollett could have sent another black man to prison, and Foxx is on the record as wanting to do everything she can to avoid that result as often as possible.

Dismissals after grand jury indictments when there is no new exculpatory evidence usually require a defendant to accept responsibility, stay out of trouble for at least six months, and make restitution. None of this happened. Smollett not only denied responsibility, he again proclaimed his innocence . He was required to forfeit his bond, which would never be required if he was actually innocent based on the evidence. The state’s attorney’s office cited 16 hours of “community service” as a mitigating factor, but again, if he is innocent, why would that matter? Smollett did that work volunteering at the headquarters of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Then Smollett’s lawyer denied that any community service was required as a condition of the dismissal of his charges.

Prosecutors announced preemptively that the record in the case would be sealed, and there is no precedent for immediately sealing a criminal case involving an adult, even if a defendant is found not guilty. Defendants usually have to file a motion to seal their case, and the police are given the opportunity to contest the motion.

The Associated Press is reporting that the city will seek $130,000 from “ Smollett to cover the costs of the investigation into his hoax, which means that police are still certain that he is guilty.

It almost feels like this is a deliberate parody of the Mueller Report fiasco, designed to suggest that the situations of Smollett and President Trump are similar: both guilty, and both “exonerated” falsely.

The Illinois Prosecutors Bar Association has released a statement condemning the whatever -it-was in the strongest terms.

2. How do we get the news media and the public to stop paying attention to celebrities and actors when they are off script? These people are, as a group, neither especially informed, well-educated, or trained in critical thinking. Yet they have outsized metaphorical bullhorns, and influence fans to adopt unethical practices and irresponsible ideas. Here is “Captain America” star Chris Evans telling an interviewer that if Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a supporter of the President of the United States, he will “cut ties” with him, whatever that means. His attitude means, however, that he would have American society divided into warring camps that never speak to each other. In a fawning profile by the New York Times, we get the diminutive actor’s policy wisdom in comments like this, in which he explains why  he will campaign for Bernie Sanders, as he did in 2016:

“If you look back on that election, a lot of his progressive ideas are accepted now. Like free college education. I didn’t go to any college. Forgive the debt, so people can live their lives and not feel they’re under a wet blanket. Let’s let the sun shine. We have a beautiful country. We got a lot of resources. You know, Medicare for all. What’s the big deal? Why not open that up?”

Yes, he’s a moron….and a moron that the Times is encouraging trusting citizens to take seriously.

3.  Scary, if even half-accurate. Over at the Epoch Times, Jeff Carlson (who is an accountant, and apparently a diligent researcher) lays out the whole case for a  “deep State” effort to try to stop Donald Trump from being elected President, and then to overthrow him once he was. It begins,

“Efforts by high-ranking officials in the CIA, FBI, Department of Justice (DOJ), and State Department to portray President Donald Trump as having colluded with Russia were the culmination of years of bias and politicization under the Obama administration.”

Some of his case is the Kool-Aid I was accused of drinking when I reported (accurately) the implications of the irregularities in the FISA warrant process used to plant an informer in the Trump campaign. It is extremely ironic that the same people who threw tantrums here over fact-based suspicions regarding the “resistance” efforts within the government were guzzling the vile Kool-Aid that Donald Trump had conspired with Russia. I was right, they were wrong, and they were insulting while being wrong. If they had any courage and integrity, they would come back here and admit it.

I misjudged them, and their character.

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/2/2018: Goodby, Shut Up, My Condolences, WHAT??, And Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You!

Feelin’ groovy!

1.  The Republicans keep robocalling, and the Democrats...keep emailing. I have protested both. However, right now I am really ticked at the Democrats, whose endless lists I have dutifully asked to be deleted from, then been told that my cyber-door would not be darkened by them again, only to have Tom Perez, Nancy Pelosi and Keith Ellison, plus  show up in by in-box the next day. Do they think this direct violation of my privacy along with their own assurances doesn’t reflect on their fitness to govern? If so, they are wrong.

2. Great news! Now you can identify as British for no good reason whatsoever. I love this story: Thomas J Mace-Archer-Mills Esq. and his insight into the British monarchy a regular feature TV  during that royal wedding I missed because of a sock drawer crisis. His website lists  many media appearances, and one article described him as “the most interviewed man” on the subject of the Wonderful Nuptials.

It has now been revealed that Thomas J Mace-Archer-Mills Esq. is really  Tommy Muscatello, a 38-year-old Italian-American who grew up in upstate New York. But he says he  identifies more as  British than American, so there is that.

Now imagine how well anonymous sources are vetted by crack journalists. [Pointer: Curmy)

3. About that “fever”…An esteemed commenter here proclaimed his exit because of Ethics Alarms’ characterization of the so-called (actually “cleverly-called” is appropriate) “Spygate” scandal (here and here), saying that he would be gone until “the fever” had passed as if questioning the integrity of the Justice Department’s Trump investigation/ “resistance” assistance is obviously a partisan delusion. I almost made that post a Comment of the Day, except that I concluded that denial shouldn’t be mocked. It is, after all, the first of the seven stages of grief, and apparently one which Democrats and progressives are stuck in, while others have progressed at least as far as anger (Stage #3), culminating in episodes like a female comic calling the President’s daughter a “cunt” on television to reactions like this.

Anger, however, only makes one seem overcome with emotion. Denial makes us look blind and gullible. I do not understand the Left suddenly trusting the FBI (Hoover? Felt?) and the Justice Department as if they have always been paragons of virtue. This is pure denial, or, if you prefer, ignorance. If anything, there should be a presumption of politicization in the Justice Department, particularly the Obama version and particularly in light of the post-election conduct of its holdovers like McCabe, Comey and Yates. The FBI, meanwhile, is permanently scarred by Comey’s self-celebration tour, his book, his botching of the Clinton investigation, his dubious testimony before Congress, and his probably illegal leaks of classified information specifically to cause problems for President Trump.

A beloved relative, also in denial, actually tried to tell me last week that the astoundingly suspiciously-timed tarmac meeting between Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton shouldn’t have raised any alarms. She’s a lawyer. She’s brilliant. She’s sincere. She’s also in denial, Stage 5. That was such a perfect example of the appearance of impropriety that a photo of it should be on Wikipedia under “appearance of impropriety.”) When the leaders of the FBI do things like that in the middle of a Presidential campaign, how can someone of good faith and full cranium argue that it’s irrational to question the act of the same people placing a mole in the Republican candidate’s campaign?   This is the pot calling the Corningware black.

Those in denial have their perceptions warped by their own fever, one that causes them to assume, absent any evidence whatsoever, that President Trump must have been working to steal the election. (They also assume he is guilty of other impeachable crimes, they just don’t know which ones.) Hillary lost, you see, and the polls said it was impossible, so he must have cheated. It can’t be that Trump won because he was running against an epically terrible candidate smugly presenting herself as the “third term” of a spectacularly inept and divisive President. It just can’t. Continue reading

Gee, Trump-Haters, Is Fox News Trustworthy And Reliable NOW?

 Two Fox News stalwarts, chief Fox News anchor Shep Smith and “Judge” Anthony Napolitano (he’s not a judge, not any more) took issue on the air with criticism of “Spygate.” Let’s take the two individually…

Shep said, in part,

“President Trump has also claimed that Feds spied on his campaign with an informant,” Smith concluded. “The President calls it ‘spygate.’ Fox News can confirm it is not. Fox News knows of no evidence to support the president’s claim; Lawmakers from both parties say using an informant to investigate suspected ties to Russia is not spying, it’s part of the normal investigative process.”

Ugh.

  • Smith is not the least bit sympathetic to Trump, though Fox-bashers like to ignore this when they accuse Fox of being blind shills for the President. He tries to be objective, but slants left like most of his colleagues at other networks. So this is not, as it is being represented to be, a stunning rejection by a media ally of President Trump.
  • This popular semantical defense of the FBI using a mole in the Trump campaign remains desperate and silly. The FBI recruited an individual to seek out contacts within the Trump campaign and pass along information learned thereby to the agency. An undercover informant is a spy—it’s just that spy is a pejorative term.
  • “Lawmakers from both parties say using an informant to investigate suspected ties to Russia is not spying, it’s part of the normal investigative process” is a horrible, unethical sentence. First, if some lawmakers from both parties say Trump is a rutabaga, it doesn’t make him a rutabaga—this is naked appeal to authority. Bad Shep.

Second, who is so certain “ties to Russia” is all the “informant” was investigating? Why are they so certain? Because the FBI says so? Continue reading

Spygate Spin: “How Can Honest People Still Deny That The News Media Is Spreading Anti-Trump Propaganda As Fact?” Exhibit A

My New York Times headline this morning: “Trump Embraces Shadowy Plots, Eroding Trust..Theories from Fringes…Agencies Undermined By Claims of ‘Spygate” and ‘Deep State’

This is no better than, and no less than, actively perpetuating a Big Lie.

I won’t get into the murk of the Deep State for now. However, denying “Spygate” and claiming it is a “fringe” conspiracy theory is flagrantly dishonest, and a low even by the Times’ recent standards. The entire “Obama’s administration didn’t spy on the Trump campaign, like so many examples of political spin and denial, rests on Clintonesque rhetorical deceit” “It depends on what the meaning of spy is.” Really, New York Times? Really, CNN? Really, my furious, Trump-hating, echo-chamber bolstered Facebook friends? Really? That’s your argument?

Pathetic.

Two definitely non-fringe, non-conspiracy theorist, non-Trump flacks clarified this issue for anyone who doesn’t want to be brainwashed by the Times and its chums, who are now especially desperate because they are covering for Obama, whose administration—scandal free, you know!—looks sleezier and more incompetent in the rear view mirror by the day.

Here is Michael Barone, a Republican pundit but no Trump fan:

F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims,” read the headline on a lengthy New York Times story May 18. “The Justice Department used a suspected informant to probe whether Trump campaign aides were making improper contacts with Russia in 2016,” read a story in the May 21 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

So much for those who dismissed charges of Obama administration infiltration of Donald Trump’s campaign as paranoid fantasy. Defenders of the Obama intelligence and law enforcement apparat have had to fall back on the argument that this infiltration was for Trump’s — and the nation’s — own good.

It’s an argument that evidently didn’t occur to Richard Nixon’s defenders when it became clear that Nixon operatives had burglarized and wiretapped the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in June 1972.

Until 2016, just about everyone agreed that it was a bad thing for government intelligence or law enforcement agencies to spy — er, use informants — on a political campaign, especially one of the opposition party. Liberals were especially suspicious of the FBI and the CIA. Nowadays they say that anyone questioning their good faith is unpatriotic.

The crime at the root of Watergate was an attempt at surveillance of the DNC after George McGovern seemed about to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, just as the government misconduct in Russiagate was an attempt at surveillance of the Republican Party’s national campaign after Trump clinched its nomination.

…Both the Watergate wiretap and the Obama appointees’ investigator/spy infiltration were initially inspired amid fears that the upstart opposition might win. The Watergate burglary was planned when Nixon’s re-election was far from assured. A May 1972 Harris Poll showed him with only 48 percent against McGovern. It was only after the Haiphong harbor bombing and Moscow summit in early June made clear that US involvement in Vietnam was ending that Nixon’s numbers surged — just before the June 17 burglary.

In March 2016, it was conventional wisdom that Trump couldn’t be elected president. But his surprising and persistent strength in the Republican primaries left some doubtful, including the FBI lovebirds who instant messaged their desire for an “insurance policy” against that dreaded eventuality.

Their unease may have owed something to their knowledge of how the Obama Justice Department and FBI had fixed the Hillary Clinton emails case. Clinton wasn’t indicted but was left with a disastrously low 32 percent of voters confident of her honesty and trustworthiness.

There are two obvious differences between Watergate and the Obama administration’s infiltration. The Watergate burglars were arrested in flagrante delicto, and their wiretaps never functioned. And neither the FBI nor the CIA fully cooperated with the post-election cover-up.

That’s quite a contrast with the Obama law enforcement and intelligence appointees’ promotion of Christopher Steele’s Clinton campaign-financed dodgy dossier and feeding the mainstream media’s insatiable hunger for Russia collusion stories.

Has an outgoing administration ever worked to delegitimize and dislodge its successor like this? We hear many complaints, some justified, about Donald Trump’s departure from standard political norms. But the greater and more dangerous departure from norms may be that of the Obama officials seeking to overturn the results of the 2016 election.

Come on…this is all made up! It didn’t happen! It’s a conspiracy theory from the fringes! The New York Times says so!

Here was prominent White House advisor David Plouffe’s tweet in June of 2016:

Nah, that’s a fake tweet, right? Nothing sinister like this was really being discussed in Obama’s scandal-free White House! It all a paranoid conspiracy theory!

Now here is Andrew McCarthy—a conservative, but apparently there are no liberal journalists with any integrity where Trump is involved–in his article, “The Obama Administration’s Hypocritical Pretext for Spying on the Trump Campaign.” McCarthy is hardly Alex Jones. He is a rigorous analyst who was previously assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. He led the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others ultimately convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He knows how to construct a damning case, and wrote in part:

As I argued in my weekend column, it is hard to imagine a more idle question than whether the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign. Of course it did. If you want to argue the point, imagine what the professors, pundits, and pols would have said had the Bush administration run an informant against three Obama 2008 campaign officials, including the campaign co-chairman; any hair-splitting about whether that technically constituted “spying” would be met by ostracism from polite society.

Verdict: true. Continue reading

The News Media-“Resistance” Alliance On Ugly Display In The “Spygate” Spin

The revelation that there was a mole, Stefan Halper, planted in his campaign by the FBI, prompted President Donald Trump to demand an investigation into whether the FBI or Justice Department infiltrated his campaign for political purposes.  The “resistance” and the mainstream news media have been in panic mode ever since, and have been actively bad at it. Heaven forbid that journalists could admit that when they mocked the President for suggesting that his campaign was surveilled, they were wrong and he was right.

Scott Adams neatly exposed the hypocrisy and dishonesty, tweeting,

“Four things to understand about SPYGATE: 1) There was no spy in the Trump campaign. 2) The spying that did NOT happen was totally justified. 3) It would be bad for national security to identify the spy who doesn’t exist. 4) His name is Stefan.”

Ann Althouse deserves applause for her analysis as well:

James Clapper was on “The View” yesterday and it went like this:

BEHAR: “So I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump’s campaign?”

CLAPPER: “No, they were not. They were spying on, a term I don’t particularly like, but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence which is what they do.”

BEHAR: “Well, why doesn’t [Trump] like that? He should be happy.”

CLAPPER: “He should be.”

Well, Trump seems happy that the word “spying” slipped out of Clapper as he was talking about what the FBI was doing. Clapper obviously knew he slipped, since he immediately tried to (subtly) erase it.

Trump displayed his happiness by tweeting: “‘Trump should be happy that the FBI was SPYING on his campaign’ No, James Clapper, I am not happy. Spying on a campaign would be illegal, and a scandal to boot!” And, talking to reporters: “I mean if you look at Clapper … he sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign yesterday inadvertently. I hope it’s not true, but it looks like it is.”

Then Ann dissected CNN toady Chris Cillizza’s embarrassing attempt to cover for Trump foe Clapper—which, you know, is not the job of a real journalist, only that of a biased hack: Continue reading

Late Deflategate Update: Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Does A Full Corleone

Tom Hagen

Ruthless mob “Godfather” Michael Corleone had lied  to the fictional Congressional committee investigating organized crime. The smoking gun witness who had cut a deal to destroy Michael’s fake stance as a persecuted patriot and honest businessman had just been intimidated into recanting, seeing his older brother sitting with his targets and knowing that if he betrays the Family, his brother’s head would end up in his bed. So lies and corruption have triumphed, and as the scene from “Godfather Part II” fades, Michael Corleone’s lawyer, Tom Hagen, is shouting over the gavel and the crowd noise, to the disgusted and defeated Committee chair,

“SENATOR! SENATOR! This committee owes an apology, this committee owes an apology — an apology Senator!”

This memorable scene was immediately what my mind was jerked back to when I read New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft’s defiant statement regarding his team’s latest cheating scandal, in the section where he said…

“If the Wells investigation is not able to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure in the footballs, I would expect and hope that the League would apologize to our entire team and in particular, Coach Belichick and Tom Brady for what they have had to endure this past week. I am disappointed in the way this entire matter has been handled and reported upon. We expect hard facts as opposed to circumstantial leaked evidence to drive the conclusion of this investigation.”

I see now from a brief Googling of “Tom Hagen Robert Kraft” that I was not alone, and no wonder. Kraft’s guys have stonewalled, denied, mocked, deflected, tap-danced, and allowed loyal ethics-challenged sportswriters, bloggers and fans to block for them.  Belichick and Brady almost certainly have covered their tracks sufficiently to avoid their just desserts, and Kraft is demanding an apology when it is he who should be apologizing—to the NFL, to opposing teams, to New England, to Boston, and to the fans, for allowing a corrupt and unethical culture to flourish under his ownership. Has any criminal, having avoided conviction because he or she could not be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, had the chutzpah to demand an apology from the prosecution? Did Casey Anthony  or O.J., as despicable as they are, dare to rub society’s nose in their triumph like that? Continue reading

The NFL, Battling Its Own Sick Culture

"OK, it's a deal then: we put this guy in the hospital, and split the bounty 50-50..."

The last Super Bowl was phenomenally successful, as its audience size shattered previous records. Yet for many years, I have not been able to enjoy the sport, because of the unethical conflict at its core. Pro football’s appeal and swagger is based on violence, and we now know that the violence damages its players to an unacceptable extent. The players are paid both to accept the crippling and often-life shortening abuse, as well as administer it. For this former fan, that makes football too close to boxing from an ethical perspective. If the NFL is paying  players to do permanent harm to each other, then so are the fans that pay the NFL.  Sorry: there are too many other forms of entertainment that don’t require me to endorse and subsidize brutality. Thus I was not surprised to read this, in the New York Times:

“During the past three seasons, while the National Football League has been changing rules and levying fines in an effort to improve player safety, members of the New Orleans Saints’ defense maintained a lucrative bounty system that paid players for injuring opponents, according to an extensive investigation by the N.F.L. The bounty system was financed mostly by players — as many as 27 of them — and was administered by the former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who also contributed money to the pool. The N.F.L. said that neither Coach Sean Payton nor General Manager Mickey Loomis did anything to stop the bounties when they were made aware of them or when they learned of the league’s investigation.  According to the league, Loomis did not even stop the bounties when ordered to by the team’s owner. “

This practice is not only unethical and against NFL rules, it is criminal.  Continue reading