Tag Archives: trust

When A Polarized News Media Makes An Informed Public Impossible: A Case Study

Organophosphate brain damage

The question: Is there something seriously wrong with Hillary Clinton’s health?

The answer: Based on news reporting, there is absolutely no way for an objective citizen to know.

The so-called right wing media, especially websites and blogs, have been circulating the theory for some time that Clinton exhibits signs of some form of brain damage, either from a fall or a stroke. (You will recall that she had a serious fall and a concussion a few years ago.) Matt Drudge has focused on Clinton’s periodic coughing fits, which, the theory goes, are in part the side effect from anti-seizure medication.

As well-versed as I am in the almost total lack of objectivity within the mainstream media, particularly where Hillary Clinton is involved, I have apparently been programmed by their automatic disdain for “conservative stories” that I have never given this theory any credibility. Surely, surely, no matter how biased they are, legitimate journalists would feel an obligation to investigate something as important as the health of a Presidential candidate. I assumed—I still assume—that this has been investigated. I assumed—and I’m trying to still assume—that if something was wrong, the news media would feel duty-bound to report it.

My confidence is wavering, however. Since mid-July, video snippets have been widely viewed on the web showing Clinton behaving oddly. Some bloggers, notably Mike Cernovich (who is trying to sell a book) found troubling moments during the recent convention and after it. This moment, for example, from an August 4 rally, where Clinton appeared to freeze…

The Secret Service agent who rushes to her side first says “You’ll be OK,” and then “Keep talking.” Observers have speculated that Hillary’s protectors have been briefed and trained on how to handle  a seizure.

Then there are these episodes…this, from June (the date on the video is wrong, and the assertion about an “epileptic seizure” is unsubstantiated) where Clinton’s head seemed to come unhinged… Continue reading

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Hillary’s New Tactic: When Caught Lying, Resort To Gibberish

Yesterday in Washington, D.C., Hillary Clinton took questions at a meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She was asked by NBC’s Kristen Welker to explain her jaw-dropping lie on Fox News Sunday a week ago, when she claimed  that FBI Director James B. Comey had said all of her statements had been “truthful,” when anyone who heard Comey’s public statement or Congressional testimony could see that he actually stated that her public statements—for more than a year—were not true. Incredibly, Clinton had no coherent or credible answer for this, though she had to know—didn’t she?—that the question would be asked.

Her answer began with this:

“I may have short-circuited it, and for that I will try to clarify.”

On “The Honeymooners,” Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) used to stutter out, when confronted with his own whopper or otherwise trapped, “Huminahuminahumina…” “Short-circuited” is as meaningful as that. It’s gibberish, but just as obviously means “you caught me lying through my teeth, and I don’t have a good explanation.” Ralph, however, was a humble, none-too-bright bus driver, and not running for President, so the standards in his case can be relaxed a bit.

(Please also note Clinton’s equivocal “might.” )

Ralph always followed  “huminahuminahumina…” with facial expressions and body language showing silent humiliation, and then an abject apology. Hillary, being Hillary, just started lying again. The AP fact-checked her response, and determined that she had trotted out the same shifting, mendacious assertions we have heard so many time before. Concluded the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, 

Er, what? What Clinton appears to be saying is that Comey said that everything she said to the FBI was truthful (he did) and since she said publicly exactly what she said to the FBI, therefore everything she said was truthful.

Oh, so that’s what “short-circuited” means! Continue reading

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So It Has Come To This: Criminalizing Burps In Middle School

At  Cleveland Middle School in Albuquerque, a persistent class clown, age 13, kept burping in class, followed by the usual titters from his classmates.

I was in class with one of these characters in the 8th grade, and I must admit, his burp was something: loud, long, low, and seemingly inexhaustible. He was yanked out of class, he was sent to detention, his parents were called, he was suspended, and eventually, without too much conflict, he learned to cut it out. (They never caught the guy who shouted “HOG!” in a raucous voice during study hall.) Apparently this method was beyond the abilities of the  Cleveland Middle School staff to execute.

The teacher, Ms. Mines-Hornbeck, called the police, who arrested and eventually cuffed the boy. Principal Susan LaBarge and Assistant Principal Ann Holmes  not only suspended him for the rest of the school year, but allowed the criminal justice process to proceed, with the boy being processed for the charge of  violating a New Mexico statute, N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-20-13(D), that reads…

No person shall willfully interfere with the educational process of any public or private school by committing, threatening to commit or inciting others to commit any act which would disrupt, impair, interfere with or obstruct the lawful mission, processes, procedures or functions of a public or private school.

That’s right: arrest and criminal prosecution for burping in class.

None of the staff at the school, apparently, had an ethics alarm go off that induced them to point out that the year long suspension was an unethically harsh punishment, and the criminal charge was tantamount to child abuse. I remember that in the fourth grade at Parmenter School in Arlington, Mass, my friend Timmy Russell was moved to leap to his feet during a math lesson and do a ten second imitation of Elvis singing “Hound Dog.” Everyone laughed, including the teacher. Then, that burst of childish energy over, she went on with the lesson, because she was a confident professional.

In New Mexico, 2016, Timmy would have broken the law. Continue reading

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Jumbo, Ethics Dunce, Kaboom And Unethical Quote Of The Month: Hillary’s Jaw-Dropping Lie To Chris Wallace

hillary and Wallace

“Director Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the emails.”

—-Hillary Clinton to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, asserting that what was demonstrably false was true, regarding a public statement by Comey that can be Googled and watched on YouTube instantly.

My reaction when I saw that: KABOOM! The top of my head blew right off, bounced off the ceiling and knocked over the lamp. Wallace asked Clinton directly about what she had been saying to the public about her e-mails since May of 2015: that she did nothing wrong, that her private, secret e-mail server was approved by the State Department, that she never received or sent a classified e-mail…okay, that didn’t work, that she never knowingly sent a classified e-mail…wait, wait, that she never sent or received an  e-mail that was marked classified. Comey, in his televised, live statement announcing his decision not to recommend prosecution for Clinton, directly contradicted her.

In his careful statement Comey said,

“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.,,,seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. …There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation…even if information is not marked ‘classified’ in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.”

There is no way that an individual of normal facility with the English language can listen to or read that statement and conclude that Comey was saying that Hillary’s answers to questions about the e-mails to the American public and the news media–for over a year!–were truthful, as in “full of truth.” A technical argument can be made, if one wishes, that  Comey didn’t say that Clinton lied, because maybe she is an idiot and incompetent, and didn’t know or understand what “any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position” should have known and understood, leading to her factually false (and constantly evolving as more facts where uncovered) explanations over months and months. Continue reading

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Four Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion, Guns, Affirmative Action, Corruption…And Ethics. Part 4: Voisine v. United States

"Aw, come on, that was a love tap! Now put some ice on that while I go out and buy a Glock...."

“Aw, come on, that was a love tap! Now put some ice on that while I go out and buy a Glock….”

Be honest, now: you thought I’d never finish this series, did you? (Part 1 was posted June 28.)

In Voisine v. United States, a 6-2 U.S. Supreme Court holding issued on June 27 approved extending a federal statute banning firearms possession by anyone convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to include individuals who have “misdemeanor assault convictions for reckless (as contrasted to knowing or intentional) conduct.”

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the majority, said that “the federal ban on firearms possession applies to any person with a prior misdemeanor conviction for the ‘use…of physical force’ against a domestic relation. That language, naturally read, encompasses acts of force undertaken recklessly—i.e., with conscious disregard of a substantial risk of harm.”

The opinion isn’t remarkable, nor is it a significant attack on gun rights. The case is really about language, as so many Supreme Court cases are. From the opinion:

“Congress’s definition of a “misdemeanor crime of violence” contains no exclusion for convictions based on reckless behavior. A person who assaults another recklessly “use[s]” force, no less than one who carries out that same action knowingly or intentionally. The relevant text thus supports prohibiting petitioners, and others with similar criminal records, from possessing firearms.”

The real question, from an ethical standpoint, is whether Congress can and should remove a citizen’s Second Amendment right based on a misdemeanor conviction for domestic abuse. Is that fair? Sure it is. It is already settled law that it is Constitutional to prevent convicted felons from owning  guns, even if it was a non-violent felony. From an ethical public policy standpoint, why would it be overly restrictive to ban gun ownership from those who engage in a violent misdemeanor?

Writing in dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor (of all people), rejected the majority’s “overly broad conception of a use of force.” In the view of the two dissenters, “the majority blurs the distinction between recklessness and intentional wrongdoing” and thereby does a grave injustice to criminal defendants. Continue reading

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Filed under Family, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Unethical Website Of The Month: Bye-Bye Snopes…You’re Dead To Me Now [UPDATED]

bye bye

Ethics Alarms has been tracking the increasing political bias exhibited by Snopes, once the definitive “Urban Legends” web source to identify false stories on the internet, e-mail hoaxes and other pollution of public information. The website has made the disastrous decision to wade into political topics and to hire some new social justice warriors and wanna-be Democratic Party operatives to cover them, resulting in the site becoming a bad imitation of PolitiFact.

The disturbing trend really established itself this month, but it was in evidence earlier. For example, Snopes rushed to defend Hillary Clinton when the story of her defense of a child rapist was used to smear her. (Ethics Alarms explained, correctly, unlike Snopes, what was unethical about the attacks on Clinton—all defendants deserve a zealous defense, no matter what the charge, and a lawyer isn’t endorsing or supporting a client’s crimes by doing her professional duty.) The Snopes defense, in contrast, was dishonest and misleading. Quoth Snopes, via its primary left-biased reporter, Kim LaCapria.

Claim: Hillary Clinton successfully defended an accused child rapist and later laughed about the case.

MOSTLY FALSE

WHAT’S TRUE: In 1975, young lawyer Hillary Rodham was appointed to represent a defendant charged with raping a 12-year-old girl. Clinton reluctantly took on the case, which ended with a plea bargain for the defendant.

WHAT’S FALSE: Hillary Clinton did not volunteer to be the defendant’s lawyer, she did not laugh about the the case’s outcome, she did not assert that the complainant “made up the rape story,” she did not claim she knew the defendant to be guilty, and she did not “free” the defendant.

Notice that the TRUE and FALSE sections don’t match the claim. That’s because Snopes is playing the logical fallacy game of moving the goalposts and using straw men. The claim, as stated by Snopes, is 100% true. Continue reading

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Ten Ethics Observations On The Democratic National Convention

Khan DEM

1. The unrestrained cheer-leading from the news media in contrast to its week-long sneer at the Republican is so shamelessly biased that American journalism risks crippling its ability to use its giant megaphone to sabotage Trump. They might at least pretend to be fair and objective. I get it: I find it horrifying that Trump is running too. The immediate and unrestrained effort to go stop him, however, is so openly unprofessional, and shows how far the news media’s ethics have deteriorated just since 2008.

2. We could see and hear, during the course of the convention, how Donald Trump’s boorishness and propensity for ad hominem attacks and personal insults have degraded both parties and political discourse generally. And to think, in 1988, Ann Richards was criticized for her George H.W. Bush attacks at the Democratic Convention, and her famous jibe that Bush was born with a “silver foot in his mouth.” The Democrats could have taken the high road, and would have benefited, as well as done the culture a favor. Nah.

3. The most unethical aspect of the convention was the party’s tacit embrace of Black Lives Matters, while the BLM protesters outside were directing white journalists  to “stand in the back” while covering its protests, around the country police officers were facing increasing abuse, and in Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby was graphically illustrating BLM’s attack on the rule of law.

Democrats deserve to pay a high price for this, and I am confident that they will.

4. I owe Senator Eugene McCarthy an apology. I was among the many young  supporters of the rebellious anti-war Democrat who felt betrayed when McCarthy refused to address his beaten troops at the 1968 Convention. He stayed in his Chicago hotel room, angry and resentful of how the party had steam-rolled him and his movement. I thought it was cowardly and selfish. Now, after thinking ill of Clean Gene  all these years, I realize he might have been right after all. Being gracious isn’t ethical when you are required to become a symbolic pawn  to the same dark, unethical forces that you have been telling your throngs to resist and battle despite long odds. If you pull a Cruz instead of a Sanders, you look like you are trying to torpedo your own party. Better, perhaps, to do what Gene did. His integrity told him that the best response was to neither to capitulate, nor be petulant, but just to retreat to fight another day.

I’m not sure he was right, but  I’m no longer sure he was wrong.

I’m sorry, Senator. Continue reading

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