Tag Archives: trust

Ethics Alarms Inauguration Day Musings

trump-inaug

In preparation for this post, I just read over the post from December 5 titled “Reasons to be Happy About the Election of Donald Trump?” I wanted to see if any of those reasons on the list, beginning with three that I endorsed from the Glenn Reynolds essay with the same name, without the question mark. Here are the ten:

1.  “Killed off dynastic politics, at least for now.”

2. “Kept Hillary out of the White House.”

3. “Crushing the media’s sense of self-importance”

4. His election, and Clinton’s defeat, pushes back against group identification politics.

5. It demolishes the propaganda that Barack Obama was a successful President.

6. It might spur more citizens to vote next time.

7. Trump’s victory showed that cheating to win, and behaving as if the ends justify the means, still don’t go down well with a lot of the public.

8. The entire Clinton saga has been predicated on their belief that you can fool enough of the people enough of the time, along with a well-practiced regimen of deny-deny-deny. lie, obfuscate, stonewall, accuse and delay, to get away withe all manner of unethical conduct while achieving wealth and power. Finally, it didn’t work. Hooray.

9. Trump’s election exposed, and is exposing, the hypocritical, anti-democratic, bitter, ugly, hateful side of progressives and Democrats.

10.  It is the kick in the teeth of political correctness that this restrictive, arrogant, smug and stifling cultural trend had been begging for.

The post concluded,

I have not changed my analysis that the price we will pay for these boons is likely to be exorbitant and painful at best. Nonetheless, they are still things to be grateful for, and not insubstantial.”

Almost two months later, having experienced the Trump transition and observed the horrifying 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, which of these ten bear amendment or repeal? All but a few are as accurate now as then. #9, relating to the Democratic and progressive freak-out and what it represents, has intensified since December 5 and has been longer-lasting and more outrageous than anyone could have expected. Reynold’s item #3 about the election crushing the news media’s sense of self-importance was clearly wishful thinking, for it joined the embarrassing and destructive Democratic reaction to the election rather than learning anything. Fools.

Finally, there is #5. Trump’s election should have demolished the mythology that Obama has been a successful President, because he obviously has not been, and if he had been successful, Hillary Clinton would be about to be sworn in today.But Barack Obama, who like Donald Trump lives in his own narcissistic fantasy world, exited with a series of self-lauding propaganda lines—some issuing from the mouths of his team, like John Kerry—that the news media and punditry have treated as if he were a burning bush. No, Obama improved race relations! His was a scandal free administration! He did most of the things he wanted to do, and if it wasn’t for obstructive Republicans, he would have done much more! Citizens who weren’t happy and voted against Democrats just didn’t understand how well off they are! America’s standing in the world is terrific!  He is proud of his handling of Syria, and those 400,000 dead don’t prompt any regrets! This has been followed by jaw-droppingly dishonest puff-pieces by writers who should know better.

Here are  additional observations on Inauguration Day: Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On President-Elect Trump’s First News Conference

presser

1. I watched the introductions and about half of Trump’s opening remarks, and had to bail. I just had to. Not that Trump’s manner and speaking style were any worse than before; it’s just that the thought that young people will see this as acceptable public presentation and speaking clarity was too horrible to bear. Even with the verbalization-challenged Bushes, the level of basic language skills and vocabulary wasn’t nearly this bad.

I had to watch an old video of JFK wittily fencing with reporters to get the thought out of my head:

2. Thus this discussion is based on the transcript. I had to search a bit to find an online transcript that wasn’t constantly interrupted by editorial comments and “fact-checks.” These contained a lot of nit-picking and suggestions of deception (and some useful clarifications).  It seems to me that the “fact-checks” of Trump feel adversarial, while the recent fact-check of President Obama’s final speech were consistently friendly, and voluntarily refused to take issue with genuinely misleading statements. For example, Obama said, “If we’re unwilling to invest in the children of immigrants just because they don’t look like us, we will diminish the prospects of our own children because those brown kids will represent a larger and larger share of America’s workforce.”  NPR’s annotation:

“Via The New Republic: “From 2000 to 2010, a decade during which the white population as a whole grew by just 1.2 percent, the number of white children in the United States declined by 4.3 million. Meanwhile the child populations of Hispanics, Asians, and people of two or more races were increasing.”

But that’s not the fact to check. Who says that anyone is “unwilling to invest in the children of immigrants just because they don’t look like us“? That’s a straw man, and should have been called out (I threw a pillow at the TV screen) as one. Clear-thinking citizens are unwilling to invest in the children of illegal immigrants because they shouldn’t be here, and the more we “invest” in them, the more encouragement we give to foreign citizens to break our laws.

But NPR likes illegal immigration, so this wouldn’t occur to them, I guess.

3. I think it’s fair to say that no previous POTUS or PEOTUS press conference began with a frontal assault on the press for publishing fake news. That’s how this one began, with Sean Spicer attacking the already infamous Buzzfeed story. He also attacked CNN for reporting on Buzzfeed’s report. Here was NPR’s annotation, in part:

“BuzzFeed and CNN both reported on Tuesday about documents alleging that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump,” as CNN reported, though the two news organizations presented the information in vastly different ways. CNN mostly focused on who had seen the documents and when, citing unnamed sources and U.S. officials in different places. However, CNN said that while it had reviewed the “35-page compilation of the memos” alleging that link, it was “not reporting on details of the memos, as it has not independently corroborated the specific allegations.”

NPR’s distinction doesn’t excuse CNN. The news media does this kind of thing all the time, it’s true: it reports the fact that an irresponsible news source has reported a rumor, unsourced claim, ora lie, and thus further circulates an account that never should have been published in the first place. Later, Trump was asked about his tweet asking if we were now living in Nazi Germany. (It’s cute to see my Facebook friends fuming about that tweet, when they have been absurdly calling Trump a Nazi for months. Has anyone contacted Harry Belafonte for his comments?) Trump’s response:

“I think it was disgraceful — disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out. I think it’s a disgrace, and I say that — and I say that, and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do. I think it’s a disgrace that information that was false and fake and never happened got released to the public. As far as BuzzFeed, which is a failing pile of garbage, writing it, I think they’re going to suffer the consequences. They already are.”

Crude, but fair. It would be been nice if Trump had the wit and historical perspective to remind the assembled, and perhaps teach his audience,  what the Big Lie technique championed by Josef Goebbels was and how the Buzzfeed-CNN handoff would have pleased him. I’ve got to learned to lower my expectations. Nevertheless, the Nazi reference in that context was well-earned. It is disgraceful that the dossier was leaked by U.S. intelligence personnel. “Failing pile of garbage”  is not Presidential rhetoric (sigh) but the sentiment is correct. CNN capped a week of neon-bright biased and inaccurate reporting across the news spectrum by giving this slimy story greater visibility, thus advancing a Big Lie. CNN deserved its comeuppance, which was soon to come. 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

Continue reading

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The “Russian DNC Hacks”: Who Do You Believe, And Why Should You Trust Them?

russia-sign

Here at Ethics Alarms, the starting point for ethical analysis is the question, “What’s going on here?” It’s impossible to reach a fair and useful conclusion about where any conduct falls on the right/wrong scale unless one has a clear picture of what the conduct is--what happened and why. The still percolating saga of the  hacked Democratic National Committee e-mails so far defies ethical analysis, because so many of the key facts are in doubt, so much of their impact is a matter of speculation, and virtually all of the participants, sources and advocates for one interpretation or another are untrustworthy.

I have never seen anything like it.

“What’s going on here?” I really have no definitive answer, but lets slog though the muck:

I.   Some of what’s going on here is that Democrats, progressives and Clinton bitter-enders are making a concerted effort to use the fact that troubling DNC e-mails were released to the news media and the internet late in the Presidential campaign to prove the theory that Russian interference with the election was responsible for the victory of Donald Trump. This, they argue in turn,  justifies regarding Trump as an “illegitimate President,’ thus justifying ignoring the election results, defying the election results, impeaching Trump immediately, blocking his swearing in, treating him in discourse and conduct as if he had just been convicted of beastiality rather than elected President, “doing something” to “stop him,” and obstructing anything he tries to do to govern.

Another way of putting it is that Democrats want to throw the nation into something perilously close to a Constitution crisis, a revolution, a civil war, and the unraveling of the nation itself because they couldn’t manage to win an election that should have been a breeze, and they refuse to accept accountability.

2. This, I can say without restraint, is unethical beyond question, and despicable as well.

3.The Russian hacks theory is the fourth wobbly leg of the Democratic Party’s  “We refuse to accept the results of the election because Trump is unfit to be President as shown by the fact that he said he might not accept the results of the election” position. The other legs: 1)  the Electoral College isn’t a legitimate way to choose a President, even though it would have been if it elected Hillary Clinton, and should be retroactively repealed, discarded or defied 2) Trump was elected by morons, racists, xenophobes, woman-haters and morons, while the virtuous, intelligent Americans voted for Hillary, and they know best, and 3) The head of the FBI, who saved Clinton’s candidacy by a very generous interpretation of her highly suspicious conduct after a strangely informal interrogation, thus causing Republicans to question his independence and integrity, intentionally sabotaged Clinton’s coronation by keeping his public promise to Congress that he would alert it if there were any new developments.

Since these are 1) ignorant 2) anti-democratic and 3) ridiculous, all adding up to pathetic and desperate, the weight of the whole effort now rests on Leg #4.

4. Much of the mainstream news media is bolstering that leg by short-handing the story in headlines and print as Russian “hacking of the election.” This characterization is a lie. The ongoing Ethics Alarms Fake News Project, which is dedicated to settling on what “fake news” is (another “What’s going on here?” inquiry) questions how this is any less fake news than “Pope Tells Followers To Support Trump.” Both are intentional lies, designed to confuse and mislead, with the mainstream media lie far more insidious, since only microcephalics are even a long-shot to buy the Pope story, whereas the Democratic Deranged, unhinged by confirmation bias and an inexplicable trust in journalism, are eager to accept the Russian lie. Fact: nobody, anywhere, has alleged that the Russians “hacked the election.” The only way an election gets hacked is when there is interference with the vote totals. “The claim that the ‘election was hacked’ is a bit of a misnomer,” writes former CBS reporter Sheryl Atkinson. “There’s no standing allegation by U.S. officials that the Russians (or anyone else) “hacked” into our elections system or altered vote counts.”

No, the term “bit of a misnomer” is a misnomer for “lie.” I would describe Atkinson as a hack by engaging in such equivocation to shield her colleagues, but that might confuse people. Continue reading

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“If That Was Transparency, Then I’m A Kumquat” And Other Reactions To Josh Earnest’s Multiple Unethical Christmas Quotes

This morning, Obama Administration paid liar Josh Earnest spoiled my Christmas mellow by telling CNN’s alleged news media ethics watchdog Brian Stelter that there’s really “no constituency in American politics for transparency in government beyond journalists,” as he deflected Stelter’s accounts of journalists complaining about administration foot-dragging on Freedom of Information Act requests. Then he really curdled the ethicist’s eggnog by saying,

“If this constituency of journalists are gonna be effective advocates for the issue that they care about, they need to remember that they have a responsibility not just to criticize those who are not living up to their expectations. Any activist will tell you that the way that you get people to support you and to support your cause is to give them credit when the credit is due, to applaud them when they do the thing that you want them to be doing.”

Finally, Earnest molded my mistletoe by claiming,  “President Obama has been the most transparent president in American history.”

Stelter, of course, being an incompetent, biased and unethical news media ethics watchdog, did not interjection with the mandatory, “WHAT??? You’ve got to be kidding! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ACK! ACK! ARRRGH! and drop dead in shock.

That statement is fake news if anything is, rivaling the news media lie that that the Obama years were devoid of major scandals. Before we begin shooting fish in a barrel and deal with that brazen-beyond-belief spin, let’s pause to consider the other stunner in Earnest’s Christmas morning performance:

1. What does Earnest mean that journalists are the only constituency for transparency? Does the Obama administration, and by extension Democrats, really believe that the public doesn’t mind being lied to? If so, that explains a lot, including the nomination of Hillary Clinton.

2. Journalists are not supposed to advocates and activists at all. They are supposed to be devoted to communicating facts and the truth.

3. Is Earnest saying that when a President generally defies a pledge of ethical conduct, he should nonetheless be praised when he doesn’t defy that pledge, and that journalists should highlight the Administration’s rare examples of  transparency while ignoring the overwhelmingly more copious breaches? It sure sounded like it.

That brings us back to the mind-melting quote that this has been a transparent administration by any definition of the word other than “not transparent at all.”

This episode from 2011 nicely encapsulates the issue:

“President Obama was scheduled to receive an award from the organizers of the Freedom of Information Day Conference, to be presented at the White House by “five transparency advocates.” The White House postponed that meeting because of events in Libya and Japan, and it was rescheduled…That meeting did take place – behind closed doors. The press was not invited to the private transparency meeting, and no photos from or transcript of the meeting have been made available. The event was not listed on the president’s calendar…Nor is the award mentioned anywhere on the White House website, including on the page devoted to transparency and good government. Were it not for the testimony of the transparency advocates who met secretly with the president, there wouldn’t seem to be any evidence that the meeting actually took place.”

That’s right: Obama wasn’t transparent about a transparency meeting. That same day, Obama went on TV  and tried to explain why he hadn’t been transparent to the U.S. Congress about his military plans in Libya.  Shortly after that, news leaked that the Fed had secretly sent billions in loans to foreign banks during the financial crisis.

Ah, memories! On his second day on the job, January 21, 2009, that…President Obama famously pledged, in one of his first memos to federal agencies

“We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”

He may be right about that last part, or maybe he discovered that it was naive and impractical dream. Under no circumstances, however, can it be said that Obama’s administration was transparent. An exhaustive list is impossibly, long, but here is an incomplete  sample just from the posts in Ethics Alarms: Continue reading

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Obama, Trump, And The Avoidable “Two Presidents” Ethical Dilemma

trump-and-obama

Yesterday, Donald Trump sent out not just one but three tweets that directly interfered with current U.S. policy efforts, involving the costs of a new jet fighter plane, nuclear weapons, and a U.N. resolution criticizing Israel. This understandably is causing consternation in the Obama administration, because Trump is exercising influence without authority. Until January 20, 2017, Donald Trump has no official position or authority in the government at all. He does have power and influence, however, because everyone knows that he will have authority very soon.

What constitutes abuse of the power and influence? Should a President Elect be a mute and invisible presence until he is officially sworn in, so as not to interfere with the current President’s discharge of his duties?

For the lame duck Chief Executive, with slightly more than two months left in office and vastly diminished influence, the ethical problem is different. How much should he defer to the incoming President, and not take actions that will seriously interfere with the policy directions the new President  may choose to take? Once the will of the people has been made clear at the ballot box, is it fair and responsible for current President to actively work against the likely agenda of the incoming President?

Finally, if a lame duck President is attempting to undermine the objectives of the incoming President before that President Elect takes office, is it unethical for the President Elect to use his influence and power to stop him, or at least mitigate the damage? Continue reading

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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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