“It’s A New Week!” Ethics Warm-Up, 5/3/2021: Good Day Edition

Bad, BAD week last week, and not just for me. It was a bad week in ethics, and because of my own shortcomings, I wasn’t able to properly provide a path through it. This week will be better, starting today. At least if I have anything to say about it…

1. From “the rest of the story” files: Remember when Jonathan Papelbon attacked Bryce Harper in the Washington Nationals dugout? It was 2015, and pretty much marked the end of relief ace Paplebon’s career. Harper went on to become a mega-million dollar free agent after the 2018 season, when he signed with the Phillies for a ridiculous 30 million dollars a year long-term contract. Papelbon finally resurfaced in Boston this season as an amusingly unrestrained analyst for NESN, which broadcasts the the Red Sox games. And I recently discovered how almost right he was to accost Harper, if admittedly a bit too enthusiastically. The prompt for Pap to go grab Harper by the neck was the latter loafing down the line as he barely ran out a ground ball. Harper’s periodic lack of hustle had been a source of annoyance for years (to be fair, he was “only” being paid 2.5 million bucks to play hard in 2015), but I just saw the stats for his last year in Washington. Having been a plus-defensive player in previous years, Harper stopped hustling entirely in 2018, both in the field and on the bases. Though he had once saved over 20 runs in a season in the field alone, in his free agent year Harper cost his team over 20 runs that year, making sure he stayed healthy for the big payday to come (to be fair, he was “only” being paid 21.6 million bucks to play hard in 2018). As soon as he had a guaranteed contract with Philadelphia, Harper started playing hard again, dashing around the bases and diving in the outfield.

Both Papelbon and Harper were jerks during their careers, but nobody could accuse “Pap” of not doing his best to win for the fans, his team, its city and his team mates every single time he stepped onto a baseball field.

2. Not Harvard this time: it’s back to Georgetown! Both of my schools’ diplomas are turned to the wall of my office in a symbolic protest against their continuing unethical policies and conduct—-I’m not sure what more I can do to signal my contempt and embarrassment. Now it’s Georgetown’s turn again—I worked for the University for five years after I graduated from the Law Center—to make me wish I had graduated from a school with some integrity. Though it has been notably un-covered by the mainstream news media, Georgetown Professor Michele Swers read the words of a Ku Klux Klan leader in her “U.S. Political Systems” class for the college, but because she “did not censor” the word “nigger,” a large contingent of her students sent a smoking gun letter letter to Swers and the college’s diversity office, demanding that she apologize profusely, review all future presentation and lecture material for potential bias;  and demonstrate her “understanding of the history of the N-word and why it is inappropriate for a non-Black person to say it in any context, including an educational context.” [Pointer: Steve Witherspoon]

So far, I can find no record of a response from the university or the professor, but writing of the incident, Prof. Turley says in part,

Continue reading

“Enemy Of The People”

Atlanta spa

I believe, or at least hope, that by the time the disgusting transformation of the American news media into pure agents of propaganda is complete—and in that regard, it’s later than you may think—Donald Trump’s much maligned declaration that journalism had become “the enemy of the people” will be remembered as perhaps his most important quote. It deserves to take a place next to Ronald Reagan’s similarly derided “evil empire” line as an example of the “bully pulpit” working as it should.

Last week I saw this front page headline in the New York Times: “Rampage in Georgia Deepens Fears of Rising Asian Hatred In U.S.” That’s not a news headline. That is a publication planting fear for political purposes. Deepens whose fears? The story said that the murder of eight women at a “massage parlor” in Atlanta, six of the victims Asian-American, had unsettled the Asian community. That’s hardly surprising, since many of the dead were members of that community. The Times interviewed a couple of members of the Asian community who expressed “fears.” That does not justify a sweeping generality, nor the emphasis the stories under the headline gave to a supposed motivation for the killings that was supported by no evidence whatsoever other than the presumption of white racism. Presumption of white racism is bigotry, to be clear. not evidence.

Continue reading

More On The Atlantic’s “Anonymous” Hit Piece On The President

Here’s the overview: I don’t understand this part of the story at all. I don’t understand how Jeffrey Goldberg can get away with atrocious journalistic conduct like this, even as he fails to hide it. He merely assumes his offense to fairness and his profession will be ignored, forgiven, or even cheered.

How stupid and ethically-crippled do journalists like Jeffrey Goldberg, the Editor-in-Chief  of The Atlantic Monthly think the public is? Are they right? What aren’t all legitimate journalists furious about this? Are there any legitimate journalists?

In 2004, then CBS News star Dan Rather used a forged document to “prove” that President George W. Bush had ducked accountability for going AWOL with the National Guard. Rather’s justification was a spectacularly unethical one that lost him his job and reduced him to the wandering, discredited partisan hack pundit he is today, fit only for MSNBC. Rather claimed that using the fake document was justified because what it proved was “true,” and the public had a right to know. (Rather and his producer were deliberately attempting to defeat Bush in his re-election bid, just as The Atlantic has been working to ruin Trump for fours years. I read Jeffrey Goldberg’s rationalizations for for his “Trump said mean things about American soldiers two years ago” smear as arising out of the same unethical dung heap as Rather’s debacle.

He deserves the same fate as Rather, too.

Goldberg conceded on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes”  that anonymous sourcing is “not good enough”  to base a damning story like his on. Yes, just like a forged document is not good enough to base an explosive accusation on. In some ways, a forged document is better—you can check the veracity of a document. Anonymous sources might be biased,  partisan agents,  proven liars, or not in a position to see  and hear what they claim. How can their veracity be checked? They can’t be.
Continue reading

KABOOM! I Do NOT Enjoy Having My Head Explode First Thing On A Saturday Morning, But NBC HIRED LISA PAGE!!!

On one level, my head blew because this is such a cynical, flagrantly biased act that rejects any concept of ethical journalism. On another, it blew up in shame. With all the nauseating evidence I’ve discussed here pointing to a rotting American journalism that sees itself as the engine of partisan propaganda rather than the means to an informed public, I somehow didn’t think it was this bad. This is my own bias at work: I’m a sap. I want to believe that somewhere, buried deep in the mainstream media, there is integrity and the spark of respect for democracy.

Page was the FBI attorney engaged in an adulterous relationship with Mueller investigation team member Peter Strzok. Their text messages raised legitimate questions about the anti-Trump bias in the FBI and  among those handling the “collusion” matter.  In particular, the reference to the FBI investigation as “insurance” if Trump was elected in an exchange between the lovebirds in  August 2016 seemed to be a smoking gun.

Recently, Page’s name has surfaced  in  the Michael Flynn case. In newly released  texts between Page and  Strzok, who was significantly involved in the pursuit of Flynn, Page suggested that Flynn could be set up using the federal law that criminalizes lies to federal investigators. She suggested to Strzok that “it would be an easy way to just casually slip that in,”  reinforcing other evidence that there was a “get Flynn” mentality at the FBI. Thus Page’s conduct will be a live topic in the upcoming inquiries in Congress and the Justice Department surrounding the methods and motives of the FBI as it pursued Flynn and sought to undermine the Trump Administration. It is outrageous to have an analyst who will be analyzing events that involve herself…or once was considered so, when journalists paid attention to ethics. Continue reading

Nah, I’m Not Getting Royally Sick Of Writing “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias!”!

Imagine how much we would benefit as a nation from knowing that news organizations were telling us about real events and conveying objective facts without concern about who or what they might hurt or benefit.

That doesn’t quite fit the music of John Lennon’s fatuous song, but it’s a much more useful hypothetical to consider than “Imagine there’s no countries.”

Yesterday, a thoroughly Trump-Deranged relative who is otherwise reasonable, informed and perceptive, was telling me that one reason he was convinced President Trump had mishandled the current virus threat is that “he doesn’t read his briefings.” This is a press-driven trope, as I tried to explain, and like so much fake news, designed to undermine trust by people who are ignorant. My relative isn’t ignorant. He just wants to believe what he already had decided before the election; it’s confirmation bias.

I pointed out that 1) the briefings smear came from unidentified leaks in the Administration, from those who by definition were attempting to damage the President. 2) The sources have been anonymous, and of the same level of trustworthiness that led to so many false reports and headlines during the Russian collusion investigations. 3) A lot of people, including very successful executives, process information better aurally than visually. I worked for one. Reading was hard for him; he was dyslexic. I would send him a long, detailed memo on an issue, and he would call me into his office, hand the memo back, and say, “Tell me what it says—the important stuff.” He was, by furlongs, the best manager I ever worked under. My relative, a lawyer and a manager himself, gets all of his information from reading (and based on our arguments, isn’t all that hot at processing it aurally.)

He also believes what he’s told by his fellow Deranged, and they told him yesterday that  the Washington Post had reported , in a story titled, “President’s intelligence briefing book repeatedly cited virus threat,”  that…

U.S. intelligence agencies issued warnings about the novel coronavirus in more than a dozen classified briefings prepared for President Trump in January and February, months during which he continued to play down the threat, according to current and former U.S. officials.The repeated warnings were conveyed in issues of the President’s Daily Brief, a sensitive report that is produced before dawn each day and designed to call the president’s attention to the most significant global developments and security threats.
For weeks, the PDB — as the report is known — traced the virus’s spread around the globe, made clear that China was suppressing information about the contagion’s transmissibility and lethal toll, and raised the prospect of dire political and economic consequences.

No sources were given, just “sources”—you know, like those sources during the Mueller investigation. A month ago, the same Post reporters submitted  virtually the same basic story, headlined  “U.S. intelligence reports from January and February warned about a likely pandemic.” It was also essentially the same story the New York Times had run earlier, “He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump’s Failure on the Virus,” and that ABC ran around the same time, “Intelligence report warned of coronavirus crisis as early as November: Sources.

You know: “sources.” Those “sources” were immediately debunked by none other than the Director of DIA’s National Center for Medical Intelligence , who sent this out: Continue reading

I Don’t Think The Mainstream Media Can Get Away With This: The Tara Reade Blackout

Today’s coverage of the sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden.

None of the major Sunday morning news talk shows mentioned Tara Reade’s increasingly credible allegations against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden today, April 26. CNN’s “State of the Union,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” ABC’s “This Week,” CBS’s “Face the Nation” and, yes, even Fox’s “Fox News Sunday”—See? It’s trustworthy after all!— all gave their audiences the impression that Reade did not exist, or that her claim that Joe Biden—who has stated that all female accusers should be presumed credible and have their accusations taken seriously—harassed, assaulted her and, indeed, raped her while he was a U.S. Senator, wasn’t newsworthy. 

This, even though there were new developments regarding her more than month-old claim. A transcript obtained by The Intercept, as well as a video uncovered by the Media Research Center two days ago, showed that someone from Reade’s mother’s city called into CNN in 1993 and asked for advice about her daughter’s problems with a “prominent senator.” Even CNN ignored the story today.

How can anyone justify this, or explain it except as a flagrant, partisan, stunningly unethical effort by the networks to keep the public in the dark to serve a political agenda? Continue reading

The “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias!” AND “Bias Makes You Stupid” Smoking Guns Of The Day [UPDATED: Smoking Gun Tweet Added]

Tom Friedman is a long-time regular in the New York Times left-wing op-ed writer stable. (Ironically enough, he is also the paper’s most enthusiastic booster of Communist China.)

It’s nice of the Times to provide such a handy example of multiple features of fake news discussed in the last post.

To be fair, Friedman’s piece is flagged as opinion, but Times editors are intentionally fear-mongering by permitting the hysterical Russian Roulette comparison. In Russian Roulette, there is a 1 in 6 chance of dying. That would mean that Trump is risking a U.S. death toll of 54.7 million deaths. Actually, the risk of causing a depression by being overly cautious about re-opening the economy is a lot closer to one in six, and maybe much higher.

But wait! As Al Jolson used to say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” Continue reading

Ethics Train Wreck Analysis: The Richard Jewell Case

“Richard Jewell,” Clint Eastwood’s excellent but much maligned film about a historical episode with many ethics twists and turns, is extremely accurate and fair in all respects, except for the glaring exception of the screenwriter  Billy Ray’s representation that reporter Kathy Scruggs obtained the information that Jewell was under suspicion by the FBI in exchange for one night stand with the agency’s lead investigator. This was the point where the Richard Jewell Ethics Train Wreck of 1996 acquired a car containing the 2019 movie “Richard Jewell.”

Let’s look at those other cars.

I. Jewell

Jewell was a socially awkward, lonely, obese man who lived with his mother. He was in many ways a stereotypical misfit with low  self-esteem, who developed ambitions about becoming a law enforcement officer, a job that would would provide him with the respect and power that he lacked and wanted. The film begins with Jewell’s stint as an office supply clerk in a small public law firm, where he becomes friends with attorney Watson Bryant. Jewell quits to pursue his dream of becoming a law enforcement officer, and Bryant, in saying good-bye, asks his friend to promise that if he ever acquires the authority he seeks, he won’t become a jerk, and abuse it.

This was a real life conversation. Bryant recognized that Jewell was a border-line Asperger’s sufferer, whether or not he knew the name or the clinical condition, and exactly the kind of personality who should never be given a shield and a gun.

Jewell took a job as a campus security officer at Piedmont College, and rapidly realized Watson Bryant’s worst fears by reacting to his authority by abusing it, being over-zealous and generating an unusual number of complaints from students. Jewell was fired, but the need for security personnel at the upcoming Atlanta Olympics gave Jewell another chance at some authority at least. He probably shouldn’t have had such a chance. Jewell was not a man who should have been in the security field or the law enforcement field; his judgment was poor, and his emotional problems made him a bad risk.

Thus the conditions for the ethics train wreck were put in place. It was up to moral luck whether hiring Richard Jewell would turn out to be a disaster, or a  fortunate near miss. Instead, it turned out to be something else entirely, a classic example of a bad decision having a good result—at least for a while.

2. The Bomb

In the early morning of July 27, 1996, Jewell, now working in Atlanta’s Centennial Park as part of the Summer Olympics security force, noticed an abandoned backpack by a bench. Over-zealous, officious and a fanatic about following procedure, Jewell insisted on reporting the pack as a “suspicious package,” despite the chiding of his colleagues, who wanted to take it to Lost and Found. If, as was overwhelmingly likely, the backpack had been just a backpack, Jewell probably would have been mocked. But again moral luck took a hand. He was right. It was a bomb. Jewell and other officers began clearing the area, and the bomb went off, killing one victim, Alice Hawthorne, and wounding many, still  far less serious damage than what might have occurred had Jewell not been so scrupulous in his discharge of his duties.

3. The Hero, the Scapegoats, and the Tip
Continue reading

How I Boarded The “Richard Jewell” Ethics Train Wreck

It is unusual to see an ethics train wreck continue to  roll along to the extent that it affects the movie about the ethics train wreck, but that was what happened with the Richard Jewell saga. Remember the definition of an ethics train wreck: an episode in which virtually everyone who becomes involved in it, however tangentially, becomes entangled in ethics mistakes and misconduct. The  “Richard Jewell” Ethics Train Wreck (or the Richard Jewell Ethics Train Wreck) even yanked me on board.

I’ve already written about the film, directed by Clint Eastwood and a 2019 holiday bomb (no pun intended). My focus then was on the single unethical feature of the screenplay, its unfair portrayal of the real-life Atlanta-Constitution reporter, the late Kathy Scruggs, who broke the FBI leak that the security guard who had become a national celebrity by detecting the deadly pipe bomb that had exploded at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics  was suspected of making the bomb himself. Though film reviewers usually register few rejections when films smear the deceased in pursuit of a more compelling narrative, “Richard Jewell’s” claim that Scruggs traded sex for the leak walked into the #MeToo buzzsaw, and on that basis alone, Clint’s movie was trashed  by reviewers and pundits alike.

Me Too, and I hadn’t seen it. I wrote in part,

I strongly doubt the average viewer passed on the film because it may have been unfair to a dead reporter. Who had the genius idea that releasing a film about the press’s abuse of a strange, sad, fat man played by an unknown actor would be a Christmas season hit? I had no interest in seeing the movie, and I’m an admirer of Eastwood and will cheer on any further proof of how rotten our journalism has become, but why pay to see the news media falsely try to destroy a security guard in 1996 when the same institution has been trying to destroy the President of the United States for three years?… So the news media was incompetent and vicious to Richard Jewell? That’s supposed to get me to the movie theater?

Nevertheless, let me be clear: I hate what the movie did to Kathy Scruggs, just as I detest it every time an individuals can’t defend themselves are lied about in a movie, misleading audiences and scarring their reputations….

Unless Eastwood had strong evidence that the reporter was trading sex for information, he should not have used her name. He owes the Scruggs family an apology, and I’m glad his movie is tanking.

Gee, the seats on the “Richard Jewell” Ethics Train Wreck are so comfy, and the fare on the snack car is excellent! Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Month, “Enemy Of The People” Division: CNN Reporter Joe Lockhart

Yup…a CNN journalist tweeted out a lie , let it go viral, then came back later and said he made it up, but we “know” it’s true.

A trustworthy news organization would fire a reporter who did this immediately. CNN has not and will not, because CNN is  not a trustworthy organization.

On a related track, Matt Laszlo, a journalist who works at The Daily Beast and NPR, tweeted, 
Continue reading