Tag Archives: Van Jones

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/13/18: Bad Quotes, Faithless Speakers

GOOD MORNING!

1 O.J. was guilty??? I’m shocked! I was going to run a quiz about whether Fox broadcasting the 12-year-old O.J. Simpson interview in which he “hypothesizes” about what really happened—when Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman ended up with the lives stabbed out of them and a trail of O.J.’s blood leading from the scene to his home—was unethical or just icky, as in “revolting taste.”

Never mind: I’m willing to say it was unethical. Fox was aiding and abetting a murderer’s efforts to cash in on his crimes. Yes, yes, I know: in the eyes of the law, Simpson is innocent. But Fox, and you, and I, and O.J.’s lawyers and certainly O.J. all know beyond a shadow of doubt that he did it, and Simpson deserves a full shunning from the culture in every respect.

Fox, many forget, produced this interview as part of the promotion for O.J.’s book, “If I Did It,” written by a ghostwriter after interviews with Simpson. Simpson got $600,000 in the deal, denying later that he had anything to do with the project, and saying, “Hey, they offered me $600,000 not to dispute that I [wrote] the book…Everybody thinks I’m a murderer anyway. They’re not going to change their mind just because of a book.”

The consensus is that the Simpson’s statements in the Fox interview amount to a confession to double murder. I saw the key portion in a promotion,, where O.J. says that he remembers being at Nicole’s home, grabbing a knife, then seeing lots of blood…but not remembering what happened in between. But Simpson is a liar and a sociopath, and because of double-jeopardy, he can say that he watched Nicole and Ron get attacked by an army of zombies he recruited and it wouldn’t make any difference.

The degree to which Fox debased itself by running this offal cannot be exaggerated, and anyone who watched it without being paid to do so is an accessory after the fact to the unjust enrichment of O.J. Simpson.

2. Bonus O.J, ugliness: Read this hateful, racist, biased and legally ignorant essay by Michael Herriot at “The Root.” Herriot is another of many contributors to CNN whose anti-white racism is palpable, but deemed acceptable mainstream punditry. How deep and widespread is this kind of blind, unreasoning hatred of white Americans in the black community? How can anyone read something like this and wonder where the upsurge in white nationalism comes from?

3. And speaking of CNN’s  race-baiters…Here is Van Jones on his newly minted CNN show, whining and grovelling to Oprah Winfrey:

“It meant so much to us, and, you know, I have to let you know how it is for us now. We had you. We had the Obamas in the White House. Even on a bad day, you had a north star. You had some hope. And then it was like the universe looked just said, psych! And threw us in the toilet and closed the lid and now we’re just stuck in this crazy situation, swirlingHelp us, though, help us though!…I go out there and I try to tell people, let’s not become what we are fighting. Let’s not be what we’re fighting. They tell me, shut up, Van, because we got bigots out here, we got Nazis out here, we’re getting bullied, we are tired of going high. We want to go low and kick them in the private parts!”

There is disturbing evidence that “the resistance” and the anti-Trump mob, including the news media, is heading into a new and even more deranged stage, which is scary, since the previous stage has been putting unprecented stress on the nation’s mental and political health. We saw this deterioration with Jill Abramson’s open admission that she keeps a totem of Barack Obama in her purse to stave off despair. We are seeing more and more alternate-reality rants, like this one by David Remnick in “The New Yorker.”

The rhetoric is getting more shrill and hyperbolic every day, even when the news is good. At least Paul Krugman is consistent: his rhetoric about Trump has been shrill and hyperbolic from the start. Here he is this morning:

“Now, it’s a commonplace, but also a euphemism, to say that Trump has authoritarian instincts. A more accurate statement would be that he expects the kind of treatment tin-pot dictators demand, free from any criticism inside or outside his government and greeted with constant hosannas of praise. And everyone who isn’t willing to play the full game, who has tried to play by something resembling normal democratic rules, seems to be fleeing the administration. Soon only the shameless sycophants will be left. This will not end well.”

Sigh. All of America’s strong Presidents have had autocratic instincts, with the arguable exception of George Washington. Jackson, Polk, Lincoln, Cleveland, Teddy, Wilson, FDR, Truman, Ike,  LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton. Obama did as well, though he wasn’t a strong President. It’s just that people like Krugman are so offended by Trump being President that when he behaves essentially like the rest, they think it’s sinister. The complaining about this President surrounding himself with yes-men is especially hypocritical, since there were few complaints from the same critics about President Obama’s dangerously deferential inner circle, bolstered by a worshipful rather than properly objective press.

Krugman’s title is “Springtime for Sycophants.” Trump is Hitler, get it? Continue reading

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CNN Vs. The NRA: Ethically, It’s No Contest

1. Let us begin with this. The National Rifle Association is an advocacy organization. Advocacy organizations operate exactly like lawyer representing clients, and their ethical obligations are similar. They must be loyal to the interests of the object of the representation. They must be zealous, honest, and they must avoid conflicts of interest. In this regard all advocacy organizations, regardless of where they land on the ideological or partisan spectrum, are the same. They have a mission, and a job, and a duty to do it well. The ACLU exists to be an advocate for absolute integrity of the Bill of Rights, particularly the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Ninth. The NRA has a similar mission regarding the Second Amendment, because the ACLU has never been zealous about that one. FIRE advocates for free speech on college campuses, which is often not a First Amendment issue.

NARAL is a zealous advocate for abortion rights, in absolute terms. Most advocacy groups adopt absolute positions which often seem unreasonable to moderates. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is an advocacy group for business—I once worked for them—and opposed government regulations. The Association for Justice—I worked for them too–is an advocacy group for plaintiff’s trial lawyers, and fights any efforts at reforming the tort system, such as capping damages or punishing frivolous lawsuits. All of these and more take the extreme position on one side of a controversy to balance other advocacy groups that take extreme positions in opposition. In this they are very much like opposing lawyers in a trial, except the public is the jury. This is how democracy works, and it is the only way democracy can work.

Condemning and demonizing an advocacy organization because one does not agree with or dislikes the position it advocates is, in my view, exactly like condemning a lawyer for effectively representing an unpopular client—and a lot of ignorant Americans do that, too. Citizens have a right to have an effective organization promote their views and opinions in the court of public opinion, just as citizens have a right to have a competent attorney to represent their interests in a court of law. Attacks on this principle are unsustainable, unethical, and undermine democracy.

2. CNN, and other segments of the news media but especially CNN, has been aggressively attacking this principle since February 14, when Nicholas Cruz opened fire. CNN is NOT an advocacy organization, or is not supposed to be. It is a news organization, and its job and duty is to present facts to the “jury” without trying to influence it one way or the other. On the gun issue, CNN has completely abandoned objectify and its duty to inform, in an unethical effort to advocate for anti-gun interests antithetical to journalism standards.

3. Here is a stunning admission by the New York Times, which has been almost as shrill in its call for gun bans as CNN, in a front page story (Bolding mine):

To many of its opponents, that decades-long string of victories is proof that the N.R.A. has bought its political support. But the numbers tell a more complicated story: The organization’s political action committee over the last decade has not made a single direct contribution to any current member of the Florida House or Senate, according to campaign finance records.

In Florida and other states across the country, as well as on Capitol Hill, the N.R.A. derives its political influence instead from a muscular electioneering machine, fueled by tens of millions of dollars’ worth of campaign ads and voter-guide mailings, that scrutinizes candidates for their views on guns and propels members to the polls.

“It’s really not the contributions,” said Cleta Mitchell, a former N.R.A. board member. “It’s the ability of the N.R.A. to tell its members: Here’s who’s good on the Second Amendment.”

Continue reading

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Post-Election Morning Ethics, Early Edition [UPDATED]

hillary-loses

Initial ethics observations following an amazing night in American history:

1. Give Trump a chance, and take note of those who will not.

He is now in the most difficult job in the nation at the age of 70, with less relevant experience and preparation than any previous occupant of the office. For once, it’s a good thing that he’s an egomaniac and a narcissist, because otherwise he might be perseverating in terror right now. One cannot say that he begins with the most daunting set of problems any POTUS has ever faced, but it’s close. Give him a chance. Nobody becomes President wanting to fail, and not wanting to do a good job for his country and his fellow citizens.  Begin with that, and let’s see what happens.

2. Those who are capable of being fair and objective should salute the shades of Mr. Madison, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Adams, Mr. Hamilton and their colleagues. The Founders wanted a system that was capable of peaceful political upheaval when the public was dissatisfied and demanded change, and their unique creation was strutting its stuff last night. So much has taken place over the last year—the last eight years, really—that has undermined our democracy that it is refreshing to see its resilience and vitality. As before, I still believe that Trump is a cautionary tale about the danger when people who don’t understand leadership, ethics and government become the majority. On the other hand, it’s their country too, and the “elites” (how I detest that word) forgot that, repeatedly, shamelessly, and in many ways.

Jefferson would have reviled Donald Trump, but he would approve of the uprising.

3. Trump’s victory speech last night was widely reviewed as statesmanlike and gracious, which it was. It was also unusually coherent for him. Still, who can’t give a gracious victory speech? The effusive praise being lavished on this shows how low expectations are.

4. Hillary Clinton’s decision to not to appear in person at her headquarters and concede, also graciously, was a failure of character. On CNN, ex-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and ex-Obama flack Van Jones got in an argument over this, but for once in his life, Lewandowski  was right. Given the backdrop of Clinton and the media questioning whether Trump would “accept defeat,” the decision by Clinton was just plain wrong: unfair to Trump, unfair to her supporters, hypocritical. Continue reading

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Donald Trump’s Acceptance: Good Speech (Wrong Speaker)

Trump-Mocks-Disabled-Reporter-CNN-USA-Today

Donald Trump’s acceptance speech last night at the Republican National Convention must have been easy to write. Anyone with a modicum of communication skills who had been paying attention the past eight years and isn’t either in denial or thoroughly corrupted could have written it. I could have written it. President Obama and Hillary Clinton, as well as their supporters, have provided so much material, or, if you like, ammunition. No wonder the speech was so long: it was the longest acceptance speech since 1972. It easily could have been longer.

There is no honest or reasonable argument to be made against Trump’s recitation of what is wrong in America. Escalating class, racial, gender and ethnic divisions, uncontrolled illegal immigration, handicapped law enforcement, sluggish economic growth, over-regulation, dangerous debt, incompetent foreign policy, weak national leadership, corruption, attacks on individual rights, and more…the speech hit a lot (not all, because there are so many) of the obvious failures of the Obama presidency, one of the most disappointing and disastrous in U.S. history. Most astute of all, the speech correctly painted Hillary Clinton as a candidate pledged to continue disastrous policies and anti-American philosophies. Read the text here.

The criticism of the speech from the left and mainstream media journalists (all together now: “But I repeat myself!”) was both predictable and telling. “Trump delivered a deeply negative speech that described a darkening America,” wrote Politico.” He spoke of spiking crime, “third-world” airports, growing trade deficits, “chaos in our communities,” and terrorism on the home front. Abroad, he said, the situation was “worse than it has ever been before.” On CNN, former Obama “czar” Van Jones said that “What Donald Trump did tonight was a disgrace. That was a relentlessly… dark speech. He was describing some Mad Max America.” Jones continued: Continue reading

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Send In The Clowns: Larry Lessig’s Scholarly, Ignorant, Insulting, Unethical Candidacy

Full disclosure: Because I believe that nobody in the history of photography who wasn't pompous as hell posed this way for a picture, and because Lessig has several pictures in this pose, I wouldn't trust him anyway.

Full disclosure: Because I believe that nobody in the history of photography who wasn’t pompous as hell posed this way for a picture, and because Lessig has several pictures in this pose, I wouldn’t trust him anyway.

[Running out of time tonight, due to an unexpected crisis. Unethical Presidential Candidate Sunday will be extended into Labor Day. I have four posts in the can…]

Harvard Law Professor Larry Lessig, being either  bored, puckish, naive or having had a psychotic break, has declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President with the following “plan”: Continue reading

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Eight Ethics Observations On Donald Trump’s Prisoner Of War Slur…And Another New Rationalization: “Popeye’s Excuse”

PopeyeFrom the New York Times:

“Mr. Trump upended a Republican presidential forum here [Ames, Iowa] , and the race more broadly, by saying of the Arizona senator and former prisoner of war: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Mr. McCain, a naval aviator, was shot down during the Vietnam War and held prisoner for more than five years in Hanoi, refusing early release even after being repeatedly beaten.

The only news outlet that isn’t covering this is the Huffington Post, because controversies that directly affect who will be President of the United States aren’t news when they involve candidates the HuffPo ideologues don’t respect.

I thought I should remind you.

Ethics observations:

1. The statement is signature significance that Trump is a jerk as well as a fool, and not very bright as well. The latter is especially important: being an idiot should disqualify anyone for high elected office. Not that Trump’s intelligence, or lack of it, hasn’t been a matter of record for a long, long time, but this is as blazing a tell as anyone could wish for. Anyone who voluntarily places his or her life at risk for their country is a hero; circumstances and moral luck determine what other tests warfare will present to such an individual’s character. When a hero passes such a test with distinction, as McCain did in his prisoner of war ordeal during the Vietnam war, the military makes a special effort to recognize that heroism, in part to inspire others. My father refused to make a big deal about his Silver Star and Bronze Star, because he was aware that the man who was blown up by a shell while virtually standing next to him could have just as easily been the decorated war hero, and my father a statistic, had the shell landed a little bit to the right. My father regarded the man who was killed in his foxhole as much of a hero as he was. Trump would say, “I like people who aren’t killed.”

Only a stupid man could believe that.

2. For Trump to denigrate McCain’s service when he took every possible step to avoid service in the same war is especially nauseating. The ethical values being rejected here are fairness and respect. John McCain displayed courage, patriotism, devotion to civic duty, selflessness and integrity that Trump could not. It’s really that simple. Trump lacks any standing to criticize Senator McCain’s war record.

3. On ABC this morning, Donald Trump was asked about his habit of name-calling and using personal insults as his response to political criticism. He justified his incivility by evoking the Tit for Tat excuse: if you insult him, he’ll insult you, and that includes calling you fat, old, stupid, or–his favorite—“a loser.” This is playground ethics, worthy of a 12-year-old. Your duty to be fair, civil and ethical is not reduced by the unethical conduct of someone else, even when it is aimed at you. Ethical people understand this, often before they are 20. Ethically, Trump is a case of arrested development. Continue reading

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I Suppose It Is Comforting To Know That I Wasn’t Unfair To Starbucks And Howard Schultz

Starbucks Quiz

If the Starbucks “Race Together” campaign had turned out to be carefully thought out, intelligent, sophisticated and responsible, and not  a facile, condescending and cynical effort to promote a brand while creating static and white noise in the midst of an important cultural discussion, I would be obligated to apologize for doubting CEO Howard Schultz’s wisdom and ethics. It would also have been an apology I would have enjoyed making.

Sadly, I was not only correct in my assessment that this was a fiasco in the making, I was more correct than I suspected. Above is the “Race Relations Reality Check ” quiz that Starbucks has reportedly been distributing. The questions indicate a bottom-of-the-well level of comprehension about race and racism, not to mention demographics, culture and the human species. It appears that Starbucks favors some kind of affirmative action program on personal friendships, and believes that one can measure racism or incipient bias by how many individuals of other races one has regular contact with. I don’t even want to have a discussion with someone this shallow. A whole corporation this shallow is a nauseating thing to contemplate. A corporation this shallow that presumes to lead a national discussion on race is, oh I don’t know—Risible? Sad? Dangerous?

Starbucks seems to be thinking like George Costanza, during the period where he was trying to acquire black friends and managed to annoy and insult every African-American he met. The presumptions here are staggering, and so directly contrary to life, logic and the realities of human existence that i get angry just reading them. I was at an ethics conference in Nigeria, and met some of the most intelligent, charming, passionate people I have ever encountered in my life. I would be honored and enriched to have any of them in my life, and would hope that I could develop close friendships with them—but I can’t, because I live in the U.S. and they live in about 15 African nations, and it’s just too darn expensive to dine at each others’ homes. I live in an area, Northern Virginia, that is overwhelmingly white, not because it is white, but because it is convenient to my work and we found a great deal on a house. I work in two fields, theater and ethics, that do not afford a lot of contact with African Americans. The last time we had anyone other than immediate family to dinner was a decade or more ago; the last time anyone other than family, black or white, had us to dinner was longer ago than that—and I am a delightful dinner companion. Continue reading

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