Tag Archives: Washington Post

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/5/17

Good morning!

1. I’ll have more later on the leaked transcripts of the President’s private conversations with the presidents of Mexico and Australia. Whoever did it was betraying his or her superior and the nation, and  needs to be identified and prosecuted. This is malicious sabotage, and nothing less, designed to make it more difficult for this President to function. Those attempting to justify it and rationalize it disqualify themselves as objective critics of the President and also as responsible citizens. The conduct cannot be justified, and no one should attempt to justify it.

The Washington Post publishing the transcripts is a hostile act. True, in today’s Wikileaks world they would have been put online somewhere, but absent some scandalous disclosure in one or both of them, this wasn’t news. The news is that embedded foes of ourelected government are willing to harm the nation in order to undermine the President.

Eventually, the question turned yesterday to why the contents of the transcripts did not prompt any further headlines or allegations of scandal. The answer is that the hoped-for smoking gun proof of the President’s incompetence did not surface in either conversation, so they were no longer of any interest. Ann Althouse, to her credit, waded through the entire exchange with  Peña Nieto, and you can read her analysis. The liberal blogger’s conclusion:

“But what can his antagonists grab onto? They can’t very well oppose crushing the drug gangs or better trade deals. So it’s no wonder they went big with Oh! He insulted New Hampshire! And that’s it for the transcripts. Don’t encourage people to actually read them. They might think Trump did just fine.”

Can’t have that.

2.  Rep. Maxine Waters responded to the leaked discussions by saying that she hoped such leaks continued. She is calling for and endorsing illegal and unethical conduct that is damaging to the United States, as a sitting member of Congress. I wonder if she could say anything, including calling for Trump’s assassination, that would attarct rebuke from her party? I doubt it. I remember the howls of horror from Democrats during the 2016 campaign when candidate Trump said,

“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press”

There is no ethical difference between calling for Russia to hack a U.S. citizen’s e-mails and calling for government employees to break the law to reveal secret government communications. If there is a difference, it was that Trump was joking, and Waters is not.

3.  With tattoos more popular and visible than ever, the Federalist is suggesting that there is something wrong with getting them—that is, wrong other than the fact that many people think they are unsightly; that the more people have them, the less effective the things are as statements of rebellion and individuality; that they trigger biases in many people (like me), including employers (Did you know that the Armed Services will to accept a volunteer with more than 25% of his or her body covered by tattoos, on the theory that this is res ipsa loquitur for someone with dubious judgment?); and that they are excessive expenditures for a permanent ink-blotch that the odds say you will regret sooner or later. Continue reading

36 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Rights, U.S. Society, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/30/17

Good Morning!

(I’m starting this post just a few minutes before noon, thank to a WiFi outage. I’m sorry.)

1. I finally saw “Passengers,” which most people and critics seemed to hate. I see no obvious inferiority to the over-praised and honored “The Martian” or “Gravity,” especially the latter, which bored me to tears, but never mind: it’s an ethics movie. It is also a moral luck movie, and that drove me crazy. I’ll bet so many viewers (SPOILER ALERT!) saw the film and came out saying, “She had to forgive him, because if he hadn’t awakened her prematurely to keep him company, everyone would have died!”

No, no, no! His (Chris Pratt’s) conduct toward her (that’s Jennifer Lawrence, and anyone who wrongs Jennifer Lawrence deserves the torments of Hell) was just as bad–and it was horriblewhether it turned out well by chance or not. Subsequent discoveries or unpredictable events cannot make an unethical act retroactively ethical.

2. San Francisco’s Medicaid program sends illegal immigrants this letter:

When the anti-Trump deranged argue that the President is “crazy,” my stock answer is going to be that nothing he has said or done is as “crazy” as the position that it is right and just to officially encourage foreign citizens to breach our borders, defy our sovereignty and break our laws….and the people trying to use the 25th Amendment to execute a coup are exactly the people who think the letter above is compassionate and right. (Believing that a coup is in anyone’s interest is also demonstrably nutsy-cuckoo, but that’s another issue.)

3. I am really going to be disappointed if NPR and PBS don’t get zero-ed out of the budget. I may be stuck with biased and incompetent journalism, but I shouldn’t have to pay for it.

In a segment of NPR’s “All Things Considered” this week (Yes, I generally think the show is excellent, but that’s not the point) about the “restorative justice” approach to campus sexual assault, reporter Tovia Smith quoted Columbia University graduate Emma Sulkowiczs, aka “Mattress Girl,” as a “survivor” of rape.

She’s not a survivor; she was a harasser, and Columbia just paid a financial settlement to her victim for permitting her to proclaim him as a rapist when the evidence didn’t back the claim. Columbia doesn’t believe Sulkowiczs was raped, and her accusation has been thoroughly discredited. Why in the world would NPR choose this cruel and discredited woman to profile while discussing actual campus sexual assault, and how could it be ethical journalism to still refer to her as a rape survivor?

Smith’s tweeted response to criticism was as damning as the choice of “Mattress Girl” itself:

“Sulkowicz considers herself a survivor & we ID her as such. We’ve clarified that their school found the student she accused ‘not responsible.” Continue reading

23 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Romance and Relationships

This Is Why It’s Time For Political Cartoons To Go

 

Here (and above) is a sample of the bumper crop of political cartoons inspired by the Donald Trump, Jr. aborted meeting to acquire damaging information on Hillary that never materialized.

They are all, to various degrees, unfair, misleading, or simply untrue. Why is this acceptable? If presenting a false representation of the truth is required to make a joke, and the intended audience accepts what is false as fact, how is that justifiable?

The cartoon above, one of the most unethical, is typical of the work of Tom Toles, the Washington Post’s relentlessly biased cartoonist.

The others are presented below, in approximate order of unfairness and dishonesty.

They collectively state that there has been treason, a crime, corruption, collusion and conspiracy, and that there is actual, as opposed to speculated, “news” that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to interfere with the election. This is old fashioned yellow journalism-style political cartooning, throwing red meat to members of the public who want to believe that the President of the United States is a traitor so they can undo the election. That isn’t funny. That’s disgusting.

As I wrote in 2012, focusing on another dishonest and partisan Toles cartoon:

” Political cartooning peaked as a form of commentary about half a century ago, and has been declining ever since. Now it is dominated by hateful, unfunny and witless culture warriors who have as much in common with Jules Feiffer and Bill Mauldin as Mario Mendoza had in common with Hank Aaron. Are there exceptions? There are always exceptions. Pat Oliphant, Exhibit A, is brilliant, nuanced and clever; he’s also 77 years old, the last of the greats. If there are Oliphants out there, legitimate commentators who can make fair and honest observations with humor and a pen, great: what a wonderful alternative to the typical pundit rants. Put them on the editorial pages. The standard, however, should be content, not form. Political cartoons were once an efficient means of aiming a thousand words at non-readers and members of the public without the skills or education to grasp complex issues. They have become a vehicle for the unqualified and trivial-minded to acquire a platform they don’t deserve, to the detriment of the public and journalism.”

Now the evidence: Continue reading

35 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

From The “Trump-Hate Disabling News Media Ethics Alarms” Files: The Washington Post “Kids Chorus”

For those inexplicably loyal fans of the news media who said to themselves, “Well, CNN is an exception. The other respected news organizations will never let the President push them to completely alienate the public’s trust,” here is the hard, cruel truth: you are dead wrong. Open your eyes.

Witness the Washington Post, which somehow thought that it would enhance its reputation as a fair, independent, responsible and objective news source by recruiting a group of children to mock President Trump by singing his tweets. This was a Washington Post promotion, now. The Post believes that its readers want to get their news from a newspaper that gratuitously ridicules the President of the United States.  Maybe they are right. Such readers, however, are not looking for facts, or objective analysis. Those readers are looking to feed their confirmation bias.

At “The Hill,” reporter Jonathan Easley tweeted: “WaPo getting kids to mockingly sing Trump’s tweets seems needlessly antagonistic and a dumb move right now.” 

Gee, ya think?

I’m trying to imagine the long list of broken ethics alarms that had to malfunction for the Post to let this get all the way through conception, to production, to publication. Nobody in the chain of command said, “Yeah, that’s hilarious, but let’s leave this kind of thing to Jimmy Kimmel, okay? We’re a newspaper.” Nobody. Nobody thought that this would simply confirm what media critics have been saying about toxic anti-Trump bias. Nobody thought about how a graphic demonstration of this mindset at the paper would undercut any claim that the Post is capable of fair reporting on an elected leader it would show such disrespect to just to make a promotional pitch. Nobody. Continue reading

25 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/3/17

Good Morning!

1. “He was right, dead right, as he sped along, but he’s just as dead as if he were wrong.” This was a refrain (from an actual epitaph) my Dad used to recite to hammer the principle into my head: being right is often not enough. I wonder if Chris Christie ever heard it? The Governor of New Jersey is vacationing with his family at a state beach he closed to the public , along with all state parks, as a result of a budget stand-off with the legislature. Technically and legally, he has every right to do this, since governors of the state have the use of a residence on that beach, and the detail that watches it when the Governor is in residence is not affected  by the government shut-down. Christie, in his trademark blunt manner, has responded to criticism by saying, in essence, “I’m governor and you’re not.” He’s right that he’s not taking a special privilege by using his residence when the beach is closed to the public. He’s right that he has no alternative to closing government services when the legislature doesn’t meet the statutory mandate for approving a budget. It doesn’t matter: he also has a duty to preserve trust in the government and democracy. His vacation in a place that he’s made off-limits to the public, no matter what the justification, has the appearance of impropriety, and more than an appearance of arrogance and a broken ethics alarm.

2. The big story yesterday—I can’t believe I’m writing this—was the President tweeting a silly tricked-out video purporting to show him wrestling CNN. This was, to anyone not determined, due to a near fatal level of confirmation bias and the Trump Hate Brain And Conscience Eating Amoeba, to interpret every word and act by this President as evidence of evil, a joke. Sure, it was also gloating, and trolling, and sophomoric, and unpresidential but the long, long list of talking heads and pundits who solemnly pronounced  this foolishness as “advocating violence against journalists” all revealed themselves as untrustworthy, dishonest, or hysterical. This kind of incompetent reaction is why Trump keeps doing this.

Our broken news media will have to be torn down before it can be restored to the objective and non-partisan institution a healthy democracy has to have to survive. If President Trump’s japery accomplishes this—I would prefer journalism to come to its senses internally, but that clearly is not going to happen—that’s a rich silver lining to the cloud of his Presidency. Continue reading

75 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race, Social Media

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/17/2017

1. If you haven’t yet read them, Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on Chris’s brilliant Comment of the Day regarding ideological and partisan hate—plus Chris Bentley’s Comment of the Day on the same post, are all especially worth reading, not that all Comments of the Day by Ethics Alarms readers are not. I apologize for an unusually long intro to Steve’s post, but I had been holding on to a lot of related material from the day past on the topic, and it was either use them there or be redundant later. This meant putting Steve-O’s COTD after the jump, which is why I’m giving an extra plug to it now.

2. There were two significant criminal trial verdicts yesterday: the guilty verdict in the trial of  Michelle Carter, a Massachusetts woman charged with murder for using text messages to persuade her teenaged boyfriend to kill himself, and the acquittal of the Minnesota police officers who shot and killed black motorist Philandro Castile during a traffic stop. I’ll cover the Carter case later.

There were the obligatory riots after the verdict acquitting Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who fatally shot Castile in his car after he told the officer that he was carrying a legally registered firearm and then reached for his wallet to show the officer his license. This is just the latest cattle-car in the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, the familiar pattern of a badly-trained cop, a dubious police stop, poor judgment by a victim, and a needless death. I would compare it to the Tamir Rice shooting in Cleveland, where the officers involved weren’t even indicted.

Why in the world would a motorist tell a cop in that situation—Castile had been officially stopped for a broken tail light, but in reality because he was black, and the officers thought he resembled a suspect in a crime who was also black—that he had a gun? This could be interpreted as a threat, and obviously Yanez saw it as one. The verdict looks wrong at a gut level, but it is easy to see how the jurors were thinking: they placed themselves in the officer’s position. They would have been in fear of their lives, so they couldn’t find a way to pronounce Yanez a murderer for doing what they could see themselves doing under similar circumstances. This was a legitimate case for reasonable doubt under the law. Police officers, however, are supposed to be less likely to panic than a typical juror. Castile is dead because of incompetent police work, but the criminal laws don’t allow different standards to be applied  for different occupations, not should they. Continue reading

13 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Social Media

Unethical Quote Of The Week: New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. [UPDATED and CORRECTED]

“Our followers on social media and our readers across the internet have come together to collectively serve as a modern watchdog, more vigilant and forceful than one person could ever be. Our responsibility is to empower all of those watchdogs, and to listen to them, rather than to channel their voice through a single office.”

—-New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr, announcing that the Times was eliminating its “public editor” and its public editor position.

The decision was bad enough, the disingenuous excuse was almost worse. Yes, by all means, the Times doesn’t need an independent, internal expert on journalism ethics to blow the whistle when the Times ignores its duties of competence, independence and objectivity and breaches its own ethics code: the overwhelmingly left-wing readers the Times panders too daily will keep it on the straight and narrow! Besides. why does the Times need an ethics cop now? After all, the public’s trust in the news media, of which the Times is supposed to be the role model, has never been higher!

Well, no, actually, the public’s trust in journalism has never been lower, and the New York Time’s blatant bias during the 2016 campaign and in the wake of Donald Trump’s election is one of the main reasons. Tell me: if an organization finds its public trust diminishing drastically, which act shows a sincere interest in addressing that distrust and reversing it…

A. Hiring an independent journalism ombudsperson who investigates instances of dubious journalism ethics and reports to the public in the paper, no matter what the results, entering criticism and recommending changes as needed, or

B. Eliminating the above position entirely?

The New York Times chose B. What this indicates is that the Times doesn’t care about the public trust, just its readers’ trust. It knows most of its current readership wants an aggressive progressive advocacy rag, not bold, objective and independent journalism. When a new less-progressive-than-usual op ed writer dared to suggest that critics of climate change orthodoxy be listened to respectfully, Times readers tried to get him fired. Continue reading

19 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Dunces, Journalism & Media