Tag Archives: Wikipedia

Afternoon Ethics Round-Up, 2/12/2019: It’s Kamala Harris Day, Among Other Things…

Howdy…

1. Without the decency to say, “Well, we didn’t find anything.”  From CNN: “After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.”

The honorable, fair and honest thing for Senate Democrats (and Democrats generally) would be to state clearly and unequivocally that they found no evidence of “collusion,” and therefore were going to stop insinuating that collusion took place. But these are not honorable, fair and honest people, but people who are determined to undermine public trust in the President, elections, the government and democracy, because they would rather have power in a ruined, crippled government than not have power at all. Thus Committee co-chair, Sen. Mark Warner, D.-Va.,  told reporters, “I’m not going to get into any conclusions I have, [but] “there’s never been a campaign in American history … that people affiliated with the campaign had as many ties with Russia as the Trump campaign did.”  This ranks among the most weaselly statements in recent memory. “Ties” is a deceitful term wielded by the news media—by its definition I have ties to Russia. People “affiliated with the campaign” having business dealings with Russia or Russians, or communications with Russia, are not the same as the campaign having “ties” to Russia. Warner’s statement is, at its most trivial, sour grapes, and at its worst, a deliberate smear.

One Democratic Senate investigator told CNN (anonymously of course),”Donald Trump Jr. made clear in his messages that he was willing to accept help from the Russians. Trump publicly urged the Russians to find Clinton’s missing emails.” After all this, that’s the smoking gun? An obvious, off the cuff joke Trump made on the stump? “We were never going to find a contract signed in blood saying, ‘Hey Vlad, we’re going to collude,'” another Democratic aide sniffed. This is, of course, a dishonest version of Hillary’s “It wasn’t the best decision” (referring to her illegal decision to hijack official emails into a private server) rationalization. No, Hillary, not only wasn’t it the best decision, it was a terrible, suspicious, indefensible decision, and no, anonymous partisan hack, you were not only not going to find a contract signed in blood, you weren’t going to find any evidence of illicit, illegal, impeachable contacts at all.

The Democratic Party has allowed its defeat in 2016 to rot the party and its supporters to the core.

2. Baseball and lawyers! As I discussed here, Baseball’s Today’s Game Committee (formerly known as the Veterans Committee) elected OF/DH Harold Baines to the Hall of Fame in a decision that was not only logically indefensible, but obviously tainted by conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety, since associates and friends of Baines dominated the voting process. Now one of the pro-Baines voters, Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa (full disclosure: he works for the Red Sox now) has written an article  defending the decision. What is interesting about the article is that LaRussa, though few remember this, is trained as a lawyer, and his defense of picking Baines uses one legal advocacy device after another. Bill Baer, at NBC Sports, isn’t a lawyer, but he does an excellent job with his reply brief to LaRussa’s tortured and statistically deceitful arguments.

3. Let’s start a pool! Which of the gazillion Democrats running for President will commit the most verbal gaffes and require the rationalized defense, “Well he/she still doesn’t lie as much as Trump does!”? Obviously Joe Biden will be a popular choice for the title, as his foot is more or less positioned in his mouth up to the knee, but I think it will be a very competitive contest. For example (from Reason): Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Sports

Oh, Fine: I Knew Wikipedia Was Untrustworthy, And Now I Find Out It’s Partisan Too….

If the mainstream media, social media, and the most accessed encyclopedia won’t tell the truth without trying to manipulate it, what chance do we have?

Yesterday I again tip-toed into the realm of government lawyer ethics for a CLE seminar. As I did last week, I attempted to mention the most important government lawyer issues raised by the events of the past year without triggering partisan zealots and the anti-Trump deranged. I also noted that being a partisan zealot or anti-Trump deranged qualifies as a potential conflict of interest for a government lawyer, interfering with his or her ability to be objective, independent, competent, loyal and zealous. I did not say, but could have, as proven by Sally Yates. I know from past experience that this particular—100% accurate—observation is inviting a fight.

However, I did feel it necessary to discuss Bruce Ohr, the Justice Department official who is at the center of several Mueller investigation controversies. I am not yet prepared to weigh in on Orr, except to note this, as I did yesterday: The fact that Ohr served as the Justice Department contact for Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent commissioned to author the dubious Trump–Russia dossier that was used as the primary justification for the FISA warrants permitting surveillance of the Trump campaign, while Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that prepared the dossier under a contract with the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign (but I repeat myself), was a blatant conflict of interest, and arguably (and I’ll argue it) an unwaivable one. It also violates the ethics requirement that all government employees must follow to avoid the appearance of impropriety. (Pretty much the entire Mueller investigation has breached that. )

In the course of trying to confirm the basic facts of Ohr’s conduct, I consulted Wikipedia. Where else do you go these days for a dispassionate up-to-date recitation of facts without spin? Not  the New York Times. Not Fox News. As Frankie Pentangeli says to Michael Corleone, “Your father did business with Hyman Roth; your father respected Hyman Roth; but your father never trusted Hyman Roth.” That pretty much describes my relationship to Wikipedia. I don’t trust it. I frequently find errors in entries; I know people who have Wikipedia pages who are about as deserving of them, or less, than my Jack Russell Terrier; and I have never forgotten how my father spend hours correcting a wildly inaccurate Wikipedia article about a World War II battle that he was deeply involved in and wrote about in his book only to have his work rejected because Wikipedia does not accept, it said, “first hand accounts.” Wikipedia is a classic example of an imperfect resource that is both essential and hopelessly flawed by its very nature. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Double Standards, Hypocrisy, News Media Bias, “Bias Makes You Stupid” And Cognitive Dissonance—This One Has Them All! Thanks, Ben Carson!”

Literally everyone I told about Ben Carson equating slaves with immigrants made a face like they had bitten on a lemon. The comparison is distasteful at a visceral level, because what we think of as immigration does not include being captured and shipped in chains to a strange land for sale, raping and breeding. Once it was pointed out that Barack Obama, rather than only Trump’s notoriously clueless HUD Secretary ( He believes, for example, that Egypt’s pyramids were built to store grain, not dead pharaohs), also championed this false equivalency, many rushed to defend it. The default argument was  that old standby of the desperate, the dictionary, asserting that the most common definition of  immigrant,  “a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country,” applies to those who arrived in slave ships too. It is an intellectually dishonest position. Wikipedia accurately describes what immigrant means in common parlance–and it isn’t slavery:

Immigration is the international movement of people into a destination country of which they are not natives or where they do not possess citizenship in order to settle or reside there, especially as permanent residents or naturalized citizens, or to take-up employment as a migrant worker or temporarily as a foreign worker

In discussing “push and pull factors,” the article notes:

Push factors refer primarily to the motive for immigration from the country of origin. In the case of economic migration (usually labor migration), differentials in wage rates are common. If the value of wages in the new country surpasses the value of wages in one’s native country, he or she may choose to migrate, as long as the costs are not too high. Particularly in the 19th century, economic expansion of the US increased immigrant flow, and nearly 15% of the population was foreign-born, thus making up a significant amount of the labor force.

How odd, then, that the Africans slaves were pushed to “migrate” to a land where they received no wages at all! Of course, the “costs” were paid for by others, so that was one incentive, I guess…

Non-economic push factors include persecution (religious and otherwise), frequent abuse, bullying, oppression, ethnic cleansing, genocide, risks to civilians during war, and social marginalization..

Wow, those African “immigrants” were strange. They immigrated to get more persecution, terrible abuse, and ultimate social marginalization!

I confess I find the defense of this intentional blurring of material distinctions for cynical demagoguery as annoying as the demagoguery itself.

Fortunately, texagg04 managed to be more restrained, and approaches the issue from a different and interesting perspective. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Double Standards, Hypocrisy, News Media Bias, “Bias Makes You Stupid” And Cognitive Dissonance—This One Has Them All! Thanks, Ben Carson!”: Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Race, U.S. Society

The Unethical Candidacy Of Evan McMullin

evan_mcmullin_ballot_access_2016-svg

From Wikipedia:

“McMullin will likely not appear on enough ballots to win the necessary Electoral College majority of 270 electoral votes. However, McMullin hopes to deny a majority of the electoral vote from either of the two major party candidates. In such a scenario, under the the terms of the Twelfth Amendment, the House of Representatives would select among the top-three electoral vote winners. McMullin hopes that he could win the presidential election by finishing among the top-three electoral vote winners, and then winning the contingent election in the House.”

Reportedly, Evan McMullin also hopes to some day be able to burrow to China, like a mole, so he can see the terracotta warriors without paying airfare and going through Customs. (All right, I made that up.)

How ridiculous do  a Presidential candidate’s “hopes” have to be before they disqualify him to be President? Whatever the answer is, Evan McMullin has lapped it. Either he is dangerously detached from reality, or he’s exploiting deperate voters by lying to them. On the chart above, only the orange states have McMullin on the ballot. The yellow states allow write-ins, which mean he is on the ballot exactly as I am, or Donald Duck, Batman, and Britney Spears. In the rest, you can’t vote for him at all.

McMullin didn’t even announce his candidacy until August 8. Why the rush, Evan? This is like the joke about Poland’s greatest comedian being asked what the secret to comedy is, and before the question is completed he shouts, “Timing!” Timing is essential to effective leadership too, as the dithering style of Barack Obama has shown in many tragic ways. [I expect him to give an eloquent speech about the dangers of racial distrust and attacks on the rule of law —as, for example, in this fiasco—sometime in 2018. Probably on a golf course.] It was clear to anyone paying attention that the U.S. was going to be stuck with a Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton binary hell-choice by the end of May, when the Libertarian Party demonstrated to the world that it is a joke. Was McMullin not paying attention? That’s a bad sign, don’t you think?

The U.S. Presidency is important, and elections are important. One of the first times I wrote a post critical of Donald Trump was when he first floated the idea of running for President several cycles ago, and it was clear—then— that he was doing it as a publicity stunt.  This was signature significance, I wrote.  Only a massive jerk (I already knew Trump was a massive jerk, of course) with no concern for his country sets out to confuse and confound the easily confused and confounded American voter by throwing random pollution into the Presidential campaign. After the 2000 election, where the twin ego-driven campaigns of Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan probably changed the identity of the next President by sheer chance, it was obvious that nobody should put themselves on the ballot unless there is a very good reason related to the nation’s welfare. Building a credible third party option over time is a good reason, or can be if the party doesn’t try to do it by nominating an incompetent. Running for President for vanity, or to sell merchandise, or to get speaking gigs, is not a good reason. It is unethical. Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “Confused Ethics Observations On Caitlyn Jenner, Up and Down the Cognitive Dissonance Scale”

"Yikes! Doc says I have to go back to the Seventies and make sure Caitlyn Jenner wins the Ladies Decathlon!"

“Yikes! Doc says I have to go back to 1976 and make sure Jenner wins the Ladies Decathlon!”

It is testimony to the passion, breadth and erudition of the readership here that when I miss an ethics angle to a story, it almost always is raised, and well, by someone else. Here is a wonderful example, johnburger’s ethical objection to the instant, inaccurate and unethical recasting of Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner as female, because Jenner has adopted another gender identity more than 30 years later. I’ll have a brief note in the end,

Here is johnburger’s Comment of the Day on the post, Confused Ethics Observations On Caitlyn Jenner, Up and Down the Cognitive Dissonance Scale: Continue reading

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Senator Walsh’s Plagiarism

Walsh (top); Paul (bottom) "Whooo are you? Who, who, who, who?"

Walsh (top); Paul (bottom)
“Whooo are you? Who, who, who, who?”

U.S. Senator John Walsh (D-Mt) has an obligation to resign.

He was never elected to office;  Montana Governor Steve Bullock appointed him to fill the vacant  seat of Max Baucus, who resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China. Though he was Montana’s Lieutenant Governor at the time, Walsh’s primary qualification for the job was his military record and honors, including a master’s degree at the U.S. War College. The New York Times revealed this week that Walsh’s  2007 thesis, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” was substantially plagiarized, copied from other sources without attribution. Now the War College is investigating to determine whether Walsh’s degree should be revoked.

If this happened to a partner at a law firm, he would be fired. If it happened to a professor at a respectable university, he would be terminated. When it has happened to high ranking corporate officers, they have usually been forced to resign. The importance of honesty and trustworthiness to the duties of a U.S. Senator are more important than either of these.  Moreover, the fact that he could not complete an adequate 14 page thesis ( I am still reeling that the War College hands out masters degrees for such paltry work) without stealing the word of others does not inspire faith in his abilities as a lawmaker. Walsh has an obligation to resign.

Instead, he has been making lame excuses and rationalizations, and encouraging others to lie for him. He and his supporters are calling this  “a mistake.” Using someone else’s work to make up 25% of your masters thesis and taking credit for it is not a “mistake.” It is proof of a deficit in character. Had his plagiarism been discovered when he submitted the paper, he would have been kicked out of the masters program, presumably. The military is especially strict regarding dishonesty and dishonorable conduct. Would he have been appointed  if that had occurred? Presumably not. At least I hope not.

Flailing to find an escape, Walsh has played the veteran pity card, suggesting that the plagiarism may have been the result of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It doesn’t matter why he plagiarized, though this seems like a particularly slimy excuse. He plagiarized. His current credentials, which were among the factors that got him nominated, were based on a lie. Continue reading

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“How Dare Universities Charge Such High Tuition?” KABOOM!* #1: Georgetown University Law Center

headexplode

Kaboom.

James Feinerman, the James M. Morita Professor of Asian Legal Studies at Georgetown University Law Center, who also serves as its associate dean for transnational programs, was hired by the U.S. government as an expert witness  to bolster the prosecution in a spying case, and apparently plagiarized a substantial potion of the report submitted to the court from <sigh–there goes that value of THAT degree> Wikipedia.The defense picked up on the uncited cribbing and the federal court is now examining whether the sources used by Wikipedia are reliable enough for his report to be accorded any validity. The Government, meanwhile, represented by assistant U.S. attorneys Peter Axelrod and John Hemann, is stuck with making desperate “ahumunahumuna” sounds like Ralph Kramden used to do on “The Honeymooners” when he was caught looking stupid and spouting lame arguments in court filings about how Feinerman “utilized language from Wikipedia as a concise English-language summary of his opinions on certain topics.”

Riiiight. Continue reading

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