A Lot About Ethics

The Office of Government Ethics Director speaks out; the Facebook Journalism Project; and more.


  • “I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created,” was just one of the outrageous proclamations made by the president-elect yesterday in his first press conference since summer 2016. ICYMI, New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman has a quick write up of the spectacle.

  • The New York Times fact checked some of his assertions, and Nelson D. Schwartz reports that it will be very hard for Trump to fulfill his self-prophecy of being a God-sent jobs creator because the U.S. is very nearly at full employment.

  • Allegra Kirkland describes for Talking Points Memo how Donald Trump brought his own cheering section of vocal staff members to cackle and clap along with him during the press conference.

  • “I wish circumstances were different and I didn’t feel the need to make public remarks today. You don’t hear about ethics when things are going well. You’ve been hearing a lot about ethics lately,” is how the director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter M. Shaub Jr., began his public remarks yesterday. Shaub went on to explain that the steps Donald Trump is taking to separate himself from his business interests are wholly inadequate.

    “I was especially troubled by the statement that the incoming administration is going to demand that OGE approve a diversified portfolio of assets,” Shaub continued. “No one has ever talked to us about that idea, and there’s no legal mechanism to do that. Instead, Congress set up OGE’s blind trust program under the Ethics in Government Act. Under that law anyone who wants a blind trust has to work with OGE from the start, but OGE has been left out of this process. We would have told them that this arrangement fails to meet the statutory requirements.”

  • With a mere week to go in his tenure as President, Obama is being pressured by the Congressional Progressive Caucus to push for the last minute closure of Guantanamo Bay, Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian. “Mr Trump must be deprived of the use of Guantánamo Bay,” the 40 members of the caucus write in a letter to the White House.

  • And Cynthia McFadden, Kevin Monahan, William M. Arkin, and Tracy Connor report for NBC News that Chelsea Manning is on Obama’s short list for possible commutation.

  • “This fight could very well be the end of Techdirt, even if we are completely on the right side of the law,” Techdirt’s Mike Masnick writes regarding a lawsuit filed by the lawyer who forced Gawker Media out of business on behalf of a man who claims to have invented email, an assertion Masnick has disputed on Techdirt. Masnick continues: “Whether or not you agree with us on our opinions about various things, I hope that you can recognize the importance of what’s at stake here. Our First Amendment is designed to enable a free and open press—a press that can investigate and dig, a press that can challenge and expose. And if prominent individuals can make use of a crippling legal process to silence that effort, or even to create chilling effects among others, we become a weaker nation and a weaker people because of it.”

  • Speaking of Gawker, Maureen Dowd interviewed Peter Thiel for the New York Times, and he said some pretty wild things! Especially considering that they buried the piece in the Fashion & Style section. Where to begin? He said, apparently with regards to President Obama, “there’s a point where no corruption can be a bad thing. It can mean that things are too boring.” This is apparently a response representative of Thiel’s tendency for “Pyrrhonian skepticism.” When Dowd asked about “the incestuous amplification of the Facebook news feed” Thiel responded, cryptically, “There’s nobody you know who knows anybody. There’s nobody you know who knows anybody who knows anybody, ad infinitum.” There’s more if you want to fall down this particular rabbit hole—including the phrase “maybe pro wrestling is one of the most real things we have in our society.”

  • Facebook’s director of product Fidji Simo introduced the Facebook Journalism Project yesterday, which will address, among other things, new storytelling formats—within Instant Articles, obviously—and new business models—starting with free subscription trials within Instant Articles, of course. TBD what benefit the project will be to actual journalists and publishers.

  • And in Thailand, Facebook is hiding posts from users’ feeds, apparently in response from a request from the government, TechCrunch reports: “Thailand’s lèse-majesté law prevents criticism of the country’s royal family, and it looks like it is being used to suppress postings from a number of high-profile users who are writing about the transition to a new king, including journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall.”

  • Ivan Pereira covers the annual BigApps competition for AM New York, which will be facilitated in part by workshops led by Civic Hall Labs. CH Labs will also assist the winners with branding, prototyping, and fundraising.

  • Writing for Civicist, Matt Stempeck observes that Uber wants to share data—but only on the company’s terms, and they’re willing to mischaracterize demands by city government and regulators, like the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, to their customers in order to keep it that way.

  • And, regarding their new data sharing platform Movement, Tim Welch, an assistant professor of city and regional planning at Georgia Tech, told CityLab’s Linda Poon: “It can be useful, but the level of detail and the type of data isn’t something that’s not already used by planners through other data sources.”

  • Apply: The Office for Creative Research is looking for a creative researcher “interested in driving conservation, making tools for activism and data literacy, promoting open science, and bringing data into public space.” Learn more about the position here.

  • FutureShift is giving away two Worldbuilding for Change workshops to organizations working on urgent challenges and promoting social justice. Learn more and apply here.

  • Moment of zen: In lieu of the man himself, the organizers of the New Jersey inaugural ball, the Garden State Gala, are proud to announce that the “#1 Springsteen tribute band” will headline the January 19 event, Alex Young reports for Consequence of Sound. Bruce Springsteen has previously called Trump a “flagrant, toxic narcissist.”