Category Archives: Journalism & Media

8 Observations On The Boston Herald’s “Racist” Cartoon

Obama-Watermelon-1

1. I’m amazed—I just don’t know how this could happen. How could this cartoon make it into print? Cartoonist Jerry Holbert explained that he came up with the idea to use watermelon flavor after finding “kids Colgate watermelon flavor” toothpaste in his bathroom at home. “I was completely naive or innocent to any racial connotations,” Holbert said. “I wasn’t thinking along those lines at all.” Is this possible? In a political cartoonist? On one hand, since the racial connotation is so obvious and so predictably offensive, it seems incredible that a cartoonist for a major daily would dare offer such a cartoon unless he really didn’t perceive the racial stereotype it referenced. On the other, the man is a political cartoonist, not a Japanese soldier who’s been hiding in a cave for decades. How could he not know this? How could his ethics alarms, racial slur alarms, survival alarms not go off?

I don’t get it. Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Race

Finally There’s Name For The Conduct I’ve Been Calling Unethical For Years…Now Let’s Agree To Stop It

eclipse

That name is “partyism.”

From Harvard Professor Cass Sunstein:

“…party prejudice in the U.S. has jumped, infecting not only politics but also decisions about dating, marriage and hiring. By some measures, “partyism” now exceeds racial prejudice — which helps explain the intensity of some midterm election campaigns. In 1960, 5 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of Democrats said that they would feel “displeased” if their son or daughter married outside their political party. By 2010, those numbers had reached 49 percent and 33 percent. Republicans have been found to like Democrats less than they like people on welfare or gays and lesbians. Democrats dislike Republicans more than they dislike big business.”

Based on what I’ve seen, the fact that Republicans/conservatives  are nearly twice as likely to be “partyists”  as their hated enemies to the left on the political spectrum doesn’t surprise me. Most of the manifestations of the bigotry I’ve seen out in the open and written about here—restaurants that give discounts to praying customers and bars that claim that they will only serve “red voters”—have come from that sector, but 33 percent isn’t anything for liberals to be proud of, either. Over all, the trend is horrible for the country. As I wrote regarding “Mary’s,” the restaurant that favored its religious customers…

“I detest this kind of thing, and so should you, because it is ethically indefensible and un-American to the core….splitting the world into them and us, good guys and bad guys, the virtuous and the reviled. All of “Mary’s” customers are human beings, and that is the only thing that should matter in the United States of America.”

I confess that since I have been observing this phenomenon, I am preconditioned to think the Stanford research that purported to measure it as has validity. Most social science research, especially involving politics, is so skewed by researcher bias and agendas that it is inherently dubious, and perhaps this example is too: I wouldn’t rely on the percentages. Also 1960 would have to be the absolute low water mark in U.S. political passions, after the remarkably non-partisan, unifying two terms of Dwight Eisenhower while the public felt united against a common enemy in the Cold War. I’m guessing the numbers in, say, 1860 would show a sharper divide.

I do think that the intensity of emotion, rising to bigotry, distrust and hate, in the nation’s political polarization is growing, is very alarming, and dangerous to our health and future. I’d like to know more about where it resides. Is the bulk of the bigotry coming from the low-information voter, who uncritically absorbs every campaign smear, bumper sticker insult and Facebook meme as fact—you know, morons? Or are the individuals who would rather die than see their daughters marry men who oppose the family’s favorite party the narrow-minded political junkies who watch only Fox News and listen to Rush, or who cheer Al, Chris, Rachel and the 24-7 conservative-bashers on MSNBC? I’d like to know.

Naturally theories will abound regarding the reasons for this new bigotry. In a general sense, it is pure cognitive dissonance, and can be explained by people today caring more about politics and ideology than they have for quite a while. People care about something when they sense that it matters to their lives, health and welfare, as well as those around them: if political views were regarded as no more important than what baseball team one rooted for, there is no way substantive bigotry would attach to them. With foreign threats looming, the economy weak, nobody certain of the right policies in so many crucial areas and the pettiness, corruption and ineptitude of parties in and out of power, trust has plummeted. When we can’t trust those whom we have given the job of looking out for our welfare, we become worried and scared, as well we should. Then it makes sense to care more about politics. If we care more, and feel strongly about what should be done either out of a lack of sophistication and gullibility (the morons) or from unbalanced self-education (the zealots), then those who proclaim opposing views seem more obnoxious and more threatening, prompting active discrimination. The Stanford study found that “discrimination against the out-group is based more on out-group animus than in-group favoritism.” That figures. But for a nation, it is suicidal.

This nation of ideals gleaned from a diverse population must value trust and belief in what all citizens share more than it embraces passion and anger over what we disagree over. If we cherish the basic principles of democracy, then we must accept, encourage and respect dissent, frank speech, the shocking opinion and the minority view.  We must always keep our minds open to new ideas, different solutions to old problems, and the possibility that we, or the public officials, scholars and pundits we favor, may be wrong on any one topic or issue. If we can’t do that, we doom ourselves and our culture to self-righteousness, doctrine, cant  and rigidity, which block out enlightenment like an eclipse blocks sunlight. Continue reading

71 Comments

Filed under Character, Citizenship, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

“Boobs on the Ground” Ethics

"we have met the boob, and it is me."

“We have met the boob, and it is me.”

I was going to make this an Ethics Quiz, but that dignifies Eric Bolling’s crude and disrespectful comment on Fox’s “The Five” more than it deserves. Would I accept such a sophomoric “quip” at a dinner party of close friends, at a bachelor party, in a group of women who knew me and could tell when I was intentionally tweaking them, in a setting where groans and objects thrown at my head were appropriate?  Oh, probably. I’ve made worse jokes myself, knowing how bad they were, knowing they were offensive, knowing that I had the good will of my companions and that they would take them the right way. But as a presenter in a seminar? As a panel member? In an auditorium? Over the radio? On TV? Never.

Any statement is defined to some extent by the audience it was intended for (See: Sterling, Donald) For a supposed broadcast professional to say what Bolling said about the United Arab Emirates‘s first female pilot who served as the flight leader during air strikes in Syria (“Would that be considered boobs on the ground, or no?”) can’t be excused or justified: Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Professions, War and the Military

Advice Column Ethics: The Case Of The Anxious Godmother

"look, I'll take your 8 kids if anything happens to you, but I really think you should stop juggling chainsaws..."

“Look, I’ll take your 8 kids if anything happens to you, but I really think you should stop juggling chainsaws…”

The best of all advice columnists, Carolyn Hax, found herself confronted with a tough question this weekend, and uncharacteristically flailed at an answer.

I’m going to try to help her out.

The question came from husband who was trying to decide how to deal with the anxiety of his wife, godmother to two teenagers being raised alone by her brother. The brother, it seems, has decided to take up race car driving as a new hobby, and sister, the wife of Hax’s correspondent, is terrified that this risky pursuit might eventually place the teens in her care. “The kids have been raised in a way that neither of us agrees with, and if they were to come under our care, it would be very difficult for everyone involved,” he writes. What should he do?

Maybe Hax’s reply helps the potential adoptive parent, but I sure found it stuttering, overly equivocal and confusing. It’s not surprising: the issues are difficult, full of ethical conflicts.

Here is my analysis:

1. If one agrees to be the designated guardian of a child or children, one is ethically obligated to be ready to accept the duties of the job. “I’ll take care of your kids happily as long as it’s not your fault that you can’t” just isn’t good enough. Too many people, perhaps most, accept this crucial responsibility as an honor rather than as a very serious commitment, and first and foremost, it is a commitment to the children. If a godmother (or, in a non-religious setting, a guardian) is terrified of the reality of fulfilling the duties of the job, she should give them up, so they can be accepted by someone who is not so reluctant. It shouldn’t matter if the parent is an amateur snake handler or a couch potato.

2. It is reckless, selfish and irresponsible for the sole parent of children to not take this fact into consideration regarding his lifestyle and other choices. Two children depend on him: he is duty bound to do what he can to stay alive, healthy, and capable of supporting them. Taking on unquestionably risky hobby like race car driving, or storm chasing, or being a volunteer human subject for the ebola vaccine, is irrational and wrong. It is right for the potential successor guadians to make this point to him, for the children, for a family intervention, for his friends, for anyone. And they should. He is not free to act as if he has complete autonomy, not with two children who depend on him.

3. If his thinking is “it’s OK to risk my life, because I have two foster parents on the hook,” that is similarly unethical, and he needs to be told that, too. But he should be told it by  guardians/godparents who are still committed to being loving parents should the worst occur, not by a couple that accepted the responsibility assuming they would never actually have to deliver.

The bottom line:

  • The inquirer and his wife should withdraw as guardians.
  • The father should grow up.
  • The next guardian couple should be informed of the father’s irresponsible proclivities, and make his promise to take reasonable efforts to remains capable of raising the children as a condition of their accepting the role.

And, of course, if the worst happens and the father ends up a victim of Dead Man’s Curve without having found a suitable guardian, the sister and her husband may be obligated to raise the orphaned teens anyway.

Because that’s what families are for.

Is that what Carolyn says? I’m not sure. If it is, it wasn’t clear enough.

2 Comments

Filed under Childhood and children, Family, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Love

If Someone Praises The Job Eric Holder Did As Attorney General, That Tells You All You Need To Know

eric_holder_ap1

Eric Holder was the most political, biased, inept and undemocratic U.S. Attorney General  in at least 70 years, with the  exception of Nixon’s AG, John Mitchell, who went to jail. And the Attorney Generals have been uniformly terrible in this period; being one of the two worst takes talent, determination, broken ethics alarms and wretched judgement.

Those who praise Holder either are doing so without any idea about his record, or because they want the justice system in the United States to be racially and ideologically biased. The results of the latter, which is Holder’s real legacy, can be seen in the rising distrust between races, and the frequent description of Holder as being Obama’s “scandal goalie.”  The latter isn’t completely fair, because the news media has also been the President’s scandal goalie. The proof: few of the mainstream media retrospectives on Holder’s tenure mentioned the Justice Department’s refusal to hold a thorough and open investigation of the still unfolding I.R.S. scandal, which should have, and under any Republican administration, would have, included an independent prosecutor, because the news media would be screaming for one. This abdication of duty and naked partisanship by Holder alone condemns him. Unfortunately, there is a lot more.

You can begin with the “inside baseball” reports that Justice, under his administration, is a confused mess. That’s hardly surprising, for since the President eschews management and oversight, this is the tendency up and down the system. Without well-regulated policies and oversight, partisan meddling flourishes.

I have neither the time nor the energy to detail each and every example of Holder’s toxic racial and partisan biases, or his flat out ineptitude; there are too many to list, and I am sure I don’t know about some whoppers. Never mind: a fraction of the list would have made the resignation of any other Attorney General mandatory and beyond debate.  Holder is black, and this guaranteed that short of setting fire to the Supreme Court, he would only leave when he was ready. That alone is disgusting.

Here are some other Holder achievements:

1. “If Holder had his way, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, might now be on death row,” says ABC. This is the media spinning for Holder: his efforts to have the terrorist tried in New York City was when I first realized how out of his depth he was.

In the contentious Congressional hearings on the matter, Holder told the nation that“Failure is not an option. These are cases that have to be won.” “That have to be won”? Failure, as in acquittal, is “not an option”? This was a confession of the muddled, simultaneously alpha and omega false logic that would become a hallmark of Obama World. Holder proclaimed that the world had to see the United States give its enemies a fair trial, then told Congress that the “fair trial” he was proposing was a show trial,  a kangaroo court, in which justice meant a guilty verdict. It was a stupid, stupid thing for any lawyer, much less an Attorney general to say. Tragically, it was no aberration.

2. Holder refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, though it was a law passed by Congress and signed  by a Democratic President. I think he should have been impeached for that. Slate, among others, says that he was “vindicated” because the Supreme Court held the law unconstitutional. They didn’t vindicate his refusing to do his job. It is not the prosecutor’s duty to veto laws duly passed by the legislature and signed into law, nor should he have the power to do so. Holder’s precedent took a bite out of the rule of law, and stood for stunning arrogance. He viewed DOMA as a civil rights incursion: gee, what other laws don’t you like, sir? We found out: he didn’t like drug laws, because he sympathized with the poor, black criminals that tended to violate them. His solution? Minimize the penalties, and send the message that abusing illegal drugs was no big deal. Democrats wanted to curry favor with the Hispanic-American voting bloc? Holder was eager to assist by not enforcing the Federal laws, and by doing everything he could to prevent the states from policing illegal immigrants as well. In a system of laws, favoring authorities that pick and choose which to enforce according to their political beliefs is endorsing obstruction over process, and politics over justice.

3. When acting unconstitutionally suited Holder’s partisan masters, however, he would do it. In 2013, the Justice Department  seized Associated Press phone records, and monitored Fox News reporter James Rosen following a story he published in 2009 on Iran.

4. Holder oversaw specious and intellectually dishonest justifications for the U.S. policy of assassinating suspected terrorists without providing them with a trial, and or any evidence that they were planning imminent attacks. By defining the word imminent in the broadest possible way, this advocacy for the elimination of due process equaled the worst deceits of the Bush Torture Memos, the only difference being an official pass from the Obama-enabling press. The policy, basically a license to murder, ensured that assassinations could be carried out against anyone who the U.S. government feared if the person was located on foreign soil and could not be captured.

5. Then there is Operation Fast & Furious, the proof positive that Holder was going to get away with anything and everything. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lost an estimated 1,400 weapons in Mexico, among them: two guns that were used to kill U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December 2010.  Holder is the supervisor of the ATF, but testified before the House Judiciary Committee that he had only known about the sting named “Operation Fast & Furious,” for a few weeks. Then investigators uncovered memos on Fast & Furious sent to Holder in July 2010. A reasonable conclusion was that Holder had lied under oath. Oh, no, Holder “explained,” he never read the memos. He was incompetent, not culpable. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Holder indignantly denied a DOJ cover-up, saying that“This operation was flawed in concept, as well as in execution,”  and refusing to be held accountable for his own department’s deadly botch. Bolstered by Obama’s assertion of executive privilege, which prevented future prosecution, Holder refused to turn over documents related to the fiasco. Congress held Holder in contempt in June 2012, and he thoroughly deserved it, because the American people had a right to know the extent of the bungling in the highest reaches of the Obama Administration.

6. Although the supporters of Holder claim that his legacy was built on a dedication to civil rights, this was only in the narrow areas where the Democratic Party saw political advantage. He was not concerned, for example, in the civil rights of Americans when the government wanted to use modern surveillance technologies to spy on them. In the 2012 Supreme Court case U.S. v. Jones, Holder’s Justice Department argued that the police did not violate the Fourth Amendment by attaching  GPS devices to cars so they could know where they were going and where they had been, with that evidence used to acquire evidence. incriminate, try and imprison.  The Supreme Court rejected that position unanimously, because it was a mark of a burgeoning police state.

7. When Democrats wanted to create racial divisions, however, to rile up the base, Holder reported for duty. He assisted the unconscionable effort, still ongoing, by Democrats to characterize a responsible and necessary protection of the integrity of the voting process—photo IDs—as a racist plot, though the measure had long ago been approved by liberals, and only recently became stigmatized as “voter suppression.”

8. Holder’s major wound that he inflicted on the nation was his clear intention to project the image of a black Attorney General whose concern was minorities, whose assumption was that whites were the enemy, and whose biases were front and center. An early cue was his department’s abandonment of charges against two New Black Panthers who stood armed outside a Philadelphia polling place. The controversy, assisted by the media, devolved into an argument over whether this was an example of Justice receiving orders from the political Machiavellis in the White House, or just a lousy, bigoted example of “discretion.” A long official investigation found the latter, but either way, the message sent to white Americans was that this Justice Department was not especially interested in protecting their rights. In the Trayvon Martin shooting and the Ferguson episode, two local issues that should not have been his concern, Holder made statements, engaged in gestures and took actions that signaled his allegiance to the black victims, and opposition to the white (or “white Hispanic”) individual accused. He repeatedly spoke collaboratively before Sharpton’s followers, endorsing their diagnoses of a racist nation, and, by extension, a white population aligned against African Americans. Especially revolting was his repeated attempts to duck legitimate accountability for, you know, being terrible at his job, by race-baiting, such as when he explained Congressional criticism of his handling of Fast & Furious—a career-ender for any white Attorney General, or an appointee of any President who believed in accountability, by saying in 2011…

“This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him, both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”

It shouldn’t have to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: the job of Attorney General, like the job of President, must be, and must be seen as being, absolutely neutral regarding race. Holder intentionally projected himself as an AG who cared more about minorities than non-minorities, increasing distrust, undermining respect in the justice system, and dividing the nation.

9. Not that he wasn’t feckless and incompetent too: for example, Holder’s Justice Department, almost certainly to ensure later campaign support, allowed multiple corporate criminals to escape serious punishment. For example, the Justice Deportment made a ridiculous plea deal to allow Halliburton executives to avoid jail time after they destroyed evidence of their culpability in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The company agreed to pay the maximum allowable fine of $200,000, accepted  a three-year probation;  continued its cooperation with the government’s criminal investigation (which it had to anyway), and  made a voluntary contribution of $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to clean off those oil-covered sea birds and otters. It could do this with the confidence that hard-core Democrats, being total hypocrites, would still attack the Republican party as a cadre of soulless corporate fat cats and insist that any criticism of Holder’s Justice Department and his boss’s administration was rooted in racism.

And again, the amazing thing is: That’s not all.

Any politician, elected official, pundit, columnist, civil rights leader or President who declares that Eric Holder was a wonderful public servant and a great American is telling you one of three things, or all of them:

  • They are liars.
  • They don’t know anything about Eric Holder, or
  • They believe the integrity of the nation’s laws should be warped and the public trust should be forfeited for a race-based, partisan agenda.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll be taking names.

30 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, Rights, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Ethics Quote of the Week: Ken White of Popehat

First Amendment“…Our freedoms are recognized or denied based on court rulings. Our understanding of those court rulings often derives from media coverage of them. When we do a lousy job of covering law, or when we put up with journalists doing so, we’re doing a lousy job as citizens.”

—-Attorney-Blogger Ken White, after meticulously exposing how the media, old and new, completely misrepresented a Texas court’s striking down  an overly broad statute as protecting “upskirt” photographs.

Ken White has delivered another masterpiece, expertly debunking the news media’s criminally ignorant analysis of a Texas Court opinion. I must admit, when I saw the headline “Texas Court: Ban on ‘Upskirt’ Photos Violates First Amendment Rights” and its ilk around the web, I just assumed that reporters were being sensational and dumb as usual, and moved on to other things. Thank goodness Ken was on the case, and properly flagged the danger in lawyers reacting this way. We have a tendency as a profession to think, “Well, there they go again, completely misunderstanding the law, poor dears” when we should be working overtime to set the record straight. I admonish my seminar attendees for doing this regarding the public’s distorted view of legal ethics, and fell into the same trap myself.

Ken’s dissection of the flat-out wrong reporting on this case is frightening: it is clear that most reporters are incapable of understanding what court opinions mean, yet there they are, writing nonsense and making the public more ignorant, not to mention making them think taking upskirt photographs is legal and constitutionally protected.

Counselor White has had a busy year that has kept him from providing his usual volume of daily enlightenment. He is back in top form, and we should all be grateful.

 

17 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, The Internet

Slate’s Amanda Hess’s Very, Very Embarrassing Essay About Why It’s “Very, Very Stupid To Compare Hope Solo To Ray Rice”

Fa11 _WT_Hope AL Portrait_RGB.JPG

A Forbes  columnist wrote a clumsy essay that managed to make it sound like all incidents of campus sexual abuse were the fault of co-eds who can’t hold their liquor. It was almost instantly taken down, and he was sacked in disgrace, for some opinions are just not fit for open debate in politically correct America, it seems. Self-censorship is the order of the day, or fear the wrath of the War on Women Warriors. You can read the piece here: in my view, there was enough that was thought-provoking in it to allow the dumb and offensive parts to be taken care of by astute commenters, critics and bloggers. But women are the new unassailable icons right now (oh my God, I nearly wrote “sacred cows”! My career just flashed before my eyes…). It will be fascinating to see how long this delicate and fanciful balance can be maintained in the culture without someone breaking out in uncontrollable giggles: women are equal in every way to men, but are too pristine and delicate to accept or endure criticism of any kind, and if you dare offend them, you are toast.

Around the same time Forbes was declaring Bill Frezza’s essay a blight on humanity, Slate’s Amanda Hess was posting a column of at least equivalent nonsense content, and I would argue, more embarrassing. It is a desperate plea for a distaff double standard regarding domestic violence, responding to articles like mine, pointing out that soccer star Hope Solo is garnering faint condemnation for the pending charges against her, while the same sports writers and social commentators ignoring her are attacking the  National Football League and its several abusers, alleged abusers, and charged abusers with gusto. Hess calls her opus “No, Women’s Soccer Does Not Have a Domestic Violence Problem, Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice. If this didn’t guarantee a ticket to spend a lonely weekend with Frezza lamenting the end of their gigs, nothing will. Slate disgraced itself by publishing it, because it adds nothing to the public debate regarding domestic abuse except rationalizations, excuses, and of course, the exalted double standard that women can do no wrong, or at least no wrong anyone should get upset about.

Before I expose the utter dishonesty and incompetence of Hess’s essay, let me just state for the record why I and anyone else who is objective and paying attention compares Solo to Rice (and the other NFL players recently disciplined), or to be more precise, compares the obligation of U.S. Soccer to treat its accused abusers exactly like the NFL is doing now: Continue reading

22 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Professions, Sports