Category Archives: Journalism & Media

A Bobby Jindal Critic Asks, “Would I Be Uncivil If I Were To Suggest That Somebody Punch This Man Right In His Dick?” Why Yes, I Believe You Would…

By all means, this should be our model for political discourse...

By all means, this should be our model for political discourse…

Gov. Bobby Jindal, desperately trying to stay relevant in the Republican race to be the party nominee in 2016, weighed in on the Oregon community college shooting with an extensive blog post that shows, if nothing else, that the Fifties live. It’s pretty awful, designating as “root causes” of the violence such Oldies but Stupidees as “glorifying violence” in popular culture (Actually, this one is closer  to 1650), movies, TV shows, music (Run, Tipper! This is your chance!) the decline of religion ( “…we flaunt the laws of God and common decency”—I think you mean “flout” there, Bobby), the decline of the family…you know the list. The problem with Jindal’s rant—other than its exaggerations, poor writing and hysterical tone— is that taking any single event and attributing it to generic causes is demagoguery, and as intellectually dishonest as  blaming the NRA every time someone is murdered with a gun.

The Huffington Post, mocking Jindal’s eminently mockable screed, asked “What about gun violence?” as if Jindal left out the one obvious “root cause.” Is it really necessary to point out that gun violence is responsible for gun violence? But that’s anti-gun code for guns, you see. Guns are responsible for the shootings. Take the evil guns away, and nobody dies! That this facile and deceitful dead end reasoning is so accepted among progressives and liberals that it is considered an obvious truth is depressing, but I digress.

Jindal is also depressing, since the only remedy for violent movies, TV shows and video games is censorship of one kind or another, and you know what the Right will do if it gets that started: TV couples will again be sleeping in twin beds like Rob and Laura Petrie by edict. His lack of logic is depressing too—how does someone like this get elected a governor?—when he attributes alleged conditions like “the family is a mess” to a rampage by someone who might have been raised like Opie Taylor but whose mind just snapped, as they have a tendency to do. Again, a single incident has specific causes. Jindal’s main argument is exactly as exploitative and dishonest as using the Oregon shooting to lobby for gun regulations that wouldn’t have stopped the shooting. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Family, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy, U.S. Society

The Conflicted, Misleading, Incompetent Better Business Bureau

Grade inflation at the BBB!!!

Grade inflation at the BBB!!!

I don’t know who or what persuaded CNN to set its sights on the Better Business Bureau, but we should be glad it did. Its first revelation, which I knew about, was how the non-profit BBB is funded by the same businesses it purports to rank. Depending on the size of a business, the BBB demands membership fees ranging from hundreds of dollars to more than $10,000 a year. Members can also pay for plaques announcing their accreditation, BBB seals of approval for their company’s websites, and ads. This is not just a conflict of interest, but a classic one, as well as a system that creates an appearance of impropriety.

Joseph Ridout, a spokesperson for watchdog group Consumer Action, agreed that  this structure, where the BBB is “funded by the dues-paying businesses and not the consumers,” presents a “serious conflict of interest.” The BBB, however,told CNN that its membership dues have nothing to do with the ratings companies receive. Of course! And members of Congress don’t tend to vote the way their biggest donors want. Stop being so cynical! Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Comment of the Day: “Who Are You Calling A Nut?” And Other Ethics Issues In The Community College Shooting Aftermath (Continued)”

gunsThere is nothing more welcome, when I am on the road and coping with a malfunctioning laptop, an inexplicably swollen knee and a headache, than a thoughtful, substantive, provocative, long post.  Extradimensional Cephalopod provided just what I needed today, and I am awash with gratitude.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post “Who Are You Calling A Nut?” And Other Ethics Issues In The Community College Shooting Aftermath (Continued)”:

[ Washington Post editor Fred ] Hyatt’s forthrightness [ in his op-ed here] and his dedication to societal change that he acknowledges is difficult is definitely refreshing. I would object to the comparison to Australia mostly based on the fact that Australia also has a rather extreme (for the Western world) institution of censorship. I am curious as to what people do if they need to shoot a wild animal, as I understand there are many dangerous animals in Australia. Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

“Who Are You Calling A Nut?” And Other Ethics Issues In The Community College Shooting Aftermath (Continued)

I apologize for the length of this two-part entry, but the preponderance of fact- and reasoning-free anti-gun hysteria in the wake of the Oregon shooting has even exceeded Sandy Hook levels, a development I didn’t think was possible. An emotional national reaction to such a tragedy is fine, and natural, as long as it doesn’t stampede policy-makers and make the public dumber and more ignorant than they already are regarding basic rights, the reasons for them, and the limits of law and government. This post and its earlier installment are offered to catalogue, in part, the ethics carnage, and perhaps to save some readers time when they are confronted with a usually sane friend or family member who begins ranting about how “ridiculous” it is that this “problem” hasn’t been “solved” and how it’s all the fault of the NRA and bribed politicians, because if Australia can do it, why can’t we? In my experience, however, the angry anti-gun zealots—yes, you can still be a zealot and talk about “common sense solutions” if they are either not sensible or not solutions—don’t want to hear facts or reason. People have died, guns are bad, and why can’t we stop it? The same people also tend to think we can stop prejudice, poverty, risk, inequality, war, and the effects of mankind living on the planet. They also rank “Imagine” among the most profound songs ever written.


Here are the rest of the points:

V. Another Facebook friend published this chart…


…and said that it showed that “states with fewer gun regulations had frequent gun related murders than those with more regulations. It doesn’t show that. It shows, for example, that Vermont, Maine and North Dakota have few regulations and low gun murder rates. I know him well–he’s an honest man. But he saw what he wanted to see, not what was actually on the chart. Meanwhile, everyone “liked” his post.

VI. I know I’ve made this observation before, but it still drives me crazy. I just had another argument over it with my sister, and she hung up on me. Obama and the hoard leaps on this shooting to once again lobby for “common sense” gun controls that most agree wouldn’t have stopped this shooting. There is , I would say, an obvious, ethical and logical disconnect there. If the measures being sought would not have stopped this shooting, why all the angry, “blood on your hands,” “how long will this go on” rhetoric? The clear and misleading message is that the shooting would have or might have been stopped if only, if only, but when the substantive recommendations are listed they have little or nothing to do with the incident itself. Why do smart people tolerate this? The shooter’s father–who, by the way, shares at least as much culpability for the Oregon shooting as anyone, and a lot more than the NRA, gave an interview in which he blamed the shooting on the fact that the law allowed his son to acquire 13 guns: Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Facebook, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Popular Culture, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: Al Roker’s Unethical Selfie And Malfunctioning Ethics Alarm


The question here is a simple one.

On the scene of the devastating flooding in South Carolina, Today Show weather man Al Roker tweeted a selfie of him and  NBC colleagues beaming happily in front of a collapsed highway and a trapped car, with the caption “My crew and I getting ready to report on East Coast flooding from S. Carolina on @NBCNightlyNews with Kate Snow.”

Yes, after many complained on social media about the discordant juxtaposition of cheerful self-promotion and tragedy, Roker apologized, but not before.  The basic question is “What the hell is the matter with these people?“, or as today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz asks,

Is Roker’s insensitivity signature significance of a malfunctioning ethics alarm, or just an excusable one-time mistake?

Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet, Unethical Tweet

1. The NY Times Has A New Author Of “The Ethicist” And 2., Boy, Did He Ever Botch The Dilemma Of The Closeted College Student



The New York Times Magazine column “The Ethicist,” long authored competently by non-ethicist Randy Cohen, had lost me due to the biased and often unethical answers to his reader’s queries by his most recent successor, Chuck Klosterman. So repellent was Klosterman’s version of the column that I didn’t even notice when the Times sacked Klosterman late last year after one bizarre response too many.

[The final straw:  An inquirer  went to a Starbuck’s  wanting to buy a regular over-priced cup of coffee, but when the woman in front of the customer  ordered a pumpkin-spice latte  and received a coupon for a free drink because the shop was out of it, “NAME WITHHELD” ordered a pumpkin- spice latte to get the free coupon. Was this ethical, he/she/it asked?” Klosterman’s answer: “No. You’re a liar and a low-rent con artist. And you live in a community where pumpkin-flavored beverages are way too popular.”  Now, “No” is correct, but it’s a great question, and deserving of a serious analysis rather than whatever that was from the ex-Ethicist. The coupon was a nice gesture to someone who had come to the Starbuck’s wanting a specific beverage and was disappointed—a store should not be tantalizing customers with products they don’t have to sell, essentially setting up a bait and switch. The coupon was an ethical “We’re sorry,” but also made the employee vulnerable to anyone who decided to misrepresent his real intent in order to get a free drink later. Yes, taking advantage of this opportunity to the detriment of the store is unethical, because the inquirer took an appropriate gesture clearly intended for a specific situation and exploited it. It was not illegal, however, and was  not a con. I would compare it to the scenario where a computer glitch has resulted in an airline selling tickets online for absurdly small amounts, and travelers rush to take advantage, rationalizing that mistake or not, the opportunity is there and they can legally grab it.]

Now the Times has a new author of “The Ethicist,” after experimenting with a new format in which a podcast including him and some other commentators hashed over ethics hypotheticals and then the podcast was transcribed and published in the Sunday Times magazine. He is Kwame Anthony Appiah, who teaches philosophy at N.Y.U.  This week Appiah’s  first solo, so I would normally say that it’s too early for any fair assessment, but boy, did he ever botch the September 2 podcast. He botched it so badly that I can’t see myself paying much attention to anything else he writes. It was an ethics disaster.

A college student asked if he could ethically lie to his anti-gay father about his sexual orientation so Dad would keep paying the student’s tuition. The father is suspicious based on some clues during his son’s high school days, and has made it very clear to his son that if he is gay, he would not only withdraw all financial support but also reject him entirely. “Questions about my sexuality are inevitable whenever I come home,” the inquirer wrote. “My father has demanded I produce archives of all emails and text messages for him to review, although I have successfully refused these requests on the grounds that he has no claim to my adult communications.”

He asks, Is it ethical for me to continue accepting financial support for my education and my career that will come from it? Could I continue to lie to accept the support and one day disclose my sexuality and pay him back to absolve myself of any ethical wrongdoing?”

The correct answer is “Of course not,” and it amazes me that anyone would think otherwise. The second part of the question is an especially easy ethics lay-up: the steal now, pay back later scheme, also known as “the involuntary loan,” or “I meant to pay it back!”, is pure rationalization, and its existence proves that the writer knows damn well that what he’s doing is wrong, and just wants someone to tell him that it’s OK.

Astoundingly, Appiah and his podcast buddies (Amy Bloom, a novelist and psychotherapist, and  Kenji Yoshino, an  N.Y.U. law professor) tell the inquirer that it is OK, because, it is clear, they are advocates for gay rights and don’t appreciate anti-gay bigots. Thus they amass nothing but rationalizations  and outright unethical arguments to justify the student’s ongoing deception. As a philosopher who knows better, Appiah should have been correcting his colleagues. Instead, he enables them, because gay advocacy trumps honesty and ethics. Continue reading


Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Love, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

Further Notes On “Stuff Happens,” “DO SOMETHING!!!” And The Dishonest, Hysterical And/Or Delusional Anti-Gun “Position”

1) In the clip above, the National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke asks MSNBC analyst Mark Halperin and “Morning Joe” house progressive Mika Brzezinski to explain what kind of measures would satisfy the hysterical calls of a Morning Joe panel to “DO SOMETHING!!!” about gun violence. Cooke referenced the President’s angry (irresponsible, partisan, useless) attack on Congress’s failure almost immediately after the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, and accused ant-gun forces of acting as if they had solutions to gun violence (that don’t involve trashing the Bill of Rights) when they don’t. [I pointed out in yesterday’s post that they don’t because there aren’t any.] He said to Halperin:

“Joe Biden doesn’t know how to fix this problem. I don’t know how to fix this problem. I think it’s fair to say you don’t know how to fix this problem. It’s a very complex question in a country with 300 to 350 million guns on the street. The way they talk is as if they have the answer and there are these recalcitrant forces in the country that say ‘no, no, no,’ even though deep down they know their legislation will work. That’s simply not the case. It’s far more complicated than that.”

As you will see, Halperin had no actual proposals, ducking the issue by saying that he’s “not an expert in the field.” But he said that he wanted leaders to “have a thirst and hunger and passion to try to come up with solutions.”

I will accept this as a legitimate argument as soon as I hear any plausible solution that does not involve banning guns, making it excessively difficult for law abiding citizens from arming themselves, or engaging in pre-crime measures against citizens who have had episodes of mental illness or who are suspected of having such episodes. The proposals I have heard are incremental and will not accomplish the goal, ergo more obtrusive measures will be proposed and pushed by identical arguments and hysteria, until…we end up banning guns, making it excessively difficult for law abiding citizens from arming themselves, or engaging in pre-crime measures against citizens who have had episodes of mental illness or who are suspected of having such episodes.

Either anti-gun “DO SOMETHING!” advocates like the President, Mika and Halperin know this, intend it and are not being honest about it, or they are naive.

2) Jeb Bush responsibly addressed the impulse to stampede support for ill-considered solutions in the wake of tragedy…

The text:

“Yeah it’s a — we’re in a difficult time in our country, and I don’t think more government is necessarily the answer to this. I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else. It’s just, it’s very sad to see. But I resist the notion, I had this challenge as governor, because, look, stuff happens, there’s always a crisis. And the impulse is always to do something, and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

You will note that Bush did not shrug off the Oregon shooting by saying “stuff happens.” Nonetheless, the completely principle-free Debbie Wasserman Schultz mischaracterized what Bush said with a fatuous tweet:

“A message for Jeb Bush: 380 Americans have been killed in 294 mass shootings in 2015 alone. “Stuff” doesn’t just “happen.” Inaction happens.”

Inaction regarding what, you shameless hack? What action are you proposing that would actually prevent a shooting like this week’s? Or the Norfolk shooting of the TV reporter? Bush is absolutely correct: bad stuff happens, and that does not mean that the government can or should rush to “DO SOMETHING!” Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership