Category Archives: Journalism & Media

This Time, The Kid “Living His (Parent’s) Dream” Is Dead. Still Inspired?

teen-pilot-crash

Pointing out the breach of ethics when parents endanger children by allowing, encouraging, pushing, or forcing them to risk their lives before they are old enough to comprehend what risking their life means has been a periodic theme on Ethics Alarms. There was 16-year old Abby Sunderland, who had to be rescued from an attempt to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo. Paul Romero sent his son Jordan, 13, out to be the youngest to climb Mount Everest. In April of this year, the Coast Guard had to rescue the sick one-year-old of Eric and Charlotte Kaufman, who brought the baby and their three-year old along as they tried to circumnavigate the globe in their yacht. (Never mind, they all had life jackets.). Less likely to be fatal but epic in its length was the ordeal “the Biking Vogels” put their twin sons through, as they were forced to live on bicycles for years while their parents lived out their low-tech “Easy Rider” fantasies, peddling across America.

As was bound to happen, another set of parents in this unethical club  have met with tragedy of their own engineering. Haris Suleman and his father, Babar Suleman, from Plainfield, Indiana, were attempting to fly around the world with the newly licensed  teen piloting their single-engine aircraft. The journey, to be completed in 30 days, would have set a record. Gotta set those records!  The Biking Vogels were determined to set a record too.

As the plane piloted by a 17-year-old novice pilot took off from an airport in Pago Pago in American Samoa, it suddenly lost power and crashed into the water. The boy is dead; the father’s body has yet to be found. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Family, Journalism & Media

The Progressive Clown vs. The Apoplectic Conservative Radio Host On Gaza: Jon Stewart, Funny But Irresponsible…Mark Levin, Uncivil But Right

Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” riff on the Gaza conflict was praised to the skies by anti-Israel pundits, like MSNBC’s Cenk Uyger and the Daily Beast’s Dean Obeidallah as providing some kind of much needed moral clarity. In truth it was exactly the opposite, with the Obeidallah column unintentionally showing exactly what’s wrong with Jon Stewart.

Knowing that a disturbing number of Millennials (and an even more disturbing number of ignorant, impressionable older viewers who should know better) see the comedian as a truth-teller, Stewart makes no allowances in his comic routines for that fact. He intentionally encourages the idea that he is a legitimate pundit, then retreats to the convenient bunker of “Come on! I’m a comedian! Don’t take me so seriously!” when he is called out for lazy, misleading and biased—but funny! commentary. (Stewart criticizes Democrats with approximately the frequency of a lunar eclipse, which would be just fine for a comedian who didn’t pose as an objective critic of American politics.) Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, War and the Military

Flunking Responsibility, Honesty, Common Sense and Ethics: Gov. Deval Patrick, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Daily Kos, and Anyone Else Who Repeats This Idiotic Analogy

Deval Patrick

I thought I might run an ethics quiz asking whether this current and mind-bogglingly stupid argument that keeps popping up from my sentiment-addled Facebook friends is more unethical than the pro-Hamas hashtags being appended to twitter comments by the “Think of the children!” saps led by celebrities like Jon Stewart, Selena Gomez, and John Cusack. Pondering on it, however, I realized that as ethically misguided as Stewart at al. are, the above quote and its ilk are worse….especially since state governors and U.S. Senators have more credibility than comedians and Disney pop tarts. Not that they should, mind you.

If I really have to make a detailed argument explaining why Deval’s quote and  Leahy’s ( “Think of all those Jews that went to the ovens because we forgot our principles. Let’s not turn our backs now.”) are unforgivably irresponsible, we are just as dim-witted as those demagogues (or, more likely, as dim-witted as they hope and think we are.) The statements are no more nor less than an invitation to every parent of every child in every poor, war-torn, politically foul, culturally poisoned, dangerous, corrupt nation in the world to somehow get them to the U.S. border, paying shady and often treacherous agents to do so, because the United States will not “turn its back,” and turn them back. The question isn’t whether this is a legitimate, responsible or sane position worthy of debate and serious consideration: of course it isn’t. The question is how anyone can think it is. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes, The Internet

Deconstructing The Unethical “It’s Impossible To Be President Today!” Excuse For President Obama

Presidents since WW II

Chris Cilizza’s latest of several attempts to relieve President Obama of responsibility for his spectacularly incompetent and disastrous presidency is too full of falsities, fallacies, rationalizations and illogical assertions to let pass, as I would dearly love to. Duty calls, however, so here we go. I’m not going to comment on the quoted “terrific” Ron Brownstein piece, which is not essential. Cilizza is in bold, my comments are not….

“Being president is the most powerful job in the world. At which you will almost certainly fail.”

  • First, I must ask, fail at what? Fail at solving problems? Fail at being popular? Fail by leaving the country in worse shape than when the President took office? Fail at leadership, at management, at foreign policy, at vision? Fail at handling crises? Fail by not dealing with long-term problems? By not bothering to define the central concept of his thesis, Cilizza just betrays his ignorance and laziness. If he won’t define his terms, he can’t be challenged.
  • Let me give Mr. Cilizza, who is really, absurdly arguing that succeeding as President is harder now than it has ever been, a brief history lesson focusing on how difficult this job has proved to be for others. George Washington, numero uno, had by far the most difficult job, being President of an unstable, new, confused nation with no precedents for his office, all while being second guessed by some of the most brilliant minds the nation ever produced, who were fighting among themselves to steer the country’s culture and government in radically different directions. He did a superb job, because Washington was a natural leader, perfectly suited for his grand moment in history. The next three Presidents were not, and had a terrible time of it (Jefferson’s reputation was saved by having the Louisiana Territory fall into his lap, but he was no leader, and call me a stickler, but any time a foreign power burns down the White House, I’m calling that President–James Madison—a flop), but James Monroe got the job down, beginning with having Cabinet members–like Daniel Webster–who were smarter than he was and properly delegating and managing them. The job defeated John Quincy Adams, but the next natural leader, gutsy, crazy Andrew Jackson, managed to keep the nation from dissolving over regional differences, and solved potentially disastrous  financial problems, in part because he was able to project strong leadership. Being a killer will do that….

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Leadership

State Of U.S. Journalism: “Conflict of Interest? Oh, THAT Old Thing!”

At last report, rolling in his grave...

At last report, rolling in his grave…

I believe that the field of journalism ethics has been negated, as the news media now routinely ignores the most obvious conflicts of interest, and make no effort  to avoid them, address them, or disclose them.

Case #1: Taking orders from Hamas

 Hamas has published media guidelines instructing Gazans to always refer to the dead as “innocent civilians” and to never post pictures of armed Palestinians on social media. Hamas has prevented foreign reporters from leaving the area, and it is easy to see how foriegn journalists would conclude that the best way to ensure their safety is to avoid angering their “hosts.” Seemingly mindful of these concerns, the New York Times’ reporting on the Gaza conflict from Israel depicts tanks, soldiers, and attack helicopters, while virtually all images from Gaza are of dead children, weeping parents, bloody civilians, ruined buildings, overflowing hospitals, or similar images of pain, carnage and anguish. As Noah Pollack noted in the Weekly Standard website,  a Times photo essay today contains these images:

“…three of Gaza civilians in distress; one of a smoke plume rising over Gaza; and three of the IDF, including tanks and attack helicopters. The message is simple and clear: the IDF is attacking Gaza and harming Palestinian civilians. There are no images of Israelis under rocket attack, no images of grieving Israeli families and damaged Israeli buildings, no images of Hamas fighters or rocket attacks on Israel, no images of the RPG’s and machine guns recovered from attempted Hamas tunnel infiltrations into Israel.”

Is this just naked anti-Israel bias, or is the Times simply trying to report the story without getting its reporters’ into further peril? I’ll be charitable and presume the latter: fine. But that defines a clear conflict of interest that mars the objectivity of the Times’ reporting, and the paper has an ethical obligation, under its own guidelines, to disclose it in every report where it might be relevant.

It has not. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Journalism & Media, Professions

Ethics Quote Of The Week (Crystal Ball Division): Prof. Glenn Reynolds

“Expect this to play out in thumbsucker columns on whether America is ‘ungovernable.’”

-Professor Glenn Reynolds, the conservative “Instapundit,” in 2009 commenting on a blog post by Ed Morrissey about growing evidence of President Obama’s deficits in leadership skills and management competence.

I mean, who can do this? It's impos---oh. Right.

I mean, who can do this? It’s impos—oh. Right.

Sure enough, here comes a the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, with an offensive, unethical and false column in the Washington Post titled “It’s virtually impossible to be a successful modern president.”

This is a continuation of the six year strategy of the White House and Democrats to argue the ethical value of accountability out of existence. After all, if a job is impossible, you can’t be blamed for failing at it.

If there is any analyst ill-prepared to make such an analysis, it is a journalist, who in most cases, and definitely in the case of Cilliza, have never led or managed anything. Leadership and management challenges always look overwhelming when an amateur is overwhelmed by them.

I have to rush off to a seminar, so I will let you all dissect Cillizza’s pitiable excuses for the President, and return to the topic when I get back.

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Filed under Government & Politics, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Leadership

Children Make Us Stupid, Or “Why Are U.S. News Networks Assisting Brutal Palestinian Propaganda?”

child victim

“Children make us stupid” is but a corollary to the law often stated here, “Bias makes you stupid.” Our natural bias in favor of caring for, protecting and seeking happiness for children is genetically wired into our being. Thus, in action movie after action movie, when the villain puts a gun to a child’s head, the hero invariably drops his weapon, apparently giving the world over to dictatorship, pestilence or death to save one rosy-cheeked kid. (Well, except for Dirty Harry, who picks off the creep holding the gun to the kid’s head with one well-aimed shot.) The trade-off is really, really stupid, and not ethical either: sacrificing the welfare of the many for a single child is simply illogical and wrong. But to those sentimentalists who don’t strain themselves by thinking, and to cynical politicians who know better but also know that convincing morons is all it takes to win “a majority” ( “…if even one child’s life can be saved…“—President Obama, 2013 State of the Union Message), the human bias that gives irrational priority to children is pure gold.

Obama’s use of the false ethic was  his call for gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, in which an anomalous attack on a grade school was used to make it seem like children were being hunted down like rabbits. We are currently watching another classic demonstration of the “children trump everything” fallacy, and it is both a logical and an ethical fallacy:  the emotional and irresponsible rhetoric over the fate of the unaccompanied South American children being sent to the United States as a predictable response to Democratic promises of a better life, a college education, and eventual citizenship. The fact is that child illegal immigrants are just as illegal and just as undesirable as any other variety: they are just cuter, sadder, less culpable and easier to use to demonize principled opposition.

It is not surprising that the Palestinians, who pioneered using children as suicide bombers, figured out that sacrificing their own kids might be a dandy way to turn public opinion against Israel in its long, mad, apparently endless quest to eliminate the Jewish state. Israel turned over control of Gaza to the Palestinians there, and the Palestinians elected Hamas, which seeks, as written policy, the elimination of Israel. Instead of  using its resources to create a state and a stable infrastructure for society, Hamas spent millions importing and producing rockets, launchers, mortars, small arms, and even drones to do battle with Israel. It built a network of tunnels, and stockpiled the weapons in hospitals, religious sites, and crowded residential areas, using these locales to fire a barrage of rockets into Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Journalism & Media, War and the Military

Ethics Observations On The Latrez Cummings Sentence

"I understand, son. We've all been at that awkward, "just want to beat the old white guy to death" age...."

“I understand, son. We’ve all been at that awkward, “just want to beat the old white guy to death” age….”

Detroit Third Judicial Circuit Judge James Callahan sentenced 19-year-old gang member Latrez Cummings to six months in jail for his participation in the mob beating of Steve Utash, a 54-year-old white man who jumped out of his car to assist a 10-year-old African-American boy after his pick-up truck hit the child. Cummings and at least 20 others on the scene attacked Utash and beat him severely, leaving him with permanent brain damage.

Judge Callahan told Cummings that the lack of a father was what led him to his current plight. “That’s all you have needed in your life, a father, someone to discipline you, someone to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake,” Callahan lectured Cummings. “Without the guidance of a father, being 19 years of age, I can understand how some of these problems existed in the past.” The judge added that Cummings has suffered without “somebody to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake.”  With the further rationalization, “We’ve all been 19 years of age, ” Callahan handed down the six month sentence, to be followed by probation.

The prosecutor, to her credit, went nuts. Said Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Smoking Gun Headline Of The Month: The Washington Post

Smoking-GunThe headline, on a story appearing on page A4 of today’s Washington Post: “Obama’s Critics Have Not Visited The Border Recently.” (Note: the online version headline is a little different.)

How odd, and how revealing. Apparently White House and Democratic talking points will now be published in headline typeface by D.C.’s iconic, once trusted, newspaper. What? Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Moonwalk Ethics: One Small Word

Neil-Armstrong-on-the-Moon-in-1969July 20 will be the 45th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon, a day of achievement, hope and pride for Americans that seems very long ago and far away in the bleak cynicism of 2014. As I was pondering how to note the landmark in an ethics context, I remembered a section of a post on the Ethics Scoreboard that dealt with the controversy surrounding Armstrong’s famous quote upon placing his foot on the moon’s surface. Here it is, my earliest foray into what has become a frequent theme on Ethics Alarms, “print the legend”  ethics:

“When the legend becomes truth, print the legend.”

This cynical endorsement of our culture’s preference for soothing fantasy over harsh historical truth was the intentionally disturbing message of John Ford’s film, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.” But rejecting Ford’s grizzled old newspaper editor’s warped ethic does not justify the equally objectionable modern practice of using spurious logic to substitute one dubious historical account for another. Even more ethically suspect is the common practice of replacing an accepted, well-supported version of an historical event with a “new improved” version that exists less because of its accuracy than because of its advocates’ biases….

An Australian computer programmer says he has discovered that Neil Armstrong’s first words after he stepped onto the moon in 1969, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” were misquoted by NASA, misheard by millions of listeners around the world, and printed incorrectly in the history books. For decades, wags have criticized Armstrong for botching his iconic moment, since “man” and “mankind” mean the same thing, so the literal meaning of his famous words would be “One small step for man, one giant leap for man.” Armstrong has sometimes grudgingly acknowledged his gaffe and at other times maintained that he thought he included the elusive “a.” He hasn’t fought the consensus verdict very vigorously, as represented by NASA’a transcript:

109:24:48 Armstrong: That’s one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind. (Long Pause)… Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Scoreboard classics, History, Journalism & Media, Quotes