Tag Archives: misrepresentation

Ethics Observations On Charles Blow’s “At Yale, the Police Detained My Son”

The esteemed columnist. If Yale police had known it was his son, they would have backed off: this is why it's important for the elite to teach their kids "Do you know who I am?" at a young age.

The esteemed NYT columnist. If Yale police had known it was his son, they would have backed off: this is why it’s important for the elite to teach their kids the phrase “Do you know who I am?” at a young age.

Charles Blow is a talented info-graphic op-ed columnist for the New York Times. he is also and African American who repeatedly pushes the narrative that the U.S. is a racist society hostile to blacks and black men in particular. Afew days ago, he authored an accusatory op-ed piece after his son, a Yale student, was detained at gunpoint by a campus police officer. Apparently Young Blow fit the description of a campus burglar, and was subjected to the indignity of being forced to the ground, identifying himself, and answering questions. Blow immediately decided to use his position of prominence with the Times to air a family grievance. Announcing that he was “fuming,” Blow questioned the officer’s procedure—

“Why was a gun drawn first? Why was he not immediately told why he was being detained? Why not ask for ID first? What if my son had panicked under the stress, having never had a gun pointed at him before, and made what the officer considered a “suspicious” movement? Had I come close to losing him? Triggers cannot be unpulled. Bullets cannot be called back.”

…and then concluded thusly:

“I am reminded of what I have always known, but what some would choose to deny: that there is no way to work your way out — earn your way out — of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you’ve done matters less than how you look. There is no amount of respectability that can bend a gun’s barrel. All of our boys are bound together.”

“What you’ve done matters less than how you look.” Charles Blow is nearly engaging in code here, but his meaning is clear. His son was treated prejudicially because of the color of his skin. His son, the accomplished, Ivy League-going offspring of a distinguished journalist was treated like a criminal—how dare they!— because of how he looked, because he was black. “Some would choose to deny it” —you know: racists, conservatives, whites, Republicans—but “all of our boys are bound together.” Translation: we all look the same to racist white cops.
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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Ethics Alarms Encore: “Aesop’s Unethical and Misleading Fable: The North Wind and the Sun”

north-wind-and-the-sun-story-oil-painting

[ I vowed that the next time I got a comment on this post, I would publish it again. It hails from four years ago, when  Ethics Alarms got a quarter of the traffic it gets now. I confess that I wrote it on a whim, having been talking with my wife about how Aesop’s Fables were joining Mother Goose stories,  Edward Lear limericks and American folks song in the Discarded Bin of our culture and then stumbling upon a fable I had either never read before or forgotten about.  To my surprise the post attracted intense criticism from fans of the story—I even had to ban a commenter who got hysterical about it—and the post joined a very eclectic group of early essays here that get considerable and consistent readership every week. Apparently there are a lot of Sun-worshipers out there. Anyway, since you probably missed it the first time, here it is.]

Today, by happenstance, I heard an Aesop’s Fable that I had never encountered before recited on the radio. Like all Aesop’s Fables, at least in its modern re-telling, this one had a moral attached , and is also a statement of ethical values. Unlike most of the fables, however, it doesn’t make its case. It is, in fact, an intellectually dishonest, indeed an unethical, fable.

It is called “The North Wind and the Sun,” and in most sources reads like this:

“The North Wind and the Sun disputed as to which was the most powerful, and agreed that he should be declared the victor who could first strip a wayfaring man of his clothes. The North Wind first tried his power and blew with all his might, but the keener his blasts, the closer the Traveler wrapped his cloak around him, until at last, resigning all hope of victory, the Wind called upon the Sun to see what he could do. The Sun suddenly shone out with all his warmth. The Traveler no sooner felt his genial rays than he took off one garment after another, and at last, fairly overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that lay in his path.”

The moral of the fable is variously stated as “Persuasion is better than Force” , or “Gentleness and kind persuasion win where force and bluster fail.”

The fable proves neither. In reality, it is a vivid example of dishonest argument, using euphemisms and false characterizations to “prove” a proposition that an advocate is biased toward from the outset. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Education, Literature, Religion and Philosophy, War and the Military

The Destructive, Useful, Unethical Presumption of Bigotry, Part 2: The Oscar “Snub”

selma-4

For the second time in nearly two decades, and for the first time since 1998, the Oscars will be awarded to only white acting nominees. This, then, if you listen to the caterwauling race-baiters, is because Hollywood is racist. The Academy’s voters just hid it well since 1998, that’s all. Does that make any sense to you?

There are few more infuriating and transparently illogical examples of an unfair slapping down of the race card than looking for bigotry in the notoriously arbitrary, bias-soaked, essentially meaningless choices for “best” in the various Academy Award movie-making categories. Yet the race card sharks were up to the task.  Naturally, the authority on the subject was Al Sharpton, he whose own performance quality on his MSNBC TV show is so amateurish that it would be shut out in any community theater awards.

“In the time of Staten Island and Ferguson, to have one of the most shutout Oscar nights in recent memory is something that is incongruous,” Sharpton told The Daily News. Wait, what??? Incongruous is the assertion that the nominations for film-making excellence should be influenced in any way by how many blacks are killed resisting arrest. Anyone who finds that to be a logical argument for why more black actors should have been nominated for Oscars is useless to any rational discussion of the issue. I want a show of hands. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Popular Culture, Professions, Race

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 2)

Rice and Janay

Ethics Corrupter of the Year

(Awarded to the unethical public figure whose prominence, popularity and success most corrupts the public’s ethical values)

Janay Palmer Rice, beloved punching bag of NFL star Ray Rice, who was caught on camera smooching with her man shortly after being cold-cocked by him in a hotel elevator, married him, and has repeatedly defended her husband, prompting confused female pundits to defend her. She is not only the embodiment of Rationalization #42. The Hillary Inoculation, or “If he/she doesn’t care, why should anyone else?”, she is also a good bet to get some young women killed by giving them a role model who stands for standing by your abusive man with the hard right hook.

Double Standard Of The Year

In a year of double standards, the treatment of soccer star (and accused child abuser) Hope Solo by her sport, feminists, the media and the public takes the prize. The standard, as I understand it, is that big, strong female athletes can beat up smaller, weaker family members with impunity, and it’s no big deal, but when a male athlete does the same, he is scum. Got it.

Uncivil U.S. Official of the Year

Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and the top American diplomat in Europe, was caught saying in a viral Youtube video saying “Fuck the EU.”  Now that’s diplomatic. Of course, she wasn’t fired, because she works for the Obama Administration

The Jesse Jackson Award 

(For the Year’s Worst Amateur Diplomat)

mo_selfie_lg

First Lady Michelle Obama, who helped her husband make the U.S. look weak and ineffectual (he needs no help), by engaging in this ridiculous effort at hashtag diplomacy. Those kidnapped girls were never found, and Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group that took them, I learned today, just killed a reported 2000 more victims. Time for another sad picture, Michelle!

Most Unethical Sports League

The NFL, last year’s winner, was even more unethical this year, with the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson fiascos, Commissioner Roger Goodell showing no innate instinct for right and wrong and both the league and its teams making up rules and policies according to talk show calls, polls and wet fingers in the air. Meanwhile, it’s still making billions paying young men to lobotomize themselves. What a great sport.

Sports Cheat of the Year

Alex Rodriguez, suspended Yankee star, had denied, denied, denied, threatened to sue Major League Baseball and the union, and insisted that he had not, as an investigation had determined, used performance enhancing drugs supplied by Biogenesis. Then, just as his season-long suspension was lifted, it was revealed that A-Rod had, under oath, admitted using steroids from 2010 to 2012.

Annual Sports Ethics Controversy That Gets Worse Every Year

Steroid cheats (like Rodriquez) and their fitness for admission to Baseball’s Hall of Fame

Unethical Lawyer of the Year

Michael Fine, the Ohio lawyer who allegedly hypnotized female clients in order to sexually molest them.  Runner Up Alexa Van Brunt. She didn’t do anything unethical; she just advocates ethics rules that would eliminate the core of legal ethics, proving that she doesn’t understand her own profession.

Unethical Judge of the Year

judge_mccree

Wade McCree, the handsome devil pictured above (he circulated this selfie), who, presiding over a felony child-support case, conducted a secret sexual relationship with the woman seeking support from the defendant. This was just the latest of his embarrassments.  Runner up: Texas District Judge Jeanine Howard, who handed down a stunningly lenient sentence of probation and 250 hours of community service at a rape crisis center for a man who confessed raping a 14-year old girl at her school.

 

Unethical National Broadcast Journalist Of The Year

CNN’s Carol Costello. She was biased, smug and incompetent all year long, but reached her nadir when she gleefully played a recording of Bristol Palin explaining to police how she had been assaulted, saying to her viewers, “You can thank me later.” She refused to apologize on the air, or to Palin. Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Jumbo, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Race, Sports

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Washington Post Film Critic Ann Hornaday on “Selma”

selma-movie

“How to reconcile facts and feelings, art and fealty to the truth? When filmmakers recall with pride about the deep reporting and research they’ve done for their projects, then they deserve to be held accountable for their projects. For fact-based films, accuracy becomes a formal element, along with acting, design and cinematography. It’s up to each viewer to identify the threshold where artistic license compromises the integrity of the entire endeavor. Cinema has more responsibility in this regard precisely because of its heightened realism, its ability to burrow into our collective consciousness and memory, where the myth has a tendency to overpower settled fact. But viewers have responsibilities, too. If accuracy has become a formal element of historical dramas, then the ensuing fact-checks have become just as integral a part of how we view them. That means it’s incumbent on audiences to engage in a mode of spectatorship that, rather than decide who’s right, can listen to and respect expert critiques, and still open themselves up to a piece of filmed entertainment that speaks to less literal, more universal truths.”

—–Ann Hornaday, Washington Post film critic, on the controversy regarding the counter-factual treatment of President Lydon Johnson in the new film, “Selma.”

The question of whether film makers have an ethical obligation to fairly represent history, and particularly individual historical figures, in their movies has been a topic visited frequently at Ethics Alarms, and I’m not going to re-hash conclusions that have been thoroughly discussed before, such as

…here, regarding the casting of “The Impossible” with a gleamingly light-skinned central family and the changing of the real life heroine from Spanish to British

…here,  discussing complaints that a fictional event was not portrayed accurately in “Noah”

…here, exploring the many falsehoods, some quite despicable, in James Cameron’s “Titanic”

…here, regarding unfair criticism of “Argo”

and here, discussing “Lincoln” screenwriter, playwright Tony Kushner’s inexcusable choice to represent a real life former Congressman voting against the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery when in fact he voted for it.

The conclusion of that last one sums up the lessons of the rest, I think. Kushner’s defense against criticism of the collateral damage his invented facts wreaked was to argue that they were legitimate tactics in the pursuit of drama and “greater truths.” He then compared smearing the reputation of a Congressman, to the detriment of his descendants, to misrepresenting the kinds of socks Lincoln wore. (Kushner can be a brilliant writer, but his ideological utilitarianism is repellant.) I wrote:
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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Race

The Wall Street Journal Steals From A Blogging Lawyer…Luckily For Them, A Nice One

A lawyer asks: Will Google Cars put me out of business? The Wall Street Journal  asks: Why shouldn't we make money off your answer?

A lawyer asks: Will Google Cars put me out of business? The Wall Street Journal asks: Why shouldn’t we make money off your answer?

I always do a double-take when I see that someone has “re-blogged” a piece from Ethics Alarms. Unless there is something in my WordPress agreement that allows other bloggers to lift my work and publish it as their content without my permission—oh, who knows, there probably is—this is a copyright violation, but worse than that, it’s wrong. Apparently they think that if they give attribution, that makes everything fine. Why would they think that? I’m writing for my blog, not anyone else’s. If a blogger wants to reprint all, most or some of my commentary in order to critique it, that’s fine ( WindyPundit is doing this right now). But lifting all or most of my work to fill space on your website, without my permission? Not fair, and not ethical.

This just happened to personal injury lawyer and estimable blogger Eric Turkewitz, but the culprit wasn’t a blogger, it was the Wall Street Journal. It took his post about Google Cars and just slapped it into the print and online editions of the paper. “Lawyer Eric Turkewitz writes that self-driving cars will hurt the business of many personal-injury attorneys,” said the sub-head under “Notable and Quotable.” Hmmm. Usually a writer gets paid to write features for a newspaper. I guess just lifting copy without permission is “Fair Use.”

No, First Amendment expert Marc Randazza points out in his typically irreverent way, it isn’t:

In this case, the Wall Street Journal used 44% of Turkewitz’ post, with no additional commentary, criticism, or discussion.  The WSJ could have called Turkewitz a moron for his views, and quoted the whole thing (theoretically).  Or, the WSJ could have given approval, more discussion, or turned the article into piece of art, with spray painted Che Guevaras and stencils of Paris Hilton, as a commentary on Turkewitz, tomato soup, and golf, or whatever.  But, they didn’t do any of that.  

So lets look at the §107 [Fair Use]factors

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The purpose and character of the use is certainly commercial and for profit. The WSJ sold its newspaper with Turkewitz’ work in it, and even put it behind its paywall online. Same exact use, except WSJ took what Turkewitz distributes for free, gathered it, and sold it.

The nature of the copyrighted work was Turkewitz’ original opinions and thoughts.

The amount and substantiality of the portion used? 44%. Pretty substantial. Remember, this is not dispositive, but if you used almost half of an original work, you better have a good reason.

The effect of the use on the potential market for the value of the copyrighted work? That’s sorta iffy. It isn’t as if Turkewitz sells his work. But, that is not a requirement. Turkewitz’ blog currency is readership. If you do some quick online searches for some of the content, sometimes the WSJ version comes up above Turkewtiz’ version. Not cool. Ultimately, the WSJ blew it here because they didn’t add anything to the original — they just lifted it and reposted it….

So the verdict? The Wall Street Journal is definitely guilty of copyright infringement for lifting a bloggers’ work without any justification.

It’s worse than that, however. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet

“Say It Ain’t So, Jim!”: Jim Webb’s Unethical Family Stipends

Webb and staff. Well, wife. Well, never mind.

Webb and staff. Well, wife. Well, never mind.

Oh, great. I have personal experience with the character of one national political figure who impresses me with his honesty, courage and integrity; I support his political career and come to his defense when he is unfairly maligned, and now this. 

Time to put an ad in Craig’s List seeking a new hero.

According to a report in the Business Insider, Webb, a potential challenger to Hillary Clinton’s claim on the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination as well as a former U.S. Senator, head of he Veterans Administration, best-selling novelist and decorated Vietnam veteran, has been playing the old, unethical Washington game of shoveling campaign contributions to his family. Let me give you some of the depressing highlights:

  • Webb’s  Born Fighting PAC is dedicated to supporting “candidates and entities” who support economic fairness, “reorienting our national security posture,” and developing greater accountability in government.
  • Federal Election Commission reports show that the committee, which received nearly $1 million in donations, gave a relatively small portion of that money to political candidates and groups. At the same time, nearly 10% of the contributions received by the PAC went to Webb’s family.
  • Records show that Webb’s  Born Fighting PAC has received $961,515.34 in contributions from individuals, politicians, progressive groups, businesses, unions, and Democratic Party organizations since it launched at the end of 2006. Of this money, $91,999.91 went to Webb’s daughter, Amy Webb Hogan, and wife, Hong Le Webb.
  • Since Webb declared his interest in the 2016 race, he has been identified as one of the main potential rivals for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Webb, who entered the Senate in 2006, announced he wouldn’t run for reelection at the beginning of 2011.
  • The Born Fighting PAC continued to contribute to Webb’s family long after it had stopped giving to funds to candidates and the groups it was established to support. Campaign finance reports show the committee has not given any money to political candidates or groups since the end of 2010.
  • The PAC has continued to take donations. Over $100,000 from the final balance in Webb’s Senate campaign account, now closed, was transferred to the committee after he left office at the start of last year.
  • Most of the money Webb’s wife and daughter received from the committee came after it had stopped giving money to politicians and political groups.
  • Webb Hogan began receiving money from her father’s PAC in 2009, when she earned $2,000 for “website consulting services.” In each year from 2010 through 2012 she received $12,000 for the same purpose. Last year, Webb Hogan was paid $14,500 from the committee. Of the money Webb Hogan was paid last year, the reports said $13,500 was for “administrative consulting services” and $1,000 was for “website services reimbursement.”
  • Based on archived versions of the Born Fighting PAC site, it was not updated at all during this period apart from a two-sentence note thanking donors for their “past support.”
  • Hong Le Webb was first paid by the Born Fighting PAC in 2008 when she received $253.37 for travel expenses. She did not receive any money from the committee again until this year, when, as of last month, she received $14,834.34. Most of the money that the committee paid to Hong Le Webb in 2014 — $13,800 — was listed in the reports as compensation for “website services.”
  • Along with the members of Webb’s family, the committee has hired professional web designers to work on the site. This includes work on the site done in the same period Webb’s PAC paid his family members for their “website services.”
  • Archived versions of the Born Fighting PAC website indicate it was updated just once this year. Hong Le Webb nevertheless received $13,800 for “website services” in addition to the money that was paid to L.A. Design Studio.
  • The latest Federal Election Commission report, which covers the period up to Nov. 24, shows the Born Fighting PAC has only $69,391.84 of the nearly $1 million it received left on hand. The committee spent about $900,000 from 2006 through last month. Of this, the records show that, over the years, just $200,027.04 of the money donated to the PAC went to political candidates and groups.In other words, Webb’s committee used only about 20% of the money it spent to support its stated mission.
  • One Democratic operative who spoke to Business Insider said leadership PACs “generally contribute 40% to 60% of the money they receive” to other candidates and groups. Born Fighting PAC seems to have had relatively high overhead even though the records show the committee did not have office space and barely employed paid staffers apart from Webb’s wife and daughter.

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership