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The Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Best of Ethics 2015, Part I

Sweet Briar montage

Welcome to the Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards, our blog’s retrospective of the best and worst in ethics over the past year, 2015.

It was a rotten year in ethics again, it’s fair to say, and Ethics Alarms, which by its nature and mission must concentrate on episodes that have lessons to convey and cautionary tales to consider probably made it seem even more rotten that it was. Even with that admission, I didn’t come close to covering the field. My scouts, who I will honor anon, sent me many more wonderfully disturbing news stories than I could post on, and there were many more beyond them. I did not write about the drug company CEO, for example, who suddenly raised the price of an anti-AIDS drug to obscene levels, in part, it seems, to keep an investment fraud scheme afloat. (He’ll get his prize anyway.)

What was really best about 2o15 on Ethics Alarms was the commentary. I always envisioned the site as a cyber-symposium where interested, articulate and analytical readers could discuss current events and issues in an ethics context. Every year since the blog was launched has brought us closer to that goal. Commenters come and go, unfortunately (I take it personally when they go, which is silly), but the quality of commentary continues to be outstanding. It is also gratifying to check posts from 2010 and see such stalwarts who check in still, like Tim Levier, Neil Dorr, Julian Hung, Michael R, and King Kool.  There are a few blogs that have as consistently substantive, passionate and informative commenters as Ethics Alarms, but not many. Very frequently the comments materially enhance and expand on the original post. That was my hope and objective. Thank you.

The Best of Ethics 2015 is going to be a bit more self-congratulatory this year, beginning with the very first category. Among other virtues, this approach has the advantage of closing the gap in volume between the Best and the Worst, which last year was depressing. I’m also going to post the awards in more installments, to help me get them out faster. With that said….

Here are the 2015 Ethics Alarms Awards

For the Best in Ethics:

Most Encouraging Sign That Enough People Pay Attention For Ethics Alarms To Occasionally Have Some Impact…

The Sweet Briar College Rescue. In March, I read the shocking story of how Sweet Briar College, a remarkable and storied all-women’s college in Virginia, had been closed by a craven and duplicitous board that never informed alums or students that such action was imminent. I responded with a tough post titled “The Sweet Briar Betrayal,” and some passionate alumnae determined to fight for the school’s survival used it to inform others about the issues involved and to build support. Through the ensuing months before the school’s ultimate reversal of the closing and the triumph of its supporters, I was honored to exchange many e-mails with Sweet Briar grads, and gratified by their insistence that Ethics Alarms played a significant role in turning the tide. You can follow the saga in my posts, here.

Ethics Heroes Of The Year

Dog Train

Eugene and Corky Bostick, Dog Train Proprietors. OK, maybe this is just my favorite Ethics Hero story of the year, about two retired seniors who decided to adopt old  dogs abandoned on their property to die, and came up with the wacky idea of giving them regular rides on a ‘dog train” of their own design.

Ethical Mayor Of The Year

Thomas F. Williams. When the Ferguson-driven attacks on police as racist killers was at its peak (though it’s not far from that peak now) the mayor of Norwood, Ohio, Thomas F. Williams, did exactly the opposite of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in response to activist attacks on the integrity of his police department. He released a letter supporting his police department without qualification. At the time, I criticized him for his simultaneously attacking activists as “race-baiters.” In the perspective of the year past, I hereby withdraw that criticism.

Most Ethical Celebrity

Actor Tom Selleck. In a terrible year for this category, Selleck wins for bravely pushing his TV show “Blue Bloods” into politically incorrect territory, examining issues like racial profiling and police shootings with surprising even-handedness. The show also has maintained its openly Catholic, pro-religion perspective. Yes, this is a redundant award, as “Blue Bloods” is also a winner, but the alternative in this horrific year when an unethical celebrity is threatening to be a major party’s nominee for the presidency is not to give the award at all.

Most Ethical Talk Show Host

Stephen Colbert, who, while maintaining most of his progressive bias from his previous Comedy Central show as the successor to David Letterman, set a high standard of fairness and civility, notably when he admonished his knee-jerk liberal audience for booing  Senator Ted Cruz

Sportsman of the Year

CC Sabathia

New York Yankee pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who courageously checked himself into rehab for alcohol abuse just as baseball’s play-offs were beginning, saying in part,

“Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you. I want my kids — and others who may have become fans of mine over the years — to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.”

Runner-up: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who dismissed the ethically-addled arguments of Pete Rose fans to reject his appeal to be have his lifetime ban for gambling lifted.  For those who wonder why football never seems to figure in this category: You’ve got to be kidding.

Ethics Movie of the Year

SpotlightTIFF2015

“Spotlight”

Runner-up: “Concussion”

Most Ethical Corporation

Tesla Motors, the anti-GM, which recalled all of its models with a particular seatbelt because one belt had failed and they couldn’t determine why. Continue reading

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Columnist Malpractice On The Tamir Rice Tragedy

This is not how police saw Tamir Rice before he was shot, but never mind: the points is to horrify the public, not to accurately explain what happened.

This is not how police saw Tamir Rice before he was shot, but never mind: the objective is to inflame public opinion, not to accurately convey what happened and why.

Washington Post reporter Lonnae O’Neal found herself compelled by the Tamir Rice grand jury decision to write the kind of irresponsible column for the paper that can be written but shouldn’t be written—not by a professional journalist, not when public passions are inflamed, not when complex and entangled issues need analysis, careful words, perspective and wisdom. It is an emotional scream of pain and frustration, unleavened by objectivity, fairness or restraint. Such columns do much damage, and no good. Such columns are destructive. I hope writing it relieved her pain, but that’s not justification enough.

I was alerted to the kind of column it would be  by its first sentences:

A 12-year-old black boy walks into a Cleveland park, plays with a toy gun and, within seconds of arriving, a police officer shoots him dead. His partner tackles the boy’s 14-year-old sister as she rushes to his side, handcuffs the girl and shoves her into a squad car, helpless, as her brother lay dying.

If we want to accurately describe the event that ended  Tamir Rice’s life so prematurely from the perspective of people who loved him, and of people mourning the senseless death of a child, those who read about the boy’s death and want to cry to the skies, “Why? How can this happen?,” then that is a defensible beginning….maybe.  That is not her intent, however. The intent of her column is to indict “the system” for not indicting the officer who shot Tamir Rice. With that intent, the description is a lie, a manipulative appeal to pure emotion that willfully and negligently makes the system, which is not and must not be based on emotion, incomprehensible.  Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Dear BlackLivesMatter And Friends: If You Won’t Be Responsible, At Least Leave LeBron James Alone

No Justice LeBron

It should be apparent by now that BlackLivesMatter is a racist domestic terrorist organization. Terrorism is causing chaos for the sake of causing chaos in the imagined pursuit of a political agenda. That’s what the group, smug and shameless as ever, did over the post-Christmas weekend, disrupting the Mall of the Americas and blocking traffic at the Minneapolis airport. No, they haven’t killed anyone yet; they claim to be non-violent. We’ll see about that when they get sufficiently frustrated. One thing is certain about irrational, self-glorifying organizations: you never know how irrational they will get.

Now the Tamir Rice mess in Cleveland has presented BLM and its allies—which include all three Democratic candidates for President, according to their pandering rhetoric, as well as the Democratic National Committee— with a target more relevant to their alleged mission than disrupting children’s choir performances, losing money for small businesses and inconveniencing  Minnesotans who never did an African American harm in their lives. Using the hashtag #NoJusticeNoLebron, the Ferguson activated activists, led by writer Tariq Touré, have launched a Twitter barrage  imploring NBA superstar and Cleveland Cavaliers hometown hero LeBron James to refuse to play in NBA games until the Department of Justice, “imprisons the murderers of Tamir Rice.” Justice is of course investigating the fatal November 2014 shooting, since the Obama Administration tacitly encourages the divisive myth that any time a  white officer shoots a black man, it is presumptively a civil rights violation.

Like virtually everything that has come out of the incoherent, anti-white, anti-police movement surrounding the various controversial police shootings (of blacks only, however, though there have been more fatal shootings of whites…but never mind, that doesn’t advance the mythical narrative), this plan is ludicrous, unfair, and demonstrates the ignorance and/or contempt the protesters have for due process and the rule of law. Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The Washington Post’s Fatal Police Shootings Study

policeshootings

The Washington Post just released its own study of 2015 police shootings, including statistics that that the FBI, which admitted to the Post that it has not done a thorough job of tracking the data, has missed. Writes the Post:

The Washington Post is compiling a database of every fatal shooting in the United States by a police officer in the line of duty in 2015. The Post is tracking more than a dozen details about each killing — including the race of the deceased, the circumstances of the shooting, and whether the person was armed — by culling local news reports and monitoring independent databases such as Killed by Police and Fatal Encounters. In some cases, The Post conducted additional reporting. The Post is documenting only shootings in which a police officer, while on duty, shot and killed a civilian — circumstances that most closely parallel the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The Post is not tracking deaths of people in custody, fatal shootings by off-duty officers or deaths in which police gunfire did not kill the individual.

The FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention log fatal shootings by police, but officials acknowledge that their data is incomplete.The Post’s database will be updated regularly as new fatal shootings are reported and as new facts emerge about individual cases. The Post is seeking assistance in making the database as comprehensive as possible. To provide information about fatal police shootings in 2015, send us an e-mail at policeshootingsfeedback@washpost.com. The Post is also interested in obtaining photos of the deceased and original videos of fatal encounters with police.

Elsewhere, the Post makes it clear that “incomplete” hardly begins to describe the FBI’s negligence:

The landscape of police shootings is surprisingly thinly explored. The FBI is charged with keeping statistics on such shootings, but a Post analysis of FBI data showed that fewer than half of the nation’s 18,000 police departments report their incidents to the agency.The Post documented well more than twice as many fatal shootings this year as the average annual tally reported by the FBI over the past decade. The FBI and the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics now acknowledge that their data collection has been deeply flawed. FBI Director James B. Comey called his agency’s database “unacceptable.” Both agencies have launched efforts to create new systems for documenting fatalities.

Observations: Continue reading

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Mistrial In The First Freddie Gray Trial: There’s No Way Out Of This Ethics Train Wreck

Judge Declares Mistrial In First Freddie Gray Trial

In Baltimore this week, a judge declared a mistrial in the case of Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter after jurors said they were deadlocked regarding all of the charges against him in the death of Freddie Gray. Porter, 26 and an African American, is the first of six police officers to be tried in Gray’s death. He has been charged with with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. Street protests began almost immediately.

Let’s review this disaster so far, shall we? Continue reading

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Ethics Hero Most Likely To Really Tick Off Black Lives Matter: Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler, Who Names “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” As One Of The Biggest Lies Of The Year

hands up3

Thank you, Glenn.

Thank you, Washington Post

Now somebody tell Black Lives Matter, all of the copycat activist groups, and all the progressive, pandering politicians, like Bernie Sanders, currently giving deference and respect to such groups that still tacitly use Dorian Johnson’s Big Lie in their literature and demonstrations. Somebody tell the Democratic National Committee, which endorses Black Lives Matters, shameless race-baiters that they are. Is the antecedent ambiguous? Never mind: race-baiters applies to both.

Most of all, somebody tell America’s African Americans, most of whom have been conditioned to believe the lie, and thus to believe that young Mike Brown was executed on the streets of Ferguson because he was black. They have been thus taught so they distrust whites, law enforcement and their nation,  and so they will vote Democratic.

Here was the original debunking of the lie, in March. I’ve been tracking the lie since before then: it was evoked in Farrakhan’s march on Washington and in August’s Ferguson demonstration. In both cases, the news media soft-peddled the implicit endorsement of a vile falsehood for its value in spreading distrust, fear and hate. Continue reading

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Refugee Debate Update: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, The Stupid, and Then There’s Carol Costello

OccupyDemocrats2

Ugh. It’s hard, not to mention nauseating and repetitious, to simultaneously cover two Ethics Trainwrecks moving at alarming speed and generating unethical conduct and words in all directions. My backlog of other, non-campus, non-terrorism stories grows longer my the minute, but Ethics Alarms has a mission, damn it.

First the Stupid, represented by one of OccupyDemocrats many memes. I am torn, though: is this meme even worse?

OccupyDems

Somebody at OccupyDemocrats.org makes these constantly, and I’d be fascinated to know if whoever it is really thinks these are valid arguments, or are just appealing to, you know, reliably stupid people who aren’t thinking very hard, and who say, “Duhhh, yup! That’ll put those Republicans in their place! I’ll post this to Facebook!” How many Americans really are this deficient in critical thinking?

Maybe I don’t want to think too much about this.

Next, the Good:  Continue reading

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