The Right Thing In Spite Of Themselves: CNN And NBC Abandon Their Hillary Projects

Hillary Clinton, in her dreams...and Bill's...

Hillary Clinton, in her dreams…and Bill’s…

If CNN and NBC had any sense of responsibility, fairness and respect for the American political system, neither would have planned Hillary Clinton projects—CNN, a documentary, NBC, a “docudrama” mini-series—for the coming year, in which the controversial Ms. Clinton is expected to begin running for President of the United States. Neither deserves any credit for cancelling them now, after pundits and especially the Republican Party screamed foul, and foul it was.

There is no way either product could avoid making difficult content choices that would be inevitably influenced by such non-ethical considerations as entertainment value, ratings, political pressure, and artist bias. The documentary and the mini-series would necessarily distort fact and history, because so much of any contemporary figure’s life and career has yet to be objectively examined, and no more so than Hillary Clinton, as polarizing and mysterious figure as U.S. politics has ever produced, rivaling Richard Nixon and Aaron Burr. Continue reading

The Truth Behind School Anti-Gun Madness: In The Battle of the Razors, Occam’s Beats Hanlon’s



My parents once gave me a tie clip with a tiny derringer on it, which I wore to school frequently. Occasionally, I loaded it…you see, the gun took a miniscule cap, and when you pulled the trigger, the report was shockingly loud. Had this been the kind of itsy-bitsy gun that 12-year-old Joseph Lyssikatos had on his key chain (his gun was slightly larger than a quarter; mine was slightly smaller than a nickel), then his school might have had a valid reason to object. But it wasn’t. His gun was a decoration only, but it didn’t stop the school from suspending him for three days.

I’ve been pretty dense about these cases, I must admit. I used to think it was just no-tolerance idiocy, merged with post-Sandy Hook paranoia, that was behind all of the silly news stories. It finally dawned on me that it is far more sinister than that: this is a deliberate and relentless process of state indoctrination. The schools, teachers and administrators are determined to make  future generations of Americans just as fearful and negatively disposed toward guns, and thus toward self-sufficiency and the Second Amendment, while pushing them to embrace complete dependence on a government that cannot be depended upon, and trust in a government that has proven progressively more untrustworthy. Continue reading

From Oklahoma, A Remarkable Ethics Lesson


Young Christian Lunsford was disgusted when he saw the TV report about the mugging of seventy-eight-year-old Tona Herndon of Bethany, Oklahoma, robbed while visiting the gravesite of her husband of 60 years, who had died just two weeks earlier. It wasn’t merely that the mugger took a purse and $700 from a vulnerable and grieving woman, but that the culprit was Christian’s father. He had been quickly arrested, and his mug shot, shown on TV, was all-too-familiar to his fifteen-year-old son. Christian’s parents divorced when he was two, and his contact with his father had been minimal as the elder Lunsford kept ending up in jail. The teen had recently heard from his dad, however, when he sent Christian $250 to pay for his participation in a school band trip.

The latest crime, however, moved Christian to do something exemplary. He contacted Tona Herndon and asked her to meet him in a church parking lot. When she did, he mugged her too, as a tribute to his father.

No, that’s not what happened: I was just messing with you. Continue reading

Are Universities Ethically Obligated To Tolerate Professors Who Embarrass Them By Saying Idiotic And Offensive Things?

Apparently the answer to the above is “Yes.”



If the university is a state school, then for it to fire a professor who makes ridiculous, foolish or hateful statements that make people wonder why they should ever entrust the minds of their tender charges into an institution that would knowingly hire cretins and jackasses to pollute student RNA, then this is probably a First Amendment violation, since it amounts to the government punishing speech and chilling free expression. If, on the other hand, the university involved is not a state school, then to send a professor packing because he or she has rammed his or her foot down his or her throat up to the knee is a violation of the crucial principle of academic freedom, which is, in brief, that to encourage the free discussion of ideas on a college campus, education being the purpose of the institution, literally no idea, point of view or position should be blocked or chilled by substantive negative action.

Three cases of recent vintage illustrate the university’s plight: Continue reading

The Klan’s Birthday Cake, Individual Boycotts And The Ethics Of Refusing to Give Service To Jerks

"Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday, Dear Racists..."

“Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday, Dear Racists…”

[UPDATE: Apparently, the “news story” that prompted this post is a fake. In that case, I want to thank the hoaxers for  inadvertently sparking a useful discussion—nothing in my post is dependent on the factual nature of the story. I wasn’t the only one fooled, and I originally noted the links on reliable sites. On the other hand, to hell with people who plant fake stories that are not obviously tongue in cheek or satirical: it’s a despicable practice, and abuse of the web, and right down there with public vandalism and creating computer viruses as unforgivable public conduct. I apologize to readers here for misidentifying a false story as true, but I’m not the unethical jerk involved. If anyone knows who that is, please forward their names. I have some choice words for them.]

As I wrote the first time I stuck my ethics big toe into this kind of controversy, I am conflicted over the current trend of forcing certain kinds of service providers to serve customers they just don’t feel like serving. I have consistently come down on the side of the rejected customer, even when the service, as in the case of bakeries and photography salons, edges perilously close to art. I think I am there still, but my resolve is weakening. I think. Let’s look at this again, in the context of the kind of recent case that always eventually occurs when one sits on the slippery slopes.

A three judge panel of a Georgia appellate court recently ruled in favor of Marshall Saxby, the Grand Wizard of a local KKK chapter, after he sued a local bakery for refusing to bake a cake for the KKK chapter’s  annual birthday party. Elaine Bailey, who owns Bailey Bakeries, said she rejected the Klan its activities violated her religious beliefs, and Saxby claimed that Bailey’s refusal of service discriminated against his religious beliefs.

The difficulty with making an ethical call on this case and others like it (and sort of like it, arguably like it or a little bit like it) is that the crucial question in ethics analysis, “What’s going on here?” cannot be answered with certainty or clarity. There are ethical arguments and ethical principles, on both sides, making the issue an ethical conflict (rather than an ethical dilemma). In an ethical conflict, we must prioritize among important ethical principles that are opposing each other.

Let’s answer “What’s going on here?” in some of the various ways this case allows, as if only one of these ethical principles were in play: Continue reading

Grassy Knoll Ethics: How Deception Breeds Distrust


We once again must squarely face the hoary  quote from Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” It is hoary because it is true, and this month’s Smithsonian Magazine reminds us of how true it is, recounting how well-intentioned deceptions by the news media regarding evidence in the assassination of President Kennedy helped create a conspiracy theory that will not die, and that may have begun the slow, relentless deterioration of America’s trust in its own government that has reached dangerous proportions today.

Frame 313 of Abraham Zapruder’s accidental record of one of the pivotal moments in U.S. history gave him nightmares, and when he sold the rights to his amateur movie to Life Magazine, he insisted that frame be withheld from the public, and not published. “We like to feel that the world is safe,” documentary maker Errol Morris explains in the article.“Safe at least in the sense that we can know about it. The Kennedy assassination is very much an essay on the unsafety of the world. If a man that powerful, that young, that rich, that successful, can just be wiped off the face of the earth in an instant, what does it say about the rest of us?” I understand, but withholding the truth is not the way to make the world seem safer. As the story of the conspiracy shows, it is how we end up trusting no one. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Sid Bream

sid_breamYou all remember Sid Bream, don’t you? Well, probably not: he was a mediocre first baseman about 20 years ago who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves. He hasn’t been heard from in a long time, being quietly retired, but the Braves may be hosting the Pirates in an upcoming National League Division Playoff Series as the baseball post season gets underway, and they invited Bream to throw out the first pitch in Game #1 if that is the case—-Pittsburgh has to win a wildcard play-off game with Cincinnati first. You see, the one thing in his career that Bream is remembered for, at least in Atlanta, is scoring the run that won the National League Championship Series over the Pirates in 1992, in a close play that also lives in Pirates’ fans nightmares.

Throwing out the first pitch is fun: the team flies you in and pays for your hotel, gives you a prime ticket, and then announces your name as you trot on the field to cheers. If you have kept your arm in shape, you might even get off a throw to the catcher from the pitcher’s mound that doesn’t embarrass you, and that will acquire more cheers. from the packed stadium. Wait…this is Atlanta, not Boston. OK, from the two-thirds filled stadium. Even then, what’s not to like?

But Sid Bream turned the Braves down. Remember that I began by saying that he played for both the Braves and the Pirates. He said,

“Whatever their motive (for the invite) was, I don’t want to be involved. I wasn’t surprised (by the offer). Whether their motive was to rub it in the Pirates’ faces, I don’t know. I think it was just more of a gesture to commemorate those two teams getting back together in the postseason. But I’ll stay neutral. I’m not going to do anything to tell the fans in Atlanta or Pittsburgh that I’m (rooting) one way or the other.”

Oh, I think it’s fair to say that rubbing the Pirates’ faces in their last loss to the Braves in a postseason game was exactly what the Braves had in mind. This kind of voodoo has been a standard part of baseball gamesmanship for a long time: nobody believes that the Yankees had Bucky Dent throw out the first pitch when the Yankees had a crucial playoff game against Boston (which they lost) in 2004 “to commemorate those two teams getting back together in the postseason.” It’s psychological warfare, and more or less good-natured; there’s nothing wrong with it, and there would have been nothing wrong with Bream agreeing to play along.

But Sid Bream is, it seems, loyal. He was a Pittsburgh Pirate for a long time, a Brave only for a couple of years, and he doesn’t feel like being part of one of his former teams’ effort to unsettle the other one, even though its’ no big deal, and even though his old team won’t hold it against him. It just would feel right to him.

This is called integrity.

Good for Sid Bream.


Pointer, Graphic and Facts: NBC Sports


Celebrity Values: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly


Celebrities have the opportunity to use their disproportionate and sometimes unexplainable fame to pass along good values, priorities and ethical habits to those who admire and follow them. The problem is that the U.S. culture’s current values are in a muddled state, with virtues sometimes being treated as embarrassments, and the enthusiastic embrace of non-ethical goals that once were regarded as the seven deadly sins are now often looked upon as the norm, and even appropriate. Here are some recent events in the strange world of celebrity values:

The Good: This headline on numerous web sources piqued my interest: “Dylan Sprouse Defends Restaurant Host Job.” Dylan Sprouse is a former Disney child star, a long time lead, with his brother, on the long-running “The Suite Life of Zach & Cody,” one of those loud, hyper-frenetic tween comedies that Disney and Nickelodeon acquire from some production company in Hell. Dylan was seen working in a restaurant, and this immediately spawned multiple rumors that he was broke, had blown through his millions, and was, in brief, a pathetic loser….because he has the same kind of job most American twenty-somethings fresh out of college would be thrilled to have.

Thus Dylan, who along with his brother decided to get out of the child star rat-race that has recently put Lindsay Lohan in rehab, Amanda Bynes in a mental health treatment facility and Miley Cyrus naked on a wrecking ball, and start a more conventional life with a college education (at NYU). Sprouse decided to address the weird criticism being sent his way on social media and in the gossip blogs by writing, Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Matt Labrum, Union High (Roosevelt, Utah) Football Coach

Six Pillars

Matt Labrum, head coach of Union High School in Roosevelt, Utah, suspended all 80 of his players, citing  a lack of character. He instructed them all to turn in their jerseys and their equipment, and announced that there would be no football until they earned the privilege to play. Labrum gave his shocked players a letter titled “Union Football Character” which declared in part,

“The lack of character we are showing off the field is outshining what we are achieving on the field. It is a privilege to play this wonderful game! We must earn the opportunity to have the honor to put on our high school jerseys each Thursday and Friday night!”

Instead of practicing during the days leading up to this weekend’s game, the students were ordered to perform community service, to attend study hall and go to a class on character development. They were also required to perform service for their own families, and write a report about their actions. Academically, the players were told to be on time for classes, and to improve their grades.

It is unclear what prompted the coach’s action, though some of the players, he felt, had engaged in cyber bullying, and he was aware of other instances in which various players had not, in his view, lived up to exemplary standards of behavior. Several of them had been rude and obnoxious, he had learned to other students and teachers—in other words, they were behaving like high school football players. Rather than punish individual students, Coach Labrum decided to impose team wide measures designed to foster good character. His theory, clearly, was to encourage a team culture of ethical conduct, strengthened  by group encouragement and enforcement of shared values. Labrum is also a gifted salesman, since it appears that opposition from students, their parents and the school administration has been minimal.

In many schools, including colleges, football players are the biggest jerks on campus: the culture of school sports too often nurtures entitlement and arrogance. Imagine a school athletic culture in which the athletes were expected to embody the best of ethical values both on and off the field.

The implications are staggering.


Pointer: Lianne Best

Sources: Yard Barker Deseret News

Ethics Note To Senator Cruz: You Can’t Begin A Principled Stand With A Lie

Little is more damaging to the public’s trust and faith in government than when elected officials engage in gratuitous lies—statements that can only convince those who don’t bother to check the facts underlying them, made for their momentary impact on the theory that the effect is worth the eventual exposure of the lie for what it is. Such lies are detestable, because they not only reinforce the impression that politicians lie when their lips are moving, they also convey the message that lies are merely tools of the politicians trade, and not even particularly shameful or worthy of criticism. When a politician engages in such transparent dishonesty, he or she is saying, quite literally, that lying is no big deal.

It is a big deal. It is especially a big deal when the point of the lie is to fool the public into believing something the politician is doing is a big deal itself, when it is really a sham.

Welcome to Sen. Ted Cruz and his fake filibuster, also known as Ted Cruz’s Bad Jimmy Stewart Impression.

"Ted, I knew Mr. Smith, and you're no Mr. Smith. You're not even Rand Paul..."

“Ted, I knew Mr. Smith, and you’re no Mr. Smith. You’re not even Rand Paul…”

Evoking memories of the Frank Capra classic, “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,” Sen. Cruz told the world that he was going to talk on the floor of the Senate against Obamacare until he couldn’t stand any more…you know, just like the Jimmy’s idealistic junior Senator in the film, who finally collapses of exhaustion to end his filibuster but whose courage makes the corrupt, manipulating senior Senator from his state confess that he was trying to fund a lousy health care b…no, wait, it had something to do with a kids camp and influence peddling. I haven’t seen the film in a while.

Cruz, however, unlike Stewart, is not engaging in a filibuster, because he is not trying to block a vote or anything else: Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a vote on funding the Affordable Care Act for today, whereupon Cruz has to sit down and shut up whether he can still stand or not. Continue reading