Monthly Archives: October 2013

Halloween Ethics: Fat-Shaming Kids in Fargo

halloween letter

UPDATE: There is some persuasive, if not conclusive evidence that “Cheryl” is a hoax. As usual in such cases, my analysis is the same regarding the conduct whether it actually occurred or is merely hypothetical. All forms of media hoaxes are unethical, unless they are obvious or flagged by the perpetrator before other media picks them up as factual. I detest them, and I detest those who create them.

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If she follows through as promised, a Fargo Morehead, West Fargo, N.D. woman we know only as “Cheryl” will be handing out fat-shaming letters to trick-or-treating children who in her unsolicited opinion are too fat. The letter, sealed but certain to be read, if not immediately recognized, given the pre-October 31st publicity, by the unlucky children receiving them tells parents of the costumed kids she considers porkers that they need to do a better job parenting.

Cheryl is a presumptuous, meddling jerk, and if I got handed such a letter by my child, Cheryl would have to worry about a lot more than toilet paper in her trees and flaming bags of poop on her doorstep. Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Family, Health and Medicine, U.S. Society

The Washington Post’s Integrity And Trustworthiness Test Results: Mixed; Naturally, PolitiFact Flunks

D. And that's with grade inflation.

D. And that’s with grade inflation.

The results of the integrity and trustworthiness test created by the revelation that President Obama and his Administration lied—knowingly, repeatedly, and intentionally—so that the American public would believe that the sweeping Affordable Care Act would not affect their healthcare insurance unless they wanted it to is returning information both invaluable and disconcerting.

An astounding percentage (yes, I guess I am that naive) of Democrats, progressives, pundits and journalists (there is a lot of redundancy there, I know) are mouthing transparently dishonest rationalizations, misrepresentations, deceits and talking points to avoid the simple act of admitting what  occurred and assigning just accountability for it. Either they are in the throes of desperate denial, or they really believe that the American public is so dumb that it can be spun indefinitely. In either case, we now know they can’t be trusted.

The Washington Post has completed its test, and its results are conflicted. Pointing toward an “A ” is the column by Post Factchecker Glenn Kessler, who pulls no punches: he rates Obama’s pledge that “nobody will take away” your health care plan if you like it as a four Pinocchio whopper, without qualification: Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

And I Tip Mine To You

October 2013, as of today, has brought the most traffic and the most visitors to Ethics Alarms of any month since the blog debuted four years ago.

Thank you to all those who have stopped by, read, considered, commented, argued and helped make this—apparently–an interesting, thought-provoking and occasionally enlightening place to land and delve into the dynamic, elusive, essential and infuriating field of ethics. Thanks also for tolerating my quirks, typos, obsessions, errors, temper, excesses, failures, and typos. Also my biases. I’m working on them.

Thanks, everyone.

Now back to work.

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Filed under The Internet

World Series Ethics: He Tipped His Cap

What would Ted Williams have done? We know the answer to THAT question...

What would Ted Williams have done? We know the answer to THAT question…

The Boston Red Sox won the World Series last night, making me happy. Something else happened too.

Some background is in order. The great Ted Williams used to give Boston baseball fans the biggest hat tip in baseball as they cheered him after a home run. This was when he was first known as “the Kid’ and indeed was one, as his Hall of Fame trajectory was obvious from the moment he stepped on a major league field in 1939 at the tender age of 19. Gradually but rapidly, a vicious local press and some ugly incidents in response to a few jackasses in the stands caused the Kid to sour on the admission-paying mortals who booed him when he struck out, and he decided to ignore their cheers, refusing to extend the traditional courtesy of a hat tip to the fans as he rounded the bases after a home run—which, since he was Ted Williams, happened frequently. Williams  spent his whole career in the city of Boston playing before those fans who offended him in his twenties, but right up to and after his final home run, which he hit, famously, in his last at bat, the Red Sox fans got no hat tip from Ted. He rounded the bases the final time as they cheered themselves hoarse, and never looked up or acknowledged their praise. Screw ’em.

That was Red Sox pitcher John Lackey’s attitude toward the current generation of Fenway fans, for similar reasons. He had been signed to a rich, long-term contract in 2010 to be a Red Sox mound ace, but arrived in Boston with his arm deteriorating and his abilities diminished. 2010 was a disappointing season for Lackey and 2011 was worse, as he pitched in pain for a team that was short of hurlers. The 2011 Red Sox became infamous for their late-season collapse and underachieving starting pitchers, and no one on that team was jeered on the field or savaged in the call-in sports shows like John Lackey. He missed the entire next Red Sox season recovering from arm surgery after the 2011 collapse, and thus missed the 2012 debacle that was even worse. In 2013, however, Lackey returned with a renewed right arm, a fit body and a fierce determination to finally live up to the big contract. He did, too. He pitched well all season, and became a key factor in the Boston charge to the World Series, as they rose from last place in their division in 2012 to first.

In 2013, Lackey received nothing but cheers from the surprised and grateful Boston fans. Nevertheless, he adamantly maintained the Kid’s attitude—“Screw ’em”—all season long. As he walked into to the Red Sox dugout after being relieved in another fine pitching performance and the Boston fans saluted him, Lackey refused to reciprocate with the traditional hat tip, all season long and through the play-offs. The fans were fickle hypocrites, and their loyalty conditional. They booed him when he was valiantly pitching hurt and embarrassed in 2011, and he wasn’t going to forget it. They were going to get snubbed like they deserved, and that was the way it was going to be.

Last night the Boston Red Sox won their third World Series in the last ten years. It was the first time the home team fans had been able to witness the deciding game since 1918 (as the Fox announcers informed the presumably senile audience over and over and over again), and John Lackey was the pitching star for the home town team. The night was a love fest for Boston baseball fans, as they cheered every move of their frequently star-crossed and quirky team, and no Red Sox player was cheered more loudly than John Lackey, as he walked off the field for the final time in 2013 in the 7th inning, with his team safely ahead by five runs. They stood and applauded and chanted his name, as he moved deliberately to the Boston dugout, head down, grim, just like Ted on that gray day in 1960 when he hit homer number 521.

Then he tipped his cap.

It was a small thing, the smallest really, only a gesture and for most players, most of the time, an automatic one…except that it symbolized the ethical virtues of grace, forgiveness, gratitude, humility and fairness. This memorable, wonderful night for the Boston Red Sox and the grand old city it represents—my home town– was no time to let bitterness and resentment prevail. Unlike Ted Williams (who wouldn’t make his peace with Boston fans until years later, when he returned as an opposition manager), John Lackey found the strength and decency to let it go.

It was, as I said, a small thing. But it took character, and it was the right thing to do.

______________________________
Graphic: USA Today

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Etiquette and manners, History, Sports, Workplace

What A Surprise: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Flunks The Integrity Test

When Bill Maher seems more ethical than the White House, it's time to hit the life boats...

When Bill Maher seems more ethical than the White House, it’s time to hit the life boats…

Yes, today Kathleen Sebelius joined the growing group of pols, leaders, pundits and journalists—and maybe some of your friends and associates—who have flunked the integrity and trustworthiness test created by the undeniable evidence that public support for Obamacare was predicated on a calculated lie. Asked in today’s hearing about the fact that so many Americans are now receiving letters cancelling their health care plans  that they were “happy with” (including me, by the way) because of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, despite the President’s repeated assurances that…

“If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan. Period.”

…Sec. Sebelius replied that insurance companies have always been able to cancel plans, essentially making the deceitful argument that the current calculations were brought about by the exact same law the President promised would NOT lead to such cancellations.

This is despicable. It is also the same dishonest, insulting argument used yesterday by Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services. So this is apparently the talking point agreed upon by the Obama Administration: “Hey, we never said you wouldn’t be cancelled, just that this law wouldn’t cancel you.” But the President’s words actually did promise that nobody would be cancelled, and what he intended to convey was that nobody should fear losing their health care plan as a consequence of passing the ACA. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Print The Legend Ethics: The “War of the Worlds” Panic

OrsonWellesDailyNews

One of the worst results of an untrustworthy news media is that it becomes difficult, as time passes, to determine with any certainty what the truth is.

A classic example is on display today, in Slate, which celebrates the 75th anniversary of young, svelte, Orson Welles’ famous Halloween Eve broadcast of his radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” with no Tom Cruise or Dakota Fanning but a nice conceit that involved telling the story through fake news flashes and eye-witness interviews. (One reporter is fried on the air by the Martian invasion vehicles.) An new NPR program and a PBS documentary both tell the familiar story of how the realistic-sounding radio play caused widespread panic among radio listeners who missed the opening credits, leading them to think that Earth was really under attack. Newspapers of the day headlined mass panic, and gave accounts of citizens running for cover, huddling in the basement, and cringing in terror.  The episode made Orson Welles a national celebrity, and launched him on his meteoric, long and strange career.

According to Slate authors Jefferson Pooley and Michael Socolow, it never happened. Declaring the story of the “War of the Worlds” panic a myth, the authors state without equivocation that the newspaper accounts, headlines, commentary and interviews, were fabricated:

“Radio had siphoned off advertising revenue from print during the Depression, badly damaging the newspaper industry. So the papers seized the opportunity presented by Welles’ program to discredit radio as a source of news. The newspaper industry sensationalized the panic to prove to advertisers, and regulators, that radio management was irresponsible and not to be trusted. In an editorial titled “Terror by Radio,” the New York Times reproached “radio officials” for approving the interweaving of “blood-curdling fiction” with news flashes “offered in exactly the manner that real news would have been given.” Warned Editor and Publisher, the newspaper industry’s trade journal, “The nation as a whole continues to face the danger of incomplete, misunderstood news over a medium which has yet to prove … that it is competent to perform the news job.” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, History, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Ethics Hero: Keisha Thomas

Keisha Thomas

It is never too late to recognize an Ethics Hero, and thanks to a recent retrospective by the BBC, Ethics Alarms can salute Keisha Thomas, who 17 years ago exhibited both courage and other outstanding ethical values like kindness, sacrifice, responsibility, empathy and valor, by coming to the rescue of a man who would never have done the same for her.

In 1996, Keshia Thomas was just 18. The Ku Klux Klan held a rally in her home town, Ann Arbor, Michigan, then as now a college town and a bastion of liberalism. Predictably and as planned by the KKK, plenty of local protesters gathered to jeer the white robed marchers and to show their contempt.Thomas stood with a group of anti-KKK demonstrators on the other side of a security fence, as police in riot gear positioned themselves between the angry demonstrators and the Klan members. One of the anti-Klan counter-demonstrators spotted a white, middle-aged man with an SS tattoo on his arm and wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt  standing among the spectators.  “There’s a Klansman in the crowd!”  she shouted into her megaphone, and a group of protesters began to chase him, shouting threats and “Kill the Nazi!” He was knocked to the ground, and the group, now a mob, began kicking him and hitting him with wooden bases of their placards.

Thomas, an African-American girl still in high school, came to his rescue. She forced herself between the mob and their victim, fell to her knees, draped herself over him and became his shield, saving the stranger from serious injury. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Dunces, Race, U.S. Society