Ethics Quote Of The Month: NBC’s “Meet The Press” Host Chuck Todd

 

“Where I think political correctness got in the way of what we all knew as reporters and didn’t fully deliver was how hated the Clintons were in the heartland. And I think it was a fear of, ‘Oh, is it going to look like it’s sexist, anti-woman if we say that?’… I think we underplayed it a little bit out of political correctness fears… No member of the press corps wants to look like they’re singling out a group and making a group feel bad…. If we sort of were straight-up honest and blunt about hey do we understand the level of hatred that’s out there and you know, all the Hillary for Prison signs that are out there, we certainly would have at least made the viewer know, hey, you know, she’s not well-liked in some places in this country in ways that’s times 10 when it comes to Trump…. What do I think we did wrong in this election? The biggest thing is we didn’t tell the stories of all Americans. We told the stories of coastal Americans. And ultimately, that’s like the larger trust issue. We were more likely to do a story about the Dreamer that might get deported with new policies than we were about the 19-year-old opioid addict who feels hopeless in Rolla, Missouri. And, I’m not, I don’t pick on Rolla, Missouri, it’s, my point is that we just, we did not equally tell those stories very well, right, and, we were not, that is an out-of-touch issue.”

“Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd last week being interviewed by former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer in his “1947” podcast.

chuck-todd1. I suspect this quote, from a podcast I had never heard of before, may end up being quite famous. It should be.”Meet the Press,” by pedigree and habit if no longer on merit, is the flagship of theoretically tough, objective broadcast journalism. Its host, right here, in this quote, admits that he, his colleagues and industry, “we,” were and are biased and partisan. Equally remarkable, he didn’t seem to understand the significance of what he was saying.

This isn’t an ethical quote, for in its phrasing and the unethical mindset it reveals, it is quite horrifying. It’s an ethics quote, because it reveals something important and useful about ethics, specifically the wretched ethics and complete lack of trustworthiness that now infects most of American journalism. One should not be able to read Todd’s comments and express disapproval of the Trump administration’s hostility to the press. The news media deserves hostility.  Its conduct has forfeited the right to be believed or respected. If it could be believed or trusted, Chuck Todd wouldn’t have said this.

2. In this statement, Todd’s candor provides a smoking gun example of one of Ethics Alarms’ mantras, “Bias makes you stupid.”

3. Todd’s equivocations, euphemisms and minimizing verbiage are as provocative as they are infuriating. “Didn’t fully deliver… underplayed it a little bit …If we sort of were straight-up honest…. we certainly would have at least made the viewer know….we did not equally tell those stories very well. Todd is admitting bias and deliberate misreporting, but using Hillary Clinton’s “it wasn’t the best choice” rhetoric (Rationalization 19A, The Insidious Confession) to imply only that it was kind of, sort of, not exactly the best thing to do in retrospect. The weasel-words are as damning as what Todd is admitting to.

4. The context of Todd’s navel-gazing and that of many of his colleagues is “What did we do wrong that helped elect Donald Trump?” and not, as it should be, “How was our journalism unethical and how can we be more ethical going forward?” We already know, or should know, why Todd and his colleagues’ work was unethical: they were 100% committed to defeating Donald Trump, and just as committed to shaping the narrative of the campaign according to how the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton wanted it shaped: Hillary’s election was inevitable. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: “Black’s Life Matters”

seinfeld-tweet

Jerry Seinfeld sends out a tweet to announce new episodes of his Crackle series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” typically with a joke involving the guest comic’s name. For example, his tweet from two weeks ago read: “New Comedians. Cars Getting Coffee! Cedric The Entertainer. No affiliation with Cedric The Regular Person.”  On Thursday, Seinfeld’s tweet used a predictable pun on the name of his guest, as you can see in the screen shot above:

“New! Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Lewis Black. Black’s life matters.”

Today’s incredibly easy Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is Jerry’s tweet insensitive and tasteless?

Continue reading

It’s Theater Ethics vs. High School Ethics, And Incredibly, Both Win

New Jersey’s Cherry Hill School District announced last week that the planned Spring student production of the 1998 Broadway musical “Ragtime” would continue to be rehearsed and would proceed, despite the complaints of some parents. However, student actors would not use “nigger” and other racially-charged terms in the original script. They would be changed or eliminated, the District said.

A spokeswoman for the district, said at the time that officials had already been discussing the possibility of censoring the Cherry Hill High School East production when the Cherry Hill African American Civic Association and the NAACP offered their remedies: censorship, political correctness, and bye-bye free expression and thought. Of course this was their reaction. It is simple-minded, but typical of left-wing political correctness tyranny. It doesn’t matter what ideas are being conveyed, certain words cannot be used to convey them. Whenever possible, the heavy boot of government should crush the non-conforming expression. Also “of course,” lily-livered school administrators initially offered no opposition. Duck the controversy, and the real issues be damned. After all, it’s just a high school musical.

Unfortunately, there was the little issue of licensing agreements. “Ragtime” is a work of art, not that the NAACP cares, and artists have a right to control how their work is performed, even in Cherry Hill. The contract under which the school was allowed to produce the show specifies that the script and songs must be performed as written, no exceptions.

The National Coalition Against Censorship, the Dramatists Guild of America, and Arts Integrity Initiative wrote a smart letter urging the school officials “to reconsider and reverse [the] decision to censor “Ragtime”:

“Ragtime’s” use of racial slurs is an historically accurate and necessary aspect of a play that explores race relations in the early 1900s. Ragtime helps minors understand the brutalities of racism and the anger that has historically accumulated, partly through the use of racially offensive language. In contrast, censorship of such language ignores historical reality and presents a falsified, whitewashed view of race relations. Censoring the play will only perpetuate ignorance of our past. While we empathize with concerns about the emotionally disturbing effects of hearing or uttering racial slurs, we believe such concerns are to be resolved through educational means, not by censoring a renowned text. In our experience, similar concerns… have best been confronted through dialogue rather than censorship.”

Then the students, who had been rehearsing the show since before Christmas (no, real high school performers can’t prepare an elaborate show of professional quality in a few days, as “Glee” would have us believe), created a petition on Change.Org: Continue reading

Dentistry Ethics, Arkansas-Style: “Nice Little Dental Practice You Have Here, Dr….Too Bad If Anything Were To Happen To It!

Smiling female dentist procedure of teeth cleaning

In 2013, Dr. Ben Burris, a successful Arkansas orthodontist, began offering low-cost teeth cleanings at his 11 offices around the state. This, he says, was a public service on his part, as he knows that preventive care is critical for teeth and that citizens who can’t afford dental insurance, which is expensive, often neglect cleanings. His cleanings cost $99 for adults and $69 for kids, far less than what other dentists charged in the state.

Burris quickly heard from  the Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners and was told that he was breaking the law.  The Board threatened him with loss of  his license if he didn’t cease his bargain  cleanings. Why?

Well, Arkansas, like some other states, prohibits licensed dental specialists like orthodontists from doing work outside of their specialty even though they are certified to practice general dentistry.  With over a hundred employees out of work, Ben suspended the program.

What’s going on here? Boy, I did a seminar on dental ethics a few years ago: I wish I had another one where I could discuss this. The regulation is nothing more than the profession lobbying the legislature and limiting services to drive up prices. What other possible explanation is there? Cleaning teeth is not the rocket science of dentistry, and any qualified dentist should be completely competent to supervise the task, especially since much of teeth cleaning is handled by hygienists. A licensed dental hygienist is legally qualified to work in a general dentist’s office or that of a specialist without restrictions.  But the orthodontist was venturing outside of the little specialist’s box the state had built for him. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: The Joy of Knitting Proprietor Elizabeth Poe

poe

Once more, we see the disturbing trend of hyper-partisan business owners attempting to divide the nation into politically exclusive camps, with progressive and conservative bars, restaurants, supermarkets, hardwear stores, pet shops and, in this case, yarn shops. This is madness, and indefensible ethically, especially in a pluralistic democracy. It is also pure bigotry, attributing negative character traits to individuals based on one characteristic alone. Banning customers because they have a political view is no less hateful, and no less offensive to the nation’s ideals, than banning them because they are black.

Elizabeth Poe, owner of a small yarn store, The Joy of Knitting, in Franklin, Tennessee, doesn’t comprehend that, so she proudly posted this  unethical announcement  on Facebook, telling potential customers who participated in the Women’s March last week,

“…if you want yarn for any project for the women’s movement that you please shop for yarn elsewhere…The vulgarity, vile and evilness of this movement is absolutely despicable. That kind of behavior is unacceptable and is not welcomed at The Joy of Knitting. I will never need that kind of business to remain open. Two wrongs will never ever make it right. As the owner of this business and a Christian, I have a duty to my customers and my community to promote values of mutual respect, love, compassion, understanding, and integrity. The women’s movement is counterproductive to unity of family, friends, community, and nation.”

Whereas shunning fellow citizens because they advocate different policies and positions than you do is a wonderful way to “promote values of mutual respect, love, compassion, understanding, and integrity, unity of family, friends, community, and nation.” Continue reading

Unethical Blog Post Of The Month: The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler

aggressive_rottweiler

I normally would not have read this post, not being a regular fan of The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler. However, more than one political website that I do frequent cited the post with favor, and this is profoundly depressing. The pots expresses classic non-ethical reasoning, based entirely on emotions like anger, hatred, desire for revenge, and joy at the pain of others. The blog, interestingly, includes a page on logical fallacies, but not one on rationalizations. The post, titled “How’s That Shoe on the Other Foot, Prozis?,” is the wholesale expression of an especially destructive rationalization, “Tit for Tat,”  that is well-expressed in the Golden Rule distortion, “Do Unto Others As They Did Unto You, But Even Harder, If Possible.”

This screed does have value: it does support my theory that a large portion of Donald Trump’s support was akin to Delta House’s decision in “Animal House,” spurred by this kind of logic:

Otter: Bluto’s right. Psychotic… but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!

Bluto: We’re just the guys to do it.

I wrote,

“In Germany, The Big Cheese says jump and the Germans say “How high?” In the US, the response is “Fuck you!” Obama never understood that. He and the Democrats are finally getting the “fuck you!” they have been asking for. I love that about America. And much as I hate the idea of an idiot being President, I do love the message and who it was sent to. America still has spunk.”

I should have also noted that the spunk is often registered in reckless and unethical ways.

The post begins with approving cites to quotes from a commenter: Continue reading

From The “How Often Can Something Like This Happen In An Ethical Profession?” Files: The Art Teacher’s Meltdown

I know a lot of teachers get angry with me for my increasing certitude that they are in an unethical profession with some ethical members (like them), rather than an ethical profession with isolated unethical exceptions. This incident supports my critical views. Unless mental illness is involved, an adult doesn’t belong to a profession with well-defined standards and ethics rules and act like this.

At W.H. Adamson High School in Dallas, Texas, art students were treated to an epic meltdown by their teacher, Payal Modi, who screamed “Die!” and shot President Trump’s image on the screen with a water gun as students watched his inauguration on TV.  A student caught this on video, and Modi, who was proud of the planned display, posted it to her Instagram account.

This is more political indoctrination the classroom, which educators not today only tolerate but nurture. A teacher modelling violence toward any individual, but especially the President of The United States, in front of students, is such a stunning breach of professional ethics that no teacher should  have the idea even flicker across her mind. Payal Modi planned it.  A teacher who behaves like this cannot be trusted with students. A teacher like Modi calls into question everyone and every institution connected with her.

Adamson High School assistant principal Bobby Nevels confirmed that Modi shot the squirt gun at the TV, during class and in front of students. It is six days later. Why does she have a job? Why has the school not made a public apology? Why hasn’t the teachers’ union condemned her actions?

In eight years, no teacher did anything displaying close to this level of hostility and disrespect to President Obama. What do you think the reaction would have been by a school district if one had? Would the official position be, as Nevels’ was, “The district will not comment on personnel issues.” How about reassuring parents and the public that the district recognizes that this isn’t just a personnel issue, but an incident that calls into question the integrity of the education system and the  teaching profession? Modi is the product of an unethical culture that is rotting public education from within.

Is there a specific Teachers Code of Conduct provision, enforced and universal, that would guide a teacher not to do something this outrageous? The NEA has a Code, but there is no enforcement mechanism. There is also no prohibition against demonstrating hostility and disrespect toward public figures, or engaging in violent displays in class. Here are the provisions relevant to Modi’s meltdown: Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh

sanctuary-cities

“To anyone who feels threatened today, or vulnerable, you are safe in Boston. We will do everything lawful in our powerful to protect you. If necessary, we will use City Hall itself to shelter and protect anyone who’s targeted unjustly.”

—–Boston’s mayor, Martin J. Walsh, announcing defiance to the President Trump’s Executive Order cutting off federal funding to municipalities that did not cooperate with federal immigration officials.

Is Mayor Walsh under the impression that America’s laws protecting its borders and extending its sovereignty over the crucial area of immigration control are the equivalent of the Fugitive Slave Act? It would seem so.

The grandstanding statement by Walsh is the most extreme yet from the 100% wrong and unethical mayors of so-called sanctuary cities, which include major metropolises like Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and smaller cities, many of them college towns, like New Haven; Syracuse; and Austin. There are over 300 in all.

The legal issue is interesting and not at all settled. A 2012 Supreme Court decision held that Congress is not permitted to set conditions on spending to coerce states or localities to participate in federal programs against their will, but other decisions are no so clear. Moreover, when a city actively interferes with the enforcement of the law—not merely not participating in the program, but actively interfering with it the in way the Walsh describes—the federal government should have some effective way of responding. I see another SCOTUS case coming, don’t you? What if Boston decided that it would provide sanctuary for drug dealers, kidnappers, spies and terrorists? Could it do that, too?

Some of the other mayors have been only slightly more moderate. San Francisco’s mayor, Ed Lee, issued a joint statement with the mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, and Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose:

“We will not give in to threats, or political grandstanding. Together, the Bay Area will stay true to our values of inclusiveness, compassion and equality, and united against any and all efforts to divide our residents, our cities, and our country.”

Look! Political grandstanding about political grandstanding! Imagine: the President of the United States wants to enforce immigration laws! How dare he? In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaimed, while ducking bullets presumably,

 “I want to be clear: We’re going to stay a sanctuary city. There is no stranger among us. Whether you’re from Poland or Pakistan, whether you’re from Ireland or India or Israel and whether you’re from Mexico or Moldova, where my grandfather came from, you are welcome in Chicago as you pursue the American dream.”

Having illegal aliens who have committed crimes flee to Chicago might work out, since the murder rate there should thin their ranks considerably. Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Nebraska State Senator Bill Kintner (R)

bill-kintner

This ridiculous State Senator doesn’t even know how to resign intelligently. Kintner, who has represented southeastern Nebraska’s District 2 in the Nebraska Legislature since 2012, found a way to leave office almost as embarrassingly as the way he occupied it, which is impressive.

Where do Republicans find these people, and why does anyone vote for them?

In June of 2015, Kintner attacked the Nebraska Legislature’s attempted repeal of the death penalty by posting graphic photos of a beheaded woman on his Facebook account. Let me tell you, this is one classy guy. His constituents didn’t discover quite how classy, however, until later in 2015. Then it was revealed that Kintner and a woman he met on Facebook had engaged in cyber-sex over Skype a year earlier, while the Senator was in a Massachusetts hotel.  (This detail kept him from being indicted in Nebraska.) The episode constituted a misuse of a state-owned computer, but there were other problems with it, including the fact that Kintner and a woman engaged in cyber-sex (don’t make me explain it to you) over Skype, which makes what Anthony Weiner does look restrained.

Immediately after the session, the woman tried to blackmail Kintner, threatening to post the video to YouTube and share it with Kintner’s colleagues, including the governor. She reportedly has connections to an Ivory Coast crime syndicate, and demanded $4,500 from Kintner. Later, she contacted another State senator, offering to sell the video. That senator’s response was apparently, “No thanks, and by the way, ICK.”

Kintner rejected calls for his resignation from the legislature following the incident, after paying a $1,000 fine for misuse of public resources as part of a settlement with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. “I fully understand the gravity of my action and how it reflects upon the fact that I carry the title and responsibility of a state senator. I have taken personal responsibility for my action. I have apologized to God, to my wife, to you and to my constituents,” he wrote in a letter to his fellow lawmakers. At least part of that apology seems less than sincere, however. When demands for his resignation or impeachment continued, Kintner asked, “What standard are all 49 senators held to that I violated and embarrassed this institution? I would love to know.”

If we really have to explain that to you, Senator, it’s not worth our time.

Then, suddenly, Kintner resigned yesterday. Not over his Skyped masturbation, mind you; no, he resigned because the criticism he received for  giving a sexist tweet his endorsement by re-tweeting it was just too, too unfair. The re-tweeted tweet, by talk-show host Larry Elder, mocked demonstrators at last weekend’s women’s march by suggesting that they weren’t attractive enough to be sexually assaulted. Continue reading

Is This A Lie, False Assertion, Mistake, Sarcasm, Jumbo, Or A Statement Requiring Investigation? The Case Of The Runaway Pants

Where did his pants go, and how?

Where did his pants go, and how?

The statement in question: “They took off running by themselves without me,”  when “they” refers to the speaker’s pants.

It is perhaps germane to the matter that the speaker, 52-year-old Charles William Raulerson, was naked and blasting music from his vehicle in a car wash parking lot. When confronted by police and asked about the reason for the conspicuous absence of his pants, Raulerson allegedly uttered his remarkable explanation. Police ultimately felt it necessary to tase him.

Today I returned to this offering by the most prolific of my crack ethics issues scouts, Fred, after four plus hours with The Ethical Arts Players, in which I expounded on the best ways for an organization to develop a culture that discourages sexual harassment. I was grateful for something completely different, though I will note that if Mr. Raulerson were inside the car wash and a manager there, this episode might qualify as creating a hostile work environment.

Fred suggested that “My pants took off running by themselves without me” is “a lie that is obvious and absurd.” In truth, it is not.

It does not qualify as a Jumbo, because the statement, unlike “Elephant? What Elephant?” does not deny what is undeniable. If his pants were in plain view, immediately disproving Charles’ statement, then it would be a Jumbo. (If, upon having the pointed out, he responded, “Oh! The devils! I hadn’t noticed! They came back!”, we would be returned to square one.)

Nor is the statement a lie. It just isn’t. We cannot say with certainty that it is a lie until we know that Charles doesn’t believe that his pants ran off, and is deliberately trying to deceive. That would make it a lie, but we simply don’t know that. The fact that he’s in public without pants creates a rebuttable presumption that he might, for example, be hallucinating, and really believes that his pants ran away like the dish ran away with the spoon. (Is that nursery rhyme a lie?) Continue reading