1 I believe the correct term is “rude”...Social norms are necessary to maintain ethical standards, and they need to move quickly when conduct begins to resemble the “broken windows” that trigger urban decay. Years ago there was much complaining about solo diners talking on cell phones in restaurants, a gripe based on “ick” and not ethics. A diner’s table is his or her domain, and if one chooses to talk to a friend who is physically present or one who is elsewhere, that’s no other diner’s business unless the conversation breaks the sound barrier. However, walking around a store while having a loud, endless conversation via earpiece and phone is obnoxious in the extreme. That’s a public place, and the market is an important traditional locus for social interaction and community bonding. Technology is creating toxic social habits that are creating isolation and the deterioration in social skills, including basic respect for the human beings with whom we share existence. I almost confronted a young woman at the CVS last night who was cruising the aisles, laughing and dishing with a friend over her phone, sometimes bumping into other shoppers in the process.
I wish I had. Next time.
2. I hadn’t thought of this, but it’s obviously a problem of longstanding. Local school boards are traditional gateways to public service and politics, but the previously typical citizens who become involved often have no experience or understanding regarding the basic ethics principle of public office. In San Antonio, for example, a jury acquitted San Antonio Independent School District trustee Olga Hernandez of conspiracy to commit honest service wire fraud and conspiracy to solicit and accept bribes, the result was dictated by her utter cluelessness rather than any doubts about what she did. Testimony revealed an inner-city school district where vendors and board members developed relationships that created conflicts of interest and compromised judgment. The vendors knew what was going on, but the school board members may not have.
Hernandez, for example, testified that she considered the plane tickets, complimentary hotel stays, jewelry, meals and campaign contributions she received from those connected with a local insurance brokerage firm doing business with the school district as favors and gifts from friends. Coincidentally, none of them had been her friends before she was in a position to help them make money.
The beginning of careers in public service is when ethics training is most crucial, not later. How many school board members are required to attend a basic ethics seminar regarding government ethics? I would love to know.
3. The Ethics Alarms definition of “fake news.” I’m not surprised that the term “fake news” is unpopular with the public (if polls are to be believed, and they are not). The public doesn’t like biased and spun reporting that bolsters their pre-determined beliefs being called “fake.” Nor is a surprise that journalists don’t like the term, especially when the President uses it. Only they get to call out misleading or false stories—or that’s how they would like it to be. Some regular and estemmed commentators here object to my use of the term, yet I am more convinced than ever that the label is necessary and that the news media’s preferred definition is self-serving and a trap.
On today’s New York Times front page, a story about the Trump administration’s approach to immigration (that is, illegal immigration) has this subhead: “Trump’s Way: Closing the Borders.” That’s fake news, by this site’s definition. “Closing the borders” evokes East Berlin and totalitarian regimes, and that’s exactly what it’s intended to evoke. The US borders aren’t closed, and aren’t closing. Controlling immigration and enforcing immigration laws are not “closing the borders.”
Ethics Alarms will call out “fake news” when the news media reports, suggests, or seeks to mislead readers and viewers into believing what is not true. This includes:
Outright false reporting, like Brian Ross’s claim that Candidate Trump had directed Michael Flynn to make contact with Russian officials, when in fact it was President Trump, a material difference. It doesn’t matter whether this was an honest mistake, gross incompetence, or a reporter wanting to believe a source due to partisan bias. It was false, and there are no mitigations. Journalists should be careful, and increasingly, they are not.
Opinion reported as fact.
Leaks, rumors, hearsay and anonymous reports treated as fact without sufficient justification or context stated in the story. No, the fact that the source is “reliable” is not sufficient justification, unless that source is identified and will go on the record. The current report, denied by te White House, that President Trump said that all Haitians have AIDS is in this category.
Partisan spin in headlines and new story text. “Closing the borders” is an example.
Omission of essential facts, context, and related events that distorts public comprehension of what is really happening.
4. A classic ick vs. ethics case. Asian manufacturers are peddling realistic sex dolls that look like under-age children, fell like them, and are anatomically correct.
They are, however, still just pieces of plastic, and there is nothing unethical about them. Thought crime is the slipperiest of slopes. I could make an argument, and I bet you know what it is, that these products are not merely not unethical, but affirmatively ethical.
5. On the other side of the line..Amazon UK was selling do-it-yourself circumcision kits. Wrong. From The Guardian:
The infant circumcision training kits were offered for sale by ESP through Amazon, retailing at between £365.16 and £456.60. It included a model of a boy’s genitals made from “lifelike” material, plus scissors and scalpels.
Amazon UK withdrew the kits from sale after being urged to do so in a letter from the National Secular Society (NSS).
Dr Antony Lempert, the chair of the NSS’s secular medical forum, wrote: “Male circumcision in the UK is wholly unregulated and we fear that the sale of this product may encourage unqualified practitioners to carry out unnecessary surgery on infants in non-clinical conditions, resulting in serious harm.
“Non-therapeutic circumcision is unethical and unnecessary and is putting infant boys at risk of death and serious injury. This practice could be encouraged by the morally negligent sale of infant circumcision training kits to the public.”
I will now await the first comment from someone who can’t see the distinction between #4 and #5. Come on, I know you’re out there!