Morning Ethics Eye-Opener, 7/22/2019: Boycotts, Bushes, And Weenies


Just trying to think about ethics while I sit calmly by the phone…my doctor wants to tak to me about something. I’m hoping it’s the Red Sox…

1. There is hope: the latest cable ratings show that CNN’s  Brian Stelter’s slot “Reliable Sources” has lost more about 42% of its audience in the last six months. This indicates people must recognize a fake ethicist when they see one. Unlike his predecessor, Howard Kurtz (who had his own problems), Stelter refuses to focus any media criticism on his own network, which is one of the prime journalism ethics offenders extant, and his obsession with Fox News is nearly Media Matters-like. In short, he’s a biased, partisan hack, highlighted by his risible claim that the news media (and sainted CNN, of course) covered the Mueller investigation objectively.

The rotting American mainstream news media desperately needs  objective, credible qualified critics. What it does not need is a fake authority like Stelter, and it is encouraging to see that the audience is reacting accordingly.

2. A Party of Assholes. This is nice: Here’s the statement issued by Virginia Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw, Senate Democratic Chair Mamie Locke, House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, and House Democratic Chair Charniele Herring regarding the upcoming commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement.

We will not be attending any part of the commemorative session where Donald Trump is in attendance. The current President does not represent the values that we would celebrate at the 400th anniversary of the oldest democratic body in the western world. We offer just three words of advice to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation: ‘Send Him Back.’

There we see the priorities of the great mass of the Democratic Party since the 2016 election, in which marginalizing the elected President and insulting him (and, not incidentally, his office) at every opportunity for illusory political gain has taken precedence over the best interests of the nation.

I also strongly doubt that the President’s recent deliberately provocative tweets changed anything, as Democrats have been boycotting events where he was scheduled to participate for three years, beginning with his inauguration. They would have found some reason to do this, even without the tweets.

In contrast, at least one Virginia Democrat understands her duty. US Rep. Elaine Luria, a Democrat representing Virginia’s 2nd District, said

I will attend the Jamestown 400th anniversary of the founding of democracy in America because our democracy is not about the President or Congress—as President Lincoln said, “it is a government of the people, by the people, for the people and it shall not perish from this earth.”

I guess they’ll be calling her a racist now….

3. On the duty to intervene: In this week’s “Social Q’s” column, Philip Galanes dealt with a question from a guilt-ridden woman, who wanted reassurances that she hadn’t been ethically negligent. She wrote in part,

The summer day camp at our local Y.M.C.A. is in session. Recently, I saw a teenage counselor lead a line of preschool boys into the locker room to change for their swim lesson. They were like an adorable row of ducklings! Then I saw an older man — a friendly looking, grandfatherly type — take out his iPhone and photograph the boys while they were changing into their swimsuits.

Should she have “said something, done something,” she asked the columnist, and his answer was as correct as it was obvious: Of course she should have. However, when normal people who are not primed for remedial action witness something unexpected that requires assertive confrontation and intervention, they typically don’t have the instincts to act in a timely fashion. Ironically, those who are primed to act, either by training, personality or a hard-wired reverse of the normal inclination to avoid butting in or provoking a confrontation, cause trouble by being excessively suspicious.

I have written here before about my own experience, when I was walking into a building where I was scheduled to hold a training and witnessed a mother viciously kick her eight or nine year old son in the stomach. I froze for several seconds, in which time the family disappeared around the corner, and by the time I dumped my armful of materials on the sidewalk and ran to apprehend her, the mother and her victim were gone. If I had responded immediately, I could have at very least excoriated the woman and embarrassed her, and, if possible, made a complaint to police. Most of us aren’t wired to react that quickly, though. I wasn’t then—I’ve been trying to condition myself to be quicker.

As for the prevalent invasion of our privacy by the scourge of smartphones, I have no idea what the solution is, other than better ethics. Unless an individual is recording a crime in progress or some other special circumstance, it is unethical to take photos without a subjects knowledge and consent.

4. Am I the only one who finds this TV ad, which is suddenly running constantly, to be a symptom of a culture losing all regard for decorum, modesty, taste, privacy, and civility?

Never mind: now we have this..


5. What all this shows, Al, is that you don’t have the necessary character to be a leader. Good to know. Ann Althouse quotes this section from “The Case of Al Franken/A close look at the accusations against the former senator”  in the New Yorker:

“Holding his head in his hands, he said, ‘I don’t think people who have been sexually assaulted, and those kinds of things, want to hear from people who have been #MeToo’d that they’re victims.'” “Yet, he added, being on the losing side of the #MeToo movement, which he fervently supports, has led him to spend time thinking about such matters as due process, proportionality of punishment, and the consequences of Internet-fuelled outrage. He told me that his therapist had likened his experience to ‘what happens when primates are shunned and humiliated by the rest of the other primates.’ Their reaction, Franken said, with a mirthless laugh, ‘is I’m going to die alone in the jungle.’… ‘I can’t go anywhere without people reminding me of this, usually with some version of You shouldn’t have resigned,’ Franken said. He appreciates the support, but such comments torment him about his departure from the Senate. He tends to respond curtly, ‘Yup.’ When I asked him if he truly regretted his decision to resign, he said, ‘Oh, yeah. Absolutely.’ He wishes that he had appeared before a Senate Ethics Committee hearing, as he had requested, allowing him to marshal facts that countered the narrative aired in the press…

Summary: Al was and is a weenie. He doesn’t have the courage and integrity to stand up for himself or basic ethical principles like fairness and due process. He’s a sheep, not a leader; like so many performers, addicted to applause and approval, without the moral and ethical fiber to fight for what’s right when the tide is running against him. His being run out of the Senate is an excellent example of the right thing happening for the wrong reasons.



40 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Eye-Opener, 7/22/2019: Boycotts, Bushes, And Weenies

  1. 4. Mind boggling. The first commercial has always amazed me. The second one is incomprehensible. I guess it’s intended to encourage women to do their own manspreading? “You do you” is the advertising over used tag line of the year. A local Indian casino uses it on all its commercials and billboards. They are big sponsors of the Diamondbacks so we are told to do we almost every inning. Advertising. A horrible invention.

    • Another offense by advertisers: corrupting the language. “Because _______” is awful and fairly ubiquitous. “Because sandwich.” Companies pay big money for this sort of thing? And of course the Dems will probably campaign with “Because Trump” once they get a nominee. (It’s essentially the Dem platform, as near as I can tell.) And now my college has begun another capital campaign with a name they doubtless paid some advertising firm tens of thousands of dollars to “brand:” What did they come up with? “Because Hamilton.” Brilliant. Pay for a slogan that’s a typo. Who needs prepositional phrases. Why didn’t they just use, “We the North?” Hamilton’s pretty far north. Who needs the verb to be?

      • Thought this might be good for a law firm, but…

        Because DWI;

        Because 2nd Degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor;

        Because Divorce;

        Because Death;

        Because Removal Proceedings;

        Because Car Accident;

        Because Unemployment;

        Because Eviction Proceedings.

        No wonder people don’t like lawyers.


        • Perfect.

          I still like the “Simpson’s” naming a law office in a strip mall “I Can’t Believe it’s a Law Firm.”

          How about “You be You and We’ll Get You Off!”

          • “Perfect”?

            Sadly, much of that could be condensed to “Because Foolishness.” Going with “Because Stupidity” might drive away the smarter bunch of clientele, but the stupid ones are good for repeat business.


            (Qualifier: I denigrate people in jest. I represent people with all sorts of human failings, including impatience, lack of foresight, and imprudence. I don’t hold that against clients. Their fault is only the vast array of human failings. (On the other hand, non-clients? If they aren’t paying me, they’re just evil!))


  2. 1. When you lose all pretense of fairness, nobody with a semblance of fair-mindedness wants to watch you. It’s good to see that there are still more of them than people who think like Stelter.

    2. This kind of thing is right in line with their base — protest everything, and #resist at every opportunity. I don’t think it’s working for them.

    3. Most of us are conditioned to mind our own business from a young age. That makes timely intervention harder, and it takes self-training to overcome.

    4. I wondered when you’d get around to commenting on the trimming ad. Cultural decay and the need to grab people’s attention, whatever the cost, is driving it in an age where DVR can render the impact of commercials minimal.

    5. How could anyone who has watched or listened to Al Franken over the years come to the conclusion he was qualified even to lead a dog on a walk? The guy was an idiot from day one, and he hasn’t learned a thing except that not standing up to the social media mob produces results that are … suboptimal, even for jerks like him.

    I guess I can’t complain when the country actually benefits from moral luck.

  3. There’s an ad for a men’s grooming line that airs on YouTube fairly regularly, that opens with a bold deep voice asking something along the lines of “HEY, Don’t you hate it when you NICK YOUR BALLS with the trimmer? Our trimmer will cut right through your PUBIC HAIR and not HURT YOUR BALLS.”

    On the one hand it’s crass.
    On the other, at least it’s not hiding behind playful euphemisms and word games.

      • My 20 year old son asked me for some shaving cream to shave his chest. I said what are you doing – a man doesn’t mess with anything below the neck!

        He said that girls don’t like chest hair. I suggested that the problem was not the hair, but the type of girls he’s pursuing. I think he listened.

        • Heh; today’s the 15th Anniversary for my minor elective out-patient urological procedure which, according to all reports, is a one-time…um…fix.

          In an effort to siphon off some of the attendant stress such an operation presents to Y-Chromosomal Units, I innocently joked with the two female OR personnel (I was the only male involved throughout), who gave as good as they got.

          Wonder how that would have gone in this day-n-age.

  4. On point 3
    I understand that people often fail to react promptly to events but I have a question.

    This was a woman asking the question.
    She said she watched the kids being led into the locker room to change into swimsuits.

    How did she see a man take out a cell phone to take a picture of the kids undressing (implied but not explicitly stated) unless she was in the locker room?

    If she was in the locker room to witness this why did she feel it necessary to violate male privacy or do women feel they can walk into a boy’s locker room because they have maternal rights? If so did she assess whether other adult males were in the locker room dressing? If not, what was her motivation to not check to see if any adult males were in a state of undress?

    If she was outside and saw the grandfatherly man taking pictures were the kids clothed or in a state of undress?

    If in a state of undress outside why are they being led into a locker room?

      • Jack,
        I fully agree with the concepts you laid out.

        My only point was that the story did add up. We are also conditioned to believe that if a female tells a story about a supposed inappropriate act we do not even question them about inconsistencies in the story.

        We also don’t ask why she would follow a male teenage counselor into the boys locker room if that is how she saw this older man taking photos.

        There are people who see impropriety where none exists to feel like they witnessed something tawdry so they can portray themselves as good and decent people when in fact they have an issue with men or other group.

        • I came to write about this discrepancy, but you beat me to it. In all likelihood, the grandfather snapped a photo of his grandson as he was being led to the locker room (or coming out in his swim suit) and she didn’t like that he was taking a photo in public and she didn’t know the relationship.

          …or “most likely” she made the whole thing up so that she could have a hypothetical written about and get her 2 seconds of fame.

          • Exactly, there could be any number of legitimate reasons for an older man – relationship unknown – to take a photo of a child.

            I recognize that bad people exist but they are the exception not the rule, but some people assume the worst possible motives in everyone.

            At this stage in my life I will not under any circumstances interact with an unrelated child in public. I will not even pick up a small child seen walking unaccompanied down a busy street and take them to a safe location. I will call police and stay to observe but I will not risk being accused of anything.

            Years ago I would think nothing of stopping to fix a flat for someone or giving them a ride to a phone but no longer.

            One of the downsides of our victimization focused society is that many good deeds and social outreach go undone out of fear of being misunderstood or something worse.

            • I had to undergo sexual abuse awareness training a couple of years ago in order to chaperone a school event. To summarize the four-hour training course: Never allow yourself to be alone with a child and never allow any other adult male to be alone with a child. As the father of an 8-year old, I can testify that almost every father that I know lives in terror of false accusations of molestation. The older gentleman with the phone probably thinks we still live in the relatively rational era when he grew up and raised his own children.

              • And the supposition is that only males are sexual predators. Assumptions like that create self fulfilling conditions because females are not suspected so statistically they are charged less with inappropriate contact. Imagine if women had to explain their motivations when changing a diaper. Ask them if they have ever touched a young boy’s private parts. Stereotypes help reinforce such assumptions.

          • Regarding your second paragraph, Tim: I’ve long suspected that a sizeable chunk of the letters to advice columnists are authored by the columnists themselves. Often they’re just a wee bit too much of a setup. This one feels like one of those.

  5. RE #1: At least Stelter’s got some competition. NPR syndicates a show out of WNYC called “On the Media.” If it were being honest, it would change the name of the show to “On Why Donald Trump is a Doo-Doo Head.”

  6. Re: No. 3; Duty to Intervene.

    While not exactly at the same level of urgency, here is an interesting story from the grand land of Georgia:

    Lauren Pozen, a local reporter has been following the story, posting updates on Twitter. Here is her Twitter profile:

    The controversy:

    Erica Thomas has accused Eric Sparkes, a white man, of telling her to “go back where you came from” while she was in a local Georgia grocery store called Publix. According to her, Sparkes berated her for having too many items in the express check out lane. She alleges that Sparkes, an alleged Trump supporter and avowed racist, called her names, accosted her, threatened her life, and mistreated her because of her race, calling her a lazy son of a bitch.

    Now, Thomas is a Georgia state representative who took to Twitter to detail how outrageous this incident was, that her heart was hurt (she cried, she was so upset) because he targeted her for being black, that this is a perfect example of the Trumpification of the US where racists feel empowered to be racists in local grocery stores against a black woman who only used the express lane because she is 9 months pregnant and can’t stand too long.

    Sparkes, as racists often do, tells a very different story., Sparkes alleges that he saw Thomas in the express aisle with more than the permitted number of items, called her out on it, and in the conflagration, called her a “bitch” (he admits he was out of line). Sparkes also states that he addressed this with the store manager, who said he did not have any power to do anything about it but he was free to take appropriate action, which he did. Sparkes also stated that he is not white, but of Cuban descent, is a registered Democrat and would rather have his fingers chewed by rats than vote for Trump (that’s my embellishment). He also stated that he knew who Thomas was (a state representative) and thought that as a representative she should act more appropriately and avoid looking like she was entitled to do stuff most people wouldn’t do.

    Hold on, back to Thomas: Thomas would have none of this MAGA-loving racist, so she alerted the media to take it directly to the good people of Georgia. Then, things didn’t quite as well as she expected. During her rant . . . uh . . . press conference, the good Señor Sparkes sidled up to her and called her a liar on live TV*. Rep. Thomas, erudite, considerate, and discerning, went right at him with full guns blazing, thinking she was going to race-bully this little MAGA-loving creep into submission – especially when she told him she didn’t care if he was Cuban because to her he was/is white.**

    To his credit, Sparkes did not back down; in fact, he doubled down on his view of the story and hit back twice as hard (the local TV reporter swooned!). As the Cuban-American jerk refused to give in, Rep. Thomas began to talk too much, as is often the case with loud-mouthed blowhards, backing herself into a controversy killing corner when she admitted that, in fact, he didn’t tell to go back where she belonged (she can’t really remember what he said), that he never threatened her (only that he called her a bitch, which he admits was inappropriate), and that he is not a MAGA-loving Trumplodyte. Sparkes, on the other hand, maintained his calm, never raised his voice, but specifically called her out on the racial bullshit she was trying to sell to the community.

    Now, Rep. Thomas has retained a lawyer (A LAWYER!) because she was afraid for her life.

    With respect to the duty to intervene, check out Rep. Thomas’ Twitter accounts of the incident. Here is her Twitter profile:

    The comments to the story are fascinating, where many a commenter “stands with Erica”, even after the story imploded as a direct result of Thomas’ arrogance. Even after admitting that she was completely wrong, she refused to capitulate. She is a piece of work. Sparkes, simply a guy at a store, called out someone for abusing a privilege at the express lane.

    Trivial, no? Well, perhaps not. Perhaps Sparkes thinks it is rude to abuse the express lane by having too many items because the express lane is for people in a hurry and with a few items. Why should people have to wait because some inconsiderate person has decided the store’s “rules” don’t apply to him or her? Perhaps, Sparkes believes that this kind of inconsideration is an exemplar of why there is so much discord in the nation at the moment. Perhaps, Sparkes, knowing that Thomas is a state legislator, thought that Thomas should be a better representative of public office rather than an entitled jerk who believes he or she is above the rest of the community, and that it is unethical for public officials to abuse their power because if they can’t mind local store rules then how can the public trust elected officials to be proper stewards of the public’s interests?***


    *Ed. Note: The local TV station was dancing for joy as a full-on controversy was unfolding right before their eyes in real time. It was TV ratings gold, I tell you! Gold!

    **Ed. Note 2: That part of the interview is fascinating. Thomas is abusive and quite vicious. She could not believe that this little MAGA-man had the nerve to call her out, being that she is 9 months pregnant and with her child at the time. How dare he? Doesn’t he know who she is? Get in line, Sparkes or be annihilated.

    ***Ed. Note No. 3: I also allow for the possibility that Sparkes, a registered Democrat, believes that he is entitled to police express lanes in grocery stores because “people should follow the rules” and he might escalate things based on his perception of his own self-importance. Additionally, maybe he has a visceral dislike for Rep. Thomas because he thinks she acts like an entitled jerk. Who knows?

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