Flashback By Popular Demand, From The Ethics Alarms Archive: “Vintage Fake News: The Ridiculous Doomsday Clock”

Doomsday clock showing 3 minutes to midnight

I had completely forgotten that today is the day the Barry McGwire Fan Club or whatever the scientists who maintain the so-called Doomsday Clock call themselves behind closed doors reveal how close we are to destruction this time. From the Hill:

The famed Doomsday Clock has been set at 100 seconds to midnight this year, the closest it’s ever been to the metaphorical point of the Earth’s destruction. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists unveiled this year’s setting for the clock at a news conference Wednesday morning at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“Speaking of danger and destruction is never easy. If you speak the truth, people will not want to listen because it’s too awful. It makes you sound like a crackpot,” said former California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), executive chairman of the Bulletin.

“Today we live in a world of vast, deep and pervasive complacency,” Brown added. “Even if there is a one-in-100 chance that these men and women before you are correct and we are truly in a dangerous moment, you would never know that from the president, from Republican leadership and from Democratic leadership.”

What a great job for Jerry Brown! Anyway, I had also forgotten that I had posted about this silliness in 2017, not long after President Trump had been sworn in, but several readers had not, and I received several reminders today. I went back and read the post, and it seemed appropriate to re-post it.

One update: at the end, I note that WWII songstress Vera Lynn, whose iconic rendition of the ballad “We’ll Meet Again” accompanied atom bombs exploding at the end of “Dr. Strangelove,” was 100 years old, and still singing. Well, I’m thrilled to report that Vera is now 102 , and she’s STILL singing. Here she is:

Take THAT, Doomsday!

***

I’m sure you have noticed that the scary Doomsday Clock, which tells us how long we have until “midnight,” aka. nuclear Armageddon, has been on the move again.

NBC News recently announced that the dreaded Clock was ticking like the soundtrack of “24 Hours, proclaiming: “Thirty seconds closer to global annihilation!”   The New York Times, which now averages at least eight “President Trump is a menace to civilization!!! ARGGH!!!” columns, editorials or news stories every…single…day, duly announced, “Thanks to Trump, the Doomsday Clock Advances Toward Midnight.” Across the pond, the UK’s Independent stated as fact, “We’re closer to doom than any time since the Cold War!”

Why? Because the Doomsday Clock says so!

Can we officially make that “The Ridiculous Doomsday Clock?” This has to be the most useless and malfunctioning timepiece in recorded history.  Even a stopped clock is right twice a day: this damn thing is never right.

The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists dreamed the gimmick up back in 1947 , and its initial setting was “seven minutes to midnight” as in…

What sense did it make to have a clock already set at seven minutes to 12? Why wasn’t it at least a seven-minute stopwatch? What was its setting during the Black Plague? Did the dinosaurs have a Doomsday Clock? Did a wise Diplodocus and a precocious Stegasaurus see a meteor coursing through the Jurassic skies and conclude, “Oh oh. Eventually one of those is going to land here, and we’re all toast. Move the Doomsday Clock to 80 million years before midnight, let’s settle our affairs, and tell the rest of the gang that the mammals are coming…”?

The group of egg-heads devising the clock explained that it symbolized ” the urgency of the nuclear dangers that the magazine’s founders—and the broader scientific community—are trying to convey to the public and political leaders around the world.” OK, I can see that as a minor, fear-mongering news item in 1947—kind of like the climate change hysteria is now—but I would also say that when a group describes a peril as urgent and it hasn’t urged in 70 years, that isn’t just old news, it isn’t newsworthy at all. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/23/2020: You Know, If People Keep Putting Impeachment Ethics Fouls In Front Of Me, I May Have To Comment On Them

Good Morning!

January 23 is a big day in ethics, good and bad. In 1964, poll taxes were finally banned via the 24th Amendment. In 1973, peace was finally declared in the Vietnam War (though it was hardly the “peace with honor” President Nixon called it.)In 1977, “Roots” debuted as a TV mini-series, helping to educate millions of Americans who knew very little about slavery.  In 1988, the Challenger exploded as a result of an engineering ethics breakdown. On this day in 1998, Bill Clinton looked America in the eye and denied having sex with Monica. Of course, he wasn’t lying, because he meant “sexual intercourse.” Sure. And finally, in 1989, Ted Bundy was electrocuted. Good.

1. Impeachment notes. I will not watch the trial, but these kinds of things that come to my attention cannot be ignored:

Instead, we are here today to consider a much more grave matter, and that is an attempt to use the powers of the presidency to cheat in an election. For precisely this reason, the President’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box—for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won. In corruptly using his office to gain a political advantage, in abusing the powers of that office in such a way as to jeopardize our national security and the integrity of our elections, in obstructing the investigation into his own wrongdoing, the President has shown that he believes that he is above the law and scornful of constraint.

Good Lord. Continue reading

Now Don’t Sue Me, SmileDirectClub, Because This Only This Ethicist’s Opinion, But…

“Hey! That’s a GREAT Idea! I LOVE it! Sure I’ll accept a refund in exchange for never telling anyone how lousy your product is!”

…no one should trust or do business with a company that engages in this unethical practice. Just an opinion, now.

What SmileDirectClub does, as documented in a New York Times Business Section story, is force customers to sign a non-disclosure (or confidentiality) agreement before they can receive refunds for unsatisfactory products. That way, other customer can’t find out about what the SmileDirectClub  can turn out to be, and in ignorance are more unwitting customers.

Here’s an excerpt from the Times piece: Continue reading

Was Mike Fiers Right To Blow The Whistle On The Astros’ Sign-Stealing Scheme? Pedro Martinez Has A Nuanced Ethics Answer

Martinez (L) and Fiers (R)

Last week I posted about ESPN baseball color commentator Jessica Mendoza earning her Ethics Dunce stripes for essentially calling Mike Fiers, the Oakland A’s pitcher who revealed to reporters that his former team, the 2017 Astros, had cheated their way to a  World Series title, a snitch. She said in part,

“When I first heard about it, it hits you like any teammate would. It’s something that you don’t do. I totally get telling your future teammates, helping them win, letting people know. But to go public with it and call them out and start all of this, it’s hard to swallow.”

Now Hall of Fame great Pedro Martinez , intrepid as ever, has weighed in with a verdict on Fiers that counters the accepted narrative that Fiers is a role model. Pedro also faults Fiers, but not for the reason Mendoza does. Pedro Martinez, fascinatingly enough, evaluates the problem by regarding a baseball team member as having similar relationship to his team mates as a lawyer does to a client.

That is not as much of a stretch as it might seem at first glance. Professions like that of lawyers is based on trust, and so is the relationship between team mates in sports (as well as partners in police cars, members of  military units, a manager and a personal assistant, and other close working relationships). The analogy is useful and apt.

Pedro opined (in an interview with radio WEEI in Boston, which broadcasts Red Sox games):

“If he was to do it when he was playing for the Houston Astros I would say Mike Fiers has guts. But to go and do it after you leave the Houston Astros because they don’t have you anymore, that doesn’t show me anything…You’re just a bad teammate. …

Now everybody knows you are going to have a whistle-blower in any other situation too [if Fiers is on your team.]. Whatever happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse and Fiers broke the rules. I agree with cleaning up the game. I agree that the fact that the Commissioner is taking a hard hand on this….

BUT!

“If you have integrity you find ways to tell everybody in the clubhouse, ‘Hey, we might get in trouble for this. I don’t want to be part of this.’ You call your GM. You tell him. Or you call anybody you can or MLB or someone and say, ‘I don’t want to be part of this.’ Or you tell the team, ‘Get me out of here, I don’t want to be part of this.’ Then you show me something. But if you leave Houston and most likely you didn’t agree with Houston when you left and then you go and drop the entire team under the bus I don’t trust you. I won’t trust you because did have that rule.”

Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Month, “Enemy Of The People” Division: CNN Reporter Joe Lockhart

Yup…a CNN journalist tweeted out a lie , let it go viral, then came back later and said he made it up, but we “know” it’s true.

A trustworthy news organization would fire a reporter who did this immediately. CNN has not and will not, because CNN is  not a trustworthy organization.

On a related track, Matt Laszlo, a journalist who works at The Daily Beast and NPR, tweeted, 
Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Dying Dog Ethics

Well this story is calculated to make any dog-lover teary. Having lost my beloved Rugby last yearand not yet been able to consider a successor, I read it while having to constantly adjust my “don’t be an idiot” controls.

Eddie the pitbull, in the care of Mikey’s Chance Canine Rescue in Benton County, Washington, has an inoperable brain tumor. He’s been given six months to live, and the staff  decided to make his final days as much fun for him as possible by creating various “bucket list” experiences.  One recent example was giving Eddie  “his dream” of being a crime dog, and and as soon as local police heard about Eddie, they pitched in.

The officers gave Eddie his own police jacket, then set him down in a pool filled with toys. Then Eddie accompanied the police in the front of a squad car as they toured the town requesting donations for the rescue shelter.

On their Facebook page, the Pasco Police wrote: “We have finished our amazing day with K9 Eddie and we are overwhelmed with the amount of support the community has shown him. Eddie was welcomed everywhere he went and shown nothing but love and affection all day. Finally, we want to wish Eddie all the best with his bucket list and future endeavors.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of Day is…

What’s going on here? Continue reading

Why Ethics Alarms Won’t Cover The Impeachment Trial

I’m not going to waste time watching the impeachment trial, nor will I waste time reading what the media says about it. The ethics issue was settled before the House vote impeaching Trump was even completed. That issue is simple: the effort by the Democrats to abuse the impeachment clause in the Constitution as a partisan tactic designed to obstruct and harass the President and harm his chances for re-election is one of the most dishonest, dastardly, undemocratic political schemed in U.S. history. It is terribly damaging to the stability of the republic and creates a disastrous precedent that threatens all future Presidents.

For this reason, the impeachment effort must fail. It would be important for it to fail even if the Democratic Party’s articles of impeachment stated genuine impeachable  offenses, which they do not. Only failure, followed by an overwhelming  public rejection of the party responsible for in the coming election might begin to heal the gaping wounds the past three years have opened.

Since the House process was a sham, the Republican majority’s determination to give the impeachment articles the bum’s rush and end the trial as quickly as possible is fair, legally justified and politically wise. The Democrats want to use the process as a free anti-Trump infomercial, much as they exploited the Mueller Report for the same purpose. Some measure of that is unavoidable, but it must not be permitted to go on one second longer than absolutely necessary (though some Republican rebuttals may have their own strategic value). Continue reading