Ethics Warm-Up, 9/18/2020: Boy, It’s Hard To Write About Ethics When What You Really Want To Do Is Run Amuck With A Bloody Sword

I don’t even want to talk about the last two days, except to note that what has me proto-homicidal has nothing to do with anything we’ve been discussing on Ethics Alarms.

1. Now THIS is incompetent phishing: “Verizon” contacted me to say,

Dear User :Your incoming mails were placed on pending status due to the recent upgrade to our database, and also exceeded the storage limit of 1 GB, which is defined by the administrator, are running at 99.8 gigabyte. You can not send or receive new messages until you re-validate your mailbox.

  • I no longer have any relationship with Verizon.
  • Verizon no longer runs an email service. It sold its email users to AOL.
  • The letter is ungrammatical.
  • I received that email, along with about 50 others at the same time, telling me I was no longer getting email.
  • “Verizon’s” address was “”
  • The “letter” was signed “VeriZon.”

If you fall for something like that, you are a walking, talking mark, and incompetent at life.

2.  Why doesn’t the public trust the news media? It must be all those Trump “fake news” lies!  CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell used a photo from a “Latinos for Trump”  event in Phoenix to accompany a report on Joe Biden’s Latino event in Florida. The CBS’s chyron read, “Biden pitches crucial Latino voters during Florida campaign stop.”

Here was what viewers saw:

One of the women in the photo is wearing an “I Love Trump” hat, and you can see part of a “Make America Great Again” sign. Why would CBS do such a thing? Apparently the attendance at Joe’s rally was underwhelming.

Of course, this was just an innocent mistake.

[UPDATE (7:49 pm): This item was incorrect. I was tricked by a conservative site’s fake news about fake news that wasn’t fake. I will put up a freestanding correction.]

3. On a related topic, a once-intelligent Facebook friend, a lawyer, went on an extended lament about the President fomenting violence and division by saying, in various forums, that the only way he can lose is if the election is “rigged” or”fixed.” Now, what is my ethical response to that? It isn’t a retort that Democrats are doing the same thing by spreading the Big Lies that the President will refuse to accept defeat and that he is trying to suppress votes by opposing mail-in ballots: that’s a Rationalization, one of the biggies,  #2, Ethics Estoppel, or “They’re Just as Bad.”

The President (A President) shouldn’t be saying  this, but that doesn’t mean he’s mistaken, just infuriatingly inarticulate, as usual. What he means, and what is true, is that there is an ongoing effort to “rig” or “fix” the election by the news media; it has been going on for years, and is building to peak deception now. The President’s recent success with Middle East peace initiatives would be a source of major celebration by the media if Obama were POTUS. The scandal of over 40 Mueller investigators wiping their phones is still being buried, while anonymous claims that the President denigrated servicemen two years ago dominated the news for days. Yes, without the ongoing and relentless attempted manipulation of public opinion by the news media, I don’t think the President could possibly lose to a Biden-Harris ticket. We are indeed watching an attempt to rig the election. Somebody has to point it out, and the news media won’t.

The news media is wildly overplaying its hand. I suspect, for most of the public with firing neurons, it is obvious already what they are trying to do.

4. Now, what’s the ethical way to fix this? I was sitting with my long-retired neighbors, watching our dogs take turns biting each other’s neck, and we were talking about popular novelists. The topic of James Patterson came up, which led to unanimous derision regarding his gimmick of having co-authors who either do the bulk of the writing or provide some other mysterious service so he can issue a novel approximately every other month. “He’ll just go to his mailman and say, “Hey, want to write a novel with me?” That was out of my mouth when I realized my neighbor was a retired mail carrier.

5. Not quite willing to surrender the title “The Stupid Party” apparently, Indiana’s Republican Representative Jim Banks, and 33 other GOP House lawmakers have called on Attorney General William Barr to prosecute Netflix for the distribution of “child pornography” with its current sensation, for better of worse, “Cuties.” This is absurd grandstanding, especially since I’ll bet my head that most of the 34 haven’t watched the film, but are just basing their outrage on hearsay.

The film is not pornography by any legal definition. There have been equally icky portrayals of minors in ways that might titillate child predators on TV, movies and child beauty pageants for decades. Moreover, no one could credibly argue that the purpose of “Cuties” was pornographic, or that it has no redeeming social or artistic value.

Incompetent Elected Officials Of The Month!

32 thoughts on “Ethics Warm-Up, 9/18/2020: Boy, It’s Hard To Write About Ethics When What You Really Want To Do Is Run Amuck With A Bloody Sword

  1. 4: In publishing they call it sharecropping. In the SFF world, Baen Books is infamous for it thought it’s hardly unknown in other publishing houses. It grants status and extra money to the newer authors on the payroll, you’ve already described the advantages for the senior author who usually supplies a detailed outline for the junior to follow.

    • It depends on the author and the editor. Some authors, like Eric Flint, really enjoy collaborating with other authors — his 1632 universe is the prime example. Some authors never do this stuff (at least not while they’re still alive) — I can think of Rex Stout as a good example. Isaac Asimov, who was notorious for the quantity of his books, pretty much did it all himself as far as I know. The Energizer Bunny of authors.

      Then there are collaborative teams whose work is truly superior to their individual books. The best case I know of is Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle — their individual works were good, but their joint books were great.

      It varies with the authors. Some, like James Patterson and Clive Cussler, seem to clearly be efforts exploiting the names of great authors who are likely past their prime. Some are true partnerships.

  2. It sounds like James Patterson is basically a brand. Newark native Edward Stratemeyer went him one better, hiring authors to write stories based on his ideas, paying them a flat fee, and keeping the copyrights.

    • I mean, Tom Clancy still makes a Battlefield game every other year or so despite having been dead since 2013. Some product lines, like the Multiplayer Sandbox “The Division” and “The Division 2”, did not even have a title in existence when Clancy died.

    • Yeah, the Stratemeyer Syndicate revolutionized the young adult series industry, I think. Best known were Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys but there were countless other Boys and Girls series in the 20s and 30s that were written that way under contract.

      His heirs maintained for decades that Carolyn Keene was a real person, but finally lost some court cases in the 1970s.

      I read about Mildred Wirt, who wrote a number of the early Nancy Drew books. Based, I think, on the success of the series she tried to negotiate a raise from Stratemeyer. I think it was from $100 to $150 per book. Stratemeyer wasn’t willing to pay that much and hired someone else, but after a few books went back to Wirt for more of the Nancy Drew books.

  3. Re: No. 2; Biden’s Doppleganger.

    I don’t see what the problem is. Trump, Biden. Phoenix, Florida. Minor details. Everyone knows Latinos hate Trump. That was a file/archive photo anyway, so it’s fair game. No big deal. Besides, we have more important things to worry about than some silly photo.


  4. Re: No.1: Phishing Scams

    Phishing emails are almost always written in a way to have incompetence and tell tale signs of a scam as an obvious feature. If you’re smart enough to not take the bait, you’re smart enough not to go through with losing money. The people who still fall for an error laced scam email are the ones a scammer will focus their time. Everyone else is a waste of the scammer’s time.

    • You’d be surprised. Just last month I got a scam mail from “The City of Winnipeg” telling me that I had unpaid parking tickets. I work in Winnipeg, there’s a good chance I might have gotten a parking ticket, the grammar, syntax and formatting was pretty damn good, and they used the city’s letterhead. I was actually scratching my head wondering how I missed paying a ticket before realizing that there was no way the City of Winnipeg parking authority would have my Email, and then a couple of other pieces started to click in…. The Saudi Prince scams are (mostly) a thing of the past, today’s scammers are generally much better at what they do.

    • During the plague of “Invoice Attached” virus emails I regularly had work related companies that sent bills this way. No reference to the account number or service unless I opened the attachment. No nice Bitzy from Book Keeping signature block.

      It took almost a year for multiple companies to understand I wasn’t opening any attachments. If they wanted to be paid they needed to send a real email or a paper bill. Even auto generated emails could have included more information. It didn’t help that someone with their email in their contacts would get infected and it would start a new round.

      I hate to say that spelling and grammar errors are not limited to phishing emails. Stop using my last name as my first name! It’s “your” not “you’r”!

  5. 1. Someone I know responded to one of those online ads for Secret Shoppers at Wal-Mart. She came to me, asking if it was legitimate.

    I pointed out to her that:
    A. The letter she was sent spent minimal lines on actually advising her how to Secret Shop and a whole lot of lines giving her minute instructions for buying a money order for a significant amount of money, advising her she must provide proof of purchase before the sender would ship a FedEx container to her for her to send the money order to that person, how the money order should not be made out to anyone and that the money order receipt should be included in the shipment.
    B. Wal-Mart, like most large companies these days, is unlikely to hire outside Secret Shoppers. At best, they probably have some middle manager drive to her local Wal-Mart every so often after work and make sure she’s greeted, etc.
    C. The letter she was sent did not have the name Wal-Mart on it and the email address that was included for contact purposes was gmail, not or something like that.

    3. The other day, I was walking through my workplace cafeteria, which was showing CNN’s coverage of the historic agreement. The cameras were on the White House lawn, showing dozens of people. The CNN voiceover was chattering on about how many people were not wearing masks and practicing social distancing, up to an including naming names of guilty parties.

    I just shook my head and kept going.

    4. Foot-in-mouth incidents happen to me, too. Usually, it’s just someone I haven’t seen for awhile that turns up at the store, I ask, “How’s your lovely wife?” and find out they’ve been divorced for months.

  6. You would think they would airbrush the red Trump hat out. Pure incomptence.

    Actually, the way you know it is a fake Biden rally photo. . . It has more than 6 people in it.

  7. 4: Now you need to get him a contract to write a novel with James Patterson. Or at least a mock cover of what it would look like. Apologize and laugh about it; it’s a minor transgression at most.

  8. Regarding #4: what was your neighbors reaction?

    Best time to fix that would have been right at the time.

    You could have said, “of course, being a lawyer, I would be ruled out, because the book would be too long, say almost nothing comprehensible (or even interesting) and be priced at $1,500.00.”

    At this point, if it ever comes up again, you just say that you were ribbing him, you thought he got that, and that a mailman would be a perfect cover for a spy.


  9. 2. I took a look at AP, Fact Check, and Snopes. As expected, they all said what CBS did was fine because the audio provided the proper context. They all are lying. Everyone in the business knows that images are much more powerful than words, and that is exactly why they are used. The image of Trump’s crowd, with that chryon implying it’s Biden’s crowd, is what will stick in the mind of the non-critical viewer, and there is no doubt, in my mind at least, that that’s what CBS intended. Hanlon’s razor was in play for, oh, about 1/100th of a second.

    • Oh Johnny, consistency is the refuge of small minds. Get with the program! The media has to get the Democrats back in power. Rules are for the little people, don’t you know.

  10. I watched what is said to be the original clip on CBS… (from YouTube on CBS’ channel)

    It appears that it was not in the context you said. They showed MANY Trump photos as they talked about him closing in on Biden’s lead. Not sure where you heard this, but from what I see to be the original, it’s not at all fake.

    That doesn’t make me trust them though… it just means (or appears to mean) you saw something different than the clip i saw of the entire news cast. Happens. They are dishonest so much I believed it reading you but then I shared your site and thought “I want to make sure” and went to YouTube and alas, it’s not misleading at all and the fact checkers got it right… shocking I know! LOL.

    Here’s the link I saw and it shows the photo you posted at 3:45 and it’s not out of context and shows even live footage of Trump.

    You’re not often wrong but this time it seems you are.

        • You are always 100% on, but lately I’ve been seeing so many fake news stories that SEEM credible that before I share I ALWAYS CHECK, even your site as if I share here ONCE and it’s “FAKE NEWS” (to someone) then I have lost my opportunity to share this site which I LOVE.

          Thanks for checking it and trusting me and I guess these days we just can’t trust ANYONE!! so sad huh?

          Btw, I have sent you a few emails one with a GREAT scoop (I think) did you get them? it’s my real name… not my screen name for here. I HOPE you check it out. it’s THAT good… and it’s pretty damn huge news and if it weren’t provable it would be unbelievable. (regarding interview with David E. Martin regarding Moderna.)

        • BTW, Jack if you prefer I am happy to send you any mistake I find privately, (which I prefer) but I wasn’t sure you’d see it in time before someone called you fake. Let me know what you prefer as again i LOVE the work you do. So much I try to type correctly (instead of all lower case which is my norm) lol. 🙂

  11. Regarding Item 1. I was a proud subscriber to Scientific America as a high school student (1961-65). Back then it reported real science. I recall the issue that showed the model of the then newly discovered DNA helix. Unfortunately, it has devolved into a political, antiscientific modality.

  12. 1) This is why ethical SCOTUS justices retire at a reasonable age. Ginsberg died less a decade senior to one of the leading contenders to the Presidency of the United States…and her last 10 years were incredibly questionable as to how lucid she was in the bench.

    2) Leaders of every party have soiled themselves jumping straight into political maneuvers and demands within hours of Ginsberg’s body even beginning to cool.

    3) They have a really really stupid nuclear armageddon countdown timer. If I were an enterprising political commentator, I’d establish a “civil war countdown timer”. No, not like the last civil war (which wasn’t a civil war)…but a real civil war, which would make the last one look like a boy’s nerf-war sleepover. And if McConnell does what he implies he’s going to do in his statement that came out like an hour after the news broke…I’d set that countdown timer to 5 minutes. Since it’s been at about 15 minutes since the Democrats refused to accept the 2016 election and 10 minutes since the riots began this year.

    4a) Someone commented on twitter that “Ginsberg dying feels line one of those points where we’re all forced to explicitly grapple with how broken huge pieces of our political system are”. He’s a history podcaster, with blatantly leftwing leanings, so I know what he thinks is broken. He’s wrong. What’s broken is an electorate that has been conditioned by media and pop-culture since the 70s to increasingly look to the national level of the Federal government to solve our problems and decide our lives. This boils down to ONE thing. ONE THING-

    4b) This would be just an odd coincidence at any other time in American history. But for Abortion. The left, in it’s depraved love affair with a cookie cutter nation doing cookie cutter things dictated by central powers, has convinced itself that “losing” (whatever that means) the Supreme Court will open a route to turn America into Handmaid’s Tale to borrow Humble’s comment– WATCH DIFFERENT SHOWS. They just don’t get it. Even if the Supreme Court rules Roe unconstitutional (which it won’t), that does not make your precious sacrament of abortion illegal in the United States. All that would do is turn the topic over to the States…where in all likelihood, the balance of decisions made would still be in abortion’s favor.

    4c) So the really broken thing in our nation is that- the over-reliance on the national or central level of government to make our political decisions for us.

    5) SCOTUS justices should be appointed for life. I don’t think that is wrong. But SCOTUS justices should also, ethically, recognize when their time is done, and step down.

    6) While McConnell would show exemplary ethics sticking to this “McConnell Rule”, I recognize that the “McConnell Rule” is really an extension of Machiavellianism that has crept into American politics since it gentrified around the time they locked the House of Representatives from expanding. The real choice facing anyone at this point which relies entirely on whether or not we are capable of extending good faith allowances to the other side anymore (I don’t think we are, reference #3)— Is, support McConnell and Trump ramming through another justice tentatively knowing that the Democrats aren’t going to behave constitutionally anyway, or oppose McConnell and Trump ramming through another justice on the assumption that will somehow demonstrate enough high-mindedness to get more Republicans elected and stave off what is increasingly expected- a Democrat insurgency. It’s cynical, I know, but here’s where we sit in the year 1860 2020.

    • You know, my first thought was to wonder what the Republicans would do. But then my second thought was that it probably doesn’t matter too much: If Biden wins, there is an excellent chance the Democrats will try to pack the Court with another 6 justices — so one more conservative justice wouldn’t matter. If Trump wins, he’d appoint whoever he is going to appoint regardless.

      So…..will be much fuss and fury, little end result.

      The real lesson here ought to be for the Democrats: Have a thought before you squander a long-term benefit for a short-term gain. If they hadn’t dumped the filibuster for judicial nominees back when they had the presidency and Senate — well, McConnell and Trump wouldn’t have been able to appoint nearly as many judges as they have. Perhaps both Obama and Trump would have had to submit (gasp) moderate judicial nominees.

      There are frequently good reasons for some of the rules our government has had. I am old enough to remember when it took 67 votes to break a filibuster.

      • “But then my second thought was that it probably doesn’t matter too much: If Biden wins, there is an excellent chance the Democrats will try to pack the Court with another 6 justices — so one more conservative justice wouldn’t matter. If Trump wins, he’d appoint whoever he is going to appoint regardless.”

        Precisely why the increasingly cynical side of me is increasingly convinced that the damage Trump is doing to the Presidency pales in comparison to what the Democrats will do to the *entire system* if they gain power ever again before they undergo a massive self-evaluation, conviction and repentance. The system is designed to survive buffoons in the Presidency. The system is not designed to survive people who intentionally hate the system and will use the system to deliberately break it forever.

        • The system is designed to survive buffoons in the Presidency. The system is not designed to survive people who intentionally hate the system and will use the system to deliberately break it forever.

          And Michael West gets credit for a concise, coherent expression of the reason Trump should remain in the White House.

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