“Tiger King” Ethics…If You Can Control Your Gagging

You should watch the current hit Netflix documentary “Tiger King” as an ethics exercise, if you can keep focused. It’s difficult. The seven episode horror show/freak show/ “Well, it’s time for another shower!” thing is rife with revelations about America and its culture as well as the infinite variety of humanity that breeds and mutates under rocks and over them. But it is also so teeming with freaks, sociopaths and morons that it often makes you feel like you are watching “The Anna Nicole Show” or one of the other reality shows that exploits its dumb, attention addicted stars.

Focus, Jack! Focus! There are a lot of ethics issues here, largest among them the icky exotic animals trade.  (Fun Fact!  There are more tigers in the U.S. than in the rest of the world combined. Now: Is that a good thing for tigers, or a bad thing?) There are also clinical cases of  corrupt business owners, narcissism on steroids, marriages that make Bill and Hillary Clinton look like John and Abigail Adams, toxic personalities (once you have met series star “Joe Exotic,” you may never think of anyone as a narcissist again…no, not even you-know-who), astounding hypocrisy, the infuriating twilight world of young, healthy people (well, physically healthy anyway) whose lives consist entirely of getting stoned or waiting to get stoned, abuse of the legal system, idiots with guns… the list is ridiculously, depressingly long. Continue reading

Now THIS Is Trump Derangement! Also: Ethics Dunce, Unethical Quote Of The Month, Unethical Tweet…[CORRECTED]

Remember Jemele Hill? She was the African American co-host on ESPN who got herself fired because she couldn’t restrain herself from making hysterical anti-Trump declarations and other politically inflammatory social media posts and outbursts despite being warned, even by the left-wing Disney mouthpiece ESPN, to cool it. I wrote a couple of posts about her; since then she has receded into irrelevance, where angry, vile public figures like her belong. Oh, now she works for The Atlantic, a publication almost as much obsessed with Trump-bashing as  Stephen Colbert. The problem is that Hill is irrational, arrogant, and somehow under the impression that her vendettas have any societal use whatsoever.She also is laboring under the delusion that her emotion-soaked, undisciplined brain is a fine-tuned instrument. It’s not. She a classic example of someone what was told she was brilliant her whole life by lazy and incompetent mentors and instructors, and has been permanently handicapped as a result. And as a result, she serves society garbage, thinking it is caviar.

Yesterday the Boston Globe reported that New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft had sent a  team plane to China to pick up 1.7 million  N95 masks to fly to Massachusetts for the use of health care workers as they care for patients ill withe the Wuhan virus.

Search as you might, there is no negative spin you can place on Kraft’s act. It is altruistic. It is compassionate. It is an act of service to his community and the state that supports his team.

Now here is what Jemele Hill tweeted: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day : “Thank God This Miserable Week Is Over Ethics Review, 3/27/2020: Of Pangolins, Pandemics And Pronouns”

Today’s wet market special: bats! Yum-yum.

Let me introduce the Comment of the Day by once again acknowledging the consistently excellent contributions to Ethics Alarms made every day by the commentariat here. I know a lot of people who don’t read the comment sections of blogs and websites; heck, I usually don’t, and the reason I don’t is that they are almost uniformly horrible and depressing. Horrible, because even in the cases of some superb blogs, they are reliable pits of name-calling and hackneyed talking points I have read elsewhere, full of poor reasoning and biased, lazy opinions lacking support or genuine understanding. Depressing, because I know they are representative of the general public, perhaps even positively so, since the real mouth-breathers don’t read about substantive topics at all, and couldn’t write about them literately if they did.

I know I complain too much about the traffic here. Since what has been called “The Great Exodus,” when those slowly succumbing to Trump Derangement left in a huff because I insisted on refusing to join what is tagged here as the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, and Facebook arbitrarily and mysteriously knocked the pins out of a major source of circulation and growth by banning links to the blog, my hopes of reaching a sufficient audience  to allow some income-producing activities here have been dashed. I don’t do this for profit (obviously), but some income would help–as you might expect, this is especially on my mind now. I was this close to topping the 5000 views a day level that is the minimum required to monetize a blog at the end of 2016, then our angry progressive friends left, and even 4000 a day is usually a faint hope. Still, I can’t complain about the quality of the comments, which, if anything, is stronger than ever, as is the variety of views and topics that arrives through them. I really should be grateful for that, and stop bitching. Together we have a superb product, getting better after a decade.

Humble Talent is one of the reliable stars here, with a unique outlook and a no-nonsense style. Before I started annually failing to deliver The Best and Worst of Ethics Awards (2019 was the third straight flop; maybe next year…), he had been a recipient of Commenter of the Year.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, : “Thank God This Miserable Week Is Over Ethics Review, 3/27/2020: Of Pangolins, Pandemics And Pronouns”:

We don’t have any conception under God how many people are actually affected. We don’t know the morbidity rates. We don’t even know the number of people who have died from the Wuhan Flu.

I used to say that we knew the numerator when it came to deaths, and that the percentages that we were hearing were worst case scenarios, because the denominator was always going to be much, much higher, so the rate was almost certainly artificially inflated. That remains true when talking about cases coming out of first world democracies… We know, roughly, how many people died from Flu related complications, but we don’t know how many people have had the Flu. For weeks now, Canadians have been told that if they’re experiencing symptoms, but those symptoms are not serious enough to warrant a visit to the emergency room, they need to stay home. Either they have it and we don’t want it walking around outside, or they don’t have it and we don’t want them bringing exciting new complications into our medical centers. The massaging in the states has been mixed, but there’s a lot of similar sentiment out there. The vast, vast majority of people who think they have the Flu won’t be tested, and there is a large slice of the pie that get the Flu but never develop symptoms.

And then you have third world, tin-pot communist dictatorships like China, Information Black Holes like Russia and places that don’t have sufficient medical facilities like most of Africa. Who knows what the numbers are out of places like this? I’ve seen chilling images and video coming out of China, pictures of of cremation packages stacked up outside of funeral parlors because they ran out of room inside. I don’t know if that’s representative, but I think it’s likely. 40 million cell phone users have been cut off from the rest of the world in the heart of China, and China has not reported a single Flu related death in a week. Continue reading

Some Time Of Day Ethics Warm-Up, As All Temporal Distinctions Blur Into A Single Gray Miasma…

Wait…where the hell did she get that mask????

Oh, what’s the point?

1. When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring Dept. Frannie Skardon of the University of Virginia Law School Class of 2022 serves in the New York National Guard.  When it  was called up by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 17,  UVA was offering its course online courses and her unit allotted her six hours a day to commit to law school studies. But, as she explained in an online petition she has posted,

To my surprise, the [UVA] administration  stated that I am in violation of Academic Policy I.H., which deals with employment while attending Law School. This policy states that “students may not engage in employment in excess of what is compatible with a full-time commitment to the study of law.” As a result of my unit’s activation, the administration has determined that I cannot complete the remainder of the semester.

The school refused to  issue a waiver because Skardon is being paid by the Army while activated, and said she would have to retake all of her classes in Spring 2021. Not only was this spectacularly dumb from a public relations perspective, it was also contrary to what other law schools have done in similar situations. However, after Skardon’s petition was flooded with signatures, and various web sites and, of course, social media excoriated the school, it reversed its decision.

Skardon informed the public in a letter to the editor of Virginia Law Weekly, saying:

“I would like to thank every person who signed my petition, wrote a letter, or shared my story. I am very moved at the outpouring of support and cannot thank each one of you enough. In less than a day, I received over 140 emails and 5,700 signatures.”

Unfortunately, there is a material difference between behaving ethically from the outset and only doing so after being metaphorically pummeled for a wrongful decision and reversing it out of self-interest. Continue reading

Yeah, “We’re All In This Together,” Except When Officious Fools With A Little Bit Of Power Have Dead Ethics Alarms, As They So Often Do.

 

….that is, if this infuriating story is true, which it might not be.

On an American Airlines flight with just eleven passengers, Yahoo! tells us, the flight attendants made all eleven sit in the last three rows, next to each other, because if they were allowed to spread out, they were told, it would be the equivalent of an upgrade. All eleven had purchased basic economy tickets. An unnamed American employee apparently revealed the episode, which occurred on March 24. That was the same day American started a new policy, specifically directing flight crew to spread out passengers to minimize the threat of Wuhan virus infection.

Now, as reported, this is mind-meltingly stupid. Some elements do need to be considered, however: Continue reading

Ethics Observations On A Case Study In Combining Bad Journalism With Bad Science

Yes, it’s the New York Times again. I use that paper for the majority of the Ethics Alarm unethical journalism posts for a few reasons. One is that the paper comes to my door every day, so I read a lot of articles that I might miss on the web.  Another is that the Times is the most successful and influential newspaper in the country,  and its work is more closely followed and more criticized than any other paper, and most news sources generally. The Times also advertises itself as the nation’s “paper of record,” placing itself on a pedestal with standards of integrity and reliability that it is obligated to meet….and does not. Finally, the paper is unacceptably biased in its political coverage and editorial product.

Today’s “Where America Didn’t Stay Home Even as the Virus Spread”  is far from then times at its worst. It is, however, unacceptable and unethical. I’m not even in disagreement with the piece’s main thesis, which is that the regions that have not imposed shelter at home restrictions on the public are at more risk of exploding Wuhan virus cases. That makes sense; that’s even obvious. However, the Times’s main tool in making a case was the map below, which it explained this way:

“Stay-at-home orders have nearly halted travel for most Americans, but people in Florida, the Southeast and other places that waited to enact such orders have continued to travel widely, potentially exposing more people as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates, according to an analysis of cellphone location data by The New York Times. The divide in travel patterns, based on anonymous cellphone data from 15 million people, suggests that Americans in wide swaths of the West, Northeast and Midwest have complied with orders from state and local officials to stay home.”

Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Stimulus, 3/31/2020: Dunces, Heroes, Hacks And More

I’m stimulated!

And you?

1. Maybe not the wisest move, but ethical… Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn) shared  his cell phone number on Twitter for anyone who needed to discuss their fears about the impact of the Wuhan virus. “If [you’re] feeling overwhelmed or scared and just want to talk to somebody give me a call,”  said. “We will get through this together.”

He added, “I know everybody’s under a lot of pressure with what’s going on with the Coronavirus. If you’re feeling all that pressure and it’s getting to you…I know in the last little bit here we’ve had nine people in our community taking their life. That’s a horrible, horrible thing, somebody taking their own life. If you feel like you’re going to hurt yourself or maybe hurt somebody around you, why don’t ya’ll just call me. Let’s talk.”

2.  I know this is an unpopular position, but it’s not the first time I’ve explained it. CNN’s Brooke Baldwin was overcome with emotion as  she interviewed a woman who’ had been unable to say goodbye to her mother in person before she died of the Wuhan Virus. Baldwin is an unprofessional hack. In recent years, alleged professional journalists, especially on CNN, have allowed their emotions to influence their reporting. This results in a form of editorializing, and the practice demonstrates how much today’s journalists see themselves as performers rather than objective communicators of information.

Admittedly, this kind of interview is designed to bring out the Kleenex,  but CNN lets its hosts display grief when a favorite candidate loses (like Hillary Clinton), glee, when a figure they don’t like is abused (Carol Costello chuckling at a recording of Sarah Palin’s daughter breaking down)  or anger when a political figure  doesn’t toe the progressive line. (Don Lemon, more or less constantly.) It’s hackery.

3. And today’s Covidiot is...Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of The River Church in Tampa, a so-called “mega church” that held a service over the weekend in which over a thousand worshipers  were “squeezed in like sardines,” as one reporter described it. Howard-Browne had said that he would defy the restrictions imposed by the state and county to stem the threat of the  worldwide pandemic. “We are not stopping anything. I’ve got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place,” the reverend said.

Following the service, a warrant for his arrest was issued. He is now in custody.

4.  Hmmmm...Here are Governor Ralph Northam’s exceptions to his “order” regarding the stay-at-home restrictions in Virginia:

a. Obtaining food, beverages, goods, or services as permitted in Executive
Order 53;

b. Seeking medical attention, essential social services, governmental
services, assistance from law enforcement, or emergency services;

c. Taking care of other individuals, animals, or visiting the home of a family
member;

d. Traveling required by court order or to facilitate child custody, visitation,
or child care;

e. Engaging in outdoor activity, including exercise, provided individuals
comply with social distancing requirements;

f. Traveling to and from one’s residence, place of worship, or work;

g. Traveling to and from an educational institution;

h. Volunteering with organizations that provide charitable or social services; and

i. Leaving one’s residence due to a reasonable fear for health or safety, at the direction of law enforcement, or at the direction of another government agency.

Aside from the fact that some of this would be vulnerable to constitutional challenges—those will come later—why is traveling to and from churches permitted, if church services are per se prohibited? Why is traveling to and from schools an exception, if all schools have been ordered to close? Why is visiting a relative permitted, but not a close friend? A best friend? Your only friend? Do only blood relatives count? In-laws? Seventh cousins twice removed?

The order seems arbitrary and hastily composed. Laws that infringe on civil rights cannot afford to be like that, if they want to withstand eventual court challenges, or even if they just want to be coherent.

5. Ugh. Mike Lindell, the My Pillow infomercial hustler whose TV ads have been banned at my house, was a guest at the White House Task Force press briefing yesterday.  He explained that his company was  devoting 75% of its manufacturing capacity into making face masks. Then he asked if he could add something, and President Trump said “Okay.”

Well, what choice did he have? The guy has volunteered to do a public service. He has cultivated the image of a nice person. If the President had said, “No, Mike. Sorry. We’re moving on,” he would have looked ungrateful. However that is exactly what Trump should have said. It’s not worth the risk.

Embodying a worst case scenario, Lindell said,

God gave us grace on November 8th, 2016, to change the course we were on. God had been taken out of our schools and lives. A nation had turned its back on God. And I encourage you: Use this time at home to get — home to get back in the Word, read our Bibles, and spend time with our families. Our President gave us so much hope where, just a few short months ago, we had the best economy, the lowest unemployment, and wages going up. It was amazing. With our great President, Vice President, and this administration and all the great people in this country praying daily, we will get through this and get back to a place that’s stronger and safer than ever.

Ethics foul. It was not Lindell’s place to engage in religious grandstanding and a political endoresment, however sincere it might be. This wasn’t a political rally, nor a time for religious proselytizing. It also, once again, painted a target on the President, who responded,

That’s very nice. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mike. Appreciate it…. I did not know he was going to do that, but he’s a friend of mine, and I do appreciate it. Thank you, Mike, very much.

At that point, I don’t know what else he could say.