Category Archives: Ethics Alarms Award Nominee

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/17/18: Dead Singers, Honorable Magicians, Untrustworthy Ex-Employees, Volunteer Pitchers, And Little Horses

Goooood Morning, Pennsylvania!

(That’s where I going for the next four days, on a rural Pennsylvania ethics CLE speaking tour!)

1. Aretha Franklin Ethics If I can say right now without question that I will never voluntarily listen to an Aretha Franklin record, does that make me a racist? Her death triggers the “recognition but not admiration” impulse I reserve for artists whose skill and importance to the culture I acknowledge and honor, but whose art I never enjoyed and won’t miss. ( Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand and Joni Mitchell are in the same category for me, restricting the list to pop female singers.) However…

  • It certainly is incompetent for Fox News to mix up Aretha and Patti Labelle, walking right into the “all black folks look the same to them” canard.
  • Since the news media/resistance collective has decreed that anything the President does of says is proof of a depraved soul, we had this yesterday: a White House press pool member for Buzzfeed told another reporter—she didn’t even tweet it!— that the President’s reaction to Franklin’s death was that he”Described her as a person he knew well and who worked for him.” This became more proof that President Trump is a racist: his immediate reaction to the death of a black woman was to think of her as a subordinate.

Will the sane and fair members of the public, which I assume is, if not a majority, a large group, ever turn on such people? A. The statement was hearsay, and not even a quote. B. Franklin did work for him, signing a contract to sing at at a Trump casino. C. What does “knew well” even mean in this context? He didn’t say that he knew her personally, or that they were pals, though who knows? I know her well too: she’s that famous soul singer I couldn’t stand listening to.

2. A spontaneous outburst of integrity...from the unlikely source of professional magician/loudmouth Penn Jillette. Jillette is an asshole, an assessment that I doubt he would dispute himself, but when the vocally-progressive entertainer (aren’t they all?) was asked in a recent Vulture interview to weigh in on Omarosa’s claims about the kind of language Donald Trump used behind closed doors, he responded,

“If Donald Trump had not become president, I would tell you all the stories. But the stakes are now high and I am an unreliable narrator. What I do, as much as anything, is I’m a storyteller. And storytellers are liars. So I can emotionally tell you things that happened racially, sexually, and that showed stupidity and lack of compassion when I was in the room with Donald Trump and I guarantee you that I will get details wrong. I would not feel comfortable talking about what I felt I saw in that room….

I will tell you things, but I will very conscientiously not give you quotations because I believe that would be morally wrong. I’m not trying to protect myself. This really is a moral thing.”

Good for Penn. He’s also a very creative and entertaining magician, as is his mute sidekick, Teller. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/16/18: Those Wacky Conways, And The Anti-Trump News Media Goes To The Dogs

Good morning.

1. A conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theorists...Last night, a CBS procedural that I am finally sick of, “Criminal Minds,” appeared to be taking sides in the Trump vs. the FBI wars, with a side-swipe at Alex Jones, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The episode set up a conflict between the Good FBI agents who are the stars of the show, and the crazy, paranoid, anti-government  “Truthers” who see government law enforcement as sinister and manipulative. (There was special focus on the ridiculous Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, with one of the tough serial killer hunter breaking down in tears remembering the massacre.) The most vocal anti-FBI character in the episode, who sneered out her every line about the series heroes (bad direction, in my view), was revealed at the end as the “unsub,” the psychopathic killer.

For some reason this was the first time it occurred to me how much prime  time network TV serves as a PR service for the FBI, with the virtue, bravery and unquestioned rectitude of the agency and its employees being central to multiple dramas. The propaganda is escalating too: Dick Wolf of “Law and Order” fame is launching a new CBS series called, creatively, “FBI.” You would think, would you not, that this would be an odd time to produce such a series, with the reputation and credibility of J.Edgar’s baby at an all-time, and most deserved, low. However, Hollywood and the entertainment industry now sees its role differently than seeking mere ratings.

There is nothing wrong with TV writers and producers bring their political agendas into our living rooms, and there’s not a thing we can do about it anyway, other than change channels. Rod Serling used to get awfully preachy sometimes on “The Twilight Zone.” This was mighty ham-handed pro-Peter Strzok advocacy, though by CBS, or at least it seemed that way to me.

2. Marital Ethics. This is weird. Ethics Alarms has discussed the unethical conduct of Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, who has become a popular “resistance” and #NeverTrump figure by tweeting virulent criticism of the President, who employs his wife. Now Kellyanne has escalated the problem with an interview criticizing her husband, telling a reporter that his sniping ” is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows.”  Then, according to an AOL report, she asked that her comments be attributed to “a person familiar with their relationship.” The reporter, correctly, refused.

It is a breach of loyalty and respect for one spouse to criticize the other in the news media. It is cowardly and a breach of honesty to criticize one’s spouse and to try to remain unaccountable for it by pretending the critique came from someone else.

What a fun couple! What a strange couple. What an unethical couple… Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Month: CNN’s Chris Cuomo”

Chris Cuomo  is spewing anti-democractic, anti-free speech, pro-violence garbage on CNN, and none of his colleagues, assuredly not CNN’s fake media watch-dog Brian Stelter or even its once fair and balanced Jake Tapper have shown the integrity to call him on it. Thus, despite my post on the matter, many more voices need to be raised elsewhere lest this irresponsible media demagogue make millions of trusting American almost as dumb as he is.

Here is Glenn Logan’s Comment of the Day on today post, Unethical Quote Of The Month: CNN’s Chris Cuomo:

Re: Cuomo
Cuomo is confusing self-defense and lawlessness. By definition, self-defense is a response to a direct threat or attack. Attacking someone with whom you disagree is never, ever self-defense and cannot be the moral equivalent of it.

“But in the eyes of good and evil, here’s the argument: if you’re a punk that comes to start trouble in a mask and hurt people, you’re not about any virtuous cause. You’re just somebody who’s going to be held to the standard of doing something wrong. But when someone comes to call out bigots and it gets hot, even physical, are they equally wrong as the bigot they are fighting? I argue, no.”

Two questions for Chris: Who gets to define good, and evil? Is he saying the totality of the AntiFa position is good, or just that their hatred of racism is good? We don’t know, because Chris doesn’t tell us. AntiFa stands for many things I think are not good, among them are commitment to violence against those with whom they disagree philosophically, an embrace of destructive leftist anarchy, and a rejection of authority. Is Cuomo willing to pronounce all that good? Or is it just “better than the opposition,” who as it turns out, are on the right side of two of those three things?

Second, who throws the first punch? That’s how you figure out who’s wrong and who’s right. Because instantly, the punchee becomes the defender and the puncher becomes the aggressor and lawbreaker. No matter where you assign moral turpitude, it doesn’t and cannot justify violence in response. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: CNN’s Chris Cuomo

“But drawing a moral equivalency between those espousing hate and those fighting it because they both resort to violence emboldens hate, legitimizes hateful belief and elevates what should be stamped out.”

—CNN’s news anchor turned pundit Chris Cuomo, in the middle of a long justification of the use of violence to suppress speech and political opinion.

CNN cannot be taken seriously as a news organization as long as it continues to employ Chris Cuomo. I have concluded that Cuomo was only admitted to law school because his father was a popular governor of New York. No other explanation makes sense. Even after allegedly completing his three years, he doesn’t comprehend basic law or the Constitution.  He has, for example, advanced public ignorance by stating that “hate speech” is not protested under the First Amendment. On another occasion, he said that it would be illegal for citizens to read leaked classified material available on the web, but that journalists could read it and then tell the public about it.

The man is an idiot. He constantly utters legal and logical nonsense, and with the certitude that only a true idiot can muster. As a journalist he is biased and sloppy; as a pundit he is pompous and unqualified. His latest foray into irresponsible use of the First Amendment was two days ago, when he said, in discussing the often violent counter-protesters to the virtually non-existent white supremacy demonstration in D.C. over the weekend, this, the entire speech from which the Unethical Quote of the Month was extracted:

But I argue to you tonight, all punches are not equal morally. In the eyes of the law, yes. But in the eyes of good and evil, here’s the argument: if you’re a punk that comes to start trouble in a mask and hurt people, you’re not about any virtuous cause. You’re just somebody who’s going to be held to the standard of doing something wrong. But when someone comes to call out bigots and it gets hot, even physical, are they equally wrong as the bigot they are fighting? I argue, no. Fighting against hate matters…Now, how you fight matters too. There’s no question about that. But drawing a moral equivalency between those espousing hate and those fighting it because they both resort to violence emboldens hate, legitimizes hateful belief and elevates what should be stamped out….But fighting hate is right. And in a clash between hate and those who oppose it, those who oppose it are on the side of right. Think about: civil rights activist, were they the same morally as the bigots, as the racist with whom they exchanged blows? Are people who go to war against an evil regime on the same moral ground as those they seek to stop from oppressing the weak?…When you punch me in the nose for being Italian and you say I’m somehow less than, am I in the same moral place when I punch you back for saying that? It’s not about being right in the eyes of the law, but you also have to know what’s right and wrong and immoral, in a good and evil sense.

Continue reading

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Afternoon Ethics Pick-Me-Up, 8/14/2018: Fools, Knaves And Hypocrites

Good afternoon!

1. Unethical tweet of the week, right wing nut division: Jerry Falwell Jr, who heads Liberty University. The acorn that didn’t fall far from the tree tweeted:

Are there any grownups w/ integrity left in the DOJ? When I was a kid, I watched Repubs join Dems to force Nixon out. Now Dems won’t join Repubs to lock up Comey, Lynch, Ohr, Rosenstein, Strzok, , & maybe even despite damning evidence!

Here’s an ethics tip for college age students and their parents: if the leader of a school has this tenuous a grip on basic Constitutional law, pay tuition to some place, any place, else.

2. Then we have the left-wing Pro Publica, which is trying to fuel the desperate Democratic efforts to find dirt on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and thus issued this…

3.  Which political party is more deranged today? Well, an  Ipsos public opinion survey claims that 43 % of self-identified Republicans agreed that “the President should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.”  Only 36% of surveyed Republicans disagreed with giving a President the power to shut down news outlets like CNN and The Washington Post.

First of all, this primarily raises legitimate concerns regarding the educational level and intelligence quotient of Americans.  99% of those polled could advocate repealing the First Amendment, just as a majority could proclaim its belief that the national language ought to be Finnish. It’s not happening. Professor Turley’s take-away is that “Trump has truly and irrecoverably changed the party and much of the country . . . and, in this case, not for the better.” Baloney. The fact that journalists have exposed themselves as being partisan operatives uninterested in conveying facts to the public in a fair and unbiased manner has changed the public perception of the value of the news media, and not for the better. Whether the change is “irrecoverable” depends on whether American journalism sees the dangerous error of its path over the past several decades, and becomes trustworthy again. Continue reading

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“Would Fredo Get In A Twitter War With Omarosa?” And Other Musings As I Rush To Get To My CLE Seminar

….Just when I become convinced that my previous assessments of President Trump’s intelligence were insufficiently nuanced, he does something like exchanging juvenile tweets with the reality show monster he created, Omaraosa Manigualt.

….For the President of the United States to lower himself and his office to engage with her isn’t just punching down, it is punching waaaay down, like yelling at bacteria, and brings to mind George Bernard Shaw’s quote, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” 

….Has the President never heard this quote? Does he know who George Bernard Shaw is?

….Would Fredo Corleone be so stupid as to get in a public pissing match with someone like this awful woman? I doubt it, and Fredo was brain-damaged. Not only is the President’s attention exactly what Omarosa wants, but she’s also black, so MSNBC will be citing that as more proof that Trump is a racist.

…Apparently John Kelly is dead, or perhaps tied up and locked in an oil drum. I can conceive of no other explanation for why he wouldn’t be able to explain to the President why this latest feud is idiotic and self-destructive, or, in the alternative, why he hasn’t resigned.

 

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Ethics Observations On The Rep. Chris Collins Insider Trading Indictment

Three-term GOP congressman Chris Collins was indicted for insider trading after prosecutors determined that after Innate Immunotherapeutics  alerted him to the failure of company’s clinical drug trials for a promising multiple sclerosis drug, Collins tipped off his son, allowing him and others to  save hundreds of thousands of dollars by selling their stock in the firm before the news was made public. Now Collins faces prison time if convicted.

 Collins was a member of the company’s board until May of this year, and at one point was its largest shareholder.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has stripped Collins of his seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee and asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate the allegations of insider trading. Collins has ended his re-election bid, but maintains that he is innocent. Such statements are like the puzzle about the White Foot and Black Foot tribes that look and sound identical but have one difference: the White Feet always lie, and the Black Feet always tell the truth. If you ask a member of either tribe, “Are you a truthful Black Foot or a lying White Foot?”, you will always get the same answer no matter what tribe the individual belongs to: “I am a truthful Black Foot!” And whether an indicted Congressman is guilty or innocent, he will always say, as Collins did, that the charges are “meritless” and that he will fight them to have his “good name cleared of any wrongdoing.”

Until the plea deal.

Collins’s involvement with Innate dates back all the way to 2005, before he ran for Congress. He organized support from wealthy friends and neighbors,  many of whom would later become his political donors,  to help bail out the company, which was flailing at the time. In addition to Innate Immunotherapeutics,  Collins has held leadership roles in other biotech companies.  Until his indictment, he was chairman of the board of directors of ZeptoMetrix, a private lab company based in Buffalo that he co-founded. That one has received millions of dollars in federal contracts, according to government records.

Collins reported owning between $25 million and $50 million in shares of  ZeptoMetrix. In June, he sold about a million dollars of stock in Chembio Diagnostics, a medical tests and equipment manufacturer, according to his ethics disclosure forms.

The congressional ethics office found last summer that  Collins may have violated ethics rules by asking the National Institutes of Health for help with the design of Innate’s now-failed clinical trial.

Observations: Continue reading

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