One More Time…Ethics Dunce: California, And Its “Jumbo” Culture

Has any state…heck, has any 10-year-old’s tree house club…had as many terrible ideas as California? No wonder its presidential vote single-handedly gave the popular vote to Hillary. And the United States is supposed to allow itself to be the dog wagged by this Bizarro World ethics culture?

The latest: Under a bill now heading through the California State Legislature, millions of criminal Californians who have misdemeanor or lower-level felony records would have their criminal records officially sealed from public view once they completed prison or jail sentences. I’m shocked to read that the legislation would not apply to people convicted of committing  murder or rape. Well, give the Golden State time.

We are told with a sniff and a tear that in the United States, a record showing a criminal conviction or even an arrest that does not lead to a conviction can make it difficult for someone to find a jobs, rent an apartment or obtain professional license. Well, that’s because conduct has consequences, and in particular breaking trust has consequences. Society is based on mutual trust. Committing criminal acts raises reasonable doubts in society as to whether an individual can be trusted to–let’s see, handle money for an employer, follow rules, meet financial obligations or serve in a professional capacity, the primary requirement of which is trustworthiness.

Simply because someone has been in jail doesn’t mean they have become more trustworthy. Why would it? So under California’s brilliant scheme, a bank could hire a convicted embezzler as a bank teller. A law school could hire a convicted bank-robber as a law pro—oops. Sorry. My alma mater already did that. But at least it had the opportunity to know what it was doing.

This is kindergarten easy: if I am going to trust someone with my business or my property, I have a right to know who that person is, and if he or she has a record of warranting trust. The fact that convicted criminals have a tough time doesn’t mean I should be put at risk. They committed the crime, why are the citizens who haven’t broken any laws being forced to take risks they don’t want to take? Continue reading

A Jumbo! One More Time: If You Trust PolitiFact, You Are As Biased As They Are

“Airplanes? I don’t see any airplanes!”

There are no good political factchecking organizations. Some are more ethical than others. Snopes is terrible, biased, and unreliable unless it is really checking urban legends. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler tries, but he works in the progressive bubble of Democrats who run the place, and he is corrupted. The Annenberg Foundation’s Fact-Check.org claims to be non-partisan and often succeeds, but of late it too has entered political advocacy into a category that is supposed to be only about objective facts.

As a general proposition, it is fair to call the  exercise of “factchecking” inherently misleading and so ripe for abuse that any fact check by a media organization should be viewed with extreme skepticism.

This goes double for PolitiFact; indeed, someone saying that this is their favorite fact checker has triggered signature significance. Nobody who is properly sensitive to partisan bias and committed to objectivity can possibly trust PolitiFact, a feature launched by a Democrat newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, and recently taken over by the Poynter Institute, which I once respected as a voice for ethical journalism. Like its industry, however, it is corrupt. Either that, or Poynter isn’t providing oversight for PolitiFact.

This is res ipsa loquitur. PolitiFact, like many other media hacks from the Left, meaning almost all of them, is trying to provide cover for the “Green New Deal” that the Democratic Party has foolishly embraced, by throwing up dust, word-salads and lies. The current approach is pure Jumbo, the Ethics Alarms category for a lie in the style and scale of Jimmy Durante’s classic, trying to steal an elephant and upon being stopped by a constable and asked what he was doing with a pachyderm on a rope, exclaiming, “Elephant? WHAT elephant?”

Here’s Politifact, lying: Continue reading

Signature Significance For “The Enemies Of The People,” Part II

Thinking about this since posting Part I yesterday, I have realized that the denial of toxic mainstream media bias, and particularly the media’s efforts to bring down President Trump, is the ultimate Jumbo-–“Elephant? What elephant?” on a grand and unforgivable scale. Want some more elephants? There were oh-so-many of them in 2018, like…

and…

and…

and, in a slightly different context,

The unethical methods used by the anti-Trump mainstream news media to ensure public fear and hostility and to minimize support for the President are familiar by now. They include…

  • Framing facts and events, whenever possible, in ongoing anti-Trump narratives rather than just reporting them.
  • Outright fake news, including misleading headlines, negative spin that distorts understanding, innuendo without evidence, and giving prominence to minor or insignificant stories to imply that they are significant.
  • Using unethical leaks and hearsay without verification to embarrass or impugn the President.
  • Deliberately under-reporting positive developments.
  • Hyping developments by speculating on worst case scenarios for the President.
  • Publishing “future news,” suggesting dire events that might happen.
  • Applying hyper-critical standards to all Presidential words and actions, and actively seeking “gotcha!” fodder.
  • Applying news standards for Trump that have never been applied to past Presidents.

It isn’t necessary to review the whole ugly year of unethical journalism. The steady state of hostility was spectacularly demonstrated over Christmas when CNN and many other news sources reported that President Trump had broken a tradition among recent Presidents by not visiting the troops. Indeed, this embarrassing fiasco could stand as the ugly monument to what our journalism has become.  Wrote NBC:

On Christmas Day, President Donald Trump took part in a long-running practice of presidents who called troops stationed around the country and the world.But he broke from a recent tradition of actually visiting troops and wounded warriors….By staying home on Tuesday, Trump became the first president since 2002 who didn’t visit military personnel around Christmastime.

This was the epitome of fake news, because the President and First Lady were deplaning in Iraq as the false story was published. Only the eagerness of the news media for a negative “gotcha!” can explain such shoddy and nasty journalism. Nobody checked with the White House. The Trump-hating journalists couldn’t wait until after Christmas to report on what the President didn’t do on Christmas, which is as incompetent as it is unethical. Incredibly, some sources have still not removed the original false story.

Once that mode of attack failed, the news media seamlessly and apparently without any self-awareness slipped into attacking the President for making the visit and manufacturing outrage over how the visit was handled.

Both CBS and NBC framed the troop visit in negative terms. CBS Evening News fill-in anchor and NFL Today host James Brown announced,  “But we begin with a historic trip today for President Trump. His first-ever to a combat zone. The President and First Lady paid a surprise visit today to U.S. troops in Iraq. The Commander-in-Chief had been criticized for not visiting a war zone sooner.”

Let me state right now that I think it is certifiably nuts to send Presidents into war zones, ever. Nobody criticized FDR, Truman, or the multiple Presidents who presided over Vietnam for not visiting the troops to boost their morale. That was Bob Hope’s job. Send Bill Maher.

Then CBS chief White House correspondent Chip Reid found a way to compare Trump’s visit unfavorably to President Obama’s time in office, saying,  “It’s the first time the President has traveled overseas to visit U.S. troops in a war zone. Critics say it took far too long, especially compared to President Obama, who visited troops in Iraq in his first three months in office.”

Note the standard “critics say” trope in both instances, which is pure deceit. You’re the critics whose saying it, you hacks.

Next CNN decided, having been among the first to attack the President for not visiting the troops, to bash the President for going! Don Lemon, who no longer even makes a pretense of objectivity, said that he and his family “turned on CNN and we saw the President politicizing a Christmas message, it was like– we kept saying, ‘he’s like the Grinch.’ I’m being honest.”

Every Presidential troop visit is political, of course. It isn’t necessary, it is costly and dangerous, and it is political theater. Only in Trump’s case, however, is this considered a legitimate target of criticism.

Then Lemon attacked the President’s words and demeanor during the visit: Continue reading

Wow! MSNBC’s Joy Reid May Have Given Us The Biggest Jumbo Ever!

The fact that MSNBC continues to employ Joy Reid, so unethical in so many ways,  would be sufficient all by itself to justify never trusting the network. Just in case her racebaiting, bias and hate-mongering weren’t enough, however, now she has issued a mind-blowing Jumbo of such magnitude and audacity that it is impossible to deny that either she is willing to lie about anything, or in the alternative, is nuts. There do not seem to be any other explanations.

On Ethics Alarms, a Jumbo is the term for a desperate, ridiculous lie that insults the intelligence of all who hear it. The term comes from name of the elephant Jimmy Durante was trying to sneak out of the circus in Billy Rose’s eponymous Broadway extravaganza “Jumbo,” when he was stopped by a sheriff, in the show’s most famous moment. “Where are you going with that elephant?” demanded The Law. “Elephant? What elephant?” answered the Schnozzola, innocently. But Reid’s Jumbo out-Jumbos Jimmy.

It all began last December, when some homophobic posts on Reid’s old blog surfaced. Then she issued a self-contradictory apology, flagged in this Ethics Alarms entry. but it turned out that there were more such posts to be found. Six days ago, the media site Mediaite uncovered more posts by Reid that were critical of homosexuality and gays, from The Reid Report, a now defunct blog that Reid authored long before she became a warrior of “the resistance.”  They were originally tracked down and shared on Twitter by sleuth Jamie Maz, who found them using the internet archiving service, the Wayback Machine, which takes screenshots of frequently trafficked web pages to preserve them. Reid’s response was to deny that she wrote the posts:

“In December I learned that an unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material from my now-defunct blog, The Reid Report, to include offensive and hateful references that are fabricated and run counter to my personal beliefs and ideology.

I began working with a cyber-security expert who first identified the unauthorized activity, and we notified federal law enforcement officials of the breach. The manipulated material seems to be part of an effort to taint my character with false information by distorting a blog that ended a decade ago.

Now that the site has been compromised I can state unequivocally that it does not represent the original entries. I hope that whoever corrupted the site recognizes the pain they have caused, not just to me, but to my family and communities that I care deeply about: LGBTQ, immigrants, people of color and other marginalized groups.”

To be blunt but accurate, she was lying. Continue reading

Review: Ethics Alarms Concepts And Special Terms

Recently updating the Ethics Alarms list of concepts and frequently used terms reminded me that I had been meaning to post them for review and assistance to those relatively new here. Of course, the link has always been right there at the top of the home page, but I have this sneaking suspicion that it isn’t visited very often.  Here, then, is the up-to-date list.

CONCEPTS

Non-Ethical Considerations: Defined above, non-ethical considerations are important because they are often the powerful impediments to ethical conduct, and the cause of many conflicts of interest. Non-ethical considerations are many and diverse, and include:

  • The need and desire for shelter, health, wealth, fame, security, self-esteem, reputation, power, professional advancement, comfort, love, sex, praise, credit, appreciation, affection, or satisfaction
  • The desire for the health, comfort, safety, welfare and happiness for one’s family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, an co-workers
  • The pursuit of vengeance or retribution
  • Hunger, lust, pain, ambition, prejudice, bias, hatred, laziness, fatigue, disgust, anger, fear
  • …and many more

Ethical Dilemma: This is an ethical problem in which the ethical choice involves ignoring a powerful non-ethical consideration. Do the right thing, but lose your job, a friend, a lover, or an opportunity for advancement. A non-ethical consideration can be powerful and important enough to justify choosing it over the strict ethical action.

Ethical Conflict: When two ethical principles demand opposite results in the same situation, this is an ethical conflict. Solving ethical conflicts may require establishing a hierarchy or priority of ethical principles, or examining the situation through another ethical system.

Ethical Gray Area: Gray areas are situations and problems that don’t fit neatly into any existing mode of ethical analysis. In some cases, there may even be a dispute regarding whether ethics is involved.

Reciprocity: The ethical system embodied by The Golden Rule, and given slightly different form in other religions and philosophies. It is a straight-forward way of judging conduct affecting others by putting oneself in the position of those affected. Reciprocity should always be available in any ethical analysis, but it is frequently too simple to be helpful in complex ethical situations with multiple competing interests.

Absolutism: Absolutist systems do not permit any exception to certain ethical principles. The champion of all absolutists, philosopher Immanuel Kant, declared that the ethical act was one that the actor was willing to have stand as a universal principle.

One principle of absolutism is that human beings can never be harmed for any objective, no matter how otherwise worthwhile. Absolutism has the advantage of making tough ethical calls seem easy, and the disadvantage of making debate impossible. One sees absolutism reflected today in the controversies over war, torture, abortion, cloning, and capital punishment.

Utilitarianism: Utilitarianism accepts the existence of ethical conflicts and the legitimacy of some ethical dilemmas, and proposes ethical analysis based on the question, “Which act will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people?’ It entails the balancing of greater and lesser goods, and is useful for unraveling complex ethical problems. Its drawback, or trap, is that utilitarianism can slide into “The ends justify the means” without some application of absolutist and reciprocity principles.

Consequentialism: In formal ethics, utilitarian schools of philosophy are sometimes lumped together as “consequentialism,” in that the ethical decision-making is based on seeking the best result. Here we just uses the above term, utilitarianism.  Consequentialsm, in contrast, is the flawed belief that the rightness or wrongness, or even wisdom, of chosen conduct is measures by its actual results rather than its intended results. If “if all worked out for the best,” in other words, the conduct that created the desirable result most have been ethical, whatever its intent or however the conduct was determined to be necessary or desirable. This is a fallacy.

Cognitive Dissonance:
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon first identified by Leon Festinger. It occurs when there is a discrepancy between what a person believes, knows and values, and persuasive information that calls these into question. The discrepancy causes psychological discomfort, and the mind adjusts to reduce the discrepancy. In ethics, cognitive dissonance is important in its ability to alter values, such as when an admired celebrity embraces behavior that his or her admirers deplore. Their dissonance will often result in changing their attitudes toward the behavior. Dissonance also leads to rationalizations of unethical conduct, as when the appeal and potential benefits of a large amount of money makes unethical actions to acquire it seem less objectionable than if they were applied to smaller amounts.

Moral Luck: The common situation where an unethical act is only discovered, noticed, or deemed worthy of condemnation due to unpredictable occurrences that come as a result of the act or that affect its consequences. Moral luck is the difference, for example, between two mildly intoxicated drivers, one of whom arrives home without incident, while the other has an unwary child dash in front of his automobile, leading to a fatal accident that he couldn’t have avoided if completely sober. Yet the unlucky driver will be a pariah in the community, while the more fortunate driver goes on with his life.

SPECIAL TERMS USED ON ETHICS ALARMS

Continue reading

Windy Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/2/18: More Supreme Court Fun, Transparency Games, Ethical and Unethical Quotes Of The Day…

GOOD MORNING!

(Wind storms all over Virginia, knocking out power and my e-mail, and blowing over a tree that narrowly missed my son’s car!)

1 Lack of Transparency? What lack of transparency? During a lecture and moderated discussion at U.C.L.A. this week in which he was a a participant and invited guest, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was heckled with hisses, jeers, shouted insults and profanity from students and protesters, some of whom were ushered and even carried out by police officers. A programmed sixth grader in the audience even questioned him about the fairness of passing permanent tax cuts for companies and expiring cuts for individuals, because as we all know, 10-year-olds are well-versed in tax policy theory.

Afterwards, Mnuchin  revoked his consent for the official video of the event to be released, perhaps because he was flustered by the harassment and it showed. In response to criticism of this virtual censorship,

The Treasury Department, through a spokesperson, said that what the Secretary did wasn’t what he obviously did—a Jumbo, aka “Elephant? What elephant?”—saying,

“The event was open to the media and a transcript was published. He believes healthy debate is critical to ensuring the right policies that do the most good are advanced.”

He just doesn’t want anyone to see or hear the debate.

A related point: The protests were organized by Lara Stemple, a U.C.L.A. law professor, and students and faculty members participated. Protests are fine; disrupting the event is not. Faculty members who assisted in the heckling should be disciplined, and students who participated should be disciplines as well.  It’s an educational institution, and all views sgould be openly explored and heard without interference. No guest of the university should be treated this way. Ever. No matter who it is or what their position. The treatment on Mnuchin was unethical.

2. More Supreme Court fun with ethics! Minnesota’s law banning “political” clothing and buttons from polling places is being challenged as an affront to free speech. The law prohibits people from wearing a “political badge, political button or other political insignia” at a polling place on an election day, and a member of the tea party movement sued after his “Tea Party” message got him in trouble when he came to vote.

Here is Justice Samuel A. Alito’s exchange with Daniel Rogan of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, who was defending Minnesota’s law:

“How about a shirt with a rainbow flag?” asked Alito. “Would that be permitted?”

“A shirt with a rainbow flag?” Rogan repeated. “No, it would — yes, it would be — it would be permitted unless there was — unless there was an issue on the ballot that — that related somehow to — to gay rights.”

Justice Alito: Okay. How about an NRA shirt?

Mr. Rogan: An NRA shirt? Today, in Minnesota, no, it would not, Your Honor. I think that that’s a clear indication—and I think what you’re getting at, Your Honor—

A T-shirt bearing the words of the Second Amendment? Alito asked.

Probably banned because of the gun-control issue, Rogan said.

The First Amendment? Alito asked. Probably not, Rogan answered.

Got it. The First  Amendment isn’t a political statement, but the Second Amendment is. That led Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to observe: “Under your interpretation of ‘political,’ it would forbid people from wearing certain portions of the Bill of Rights into a polling place but not other portions of the Bill of Rights. And I guess I’m just wondering what compelling interest Minnesota has identified that requires a statute that goes so much further than the vast majority of states?”

In contrast, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked J. David Breemer, a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation, representing the challengers, “Why should there be speech inside the election booth at all, or inside the what you call the election room? You’re there to vote.”

This is a problem requiring an “all or nothing” solution. Either all forms of political speech must be allowed, or no speech at all. In a sick time where citizens honestly argue that a MAGA cap or a picture of a gun makes them feel threatened and “unsafe,” the ethical option would seem to be Justice Kennedy’s. No speech, messages, no logos, no photos, no American flags. Last fall I voted wearing my Red Sox jacket.

Uh-uh. Continue reading

Thanks To CNN, Ethic Alarms Welcomes Rationalization #42, The Irrelevant Mitigation: “He’ll/She’ll/They’ll get over it.”

He’ll get over it…

When I hear or read an obvious rationalization that somehow had been left off the Ethics Alarms list, now closing in on ninety ( the new addition makes 89), I think, “That must be on the list somewhere!” When I check and it is not, I marvel, “How did I miss that one?” This was especially true with Rationalization #42, which, please note, bumps “The Hillary Inoculation” to 43, and every subsequent rationalization up one. This is not just a rationalization, but one of the near-evil ones, employed by unrepentant miscreants who count on gullibility, generosity, kindness, forgiveness and fading emotions to allow them to avoid accountability, and harm the same people again later

I almost christened the new arrival “Jake’s Rationalization,” for it was CNN’s Jake Tapper, once a real journalist, now in the final throes of  Sienenization, who uttered it. The topic was the recent CNN “town hall” on guns (described here and here), with an audience packed with angry Florida students and their  families, yielding questioners who were rude, hostile, and frequently full of misinformation.

The The Hollywood Reporter described the reactions of CNN head Jeff Zucker and Tapper as they tried to deny that their disgraceful stunt was what it so obviously was:

…[E]ven as the town hall was receiving plaudits from the mainstream media, the Florida event was being used as an example of how CNN has morphed into a partisan player. “CNN has decided to take this path where they are kind of left-wing advocates,” says Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and organizer of CPAC.

It’s a characterization that CNN president Jeff Zucker finds insulting. “That criticism is silly,” Zucker tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The fact is we were there, we presented both sides. People who want to criticize are looking to just criticize before they even think about it.” He points out that Sen. Marco Rubio could have been joined by Trump or Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, but both declined CNN’s invitation. “That’s not CNN’s problem,” he adds.

Yes, it was being used as an example because it was an example. The fact that the mainstream media gave this monstrosity “plaudits” confirms that it isn’t only CNN that has morphed into a partisan player. “Both sides” were represented like “both sides” were represented at the Alamo. The audience was unbalanced (in more ways than one), the questions were ridiculously unbalanced (but that’s what happens at town halls when the audience is unbalanced), anti-gun activists and pandering anti-gun Democrats were allowed to make factually misleading statements on national television without corrections from the passive moderator (Tapper, in slug-mode), and the two designated defenders of the Bill of Rights on the stage, Marco Rubio and NRA pretty face Dana Loesch were inept and defensive (or perhaps defensive and inept.) Continue reading