Category Archives: Kaboom!

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

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A Horrible Ethics Alarms Mash-Up! Cross The Wrongly Convicted Chicago Groundskeeper With The Deported Afghanistan War Veteran And What Do You Get?

You get poor Ricardo Rodriguez, who was just freed from 2o years of wrongful imprisonment for a murder he did not commit. Unlike fellow Windy City justice victim Nevest Coleman, also let out of a cage  this month after being wrongly convictedwhat the heck is going on in Chicago, anyway?—Rodriguez wasn’t given his old job back. No, he was immediately taken into custody by ICE following his release.

Oh, I almost forgot…

KABOOM!

 

This is so bad it made my head explode.

Before he was sent to prison for a 1995 murder, Rodriguez was a lawful permanent resident of the US. His status was revoked when he was convicted of murder, and it is still revoked even though the murder charge was false. Now, finally out of prison after rotting away for a rime he didn’t commit, Rodriguez faces the deportation.

Rodriguez was brought to America as a child and his entire family is here.  “It would be a very big injustice for them to do that to not only my mother, but my family, who have tried so hard to prove his innocence all these years,” his sister said.

I’ll go even further than that. The United States owes Rodriguez. It’s a different kind of debt than what it owes Miguel Perez-Montes, the Army combat veteran we just deported after removing his legal status for a drug conviction, but it is still a debt. Our justice system stole two decades from him. He should be given full citizenship along with a lot of money and an apology.

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KABOOM! Is Your Head Explosion Proof? Find Out Now With The Handy Ethics Alarms Test, Starring CNN’s Don Lemon!

On February 15 at 11 pm, CNN Tonight with Don Lemon held a debate between the Nation’s Joan Walsh–The Nation is the farthest left of the U.S. political magazines, and is fairly described as Socialist—and National Review editor Rich Lowry. TNR is the most venerable of U.S. conservative publications. The subject was gun control, following the horrific high school shooting in Florida. Lemon was supposed to moderate.

I began watching the segment, which was amazingly, perilously  long, until my head exploded, nearly killing Rugby. Yesterday, I finally found a transcript of the exchange, and realized that those of you who think your heads are immune from detonation can test your cranial fortitude by trying to read it.

I recommend the test. It is challenging, and if your head survives intact, you can safely assume that nothing will send your brain matter to the ceiling, which is feeling of security we all aspire to. First, however, line the room with plastic sheets. Wear something easily washable (or nothing at all.) And for God’s sake, keep pets and loved ones out of the room. No helmets allowed.

I will break in from time to time to comment, and check on how you are doing.

We’ll begin the transcript when the early part of the discussion had turned to the NRA and its large contributions to elected officials…

RICH LOWRY: Well, I think you’re looking at this totally from the wrong perspective. Let’s take Paul Ryan for instance. I’m sure — I’m almost certain he was pro-gun rights even before he thought about running for Congress. So the idea all the Republicans are secret gun controllers and just have been bought off to go out and lie and pretend they’re in favor of gun rights is not true. This is a sincere conviction.

DON LEMON: Where is the evidence? I never said that.

JOAN WALSH: I don’t think Don was saying that.

LOWRY: Well you’re suggesting that Paul Ryan —

LEMON: I’m not suggesting anything.

LOWRY: — because of the money.

LEMON: I’m just reading the facts.

LOWRY: Okay, so the contributions have nothing to do with Paul Ryan’s conviction on guns? We agree on that?

LEMON: No, we don’t agree with that.

LOWRY: Okay. That’s the point I’m making. I’m sure he was pro —

LEMON: I’m not saying — you’re saying they’re secret gun controllers. I never intimated that.

LOWRY: Yes. You’re saying they’re bought off. So — if they’re — what are they being bought off to a position they don’t agree with it? Is that what you’re suggesting?

LEMON: Do you think they’re not influenced by the money?

LOWRY: No.

LEMON: Are you influenced by money?

LOWRY: Let’s talk about Paul Ryan.

LEMON: Do you know where your bread is butter?

LOWRY: Let’s talk about Paul Ryan. You think he is a secret gun controller? He has always been in favor of gun control.

WALSH: No, no one is saying that why creating the straw person that is what. It’s not something either one of us would.

LOWRY: No. Well — How it the money relevant? So it’s a sincere conviction.

WALSH: The money is relevant, because they have an alliance, the money is relevant.

LEMON: The money is getting them elected.

WALSH: The money gets them elected.

LOWRY: The NRA supporting him because he’s pro-gun.

WALSH: They have come around to —

LEMON: I am looking at it that way.

WALSH: — absolutism version of the First Amendment where common sense gun laws don’t work.

LOWRY: What’s wrong?

LEMON: No it doesn’t. Because he is influenced by the money.

LOWRY: No, no, no. So you think he —

LEMON: If the NRA —

LOWRY: — you think that —

LEMON: — is not paying him the money, then he would —

LOWRY: — when he was 16 years old out hunting deer, he was in favor of gun control then he ran for office and all this lobbyist money came to him and he changed his view on guns. That’s absurd

WALSH: You are creating a straw person.

LEMON: So, why oppose common sense restrictions that the vast number of Americans support and, by the way, do you think he was out with an AR-15 hunting?

LOWRY: I’m sure he is out with a rifle.

LEMON: Okay but an AR-15?

HEAD CHECK I. Head still intact? Good for you. 

A. Note that Don Lemon is supposed to be the moderator. This format is that CNN invites two “experts” on different sides of an issue to debate points for the edification of its audience. The theory is that this is fair and even handed. Lemon is the worst, most incompetent moderator of all time, because he literally could not be worse. If he were a boxing referee, he’d be pummeling one of the fighters. Not only does he take the role of an advocate, teaming up with Walsh against Lowry, but because that leaves the segment with no moderator, it rendered the segment incoherent, with everyone talking over each other, shouting and interrupting while seldom finishing a sentence or a thought.  Lemon, supposedly a professional broadcast journalist, is, therefor incompetent as well as biased. He’s not doing his job; he’s abusing his position, and he’s cheating his audience. All of CNN’s anchors do this, but seldom to this extent. Does Lemon even know what moderating is?

B. My head lasted through this segment, but Walsh using the ridiculous, politically correct “straw person” twice almost did me in. The term is “strawman,’ and it refers to scarecrows, which, unless someone is trying to make a feminist point to birds, are made to look male. This is how Leftists make themselves look silly. I can’t take someone seriously who uses a phrase like “Straw person.” It’s as bad as “Hangperson.”

C. Lowry is quite right: if Walsh and Lemon believe that the NRA’s money is the reason why members of Congress don’t support gun restriction measures, then they are arguing that these members would vote for such measures without the contributions. They are exhibiting  a particularly crippling kind of bias. They believe that their position is so obvious, so correct, that nobody would ever sincerely oppose it unless they were bribed. It is also an unusually hypocritical argument for any partisan to make, as it can easily be turned around to make the same claim regarding legislators opposing “sensible abortion restrictions,” for example. I’m sure that legislators on both sides of the aisle have positions that they vote for to keep donors happy; I’m also sure that that many big interest group  donations go to politicians because they sincerely and enthusiastically support those interests, and would with or without the contributions.

D. Most of all: how useless, inarticulate. amateurish and chaotic can a segment be? You’re going to find out, unfortunately… Continue reading

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KABOOM! So It Has Come To This: The Book-Of-The-Month TV Commercial

We have discussed here the increasingly common phenomenon of companies building their TV ads on the juvenile gag of suggesting a vulgar, obscene or rude word, or a topic not discussed publicly in polite society but not really saying what is clearly implied.

Kraft Heinz Company advertised its products with a TV ad in which a boss caught  his employee becoming sexually aroused by his lunch, with the tagline: “Food You Want to Fork.” Get it? HAR! Heineken featured a gay-themed beer ad about “flipping another man’s meat”–“Huh? It’s just barbecue! You must have a dirty mind!.” Wonderful Pistachios uses “nuts” as sexual innuendo, Booking.com uses “booking” in phrases suggesting “fucking,” and K-Mart uses “ship” to suggest “shit.” Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups has run commercial featuring the tags Women want like to make it last…Men are done in seconds…Typical.”  Last year, Volkswagen had Dean Martin crooning about “The Birds and the Bees”  while we see a VW bouncing up and down as the couples within engage in vigorous sexual intercourse, unless they are tying to use pogo sticks.

This is corporate America accelerating the coarsening and vulgarizing society, endangering manners, and helping to make boors out of our children. Quoting Ethics Alarms quoting Ethics Alarms the last time I wrote about this: Continue reading

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When Ethics Alarms Not Only Don’t Ring, But Signal That They Might Not Have Ever Been Operable: PolitiFact Reveals Its Incompetence And Untrustworthiness Beyond All Reasonable Doubt

This is fortuitous timing! Yesterday Ethics Alarms praised a fact-check job by a supposedly non-partisan media bias watchdog site that critiqued Factcheck.Org’s analysis of the State of The Union. Today Bryan W. White informed us that the site in question favors PolitiFact, the vastly inferior factcheck site operated by the Tampa Bay Times. It is demonstrably one of the most left-biased and untrustworthy of all the fact-checking services. Bryan is a reliable authority on PolitiFact, having documented its partisan and dishonest work for years, and as co-creater of the PolitiFact Bias blog, for which he is the main writer.

Just in case there was any doubt about just how devoid of the necessary integrity and competence PolitiFact is for its mission, yesterday it announced that former Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson had been hired to critique PolitiFact and enhance its trust and credibility. Alan Grayson.

KABOOM!*

The same Alan Grayson who sent a complaint to then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to prosecute a Republican activist  for starting an anti-Grayson parody website www.mycongressmanisnuts,com, mocking  Grayson’s typically hyperbolic site, http://www.congressmanwithguts.com,  suggesting  to Holder that Langley should be imprisoned for five years.  Now there’s respect for the First Amendment for you! What a perfect ally for a non-partisan media fact-checking operation, right?

Alan Grayson, the same politician I wrote this about in 20o9…

“Grayson is the Congressman whose explanation of the GOP position on health care was that “they want you to die.” He said that Dick Cheney speaks with “blood dripping from his teeth.” His mode of debate and persuasion, in other words, is insult and hyperbole. Respect for opposing views: zilch. Civility grade: F… He has endorsed unethical rules and plays by them…Grayson’s actions once again confirm a reliable rule of human nature: individuals who are habitually uncivil do not merely have a bad habit or poor self-control. They lack humility as well as basic respect and fairness toward others. The common, often uncivil but sometimes accurate  term for individuals like  Rep. Grayson is “jerk.”

and this in 2010… Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/25/2018: Special “Was That Wrong? Should I Have Not Done That? I Gotta Plead Ignorance On This Thing Because If Anyone Had Said Anything To Me At All When I First Started Here That That Sort Of Thing Was Frowned Upon…” Edition*

Good morning, all.

Let’s get warmed up…

1  Social media censorship. Tom Champlin, who owns the libertarian news aggregator The Liberty Review and runs its associated Facebook page was banned from Facebook for 30 days under its “community standards” for posting this:

Facebook prohibits posts that promote harmful conduct, eating disorders and suicide, but no one but an idiot–is the Facebook community made up of idiots?—would misinterpret the meaning of that meme. It’s a political statement, and if it really violates Facebook’s “community standards,” then Facebook is demanding ideological conformity in its already largely mindless left-wing echo chamber. Either enough Facebook users who believe in free speech make a stink over this kind of attempted regulation of public opinion to force Facebook (and Twitter, and Google) to cut it out, or the open expression of ideas in social media will be doomed.

I suggest every Facebook user post this meme, not to chide Obamacare, but to show support for freedom of expression, and contempt for Facebook’s attempt to strangle it. Of course Facebook, as a private business, can ban what it wants. That doesn’t mean abusing its power and influence is any less dangerous or despicable.

I just posted this item, with the meme, to my Facebook page. I’ll be interest to see a) if I get banned, even with the above preface, and 2) how many of my knee-jerk progressive friends have the integrity to post the meme themselves.

2.  Predators who don’t get it, Part 1. Like many others, I wondered if the NPR banishment of Garrison Keillor and the deposit of his iconic “Prairie Home Companion” radio show  in the Void of Shame was just witch hunt mania. Keillor dismissed it as the result of a single ex-employee making a late fuss over an accidental laying on of hands. Finally, after being attacked by Keillor fans for Frankening him unjustly, Minnesota Public Television, which was the NPR station that investigated the plummy humorist, decided that it had to go public with the real story. Yesterday it posted a statement that said in part…

When Minnesota Public Radio abruptly severed ties with Garrison Keillor in November, the sole explanation offered by the company was “inappropriate behavior” with a female colleague.

For his part, the creator and longtime host of A Prairie Home Companion described his offense as nothing more than having placed his hand on a woman’s back to console her. An investigation by MPR News, however, has learned of a years-long pattern of behavior that left several women who worked for Keillor feeling mistreated, sexualized or belittled. None of those incidents figure in the “inappropriate behavior” cited by MPR when it severed business ties. Nor do they have anything to do with Keillor’s story about putting a hand on a woman’s back:

  • In 2009, a subordinate who was romantically involved with Keillor received a check for $16,000 from his production company and was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement which, among other things, barred her from ever divulging personal or confidential details about him or his companies. She declined to sign the agreement, and never cashed the check.

• In 2012, Keillor wrote and publicly posted in his bookstore an off-color limerick about a young woman who worked there and the effect she had on his state of arousal.

• A producer fired from The Writer’s Almanac in 1998 sued MPR, alleging age and sex discrimination, saying Keillor habitually bullied and humiliated her and ultimately replaced her with a younger woman.

• A 21-year-old college student received an email in 2001 in which Keillor, then her writing instructor at the University of Minnesota, revealed his “intense attraction” to her.

MPR News has interviewed more than 60 people who worked with or crossed professional paths with Keillor. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they still work in the industry or feared repercussions from Keillor or his attorneys…

Is it possible that Keillor really believes that he never did anything wrong? Yes, it’s very possible, and this Ethics Alarms post from yesterday in all likelihood applies to Keillor, another weird, homely guy that learned early in life that show business was a great way to attract women. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/20/2018: Government Shutdown Edition

Good Morning.

1 Just how stupid is the public? Charades like the latest government shut-downs provide an excellent opportunity to find out. As regular readers here know, I am particularly annoyed when elected officials and journalists set out to make the public more ignorant or devoid of critical-thinking skills than they already are by making dumb arguments using logical fallacies, rationalizations or deceit. Both parties benefit from civically ignorant citizens, but the nation suffers. This time, it’s the Democrats who are banking on the public being too gullible and stupid to function. Here was the message I received from the Democratic National Committee—which, I will add, keeps sending me this crap despite my repeated efforts to unsubscribe from their daily dishonest shilling .It’s illegal to do this, but as the Democratic Party is proving with this latest drama, law-breaking is of minimal consequence to them when it suits their agenda:

It’s official — Republicans have shut down the federal government. They control the White House and both chambers of Congress, and under their watch, they haven’t been able to govern and keep the lights on. If they’re not capable of doing the job they were elected to do, we know plenty of Democrats running across the country who are up to the task.

How stupid, biased and dishonest to you have to be to swallow this lie? The shutdown was, beyond argument, engineered by Democrats, who have been threatening it for a long time. The argument is also dumb, indeed backwards. The government shut down because the Republicans couldn’t pass a spending bill without Democratic votes: they need a total of 60 “yeas” in the Senate. All but five Democrats, including Bernie, voted for shutting down the government. All but three Republicans, the trio of iconoclasts Graham, Flake and Paul, voted to keep it open, and the DNC calls that the Republicans shutting down the government.

Aren’t even Democrats offended at that degree of dishonesty and cynicism? Isn’t that classic Orwell: “War is Peace,” and “The Measure Republicans Voted For Is the Measure Republicans Opposed“? How can anyone trust a party that issues official communications like this? That is a party that will lie to your face, or assume that you have been so corrupted that you will lie on its behalf.

Moreover, the statement above might as well be written by the Republican National Committee, with the message being, “Since Democrats won’t cooperate to keep the government running and will sacrifice the welfare of citizens for non-citizens, we obviously need more Republicans in the Senate.” That message is factual. Continue reading

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