Category Archives: Literature

Ethics Heroes: American Journalists. Finally.

"Wait, I didn't hear you say, 'Thank-you, sir, may I have another!"

“Wait, I didn’t hear you say, ‘Thank-you, sir, may I have another!”

It is heartening, I suppose, that the subjugation of independent journalism to the Democratic party and its leadership is not yet total, and that there are still limits to how much toadying and boot-licking the once-principled  professional will tolerate.

Incredibly, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest wrote a letter to the New York Times complaining that the  paper “did not acknowledge the important and unprecedented steps that the Obama administration has taken to fulfill the president’s promise to lead the most transparent White House in history.” He concluded, “If President Obama’s government transparency effort is not even noted by The Times’s media columnist, then why would future presidential candidates make it a priority?”

This required breath-taking gall. Indeed, journalists and others do remember the President’s transparency pledge, which he has breached at every turn. Indeed, the lack of transparency in the administration has been a topic of discussion, complaint and anger for nearly eight years. It is especially bold for Earnest to make such an absurd claim—and indignantly!— as the President stumps for his former Secretary of State, who risked national security and breached protocol by employing a private server in order to avoid Freedom of Information Act access to her communications.

Assessments of journalists across the political spectrum, who can agree on little else, agree on this: Barack Obama’s administration is among the least open and transparent in history, and perhaps the least. A sample demonstrates the fact: CNN, The Atlantic, The Daily Caller, Democracy Now, Truth Revolt, Associated Press, The Washington Post, The National Journal’s Ron Fournier, the Wall Street Journal, and too many others to list.

How could Earnest (which is to say, his boss) even attempt to squeeze a statement from the press that would be the exact opposite of the truth, and have the chutzpah to  demand that it be in the form of praise? The answer should be obvious: the President has no reason to respect the news media, which has been incompetent, timid, fearful and compliant with Administration propaganda and spin from the start.

In addition, a theme of this administration has been to employ Orwellian interpretations of the administration’s performance at every turn, usually with media assistance. Failures are successes, marginal improvements are miraculous victories. An epic decline in racial trust and comity qualifies as improved race relations.  An irresponsible deal with a rogue state determined to fry Israel makes the world safer. A doubled national debt shows progress in fiscal management. We are winning the war against terrorism, and Bowe Bergdahl was a military hero. Day is night and white is black. No wonder Earnest felt that a President who has consistently defied his transparency promise could  get away with claiming that he had kept it, and could command applause.

But eventually even the most lowly worms can turn if you abuse them enough, and the journalists, to their credit, decided this was one filthy boot they would not lick clean while crying out on cue, “YUM YUM!” In a letter sent to Earnest (and copied to the President) the Society of Professional Journalists and a coalition of 40 groups set the record straight: Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Literature, U.S. Society

Update: This Is The Student’s Controversial Essay Emulating The Satire Of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”

Now THIS, arguably, is taking satire too far...

Now THIS, arguably, is taking satire too far…

Here, thanks to some links provided to Ethics Alarms by students at North County High School, is the essay that was written in response to a teacher’s directive to write a satirical solution to a current societal problem in the style and spirit of  Jonathan Swift’s famous essay advocating the conversion of excess Irish children to foodstuffs.

Student’s name: Connor Poole

Verdict: Pure satire, bold and for a writer so young, brilliantly executed.

Grade: A+

Here is the paper that  prompted administrators to try to turn Connor into a pariah, so precisely delivering what was assigned that it has exposed mass incompetence and cowardice at North County High School:

Modest proposal

Wow. Continue reading

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Why Public Schools Are Too Incompetent To Be Trusted To Teach: The Swift Assignment

Now, if those children were black, this would really be offensive...

Now, if those children were black, this would really be offensive. Luckily, they are Irish…

My head hasn’t exploded over this one yet, but I am in extreme pain.

A teacher at North County High School in Maryland assigned her students to write essays that would embody a contemporary  satirical solution to a societal problem, emulating satirist Jonathan Swift’s famous 18th century essay, “A Modest Proposal,” in which the author  proposed, tongue firmly in cheek, that poor Irish folk sell their children as food, thus solving both a population glut and a food shortage.

One student fully embraced the spirit of Swift by suggesting that America should consider deporting African-Americans to the Sahara Desert to address U.S. racism.

A perfect execution of the assignment, wouldn’t you say? The “proposal” is outrageous and offensive; it would indeed address the problem, and, as with some in Swift’s time, literal-minded reflex hysterics won’t understand that the suggestion is satire! Give that student an A!

Or, in the alternative, make him a pariah who wishes he was dead, and may be at risk to be so soon. For other students were offended and complained, and instead of using the incident as a lesson in political satire, the school system turned on the student who had done exactly what was assigned, and sided with the Political Correctness Mob, with Bob Mosier, speaking for Anne Arundel County Schools saying,

“The student chose a subject matter that was clearly insensitive and struck a nerve with students here and staff members here. And so, they have been meetings today where the staff has tried to allow students to express their opinions and say why they’re hurt, why they’re angered.

Oh, he chose a subject matter that was insensitive, unlike, say, selling and eating children, it that the school’s official position? Continue reading

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An Ethics Alarms Audit: Who Or What Is At Fault For The Rise Of Donald Trump?

I have intentionally avoided most of the many articles that have used the unsettling rise of Donald Trump as a Presidential contender to attack their favorite targets—talk radio, Republicans, Obama, the Tea Party, the “elites,” the news media, reality TV…it’s a long list. One of the few I did read was this one, by Peggy Noonan. Its main thesis:

“The unprotected came to think they owed the establishment—another word for the protected—nothing, no particular loyalty, no old allegiance. Mr. Trump came from that…What marks this political moment, in Europe and the U.S., is the rise of the unprotected. It is the rise of people who don’t have all that much against those who’ve been given many blessings and seem to believe they have them not because they’re fortunate but because they’re better….This is a terrible feature of our age—that we are governed by protected people who don’t seem to care that much about their unprotected fellow citizens. And a country really can’t continue this way.”

Yup. That’s how populist uprisings always start, and Noonan properly diagnosed this one. Still, it was neither pre-ordained nor necessary that the individual such a movement would unite around had to be such a dangerous, unstable and unworthy one, or that the citizens supporting him would display such complete absence of logic and responsibility.

Reading the debates between Trump supporters and detractors on various websites, I am reminded of the classic “Simpsons” episode where Springfield split into two warring factions, the Mensa group, and the anti-Mensa group. The latter was characterized by angry stupidity, and if a member made a logical and coherent argument against the astute and educated opposition, he would be instantly ejected with the cry, “You’re one of them!”

Herman Kahn, the futurist, used to say that even the best plans, organizations, and systems could be unsettled by “the 2% contingency of bad management or bad luck.” The United States has been very fortunate in its approximately 250 years’ experiment. Bismarck famously said that “There is a Providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America,” and at times it has seemed that way. When the nation’s management failed, the U.S. has been astoundingly lucky. When it has been unlucky, brilliant leaders have been on hand to manage the problem. The Trump phenomenon illustrates the fact of existence that luck eventually runs out: so far, bad luck and bad management have joined forces to produce the threat of a Donald Trump presidency.

There are many people, groups and institutions responsible for Trump getting this far, and it is dishonest, incompetent and unfair to blame one without identifying the rest. Each was arguably essential to the chaotic mix, and thus nothing and no one deserves to be cited as “the” cause.

Here, in rough but not definitive particular order, are the main miscreants. I’ve limited myself to eleven, but the list could easily be longer.
Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Week (Or “Just Because He’s A Civil Rights Icon Doesn’t Mean He Won’t Lie His Head Off”): Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)

"When John Didn't Meet Bernie"

“When John Didn’t Meet Bernie”

“I never saw him. I never met him. I was involved in the Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and directed the Voter Education Project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton.”

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga), 76, civil rights icon, Martin Luther King ally, and Hillary Clinton supporter, challenging Bernie Sanders’ civil rights bona fides during the press conference by the Congressional Black Caucus  endorsing Clinton.

Really? He saw Hillary and Bill at those events? Now, Lewis could have seen Sanders, since Bernie was an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at the University of Chicago when Martin Luther King  and Lewis spoke there in 1963.  Hillary’s mother had young Hillary with her when she met  King  in Chicago in 1962. Hillary was 15. Maybe Lewis remembers meeting her then, but that was hardly substantive evidence of civil rights commitment. As for Bill,  we have this testimony from Lewis in Janis F. Kearney’s  Conversations: William Jefferson Clinton : from Hope to Harlem:

The first time I heard of Bill Clinton was in the early ’70s. I was living in Georgia, working for the Southern Poverty Law organization, when someone told me about this young, emerging leader in Arkansas who served as attorney general, then later became governor….I think I paid more attention to him at the 1988 Democratic Convention, when he was asked to introduce the presidential candidate and took up far more time than was allotted to him. After he became involved with the Democratic Leadership Council, I would run into him from time to time. But it was one of his aides, Rodney Slater, who actually introduced us in 1991 and asked me if I would support his presidency.

Hillary isn’t mentioned at all. I haven’t seen any evidence that she was at Selma or the March on Washington: was she? Would Lewis remember that he “saw” the then Republican teen and “Goldwater Girl” if he “saw” her?

He’s denigrating Sanders’ record and lying to do it.

We should expect better conduct from “icons.”

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Ethics Hero: Fox News

How gloriously ironic it will be it if Fox News is the architect of the tipping point that finally causes Donald Trump’s passionate supporters—you know, the ones who don’t mind if he mocks veterans and the disabled, who don’t notice that he is a substance-free blowhard, who he boasts  wouldn’t care if he shot someone dead in cold blood—to realize they have been deluded fools…

Trump, you see, is pulling out of Thursday’s Fox News debate because he is afraid of Megyn Kelly, who properly challenged him on his habitual misogyny in the first one, prompting Trump to aim his ugly sexism at her. Trump has been sending cheap shots and insults Kelly’s way ever since, and has recently been complaining that she has a “conflict of interest” and is biased against him, and thus should not moderate Thursday’s debate. He should know that every American, including journalists, who have the sense God gave an echidna, are exactly as biased in the sense that they don’t want this blathering, posturing narcissist screwing up the political system, the nation and the culture any more than he already has. Who isn’t biased this way? A panel of Ann Coulter, Ted Nugent and David Duke would be great theater, but I don’t think it would serve the interests of the American people.

Trump claims he thrives on conflict, but for some reason Kelly terrifies him, and Fox, to its credit, has not merely refused to cater to his phobia, but mocked it. Fox News Channel President Roger Ailes told The Post today that “Megyn Kelly is an excellent journalist, and the entire network stands behind her. She will absolutely be on the debate stage on Thursday night.” Later, the network deliciously called out Trump for the hypocrite and coward that he is, saying,

“We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president. A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.”

Oh, snap! That’s a bit tough, but this is Trump. He’s supposed to be able to take it. What was his devastating response? Continue reading

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Reflections On The Ethical Holiday

Christmas

 

“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”

—G.K. Chesterton.

“It’s Christmas Eve. It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year we are the people that we always hoped we would be.”

— Frank Cross (Bill Murray) in “Scrooged”

CHARLIE BROWN: I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don’t know what Christmas is all about. Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

LINUS: Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.  Lights, please?

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them. And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men.’”

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

—Charles M. Schulz

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”

― Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

― Dr. Seuss, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

― Steve Maraboli, in “Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience”

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”

― Bob Hope

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

― Fred, Scrooge’s Nephew, in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” Continue reading

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