Category Archives: Social Media

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/19/2018: Double Standards And Greed

Time for a Good Morning song!

1. Life on Facebook. A lawyer friend who should know better posted a comment that began, “You wouldn’t think that posting something like ‘Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong’ would be controversial, but in almost every case where one of my friends has said something like this, at least one of his/her friends feels the need to argue about it…” Later he compared the statement “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong” to “Torturing kittens is wrong.” I told him that as a lawyer, he should be objecting to and explaining the transparent deceit of “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong”—a half-truth designed to stifle argument, not attacking those who are correctly pointing out the emotionalism and dishonesty of that tactic.

I should count up the number of lawyers whose comments on Facebook on this issue are pure “Think of the children!” with no substantive legal and policy analysis whatsoever. My friend also made the typical suggestion that only Trump voters—you know: morons—would argue with “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong” as a fair and conclusive verdict on the current policy.

2. Theranos.  Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, as well as Ramesh Balwani, the company’s former president ( and Holme’s love interest, were indicted yesterday on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud. The Theranos debacle is a classic corporate fraud story on par with Enron, if not as wide-reaching.

I missed it. This is embarrassing for an ethics blog, and for someone who thinks he scours various news sources thoroughly enough to catch the major ethics stories. I blame Donald Trump, but I also blame the various news sources in 2015 that chose to report fake news, trivial news, future news and theoretical news rather than give a major corporate scandal the attention it deserved. If I missed the story, and I’m looking for it, what chance do normal people with sensible occupations have?

The civil fraud charges in the case were filed in March by the Securities and Exchange Commission, though the scandal had broken earlier, when the Wall Street Journal published its 2015 exposé.  Holmes and Balwani allegedly raised millions of dollars using false statements about how well the company’s  blood-testing device worked, while using  a contract with the Department of Defense and a partnership between Theranos and the pharmacy chain Walgreens to con pharmacies, doctors and the public. The apparent scam created a Business of Cards that, at its peak, had more than 800 employees and a paper valuation of $9 billion.

There is a book out about the Theranos scandal by the reporter who broke the story… Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Facebook, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture

Ethics Dilemma: What Can Be Done About People Like This? [Poll Included]

Hold on to your skulls…

Social media can spread stupidity like a viral plague. Is there anything  ethical and constitutional  that can be done to protect the imperiled children addled  mothers like this may raise?

[Related Ethics Alarms posts here (feeding kittens a vegan diet) and here (dogs).]

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Bioethics, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Social Media

Comment Of The Day: “When Businesses Have No Principles, No Courage, And The Community Likes It That Way”

Toxic woke is a specialty…

The bizarre episode in Portland, Oregon, in which two bakery employees were fired for following store policy because their doing so upset a black activist, and the establishment is so self-righteously “woke” that her demands were deemed sufficient to make injustice mandatory, has received almost no national publicity. I presume this is because it illustrates the worst of progressive logic, group preference, and hubris to a nauseating extent. Almost as awful as the Back to Eden bakery’s mistreatment of its employees are the addled statements of its owners, which betray an increasingly common (I wish I could write “rare”) certitude of a standard-issue social justice warrior’s virtue, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Here is johnburger2013’s fascinating analysis of this mess in his Comment of the Day on the post,When Businesses Have No Principles, No Courage, And The Community Likes It That Way….

This story is fascinating on so many levels, from all angles: legal, business practices, ethics, public relations damage control, and a whole host of other areas. Thankfully, geometry and nationalized medical care were spared.

From the outset, it seems kind of dumb to deny a patron pastry at 9:06 p.m. because of a rigid application of store hours. This is a bakery and the business of a bakery is sell baked goods. Any sale of a baked good is a good sale, no?

Yet, if the bakery declares the store hours, the employees should not necessarily be punished for enforcing that policy. Otherwise, you would have people coming and going at all hours and the employees would have to stay beyond their shifts, which may result in hardships on them and others the employees depend on. For instance, if a child is at daycare, there may be an additional fee payable to the daycare because the employee arrived late to pick up the child. Termination of the employees for enforcing the store’s hours seems cruel, harsh, and unfair to the employees.

How this situation spiraled out of control is truly amazing. At first, I thought the fired employees posted about it; then, I learned the Lillian, the Perpetually Aggrieved, posted videos she took from outside the bakery on her Facebook feed, which then went viral. Many Facebookers banded together in a quasi-online lynch mob and filled the bakery’s Facebook page with love letters and messages.

The owners, dreaming of gluten free cookies, awoke to a public relations nightmare. One of the owners contacted Lillian via Facebook Messenger to try to apologize and resolve the problem (without knowing the real facts); though well-intentioned, he stepped into a virtual hornets’ nest. He then tried to make further amends by writing a preliminary statement, which failed miserably. His response: a 3400 word statement, which he subsequently deleted. Here is a link I found on a site called “The Way Back Machine”* that includes the bakery’s initial statement and the update:

https://web.archive.org/web/20180529123148/https://m.facebook.com/backtoedenbakery/posts/10156247917969043

The two statements, taken together are a brilliant lesson in multiculturalism, diversity, virtue signaling, damage control failures, capitulation to The Mob, sacrificing someone for the Greater Good, and the ranking order of privilege and standing in the Grievance Industry.

The initial statement had this little gem:

“Back to Eden Bakery is 100% committed to being a welcoming and supportive environment for all customers who share our values of inclusivity (sic?) and dismantling the white supremacist hetero-patriarchy.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Facebook, Journalism & Media, Race

Ethics Observations On The Roseanne Tweet Fiasco

1.  It is possible, after all, to revile Roseanne Barr’s gratuitously vicious “joke” about Valerie Jarrett, and to question the extended reaction to it. I feel especially emboldened, perhaps because you couldn’t have forced me to watch that show or anything associated with Barr had you been credibly threatening to blow up Fenway Park unless I tuned in. One of the ways the enemies of free discourse and thought further their agenda is by setting up these dilemmas, where to even suggest that a genuine miscreant’s punishment has exceeded reasonable bounds is to risk shunning and other serious cultural consequences—it’s the Cognitive Dissonance Scale again. “See, then we make them defend someone who would tweet something like that, and we’ve got em! Then they look like racists too! Bwahahahahaha!

2. No, I don’t think ABC and Disney were looking for an excuse to cancel “Roseanne” 2 because it was perceived as pro-Trump. The show was making money, and corporations place money above politics. However, there is no doubt that a conservative show has less margin for error in today’s biased media environment. It was up to Roseanne to understand that and moderate her conduct accordingly. This recent post is relevant.

3. I was not aware, until ethics alarms reader  Sue Denim pointed it out here, that Barr may have physiological reasons for her lifetime addiction to ugly humor: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, language, Popular Culture, Race, Rights, Social Media, U.S. Society, Unethical Tweet

Ethics Dunce (But We Knew That): Roseanne Barr [UPDATED…Again!]

Ugh. The new, surprise hit reboot of “Roseanne” self-destructed when it’s star, not for the first time, couldn’t restrain herself from being objectively repulsive and tweeted a racist insult to former President Obama’s black chief-of-staff, Valerie Jarrett. This morning the comic—at least some people think she is comical—tweeted that Jarrett was the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood and “Planet of the Apes.” as in “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” Barr apologized, but ABC was quick: it cancelled the series, saying, “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.”

Rosanne didn’t just step on a landmine, she stepped on several, then jumped up and down on them to make sure they blew her to bits, or so it seemed. Can’t attack anyone associated with Obama. Can’t use “Muslim” as an insult. Can’t make monkey jokes about black people. Any of these can be career-killers, and Roseanne did all of them at once, in only ten words and two initials. Wow. It takes a Master Ethics Dunce to do that. I am in awe.

Does she deserve to lose her show over this? Of course she does. It was, by any standard, a racist, hateful tweet. No company, especially an entertainment company, especially a Disney company, can afford to be associated with that kind of  reckless, high-visibility employee,  She was on thin ice anyway, being a self-declared Trump supporter. She should have known that she had to be even more careful than other uncivil comics and celebrities, like Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert and Alec Baldwin, all of whom have  said or tweeted ugly and hateful things about the right kind of people—you know, whites, Republicans, the President, and his family.

One of Roseanne’s writers, stand-up comic Wanda Sykes, quit the show before it could be cancelled in protest over Roseanne’s “joke”, though Sykes herself was booed off the stage in 2016 after going on a hateful, expletive-filled rant against President-Elect Donald Trump, then flipping off the crowd as she exited to boos. Now that’s the kind of comic ABC is proud to employ! Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race, Social Media

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/25/2018: What Do Kellyann’s Husband And The NFL Kneelers Have In Common? [Updated]

Morning in my home town, Arlington Massachusetts (where they seem to have found another body in Spy Pond….)

Good Morning!

1. George Conway is unethical. It’s really as simple as that. Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, a lawyer, has decided to take advantage of his wife’s notoriety to grab unearned influence and fame for himself. He has become a regular twitter critic of the President, routinely blasting the Administration through mostly re-tweeted commentary from other sources. This, of course, makes the Trumpophobes ecstatic, embarrasses his wife, and gives George 15 hitch-hiked minutes of fame.

Let me count the ways this is wrong:

  • He’s not contributing anything valuable to the public debate, just bolstering his wife’s enemies.  Social media-users who can’t muster their own arguments and who only appeal to authority should not be taken seriously, and if George wasn’t undermining his wife, he wouldn’t be.
  • Who he is married to is the only reason anyone pays any attention to his tweeting. Surely he knows this. Surely he knows that the result is his wife’s embarrassment, and that he he is actively working against her. This is not a James Carville-Mary Matalin act, where both spouses are independently regarded as powerful political consultants. This is spousal sabotage.
  • He’s risking his wife’s career for his own aggrandizement. I’ll say this for Trump: he’s more forgiving than I would be. I would give Kellyanne an ultimatum: get your husband to stop undermining us, dump him, or quit. This is analogous to the crazy estranged husband who keeps coming to his wife’s place of business to harass her. The employer’s completely justified message: “We can’t have this. It’s your problem; fix it, or we will.”

2.  ‘We don’t care: he’s a racist whatever he does.’ President Trump announced his long-rumored pardon of black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson yesterday. (The Times has an interesting feature about Johnson’s travails here.) Praising the President for this long over-due exoneration, an NAACP spokesman said…nah, I’m kidding, the civil rights organization didn’t say anything. However, the Congressional Black Caucus, which had urged President Obama to finally right this decades-long wrong, said…no, they had nothing to say either.  [ Correction: Originally I wrote here that John McCain, who sponsored a resolution asking for Obama to pardon Johnson,, did not signal praise for the pardon. He did, and I apologize to the Senator for the error. Thanks to Dan Abrams for the information.]

There is no reasonable argument against pardoning Johnson, and there never has been. Apparently Obama was hesitant–but then he was always hesitant—this time because Johnson had a reputation for domestic abuse. Thus I presume that the female contingent in the White House pulling Barack’s strings—Valerie and Michelle—along with the all-important advocates for the Democratic Party’s feminist base wouldn’t let him do it. Obama, a lawyer, or so I hear, must have realized that Johnson’s racist persecution by the government for being a  famous and defiant black man who openly had white female companionship had absolutely nothing to do with domestic abuse, and that misconduct a controversial figure may or may not have engaged in unrelated to an unjust criminal conviction shouldn’t play any part in a pardon assessment.

That Barack. So principled. So courageous…

3. I like David French, but...his recent op-ed for the Times attacking the NFL’s ruling on National Anthem protests going forward—if a player won’t stand respectfully, the he must stay off the field, in the locker room—is ethically obtuse. French’s point is that conservatives should champion free speech at a time when the Left is trying to suppress it. That’s a good point, and I agree wholeheartedly, but it has nothing to do with the NFL’s kneelers. I suspect that French wanted to make this argument, and negligently grabbed at the NFL policy as his chance to make it.

He writes in part, Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Leadership, Race, Rights, Social Media, Sports, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/24/2018: ‘Can’t We All Get Along? Nah…’ Edition

Good morning!

1. What? Negotiation competence? Boy, we haven’t seen THAT for a while. President Trump just pulled out of the scheduled summit with North Korea, a public lesson in Negotiation 101. If only Barack Obama had taken the Art of the Deal seminar before capitulating to Cuba and Iran. the letter the current elected President just sent to North Korea could not be more obvious in its devices, but I guarantee you that my negotiations professor at law school, Dean Adrian Fisher, one of the negotiators of the SALT treaty, would have approved. Here’s the letter, released this morning.

This is another ethics test, by the way. Take note of who criticizes the President for this, for they  will be revealing themselves as either reflex-Trrump haters or the kind of people used car dealers love to see walking in the door.

2. “A Nation of Assholes” update. It is now beyond dispute that the concept was right but that I badly misjudged the population that I thought would be primarily affected. My theory in the 2015 essay was that that having an ethics-challenged boor like Donald Trump as President would degrade the ethical standards of the public through the “rotting fish head” process: people follow the leader. Well, that has happened too, but the worst asshole transformation has beset progressives and “the resistance.,” as their behavior gets worse by the hour. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Leadership, Rights, Social Media