Afternoon Ethics Alarms, 6/26/2020: Ethics Zoom!

This, as some of you might recall, is the logo for the old PBS kids series, the lively cast members of which are now middle-aged and arthritic. I don’t like to think about it…

I just did a dry run of an upcoming Zoom CLE conference, and other than the fact that I look like hell, I was impressed. If there’s any enthusiasm among readers, I am think hard about holding weekly ethics symposium using the technology. I can accommodate up to a hundred participants, and the time is unlimited (though their patience surely will be.) Let me know if you’re interested!

1. I’m used to cynical, but…The Democrats voting to not even debate the GOP Senate police reform bill was so openly partisan. The party didn’t went to pass anything that would give Republicans credit for addressing the police issue, and they are counting on Pelosi’s House Bill to be rejected by the Senate so they can have another election issue to energize their base. Mark Thiessen writes,

“What Democrats should be apologizing for was their shameful vote on the Senate floor Wednesday to kill Scott’s legislation — and with it any chance of passing police reform this year. Democrats knew exactly what they were doing. As Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), one of three members of the Democratic caucus who voted to advance the Scott bill, explained, “voting against it will end the discussion of this subject in the Senate for the foreseeable future, and leave us with nothing to show for all the energy and passion that has brought this issue to the forefront of public consciousness.””

To be fair, this is “do something” legislation that will not significantly reduce incidents of police misconduct toward blacks or whites. Situations like the Atlanta shooting, mysterious shootings like the traffic shot death of 25-year-old Hannah Fizer, who was white, and falsely reported shootings (“Hands up! Don’t shoot!”) will still occur, because of the nature of police work—unless police simply stop policing out of fear. I suspect that’s what will happen, and many more Americans will die under those conditions.

To date, ten unarmed black men have been killed by police this year.

2. Some call them the “1619”riots. This is the woman the New York Times allowed to lead its inflammatory and false slavery project:

On November 21, 1995, Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote a letter to the editor of the Notre Dame University student newspaper, The Observer,to condemn a November 9, 1995 op-ed. She wrote in part,

“What responsible editor would print an article that applauds and dignifies the white race’s rape, plunder, and genocide of a whole race of people? I find it hard to believe that any member of the white race can have the audacity and hypocrisy to call any other culture savage. The white race is the biggest murderer, rapist, pillager, and thief of the modern world. Europeans have colonized and destroyed the indigenous populations of every continent of this planet. They have committed genocide against cultures that have never offended them in their greed and insatiable desire to control and dominate every non-white culture. Christopher Columbus and those like him were no different [than] Hitler. The crimes they committed were unnecessarily cruel and can only be described as acts of the devil…Africans had been to the Americas long before Columbus or any Europeans….It was not enough for whites to come to the Americas and learn, they looked upon the native people as inferior and a people to be annihilated. Their lasting monument was the destruction and enslavement of two races of people. Using Christianity as their excuse, the white race denied the native people their humanity.”

Bias? Racism? “Hate speech?” People are being fired, “canceled” and shunned in every segment of society for far less bigoted comments that are also older….but those victims of the new “Terror” are all white. The position at Ethics Alarms is that ancient excesses of rhetoric, including offensive jokes, should not be used to discredit anyone, but also that the leaders of the cancel culture should be held to their own rules. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/22/2020: Well, It’s Morning To ME!

Got out of bed at 2:30 pm.

And going back as soon as I get this post up.

1. For God’s sake Amy, the narrative! Read your talking points!  The sudden front-runner to be Joe Biden’s VP had an opportunity to display some character, but whiffed. During an April 7 interview with CNN’s Michael Smerconish on SiriusXM, Senator Klobuchar was questioned about the controversy surrounding hydroxychloroquine. Klobuchar Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) admitted her husband went from  COVID-related pneumonia that had him  coughing up blood to “one day, he just got better,” after he was treated with hydroxychloroquine. Did the Senator come to the Presidents’ defense thisweek when he was being accused of everything from stupidity to recklessness for taking an FDA approved drug? Of course not.

Too bad. That would make her a real asset to a Biden ticket: a shred of integrity.

2.  Attacking the messenger… Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s response to allegations that he had sought to have an Inspector General fired for investigating Pompeo’s various abuses of his position was to  attack Sen. Bob Menendez.

Pompeo said  that the allegations had been “leaked” to the media by staff members of Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I don’t get my ethics guidance from a man who was criminally prosecuted, a man for whom his Senate colleagues, bipartisan, basically said that he was taking bribes. That’s not someone I look to for ethics guidance,” Pompeo said.

Wow, Talk about a lame deflection. Pompeo should address the allegations against him rather than relying on ad hominem attacks on his critics.

3. From the junk science, hindsight bias files: The New York Times published the results of a study, and reported, “Lockdown Delays Cost at Least 36,000 Lives, Data Show…Even small differences in timing would have prevented the worst exponential growth, which by April had subsumed New York City, New Orleans and other major cities, researchers found.”

[Oops. Couldn’t make it through. Back to bed. I’ll be up after the jump…] Continue reading

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

Afternoon Ethics Cool-Down, 2/28/18: Honors, Bribes, Blackmail, And “Ugh!”

Good Afternoon.

Actually, that’s dishonest: it’s been a terrible day, morn to now.. A catalogue retailer took an email address my wife sent them a year ago and  bombarded her account with hundreds of promotional messages yesterday, crashing her email. Then her efforts to fix the problem resulted in a Proethics system email crash that I have been trying to address for the past five hours. I finally decided to get something productive done, so I’m getting up this post while talking to my tech people. UPDATE: They just gave up.

1 Trump Tweets. Ugh. The President criticizing his own Cabinet member, in this case Jeff Sessions, in public via tweet, is horrific leadership and management practice. If I were Sessions, I would resign, It is disrespectful, disloyal, undermines morale on the President’s team, and is just plain stupid. I don’t understand how Trump had any success at all treating employees and subordinates like this. While we’re on this perpetual subject. the fact that the President would say out loud that he would have rushed the Parkland shooter without a weapon is just more evidence of a) a flat learning curve b) the lack of the usual filters from brain to mouth and c) the unethical tendency of third parties to critique the actions of others in rescue situations. No question: the resource officer who was required by policy, assignment and duty to try to intervene in the shooting deserves all the criticism he has been getting, and is accountable. But the President of the United States announcing that he is Batman is something else entirely.

My objections to the non-stop personal ridicule of our elected leader stands, but he also has a duty, as the steward of the Office, not to make himself look ridiculous.

2. An unethical boycott tactic, but I repeat myself.  The anti-gun zealots have decided to attack a free and constitutionally protected Bill of Rights advocacy group as part of the news media-assisted effort to demonize the NRA as being somehow responsible for a school shooting that none of the proposed “common sense gun reforms” would have prevented. Now the Second Amendment-gutting crowd  is using the boycott, a particularly odious weapon favored by progressives, which depends on the venality and spinelessness of corporate executives to constrict free speech. Delta Airlines announced it was ending a promotional discount with the National Rifle Association after threats and a social media campaign, then tried the weaselly explanation that its decision to stop offering discounted fares to the N.R.A. “reflects the airline’s neutral status in the current national debate over gun control amid recent school shootings.”
Continue reading

Ethics Tales Of Three Governors, As Hope Slowly Dwindles

McAuliffe-Christie-Cuomo

The U.S.’s recent experiment with a Senator-President has been disheartening—persuasive words unhinged to action and actual principles. There was a remarkable example of this in the President’s NSA speech, in fact, in a quote that would have been the Ethics Quote of the Month had it not been so cynical coming from him. The President said

“Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect. For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.”

Wonderful! If only this had been uttered by a leader with credibility and integrity, rather than one who has shrugged off, firing no one, interference with the federal election process by the IRS, illegal spying by the NSA, and the intentional facilitation of illegal firearms coming into the murderous hands of drug cartels by his Justice Department, after bombing Libya illegally in defiance of law, selectively enforcing immigration laws, using drones to kill American citizens abroad without due process, making recess appointments when the Senate wasn’t in recess, and more recently, unconstitutionally amending the ACA on his own after it was signed into law.

This was all foretold, however. Community organizers and senators make speeches and inspire people, but unfortunately seldom have a clue how to actually govern unless, as Obama himself has wistfully noted, they have absolute power. This is why, in theory, at least, state governors, who at least have experience governing, now seem like a better recruitment field for the next occupant of the Oval Office. It sounds good in the abstract, but the recent news from the state houses  is like ice water in the face—-

Cuomo Interviewing Cuomo? Of Course It’s A Conflict!

The interesting question isn’t whether CNN’s Chris Cuomo blithely interviewing the Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo—who happens to be his brother–is a conflict of interest and an example of unethical journalism. Of course it is. The interesting question is what it tells us about the state of U.S. journalism that such an interview could even occur.

Here are two prominent provisions of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, requiring that ethical journalists…

  • “Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.”
  • “Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.”

Is there any question that a CNN anchor man interviewing his brother regarding anything whatsoever violates both of these? Real or perceived? Compromise integrity or damage credibility? Seriously?

Cuomo the Anchorman was interviewing Cuomo the Governor regarding the recent train accident. Conflict? Sure: the journalist is supposed to have only one duty, and that is to his audience. But Cuomo the Anchorman obviously has another, potentially confounding duty of loyalty to his interview subject, and this he must not have. It calls into question his willingness to probe and, if the facts warrant it, to ask uncomfortable questions of his subject. If Chris Cuomo’s duty to his audience unexpectedly requires him to breach his loyalty to his own brother, which will he choose? We don’t know. Perhaps Cuomo himself doesn’t know. He was obligated not to place himself in a situation where the question even needed to be asked.

The various defenses being offered are, I have to say, misguided and disturbing. The usually sensible Joe Concha of Mediaite writes that the controversy is “much ado about nothing.” His reasons are … Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Carl Paladino

Carl Paladino now says he is a big supporter of gay rights, which in his case means that despite the fact that he considers their sexual orientation “invalid,” he still feels that, l ike child molesters and criminals, they deserve basic Constitutional rights…except gay marriage, of course.

The GOP candidate for governor of New York chose a day just barely removed from a series of vicious attacks on gay men, and just a couple of weeks after a gay Rutgers student was humiliated into suicide by a cruel “prank,” to proclaim to a gathering of Hasidic Jews that he does not want children to be “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option,” and criticized his opponent, Andrew  Cuomo, for marching in the city’s Gay Pride parade, saying,”I didn’t march in the Gay Pride parade this year. My opponent did. And that’s not the example that we should be showing our children and certainly not in our schools.” But Mr. Paladino isn’t homophobic; oh no!  He just thinks  children should be taught that they shouldn’t hang around with gays, like, you know, lepers, winos, and cannibals. Continue reading

Why We Have Unethical Elected Officials, A Continuing Inquiry: Part 1– Spitzer’s Standards

Eliot Spitzer, CNN commentator and New York political veteran, endorsed fellow Democrat Andrew Cuomo in his quest to be New York’s governor.  Then he said:

“The problem that Andrew has is that everybody knows that behind the scenes, he is the dirtiest, nastiest political player out there, and that is his reputation from years in Washington. He had brass knuckles, and he played hardball. He has a lot of enemies out there. Nobody’s been willing to stand up to him.”

Eliot Spitzer thus officially confirms his belief that being nasty and dirty, and everything that implies (such as lack of integrity and fairness, ruthlessness, dishonesty, deceit, vindictiveness, and meanness, as well as a Machiavellian approach to governing)  justifies the trust of the people of New York. Continue reading