Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/27/18: Everything Is Spinning Out Of Control!!!

Good MORNING, everyone!!!

(And good morning, little Louie..)

1. The state of American journalism, CNN’s Headline News quadrant: A recent poll claims that 50% of Republicans regard the news media as “enemies of the people.” Just because it is actively manipulating the news to try to topple the President of the United States? How unreasonable! No, I am beginning to believe that the 21st Century U.S. news media is really the Enemy of the Cerebral Cortex. On HLN this morning, James Comey’s disastrous interview on Fox News yesterday (among about 400 other stories of more relevance to Americans) was deemed newsworthy, but not one but two royal family stories were: the wedding dress for the American woman whose name I can’t remember who is going to marry the British prince who doesn’t matter on a date I don’t give a damn about, and, again, what the new royal great-grandchild’s name will be. The breathless reporting on these two world-altering events took over 10 out of the 40 minutes the network devotes to news rather than pharmaceutical commercials, a full 25%.

But that’s not all. HLN newsbabe Robin Meade emulated “Best in Show’s” Fred Willard’s cruelly hilarious send-up of Joe Garagiola’s embarrassingly lunk-headed turns as a “color man” at the Westminster Dog Show by asking the dumbest question, I think, I have ever heard on the air. If you haven’t seen “Best in Show” a) What’s the matter with you? and b) here are typical questions asked by Willard during the fictional dog show’s broadcast as “Buck Laughlin,” an ex-pro athlete, to his British dog expert  (“Trevor Beckwith”) co-host and others:

“Now tell me, which one of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?”

“Doctor, question that’s always bothered me and a lot of people: Mayflower, combined with Philadelphia – a no-brainer, right? Cause this is where the Mayflower landed. Not so. It turns out Columbus actually set foot somewhere down in the West Indies. Little known fact.”

“Now that looks like a fast dog. Is that faster than a greyhound? If you put them in a race, who would come in first? You know if you had a little jockey on them…”

Robin, however, against all odds, topped Buck, asking the British reporter, after learning that the new total would be named, “Louis,”

“Now in American, when we hear that name we immediately think, “Louie Louie, oh no, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.” Is that the way it is in England too? “

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/18/2018: The Bad, The Beautiful, And The Stupid

Good morning, everyone…

1. Tales of the King’s Pass. Fox News put out a statement saying that Sean Hannity had its “full support.” We can assume that means no punishment, no sanctions, not even any public regrets, despite the fact, and it is a fact, that the right-wing talk-show host-turned-Trump propagandist went on the air and defended Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, without mentioning the fact that Hannity was Cohen’s client. Thus Fox is announcing, in effect, that undisclosed conflicts of interest are just fine and dandy if your ratings are good enough. This also means that Fox News is admitting that it really doesn’t care about candor, honesty, and objectivity, since it will ignore blatant violations of all three if the profit is sufficient.

In fairness to Fox, Hannity’s blatant biases toward all things Trump are no more egregious than the open Obama bias displayed across the mainstream media’s full spectrum of journalists and pundits; it just stands out more because he has less company. However, this is a specific conflict of interest, with Hannity having undisclosed connections to a newsmaker that could reasonably affect his commentary. The closest parallel would be ABC’s George Stephanopoulos reporting on the Clinton Foundation’s dubious activities without telling viewers that he was a $75,000 donor. ABC didn’t discipline him, either, but at least he made a public apology on the air.

To make the King’s Pass case even stronger, after Politico reported this week that dinnertime news anchor Bret Baier played nine holes of golf with President Trump over the weekend, Fox News acknowledged that Baier was admonished by the president of the network.  I don’t agree with the reprimand at all. The opportunity to spend that kind of time with a President is invaluable, a rare opportunity to acquire insight and access over an extended period of time. The idea, I assume, is that it creates the illusion of chumminess. It’s a dumb illusion. If I were a journalist,  I would play golf with anyone if it allowed me to learn something. If I were president of a network, I’d reprimand a reporter for turning down such an opportunity.

2. The Virtue-Signaling Hall Of Fame. Starbucks is reacting to the PR nightmare arising out of the arrest of two black men for refusing to order anything while waiting for a companion in a Philadelphia Starbucks by a grand gesture: it will close all U.S. stores and corporate offices on the afternoon of May 29 for “employee racial bias training.” I suppose this is good crisis management, though cynical and non-substantive. It also permanently tars as a racist the Starbucks ex-manager, who says she was following a locale-specific company policy in an area that had experienced problems with loitering. Continue reading

Observations On The Fox GOP Candidates Debate in Detroit

GOP-DEBATE_

The transcript is here.

1. I’m in Atlanta, teaching ethics to lawyers, and watching some shows I seldom get to see. I believe I have discovered why so many citizens are ill-informed, have warped priorities, are entranced by a vulgar reality TV star, and appear not to comprehend that electing a President isn’t something that should be used as the means to express free-floating frustration. This morning I made the excuse of tuning into “Good Morning America!,” the top rated morning show,and watched in disbelief as the happy, giggly crew “covered” the debate by briefly highlighting Donald’s defense of his penis and the silly exchange about yoga Romney’s thorough dismantling of Trump didn’t make the cut, but the big news, according to ABC, was that a GMA cast member was announced as new “Dancing With The Stars” contestant. We were treated to a 10 minute segment including her mother, her DWTS partner, and a montage of the career of a typical TV weather girl.  The news that Hillary Clinton’s tech guy who set up her server and who had used the 5th Amendment to avoid answering the FBI’s questions was granted immunity yesterday by the Justice Department wasn’t anywhere to be found. Hey, the gang on GMA don’t seem to think who gets to run for President matters, why should anyone else? Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), what isn’t reported has as much effect on distorting Americans’ views, beliefs and civic conduct as much as what is.

But isn’t it exciting that Ginger is going to get to wear those skimpy dance outfits, and so soon after having her baby?

2. Back to Donald’s penis: I was tempted to re-post this in it’s entirety. I correctly forecasted that a President Trump would transform the culture and leave us with a “nation of assholes,” but I did nor foresee that he would be able to substantially accomplish his mission by just running.  In a Presidential debate, a candidate discusses his penis size and the audience hoots delightedly like Bill Maher’s crowd when he says “fuck you.” A civilized U.S. worthy of international respect would regard a candidate who stooped to such crudeness and idiocy as having eliminated himself from consideration.

3. Marco Rubio showed that Trump’s reliance on rationalizations is communicable. Asked why he spent last week name calling and suggesting that Trump wet his pants, after once vowing that he wouldn’t stoop to personal attacks,  Rubio answered that the media gives “an incredible amount of coverage” to Trump’s attacks—Oh. so it’s OK because it works. How big is your penis, Marco?– and Trump “deserves” to be attacked the same way. Great: the ends justify the means, and “he had it coming.” Later, Rubio objects to Trump calling him a “little Marco” instead of giving a substantive answer to a plocy question. Yes, ad hominen attacks are the hallmark of weak thinkers, bullies and fools. Explain to us again why you started using them, Senator?

4. Nonetheless, Trump’s constant use of “little Marco” should be the last strawfor any parent who doesn’t want to raise a bully or have a child tormented by one. Trump is validating bullying behavior, at a high level. Here, I’ll link to “A Nation of Assholes” again. Insufferable conservative bloggers and pundits who know how bad Trump is but who are actively rooting for him to destroy the Republican party as retribution—Why don’t they just root for a dirty bomb to take out the Capitol?— write about how the “elites” just don’t understand:

“To the establishment, this breakdown looks like chaos. It looks like savagery. It looks like a man with a flamethrowing guitar playing death metal going a hundred miles an hour down Fury Road. But to the American people, it looks like democracy.”

Well, that’s because the “elites'” contempt for people who applaud bullies, torture and penis-boasting is absolutely justified, and if the American people think electing someone like Trump is democracy, then it proves that they understand neither democracy nor their obligations as citizens. There is nothing noble, or admirable, or justifiable about someone supporting Donald Trump. Writes another right-wing apologist for Trump supporters (the pompous conservative gang are all saying the same thing—they are interchangeable):

“The messenger doubtless is deeply flawed. Trump is no Washington, that’s for sure. Donald Trump would not have been my first choice as a GOP nominee. He wouldn’t have been my 100th choice. But if the counter-revolutionaries decide they want Trump as the nominee, I will not oppose them. And I will hope that the counter-revolution has now become too big for one deeply and profoundly flawed man to derail.”

What an irresponsible statement. And by the way, if Trump would be your 10,000th choice, your respect for ethical values and responsible leadership is woefully insufficient. The Left ridicules Trump, and the Right roots for him to wreck the country. The Left is correct, and the Right is disgracing itself while showing the deep, deep cynicism and ugliness within.

4. Trump was, of course, asked if the tape of his off-the-record discussion with the New York Times, in which he supposedly expressed a willingness to be flexible on his immigration stance, should be released, and he says he won’t authorize it. This is identical to Hillary Clinton refusing to release her  Goldman Sachs  speeches. If the tape wouldn’t contradict what he has said in public, there is no reason not to release it.  Trump’s angry zombie supporters will excuse this just as Hillary’s corrupt zombie supporters will ignore the fact that she says what any given audience wants to hear.

When I hear the complaint that politicians have contempt for ordinary Americans, I am tempted to say, “And they have earned every bit of it.” Continue reading

Considering The Fox Trump-less GOP Candidates Debate

Fox moderators

1. The run-up to the debate yesterday was embarrassing to the news media, especially CNN—even Fox did not obsess as much about the man who wouldn’t be on stage in Iowa as that shameless network. Not that Fox isn’t shameless: it’s greatest shame, Bill O’Reilly, once again showed himself to be both unethical and insufferable when he had Trump on his show and begged, pleaded, and cajoled the real estate mogul to reverse his decision. “Be the bigger man,” Bill said at one point. What the hell does that mean? Bigger than who? His employers—I don’t watch Fox live any more because they are still his employers—who properly refused to let him bully Megyn Kelly out of a moderator’s chair? Megyn Kelly? No, that can’t be it. Trump is a intellectual, moral and ethical midget with delusions of grandeur: O’Reilly was just feeding his ego. Then we learned, from Trump, that O’Reilly had enticed him on the air by promising not to talk about the debate boycott. O’Reilly admitted that was true, and then blathered facetiously about milkshakes, as if lying to a guest’s face was a big joke. O’Reilly is one of the deplorable people—most of his supporters, famous and not, are also in this category—who are so devoid of principles themselves that they make Donald Trump look admirable by comparison.

2. I wish I could say that Megyn Kelly was impeccable last night, but she wasn’t. She had a big chip on her shoulder, and mentioned Trump in the very first question, with a pre-composed, gaggy phrasing about “the  elephant not in the room”—lame witticisms were the theme of the night. That made the first question about her, and journalists are ethically obligated not to inject themselves into the story. No moderator should have mentioned Trump, but Kelly particularly. For the rest of the night she was aggressively adversarial, acting as if she was an undercover moderator from CNBC.

3. If there were any lingering doubts about what an arrogant jerk Ted Cruz is, his performance last night ought to have obliterated them. He reminds me of nothing so much as than the cocky high school nerd who thinks that because he’s elected class President, people really like him, but in truth he is socially hopeless. As a stage director and occasional humor writer, I cannot imagine a more pathetic attempt at a joke than his “I’m a maniac. Everyone on this stage is stupid, fat, and ugly. And Ben Carson, you’re a terrible surgeon. Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump part out of the way (rim shot!) . . .” bit. His timing was terrible, and because the thing went on long after everyone knew what the punchline would be, nobody but a shill or an idiot would laugh at it. Cruz got even worse, talking past his limit, whining about the moderators siccing everyone else on him (though they were), trying to change the rules, and sounding like Bill Clinton as he tried to explain away what were his obvious flip-flops on immigration.

I noticed that as the camera panned the debaters dispersing after the debate, nobody spoke to Cruz or even looked at him, while the others were smiling and being collegial to one another. No wonder. Continue reading