Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/13/2019: The Defending The Unsavory Edition

Good morning from Alexandria, VA.!

I love Atlanta, but it sure is good to be home.

1. I just posted this note on Facebook to make my “friends'” heads explode:

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez:: “I know when I was growing up, I didn’t see any women like me in positions of leadership, And so when you’re only seeing white dudes just like, running the world, you think you need to act like a white dude to run the world.” She’s a stone-cold bigot as well as arrogant and ignorant. There is no “acting like a white dude” any more than acting like a black dude, or a gay dude, or acting “Asian,” or “acting like a girl.” The woman is an idiot, and is being given a pass by progressives and the media…and many of YOU. She embarrasses her party , the House and her generation just about every time she opens her mouth. Ocasio-Cortez even manages to be an embarrassment to Socialists, which I didn’t think was possible.

2. Now Stop making me defend AOC!Ocasio-Cortez Blames Pipeline That Hasn’t Been Built Yet For An Oil Spill” is a typical headline around conservative media today. It’s a cheap shot: the lively Miss O-C got here South Dakota pipelines mixed up, as would I, as would you. This is the kind of biased and petty “gotchas!’ that these same pundits complain about when the mainstream news media uses them on President Trump. Hypocrites, all of them. The exact same principle applies to Trump and Ocasio-Cortez: they say enough things that genuinely deserved to be criticized without manufacturing targets for mockery.

3.  And stop making me defend Pete Davidson, too! SNL’s Pete Davidson, the same smug jerk who mocked candidate, now Congressman, Dan Crenshaw for wearing an eyepatch (he lost an eye in combat) is under fire again for this joke: 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

Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/15/2018: Rationalizations, Corruption And Mass Impeachment [UPDATED]

Mornin’, all!

1. “That Dog” Ethics. I can think of more accurate and meaner names for Omarosa than “that dog,” but then my vocabulary is larger and more versatile than the President’s…but then, whose isn’t?  I have never heard of “dog” being identified as a racist term—because it isn’t one—though it is a sexist term, often used to denote an unattractive female. Nonetheless, this is presidential language, indeed gutter, low-life language that demeans a President, his office, and the nation he leads when it issues from the White House.

Among the rationalizations that suggest themselves are 1A.  “We can’t stop it” (apparently not, and neither can John Kelly), 2. A. “She had it coming” (nobody short of a traitor or a criminal deserves to be attacked by the President of the United States using such language), 7. “She started it” (which is excusable if you are in kindergarten), 8A. “This can’t make things any worse” (oh, sure it can), 22. “He’s said worse” (true) and many others: I don’t have the energy to go through the whole list.

Of all the dumb, incompetent, self-inflicted impediments to doing the job he was elected to do, the Omarosa fiasco might be the worst and most unforgivable. I’m not sure: I’d have to go through that list, and not only do I not have the energy, I think I’d rather rip my eyelids off.

2. I’m sure glad the new Pope fixed all of this. This story would normally fall into the category of being so obviously unethical that it isn’t worth writing about. Moreover, Ethics Alarms had referenced the Catholic sexual predator scandals in many ways, on many occasions. What distinguishes the latest chapter in this ongoing horror is that the latest revelations are coming after all of the lawsuits, damages, mea culpas and promises of reform, and they did not come from the Church. This means that the cover-up was and is ongoing. It means that even with the thousands of children who were raped and abused that we know about, there were many more. It also means, in all likelihood, that the abuse is continuing. Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Wake-Up, 7/16/2018: Punking, Molesting, Grandstanding And Obsessing

My state of mind this morning…

It’s Monday again.

1. Ethics Neurosis. I failed to get an Ethics Warm-Up or an equivalent posted this past Saturday, and still feel guilty about it after feeling guilty all weekend. This is not healthy. I had an early morning seminar to teach as well as some urgent family business to tend to afterwards, and then found myself thoroughly exhausted. I just couldn’t rouse myself to the task, then felt like I was failing my duties of diligence and responsibility.

This is especially weird, because I’m kind of frustrated over the blog these days. Traffic continues to lag, having dropped about 10% since the overheated days of 2016, and 2018 is a little behind last year, meaning that there is a goodly chance that Ethics Alarms will have negative growth two years in a row after trending up for its first seven years. I attribute the slump to Mr. Trump, as the New York Times calls him, the “resistance,” as the large bloc of progressives, including those in the news media, who have refused to do the ethical thing and let Mr. Trump be the President he was elected to be without unprecedented disrespect, sabotage  and interference from them, and the rigid polarization, social and political, the two have created among members of the public who are now crippled by hate, anger and bias.

One of my Facebook friends, in this case a real friend who has occasionally commented here, recently noted innocently that one of Melania Trump’s dresses was gorgeous, and even though he had led with a disclaimer that he did not want his observation to prompt political invective, several of his own FBF’s reacted by attacking the First Lady. One called her a “ho;” another opined that she had no soul, which is the only way she could be married to this President of the United States. I told the latter commenter to “Get help,” and he responded by declaring me a racist. This is the kind of deranged logic that has caused committed leftists from visiting here, being rational, and discussing ethics. One of our prominent and most noisy excommunicants recently wrote me  to say that since I apparently approved of “putting children in cages,” he was glad to be gone.

Maybe such individuals will be able to reason objectively again some day. I’ve got to learn to stop beating myself up if they can’t. Writing an ethics blog is too much work and responsibility to do every day when it makes me unhappy.

2. Why I don’t give a damn what the Pope thinks. I watched “Spotlight” again yesterday, the Academy Award-winning film about how the Boston Globe broke the Catholic Church child molestation scandal 18 years ago. It ends with a disturbing four screens of small type listing all of the cities in the U.S. and the world where major child molesting scandals and cover-ups had been exposed. (There have been more since.) Come to think of it, I also lost some readers here over the Ethics Alarms (correct) position that a religious organization that could allow this catastrophe to happen had forfeited its moral authority and was untrustworthy.

Then I read a prominent story above the fold in today’s Times that begins, Continue reading

From The “Saint’s Excuse” Files:The Catholic Church, Penn State, and Now Choate…What Have We Learned?

Protect the hive. Always protect the hive…

The renowned private boarding school school Choate Rosemary Hall, alma mater of such luminaries as John Dos Passos, Edward Albee, Glenn Close, multiple Kennedys and dozens more of the rich, famous and powerful, , just revealed that at least twelve former teachers had sexually molested, and in one case, raped, students without the crimes being reported to police. The pattern continued over decades. In some cases, teachers were allowed to resign after being confronted with evidence of abuse, and administrators wrote still letters of recommendations for them after they were fired. The predators then went to other schools, sometimes in positions of power and authority.

After the similar institutional conduct revealed by the Catholic Church and Penn State, does anyone believe that this is a rare occurrence in institution, including the most prestigious—and virtuous!—ones? The lesson is that established, powerful, iconic institutions are programmed to protect themselves above others, and regard their own missions and continued vitality more precious than any single individual, even a child.

Revisiting one of the most important of the Ethics Alarms’ 92 rationalizations:

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

This rationalization has probably caused more death and human suffering than any other. The words “it’s for a good cause” have been used to justify all sorts of lies, scams and mayhem. It is the downfall of the zealot, the true believer, and the passionate advocate that almost any action that supports “the Cause,’ whether it be liberty, religion, charity, or curing a plague, is seen as being justified by the inherent rightness of the ultimate goal. Thus Catholic Bishops protected child-molesting priests to protect the Church, and the American Red Cross used deceptive promotions to swell its blood supplies after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Saint’s Excuse  allows charities to strong-arm contributors, and advocacy groups to use lies and innuendo to savage ideological opponents. The Saint’s Excuse is that the ends justify the means, because the “saint” has decided that the ends are worth any price—especially when that price will have to be paid by someone else.

Continue reading

Comment of the Day: Ethics Blindness at Joe Pa’s Memorial Service

Paterno's inaction: bliviousness...or willful blindness?

In the ongoing debate among Joe Paterno sympathizers (and I don’t mean that pejoratively) and those who believe the late Penn State icon failed his ethical obligations miserably and deserved all the criticism he received, several interesting themes have arisen, including whether “obliviousness” is an excuse, whether critics are engaging in “wahlberging”–that is, claiming that they would have handled a difficult situation better when it costs them nothing to make the claim—and whether the Sandusky incident should be permitted to cloud Paterno’s legacy at Penn State, or should be over-shadowed by it. In this Comment of the Day, Proam covers these topics in response to a commenter who wrote, “Other posters who have tried to in any way justify Paterno’s actions/lack of action – GET REAL!”  Here is his comment, to the post, “Ethics Blindness at Joe Pa’s Memorial Service.” I’ll have some reactions at the end. Continue reading

Ethics Blindness at Joe Pa’s Memorial Service

At least Albert Speer didn't have a clear conscience.

I did not expect the speakers at Joe Paterno’s emotional memorial service to avoid stepping on  some of the myriad ethical landmines that lay before them. It was a time to say good things about the late Penn State coach, and there is plenty to say. Still, two speakers did cross deep into unethical territory. Even at a memorial service, when the lessons of the Jerry Sandusky affair are so important for all to learn and accept, it was poor judgment and irresponsible for those honoring Paterno to try to minimize or deny his accountability in the tragedy.

Unethical Statement #1: Nike Co-Founder and Chairman Phil Knight. “Whatever the details of the investigation are, this much is clear to me: There was a villain in this tragedy. It lies in the investigation, not in Joe Paterno’s response to it.”

This got a standing ovation, a reaction every bit as offensive as the Penn State student riots after Paterno’s firing, indeed more so. Knight’s rationalization excuses every Enron executive who knew that the leadership was defrauding investors; every Bernie Madoff family member and enriched investor who knew something was wrong but waited for the SEC to act; every member of the Nixon White House who saw the rule of law being trampled but reasoned that since he wasn’t directly involved, there was no reason to speak up; every member of Congress who knew that Rep. Mark Foley was sexually harassing House pages and kept quiet; and every priest who knew that a colleague was sexually molesting boys and did nothing, because the Church leadership was doing nothing. Knight’s defense of Joe Paterno is a defense of all of these, and indeed a defense of evil. Continue reading