Saturday Morning Ethics Update, 2/6/21: Day Before The Super Bowl Edition

CTE brain

This was a Friday morning warm-up that kept getting bumped, with my investigation of the TIME article that dropped yesterday finally bumping it all the way to now. As several have noted in the comments to that post, when real conspiracies rear their dark and slimy heads, it makes suspicion of other conspiracies not just more likely, but reasonable. In my case, for example, as Big Tech has joined social media in squashing news and opinions unpalatable to our rising progressive masters, Ethics Alarms, for no reason that I can see, is suffering through its worst non-holiday week in traffic in years. Meanwhile, I am suddenly getting email after email telling me that my blog isn’t turning up in Google searches the way it should. Hmmmm.

Stop it, Jack. “That way madness lies.

1. Sometimes the profit motive helps, sometimes it doesn’t. One more note about TIME’s piece: there have been many articles recently about how journalism ethics are a a myth and need to be regarded as such, because the major news organizations are chasing clicks, ads and dollars, not truth, justice, or the American way. This argument has some obvious truth in it, but it is often used to exonerate journalists from pushing the political agendas of the Left, which they obviously do. The country is still very conservative in many ways; the Fox News model was spectacularly profitable; why doesn’t the profit motive inspire more balanced coverage, especially since there is a market for it? Is it just a coincidence that news rooms (even Fox News’) are nearly exclusively made up of Democrats and socialists? TIME was the perfect candidate to break ranks: an iconic mainstream media name, quickly fading into irrelevance and obscurity. Desperation topped loyalty to the team, and, ironically, betrayal led to an ethical result, even though it was motivated by non-ethical considerations.

2. “Cancelled” or put out to pasture? Fox News has cancelled the Lou Dobbs show, even though it is the top rated show on Fox Business News. “There is only one-way to look at this announcement…. corporate U.S. media is in the tank for the cancel-culture policy against all things President Trump related” writes the conservative blog “The Last Refuge.  “P.e.r.i.o.d.” I’m not so sure. I thought Dobbs was losing it several years ago when he suddenly appeared on the air with his previously white hair died caramel brown, and his enthusiasm for Donald Trump has often crossed the line into unprofessional cheer-leading. He’s 75, and Fox New may well have wanted to get him off the air before he had to be pulled. (Why won’t any of these guys retire?) Dobbs is also one of the three Fox News hosts named along with the network after voting software company Smartmatic filed its $2.7 billion defamation suit.

Continue reading

Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 7/6/2020: Updates On Baseball, The Pandemic, The News Media, And The Little Girl Who Sang “Tomorrow” When We Needed To Hear It…Like Now

Chin up, everyone!

“Annie” opened in the gloom of the Carter Presidency and the Watergate hangover, and it’s hit ballad, “Tomorrow,” sung by a relentlessly optimistic orphan with her scruffy dog at her side, , became a sensation until everyone got sick of it.

Unlike so many child phenoms, there was a bright tomorrow for the original Annie, Andrea McArdle, the 12-year-old with the freakish belt.  She never made the leap to movies, but she has had a steller stage career that’s still going strong, aided by the fact that puberty was good to her, and her voice mellowed without losing its clarion strength. 

After “Annie,” McArdlehad starring roles on Broadway in  “Starlight Express,” “Les Miz,” “State Fair,” and as Belle in “Beauty and The Beast.” For the last 20 years she’s continuously starred in regional production and tours, national and international, of such shows as “Cabaret,””Gypsy” (as Mama Rose), “Mame” and “Hello Dolly,” and several times in “Annie,” though now, in middle age, she plays the little girl-hating comic villain, Miss Hannigan (third photo, first row).

But she can belt out “Tomorrow”…as should we all.

1. Wuhan Virus Ethics Train Wreck update:

  • Apparently the memo has gone out to the mainstream media that highlighting the George Floyd Freakout/Black Lives Matter mob’s anti-America rampage isn’t helping the cause of getting rid of President Trump. Thus it’s back to fear-mongering about the pandemic. Sunday’s Times was filled with giant, scary maps with big red blotches, and the headline was “Virus Inundates Texas, Fed by Abiding Mistrust of Government Orders.” The only non-editorial content in that headline is “Texas.” Further down on page one, another headline about a story that literally has nothing to do with the virus begins, “As Virus Rages…”

In contrast, there was no mention of how protesters danced on the American flag and chanted “America was never great!” during D.C.’s Fourth of July celebration, or how D.C.’s BLM flack mayor Muriel Bowser allowed the mob to block traffic returning to Virginia after the fireworks.

  • When I saw this story last night, I predicted that it would receive far more publicity than the death of a relatively little known 41-year-old Broadway actor normally would warrant. The reason is that  Nick Codero died from a series horrific complications after being infected–a series of strokes, heart failure, lung failure, the necessary amputation of his leg.

The severity of his reaction without having any underlying conditions is obviously an anomaly, but I see on my Facebook feed that friends are already hyping it to argue that America should remain in lockdown until everyone is living on the dole and wearing rags.

  • It’s not going to work now. People are right not to trust “government orders,” since the states and cities have abused their power with arbitrary restrictions and inconsistent enforcement, made fatal miscalculations (like Gov. Cuomo’s dumping of infected seniors in nursing homes), and the waffling CDC, including Dr. Fauci, has no credibility at all. (Rand Paul’s criticism of Fauci in the Senate hearing last week was  fair and appropriate.) Major League Baseball, having committed to the season starting this month, is noting infections among players, getting them quarantined,  and moving forward, in contrast to the NBA cancelling its season after a couple of infections in the Spring.

Good. Play Ball! Continue reading

Evening Ethics Catch-Up, 2/26/2020: Goodbye Baby Peggy And Baby “Whoops!”

Sorry, this is later that I intended…

I’ve been working on accounting ethics, which always slows down my metabolism to Galapagos tortoise levels…

1.Worst lie of the year (so far)…In Winter Park, Florida, Jorge Torres was found dead , zipped into a suitcase. Suspect Sarah Boone insisted that it was all a tragic mistake. They  were playing hide and seek, she said, and he just hid too well. A cellphone video, however, caught his cries for help from inside the suitcase, as she said, “That’s what I feel like when you cheat on me!” Boone, however, told police that the wacky couple thought it would be funny if he got inside the suitcase. They were drinking at the time and who hasn’t zipped up a loved one in a suitcase when spirits run high? Unfortunately, Sarah passed out on her bed, and when she woke up hours later, poor Jorge was dead.

That’s her story, and she’s sticking with it.

2. Remember “Baby Peggy”? Probably not, but she was probably the last living link to the silent movie era, and she died this week at 101. She was also one of the earliest examples of the child abuse that became routine in Hollywood. Baby Peggy, real name Peggy-Jean Montgomery, had made about 150 movies by the time she was five-years-old, and was a multi-millionaire at four. As has been the norm with child stars from Peggy through Jackie Coogan to Gary Coleman, Peggy’s parents stole her money and spent it all. They also let her risk life and limb in pursuit of her “art” that she was too young to understand. During her silent-film career, “Baby Peggy”  was thrown from a speeding pickup truck, narrowly escaped a horse trampling and survived near-drownings and incineration. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/4/2019: Mass Shootings, Teddy’s Grace, Skaters’ Peril, California’s Cheat

“Never on a Sunday” just doesn’t apply to the ethics biz.

Historical note: in 1960, the English language version of the title song from the hist Greek comedy “Never on a Sunday” was constantly on the radio. My friends were singing it; the song won the Oscar for Best Song. Nobody seemed to mind, or bothered to tell all the kids singing the cheerful earworm, that the song was about a prostitute who wouldn’t accept payment to be boinked on a Sunday. The translated song’s word “kiss” was a euphemism.

1. That bastion of ethics, California! Senator Kamala Harris has come under fire for pursuing aggressive prosecution policies while California Attorney General, in stark contrast to he campaign rhetoric regarding mass incarceration of minorities.  Now the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has removed many of the more controversial arrest records during her term in office. from the  Washington Free Beacon:

The department removed public access to a number of reports on incarceration in the state, including when presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D.) was California’s attorney general. Twice a year, the CDCR releases information about the number of new individuals incarcerated in the California prison system as part of its “Offender Data Points” series. These reports provide important information on demographics, sentence length, offense type, and other figures relevant to criminal justice and incarceration.Until recently, these reports were publicly available at the CDCR’s websiteA search using archive.org’s Wayback Machine reveals that as of April 25, 2019—the most recent indexed date—ODP reports were available dating back to the spring of 2009. As of August 2019, the same web page now serves only a single ODP report, the one for Spring 2019. The pre-2019 reports have been removed….the reports contain information about Harris’s entire time as state A.G., 2011 to 2017.

As John Travolta memorably says in “Face-Off”: “What a coinky-dink!”

Is this a partisan abuse of power designed to keep information away from the public and the media in support of favored candidate? It is. An ethical recipient of this assistance would condemn it and demand the State records be restored.  In this case, however, it would be more in character for Harris to have requested the purge.

2. Another shooting, another misleading stat. Today’s shooting in Dayton, coming right on top of last week’s El Paso Walmart massacre, has revived the “mass shooting a day” trope that was used repeatedly in 2018. Thus USA Today wrote today that there have been 250 “mass shootings” in 216 days this year. That’s deliberately misleading and deceitful.

The trick seems to be based on the non-partisan Mass Shooting Tracker, which uses the definition of “mass shooting” that includes any time four or more individuals are shot, excluding the shooter. Thus the number is inflated with gang shoot-outs, domestic violence, and incidents like this one, from a high-crime section of President Trump’s favorite city, Baltimore, last month:

“Police responded to a triple shooting in Northwest Baltimore late Saturday that left two males with serious injuries. Shortly before 10:30 p.m., police were dispatched to the 2800 block of Boarman Avenue for a shooting. They found three males with gunshot wounds. One victim was shot in the leg, an injury that was not life-threatening.”

Do you think of the Gunfight at the OK Corral as a mass shooting?  It was by the USA Today standard, though only three men were killed. Two of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday were shot, so it was a “mass shooting.”

When media outlets and politicians point to a true mass shooting like the one in El Paso, where 20 died and many were wounded by a madman, and say “this is the 250th Mass shooting this year,” that sounds like “we have had 250 shootings like this in 2019.”

And that’s what you are supposed to think. All the better to scare you into giving up your right to personal protection.

3. Teddy Roosevelt and “Mr. Dooley.” In Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Bully Pulpit,” she tells the story of how Finley Peter Dunne, the social critic, pundit and humorist who wrote in the voice of the fictional Irish barfly, “Mr. Dooley,” wrote a scathing review of then New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt’s account of his exploits in the Spanish American War, “The Rough Riders.” Dunne mocked Teddy as representing the war as a virtual one-man triumph, and suggested that the book would be better titled, “Alone in Cuba.”

Roosevelt wrote him soon after, saying, “I regret to state that my family and intimate friends are delighted with your review of my book. Now I think you owe me one; and I shall expect that when you next come east you pay me a visit. I have long wanted the chance of making your acquaintance.” They eventually met at the Republican Convention in 1900, and Roosevelt handed him a news scoop:  he would accept the nomination as President McKinley’s running mate.

They remained friends and correspondents even though Dunne, as Dooley, continued to lampoon Teddy. Dunne wrote later, “I never knew a man with a keener humor or one who could take a joke on himself with better grace.”

This is the mark of both a secure and a wise leader, as well as one with a sense of humor and proportion. We have had few such leaders, and fewer such Presidents. Imagine how much better off President Trump would be if he had treated critics like Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee the way Teddy treated Dunne.  Imagine how much better off we all would be.

4. What? Young female athletes handed off by their parents to adult coaches and into unsupervised interaction with older male athletes are often sexually abused? How could that be?  Three-time United States skating champion and Olympic meal winner Ashley Wagner said  this week  John Coughlin, a male figure skater who commited suicide in January,  had sexually assaulted her when she was 17. (Wagner is  28 now.) Writes the Times, “The accusations have further raised concerns that the dynamics of figure skating feed a culture in which young women are all too vulnerable.”

Gee, ya think? It is, has been and will always be irresponsible parenting to send young athletes out of parental oversight into the clutches of strangers because the parents lust for vicarious fame and direct fortune.  At best, even if they avoid the molestation that is too common to ignore, they have been deposited into an unhealthy life path. Today’s Times recounts the story of how young Natalie Wood, being showcased to Hollywood studios by her aggressive stage-mother, was raped twice at an audition when she was 16. Her mother never reported it, lest Natalie be blackballed by the many Harvey Weinsteins in the industry. Women’s sports are no different.

As child star activist Paul Petersen wrote in the only guest post ever to appear here,

“In the Common Law, children are the property of their parents who, in law, “are entitled to the custody, income and services” of the child. The presumption is that parents will not willfully take advantage of their child’s vulnerability, and their inability to disobey. Sadly, the reality faced by children in today’s world is at odds with this presumption.”

This is a much a child endangerment problem as a sexual predator problem.

 

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/6/2018: The “Too Sick To Come Up With A Good Headline” Edition

He’s lucky: he has hair...

Good Morning!

1 A solution to a perpetual problem. I do the mandatory introduction to legal ethics for two jurisdictions. Both are early in the morning,and both have courts monitoring them, insisting that to get credit, attendees must be present for every second of the course. The problem: late arrivals. One of my jurisdictions had a tendency to let late-comers in if it’s just a few minutes, but sometimes it gets ridiculous. Once the line is blurred, when does it get hard again? I have sen the administrators tell a lawyer that she is absolutely the last one who will get a break, only to see another late comer burst through the door panicked, upset, and with a doozy of an excuse…and then another, and another. This is especially ironic because lawyers are ethically required to be on time to court, or else.

In my other jurisdiction, they deal with the problem by absolute enforcement. 30 seconds late, and you have to come back next month. It doesn’t matter why, it doesn’t matter where the lawyer came from (one had flown in from Seoul and was two minutes late). If you arrive after the doors are closed at 9 am sharp, you can’t get credit. This, as you might imagine, often sparks tantrums, tears, threats, and “Do you know who I am?” One furious attendee actually cast a curse on every bar employee in sight. I’m talking about a real curse, right out of the movies, pointing and chanting. Some months we have had more than ten latecomers in the lobby, acting like an angry mob, and threatening a riot.

This jurisdiction has solved the problem by recently telling all who need the course on the bar website and  in email messages that the program begins at 8:30 am, when it really doesn’t. In other words, the solution is a lie: if someone arrives at 8:59, there’s no problem.

Is this ethical?

2. Oh, this was obviously going to be an ethics rain wreck long ago. AG Sessions announced that the Justice Department would not be following the Obama Administration’s policy regarding federal anti-pot laws—which is to say, it would not signal that it wouldn’t enforce the law. As a result,  Corey Gardner, Republican Senator from happily stoned Colorado, announced that he would block any appointments to Justice until the Department charged with enforcing laws agrees to stop enforcing laws. What Sessions did is not the draconian reversal it has been represented as by the Angry Trump Hate Mob, Stoner Chapter. Read the order from Sessions here.

Never mind. Following the lead of California, which has officially announced that it will encourage breaches of the immigration laws, now Colorado wants to impede the functioning of national law enforcement to force the federal government to let another state veto drug laws. This is what we call “a dangerous and irresponsible trend.”

3.  The Tragedy of Joanie Cunnningham. The New York Times Magazine ended the year with biographical sketches, including the sad story of Erin Moran, aka Joanie Cunningham on “Happy Days,” who died of cancer in 2017. It’s an all-too-typical story of a child star with a dysfunctional family who grew up on a set without ever receiving the parenting and support she needed to be able to become a functioning adult. I knew about Moran’s problems after the show ended; I did not know that her bitterness about her fellow cast members stemmed from her feelings as a child that her TV family was a substitute her real family, and that they failed her. Of course, the Cunninghams, Fonzie, Ralph and Potsie had no duty to become Moran’s surrogate family, but I am not surprised that a child actor would feel this way, especially one who was  being neglected and mistreated at home the way Erin Moran apparently was. Interestingly, child actor advocate Paul Petersen has said that his TV mom and dad, Donna Reed and Carl Betz, did act as his surrogate parents in important and beneficial ways.

I continue to believe that using child performers before the age of informed consent is unethical. Continue reading

Rudy Huxtable Lets Desperate Dad Use Her As A Stage Prop

Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial began yesterday in Norristown, Pennsylvania,  but Bill’s enabling and complicit wife didn’t appear with him. Smart move by defense counsel: Camille Cosby’s almost certain knowledge of her husband/meal ticket’s infidelity and worse makes the pair seem like a couple of monsters, and the jury would be conflicted seeing Mrs. Cosby  sitting in court as women described being drugged and assaulted by Funny Bill while her husband’s defense was not “I didn’t do it” but “it was consensual.”  Still, having Cosby  entering the Montgomery County courtroom without family present would send the message that he was being shunned by those who know him best. What to do?

Eureka! Have the accused serial sexually predator accompanied by a member of the family the public knows and loves best, his TV family from “The Cosby Show! Perfect! It sends the message that he is still supported and loved by those who know him. It proves that he has not been abandoned and shunned. Best of all, such an entrance makes Cosby appear to be the nice, ethical, fatherly Bill Cosby everyone thinks they know, the one who raised four adorable girls and who had a beautiful feminist wife, a noble and moral man who would never, never do the things that over 50 women say he did to them, the money-grubbing sluts.

So instead of his real-life wife, Cosby was guided into the courtroom  by former television daughter Keishia Knight Pulliam, who played the cute little one, adorable Rudy, from 1984 to 1992. Pulliam agreed to be a prop, in other words, a prop designed to help implant reasonable doubt in a case where reasonable doubt will be hard to come by. Bias and cognitive dissonance helps, though. Rudy is there to help “Dad” by nourishing bias as a jury considers Andrea Constand’s lon-standing accusation that Cosby drugged and molester her.

Of Knight Pulliam’s presence, Cosby’s spokesperson Andrew Wyatt said: “She’s not here to proclaim guilt or innocence. She’s here to finally hear the truth for herself in the courtroom. She wants people to stop listening to the sensationalism and come hear the truth.” Nonsense. If Pulliam wanted to do just that, she could have arrived at the courtroom like anyone else, and sat quietly among the spectators. Instead, she was playing a role calculated to make it harder for a jury to see through Cosby’s celebrity and public persona. She knew it, too.

Why would an alleged feminist ally herself with a sexual predator and against so many women? Well, it can’t hurt Pulliam’s career any, since she barely has a career. She has been languishing in post-child star Hell for sometime now, going the “She’s all grown up and she’s bad’ route that worked out so well for Lindsay Lohan; the Cosby trial gig—no, I don’t think its unfair to ask if she was paid—at least reminds people that Rudy is 38 and still around. Maybe a reality show producer is watching.

Last year, Pulliam had Amber Rose on her podcast “Kandidly Keshia”I’m sure you never miss it-to promote Rose’s “Slut Walk” event designed to end slut-shaming. When he mentioned Cosby, she responded,

“I feel you, and everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but we still live in a country where you’re innocent till proven guilty. And I understand everything that’s happened, and me being a feminist and believing women—no means no and I get that—but, just so you know, I did work with him for a really long time. I love him dearly still and that isn’t the man that I know.”

Translation: My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts. Maybe this statement led to the phone call from Cosby’s lawyer. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Can We At Least Agree On This?”

by

Paul Petersen, guest blogger

paulpetersenjpg-7e3983c6cd2404d1

[This is Paul Petersen’s second guest blogger appearance on Ethics Alarms. Based on his own experiences as a child actor on “The Donna Reed Show” and what he observed in the treatment of his less fortunate colleagues in the field, Paul  created the profession of child performer advocate and activist, educating the public and assisting individual  performers. (His Facebook friend list is a Who’s Who of former child actors.) Although Paul is officially retired, he continues to speak out about conditions, legal and otherwise, that place child performers in financial, physical, and social peril. The number of child stars, current or grown, who are indebted to him and his organization A Minor Consideration are beyond counting. A true Ethics Hero, his work and statements have been referenced here many times.–Jack]

Can we at least agree on this? Children are a special class of humankind. They are uniquely unformed, utterly dependent, and slaves to the adults who brought them into this world and the society into which they were born.

We all know how children are created, right? They did not ask for this. They are, in a word, innocent. Biologically mature adults are responsible. Of that there is no doubt. Children are a special charge. The rules, for kids, are different…or at least they used to be.

When did they become sexual objects? Since when are they merely background players, mere props? Who decreed that a child immersed in a working environment in which all the contributory adults are compensated for their labor, could somehow NOT be themselves working? Continue reading

A Young Ex-Actress Is In Crisis: Is The Media Capable Of Kindness? Are We?

Yesterday I flagged an independent film, a black satire, that tells the tale of a decent man who is sent into a homicidal rampage when the cruelty of the culture and especially the media overcomes him. I’m not to that point—yet—but the callousness of the national media in response to what it feels is consumer demand is oppressive.

I am going to omit names, graphics or links here, because I do not want to feed the phenomenon I am decrying. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Is It Ethical For The President To Cut In Line?

"I'm more important than you are, so I'm cutting in line."

“I’m more important than you are, so I’m cutting in line.”

[Fred, who sent me this one, prefaced it by writing, “You’ll love this.” He was right. I do. I also hate it.]

News Item ( Austin 360):

“Following his speech at the Paramount, President Obama’s motorcade traveled to Franklin Barbecue on East 11th Street. The restaurant is well known for its great brisket and extremely long waits, but the president circumvented that using the powers of his office. “I know this is a long line. I feel real bad, but – I’m gonna cut,” Obama said, according to a pool report from the Statesman’s Chuck Lindell. [Owner] Aaron Franklin told the Statesman’s Ciara O’Rourke that nobody cuts the line at Franklin … except Obama.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is it ethical for the President of the United States to cut into a line for goods or services?

Can you guess my answer?

It’s not just “no,” but “Hell, no!”

Talk about the Imperial Presidency! There is no basis, justification or excuse whatsoever for the President to cut into line under these circumstances, especially by saying, “I’m gonna cut.” The proper answer to that, my friends, is “No, you’re not, Mister President. Why don’t you ask politely, and maybe everyone ahead of you will be magnanimous and agree?” Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Actor Shia LaBeouf

“Fuck you. This is fucking bullshit. Do you know my life? Do you know who the fuck I am? Do you know who I am?”

—Former “Transformers” actor (and  Indiana Jones son) Shia LaBoeof, as he was arrested and dragged out of the Broadway musical “Cabaret” during a performance where he had been smoking a joint in his seat and periodically yelling at the actors.

Contrary to the lyrics, Shia, I think it may be time to consider sitting alone in your room...

Contrary to the lyrics, Shia, I think it may be time to consider sitting alone in your room…

Shia obviously has former child actor emotional problems and I sincerelywish him the best, but if there is anything an individual of any note, connections or accomplishment can utter that has signature significance—to anybody, from a librarian to a police officer, “do you know who I am?” and all variations thereof is it.

Yes, Shia, we know who you are. You’re an asshole. Next question?