Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/2/2018: Bad Neighbors And Bad Journalism

Good Morning…

1. Ah, now THAT’S the ol’ Spirit of 1776!  In a subdivision near Sterling Heights in Chesterfield, Michigan,  a resident sent an anonymous letter to other residents, threatening  to take dire measures against them if they set off fireworks after 9 PM  this week. Here’s the letter…

Yikes.

I’m presuming that the real spirit of 1776 still breathes deeply in this nation, and that the reaction of the recipients of that letter will be to make certain that the noisiest fireworks possible are exploding every second during the time they are permitted to be by law, from the start of the week to the end. The neighbor is a coward, a jerk and a bully, and his bluff must be called as a matter of justice and honor. (Pointer: HLN)

2. Nah, the mainstream news media isn’t biased! In an absolutely correct and justified editorial note, Fox News’ Chris Wallace excoriated media outlets on “Fox News Sunday” for attempting to connect President Donald Trump to the newsroom shooting at Capital Gazette in Maryland. (This will, of course, be called an example of Fox News pro-Trump toadying by those same media outlets.) This was indeed one of the most transparent recent episodes of fake news peddling by CNN, Reuters and others in the mainstream media, who worked hard to make the case that the killer of five was motivated by the President’s repeated accusation that the media is “the enemy of the people.” We now know that the shooter swore that he would kill the Capital Gazette writer whom he targeted in the attack years ago, when everyone assumed that Hillary was going to be the next President. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/5/17: “Close Encounters,” A Bad Bank, A Jaw-Dropping Tweet, Sentimentalizing DACA, And More

GOOD MORNING!!

1. A remastered “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is in theaters now, and I have mixed feelings about the fact that it is not attracting many ticket-buyers. Spielberg is incapable of making a bad movie, and even his most annoying films (like this one) are thought-provoking and entertaining compared to most of the junk we are getting from Hollywood now. But “Close Encounters” is an unethical movie that bothers me more every time I see it.

The film celebrates hippy spiritual fanaticism for no good reason. Why does everyone get all misty-eyed over these angelic, long-armed  aliens who think they have leave to kidnap human beings, including babies, take them away from their families and disrupt their lives, and then dump them off in another place and time? Why is Richard Dreyfus smiling about that, the idiot? Meanwhile, his character has forgotten about his own wife and kids, never giving them a second thought once he goes E.T. hunting. (And why is Terri Garr treated so badly in her movies by alleged protagonists? Dustin Hoffman used her as a door mat in “Tootsie,” too.)

2. As an addendum to the previous post about DACA ethics, consider this example of how the news media sentimentalizes and propagandizes illegal immigration: the Washington Post’s heart-tugging and misleading story with the headline, “He was brought to Virginia as a toddler, deported at 19. He died in an overheated tractor-trailer trying to return.

“He” was an illegal immigrant, though the Post uses the deceitful “undocumented immigrant” euphemism, as if he lost his library card or something. His name was Frank  Fuentes, and he was quite rightly deported a year after he pleaded guilty to assault and battery as well as grand larceny­/pickpocketing in 2016. He died trying to break the law, and while dealing with the criminals who smuggle people into the U.S. in trucks. The fact that Fuentes didn’t deserve to die is waved by the Post like a crimson flag to distract from the fact that he had no right to be in the U.S., and no right to sneak back in.

Ah, but he was a good man at heart, who “loved skateboarding and music.”  “We all make mistakes,” the post quotes a friend as saying, not noting that this is the go-to rationalization for every law-breaker from Billy the Kid to Joe Arpaio. “He wanted to be better for his family and his mom . . . that’s all he cared about.”

What the Post is doing  isn’t reporting. It is selective, manipulated sentiment designed to obscure the real issues in illegal immigration. This kind of coverage is why polls about “dreamers” reflect shallow emotion-based reflex, not serious, informed consideration.

3. Sam Stein, formerly the Huffington Post’s senior politics editor now writing for  The Daily Beast, tweeted,

Discuss.

4.  The president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, announced that the police union’s members will refuse to hold the American flag as planned at the NFL’s Cleveland Brown’s home opener, after nine Browns players took a “Kaepernick” and knelt during the national anthem in a pre-season game with the New York Giants.

“It’s just ignorant for someone to do that,” Steve Loomis told reporters. “It just defies logic to me. The fact that management was aware of what they planned on doing, that’s as offensive as it can get.”

Good for the union. The NFL has been cowardly and irresponsible by not confronting and ending these demonstrations against the United States in general and police in particular, starting with its non-action when the St. Louis Rams performed a “Hands up! Don’t shoot! display in 2014. Kaepernick specifically had said, in his various vague posturings, that police were among the  targets of  his kneeling stunt, making the ignorant statement that officers in police-involved shootings should not collect a salary while investigations were pending (unlike, say, the many NFL players who have been suspects in criminal investigations).

Among the many functions of professional sports teams is to bring communities together, not divide them. Players are free to express their political positions, however ill-informed, off the field if they are willing to take responsibility for them, which may involve negative team action and fan anger. Cleveland, where 12-year old Tamir Rice was shot by an incompetent cop, is an especially sensitive place for an anti-police demonstration to take place.

The comments on the article at the link are depressing, as in knee-jerk and foolish. Continue reading

Obviously, Democratic Base Demonstrators Are Planning To Disrupt July’s Republican National Convention In Cleveland. Here Are Seven Ethical Mandates To Prevent It…

1. Integrity, Citizenship and Responsibility: President Obama should begin speaking, now, about the integrity of the democratic process, the duty of all Americans to respect the opinions of others, and the civic obligation to allow elections to be peaceful and fair. he should also stop sowing partisan animus, and seeking to divide the nation for the Democratic Party ‘s advantage.

2. Responsibility and Competence: The Republican Party should tell Donald Trump that he has disgraced the party’s values, that he will no longer be considered as a candidate, and that he can do his worst. (Just for fun, it should challenge Democrats to be equally responsible and disqualify Hillary Clinton for conspiring to foil the Freedom of Information Act, which is pretty obviously what the private server was all about.)

3.  Responsibility: The GOP should move the convention out of Cleveland. It may already be too late, but it needs to do this, and should have done so the second the Tamir Rice shooting occurred. Holding a national convention in that city is inviting violence. My recommendation: move it to Honolulu, so demonstrators will have to spend a fortune to get there, while placing it in Obama’s home state, bring the division he has sought and nourished into his back yard. Continue reading

Dead Ethics Alarms And Dead Brains In Cleveland

In other words, be just like Cleveland, Ohio.

In other words, be just like Cleveland, Ohio.

When I read that Cleveland was trying to bill the family $500 for the fatally wounded  Tamir Rice to be carried by an ambulance after an incompetent police officer shot the 12-year-old boy as he played with a toy gun in a city park, I began a mental countdown. How long would it be before a public outcry forced the Cleveland municipal government to cover the bill and apologize? It took about a day.

It doesn’t matter how one regards Rice’s death: a racist murder by a cop, excused by the justice system ( black activists, anti-polce race-hucksters  and too many journalists and pundits), blatant incompetence on the part of many adults and institutions, leading to the negligent, tragic death of an innocent child (Ethics Alarms), or something in between. The incident was a massive humiliation for Cleveland, its leadership and the police, justifying all of the anger and raw emotion in its aftermath. Tamir and his family were undeniably victims, and the city was the entity that harmed them. If there is a single individual on the city payroll who is incapable of immediately recognizing the grotesque insult of billing the family for removing the body of the dead child killed by city police, then the city itself is untrustworthy and dysfunctional. As it happens, many city employees must have been aware of the disgusting bill, and every one of them should have been smart enough to know that this was one expense the city had to eat or else. Now we know how and why Tamir died. Incompetent people are running the city, and incompetent people are dangerous.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson apologized at a news conference yesterday, and said that the city would pay whatever wasn’t covered by Medicaid. “It was mistake in terms of us not flagging it, but it was not a mistake in terms of the legal process,” Jackson said. This logic echoes the rationalizations for the conduct of “The Worst Aunt Ever,” who sued her 12-year-old nephew to get insurance covered damages. Continue reading

Columnist Malpractice On The Tamir Rice Tragedy

This is not how police saw Tamir Rice before he was shot, but never mind: the points is to horrify the public, not to accurately explain what happened.

This is not how police saw Tamir Rice before he was shot, but never mind: the objective is to inflame public opinion, not to accurately convey what happened and why.

Washington Post reporter Lonnae O’Neal found herself compelled by the Tamir Rice grand jury decision to write the kind of irresponsible column for the paper that can be written but shouldn’t be written—not by a professional journalist, not when public passions are inflamed, not when complex and entangled issues need analysis, careful words, perspective and wisdom. It is an emotional scream of pain and frustration, unleavened by objectivity, fairness or restraint. Such columns do much damage, and no good. Such columns are destructive. I hope writing it relieved her pain, but that’s not justification enough.

I was alerted to the kind of column it would be  by its first sentences:

A 12-year-old black boy walks into a Cleveland park, plays with a toy gun and, within seconds of arriving, a police officer shoots him dead. His partner tackles the boy’s 14-year-old sister as she rushes to his side, handcuffs the girl and shoves her into a squad car, helpless, as her brother lay dying.

If we want to accurately describe the event that ended  Tamir Rice’s life so prematurely from the perspective of people who loved him, and of people mourning the senseless death of a child, those who read about the boy’s death and want to cry to the skies, “Why? How can this happen?,” then that is a defensible beginning….maybe.  That is not her intent, however. The intent of her column is to indict “the system” for not indicting the officer who shot Tamir Rice. With that intent, the description is a lie, a manipulative appeal to pure emotion that willfully and negligently makes the system, which is not and must not be based on emotion, incomprehensible.  Continue reading

Dear BlackLivesMatter And Friends: If You Won’t Be Responsible, At Least Leave LeBron James Alone

No Justice LeBron

It should be apparent by now that BlackLivesMatter is a racist domestic terrorist organization. Terrorism is causing chaos for the sake of causing chaos in the imagined pursuit of a political agenda. That’s what the group, smug and shameless as ever, did over the post-Christmas weekend, disrupting the Mall of the Americas and blocking traffic at the Minneapolis airport. No, they haven’t killed anyone yet; they claim to be non-violent. We’ll see about that when they get sufficiently frustrated. One thing is certain about irrational, self-glorifying organizations: you never know how irrational they will get.

Now the Tamir Rice mess in Cleveland has presented BLM and its allies—which include all three Democratic candidates for President, according to their pandering rhetoric, as well as the Democratic National Committee— with a target more relevant to their alleged mission than disrupting children’s choir performances, losing money for small businesses and inconveniencing  Minnesotans who never did an African American harm in their lives. Using the hashtag #NoJusticeNoLebron, the Ferguson activated activists, led by writer Tariq Touré, have launched a Twitter barrage  imploring NBA superstar and Cleveland Cavaliers hometown hero LeBron James to refuse to play in NBA games until the Department of Justice, “imprisons the murderers of Tamir Rice.” Justice is of course investigating the fatal November 2014 shooting, since the Obama Administration tacitly encourages the divisive myth that any time a  white officer shoots a black man, it is presumptively a civil rights violation.

Like virtually everything that has come out of the incoherent, anti-white, anti-police movement surrounding the various controversial police shootings (of blacks only, however, though there have been more fatal shootings of whites…but never mind, that doesn’t advance the mythical narrative), this plan is ludicrous, unfair, and demonstrates the ignorance and/or contempt the protesters have for due process and the rule of law. Continue reading

The Brelo Acquittal: Once Again, No Just Cause For Protest

Brelo car

Nobody should doubt that there are too many instances of excessive police force, that racism must playsa factor in many of these episodes, and that prosecutors and juries give police special, and perhaps excessively generous,  consideration when cases of alleged abuse come to trial. The sheer numbers compel that concludion. However, the now routine presumption on the part of civil rights activists, much of the news media and Obama racially-biased Justice Department that every instance where an unarmed African American is killed by a police officer warrants indictment and conviction is as pernicious as racism itself, and threatens the rule of law as well as any semblance of peaceful race relations.

Every incident is not like the Walter Scott shooting in South Carolina, where the police officer’s actions were unequivocally homicidal, but the news media seems to blur the lines as much as it can. In the current controversy out of Cleveland, police officer Michael Brelo’s acquittal of murder charges was announced with headlines resembling  Slate’s “Cleveland Police Officer Acquitted for Firing 15 Shots That Killed Unarmed Black Couple,” which makes it sound as if Brelo personally executed the Huxtables while they were taking a Sunday drive. “Cleveland Police Officer Acquitted for Firing 15 Shots out of 137 That Killed Two Mentally-Ill, Homeless Addicts Under The Influence of Drugs Who Fled A Lawful Police Stop And Were Credibly Believed to Have Discharged A Firearm” would have been lengthy, but also would have been fair rather than deceitful.

The acquittal came because there was no way to determine for certain that Brelo’s shots were the ones that killed the couple.  Nor were the Cleveland officers’ presumption that deadly force was necessary unreasonable. Police had been informed that shots had been fired from the car (they turned out to be backfires from the auto), and the driver  had certainly exhibited reckless conduct. Was it necessary for Brelo to jump up on the hood of the car after multiple shots had been fired into it by other officers (the chase involved over 60 police cars)?  Were more shots fired by all concerned than necessary? Maybe and almost certainly, but neither of those facts add up to guilt for the officer, or justification for another “Hand up, Don’t shoot!” protest. Officers didn’t know the occupants of the fleeing car were unarmed, and had reason to think they were armed. They didn’t know they were a “couple,” or African American, or mentally ill.

Never mind; African American protesters are demonstrating, protesting and getting arrested in Cleveland anyway. Continue reading

Now THAT Was Moral Luck…

"What the HELL do those idiots think they are doing with that poor kid???"

“What the HELL do those idiots think they are doing with that poor kid???”

Moral luck is the daily phenomenon where the exact same irresponsible  act by an individual can be regarded as cause for condemnation or even criminal penalties, or be shrugged off as a forgivable error in judgment and inconsequential based on turns of fate that the individual has no control over at all. You will see few better examples than this ridiculous story out of Cleveland. Parents visiting the Cleveland zoo dangled their 2-year-old son over the railing of the zoo’s cheetah exhibit,  then dropped the child, apparently accidentally, into the enclosure.The cheetahs wisely decided that the offspring of idiots might not be safe to eat, and made no effort to harm him. The boy’s father rescued the boy by jumping into the exhibit area and taking his son to safety. The boy was injured slightly, but it is likely that the incident will be  treated as an accident, with no consequences for the parents. If, however, the cheetahs had attacked and killed the toddler, the parents would have been prosecuted, and condemned across social media as contenders for worst parents of the year.

It was all up to the cheetahs.

That’s moral luck.

It Begins Again: The Unethical News Media Fights For Control Of Another Shooting Narrative

Stirring the potThe thinking in news rooms is, I suppose, “After all, somebody’s going to do it. Might as well try to get the upper hand.” When did journalism decide that stirring the pot was responsible journalism?

As the Tamir Rice shooting in Cleveland, discussed here, slowly begins its journey to replace the Michael Brown controversy as Ground Zero for the war on cops, whites and racial trust, one Cleveland news source decided to make a preemptive strike at the 12-year-old boy shot dead for brandishing a realistic pellet gun in the park.  Reporting that Tamir Rice’s father had been convicted of domestic violence multiple times, the story published on Cleveland.com reported that

“People from across the region have been asking whether Rice grew up around violence. The Northeast Ohio Media Group [Cleveland.com’s owner; the group also runs the Cleveland Plain Dealer] investigated the backgrounds of the parents and found the mother and father both have violent pasts.”

I have racked my feeble brain, and I cannot conceive of any relevance this might have to the fact that a police officer used deadly force against a child with a toy gun. Officer Timothy Loehmann didn’t know the boy: if his defense is, as I assume it will be, that the boy had the pellet gun out, didn’t respond to his order to drop it and placed the officer in legitimate fear of his life because the gun appeared real, his biological father’s propensity to abuse women doesn’t help us understand anything. This isn’t just unfair and irresponsible victim-blaming, it is stupid victim-blaming. Continue reading

Perfect Timing: The Tamir Rice Shooting

The boy and his toy.

The boy and his toy.

Unluckily for poor Tamir Rice, Cleveland, its police Department and Officer Timothy Loehmann, but luckily for the race-hucksters, activists and anti-police zealots determined to sell the position that white police have a secret hunting license for black kids, we have this latest tragedy, with another unarmed black child, this one just 12-years-old, killed by police.

Although it will doubtlessly not be portrayed that way in the media, there were many contributing factors to Tamir’s death. He was carrying a realistic pellet gun revolver in a park, and this is not a good idea. The guns are very realistic, especially from a distance. An observer called in a 911 alarm…I suppose the citizen can’t be blamed for being cautious, but in an earlier age, when toy guns looked like toy guns and the idea of a kid shooting anyone for real was unimaginable, this would have never happened.

Incredibly, the dispatcher didn’t relay to the officers the information from the caller that the gun was “probably fake.” The police excuse for that obviously crucial mistake was “We need to get that information to that zone car.”  Get the information that someone is wielding a real gun when there is already reason to believe it might be fake? There is never a need to get bad and potentially deadly information out fast. If nothing else, this is negligence, and would fuel a powerful lawsuit.

Then the officers arrived, encountered the kid, and apparently shot him dead without using a megaphone to warn the boy to drop his pellet gun. Not only did they assume the gun was real, thanks to the incomplete dispatcher report, but the shooting officer was a rookie. Would a more experienced cop have kept a cooler head? Continue reading