The Pulitzer’s Deliberate Ethics Blindness [Corrected]

It was incredible: the only qualified candidate for the Pulitzer Prize just happened to be the spouse of a Pulitzer board member! What are the odds?

[Note: an incompletely edited and proofed version of this post was mistakenly published. I apologize. Thanks to Tim LeVier for flagging the problem.]

All awards and prize organizations are subject to fair suspicion about their integrity, and collectively, they undermine each other. The Academy Awards get criticized by prominent blacks, and suddenly the number of black nominees explodes. The Nobel Prize committee, once the epitome of a well-respected and trusted awards program, exposes its political bias by giving a Peace Prize to Barack Obama for no good reason whatsoever.

Then, beginning in late 2017, in an expose published late last year by a Swedish newspaper, the Swedish institution was rocked by accusations  from18 women who said they were sexually harassed or assaulted by French arts promoter  Jean-Claude Arnault, who is married to poet Katarina Frostenson and is friends with Horace Engdahl, both  members of the  Academy that awards the Nobel Prize in literature.  Arnault was sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of raping a woman in 2011. This ugly publicity cast unwelcome light on more unethical conduct: a club called Forum that Arnault and Frostenson owned received a subsidy from the Academy. Yes, the members were voting finnacial benefits to themselves.  There were also credible reports of Frostenson giving names of winners to Arnault before they were announced,, allowing him place wagers and win money with insider information. As the scandal expanded, Frostenson and Engdahl refused to resign. Three other members of the Academy left in protest.

Nice. The Committee decided not to award a Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018.

I’m surprised they didn’t just give it to Barack Obama.

This brings us to the Pulitzers, which have always been suspect. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, April 2, 2019: Maddow, Schultz, Pugh, Fosse, AOC, And All That Jazz…

Good afternoon!

1. If anyone cared, this would do in Rachel Maddow. The fact that so many of my otherwise intelligent and reasonable liberal friends insist that Rachel Maddow is God’d gift to journalism was a mystery to me  when she first brought her perpetual smirk to MSNBC. It  perplexed me greatly as she so obviously hyped and twisted her commentary, and once she became the #1 Russia-Trump conspiracy theorist on TV, I admit that I have lost the edge of respect for anyone who still watches her. Rachel Maddow bottomed out, I’d say, yesterday, when she was saying this last week:

“It’s hard to believe that they’d leave the newly appointed Attorney General William Barr to himself to personally pick through the [Mueller] report to try to figure out which mentions in this 400-page report might pertain to an open case”They wouldn’t leave that to Barr to do that. Mueller would have done that!

Mueller’s team would have done that as part of producing anything that they handed over outside their own offices. They’ve done that with every other document they have produced in the course of this investigation. You’d assume they’d be able to do that for this document too. But William Barr says, [exaggerated sigh] it’s taking him a really long time because he’s having to do all that himself.”

While  was saying that it was suspicious that Barr wouldn’t seek Mueller’s assistance with the redactions, the chyron underneath her read,

“Barr: Special Counsel Is Assisting with Redactions”

Unlike the much-mocked Fox News gaffe, in which the talking heads were correctly reciting the story while  the chyron said that Trump was pulling aid from “three Mexican countries“, this time the chyron was right, and the talking head was wrong.  It might just be me, but I’d rather the actual reporters to be telling the truth, and graphics be messed up. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/31/2019: The NCAA Tournament, Colbert, Chris Rock, And Bullshit

Good Afternoon!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad for some reason, and that was his favorite hymn. It’s an Easter hymn, but our church always had the choir sing it on the special spring service. My unusually musically talented friends knocked it out of the park at my father’s funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery. It also has the advantage of being composed by Arthur Sullivan, just like “Onward Christian Soldiers!” and “Tit Willow.”

1. Fill out your brackets, and enable corruption. It’s the NCAA tournament again, and again, helping the schools and the NCAA and the networks make money off of the destructive and corrupt culture of big time college basketball is ethically indefensible. The New York Times wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but it did recently write about the dissonance, beginning,

Every March, millions of Americans fill out brackets (more than 40 million people, by one count), cheer the underdogs and tune in on television. Others buy tickets to the games, wear jerseys of their favorite teams and let wins and losses dictate their mood. Yet fans who follow college basketball closely know about the game’s intractable relationship to corruption. Even many who come just for March Madness must know that the real madness is not always on the court.

A wide-ranging and fear-inducing F.B.I. investigation into college basketball recruiting continues to ensnare big-name colleges and little-known crooks. It is why Louisiana State, for example, is playing without its head coach, Will Wade, and why Auburn recently had an assistant coach suspended and a former assistant plead guilty of conspiracy for accepting bribes.

This week, the lawyer Michael Avenatti was charged with trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike in exchange for concealing information he had about illicit payments to recruits. He has since revealedsome allegations on Twitter….

The Times doesn’t bother to go into the related problem of how basketball distorts academic goals, sucks away resources that should be used for education, and usually leaves its athletes no better educated than they were when they arrived. As you might expect, the Times’ writer is too ethically incompetent to provide and enlightenment. For example, he quotes one ethicist as saying, “…Someone thinks, ‘Gosh, this is unethical, but I love it so much, and my friends and I have such a good time rooting and cheering that I’m going to participate anyway.’” That description could also be used to justify gang rape. Can we have a little nuanced clarification? Then the Times writer, John Branch, offers these ill-devised analogies:

“Such internal debates permeate our culture. Is it O.K. to dance to a Michael Jackson song, to laugh to a Louis C.K. joke, to watch a movie produced by Harvey Weinstein? To cheer for football knowing what it may be doing to players’ brains?”

Let’s see: wrong, wrong,wrong, and…right.  1 for 4.

A Michael Jackson song isn’t corrupt, or unethical: it’s art. He’s dead: dancing to the song does not enable the misconduct. A joke is a joke regardless of who tells it, and again, laughing at a C.K. joke doesn’t make it more or less likely that he’s going to masturbate in front of a female colleague. Workplace misconduct doesn’t taint the work product, and nobody has claimed that movies themselves are culturally corrupting, or that Weinstein’s films harmed the actors in them.  Cheering for football is a legitimate comparison, because the sport itself is the problem, just like college basketball itself is the problem.

Continue reading

Comments Of The Day: The College Admissions Bribery Scandal

This is a bit of a departure, a showcase for one of Ethics Alarms most active commenters (especially appreciated as the blog experiences boycotts, embargos, and Facebook blocking and other indignities), Michael R. The topic is the recent College Admission scandal, which has been covered here and here.

Michael, an educator, is well informed on this topic, and he shows it in three excellent Comments of the Day.  And I forgive him for never, ever, making a typo.

I.

The college scandal has many, many facets. What has caused standards to slip so low? Well, athletics obviously has a corrosive effect, with students admitted based on athletic ability instead of academic ability. The grade inflation has also greatly degraded college standards. The almost lack of education occurring in our high schools is another factor.

An overlooked factor, however, is the public higher ed systems’ oversupply of colleges. Public college policy has mainly been about votes and prestige, not actual societal need. This has resulted in a lot more colleges than the country actually needs. A typical example would be Local Community College. Well, the President of Local Community College would rather not be the laughingstock of the College President’s Club, so he petitions the state legislature to authorize his school to offer 4-year degrees. He states that his community deserves a 4-year school like (insert rival town here). This proposal is mainly decided on its political merits, not the needs of the state as a whole. It goes through, along with new funding for new facilities, new faculty, and more students for the Local State College. With all the Community Colleges becoming State Colleges, the presidents of the Regional State Colleges petition to become Regional State Universities. They point out the prestige and grant money they could get if they had graduate programs. This too, is granted based on political merit. The National Science Foundation is then pressured to remove funding from the traditional research schools and transfer it to the new State Universities amid allegations of elitism for favoring longstanding research schools with top-notch researchers over the new State Universities with no significant research results and they cave. Now, with no community colleges left, a new round of community colleges is constructed. This increases the number of seats for college students by 30% or so, but there are not more high school students graduating. This is repeated all over the country, so out-of-state students are not an option. The only reasonable option is to lower admissions standards. Once the admission standards are lowered, retention suffers and the faculty are ordered to improve retention and graduation rates. The only reasonable way to do this is to make the classes easier and the race to the bottom is on. Continue reading

Observations On “Operation Varsity Blues” [UPDATED!]

It is rare that an ethics story is the front page feature of the day, but the scandal that broke last nigh is certainly that. From the AP, on the results of the investigation code-named “Operation Varsity Blues”…

Fifty people, including Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, were charged Tuesday in a scheme in which wealthy parents allegedly bribed college coaches and other insiders to get their children into some of the nation’s most elite schools. Federal authorities called it the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department, with the parents accused of paying an estimated $25 million in bribes.

More…

At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents, many of them prominent in law, finance or business, were among those charged. Dozens, including Huffman, were arrested by midday.

Huffman, best known for “Desperate Housewives,” is married to celebrated actor William Macy (“Fargo”). Presumably he is going to be arrested too.

The coaches worked at such schools as Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forest, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles. A former Yale soccer coach pleaded guilty and helped build the case against others.

Yikes. You can get all the details at The Atlantic, Esquire, The Stanford Daily, Chicago Tribune, Raw Story, The Week, Justice News, The Texas Tribune, Slate, SFist, Recode, Page Six, TechCrunch, TMZ.com and Fox News.

Ethics Observations: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 2/26/2019: Horribles

GRRRRRRR!

I have to get my reply brief to that %$#@!#&%! Ethics Alarms defamation suit in today, and I just KNOW the online filing system isn’t going to work..

1. College basketball ethics. See? Baseball isn’t the only sport I follow! Zion Williamson, one of college basketball’s biggest stars and a potential NBA star as well, injured his knee after one of his Nike shoes split less than a minute into Duke’s game against North Carolina last week. Not only does Nike have a likely product liability lawsuit on its hands, while Williamson’s bright career is suddenly in limbo, the freak accident raised—AGAIN–issues of the propriety of the way universities like Duke handle big money sports. The New York Times asked:

“Here were all the issues of big-time college sports laid bare: Should amateurism be curbed in college sports, allowing athletes a cut of the money they help produce? Should a prodigious talent like Williamson, who is good enough to play professionally right now, have to risk his future competing for free because of an N.B.A. rule prohibiting him from leaping to the league from high school? Do the sneaker companies, which were at the heart of a federal fraud trial near the start of the season, do more harm than good in college sports?”

Answers: No, No, and Yes. Big time sports are a source of corruption in all colleges that feature them. Nobody should be admitted to college to play basketball or football. If they don’t want to learn, then there should be no place for athletes in college. Allowing universities to be participants in the business of sports to the extent that universities like Duke are is a travesty of education, and guarantees misconduct.

2. The shadow of Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood’s hypocrisy hung over the 2019 Oscars, but few noted it.

Donna Gigliotti produced the Oscars telecast. There has been no accountability for the many, many stars and Hollywood figures of both genders who enabled Weinstein’s crimes for years, then became #MeToo activists as soon as he no longer had the power to enrich them. [Pointer: Victory Girls]

3. Hasn’t this been obvious all along? Bloggress Ann Althouse does a terrific job deconstructing a New York Times article, a “Trump is Epic,” a conversation between columnists  Gail Collins and alleged conservative (who wants to repeal the second Amendment) Bret Stephens,  that could have been a parody of mainstream media bias and “resistance” false reasoning, but wasn’t. I didn’t have the heart or the stomach to fisk it, the thing is such self-evident crap: Thanks, Ann! She writes in part… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/2/2019: A Drunken City Council President, A Head-Exploding Political Charity, NBC’s Strange Welcome To The New Year, And Facebook Calls Reality “Hate Speech”

Good Morning!

1. First candidate for “Incompetent Elected Official Of 2019”! The Troy New York City Council president got drunk and then went behind the wheel to chased another motorist at high speeds for nearly 30 miles last week . State police arrested Carmella R. Mantello, 53, after troopers received a call from a terrified driver who told dispatchers that some crazy person was tailgating him and driving erratically. When troopers  pulled Mantello over, she denied following the man and claimed he was following her—interesting, since  troopers stopped her when she was behind the complaining motorist. She also refused to take a breathalizer test.

Later, Mantello  issued this statement:

“I understand the severity of my actions and take full responsibility. I apologize to my family, friends and constituents and am deeply sorry that I let you down,” she said. “I expect more from myself. Finally, I would like to personally thank the New York State Troopers for their professionalism in this matter and the service they render every day to keep our communities safe.”

The best way for her to honor professionalism and keep communities safe is to resign immediately.

Oh—I assumed that Mantello was a Democrat, since the news story didn’t mention her party affiliation. Nope! She’s a Republican.

2. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!—get a load of THIS! Also, KABOOM! My head just exploded. Some ethics stories don’t need any analysis; they are res ipsa loquitur. I generally don’t devote pots stories when the despicable conduct is so obvious, but this one needs to be widely disseminated. From the New York Post: Continue reading