Tag Archives: deception

Morning Ethics Warm-Up,3/8/18: “What Can I Cover Before I’m Late For My Seminar In Atlanta?” Edition

Good morning, from another ProEthics road trip!

1 A life in a lie, or delusion? Today’s obituaries mark a rare variety of hoax that I had somehow missed: Alan Gershwin died, after a virtual lifetime of claiming that he was the illegitimate son of the famous composer, who never made it to  his 39th birthday. Read the Times story: it’s amazing. Alan essentially lived on that claim after he was discharged from service after WWII, based primarily on an uncanny resemblance to George. Was he a con man? If he believed his tale, he was not lying, just deluded. Gershwin recalls the more famous story of the American woman who said she was the Princess Anastasia.

2. Stormy weather…The most important lesson of the ongoing tabloid story involving the porn satr who is now suing President Trump is not the obvious ones. The major take-away is that this is what happens when an unholy alliance between the news media, political opponents and the Presidents themselves strip away the traditional and vital shield of public appreciation of the honor and respect the office of the Presidency has had in the past, since George Washington. Does anyone honestly believe that other Presidents did not have shady people in their personal lives who could have come forward with claims and tales embarrassing to them? Why didn’t they play the game the Stormy Daniels is engaged in? Again, the answer was simple cognitive dissonance scale reality. Traditionally the President has been so high on the scale that any gratuitous, publicity seeking attacker would fear the fury of public opinion, and correctly so. The idea of someone as low on the scale as aa porn star facing off against the President would have been unthinkable, and the news media would have left it to the National Enquirer to emblazon on its front page along with “Boy trapped in refrigerator eats foot!” Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/7/ 2018: Murder, Fake Journalism, Hatch Act Games, And California Defiance

Good Morning!

1  “A Murder in the Park.” The 2014 documentary about how the Northwestern University “Innocence Project” freed a guilty murderer hours before his execution and framed an innocent man who was eventually exonerated is now available on Netflix. I wrote about the case, which had the unanticipated consequence of causing Illinois to ban the death penalty, in 2014. Then I concentrated on how badly the whole mess reflected on the justice system. As I watched the documentary last night, however, what struck me was the self-satisfied smugness and certitude of the journalism students who participated in selective investigation, advocacy instead of objective reporting, manipulation of witnesses, cause driven conclusions and more. The documentary shows us why journalism has become whatever it can be called now–certainly not journalism. Northwestern has one of the elite journalism schools in the nation, and David Protess, then the professor who ran “The Innocence Project,” was teaching students that corrupt journalism was honorable. Protess at the time was perhaps the most praised journalism teacher in the nation. It seems that he was less the exception than the rule.

2. Real discipline would be nice for a change. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) informed the Trump yesterday that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act twice.  The  findings were referred to President Trump “for appropriate disciplinary action.” The White House promptly denied the charges, so we should assume that Kelly won’t be disciplined at all.

The Hatch Act allows federal employees to express their views about candidates and political issues as private citizens, but forbids them from using their official government positions try to influence elections. Of course Conway violated the Act. On Fox and CNN, she made it clear that voters in Alabama should reject Democrat Doug Jones. The White House ludicrously claims that Conway did not advocate for or against the election of any particular candidate. Nah…she just told Fox viewers last November,

“Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don’t be fooled. He will be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime, weak on borders. He is strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners.”

On CNN,  she said in part,
Continue reading


Filed under U.S. Society

Saturday Afternoon (Because I Was Up At 5 AM Writing About CNN’s Unethical “Town Hall”) Ethics Warm-Up, 2/24/18: Generic Packaging Scams, Goodbye Molly, Polls, And Welcome Student Commenters!

Good Afternoon!

1 The kids are all right! Ethics Alarms has recently been graced with comments by some intrepid and articulate high school students on the guns and schools issue. I salute all of them, as well as the teachers who sent them our way. Some of the students also encountered the tough debate style and sharp rhetoric that our regulars also engage in. One of the students who found himself in a particularly spirited exchange, mostly with me, just sent me a long, self-flagellating and abject apology. My response in part..

Relax. Apology accepted, and I am grateful for it, and admire you for writing it. But you impressed me in many ways. I wish I could meet you.

When I was growing up, there was no internet. I just managed to earn as reputation as a clown, a master of sarcasm and insults, and someone who would never back down from an argument the old-fashioned way—by talking. I made a million gaffes along the way. I made an ass of myself. I hurt people. I also scared some people, but eventually I learned some boundaries. Meanwhile, the skills I acquired being a jerk sometimes have served me well, in college, in law school, in management, in theater, in ethics. (I’m still a jerk sometimes. You have to keep that edge.)

You are welcome to comment on Ethics Alarms any time, my friend. Just remember we’re all human beings, nobody hates anyone, and no mistake is final.

I do hope that any time young readers who identify themselves as such come here to argue, Ethics Alarms commenters will keep in mind that the best result, no matter what they might say while testing the waters here, is to keep them coming back.

2. Packaging designed to make you feel stupid…I’d do a whole essay on this again, but there have been a lot of “yelling at clouds” posts lately. The common practice of generics intentionally imitating the packaging of the original product they derive from is per se unethical. (I’m sure I have written about this before, but cannot find it. I know I criticized the practice of cheap kids animated videos of  stories like “Beauty and the Beast” copying the artwork and color scheme of the corresponding Disney version to fool inattentive purchasers.) My wife just got caught by a CVS scam—the company is a long-time offender—that fooled her into buying for my use an inferior knock-off of Pepcid A-C which I need because the Parkland shooting deception and agitprop is giving me ulcers. It is intentionally packaged with a red fez-shaped cap to look sufficiently like the good stuff to deceive consumers.


Of course, as with the video, it isn’t exactly like the original: the shade of red is different, the cap shape isn’t quite the same, giving them plausible deniability.

There should be some kind of law or regulation to discourage this. I’m going to go into the store and complain to some nice clerk or manager, who will shrug and say she’s sorry, which is to say that, once more,  I will be yelling at clouds . Continue reading


Filed under Animals, Around the World, Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Education, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, language, Leadership, Marketing and Advertising, Race, The Internet, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/7/2018: Something In This Post Is Guaranteed To Send You Screaming Into The Streets

Good Morning!

1 Oh no! Not my permanent record! My wife gave a small contribution to Mitt  Romney’s campaign, and has been hounded by RNC robocalls and mailings ever since. GOP fundraising started getting really slimy under the indefensible Michael Steele’s leadership, and continued to use unethical methods after Steele went on to job at a bait shop or something. Last week my wife got an envelope in the mail with a block red DELINQUENCY NOTICE! printed on it. A lie, straight up: there was no delinquency, just a my wife’s decision that she would rather burn a C-note than give it to the fools and knaves running the Republican Party. She registered an official complaint with the RNC, and received this response from Dana Klein, NRCC Deputy Finance Director:

“My job as the Deputy Finance Director is to communicate with supporters to let them know the status of their NRCC Sustaining Membership. Unfortunately, I have bad news for you. As of right now, you have a delinquency mark on your record for your failure to renew your membership. But, I have some good news. You can remove this delinquency mark if you renew by the FEC deadline on Wednesday.”

Both my wife and I were professional fundraisers for many years. This is deceptive and coercive fundraising, and anyone who voluntarily supports an organization that uses such tactics is a victim or an idiot.

Or, I suppose, a Republican.

2. Another one…This is another one of the statements that I am pledged to expose every time I read or hear it: a Maryland legislator, enthusing over the likelihood that a ballot initiative will result in legalizing pot in the state, ran off the usual invalid, disingenuous and foolish rationalizations for supporting measure. (Don’t worry, pot-lovers: I’m resigned to this happening, not just in Maryland, but nation wide. As with the state lotteries, our elected officials will trade the public health and welfare for easy revenue every time. Minorities and the poor will be the most hurt, and the brie and pot set couldn’t care less.) Only one of his familiar bad arguments triggered my mandatory response pledge: ” to legalize a drug that is less harmful than alcohol.”

This is the bottom of the rationalization barrel, “it’s not the worst thing.” Alcohol is a scourge of society, killing thousands upon thousands every year, ruining families and lives, wrecking businesses, costing the economy millions of dollars. Just yesterday there was a report that fetal alcohol syndrome was far more common that previously believed. There is no question, none, that U.S. society would be healthier and safer without this poison accepted in the culture: unfortunately, it was too deeply embedded before serious efforts were made to remove it. Now pot advocates want to inflict another damaging recreational drug on society, using the argument that it’s not as terrible as the ones we’re already stuck with. Stipulated: it’s not as harmful as alcohol. It’s not as harmful as Russian Roulette or eating Tidepods either. I have a bias against taking seriously advocates who use arguments like this; it means they re either liars, and know their logic is absurd, or idiots, and don’t.

3. Riddle me this: What do you get when you cross casting ethics, weak and lazy school administrators, political-correctness bullies-in-training with “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”?

Answer: a cancelled high school musical, and per se racism supported by the school.

New York’s Ithaca High School was beginning production of the Disney film-based musical “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” but made the unforgivable error, in the eyes of student activists,  of casting of a white student as a Romani heroine Esmeralda, played in the classic film by that gypsy wench, Maureen O’Hara, and in the Disney version by a Toon.  Several students quit the show in protest,  and formed an activist group to reverse the decision. It sent a letter calling the casting “cultural appropriation” and “whitewashing,” calling the student the “epitome of whiteness.” The letter admitted that she was also “a stellar actor, singer and dancer” that any stage would be “lucky to have,” but what is the talent, skill and competence required for a role compared to what really matters, her skin color? The students demanded that the school either choose a different show or recast Esmeralda a black and brown actress. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Race, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/18/2017: Welcome To My World! Special Legal Follies Edition

Good Morning!

1  Oh, let’s begin the day with Roy Moore, the former Alabama judge and present wacko whom Alabama Republicans voted to represent the GOP in the 2018 U.S. Senate election, thus proving that there are a lot of deplorables in the state. As was completely predictable given his record, Moore recently told his drooling followers (after being introduced by Abraham Hamilton, Alexander Lincoln being unavailable),

“Somebody should be talking to the Supreme Court of the United States and say, ‘What gives them a right to declare that two men can get married?. . . Tell the Congress: Impeach these justices that put themselves above the Constitution. They’re judicial supremists and they should be taken off the bench.”

Comments Jonathan Turley,

So Moore believes that he should not have been removed from the bench for putting his personal religious beliefs above the Constitution, but justices should be removed if they interpretation the Constitution in a way that contradicts his religious beliefs.  This, he insisted, would ‘solve the problem….such a view would violate not just fundamental principles of judicial review but it would violate the impeachment clause.  As the last lead counsel in a judicial impeachment case (in defense of Judge Thomas Porteous), Moore’s view is deeply troubling.  As I have previously written, the Good Behavior Clause of Article III was designed to protect the independence of the judiciary and insulate it from political pressures.  It was meant as a guarantee of life tenure against precisely the type of threat that Moore is endorsing. 

But it’s pointless to make genuine legal and historical arguments against someone like Moore. He’s a theocrat, a fanatic, a bigot and a demagogue. The Republican Party should endorse his opposition and campaign against Moore. This fiasco is their fault, and someone like Moore should be kept out Congress at all costs.

2. Now to someone who is, incredible as it seems, somewhat less ridiculous, this gentleman, Christopher Wilson…


No, that’s not a botched tattoo on his forehead: the blurry words are “fuck” and “sluts”, making the whole, eloquent message, “I’m a porn star. I fuck teen sluts.” This roughly translates into  “Look at me! I’m an idiot!”  The newspapers that refused to print the blurred words (the police had the mugshot altered) that are essential to the story, meanwhile, are telling us, “We don’t understand our profession.” The story is incomprehensible if the actual words aren’t clear, literally or figuratively.  Fox News and the NY Post, for example, say, “The Cincinnati man has the words “I’m a pornstar” tattooed on his forehead” and “another vulgar message” tattooed below.” Since the issue is whether the message on his FACE is going to prejudice the jury in his trial for sexual assault, this is juvenile coverage omitting key information to avoid “giving offense.”

Ethics Alarms to the news media: Grow up.

Turley (again…he loves the tattoo stories) writes,

“The court will be left with a question of whether the tattoo is too prejudicial or whether it is unavoidable as a personal choice of the defendant….Yet, these tattoos contain an admission to the crime at issue in the trial.  In the end, a judge could legitimately conclude that this falls into the category as bad choices bringing even worse consequences.”

What? First, the defendant is not charged with fucking teen sluts while acting as a porn star. That conduct could well be consensual and legal.  Turley is also wrong that the judge could “legitimately” allow the jury to see his message. In both cases involving a defendant’s prejudicial tattoos, the judges agreed that they had to be made invisible, in one case using make-up… Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights, Romance and Relationships

Ethics Quiz: Branding Ethics And The Weinstein Scandal [Updated]

I’m lounging in Richmond’s wonderful Jefferson Hotel, watching the hilarious and despicable parade of actors, actresses and Democrats—Hillary, the Obamas–rushing to condemn Harvey Weinstein now that his use to them is probably ended, and they see safety in numbers. Many of their statements—I was just listening to Mira Sorvino—mouth the same platitudes about how “this is no longer conduct that can be tolerated”—pssst: It was never tolerable behavior; your industry and colleagues just tolerated it anyway—and how it is essential that such sexual predators be stopped—pssst again: why didnt YOU do anything to stop it?– while saluting the courage of victims who come forward, without any adequate explanation in many cases of why they, or others, didn’t come forward for years and even decades while  other actresses were victimized and even raped. (The alleged rape total is now up to three.)

Angelina Jolie said today that she was harassed by Weinstein a decade ago, decided not to work with him, and “warned other actresses she knew not to do so as well.” This dovetails nicely with another harassed non-reporting actress’s tale, that of Gwyneth Paltrow—years late, of course, that she was attacked by Weinstein, and her boy friend at the time, Brad Pitt, confronted him. Presumably Pitt also later  knew about Jolie’s experience,being married to her and all. Brad Pitt was afraid to expose Harvey Weinstein? Sorry, I don’t believe it. I don’t believe George Clooney’s statement either, or long-time stars like Glenn Close. I also don’t understand Paltrow, whose father was himself an influencial producer. Her father wasn’t willing to stop Weinstein? Why not?

[CORRECTION: an earlier version of the post conflated Sorvino with Paltrow. Thanks to Spartan for the alert.]

This was a conspiracy of silence, abetted by Weinstein’s wallet. As long as he was a useful ally to ambitious actresses willing to exchange their ethical duties as citizens and human beings for parts and pay-offs, and liberal politicians employing wilful ignorance to keep money flowing to their campaigns and causes, Weinstein had a free pass to molest and abuse, and knew that he had a free pass.

The posturing by so many powerful people who could have made Weinstein a pariah at any time—but just not during the current campaign at the time, or while the latest promising Miramax project was being produced—is nauseating.  Even if one excuses the struggling starlet—and I don’t, not when she’s struggling and afraid, and definitely not years later, when she knows what happened to her is still going on but she’s now a Hollywood power herself—there is no way to excuse the community. This isn’t sort of like inner cities that have a “no snitch” culture that allows crime, drugs and murder to rot everything while innocent victims are terrorized, it is exactly like them. Victims still have ethical duties as citizens and human beings. Of course it’s hard. If being ethical was easy, we wouldn’t have to keep talking about it.

Of course, the most complicit of all may have been Harvey Weinstein’s business partners, including his brother. There is no reasonable possibility that some, most, or all of them didn’t know that their meal-ticket was a sick, sexual predator. Certainly Weinstein’s brother, now running The Weinstein Company. Now I read in the Wall Street Journal before me that the company is planning on rebranding, taking the Weinstein name off of the company. The idea is that after a few successes and maybe some convenient amnesia,  people will begin trusting the company again. Hey, let’s call it “Trust Entertainment”! (That’s my idea, not theirs.)

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is this ethical? Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Gender and Sex, Marketing and Advertising, Quizzes

Ethics Dunces In Arms: Gloria Steinem And The New York Times Demonstrate How “The Star Syndrome” Works

Gloria 2017 (right), with her ghostwriter, Gloria 2007 ( left)

Last week, Gloria Steinem authored an op-ed in The New York Times headlined, “Women Have Chick-Flicks. What About Men?”.

It was standard issue male-bashing; biased and badly researched junk, but more interestingly, at least half of it was ten years old, substantially lifted from a piece Steinem wrote for the Women’s Media Center website in 2007. This kind of lazy self-plagiarism is a major ethical breach that respectable publications do not suffer gladly, at least when the miscreant isn’t a feminist icon that their editors worship, or at least feel has earned immunity from those annoying ethical principles lesser mortals have to deal with.

As an aside, it really is a silly op-ed, not worthy of publication the first time, much less plagiarizing now. Some excerpts:

I was on a flight from New York to Seattle when a long delay on the tarmac prompted the airline to offer us a free movie. As the flight attendant read the choices aloud, a young man across the aisle said, “I don’t watch chick flicks!” I knew what he meant, and so did the woman sitting next to me. A “chick flick” is one that has more dialogue than car chases, more relationships than special effects, and whose suspense comes more from how people live than from how they get killed.

Translation: “Men are morons, women are sophisticates.” No generalizations or stereotypes there…

Think about it: If “Anna Karenina” had been by Leah Tolstoy, or “The Scarlet Letter” by Nancy Hawthorne or “A Doll’s House” by Henrietta Ibsen — if “The Invisible Man” had been “The Invisible Woman” — would they have been hailed as classics? Suppose Shakespeare had really been the Dark Lady who some people still think he/she was. I bet most of her plays and all of her sonnets would have been dismissed as ye olde Elizabethan chick lit and buried until they were resurrected by stubborn feminist scholars of today.

Two words: Prove it. Since  very few  great female authors were writing similarly brilliant literature in those periods, Steinem’s bet is rigged. Where are those buried woman-authored masterpieces that stand up as the equals of “King Lear” and  “War and Peace”? I’ll make another bet: I bet if those works had been written by women, we’d know it, and they would be just as admired and immortal as the works authored by men. Has Gloria heard of Wuthering Heights? Jane Eyre? Frankenstein? Pride and Prejudice? Has she heard of Jane Austen?

But I digress.

The original article published referred to that airplane flight as taken by Steinem  “recently.” That word was taken out after Gloria’s cheat was discovered, and this “Editor’s Note” was added: Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Popular Culture