The 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2016, Part 2

pope-trump

Part II of the Worst continues with education horrors, legal outrages, the Lie of the Year, and more.

Above? That’s obviously the…

Fake News of the Year.

Now the rest..it doesn’t get any better.

Biggest KABOOM! 

exploding-head

The YMCA Slavery Recreation.  You know, even looking through this category was dangerous. I had forgotten about all these stories, which, by definition, were all horrible. This one, from February, however, had to be the winner. The YMCA Storer Camps in Jackson, Michigan included an “educational” activity called “Underground Railroad” in which black children were asked to play runaway slaves, as some teachers and camp instructors acted as slave masters, chasing them down using real horses. Once captured, the children were “auctioned off.” The principal of the school that subjected its pre-teen students to the slavery simulations rather than the other better known YMCA camp activities like nature hikes, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding and sitting around campfires responded that he didn’t expect the uproar, since no student had ever complained before.

Most Unethical High School Discipline

Red Mountain High School  in Mesa, Arizona. On a dare from a friend, high school football player Hunter Osborn briefly flashed his naughty bits in the team photo. Nobody noticed, including the yearbook’s faculty advisor, so the photo was published in the school yearbook.  Months later, the gag was discovered. Even though the photo was so small that offending nudity was virtually invisible to the naked eye, the school had Osborn was arrested and charged with 69 counts of indecent exposure. The charges were dropped because none of the 69 “victims” pressed charges.

Most Unethical No-Tolerance Action

hazel-tweet

John Glenn High School in Suburban Detroit.  The offense: “Inappropriate use of electronics in the restroom.” The conduct: Hazel Juco, a 17-year-old student, went to the school’s bathroom to wash her hands. When she turned on the faucet, ugly brown water came out. She then used her cell-phone to take photos of the discolored water and posted it to Facebook and Twitter.

She was suspended, but eventually social media and the local news vindicated her. The water was polluted, and the school district admitted that Hazel was punished for doing the right thing.

Most Unethical School Teacher

(Excluding Rapists)

A Tie! 

1. Malik Leigh, a teacher in Palm Beach Lakes High School’s pre-law academy a kindergarten teacher at Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary on Bainbridge Island, Washington

Leigh’s specialty is indoctrination. Aming his exam questions last year…

“If Donald Trump becomes president of the United states, we are:

A.) Screwed

B.) Screwed

C.) Screwed

D.) Screwed behind a really YUGE wall that Mexico pays for.”

and…

“When performing an opening statement, it is best to:

A. Wink at the Judge

B. find the hottest person on the Jury and focus your words on them

C. Speak to them as if they are cordial friends.

D. Treat them like the MORONS they are.”

He was suspended.

Good.

2. “Jill Watson.” You can’t be a more unethical teacher than when you’re not a teacher at all. Or human.

Naked Teacher of the Year

Leigh Anne Arthur, In a completely warped and unfair application of the Naked Teacher Principle, school district officials in Union County demanded and received the resignation of the engineering teacher  after a student stole her phone, examined its contents and found a semi-nude selfie  intended for her husband’s enjoyment only.The student, who  warned her that “something bad was coming,” sent the images to other students through text messages and social media Arthur sued the school board for wrongful termination, but recently dropped the suit.  The student was charged with a computer crime and voyeurism. The Naked Teacher Principle holds that

A secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result. The first formulation of the NTP can be found here.

This obviously does not apply to Arthur. Ironically it would apply to the incoming First Lady if she were a teacher, and arguably applies still, since the First Lady is a role model.

Double Standard Of The Year

pelosi-tweet

Progressives and Democrats, who performed an immediate U-turn as soon Donald Trump won the election, and after having expressing outrage and indignation when Trump had suggested, about a month earlier, that he might not “accept the results of the election,” which he had claimed was “rigged,” immediately challenged the results of the election, and claimed it was rigged.

And they are still doing it today.

 Lie of the Year

and

Jumbo of the Year

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From The “Is The News Media Trying To Destroy Any Credibility It Has Left, Or Is It Just Too Biased And Stupid To Help Itself?” Files: The New York Times’ “Fact Check”

who-can-you-trustIn July 2016, Donald Trump said, in one of his more accurate public statements:

Homicides last year increased by 17% in America’s fifty largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent.

In July 2016, “Last year” meant 2015, as absolutely everyone understood. Homicides in D.C. did increase by 54 percent in 2015, from 105 in 2014 to 162. The statement was accurate.

Now, however, it’s 2017. This means that “last year” doesn’t mean 2015 any more, but 2016!  Figures on the year just completed show that homicides in D.C. fell in 2016 to 135. Thus the New York Times–you know, that flagship of trustworthy American journalism—through its reporter Emily Badger, decided to “fact-check” that statement by Trump from July, and found that he deceived us. Again. Badger wrote:

“Another end-of-year fact-check, while we’re at it: Mr. Trump claimed during the campaign that the homicide rate in his new home in Washington rose by 50 percent. In fact, it fell by 17 percent in 2016.”

There he goes again! Lying his head off! Citing fake statistics! But trust us, folks, we’ll be right there at the ready for the next four years, so he can’t get away with this constant deception!

Notice how the Times uses “claimed” to imply that Trump was making stuff up.  But he wasn’t making stuff up. The Times was making stuff up by “claiming” in this fact-check that Trump  misstated the facts, when he did not.  He wouldn’t have even been wrong, as Eugene Volokh points out, if he had been comparing 2016 to 2014, the year he was comparing 2015 to in July. The homicide rate in D.C. rose by  28 percent from 2014 to 2016.

‘Trump falsely stated that crime rose in Washington D.C.’ is a lie. It is fake news.

Writes the law professor, using far more restraint than I would (or will):

There’s a lot to be said for not focusing too much on year-to-year changes in homicide statistics, which can be volatile. Even a rise over two years doesn’t tell us that much, though it’s troubling. And we should indeed remember that homicides and other crimes have generally declined sharply from their 1991 peak (though of course we want to be watchful for any reversal of the trend). If the argument is simply in favor of caution about reading too much into yearly statistics, I’m all for that.

But the New York Times “fact-check…” suggests that Trump got his facts wrong (he “claimed” one thing but “in fact” it was something else), and I think it misleads readers into missing the fact that, even counting the 2016 decline, the homicide still rose sharply from the reference year Trump was using — 2014 — to the present.

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“If That Was Transparency, Then I’m A Kumquat” And Other Reactions To Josh Earnest’s Multiple Unethical Christmas Quotes

This morning, Obama Administration paid liar Josh Earnest spoiled my Christmas mellow by telling CNN’s alleged news media ethics watchdog Brian Stelter that there’s really “no constituency in American politics for transparency in government beyond journalists,” as he deflected Stelter’s accounts of journalists complaining about administration foot-dragging on Freedom of Information Act requests. Then he really curdled the ethicist’s eggnog by saying,

“If this constituency of journalists are gonna be effective advocates for the issue that they care about, they need to remember that they have a responsibility not just to criticize those who are not living up to their expectations. Any activist will tell you that the way that you get people to support you and to support your cause is to give them credit when the credit is due, to applaud them when they do the thing that you want them to be doing.”

Finally, Earnest molded my mistletoe by claiming,  “President Obama has been the most transparent president in American history.”

Stelter, of course, being an incompetent, biased and unethical news media ethics watchdog, did not interjection with the mandatory, “WHAT??? You’ve got to be kidding! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ACK! ACK! ARRRGH! and drop dead in shock.

That statement is fake news if anything is, rivaling the news media lie that that the Obama years were devoid of major scandals. Before we begin shooting fish in a barrel and deal with that brazen-beyond-belief spin, let’s pause to consider the other stunner in Earnest’s Christmas morning performance:

1. What does Earnest mean that journalists are the only constituency for transparency? Does the Obama administration, and by extension Democrats, really believe that the public doesn’t mind being lied to? If so, that explains a lot, including the nomination of Hillary Clinton.

2. Journalists are not supposed to advocates and activists at all. They are supposed to be devoted to communicating facts and the truth.

3. Is Earnest saying that when a President generally defies a pledge of ethical conduct, he should nonetheless be praised when he doesn’t defy that pledge, and that journalists should highlight the Administration’s rare examples of  transparency while ignoring the overwhelmingly more copious breaches? It sure sounded like it.

That brings us back to the mind-melting quote that this has been a transparent administration by any definition of the word other than “not transparent at all.”

This episode from 2011 nicely encapsulates the issue:

“President Obama was scheduled to receive an award from the organizers of the Freedom of Information Day Conference, to be presented at the White House by “five transparency advocates.” The White House postponed that meeting because of events in Libya and Japan, and it was rescheduled…That meeting did take place – behind closed doors. The press was not invited to the private transparency meeting, and no photos from or transcript of the meeting have been made available. The event was not listed on the president’s calendar…Nor is the award mentioned anywhere on the White House website, including on the page devoted to transparency and good government. Were it not for the testimony of the transparency advocates who met secretly with the president, there wouldn’t seem to be any evidence that the meeting actually took place.”

That’s right: Obama wasn’t transparent about a transparency meeting. That same day, Obama went on TV  and tried to explain why he hadn’t been transparent to the U.S. Congress about his military plans in Libya.  Shortly after that, news leaked that the Fed had secretly sent billions in loans to foreign banks during the financial crisis.

Ah, memories! On his second day on the job, January 21, 2009, that…President Obama famously pledged, in one of his first memos to federal agencies

“We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”

He may be right about that last part, or maybe he discovered that it was naive and impractical dream. Under no circumstances, however, can it be said that Obama’s administration was transparent. An exhaustive list is impossibly, long, but here is an incomplete  sample just from the posts in Ethics Alarms: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit”

There is an Ethics Alarms post “going viral” right now, at least as viral as any post on an ethics blog is likely to go. For two weeks now, my post at the end of July about how the “urban legends” site Snopes had descended into  dishonest, spinning, fact-distorting partisan/ left “factchecking” hackery has lapped all others here, and been shared to record levels on Facebook (nearing 11,000 shares) and Reddit.

This is nice, of course. It has brought a few (though not many) new commenters to the blog, and presumably more readers who stayed to peruse other topics. It has made August 2016, usually a fairly dead month, the most heavily trafficked month in Ethics Alarms annals. The post alerted some people to why Snopes is untrustworthy, though not, apparently, the Washington Post, which cited it as authority just a few days ago. It also prompted, on Reddit and Facebook, several thousand smug “this is not news, I’ve known this for years” comments. Where were your blog post, jerks?

The post’s wide circulation through the web also made me aware that a conspiracy theory holding that Democrats and the Hillary Corrupted maintain a team of attack commenters who go to blogs and attempt to muddy the waters when the truth about Clinton threatens to break through the denial dam might be accurate. I have received four or five almost identical comments on that post attempting to deny my dissection of Snopes’ pathetic attempt to prove that Hillary didn’t defend a child rapist, didn’t discredit his young victim in the process, didn’t know he was guilty when she did it, and didn’t laugh about the case in a recorded interview. None of the four commenters  read all of my post, which echoed a previous one in pointing out, as I always do, that a lawyer defending a criminal is not unethical, that the attacks on Hillary for doing so were ignorant and unfair, and that Hillary Clinton has nothing to apologize for in this case. Never mind: all four of these commenters ( and some others which never made it onto the blog) shifted into similar boilerplate language claiming I was attacking her too,  and preceded to repeat Snopes’ dishonest “factchecking” as if the documentation of its falsity I presented in the post didn’t exist.

Nonetheless, the Snopes revelation was not the Ethics Alarms post I would have chosen to “go viral.” There have been many essay in the last six year that I was, and am, especially proud of and believe were original, perceptive and important, and that have been barely read by anyone, never linked to or shared, and that have had all the impact of a shell thrown into the surf. How I wish my warning to the Republican Party , for example, urging it not to permit Donald Trump to participate in the primaries, had received similar attention. Not a single editorial board or pundit saw the peril looming, or at least  they didn’t write or talk about it if they did, because having The Donald spouting his inanities would be good copy and “fun.”

One such post dates back to the first full year of Ethics Alarms: The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit, from August 2010. In six years, it has amassed about the same number of views that the Snopes piece amassed in half a month. Yet the topic, how mouthwash manufacturers profit significantly by hiding the widespread use of their product by alcoholics who use mouthwash to conceal their destructive disease from family members and co-workers, is barely mentioned  on the web—a few places, and almost all of them since the post. Still, Congress hasn’t held hearings, regulatory agencies haven’t noticed, and the products still carry warnings that fool non-alcoholics into believing that the stuff is poison, so nobody drinks it. Lives could be saved, marriages rescued, and endangered businesses might survive, if what I wrote was generally known

I’ve done the original research and put the problem out there. At least I’ve tried, and I will continue to write about the problem, which I have learned about first hand.

My efforts  haven’t been completely futile. I have received some gratifying comments and off-site e-mails from family members who read the article, discovered that a loved one was secret drinker, and got them help. I have also received a few responses that confirmed my work, though none quite like this one from new reader Dave, an alcoholic himself.

Here is his remarkable and  cryptic  Comment of the Day on the post, The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit. Is it intentional irony? Is it sarcasm? Is it support, in the form of criticism? You decide:

Halfway through your article I decided it would be a good idea to go to shoppers and grab myself a bottle. I’d been so triggered today, only being a week sober prior. It’s great, you know, the mouthwash deception as you call it. I spend roughly $3.50 on a bottle of Life brand yellow mouthwash and it gets me radically twisted, with zero hangover. So not only does it make it easier for me to be a functioning alcoholic based on its inexpensiveness and zero hangover qualities, it is also amazingly convenient in that within 10 minutes I have three different 24 hour grocery stores I can go to in order to get a bottle.

Alcoholism is a shitty disease, believe me, I have lost much at the expense of it.

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The Strange, Unique, Sort-Of Unethical Movie Career Of Marnie Nixon, a.k.a. Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood, And Audrey Hepburn

"Heeeeere's MARNI!"

“Heeeeere’s MARNI!”

Marni Nixon died last month at 86, and I have been intending to write about her ever since.  An accomplished soprano with perfect pitch and a rare gift for mimicry, Nixon secretly dubbed in the songs for Deborah Kerr as Anna in “The King and I,” Natalie Wood as Maria in “West Side Story” and Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady,” three of the most successful and honored Hollywood adaptations of Broadway musicals. In doing so she was assisting in the perpetration of a fraud on critics and audiences, but one that had, and indeed has, some legitimate ethical arguments, and rationalizations too, to justify it. Why is using a stunt singer any more dishonest than using a stunt man? Isn’t film about making the audience accept illusions in pursuit of art? If an audience member will be more likely to enjoy a film thinking that a major star can really sing, why is it wrong to make it possible for them to believe that, at least for a while?

The reasoning would have more power if long before Marnie did her secret singing Hollywood hadn’t already made a classic musical, “Singin’ in the Rain,” that pronounced the practice fraudulent. Marni Nixon was a real life Cathy Seldon, the Debbie Reynolds contract player forced to supply the singing and speaking voice for a talentless silent film superstar, Lina Lamont, whose real voice would make dogs run for refuge and men claw off their ears, and whose continued status as a money-making asset for the studio depended on making her successful in talkies.

Ironically,  even “Singin’ in the Rain” engaged in the same fraud it was ridiculing. Debbie Reynolds was a competent singer, but a richer, more mature voice was needed to match the image of Jean Hagen, the terrific comic actress playing Lina. So when Debbie was shown secretly replacing Lina’s nightmarish singing voice with her own, another singer was secretly used, uncredited, to dub Debbie. Her voice fit Lina perfectly, because the voice put in Debbie’s mouth while she was supposedly putting her voice into Lina’s was the real voice of… Jean Hagen. Continue reading

The Daily Beast’s Nico Himes Tricks Gay Olympian Athletes Into Revealing Themselves And Their Sexual Orientation To Him…And His Editor Sees Nothing Wrong With That [UPDATED]

_Sex-in-VillageThis is another one of those stories that makes me wonder it it’s time to switch fields. My current one feels especially futile this week.

The sleazy feature story from the Daily Beast’s Nico Hines was about how Olympic athletes were hooking up for hot, sweaty, muscle sex in Rio. Hines writes…

“Perhaps the question most people have is: How do the rest of us get an invite? Can an Average Joe join the bacchanalia?”

That’s right: that’s what most people think about when they watch the Olympics. Good lord. The creep continues:

After 60 minutes in the Olympic Village on Tuesday evening, I’m surprised to say that the answer is “yes.”Armed with a range of dating and hookup apps—Bumble, Grindr, Jack’d, and Tinder—your distinctly non-Olympian correspondent had scored three dates in the first hour. Athlete profiles on the various apps during my short exploration included a track star, a volleyball player, a record-holder in the pool, a sailor, a diver, and a handball player.

There is one teeny ethics problem. Well, several. The obvious one is that he wasn’t looking for real dates, just trying to see if he could attract some. That’s deception. It is an obvious Golden Rule breach, as well as misconduct in any other ethical system. It is like advertising a job opening to write a story about how many desperate unemployed people apply for job openings. How dead do your ethics alarms have to be not to instantly understand this? Well, as dead as Nico’s and the Daily Beast’s, I suppose.

Here’s the smoking gun quote:

For the record, I didn’t lie to anyone or pretend to be someone I wasn’t—unless you count being on Grindr in the first place—since I’m straight, with a wife and child. I used my own picture (just of my face…) and confessed to being a journalist as soon as anyone asked who I was.

Isn’t that great? Nico didn’t lie, except to suggest that he was looking for sex when he wasn’t, or pretend to be someone he wasn’t, other than pretending to be gay by the very fact of posting on Grindr, a gay social media site that exists so gay men can find other gay men seeking hook-ups.

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Pokémon Go Ethics: Beware The Terms Of Service Agreement!

pokemon-go-starters

I had a hard time finding anything unethical about Pokémon Go, the smartphone GPS scavenger hunt game that sends players all over the landscape to find and trap those adorable Japanese monsters that caused a trading card craze and more a decade ago. (I assume that anything that seems really dumb is likely to have ethics problems. You’d be amazed how often I’m right.) It seems benign. The game can be good exercise, it’s engaging for people who have no more productive avocation, and best of all, it gives American something to obsess about not named Bill or Hillary. There are some troubling signs: administrators at the National Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery felt that they needed to ask visitors not to play the game while contemplating the murder of six million Jews and the fallen heroes of foreign ways—what is these spoilsports’ problem?—and some people are letting the game endanger themselves and others, leading to these morons falling off a cliff, causing this idiot to drive  his car into a tree, and prompting this in Arizona…

Pokemon go traffic sign

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More Fourth Of July Ethics: PBS Deceives Its Audience, And Calls It A “Patriotic Thing To Do”

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I hate writing posts like this. I hate the fact that the culture’s appreciation of the importance of integrity, honesty and transparency has declined so much during the Obama Administration that I have to write posts like this.

PBS’s annual coverage of the nation’s Capital’s Independence Day celebration from U.S. Capitol was handicapped by the overcast and drizzly weather in the area.  At the point in the show where the National Symphony Orchestra plays the 1812 Overture’s finale while a spectacular fireworks display explodes over the Capitol dome, someone in authority decided that the obscured fireworks  partially blocked by clouds weren’t good enough, so  a video compilation of previous years fireworks were interspersed with them without any disclosure.

To be clear, what happened was this: PBS intentionally deceived its audience, and presented old footage while representing what was on the screen as live.

Social media noticed immediately. “PBS Aired Old Fireworks Footage This Year. Did It Make A Difference?” asked various media commentators, in various forms. Gee, that’s a head-scratcher!  Huh. Tough one! Does it make a difference when a government-funded station deliberately sets out to deceive its viewers? Do lies matter? Is it okay for a broadcast of a live event to be secretly altered with film from a different time and event? Does it make a difference if the news media lies to the public?

Of course it makes a difference. It’s wrong. It’s a lie. It makes public trust impossible. What’s the difference between faking a moon landing and faking a fireworks display? Ethically, they are exactly the same, what we in the ethics field refer to as lies. Continue reading

California’s High Speed Rail Fiasco

The question posed by the unfolding California high-speed rail cataclysm is why the reaction to it should be a partisan or ideological issue at all. Are human beings capable of managing bias and learning hard truths from new information, or aren’t they?

High speed rail was promoted in California  as a green and virtuous way to propel commuters  from San Francisco to Los Angeles along at 220 miles an hour, completing the trip in a about  two and a half hours. It was going to involve minimal tax-payer cash,  with  billions arriving from private investors. It would be profitable, not requires state subsidies and be much less expensive than flying. Thus enthused and enlightened,  53.7 percent of approved the plan and a $9.95 billion bond.

It was a scam, a hustle, and a pack of lies.  Virginia Postrel writes at Bloomberg…

“California’s high-speed rail project increasingly looks like an expensive social science experiment to test just how long interest groups can keep money flowing to a doomed endeavor before elected officials finally decide to cancel it. What combination of sweet-sounding scenarios, streamlined mockups, ever-changing and mind-numbing technical detail, and audacious spin will keep the dream alive?”

Well said. I would add, “And will anyone learn from this fiasco?” Specifically, will anyone learn that ideologically-driven officials will always press policies in defiance of reality, if the public lets them, or more precisely, trusts them.

The Los Angeles Times published a stunning report on how corrupt this enterprise has been from the start. Here’s sample:
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The State Department’s Cover-Up Tactics: So This Is Trustworthy, Transparent, Honest Government Under Barack Obama’s Leadership, Is It?

tapper-300x197[Warning: I want to apologize for the snarky and perhaps unprofessional tone of the following post. On second thought, I don’t.]

Barack Obama’s approval ratings have been rising in the wake of the realization that Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump are his likely successors.  I can’t blame the public too much for this, as irrational as it is. Place Steve Buscemi next to the Elephant Man, and after a while he’ll seem like George Clooney.

Still, the fact that so many Americans accept/ enable this incompetent, divisive, corrupt and untrustworthy government under Obama is a major reason such unfit candidates as Clinton and Trump have gotten this far. Never before has such incompetent leadership been so extolled, especially by the news media. The standards for what Americans would accept as Presidential leadership have been lowered catastrophically under Obama, and this is one of many horrible results.

Now the State Department—you know, that major Cabinet Department Hillary Clinton ran, the one that looked the other way while its Secretary violated its policies regarding classified material, then tried to cover it up? That one—  has  admitted that a question from Fox News reporter James Rosen about the government’s secret discussions with Iran was deliberately edited out of a video to re-write history and deceive the public. The section related to secret meetings with Iran prior to the nuclear deal—you know, the one that Obama’s foreign policy advisor Ben Rhodes boasted about how it was foisted on the American people by duping the media. That one. When Fox News first flagged the missing exchange, Obama’s government dismissed it as a “glitch.”

You know. Like The IRS said that it couldn’t find Lois Lerner’s e-mails.

But this week, finding that it couldn’t stonewall any more, the State Department  told reporters  that “a staffer” had erased part of the footage from the December 2013 briefing before it was posted on the Internet. This censor reportedly did so, the State Department admitted, after receiving a phone call from an “unknown” department employee ordering him or her to do so. “There was a deliberate request—this wasn’t a technical glitch,” State now says.

Though they first said it was. When it wasn’t. To put everyone off the track. Because this is the most transparent administration ever, and has never had any scandals. None.

Do I seem annoyed? I am. Continue reading