Blue Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/7/2018: Fake Brain Death, Horrible History, Bad Bills And Worse Journalism

It’s Monday!

1  In thousands of little ways...Insidious, biased, deceitful, distorted and unfair information is fed to the public by the news media, unflagged or corrected by editors, presented as legitimate punditry and journalism either intentionally to warp public opinion for leftward political gain, or out of pure incompetence, depending on how much one accepts Hanlon’s Razor. The little ones, like the tiny repetitive concussions that over time give NFL players brain disease, may be more insidious than the whoppers.

Here is a typical example. Progressive op-ed writer David Leonhardt concludes his column about how Amazon is a dastardly monopoly endangering his beloved book stores by writing,

“Once the country emerges from the Trump presidency, I hope we will have a government that takes monopolies seriously.”

It takes magnificent gall to lay the power of Amazon at Trump’s doorstep. The internet giant built its virtual monopoly to its current power on Obama’s watch, with a Justice Department that looked the other way. Why? I wonder if it had anything to do with the massive co0ntributions Amazon magnate Jeff Bezos sent the Democrats’ way, or the fact that his newspaper, The Washington Post, was a reliable cheer-leader for Obama through is entire administration. Never mind: Leonhardt’s editors allow him to mislead readers into believing that Amazon is being allowed to do its worst because of Donald Trump.

Oh…did you notice the conflict of interest disclaimer pointing out the Post-Bezos-Amazon connection for those readers who might want to know that the Times’ rival for national newspaper primacy is owned by Amazon’s CEO? Neither did I. Maybe when the Times emerges from its fake news and blatant partisanship stage, it will start taking ethics seriously.

2.  Today’s Fox News incompetence note. I literally stopped on Fox News for 45 seconds this morning, and heard a lovely, buxom, Fox blonde clone report this story by saying, “the boy was brain dead for two months, then woke up.” [The original typo had “bot” instead of boy. A good time was had by all]

No, you idiot. He was not brain dead at all, because when you are brain dead, you’re dead, and you don’t wake up.  Doctors may have thought he was brain dead. He may have seemed to be brain dead. But he wasn’t brain dead.

Fake news, and stupid news.

Fox News.

3. The logic of Hollywood anti-gun zealots in a horror movie. A decent horror move could be made about the San Jose Mystery House, where Winchester rifle heir Sarah Winchester built a maze of rooms and stairways to keep her personal demons at bay. “Winchester” isn’t it, because its mission was to bludgeon audiences for two hours with perhaps the silliest anti-gun message ever devised. You see,  rumors persisted while Sarah was alive that she was building rooms for all the ghosts of victims of her father-in-law Oliver Winchester’s repeating rifle to reside. Thus workmen claimed the site was haunted. “Inspired by real events,” as the film says (the “real events” being the sensational tabloid tales), “Winchester” posits that the ghost of a Confederate soldier whose two brothers were killed in the Civil War has returned to get revenge. Sarah is racked with guilt, because, she says, the Rebel muskets were no match for the North’s repeating rifles, and “they never gave them a chance.”

Yup, those are the rules in war, all right: always give the soldiers trying to kill you a chance. Later, all the angry victims of the evil Winchester come out to glare: Native American, children, suicides, slaves. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/22/17: Uber, Thanksgiving Hate, Accountability, Trump’s Unavoidable Choice, And Ruing The Day That Changed Everything

Good Morning.

…But 54 years ago it seemed like a beautiful morning in Dealey Plaza…

1 “President Kennedy is dead…” I heard those word over my little black transistor radio that I mostly used to listen to Red Sox games. Let’s see how many news stories take note of the historical significance of today: the anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas. It is the date when a disturbed crypto-Communist radical took the fate and future of an entire nation and culture in his hands, and squeezed them to pulp—one of the three or four most unethical acts in U.S. history. As readers here know, I am not a Jack Kennedy admirer. Nonetheless, in “Back to the Future II” terms, it’s impossible to imagine what 2017 America would be like had Lee Harvey Oswald not shot the top of JFK’s head off in 1963, but it’s easy to imagine that we would be better. The assassination created a violent shift in the time/space continuum, and we never got back on track.

2. Bye-Bye Uber, you’re also dead to me. Uber is untrustworthy and unethical, and anyone who trusts the company going forward is a fool as well as an enabler of corporate misconduct. This is signature significance: the company revealed that hackers stole 57 million driver and rider accounts last year, yet Uber withheld that fact from the public until now after paying a $100,000 ransom to the hackers. Ethical, competent, trustworthy companies don’t operate this way.

It wasn’t just the company’s juvenile and piggish former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick. The company he created inherited his ethical deficits like a lethal gene. Any company is obligated to reveal hacks of personal data to members of the public who might be harmed by them immediately.

If you use Uber after this, you’re an idiot. You’re also sending the message that an epic breach of trust by a corporation will be shrugged off via one or twenty rationalizations, like 19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”

Keep sending that message, and pretty soon they’ll be using 1. The Golden Rationalization, or “Everybody does it.”

3. More Tales of the Anti-Trump Deranged: This essay in the virulent Trump-hating CG is meant humorously, but also is serious in its nastiness. Joe Berkowitz’s call to good little resistance members and Hillary bitter-enders to “ruin thanksgiving” as their “civic duty” stands as a self-indictment of the ugly, divisive mindset that so much of the Left has descended into over the past year. In fact, with just a few tweaks, it could have been written by a conservative satirist—if there were such things.

One aspect of Trump’s election turning the U.S. into a “Nation of Assholes” that I did not see coming was progressives and Democrats feeling liberated to go full-asshole themselves. This article shows the phenomenon. In particular, Berkowitz demonstrates how the Left can no longer distinguish between legitimate policy disagreements and what should be a matter of non-partisan consensus. His argument for using Thanksgiving to punish Trump supporting relatives by turning a celebration of faith and family into a table-top Gettysburg goes like this:

They can’t stand idly by while President Deals tramples every other American tradition and yet somehow expect that Thanksgiving will be normal too. [Note: Supporting the elected President is one of those traditions, and a crucial one.]…Here are a few suggestions for how to ruin Thanksgiving, arranged by ascending order of righteous fury:

Don’t show up. For some parents, your absence will speak louder than any sodden arguments over the density of pumpkin pie. If you can’t even look them in the eye, they’ll know you mean business. [Note: Is he joking? I know many families who are eschewing family gatherings for exactly this reason. Yes, I put most of this on the Angry Left and Barack Obama, aided and abetted by late night TV comics and the news media. They have set out to divide the nation by race, gender, age, class and party, seeking to build metaphorical walls where once there were divisions that could be forgotten or ignored during recreation and the shared commonality of citizenship. .]

Show up and be kind of an asshole. No hugs; only stiff, formal handshakes. During the football game, talk about police brutality nonstop. Take any opportunity to emphasize just how much Bruce Springsteen and the entire E Street band loathes Trump….[Note: See?]

Scorched Earth. Not even a handshake; just stare, disgustedly, at their outstretched arms….[Note: Among the  inarguable outrages that the essayist claims justifies such treatment: not supporting an increase in the minimum wage, refusing to uncritically accept climate change propaganda, and the President speaking “almost exclusively in racist dog whistles and ‘locker room talk.'” You know, racist dogwhistles like opposing the tearing down statues of Robert E. Lee,  correctly stating that a white nationalist group has the same rights to assemble and protest as anyone else without being attacked,  or objecting to NFL players inflicting an incoherent protest on their captive audience. ]

I was asked for ethics advice regarding looming political disputes during Thanksgiving, and here it is: It is rude and unkind to raise a topic you know is emotional and painful for people at the table. So don’t do it, just as you wouldn’t (I hope) deliberately raise such topics as Cousin Cecile’s abortion, Jim Jr.’s arrest, or Uncle Ethan’s IRS problems. Continue reading

From The Halloween Files: Arachnophobia Ethics

creepy-spider-halloween-decoration

I love this story!

Early last month, several secretaries in the Logan County (West Virginia) Prosecutor’s Office put up Halloween decorations, including a lot of big hanging fake spiders.  When he saw them, Assistant Prosecutor Chris White freaked out, saying he had arachnophobia, that the decorations weren’t funny, and he couldn’t stand the eight legged things. Then he pulled out his gun, and threatened to shoot the spiders. The gun had no clip, but the staff wasn’t sure; after all, if you are crazy enough to try to shoot fake spiders with an empty gun, you are probably crazy enough to  shoot fake spiders with a loaded gun. The three secretaries who witnessed the meltdown were terrified.

White was suspended for the incident. He’s been with the office for more than five years, according to his boss, John Bennett,who  took it well, saying, “I never saw it coming, that’s for sure. Obviously, I wouldn’t have even hired him if I had seen it coming. And the fact that he’s been there five years and we haven’t had any incidents like this also, to me, is a pretty good indication it’s certainly out of the ordinary.”

Hmmm. How ordinary does drawing a firearm  in an office because of Halloween decorations have to be before you decide, “You know, maybe this guy should be someplace else”? Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Millikin University

This story sounds like it was dreamed up for joint production of the Lifetime Movie Network and Chiller.

Above: The scene of Wolcott's mothers shooting; below, his father.

Above: The scene of Wolcott’s mothers shooting; below, his father.

Millikin University is a private institution in Decatur, Illinois with approximately 2400 students. It has been thrust into local headlines with the discovery that one of its psychology professors, James St. James, who heads the schools Department of Behavioral Sciences, murdered his parents and his older sister when he was 15. Then he was called James Gordon Wolcott.

He changed his name after being treated in a mental institution, where he was sent after being found not guilty of the crime because he was legally insane at the time of the killings. High from sniffing glue, the brilliant but emotionally disturbed teen grabbed a .22-caliber rifle, walked into the living room and shot his father, then shot his sister and his mother.

Six years after being sent to Rusk State Hospital,  Wolcott emerged apparent cured, and ready to lead a productive life. Ironically, his patricide and his insanity  had greased the way for his rehabilitation: he inherited his parents’ estate and was able to draw a monthly stipend from his father’s pension fund. Changing his name to St. James, he earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a PhD, and became an award-winning professor at Millikin. Professor St. James’ secret was undiscovered until this year. He is now 61. Continue reading

Now We Know: 22.5% of Business Execs Don’t Know What Ethics Is

The Potter Factor: is 20% too much?

David Sokol was widely believed to be the anointed successor to billionaire Warren Buffett at the helm of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. until he resigned unexpectedly, following shocking revelations about his personal stock trading. Clever Sokol! He purchased ten million dollars worth of shares in Lubrizol Corp., a chemical company, then persuaded his boss, Buffett, to acquire it. Buffett agreed, the purchase swelled the values of the stock, and Sokol then sold his shares at a hefty profit, about 3 million dollars.

Sokol lost his job over the transaction, which has tarnished Buffett’s reputation, but he got his money. He appears to have found a neat little loophole in the insider trading prohibitions, which make it illegal for an individual to profit from investments made with the assistance of information that is not generally known. If Sokol knew that Buffett was going to purchase Lurizol and bought the stock to profit from it, he could be headed to jail. Because he made the purchase before he and Buffett discussed the deal, however, he’s only heading to the bank. Galling as it is, most authorities agree that he broke no laws.  Continue reading