Tag Archives: ethics alarms

Afternoon Ethics Warm-up, 6/6/18: Special “Don’t Sue Me, These Are Just Opinions” Edition

Good afternoon.

1. For the record...Ethics Alarms passed 9 million views this week. That’s not a lot in a bit less than 9 years by the mega-blog standards, but their aren’t many ethics blogs that do better, and maybe none. Admittedly, this is a little like being the most popular fan site for Clint Howard…

2. Now this IS a frivolous lawsuit...tomorrow I finally go to Boston to argue my motion to dismiss the vexatious defamation lawsuit against me by an Ethics Alarms commenter whose feelings I hurt in the process of throwing him off the site. If a lawyer brought this suit, I would have a rare claim against him for breaching Rule 3.1, prohibiting frivolous suits. No lawyer, however, would bring such a suit. There has to be a good faith belief that you can prevail, or change the law, but there is literally no support in the law of defamation for calling insults (yup, I insulted him), opinions, and conclusions based on fully-revealed information and data libel. Non-lawyers, however, don’t have to obey legal ethics rules, and, as in this case, don’t know what they are anywhere. Maybe after I’m through with all of this, I’ll post the whole complaint. Among its claims is that I graduated from Hampshire College, and that the Massachusetts court has jurisdiction because I’m a fan of the Boston Red Sox. I also, it claims, defamed the plaintiff by erroneously referring to him as an academic. To deal with this spiteful action, I have already expended several thousand dollars. Yes, it goes with the territory. I know.

3. Imagine, impugning the professionalism and impunity of the FBI! A drunk and irresponsible FBI agent  shot a man at a Denver bar over the weekend when his gun flew out of his pocket, hit the floor and discharged as he was executing an acrobatic maneuver on the dance floor. This, you will not be surprised to learn, is not compliant with FBI policy. Agents are considered on duty at all times. They can carry their weapon at all times too, but cannot endanger the public while doing so. They are also not permitted to act like clowns in public, or be drunk as proverbial skunks. The agent is Chase Bishop, 29, who works out of Washington D.C. No word yet if he is part of the Mueller investigation.

Conservative wag Glenn Reynold would headline this story, “Top. Men.” Maybe he already has. And if you don’t get the reference, your cultural literacy needs a tune-up. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/21/18: Comments, Clarkson, Bitter Hillary, And Weiner Dogs Amuck

Good morning, all.

1. Housekeeping note: Some commenters are expressing displeasure that I suspended a regular participant here following what I consider to be excessively disrespectful discourse toward me. Well. when they try moderating an ethics blog read by educated, passionate and verbally adept people for nine years, I’ll pay more attention to that displeaure. The task is much like that of a lion-tamer in the circus: as I learned when I read the autobiography of one who survived until retirement, the big cats growling is fine, and even the occasional swipe for show is tolerable, but when they start being disrespectful, you either show who’s boss quick or you get gang-mauled and eaten.

In about two weeks, I have to fly to Boston—on my own dime, of course— to ask a judge to dismiss a $100,000 defamation lawsuit from a banned commenter here. Am I bit inclined to be less than charitable to rude commenter outbursts aimed at me right now? Yes. The matter at issue right now involved flat-out, unambiguous personal mockery and derision, and the Comment Policies, accessible for years on the link above, specifically designate “6) Mockery without substance”  as commentary conduct that is not appreciated, , and also notes that a commenter risks be discipline for “…Insulting me, in particular by questioning my integrity, honesty, objectivity, intentions, motives, qualifications, or credentials.”

The commenter who was suspended can return to the wars at any time he chooses, after offering an acceptable apology.

2. Breaking my vow already…to eschew writing about the aftermath of the latest school shooting, I have to mention that Lelly Clarkson’s emotional speech at last night’s Billborad awards was played this morning on CNN and Headline News—and I assume elsewhere—as if she actually was saying something of substance. She wasn’t:

Is the news media going to keep on trying to steer a policy debate with complex social, legal, constitutional, cultural and practical factors into this emotion-flooded, intellectually useless dead end? Apparently so. I’m sure Kelly is sincere, but “moment of action” is nothing but another way of saying “do something,” which itself is just another form of screaming at the sky. What action, Kelly? Unless you make a relevant proposal that addresses the event you are crying about, your statement is worse than useless.

We should not keep pandering to this invitation to turn off our brains regarding guns, yet that is what the news media is actively campaigning for us to do.  They are irresponsible to do this.

But we knew that. Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes, Rights

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/18/18: George Sanders Memorial Edition

Good morning….

1. Why George, you ask? “Dear World,” famed actor George Sanders wrote in his suicide note in 1972, ”I am leaving because I am bored.”

I can relate. I am so bored with the unchanging patters of the news media’s irresponsible obsession with “getting” Donald Trump, the unethical and obsessed Ahab-like mania of his foes, and the depressing–I’m really ashamed of all of you—conduct of my many left-wing friends who still, after all this time, erupt in unseemly barking and seal-flipper applause over any Trump-hating pundit’s warped analysis. I’m bored, and I don’t understand why everyone else isn’t bored. How can Saturday Night Live fans still pretend to think Alec Baldwin’s amateurish, fury-sweating, repetitive Trump mockery is interesting? We’re at the point now where everything is being repeated from months ago: the resistance is running through the alphabet AGAIN.  A few days ago an ex-Obama official went all the way back to the Resistance’s Plan C, the arcane Constitutional dead letter known as the Emoluments Clause, and like the lapdogs they are, the Democrats’ impeachment lynch mob and anti-Trump news media predictably followed suit. This was widely interpreted by cooler heads as a sign of Trump Derangement Desperation, and maybe so, but this is like “Groundhog Day.” I never dreamed that I would still have to write about this 18 months after the initial post-election freak-out—“He’s a Nazi!” “He’s insane!” He’s a racist!” “He stole the election!” “He’s a Russian puppet!” —which was embarrassing enough. And I do have to write about it, because it is, in the end, an ongoing story of Americans acting horribly toward their own institutions, and professionals, who are supposed to be trained to be better, leading the way while in many cases acting worse.

It just kills the blog, as well as the fun of writing it, which has always been the eclectic and broad influence of ethics in our lives. The issue has just gutted traffic here: the anti-Trump virus-infected  can’t bear to read any objective commentary that doesn’t drip with hatred of the President, so they retreat to the warm second-hand lies of social media, rapid Trump supporters don’t want to frequent a periodic defender who won’t ignore his flaws, and serious ethics followers who view the whole episode as a bad dream that they would rather not think about while pondering the nuances of utilitarianism find the essays on the topic of the Trump Wars repetitive—which, inevitably, they are.

2. “Animals.” Look at yesterday’s ridiculous effort by journalists and pundits to intentionally misinterpret the President’s off-the-cuff comments in response to a comment about the violent MS-13 gangs at a White House roundtable discussion on the subject of immigration and so-called “sanctuary cities.” Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims raised the problem of  Mara Salvatrucha gangs, better known as MS-13. “There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t have a certain threshold, I cannot tell [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] about it,” Mims said, thus triggering a typical Trump word cloud in which he described the gang members as “animals.” Never mind: multiple news sources deliberately omitted the context of Trump’s remarks to advance the “Trump is a racist and hates all immigrants” narrative. Incredibly, this was so blatant that CNN, of all people, decided to weigh in on the President’s side—all the better to allow them to claim objectivity when they smear him later. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/2/18: Dictators, Wizards, Liars and Abusers [Updated]

Good morning!

1 Housekeeping matters. For some reason, I know not what, there was an outbreak of contentious discussion regarding Ethics Alarms administration in a couple of threads yesterday. I think everything covered or complained about is covered in the Comment Policies above, but just for the record:

  • I handle the moderation here. Only me.
  • Though it might appear otherwise to some, I do not spend my day glued to Ethics Alarms. Thus on days like yesterday, when I had an early morning CLE session to teach in D.C., followed by one  law firm client emergency after another, I did not see any comments at all from 1am to 6 pm. Thus the hysterical and indignant “Why did you delete my comment?” outbursts and the “How dare you allow that rude comment to stay on the site?” and the ultimata springing therefrom were especially silly, unfair, and ill-informed.
  • I am not your Moderation Monkey. Don’t command me on how to police my own site. Thank you.
  • As I have written many times, occasionally a comment from an approved participant gets spammed for no good reason. Sometimes WordPress, for no apparent provocation, starts spamming the comments of visitors here who have been commenting for years. Sometimes such commenters have had to change their screen names as a result. None of this has anything to do with me: I can’t control it, or predict it. The calm, reasonable commenters faced with this crisis generally e-mail me, then I search the spam archives, find the lost post, send it to moderation, and approve it.
  • I do not delete posts from approved commenters. The exception is when I ban a commenter permanently, or give one a time out, which is a temporary ban or suspension, in which case the commenter is always warned in advance.
  • I expect discourse here to be civil, but will excuse momentary and periodic lapses and outbursts from veteran commenters (and me, of course), in direct proportion to their time here, level of participation and constructive value to the mission. Individual quirks will also be taken into consideration.

2. Remembering the David Manning Liar of the Month: A commenter who hails from the old Ethics Scoreboard days recently referenced the feature there called the David Manning Liar of the Month. A David Manning-style lie is a statement that the speaker or writer can’t possibly expect anyone to  believe, thus raising the question of whether it is a lie at all. (Sony spawned the award by excusing its use of a fake film reviewer it named David Manning to rave about terrible movies in ads,  claiming that nobody believed such excerpts anyway.) If Ethics Alarms had the same feature, President Trump would obviously dominate it, as I was reminded this morning. The President’s ex-physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein. bitter over his ejection from the Trump Court, revealed that Trump himself had dictated the absurd letter in which the doctor attested, Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Leadership, Popular Culture, Professions, Race

Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, May 1, 2018: Generally Disgusted

Good day to all, I guess.

Me, I feel like quitting.

1.  Basic ethics blindness regarding the White House Correspondents Dinner. The ethically obtuse responses I am reading in columns and blogs regarding the self-defining journalism ethics event–you know, as in none—doesn’t bother me too much. I assume these people have the ethics of jackals. The similar responses I am reading here from intelligent readers who have been supposedly paying attention, however, discourage me greatly. Really: why bother writing a couple thousand words a day about ethics when  your readers react to a high profile, unequivocal act of disrespect and rudeness by resorting to “I don’t like the guy, so I’m glad,” “he started it!” and “they had it coming”?

Or, my personal favorite, “this one insult everyone is talking about isn’t one if you spin it hard enough, so the other 30 insults don’t matter”?

There is no ethical defense whatsoever for inviting individuals to a formal dinner and intentionally making them feel like they are being singled out for abuse. Ever. Period. No exceptions. This is so obvious and uncontroversial that it prompt debate in a civilized society.  That anyone is trying to defend the association, and its hired gun, Ms. Wolf, simply validates my two years-and-running correct prediction that electing Trump as President will turn this into a nation of assholes, though I was expecting those transformed to be primarily young, shallow and easily influenced. I did not expect so many professionals to re-enact the donkey-scene in “Pinocchio.”

And yes, as far as I’m concerned, Wolf, with the journalists’ consent, insulted the President of the United States and his daughter to their virtual faces. It is just moral luck that Trump did not attend, and there is no reason to believe that Wolf changed her act one iota because he wasn’t there. She was prepared to call the President of the United States a pussy, a monster and a Nazi to his face, with him a captive audience member. The ethics-free, rationalized justification I am reading on this blog is , “Yeah, well he made fun of a disabled man in 2016!”  Wow. I really am wasting my time, I guess. How else can I interpret that?

Off the blog, some other ethically dim justifications have surfaced, like today’s New York Times column absolving Wolf from all responsibility because she performed the same kind of anti-Trump material that she always did. Funny, nobody gave Don Imus, the briefly ascendant shock-jock, that easy out when he embarrassed President Bill Clinton by calling him a “weasel,” among his less offensive terms, when he entertained the same group. Hey, protested the I-Man, I call Clinton a lying weasel every day on my show, why would anyone expect me to do any differently at the dinner? Why? Because professional entertainers have calibrated the appropriate content of their performances to their audiences’ tastes and sensitivities forever, that is why, and professionals are expected to be professional, which includes responsible. Go ahead, look me in the eye and tell me that Wolf would have made equally denigrating jokes if Obama was the President. Jokes about his flirtation with being gay. Jokes about eating dog. Jokes about him being a weenie with Putin and the “red line.” Jokes about the most “transparent” administration ever. Jokes about Joe Biden feeling up women during photo ops. About the IRS. About “you can keep your plan.”  No, the association always assumes that its entertainers would keep their material appropriate to the venue and the event. The argument being used to excuse Wolf would be like excusing infamous “blue” material comics like Buddy Hackett, Redd Foxx and David Brenner if they made dick jokes on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” No, they toned down their material, out of respect for the audience. Respect. What a concept. And this was an audience of middle class Americans, not the President of the United States.

Of course, Wolf easily could have assumed that she was expected to be uncivil, cruel and offensive, since she knew that her hosts, like her and her fellow professional Trump-bashers, constituted the “resistance’s” Agents of Presidential Destruction. That doesn’t relieve her of ethical responsibilities, though. The association was irresponsible to hire someone with her proclivities, and she is accountable for her own disgusting, divisive conduct. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President

Review: Ethics Alarms Concepts And Special Terms

Recently updating the Ethics Alarms list of concepts and frequently used terms reminded me that I had been meaning to post them for review and assistance to those relatively new here. Of course, the link has always been right there at the top of the home page, but I have this sneaking suspicion that it isn’t visited very often.  Here, then, is the up-to-date list.

CONCEPTS

Non-Ethical Considerations: Defined above, non-ethical considerations are important because they are often the powerful impediments to ethical conduct, and the cause of many conflicts of interest. Non-ethical considerations are many and diverse, and include:

  • The need and desire for shelter, health, wealth, fame, security, self-esteem, reputation, power, professional advancement, comfort, love, sex, praise, credit, appreciation, affection, or satisfaction
  • The desire for the health, comfort, safety, welfare and happiness for one’s family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, an co-workers
  • The pursuit of vengeance or retribution
  • Hunger, lust, pain, ambition, prejudice, bias, hatred, laziness, fatigue, disgust, anger, fear
  • …and many more

Ethical Dilemma: This is an ethical problem in which the ethical choice involves ignoring a powerful non-ethical consideration. Do the right thing, but lose your job, a friend, a lover, or an opportunity for advancement. A non-ethical consideration can be powerful and important enough to justify choosing it over the strict ethical action.

Ethical Conflict: When two ethical principles demand opposite results in the same situation, this is an ethical conflict. Solving ethical conflicts may require establishing a hierarchy or priority of ethical principles, or examining the situation through another ethical system.

Ethical Gray Area: Gray areas are situations and problems that don’t fit neatly into any existing mode of ethical analysis. In some cases, there may even be a dispute regarding whether ethics is involved.

Reciprocity: The ethical system embodied by The Golden Rule, and given slightly different form in other religions and philosophies. It is a straight-forward way of judging conduct affecting others by putting oneself in the position of those affected. Reciprocity should always be available in any ethical analysis, but it is frequently too simple to be helpful in complex ethical situations with multiple competing interests.

Absolutism: Absolutist systems do not permit any exception to certain ethical principles. The champion of all absolutists, philosopher Immanuel Kant, declared that the ethical act was one that the actor was willing to have stand as a universal principle.

One principle of absolutism is that human beings can never be harmed for any objective, no matter how otherwise worthwhile. Absolutism has the advantage of making tough ethical calls seem easy, and the disadvantage of making debate impossible. One sees absolutism reflected today in the controversies over war, torture, abortion, cloning, and capital punishment.

Utilitarianism: Utilitarianism accepts the existence of ethical conflicts and the legitimacy of some ethical dilemmas, and proposes ethical analysis based on the question, “Which act will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people?’ It entails the balancing of greater and lesser goods, and is useful for unraveling complex ethical problems. Its drawback, or trap, is that utilitarianism can slide into “The ends justify the means” without some application of absolutist and reciprocity principles.

Consequentialism: In formal ethics, utilitarian schools of philosophy are sometimes lumped together as “consequentialism,” in that the ethical decision-making is based on seeking the best result. Here we just uses the above term, utilitarianism.  Consequentialsm, in contrast, is the flawed belief that the rightness or wrongness, or even wisdom, of chosen conduct is measures by its actual results rather than its intended results. If “if all worked out for the best,” in other words, the conduct that created the desirable result most have been ethical, whatever its intent or however the conduct was determined to be necessary or desirable. This is a fallacy.

Cognitive Dissonance:
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon first identified by Leon Festinger. It occurs when there is a discrepancy between what a person believes, knows and values, and persuasive information that calls these into question. The discrepancy causes psychological discomfort, and the mind adjusts to reduce the discrepancy. In ethics, cognitive dissonance is important in its ability to alter values, such as when an admired celebrity embraces behavior that his or her admirers deplore. Their dissonance will often result in changing their attitudes toward the behavior. Dissonance also leads to rationalizations of unethical conduct, as when the appeal and potential benefits of a large amount of money makes unethical actions to acquire it seem less objectionable than if they were applied to smaller amounts.

Moral Luck: The common situation where an unethical act is only discovered, noticed, or deemed worthy of condemnation due to unpredictable occurrences that come as a result of the act or that affect its consequences. Moral luck is the difference, for example, between two mildly intoxicated drivers, one of whom arrives home without incident, while the other has an unwary child dash in front of his automobile, leading to a fatal accident that he couldn’t have avoided if completely sober. Yet the unlucky driver will be a pariah in the community, while the more fortunate driver goes on with his life.

SPECIAL TERMS USED ON ETHICS ALARMS

Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Jumbo, Kaboom!, language

Comment Of The Day: “Harassing McGruff: Oh-Oh…Am I Going Crazy?”

I’m going to post the whole ad at issue again, because it is an essential reference point for context:

My almost entirely serious post about the GEICO ad showing McGruff the Crime Dog being subjected to office harassment based on his appearance and species/race prompted more and more diverse commentary than I expected, and one slam-dunk Comment of the Day, by Zanshin, who has a record of deconstructing oddball Ethics Alarms posts.

Three points:

1. I was not aware that McGruff had starred in anti-bullying videos, and I doubt that any but a tiny fraction of the intended audience for the GEICO commercial is either,

2. Kudos to Zanshin for seeing a connection to The Jehovah Paradox, which I did not. It is not often that I am told that I don’t understand my own inventions, but he makes an excellent argument. I also need to add TJP to the Ethics Alarms list of concepts and special terms, which I had neglected to do.

3. I just saw the ad again, and it still feels to me like GEICO is making light of workplace racism, bullying and harassment, and

Here is Zanshin’s Comment of the Day on the post, Harassing McGruff: Oh-Oh…Am I Going Crazy?:

Jack asked, […] am I just seeing an ethics breach that isn’t there?

My answer, You saw only the unethical part in this commercial because you didn’t have the context to ‘see’ the ethical part in it.

tl/dr

1. McGruff is subjected to cruel bullying and office harassment.

2. Is that an ethics breach? No, not if one understands “The Jehovah Paradox”.

3. In the commercial McGruff doesn’t break character.

4. (At the minimal) the commercial doesn’t go against the teachings of McGruff.

5. The commercial makers should have done a better job in making the teachings of McGruff more explicit.
(But maybe couldn’t given intellectual property/licensing issues?)

Let me explain. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture, Research and Scholarship, Workplace