Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/16/18: As Bing And I Dream Of A White Christmas, Pre-Holiday Ugliness

Good afternoon!

[For some reason, Bing’s version of the song that begins the film “White Christmas”–accompanied by a music box–is completely off-key. This has bothered me for decades. How could this happen?]

1. Our trustworthy news media. How many news outlets reported this story? In 2016, Tribune Publishing Co. owner Michael Ferro met with corporate leaders from within his news empire, including chief news executives from the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun.  During the meeting, he engaged in old-fashioned Jew-bashing, railing about the “Jewish cabal” that ran Los Angeles. In 2018,  Tribune Publishing made the first in a series of secret extortion payments that totaled $2.5 million to avoid a threatened lawsuit filed by a fired newspaper executive who had been in that room, thus keeping Ferro’s anti-Semitic slur out of the news.

Yes, a news organization paid millions to suppress the news. The rest of the story is similarly disturbing.

2. KABOOM! This article made my head explode. Therein, CNN contributor Kate Anderson Bower attacks the First Lady, saying that “she doesn’t understand what it means to be first lady.” The article is perfect 10s all across the board: for arrogance, for bias, for Trump-bashing, for incompetence and historical revisionism. The accusation arose from statements Melania made in an interview with Sean Hannity, stating that the hardest part of her job was having to deal with her and her family being personally attacked by “comedians to journalists to performers[and]book writers.”  Bower writes that Melania was

“again making the job about herself and her family instead of taking the opportunity to talk about the challenges she sees other people facing…The entire moment was a lost opportunity to put attention on the families of struggling Americans she’s met in her role as first lady, especially since she spent time the very next day reading to children at Children’s National Hospital, some sitting in wheelchairs with IVs attached. And the Hannity interview took place on USS George H.W. Bush, a trip the first lady made to support members of the military and their families. Wouldn’t it have been heartening to hear her use that moment during the interview to talk about the women and babies she’s met struggling with opioid addiction, or the children who she has met as part of her “Be Best” campaign who have been bullied at school, or the people whose homes were destroyed in the California fires?”

I’ll tell you what, you presumptuous hack: when you’re First Lady, you show us how it’s done.

There is no job of First Lady for Melania to “understand.” Bower is imposing her values and priorities on the job, and claiming that she knows the job description, which has always fluctuated with the occupant and the times.  The job of the First Lady, to the extent there is one, is to do whatever is possible to help the President of the United States be successful and succeed, using whatever talents she has. There is no obligation for a First Lady to be Eleanor Roosevelt, nor is it written in ink or precedent that the President’s spouse has to concentrate on “the challenges she sees other people facing.”  Jackie Kennedy’s primary project was renovating the White House, where she lived. How did that help the poor and under-privileged?  Lady Bird beautified the shores of the Potomac. How was that a boon to the poor in Appalachia?  Nobody criticized their priorities. I wonder why? Continue reading

Sick-Bed Ethics Warm-Up, 11/14/18: Ethics Among the Sneezes [UPDATED]

Good whatever it is….

1. Bottom line” Don’t trust Facebook. From the Times: “Facebook failed to closely monitor device makers after granting them access to the personal data of hundreds of millions of people, according to a previously unreported disclosure to Congress last month.” Surprised? As with Google promising moths ago that it was no longer reading our mail, then admitting months later that it had resumed the practice, the big tech companies have proven repeatedly that that we cannot believe what they say, or their motives, or their pledges of good will and public service. More from the Times story:

Facebook’s loose oversight of the partnerships was detected by the company’s government-approved privacy monitor in 2013. But it was never revealed to Facebook users, most of whom had not explicitly given the company permission to share their information. Details of those oversight practices were revealed in a letter Facebook sent last month to Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, a privacy advocate and frequent critic of the social media giant.

In the letter, a copy of which Mr. Wyden provided to The New York Times, Facebook wrote that by early 2013 it had entered into data-sharing agreements with seven device makers to provide what it called the “Facebook experience” — custom-built software, typically, that gave those manufacturers’ customers access to Facebook on their phones. Those partnerships, some of which date to at least 2010, fall under a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission drafted in 2011 and intended to oversee the company’s privacy practices.

Read the whole thing. I just assume that anything I put on Facebook, regardless of the alleged settings,will be sold to or otherwise obtained by potentially malign entities.

2. Just what we need now, a rogue First Lady. First Lady Melania Trump publicly called for the President’s deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel, to be fired.  In a word, well, two: Shut up. The felicitous circumstance of marrying someone who is later elected President of the United States confers no expertise or authority. The position of First Lady has no Constitutionally recognized duties, nor does it carry any real power. There is nothing anyone can do to diminish the influence and spouse may have with the President behind closed doors—and that is a problem—but she or the inevitable he must not confuse, confound or otherwise seek to influence affairs of state with public comments and opinions. Why Melania wants Ricardel fired is irrelevant. It’s none of her business.

I just want to point out that I sneezed six times while typing those last four words. Applause, please. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Michelle Obama; Runner-Up: Her Husband

michelle-and-oprah

“We feel the difference now. See, now, we are feeling what not having hope feels like. Hope is necessary. It’s a necessary concept and Barack didn’t just talk about hope because he thought it was just a nice slogan to get votes. He and I and so many believe that — what else do you have if you don’t have hope,What do you give your kids if you can’t give them hope?”

First Lady Michelle Obama, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey broadcast last week.

I was going to ignore this unforgivable  statement, as there have been so many notable melt-downs from progressives and Democrats that if I commented on all of them it would be all freak-out, all the time on Ethics Alarms. However, the video really bothered me, and the timing of the remarks were so inappropriate—Let’s ask Syrians, who your husband decided to abandon in their desperation when he allowed his promise of a “red line” to  evaporate  as Assad turned his chemical weapons on them, how much hope they have, Mrs. Obama!—that I tried to think of any previous First Lady who so blatantly abused her role as a non-partisan symbol of stability and optimism for all Americans. There hasn’t been one. No First Lady, even the outspoken Barbara Bush or the activist Eleanor Roosevelt, has come close to declaring that hope was dead in America. It is especially irresponsible for a First Lady to talk like this as her husband leaves office. His predecessor was gracious, and the First Family owes its successor the same courtesy and respect. Continue reading

Julia Ioffe’s Vile Tweet: Now The Question Is Whether There Are Any Depths Of Unprofessional Conduct And Unhinged Bias That Disqualify A Journalist [UPDATED]

trump-incest-tweet

Julia Ioffe, a columnist at “Foreign Policy” and a contributing writer for “Politico Magazine” was moved to issue the above tweet by accounts that First Daughter Ivanka Trump would serve as First Lady while Melania Trump remained in New York to care for the Trump’s young son . Oh, nice! Keep it classy, news media!

Ioffe now joins John Oliver, Charles Blow, Harry Reid, The View, Harvard Law professor Larry Lessig and others on a growing list of nominees for the 2016 Ethics Alarms Award as the most unsavory passenger on the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck. The problem is that she isn’t a British comedian, a race-baiting Times columnist, a full-time asshole, a talk show hosted by celebrity ignoramuses, or an especially deluded academic. Ioffe is supposed to be a journalist whose analysis can be trusted, and the vicious character and unrestrained hate that her tweet reveals should disqualify her for that profession. Before Donald Trump—you know, the new President whom the New York Times decreed is exempt from ethical treatment?—such a public statement would have disqualified any journalist and ended her career immediately. This would have happened because journalism organizations once valued not just professional conduct and objectivity but the appearance of it.

The tweet wasn’t just disgusting, it was incompetent, misleading and stupid:

  • The news report has been denied by the Trump transition team, so the alleged journalist was spreading “fake news.”

There have been almost two dozen permanent or temporary First Ladies who had other family relationships with Presidents, including daughters, daughters-in-law, nieces, sisters, cousins, and aunts. Three daughters assumed the First Lady role when their mothers died: Letty Tyler Semple for President Tyler,  Mary Harrison McKee for President Benjamin Harrison, and Margaret Wilson for Woodrow. Oddly, none of them were accused of having sex with their fathers. Margaret Wilson shared First Lady duties with President Wilson’s cousin Helen Bones, who had worked for the first Mrs. Wilson as personal secretary. Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren and Chester Arthur were widowers, so their First Ladies couldn’t be spouses. Jefferson’s daughter Martha Randolph, Jackson’s niece and daughter-in-law Emily Donelson and Sarah Jackson were all First Ladies.  James Buchanan and Grover Cleveland were bachelors when they assumed the presidency,  so Cleveland’s sister Rose Elizabeth served as his First Lady until he married Florence Folsom fifteen months into his administration, and Harriet Lane, Buchanan’s niece, acted as his hostess and was the first Presidential spouse referred to as the “First Lady.” Many other non-spouses served in the capacity for limited amounts of time for reasons comparable to Melania’s conflicts.

In short, Ioffe is ignorant of American history and didn’t know what she was tweeting about, but did so anyway, misleading the public. Continue reading

The Naked Presidential Candidate’s Wife Principle

melania

I must confess, I didn’t see this variation of the Naked Teacher Principle coming.

That long-running topic on Ethics Alarms involves teachers who allow naked or sexually provocative photographs of themselves to become available to their pre-college age students. The verdict here is that such teachers have no basis for complaint if their employers subsequently judge them to be fatally diminished as role models and authority figures, having traversed into the category of sex objects, at least for some students. There are many variations of the principle that have been explored here, some requiring substantive exceptions, like The Provocatively-Clad Bodybuilding Teacher Principle. Some are slam-dunks, like the Online-Porn Star Teacher Principle.

Today the question raised is how we should feel about potential First Ladies who have left naked photo-shoots in their wake. Melania Trump, now the  speech-writer trophy wife of GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump, was previously not a role model, but just a model, and occasionally a naked model. The tabloid New York Post somehow got a hold of some of her more stimulating photos and published them, the first batch with the typical Post headline, “The Ogle Office,” and the second, showing Mrs, Trump in some girl-on-girl action…

Melania Post 2

…headlined, “Menage a Trump.”

Is this unfair of the Post? Is this below-the-belt, attacking Melania to get at her husband? Continue reading

First Lady Ethics: Sorry, Michelle Obama Fans, But This Is Way Over The Line

I was silent the first time this happened, because I was trying to provide the benefit of the doubt with an assumption that the First Lady would realize why it was inappropriate. I was wrong.

I can predict the “Get off my lawn!” retorts, the “Things have changed!” excuses and the “Lighten up!” deflections already, but this has to be said. The leadership of the free world and the office of the Presidency of the United States demands the assumption and maintenance of a basic measure of dignity, decorum, prudence and restraint. I realize the erosion of these qualities, not just in the White House but in society generally, is ongoing and that this will trigger the usual rationalizations.

Nevertheless, the First Lady represents her husband and his office. She is not a clown, an entertainer, a red carpet celebrity or a comedian’s sidekick, and every time she acts like any of these, no matter how pleasantly or charmingly she does so, it diminishes the prestige of the office and the nation. I don’t want to hear about how a majority of a public that wears tank tops on airplanes and flip-flops to the theater think it’s just wonderful for the First Lady to cavort with Jimmy Fallon in a manner indistinguishable from what we would expect from the latest flavor-of-the-month pop-tart.  Part of her job is modelling conduct for the clueless and unmannerly, and not sinking to their warped conduct of dignified professional conduct.

I am well-aware that this ethics verdict will be mocked. Never mind. I’m right.

Back to rationalizations: I’m expecting at least 17 of them from the Ethics Alarms list. None justify Michelle’s televised antics: Continue reading