Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/15/2020: Of Cancellations, Retractions, Rants, Lies And Signs

Never mind the small talk; let’s get to it.

1. Hmmm…What’s going on here?  New York officials originally decided to cancel  “‘Tribute in Light,” the  twin beams that shine over lower Manhattan as part of the annual  9/11 commemoration. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which oversees the installation, said in a statement this week,”This incredibly difficult decision was reached in consultation with our partners after concluding the health risks during the pandemic were far too great for the large crew required to produce the annual ‘Tribute in Light.'”

The announcement caused widespread puzzlement. How large could the necessary crew have to be? Geraldo Rivera opined on Fox News that the decision was political, as Democrats sought to “make everybody miserable” so President Trump could be blamed. That theory was quickly picked up by others, along with complaints from New Yorkers that the popular memorial celebration was cancelled for no good reason.

Then, today, New York officials made a U-turn. “Honoring our 9/11 heroes is a cherished tradition. The twin towers of light signify hope, resiliency, promise and are a visual representation of #NewYorkTough,” Cuomo said. “The virus has taken so much and so many. But now the tribute will continue.”

2. Now THIS is Trump Derangement! When did it become considered acceptable and professional for news anchors and public events show hosts to behave like this?  MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski went on an extended, fanciful, hateful anti-Trump rant on yesterday’s broadcast. Here’s a transcript of a supercut video featuring the bulk of Mika’s meltdown: Continue reading

The Murder Of Mary Phagan And The Forgotten Heroism Of John M. Slaton

I  just brought The Ethics Alarms Heroes’ Hall of Honor up to date. There are 44 men and women whose inspiring stories reside there, and I know who #45 will be: John Marshall “Jack” Slaton (December 25, 1866 – January 11, 1955),the 60th Governor of Georgia.

This won’t be the official entry for John Slaton; I want to do him justice, and the story of his moment of principle and sacrifice is not only complicated, but I am having a hard time settling the facts. The short version is this:

Mary Phagan, 13, an employee at Atlanta’s National Pencil Company where Leo Frank was the manager, died of strangulation on April 26, 1913. Her body was discovered in the factory’s cellar the next morning.  Over the course of their investigation, Atlanta police arrested several men, including the night watchman Newt Lee, Frank, and Jim Conley, a janitor at the factory. Lee and Conley were black; Frank was Jewish. Though this was the height of Jim Crow in the South, prejudice against Jews was as strong in Atlanta as racism.

On May 24, 1913, Frank was indicted on a charge of murder and the case was tried at Fulton County Superior Court beginning on July 28. The prosecution’s key witness was  Conley, who described himself as an accomplice, assisting Frank in disposing the girl’s body.  Frank’s defense lawyer argued that Conley was the real killer.

The jury pronounced Leo Frank guilty verdict on August 25, 1913. Then followed a series of unsuccessful appeals, the last being before the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected it in April of 1915. Georgia Governor John M. Slaton was a popular figure about to leave office, and considered a rising political star whose ascension to the U.S. Senate was likely, if not a forgone conclusion. It was assumed that he would quickly reject Frank’s request for a pardon, given the extensive appeals and the overwhelming public outrage regarding Mary Phagan’s murder.

Those assumptions were wrong. A trial lawyer before entering politics, the Governor reviewed the evidence, acquired some evidence that had not been presented at trial , and interviewed some of the witnesses, including Conley. who had changed his story several times.  Slaton also heard arguments from both the prosecution and defense.

Although he knew, and had been warned, that taking any action favorable to Leo Frank would not only end his political career in Georgia but also place him and his wife in mortal peril, Slaton commuted Frank’s sentence from capital punishment to life imprisonment. In his official statement, he wrote,

I can endure misconstruction, abuse and condemnation, but I cannot stand the constant companionship of an accusing conscience, which would remind me in every thought that I, as a Governor of Georgia, failed to do what I thought to be right.

Continue reading

Everything About This Story Is Discouraging: The Carrollton Video [Corrected]

Chapter I: In Georgia, two Carrollton High School  seniors made a truly cretinous video. Filmed in a bathroom, the male and female students students pretend to be doing a   cooking show as they pour cups of water into the sink.

Showing their faces in the mirror, she announces, “Hey, today we’re making…”as the  camera aims at the sink where there’s a piece of notebook paper with “niggers” written on it. The male student intones the word. The male student lifts cups of water and pours each one into the sink, over the paper. Under each cup is a piece of paper with the name of an “ingredient” written on it, which the young woman reads.

“First we have ‘black,'” she says. He then pours the cup of water into the sink over the paper with the slur. “Next we have, ‘Don’t have a dad!'” Other ingredients include “eating watermelon and fried chicken” and “rob people.”

“Specifically whites,” guy adds as he refills the “robs people” cup over and over using the sink tap.  One cup labeled “make good choices” is empty. The couple  feign surprise over the cup having nothing in it.

Once their opus was complete, the couple was so proud that they posted it online.

Why this is discouraging: In what alternate universe would anyone from the age of seven up think something like that would be acceptable to publicize? What kind of polluted culture is being fostered in Carollton? What are they teaching in the schools?

Even passing on that, how could anyone be so stupid as to think posting an overly racist video wouldn’t have serious consequences? Again, who is teaching critical thinking in that community? What have the parents been doing for 17 years, getting stoned? Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Or “What A %#$!@ Idiot!”

In more shocking news, I now have it on good authority that the Pope is Catholic…”

Kemp should resign over this.

Yesterday, Governor Kemp said he  had just learned some “new information,” and was “finding out that this virus is now transmitting before people see signs.”

“Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad, but we didn’t know that until the last 24 hours,” he said.

He added that the state’s top doctor told him that “this is a game-changer.”

He should resign too.

Game-changer? I knew that asymptomatic people could spread the disease after Dr. Fauci explained that in a press conference in late January. It was being openly discussed on television and in the news reports in early February. When I did my last live ethics seminar on March 5—in Atlanta!—the lawyers were all discussing the fact that they couldn’t be sure if they were infected, or if I was.

And this idiot goes to a podium and says;  ‘Stop the presses! I just found out that people who feel fine might still spread the virus!’ Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Santa In A MAGA Cap

Frank Skinner, who has played  Santa Claus at a mall in Waycross, Georgia for 50 years, says he was nearing the end of a long shift with kids on on and off his knee and the mall  was finally empty. For fun, he put on a MAGA cap as he sat in his Santa chair and took his own photo. Then he shared it for friends on his Facebook page.Predictably, some jerk sent it  to the mall’s management with a complaint.To be clear, the picture didn’t show Santa reading Hustler, or feeling up a busty co-ed, or snorting coke. It showed him wearing the campaign cap of the President of the United States.

The mall responded, “We apologize for this occurrence and will be addressing this right away. The Mall at Waycross does not support any specific political party. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Kindly, Mall Management.” Then  the mall’s manager told reporters that the posing of the photo was “done completely without our knowledge” and added that “it’s safe to say he will not be wearing this hat around here. This particular Santa has been replaced.” Frank was fired.

Your Ethics Alarms Christmas season Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Was the mall’s action fair and responsible?

Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Morning Ethics Eye-Opener, 7/22/2019: Boycotts, Bushes, And Weenies” [Item 3]

This Comment of the Day, by johnburger2013, is a gift in many ways. Mainly it is a gift because it is a post that I would have written if I had the time, resources and energy (especially energy of late, due to an as yet diagnosed medical issue, but never mind) to concentrate on Ethics Alarms as I would like to, and to some extent feel obligated to.

It involves an episode I had read about, and decided, as sometimes I do, that the effort it would take to make sense out of such a mess exceeded its value as an ethics topic, though value it undoubtedly has. Now that John has done the work, I’ll have a few reactions at the end.

Here is johnberger2013’s Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Eye-Opener, 7/22/2019: Boycotts, Bushes, And Weenies:

Re: No. 3; Duty to Intervene.

While not exactly at the same level of urgency, here is an interesting story from the grand land of Georgia:

Lauren Pozen, a local reporter has been following the story, posting updates on Twitter. Here is her Twitter profile:

The controversy:

. Erica Thomas has accused Eric Sparkes, a white man, of telling her to “go back where you came from” while she was in a local Georgia grocery store called Publix. According to her, Sparkes berated her for having too many items in the express check out lane. She alleges that Sparkes, an alleged Trump supporter and avowed racist, called her names, accosted her, threatened her life, and mistreated her because of her race, calling her a lazy son of a bitch.

Now, Thomas is also a Georgia state representative who took to Twitter to detail how outrageous this incident was, that her heart was hurt (she cried, she was so upset) because he targeted her for being black, that this is a perfect example of the Trumpification of the US where racists feel empowered to be racists in local grocery stores against a black woman who only used the express lane because she is 9 months pregnant and can’t stand too long.

Sparkes, as racists often do, tells a very different story.  He alleges that he saw Thomas in the express aisle with more than the permitted number of items, called her out on it, and in the conflagration, called her a “bitch” (he admits he was out of line). Sparkes also states that he addressed this with the store manager, who said he did not have any power to do anything about it but that Sparkes was free to take appropriate action, which he did. Sparkes also stated that he is not white, but of Cuban descent, is a registered Democrat and would rather have his fingers chewed by rats than vote for Trump (that’s my embellishment). He also stated that he knew who Thomas was (a state representative) and thought that as a representative she should act more appropriately and avoid looking like she was entitled to do stuff most people wouldn’t do.

Hold on, back to Thomas: Thomas would have none of this MAGA-loving racist, so she alerted the media to take it directly to the good people of Georgia. Then, things didn’t quite as well as she expected. During her rant . . . uh . . . press conference, the good Señor Sparkes sidled up to her and called her a liar on live TV*. Rep. Thomas, erudite, considerate, and discerning, went right at him with full guns blazing, thinking she was going to race-bully this little MAGA-loving creep into submission – especially when she told him she didn’t care if he was Cuban because to her he was/is white.** Continue reading

Disney’s Sinister Threat And The Danger Of Partisan Corporate Boycotts To Democracy

The official position of Ethics Alarms is that organized boycotts are a form of unethical coercion that pose a direct threat to democracy and personal liberty. Recent developments on the corporate front only reinforce that conviction. Several states have chosen this moment to try to persuade a conservative majority on the Supreme Court to either amend or overturn Roe v. Wade, either with so-called “heartbeat” bills, defining a fetus with a detectable heartbeat distinct from the mother’s as a person within the range of Constitutional protection, or in the case of Alabama, a direct challenge to Roe with a bill outlawing abortion entirely except in special circumstances.

My personal assessment is that these efforts are doomed to fail, and that conservative justices, in part because they advocate conservative jurisprudence, will not accept the invitation to overturn Roe regardless of their objections to the holding. It is a major decision of long-standing asserting an individual right, and the epitome of the kind of decision that requires the practice of stare decisus. I cannot think of another example where the Court eliminated a right after a previous Court had protected it, certainly not one with such wide-ranging social and legal implications. Even though abortion is only ethically defensible by applying the most brutal variety of utilitarian balancing,  and requires disingenuous, bootstrapping reasoning in the process, I do not advocate overturning Roe. We have a system, though. The system should be allowed to work. It has generally served us well as a nation and a society. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/17/2019: Georgia On Various Minds, Carson’s Deficiencies, Harris’s Pandering

Good morning, Ethics Lovers!

The solo performer is the immortal Doodles Weaver, Sigourney’s uncle.

1.  This is indefensible, and—I hate to keep using this word, but don’t blame me, blame prevailing political winds—totalitarian. Carl Malamud believes that there should be open access to government records, and he has a group that has been  putting them online for years. When his group  posted the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, however, the state sued for copyright infringement claiming that giving the public access to the state’s laws and related legal materials without the state’s authorization is the “strategy of terrorism.”

No, having laws that the public has no way to see or understand without paying for them is the strategy of dictators. A federal appeals court has ruled against the state, and now Georgia wants the Supreme Court to step in. So does Public.Resource.Org, Malamud’s group, which also wants SCOTUS to resolve the issue,  since the question of who owns the law is  current in  20 other states that have copyrighted their  annotated codes. The issue is whether citizens can have access to “the raw materials of our democracy.”

I think Georgia is going to lose and lose ugly, though I have given up prediction 9-0 Supreme Court rulings. That’s what this one should be, though.

2. More on “the best people” front. One awful aspect of the Trump Administration that cannot be defended is the President’s irresponsible appointments, which are too numerous to list. In the case of Dr. Ben Carson, whom Ethics Alarms assessed as some kind of idiot savant based on his embarrassing performance in the debates, we knew, or should have known, that Trump appointing him Secretary of HUD was a guaranteed fiasco in the making. Continue reading

On The Other Hand, Georgia Republicans Who Think Their “Ethics in Journalism Act” Is A Solution To Mainstream Media Bias Are Incompetent

The previous post notwithstanding, “Ethics in Journalism Act” is a cure worse than the disease. It is disturbing to see Republicans imitating Democrats by trying to thwart core Constitutional rights, but there is no other way to describe this exercise in foolishness, grandstanding, pandering, ignorance and/or stupidity.

The Georgia House of Representatives is considering , HB 734, sponsored by six Republicans who have apparently never read the Bill of Rights. if passed into law, it  would create a Journalism Ethics Board with nine members appointed by Steve Wrigley, the chancellor of the University of Georgia—and if he supports this monstrosity, it’s time to send him packing. The board would design a process by which journalists “may be investigated and sanctioned for violating such canons of ethics for journalists, to include, but not be limited to, loss or suspension of accreditation, probation, public reprimand and private reprimand.”

Sure! What a great idea! Put a government-created body in charge of overseeing the content of what journalists write and publish! Why didn’t someone think of this before?

I wonder how many Supreme Court opinions directly or indirectly signal that such a scheme is illegal, impossible, and offensive to our Constitution? A hundred? Two hundred? I wonder how many appellate court and Supreme Court opinions, including dissents, could be cited to support the “Ethics in Journalism Act?” Actually, I don’t wonder at all. There are none, because one of those monkey-human hybrids they are creating in China could figure out that the act is unconstitutional through the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

As unethical, irresponsible and arrogant as the news media is, and as often as they abuse their rights, their immunity from government sanctions and control must be absolute. As Clarence Darrow said, “In order to have enough liberty, it is necessary to have too much.” No aspect of our society fits that description more perfectly than Freedom of the Press.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I wonder what part of “make no law…abridging freedom of speech or of the press” Republicans in George don’t understand?

 

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/16/2019: Smirks, Grovels, Smears, Gotchas And Gracelessness

Gooooood MORNING!

Feeling blue today, so I had to start off with the great Charles Trenet magic ballad.

1. “I’m smart! I’m not dumb like everybody says!” Yesterday I hypothesized that Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris Dees was fired because of sexual harassment allegations. Apparently I was right.

2. Another hypothesis! I think I may know why the unhinged media and MAGA-haters went so over-the-top bonkers over Nick Sandmann’s supposedly sinister smile when the Native American jerk was banging a drum in his face. We’ve been streaming 2018’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” on Netflix, and it is amazing how much Darren Criss, playing serial killer and sociopath Andrew Cunanan, resembles Sandmann in that unfortunate photo. I suspect that Martinez’s disturbing performance as a gay predator was sill percolating in the minds of some observers, and Sandmann’s “smirk” stirred extreme revulsion that wasn’t entirely his doing.

Look:

3.  “Never apologize; It’s a sign of weakness.” Capt. Nathan Brittles’ (John Wayne) rebuke of a young cavalry officer (Harry Caray Jr.) in “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon” is sometimes right, especially recently, when cowardly public figures apologize when they have done nothing wrong.

Yesterday, a group of students at an NYU vigil dedicated to the 49 people were murdered in two mosques in central Christchurch, New Zealand confronted Chelsea Clinton, accusing her of sparking the massacre by condemning the anti-Semitism of Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. “The 49 people died because of the rhetoric you put out there!” one student told her. If Chelsea had any integrity at all—and to be fair, given her parents, how could she?—she would have told all of the students that blaming a massacre in New Zealand on legitimate criticism of a Jew-bashing Muslim demagogue in the U.S. was moronic, and she should have queried the students about whether they got into college because someone had taken their tests for them, since they lacked the critical thinking skills to run a bait shop. But no…lacking integrity and courage, the former First Daughter grovelled to the mob, because that’s what good progressives are supposed to do in 2019, saying, “I’m so sorry that you feel that way. It was certainly never my intention. I do believe words matter. I believe we have to show solidarity.”

Then there’s the latest entrant into the Democratic Presidential race, Beto O’Roarke, who yesterday apologized for for joking at several events in his first two days campaigning in Iowa that his wife has been raising their three children “sometimes with my help.” After grovelling for that, he  apologized for fiction he wrote when he was a teenager, using the pen-name Psychedelic Warlord, about murder written from the murderer’s point of view. He said he was “mortified to read it now, incredibly embarrassed… whatever my intention was as a teenager doesn’t matter.”

This kind of reaction is why the unethical Hader Gotcha! is becoming an epidemic. Bravo to Ann Althouse for a great take-down:

No. I want him to apologize to the teenager, the boy he once was. Apologize for saying he doesn’t matter. Apologize for being embarrassed for him. Who the hell are you to be embarrassed for him? You are erasing him. You are misappropriating him. What about the teenagers today who hear you and resolve never to write fiction lest it trip up some aggressively ambitious person they may grow into some day?

4. Meanwhile, another Hader Gotcha! finally fails. Right wing activists Jack Posobiec and  Mike Cernovich got James Gunn fired by Disney as the writer-director of Guardians of the Galaxy 3, after he unearthed old tweets in which Gunn made tasteless and politically incorrect jokes. Hundreds of thousands of people signed a Change.org petition asking Disney to reconsider. Of course, Gunn also grovelled sufficiently, saying that his tweets were “stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive and certainly not provocative like I had hoped.”

Cernovich and Posobiec maliciously set out to hurt Gunn after he had criticized President Trump on social media. Now Cernovich has demanded that Media Matters  boycott Disney ,  telling  TheWrap, “Disney’s rehiring of James Gunn presents an excellent opportunity for Angelo Carusone and Media Matters to show they are principled fighters for social justice. I eagerly await joining Media Matters’ boycott of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 3.” This is all to prove that Media Matters is biased and hypocritical (like Cernovich), because it has called for a boycott of Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson based on his comments during an old interview with Bubba the Love Sponge.

Ethics note: Kant correctly declared that using human beings as a means to an end is unethical. But no one involved in this episode gave a thought to ethics at all, much less Emanuel Kant.

4.  This is why nobody should read Vox. From Ezra Klein’s website:

President Donald Trump just used similar language to describe immigrants coming into the United States that the alleged mass shooter did to justify killing nearly 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. On Friday, Trump issued the first veto of his presidency to override a congressional blockade of the national emergency he declared at America’s southern border. During the veto signing ceremony, Trump explained why he felt a national emergency was warranted to stop migrants from entering the US. “People hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is,” he said, according to the White House pool report. That is chillingly similar to the language the main suspect in Friday’s Christchurch terrorist attack used to explain why he chose to gun down at least 49 Muslims.

  •  The President has never  called immigrants “invaders.” He has called illegal immigrants, who fit the definition of invaders,  what they are. The victims of the two Mosque shootings were not illegal immigrants.
  • The President never uses the term “migrants,” which is another deceitful language tactic to blur the material differences between legal and illegal He does not want to “stop migrants” from entering the U.S. He wants to stop terrorists from entering the U.S., and he wants to stop illegal immigrants.
  • “Using the same language” as someone who does vile things is a desperately unethical accusation and contrived offense, unless the contexts are identical, the words used mean the same thing, and the intentions are the same. Here, they were not—not even close.

5. Rejecting democracy. Oh, let’s have Stacey Abrams run for President too! She fits. Like her increasingly anti-democratic and ironically named party, she wants to undermine public trust in elections. This week the defeated  Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate  again claimed that she won her November election against Republican Brian Kemp, though the vote tallies say otherwise. “I did win my election. I just didn’t get to have the job.”

She has no proof of this, of course;  just the continuing Democratic Party’s corrosive  Big Lie that the system is rigged against female and minority candidates. Hillary Clinton started this partisan trend of refusing to accept defeat with grace and magnanimity, as the system requires to remain viable, unless you want to count Al Gore. Now Abrams says that she will never concede that she lost. Naturally, Hillary, the worst loser in U.S. Presidential history, backs her up. (Clinton, you might recall, excoriated Donald Trump for trolling that he might not accept the election results as legitimate…when she assumed she would win.) Clinton said during her speech on the anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” march,

“We know, don’t we, that candidates both black and white lost their races because they had been deprived of the votes they otherwise would have gotten. And the clearest example is from Georgia. Stacey Abrams should be governor, leading that state right now.”

We just know! Just like Democrats just know President Trump has done something impeachable, and just knew Justice Kavanaugh was a rapist, and just know all sorts of things so intensely that evidence and due process aren’t required.