Ethics Alarms Flashback Post Of The Week: “Ethics Quiz: The Sensitive Cop’s Facebook Confession”

[A  while ago I wrote that I might periodically re-post one of the more than 2000 Ethics Alarms essays that have appeared here since 2009. The criteria? Let’s see:

  • A post that I have completely forgotten about, and don’t remember even after I’ve read it again.
  • A post that may be interesting to consider in light of subsequent developments since it was written (in this case,  social media posts triggering workplace discipline, and police-community relations)
  • A lively discussion in the comments.

I think this post, based on a find by now-retired Ethics Alarms super-scout Fred, qualifies on all counts. It’s from May of 2014.]

“If there was any time I despised wearing a police uniform, it was yesterday at the Capitol during the water rally. A girl I know who frequents the Capitol for environmental concerns looked at me and wanted me to participate with her in the event. I told her I have to remain unbiased while on duty at these events. She responded by saying, ‘You’re a person, aren’t you?’ That comment went straight through my heart!”

Thus did Douglas Day, a police officer at the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, confess to Facebook friends his mixed emotions while doing his duty.

For this he was fired.

The day Day wrote his Facebook post, Capitol Police Lt. T.M. Johnson told him  that the post “shows no respect to the department, the uniform or the law enforcement community which he represents.”  About a week later, Sgt. A.E. Lanham Jr. wrote to Day that he “found the entire [Facebook] posting to be extremely offensive and shocking … This is just another episode of many incidents which show his bad attitude and lack of enthusiasm toward police work in general and toward our department in particular.”

Day was thunderstruck. “If they believed there was some sort of a violation I made, then why wasn’t it addressed? They never brought me in and never said anything to me,” Day said. “In 2½ years working there, I had no disciplinary action taken against me at any time. Nothing was ever written up and I received no reprimands.” So much for the “many incidents.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/22/2019: “I’m Mad As Hell, And I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore!” Edition

Good Morning!

Time for “Singin’ in the Rain” again, when I’m in this kind of mood…It helps.

Fridays have been discouraging of late. The already diminished traffic here, which always slowed to a crawl on Saturdays, is now almost as weak on Fridays and Sundays too. I have no idea why this is, but it gets old devoting two to four hours a day on weekends producing blog content that I think is worthy of readers’ time and thought while knowing that it will be largely ignored. Of course, running a home ethics business, weekends have meant nothing  for many years, holidays as well, and I don’t know what this “vacation” thing is that my friends keep blathering about. To be clear, I love doing what I do, or I wouldn’t do it. I just wish I were more effective at persuading others to care about the topic of ethics as much as I do.

1. How to beat Facebook! I tried something this morning: I posted an essay without including a photo, and tried to post it on Facebook. It took! No error message! Then I added a photo after the link was on Facebook. The link still worked! I’m going to see if this was just a fluke or not, and I’m going to post a few things without graphics or videos to see if readers have the same luck posting and sharing them. If the photos being removed actually does get around whatever it is causing Ethics Alarms to be unsharable on Facebook, then I’ll have a decision to make. Obviously the photos and videos enhance the posts, and are sometimes essential. Is it worth the trade-off to stop using graphics if it allows more circulation on social media? My choices are…

  • Refuse to compromise the integrity of the blog to satisfy Facebook. (You know this is my default reaction.)
  • Leave photos off posts until I’ve put them on my Facebook page. This will allow people to access Ethics Alarms using that link.
  • Leave photos and videos off all posts.
  • Leave photos and videos off selected posts that I think are likely to be shared.

All of these, of course, assume that I continue to investigate and try to find out why Facebook won’t accept Ethics Alarms posts as they are.

2.  You don’t get business from an ethics company by lying in your introductory pitch. Just got an email beginning thusly…

We would like to share our observations pertaining to your website. Though, your website is great and has all the information that prospective customers of your niche will search for. However, it has a lot of scope for getting optimized in line with Search Engine Guidelines so as to come on the first page in search results.   We have conducted a meticulous SEO audit of your website and found that it can give you more return than it might be giving you at present.

Right. It is obvious that you have NOT read this website, because if you had you would know that it is not seeking “potential customers” (though my other website is) and that you currently have no clue about Ethics Alarms, its scope or its “niche.” This is a form letter, pretending, and badly, not to be. If you are this incompetent in your own marketing, why would I trust you to advise me regarding mine?

Go away. I hate you.

3. Watch “Network” again, if you haven’t lately. TCM has been running movies about journalism on Thursdays this month. Why do I suspect the network was lobbied to do this as CNN et al. try to make the false case that journalists are noble, ethical, devoted and trustworthy as a public defense against President Trump’s attacks on “fake news” and the “enemies of the people”? Well, most of the journalists portrayed in movies are like that. One reason I question the motives of the series is that it left “Absence of Malice” out, one of the very few negative (and  accurate) Hollywood portrayals of journalists.

TCM could not credibly neglect to show “Network, ” however, Paddy Chayefsky’s  wild satire of TV news that was a runner-up to “Rocky” as Best Picture at the 1977 Academy Awards, and is now on Broadway in a stage adaptation. (I agreed with that award then and do still: “Network”is intellectual and satiric, “Rocky” is visceral and emotional, they are both classics, but if they are both showing at the same time, I’m choosing “Rocky,” which makes me feel good, over Network, which makes me want to jump into the blender.) Watching it all the way through for the first time in many years, I realized that the film should be required viewing for all American citizens. What seemed hilariously cynical and over-the-top 40 years ago seems depressingly prophetic now.

The film (Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky was the sharpest and most flamboyant of the great quartet  of Golden Age TV writers; Rod Serling, Reginald Rose and Abby Mann were the others) portrays a TV network culture that is amoral and ruthless, willing to breach ethics, taste and decency, not to mention journalism ethics, to pursue ratings, dollars, and power. I don’t know if he was making a prediction, warning us, or just trying to be entertaining, but by brilliance or chance, Chayefsky was giving society a preview of what would constitute “news” in 2019. The result is that what was funny in 1977 is horrifying now.

The TV shows “UBS” puts on the air all have direct avatars today in reality shows and other genres that didn’t exist pre-cable. The veteran newscaster-gone-nuts whose live rants become a sensation, Howard Beale, the Mad Prophet of the Airwaves, no longer seems like an outrageous invetion. We have seen many “mad prophets” in alleged newscasts since “Network.” Glenn Beck may have been the closest to Beale, but Bill O’Reilly was in the ballpark, and Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and a raft of MSNBC talking heads  routinely say things at least as outrageous as Howard, before he would suffer a seizure in his passion and collapse at the end of every broadcast.

Moreover, the iconic moment in the film  where Beale spurs people all over America to run to their windows, open them, and shout, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” is another excellent metaphor for the 2016 election (though I like teh parade in “Animal House” best). The network executives are the personification of the smug, arrogant “elites” who were (and are) so, so confident that they knew what was best for the public, while they lied, manipulated, postured and profited. Donald Trump was elected less as an individual than as the physical manifestation of shouting out the window, and it was a symbolic and necessary message that the two parties and the news media  still haven’t received.

I am proud of Americans for sending it, and the unethical alliance of elites who refuse to understand are playing with dynamite.

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Cal.)

“It is a fact that we can change human behaviors without much change to our lifestyle and we can save the future generations of our country and this world.”

—-Democratic Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, talking about the feasibility of the “Green New Deal.”

Right now the most interesting contest is between Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris for Most Outrageous Demagogue. Harris already has the “How far can I jam my foot down my throat” title, at least until the infinitely entertaining Joe Biden officially enters the race.

Re-engineering human beings is the domain of totalitarians, and her party is now so thoroughly entranced by totalitarian methods–control of the media, censorship of speech, defiance of elections, Big Lie propaganda—that Senator Harris may be getting careless and letting the mask drop.

This statement is also a lie and an alarmingly brazen one, which gives us a good idea of how the Green New Deal will be sold to the largely ignorant and gullible public. Read that FAQ document again and try to imagine how the objectives appearing there—not that they are much more realistic than Oz—wouldn’t involve “much change to our lifestyle.”

Now, to be fair, it is possible that Harris’s meaning wasn’t as ominous as it seems. People can change their behavior and habits: that’s what this blog is about. People got the message about littering in the late Fifties and early Sixties, for example. The culture us always evolving, and the culture causes people to adapt their behavior. The problem is that Harris didn’t say people can change, she said that “we” can change human behavior. That’s what Marx and Lenin thought. I don’t trust people who think like that, or who even lets statements like that out of their mouths without stopping and thinking, “Wait, what did I just say?” Continue reading

Ethics Observations On “The Green New Deal,” Part II : What’s Going On Here?

In retrospect, waiting a couple of days before completing the Ethics Alarms analysis of the “Green New Deal” was a propitious decision. The results of the ethics, integrity and IQ tests that this fiasco represents can clarified considerably. The key question to begin most ethical analysis is “What’s going on here?” Well..what is?

1. Incompetence. The Ethics Alarms reader poll asking which of the provisions of the GND would, by themselves, mandate rejecting the leadership and judgment of any public figure endorsing them showed about 58% choosing “all of them,” with the infamous “providing economic security for all who are unwilling to work” coming in a distant second. I erred terribly in not providing a positive option for readers who see nothing wrong with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s batty manifesto. Ethics Alarms gets 3000-4000 visits a day, and surely some readers must have flunked this test. After all, Democrats are counting on a large segment of the population being similarly obtuse. This is my own bias at work. There are some episodes involving ethics where I really cannot comprehend how anyone with all their faculties and raised a U.S. culture can possibly reach a different ethics verdict that I have. Ethics is hard, but it isn’t THAT hard. The fact that there are, apparently, progressives and useful idiots who can read the screed without giggling is itself ethics alarms-worthy. The culture, including crucial components like education, journalism, and the world of politics, is failing our society by allowing warped perceptions and unethical values to take root. If this were not true, no elected official would dare propose a document like the Green New Deal.

2. Dishonesty and deception. It sounds like a mad conspiracy theory, but it is difficult for an objective observer not to conclude that the GND is part of a long-term plan of propaganda and indoctrination to replace American democracy with a leftist totalitarian regime. The kinds of measures being promoted in the GND—forget for a moment that most of them are literally impossible—cannot be achieved through democratic means, except in the broad sense of the public voting to give dictatorial powers to the government. The process flows from eco-fascism, which employs fear-mongering about an inevitable environmental catastrophe to provide justification for sacrificing individual liberty in the pursuit of “safety.” This is, as readers of world history knows, the traditional trade-off sold by totalitarian regimes. Yes, it is true that the quality of life and personal freedoms of the American public would both be severely constrained by the car-less, plane-less, nuclear energy-less, combustion engine-less, money-less and cow-less future that the socialist Democrats propose, but the alternative, we are told, is death and destruction. Academy Award-winning actress Ellen Page ranted on Stephen Colbert’s alleged late night comedy show (It is a partisan propaganda program with jokes) that “We have been told…that, by 2030, the world as we know it, that’s it. That’s it!” Colbert, who has the undeserved reputation as a truth-teller and sage, nodded sympathetically, saying that “until the water started swamping Manhattan, or just washes away Mar-a-Lago,” the public and media wouldn’t take the existential threat seriously. “You don’t want to think such terrible things are going to happen!”

Oh sure you do, if it will give you leverage to gain power over the nation. Continue reading

Never Mind The Blackface: Governor Northam Should Resign Because He Is Cowardly, Untrustworthy, Dishonest And Too Weird For Words

And it is unethical for a governor to be cowardly, untrustworthy, dishonest and too weird for words. Virginia’s governor has embarrassed his state, it’s citizens, and everyone who voted for him. He is a source of humiliation for his party. He cannot lead, or do anything but harm while he remains in office.

You host here at Ethics Alarms is still sick and bed-ridden, but I had to crawl to my office for this. Wow. From the moment he appeared in the most unethical campaign ad I had seen from a Virginia candidate for office, appealing directly to anti-Trump derangement and hate by calling the President of the United States a “maniac,” I knew there was something seriously off about Ralph Northam, and, frankly, about anyone who would vote for him. His recent “oh, this is how you go about aborting a baby who has already been born” comments confirmed that assessment, ” but I was not in favor of forcing him out of office because he had appeared in blackface while a medical student 34 years ago. However, Northam’s conduct and statements since initially apologizing for the photo that surfaced this week are not 35 years old. They reveal the current character of the individual changed with overseeing the government of Virginia. That character is intolerable for any leader, and it was not what the Virginians who voted for Northam—I wasn’t fooled, but you can fool some of the people some of the time—believed they were electing.

In today’s Saturday Night Live-ready press conference, Governor Northam, his poor wife by his side, gave a bravura performance in self-character assassination: Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

“If people want to really blow up one figure here or one word there, I would argue that they’re missing the forest for the trees. I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”

—Socialist Democrat and Progressive rock star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in response to “60 Minutes” interviewer Anderson Cooper’s question about her many gaffes and mistatements.

Bingo. There it is, the smoking gun. Proof that Ocasio-Cortez is so self-involved and eager to talk that she isn’t paying attention, even to her own party’s narratives and talking points. Proof that she is ethically ignorant. Proof that she cannot be trusted. Proof that she is a charming demagogue whose passionate assertions can’t be believed or trusted. Writes the Washington Post’s  Aaron Blake, whose orientation is “Please, please don’t make mistakes like this, because we need you to be successful!”,

“She’s practically saying, ‘Well, maybe I was wrong, but at least my cause is just.’”

She isn’t practically saying that; she is saying that. She’s also saying that the ends justify the means, and if the ends are sufficiently righteous, what’s a little bit of fudging on the facts? This is classic “truthiness,” the term invented by Stephen Colbert to mock conservatives and the Bush Administration in 2005 (he has, oddly, never used the word to tweak Democrats, and won’t use it against Ocasio-Cortez, I guarantee…because, as he has now proven, Colbert has no integrity, and is only interested in advancing an ideology, not in even-handed satire). Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Dog-Poisoners [UPDATED]

This is, I know, a poor topic for Christmas, but it just came down the chimney.

While shopping yesterday, we encountered a man who lived in the neighborhood. Rugby had enjoyed conversing with the two dogs owned by the man and his wife, two friendly, lively min-pins. As shoppers bustled around us, our neighbor announced that he was more our neighbor than ever: he and his wife had moved from where I had met them to a home less than a block away from ours, on the long street that our cul de sac opens onto. The reason for the move: their next-door neighbor had poisoned their dogs. One had survived.

Our neighbor said that they had called the police, who investigated. Based on motive (the there had been a property dispute, and the resulting law suit had gone our friends’ way), opportunity, and the demeanor and comments the police got while questioning the suspects as well as accounts about their threats and general sociopathic tendencies from others on the street, the police reported that they were pretty sure my neighbors’ neighbor were the culprits, but that they did not have sufficient evidence to make an arrest.

This story had unpleasant resonations for me. My Dad, when he was a 10 year-old only child being raised by a single mother during the depression and having to move to new neighborhoods constantly, owned a large, loyal Airedale named Bumbo. One day someone put ground glass in his beloved dog’s food dish, and my father had to see his best friend die in agony in his arms. It was one of the great tragedies of his life. His mother was certain who had killed the dog, but again, there was insufficient proof.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is my neighbor obligated to tell anyone who is interested in renting or buying his now-abandoned property that the neighbor poisoned his dogs?

Continue reading