Tag Archives: informed consent

From The “Trump-Hate Disabling News Media Ethics Alarms” Files: The Washington Post “Kids Chorus”

For those inexplicably loyal fans of the news media who said to themselves, “Well, CNN is an exception. The other respected news organizations will never let the President push them to completely alienate the public’s trust,” here is the hard, cruel truth: you are dead wrong. Open your eyes.

Witness the Washington Post, which somehow thought that it would enhance its reputation as a fair, independent, responsible and objective news source by recruiting a group of children to mock President Trump by singing his tweets. This was a Washington Post promotion, now. The Post believes that its readers want to get their news from a newspaper that gratuitously ridicules the President of the United States.  Maybe they are right. Such readers, however, are not looking for facts, or objective analysis. Those readers are looking to feed their confirmation bias.

At “The Hill,” reporter Jonathan Easley tweeted: “WaPo getting kids to mockingly sing Trump’s tweets seems needlessly antagonistic and a dumb move right now.” 

Gee, ya think?

I’m trying to imagine the long list of broken ethics alarms that had to malfunction for the Post to let this get all the way through conception, to production, to publication. Nobody in the chain of command said, “Yeah, that’s hilarious, but let’s leave this kind of thing to Jimmy Kimmel, okay? We’re a newspaper.” Nobody. Nobody thought that this would simply confirm what media critics have been saying about toxic anti-Trump bias. Nobody thought about how a graphic demonstration of this mindset at the paper would undercut any claim that the Post is capable of fair reporting on an elected leader it would show such disrespect to just to make a promotional pitch. Nobody. Continue reading

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More On The Unethical Sally Yates: Her Conflict Of Interest Deception

...and you shouldn't have accepted the job, either.

…and you shouldn’t have accepted the job, either.

Here is another ethics aspect of the disgraceful Sally Yates episode that the complicit news media isn’t covering: it was unethical for her to accept the job of acting Attorney General in the first place.

She had an apparent conflict of interest when she was offered the job. This is indisputable; it’s just being ignored by fawning partisans. Here is the applicable ethics rule of Yates’ bar and jurisdiction:

Rule 1.7–Conflict of Interest: General Rule

(a) A lawyer shall not advance two or more adverse positions in the same matter.

(b) Except as permitted by paragraph (c) below, a lawyer shall not represent a client with respect to a matter if:

(1) That matter involves a specific party or parties and a position to be taken by that client in that matter is adverse to a position taken or to be taken by another client in the same matter even though that client is unrepresented or represented by a different lawyer;

(2) Such representation will be or is likely to be adversely affected by representation of another client;

(3) Representation of another client will be or is likely to be adversely affected by such representation;

(4) The lawyer’s professional judgment on behalf of the client will be or reasonably may be adversely affected by the lawyer’s responsibilities to or interests in a third party or the lawyer’s own financial, business, property, or personal interests.

(c) A lawyer may represent a client with respect to a matter in the circumstances described in paragraph (b) above if

(1) Each potentially affected client provides informed consent to such representation after full disclosure of the existence and nature of the possible conflict and the possible adverse consequences of such representation; and

(2) The lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client.

(d) If a conflict not reasonably foreseeable at the outset of representation arises under paragraph (b)(1) after the representation commences, and is not waived under paragraph (c), a lawyer need not withdraw from any representation unless the conflict also arises under paragraphs (b)(2), (b)(3), or (b)(4). Continue reading

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UPDATE: Cyber-Zombie Peter Cushing And The Prospect Of Cyber-Zombie Carrie Fisher Remind Actors To Fight For Control Of Their Post-Mortem Acting Career

cgi

It looks like I wasn’t the only one who felt that Peter Cushing was being abused by finding himself in “Rogue One” without his prior consent. Of the late actor being digitally inserted into a role he never agreed to play and deliver lines he never contracted to deliver, I wrote…

The emerging technology raises many ethical issues that didn’t have to be considered before, but when it comes to using a dead actor in a new role, the ethics verdict should be easy. It’s unethical, unless a performer  gives informed consent for his image to be used post mortem in this fashion. Presumably, the consent or the lack of it will be part of future negotiations and standard contracts. Actors who agree to have their images used as cyberslaves will also probably want to limit the uses of their names and images.

Cushing’s exploitation and the subsequent death of Carrie Fisher with widespread speculation that she would soon be added to the “Star Wars” franchise’s army of CGI clones have now sounded the alarm loudly. But apparently many actors were already aware of the threat, and taking affirmative action to control their destinies. Continue reading

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“Rogue One” Ethics: Peter Cushing Returns From The Grave

He's baaaaack!

He’s baaaaack!

Hammer Films horror icon and Christopher Lee foil Peter Cushing died in 1994 from prostate cancer. That couldn’t stop the makers of the latest “Star Wars” movie from bringing his image back from the grave.  The gaunt-faced British actor—an early “Doctor Who”!—played Grand Moff Tarkin in the original “Star Wars,” a bad guy, Cushing’s specialty. Since “Rogue One,” the current addition to the series, is a prequel, Tarkin is alive again (he went down with the Death Star in Episode IV). Instead of recasting the part, the producers decided to recreate Tarkin/Cushing using CGI technology. Lucasfilm-owned digital effects house Industrial Light & Magic reanimated Cushing’s likeness so that a recognizable Tarkin could make a convincing  appearance in “Rogue One.” The results are not perfect, but it is still one step closer to allowing future movies to cast avatars of long dead stars to interact seamlessly with live performers.

We have recently seen actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jeff Bridges and Anthony Hopkins digitally youthened, but forcing a dead actor’s image to perform is a different matter entirely. The use of computer animated images of dead performers to do the bidding of their director masters evokes memories of “Looker,” a science fiction film directed and written by the late Michael Crichton of “Jurassic Park” and “Westworld” fame. In that 1981 movie, a corporation transferred the images of living models to a computer program that could use the new cyber-models to do and say anything more effectively and attractively than the models themselves in television ads. Then the company had the models killed—less residuals that way.

The emerging technology raises many ethical issues that didn’t have to be considered before, but when it comes to using a dead actor in a new role, the ethics verdict should be easy. It’s unethical, unless a performer  gives informed consent for his image to be used post mortem in this fashion. Presumably, the consent or the lack of it will be part of future negotiations and standard contracts. Actors who agree to have their images used as cyberslaves will also probably want to limit the uses of their names and images. No porn films, for example. No uses of an actor in a role he would have never agreed to playing while alive. Don’t make John Wayne shoot someone in the back. Don’t show Fred Astaire as clumsy on his feet; don’t make Jimmy Cagney a weenie.

Allowing another actor to use a dead one’s face and body, like Andy Serkis wore his cyber King King suit, is a closer call. If it is clear that the dead actor isn’t the one doing the acting, and that digital technology is being used as the equivalent of make-up, maybe that practice is just icky rather than unethical, provided the credits are clear.To make Cushing’s Tarkin live again on screen, “Rogue One’s “film-makers hired Guy Henry, a 56-year-old British actor who resembles Cushing. Henry played the part of Tarkin on the set, then the tech wizards transformed him into a Cushing clone. Continue reading

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Trump, Master Of Rationalizations, Scores A Perfect #4 AND A Perfect #5!

Former District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry attends a news conference on the steps of Washington's city hall Monday, July 6, 2009. At the news conference Barry's attorney Frederick Cooke said Barry vehemently denies the allegation by Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, and that he's confident the stalking charge will be dropped. Barry, 73, stood behind Cooke but said nothing. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Somewhere, Marion Berry is smiling…

This is juuuust the beginning…

I have noted before that our President Elect never expresses any ethical awareness, and uses rationalizations exclusively to explain and justify his conduct. This is typical of say, 12-year-olds, but is less common among professionals in responsible positions.

Trump just authored a classic example, following the expression of concerns about his conflicts of interest, which are massive, unavoidable, and which should have been addressed seriously long ago, like in a Presidential debate, and at length. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton and various journalists felt it would be more helpful to their cause to spend time talking about what Trump had said about an over-weight Miss Universe and in a private conversation with Billy Bush. How did that work out for you, guys?

Now various lawyers and ethics experts are saying that Trump “must” sell off his business holdings because his company’s myriad business entanglements will cast many White House decisions under a cloud. The President Elect has a neat answer for them, to wit:

“The law’s totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

— Donald Trump, interview with the New York Times, Nov. 22, 2016

Bravo! This is a perfect expression of Ethics Alarms Rationalizations #4, and #5

4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.”

The late D.C. Mayor and lovable rogue Marion Barry earned himself a place in the Ethics Distortion Hall of Fame with his defense of his giving his blatantly unqualified girlfriend a high-paying job with the DC government. Barry declared that since there was no law against using the public payroll as his own private gift service, there was nothing unethical about it. Once the law was passed (because of him), he then agreed that what he did would be wrong the next time he did it.

Ethics is far broader than law, which is a system of behavior enforced by the state with penalties for violations. Ethics is good conduct as determined by the values and customs of society. Professions promulgate codes of ethics precisely because the law cannot proscribe all inappropriate or harmful behavior. Much that is unethical is not illegal. Lying. Betrayal. Nepotism. Many other kinds of behavior as well, but that is just the factual error in the this rationalization.

The greater problem with it is that it omits the concept of ethics at all.  Ethical conduct is self-motivated, based on the individual’s values and the internalized desire to do the right thing. Barry’s construct assumes that people only behave ethically if there is a tangible, state-enforced penalty for not doing so, and that not incurring a penalty (that is, not breaking the law) is, by definition, ethical.

Nonsense, of course. It is wrong to intentionally muddle the ethical consciousness of the public, and Barry’s statement simply reinforces a misunderstanding of right and wrong.

Continue reading

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President Trump’s Massive, Unfixable, Unwaivable Conflict Of Interest…And Why Weren’t We Worrying About This BEFORE The Election?

trump-tower

Donald Trump, as President of the United States, will have an unprecedented conflict of interest—many, actually—that realistically cannot be fixed and never could. He will be President, and he will own a global set of businesses worth billions of dollars that his policies and decisions will unavoidably affect for better or worse, usually to his long term benefit or disadvantage.

Almost nobody, including me, and it’s my business to do so, focused substantially on the problem during the campaign. Trump, as  usually, airily dismissed the issue when it came up as if it was nothing, saying, “If I become president, I couldn’t care less about my company. It’s peanuts,” during one debate. “Run the company, kids. Have a good time.” Typical, stupid, and neither Clinton nor the moderator had the wit or information to follow up with the required, “Wait a minute, that doesn’t deal with the problem. Will you also not care about your kids, Mr. Trump? Your companies’ stockholders? Business partners? Employees?”

At least we know why Hillary was reluctant to pursue this issue, don’t we?

The Trump Organization’s executive vice president, Alan Garten, similarly brushed the problem away, saying in September, “His focus is going to be solely on improving the country. The business is not going to be a factor or an interest at that point.” That’s an incredible statement, naive at best, dishonest at worse. Of course it will be an interest. How could it not be? The question is whether it will be a factor. Human nature, and Trump’s nature, strongly suggest that it will be.

Who can tell with Trump? Maybe he really believes there’s no problem. After all, as I have written repeatedly and all evidence proves, the man doesn’t know ethics from ambergris. Whether he knows it or not, however, this is a massive  and potentially crippling problem for him and his administration, not to mention his children and his businesses. It is especially a problem because the same journalists who dismissed Hillary’s family foundation’s influence peddling while she was Secretary of State and after as another overblown conservative attack (after all, why should venality and hidden conflicts of interest interfere with electing the First Woman President?) have the long knives out to eviscerate Trump on any hint of impropriety, real or not, they can find.  This is real. Continue reading

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Make America’s Children Props And Billboards Again! Or Rather, Let’s Not…

trump rally Westfield

I hate this.

Using children as props for adults to make their own political or commercial statements is unfair, demeaning and an abuse of power. Oh, maybe putting kids in T-shirts with messages they neither understand nor have consented to convey is not as bad as this exploitation of children for publicity value, perhaps, or this exploitation of kids by their parents, a website and a shameless comedian.  And I know that politicians using his own children as their clueless and unconsenting mouthpieces has a long and shameful history, with such landmarks as President Jimmy Carter trying to use his young daughter Amy as the agent of his own position during a Presidential debate with Ronald Reagan, to Ted Cruz’s employment of his daughters in a campaign video that inspired Washington Post political cartoonist Ann Telnaes to portray the little Cruz girls as monkeys.

Nevertheless, I do hate this stuff, and I’m calling for a cultural consensus that using children as billboards, mouthpeices or props for advocacy purposes, no matter what the cause or context, is wrong. I would like to see politicians, advocates, organizations and movements that use children in this manner pay a steep price in lost contributions and support, until the message is learned that the tactic will not be tolerated. I would like to see any parents who volunteer their kids for this demeaning duty to be properly and decisively shamed.

The photo above is an easy place to start; after all, this was at a Donald Trump appearance in Westfield, Indiana,  and a substantial percentage of the public hates Trump already.

It’s not like the kids are wearing shirts spelling out “GIVE PEACE A CHANCE,” though that would be equally unethical.

_________________

Pointer: Prof. Mike McGregor

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