QVC Shows Us Why We Are Becoming Stupid, Ignorant And Helpless

Cable shopping channel QVC just had an episode that should call a lot into question, but won’t.

In the segment above, QVC host Shawn Killinger demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that she possesses nothing resembling a grade school understanding of astronomy. She is obviously not ashamed or embarrassed by this, as she is willing to expose it in horrible vividness on nationwide television. Launched with a statement that itself should never be uttered within earshot by any adult of normal intelligence who isn’t tripping or doing a cruel imitation of the late Anna Nicole Smith—“it almost kind of looks like what the Earth looks like when you’re a bazillion miles away from the planet moon”–Killinger engages in a debate over whether the moon is a planet, a star, or something else she doesn’t understand.

Over at Slate, astronomer/author Phil Plait provides a really smug and obnoxious explication of the issues involved, designed to make him look and feel superior: you see, the astronomic definitions of “moon” and “planet” are more complicated than the non-scientists mocking Killinger think they are, so he’s as much smarter than them as they think they are smarter than her! Wow, Phil, I’m in awe. And you are one of the reasons we are stupid: you make being educated look like a character flaw. Continue reading

The President Engages In Gender Discrimination At His Press Conference. Isn’t That Marvelous?

How feminist!

How feminist!

I missed this initially, because unlike an unfortunate number of people in the country, especially those in the government, I don’t tally up every event according to the gender, race and ethnicity of the participants.

However, it seems that in his year-ending news conference on December 19, President Obama only called on female reporters. The left-biased press rejoiced and applauded: Vanity Fair, for example, headlined its story “Obama’s All-Women Press Conference Deals Glancing Blow to Patriarchy.”

I am obviously so estranged from what passes for logic, fairness and ethics among Obama cheer-leaders that I can’t begin to comprehend their thinking. How could such a stunt possibly be anything but wrong?

1. Is the President making up for what he believed was his bias in calling on reporters in the past? If so, this like an umpire making up for mistakenly calling a ball a strike in one game making up for it by calling a strike a ball in another. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and two instances of gender bias don’t cancel each other out. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Reporter’s Non-Compliant Shoulders

Appropriate courtroom fashion?

Appropriate courtroom fashion?

At the 2nd District Court in Ogden, Utah, female reporter Morgan Briesmaster was barred by court security from entering the courtroom to cover a story because her sleeveless blouse (left) violated the official dress code.

She eventually gained access by wearing a parka. Up until then, she told other journalists, she waited in the lobby  “where she watched other courtgoers stroll through security with jeans and low-cut shirts.” Her boss ridiculed the situation, comparing it to high school yearbook dress codes, and noted that “any time a reporter is stopped from covering the news, it’s a concern.” There actually is a rule against wearing “tank tops” in that court, but I wouldn’t call what Briesmaster wore a tank top.
 

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz, which you may think is too easy, is this:

Was the court security unfair and unreasonable to bar reporter Briesmaster based on her shoulder-baring clothing?

Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Slate Editor David Plotz

SlateDavid Plotz, journalist and editor of the on-line culture magazine Slate, takes on the California Supreme Court in an essay in his magazine, harshly criticizing the 7-0 decision yesterday to deny Stephen Glass the opportunity to practice law in the state. Glass has been attempting for almost 20 year to persuade some state that a star journalist who was exposed as a pathological liar is a trustworthy lawyer. Plotz’s attack on the opinion as smug and self-righteous says a lot more about Plotz and his field of journalism than it does about the court. It  exposes the perils of a non-lawyer delving into legal ethics without even a modicum of research. Mostly, the exercise shows how far journalism has fallen, when the editor of a prestigious on-line journalistic enterprise essentially denies the importance of professionalism. “It’s a job,” he concludes about the law, trying to bring lawyers down to the depths of his own, thoroughly debased line of work.

Not that the decision isn’t ripe for criticism, for it is. In particular, the majority reasoning continues the legal field’s strange hypocrisy of applying a far more stringent standard to the character of those trying to get their licenses that it does to those who have proven themselves unworthy of holding them. The District of Columbia, supposedly one of the toughest jurisdiction regarding legal discipline, recently administered a mild reprimand to a Justice Department attorney who had been practicing on a suspended license for more than two decades. John Edwards, whose trail of lies while deceiving his dying wife and devising schemes to hide his pregnant mistress in order to gull the Democratic party into nominating him for President, has managed to avoid any discipline at all despite the fact that his continuing leave to practice law disgraces every lawyer on the planet. And, of course, the very same court Plotz derides now recently delivered the stunning conclusion that a non-citizen who entered the country illegally and engaged in years of lies to remain here is nonetheless fit to be a lawyer. (Naturally, Plotz liked that decision.) None of these are mentioned in the post. Continue reading

November 9-10, Kristallnacht, And The Duty To Remember

Auschwitz

This is the 75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938. Had you forgotten? Did you even know? If you weren’t looking in the right places, it would be very easy to miss the fact that these are days to remember—that we have a duty to remember.

In 2009, citing the cultural importance of another date in November, one that is going to be much commemorated this year (being the 50th anniversary) but that was barely noted four years ago, I said…

“Apart from national holidays, there are not an overwhelming number of calendar boxes that citizens of the United States should pause and think about every year. July 4. September 11. December 7, when America was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor. June 6, D-Day. We can argue about others, but there should be no argument about November 22. It was a sudden, unexpected tragedy that scarred a generation, and it changed the course of  national and world history in many ways.

“Year after year, Americans know less and less about their own country. This makes us incompetent in our civic duties, infantile in our understanding of America’s role in the world, stupid and apathetic on election day, and patsies for our supposed elected officials, who can tell us lies about our country’s mission and heritage as we stand nodding like cows. Most of all, it makes us disrespectful of the brave and brilliant men and women who built, sustained and defined the United States. College graduates go on “The Jay Leno Show” and shamelessly identify the faces on Mount Rushmore as the Marx Brothers or the Beatles, and giggle about it as Jay rolls his eyes. This is becoming the standard level of American appreciation of the nation’s past.”

In holding close critical events affecting the rest of the world, we are even worse, as the overwhelming ignorance of this date shows. If July 4, 1776; September 11, 2001; December 7, 1941, and November 22, 1963, are moments in history that all of us should remember, honor and think about because we are Americans, November 9 and 10th present the same obligations because we are human beings, and citizens of the world. Continue reading

The Associated Press And The Scandal That Wasn’t

It was tough giving my dog the bad news that the AP had screwed up...

It was tough giving my dog the bad news that the AP had screwed up…

Over the local evening news came a stunning report: Terry McAuliffe the Democratic candidate for Governor of Virginia, where I vote and make my home, had been accused in federal documents of lying to investigators checking the facts behind a Rhode Island death benefits scheme. Confirmation bias being what it is, I had no trouble giving the report full credence ( I long ago concluded that McAuliffe is sleazy and will lie whenever there is a perceived up-side for him, though I never thought he was stupid), and informed my dog, Rugby, for whom I am organizing a write-in campaign, that his chances of being Governor were looking up. Then, less than two hours later, I was preparing to write about this latest development in the most ethics-free governor’s race in the country, and checked online for more details. I discovered only this:

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) The Associated Press has withdrawn its story about documents in a federal fraud case alleging that Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe lied to a federal official investigating a death benefits scheme. The indictment did not identify McAuliffe as the “T.M.” who allegedly lied to investigators.

Wait…how could this happen? How could the Associated Press, the nation’s premiere news agency, essentially accuse a candidate for high office in a highly contested election of a felony less than a month before votes are cast, just in time for the story to be the lead story all over the state in question, and then withdraw it shortly thereafter? Don’t tell me about “mistakes”: the AP and the profession of journalism have standards and procedures of long-standing that, if followed diligently, ensure that this never happens. Facts must be checked and confirmed by reliable sources. Supposition must not be stated as truth. Here is the AP’s distillation of its ethical framework: Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Banishes “The Smoking Gun,” Unethical Website of the Month

"This? Sure, this fits our mission. Post it!"

“This? Sure, this fits our mission. Post it!”

“The Smoking Gun” website has been linked on Ethics Alarms from the start, as its published documents from various sources can be an invaluable resource in uncovering unethical conduct in business, government, and popular culture.  Being linked here, however, carries an implied conviction that a site is itself ethical, or at least makes a good faith effort to be so. I can no longer say this with confidence about the “The Smoking Gun,” and thus am deleting its link while designating it the Unethical Website of the Month. Let’s not forget that it is owned by Time-Warner.

Why the ban? A hacker by the name of Guccifer hacked into Bush family AOL accounts, stole private messages and photos and posted them online  to embarrass the Bush family and violate their privacy. “The Smoking Gun” then re-posted all of it, including a private letter from George W. Bush to his family about planning the funeral of his father. Continue reading