Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/14/2019: Climate Change, Cuba, Con-Artists And More

Good Morning!

Why can I almost never can find a lot of encouraging ethics stories on a Sunday?

1. Climate change thought. I just watched a PBS round table consisting of non-stop doom-sayng and Trump-bashing on climate change policy. I don’t know if these scientists/pundits/activists are using climate change as a ploy to eliminate democracy and install a Leftist totalitarian (benign, of course) world government, or if they really believe that such a system is the only way to save the Earth. Either way, however, it is impossible to listen to them objectively and not think, “Huh. The only way the draconian [that’s a word named after a despot, you know] solutions that you claim are our sole chance at survival can be implemented is with a massive dictatorship. And after the solution has “worked,” if it works, that totalitarian government will of course dissolve itself and go back to supporting liberty and democracy.  Sure it will. How stupid do you think we are?”

If the only way to save the Earth is to forfeit liberty, I, for one, stand with Patrick Henry. The climate change radicals are good matches to the anti-war and anti-nuke activists in the late Fifties and early Sixties who chanted, “Better Red than dead!”, and who thought “Eve of Destruction” was profound prophesy.

2.  Cuba, Obama, Trump and Baseball. I don’t know what to make of this one.: it’s a fascinating utilitarian question.

President Trump cancelled an agreement negotiated by the Obama administration that allowed Major League Baseball teams to pay the Cuban Baseball Federation for Cuban players who would then join MLB teams. Under the previous system, only players who defected to the United States, often at great peril and sometimes using human traffickers, could ply their baseball talents in the U.S. and be paid accordingly.

The Trump administration saysthat the deal constitutes a violation of trade laws because the Cuban federation is part of the Cuban government. In other words, the Obama deal allowed the Cuban government to sell human beings to U.S. companies—baseball teams. “The U.S. does not support actions that would institutionalize a system by which a Cuban government entity garnishes the wages of hard-working athletes who simply seek to live and compete in a free society,” said Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council. “The administration looks forward to working with M.L.B. to identify ways for Cuban players to have the individual freedom to benefit from their talents, and not as property of the Cuban state.”

The cancelled deal was always suspect as one of several concessions President Obama gave to Cuba without Cuba instituting any human rights reforms in exchange.  And why were baseball players the only Cuban citizens allowed to escape to freedom this way? Why not doctors, scholars, and scientists? Continue reading

The Naked Presidential Candidate’s Wife Principle

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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

An Unethical Heart-Warming Christmas Story…Dumb, Too

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The headline:

“Mom did porn to buy son’s Christmas presents”

The story, as told by the New York Post:

A single mom has been more naughty than nice this year — but all in the spirit of Christmas.

Megan Clara spent the last year starring in porn movies so she could afford everything on her 5-year-old son Ashton’s Christmas list. The 20-year-old UK resident says she was devastated last holiday season when Ashton complained he didn’t have the same expensive presents as his friends. Making nearly $120 a week, she was only able to buy an Etch A Sketch, cuddly toys and new clothes
“Last Christmas I could barely scrape any money together, it was really tough and I couldn’t help but worry Ashton was going to be left out and disappointed” the mom from Portsmouth, England, told Caters News Agency.

After seeing an old friend “stripping off,” Clara got in touch with her friend’s photographer. The rest, she says, is history.

“My job’s amazing, I love being in front of the camera,” she said. “My idol is Katie Price, I thought if she can make money by glamor modeling it was worth me giving it a go too – I’m in awe of her.”

The young mom now gets paid $743 per scene and has spent almost $2,200 on her son this Christmas.

“Ashton has wanted a bike for over three years and I’ve finally been able to make his dream come true. It’s an amazing feeling. The only downside is that he now bribes me into buying him toys for being well-behaved,” she said.

The adult film star already received backlash about her chosen profession, but says that “some people are just jealous.”

“I know not everyone agrees with the adult film industry but I’m a great mum, why should it matter what my occupation is,” she said. “I love the excitement and get a rush. Plus it pays well too.”…“This year has been a complete roller coaster and a whirlwind, there’s been ups and downs but now I’ve learned to ignore what other people think.

Here’s what I think, whether Clara cares or not: There is so much wrong with this story that it qualified as a Christmas Kaboom, but my head, in the spirit of Christmas, didn’t want to explode all over the tree. Continue reading

Dishonest Headline and Story Of The Month: Breitbart And Reporter John Nolte

"Trump Telling The Truth" is about as believable...

“Trump Telling The Truth” is about as believable…

When Andrew Breibart died, the conservative punditry world befouled it self with weepy odes to his bravery and dedication to right’s mission, whatever it is. In fact, he was a sloppy and unethical ideologically biased pseudo journalist, who made Fox News really look fair and balanced and MSNBC seem like the epitome of professionalism. Journalism with an agenda isn’t journalism, and Breitbart’s website never let nuances like facts get in the way of a good smear or a dubious accusation.

Earlier this week I read for the first time—since I avoid Breitbart like I avoid centipedes—that there were rumors that The Donald was sending favors the way of the website, and in return, it had grabbed the niche of pro-Trump media mouthpiece, thus setting itself up to run the Ministry of Truth when he gains power and begins rounding up the Unsuitables. THere’s no proof of this, but it could explain articles like this one today, titled Trump 100% Vindicated: CBS Reports ‘Swarm’ On Rooftops Celebrating 9/11.

To cut to the chase, nothing in the article vindicates  or supports Trump in any way, and certainly not “100%.” That’s pure linkbait, though the disgraceful story holds on to the like like grim death, tossing excuses, equivocations, deceits and logical fallacies at it as if this junk can turn lead into gold. Continue reading

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 3)

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2014 Conflicts of Interest of the Year

  • Conflicted Elected Official: Philadelphia State Senator LeAnna Washington. This is always an entertaining category. Washington was convicted of using her tax-payer financed staff to organize a yearly campaign fundraiser around her birthday party. When one staffer complained that this was illegal, she reportedly replied, according to his grand jury testimony:

“I am the fucking senator, I do what the fuck I want, and ain’t nobody going to change me. I have been doing it like this for 17 years. So stop trying to change me.”

  • Conflicted Journalist: CNN sent Jay Carney, fresh off his assignment as President Obama’s official spokesman, defender and spinmeister, to cover his ex-boss’s speech.
  • Conflicted  “Non-partisan” Watchdog: CREW. The Center For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and its chief, Melanie Sloan, finally came clean (after falsely claiming non-profit status as a non-partisan organization for years) by making David Brock, head of the openly partisan, foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Republican media watchdog Media Matters its Chairman of the Board, essentially merging the two groups.
  • Appearance of Impropriety Award: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La), Republican Whip. It is not certain yet whether Scalise knowingly spoke to a group of white supremacists in 20o2, inadvertently spoke to the group, or just spoke to another group meeting in the same venue before the David Duke-affiliated group of racists started comparing sheets. It isn’t even clear that Scalise knows, but everyone should agree that it looks awful no matter how you categorize it, making the fiasco a classic appearance of impropriety situation. If the Republicans were smart, they would dump him.

Unethical Attire of the Year

Offensive shirt

This.

Unethical Political Candidate of the Year

Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, whose campaign materials were largely plagiarized from the materials other candidates.

Ethically Clueless Voters of the Year

New York’s 11th Congressional District, which contains Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. These alert and ethical citizens sent back to Washington thuggish and crooked Rep. Michael Grimm (R), then facing a 20-count indictment by federal authorities for fraud, federal tax evasion, and perjury, having earlier distinguished himself by threatening to kill a reporter and being recorded doing so.

  Unethical Advertising of the Year

Lawyer Division:

Public Service Announcement Division:

TV Program Division:

The Discovery Channel’s campaign for “Eaten Alive!” which did not, in fact, feature anyone being “eaten alive,” or at all.

Private Sector Product Division:

Halos. Or perhaps this is the Child Abuse Division:

Political Campaign Division:

Wendy Davis, Democratic candidate for Texas Governor, offered an ad attacking her wheelchair- bound opponent that 1) appealed to bias against the disabled 2) misrepresented the duties of a state attorney general 3) misrepresented the facts of the cases the ad referred to and  4)  deceived the public regarding the ethical duties of lawyers, which Davis, a lawyer, presumably understands. Continue reading

Not Funny, Just Hateful, Harmful And Wrong: The New York Post’s Despicable Post-Election Front Page

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Yes, I know the New York Post has made an art form of in-your-face, outrageous, I-can’t-believe-they-printed-that headlines and front page shenanigans, epitomized by the deathless classic, “Headless Body Found In Topless Bar.”

Yes, I know that Post is owned by Australian schlockmeister Rupert Murdoch, and yes, I know that the Obama-hating market is large and especially enthusiastic after the Tuesday Night Massacre Democrats just suffered under President Obama’s leadership.

And yes, I know that this is essentially a cartoon via photoshop, and that insisting that the Office of the President must retain its dignity after Bill Clinton got through with it and Democrats en masse declared that it didn’t matter how disgusting a POTUS’s  “personal” conduct was in the White House as long as poll numbers were high and unemployment was low, so come on, Bill: lead our national convention in condemning how Republicans denigrate women!

I know all that. It doesn’t matter. Barack Obama is the President of the United States, and this kind of personal, disrespectful ridicule insults not just him, but the office he holds, the nation, and every citizen of the United States of America. If this front page were published in France or England, I would regard it as an attack and an insult. Where is the line where legitimate editorial criticism becomes vicious, culture-poisoning disrespect and a breach of ethical journalism standards? I don’t know; we can argue about it. Wherever the line is, this is over it, by a lot. Continue reading

Fun With Rationalizations: Considering Salon’s Attack On The New York Post

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Let me dispense with the outrage over The New York Post’s brilliant (from their perspective, which is selling newspapers) and tasteless front page covering the death of Menachem Stark, a Hasidic real estate developer ( a.k.a. “slumlord”) who was found murdered and burned in a dumpster last Friday in Long Island.

The operative principle is not, as the reader who flagged the issue suggested, the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule does not often apply to the press, which is supposed to be truthful, not kind and diplomatic. There are provisions of most journalistic codes about avoiding unnecessary harm to third parties, which is pretty much a universal ethics rule in every field, from law to the military. When, however, you operate a tabloid, and not just any tabloid but a tabloid whose brand is defined by intentionally shocking, outrageous, assaultive and controversial headlines and photos, “Unnecessary harm to third parties” is almost an impossible principle to apply.

The headline is a perfect example of the Julie Principle, which I explained back in May. The Julie Principle comes into play when an undesirable or annoying  characteristic or behavior pattern in a person or organization appears to be hard-wired and part of their essence.  In judging such a person or entity, it is useful to keep the lyrics of Julie’s song from “Show Boat” (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein Jr., music by Jerome Kern) firmly in mind, when she sings…

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly…

I’ve gotta love that man til I die

Can’t help lovin’ that man of mine!  Continue reading