Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/12/2018: Sigh. It Never Ends. (Part II) [UPDATED]

A Nigerian locale, and not an atypical one.

From the Washington Post:

President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.

Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt that they help the United States economically.

In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. “Take them out.” 

Ethics Observations:

I. “According to several people briefed on the meeting”? What? Not even according to people AT the meeting?

Based on this, without any attributions, the news media is stating that Trump making those alleged comments are fact. Here’s the Times version,

“…according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation.

No, they don’t have “direct knowledge.” What someone tells you about what someone else said at a meeting you were not attending is indirect knowledge. It is, in fact, hearsay. If the Times and the Post did not get confirmation on the record from someone who heard what he said, then this is not fact, but rumor, inadmissible in court because of extreme prejudice and lack of reliability.

Never mind. The Times headline is Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa, as if the second-hand accounts were  confirmed fact. This is unethical journalism. Outrageously so, in fact. Meanwhile, all of the news channels, including Fox, were basing hours of reporting on it.

This is not acceptable. It is not professional, and it is not justifiable. It is a disgrace, and if you accept it, you should be ashamed of yourself.

II. Trump denies that he uttered those words, on Twitter, of course:

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!…Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!”

The denials mean nothing, I know. The President has such a bizarre view of reality and such a record of misstatements and reversals that he has no credibility and deserves none. However, that doesn’t mean that he did make the alleged statements either. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. I certainly wouldn’t be “shocked.” It sounds like something he would say, because nuances of language and tone, not to mention civility ande diplomacy, are alien concepts to him. In other words, it rings true. That doesn’t mean it’s ethical to report it as fact. Continue reading

Michelle Obama’s Hashtag Mini-Train Wreck


The debate over Michelle Obama’s ill-advised foray into hashtag diplomacy–itself a misbegotten creature whose birth we will live to regret, if we don’t already–has turned nasty and stupid, and, of course, partisan, with the media, so incapable of objective analysis now that it hurts even to watch it pretend, rushing to defend the First Lady who walked right into this spinning blade, and should have known better.

Some observations and conclusions:

  • When the First Lady, any of them, presumes to wade into policy matters with the force of her husband’s office behind her, he is presumed to approve. When the policy matter involves international diplomacy, which, we hope, is carefully planned, whatever action or statement the First lady makes is indistinguishable from a Presidential action. Would the President of the United States appear anything other than weak and ridiculous if his response to any international crisis was to hold a sign in a photograph for Twiiter and make a frownie-face? No. Therefore, it was damaging to the President, the office and the nation for Michelle to tweet the same, but with her in his place, out to the world.
  • Two analogies, one real and one hypothetical, come to mind. In his short term of office, President Gerald Ford’s major domestic problem was exploding inflation, and he obviously had no idea what to do about it. His “program,” essentially, consisted of publicizing the mantra “Whip Inflation Now!,” most prominently embodied with the infamous “WIN” buttons. Ford was widely ridiculed by this exercise in futile gesture and magical thinking. He deserved it. Michelle’s stunt—it is a stunt—is redolent of Ford’s buttons.

The hypothetical: Imagine if the U.S. and the world’s (disgraceful and ) general policy of contrived ignorance of the Holocaust prior to our entering World War II was addressed by FDR having his “legs,” Eleanor, pose for a photo as she held up a sign reading “Save the Jews”…and frowning. Continue reading

Sugardaddies, Pregnancy Tests and Nigeria, or “If U.S. Culture Is More Ethical Than The Rest Of The World, The Rest Of The World Is In Big Trouble”

Our surprisingly ethical U.S. culture on display...

Our surprisingly ethical U.S. culture on display…

Aniruddh Khachaturi an is from Mumbai, India, and has been in the U.S. for the past two years, studying  computer science at Carnegie Mellon. For some reason his observations about what surprises him about American culture are newsworthy, according to Investors Daily, as opposed to, say, anyone else. They are thought-provoking, however, especially this : he is impressed with the nation’s “strong ethics”:

“…everyone has a lot of integrity. If someone cannot submit their completed assignment in time, they will turn in the assignment incomplete rather than asking for answers at the last minute. People take pride in their hard work and usually do not cheat. This is different from students from India and China as well as back home in India, where everyone collaborates to the extent that it can be categorized as cheating.”

I happen to think he is right, and that this is probably the reaction of most foreigners who spend much time here. Compared to almost everywhere else on the planet, the population of the U.S. is more ethical, and the U.S. culture is more concerned with ethical values, as one should expect in the only nation expressly founded as the expression of ethical ideals.

Nonetheless, our culture has shown alarming signs of growing more tolerant and even accepting of unethical conduct, and that is worthy of more than merely academic concern. Continue reading

Olympics Ethics, Fair Competition and Ick

Try as I might, I can’t find anything unethical about  the U.S. basketball team throttling Nigeria by the humiliating score of 156-73, the worst wipe-out in Olympic history.

Was the U.S. running up the score, which would be poor sportsmanship? No. As USA coach Mike Krzyzewski pointed out, he held back his best players once the outcome was certain. Every player he put in was hitting the basket with frightening consistency. Should the team have let up, gone through the motions, or allowed the Nigerian players some easy hoops? No. That would be an insult, and a breach of the integrity of the game. The U.S. Olympians had a duty to play their best. Continue reading

Why Public Flossing IS Our Business

In today’s Sunday New York Times, the City Room column is devoted to the increasingly common topic of public grooming, specifically flossing one’s teeth in public. Lion Calandra recounts an exchange with a young woman doing her dental hygeine on the subway, who finished by throwing her used floss to the subway car floor.

“Maybe you should do that at home,” Calandra suggested. “Maybe you should mind your own business,” the woman sneered. Continue reading