Ethics Alarms On The New York Times’ “Most Important Debates” Of 2021, Part 2

Part I set some kind of Ethics Alarms record for reader disinterest, which I much admit, I don’t understand. These are all topics we have covered in some detail here over the last year, and the analysis of them by the alleged “newspaper of record’s” experts is, to say the least, perverse and revealing…yet the post’s first installment inspired just a single comment. Well, the Times’ take on the remaining issues are arguably worse. I find it fascinating, anyway. Here’s the rest of the highlights…

Can we save the planet?

It is embarrassing for a supposedly respectable news organization to frame an issue in such a hysterical and intentionally fear-mongering manner, which assumes one side of a debate is correct without reflection of nuance. The Times’ author on this topic, Farhad Manjoo, is a tech reporter, not an expert on climatology, so he has been given a platform to opine on something he doesn’t understand sufficiently to discuss reliably. On the topic of climate change, this is, sadly, typical. His article contains the kind of sentence midway through that would normally make me stop reading because of the bias, spin, hyperbole and mendacity: “During the Trump years — as the United States tore up international climate deals and flood and fire consumed swaths of the globe — unrestrained alarm about the climate became the most cleareyed of takes.”

There were no “climate deals,” just unenforceable virtue-signaling and posturing like the Paris Accords; the link between present day “flood and fire” and climate change is speculative at best, and unrestrained alarm is never “cleareyed,’ especially when those alarmed, like Manjoo, couldn’t read a climate model if Mr. Rogers was there explaining it. Then, after telling us that the Trump years were a prelude to doom, he says that since 2014, things are looking up. Much of what he calls “bending the needle” occurred under Trump.

Should the Philip Roth biography have been pulled?

This one is so easy and obvious that the fact that the Times thinks it deserves special attention is itself a tell. The answer is “Of course not!,” as an Ethics Alarms post explained. An absolutely competent biography was pulled by its publisher, W.W. Norton, never to be in print again, because its author, who had written other acclaimed biographies, was in the process of being “cancelled” for allegations of sexual misconduct toward women. I wrote,

“…[P]ublisher W.W. Norton sent a memo to its staff announcing that it will permanently take Blake Bailey’s biography of Philip Roth out of print, as a result of allegations that Bailey sexually assaulted multiple women and also behaved inappropriately toward his students when he was an eighth grade English teacher.

If that sentence makes sense to you, The Big Stupid has you by the brain stem.

It apparently makes sense to the Times, although its review of the matter doesn’t answer its own question. Why not? This is also obvious: as journalists, the idea that what a writer writes should be judged by what a writer’s personal life has involved is anathema, but the Times’ readers are so woke that the paper would dare not say so. Integrity! Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Reflections, 12/15/2019: Bad Film Criticism, Bad Journalism, Bad Honors…And Some Really Stupid Stuff Too

The late, great, Jerry Vale..

(Also known as “the mob’s favorite tenor”…)

1. And speaking of Martin Scorcese movies, since Jerry Vale is alluded to in several of them…”The Irishman” has been viewed on Netflix by many of my showbiz friends, and most, while complaining about the film’s length, have declared the performances “brilliant.” This reaction, is, I think, bias at work, the so-called “halo effect.” It’s the same phenomenon I witnessed in the D.C. theater community, where certain actors, directors and big theater companies were routinely called “brilliant” in their efforts, when in truth, the exact same product presented by artists with lesser reputations would be shrugged off or ignored.

The three veteran stars of “The Irishman” are being praised by critics across the board, but in truth, with the exception of Al Pacino, they seem weary and channeling earlier, better performances. This is especially true of Joe Pesci, who shows none of the energy we associate with his best performances, and the script requires him to run the gamut of emotions, as the old joke goes, from A to C. He’s as old as Joe Biden, and looks and acts every inch of it, though his character is supposed to be younger. Scorcese has used tech wizardry to give De Niro a younger face when necessary, but it still sits on top of his  80-year-old body. and there is nothing in De Niro’s act that we haven’t seen over and over again (though not so much lately, as Bob has been collecting checks for bad movies in which he appeared to be “phoning it in”).

Pacino, as Jimmy Hoffa, is lots of fun as usual, but he doesn’t appear to be trying to be convincing as the mysteriously disappeared labor boss, who was 62 with he vanished. Pacino is 79. How could anyone call Pacino “brilliant” as Hoffa? Jack Nicholson was far more convincing in the film “Hoffa,” and Pacino isn’t significantly different than he was playing a Hollywood agent in “Once Upon A Time In America.”

It must be nice to reach that stage as an actor when you get paid big checks just to show up, like Marlon Brando in “Superman.” Especially if everyone is going to say you were brilliant.

2.  And now for something completely stupid. This is remarkable in the dual category of incompetence in one’s chosen pursuit (theft) and unforgivable ignorance regarding social media.  Arlando Henderson, 29, who worked for a bank  in Charlotte, North Carolina, stole money from his employer’s vault at least 18 times, for a grand total of $88,000.  He was apprehended and arrested after posting about his robbery hobby on Facebook, including posts showing his new Mercedes-Benz, and this one…

You know, if someone is this stupid, ethics alarms hardly matter…

3. Surely we are missing some crucial information here...The New York Giants, in the midst of a horrible season, fired veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins last week. Why? He was engaged in an argument with a fan on social media who objected to Jenkins posting  his personal stats after a game that his team lost, and wrote,

“I only can do my job.. retard. Continue reading

Saturday Poll Fun: A Nobel Peace Prize For Trump?

I can’t resist this.

It is so premature at this point that it’s laughable, but there are articles all over the news media about the prospect of President Trump being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize if all goes well between the Koreas, and a nuclear ban results.

Senator Graham, the alternating-current Trump ally/critic, told Fox that the President would deserve the honor. Some oddsmakers put Trump at 10-1 to win right now. Is there any way President Trump could win the most prestigious of the international honors?

Here’s my answer: No! Never. If Trump was unequivocally responsible for ending world hunger, war, pestilence and death, the Nobel Committee—you know, the ones that gave the Peace Prize to Barack Obama for doing absolutely nothing other than talking and being the first black President—would disband before it would honor Donald Trump. it is so obvious now, or should be, that the ideological and personal animus toward Donald Trump no longer is moored to reality, truth logic, fairness or standards that have applied and still apply to anyone else. Anyone who says anything good about him risks being marginalized and ostracized professionally and personally. Anyone who attacks him or any positive contention regarding him is rewarded.

So I’m not voting in this poll. I am, however, curious to see what others think. Here, therefore, is a poll:

Award Ethics: Just In Case You Forgot, The Nobel Peace Prize Is Confirmed As Having No Integrity Whatsoever

…sort of like the Academy Awards.

The ex-Secretary for the Nobel Prize Geir Lundestad admitted in a recent interview that President Barack Obama did not deserve the 2009 prize but was given  the award to strengthen Obama politically. This is, or should be, no surprise. However, the brazen admission is nauseating.

Not only were there real, deserving candidates for the prize. it is clear that they were passed over in a cynical effort to influence U.S. politics and policy. In his memoir entitled Secretary of Peace, Lundestad writes, “No Nobel Peace Prize ever elicited more attention than the 2009 prize to Barack Obama . . . Even many of Obama’s supporters believed that the prize was a mistake. In that sense the committee didn’t achieve what it had hoped for.”

By using Nobel’s honor this way, the committee devalued the award for all past and future recipients, no matter how deserving. Lundestad, meanwhile, shows that those who have controlled the most ethics oriented of major awards have no comprehension of ethics. His regrets about the award being given to an individual who had done nothing to earn it arise only from the fact that it didn’t work. Indeed it did not, as Obama drone-killed hundreds without due process, carried on illegal bombing in Libya, refused to act when Syria used chemical weapons, and generally practiced feckless, timid, principle-free politics in international affairs. That, however, was moral luck, and the argument is consequentialism. It would have been equally wrong to give the award to Obama if he had achieved real success in promoting world peace afterwards.

I want to be explicit that no one should hold Barack Obama responsible for this fiasco in any way. Awarding  the prize was unfair to him as well. Nor should he have allowed the honor to influence his decision-making at any time during his Presidency. There is no evidence that he did.

Once an award has been given based on politics and ideology rather than merit, it is no longer an award, but a lie. The Nobel Peace Prize is meaningless, not because it was awarded unethically once, but because there is no evidence that it won’t be again, the next time the Committee thinks they can manipulate a nation’s leadership and policies.

_________________________

Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur

 

President Obama and the Peace Prize

obama hope

I am going to be driving most of the day, and I wanted to have something worth reading (assuming anything here is worth reading, about which reasonable minds disagree) for you while I am prevented by life’s adventures from posting new commentary. I thought it might be instructive to re-post this, which was published at a time that few knew of Ethics Alarms’ existence. In light of all that has happened since, all we have learned, and all that I have written about the leadership of President Obama, it provides useful, and perhaps wistful perspective. I re-read it just now, wondering if I would write the same today, even knowing what I know now.

And I would.

Ethics Alarms

There are several ethical issues raised by the stunning announcement that President Barack Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize. More, perhaps, were raised by the reactions to it.

Imagine, if you will, that you are a cast member in a Hollywood movie of dubious quality. Personally, you think the director is in over his head and that the movie is an empty, pompous failure. To your amazement, however, critics like the film. It is a surprise winner at an international film festival, and the director wins the “Master Film-maker” prize. Are you outraged, or pleasantly surprised? Do you congratulate the director for the honor, or do you tell him he is an undeserving fraud? Do you feel pride for your own connection to the award—you were in the cast, after all—or do you feel resentment? I would think the answers to all these questions are obvious. The civil, fair…

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Proposed PSA: “This Is Matthew, And He Is The Face Of The Tragedy Called Confirmation Bias. Please Help!”

PSA

It is so easy—and tempting—to dismantle Matthew Lynch’s  jaw-dropping essay on the Huffington Post titled “12 Reasons Why Obama Is One of the Best Presidents Ever” that it is unethical, like shooting fish in a barrel. Nearly everything about the post is snicker-worthy, beginning with its timing: this is the equivalent of writing a paean to JFK the morning after the Bay of Pigs.

I have no similar reticence about slamming the Huffington Post for running such an embarrassing screed. If it was intended as satire (and I still think this is a possibility), the piece is incompetent, because when satire is so close to reality that readers can’t tell it’s satire, then it becomes a hoax. There is a possibility, I suppose, that the editors published this because Lynch’s glossy-eyed, alternate reality ravings were entertainingly absurd (they are not: they are tragic), but this would be cruelty, the equivalent of Sean Hannity’s practice of allowing an ignorant, usually poor and uneducated liberal caller to make a fool of herself, slyly impugning the intelligence of the entire American Left. Yet the Huffington Post is largely Obama-friendly: his obeisant  media may finally be moving away from the President, but not that quickly. I think “12 Reasons…” was run because the editors believed the article had substantive merit, in which case, they should all be sent to the Home for Bewildered Editors. (It also may have been planted as link bait.)

If the post was run on its substance, then the editors failed their responsibilities in another respect: they didn’t check Lynch’s facts. His opinions and justifications for them may be Oz-worthy and his alone, but when he writes a flat-out misrepresentation like this… Continue reading

Question: Why Is Supporting The Use Of Children As Soldiers Better Than Using Torture In Interrogations?

child-soldier5

The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 requires the United States to withhold any form of aid from nations that use children in their armies, a clear human rights violation.  President Obama  waived the provision in 2010, as Samantha Power, then the National Security Council senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights, assured the media and the nation  that “the waivers would not become a recurring event.” By the terms of the law, the President has to notify Congress that he is waiving it within 45 days of making the decision. Monday afternoon, with Congress on the eve of a government shutdown and knowing that any such announcement would be largely ignored by the public and the press, the White House press announced yet another waiver of the law The new Child Soldiers Prevention Act waiver applies fully to Chad, South Sudan and Yemen. Congo and Somalia received partial waivers.

Here’s the text of the Presidential determination, signed by Mr. Obama: Continue reading

Mariano’s Nobel Peace Prize

Mariano Rivera moment

Mariano Rivera’s  moment at the All-Star Game

Rigged awards destroy the integrity of all awards, and every time an award based on merit is transformed into a cheap Hallmark card that means no more than “We really think you’re swell!”, I pray that the next recipient refuses it on the grounds that the award is a sham. The classic example, of course, was the Nobel Peace Prize given to Barack Obama for no reason whatsoever, but Mariano Rivera’s 2013 Major League All-Star Game MVP Award was equally blatant. Continue reading

The Folly of Sacrificing Integrity to Kindness in Competitions

"Great idea, Mandy! Let's elect President Obama our school Homecoming Queen! He could use a a boost."

Integrity. 

Violate it at your peril. This is especially true if you are running a competition, no matter how trivial it might be.

Not only may a momentary waiver of integrity for what seems like an admirable cause permanently render a competition and the honor of winning it meaningless, it well may inspire the well-meaning and misguided to stretch the questionable logic of your decision to the breaking point.

Almost everyone has seen the heart-tugging TV ad from the mysterious Foundation for a Better Life, in which a high school girl with Down Syndrome is crowned Homecoming Queen. (“True Beauty. Pass it on!”) It bothered me the moment I saw it—at least after I wiped the tear from my eye. Based on a real incident in Missouri in 2008, the spot illustrates an ethical conflict between kindness and caring on one side and fairness and integrity on the other.

Of course this was a nice thing to do. It was undeniably kind, and the student involved will surely regard it as a high point in her life. But what does the Homecoming Queen title mean now, once it has been awarded for purposes completely divorced from its original purpose? If there is another Down Syndrome student in future years who doesn’t get a crown, will this indicate to her that she is less deserving of the award, and somehow lacking, since, after all, a girl like her won in a past year? Continue reading

Integrity Check: Obama’s Embarrassing Transparency Pledge

President Obama is getting a mixture of ridicule and contempt from some pundits over the revelation yesterday that he accepted an award for transparency in secret. From Forbes:

“President Obama was scheduled to receive an award from the organizers of the Freedom of Information Day Conference, to be presented at the White House by “five transparency advocates.” The White House postponed that meeting because of events in Libya and Japan, and it was rescheduled…That meeting did take place – behind closed doors. The press was not invited to the private transparency meeting, and no photos from or transcript of the meeting have been made available. The event was not listed on the president’s calendar…Nor is the award mentioned anywhere on the White House website, including on the page devoted to transparency and good government. Were it not for the testimony of the transparency advocates who met secretly with the president, there wouldn’t seem to be any evidence that the meeting actually took place.”

I can guess why the President didn’t want to publicize the meeting: the same day, he had to go on television and explain why he hadn’t been transparent to the U.S. Congress about his military plans in Libya. Or perhaps he knew that the news was about to leak that the Fed had secretly sent billions in loans to foreign banks during the financial crisis, not telling the public because it would make them worried and angry. Or maybe it was the just the dawning realization that transparency in government is often neither wise nor safe, and that he was sick of being embarrassed by awards that only point  up the yawning chasm between Obama’s idealistic words and reality. (See: 2010 Nobel Peace Prize) Continue reading