It should have been depressing for any American to observe Senator Chuck Schumer’s recent two-day display of horrific ethics, beginning with his threatening two Supreme Court Justices if they refused to do his bidding–Chuck doesn’t get that “separation of powers” thingy, unless it can muzzle the other party’s President—and concluding with a record-setting rationalization orgy on the Senate floor as he tried to weasel out of accountability for his outrageous and dangerous abuse of position and decency.
In some ways, his second outburst was worse than his first. Rationalizations are lies, essentially, and a U.S. Senator who resorts to them to defend himself is insulting the intelligence and character of the American public as well as deceiving and corrupting them. Unfortunately, rationalizations are how our culture, in the absence of a competent educational system, tends to teach most people how to reason when ethics are on the line. Since rationalizations are all lazy, dishonest, flawed and damaging ways to approach decision-making, for a U.S. Senator like Schumer to parade them so shamelessly rots more than just the principles of logic.
There is good news, though! In his frenzy to try to babble his way out of the Senate censure he had earned, Schumer revealed a new rationalization for the list that somehow Ethics Alarms had missed. Chuck’s exhaustive collection of justifications included this lament, “I feel so passionately about this issue and I feel so deeply the anger of women all across America!” Oh! Then we completely understand why you would threaten two Supreme Court justices and said they wouldn’t know what hit them if they displeased you, Senator! No problem, then. Carry on!
I think this is the 101st entry on the Rationalizations list. As we get farther and farther down our categorizing the wide variety of lies we tell ourselves and others to make it seem like doing wrong is doing right, there is a danger of slicing them too thin. I am persuaded, however, that The Romantic’s Excuse is, indeed, a necessary addition, so here it is: Continue reading →
Wild Bill Hagy, on the job
When the Washington Nationals hosted the Baltimore Orioles in an interleague baseball game, many Orioles fans attended to root for their team, the long-diminishes but suddenly (and, I fear, temporarily) resurgent O’s from Charm City. Nobody who has attended Orioles games in Camden Yards was surprised that the Orioles fans shouted out a loud “O!” as the National Anthem reached its climax, in the line, “Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave?” They have been doing this, joyfully and with full-throated enthusiasm, for over four decades.
Washington Post sportswriter Mike Wise to his keyboard to express his annoyance and indignation. Calling the O’s fans who engage in the traditional shout “cretins,” Wise wrote,
“…By claiming the lyrics, if only for a moment, you fundamentally undermine the idea that the song was written to unite instead of divide. A national anthem is a national anthem, not a convenient vehicle for one’s immense pride in his or her team.”
Allow me to retort!
Baloney. Continue reading →
Yes, India, worshipping this silly thing means you are all mad as hatters. Now come to a rational church, and chow down with us on some body and blood of Christ. Hey...what's so funny?
In State v. Daley, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s mental incompetence verdict and order of treatment for the defendant because it appeared to be based solely on the defendant’s passionate religious beliefs.
Daley was charged in March 2010 with retaliation, intimidation, aggravated menacing, menacing, and telecommunications harassment. The trial court referred Daley to the court’s psychiatric clinic for a competency evaluation, and the evaluating psychiatrist opined that Daley was not competent to stand trial because he was not able to assist in his defense.
At the competency hearing, Daley testified that, to the contrary, he was able to continue assisting his attorney in his defense. He also testified that his opinions about the legal system, such as his description of divorce court as the “high court of Satan,” were based on his religious belief that divorce is against the word of God. Nevertheless, the trial court found Daley incompetent to stand trial and ordered him hospitalized for restoration to competency. It based its opinion on the diagnosis of the psychiatrist, who testified that Daley, a “radical Christian,” “expresses such extreme intensity of religious belief in very unorthodox religious beliefs to the point to constitute psychosis.” The psychiatrist further testified that treating Daley would “change his psychotic symptoms of which are a religious theme[,]” so that his “intensity and [ ] preoccupation with his religious beliefs will be greatly decreased.” Continue reading →
Eric Kim Street Photography launched an ethics controversy by running two photographs. One, a prize-winning photo of 15-year-old Haitian Fabienne Cherisma, who was shot and killed by Haitian police after stealing two plastic chairs and three framed pictures in the chaos following the nation’s devastating earthquake last year. The other picture showed the origins of the photo and others like it, a crowd of intent photographers in a group, snapping away at the horrible scene like paparazzi trying to get a good shot of Lindsay Lohan.
Kim agreed that the initial photo is crucial news journalism, but worried that the second photo showed callousness on the part of the photographers, who appeared to be exploiting a tragedy.
Judge for yourself. Photojournalism, like medicine, law enforcement, social work, government leadership, and many other professions, is an ethically-conflicting job by nature, because it requires dispassionate calculations in situations where non-professionals would be overwhelmed with emotion. This is purely utilitarian conduct. The pictures need to be taken. The public is served by vivid illustrations of the world and events. Competent and effective pictures require pragmatism, opportunism and professional cool that will often seem repugnant to observers. That is unavoidable, and fully justified by the importance of the work.
Verdict: the photographers are ethical.
But how they do their job sure can look awful.
We've all been there, Larry. Still sounded awful, though.
“The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that.”
—CNBC’s financial guru Larry Kudlow, discussing the economic implications of the Japanese earthquake and its aftermath—a legitimate topic—while giving an instructive demonstration of how tunnel-vision and focus on one objective above all else can disable an ethics alarm, momentarily, or even permanently.
The quote speaks for itself, but here are a few comments: Continue reading →
During the recent eruption of a national obsession with civility in the wake of Jarod Loughner’s shooting rampage—odd, because his actions had nothing whatsoever to do with civility—it became disturbingly evident that most journalists have only a vague sense of what incivility is. For example, using shooting or death metaphors and imagery are not uncivil. Criticism, even strongly-worded criticism, is not uncivil. Calling lies lies is not uncivil, nor is suggesting bad motives for official actions, if the critic believes that bad motives are involved. The fact that intense and passionate condemnation of an individual’s or a group’s actions angers or inflames others does not necessarily mean that the inciting words were uncivil, or even inappropriate.
This, however, is incivility.
In a previous post that apparently established the proprietor of Ethics Alarms as a “fuddy-duddy,” I discussed the disturbing series of stereotype-bashing Direct TV commercials that sets out to show how amusing irrational hatred and gratuitously cruel behavior can be. The commercials seem to be escalating, and why not? Ethics Alarms isn’t their only, or most prominent, critic, and ethics be damned—the ads are being watched and talked about! Victory! And besides, they’re aimed at football fans, a demographic that is rather less likely to find the encouragement of random violence upsetting in any way.
The latest “hurt your rival” drama from Direct TV shows two police casually tasering a man who “cheats” in the Fantasy Football league by using his Direct TV NFL feed to get an upper hand on the competition. (He is seen twitching on the floor. LOL!). As a commenter on the previous post has pointed out, police nationwide are fighting a perception and public relations battle over alleged incidents of excessive force, many involving tasers. This commercial encourages distrust of the police, and reinforces a false and unfair perception that misuse of their power and authority is the norm. Is it worth the laughs, if indeed there are any?
I think the standards for comedians and commercials should be different, with comics having the broadest possible discretion to do or say whatever they feel is necessary to promote mirth from their audiences. TV commercials are more than entertainment: the audiences don’t choose the content of ads or know when they will see them, and their visibility and repetition gives the commercials enough influence over cultural attitudes to warrant a higher level of responsibility on the part of the company and the ad agency.
Mainstream media ads both reflect public attitudes and mold them. The Direct TV ads either show we have a callous society, or are helping to make us one.
The ad campaign for Direct TV’s NFL Sunday Ticket raises the question: if it is despicable, unethical and wrong to do something hateful to another individual because of his race,religion or national origin, can it be cute, funny or socially acceptable to take the same action against someone because of his pro football loyalties?
The Direct TV campaign, depicts the fans of various NFL teams expressing their anger and dismay over the fact that the satellite television service allows neighbors who have recently moved to their area can continue to root for their home town football teams by subscribing to NFL Sunday Ticket. In each commercial, a fan expresses his or her hatred for the newcomer by inflicting some form of surreptitious insult, indignity, or attack: Continue reading →