Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/16/2020: Special “Morning Warm-Up That Actually Gets Posted In The Morning” Edition [UPDATED!]

Good morning, good morning!

Well, my Christmas tree is drying out, and its demise is near. Every January since I was a small child the slow acceptance that soon this bright, sparkling symbol of innocence, love, family optimism and joy will be gone has been painful, and you know, in this respect, I haven’t changed a bit. There’s no reason, of course, why we can’t have the spirit of Christmas all year long—heck, Scrooge pulled it off—but somehow the loss of the Christmas tree reminds me that everyone will be back to their same petty, nasty, selfish ways, if they aren’t already. Even me.

<sigh!>

1. The New York Mets don’t get ethics, but we knew that. The Mets’ new manager is Carlos Beltran, fingered in the MLB report on the Houston Astros cheating scandal as one of the ringleaders of the scheme that already has cost that teams manager and general manager their jobs. Alex Cora, who shared prominence in the report with Beltran, also was fired from his job as manager of the Red Sox. Beltran escaped snactions from MLB because he was a player at the time, and the baseball management decided, for many reasons, that it could not punish the players. But now not just a player, but according to the investigation the player at the center of the cheating scandal is a manager. Isn’t the next step an obvious one? A major league team can’t have as its field leader a player who was recently identified as a key participant in a cheating scandal in which ever other management figure was fired, can it? How hard is this? To make matters worse, Beltran had  recently lied in interviews with sportswriters about his knowledge of the Astros scheme. Yet so far, the Mets haven’t taken any action at all.

Beltran will be fired before the season begins, but the longer it takes for the Mets to figure out why, the more clearly the organization’s ethics rot will come into focus.

UPDATE: Beltran was sacked by the Mets this afternoon. (Thanks to Arthur in Maine for the news.) See? What did I tell you?

2. And speaking of baseball ethics rot, New York Times sports columnist Michael Powell proved his nicely. He mocks the current baseball cheating scandal thusly: Continue reading

Memorial Day Ethics Warm-Up, 5/27/19: Gee, Can We Celebrate Those Who Die For Our Nation And Not Be “Nationalist”?

 

This, of course, was my father’s favorite Sousa march; he once mortified my mother by standing and doing a parade ground march routine on the Mall when they played it on the Fourth of July. You knew it has words, right?

1. Nah, there’s no mainstream media confirmation bias! Political scientist Time Magazine columnist and Donald Trump critic Ian Bremmer intentionally tweeted as fact a fake Donald Trump quote:

“Kim Jong Un is smarter and would make a better president than Sleepy Joe Biden.”

Immediately, the quote was picked up on social media by the Trump Deranged, mainstream media pundits, and some elected officials. Here’s ridiculous CNN contributor Ana Navarro, who exists on the network solely to attack the President as a “Republican”:

“Don’t shrug your shoulders. Don’t get used to this insanity. The President of the United States praising a cruel dictator who violates human rights, threatens nuclear attacks, oppresses his people, and kills political opponents, IS NOT FREAKING NORMAL.”

Note she also gets in one of the top anti-Trump Big Lies, that the President is “abnormal.”

Bremer’s quote was retweeted thousands of times, until he admitted that he made it up. This is using the web to spread falsehoods. He should be banned from the pages of Time and dismissed as an analyst and a pundit.

Incredibly, Ann Althouse defended the lie as satire, writing,

“Stupid of journalists and congressmen to retweet it as an actual quote, but there’s nothing wrong with “fabricating” it. Are we so humor deaf that we’re going to start denouncing comedians as liars?”

Ann needs an ethics check-up. There’s nothing funny about lying in a setting where many will believe you, whether the liar is a comedian or not. Nor was the quote humorous. Bremer was doing exactly what the unethical hoax news sites do when they deliberately publish fake news in a style and manner designed to fool people into believing it.

I guess we can’t assume that what Ann states as fact is true either. It might be “satire.” Continue reading

Cheerleader Ethics: Nice Cheerleaders Don’t Say “Fuck,” But They Have A Right To Say It When They Aren’t Cheerleading

Well, this in encouraging. Another court has slapped down a school’s attempt to punish a student for what she wrote online in a personal social media  account. Ethics Alarms has protested the abuse of authority this increasingly common practice represents for many years—I don’t have the time right now to track all the posts down, but I will, and add a link to them here.

U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo ruled that the Mahanoy Area School District (In Pennsylvania) violated a student’s First Amendment rights when it kicked her off the junior varsity squad for writing “fuck” repeatedly in a Snapchat post. Do you use that mouth to cheer with, honey?

The teen made the vulgar post on a weekend in May, 2017, off school grounds. It pictured her and a friend holding up their middle fingers with the cogent text, “fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything.” She was dressed in street clothes, not her cheerleading uniform, with no pom-pons.  I don’t know how schools got the idea that they could control every aspect of a student’s life and speech to this extent, but too many try. And too many get away with it. Continue reading

Now THIS Is A Frivolous Lawsuit!

Sounds noble in theory, but it doesn’t always work when the one saying “no” is a judge.

Lawyers and the public mean different things when they call a lawsuit “frivolous.” The public and the news media mean that the suit is silly, desperate, based on a crazy theory or unlikely to succeed. Lawyers, however, know that suits that seem  silly, desperate, based on a crazy theory or unlikely to succeed sometimes win. Sometimes, they even change the law for the better. ABA Rule 3.1 explains,

Rule 3.1: Meritorious Claims & Contentions

A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law….

Comment:The filing of an action or defense or similar action taken for a client is not frivolous merely because the facts have not first been fully substantiated or because the lawyer expects to develop vital evidence only by discovery. What is required of lawyers, however, is that they inform themselves about the facts of their clients’ cases and the applicable law and determine that they can make good faith arguments in support of their clients’ positions. Such action is not frivolous even though the lawyer believes that the client’s position ultimately will not prevail. The action is frivolous, however, if the lawyer is unable either to make a good faith argument on the merits of the action taken or to support the action taken by a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.

The guy currently  suing me for defamation, for example, hasn’t quite crossed the “frivolous” line, though he is arguing that what is clearly opinion is an assertion of fact, contrary to all existing jurisprudence. His appeal, however, while batty, does make an argument that I assume in in good faith, that a Supreme Court case supports his definition of libel. It doesn’t, but he has the right to make an argument in the hope that some judge or appellate panel will agree. Of course, he is also not a lawyer, so he can’t be held responsible for violating legal ethics.

This guy can be, however: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/2/2018: Bigotry In, “Jeopardy” Out

Good Morning.

I always play that clip when I need cheering up. It works, too.

1. How did we get to this sick, unethical and un-American place? The New York Times had an interview with America Ferrera in its book section. “Ugly Betty” was a long time ago, and I have no idea why Ferrera, a completely ordinary talent at best, has a career or is deemed important enough to warrant a profile, except that she is a professional Hispanic-American. The very fact that there are such celebrities and activists whose source of income is group advocacy is troubling, and she flagged an unethical quote that “inspires her” that is more unsettling still. She says,

“Brittney Cooper’s “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower.” It’s razor sharp and hilarious. There is so much about her analysis that I relate to and grapple with on a daily basis as a Latina feminist, particularly this point she makes: “When I talk about owning eloquent rage as your superpower, it comes with the clear caveat that Everyone is not worth your time or your rage. Black feminism taught me that. My job as a black feminist is to love black women and girls. Period.” I say hear, hear!”

“Hear, hear” WHAT? Cooper is essentially saying that only her tribes—women, race, nation of origin—are worth her time or care. This is an unethical point of view that feeds division, distrust and hate. Caring is a core ethical value that includes sympathy, empathy and beneficence. “I only care about people like me” is a selfish, ugly sentiment, and Ferrera is extolling it.

Until people like Ferrera and Cooper stop proclaiming sentiments that would be properly regarded as racist or sexist with a change of color or gender, the nation’s society will continue to be roiled by division.

2. From the “What were they thinking?” files: Now this sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit: Somebody had the brilliant idea of hiring Alex Trebek, the “Jeopardy!” host (after Art Fleming), to moderate the televised debate between Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and his Republican challenger, Scott Wagner. Trebek is a smart guy and quick on his feet, but the problem is one of appearances rather than competence. Reducing a political debate to the status of a game show is the kind of foolish dumbing down and public misinformation that leads to distortions like a Senate confirmation hearing being called a “job interview.” The theory was that more people would watch the debate with a slick MC involved. Heck, why not go all the way? Use the cast of “Modern Family” or zombies from “The Walking Dead” to ask questions. Better yet, how about Kanye West?

To make things worse, Trebek seemed to think the debate was now about him, which isn’t too much of a leap, since the organizers didn’t hire him to do a Martha Raddatz impression presumably. After joking that the only thing with a lower approval rating than the Pennsylvania legislature was the Catholic Church, he decided to inform the audience about his own views, saying,  “I was born and raised in the Catholic Church and I’m just as ticked off as everybody else is over what has happened with the church.When I was a young teenager I attended a Catholic boarding school run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Two-hundred and fifty students, other boys and I, spent three years sharing the same accommodations 24/7 with 44 priests and not once in those three years was there any sexual misbehavior. Now boys are pretty sharp, we talk, we would have known. So I believe that there are Catholic priests out there who are able to minister to their congregations without preying — that’s P-R-E-Y — on the young people.”

Who cares what you think, Alex? The debate is supposed to inform us about the candidates. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/16/18: Those Wacky Conways, And The Anti-Trump News Media Goes To The Dogs

Good morning.

1. A conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theorists...Last night, a CBS procedural that I am finally sick of, “Criminal Minds,” appeared to be taking sides in the Trump vs. the FBI wars, with a side-swipe at Alex Jones, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The episode set up a conflict between the Good FBI agents who are the stars of the show, and the crazy, paranoid, anti-government  “Truthers” who see government law enforcement as sinister and manipulative. (There was special focus on the ridiculous Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, with one of the tough serial killer hunter breaking down in tears remembering the massacre.) The most vocal anti-FBI character in the episode, who sneered out her every line about the series heroes (bad direction, in my view), was revealed at the end as the “unsub,” the psychopathic killer.

For some reason this was the first time it occurred to me how much prime  time network TV serves as a PR service for the FBI, with the virtue, bravery and unquestioned rectitude of the agency and its employees being central to multiple dramas. The propaganda is escalating too: Dick Wolf of “Law and Order” fame is launching a new CBS series called, creatively, “FBI.” You would think, would you not, that this would be an odd time to produce such a series, with the reputation and credibility of J.Edgar’s baby at an all-time, and most deserved, low. However, Hollywood and the entertainment industry now sees its role differently than seeking mere ratings.

There is nothing wrong with TV writers and producers bring their political agendas into our living rooms, and there’s not a thing we can do about it anyway, other than change channels. Rod Serling used to get awfully preachy sometimes on “The Twilight Zone.” This was mighty ham-handed pro-Peter Strzok advocacy, though by CBS, or at least it seemed that way to me.

2. Marital Ethics. This is weird. Ethics Alarms has discussed the unethical conduct of Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, who has become a popular “resistance” and #NeverTrump figure by tweeting virulent criticism of the President, who employs his wife. Now Kellyanne has escalated the problem with an interview criticizing her husband, telling a reporter that his sniping ” is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows.”  Then, according to an AOL report, she asked that her comments be attributed to “a person familiar with their relationship.” The reporter, correctly, refused.

It is a breach of loyalty and respect for one spouse to criticize the other in the news media. It is cowardly and a breach of honesty to criticize one’s spouse and to try to remain unaccountable for it by pretending the critique came from someone else.

What a fun couple! What a strange couple. What an unethical couple… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/15/2018: Rationalizations, Corruption And Mass Impeachment [UPDATED]

Mornin’, all!

1. “That Dog” Ethics. I can think of more accurate and meaner names for Omarosa than “that dog,” but then my vocabulary is larger and more versatile than the President’s…but then, whose isn’t?  I have never heard of “dog” being identified as a racist term—because it isn’t one—though it is a sexist term, often used to denote an unattractive female. Nonetheless, this is presidential language, indeed gutter, low-life language that demeans a President, his office, and the nation he leads when it issues from the White House.

Among the rationalizations that suggest themselves are 1A.  “We can’t stop it” (apparently not, and neither can John Kelly), 2. A. “She had it coming” (nobody short of a traitor or a criminal deserves to be attacked by the President of the United States using such language), 7. “She started it” (which is excusable if you are in kindergarten), 8A. “This can’t make things any worse” (oh, sure it can), 22. “He’s said worse” (true) and many others: I don’t have the energy to go through the whole list.

Of all the dumb, incompetent, self-inflicted impediments to doing the job he was elected to do, the Omarosa fiasco might be the worst and most unforgivable. I’m not sure: I’d have to go through that list, and not only do I not have the energy, I think I’d rather rip my eyelids off.

2. I’m sure glad the new Pope fixed all of this. This story would normally fall into the category of being so obviously unethical that it isn’t worth writing about. Moreover, Ethics Alarms had referenced the Catholic sexual predator scandals in many ways, on many occasions. What distinguishes the latest chapter in this ongoing horror is that the latest revelations are coming after all of the lawsuits, damages, mea culpas and promises of reform, and they did not come from the Church. This means that the cover-up was and is ongoing. It means that even with the thousands of children who were raped and abused that we know about, there were many more. It also means, in all likelihood, that the abuse is continuing. Continue reading