Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

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

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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

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/26/18: Ominous Portents

Good Morning!

This day in ethics: in 1908: the FBI was founded as the the Office of the Chief Examiner, and re-named a year later. Few American institutions have as mixed an ethical legacy, and the cognitive dissonance continues. In 1984, one of the most evil men in U.S. history died, though his exploits have inspired as many works of fiction and entertainment as many a more virtuous figure. Ed Gein, the serial killer who was the inspiration for “Psycho,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “The Silence of the Lambs” and many others novels and films,  and about half the episodes on the long-running CBS drama “Criminal Minds, finally went to his maker. The identity of this monster’s “maker” is a matter of debate.

1. Baseball ethics and a troubling societal blind spot.  The American League Rangers finally demoted struggling outfielder Delino DeShields to Triple-A Round Rock on Tuesday. The real question should be what too them so long. Despite playing solid defense in the outfield, DeShields, 25, has hit just .204  in 322 plate appearances this season with an  On base+Slugging total of .570, which is, for you sad baseball unenlightened, objectively horrible. Any OPS under .700 is unacceptable in the major leagues.

Yet an unnamed Rangers player told reporters that such demotions don’t breed a winning culture and instead breed complacency. Funny, I always thought complacency was when an organization just accepted sub-par performance rather than moving to address it. Yes, even in baseball, the toxic idea that employees have a right to their jobs no matter how well or poorly they perform them is on the rise, and with it support for America’s socialists. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/28/18: Ingratitude, Dishonesty, Hypocrisy, Speech Suppression And Character Assassination…Is This A Great Country, Or What?

1. An especially despicable example of airbrushing history. It’s done. Yawkey Way, the street bordering Boston’s iconic Fenway Park that was renamed in honor of the owner of the Red Sox and the park following his death in 1977, has been returned to its old name of Jersey Street. The team petitioned for the change, an example of ingratitude and willful betrayal seldom seen in a public institution. A rough equivalent would be the University of Virginia banning the name of Thomas Jefferson. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Boston Red Sox franchise owes it esteemed (and profitable) status in Boston’s culture to Tom Yawkey, who owned the team for almost half a century. He has a plaque in baseball’s Hall of Fame, too. But Yawkey, who was born in the 19th Century was a man of his time, and was late accepting the need to integrate baseball, like every other baseball team owner until 1947, when the Dodgers broke the color line. By the final decade of Yawkee’s ownership, he had certainly learned his lesson: his team had the longest stretch of excellence since Babe Ruth was sold, led by such black stars as George Scott, Reggie Smith, Jim Rice, Cecil Cooper, and Luis Tiant.

Never mind. Last year, Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones triggered a public relations crisis for the team when he claimed that he had heard racial slurs from some fans in the centerfield bleachers. (I don’t doubt him.) The easy solution was to throw Tom Yawkey’s memory under the metaphorical bus, since purging his name (his wife, Jean Yawkey, also owned the team after her husband’s death) from the franchise he built. It proves that John Henry is “woke,” you see.How cynical and cowardly.

(My previous posts on this topic are here.)

2. Another one bites the dust. Good. Representative Patrick Meehan (R-PA) had already announced that he wouldn’t be running again after it was revealed that he had paid taxpayer funds to a sexual harassment victim on his staff,  abruptly resigned yesterday to avoid a House ethics investigation. “While I do believe I would be exonerated of any wrongdoing, I also did not want to put my staff through the rigors of an Ethics Committee investigation and believed it was best for them to have a head start on new employment rather than being caught up in an inquiry,”  Meehan said in his disingenuous statement, insulting anyone who read it,“And since I have chosen to resign, the inquiry will not become a burden to taxpayers and committee staff.”

Riiiight.

Meehan also said he would payback  $39,000 to the Treasury to reimburse the cost of what he described as a “severance payment,” as in “negotiated damages for workplace misconduct that he didn’t want to have made public.”

Say what you will about #MeToo, it has chased a lot of public trust-abusing creeps out of Congress. Continue reading

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Saturday Evening Ethics Update, 4/14/2018: Important Women Die Too, Fundraising Insanity, And Campus Segregation Is “In” Again

Good evening, everyone!

(This morning was completely unmanageable…)

1. This day in history..April 14 belongs with December 7, November 22 and September 11 as the four evil dates in American history, for Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on this day in 1865, yanking the course of events into a new riverbed. Who knows where we might be today if Booth had been foiled?

2. Oh, yeah, themThe New York Times is suddenly including more obituaries of women in its pages, the result of a ridiculously late realization last month that the paper’s  stories of death warranting special note had been overwhelmingly male from the paper’s birth. In March, the paper confessed,

Since 1851, The New York Times has published thousands of obituaries: of heads of state, opera singers, the inventor of Stove Top stuffing and the namer of the Slinky. The vast majority chronicled the lives of men, mostly white ones.

Charlotte Brontë wrote “Jane Eyre”; Emily Warren Roebling oversaw construction of the Brooklyn Bridge when her husband fell ill; Madhubala transfixed Bollywood; Ida B. Wells campaigned against lynching. Yet all of their deaths went unremarked in our pages, until now.

It is a welcome reform. The Times is also looking back over history to remedy the past bias and injustice, launching a special project to publish, a bit late, many of those obituaries that it had failed to write when remarkable women died. You can find the latest additions here.

3. What’s going on here? Wall Street billionaire Stephen A. Schwarzman agreed to give $25 million to the Abington, Pennsylvania high school he attended  in the 1960s. The money would finance  a massive upgrade in the facility. The school, in return, agreed to name the school in his honor, hang a portrait of him in the building, honor his twin brothers elsewhere in the school, and give him the right to review the project’s contractors and approve a new school logo.

Then the deal was announced. Local residents appeared at a standing-room-only, five-hour school board meeting last week to protest.  There was an online petition (naturally), and calls for school officials to resign.  And what was it about the quid pro quo that the people objected to? The quote from Robert Durham, who works at the local Chevrolet dealership and sent two sons through Abington Senior High School is explanatory as any:

“I just think there’s too much influence about big money, Wall Street money, in our society,” he told reporters.

Oh. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/20/18: Life, Death, Fairness, Dissonance And Sanity

1 Let’s see more of such Ethics Heroes, please… In Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania,  John Orsini, has gone to court to stop his ex-wife from allowing their son, 17-year-old Antonio, from playing high school football in his senior year. Antonio has already suffered at least three concussions. Antonio’s mother and John’s ex-wife, Janice, says that her son understands the risks, and that doctors have OK’d his continued play.

But he doesn’t understand the risks—apparently neither do those doctors—and he is considered a minor under the law because teenagers are prone to poor reasoning and impulsive decisions…especially when they have incipient brain damage.

CNN is eager to hear his position on gun control though. But I digress..

Says the CBS news story: “John contends that after these concussions and sub-concussive hits, medical research shows that Antonio would be in grave danger if he continues to play football.” He contends? There is no contention: that is fact.

“I’m trying to save his future. I’m trying to save his life,” he said of his son.

Janice and her attorney issued a statement, saying in part,

“The mother and her 17-year-old son have reasonably relied upon the input and opinions of his treating physicians and medical providers, and have considered the state mandated safety and concussion protocols followed by the school district, in deciding whether it was appropriate for him to continue to participate in football.”

John believes the court will side with him.  “If you have a significant indication that the child is being placed in harm’s way, and it’s brought to court to protect the child, it’s the court obligation to do so,” he says. I wouldn’t be so sure. This is football country, and football fanatics are in denial. They’ll get thousands of children’s brains injured before they are through.

“I’m hopeful that my son will just go on, get a good education and lead a healthy life. That’s all I want,” said John, whose other two sons no longer speak to him over this conflict.

Good luck.

Let’s hope Anthony is given then chance to grow smarter than his mother.

2. Let’s see, which Trump Derangement news media story should I post today? Every day, every single day, I have literally dozens of biased, vicious, stupid, unprofessional and blatantly partisan mainstream media news reports and pundit excesses to flag as unethical. Here, for example, is a New York Times columnists advocating for Rex Tillerson to betray all professional ethics, confidentiality, trust and responsibility by revealing everything he heard or saw as Secretary of State that could undermine Trump’s administration. It’s called, “Burn it down, Rex.”

Let me repeat: for journalists to set out to intentionally poison public opinion against the elected President of the United States by manipulation and hostile reporting is unethical and dangerous. This conduct has been the single largest ethics breach in the culture for more than a year, and one of the worst in U.S. history. In strenuously condemning journalism’s abdication of its duty to support democratic institutions and to remain objective and responsible, I am not defending Donald Trump. I am attempting to defend the Presidency itself.

Today I pick…this: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/18/17

It’s an All-Fred Morning!

Every day, Ethics Alarms head scout Fred sends me multiple suggestions for posts from he finds heaven-know-where. Even when I can’t fit them in, they often serve as references and always are enlightening.

1. I suspect this belongs in the Polarized Nation of Assholes files: For two years, since he returned from service combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lieutenant Commander Joshua Corney, has kept his promise to salute his fallen comrades in arms by playing a recording of Taps every evening before 8:00 p.m on his five-acre property in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. It takes 57 seconds. It does not exceed volume limits. My dog barks longer that that every night after midnight when we put him out. Nonetheless, some of Corney’s neighbors have filed objections with the  borough. Now Glen Rock, which allows church bells to ring, among other sounds, ordered Corney to limit the playing of taps to Sundays and what it termed “flag holidays.” Each violation of the borough’s order would bring a criminal fine of 300 dollars. But the borough’s enforcement action involves two big constitutional no-nos: the heckler’s veto and content-based censorship. The borough is relying on a nuisance ordinance that prohibits sound that “annoys or disturbs” others, and just one individual annoyed by the somber Civil War era bugle solo is enough to deliver a “heckler’s veto.’

The ACLU is on the case, and backing Corney as he fights the action. It writes,

“If a “heckler” could shut down anyone who said or played something that annoyed or offended them by complaining to government officials, freedom of speech would be no more. For more than 75 years, it has been black letter First Amendment law that the government cannot censor speech simply because it is not universally appreciated.

Moreover, the borough cannot use its vague nuisance ordinance to single out only Lt. Commander Corney’s musical expression for censorship from the range of sounds that are part of the borough’s regular sonic landscape. The borough has not ordered Lt. Commander Corney to lower the volume of taps or claimed he has violated a noise-level ordinance.

And it could not claim such a violation because the recording neither exceeds any established noise levels nor is it as loud as many other sounds the borough tolerates — including many sounds that do not communicate a message, like lawnmowers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and vehicles. Censoring clearly protected expression, like taps, for being too loud, while allowing louder sounds that carry no constitutionally protected message turns the First Amendment on its head.”

Bingo. It is in cases like these that the American Civil Liberties Union shows how essential its role is in protecting the freedoms here that are so frequently under attack.

2. I was surprised when I learned some time ago that undercover police officers used to routinely have sexual relations with prostitutes before arresting them (homosexuals too, when they werebeing persecuted and  prosecuted). Just two months ago, Michigan became the last state in the U.S. to make it illegal for police officers to have sexual intercourse with prostitutes in the course of an under-cover (or covers) sting. Now Alaska wants to go an additional step, banning “sexual contact” with “sex workers” entirely. This could be mere touching or kissing. Advocates of Alaska’s House Bill 73 and Senate Bill 112 argue that police catching sex workers in the act by engaging with them sexually is a human rights violation, and Amnesty International has made an official statement supporting that claim: “Such conduct is an abuse of authority and in some instances amounts to rape and/or entrapment.” Police, quite logically, point out that the bill would make  successful undercover investigations impossible, which is, of course, the whole idea.

“[The prostitutes] ask one simple question: ‘Touch my breast.’ OK, I’m out of the car. Done. And the case is over,” Anchorage Police Department Deputy Chief Sean Case told the Alaska Dispatch News in a hypothetical example. “If we make that act (of touching) a misdemeanor, we have absolutely no way of getting involved in that type of arrest.”

Ethics Alarms is anti-prostitution. As with recreational drug use and probably polygamy, prostitution, which harms families and the young women and men exploited and abused to support it, is almost certainly on the road to legalization. Government won’t protect vital society ethics norms, but it will order you to buy health insurance because it’s for your own good. Continue reading

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