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Afternoon Ethics Pick-Me-Up, 8/14/2018: Fools, Knaves And Hypocrites

Good afternoon!

1. Unethical tweet of the week, right wing nut division: Jerry Falwell Jr, who heads Liberty University. The acorn that didn’t fall far from the tree tweeted:

Are there any grownups w/ integrity left in the DOJ? When I was a kid, I watched Repubs join Dems to force Nixon out. Now Dems won’t join Repubs to lock up Comey, Lynch, Ohr, Rosenstein, Strzok, , & maybe even despite damning evidence!

Here’s an ethics tip for college age students and their parents: if the leader of a school has this tenuous a grip on basic Constitutional law, pay tuition to some place, any place, else.

2. Then we have the left-wing Pro Publica, which is trying to fuel the desperate Democratic efforts to find dirt on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and thus issued this…

3.  Which political party is more deranged today? Well, an  Ipsos public opinion survey claims that 43 % of self-identified Republicans agreed that “the President should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.”  Only 36% of surveyed Republicans disagreed with giving a President the power to shut down news outlets like CNN and The Washington Post.

First of all, this primarily raises legitimate concerns regarding the educational level and intelligence quotient of Americans.  99% of those polled could advocate repealing the First Amendment, just as a majority could proclaim its belief that the national language ought to be Finnish. It’s not happening. Professor Turley’s take-away is that “Trump has truly and irrecoverably changed the party and much of the country . . . and, in this case, not for the better.” Baloney. The fact that journalists have exposed themselves as being partisan operatives uninterested in conveying facts to the public in a fair and unbiased manner has changed the public perception of the value of the news media, and not for the better. Whether the change is “irrecoverable” depends on whether American journalism sees the dangerous error of its path over the past several decades, and becomes trustworthy again. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/13/2018: Rally? What Rally? Bias? What Bias? Texts? What Texts? Spy? What Spy?

Huh. I didn’t know that ZZ Top were white supremacists!

Good Morning!

I just know this week will be better than last week…

…though these items certainly don’t inspire hope.

1. The dangers of “future news” That huge, scary rally in Washington where the nation’s capital was going to be descended-upon by all those white supremicists activated by Donald Trump’s election and rhetoric to celebrate last year’s Charlotteville riots? About two-dozen people showed up. I talked to friends in the District who said they were terrified of the rally. CNN, the networks, the Times and the Post had all headlined this major, major event, which would show just how much racism there is in America. This was fake news, straight up. It was imaginary, “future news,” a headline about what was going to happen because the mainstream news media wanted it to happen. Then they could bleat out the narrative that President Trump was inspiring racists to come out of the woodwork. Maybe someone would get killed, like in Charlottesville! Well, they could hope.

What investigation went into the determination that there was going to be a huge gathering of racists in D.C.? Clearly, not enough. 24? 24??? I could set up a rally of locals who think Gilbert and Sullivan should be taught in the schools that is five times that with some phone calls, texts and a Facebook post. It would take me a couple of hours. Yet the Times put the inevitability of this massive white supremacy rally on its front page. “After weeks of hype…” wrote the Times. Weeks of hype by the press.

Incompetent, dishonest, irresponsible. You know. As usual.

It is worth mentioning that the counter-demonstration to the imaginary demonstration was many times larger than two-dozen people.

2. In related news about non-news...The Boston Globe has been contacting newspaper editorial boards and proposing a “coordinated response” to President Trump’s criticism of the news media, especially his controversial “enemy of the people” rhetoric. “We propose to publish an editorial on August 16 on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press and ask others to commit to publishing their own editorials on the same date,” The Globe said in its pitch to fellow papers.

Talk about bad timing! We just had the explosion of the fake racist rally story. We have the Manafort trial being featured on the front page of most newspapers like it’s the O.J. trial, when  the majority of public has no idea who the man is and the trial details have nothing to do with anything newsworthy. We have the mainstream news media giving the claims of a reality show villain the kind of attention John Dean received for his Watergate testimony while it makes sure nobody knows that a Chinese spy infiltrated the staff of a powerful U.S. Senator for 20 years. Nah, the news media isn’t the enemy of the public! It just deliberately abdicates its duty to inform the public objectively , is engaged in a coordinated effort to bring down an elected President, has abused its First Amendment-bestowed immunity from the consequences of its conduct, and is working to divide the nation to the point where it cannot function. That’s all. None of this is good for the people or the nation, but that doesn’t make those intentionally harming both enemies, exactly….although off the top of my head,  I can’t think of a more accurate word for it. Continue reading

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The Ethics Conundrum Of The Undisciplined Mind: What Does The President Mean When He Says He Mispoke?

Today President Trump said he had “realized that there is a need for some clarification” regarding his remarks yesterday.

“In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t” The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative.”

Contradicting what most critics took to be his message yesterday,  the President proclaimed his “full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies,” adding,

“I have felt very strongly that while Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying that — and I’ve said this many times — I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place.”

Knowing what we know about Donald Trump—I’m not speaking here to the anti-Trump unhinged, who “know” that he is a fascist, colluding, cheating autocratic moron menace who stole the election and who is only President to con the nation and raid its coffers—what does all that mean? What does it mean when someone who thinks and speaks—and acts— like Trump does says, ‘I didn’t mean what I said’?

Not only don’t I have any idea, I don’t think it is possible to know. I see the following possibilities: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/5/18: Dinosaurs, Savages, And Censors

Good Morning!

1. Jurassic World II. I can’t honestly call this ethics, but as I posted about the film’s bad reviews earlier, I feel obligated to close the loop. I saw the movie last night, and as I knew I would, enjoyed it thoroughly, beginning to end. To those who did, I feel a bit the way I do about people who don’t like baseball, Westerns, Gilbert & Sullivan, and the United States of America: I’m sorry for you. This one even has a moment that seems to be written for those who don’t to help explain those who do, when Bryce Dallas Howard talks about her sense of wonder the first time she saw a dinosaur. Of course, the original movie better expressed the same sense of wonder in the iconic scene where Sam Neill is struck dumb by his first sight of  the brachiosaurus (and the lawyer’s only reaction is “We’re going to make a fortune with this place!”), but the Howard’s speech is no less an accurate description of how we dinosaur-lovers feel when we see these creatures on-screen.

No, it’s not the equal of the first “Jurassic World,” but it is excellent for the sequel, and better, I think, than either sequel to “Jurassic Park.” A vicious mutant raptor chasing a child through Victorian mansion is the stuff of nightmares, and a new concept; the dinosaur auction to a bunch of international bad-guys was a weird cross between “Goldfinger” and “Taken,” and several scenes, including the dinosaur stampede away from the erupting volcano, were worth seeing the film all by themselves. There were also more “Awww!” scenes than in all of the previous films combined: Chris Pratt’s home movies of bonding with the raptor babies; a mother triceratops and her adorable little one, and a haunting evocation of on of Charles Addams. best, but least funny, cartoons. I’ll leave it at that.

My biggest complaints would be that there was not enough of a role for the T-Rex, some of the deliberate homages to the earlier films were ham-handed and predictable, and that there was a fatal decision by one of the villains that made no sense to me at all. These flaws were more than compensated for by the star turn of the Pachycephalosaurus,  a species that had only cameos in “The Lost World” and “Jurassic World,” a terrific fight between a new species in the series, a Carnotaurus, and a Styracosaurus, (one of my mother’s best ceramic models in my collection) and several laugh-out loud moments authored by the dinosaurs. The film’s ending also sets up a final installment that should conclude the series, unless a “Jurassic Planet” is in the cards.

There are some ethics issues in the film, as in all of the films: respect for life, cloning, betrayal, and accountability for unforeseeable consequences. Michael Crichton had no qualms in his original novel with solving the problem of living dinosaurs by nuking the whole park, but Spielberg’s ending was better.

2. An Ethics Quiz That Is Too Minor To Justify A Whole Post. Do you find anything wrong with Donald Trump Jr. parading his new girlfriend in front of cameras at the White House before he is even divorced from his current wife? Writes Ann Althouse, “He and his wife have 5 children. He should be more discreet. Which, I know, obviously doesn’t sound like a Trump concept.” Let’s have a poll!

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/3/2018: Remember Pickett’s Charge! Edition [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. “General, I have no division!” At about 2:00 pm, , July 3, 1863, by the little Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee launched his last, desperate and audacious stratagem to win the pivotal battle of the American Civil War, a massed Napoleonic assault on the entrenched Union position on Cemetary Ridge, with a “copse of trees” at its center. The doomed march into artillery and rifle fire, across an open field and over fences, lasted less than an hour. The Union forces suffered 1,500 casualties,, while at least 1,123 Confederates were killed on the battlefield, 4,019 were wounded, and nearly 4000 Rebel soldiers were captured. Lee’s bold stroke had failed spectacularly, and would go down in history as one of the worst military blunders of all time.

That verdict is debatable, but this is not: Pickett’s Charge, as the attack came to be called, holds as many fascinating ethics lessons as any event in American history, and this blog has returned to it for enlightenment time and time again.

There is the matter of the duty to prevent a disaster that you know is going to occur, the whistleblower’s duty, and the theme of Barbara Tuchman’s work, “The March of Folly.” There was Robert E. Lee’s noble and unequivocal acceptance of accountability for the disaster, telling the returning and defeated warriors that “It is all my fault.” The defeat also turned on moral luck, with many unpredictable factors, such as the intervention of a brave and intrepid Union cavalry officer named George Armstrong Custer, who also teaches that our greatest strengths and most deadly flaws are often the same thing, and that the Seven Enabling Virtues can be employed for both good and wrongful objectives.  Pickett’s Charge shows how, as Bill James explained, nature conspires to make us unethical.

Pickett’s Charge also teaches that leadership requires pro-active decision-making, and the willingness to fail, to be excoriated, to be blamed, as an essential element of succeeding. Most of all, perhaps, it illustrates the peril’s of hindsight bias, for without a few random turns of fate, Robert E. Lee’s gamble might have worked.

2. Funny how if you continually denigrate someone based on his color and gender, he will eventually stop respecting you. Stanford University has established a Men and Masculinities Project  that aims to help men develop “healthy and inclusive male identities”—because they obviously don’t have those now.  “We acknowledge that male identity is a social privilege, and the aim for this project is to provide the education and support needed to better the actions of the male community rather than marginalize others,” anti-man-splains Stanford’s gurus. Stanford, of course, is not alone in pushing the ubiquitous progressive narrative that men are toxic, along with whites, making white men the worst of all. Perhaps this might explain why support for Democrats among young white men is falling fast.

Nah, it must be because they are sexist and racist…

3. But..but…settled science! The Economist estimates that as many as 400,000 papers published in supposedly peer-reviewed journals were not peer-reviewed at all. Scientists, scholars and academics are no more trustworthy or alien to unethical conduct than anyone else, but because most of the public (and journalists) don’t  understand what they write about and have to accept what they claim on faith, they are presumed to be trustworthy.

Think of them as the equivalent of auto mechanics. Continue reading

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An Ethics Alarms Future News Special, A Looming Ethics Test…And A Poll

There has been a regrettable proliferation of the sub-category of fake news that I call “future news” since the news media fully embraced “the resistance” after the election of Donald Trump. Future news had stuck its camel’s nose into the tent of real news as journalists started reporting climate change predictions as facts rather than speculation. Now future news is standard fare, even in headlines. “Cohen Ready To Flip On Trump” was popular today. “North Korea May Not End All Nuclear Activity.” Of course, the Mueller investigation has created endless future news, and the mainstream media has worked over time to make the public think that the smoking gun that would impeach Trump was just about to be revealed.

I detest future news, and most of the time, it is unethical, a slimy way for journalists to use innuendo and speculation as a substitute for reality. See, news is what has happened or is happening. Future news increasingly is what reporters want to happen, which is generally “bad things involving Donald Trump.”

Just for giggles, though, let’s play the future news game. Here’s my headline:

Democrats May Fail To Take Over House, Lose Seats In Senate. Continue reading

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Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, “Welcome July And Hope It’s Better Than June” Edition [UPDATED]

Happy July!

(On an especially dead weekend on Ethics Alarms. But ethics never sleeps…)

1. But I thought everyone wants open borders! The Harvard-Harris poll on illegal immigration, North Korea, trade and tariffs, and the Russia investigation certainly isn’t reflected in the news reports. But then, we can’t trust polls, and we certainly can’t trust Harvard.

I suppose the theory behind yesterday’s protests is that the squeaky, angry wheel gets the insane national policy. My guess is that this particularly squeaky, angry wheel  gets a Republican Congress.

2. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! (Cont.)  Yesterday’s New York Times op-ed page managed to contain two of the more outrageous anti-Trump screed of recent vintage. One, by Dave Eggers, attacks “the cultural vacuum in the White House.” I suggest reading this one as a template for anti-Trump propaganda, and the kind of dishonesty underlying so much of it.  He begins,

Since his inauguration in January 2017, there have been no official concerts at the White House (the Reagans had one every few weeks). No poetry readings (the Obamas regularly celebrated young poets). The Carters began a televised series, “In Performance at the White House,” which last aired in 2016, where artists as varied as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Patricia McBride performed in the East Room. The Clintons continued the series with Aretha Franklin and B. B. King, Alison Krauss and Linda Ronstadt.

But aside from occasional performances by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, the White House is now virtually free of music. Never have we had a president not just indifferent to the arts, but actively oppositional to artists. Mr. Trump disparaged the play “Hamilton” and a few weeks later attacked Meryl Streep.

Normally, this is where I’d quit reading—when the writer deliberately distorts the facts and employs deceit to make his case. The President disparaged the cast of “Hamilton,” not the show itself, after its performers unethically ambushed Vice President Mike Pence, who was then only another audience member, and should have been respected as one. I have launched (let’s see) three theater companies and two professional performing groups, and I disparaged that cast as well. Meryl Streep, the well-known pal of Harvey Weinstien, went on national television and gratuitously insulted the President, who does not turn the other cheek. He didn’t  attack Streep because she is an artist. He attacked her for being a grandstanding partisan shill.

He engages in this kind of deceit throughout, such as when he writes, in conclusion,

“Admittedly, at a time when Mr. Trump’s policies have forcibly separated children from their asylum-seeking parents — taking the most vulnerable children from the most vulnerable adults — the White House’s attitude toward the arts seems relatively unimportant. But with art comes empathy. It allows us to look through someone else’s eyes and know their strivings and struggles. It expands the moral imagination and makes it impossible to accept the dehumanization of others. When we are without art, we are a diminished people — myopic, unlearned and cruel.”

Funny: art hasn’t made Eggers less dishonest and deceitful. The illegal immigrants at the border were not “asylum-seeking,” because they didn’t follow the procedures for seeking asylum. They were apprehended foreign citizens trying to sneak into our country and claiming that they were seeking asylum to hamstring border enforcement,  and were using their children as human shields, placing the Trump administration into the Catch-22 of either waiving the laws or giving open-borders activists a club to beat it with—as the Times knows, since it has explained this dilemma itself. To attribute  pure law enforcement decisions to the dearth of piano and cello concerts in the White House is forced even by the Times’ standards. Mostly Eggers is just revealing the classist snobbery underlying much of the elitist attacks on President Trump.

As an artist, and someone who has worked in the arts and indeed would have made it my career if it were financially feasible, I could not care less how many concerts a President hosts, or how many artists he fetes. I want him to do his job, and I don’t particularly care to be paying for his glitterati  nights, either.

A President’s taste in art and culture doesn’t affect the public one whit. I don’t think I would pay a dime to hear any of President Obama’s hip-hop artists or rappers. Meanwhile, Clinton having “Aretha Franklin and B. B. King, Alison Krauss and Linda Ronstadt” at the White House didn’t make him empathetic enough not to exploit Monica Lewinsky. Jack Kennedy was a  stone-cold sociopath: what did he learn from dining with “Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Robert Lowell, Geraldine Page and George Balanchine”?

Hitler loved fine culture so much he had his Nazis steal thousands upon thousands of invaluable works of art across Europe, because he wanted a new explosion of creativity among the German people. Boy, if that made the Germans less “cruel,” imagine what they might have been like without their art!

And Nixon played the piano! Continue reading

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