Late-Starting Blogging Ethics Warm-Up, 8/21/2019: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Well, today can’t be worse than yesterday.

That’s something.

1. I got scammed yesterday. Somehow I missed various warnings that were repeated on yesterday, and picked up the phone when caller ID showed “Social Security Administration” and a number I recognized as the agency’s. A recorded message told me that my account had been suspended due to “suspicious action” that had prompted a response by three Federal law enforcement agencies, and if I wanted more information and to talk to an agent, I should push “1.” Like an idiot, I did.  Whoever wrote the scammer’s script knew their stuff. I got a case number, was informed that the discussion was being recorded; the agent spelled his name (Which he said was “Jerry Brown.” He sounded more like Jose Jimenez, but I asked if he was the former governor of California. (He laughed: scammers have senses of humor!) Of course, he had me “confirm” my SS number, name, and mailing address. He read a long statement that he said was an excerpt from the Justice Department warrant shutting down my account. It included two addresses in El Paso that I was asked about. It was at this point that my wife ran into my office like that fat guy runs into the middle of NORAD in “War Games” screaming that the nuclear attack is just a computer simulation, screaming, “Hang up! It’s a scam!” SHE did see the warning earlier in the day. (“NOW you tell me?”)

I reported the call to the Inspector General’s office at Social Security, as a hot line instructed me to do. I was told that, yes, that was the new scam they had wramed about, and that the next step was going to be to ask me to reveal credit card numbers, bank accounts and to send money. “They would ask you to send a money order or Google Gift Card, if possible,” I was told. “Everything you heard is a set-up to get to that point.”

“You know, as stupid as I am, I’m pretty sure that even I would figure out it was a scam if the a Social Security Administration agent asked for a Google Gift card,” I answered. She laughed. I may never laugh again.

2. Nah, the Left isn’t trying to undermine Freedom of Speech!

But wait! There’s more…

  • Here’s New York Governor Andrew Cuomo threatening anyone who says things he doesn’t like: “Don’t you dare liken my family to the family you saw in ‘The Godfather’ or ‘The Sopranos…Don’t you glorify it. And don’t you repeat it, and don’t you institutionalize it.” And what will you and the government you represent do about it, if we “dare,” Governor?

This kind of threat from a government official is a direct attack on free speech. Of course, big brother Andrew was just playing Sonny Corleone to back poor brother Fredo, but the irony of someone talking like a Mafia thug while threatening anyone who makes the comparison is striking.

3.  What courage! What honesty! Several Democratic presidential candidates were asked at the Iowa State Fair if they  denounced the Antifa, which Republican Senators. Ted Cruz (TX) and Bill Cassady (LA) want to have officially labeled as a “domestic terrorist organization.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand answered by saying, “I don’t know who Antifa is.”

She really did. (So did Jay Inslee, but my interest in fringe Democratic candidate pandering extends only so far.)

Gillbrand’s chances at the nomination are nil (GOOD), but this exemplifies what a weasel she is. Either this is a bald faced lie, or she has been asleep for the last three years, which does not speak well of her competence, diligence, or judgement.

Two candidates with even less of a chance than Gillibrand ,Yang and Gabbard, were the only candidates to unequivocally condemn the antifa.

“Why is everyone against antipasto?” Joe Biden asked in response to the question. “I love that stuff! Especially the cheese and those hot peppers! Our great Italian immigrants brought that yummy dish to our nation!”

OK, I’m just kidding.

Sort of.

4. A nice parking lot moment. I was sitting in the car waiting for my wife to pick up a prescription at the local CVS. I opened the windows, and the Beatles Channel burst for the “When I Saw Her Standing There,” one of my all-time favorites, and also as joyful and unrestrained a pop anthem as has ever been recorded. (Ringo is at his best on this one.) I turned up the volume. A wite-haired man in a huge moustache left the CVS and got into the car next to me, and started to pull out. Then he reversed direction and rolled down the window, beaming. “1964!” he said. “Now that’s hard core British invasion! Boy, did that song make us happy. Thank you for that memory…You made my day!”

And he drove off, waving. I will probably never see him again

The Great World War I Dogfight Photo Hoax

You are probably familiar with the famous Cottingley fairy photography hoax (there’s even a movie about it starring Peter O’Toole) in which two young British girls fooled much of the world—and credulous believer in the supernatural Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—into thinking that they had captured photographic proof that the fairy folk of legend existed. That hoax, however, was a mere bagatelle compared to this one.

In the early 1930s, a Mrs. Gladys Maud Cockburne-Lange said she was the widow of a Royal Flying Corps pilot. She presented  stunning photographs of scenes of aerial combat during World War I, apparently taken in the air from a combat biplane. Her late husband, she said, had defied the RFC’s regulations and mounted a camera on his plane, tying its shutter action to his machine gun. The resulting photos were the first  visual representation of British and German planes fighting each other taken from the air. They showed  bi-panes crashing into each other, being shot to pieces, catching on fire, and even pilots falling from the sky.

All previous photos of  WWI aerial “dogfights” had been taken from the ground, so this unexpected  trove of photographs caused a sensation.  The images were rapidly sold to newspapers, galleries, and publishers. Mrs. Cockburne-Langes sold 34 of the photos to one  publisher for  $20,000, a huge sum during the Great Depression, and they were later published in a popular book, “Death in the Air: The War Diary and Photographs of a Flying Corps Pilot.” by an anonymous author.

Unlike the fairy photo hoax, however, the truth about these photos took hald a century to uncover.  In 1984, the Smithsonian Institute received a donation of materials from Wesley David Archer, an American pilot who had served with the RFC and then…wait for it… became a special-effects technician in Hollywood.  Air and Space Museum curator Karl S. Schneide and Peter M. Grosz, an aviation expert, investigated the materials, and discovered  that in  some of the photographs, the wires holding up the model airplanes used to create the illusion of mid-air dogfights had yet to be airbrushed out. The materials also contained a diary entry that revealed the entire scheme. Continue reading

Lunch Time Ethics Appetizer, 7/16/2019: Funny But Wrong, Important But Incompetent, Too Hungry But Still Employed, And Right But Irrelevant

Yum!

It’s ethical dilemma time for a Red Sox fan. I have an opportunity to get two excellent seats for Sunday’s game in Baltimore. It will be about 99 degrees, and the seats are without any protection from old Sol. Loyalty and dedication demand that I go and support the Sox, whom I have not watched in person for two years. Survival and common sense—non-ethical considerations—argue that this would be nuts.

As Jack Benny said when a robber stuck a gun in his ribs and said, “Your money or your life!,” 

1. Funny! Revealing! But still wrong. Campus Reform utilizes a James O’Keefe- inspired wag named  Cabot Phillips whose signature stunt is to get college students to reveal their ignorance and unthinking social justice warrior ways. He typically does this by lying to them, as when he gives them quotes from Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton and tells them that the speaker was Donald Trump. Outrage and hilarity ensues.

This time, he traveled to the University of Miami and presented students with a fake petition demanding that the college remove its famed mascot and team name, “Hurricanes,” because the name might be  offensive and hurtful to students who’ve been “negatively impacted by hurricanes throughout their lives.” Sure enough, many of the students he spoke with agreed withe the premise. Phillips then posted the video of the students making fools of themselves.

Human beings are wired to trust other human beings, and these stunts take advantage of that. Trust is essential to a healthy and cohesive society, and any exploitation of trust, be it for political purposes, financial gain or amusement, damages society.

It’s not worth it. In this case, the same point could be made by asking, “Would you a support an effort to ban the “Hurricanes” nickname as being potentially hurtful to the victims of tropical storms?”

2. “Spinquark” A helpful reader sent me a link to this website, which purports to expose “big tech companies that don’t respect your privacy..that aren’t transparent and consistent in their algorithms and policies or who use their platforms as a type of privatized online government, a government without recourse or representation.” Continue reading

Let’s See How The Ethics Alarms Of Some Advice Columnists Are Doing…

 

Well, let’s see: blog traffic is dead today, like most Sundays,, my in-progress post about the Big Lie that President Trump is a racist needs to be cut approximately in half (though it could easily be twice as long), and my current inventory is made up of either “too silly to write about,” yet more “2016 post election ethics train wreck” insanity, or  stuff that’s two complicated to handle working on half a brain, which is what I woke up with, now seems like as good a time as ever to see how the newspaper advice columnists are doing…

  • Philip Gananes (Social Q’s) advises a teenage son who is embarrassed by his mother’s “R-rated” tattoos “all over her arms and back.” The teen has asked Mom to cover up around his friends, and her reply is if people don’t like her tattoos, that’s their problem.”  He asks the advice columnist if he is out of line.

Gananes says in part, “As an adult, she is free to make her own choices about her body and body art. You’re entitled to have feelings about her tattoos. But to ask her to hide them to save you embarrassment is like asking her to pretend to be a different person — because you’re ashamed of the one she is. That has to sting…The next time one of your pals makes a crack about your mom’s tattoos, say: “I’m not crazy about them, either. But she’s a great person and a terrific mother.” When you can say that and really mean it, Brian, you will be a terrific son.”

The Ethics Alarms verdict:

Whiff!

I was surprised that Gallanes, who is usually on target, would embrace the “that’s just who I am” rationalization. The issue isn’t tattoos, but “R rated” tattoos. “Mom, would you please not fart and belch loudly around my friends?” “That’s just who I am!  If people don’t like it, that’s their problem.”  “Mom, would you stop saying “fuck” and “cock-sucker” when my friends are here? “That’s just who I am!  If people don’t like it, that’s their problem.”  “Mom, would you stop coming on to my male friends?….Mom, would you please stop dressing in a halter top and going bare midriff with your gut hanging over your belt when my friends are here? You’re 56 years old and weigh 212!…Mom, would you please not come out to talk to my friends when you’re drunk”?

That’s just who I am!  If people don’t like it, that’s their problem.”
Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/18/2019: Nauseatingly Unethical

Gooood Morning, and Ick.

1. Illegal immigration battles update:  a) The Empire State’s governor,  Andrew Cuomo,  signed legislation granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants—NBC calls them “undocumented immigrants, which is unethically deceptive —right after the measure passed the state Senate. New York is now the 13th state to take this unconscionable  course, creating an incentive as well as a reward for breaking U.S. laws and defying its borders.

There is no justification for ever rewarding lawbreaking  through public policy, unless the objective is to eliminate the law. Yet the Democrats who rationalize these measures still say that their party doesn’t want open borders.  How long can sentient individuals believe that? The existence of these laws, as well as sanctuary cities, prove otherwise. As idiotic and suicidal as it is, an open borders position should at least be honestly proposed and debated, since that is what progressives are really pushing for. I could have some respect for that approach. This one–lying about the intention while undermining immigration laws–is indefensible as well as cowardly.

b) In that vein, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez described the unavoidable detention facilities at the border as “concentration camps.” “I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that ‘never again’ means something,” she said in an Instagram rant yesterday. Calling the President  a “fascist” (This will be today’s Big Lie entry, as the directory continues), she went on, “I don’t use those words to just throw bombs,” she said, throwing bombs, “I use that word because that is what an administration that creates concentration camps is. A presidency that creates concentration camps is fascist and it’s very difficult to say that. The fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the home of the free is extraordinarily disturbing and we need to do something about it.”

How many blatant misrepresentation and lies are in those statements? Well, how much time  ya got? Detention centers are unavoidable. They aren’t concentration camps, and the Holocaust comparison is ignorant, inflammatory and obnoxious as well as false. (“What happened to people in concentration camps?” asked OtherBill, who flagged this for me). The President is bound by his oath of office to see that the rule of law remains intact, and to protect the Constitution. A growing hoard of illegal immigrants breaching the law and established procedures to get over the border and then vanish into sanctuary cities creates a threat to both.  The Nazis put their own citizens into concentration camps (you know, like FDR did with Japanese Americans? ), and then murdered them. The illegals at the border are not citizens, they are not legally refugees until we say so, and the U.S. has no obligation, legal or otherwise, to accept what has become a cynical excuse to flout our laws. Continue reading

Political Fundraising Frauds And Scams, PART I: The Democrats

There’s nothing much  lower and making your iconic ,84 year old, women’s rights advocate on the Supreme Court look like she’s breached multiple judicial ethics rules, but the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is up to the challenge, A current DSCC fundraising letter, forwarded to me by a friend, does this AND lies to its supporters in the interest of separating them from their money.

  • No, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg” does not “have a powerful message” about this topic. She made that statement more than 20 years ago, before she was “Justice Ginsberg,” when she told Senators that.

I assume that Justice Ginsberg neither gave her permission to be misrepresented  in this fraudulent manner, nor knew the DSCC was planning on making her a party to a scam. She’s old, but she’s not THAT old. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/12/2019: The Tricky Edition

Well, the news from Harvard has me half-headed and depressed, so I think I need to hear Winston Churchill’s favorite hymn…and my Dad’s, too.

1. I think this is known as “a drop in the bucket.”James Bennet, the editorial page editor of The New York Times, announced that he would recuse himself from any involvement in opinion coverage of the 2020 presidential election, after his brother, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. I suppose this is admirable, as it is a standard conflicts of interest move, but I’m sorely tempted to call it grandstanding, and maybe even a diversion. Bennet’s brother candidacy is hardly the only blatant conflict of interest on the times staff that makes its news coverage and punditry suspect. Virtually all of them are Democrats, for example, and progressives. What’s so special about an editor’s brother making a completely futile run for the Presidency? (Quick: if you’re not in Colorado, can you picture his face? Name anything he has accomplished?)

This note from 2017 (in RealClearPolitics) puts the Times editor’s decision in proper perspective:

There is a pretty substantial symbiotic relationship between the political left in Washington and the media. While a few people went from the media to the Bush Administration, it was never like it was with Obama.

Jay Carney went from Time to the White House press secretary’s office. Shailagh Murray went from the Washington Post to the Veep’s office while married to Neil King at the Wall Street Journal. Neil King has left the Wall Street Journal to work for Fusion GPS. Linda Douglass went from ABC News to the White House and then the Atlantic. Jill Zuckman went from the Chicago Tribune to the Obama Administration’s Transportation Department. Douglas Frantz went from the Washington Post to the State Department and Stephen Barr went from the Post to the Labor Department.

Ruth Marcus, who heads the Washington Post Editorial Board, is married to the Obama Administration’s former Federal Trade Commission Chairman. Jonathan Allen had been at the Politico before going to work for Debbie Wasserman Schultz, then back to Politico before going to the left leaning Vox. Now he is at NBC News. Andy Barr worked for the Politico before leaving for Democrat politics. Michael Scherer was at both Salon and Mother Jones before going to Time. Laura Rozen was at Mother Jones and the American Prospect before Foreign Policy magazine. Even Nate Silver had started out at Daily Kos. Then, of course, there is Matthew Dowd, who worked for scores of Democrats before working for George Bush. That, though he later washed his hands of Bush, bought him street credibility with ABC News to become its senior politically analyst alongside George Stephanopoulos, formerly of the Clinton Administration.

It goes on and on in a feedback loop of incestuous politics and worldview shaping. In the Obama Era, it was all about protecting their precious. Now it is about undermining the President.

2.  Puerto Rico Ethics. OK, explain to me, if you can,  why this isn’t incredibly unethical:

From the Times:

The government oversight board leading Puerto Rico through its $123 billion debt crisis sued dozens of banks and financial firms on Thursday, saying that they had helped the island issue $9 billion of debt illegally, and that the people of Puerto Rico should not have to repay it.

The board said the debt should be voided because it exceeded the territory’s constitutional debt limit, and it added that Puerto Rico would try to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in interest and principal payments that it has already made.

The board was joined in the litigation by the official committee representing Puerto Rico’s unsecured creditors in the territory’s bankruptcy-like legal proceedings. Both plaintiffs said they understood they were making an unusual request, but asserted that no other approach would be legal or fair.

“The laws of Puerto Rico limit government borrowing authority for a reason: to prevent the government and its financiers from hitching the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities, as well as taxpayers and legitimate creditors, to a level of debt that cannot be repaid without sacrificing services necessary to maintain the health, safety and welfare of Puerto Rico and its people,” the plaintiffs said in one of several complaints…

What a great theory! The government of Puerto Rico has managed its finances irresponsibly and needs more money. “Hey!” says a brilliant staffer. “There’s a law that limits how much debt we can run up. Let’s borrow billions from banks illegally, then later sue them saying that the debt is invalid because they abetted our illegal act!”

3.  Candidate for the Rationalization #22 Hall of Fame. Rationalization #22 is one of the most cited entries on the Rationalization List, and in my opinion, the worst of them all:

22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. Yet amazingly, this excuse is popular in high places: witness the “Abu Ghraib was bad, but our soldiers would never cut off Nick Berg’s head” argument that was common during the height of the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal. It is true that for most ethical misconduct, there are indeed “worse things.” Lying to your boss in order to goof off at the golf course isn’t as bad as stealing a ham, and stealing a ham is nothing compared selling military secrets to North Korea. So what? We judge human conduct against ideals of good behavior that we aspire to, not by the bad behavior of others. One’s objective is to be the best human being that we can be, not to just avoid being the worst rotter anyone has ever met.

Behavior has to be assessed on its own terms, not according to some imaginary comparative scale. The fact that someone’s act is more or less ethical than yours has no effect on the ethical nature of your conduct. “There are worse things” is not an argument; it’s the desperate cry of someone who has run out of rationalizations.

Now outgoing Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel has boasted in the  New York Times about his success at  introducing  police reform and reducing crime.Emanuel  makes his case in part by comparing Chicago’s crime numbers over the last two years with those of  Baltimore, one of America’s most dangerous, murder-prone, mismanaged cities. He omitted mentioning New York orLos Angeles, perhaps because his city had more murders in 2018 than New York and L.A. combined, though Chicago is smaller then either.

I wonder if the Chamber of Commerce is considering “Less dangerous than Baltimore!” as a promotional slogan. [Pointer: City-journal]