When we last left the Washington Post’s fake quote debacle, the paper had identified Georgia’s Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs as the source of a false account of then-President Trump’s phone call to the state’s investigator into irregularities in the 2020 election. Both Fuchs and Post blogger Erik Wemple were channeling Dan Rather “ethics,” arguing that Fuch’s lie that the President said “Find the fraud!” was inaccurate but true.
Now we learn, after someone checked the record, that at least one of the media sources had in fact unwittingly allowed Fuchs to verify her own lie, and claimed it had received a confirmation of the Post fake news from “a source familiar with the conversation.”
NBC News has confirmed The Post’s characterization of the Dec. 23 call through a source familiar with the conversation. Georgia’s Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs told NBC News: “We can confirm the events in the Washington Post story.”
It is the esteemed veteran ethics warrior Michael West who focused on the question from a practical viewpoint, and, after all, this is a practical ethics blog. In a series of comments he wrote,
I voted for the apology route because there’s no choice between apology and appropriate punishment that incorporates aspects of both. His conduct is gross and indicative of his character, but our society is getting to a point where we don’t allow for any rehabilitation ever. And that’s not a good development.
I had posited to another commenter a public official caught on camera terrorizing his family to counter the argument that it was unfair for this conduct to be made public, and Michael countered,
I think psychologically terrorizing family combined with being a public official changes the scope of invested parties and certainly justifies a larger body of people interested in knowing about the behavior. In this case, while not absolving him of being scrutinized and shunned by an appropriate section of society, “it’s just a dog” does guide the level of this man’s infamy as compared to your hypothetical. But yes, once the video is out the video is out. But, if, after appropriate demonstrations of genuine remorse, repentance and change of character and appropriate consequences are leveled against this man and…such as reduction to mere data entry job…I don’t think I would “take my business elsewhere” if I discovered he happened to be the man entering the data I need entered.
I mean at some point the “shunned by society” is clearly disproportionate…should grocery stores refuse his ability to buy food?
Colin Kaepernick was metaphorically taking a knee on Twitter yesterday. He wrote, referring to the killing of Qassem Soleimani,
Kaepernick’s words and conduct mark him as a narcissistic, ignorant, America-hating, race-baiting idiot. That’s what he is, other than a washed-up pro athlete whose erudition began and ended with a fake college degree (his major, amusingly, was business management) while he prepared to play pro football. His irresponsible kneeling stunt cost the NFL millions, launched multiple divisive offspring, denigrated the nation and its police, and accomplished nothing positive, in large part because it was incoherent.
Never mind: Nike, exhibiting the amoral and ethics-free motivations that have long characterized most corporations, pandered to the woke, hateful and dumb by making Kaepenick the face of its latest “Just do it!” campaign, a 30 year old slogan that was always stupid, even by corporate slogan standards. Admittedly, a stupid slogan is a good bet to appeal to the people who will pay ridiculous amounts of money for sneakers, but even so: Just do what? Just jump out a window? Just set your face on fire? Just sexually assault that attractive woman at work? Just shoot off your mouth about matters you are painfully ill-informed about? Continue reading →
1. What’s going on here? The AP deleted a tweet on September 5 tweet attributing the murders of Israeli athletes to undefined “guerrillas.” Someone complained: it then tweeted, “The AP has deleted a tweet about the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics because it was unclear about who was responsible for the killings and referred to the attackers as guerrillas. A new tweet will be sent shortly.” Finally, this was the tweet decided upon:
“On Sept. 5, 1972, the Palestinian group Black September attacked the Israeli Olympic delegation at the Munich Games, killing 11 Israelis and a police officer. German forces killed five of the gunmen.”
2. Wait: ARE there really “AI ethicists,” or just unethical ethicists grabbing a new niche by claiming that they are any more qualified for this topic than anyone else?
After a rash of tech employee protests, the Defense Department wants to hire an artificial intelligence ethicist. “We are going to bring on someone who has a deep background in ethics,” tag-teaming with DOD lawyers to make sure AI can be “baked in,” Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, who leads the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, told reporters during an Aug. 30 media briefing.
The AI ethical advisor would sit under the JAIC, the Pentagon’s strategic nexus for AI projects and plans, to help shape the organization’s approach to incorporating AI capabilities in the future. The announcement follows protests by Google and Microsoft employees concerned about how the technology would be used — particularly in lethal systems — and questioning whether major tech companies should do business with DOD.
I’m hoping that the Defense Department isn’t doing this, as the article implies, because some pacifist, anti-national defense techies at Microsoft complained. [Pointer: Tom Fuller]
3. Campus totalitarians gonna totalitary! University of Michigan students and alumni aare demanding that the University to sever ties with real estate developer Stephen M. Ross , who is the largest donor in the University’s history. This would presumably include removing his name from Ross School of Business, which he substantially funded. (His name is on other buildings as well) Did Ross rape women willy-nilly? Has he been shown to be racist? No, he held a re-election fundraiser for the President of the United States. Continue reading →
Boy, it seems like everyone’s on strike this week. I can actually see tumbleweeds rolling across the Ethics Alarms traffic stats…
1. Ethics quote of the weekend: Former GOP House member Trey Gowdy, on the astounding gall of James Comey (and Rep Adam Schiff, who apparently lacks the embarrassment gene) to call on Gowdy to apologize for his criticism of Comey’s unquestionably unethical conduct, after it had been thoroughly confirmed by the recent Inspector General’s report. Comey even said Gowdy “defamed” him, an inexcusable hyperbole for a lawyer—even he knows better. Gowdy said,
“I never said Comey would or should go to jail. I’m certainly not going to apologize to anyone who violated FBI and Department of Justice policy, who violated an employment agreement, who shared sensitive information about an ongoing investigation, who sent classified information to an unauthorized person and then had amnesia when the FBI came to his home to try to retrieve government property…I will give him a piece of unsolicited advice: You should aspire to more in life than simply skating by without having been indicted.”
2. What is the proper societal response to this horrible, horrible human being? Because it was her last day on the job and she had given her two weeks notice, Donna Reneau, a 911 operator, decided she would take out all of her grudges and frustrations on emergency callers she didn’t know and was obligated to assist. After all, what could her employers do, fire her?
So, when a flash flood swept away Debbie Stevens’ car, with her in it, a week ago in Fort Smith, Arkansas and she desperately called 911, instead of the trained professional she needed, she reached Reneau, suddenly an avenging operator from Hell.
“Please help me, I don’t want to die!”, Stevens pleads at the start of the 22 minute recorded call. “I can’t swim! I’m scared! I’m going to drown!” Reneau reponded by telling the terrified woman that rescuers would “get there when they get there,” and even told her to “shut up” as Reneau’s hysteria grew.
As the water began filling Stevens’ SUV and she cried, “I’m scared! I’ve never had anything happen to me like this before,” the 911 operator jeered. “Well this will teach you, next time don’t drive in the water,! I don’t see how you didn’t see it, you had to go right over it…”
When police were finally able to reach the swamped car, Debbie Stevens was dead, drowned. Fort Smith Interim Police Chief Danny Baker, in a statement, acknowledged public outrage but said Reneau had not broken any laws nor “violated policy.” THAT’S got to be a mistake, unless the policy in Fort Smith is to razz citizens in crisis.
Now the question is what should be done with, to, and about Reneau. Her performance on the recording is signature significance: nobody behaves like that who is fit for human association. She can’t be trusted as an employee, a neighbor, a colleague or a friend. She lacks empathy and decency; if she isn’t a psychopath or a sociopath, she’s too close for comfort. I don’t want her in my cul de sac…do you? I don’t want her associated with my city, or anything related to me, and that’s how every resident of Fort Smith should feel…and behave toward her accordingly.
And if, because she can’t find a job and no one wants her in their establishment or business—there is no law preventing discrimination against individual blights on society—she ends up living in a shack somewhere in the Okefenokee Swamp with the company of snakes and leeches, if they’ll have her—GOOD.
Be on the look-out! Here she is…
Reneau had her chance at living with civilized Americans, and blew it. [Pointer: Reg Fife.Keep those ethics story tips coming, everybody!] Continue reading →
The title refers to this post, which preceded the surprising development of iconic movie mensch Morgan Freeman being exposed as a workplace harasser (alleged, that is) and suddenly seeing his image degraded to Dirty Old Man, and his movies devalued as “Ew!” Now even his voice-over work is in peril.
A famous scientist is a different kettle of fish, however.
At a genomics meeting at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, the attendees gathered to listen to the keynote speech in an auditorium, where a large painted portrait of scientist James Watson–who lives in Cold Spring Harbor— hung. It was also Watson’s 90th birthday. Eric Lander, the director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, lifted a glass of champagne in hand to toast the famous co-discoverer of the DNA molecule. Watson has “inspired all of us to push the frontiers of science to benefit humankind,” he said in part.
You would think, would you not, that simply recognizing a giant of science and a crucial and transformative figure in these scientists’ field would be able to escape political correctness and social media controversy, wouldn’t you? Nah, why would you think that, silly? This is 21st century America.
So the man has some theories in common with Josef Mengele and David Duke. He also has made some jaw-droppingly sexist comments in his dotage….some that even Morgan Freeman might blanch at.
After the meeting, Caltech’s Lior Pachter led a furious repudiation of Eric Lander’s toast with a series of tweets documenting various sexist and racist comments by Watson. He later told industry reporters, “That people are willing to celebrate this individual in public was a moment of truth for me of what things actually look like in our community and what might be then happening in nonpublic venues behind closed doors when hiring and other important decisions are being made.”
Lander, since scientists have no more backbone than actors, politicians, comedians and bakery owners, immediately capitulated and grovelled for forgiveness. In an email addressed to the Broad Institute community, Lander wrote that his brief comment about Watson being ‘flawed” to introduce the toast “did not go nearly far enough.”
“I reject his views as despicable,” he wrote. “They have no place in science, which must welcome everyone.”
An article about the foofaraw in the The Scientist amply demonstrates why scientists are no more adept at drawing ethics lines than junior high school students. In the various accounts and arguments, Watson’s legitimately offensive statements are conflated without distinction with more ambiguous ones. For example, he once said, “Should you be allowed to make an anti-Semitic remark? Yes, because some anti-Semitism is justified. Just like some anti-Irish feeling is justified. If you can’t be criticized, that’s very dangerous. You lose the concept of a free society.” What is that? Is he talking about criticism of Israel’s policies, or is he supporting the First Amendment? As I reviewed the debate over Watson along with his own statements, one conclusion was unavoidable. A lot of scientists, including Watson, don’t communicate very clearly. Is that a surprise? They didn’t major in Literature and English for a reason. They are about as skilled at clear, unambiguous expression as I am at quantum physics. Continue reading →
This is the second Comment of the Day on the post about the Alexandria, VA gym that kicked white supremacist, aka “Nazi”, Richard Spencer out because a Georgetown professor found his presence there, in town, in the universe, offensive.
Here is Extradimensional Cephalopod’s Comment of the Day on the post, Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: Old Town Sport And Health in Alexandria,VA. Why? Because White Nationalists Have A Right To Work Out Too”:
Stipulated: This person believes things that we think are wrong, and we want him, ideally, to stop believing them.
I assert that shunning him is counterproductive with regards to getting him to stop believing these things. He is almost certainly aware of the public opinion of Nazis, and he evidently doesn’t care, so peer pressure is already shown not to work. Besides, truth is not determined by a majority vote, so if we act like our numbers are the major argument against the Nazi ideology, or whatever similar ideology this person subscribes to, it not only weakens our position in his eyes, but also leads us to forget the real reasons for what we believe.
Dani Mathers is a former Playmate of the Year. On the left below, you see Dani as she appears to unknowing bystanders; on the right, the oil portrait of herself that she keeps in the attic.
Befitting the character and soul accurately portrayed by the portrait, the skin-deep beauty took a cellphone photo of an unaware naked female member of LA Fitness in the gym’s shower. Then Dani posted the pic on Snapchat with the caption, “If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either.”
The actual photo does not have the victim’s body blotted out.
Said LA Fitness of Dani:”Her behavior is appalling and puts every member’s privacy at risk. We have handled this internally and also notified the police.”
Of course cell phone photography is prohibited in locker rooms. Doing what Mathers did may also be against the law.
Caught with her ugly soul exposed to the world, the model reverted to full Pazuzu mode. Pazuzu was the demon who made poor Linda Blair say all those horrible things in “The Exorcist,” and the Pazuzu Excuse is what Ethics Alarms calls apologies for horrible statements or conduct that include such incredible statements as “Those statements do not express my real beliefs,” “That doesn’t reflect who I am,” and the always popular “That wasn’t me.”Continue reading →
Let me make the ultimate conclusion of this post immediate and prominent:
The dog rescuer,Michael Hammons, is admirable and ethical in every way. Elantra Cunningham, the irresponsible and ungrateful woman who placed the dog in peril and had Hammons arrested for rescuing it is unethical and shockingly lacking in civilized values.
Let us all henceforth regard them and treat them appropriately according to their conduct in this matter.
Now the details.
Over the weekend, Desert Storm veteran Michael Hammons saw a small dog locked in a parked car, with its windows closed, on a sweltering day in Athens, Georgia. The dog, an Australian terrier mix, I think, was panting, and Harmon correctly concluded that it was minutes away from death. He smashed in the windows of the car with the footrest of his wife’s wheelchair.
22-year-old Elantra Cunningham, owner of both the dog and the car, insisted that a police officer arrest Hammons for trespass and destroying private property. “It was not an arrest made by the deputy’s own volition,” Chief Deputy Lee Weems explained. “The woman pressed charges for breaking out the window of the car, and the deputy did what he had to do.”
Animal control cited Elantra for leaving her dog in a hot vehicle. Hammons spent the night in jail.
Brian Banks, the once-promising high school athlete whose life was upended by a classmate’s false rape accusation that sent him to prison for five years, is now back on his feet, working for the National Football League, and, by the evidence of his recent profile in the New York Daily News, impressively beyond anger and bitterness. He does tell a stunning story, however, of a day in 2011 when he received an unexpected Facebook friend request from Wanetta Gibson, the woman who, for no apparent reason, did this terrible thing to him. Banks says that she wrote…
“I was hoping we could let bygones be bygones. I was immature back in the day, but I’m much more mature now. Let’s hang out. I’d love to see you. I’ve seen your picture on Facebook. You look real good. I would love to hook up.”
I’ve been trying to think up a fanciful equivalent for this “I know I tried to wreck your life, now will you please let me back into it?” request. Would it be John Hinckley Jr. asking President Ronald Reagan for a job? Edward Snowden replying to an NSA RFP? Maybe V. Stiviano asking Donald Sterling for a job recommendation? I’m not sure any of them would be as bad. “Let bygones be bygones.” Among other things, what an insult this is. How stupid does Gibson think her victim is?
Then there is this chilling statement: “I was immature back in the day, but I’m much more mature now.” Translation: “Yes, now I’m a fully mature vicious sociopath. Don’t you want to renew our relationship?”
These are the situations where someone inevitably argues that Americans believe in redemption, and when I inevitably respond, “You are out of your friggin’ mind.” Some people, not many, but some, are bad to the bone, and the social pressure to forgive the worst of the worst—Did you read the words “I’m sorry” anywhere in that request?—is a trap, set up by those who won’t have to live with the consequences of another betrayal of trust.