Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/19: Fake News, Twin Ethics, Bonnie And Clyde, And A Deadly Date

Good morning!

I would give you all a big hug, a squeeze, and maybe a sniff, but that’s not me...

1. This is fake news, you know. Today’s headline on the Times front page: “Barr Understated Mueller Findings, Some on Team Say.” Naturally, “some” are never identified. All this headline means is that some involved with the Mueller investigation wouldn’t have summarized the report as the AG did,  and some had a different opinion, and, presumably, some disagreed with them. Who didn’t assume this? This isn’t news. This is just pot-stirring and innuendo in service of a political agenda. Now if the Times’ sources went on the record and explained what findings they are referring to and why, that would be news. This isn’t.

2. Maybe just Ick, not ethics, but still, ICK! Kendall Jenner, who is famous exclusively because her half-sister sister bared all in a sex video that launched the Kardashian reality show empire, made $26.5 million for just 53 sponsored Instagram posts, according to Captiv8, a marketing firm that connects brands to “social media influencers.” Let’s see: is there anything wrong with Jenner letting companies pay her to send out social media hype? As long as she isn’t lying in her posts, I guess not...but if she becomes part of a fraud without doing her due diligence,  its not just unethical, it’s illegal. Is there anything unethical about paying a narcissistic waste of space who would lose a game of Scrabble to a sea sponge millions to promote a company’s product or event? No, if it works. Is there anything unethical about trusting a barely-educated celebrity because of her looks? Unethical, no…stupid, but not unethical.

3. On the suspension of ethics during wartime. Freddie Oversteegen, who died September in her native Netherlands, was just 14 when she joined the Dutch resistanceTogether with her older sister Truus and their friend Hannie Schaft, she murdered as many Nazis as she could, using a firearm hidden in the basket of her bike. The women had a  method: first approach a Naz in bars, seduce them, ask if they wanted to “go for a stroll” in the forest (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) and then, shoot the bastards, or as Freddie  put it, “liquidate” them.

 “It was a necessary evil, killing those who betrayed the good people,” she told one interviewer. When she was asked how many people she had killed or helped kill, she demurred: “One should not ask a soldier any of that.”

Freddie also blew up bridges and smuggled Jews out of concentration camps, so she was more than a black widow assassin. Is she justly regarded as a hero?

4. “The Highwaymen” My wife and I watched this new Netflix release starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as the real life aging Texas Rangers who were handed the assignment of “stopping” Bonnie and Clyde’s deadly rampage through Texas in 1934. We liked it a lot, but then it’s an ethics movie, raising and debating the question—see #3 above—of how far one can ethically go to fight evil. Bonnie  and Clyde were evil despite their folk hero status at the time, and despite the sick glamorizing they received in the 1967 film starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, which made them the romantic rebels fighting a corrupt establishment—you know, like the arrogant creeps who shut down my college a year later.

The Highwaymen barely shows the two psychotic love-birds until they are being riddled with bullets, focusing on the real heroes of the saga, the law enforcement officials who hunted them down.

The two ex-Rangers break quite a few laws in the pursuit of the greater good, and it is odd that there seems to be a resurgence in sympathy in the entertainment media for brutal police methods. In Dick Wolf’s “Chicago PD,” for example, Sergeant Hank Voigt (Jason Beghe) regularly threatens, extorts and beats people up to solve crimes–and he’s the moral center of the show. Is law enforcement more like war than we like to admit, where the ethical rules can be, are, and maybe need to be suspended?

Best line in “The Highwaymen”: Kathy Bates, as Texas Governor “Ma” Ferguson—I’ll tell her weird ethics story tomorrow—tells reporters that she is making sure that Bonny and Clyde are hunted down, and one of them references their image as Robin Hood figures. “Did Robin Hood ever shoot a gas station attendant in the head for four dollars and a tank of gas?” she asks.

5. Now THIS is weird…Twin ethics! In Brazil, when identical male twins  refused to say which one of them had fathered the child (DNA test proved inconclusive because they their were identical twins)  assuming they would then be able to escape having to pay, a judge ordered that they both had to pay child support. Each twin was ordered to pay 230 reais; ($60; £45) a month, or 30% of the minimum salary in Brazil. Judge Filipe Luís Perucaalso ruled that the names of both men would be on the girl’s birth certificate.

The twins had used their resemblance to impersonate each other and date as many women as possible, and then defend themselves from allegations they were cheating on girlfriends. Ah, memories! I see a reboot coming!

But they’re irresponsible illegitimate fathers!

Identical illegitimate fathers, and you’ll find

The look alike, deny alike, they go in court and lie alike!

You could lose your mind

When irresponsible illegitimate fathers

Are two of a kind!

Seeking An Ethics Verdict On Rafi Eitan [Updated]

“In principle, when there is a war on terror you conduct it without principles. You simply fight it.”

So said Rafi Eitan, the legendary Israeli spymaster and Mossad operative in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz in 2010. Is that the credo of a hero or a villain?  When he died last week at the age of 92, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Mr. Eitan “among the heroes of the intelligence services of the State of Israel.” Is “hero of intelligence services” an oxymoron? Eitan’s credo certainly justifies murder, torture and extra-legal activities; indeed, it justifies almost anything. That’s not ethics, it’s the opposite: the ends justify the means, tit for tat, vengeance, and  scorched earth warfare without the inconvenience of a formal declaration of war. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert eulogized Eitan as “a smart, cunning and sharp person, who remained capable until his last day”, and praised him as one of “the most intelligent, competent, responsible and creative ministers in the government.” Boy, he sounds like a great guy, if you forget about all the killing.

Eitan, his various obituaries tell us, counted among his more spectacular exploits in support of his nation such operations as  the surgical strike on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, the systematic assassinations of the Palestinians responsible for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972, and the theft of at least 100 pounds of  enriched uranium from a nuclear fuel plant in the Pittsburgh area to assist Israel in its atomic bomb program. Eitan was the handler of Jonathan Pollard, the traitorous American Navy intelligence analyst who turned  over thousands of classified documents to Israel as its spy, and architect of  the operation that has been most celebrated in the various articles in the wake of his death, the capturing of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1960. Continue reading

You Know, That WAS An Excellent Post On October 20, 2016!

In response to my recent question in a comment thread about when Ethics Alarms first noted that the Democratic Party was embracing totalitarian attitudes, tactics and principles, reader and commenter Zoltar Speaks tracked the post down, which, as I had speculated, was published in late October, 2016, right before the election. It was interesting, in light of having just passed the two year mark in the Trump Presidency, to review my thoughts at the time. Upon re-reading it, I conclude that there is nothing in that post I would retract, and that I wish I was as smart every day was I was on October 20, 2016. This section, however, really stood out in light of what has occurred since; the context was the last debate between candidates Trump and Clinton: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/16/19: Blacks With White Privilege, A Home Trump Derangement Test, Defending “Hamilton,” And More…

Got up on the wrong side of the bed today..

…and trying to recover.

1. Finally! The Ultimate Trump Derangement Home Test! This is wonderful, and we owe a debt to CNN for making this available. NeverTrump neocon Max Boot, who has been a “rseistance” ally since the 2016 election and who also writes op-eds for the Washington Post, presented this hilarious—but don’t tell anyone you are using the to test hilarious—visual aid to his recent Post screed:

Isn’t that great? I initially thought it was a Saturday Night Live parody, but how could that be, when SNL is all Trump Derangement All The Time itself? All you have to do is show this to a suspected TDS sufferer, and wait for the response. Hearty laughter followed by something along the lines of,” Wow! I didn’t think even CNN would stoop this low, but there it is!”, and you know your friend or family member has escaped the jaws of madness. If the subject’s reaction is to point and shout, “See! See! I told you the election was rigged!”, then it’s time for cold compresses and a 911 call.

Once again, I miss the fevered passion of the self-exiled Trump Deranged commenters on Ethics Alarms, to see exactly how far gone they are, if they are. Hilarity was bound to ensue.

I was tempted to do a whole post showing how every one of Boot’s “reasons” are strained circumstantial evidence at best or utter nonsense at worst, but two words, “confirmation bias,” pretty much covers it, along with a third, “desperation.” Meanwhile, just as self-amusement, I’m working on the list of reasons why Max Boot might be a Russian agent. So far I have Dilbert’s Scott Adams’ observation that while the pitiful Russian fake news on social media couldn’t divide the country, hysterical anti-Trump conspiracy theorists are doing a good job serving Russian interests by undermining the Presidency; Max’s “Boot” code name, which evokes George Orwell’s’ famous metaphor for Communist totalitarianism; and that Curly Howard hair cut, the choice of international anti-democracy villains in James Bond films,  “The Man From U.N.C.L.E,” TV’s “The Black List” and everything in between.

That’s only three, though. Suggestions welcome.

2. Is this good news or bad news? “Family Guy,” Seth McFarland’s nastier, cheaper, uglier rip-off of “The Simpsons,” has announced that it will be “phasing out” homophobic jokes. It’s certainly good news if this includes the disgusting and unfunny running gag about the old man next door to “The Family Guy” who has sexual designs on Peter’s idiot son, I guess. The problem is that the only feature of “The Family Guy” that made its intentionally tasteless and offensive humor excusable was that the show was cruel and unfair to everyone, pretty much equally. If the show is now bowing to victim-group pressure, how long will it be before its only targets are white men, conservatives, Fox News and Donald Trump?

If McFarland and the show are now afraid of being politically incorrect when political incorrectness is a career death sentence for everyone else, then it should just kill the show, rather than wander the airwaves hollowed out and submissive like the brainwashed Winston Smith at the end of “1984.”

Oh-oh. Second Orwell reference already today… Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

“If people want to really blow up one figure here or one word there, I would argue that they’re missing the forest for the trees. I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”

—Socialist Democrat and Progressive rock star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in response to “60 Minutes” interviewer Anderson Cooper’s question about her many gaffes and mistatements.

Bingo. There it is, the smoking gun. Proof that Ocasio-Cortez is so self-involved and eager to talk that she isn’t paying attention, even to her own party’s narratives and talking points. Proof that she is ethically ignorant. Proof that she cannot be trusted. Proof that she is a charming demagogue whose passionate assertions can’t be believed or trusted. Writes the Washington Post’s  Aaron Blake, whose orientation is “Please, please don’t make mistakes like this, because we need you to be successful!”,

“She’s practically saying, ‘Well, maybe I was wrong, but at least my cause is just.’”

She isn’t practically saying that; she is saying that. She’s also saying that the ends justify the means, and if the ends are sufficiently righteous, what’s a little bit of fudging on the facts? This is classic “truthiness,” the term invented by Stephen Colbert to mock conservatives and the Bush Administration in 2005 (he has, oddly, never used the word to tweak Democrats, and won’t use it against Ocasio-Cortez, I guarantee…because, as he has now proven, Colbert has no integrity, and is only interested in advancing an ideology, not in even-handed satire). Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/8/2019: A “Bias Makes You Stupid” Spectacular! [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

The first appearance of Donald, Debbie and Gene in the New Year!

1. “A Nation of Assholes” update: Conservatives being ugly. The comments and even the posts around the conservative blogosphere regarding Ruth Bader Ginsberg are repulsive, and  reveal a deep mean streak, a lack of compassion and basic respect. Ginsberg, it was announced yesterday, will miss oral arguments–that means she won’t be able to vote on the cases she doesn’t hear—for the first time in her long career. It also may well mean that she isn’t long for this world, or the Court. The gleeful tone of the jokes, sarcasm and mockery being aimed her way by those salivating at the prospect that she will soon be replaced by a right-leaning justice is palpable. (Yes, some of the mean jokes are funny. The blog referring to her illness as a “belated Christmas present” isn’t.)

2. A classic bad argument for illegal immigration in response to an emotional one against it. The advocate? Geraldo Rivera. On a Hannity segment with conservative Dan Bongino [Correction notice: I mistakenly identified Bongino as African American in the original post. He is apparently Italian-American.]  Rivera tried to defend illegal immigration while condemning the use of individual episodes of violent crimes by illegals to justify stronger border enforcement. As Bongino and Hannity shouted around and over him, Rivera objected to Hannity’s featuring the grieving parents of 22-year-old Pierce Kennedy Corcoran who was killed in a head-on car crash with illegal immigrant Franco Cambrany Francisco-Eduardo. Francisco-Eduardo was charged with criminally negligent homicide and driving without a license or insurance,  was turned over to ICE. (Good!). Hannity lit the fuse when he began his panel by saying,

“Their son is dead. Or the people that also aid and abet these people with their sanctuary cities and sanctuary states, criminal aliens in our custody that are not handed over to ICE. You always say it’s about both parties, it’s not,” Hannity stated. “It’s about one party now that refuses to protect the American people…”

Said Geraldo at his most Geraldo-ish: Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2018: A Petition, A Career-Killing Joke, And Priestley’s Play [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. One more time...I’m really going to try to get a year-end ethics review up for 2018. In both of the last two years, I failed miserably, and The Ethics Alarms Best and Worst of Ethics Awards never posted. It is a very time-intensive exercise, and the traffic for the posts have never been substantially more than an average entry that is a tenth as long.

We shall see.

2. The Bad Guys, Redux. It’s a problem: one wants to curb the trend of demonizing political adversaries, and yet we keep seeing escalating examples of unequivocally despicable behavior that deserves to be demonized, because it is constant, self-righteous, and indefensible.

Over at GoFundMe, someone named Brian Kolfage, has posted a petition and a crowd-funding effort to pay for “the wall” if Congress won’t. He writes, “I have a verified blue check Facebook page as a public figure and I’m a Purple Heart Recipient triple amputee veteran.”

This is not encouraging. [Correction notice: I originally wrote “Facebook does not use a “blue check,” though Twitter and Instagram do, (and abuse it.)” I checked this, but my source was wrong. Facebook does give public figures “blue checks.”] I guess Kolfage is sort of a public figure. He is also a controversial one who has pushed extreme right-wing conspiracy theories. When asked why he doesn’t mention any of his controversial crusades and advocacy in promoting his crowdfunding effort, he has responded, “My personal issues have nothing to do with building the wall.” Fine: what do his war wounds have to do with building a wall?

Never mind: the appeal has raised over 18 million dollars to date, although the contributions have slowed considerably. It’s a futile effort; I suppose it has some value to show public support for enforcing immigration laws. If people want to donate their money to such a cause, it’s their money to give, though they might as well be making little green paper airplanes out of hundred dollar bills and sailing them into the wind.

Megan Fox reports, however, that someone who wants to punish anyone who doesn’t support open borders is taking names and doxxing contributors. She writes,

Did you donate money to the GoFundMe page to build the border wall? If you did, there’s a good chance this guy/gal or otherkin has doxxed your Facebook profile to millions of other nasty trolls who will now make it their business to harass and punish you with anonymous online mobs. Get ready, because your life is about to get more interesting. Based on my personal experience, once these monsters get your information and the directive to destroy you, the death threats, vandalism, obscene pornography, and harassment at work are not far behind. And the worst part is, no one will help you — not the police or the FBI or anyone else whose job it should be to stop intimidation and harassment.

Nice. Continue reading