Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 13, 2018: Past, Present, And Future

Happy Morning, everybody!

1. On the Future News front…The Michael Cohen raid has prompted a new outbreak of this particularly odious journalism and punditry trend: writing hysterically about what might happen. I spend so much time telling my wife that it is absurd and self-destructive to spend energy and emotion on dire “what if?” speculation, when sanity only reigns when we deal with what happens, when it happens, and not freak out because it might happen. Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer isn’t just for alcoholics, you know:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time;enjoy ing one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace…”

The news media, however, pummels us with dire future news to undermine serenity, create fear, encourage anxiety, distrust, panic and hysteria. All the better to undermine President Trump, after all.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid, for example, admittedly one of the worst of the worst, speculated about what might happen should the president refuse to allow himself to be arrested by federal marshals. Note that there is no evidence that there is anything to arrest him for, but never mind. This is Future News. “What if he refuses to open the White House door? What if he fires any Secret Service agent who would allow the federal marshals in? What if Donald Trump simply decides, ‘I don’t have to follow the law? I refuse to be held under the law. No marshal can get into this White House and any Secret Service agent who defies me is fired,'” she asked.

Today I am reading that Michael Cohen might have incriminating tapes of Donald Trump saying incriminating things. Yes, and he might have 12 toes and three nipples, too. Cohen apparently surreptitiously taped some of his conversations. Now, it is true that Cohen is a uniquely sleazy lawyer, but surreptitiously taping a client is a serious legal ethics breach that would pretty much end his career, not to mention his bar license, it it were proven. Never mind though: what if he taped Trump having sex with a marmot? What if he taped the President speaking Russian?

What might happen isn’t news. There are exceptions, but extensive concentration of speculation and projections, as with the Russian investigation coverage, is misleading and unethical journalism.

2. Incompetent prosecution to the rescue! For some reason, Bill Cosby’s prosecutors, allowed to choose from the more than 70 alleged victims of the serial sexual predator a representative five to show his  modus operandi that victimized Andrea Constand, chose Janice Dickinson, an aging ex-model, huckster, reality show star and publicity hound with the approximate trustworthiness and credibility of Stormy Daniels. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Miss America Contestant Theresa Vail

theresa-vailMiss Kansas, also known as Theresa Vail, would be a standout in current 2014 Miss America pageant just based on her unusual set of experiences and talents: the 22-year-old student at Kansas State is a member of the Kansas Army National Guard’s Medical Detachment, a serious bowhunter, a former motorcycle racer, an  M16 marksman, a boxer, an auto mechanic, and an opera singer.* What is ethically of interest, however, is that she wore a bathing suit that  revealed her two tattoos.

This just isn’t done in beauty pageants, not that many contestants are the tatooing sort. Tatoos have traditionally been regarded as ruining a contestant’s “perfection,” and aesthetically, I have to agree: a beautiful woman is still beautiful with something scribbled on her side, but it is hardy an enhancement. But Vial, in announcing her decision on her blog, made a compelling ethical argument for letting her tats show:

“What a hypocrite I would be if I covered the ink. With my platform, how could I tell other women to be fearless and be true to themselves if I can’t do the same?…But I am who I am, tattoos and all.”

That is as good a definition of integrity as you will find. Brava.  Where integrity lies, you can usually find honesty, trustworthiness and courage as well. Continue reading

Justice for the Serenity Prayer’s Author

“God, grant me the serenity to accept what I can not change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

This is the Serenity Prayer. Few combinations of twenty-six words have altered more lives for the better: it is the credo of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the foundation of the famed “Twelve Steps” developed by Bill Wilson to arm the victims of alcoholism for a lifetime battle for sobriety. Thanks to an academic controversy, the author of the prayer may finally get the credit he deserved all along. Continue reading