Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/13/2018: The Serena Winds Continue To Blow, Along With A Lot Of Other Unpleasant Things

Good morning!

There’s Hurricane Hysteria in the Washington area, with everyone freaking out and clearing the store shelves, and the news media making it sound like this is the End of Days. Did you know that BOTH Chicken Little and the Boy Who Cried Wolf lived in Washington, D.C.? Thanks to a late summer repeat of what goes on every time there’s a rumor of  nascent snow flake during our winters, nobody’s working, returning emails and phone calls, or doing anything, it seems, except, I assume,  trying to figure out a way to blame whatever happens on President Trump.

Incidentally, this was going to be an afternoon post yesterday, until my car blew a radiator hose on Route 395 at rush hour.

1. Yes, more on the “racist cartoon.” Reader Michael B. reminded me of some of the liberal editorial cartoonists’ attacks on Condoleeza Rice. Here was one such cartoon, from 2005, that I found online.

Here’s the real Condoleeza:

I’ve been challenged to post a poll on this cartoon too, but that’s tricky. The two cartoons are not equivalent. I don’t think either is racist, but if I were in the business of race-baiting, the Rice cartoon is worse for several reasons. To begin with, Serena really did throw a tantrum on the U.S. Open court, and it was ugly, thus theoretically justifying an ugly graphic portrayal. There was never an incident analogous to what the cartoon Condi is shown doing. Moreover, she never exhibited anything approaching the snarling, aggressive demeanor portrayed by the cartoonist, at least not in public. I think the face given Rice is also vaguely simian, and if a similar spoof of Michell Obama had been published, all hell would have broken loose.

There were some complaints about racist caricatures of Rice during the Bush years, but all from conservative organizations and commentators, none from the NAACP, and nothing on the scale of the uproar over the Williams cartoon.

My position is…

….that both the Williams and the Rice cartoon are within the acceptable range of an art form I detest and find inherently unethical, editorial cartooning.

….that the indignation over either cartoon is driven by bias toward the targets.

….that anyone who wasn’t vocal about “racial insensitivity” toward Rice in various cartoons is not the most convincing advocate for the position that the Knight drawing is racist.  Yes, such a person might have changed their point of view, but he or she has the burden of proof to demonstrate that this is the case. I’m skeptical.

So here are TWO polls..


2. I find it difficult to believe that as Democrats are revealing the total ethical void in their current strategy, polls show voters favoring a Democratic Congress in the upcoming election. Of course, it helps that the mainstream news media won’t communicate to the public fairly so they understand what’s going on:

  • During his hearings, Bret Kavanaugh said, speaking of the position of the plaintiffs in a case, “In that case, they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that were, as a religious matter, objected to.” This was immediately distorted in the news media and by anti-Kavanaugh activists as  Kavanaugh referring to birth control as “abortion-inducing drugs.” Hillary Clinton (to be fair, I assume that she was reading second hand accounts—you know, like everyone criticizes Trump for doing with Fox News) then beclowned herself by tweeting:

I want to be sure we’re all clear about something that Brett Kavanaugh said in his confirmation hearings last week. He referred to birth-control pills as “abortion-inducing drugs.” That set off a lot of alarm bells for me, and it should for you, too.

[Pointer: Zoltar Speaks!]

  • CNN tweeted this (Pointer: Instapundit):

I think this qualifies as going beyond deceit to pure lying. The texts themselves were evidence. It’s like a defense attorney saying “The prosecution, without evidence, suggests that the murder weapon with the defendant’s fingerprints on it links him to the killing!”

  • A man cursing Donald Trump attempted to stab Republican Rudy Peters,  running for the House in California, with a switchblade over the weekend.This kind of thing does not happen every day, nor in every Congressional race. Democrats have increasingly been suggesting violent measures be used against conservatives and Republicans, and there has already been one armed attack that nearly killed Rep. Steve Scalise and threatened other GOP officials. Yet when Rep. Eric Swalwell, Peters’ opponent, appeared on  CNN host Erin Burnett’s show “Erin Burnett Outfront” last night, she never asked Stalwell about the attack or its implications. That’s journalistic negligence, and likely bias.

3. Please explain this to me. Anyone? Karen White, a transgender man “transitioning” to female, was accused of repeatedly raping a woman in 2016 and had been previously been jailed in 2001 for a sexual assault on a child. After telling the authorities that he identified as a woman, Karen, who still has her penis, aka her weapon of choice when engaged in sexual assault,  was remanded into HMP New Hall near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, an all female facility.

She then sexually assaulted four female inmates a few days later. Who could have predicted such a thing? The prison’s spokesperson said: “We apologize sincerely for the mistakes which were made in this case. While we work to manage all prisoners, including those who are transgender, sensitively and in line with the law, we are clear that the safety of all prisoners must be our absolute priority.” Continue reading

First Lady Ethics: Sorry, Michelle Obama Fans, But This Is Way Over The Line

I was silent the first time this happened, because I was trying to provide the benefit of the doubt with an assumption that the First Lady would realize why it was inappropriate. I was wrong.

I can predict the “Get off my lawn!” retorts, the “Things have changed!” excuses and the “Lighten up!” deflections already, but this has to be said. The leadership of the free world and the office of the Presidency of the United States demands the assumption and maintenance of a basic measure of dignity, decorum, prudence and restraint. I realize the erosion of these qualities, not just in the White House but in society generally, is ongoing and that this will trigger the usual rationalizations.

Nevertheless, the First Lady represents her husband and his office. She is not a clown, an entertainer, a red carpet celebrity or a comedian’s sidekick, and every time she acts like any of these, no matter how pleasantly or charmingly she does so, it diminishes the prestige of the office and the nation. I don’t want to hear about how a majority of a public that wears tank tops on airplanes and flip-flops to the theater think it’s just wonderful for the First Lady to cavort with Jimmy Fallon in a manner indistinguishable from what we would expect from the latest flavor-of-the-month pop-tart.  Part of her job is modelling conduct for the clueless and unmannerly, and not sinking to their warped conduct of dignified professional conduct.

I am well-aware that this ethics verdict will be mocked. Never mind. I’m right.

Back to rationalizations: I’m expecting at least 17 of them from the Ethics Alarms list. None justify Michelle’s televised antics: Continue reading

Joke Ethics, Jay Leno, And The Rats In The Pantyhose

Ugh. Come on.

Fortunately, Jay's successor is ready to go...

Fortunately, Jay’s successor is ready to go…

Jay’s ethics alarm was sure malfunctioning during THAT taping. The Golden Rule is made for situations like this. Surely Jay knew about it? Once?

Louann Giambattista, a former American Airlines flight attendant, had sued the airline in June, claiming that American had discriminated against her as a result of her co-workers’ false allegations that she carried pet rats on board planes in her pantyhose and underwear. I get it: it’s an inherently funny story.  But Jay charged over every line of fairness, respect, compassion and common sense when he showed Giambattista’s photo to his national TV audience, and then, in a repeating segment called  “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda,” challenged three guest comics to make their best jokes about the material. They were rolling, too—some examples..

  • “If I were one of those rats, I would’ve been very upset. I prefer not to sit in cooch.”
  • “I don’t understand this woman at all. If she wanted something that creepy in her underwear, she should have hooked up with me.”
  • Giambattista “coulda used what the rest of us ladies use … a Rabbit” (a popular vibrator).

Classy as ever, I see, Jay! Continue reading

Regarding The News Media Covering For The President: Will Democrats Ever Have The Integrity To Admit How Dangerous And Wrong This Is?

Nothing to see hereThis was going to be a completely different post. This week President Obama went on the Tonight Show, since, in this civically complacent, lazy and ignorant country, far more voters will watch him there than in his press conferences. In the process of his relaxed chat with Jay, the President made a number of surprising gaffes, verbal, factual, geographical and historical: 1) he confused the Summer with the Winter Olympics, 2) he incorrectly said that Russia’s Putin had been the head of the KGB (he was a long-time mid-level KGB official), 3) he seemed to say that Savannah, Georgia, Jacksonville, Florida and Charleston, South Carolina are on the Gulf of Mexico, when in fact they are on the Atlantic Coast, and 4) he mangled his words so that he appeared to be wishing that more people were killed in terrorist attacks, when he meant to say, pretty obviously, that too many people were killed in traffic accidents. Naturally, the conservative media went crazy with “we told you so’s” after this, recalling the President’s infamous “57 states” mistake and hammering its long-held contention that the President’s vaunted brilliance and mastery of knowledge are carefully maintained, teleprompter-aided myths.

My post was originally going to point out that this is nothing but “tit for tat,” two-wrongs-don’t-make-a-right unfairness melded with confirmation bias by conservatives and the right-leaning media. Yes, it’s true: these are exactly the kinds of mistakes that the liberal news media (but I repeat myself *) have roasted and mocked various Republicans over, from Eisenhower to Reagan through Dan Quayle, both Bushes, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, and those attacks were excessive and unfair, at least most of them.** True, Obama is more arrogant than any of these, and it is somewhat satisfying to catch him saying something that would be corrected by a seventh grad teacher, but that’s a petty motivation to claim significance for what is more likely the result of fatigue and poor briefing. I think its fair, indeed necessary, for the media to point out the blunders, if only so the public isn’t actively misinformed, and if the fact of his giving out flawed information lessens the tingle up the legs of some Obama supporters, so be it. Still, it’s not a big deal, and shouldn’t be represented as otherwise, regardless of the clear double standard at work.

This is a big deal, however: The Associate Press actively and intentionally set out to cover for the President, and hide his most significant gaffe rather than report on it.  In quoting the President’s erroneous statements about the Gulf ports that aren’t actually on the Gulf, the AP’s version was this:

‘”If we don’t deepen our ports all along the Gulf – (and in) places like Charleston, S.C., or Savannah, Ga., or Jacksonville, Fla. – if we don’t do that, these ships are going to go someplace else and we’ll lose jobs,’ Obama said.”

That’s a blatant partisan clean-up job, not reporting. After several blogs blew the whistle on the AP, it issued a retraction and apology: Continue reading

Jay Leno, Age Discrimination, And Our Cultural Hypocrisy

Jay Leno, when he was talented.

Jay Leno, when he was talented.

One of the purposes of laws is to point the culture toward more ethical awareness and eventually, conduct. In the case of age discrimination, however, this isn’t working very well, and the recent foofaraw surrounding Jay Leno’s forced exit from the “Tonight Show” gives us some hints of why this is so.

NBC and the TV reporters covering the situation (in case you have a life: Leno has been forced to give up his 30 year reign at NBC’s flagship late night show in favor of his current follow-up on the NBC schedule, the lighter-than-air Jimmy Fallon) do not disguise the reason for Leno’s ouster: he is old, or at least considerably older than Fallon. Never mind that Jay still leads in the ratings over the despicable David Letterman, the Hell-spawn Jimmy Kimmel, and Jay’s former victim, poor, betrayed Conan O’Brien at TBS. Leno is 62, so he and his gray hair are being jettisoned by NBC in its fear that Kimmel, recently installed as competition by ABC, will siphon off more and more of the younger demographic that sponsors crave. I would think it would be much easier to tell Leno to start encouraging parents to torture their children too, but hey, what do I know?

What is telling is that nobody seems to see anything wrong with this. Old guys are a drag, we all know that, I guess. How many MSNBC hosts and Democratic Party flacks have loudly proclaimed that the Republican Party’s problem is that it is run by old guys? Old guys are trouble, sooner or later, so it certainly makes sense that anyone running a business or an organization figures out ways to dump them in favor of new blood, unless that pesky law stuff gets in the way. Then, of course, age discrimination is bad, bad, bad. Continue reading

Donald Trump’s Loathsome Lawsuit


Normally the result of a tiff between Donald Trump and Bill Maher would interest me about as much as I would be invested in the  winner of a battle between Godzilla and Megalon.  Trump’s lawsuit against Maher in retaliation for an obvious joke, however, is unethical and indefensible no matter how much I enjoy seeing Maher, who could only avoid being the most obnoxious human being in world containing the likes of Trump, suffer.

Maher joked to Jay Leno last month that he would pay $5 million to Trump’s charity of choice if Trump could prove that his birth wasn’t the result his mother having sex with orangutan. I missed it, Jay having joined David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel in my talk-show host Hall of Ethics Shame, but the line did make me laugh, I confess. Maher’s faux challenge was an obvious riff on the offensive offer Trump made to President Barack Obama during the presidential campaign, in which Trump raised the birther canard again and offered $5 million to the President’s charity of choice if  Obama released his college records and definitive proof that he was really born in the U.S.A.

Nonetheless, Trump decided to behave as if it were a real offer. He had his lawyers send the verification to Maher (Trump’s father, the brains of the family, was a legendary real estate innovator and mogul), and now Trump is suing for the $5 million on the pretense that the comic welched on a legitimate and enforceable unilateral contract. “I don’t know whether this case will be won or lost, but I felt a major obligation to bring it on behalf of the charities,” Trump said. Continue reading

When Telling The Truth Is An Outrage

"Imagine, Jay...the Republicans want to defeat me!"

President Obama visited the Tonight Show last night, and Jay Leno, as is traditional and proper on such occasions, sucked up to him with gusto. In one exchange, the President and Jay tut-tutted about Sen. Mitch McConnell’s infamous statement that the Republican Party’s objective would be to make Obama a one-term president. “How is that a goal?” Jay asked.

Is he serious? Well, okay, I know he’s a comedian and all, so maybe he’s not serious, but all the pundits and journalists and Democrats who have been squealing to the skies for two years about how McConnell’s remark proves that his party is unpatriotic, evil or racist are presumably serious, and it is disingenuous. Continue reading

The Emmys, “South Park,” and Integrity

The Muslim extremist threat that cowed the Comedy Channel into censoring South Park has certainly spawned a bumper crop of unethical attempts at protest. First we had the juvenile “Let’s Insult Islam Because We Can Day” protest, better known as “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” which made a lot of completely innocent and law-abiding Muslims upset without accomplishing anything else—not even a good laugh. Now the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, admittedly never a bastion of fairness, honesty or integrity, has made its incoherent protest by nominating the two “South Park” episodes that were censored for. Neither has been viewed intact on Comedy Central, nor are either viewable online. Nonetheless, the Academy says these episodes are among the “best animated programs,” despite the fact that the programs, in the forms that supposedly warrant the honor, have never been seen. Continue reading

From Tweet to Blog to Lie: Palin’s Laughs

Sadly, this is how the web works.

Sarah Palin was guest on Jay Leno’s return to NBC’s “Tonight Show,” and inexplicably did something of a stand-up comic routine. One of the audience members was a non-admirer of Palin named Michael Stinson, who didn’t think she was funny. After the taping he sent out a “tweet” on his Twitter account that read, “Listen for me laughing, no one else is.” Stinson says he was shocked when he saw the broadcast, as Palin’s jokes seemed to be getting big laughs. He sent out another Tweet that read, “I know sound. And it’s my opinion that audio portions of Sarah Palin’s March 2nd appearance on Jay Leno’s Tonight show were added or amplified, edited before broadcast to make it appear that Sarah Palin was more welcome than she was.” Continue reading

Ethics Notes on a Busy Week

  • Sen. John McCain, who had well-earned credibility on military matters,  released a statement after the State of the Union address saying that “it would be a mistake” to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” as President Obama pledged, and added…

“This successful policy has been in effect for over 15 years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels. At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.”

John, John, John. You have, in other interviews, stated that you served with many gay soldiers who performed their duties with distinction, so the current policy continues a form of bias and discrimination without any  justification. The fact that it may be “successful” is not sufficient reason to continue a practice that is unethical, unfair, and a violation of the principles of civil rights. Success is no excuse for violating core ethical principles; one of the primary justifications for the U.S. allowing torture, an outright violation of the Declaration of Independence, was that it was “successful,” an argument you properly rejected. Continue reading