April 2007 "Easy Calls"
  • The predictable and understandable objections to NBC's broadcast of photos, recordings, videos and messages received from the Virginia Tech shooter were nonetheless wrong. The entire world cannot be kept in the dark about a newsworthy tragedy because seeing its images, facts and descriptions is traumatic for those who were in some way involved. NBC's handling of the disturbing material was sensitive and professional; this is a case of a network being criticized for doing its job right. As to the argument that the publicity encourages future blood-thirsty maniacs: maybe it does, but that cannot make the news media avoid informing the public about a story that needs to be told. And spare the Scoreboard the "you wouldn't feel this way if your son were killed" e-mails. That's probably true, but it is meaningless. In such a tragic circumstance, my proper response would be to avoid watching the news, not to cripple it for everyone else. [4/24/2007]

  • On "60 Minutes," Scott Pelley interviewed Senator John McCain. At one point he asked, "We've talked about the majority of Americans wanting out of Iraq at this point. I wonder at what point do you stop doing what you think is right and you start doing what the majority of the American people want?" Many answers suggest themselves, such as, "When my brain falls out of my head onto the pavement;" "When I wake up without a spine;" or even "When I decide to behave like most unprincipled politicians." One decides to follow the crowd when it means abandoning what one thinks is right only when the crowd has an objectively more persuasive argument beyond "there are a lot of us and only one of you" that in fact they are right and you aren't. That Pelley could ask such an ethically offensive question shows that he would not have been advocating American independence with John Adams, opposing Hitler's rise with Winston Churchill, or marching with Martin Luther King. He would not have fought for women's suffrage, or gay rights. Like far too many Americans, he thinks that right and wrong is just another popularity contest. The progress of the human race has been rescued again and a gain by stubborn, principled, courageous individuals who have insisted on their values in the face of overwhelming hostility by a majority. Whether John McCain is correct or not about Iraq, the fact that the majority of Americans disagree with him should not cause him to abandon his principles. [4/23/2007]

  • Some deny it, but experience shows that an individual who is unethical and shameless about it in one instance is not the best candidate to trust in another. That is to say, people who do unethical things are presumptively unethical people. You can't get more sleazily unethical than "Girls Gone Wild" magnate Joe Francis, who owes his multi-millions to his brilliant realization that you can talk young women into taking off their tops for the camera for nothing more than a tee shirt if you get them drunk enough. Not surprisingly, Francis is frequently sued by the reason-impaired stars of his videos (excessive drink plus "not-too-bright-to-start-with" leads to some pretty embarrassing conduct that may not go over well with future in-laws) and often pays settlements that both keep them quiet and do not make a dent in the cash he rakes in from horny middle-aged voyeurs. Well, the AP reports that Francis hurled threats and obscenities at seven women who were suing him, prompting a judge to threaten him with jail if he didn't come up with an acceptable offer by a stated deadline. He did, but as soon as the judge withdrew the deadline and the threat, he changed his offer to one that was unacceptable (Francis has trouble talking people into accepting his unfair terms if they aren't smashed and have a lawyer to advise them) and the deal was off. Now the judge has ordered him in jail again until he gets a knowing, informed, "yes." Moral: When someone makes his living tricking silly inebriated women into giving him no-cost performers for exploitive soft-porn videos, you can't believe anything they say. And yes, the Scoreboard must confess that it enjoys seeing the despicable "Girls Gone Wild" videos get their creator locked up, if only for a little while. [4/9/2007]

  • Vengeance is not an ethical motivation, and petty conduct is not the mark of an ethical public official or a responsible leader. Thus Senator John Kerry's openly personal vendetta against President Bush's nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, dooming the nomination, is an Easy Call. Kerry excoriated Sam Fox in his confirmation hearing because during the 2004 election campaign Fox contributed $50,000 to Swiftboat Veterans for Truth. The group's ads attacking Kerry's integrity and war record---and, more importantly, Kerry's inept response to them---played a key role in the Massachusetts Senator's loss to President Bush. Kerry accused Fox of helping the group engage in "smearing and spreading lies," and demanded that Fox apologize for a legal and legitimate political contribution, something Fox, to his credit, refused to do. The vast majority of mature, fair and professional politicians in Washington put the rhetorical excesses of campaigns behind them once the votes are counted. Not Kerry. He is apparently unable to accept personal accountability and responsibility for his ill-advised attempt to run as a war hero and war protestor simultaneously, a stance that merged perfectly with his "for the Iraq war/against the Iraq war double-talk during the campaign. Nor is he able to understand that the Swiftboat group's unfair ads were motivated by exactly the same emotional response Kerry directed at Fox: anger and revenge. It was a group of Viet Nam veterans who have never forgiven Kerry for going before Congress as an opponent of the war and pronouncing them butchers and murderers, especially while many of them were being brutalized in North Viet Nam prison camps. As a national leader, Kerry should be attempting to end the cycle of strike and counter-strike over the wounds of Viet Nam; instead, he chose to take out his personal pique on Sam Fox, a Republican donor who simply wrote out a check when asked---just as so many Kerry supporters wrote checks finance the juvenile insult and smear tactics of Move-on.Org on Kerry's behalf. How small…and unethical. [4/4/2007]

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