Category Archives: Character

More Bad Law Ethics: Integrity Test Coming For The Judiciary On Obamacare

"Dear Courts: We intend this mess to be a big, perfect, beautiful palace. Please let us know when its finished.       Your Friend, Congress"

“Dear Courts: We intend this mess to be a big, perfect, beautiful palace. Please let us know when its finished.
Your Friend, Congress.”

In a recent post, I explained how the incompetent drafting and reckless manner in which the Affordable Care Act was passed has corrupted every branch of the government as well as damaged our system and the public’s faith in it. Affordable Care Act supporters continue to desperately try to excuse, fix, and rationalize this disgracefully bad law. Next up is an integrity test for the judiciary, as the legal argument against the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit’s decision in Halbig v. Burwell becomes untenable.

If the two judges on the three judge panel were correct, and it appears they were, then a drafting miscalculation in the ACA has rendered the health care overhaul unworkable, meaning that it can’t be fixed, constitutionally at least, by Executive Orders, waivers, delays or lies, like so much else connected to the legislation. It will have to be addressed the old-fashioned—as in “according to the Constitution”—way, or not fixed at all. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Dunce: ESPN”

domestic_violence

I know I have written a lot about the Ray Rice domestic abuse case and its aftermath, most recently this morning, regarding CNN’s Carol Costello’s warped argument for suspending ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith. (The Rice-related posts are here, here, here and here, with an earlier Comment of the Day here.) I keep coming back to it because it involves many ethics issues: sports and violence, the “Star Syndrome,” and the special treatment of cultural celebrities, race, domestic abuse, women’s enabling of domestic abusers, political correctness, scapegoating, corporate cowardice, incompetent journalism, and more.  Chris Marschner’s recent comment on one of those posts is better than anything I’ve written on the topic, I think. As is often demonstrated here, the readers make Ethics Alarms work.

One connection I didn’t make until I read Chris’s comment is the relevance of the Gaza crisis and the public’s reaction to it to some of the ethical principles involved. There is no question that Hamas provoked a violent attack by Israel, knowing that women and children would be harmed, and that Israel would be condemned by many as a consequence. Israel is much more powerful than Palestinian forces, and provoking it to defend itself when the inevitable results will be harm to the powerless is irresponsible. Yet we hear the same absolutist reactions to the Gaza casualties that are at the root of the anger focused on Smith’s comments. The victims of violence are never responsible in any way, and suggesting otherwise is immoral.

It’s a very flawed analogy in other respects. The civilians are not the ones provoking Israel, for example, though Hamas represents them–their harm is harm to Gaza, and therefor Hamas. Most of all, Israel is not an abuser, though I could quote many commentators who regard it as one, and who might see the comparison with Ray Rice as apt.

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Dunce: ESPN: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Sports

Sixth Grader Lauren Arrington Is No Plagiarist—This Science Fair Ethics Train Wreck Is Adult-Engineered

You know, it's really all YOUR fault!

You know, it’s really all YOUR fault!

Florida sixth grader Lauren Arrington found herself a sudden media star when her science fair project was featured on NPR, CBS, and other media outlets for allegedly breaking new ground.  Rather than rub hormones on chicks or build models of volcanos, Lauren’s project focused on the Indo-Pacific lionfish, a troublesome invasive species that is causing ecological havoc in ocean waters along the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean. The NPR story, “Sixth Grader’s Science Fair Finding Shocks Ecologists,” was typical: it quoted Lauren’s “Eureka!” thusly…

“Scientists were doing plenty of tests on them, but they just always assumed they were in the ocean. So I was like, ‘Well, hey guys, what about the river?’ “

Gee, I wonder why a 12 year-old girl was thinking about that? Well, it seems that her father, Dr. Albrey Arrington is the executive director of the Loxahatchee River District, and has been involved in lionfish research. Not that there is anything necessarily unethical or unusual about a parent suggesting a science fair project to his child that is in that parent’s own area of expertise, or even providing access to resources for the child to accomplish the project, but as we will see, Dr. Arrington set his daughter up for trouble she couldn’t possibly understand. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Education, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship

Ethics Hero: Columnist George Will

George WillI just watched George Will stun the Fox News Sunday panel by arguing against virtually all conservative pundits by insisting that the U.S. should welcome the hoard of children being apprehended at the border as they accept the current Administration’s open invitation to illegal immigrants.

“We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America, you’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans,’” Will said. “We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 per county. The idea that we can’t assimilate these eight-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous.”

I think the policy that Will is advocating is foolish, wrong, and will continue to incentivize illegal immigration.Nonetheless, in giving his contrarian opinion Will demonstrated personal integrity, courage, and showed those who accuse him of being a knee-jerk mouthpiece for Republicans and conservatives that they are wrong. His independence from the right-wing echo chamber also encourages viewers to start thinking for themselves.

I pledge to give a matching Ethics Hero designation to the first liberal pundit who argues that the human weapons in this unethical “think of the children!” assault on our laws and sovereignty should be shipped home, thus demonstrating similar integrity and independence from progressive talking points.

I’m waiting.

_____________

Graphic: Mediaite

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Is The President Checking Out A “High Crime or Misdemeanor”?

Toppled-King

Anyone who understands President Obama’s behavior the last few months is invited to step forward, and anyone who has a benign explanation for it need to step in front of him. It is so bizarre and unprecedented that amateurs and professionals alike are offering psychological diagnoses. Has any American leader ever responded to failure, adversity and crisis with this kind of a disgraceful combination of defiance, bitterness, and detachment? I can’t think of any.

It is said that during the darkest days of Watergate, President Nixon sank into depression. Franklin Pierce coped with the stress of watching the Union unravel over slavery by staying smashed as much as possible. Woodrow Wilson’s battles with Congress probably helped provoke the stroke that incapacitated him. None of these are really comparable to the current President sinking to gratuitous campaign mode, calling Republicans derogatory names and impugning their motives and humanity, while openly alternating between obsessive fundraising and vacationing the rest of the time as the world is desperate for American leadership.

Say what you will about Bill Clinton, and I often do, but the man never capitulated, gave up, or stopped battling no matter how much (legitimate) fire he was under during the Monica scandal and his impeachment. At very least, one would think Barack Obama would see the need, as past Presidents have, to model virtues like diligence, responsibility, fortitude, courage, and perseverance for the nation, especially the young.

Nope. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, History, Leadership

Senator Walsh’s Plagiarism

Walsh (top); Paul (bottom) "Whooo are you? Who, who, who, who?"

Walsh (top); Paul (bottom)
“Whooo are you? Who, who, who, who?”

U.S. Senator John Walsh (D-Mt) has an obligation to resign.

He was never elected to office;  Montana Governor Steve Bullock appointed him to fill the vacant  seat of Max Baucus, who resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China. Though he was Montana’s Lieutenant Governor at the time, Walsh’s primary qualification for the job was his military record and honors, including a master’s degree at the U.S. War College. The New York Times revealed this week that Walsh’s  2007 thesis, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” was substantially plagiarized, copied from other sources without attribution. Now the War College is investigating to determine whether Walsh’s degree should be revoked.

If this happened to a partner at a law firm, he would be fired. If it happened to a professor at a respectable university, he would be terminated. When it has happened to high ranking corporate officers, they have usually been forced to resign. The importance of honesty and trustworthiness to the duties of a U.S. Senator are more important than either of these.  Moreover, the fact that he could not complete an adequate 14 page thesis ( I am still reeling that the War College hands out masters degrees for such paltry work) without stealing the word of others does not inspire faith in his abilities as a lawmaker. Walsh has an obligation to resign.

Instead, he has been making lame excuses and rationalizations, and encouraging others to lie for him. He and his supporters are calling this  “a mistake.” Using someone else’s work to make up 25% of your masters thesis and taking credit for it is not a “mistake.” It is proof of a deficit in character. Had his plagiarism been discovered when he submitted the paper, he would have been kicked out of the masters program, presumably. The military is especially strict regarding dishonesty and dishonorable conduct. Would he have been appointed  if that had occurred? Presumably not. At least I hope not.

Flailing to find an escape, Walsh has played the veteran pity card, suggesting that the plagiarism may have been the result of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It doesn’t matter why he plagiarized, though this seems like a particularly slimy excuse. He plagiarized. His current credentials, which were among the factors that got him nominated, were based on a lie. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Government & Politics, Leadership, Research and Scholarship, War and the Military

Unethical Quote of the Week: Rep. Elijah Cummings

“Mr. Chairman…This has been very interesting because one member on your side, the gentleman, I don’t know his name, said that the man was under investigation…”

—-Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md), ranking Democrat on theHouse Oversight and Government Reform Committee  revealing that he hasn’t bothered to learn the names of his own committee’s members.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, through the eyes of Rep. Cummings.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, through the eyes of Rep. Cummings.

The dysfunction in Washington, D.C., and particularly in Congress, could not have a better or more discouraging  illustration than this. You can argue that not knowing the names of your colleagues is no big deal, but it is. It is proof of a lack of interest in cooperation and collegial relations. It is evidence of the absence of basic civility and respect. It demonstrates that Cummings is not interested in contributing to the mission and objectives of the committee, but rather obstructing them.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Quotes, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Workplace

Musings On The Clarence Thomas Affair and Insideous, Unavoidable, Rationalization Eleven

If you are good enough and valuable enough, do you deserve one of these?

If you are good enough and valuable enough, do you deserve one of these?

A recent—and off-topic—comment caused me to begin thinking about “The King’s Pass,” #11 on the Ethics Alarms Rationalization hit parade,and perhaps the most perplexing of them all. The commenter referenced the 2010 discovery that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had inexplicably neglected to mention his activist wife’s annual income on his annual financial disclosure filings, meaning that he had filed a false affidavit and violated the law. Thomas claimed that he had made a careless mistake—for five years—and the matter was allowed to drop except for the angry agitating of the Anti-Clarence Thomas Furies, who are constantly searching for any way to get a conservative black justice off the Supreme Court short of assassination.

The episode had left a bad taste in my mouth, and I was happy to be reminded of it, bad mouth tastes being essential to triggering ethics alarms. I went back to read my post on the matter, and sure enough, I had followed the principle of rejecting The King’s Pass, and asserted that Thomas should be punished appropriately and formally…but that really ducked the question. Lawyers have lost their licenses to practice for single episodes of swearing to false information when it was far more obvious that a mistake had been made than in Thomas’s case, as when a hapless Maryland lawyer carelessly signed a legal document that had misrecorded  his address. The logic of this no-tolerance ruling was that a lawyer, above all people, should never swear to a falsehood, and that doing so, even once, was a serious breach of duty calling into question his fitness to practice law. I think the penalty for this particular act was excessive—it is cited locally as a cautionary tale—but I agree with its underlying principle, which should apply with even more vigor when the lawyer in question is a judge, and not merely a judge, but a Supreme Court Justice.
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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society

Deconstructing The Unethical “It’s Impossible To Be President Today!” Excuse For President Obama

Presidents since WW II

Chris Cilizza’s latest of several attempts to relieve President Obama of responsibility for his spectacularly incompetent and disastrous presidency is too full of falsities, fallacies, rationalizations and illogical assertions to let pass, as I would dearly love to. Duty calls, however, so here we go. I’m not going to comment on the quoted “terrific” Ron Brownstein piece, which is not essential. Cilizza is in bold, my comments are not….

“Being president is the most powerful job in the world. At which you will almost certainly fail.”

  • First, I must ask, fail at what? Fail at solving problems? Fail at being popular? Fail by leaving the country in worse shape than when the President took office? Fail at leadership, at management, at foreign policy, at vision? Fail at handling crises? Fail by not dealing with long-term problems? By not bothering to define the central concept of his thesis, Cilizza just betrays his ignorance and laziness. If he won’t define his terms, he can’t be challenged.
  • Let me give Mr. Cilizza, who is really, absurdly arguing that succeeding as President is harder now than it has ever been, a brief history lesson focusing on how difficult this job has proved to be for others. George Washington, numero uno, had by far the most difficult job, being President of an unstable, new, confused nation with no precedents for his office, all while being second guessed by some of the most brilliant minds the nation ever produced, who were fighting among themselves to steer the country’s culture and government in radically different directions. He did a superb job, because Washington was a natural leader, perfectly suited for his grand moment in history. The next three Presidents were not, and had a terrible time of it (Jefferson’s reputation was saved by having the Louisiana Territory fall into his lap, but he was no leader, and call me a stickler, but any time a foreign power burns down the White House, I’m calling that President–James Madison—a flop), but James Monroe got the job down, beginning with having Cabinet members–like Daniel Webster–who were smarter than he was and properly delegating and managing them. The job defeated John Quincy Adams, but the next natural leader, gutsy, crazy Andrew Jackson, managed to keep the nation from dissolving over regional differences, and solved potentially disastrous  financial problems, in part because he was able to project strong leadership. Being a killer will do that….

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Filed under Character, History, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Leadership

Ethics Lessons From An Ethical Life: James Garner, 1928-2014

Brett_Maverick_-_James_Garner

To me, James Garner will always be Bret Maverick, his black hat worn girlishly on the back of his head, or “The Scrounger” in “The Great Escape,” a role modeled after Garner’s real-life exploits in the military. For some reason Garner’s aging through the years—his health issues ranged from a heart by-pass to knee replacements and several strokes—bothered me more than that of most stars from my youth. His death bothers me more. James Garner always struck me as a someone who should be perpetually young. Of course, I feel the same way about myself.

By all accounts from contemporaries, fans and colleagues, he was a decent, fair and usually amiable man who never let stardom turn him into a monster, as so many do. He had a single, long-lasting marriage and a stable family; he was not fodder for tabloids with affairs, illegitimate children, drug abuse or DUI arrests. He did apparently have a penchant for punching people in the nose who insulted him to his face, a habit about which he was unapologetic. Continue reading

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