Category Archives: Ethics Heroes

Ethics Hero: CBS’ Major Garrett

major_garrettDuring President Obama‘s Iran deal press conference,  CBS’ Major Garrett broke ranks with his softball lobbing colleagues  by asking, “Why you are content with all the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?”

President Obama flared, reprimanding the reporter by snarling, “That’s nonsense, and you should know better.”

Garret was immediately criticized for being disrespectful. CNN’s Dana Bash criticized her colleague,  opining that “There’s a fine line between asking a tough question and maybe crossing that line a little bit and being disrespectful, and I think that happened here.” Bill Maher ran to fetch the typical weapon of last (first?) resort employed by Obama apologists since January, 2009: the race card. “Major Garrett is a huge asshole,” he tweeted.  “If U wanna “strike a nerve” with POTUS, why not just scream the N word? That should get his attention.” Garrett has been unapologetic.

No doubt: it was a hostile question. A decade or more ago, I might have thought it crossed a line. But the issue Garrett raised was an important and obvious one in the context of the President once again cockily taking a victory lap over a dubious achievement, and for this citizen, at least, it gave me hope that the mainstream media’s days of serving as a virtual Pravda to a leader’s every move might be slowly coming to an end. The media’s deference to this President has been disgraceful and has undermined our democracy, public discourse, trust in the press  and the right to know what our government is doing. CBS’s Steve Kroft actually admiited—proudly!—that his “60 Minutes” was a favored venue for Obama because he knew that he would be treated with kid gloves. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero Emeritus: Sir Nicholas Winton (1909 – 2015)

winton and child

Another hero of the Holocaust has died. Nicholas Winton organized and substantially financed the last-minute escape of 669 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II, but never sought the fame and public accolades that Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg received. He got the accolades anyway, especially in his native Great Britain and Czechoslovakia, once his heroics were publicized long after they occurred.

I had never heard of him or his exploits until the news reports of his death. Continue reading

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Ethics Heroes: The Sweet Briar Alumnae And Their Supporters

victory

What an inspiring story! I hoped, and I so wanted to believe, but I confess that I really thought that the traitorous, unethical Sweet Briar College board had delivered a fatal blow to this storied all-woman’s college by operating by surprise and stealth, waiting to announce its plan to close the institution so late in the academic year as to render counter-measures futile.

Like that disgraceful crew, I underestimated the determined women of Sweet Briar and their allies.

From the Washington Post:

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s office announced Saturday night that an agreement has been reached to keep Sweet Briar College open next year.

The agreement, which requires court approval, involves a $12 million commitment from an alumnae group and permission from the attorney general to release $16 million from the school’s endowment.

The president of the private women’s college in rural Virginia shocked many in March when he abruptly announced that the college, which is more than 100 years old, would close in the summer. Since then, supporters have been working feverishly to save the school, protesting, raising money and filing lawsuits challenging the closure.

On Saturday, Herring’s office announced that — if Bedford County Circuit Court Judge James W. Updike Jr. approves the agreement — Saving Sweet Briar, the alumnae group, would give $12 million for the operation of the college for the 2015-2016 year, with the first $2.5 million installment to be delivered in early July….

Both the alumnae group and other challengers to the closure say the funding would be enough to keep the school operating for the 2015-2016 academic year.

The agreement comes barely a month before the historic school was slated to close — and in advance of court hearings on multiple lawsuits. It does not resolve the ongoing issues that the school’s current leadership cited in making the decision to close, such as concerns about enrollment and revenue. It does not explain where next year’s class will come from, since accepted students were told to apply elsewhere and current students were told to transfer. But it provides a stopgap…

Leadership would change: If the agreement is approved, at least 13 board members would resign, and 18 new ones would be appointed — a majority that would control the board… Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Senator Rand Paul

Thanks, Snator, we needed that.

Thanks, Senator, we needed that.

Rand Paul has disqualified himself from being considered for the Presidency by rational voters in many ways. His suggestion to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he would have waited for market forces to end Jim Crow, and voted against portions of the Civil Rights Act was enough all by itself. Paul’s embrace of isolationism—he often sounds like Michael Moore on foreign policy—is as fanciful as it is dangerous.  He has no executive experience, and based on some of his statements (and positions), I’m convinced he’s just not very smart.

Not only that, but he is the most arrogant candidate in a field that may contain Chris Christie, and that’s incredible.

Nonetheless, his filibuster-like Senate speech against National Security Agency counter-terrorism surveillance, forcing key portions of the Patriot Act to expire, was a brave, principled, and important act. In the end it was also a futile act, and the Senate quickly passed provisions that Paul opposed. The Daily Beast headlined the story, “It’s NSA 1, Rand Paul 0.”

It was still a public service. Yes, Paul alienated most of his party, and he took a huge risk: a single terrorist attack here will automatically turn him into a national pariah, and coming the same week that we discovered conclusively that the TSA is a joke, the chances of such an event occurring seem likelier than ever. (Saying, however, as Paul did, that “people here in town …secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me” was inexcusably  stupid. Really? People want to see American citizens die to make Rand Paul look bad, when he makes himself look bad on a regular basis?) The point Paul made, however, and it needs to be made again, and again, and again, is that there is no reason to trust the NSA, and no reason to trust the current federal government either. The fact that on security matters we have no real choice is frightening and disheartening, but nevertheless, no American should be comfortable with his or her private communications, activities and other personal matters being tracked by the NSA, which is incompetent (See: Snowden, Edward) and which lies, or the Obama Administration, which doesn’t care if the NSA lies, and has repeatedly shown that it has no qualms about violating the Constitution until a Court stops it. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero Sighting At The 7-11

7 eleven

They are out there—just good, kind, ethical people who quietly do what they can to make society a little better whenever they can.

I was just at a 7-11 in Alexandria, Virginia. I was sitting in the car, waiting for Grace to pick up some things, along with Rugby, who loves sticking his head out the window and flirting with people going in and out of the store. He’s shameless and adorable, and almost every time we go there one or more shoppers will come over to the car, pat him and talk with him…and sometimes even me.

As I waited, I noticed a grim, middle-aged African American man standing quietly to the side of the store front, apparently asking people for spare change as they left the 7-11. He wasn’t having much luck. Then an SUV pulled up by my car, and a jolly, pudgy, smiley guy with curly gray hair and wearing  baggy shorts, with a loud, boisterous manner, got out. He immediately greeted Rugby, asking his name, scratching him behind the ears. “Does he have water?” he asked. I explained that we were just minutes from home. “Bye, Rugby!” he shouted, and started to enter the store.

I saw him stop as he opened the door and eye the other man. “Hi, brother!” he said loudly. “How are you doing?”

“Not too good,” was the soft reply.

“Really? Hey, come on in,” the curly haired man beckoned. The sad-looking black man followed him into the store. Grace returned, but I lingered in the parking space a bit. Sure enough, the man who had been asking for change emerged a few minutes later carrying a plastic bag that held a hot dog, a bottle of coke and some other items.

And he didn’t look quite so grim.

Nice.

In fact, perfect.

They are out there, all right.

There is hope.

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Memorial Day Ethics Hero Emeritus: Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., 1887–1944

Teddy Jr

The latest inductee into the Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Honor has a familiar name that burdened him with exorbitant expectations his entire life. Yet against all odds, he managed to add to its prestige.

With some notable exceptions that you can probably name, being the son of a President of the United States has proven to be a burden and often a curse. Being the oldest son of our most flamboyant President was particularly hard on Teddy Roosevelt’s boy who shared his name, and through young adulthood, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.  experienced migraine headaches and other symptoms of anxiety and stress. The President was even cautioned by a family friend and physician that his constant badgering was ruining his son’s health.

Young Ted still followed his father’s path to fame by enrolling at Harvard, then became a partner in a Philadelphia investment banking firm. With the U.S. entry into the Great War, Roosevelt enlisted in the army, fought in Europe, rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and was gassed and shot in the kneecap in 1918.  Roosevelt received the Distinguished Service Cross. He was renowned for his courage under fire as well as his unusual concern for the men under his command: at one point, he personally purchased new boots for his entire battalion. After the war, Roosevelt was instrumental in the founding the American Legion in 1919. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Popehat’s Ken White

sunshine-through-the-clouds

I can’t really say Ken White is a friend. We have never met, though we have spoken on the phone. I sent him a copy of my book. He has cited my posts and I have (often) cited his; we have disagreed and argued. I think he’s still ticked off at me for asserting here that well off, smart, educated professionals (like him) who argue for drug legalization share responsibility for the fates of the poor, uneducated or not so smart people who ruin their lives using the junk because the elite have proclaimed that the laws are foolish. (I still believe that, by the way, more today than ever.)

Ken also advised me wisely when I was being threatened with a lawsuit. I am eternally grateful for his kindness. We share a profession and the avocation of blogging, as well as a professional interest in ethics. We are both fervent believers in the First Amendment, but Ken is a true warrior on the front lines, while I just occasionally submit a dispatch from the battlefield. We both adopted children from overseas, and have some similarly warped strains to our humor. One thing I do not share with Ken is clinical depression, thank goodness. He suffers from it, I don’t. Continue reading

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