Tag Archives: competence

Five Ethics Observations On The US’s Paris March Snub

world-leaders-paris-march

In case you didn’t catch it, more than 40 world leaders joined the start of a Paris march for unity against terrorism and for freedom of speech, linking arms in a demonstration of solidarity. Even Netanyahu and Abbas were there! The Paris march may have included more than 1.6 million marchers before it was done, reportedly the largest demonstration ever. More than three million have now marched across France in response to the deaths of 17 resulting from extremist attacks in Paris last week, beginning with the executions of the staff of the satirical newspaper, “Charlie Hebdo.”

You would expect, and I am sure that the world expected, that the United States of America, reputedly the leader of the free world and the nation that most symbolizes the human right of free speech, would have participated in the event with enthusiasm, conviction, and prominence. But no. President Barack Obama did not come to Paris to join with his fellow world leaders. He did not send Vice President Biden either. Though Attorney General Holder was in Paris, he was not directed to attend the march, and did not.  The United States was only represented by its ambassador, who is not a world leader, and whose job it is to attend routine functions large and small.

Initially the criticism of the obviously intentional snub was muted, with the toadying mainstream news media, as has been its standard operating procedure since 2008, acting and speaking as if there was nothing amiss. Fox News, also as usual, was the exception, but since that network is isolated and pigeon-holed as a reflexive Obama critic “no matter what he does,” this was initially ignored as more right-wing carping. Then, to his great credit, CNN’s Jake Tapper took to Twitter to say  that he was “a little disappointed personally” at the lack of a strong U.S. presence, and in a later statement, escalating to saying that he “was ashamed.” He then wrote in an opinion piece…

“I find it hard to believe that collectively President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Attorney General Eric Holder — who was actually in France that day for a conference on counterterrorism — just had no time in their schedules on Sunday. Holder had time to do the Sunday shows via satellite but not to show the world that he stood with the people of France?

There was higher-level Obama administration representation on this season’s episodes of “The Good Wife” on CBS.”

Good for Jake Tapper, one of the few relatively objective broadcast journalists who is worthy of public attention and trust. Continue reading

84 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership

Ethics Quote of the Week: Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)

President Obama's leadership education progress: no change. Sorry.

President Obama’s leadership education progress: no change. Sorry.

“Now, that’s just not the way you do legislation. It’s not the way a democracy works. And it’s not the way the … three branches of government should work.”

—- Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who supports the stalled Keystone Pipeline, referring to President Obama’s preemptive announcement that he would veto the bill before he knew exactly what the final bill would be.

President’s Obama’s supporters should pay attention to this episode: even if the President has a flat learning curve, perhaps they are more teachable. Manchin is right. Anyone with a passing familiarity of how Presidential leadership has worked in the past, is supposed to work, and is well understood by both scholars and practitioners to work, recognizes that this is a sparkling example of the obtuse refusal of Barack Obama not merely to master the skills of his job, but even to acknowledge them.

I really don’t care a fig about the pipeline. I think the President’s opposition is foolish—this is a bone thrown to the most extreme climate change activists, for there is no reliable research that shows that the pipeline will “accelerate global warming”—but my understanding of all the  factors involved is an inch deep. I really don’t care about it. I do care that the President doesn’t know how to do his job, and would prefer to make sure that Democrats can keep saying that he would have accomplished so much if Republicans hadn’t blocked his every brilliant plan.

A veto is a bargaining tool. Only Obama, of all of our Chief Executives, has failed to grasp that. The opposoition wants something. This means that you, as President, have an opportunity to get something you want. You negotiate. You horse trade. You bluff. Maybe you can’t come to an agreement. Maybe you can’t trade the pipeline, with some further limitations, for, say, your extravagant plan to make community college free for all, which otherwise has no chance whatsoever of ever happening. But you try. it’s called “being President.” It’s called “leadership.” It’s called “competence.”

And yes, it’s also called Democracy and the three branch system.

12 Comments

Filed under Character, Environment, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership

Unethical Quote of the Week: Ampersand on “Alas! A Blog”

Into the Woods

There is no reason in the world, other than Hollywood’s endless racism and lack of imagination, for this movie (or the original play, alas) to have an all-white cast. Why do movies feel like they’d rather die than show us a diverse cast? (And please don’t say “they cast the best people for the roles.” I thought the whole cast was good, but Streep was the only one who turned in a performance so unique that you couldn’t imagine anyone else doing the role.)

—–Ampersand, a.k.a. Barry Deutsch, opining on the assets and deficits of Rob Marshall’s film adaptation of “Into the Woods” on his blog

I hate to pick on Barry—OK, that’s not true, I enjoy it immensely—but this statement could stand as the distillation of knee-jerk liberal thinking on race, and it is wrong in so many ways that I hesitate to start counting. The sentiment, however, poses a nice counterpoint to the discussion here about the black James Bond controversy, so I can’t resist taking aim at it.

1. So casting a mega-million dollar film—-in a dicey genre (Have you heard? Big budget Hollywood musicals died in the Sixties…) and a limited audience—with actors who comport with that audience’s expectations of the musical the film is based on is racist, eh? More unfair words and inexcusable race-baiting were seldom uttered in word or written in ink. If a director had a vision that supported casting African American actors in traditional Grimms’ fairy tale roles and could make it work, I would salute him, but Rob Marshall had other priorities. He knew that every cut would be scrutinized and attacked by the Sondheim fanatics (which, by the way, are as white as a dove convention in a blizzard); he knew that the show itself was seriously flawed; he knew that every single adaptation of a Sondheim musical (“West Side Story” doesn’t count) has been a critical and box office bomb. He had every reason to keep his casting choices as close to the traditional images of the characters and the way they were portrayed on Broadway, and none of those reasons were racism.

2. It’s impressive how casually a race-obsessed progressive will accuse a professional of racism as a first response. Irresponsible, unfair, disrespectful, and in this case, ignorant of both commerce and art. Continue reading

28 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Quotes, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, Professions, Race

Ethics FYI To Hollywood, Pundits And Al Sharpton: There Is Nothing Racist–Or Unethical—About The Hacked Denzel Washington Memo

denzel-washington

Does anybody even bother to think about what racism is any more before accusing people of it? Do journalists think about the circumstances before they parrot knee-jerk accusations of racism from the likes of Sharpton and others? Based on the evidence of reaction to the infamous memo from a Sony honcho regarding the performance of Denzel Washington pictures abroad, apparently not.

Everywhere, this screed by an unnamed Sony executive is being called “shocking,” “unbelievable,” and, of course “racist.” It is nothing of the kind. In a scenario that reeks of the surreal Samuel L. Jackson fiasco where Ethics Alarms was virtually alone in noting that Jackson’s on-air accusation that a white TV host had confused him with fellow black star Lawrence Fishburne because “all blacks look the same to him” was unfair and completely meritless, the news media is just running with a demonstrably false accusation.

Here are the relevant portions of the e-mail exchange based on what has been reported in the media:

“I am not saying The Equalizer should not have been made or that African American actors should not have been used (I personally think Denzel is the best actor of his generation.) [But] Casting him is saying we’re ok with a double if the picture works. He’s reliable at the domestic [box office], safe, but has not had a huge success in years. I believe…the non event pictures, extra ‘bets’ should have a large inherent upside… Here there isn’t a large inherent upside….I believe that the international motion picture audience is racist – in general, pictures with an African-American lead don’t play well overseas…Sony sometimes seems to disregard that a picture must work well internationally to both maximize returns and reduce risk, especially pics with decent size budgets.”

Let’s examine this “unbelievable” e-mail, line by line and then as a whole, for ethical misconduct and incipient racism:

“I am not saying The Equalizer should not have been made or that African American actors should not have been used (I personally think Denzel is the best actor of his generation.)”

No problem there, right?

“[But] Casting him is saying we’re ok with a double if the picture works.”

The baseball analogy, a “double” over a “home run,” is a conclusion based on Washington’s films’ grosses and hard facts, not racism. It is a legitimate opinion, and one that in a business context must be made as a matter of fiduciary duty. Foriegn box office is about half (or more) of a typical film’s profit. If a star isn’t as popular in foreign markets as in the U.S., then metaphorically speaking, a “home run” is more difficult, and maybe impossible. Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Race

“It’s Unethical To Be A Weenie,” Part III: Hypersensitive Law Students

[Part I is here; Part II is here]

"Today's lecture is on WHAT???????"

“Today’s lecture is on WHAT???????”

This belongs in an emerging sub-category: future legal weenies. We have already seen black law students insisting that they be able to defer exams because the Eric Garner death has them too preoccupied to concentrate, and other law students protest an “insensitive” exam question involving the Ferguson riots. This trend does not bode well for the ability of citizens to receive competent representation in years to come. The latest entry was revealed by Harvard law professor Jeannie Suk, who registers her observations  in the New Yorker.  Suk says rape law is becoming impossible to teach and may be dropped from criminal law courses because many students can’t handle the stress of the subject matter. Criminal law professors at several schools confirmed that they are no longer teach rape law because they fear student complaints.  Suk writes, “Many students and teachers appear to be absorbing a cultural signal that real and challenging discussion of sexual misconduct is too risky to undertake—and that the risk is of a traumatic injury analogous to sexual assault itself.” Continue reading

22 Comments

Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, U.S. Society

The Professor and the Insensitive Law School Exam Question

"Go ahead, tell Prof. Kingsfield that his exam is unfair because it triggers your emotions and you can't think straight. I dare you."

“Go ahead, tell Prof. Kingsfield that his exam is unfair because it triggers your emotions and you can’t think straight. I dare you.”

A Constitutional Law exam at UCLA Law School included this question:

CNN News reported: On Nov. 24, St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch announced in a publicized press conference that Police Officer Darren Wilson (who has since resigned) would not be indicted in the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown. Michael Brown’s stepfather, Louis Head, was with hundreds of protesters assembled outside the police station, listening on loudspeakers and car radios when they learned Officer Wilson was not being charged. Standing on the hood of a car, Mr. Head embraced Michael Brown’s mother. Mr. Head asked someone for a bullhorn but it was not passed to him. He turned to the crowd, stomped on the hood and shouted, repeatedly, “Burn this bitch down!”

Police Chief Tom Jackson told Fox “News,” “We are pursuing those comments … We can’t let Ferguson and the community die [as a result of the riots and fires following McCulloch’s announcement]. Everyone who is responsible for taking away people’s property, their livelihoods, their jobs, their businesses — every single one of them needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

County Attorney Robert McCulloch asks lawyers in his office whether to seek an indictment against Head by relying on a statute forbidding breach of the peace and another prohibiting rioting (six or more persons assembling to violate laws with violence). A recent hire in the office, you are asked to write a memo discussing the relevant 1st Amendment issues in such a prosecution. Write the memo.

The question is a fair and legitimate one, and very typical of law school exams, which often ask students to apply course content to current events. Nonetheless, it provoked a controversy.

Shyrissa Dobbins, a second-year law student in the course and is chair of the Black Law Students Association, complained, “Daily I think about Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and I have a challenge. Every day I think about this injustice and how I’m in a law school that won’t even make a statement about it.” Hussain Turk, a second-year law student who took the exam, argued that  exams should not ask students to address controversial events, and that the question was unfair, as it could be more emotionally difficult for black students to answer. “These kinds of questions create a hostile learning environment for students of color, especially black students who are already disadvantaged by the institution,” Turk said.

There is only one proper rebuttal for this foolishness:

“Grow up, deal with your biases, start thinking like lawyers or find a profession you can handle.”

Pathetically, the law professor, Robert Goldstein apologized in an email in an e-mail to students, saying, “I recognize … that the recent disturbing and painful events and subsequent decisions in Ferguson and New York make this subject too raw to be an opportunity for many of you to demonstrate what you have learned in this class this year,” and promised to discount scores students receive on the question if it lowers the overall score of the student.

Law school Dean Rachel Moran added to the misplaced sensitivity-fest, and her e-mail, said…

“In retrospect, however, he understands that the question was ill-timed for the examination and could have been problematic for students given the anguish among many in our community over the grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases.”

Observations: Continue reading

16 Comments

Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Law & Law Enforcement

KABOOM!* Our Hyper-Sensitive Future Lawyers

headexplode

Well, friends, for the second time this month my brains are on the ceiling, walls and floor again, and I’ve had to gate the dog so that…well, you know.

Columbia Law School announced that it is permitting students who are so devastated by recent non-indictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner matters to postpone taking their final exams. Isn’t that nice?

By “nice, “I mean stupid, irresponsible and embarrassing. You can read the Dean’s nauseatingly delicate statement here: I don’t want it polluting the blog, so I’m not going to quote it. Besides, if I look at it again, who knows what else might be on my walls. Continue reading

30 Comments

Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Kaboom!, Professions