Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/21/17: Dead Ethics Alarms All Over, And This Just In…Ana Navarro Is Still Stupid

Good Morning, all!

1 Dead Ethics Alarms on the Hill. Just as I cannot conceive of what kind of ethics alarm malfunction allows any man to think that parading his reproductive organs before unconsenting women in a work-related setting is anything but gross and wrong (Charlie Rose???), I cannot comprehend by what tortured logic an elected member of Congress reaches the conclusion that I should pay for his sexual harassment hobby. The latter is the height of arrogance and abuse of the public trust. Yet the Washington Post reported that Congress’s Office of Compliance paid out $17 million for 264 settlements with federal employees over the past 20 years for various violations, including sexual harassment, and now we have at least one name and specifics: John Conyers, the ranking member of the House Committee on the Judiciary. Perfect.

From Buzzfeed:

Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sex acts, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic….The woman who settled with Conyers launched the complaint with the Office of Compliance in 2014, alleging she was fired for refusing his sexual advances, and ended up facing a daunting process that ended with a confidentiality agreement in exchange for a settlement of more than $27,000. Her settlement, however, came from Conyers’ office budget rather than the designated fund for settlements.

Well, this section of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck is doing some good, by throwing some light on this unethical practice. Congressional sexual harassers need to pay their hush money out of their own pockets. That’s the least they can do.

2.  Live from New York! It’s Double Standards Live! Although Saturday Night Live did have the integrity to mock alum Al Franken following the Senator’s sexual harassment accusations regarding his conduct when he was just an obnoxious comic, 36 SNL staffers, including original cast members Lorraine  Newman and Jane Curtin, felt it was appropriate to release this letter:

SNL Women Offer Solidarity in Support of Al Franken

We feel compelled to stand up for Al Franken, whom we have all had the pleasure of working with over the years on Saturday Night Live (SNL). What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms Tweeden, and to the public. In our experience, we know Al as a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer, and an honorable public servant. That is why we are moved to quickly and directly affirm that after years of working with him, we would like to acknowledge that not one of us ever experienced any inappropriate behavior; and mention our sincere appreciation that he treated each of us with the utmost respect and regard.

We send our support and gratitude to Al and his family this Thanksgiving and holiday season.

Ugh. This is blatant Ethics Accounting, as if the fact that Al was fun to work with has anything to do with his misconduct, or mitigates it in any way:

21. Ethics Accounting, or “I’ve earned this”/ “I made up for that”. You cannot earn the right to act unethically by depositing a lot of ethical deeds in the imaginary ethics bank, nor can unethical conduct be erased by doing good for someone else. The illusion that one can balance the ethics books this way is referred to on the Ethics Alarms blog as “the Ruddigore Fallacy.”  Nobody earns the right to be unethical, not even once, no matter how exemplary their conduct. An unethical act is just as unethical, whether it is performed by a saint, a hero, or a villain.

Even more ridiculous is the “he never harassed me!” bit. This is reminiscent of Greta Van Susterin’s embarrassing defense of Roger Ailes, where she “stood up for” her boss and cast skepticism on his accusers because Greta had never been abused. The SNL letter drips with similar skepticism and bias. It is “appropriate” for Al to have apologized—never mind that the apology itself stunk on ice—and Al’s conduct may have been “stupid and foolish,” but come on, it wasn’t the worst thing.

What does standing up “in solidarity” mean, when it is in support of an accused harasser? It means “we don’t believe the victim, and anyway, we like the accused sufficiently that we will give him a pass.” I’m just guessing here, but I bet there are many, many women Harvey Weinstein worked with that he never molested, and that Louis C.K. hasn’t masturbated in front of every women he ever encountered. Those lucky women should sign a letter.

3. ” Gee, you mean I really have to pay it back?” In 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts, while South Dakota suspends driver’s licenses for the same provocation.  The tone of the New York Times article on the topic is disapproving, even though seven of the 19 states don’t use the laws that allow such suspensions, and the others mostly employ them as threats to get deadbeats to take their responsibilities seriously. Nobody in any of the states loses a license who sets up a payment schedule.

The entire article should ring alarms regarding an accelerating cultural pathology, one that denies that failing to meet obligations is anything to get upset about. In the legal profession,  failure to make good faith efforts pay off financial obligations can prevent a law school grad from getting a law license. Why? Because defaulting on debts is deemed a serious character flaw implicating trust, that’s why, and such a conclusion is warranted. If I don’t pay my mortgage loan, I risk losing my house. The same is true of my car loan. Where did the idea come from that student loans should be  any different?

Student loans are now the largest source of household debt outside of mortgages,   and since the state can’t take back the degree, the license approach is completely reasonable and fair. The Times quotes Jeff Barth, a commissioner in South Dakota’s Minnehaha County, who argues that is is “better to have people gainfully employed.” “I don’t like people skipping out on their debts,”  Barth said, “but the state is taking a pound of flesh.”

No, Jeff, the state taking a pound of flesh would mean that it repossessed the educated brains of student deadbeats. Taking away licenses sends a simple and essential ethics message: pay your debts, or suffer the consequences.

4. THIS is a CNN idiot…I think Ethics Alarms has demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that pseudo-conservative, token Hispanic, NeverTrumper  Ana Navarro is only a regular CNN contributor to serve as a clay pigeon in rigged liberal vs conservative “cross-fires,” and is, in fact, incompetent, to put it politely. Yesterday, she tweeted,

“I believe Donald Trump’s accusers. I believe Harvey Weinstein’s accusers. I believe Mark Halperin’s accusers. I believe Al Franken’s accuser. I believe Charlie Rose’s accusers. I believe Glenn Thrush’s accusers. I believe Roy Moore’s accusers. The last 1, they were also underage.”

To begin with, this is nauseating virtue signalling. Fair, just and intelligent people believe accusers, male or female, according to the evidence available, the demonstrated proclivities of the accused, and relevant facts on a case by case basis. The feminist cant that female accusers must be automatically believed when they accuse a man of sexual misconduct is prejudiced, unjust, unethical and dangerous on its face, leading to such horrors as the Duke Lacrosse fiasco, the false “Jackie” story by Rolling Stone, and persecution of innocent men on college campuses by the likes of Mattress Girl.

Oddly, Navarro managed to leave off the most prominent accusers of them all….

Funny about that.

18 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/21/17: Dead Ethics Alarms All Over, And This Just In…Ana Navarro Is Still Stupid

      • So I know I am terrible at analogies, so if this doesn’t connect, don’t worry about it

        You might have noticed by now that the withholding funds from sanctuary cities by a federal judge. From the comments I’ve read on people who agree with it is because one doesn’t really have to do with the other.

        In this case, the federal government is withholding funding from sanctuary cities because they are not enforcing laws.

        In the case of the student loan debt, the government is withholding lending until good faith efforts are made on student debt.

        Could similar arguments be made for both?

        • To begin with, that decision is wrong. Making federal fund dependent on a city’s not interference with federal law enforcement is hardly unreasonable, and the nexus is obvious. Similarly withholding the benefits of an education not paid for is also fair.

          South Dakota’s driving license law, however, meets the terms of your objection.

          • It’s not really an objection, just an observation. I feel like the judge was overstepping his boundaries, but not being a law expect I wasn’t sure. I saw similarities between the arguments and wanted to confer.

      • It’s as asininely frustrating as when I’m talking with socialists who want the government to run a national level medical system:

        “Don’t you like your community’s public library???”

        (It’s actually a type of or a kissing cousin to the ever elusive actual ad hominem)

  1. # 1- $27 large doesn’t appear to be too generous of a settlement; heck, that’s ~barely one year’s health insurance premiums

    Gloria Allred would’ve secured the complainant a far fatter payment, too bad she’s otherwise occupied trying to hide Roy Moore’s accuser’s yearbook.

    • I think we’re so used to hearing about six and seven figure payouts that we’re numb to the fact that $27,000 still isn’t chump change for the average person.

      This reads to me like a situation where someone was going to get fired with cause, but their employer had built a poor file before termination, and as a cherry on the top, that employer routinely said inappropriate things in the workplace. $27,000 is about what one could reasonably expect from a wrongful dismissal lawsuit, and because the taxpayer was on the hook for the bill, Conyers might have treated this as a nuisance settlement, just to get it dealt with.

      Or a congressman fired an employee, in 2015, for not submitting to his sexual requests, she sued him, and settled for $27,000.

      The old HR manager in me feels like the first option is more likely, the guy blown back by how colossally stupid some asshats are has no fing idea anymore.

  2. “If I don’t pay my mortgage loan, I risk losing my house. The same is true of my car loan. Where did the idea come from that student loans should be any different?”

    Student loans are different because student loans are not collateralized loans. When you borrow to buy a house, you agree to put up the house as collateral on the loan. Professional licenses are not debt collateral.

    (Also, at least when foreclosing on a house, the lender has to follow some fairly substantial due process, whereas suspending a license seems to be a one-sided administrative process.)

    The student loan situation is also different because suspending a license doesn’t make the lender whole. When a bank forecloses on a house, they then own the house and can sell it to recover the principle that would be lost on the loan. It’s the same when they repossess a car: They sell the car to get their money back. And this is the justification for taking houses and cars when owners can’t pay for them. But when the state suspends someone’s professional license, that doesn’t make the lender whole. Unlike a house or a car, it’s not like you can sell a professional license to someone else.

    Also, taking away someone’s professional license, or their driver’s license, actually makes it harder for them to pay their loans, which seems kind of stupid and counter productive. Again, this is unlike your other examples, where taking away people’s houses and cars in fact pays off the loan.

    Actually, that’s another reason student loans are different: When the bank takes your house or your car, you don’t have to pay the loan any more. But when the state takes someone’s license, they still want the money too.

    Finally, this is a perversion of the idea of licensing. Licensing requirements are supposed to protect the public against incompetence. But these people aren’t losing their licenses because they are incompetent. (Your lawyer example is maybe an exception that might also apply to, say, accountants, but it’s not the rule.) Being behind on loan payments doesn’t harm a nurse’s care giving skills. Engineers and architects and doctors don’t magically become incompetent just because they stop writing checks. Taking away their license deprives their employers and clients of their services for reasons having nothing to do with their competence.

    The article says they also take away people’s driver’s licenses, which I guess shouldn’t be a surprise. States have been pulling this kind of nonsense with driver’s licenses for years, suspending them for everything from being behind on child support to picking wildflowers, all of which has nothing to do with driving competency.

    • It’s pretty clear from the article that for the most part, it’s the threat that matters, and there has to be something to threaten. Banks threaten foreclosure a lot more than they foreclose. The bank makes more money on a paid off loan.

      But more to the point, there has to be some way to make people pay what they owe. There’s a reason why banks require collateral. This student loan scheme, one of LBJ’s well-intentioned Great Society schemes that paved the road to Hell, led to outrageous tuition levels, devalued the college diploma, turned academics from professionals into tycoons,and trapped grads into starting life in the red.

  3. On student loan debt, one reads stories like this and hopes it’s a huge outlier:

    This woman took on over $100K in student loans for an undergraduate and graduate education in English … in her 40s … and works now as an adjunct. Evidently she’s at least making payments on time. Maybe she’ll live to see the day the loans are paid off in full, though one wonders at her age and with her career prospect. But what do we say about the higher education industry that reels in suckers like this?

  4. #3)

    Jack, why should that debt that the students knowingly take on get in the way of their happiness? They should be able to terminate it while keeping the upside of that debt, and society should help them pay to do so. They may not have been ready to handle that debt, they may not have realized how difficult that debt is that they incurred…they may have only been thinking about the upside of the conduct leading to that debt.

    I don’t see why we don’t alleviate everyone of the responsibilities they knew their conduct would incur.

    • ”why should that debt that the students knowingly take on get in the way of their happiness?”

      Indeed! It strains credulity, after being inundated with ALL that ‘self-esteem’ happy crap during their formative years, how that slap-dashed mellow could possibly be harshed?

      “They should be able to terminate it while keeping the upside of that debt, and society should help them pay to do so.”

      That “upside” being graduating Magna Cum Lucky/College of Bitterness Studies du jour/Contemporary Che’ major/16th Century Transgender Haiku minor, and being able to say “Want Fries With That” in Sanskrit?

      “They may not have been ready to handle that debt, they may not have realized how difficult that debt is that they incurred”

      They are the victims here. Society should have stepped in and ensured they knew that some of the rules change when one leaves the safe confines of maternally-owned below-grade-lower-level accommodations.

      “they may have only been thinking about the upside of the conduct leading to that debt.”

      Like the halcyon days of manufacturing offense, grade inflation, shouting down the Founding Principle of Dissent, triggeration-at-the-drop-of-a-beret, safe spaces, none-stop microagressions, showing slobbering respect for all Religions (except Christianity & Judaism) and for all cultures (except Western), and the horrifying realization that not everyone agrees with their “Lefty World View Cafeteria” opinions?

      “I don’t see why we don’t alleviate everyone of the responsibilities they knew their conduct would incur.”

      We (collective interpretation) need to do something: FOR_THE_CHILDREN!!!

      Because that’s what they are.

        • You’re too kind!

          Forgot to add to the “halcyon” thingey:

          *HRC winning the popular vote,
          *the Ruskkies,
          *that we hate Comey,
          *that we LUV Comey,
          *being allowed to go into vapor-lock because of seeing chalk drawings, posters, & whatever else remind us of a prevailing fact-based Universe where reality bats last,
          *being allowed to skip classes, miss exams, and generally descend dangerously into catatonic/apoplectic, pillow-biting, mouth-breathing, weenie-whiny, simpering-whimpering complete metaphysical, emotional, existential, psychological, philosophical, full-throated, freaking out, melting down, totally collapsing free-fall.
          *remembrances of soothing hot chocolate, plush stuffed animals, and enabling grief counselors assuring us that we’re “in crisis,” that our “primal screaming” is both valid and productive, and that needing unmitigated condescension, I mean, understanding, doesn’t make you a bad person.

          Just a stupid one!

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