Monthly Archives: August 2018

The Henry Higgins Syndrome And Me

“An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him!  The moment he talks he makes some other  Englishman despise him!”

—Alan J. Lerner, writing for Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady,” in the song, “Why Can’t The English Teach Their Children How To Speak?”

Today’s latest “Let’s hate the President!” item from the news media was the leaked news that Trump can’t stand how AG Jeff Sessions speaks. Politico reported yesterday that Trump has griped “to aides and lawmakers”  “that Sessions isn’t a capable defender of the President on television — in part because he ‘talks like he has marbles in his mouth.’”

As usual, the fact that some un-named source says something doesn’t make it true, or, for that matter, legitimate to reports as news, by hey, it’s Donald Trump, so fairness, ethical journalism and professionalism are suspended, right? If you hate the man, here’s more non-substantive, unproven stuff to believe and complain about on line, and if your business is to try to define and encourage standards of societal and workplace ethics, here’s one more chance to be vilified on Facebook as a “Trump supporter” by pointing out that it is wrong for anyone to be subjected to hearsay snipe attacks like that.

In this case, however, there is another factor. There are a lot of speech habits and styles that I have a visceral dislike of too. Some I can defend, some are just a matter of taste, regional influences and upbringing, and some are genuine impediments to my treating people fairly.

Here’s one that my Facebook friends will love, for example: the way Donald Trump talks drives me crazy. His repetitive vocabulary–every thing is “great,” “strong,” “weak,” “stupid,” “smart,” “sad” or “tough; everyone is a “loser,” a “moron” “out of control,” or “dangerous”–signals “uneducated simpleton” to me. I’ve read all of the scholarly examinations of Trumps communications style and why it is effective, and I understand the theories. They are probably right. Where I come from, however, size, precision and variety of vocabulary is deemed a reliable way of gauging intellectual capacity. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/31/18: Labor Day Weekend Edition

Good Morning.

This was in some respects the worst month in Ethics Alarms history, and I won’t be sorry to see it go. This weekend I will be spending more hours trying to cover ethics issues and developments while  knowing that an even smaller group of readers will bother to consider them, as they will off at beaches and mountain retreats, or sweltering at backyard barbecues. I have to admit it’s discouraging, and makes what needs to feel important and stimulating feel like an unsatisfying slog instead. Well, if you’re reading this, it’s not your fault.

1. Ethics estoppel. I couldn’t believe I read more than one local account of last night’s Detroit-Yankee game, a crushing loss for New York, complaining that Tigers DH Victor Martinez’s game-tying homer in the 9th “wouldn’t have been a home run in any of the other 29 Major League stadiums.”  Wow. The unmatched dominance of the New York Yankees over all of baseball has been significantly aided by its uniquely short right field fence ever since the original Yankee Stadium was built to provide cheap right field home runs to Babe Ruth, who hardly needed any help. Even though the shot to right isn’t as easy as it used to be (those old Yankee Stadium dimensions are illegal now), the Yankees still build their offense around that fence, and it is substantially responsible for the fact that the team leads all of baseball in home runs, and games won by cheap home runs.

Yankee fans and media are estopped from complaining when an opposing player benefits for a change. What utter gall!

2. Worst management ethics ever. President Trump is again tweeting about what a lousy job Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doing. Is he trying to make Sessions resign? Why? Why doesn’t he just fire him? This is a guy who became famous using “You’re fired!” as a trademark. Undermining a subordinate in public can’t possible make him or her perform better. It also signifies a dysfunctional organization and chain of command. In Sessions’ case, it makes the target look like a pathetic weenie devoid of self- respect. If my boss complained in public about me, I would resign that very day, with a brief statement that no professional should have to endure such gratuitous abuse from a superior, and that I would not. Continue reading

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Oh, Fine: I Knew Wikipedia Was Untrustworthy, And Now I Find Out It’s Partisan Too….

If the mainstream media, social media, and the most accessed encyclopedia won’t tell the truth without trying to manipulate it, what chance do we have?

Yesterday I again tip-toed into the realm of government lawyer ethics for a CLE seminar. As I did last week, I attempted to mention the most important government lawyer issues raised by the events of the past year without triggering partisan zealots and the anti-Trump deranged. I also noted that being a partisan zealot or anti-Trump deranged qualifies as a potential conflict of interest for a government lawyer, interfering with his or her ability to be objective, independent, competent, loyal and zealous. I did not say, but could have, as proven by Sally Yates. I know from past experience that this particular—100% accurate—observation is inviting a fight.

However, I did feel it necessary to discuss Bruce Ohr, the Justice Department official who is at the center of several Mueller investigation controversies. I am not yet prepared to weigh in on Orr, except to note this, as I did yesterday: The fact that Ohr served as the Justice Department contact for Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent commissioned to author the dubious Trump–Russia dossier that was used as the primary justification for the FISA warrants permitting surveillance of the Trump campaign, while Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that prepared the dossier under a contract with the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign (but I repeat myself), was a blatant conflict of interest, and arguably (and I’ll argue it) an unwaivable one. It also violates the ethics requirement that all government employees must follow to avoid the appearance of impropriety. (Pretty much the entire Mueller investigation has breached that. )

In the course of trying to confirm the basic facts of Ohr’s conduct, I consulted Wikipedia. Where else do you go these days for a dispassionate up-to-date recitation of facts without spin? Not  the New York Times. Not Fox News. As Frankie Pentangeli says to Michael Corleone, “Your father did business with Hyman Roth; your father respected Hyman Roth; but your father never trusted Hyman Roth.” That pretty much describes my relationship to Wikipedia. I don’t trust it. I frequently find errors in entries; I know people who have Wikipedia pages who are about as deserving of them, or less, than my Jack Russell Terrier; and I have never forgotten how my father spend hours correcting a wildly inaccurate Wikipedia article about a World War II battle that he was deeply involved in and wrote about in his book only to have his work rejected because Wikipedia does not accept, it said, “first hand accounts.” Wikipedia is a classic example of an imperfect resource that is both essential and hopelessly flawed by its very nature. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/30/18: Double Standards, Signature Significance, Facebook Tricks, And Pettiness From Beyond The Grave!

Gliddy glup gloopy!!

1. Tennis Ethics: Yes, I’d call this a double standard…When I saw the headline at AOL— “The US Open has been accused of sexism after a female tennis player was slapped with a code violation for changing her top in the middle of a match”—I assumed that this was another bare-breasts equality story. No, it was even stupider than that. At the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows this week,  Alizé Cornet was playing Swedish star Johanna Larsson when Cornet realized she  had put her her top on backwards during a break.

So she quickly fixed the wardrobe malfunction on the court, briefly exposing her black sports bra. The Horror. The umpire slapped Cornet with a code violation, unsportsmanlike conduct. But male players frequently remove their shirts on the sidelines, and usually aren’t wearing any bra at all. Indeed, male player Novak Djokovic  removed his shirt on the same day Cornet received her warning. Women’s Tennis Association rules state that women are not allowed to change clothes while on the court, but there is no similar rule for men.

2. Signature significance for an unethical politician. (But it’s Andrew Cuomo, so we knew that anyway.) During the New York  gubernatorial candidates’ debate  between Governor Andrew Cuomo and actress-turned-politician Cynthia Nixon, there was this exchange,

Cuomo: Excuse me, can you stop interrupting? 

Nixon: Can you stop lying?

Cuomo: Yeah, as soon as you do!

The audience thought this was funny.

New Yorkers.

3. Today’s  alarming “Nah, [enter Social media of mega-tech company here]  doesn’t abuse its power 0r manipulate information for a political agenda! Why would anyone suggest such a thing?” note:

NPR, to its credit, published an investigative reporting piece debunking a popular anti-gun fake stat, one that David Hogg et al. have wielded repeatedly: the U.S. Education Department’s claim that in the 2015-2016 school year, “nearly 240 schools … reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting.”  The NPR investigation findings:

“…NPR reached out to every one of those schools repeatedly over the course of three months and found that more than two-thirds of these reported incidents never happened. Child Trends, a nonpartisan nonprofit research organization, assisted NPR in analyzing data from the government’s Civil Rights Data Collection.

We were able to confirm just 11 reported incidents, either directly with schools or through media reports.

In 161 cases, schools or districts attested that no incident took place or couldn’t confirm one. In at least four cases, we found, something did happen, but it didn’t meet the government’s parameters for a shooting. About a quarter of schools didn’t respond to our inquiries.

“When we’re talking about such an important and rare event, [this] amount of data error could be very meaningful,” says Deborah Temkin, a researcher and program director at Child Trends.

Gee, ya think?

This statistic has been disputed before, but since the challenges came from conservative news media, the NRA or other Second Amendment supporters, the mainstream media kept using it, and I’m sure the Parkland kids will keep using it anyway, since facts seem to have little importance to them. National Public Radio, however, has been resolutely anti-gun for decades, and never saw a liberal cause it didn’t admire.

When a Facebook user shared the NPR article on Facebook, however, it was removed because, as Facebook informed him,  “it looks like spam and [it] doesn’t follow our Community Standards.” See?

Again: You cannot trust these companies or the people who run them. Continue reading

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From The Ethics Alarms “Be Afraid…Be Very Afraid” Files: Fake Maps From Google

Nah, Google doesn’t abuse its power 0r manipulate information for a political agenda! Why would anyone suggest such a thing?

Chuck Schumer suggested that the Senate Office Building, currently named after the late Senator Richard Russell, 1897-1971, a Georgia Democrat who served in the Senate for almost 40 years, be re-named in honor of the late John McCain.

It’s a good suggestion. Russell was an adamant white supremacist, and opposed, unapologetically, civil rights measures his whole career. I’ve been rather surprised that the building’s name wasn’t changed long before, when Democrats controlled the Senate. Why didn’t the Democrats try to get Russell replaced by Edward Kennedy’s name, for example?

Go ahead, guess why.

But it’s not Google’s role to lobby for the change, or worse, to make it unilaterally, as it did today on Google Maps. This was especially bad—but helpful!– timing for the giant tech company, as it is under fire for political bias by the President, who tweeted that the search engine was “rigged,” and Congress, and Google’s CEO just refused to be questioned on the Hill.  These companies, like Facebook, Amazon and Twitter,  are arrogant beyond all measure, drunk with their growing power, and ethically inert. You can regard this episode as just a funny glitch if you like.

I think it’s an inadvertent warning.

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Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 8/29/2018: Amazingly, There Are More Important Ethics Developments Than How Long The White House Flag Was At Half-Mast…

Gooooood Morning!

1 It’s not just bias–ignorance also makes you stupid, Part I. On Fox News this morning, they were breathlessly talking about the importance of stopping the publishing of those evil blue-prints of 3-D printable guns. Why, last year, a plastic gun got through TSA security, and it was loaded! And those 3-D printed guns are cheaper than ever! (nobody mentioned that making a 3-D gun that shoots is still incredibly expensive.)

The report was like science fiction, and the woman in a protesting group who said that these guns needed to be stopped NOW! should have had her head wreathed in tin foil. Did Fox discuss the First Amendment issues? No. Did Fox explain that anyone can make their own gun without a 3-D printer? No. Did Fox explain anything relevant to the actual case? Of course not. Did Fox point out that the judge who just issued the injunction admitted that his action abridged speech? No, not that either.

And no, the other news networks weren’t any better.

2. California is ending cash bail. Good. It may backfire, but a statewide experiment somewhere is needed. Bail may be a necessary evil, but the long-time criticism of the system as being biased against the poor has validity, if not a solution. Not every idea Jerry Brown has is bad, just most of them. My guess is that this will be a PR and political disaster, but hey, I don’t live there. The first time a “non-violent” accused criminal kills someone while on his own recognizance, the someone won’t be anyone in my…oops, I forgot, I have a nephew and a niece in California. Well, they’re rabid Democrats and progressives, so they have consented to the risk, I guess.

Amusing reaction: The bail-bondsmen say that they’ll leave the state if this policy stays. Well, of course. Why wouldn’t they leave? What kind of a threat is that?

3. It’s not just bias–ignorance also makes you stupid, Part II A poll says that a majority of the public can’t name a single member of the Supreme Court, despite a large majority believing that the Court’s decisions greatly affect their daily lives. Worse, most of the public thinks the Court is a partisan body, like Congress, because most of the public doesn’t know the difference between the Supreme Court and an ice cream cones, and virtually none of the public has read a single Supreme Court opinion all the way though in their entire lives. No wonder  the Democrat fear-mongering about Judge Kavanaugh is regarded as a smart tactic. Ignorant people are the easiest to con. Conned people warp our democracy.

That’s why it is unethical to be ignorant. Continue reading

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The Jehovah Paradox Strikes Again!

Even I get sick of repeating myself, and there is not a lot new to say since the last individual was punished for saying the word nigger in order to discuss the ethical problem with the word nigger. Still, this episode deserves special attention, because the utterer herself, Galileo-style,  capitulated to this lunacy,

Mary Beth Maxwell, the head of the Human Rights Campaign’s educational arm, has resigned after a colleague revealed that she spoke the word nigger twice, in both cases not to refer to an African-American, but to describe a situation in which the denigrating term was used by others. And yet she resigned anyway. Read the story here, but to summarize from an ethics perspective:

  • Maxwell is an idiot and a coward to allow herself to be forced out like this. She has had her brain washed to believe that there are such things as magic taboo words that do tangible and real harm no matter how or where they are used.
  • Apparently this is one more growing malady in Crazy Left World. It needs to be eradicated by the concerted efforts of all free speech embracing citizens regardless of party or belief.
  • HRC President Chad Griffin’s official statement said in part,

“As an organization devoted to achieving equality and stamping out bigotry, we are confronted with hate speech on a daily basis,” Griffin wrote in the memo. “But it’s our job to respond to these incidents in ways that are appropriate and don’t compound the harms done. This situation has crystallized the need for a formal policy on our expectations and requirements of staff in responding to or discussing hate speech.”

What to do? How does one discuss “hate speech” without using “hate speech”? It’s the Jehovah Paradox!!!

The Jehovah Paradox:When one must clearly or graphically reference something offensive in order to explain why it is offensive (or not), thereby risking being accused of the same offense that one is trying to analyze.

Gee, I wonder if the new policy will allow using the word “hate” to discuss hate speech? Griffin is also an idiot. That is not an ad hominem attack, but a fair diagnosis based on his words and conduct. I wonder how he got this way? Whose anti-speech, thought-control propaganda rotted his brains?  Continue reading

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