Sunset Ethics, 9/30/2020: Conflicts Of Interest, Sexual Harassment, Movies And Lies

1. Conflicts of interest on my mind. I narrowly averted a disastrous conflict of interest yesterday out of pure moral luck, so the topic is much on my mind; I’m still distracted by the near miss. Professionally, it was the equivalent of almost being picked off by a bus.

NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg reacted to the death of Justice Ginsburg with an essay on her 48-year friendship with RBG, saluting Ginsburg’s “extraordinary character.” That’s funny: Totenberg never told NPR’s listeners, nor did  NPR, that she had a personal relationship with the Justice, despite being charged with covering the Court and critiquing its decisions.  Kelly McBride, NPR’s public editor and senior vice president of the Poynter Institute, threw a metaphorical ethics foul flag,

“In failing to be transparent about Totenberg’s relationship with Ginsburg over the years, NPR missed two opportunities,”she wrote on the NPR website. “First, NPR leaders could have shared the conversations they were having and the precautions they were taking to preserve the newsroom’s independent judgment,” McBride said. “Second, having those conversations in front of the public would have sharpened NPR’s acuity in managing other personal conflicts of interest among its journalists.”

Ginsburg, who officiated at Totenberg’s wedding in 2000. Nonetheless, the correspondent,  who wears her progressive bias on her sleeve as it is, denied that the conflict compromised to her journalism, telling  the Washington Post that NPR’s listeners benefited from ther friendship because it gave her greater insight into and Ginsburg’s  thinking.

And that justifies keeping the relationship secret from listeners how, Nina?

2. From the “When ethics alarms don’t work” files: Lawyer Phillip Malouff Jr. of La Junta, Colorado, was censured for a series of episodes of unprofessional behavior and sexual harassment.

In November 2016, Malouff  winked at a magistrate judge and said, “When you get back from your vacation, I better be able to see your tan lines.” When he visiting the same magistrate’s chambers to discuss scheduling matters, he  said, according to the female judge,: “Ask your husband a question for me when you get home tonight. Ask him what it’s like to have relations with someone who wears the robe. It has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but there have never been any women judges until now.”

Malouff  was informed that his comments were unprofessional and a violation of the Colorado Judicial Department’s anti-harassment policy. Ya think?

In July 2019, Malouff asked a judicial assistant to check whether the mother in a parental rights hearing had an outstanding warrant. When the assistant replied, “She is good.” Malouff  responded, “Her husband told me that she is good.

Wink wink, nudge nudge. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On 2020 Presidential Debate #1 [Comments Restored!]

 

Ten Ethics Observations:

1. I showed a photo from the first Presidential debate in 1960 to introduce the post Chris added his comments to, earning his Comment of the Day. Maybe I should have shown a video. Jack Kennedy was a Machiavellian phony of more style than talent, and Richard Nixon was more talented but just as ruthless and more unstable. Yet both conducted themselves as dignified aspirants to an honored office and role in our government, with sober and substantive answers to neutral questions that never betrayed the intense dislike the two men had for each other. Compare that event to what was on display last night. There are reasons for it, but no excusing it. Both men harmed the nation and the office last night with their ugly attitudes toward each other. As a result, they harmed the process, and democratic institutions.

2. The lack of a handshake was inexcusable, and shame on both campaigns and the debate commission for permitting this departure from traditional civility, as well as all concerned for giving the fake excuse of caution regarding the Wuhan virus. The two adversaries could have worn gloves and masks; hell, they could have worn suits of medieval armor for all I care. They needed to signal the traditional respect of each other even if they have none.

Shame on everyone.

 3. Trump’s constant interruptions of Biden and “bullying,” as it is being described in many forums, were bad form and poor strategy: Biden was vague and sometimes incomprehensible. Ethically, the President’s rudeness raises a familiar tit for tat dilemma. In his 2016 debate with Paul Ryan, Biden’s tactic was to mug, sigh, cackle, mock, and generally do everything he could to interfere with poor, polite Paul Ryan’s attempts to talk about policy, while moderator Martha Raddatz  made Ryan look weak. Trump decided that if that was going to be Biden’s game again—and it was—he wasn’t going to make Ryan’s mistake and be passive. So he acted as rude and jerkish as Biden, and made his contempt for and distrust of the moderator clear from the beginning.

4. I suspect Biden was drugged. He looked drugged last night; his pupils looked huge. The Trump team wanted to require a drug test, and though that was partially gamesmanship, it was also a fair request, given legitimate questions about Biden’s health, which should be the equivalent in this race of what Trump’s taxes were in 2016.

5. I don’t like either of these men as personalities, as elected officials, and as leaders, potential or otherwise. The difference is that President Trump has never pretended to be any different than he appears and sounds. W.S. Gilbert had a libretto he was inexplicably obsessed with about a magic lozenge that turned people into whatever they were pretending to be. (It helped break up his partnership with Sullivan, who refused to set it to music.) If Donald Trump ate that lozenge, it would have no effect at all. If Joe Biden did, he would turn into a nice guy. His supposed appeal is that he’s decent, trustworthy official, whatever his other deficits. He isn’t, and last night it was obvious that he isn’t. I can’t see anyone who was inclined to vote for Trump being put off by last night’s debate, but I can see Biden losing the votes of those who want someone more “Presidential.” Continue reading

Grovel Of The Year: Matthew J. Mayhew, The William Ray And Marie Adamson Flesher Professor Of Higher Education at Ohio State University

This is pathetic.

When I read the Grovel of the Year—presumably you know what a banner year 2020 has been for grovels, as executives, academics and whole companies and organizations desperately try to mollify the Black Lives Matter mobs—-I instantly thought of the Monty Python skit above, as the brilliant Michael Palin portrayed a certified public accountant attempting to be bold and assertive, only to dissolve into a puddle of blubbering doubt the second he was challenged to follow through on his decision.

We are told that Matthew J. Mayhew, the William Ray and Marie Adamson Flesher Professor of Higher Education at Ohio State University, has published more than 75 peer-reviewed articles and is a co-author of How College Affects Students: Volume 3. He recently co-authored an admittedly fatuous piece for the Journal of Higher Education  called, “Why America Needs College Football” that was published on September 24. The cancel/race-baiting/ progressive bully mobs attacked, and it took only four days for poor Mayhew to issue a Palin-worthy grovel, begging for forgiveness and rejecting what he had written just days before.

“Weenie” doesn’t begin to describe the deficits of integrity and character his capitulation represents.

Here are examples of what he and co-author Musbah Shaheen wrote ( Shaheen is an Ohio State Ph.D. student, and hasn’t been heard from. I assume he is on the run, has changed his name and is off the grid, and will soon be sharing an apartment in Antartica with Salman Rushdie):

Essentializing college football might help get us through these uncharacteristically difficult times of great isolation, division and uncertainty. Indeed, college football holds a special bipartisan place in the American heart.

and…

College football reminds many Americans of the community values that underscore higher education and by extension America itself.Americans have lost the united sense of who we are as a nation.

and…

This election season has demonstrated how stifled, polarized and dangerous our political differences have become, and college football can remind us of respect — even in the wake of deep disagreement. We can root for different teams, scream at the players, argue with the refs and question the coaches, but win or lose, at the end of the day, we leave the stadium, watch party or tailgate with a sense of respect for the game and the athletes that train so hard, leaving it all out on the field every time.

and…

Deep difference doesn’t have to lead to disrespect.

The Horror! Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: The First 2020 Presidential Debate.

[The transcript is here]

I’ll make my comments regarding last night’s debate relatively brief. Right now I’m going to give the floor to Chris Marschner, whose lengthy comment shortly after it concluded is both fair and thorough. This is an ethics blog that has been forced into commenting on politics far more than it should or that its writer wants to, and for that I blame, as a depressed friend said yesterday, “the politicization of everything.” I am going to try, as I have all along in matters relating to President Trump and the unconscionable methods the Axis of Unethical Conduct has employed to undermine and remove him regardless of the long- and short- term harm they inflict on the nation, to keep my observations on the debate to ethical issues . I think, for the most part, Chris does too, which is one reason I admire his Comment of the Day.

One of his main complaints is the incompetence of the President in failing to clearly explain and defend his response to the Wuhan virus. I won’t touch on that at all;  Chris is right,  but it’s Julie Principle territory. Yes, it would be great if this President could articulately marshal facts and statistics to kill false narratives, as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton could. The man just doesn’t do that, can’t, and never will. It is true that Biden provided many opportunities that a more verbally adept President could have exploited, but complaining that Trump is Trump seems pointless now.

My own observations, which I will restrict to just ten, are here—I wrote them up before reading Chris’s analysis.. Meanwhile, here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on last nights debate, nominally on the post, “Pre-Debate Ethics Distraction, 9/29/2020: Prediction: Whatever Happens, I’m Going To Hate It, And The News Media Will Lie About It”:

I can’t believe American politics has devolved in to the one of those circuses elsewhere when the the two sides clear the benches for physical free for all. Chris Wallace is ill suited for what our debates have become and his questions being so long allowed the two candidates to go off into their preferred areas of attack instead of giving relatively succinct answers.

It also appeared to me that the questions were structured in such a way that Trump had to defend his decisions while Biden was given the opportunity to lay out his ideas. Having to defend the measurable and complex issues of a pandemic response coupled with widespread unrest in major cities fomented by race-baiters while your opponent merely has to give unmeasurable platitudes is sort of unreasonable. The only one challenging Biden on his record was Trump while Trump was challenged by Wallace and Biden.

Trump may come across as overbearing tonight but I recall Biden’s debate with Paul Ryan in which he behaved as Trump did tonight. Perhaps the game plan was to not let Biden pull that again. Continue reading

Pre-Debate Ethics Distraction, 9/29/2020: Prediction: Whatever Happens, I’m Going To Hate It, And The News Media Will Lie About It.

The question for the ages: Was this the most unethical pair in a Presidential debate before tonight?

1. Well this seems ominous. This morning the Trump campaign requested  that a third party inspect both candidates for electronic devices or transmitters. President Trump had already consented to such an inspection, and the Biden campaign had reportedly agreed to this days ago. The New York Post reported a few hours ago that the Biden camp refused the condition.

What’s going on here? I can only assume that it’s gamesmanship. Biden would be beyond demented to try to cheat in a broadcast debate.

2. Here are results of the FIRE’s college free speech rankings survey, as determined by students. My alma mater ranked #46 out of the 56 schools ranked; no surprise there. The school I worked for as an administrator after getting my law degree there is two slots worse.

3. Prediction: It will not end well for poor David Hogg. I foresee a tragic opera in his future. Too young for the prominence he was thrust into as a survivor of the Parkland shooting, cynically exploited by the news media and activists who did not care about him, he is now condemned to have no support from any quarter. His best course would be to quietly leave the public gaze forever, and fight off the addiction of fame. It’s not easy. Continue reading

The Vegan Parents: No, They Haven’t “Suffered Enough”

Review: “I don’t recommend this formula. It killed my baby.”

The vegan parents of a baby girl they condemned to a lifetime of brain damage pleaded guilty to negligently causing serious injury, thus avoiding jail time. They will  have to perform 12 months of community service, and will also have to undergo mental observation and treatment.

Talk about locking the barn door after the horse has escaped.

Having ignored all legitimate health advice regarding the nutritional needs of infants for a full year, the parents took their 12-month-old baby girl to an emergency clinic in August 2018 with her suffering from extreme malnutrition, open wounds, rashes, bruises, discoloration of her skin, internal bleeding and blood in her stool. Her condition, doctors said,  resembled those of babies being raised in countries during famines.

A week before, the father had sought the help of an online vegan website, writing,

“Hi my 1-year-old has stopped wanting to drink/eat and when she does, it’s not staying down or she starts to cough,” he reportedly wrote in the email. “What can I do to help her keep it down and allow her to drink? She doesn’t have a temp. She is on a fruit diet. Please help asap.”

The recommended solution: “stomach tea.” The parents had decided that they didn’t trust doctors after being told  told that their baby required more than the coconut water and health store powders that they began feeding her after she stopped breast-feeding. Continue reading

Discrimination, Diversity, And The Tattooed Teacher

Sylvain Helaine, 35, has, as you can see above, gone to great lengths to cover nearly every centimeter of his body with tattoos, including the whites of his eyes. He is, believe it or not, a kindergarten teacher, and Helaine is complaining that he has been told he cannot teach young children because some of them find his appearance nightmare-inducing. This, he feels, is discrimination.  Nonetheless, he is still teaching older children.

He says that he hopes his tattoos will teach his students about acceptance so that “maybe when they are adults they will be less racist and less homophobic and more open-minded.”

I’m sorry this issue is emerging in France and not in the U.S. It’s an excellent Ethics Incompleteness Principle case. When an individual deliberately mutilates himself like this, a school rejecting him as a teacher of young children, and indeed older children as well, is fair, reasonable and responsible. His “disability” is self-inflicted, his appearance teaches that narcissism and lack of respect for others is admirable, and he is quite possibly mentally ill. Continue reading

Monday Ethics Lockdown, 9/28/2020: Wait, CNN Reporters Are Challenging Democrats Now?

I locked it down so securely that it took until Tuesday to open it…

1. Does the Democratic Party’s 2020 ticket constitute the most irresponsible nominations for President and Vice-President in U.S. history? I think a strong case can be made that it is. The patriotic duty of a political party is to give the American people the best possible choices of competent and trustworthy leaders to cast their votes for. In 2020, the nominee for President is mentally declining into incompetence, and the nominee for Vice-President appears to have no genuine objectives other than her own voracious ambition, and will say anything to achieve that. Recent evidence:

  • It was missed at the time, and the 77-year-old Biden had more marbles left then, but during a town hall event last October before the South Carolina Democratic primary, video shows Biden claiming, “I got started out of a HBCU, Delaware State,” he told pupils at Wilson High School in Florence, founded in 1866 by the Freedmen’s Bureau for black children seeking an education. Delaware State is a traditional black college. Yesterday, Delaware State University confirmed  that Joe Biden was never a student there.

Did Joe really misremember where he went to college? Does he think he’s black? Was he lying? Who knows?

  • Kamala Harris appeared at the virtual NAACP convention last week, and, CNN commentator Angela Rye asked Harris who was the best rapper alive. “Tupac!” she answered.

Tupac Shakur has been dead since 1996. Harris, as is her habit, tried to giggle the gaffe away, and then was given another chance. “There’s so many, you know?” she huminahumina-ed. “There’s some I would not mention right now because they should stay in their lane.”

Sure. You know, I have never listened to a rap station or to a single rap song all the way through,  and I can name at least six. Heck, just add almost any adjective to “Ice” and you’ll probably name one by accident. And I’m not even sort-of black.

It’s not that Harris is faking it all the time, it’s that she’s not smart enough to do a convincing job faking it.

2. Wait, another CNN reporter refuses to let a Democrat get away with spouting nonsense? Continue reading

The Amy Coney Barrett Hysteria, PART 2

Part I is here.

More on this disturbing (but not  surprising) unethical phenomenon:

  • The Return of Anti-Catholic Bigotry. Who saw this coming? In 1960, the attacks on John Fitzgerald Kennedy for his Catholic faith were considered—by Democrats!—the equivalent of Cro-Magnon-level bias. Founded substantially by Protestants, the U.S. once viewed Catholic immigrants from Ireland, Italy and Spain with suspicion. Historian Arthur Schlesinger Sr. wrote that anti-Catholicism was “the deepest-held bias in the history of the American people.”

Funny, I thought the election of JFK finished that particular bias off for good. Nobody talked about religion as an issue when Bobby Kennedy ran, or in connection with Ted Kennedy. Other than the Kennedys, how many even know that these announced candidates for the President in the past were Catholics: Eugene McCarthy, Edmund Muskie, Jerry Brown, Bruce Babbitt, Patrick Buchanan, Tom Harkin, Alan Keyes, John Kerry, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich , Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Martin O’Malley, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio, Bill de Blasio , Julián Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, Beto O’Rourke…aaaaand Joe Biden.

Nobody cared, cares, or  should care. Yet in the New York Times, regular cop-ed writer Elizabeth Bruenig endorses anti-Catholic bigotry as a tool to block Barrett using  weasel words, saying attacks on Barrett based on her religion attacks may “not be entirely baseless.”  Why the shift? Why, it’s because Barrett must be stopped by “any means necessary,” and Democrats and progressives are willing to abandon any principle in that pursuit.

Incidentally, there are already a majority of Catholics on the Court: five, with Sonia Sotomayor, Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh all being raised in the Church. There were nine Catholic Justices before them, including liberal icon William Brennan, and conservative icon Antonin Scalia. Their faith was not an issue in either of their confirmation hearings. Continue reading

Observations On The Trump Tax Returns Dud

Someone at the IRS finally leaked the President’s taxe returns to the Times. That’s a crime, just as it would be if someone leaked my taxes or yours. Of course, this was inevitable, filled as the government bureacracy is with unethical employees who feel it is their duty to try to undermine their ultimate supervisor. Those who cheer on this per se wrongful conduct are enabers and rationalizers.

Other points:

1. In “An Editor’s Note on the Trump Tax Investigation,” the Times felt it necessary to remind readers, “Some will raise questions about publishing the president’s personal tax information. But the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the First Amendment allows the press to publish newsworthy information that was legally obtained by reporters even when those in power fight to keep it hidden. That powerful principle of the First Amendment applies here.” That’s right, the news media has a right to encourage others to break the law and to publish the results. It’s still unethical, except in the rare circumstances where the public interest is indisputably served by furthering an illegal act, as with (arguably) the Pentagon Papers. Publishing documents protected by law that show no wrongdoing only to encourage partisan attacks in an election year is not such a situation.

The Times can’t be punished, but whoever leaked the documents can, and should.

2. I guess this is the time to post this tweet by CNN’s Brain Stelter, which proves his stunning ethical deficits as well as anything he has ever said on CNN. He was responding to another tweet pointing out that leaking tax returns is a crime, as I just did.

Oh! So if Stelter knows he has received embezzled funds from a bank employee, Stelter can spend the cash on a hairpiece because the thieving employee had legal access to the cash!

Has any news network simultaneously employed three dolts as mentally deficient as Stelter, Don Lemon, and Chris Cuomo? Continue reading