Mid-Day Ethics Supplement 3/4/21: It’s Constitution Day!

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Not that the U.S. actually has a holiday memorializing the first day our fledgling nation began operation under the most important secular ethics document in world history, but our priorities are thoroughly messed up right now, as you no doubt know.

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787, 38 of the 41 delegates signed the new U.S. Constitution. Article VII stated that the document would not be official until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states. Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut quickly ratified it, but the other states, led by Massachusetts, opposed the Constitution for, among other things, its lack of protection for basic rights such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press, and the right to bear arms. In February of 1788, the states reached a compromise. Massachusetts and other states agreed to ratify the document with the stipulation that the amendments, eventually called the Bill of Rights, would be incorporated. On that basis the new Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, Maryland, and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the crucial ninth state to ratify. Government under the U.S. Constitution was scheduled to begin on March 4, 1789 and so it did.

On September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States adopted the 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution called the Bill of Rights, prompting last hold-outs of the 13 original colonies, North Carolina and Rhode Island, to finally ratify the Constitution.

1. David Brooks take notice: This is how it is done.…Normally I would make this item a main post: From the Times today…

While serving as transportation secretary during the Trump administration, Elaine Chao repeatedly used her office staff to help family members who run a shipping business with extensive ties to China, a report released Wednesday by the Transportation Department’s inspector general concluded. The inspector general referred the matter to the Justice Department in December for possible criminal investigation. But in the weeks before the end of Trump administration, two Justice Department divisions declined to do so.

I have a personal conflict of interest in matters involving Ms. Chao, rendering it impossible for me to be objective regarding her conduct. Decades ago, my friend and mentor Tom Donahue at the U.S. Chamber set up a meeting with the then Bush Labor Secretary to discuss possible employment options and leads. To say that she treated me rudely would be a gross understatement. I have seldom been so unprofessionally treated in my life, and the extent of her abuse was signature significance: fair, ethical, good people don’t ever treat anyone that way, not even once.

You should read the article—the Times doesn’t pull any punches, since Chao is a) a Republican b) a Trump Cabinet member and c) Mitch McConnell’s wife—but I will mention this part, which I would have if I had never had a preview into the rottenness that is Elaine Chou, since its dishonesty and contempt for the public’s intelligence speaks for itself:

Ms. Chao had declined to respond to questions from the inspector general and instead provided a memo that detailed the importance of promoting her family as part of her official duties. “Anyone familiar with Asian culture knows it is a core value in Asian communities to express honor and filial respect toward one’s parents,” the September 2020 memo said. “Asian audiences welcome and respond positively to actions by the secretary that include her father in activities when appropriate,” it continued.

2. Baseball and sexual harassment! Mickey Callaway has been suspended as the Los Angeles Angels pitching coach pending the outcome of MLB’s investigation into evidence that he has been a blatant sexual predator as a coach “the Cleveland Team”—it has no name thanks to The Great Stupid— from 2010 to 2017, and as manager of the New York Mets until he was fired. Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti had told the baseball press that this was all a big surprise to him: Cleveland had heard no complaints about Callaway when he was with the Indians. Antonetti almost certainly was lying. Then several former Indians employees had come forward in February to say the team’s front office was aware of Callaway’s behavior, and didn’t take action.

Asked yesterday about those reports, Antonetti humina-humina-ed,

“I very much want to answer that.At this point I’m not able to. The last time we talked, the investigation had not yet started, so I had more latitude with what I was able to share. With the ongoing investigation, the most important thing is that the investigation is able to maintain its integrity, its thoroughness, its impartiality. And I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize that investigation. As importantly, we look forward to learning what that investigation reveals so we can make sure that we address everything in totality and not in piecemeal.”

It would be so much more honest and respectful to say, “I don’t want to answer that question. Next.” Antonetti’s kind of blather just announces, “I’m a liar, and you can’t ever trust anything I say.”

3. And speaking of that…New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held a pandemic briefing yesterday and made an “announcement” regarding the recent sexual harassment allegations against him. “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” he said. “I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional, and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly, I am embarrassed by it.” Cuomo then repeatedly claimed he never touched anyone “inappropriately,” and that he “never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable,” and has “learned an important lesson,” and “will be the better for this experience.”

This is what every sexual harasser says. Louis C.K. essentially said this after it was revealed that he masturbated in front of female visitors. There is no excuse for any male adult to claim such ignorance in 2021 (or 2011, 2001, 1991…), and such a claim is unbelievable on its face. I would put it in the same category as Governor Northam of Virginia–D, which stands for “Immune from consequences” for some reason—claiming that he never knew that wearing blackface was considered racially offensive.

Cuomo has even less of an excuse, if that’s possible—less than none? He signed into law a 2019 bill that lowered the standard for proving sexual harassment. It says harassment need not be “severe or pervasive” to be considered unlawful, and that any action that rises above “petty slights and trivial inconveniences” can justify a claim. A male supervisor asking a subordinate out to lunch could be the basis for a claim, one employment lawyer has said. I agree.

Cuomo’s alleged harassing conduct, which he has essentially admitted, easily clear the bar set by the 2019 law…and he signed it. Presumably he read it, but by signing it he can’t say he didn’t know what harassment is in his state.

The law also obliterated what can be a defense under federal law. An employer can avoid liability if the harassed employee never filed a formal complaint, and Cuomo’s accusers did not. But under the New York law Cuomo signed, the absence of formal complaints “shall not be determinative of liability.”

I’d say Cuomo’s chances of becoming the pitching coach for the Angels are dead.

4 thoughts on “Mid-Day Ethics Supplement 3/4/21: It’s Constitution Day!

  1. On September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States adopted the 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution called the Bill of Rights, prompting last hold-outs of the 13 original colonies, North Carolina and Rhode Island, to finally ratify the Constitution.

    Wasn’t the 11th ratified in 1795?

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