Leslie Bricusse has died, the less famous of the Anthony Newley-Bricusse song-writing team, though he also had hits with other collaborators. Easily the most profitable and annoying of their creations was “The Candy Man,” from the score of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” But it was the opening number from the show that included my favorite among their scores that kept going through my head as I perused today’s ethics developments. There’s a beautiful land out there, I’m sure of it. But it sure is hard to see lately.
1.Yesterday, October 20, had two major ethics milestones attached to it that I should have noted. The first was in 1947, when the Red Scare began its assault on freedom of thought and association as a Congressional committee began investigating the allegedCommunist influence in Hollywood. The unconstitutional investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) grilled witnesses by asking “Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” Those who refused to answer were found in contempt of Congress and jailed. Others, including director Elia Kazan, Gary Cooper and studio heads Walt Disney and Jack Warner, gave the committee names of colleagues they suspected of being communists. It all led to a so-called “blacklist” that kept actors, writers and directors, including some of the most talented in the industry, from working for years.
I thought of those hearings as I watched (as much as I could stand) the disgusting House January 6 riot hearing this morning where Attorney General Garland allowed the prestige of his office to be used for a flagrant abuse of the committee system for pure partisan propaganda of the most bilious sort, executed by the House Judiciary Committee. (More on that later.)
Garland also reminded me of the other ethics event in U.S. history that took place on the 20th: the so-called “Saturday Night Massacre.” Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, an esteemed Harvard law professor so trusted that the Supreme Court once allowed him to argue both sides of a case before it (which was ridiculous), was getting too close to the ugly truth, so Nixon ordered his Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire him. Richardson refused, and resigned. The mantle of AG then fell on Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, who also refused to fire Cox, and also resigned. Finally, Solicitor General Robert Bork did the deed, reasoning, as he explained later, that Nixon’s order was legal and not an abuse of power.
As I listened to Garland huminahumina this morning when asked by GOP committee members about this memorandum, which was designed to chill the speech of parents raising their legitimate objections to attempted political indoctrination in the public schools, I found myself wondering if he would have had the integrity and guts to refuse a lawful order by Nixon that nonetheless undermined the Constitution both the Attorney General and the President are sworn to defend. I doubt it. That memo was probably not Garland’s idea, and its goal was to stifle political dissent by using vague words like “harassment” and darkly suggesting that law enforcement would be watching.
2. Regarding that hearing...I have watched a lot of horrible House hearings, but this was the low point. First, it was chaired by uber-hypocrite Gerald Nadler, who fought against the impeachment proceedings regarding Bill Clinton–who had clearly committed impeachable acts by any measure—and yet participated in pushing forward two purely political impeachments of Donald Trump in defiance of fact, law, and precedent. In his opening remarks this morning, Nadler left no doubt that the purpose of the hearing (and others to come) is to continue unsubstantiated partisan attacks on Trump in a desperate effort to stave off the reckoning Democrats fear is coming in 2022.
Nadler stated that “the previous President” committed a four year assault on democratic institutions. What would those be, Congressman? He never said. But there must have been such an assault, because “membership in white supremacy groups” increased during that time. (It couldn’t have had anything to do with a well-publicized, riot supported, Democratic Party-backed vilification of white Americans during the same period.) Nadler then noted that hate crimes against Asian-Americans had “skyrocketed”—from tiny percentages to slightly less tiny percentages, disproportionately inflicted by African-Americans, but Nadler didn’t mention any of that either.
Repeatedly during the fiasco, Nadler lectured committee members that they should be wearing masks, only removing them to speak, which is what he was doing. Of course, since the masks don’t do much of anything to protect wearers, and since neither Nadler nor anyone else in sight was wearing a serious, medical-quality mask, it is only the potentially infecting droplets launched into the air when an infected individual speaks that the inadequate masks might guard against. That, however, is when the committee members were supposed to take off their masks. When they weren’t opening their mouths, THEN they had to be masked.
3. Res Ipsa Loquitur! Terry McAuliffe may eventually be elected Governor in Virginia, which will prove that in this state, at least, character means nothing at all, unless the character at issue is Donald Trump’s.
Ellie Warner, McAuliffe’s finance director, has put her name on a fundraisng email that reads in part, “I’m freaking out right now! I meant to send this email earlier … but I forgot to press send, and now, we’re even more behind on our fund-raising goal than we were before.” Do you believe that she “forgot to hit send”? It’s an obvious lie, which means that the McAuliffe campaign believes either that Virginians are idiots or that they don’t care if they elect a habitual liar.
4. Meanwhile, in Boston, two empty slots on the Boston School Committee were filled by Acting Mayor Kim Janey. Both are Hispanic women, and one of them, Polanco Garcia, barely speaks or understands English, so she had to be sworn in by a translator. “This means that we will have to work very hard to meet her needs,” Janey said, “and in doing so, we will move our school district and our city forward.”
No, it means she has no business being on the Committee, and is unqualified to serve. Ethics Alarms commenter Alexei, who caught this, points out, “Polcano, who has lived in the US since 2014-2015, is not that interested in joining the culture. And Boston bureaucrats are happy to oblige.” That makes her a bad citizen, and certainly not worthy of being a policy-maker.
5. Incompetence, diversity, and baseball ethics. The baseball old timers who express horror at the idea that strike calls may soon be made by computers rather than umpires literally make no sense, as I have mentioned before. Before technology allowed fans to see in real time whether an umpire’s call was correct or not, then the “it’s all part of the game” argument could be justified. No longer. Before the Houston-Boston ALCS play-off game two days ago began, I informed my wife that the home plate umpire, Laz Diaz, was easily the worst umpire in baseball (though Angel Hernandez is close.) Sure enough, Diaz miscalled 21 pitches, two of which may have cost the Red Sox the game. But really any of the miscalls could have changed the game result.
Here is how Diaz performed—he missed more pitches than any umpire in any of the post-season games so far:
Why is a recognized hack like Diaz umpiring in such an important game at all? Once, MLB used reviews of umpire performance to determine who worked the World Series and the games deciding the participants. The umpire’s union objected, using the two terrible Hispanic umpires to raise the specter of a discrimination lawsuit. “Disparate impact,” you know. MLB caved.
MLB also apparently requires its broadcasters to avoid emphasizing the egregious botches and the odd tendency of certain umpires to make them. The most consequential bad call of the night was never subjected to the computer strike zone review that the broadcasts have available, because you mustn’t embarrass Laz on national TV.
This can’t continue, and I am pretty certain it won’t. Neither Laz nor his colleagues will be calling balls and strikes, perhaps as early as next season. Good.