Friday Ethics Distractions, 10/22/21: Foot In Mouth Edition

foot in mouth Xray

Wow! People sure are saying some stupid things lately!

1. A David Manning Lie of the Month from Joe Biden! The David Manning Liar of the Month was a feature of the old Ethics Scoreboard honoring public figures or corporations that made obviously dishonest statements that they had to assume were harmless because nobody could possibly believe them. Thus Joe Biden really told reporters that he hasn’t gotten around to visiting the illegal immigrant mobs at the southern border because he’s just been too darn busy. All year. And, he added, it’s OK because Dr. Biden has been there. He also implied that he didn’t need to go to the border to see the utter mess his immigration policies have wrought because he’s seen the border

Let’s unpack this, shall we?

  • Joe has had time to go back to Delaware and Camp David, but not where there’s a border crisis of his making because he’s too busy. Does anyone believe that?
  • Let’s be fair: the President shouldn’t have to go to the border if he has competent subordinates to do it and accurately explain what’s going on. However, when President Bush chose not to personally visit the Katrina carnage, he was accused by Biden’s party and its news media of not caring, not doing his job, and, by Kanye West, of being a racist. What’s the standard? Bush felt that all he could do was get in the way. No, said Democrats, he had to go there, see what was happening with his own eyes. If that’s the standard, and I don’t think it needs to be, then why isn’t it also the standard for Biden and the border mess?
  • Talk about the cover-up being worse than the crime: Jen Psaki managed to top herself for mendacity and deflection when Fox’s Peter Doocy asked her why the President felt he had seen enough of the border. Why, she said, because he had been to the border in 2008! She really said that! “And nothing has changed since 2008?” Doocy reasonably asked. No! the President’s paid liar huffed. There’s been no immigration reform since then! And Biden knows President Trump has made everything worse by “separating children from parents” and building a “feckless wall” (whatever that means). So he doesn’t have to re-visit the border to know that, and again, he went there in 2008!

2. Shut up, or start a blog. The dim-bulb royals in exile decided that we need to hear their opinions on two issues. Prince Harry pronounced the First Amendment “bonkers”—yes, Harry, that attitude on the part of your relatives is why England doesn’t govern us any more—and his wife, Meghan Markle, received publicity for advocating paid leave for parents. Neither of these two people famous for being famous have done or said anything that should endow their opinions with any more persuasiveness or newsworthiness than the typical dogwalker’s. Harry was born well; Meghan married someone who was born well. It doesn’t matter what they think, or what they say. It’s not news.

3. And as for you, shut up and dribble…Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter tweeted a video in which he called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator” and said he supports the Tibetan people’s “cause for freedom.” The NBA star repeated the phrase “free Tibet” three times while wearing a t-shirt with the Dalai Lama on it. That’s nice. Except that Kanter’s organization, the NBA, has a lot of money tied up in its China broadcasts, and some of it pays his salary. This is gratuitous grandstanding to no purpose at all. An American basketball player’s opinions on Chinese policy have exactly zero chance of changing anything, except maybe to make it more difficult for his league to cash in on China’s interest in basketball. Because of Kanter’s outburst, highlights from the Celtics’ game against the Knicks were made unavailable for viewing in China.

If Kanter wants to argue as an NBA player that his league shouldn’t be doing business with a brutal dictatorship, that’s a position he has standing to present. Just throwing empty insults at China is foolish.

4. Maybe this is why judges don’t get elected President...AG Merrick Garland, best known for being a federal judge robbed of a Supreme Court seat by a dastardly—but legal!—maneuver by Mitch McConnell, revealed himself during the January 6 riot House committee hearing to be without candor, integrity, and guts as he played partisan hack to the hilt. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have been a good SCOTUS justice: the character traits that make a good judge and those that made a trustworthy leader (the U.S. Attorney General is supposed to be a leader) are very different. I checked: as I suspected, being a judge just isn’t considered a stepping stone to executive leadership at the highest levels. Only William Howard Taft had experience as a Federal judge, and he could have run a bait shop and been elected President, since he was essentially anointed by Teddy Roosevelt as TR’s successor. Jackson was a justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court, but it was Old Hickory’s success as a general that made him President. Harry Truman was a municipal judge for two years, but he only became President by accident.

But I digress. Biden’s compliant AG was asked if the Justice Department was prosecuting any of the January 6  jackasses for the crime of insurrection or was likely to do so. “I don’t believe so,” Garland answered (throughout the hearing he seemed incapable of giving an unequivocal answer.) The correct answer was “No.” That’s because there was no insurrection, a crime under 18 U.S. Code § 2383. The FBI report released this summer concluded that the riot was not centrally coordinated. Nevertheless, Democrats and the news media have continually referred to the episode as an insurrection. If it were, the U.S. Attorney General would be bound to act accordingly. Even a wimpy one.

5. Speaking of federal laws...In February 2019, Tech. Sgt. Charles Cornacchio,  based at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts (where I saw the majority of the movies that warped my mind as a child), deployed to Qatar. In July, PRTaylor Enterprises LLC, a company doing business as Father & Son Moving & Storage, auctioned off all his stored belongings. What a nice way to treat our soldiers! Cornacchio did not find out about the sale for a month. The items he lost included military gear, mementos that belonged to a cousin who had been killed in action while also serving in the military, his grandfather’s military medals, a dresser handmade by his great-grandfather  and family photographs.

There’s a law against doing this, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which protects both active-duty and reserve troops. The law requires anyone storing a service member’s property must obtain a court order before selling or disposing of it.

The company settled the suit, agreeing to pay Cornacchio $60,000 in compensation. They also agreed to pay a $5,000 federal fine.  “This settlement should send a clear message to all storage facility operators that federal law prohibits them from auctioning off a servicemember’s possessions without a court order,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement.

No, a clear message would have been sending the owners to prison.






31 thoughts on “Friday Ethics Distractions, 10/22/21: Foot In Mouth Edition

  1. 5) A little salty there. But at least they did have to pay a decent amount.

    4) The AG also admitted that he didn’t consider parents as domestic terrorists, although using similar kinds of equivocal language. Still, it’s a step.

    As well, I saw a story tonight that the National School Board Association has issued an apology for the letter they sent labelling parents as domestic terrorists and wanting the feds to invoke the Patriot Act to stop their protests. There have been several state associations that have withdrawn their memberships and much other (justified) criticism. I guess the heat got to be too much. Good!

    In a related story, the Rhode Island state association moved almost instantly to disseminate Garland’s letter to its local school boards and ask that they forward it any problems. I just read that one of those local boards has adopted a resolution condemning the state board’s actions and voting to withhold their dues to it. Sadly, one of the teacher’s targeted in RI has had a disciplinary hearing. That kangaroo court suspended her for 5 days and transferred her to another school. Progress on some fronts but the racists (and fascists) in charge continue to foment hatred.

    I am still somewhat hopeful that Virginia voters will slap these people upside the head.

    2) I listen to a lot of Civil War era songs, and a number of them are about the various Irish brigades that fought on both sides. If only Prince Harry could have been around then saying those sorts of things — the armies on both sides might have gotten together to give the English another thrashing.

    You know, one wonders how British historians regard King George. I mean, he let us get away, but wasn’t he also king through the Napoleonic Wars? That would be a plus, but I’d assume they think of the loss of their American colonies as a minus…..

    • King George III was on the whole a good king, and he actually had very little to do with the loss of the colonies, being unfairly targetted by (often false) propaganda simply because it was convenient. By way of illustration, consider this joke about an outsider’s reactions to what he heard at a Glasgow Celtic and Rangers match (the teams were historically catholic and protestant):-

      “Why are they only shouting ‘F*** the Pope’?”

      “Have you ever tried shouting ‘F*** the Moderator of the Uniting Church of Scotland’?”

      Likewise, it’s easier to shout ‘F*** the King'”.

      Also, the loss of those colonies was largely moral luck. It could never have happened had France and Spain not acted against their own best interests*, which in turn was largely driven by their recent and bitter memories of the outcome of the war before. It was also moral luck that the pattern of 18th century wars changed, so preventing yet later wars from changing things yet again.

      * That’s not hindsight. The likes of James Chalmers pointed out at the time that rebel success required the help of France and Spain, which he thought they would never give because it would destabilise their own regimes – but they did and it did.

  2. McConnell’s maneuver was a great exemplar of moral luck. Or perhaps, in retrospect (which of course cannot ameliorate his actions in the moment) it was a case of ethics zugswang. Or more likely, it’s me trying to defend a retrospective “ends justify the means” position.

    In any case, I’m certainly relieved that Garland isn’t on the Supreme Court in light of his actions and pronouncements as Attorney General.

    Having said all that, I don’t think any serious person who isn’t shot through with terminal partisanship or Trump-hatred believes there was an insurrection on January 6th. It’s just a Democrat party talking point to try to damage Republicans, or at least engender suspicion of them. Garland, proving he isn’t a completely deranged lunatic, simply confirmed what we already knew — that they have found no, or at least insufficient, evidence to charge the crime the Democrats are sure was committed.

    But that won’t matter to the Democrats, because to them, all their opponents may be declared guilty and punished without a trial, if only they can get enough people to agree. They’re working on it.

    • The amazing thing is that the Republicans (and Democrats) who voted to impeach Trump for inciting “an insurrection” haven’t been given their due —that is, condemnation and ridicule—in the media. As Jonathan Turley said at the time, this was a Queen of Hearts, “punishment first, trial after” impeachment. We know why Democrats voted for it—pure, vicious, undemocratic partisanship. What excuse do the Republicans have, other than personal animus (Cheney) or ignorance? Before you can vote that a President incited an insurrection, there has to have been an insurrection, and silence that’s a crime, it has to be shown by evidence and the objective judgment of law enforcement.

      • What excuse do the Republicans have, other than personal animus (Cheney) or ignorance?

        I would personally embrace the healing power of “and.” It seems it could hardly be otherwise.

        Before you can vote that a President incited an insurrection, there has to have been an insurrection, and silence that’s a crime, it has to be shown by evidence and the objective judgment of law enforcement.

        The snark in me wants to attack the Democrats for being self-deluded vermin. But if I’m considering a serious answer, the reality seems to be that it was a purely political act with no Constitutional support whatsoever. If the Constitution could not support it, the underlying facts and legal logic would seem to be… well, maybe not irrelevant, but let’s just say less important.

        This just adds another log onto the bonfire of whatever integrity the Democrats might’ve claimed to have.

  3. No, a clear message would have been sending the owners to prison.

    I don’t agree, absent aggravating circumstances. From other reporting I obtained this:

    The company, which did not admit liability, said in a statement that it had made multiple attempts to contact Cornacchio prior to the auction about outstanding storage fees, wasn’t notified that he had been deployed, and had been unaware of the law prohibiting it from selling his possessions. As part of its agreement with the government, the company created new protocols and employee training related to the law.


    It may be that none of the company’s assertions were true, but I’m inclined to believe them absent proof to the contrary. I think the fine was too low to send a proper message, though — I think the maximum civil penalty should have been assessed, which according to the DOJ website appears to be $55,000 for a first violation, per violation.

    Generally, I think the government got it right. This is similar to the kind of civil remedies for one-off first-time violations of the Export Administration Regulations, but the fines for that tend to be higher, although they are often partially suspended if the company commits resources to an effective compliance program and sins no more. I think the fines for this law need to be higher so that enforcement is enough of a burden to motivate compliance. It seems like, in reading around, this law is all too frequently violated as much because of ignorance as malice. I was unaware of its existence until I read this post.

    • The rule is “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Those items were rather obvious clues that the guy was in the service, no? In general, corporations duck criminal penalties and get fines. It would be unfair to use this company as the template for jailing complicit executives when so many giant corporations skate.

      I’m a bit cynical about settlements: I tend to think that in cases like this, the defense theory is bunk and the defendants know it, which is why they settle, and the government is always happy to save the trouble of a trial.

      • That is the rule, but again, I don’t think serving jail time is the answer in the instant case. Ignorance of the law certainly can be a mitigating circumstance, and for a fact, at least some parts of this law incorporate strict liability, so ignorance matters even less.

        But it’s largely a civil statute, and absent clear criminal intent, I think the penalty was appropriate. It’s easy to use the “giant corporations” excuse to justify harsh penalties, but in my opinion, that’s misguided. I hate it that so many escape any consequences, too, but I don’t think jailing a small-time storage company executive is the best way to “stick it to the man.”

    • I could be totally wrong, but my impression is that this storage company is a small business — Father & Son Moving and Storage? I.e. we’re likely not talking about a multi-national corporation.

      Given that, a $60,000 settlement and $5,000 fine may well be a significant hit for that company. It also sends a message to others in the business.

      So, while nothing can truly replace those mementoes, to me this seems like a reasonable outcome.

      • Possibly, however the settlement itself is not punitive — it’s just restoring to the service member compensation for his illegally sold goods.

        The punishment is the fine, and I think generally the fine is too low. You may be right about the small business, but the point of fines as punishment is to hurt. The business cannot make a legitimate claim about the pain of the settlement. The fine should hurt, and I doubt $5,000 amounts to more than a wrist slap. It may be small by moving company standards, but that small a fine for any successful business is not a fine at all, but a tap on the wrist.

  4. 1. Apparently, from a few news reports I have seen, even Biden’s claim that he had been to the border in 2008 is a lie; the campaign stop in El Paso was when his flight landed at the airport there, then he was driven to another location in New Mexico and back to the airport, never actually going to the international border at all.
    4. If you want to read a real piece of hackery, check out the Wikipedia entry for the January 6, 2021 Capitol Riot. I found it while checking out some of Garland’s statements. This piece has the appearance of having been written by Adam Schiff and AOC. The D-Day Invasion pales in comparison to the “insurrection” operation portrayed therein.

  5. “If Kanter wants to argue as an NBA player that his league shouldn’t be doing business with a brutal dictatorship, that’s a position he has standing to present. Just throwing empty insults at China is foolish.”

    Kanter has standing to call attention to exactly what he did call attention to and is not foolish at all. In fact it is brave considering his unequivocal vocalizing will be unpopular within the league power structure. Athlete’s jersey sloganeering etc. is a new reality and I for one am happy to see/hear something other than woke-speak.
    His words clearly *imply* that he objects to the NBA China relationship and this way he can probably keep his job and maintain the option to protest from a position of some prominence.
    “This is gratuitous grandstanding to no purpose at all. An American basketball player’s opinions on Chinese policy have exactly zero chance of changing anything, except maybe to make it more difficult for his league to cash in on China’s interest in basketball.”

    Frankly I’m rather surprised by your harsh criticism Jack, and I do not understand why Kanter’s stated opinion bothers you so much. Plus, the butterfly effect suggests your assertion that his opinion has “exactly zero chance of changing anything” is false.

    • I never said his criticism bothers me at all. I agree with his criticism. But employees who undermine their employees’ business by public statements are unethical employees. He’s accepting millions of dollars a year to work for an organization with a business partner he is criticizing publicly. He won’t give up his money or refuse to play when the NBA is selling his work product to China. He just wants to have it both ways. The NBA knows if it punishing him, it will be criticized as doing China’s censorship. Kanter is risking nothing, and seeking cheap virtue points at the NBA’s expense, while doing nothing that will actually help Tibet. Why does that impress you?

      • Kanter is in a better position to highlight the NBA/China relationship as an employee. Kanter is risking being fired or perhaps sanctioned. Too bad if the NBA thinks that will exacerbate the bad publicity.
        It *is* still an option.

        “Cheap virtue points”? You have no way of knowing Kanter’s level of sincerity.
        They’re only “empty insults” of untrue and Kanter isn’t prepared to back them up with action.
        What’s wrong with wearing a Dalai Lama t-shirt? Why even bring it up?
        How do you know Kanter is “doing nothing that will actually help Tibet”?

        Is it your position that Kanter is being ethical if he criticizes the league’s relationship with China but unethical if he criticizes Xi Jinping and China foreign policy? He wasn’t protesting on company time either.

        “Kanter wants to argue as an NBA player that his league shouldn’t be doing business with a brutal dictatorship, *that’s a position he has standing to present. *Just throwing empty insults at China is foolish.”

        • The standard isn’t “company time,” but whether his statement is viewed a professional rather than personal. Obviously China regarded it as the former, because it took action against his team, the Celtics. If I make a public statement that brings negative consequences on an employer, I get fired, and should be, but as I said, Kanter knows the public will be told that the NBA is doing China’s bidding if it takes any punitive action at all. I don’t doubt he’s sincere—but his opinion does no good, and harms his employer. It fails any ethical analysis.

          • The standard of professional vs personal is certainly not China’s interpretation and I see nothing to indicate Kanter was voicing his opinion as a Celtic instead of just his personal feelings on his own time.
            You keep making statements that imply you’re a Kanter mind reader. For example, “Kanter knows the public will be told that the NBA is doing China’s bidding if it takes any punitive action at all.”
            And again; you cannot know if “his opinion does no good” without being able to foretell the future.

            The NBA wants to profit from the China market and should understand there will be unpleasant consequences like some players voicing their objection to that relationship.

            I’m not buying your argument Jack and you’re not buying mine, so agree to disagree.

            • 1. He knows this, or can be presumed to be, because there has already been a major uproar when the NBA punished an NBA executive for criticizing China. In 2019, a tweet from the general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team, Daryl Morey, voicing support for Hong Kong protestors unleashed a wave of fury in China. The controversy led several of the National Basketball Association’s partners in China to terminate their broadcast and sponsorship contracts. If he doesn’t understand the context of his own conduct, then that’s incompetent and irresponsible. If you prefer the latter, fine. It doesn’t make the conduct any more ethical.

              2. If he wasn’t an NBA star, his comments wouldn’t be news, wouldn’t cause a ripple, and wouldn’t matter. He’s using his position as a platform. His tweets show him—TWICE!—in his Celtics uniform. He has almost 500 k followers, surely because he’s a brilliant social critic. Come on.

              • 1. I don’t know what the punishment was for the NBA executive you mention but that just means Kanter had a reasonable expectation of being punished, possibly fired.

                2. Yes to the entire paragraph. The only thing I see as problematic for Kanter is wearing his uniform during the tweets. That was a mistake so let the NBA punish him, if they have the guts.

                I see nothing wrong with Kanter voicing his protest even if he figured the NBA wouldn’t punish him because they always have the option to do so.
                The fact the NBA feels hamstrung because of the dynamics around their relationship with China is on them not Kanter. What Kanter did was brilliant and he by definition is willing to pay the price.

                So we differ on the ethics around his expressed protest. I think Kanter has the right to protest and that it’s ethical to criticize one’s employer. You do not.

                • 1. You’re not paying attention. The NBA was scorched for that, and it was a major PR catastrophe. Second, the guy was a GM. Nobody cares about GMs. We’re talking about an NBA star. Unless he kills someone, he’s untouchable. He was at no risk at all. Maybe a fine that would be like fining me 20 bucks. This was pure, pointless, destructive grandstanding.

                  2. Again, you’re using straw men. I never said he didn’t have the “right” to say stupid, useless, disloyal things that harm his employer and do no good whatsoever. I said it was unethical to do so, and it is.

                  • When you say Kanter “has standing” to publicly criticize the league’s relationship with a “brutal dictatorship” does it follow that you see that as ethical? My interpretation from my first comment is that you equate having standing with being ethical.

                    • “Standing” not in the technical legal sense, but in the sense that the player, as a member of the organization that sucks up to an international criminal state, is within his power and even obligations to announce: “I won’t be part of this any more,” and neither should my employers. Instead, he said, in effect, “I’ll continue to be part of this, but I’ll criticize it anyway, thus having my cake and eating it too.”

  6. Enes Kanter doubles down thereby jeopardizing his employment and forcing the NBA to react to his messaging. Is a brilliant maneuver albeit unethical because he continues to take a paycheck but he sure is highlighting the human rights abuses of China.

    “Right now as I speak this message, torture, rape, forced abortions, sterilizations, family separations, arbitrary detentions, concentration camps, political reeducation, forced labor … this is all happening right now to more than 1.8 million Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region in northwestern China,” said Kanter, who wore a ‘Freedom for Uyghur’ T-shirt as he spoke into the camera.

      • I don’t know why this isn’t obvious. He can continue to be paid millions to play for a league that is in bed with China, or he can be an anti-China activist. He can’t ethically do both at the same time. It’s entirely his choice, but he needs to make it, and the NBA needs to insist.

        • Indeed, but I am certain those who are being tortured do not care about Kanter’s ethics and frankly I don’t either. He’ll unethically do what he can from a place of prominence until he cannot. Plus, he may be a catalyst for others, unethically speaking. I like that he is forcing the NBA to deal with their unethical avarice and that is no small thing.

          I also like that: “Additionally, Kanter called out a number current and former prominent Muslim sports people, including Salah, Khan and NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “Why are you staying silent?” he asked. “Say something. Do something. Speak up. Your silence and your inaction is complicity.”

          “As if the human rights abuses in China need “highlighting” by an NBA player.”
          Jack, you have considerably more faith in the awareness level of humans than I do.
          He is getting press and the ripples continue to expand…

          Just curious; is it ever acceptable to act unethically for a greater good?

            • Jack, are you trolling me or are you genuinely clairvoyant?
              I’ve already shown your last comment to be patently false.
              And to borrow a phrase, “I don’t know why this isn’t obvious.”

              • Seriously, Bruce, I don’t know what you are talking about. What’s false, that this guy has a unique insight into the Chinese mistreatment of the Uyghurs? This issue has been a matter of international condemnation, and in the US, of course, for decades. Tibet? Richard Gere made an ass of himself over that at the Oscars, but there was no Chinese market for his films then, so he didn’t do his employers any real harm, he just looked silly. I can’t imagine what you think Kanter is accomplishing that’s substantive and positive to out balance the harm he’s doing to his league and team. In a year, the Ugjurs will still be abused, Tibet will still not be free, the NBA will still be doing business with China, but Kanter’s tweets will have cost the NBA serious money.

                You obviously are set on regarding his grandstanding as something it isn’t. Go ahead. Check back with me in 6 months to a year and show me what Kanter accomplished. I’ll wait.

                • I already mentioned the butterfly effect, no traction. One never knows how things will play out, what the tipping point will be, no traction. Time isn’t a good reason not to try.
                  Not sure why you dismiss the fact that Kanter’s China protest has painted the NBA into a corner without good options, no small thing that. I hope he costs the NBA a ton of money and tickles their ethics alarms presuming they exist. Perhaps this will turn out to be about NBA reform.
                  He is pushing hard enough to warrant serious repercussions which undermines your grandstanding theory plus you already think he is sincere.

                  I could go on but what’s the point. You look down on him, I do not. Like I said a while ago, agree to disagree. I did learn more about ethics however and I thank you for that.

                  • How do you get to the “look down on him” angle? I don’t look down on him at all, and I won’t even make the obligatory basketball player joke. He’s a great success at his chosen field. He has taken his talents and made the most of them. He’s famous, wealthy, successful, and get paid to do what he loves.

                    Me? I’m a lifetime under-achiever. I had (actually still have) the kinds of talents and abilities that might have made a real difference in the world, but I haven’t. His conduct in this matter is unethical and irresponsible, but I’m only assessing that. Someone who has achieved as little as I have with the good fortune I have had all my life has no business “looking down” at someone like Kanter. And I don’t.

                    • Okay I see that now. There are no dots there to be connected and I apologize for mischaracterizing you.

                      It isn’t that I do not recognize the unlikelihood of Kanter changing China’s brutal abuse of citizens any time soon but I see things in a long interconnected progression in time and all the points matter. He has created ripples that are still spreading and one cannot know the result. There certainly is a far greater chance the NBA will be affected by this especially if Kanter continues to speak out and others join him. I would like to see him change his message to directly questioning the NBA’s decision to cozy up to China, then we’ll be in agreement on something.

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