New Week Dawning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/29/2022: It’s Bernie Sanders Appreciation Day!

Before it is too far back in the rear view mirror, I must mention yesterday’s place among ethically momentous dates for both good and ill.

Most significantly, the ill comes to mind: it was on August 28 in 1955—the same date represented in “Back to the Future” as a time of innocence and naivete—that Emmett Till, a Black teen , was abducted from his uncle’s home in Money, Mississippi, by two white men after a white woman told her husband that he had whistled at her and brushed against her. The boy was brutally murdered, and his death has remained an iconic symbol of Jim Crow and American racism to this day. Also on the dark side of ethics, in 1968, police and anti-war demonstrators battled on the 28th in the streets of Chicago as the Democratic National Convention nominated Hubert H. Humphrey for President despite a popular upheaval seeking a peace-seeking alternative to the Lyndon Johnson administration. In my assessment, that rioting was far, far more threatening to the U.S.’s confidence in the health of its democracy than the antics of the middle-aged clowns who swarmed over the Capitol on January 6, 2020. Less earth-shattering but still the culmination of an ethics train wreck, on yesterday’s date in 1996 the 15-year marriage of Britain’s Prince Charles and Princess Diana officially ended. The ethics lesson is how important it is for leaders and admired role models to live up to the best standards of conduct, and when they don’t, the institutions they represent suffer, sometimes irreparably.

There is at least one shining ethics milestone to salvage August 28: in 1963, more than 200,000 people heard the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., which includes the perplexing statement his followers today want to wish away: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

1. Wait; corporal punishment is still allowed in public schools? Tell me again: why do we have a Department of Education? About 70,000 public schoolchildren were abused with corporal punishment in the 2017-18 school year, which is the most recent year for which federal data is available. Nearly 4,000 schools reported using corporal punishment during that school year, and as children head back to classrooms, some teachers are dusting off their paddles. So I guess there were some positive aspects to remote schooling.

No wonder school boards assumed that parents would be supine in the face of critical race theory and transsexual propaganda, if they allow teachers to beat their children.

2. For today’s depressing example of the quality of reason, rhetoric and argument employed by high elected officials, I give youSenator Bernie Sanders of Vermont! Asked by ABC “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos about complaints that Biden’s $300 billion giveaway to students owing payment on their student loans, Sanders’ replied, “I don’t hear any of these Republicans squawking when we give massive tax breaks to billionaires!” Yeah, and they don’t complain about the designated hitter, either!

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Ethics Dunce: The Denver Public School System

Oh yeah, our public school students are in the very best of hands.

Get this:

A video called “Don’t be a Bystander: 6 Tips for Responding to Racist Attacks,” was shown to Denver South High School students in their classes. The film explains that “in our current political moment, White supremacists and White nationalists have been emboldened, and as a result, public attacks are on the rise.”  Those tips for responding to “racist attacks” include do “not call the police” because it “escalates, rather than reduces” violence.  You see, “police have been trained to see people of color, gender-nonconforming folks, and Muslims as criminals, they often treat victims as perpetrators of violence. So, if the victim hasn’t asked you to call the police, do not — I repeat, do not — call the police.”

Apparently some parents had a problem with this particularly heinous example of indoctrination. Five law enforcement associations in Colorado also objected  to the video, warning that it would increase “negative perceptions of law enforcement and [hurt] our efforts to build trusting relationships within the communities we serve, including schools and student populations.”

Ya think?

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: Legal Ethicist Stephen Gillers

“I don’t think a jury would convict him without proof of harm. I’m not sure I would…It has to be one-hundred-per-cent irresistible as a matter of law. There can be no fact, no event, no piece of evidence that could support any room for ambiguity.” 

—NYU law professor and legal ethics expert Stephen Gillers, reflecting on the chances of conviction arising from an indictment of Donald Trump for violations of the Espionage Act and other statutes making the mishandling classified information a crime.

Gillers’ position is similar to that of Alan Dershowitz, who also said last week that while there appears to be sufficient evidence to charge Trump (based on the heavily redacted affidavit Trump was mocking in his meme above), it would be unwise to do so. It would also be unethical prosecutorial conduct unless there is a significant likelihood that Trump could be convicted. It is unethical to make “the process the punishment,” and Attorney General Garland knows it.

This is why the raid on Mar-a-Largo was suspicious as well as a terrible precedent in the first place. In the absence of any demonstrated urgency, the raid looked like an effort to “mess Trump up a little” by treating him like a drug kingpin or a Mafia crime boss rather than with the deference every other former POTUS has received. This made it political theater rather than legitimate law enforcement, executed by a struggling administration apparently terrified of the previous President and his passionate supporters. Continue reading

If The Public Cannot Trust Accountants To Be Ethical, Who Can They Trust? Answer: Nobody

Let’s begin with a confession and an apology. On June 28, the SEC announced that it had charged Ernst & Young LLP with extensive cheating by its employees on exams required to obtain and maintain Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licenses. Moreover the Big Five firm withheld evidence of this misconduct from the Security and Exchange Commission’s Enforcement Division during the SEC’s investigation. EY admitted the facts leading to the SEC’s charges and agreed to pay a $100 million penalty. [You can read the SEC’s press release here.]

I have no idea how I missed such a major and troubling ethics story. It’s my job to keep up on such matters; I teach accounting ethics, though I haven’t had a training assignment for that profession since the pandemic hit. I apologize profusely. I will work to do better. While the various breaches of government, journalism, legal and business ethics that occupy most of my attention on Ethics Alarms are important, none are more ominous than this story. It really feels like the canary dying in the mine.

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Comment Of The Day: “The Little League Cotton Fiasco: Good Job, Everybody! Now U.S. Race Relations Are In Ethics Zugzwang!”

In the Ethics Alarms post about this horrible example of how broken our race-relations are (I believe that the death-spiral was set in motion by Barack Obama, but that’s a topic for another day, when I get to him in the “Worst Presidents’ series), I did not sufficiently focus on one of the most disgusting aspects of the story.

As is usually the case, a reader was ready to remedy the omission. Here is E2’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The Little League Cotton Fiasco: Good Job, Everybody! Now U.S. Race Relations Are In Ethics Zugzwang!”


Did it occur to absolutely no one that these are kids and kids do silly things? Emulating a Little League star is basically an innocent thing: expecting these same kids to equate pseudo-cotton balls to slavery and racism is asking more than is fair for their age. These are kids!

So no children can no longer be children, apparently And it is clearly up to the progressives to instill — from birth, I guess — a deep sense of guilt about America’s checkered history. That there many inspiring and admirable aspects to our history  are conveniently forgotten or treated as subordinate to the moral and ethical missteps.

If a kid wore his grandad’s WWII medal would that make him a little warmonger?

Kids live in the day, not in history as adults record and interpret it. And they remain innocent for an astonishingly short period of time. Can’t the Left just allow children to enjoy being kids before they are indoctrinated, brain-washed and turned against their nation and fellow Americans?

I guess not, as long as there are nasty, ill-intentioned, ultra-negative progressive adults out there.

Essential Addendum To “From The ‘Res Ipsa Loquitur’ Files: Rob Reiner Provides A ‘Bias Makes You Stupid’ Case Study” [Link Fixed!]

Lest this post mislead you into the dangerous conclusion that snide comic and would-be pundit Bill Maher has suddenly developed integrity, some perspective may be necessary.

You will recall that in said post, I recalled Maher’s previous approval on another installment of his HBO show of using any means necessary to bring down Trump, rendering his apparent current condemnation of a media “conspiracy” to defeat him in the 2020 election less than convincing:

Maher is, of course, right, but he’s ethically estopped from making this argument. Before he decided that exposing the Left’s unethical plots to take out Trump would get his show some publicity, Maher had said on his show, during Trump’s Presidency, that crashing the economy to defeat Trump was “worth it.”

Conservative blogger Don Surber has a better memory than I do: he recalls how Maher treated the Hunter Biden laptop story ten days before the election:

“It’s getting so crazy. The ‘October surprise’ that the Trump people have now… have you seen this? It’s Hunter Biden’s laptop. Joe Biden’s ne’er-do-well son, Hunter, has this laptop which apparently had incriminating evidence—maybe stuff about influence-peddling on it—that was contained in his emails. And apparently, according to this, Hunter was trading on his name, selling access to his father, accepting money for nothing—what Don Jr. calls living the dream….Here’s the part that gets a little swirly about the story. How do we know about these emails? Well, apparently Hunter took his computer—which wasn’t working—to a computer repair shop, as we all do in 2020… and left it there and forgot about it, because, says Rudy Giuliani… he was drunk. And the computer repairman is blind. I’m not making that part of the story up. So, how did the blind man know Hunter was drunk? How you repair a computer if you’re blind? I don’t know about that either. But in the process of repairing Hunter’s computer blindly, he read Hunter’s emails and turned it over to the FBI. Is that how you fix a laptop nowadays? You read somebody’s emails? It’s like a plumber saying, ‘Well, the problem with your pipes is that you have cocaine in your underwear drawer.’”

That Bill! Anything for a laugh! The ethical time to question the deliberate blocking of the Biden influence-peddling evidence raised by the laptop was before the election, of course. But Maher went along with the conspiracy he’s attacking now, because those involved in it are his ideological allies most of the time, not that Maher can be trusted by friend or foe. Now Maher thinks it’s advantageous to pose as a truth-teller, so he’s temporarily turning on the metaphorical hands that feed him, like poor, addled Rob Reiner.

Bill Maher is a Machiavellian, unethical, dishonest and unprincipled asshole. There are many such creatures in today’s popular media, but he is one of the most pernicious. Don’t let him fool you.

Comment of The Day: “Saturday Night Ethics Fever, 8/27/2022: Davy Crockett, and Other Ethics Stories…”

This is an epic Comment of the Day by Steve-O-in NJ, really about three in one, and since it is so long and worthy of pondering, I’m not going to be my usual verbose self in an introduction.

Here is Steve’s Comment of The Day on the post, “Saturday Night Ethics Fever, 8/27/2022: Davy Crockett, and Other Ethics Stories…”


Just a few late thoughts from a long time student of history who doesn’t like the way its pages are turning now….

I wouldn’t worry so much about the rhetoric that the President and his underlings are flinging around at this point. What I would worry about is the actions that will follow.

I thought that a lot of the rhetoric about putting supporters and members of the previous administration in jail or removing them from public life was just that, rhetoric delivered by overheated partisan journalists who ultimately don’t get to make decisions or try to make their overheated rhetoric a reality. I sneered at Jennifer Rubin, who is nothing more than a partisan hack who let Trump derangement syndrome melt her brain. I lashed back out at Leonard Pitts, who might bark viciously, but is ultimately no more than a barking partisan dog. I thought that ultimately these people were just loudmouth extremists who had been given undeserved megaphones, and their talk would ultimately go nowhere, as the Democratic Party settled into actually governing and trying to deal with the problems that this nation is facing, and they are myriad.

The thing is, the Democratic Party never really settled into governing, because governing in the nation’s best interest was not their primary goal. It has not been for probably three decades. Their primary goal has been ultimate power. A majority of the Democratic Party now really believes that this nation would be better off as a one-party state, with them as that one party. However, their failure to govern is producing some less than stellar results, and I don’t need to tell you what they are because you’ve seen them. If they continued on the path they were headed down at the beginning of this year, they would have been doomed.

However, instead of tacking to the center and trying to come up with some solutions to the real problems we face, which I won’t list because we’ve already listed them several times, they’ve decided this is the time to move to eliminate the opposition. You can say that’s silly. You can say that could never happen here. You could say this is a special case because Trump is just such a threat to make this country slip off the path it was intended to follow. However, if you said those things, you would just be fooling yourself and trying to fool those around you. The fact is that this attempt to put one’s political opponent in jail is unprecedented. Continue reading

It’s Comment Of The Day Sunday! First Up: COTD On “Stop Making Me Defend Eric Swalwell!”

Once again, I’m waaaay behind in posting deserving Comments of the Day, so this will be the first of several posted today. Long-time commenter Dwayne N. Zechman tackled the question of why the belief in Natural Law does not require belief in God, and did a superb job.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Stop Making Me Defend Eric Swalwell!”:


“The problem is how do you convey the idea that natural rights simply exist without suggesting a creator?”

The same way you convey the idea that GRAVITY simply exists without suggesting a creator. Or take your pick of any basic, unmoving truth that exists as a part of the existence of the Universe: Newton’s laws of motion, Conservation of Mass, Conservation of Energy, tidal forces, the way water almost uniquely expands when it freezes instead of contracts, the list goes on and on.

What all of these things have in common with mankind’s natural rights is that they undoubtedly exist, and that their existence is NOT the result of any human being anywhere making a decision that they should exist.

One can dive deeper into the actual reason and possibly conclude that there is a “Creator” of some sort or not, but it doesn’t change the basic tenet that such things do exist, have always existed, and will always exist–and no human decision, be it individual or collective, can change that. Continue reading

Saturday Night Ethics Fever, 8/27/2022: Davy Crockett, and Other Ethics Stories…

For once, here is a germane Davy Crockett historical ethics note that has nothing to do with the Alamo. The episode is relevant to the recent vote-buying Hail Mary by President Biden, using tax-payer funds to deliver a large monetary gift to those who took on a financial obligation, derived its benefits, and were complaining that requiring them to pay their debts was “unjust.” It comes from an essay published in Harper’s Magazine in 1867, first flagged by the Foundation for Economic Education in 2008, and today by Instapundit.

A bill was taken up in the House of Representatives appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer, and several impassioned speeches had been made on the bill’s behalf. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Rep. Davy Crockett (D-Tenn) rose to speak. He said,

“Mr. Speaker–I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him.

Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.”

The bill, which up until that point had been considered a cinch to pass overwhelmingly, was voted down. Later, the Harper’s piece claims, Crockett was asked by a friend why he had opposed the appropriation, and replied by telling the story of a man who told him he would not vote for him again because he had voted for a Treasury pay-out of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children as a result of a recent fire in Georgetown. The man, as Davy told it, explained in part,

“‘It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. …The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man…while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other…So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better…

Crockett claimed that he replied,

“‘Well, my friend, you hit the nail upon the head when you said I had not sense enough to understand the Constitution. I intended to be guided by it, and thought I had studied it fully. I have heard many speeches in Congress about the powers of Congress, but what you have said here at your plow has got more hard, sound sense in it than all the fine speeches I ever heard. If I had ever taken the view of it that you have, I would have put my head into the fire before I would have given that vote; and if you will forgive me and vote for me again, if I ever vote for another unconstitutional law I wish I may be shot.”

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From The “Res Ipsa Loquitur”Files: Rob Reiner Provides A “Bias Makes You Stupid” Case Study

Bill Maher managed to goad outspoken Trump Deranged Hollywood progressive Rob Reiner into a spectacular demonstration of what his lockstep ideology does to brains. From Newsbusters, which generously watches Maher’s HBO show so I don’t have to:

BILL MAHER: Let me ask you a more nuanced question about, is it okay to have a conspiracy to get rid of Trump. This came up this week because my friend Sam Harris was on a podcast and he said—

ROB REINER: What do you mean a conspiracy to get rid of Trump? 

MAHER: I’m going to tell you.

REINER: Okay. Thank you.

MAHER: He was talking about—

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I’m going to defer to my lawyer here. 

MAHER: Truer than you know. They were talking about Hunter Biden’s laptop which was a story and now all the mainstream press has finally admitted it was a real story, it was a real laptop with, now look, let’s not pussyfoot around this, he was selling the influence of his father, Joe Biden

I mean, most political sons do, but let’s not pretend that, at least, wasn’t going on. I mean the guy, some guy from China gave him after a dinner, an $80,000 diamond, after dinner as one does. 


MAHER: If you are Naomi Campbell, but it doesn’t usually happen. Okay, so, Hunter Biden’s laptop was buried by the press, even the head of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, said that was a mistake. They buried this story because they remembered what happened with James Comey and the letter 11 days before the 2016 election. Comey said we have to reopen this email investigation with Hillary Clinton and it probably was the—I mean, she ran a horrible campaign, didn’t go to Wisconsin, we know all that. This is probably the last thing that sunk her. 

So, Sam Harris says it was appropriate– “it was appropriate– for Twitter and the heads of big tech and the heads of journalistic organizations to feel that they were in the presence of something that is a once-in-a-lifetime moral emergency,” meaning Trump

So, he’s saying it’s okay to have a conspiracy to get rid of somebody as bad as Trump. It’s a little bit of a thorny question because once you go down this road, this is sort of where we are in this country, the other side is so evil, anything is justified in preventing them from taking office, is it? 

REINER: No, no, you know it’s not justified? Using armed violence to try to kill people in the Capital. That’s not justified. 

MAHER: Answer this question. Is it, was it, answer this question—

REINER: What is the question?

MAHER: –was it appropriate. The question [crosstalk] is was it appropriate bury the Hunter Biden – 

REINER: You’re talking about the press doing that? 

MAHER: He’s saying that’s what they did and that is what they did, they buried the Hunter Biden story before the election because they were like we can’t risk having the election thrown to Trump, we’ll tell them after the election. 

REINER: And we know for fact that that’s what they did? 

MAHER: Of course, you don’t follow this? 

REINER: No, but, I’ve been saying that you know for a fact that’s what they did, I don’t know what they did. 

MAHER: I know, because you only watch MSNBC. 

REINER: No, that’s not true. That’s not true.

MAHER: Well, then you would know about this. 

REINER: I do know about that.

MAHER: Well, you’re acting like you don’t.

REINER: I do—I do know about that. I do watch Fox, but the point is we’re going to prove now that the press played, you know, tried to—

MAHER: They’re admitting it!

REINER: The press is admitting it?

MAHER: That’s not—yes, that’s not even an issue anymore, they’re saying yes we basically did this because we didn’t want this to throw the election. Yes?

KLOBUCHAR: I don’t know that they’ve all said this and I believe strongly in the First Amendment—

MAHER: Well, the New York Times definitely didn’t–

KLOBUCHAR: My dad was a reporter, I believe in it and I think you have to make sure you’re treating people fairly, but I think Rob’s point here is we are dealing with a man who used to be the president right now who literally tried to lead an armed insurrection and that’s why we are so focused on this right now.


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