Ethics Warm-Up, 11/5/2019: A Whistleblower’s Biases, A Technology’s Risks, And A Thinking Actor’s Values

Hi!

1. So now we know…The mysterious “whistleblower” is almost certainly Eric Ciaramella,  a CIA analyst, former National Security Council staffer,  and  a career intelligence officer.who has served in both the Obama and Trump administrations. It would have been nice and reassuring if he were not so strongly tied to the Dark Side, meaning the Democrats and various “resistance” figures, but he is. That doesn’t mean he had an agenda, but somehow all of the leakers and rebels who have been instrumental in keeping the Left’s coup fires burning have aspects of their backgrounds that justify skepticism.

From the generally useful and fair article about in Heavy:

Ciaramella has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for several years and was assigned to the White House during the end of the Obama administration. He worked closely with Biden in his role as an expert on Ukraine. Ciaramella also has ties to Sean Misko, a former NSC co-worker who now works for Representative Adam Schiff and the Intelligence Committee. According to The New York Times, the whistleblower first went to a CIA lawyer and then to an unnamed Schiff aide before filing the whistleblower complaint. The aide told the whistleblower to follow the formal process, but conveyed some of the information he learned from him to Schiff, without revealing his name, The Times reported.

“Like other whistle-blowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled committees, the whistle-blower contacted the committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the intelligence community,” said Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Schiff, told The Times.

The whistleblower’s ties to Democrats, including Biden, Schiff, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of Intelligence James Clapper and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, have created controversy, with Trump and Republicans using his past work with them in an attempt to discredit him.

I did say generally fair. The fact that this guy who created the path to the latest impeachment excuse just happens to be a Democrat with connections to a veritable nest of anti-Trump zealots does and should discredit his objectivity to some extent. An “attempt” shouldn’t be necessary.

2.  Geewhatasurprise…. From the MIT Technology Review:

A study published today in JAMA Pediatrics warns that kids’ literacy and language skills suffer with screen use, and MRI scans of their brains appear to back up the findings…. Forty-seven 3- to 5-year-olds took a test to measure their cognitive abilities, and their parents were asked to answer a detailed survey about screen time habits. …The scans revealed that kids who spent more time in front of screens had what the authors call lower “white matter integrity.” White matter can be roughly thought of as the brain’s internal communications network—its long nerve fibers are sheathed in fatty insulation that allows electrical signals to move from one area of the brain to another without interruption. The integrity of that structure—how well organized the nerve fibers are, and how well developed the myelin sheath is—is associated with cognitive function, and it develops as kids learn language. …Lead author John Hutton of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital told MIT Technology Review there’s a clear link between higher screen use and lower white matter integrity in the children his team studied. That structural change appears to be reflected in the results of the cognitive test the kids took as well, which showed high screen time associated with lower levels of language and literacy skills. “The effect size is substantial, as these findings also rigorously controlled for multiple comparisons across the brain,” Hutton says.

One easy and ethical remedy would be for parents to make sure their kids don’t see them constantly staring at their phone.

3.  A terrific, ethical, extemporaneous speech from Richard Dreyfus. No, Richard Dreyfus is not, and has never been, a typical Hollywood knee-jerk leftist. Glenn Beck’s conservative website “The Blaze” was “astonished” when actor/educator Richard Dreyfus recently told Fox News host Tucker Carlson,

“You were talking about the speakers on university campuses. And I am totally, incontrovertibly on your side about this. I think any intrusion into freedom of speech is an intrusion into freedom of speech. And when one of the presidents of one of the colleges said, ‘this is a school, not a battlefield,’ I said, no, it is a battlefield of ideas and we must have dissonant, dissenting opinions on campuses and I think it’s political correctness taken to a nightmarish point of view

I have withdrawn from partisan politics. I am a constitutionalist who believes that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights must be central and the parties must be peripheral. What’s most important for me is what you just mentioned haphazardly, we are over 30. Civics has not been taught in the American public school system since 1970. And that means everyone in Congress never studied the constitution and the bill of rights as you and I might have. And that is a critical flaw because it’s why we were admired and respected for so long, it gives us our national identity, it tells the world who we are and why we are who we are, and without a frame that gives us values that stand behind the bill of rights, we’re just floating in the air and our sectors of society are not connected.

What’s really important is that the assumptions of the left and the right are all skewed wrong. We have to find areas of agreement and areas that we share. And we do share the notion that education accomplishes certain things. One, it turns students into citizens. And, two, it teaches students how to run the country before it’s their turn to run the country. And, three, it teaches the values of this nation.

People come from all over the world or are born into this nation without the values that we have here. That’s why they came here, to get them. And what are they? You can put them in opportunity, rise by merit, mobility, and freedom. That’s what we sell. And if you don’t want that, you’ve chosen the wrong place. And you don’t get a pass by being born here, you have to learn it. Even the Ten Commandments are not known at birth. You must learn them. And we must learn our values and if we don’t, we are fatally, fatally wounding ourselves. We will not have any way to really combat the ideas behind ISIS because we won’t know our own. And we have to.

Exactly.

Fox News should give Dreyfus a show.

Sunday Ethics Fallback, 11/3/2019: Poisoning Children For Their Own Good, And Other Alarming Developments

Whatever time it is…

1. Not exactly a shock, but we now know Ruth Bader Ginsburg lied in her 1993 Senate confirmation hearings. At a Georgetown Law Center event last week featuring both Clintons and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton told the audience that he queried the Justice-to- be about Roe v. Wade before nominating her to the Supreme Court in 1993:

[Ginsburg] knew this perfectly well, that I was under a lot of pressure to make sure I appointed someone who was simon-pure, which I had said I thought was important. But I was fascinated by a—either an article I had read or something I had read on Justice Ginsburg saying that she supported the result in Roe v. Wade but thought Justice Blackmun should have decided the case on the equal protection clause not the right to privacy. And I asked her the question and she talked about it just as if it was any other issue, no affect: “This is what I think, this is why I think it,” and she made a heck of a case.

That’s odd, because one of the written questions she responded to in the process was…

Has anyone involved in the process of selecting you as a judicial nominee (including but not limited to a member of the White House staff, the Justice Department, or the Senate or its staff) discussed with you any specific case, legal issue or question in a manner that could reasonably be interpreted as seeking any express or implied assurances concerning your position on such case, issue, or question? If so, please explain fully.

And the now-revered Ginsburg replied,

It is inappropriate, in my judgment, to seek from any nominee for judicial office assurance on how that individual would rule in a future case. That judgment was shared by those involved in the process of selecting me. No such person discussed with me any specific case, legal issue or question in a manner that could reasonably be interpreted as seeking any express or implied assurances concerning my position on such case, issue, or question.

Yet the former President directly contradicted this, in Justice Ginsberg’s presence.

2. Further lives unborn ethics notes: Continue reading

Monday Evening Ethics Feature, 10/28/2019: Boo! Lyric Woking! Name-Calling! And Much, Much Worse…

Good evening.

1. World Series ethics observations:

  • It was little noticed, but Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole did something admirable and unusual last night on the way to dominating Washington Nationals hitters and leading his team to a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. At one point in the game, Nationals first-baseman Ryan Zimmerman laid off a tantalizing pitch just off the plate with two strikes on him. Cole could be seen saluting the batter and saying “Good take!” It is rare to see a baseball player acknowledge an adversary’s skill on the field.

I wouldn’t mind seeing such gestures more often.

  • The President not only attended the game last night, but stayed unusually long for a dignitary, who usually go to baseball games to be seen more than to watch. Trump stayed until the 8th inning, when much of the discouraged Nats fandom was streaming to the exits. I wrote last week that I hoped he would subject himself to the fans’ ugliness, and they responded as we knew they would, loudly jeering and chanting “Lock him up!” It was a black eye for Washington, D.C., not President Trump.

Continue reading

Friday Night Ethics Lights, 10/25/2019: Signs Of The Coming Apocalypse?

Good Evening!

1. More evidence of ethics rot and educational malpractice at Harvard. The Harvard Crimson covered an “Abolish ICE” protest on its campus last month. The fact that the supposedly most prestigious college in the nation would have something as idiotic as an anti-ICE protest attended by more than a few unfortunates with closed head injuries is troubling enough, but behold:   student activists attacked  the daily student-run paper  for “cultural insensitivity” and of “blatantly endangering undocumented students on campus.” because it contacted the immigration enforcement agency for comment after the protest had ended.

The Horror.

Now hundreds of America’s alleged best and brightest have signed a petition demanding that the newspaper operate as if ICE didn’t exist.

 Crimson editors Angela N. Fu and Kristine E. Guillaume defended its practices  in the paper this week, protesting that asking for comment is a standard journalism device, arguing in part, “We seek to follow a commonly accepted set of journalistic standards, similar to those followed by professional news organizations big and small. Foremost among those standards is the belief that every party named in a story has a right to comment or contest criticism leveled against them.”

Forget it, Angela and Kristine. You’re supposed to be partisan activists, like the mainstream media.

Ethics experts from the Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists supported the Crimson, citing the  SPJ’s Code of Ethics. That’s nice, although I would call the gesture “lip service.”

2. SkyNet is listening. Because of loopholes in their security software, hackers can use  Amazon Alexa and Google Home virtual assistants to eavesdrop on user conversations without their knowledge, and even trick users into handing over sensitive information.

Gee-what-a-surprise….

For once, the American Bar Association got comparatively ahead of looming legal ethics risks created by developing technology by issuing a resolution in August urging bar associations and the legal profession to develop guidelines addressing the risks posed by attorney use of artificial intelligence. It’s a long document, undoubtedly missing many issues on the horizon, and regarding those personal assistants, it lacks an essential sentence: “Don’t let those things get within ten miles of your legal work.” Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Overview, 10/24/2019: TV Ethics, Theater Ethics, Negotiation Ethics…You Know. Ethics.

This song is about ethics, right?

Well, to me it is…

1. Unethical non-traditional casting.  Harvey Fierstein is playing Bella Abzug on Broadway. I know that Harvey, being a very large, undisguisably gay, 65-year old actor with a voice that sounds like he gargles piranha, has a tough time finding outlets for his acting and comic ability (he can be terrific, as he was in his Emmy-winning performance in “Torch Song Trilogy”), but that’s no reason to take it out on the late New York Congresswoman. Abzug was a woman, and being a woman was central to her career, appeal, legend, and legacy. She was not, to say the least, an attractive woman, but that does not mean that it is fair or respectful to cast a 275 pound unattarctive MAN to play her on Broadway. Feirstein is an LGBTQ activist and icon, but he’s ethically confused here.

2. Trump shouldn’t have backed down from holding the Group of 7 Summit at the Trump luxery golf club in Miami. Apparently he did so because Republican members of Congress complained about it, and they complained about it because they knew it would spark more bogus accusations of Emoluments Clause violations (Impeachment Plan C).

Any and every negotiations specialist will tell you that holding a meeting of adversaries in your own territory is a massive advantage. That is why such meetings are often held in Switzerland, or other neutral sites. Holding the Summit at a Trump property makes the President stronger at the meeting, and that benefits the country.

It would have been nice—responsible, educational, fair, honest—if the news media explained this basic principle to the public, but it doesn’t want to justify the President’s decisions or find benign reasons for them. It is in thrall to “the resistance,” and doing a complete analysis of factors involved in a decision like where to hold the Summit just detracts from the effort to undermine President Trump and characterize him as a corrupt and crooked fascist who must be removed from office at all costs.

Republican joined the ignorant stampede because, unfortunately, they aren’t very bright, or very brave. Thus the U.S. voluntarily forfeited a diplomatic advantage because Republicans couldn’t articulate why there was nothing sinister, and much advantageous,  about a world leader holding a meeting at a property that bears his name. Continue reading

The Black Jack O’ Lanterns

In Nyack, New York, a law firm purchased some designer black jack o’lanterns from “Bed, Bath, and Beyond” as office decorations. Some residents complained to a local TV channel and to the law firm, claiming that the decorations were “racist.”

The law firm, Feerick, Nugent, MacCartney, immediately removed them, and soon thereafter, the household accoutrements chain pulled the item from its inventory. Now the law firm is busy grovelling, especially after the local NAACP accused them of “extreme lack of sensitivity.”

I think he meant “a lack of extreme sensitivity.” Isn’t that more accurate?

“We understand that someone complained about them and so once we got word of that we immediately took them down,” said Mary Marzolla, a partner at the racist firm. “We represent people of all colors and faiths, and we would never do anything to exclude anyone from any community,” she added,

What? How do black painted or colored pumpkins exclude anyone from the community? Is she really saying that if an individual, no matter how foolish or addled, complains about anything, then the firm is ethically obligated take remedial action? Is that the standard?  Let’s test it: I’m complaining about the firm’s conduct in capitulating to an idiotic and manipulative claim of racism. OK, Feerick, Nugent, MacCartney, the ball’s in your court.

Satisfy me.

Is there no way in 2019 to tell a hypersensitive wacko, “I’m sorry, but you are a fool. There is nothing to be offended about. I do not have to cater to your paranoia or contrived sensitivities, and I will not.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2019: On “Lynching” And Other Things

The day looks good, feels bad…

1. No, “lynching” is not the right word for the Democratic Party/”resistance”/news media impeachment assault. The word worked for Clarence Thomas during the Anita Hill ambush, but someone ought to remind the President that Thomas was and is black.

The correct word is coup. This has always been what the effort to delegitimatize and remove Trump has been, and this is what it remains. “Witch hunt,” which some idiot issued as an anti-impeachment talking point again a couple of weeks ago, is also an inappropriate term. It may accurately evoke the McCarthy-like methods being used, but it is historically and politically confusing, focusing on methodology rather than objective.

The inability of this President and his staff to communicate competently is a dangerous weakness. It has always been so, but now more than ever. The public literally doesn’t understand what is going on, and a clear, credible, trustworthy advocate for the President who is able to explain what is so wrong, so insidious, and so damaging to democracy about what the “Troika of Totalitarianism” (I’m trying to imagine what Spiro Agnew would have called them) have been doing since the 2016 election is an essential bulwark against impeachment and conviction. Even someone like—I can’t believe I’m writing this—Lanny Davis would be an upgrade.  Kellyanne Conway destroyed her credibility with her “alternate facts” gaffe. Rudy Giuliani got himself enmeshed in the Ukraine controversy. Mick Mulvaney proved, with his naive and ham-handed explanation about why there is nothing criminal or inappropriate about any President using the leverage of his office to persuade a foreign government to do something that needs doing, that he isn’t up to the job. And the President is foolish to believe that his tweet-storms are an effective remedy against  a news media determined to tell only one side, the “resistance” side,  of the issues.

Why, for example, isn’t there an advocate for the White House who can point out, clearly, that the misleading characterization in this morning’s Times front page “news” story—the New York Times no longer does “news” involving Trump, only adversary spin—that the President used strong-arm tactics to force the Ukraine to “investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals”? Joe Biden isn’t “political rivals,” he’s a former Vice President of the United Sates who may have been using his high position to enrich his son and warp foreign policy.

At this point, Joe Biden isn’t an official election opponent of the President either. It is completely legal and responsible for our government to find out exactly what was going on in the Biden-Biden-Ukraine tango, and the idea that a President cannot legally pursue investigation of serious misconduct in the previous administration because the members of it can now be called his “rivals” is, or should be,  a transparent Catch-22 concocted to advance the coup. Is that really so hard to explain? Why isn’t anyone explaining it?

A prominent  reason is that one of the more effective and damaging tactics in the coup attempt has been to intimidate and threaten any competent D.C. professionals who could advise and assist a President under siege. Until the Trump administration, the accepted norm when a patriotic member of the Washington establishment, regardless of party,  was invited to help a President was for the individual so invited to say, “Of course.” This was how President Clinton persuaded Reagan advisor David Gergen to rescue his administration from self-immolation.

Today, any political establishment figure, no matter how well-respected before, can count on being savaged in the news media if he or she agrees to join the administration, as well as harassed if they go out for dinner. The phenomenon effectively gives this White House a lobotomy by making it a huge and risky sacrifice to try to assist the White House.  It also isolates the President, and increases the chances of him making his situation worse out of anger, frustration, and his unfortunate lack of impulse control.

This too has been part of the coup strategy from the beginning: withhold from this President all of the honors, respect, fairness, deference and cooperation every other President has earned as a right of office by virtue of being elected, and eventually he will do something that will justify impeachment.

It’s a coup. “Lynching” just muddies the waters, and in this dirty business, muddy waters is exactly what the “resistance” wants and needs. Continue reading