The Colin Powell Ethics Problem

18hp-alert-powell-jumbo

The ethics news today begins with the death of Colin Powell, who died this morning, according to his family. He deserves the accolades for his service and leadership skills, but in the Ethics Alarms annals, he ranks as an ethics disappointment.

As the obituaries will certainly mention, Powell, the U.S.’s first African American national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of state, would have also been its first black President if he had been willing to run. Shades of Eisenhower, he was courted as a Presidential candidate by both Republicans and Democrats before deciding in 1995 that the challenge would take him away from his family, and acceding to his wife’s objections and fears (she was reportedly afraid he would be assassinated). Thus instead of the bi-partisan, unifying figure of Colin Powell, we got Bush, and then the hollow, racially divisive Barack Obama. And here we are.

Yes, I lay much of what has happened to the nation in the 21st Century at Powell’s feet. The majority of our Presidents sacrificed greatly to seek and accept the office; I do not forgive Powell for passing the buck when he was in a unique position to unify the nation and particularly the races at a turning point in our history. He was called: it is as simple as that. As a good citizen and soldier, when you are called, you have an ethical obligation to answer. Powell did not meet that obligation. America is much the worse for it.

Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Secretary Of Transportation (And Proud Dad!) Pete Buttigieg [Updated]

pete-buttigieg-chasten-

When I wrote in September about Boston Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo abusing his paternal leave privileges to abandon his team at a crucial time in its battle to make 2021 the play-offs, I expected a lot of heated criticism (I didn’t, though I did get a provocative counter argument that became a Comment of the Day.) I wrote in part,

The Boston Red Sox recently completed a disastrous collapse that dropped them from first place in the American League East to third. As they went into battle with the two teams now ahead of them, their hottest hitter, Alex Verdugo, vanished on a four game paternity leave. Shortly thereafter, another hot hitter, Hunter Renfroe, was lost for five days on bereavement leave after his father died of cancer. T’was not always thus: in the days before the Players’ Union bargained to add such mid-season leave as a new benefit, if a player’s wife was in labor or a loved one died, it was at the team’s discretion whether he would be permitted to leave the team. OK, I can appreciate the need for the benefit, but both players abused the right. These guys both earn millions of dollars a year. They both routinely talk about the team’s quest to win the World Series, yet when their team really needed them, they absented themselves for many days because they could. That’s a betrayal of the team, team mates, and fans.

By the force of pure moral luck, Verdugo’s indulgence did no damage in the end: the Sox made the play-offs and have prospered (so far, though they lost last night), in great part because of Verdugo’s clutch hitting upon his return. That doesn’t change my ethics verdict on his dereliction of duty however (which the player reminds me of every time he gets a hit now, because Verdugo makes a baby-rocking gesture to his team mates in the dugout.) Compared to the Biden administration’s Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, however, Alex Verdugo is a model of dedication and responsibility.

Buttigieg and his husband Chasten adopted infant twins named Penelope and Joseph in August. The little bundles of joy arrived as product shortages and the supply chain problems had made themselves evident, a developing crisis that is worsening, and one that threatens the economy as well as businesses, jobs and the welfare of millions of Americans. It is also a situation squarely within the jurisdiction of the Transportation Department. Not since the airplane-executed terror attacks of September 11, 2001 has that agency had such a crucial task before it, nor have more Americans needed the performance of DOT to be diligent, timely, and effective.

Never mind! The Secretary of Transportation decided that this was still an appropriate time to take advantage of the Biden administration’s “family friendly” policies, and took two full months of paid leave while the supply chain problems multiplied and expanded. He wasn’t even online with his department during most of that time.

I apologize, Alex! Compared to Paternal Pete, you’re a self-sacrificing hero. I wish you were Secretary of Transportation.

Continue reading

Katie Couric Thinks This Revelation In Her New Book Makes Her Look Good. In Fact It Makes Journalists Look Ignorant, Untrustworthy And Biased, Which Most Of Them Are

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Advance copy from Katie Couric’s soon-to-be-released memoir “Going There” reveals her to be an unethical human being: manipulative, vindictive, mean and disloyal. A section of the book, however, that she doubtless thinks will endear her to readers and her colleagues really shows how unethical the “profession’ of being a mainstream news media has become.

Couric writes that she edited out part of the 2016 interview with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in which the liberal icon said that football players who were kneeling during the National Anthem were showing “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life … which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from….And that’s why education is important.” Couric says that she wanted to protect Ginsburg, then 83, who was “elderly and probably didn’t fully understand the question.”

In the portion of the interview that did air, Ginsburg said: “I think it is really dumb of them. Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it is dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it is a terrible thing to do. But I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act. But it is dangerous to arrest people for conduct that doesn’t jeopardize the health or well-being of other people. It is a symbol they are engaged in….If they want to be stupid, there is no law that should prevent that. If they want to be arrogant, there is no law that prevents them from that. What I would do is strongly take issue with the point of view that they are expressing when they do that.”

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2021: Thanks, Columbus!

Columbus 2

This is the real Columbus Day: After sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus saw a Bahamian island on October 12, 1492. He believed he had reached East Asia: Chris was right about the world being round, but it was bigger than he thought. His expedition went ashore and claimed the land for Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, the sponsors of his attempt to find a western ocean route to to the far East. Columbus changed the route of history, science and culture, with incalculable effects long and short term, good and bad. He also was directly responsible for brutal treatment of Native Americans, because he was a product of the 15th Century. We honor historical figures for their positive achievements, and if they are positive and important enough, the personal and public evils such figures might have also had on their ledgers are secondary. That is as it should be: the alternative is to honor no one at all, and to make history a parade of villains….

…although I would be hard pressed to find anything negative to say about the amazing Desmond Doss, who became the first Conscientious Objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor on this date in 1945. Ethics Alarms told his astounding story here, in 2017; so did the film “Hacksaw Ridge.” I still have a hard time believing it.

1. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! (#1): Here is the Washington Post, deliberately promoting statue toppling with a handy-dandy guide. This is the kind of thing that made me stop subscribing to my hometown paper. It does not explain why I subscribe to the Times, which just raised its rates to 90 bucks a month.

wapo_list_of_columbus_statues_10-11-2021

2. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! (#2): From Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” on CNN (That’s the hangout of absurdly unreliable Brian Stelter, who pretends to opine on journalism ethics while having none of his own):

Once respectable liberal journalist James Fallows, now employed by the extreme left-wing “Atlantic”: “The struggle for us all in the media is if we keep pointing out that one side of the political divide is actually instigating these things, defying subpoenas, trying to renege on the debt, holding up State Department appointments, et cetera, we are conscious of seeming shrill, we’re conscious of seeming unbalanced, we’re conscious of seeming to take a side. And so it’s something about our culture, we need to figure out how we can give out a narrative of the actual realities recognizing how this is at odds with our conventions.”

Oh, no! Seeming to take a side when they are taking sides? Seeming to be shrill when they are shrill? “Actual realities,” meaning “our biased views, represented as irrefutable truth to accomplish our agendas”? Whatever shall good journalists do? Wow. [Pointer: Steve-O-in NJ]

Continue reading

A Déjà Vu Ethics Dunce: Pete Rose

Pete Rose

I confess that at this time of year, with the Boston Red Sox in the play-offs (and doing splendidly so far), my thoughts keep defaulting to baseball and baseball ethics. However, I couldn’t have resisted this inspiration in the dead of winter.

I was already considering writing about how Major League Baseball has now abandoned its former principled stand against gambling on the game to the point where its gambling industry partners are encouraging suckers to bet on game details like extra-base hits and runs-batted-in, and during games, using special bonus pay-offs—you know, like the casinos that give out free chips to get tourists hooked? How MLB is going to square this sudden embrace of professional gambling with the sport’s so-called “third rail” rule that demands a lifetime ban of any player, coach or manager who is caught betting on baseball games is anybody’s guess.

Pete Rose, the all-time career hits leader, is the most famous victim of the third rail, and he was also my very first Ethics Dunce. In January of 2004, Pete’s sleaziness helped launched The Ethics Scoreboard when I wrote,

Pete Rose now admits he bet on baseball (after ten years of lying about it) but says that his bets (always in favor of his team, never against it, he says) as manager of the Cincinnati Reds never effected his management decisions, and thus he did not harm the integrity of the game. He feels he should be let back into the game as a manager.

A couple of things, Pete:

1) Even if this were true, fans of the game cannot put their faith in the outcome of games when they know that those who help determine the outcome might be motivated by their wagers. This is the reason that we call “the appearance of impropriety” an ethical problem.

2) Presumably you did not bet on the Reds when a key player was sitting out, or when your starting pitcher wasn’t feeling good. Right? Or are we supposed to believe that you bet large amounts of money while already in debt to bookies in circumstances when you thought you would lose? So every time you didn’t bet on the Reds, you were sending information to the bookies, and it affected their odds on the game. Got it?

3) You say you never bet against the Reds. You used to say you never bet on baseball. You’re a liar. Why should anyone believe you now?

Pete continued to embarrass himself and baseball, leading to several posts on Ethics Alarms. My favorite Pete Post is this one, in which I wrote in part,

All of the above could be more concisely summarized by six words: Pete Rose is a stupid man. As comedian Ron White says, “You can’t fix stupid.” Manfred, in his letter telling Pete that he can forget about any future employment in baseball, noted more than once that Rose does not appear to understand the import and purpose of the rule he violated, which exists  to protect the integrity of the game. Indeed,  Pete Rose wouldn’t know what integrity was if it sat on his face.

“This final chapter (I hope) in the sad Rose gambling saga drives home a fact that is under-appreciated in the ethics world. Ethics is hard, and requires attention, critical thinking, and a modicum of intelligence. Ethics involves choosing among competing options in difficult situations, often under pressure; it involves recognizing when non-ethical considerations are threatening to overwhelm ethical principles; it involves being able to understand why an ethical society is preferable to a corrupt one, and the difference between rationalizations and ethical values.

When tying your shoes is a challenge, most of this is out of the question. Or to put it in Pete Rose terms, if you are seeking forgiveness for  placing bets on baseball when you knew that baseball bans anyone who does that, and can’t figure out that continuing to gamble on baseball isn’t going to help your case, the chances that you are going to be able to figure out whether a particular situation requires an application of the Rule of Universality or not are those of Frosty the Snowman bumpety-bump-bumping safely through Hell...”

As you have probably guessed by now, that was not “the final chapter.” A new chapter came out today. Pete, who is always playing some angle to make money off of his baseball exploits because he is perpetually broke, has launched a sports gambling podcast.

Continue reading

No Professor, You Must NOT Apologize For Showing Students Laurence Olivier Playing “Othello” [Corrected]

Olivier Othello

Oh, great: a fake blackface controversy again.

Composer and musician Bright Sheng, is the Chinese-born Leonard Bernstein Distinguished University Professor of Composition at the University of Michigan. When he received a MacArthur “genius” fellowship in 2001, the Foundation described him as “an innovative composer whose skillful orchestrations bridge East and West, lyrical and dissonant styles, and historical and contemporary themes to create compositions that resonate with audiences around the world.”

Sheng screened the 1965 film version of Shakespeare’s “Othello” in his class as part of a lesson about how the tragedy was adapted for the opera. It stars the late Sir Laurence Olivier, widely regarded as the greatest living English actor of his day and a definitive interpreter of Shakespeare, as the tragic hero Othello, a Moor. Some students who saw the film—hell, maybe all of them: they’ve all been indoctrinated into knee-jerk progressive conformity– were upset that Olivier’s face was covered in black make-up, though he was white and the character he was playing is black, so such a disguise would seem to be obligatory. This is the function of what actors call “make-up.”

Students complained to the administration that Olivier’s make-up made them feel “unsafe.” Unsafe from what? From the make-up? From Olivier, who is long-dead? From Iago, the white villain of the play?

Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: President Joe Biden

biden dummy

Great. Now the United States of America has had two Presidents in a row who couldn’t tell an ethics principle from beef stroganoff. This is obviously not a good thing, since our leaders inevitably bolster or short-cicuitour culture’s ethics alarms. In Joe Biden’s case, of course, this should come as no surprise, just as Trump’s ethics void couldn’t have surprised even the previous President’s most fervent supporters. Still, it would be hard to invent a more phosphorescent example of ethics ignorance than Joe’s comments on the harassment of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va)., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, (D-Ariz.) because they refuse to accede to the Democrats’ insane $3.5 trillion infrastructure-plus-socialism wish-list spending scheme, “Build Back Better,’

Last week, several protesters affiliated with the Center for Popular Democracy and other groups showed up in kayaks at the Potomac River dock in Washington, D.C., where Manchin keeps his houseboat. That was relatively mild compared to what Sinema endured over the weekend, when illegal immigration activists from Living United for Change in Arizona confronted Sinema in a building at Arizona State University, eventually following her into the bathroom.

Continue reading

And Yet ANOTHER Progressive Hero Is Ambushed With Tough Questioning By A Mainstream Media Journalist! This Time, It’s Dr. Fauci…

Breakthru q

Good.

Nobody deserves this more.

On CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” host Sara Eisen confronted Fauci about the inconvenient phenomenon of breakthrough cases of the Wuhan virus, where fully vaccinated people get sick anyway, with some requiring hospitalization. She asked if the government is being “too casual about the limitations of the vaccine.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped tracking breakthrough cases in May. It has kept track of the vaccinated who have been hospitalized or died: as of Sept. 27, the CDC reported 22,115 such patients. However, as Eisen insisted, that’s just part of the story.

There’s nothing like personal experience to prompt a journalist to start paying attention: she was i9nfected despite being fully vaccinated, and claimed that the virus had recently spread through her “entire family.” Fauci’s answer was evasive: he cited data indicating that unvaccinated people still remain most vulnerable to hospitalization or death from COVID, and the vaccination protects most people from a severe outcome if they so get the Wuhan virus. He told Eisen she should not “confuse” the “overwhelming benefits of the protection of vaccines” with occurrences of breakthrough cases. That, however, wasn’t what she asked. What she asked was how the CDC can be so confident about the effectiveness of the vaccine if it doesn’t record how many vaccinated people still get infected.

It’s obvious, isn’t it? The CDC doesn’t want to have to deal with vaccine skeptics using the data to justify not getting vaccinated. As has been a recurring phenomenon during the pandemic, the government in general and Fauci in particular refuse to provide information when they think the public will refuse to follow their directives if they get the facts. In response to Fauci’s huminahumina dodge, Eisen asked, “How do we know that [breakthrough cases are] happening to a small proportion and how do we know that they are tending to be mild?”

The answer is “You don’t.” Maybe the accurate answer from Fauci would be , “That’s for me to know and you to find out!” But this is what he said:

So, in answer to your very appropriate question about if you get vaccinated and you get infected, is there less of a chance that you will be transmitting it to someone who is unvaccinated or someone who is vulnerable? The chances of doing that are diminished by being vaccinated and even further diminished, according to preliminary data we’ll wait to see the real fundamental core of the data, but it looks like that extra added of protection from a boost will be very valuable.”

Her question was indeed very appropriate, but that’s not what she asked! Even his evasive answer wasn’t accurate. The CDC has not said the chances of people transmitting the virus have “diminished” if you are fully vaccinated. The CDC says the opposite of that: fully vaccinated people can transmit the virus as readily as unvaccinated people, though not for as long a period.

Only sarcasm will suffice. I just can’t imagine why so many Americans refuse to trust the directives of health officials regarding vaccinations. What have they ever done to make us doubt them?

_________________________

Source: CNBC

From The “O What A Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practise To Deceive” Files: Matthew Dowd, Double Agent

Dowd gotcha

Mainstream media has long relished the unethical tactic of employing alleged Republicans and conservatives as “balance” on their biased panels, when the individuals are really integrity-free chameleons, ready to change colors for a buck. It’s a particularly odious trick: the audience is led to believe that because the particular talking head is criticizing his or her own “side,” the typical majority of partisan Democrats and progressive shills in the discussion must be “right.” CNN’s dim-bulb anti-Trump hack Ana Navarro is one of these double agents (but she’s Hispanic and female, so her obvious deficits don’t matter); Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post columnist who is now MSNBC’s go-to guest when character assassination of a GOP leader is required, is another. Kellyanne Conway’s husband George also is on the list.

Matthew Dowd is in a special category. He was a ruthless Bush political operative who found a lucrative new gig by playing the “Once Evil Republican Who Has Seen The Light,” usually on ABC. Recognizing the power of the cognitive dissonance scale as W’s popularity declined, Dowd became the alleged conservative voice on TV policy panels that somehow always agreed—anti-Bush, pro-Obama, anti-Trump.

Now he’s announced himself as a candidate for lieutenant governor of Texas…what’s this? As a Democrat? But…but… all these years we’ve been told that Dowd was a Republican! That’s how we knew his criticism of other Republicans was sincere! What’s going on here?

Dowd expected a friendly softball interview when he went on CNN’s “New Day” yesterday to discuss his candidacy. After all, he’s a Democrat. To his shock and awe, co-host Brianna Keilar used the opportunity to out the opportunist. It had been reported that Dowd, no fool he, had deleted 270 thousand messages on Twitter before announcing his party flip-flop and quest for office. Gee, why would he do that? It’s a mystery! So Keilar decided to press him on it…

Continue reading

Signature Significance: Two Unethical Tell-Alls

My late friend Bob McElwaine was of another era for sure. Once an active Hollywood publicist with many A-list clients, Bob once peddled his memoirs to publishers. He was an excellent writer with a great sense of humor, but was told repeatedly that unless he included “dirt” on his famous friends, girl friends and clients (like Danny Kaye, Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh and Dean Martin) the book was a non-starter. Bob refused. “My clients hired me to be discrete and to keep their secrets,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they are dead now: I’m not betraying them for a check.” (Bob did tell me some his experiences, knowing that I would not publish them. Yikes!)

Well, Bob is dead, and so is his brand of professionalism, trustworthiness and honor, as two forthcoming books demonstrate.

Continue reading