Category Archives: Character

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/18/2017

1. After I criticized Prof. Glenn Reynolds for  his “tit for tat” reaction to the conservatives who disrupted the Central Park production of “Julius Caesar,” I noticed that he had posted a more moderate, ethical and responsible reaction to the same event, writing,

“I’d rather live in a world where this sort of thing wasn’t done at all. But it’s not clear that we’re better off living in a world where it’s done all the time, but only by lefties.”

Muuuch better, professor. Thank-you.

2.

This photo of a “teacher of the Year” being ostentatiously gay in a White House photo with the President was originally posted at the Huffington Post with the headline, “Gay Teacher Photobombs Trump With Fan.” Fake news, but never mind: the photo went viral with the teacher, Nikos Giannopoulos, being hailed for making a disrespectful gesture of defiance, since the LGBT community is committed to the narrative that the President is anti-gay. (He isn’t, but facts and the narratives of “the resistance” are not correlated.)

This account was unfair to both Giannopoulos and the President. I was ready to make him an Ethics Dunce—when you are a guest, you don’t set out to embarrass your host, President or not—until I checked the story. In an NPR interview, the teacher was asked about the President’s reaction to the fan, and replied,

In other words, both the teacher and Trump behaved impeccably, and the President displayed no hostility to a gay pride salute at all. Under no circumstances, however, can anything this President does or says be presented in a positive light. He’ll never be impeached that way. Continue reading

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The Michelle Carter Verdict

Michelle Carter’s 18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, had told her that he has been considering suicide. First, she told him to seek counseling, then  she changed course, texting him to go through with it. “The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it!” she wrote.  “You can’t keep living this way. You just need to do it like you did last time and not think about it and just do it babe.”

Later, she texted to Roy that his family accept his death, and that he would enjoy the afterlife. “Everyone will be sad for a while but they will get over it and move on. They won’t be in depression. I won’t let that happen. They know how sad you are, and they know that you are doing this to be happy and I think they will understand and accept it. They will always carry you in their hearts,” she texted.

“You are my beautiful guardian angel forever and ever. I’ll always smile up at you knowing that you aren’t far away.”

A week before the suicide, encouraging her boyfriend to be more diligent as he searched for the supplies he needed and then going through with his plan in these exchanges:

“Do you have the generator?”

“Not yet LOL,”

“WELL WHEN ARE YOU GETTING IT?”

“Now.”

“You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t”

“I don’t get it either. I don’t know”

“So I guess you aren’t gonna do it then All that for nothing. I’m just confused. Like you were so ready and determined.”

“I am gonna eventually. I really don’t know what I’m waiting for but I have everything lined up”

“No, you’re not, Conrad. Last night was it. You keep pushing it off and you say you’ll do it, but you never do. It’s always gonna be that way if you don’t take action”

 “You better not be bullshitting me and saying you gonna do this and then purposely get caught.”

“No, none of that.”

On July 12, 2014, Conrad drove to a Kmart parking lot and connected his truck to a pump that released carbon monoxide. When he lost his nerve and got out of the truck, his girl friend texted him  to “get back in.”  She never alerted any authorities to stop the suicide attempt. The young man was found dead in his truck.

Yesterday, Judge Lawrence Moniz, of Bristol County Juvenile Court in southeastern Massachusetts, ruled that Ms. Carter, just seventeen at the time of her crime, committed involuntary manslaughter by urging Roy to kill himself. Continue reading

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Yet Another Comment Of The Day On “Comment of the Day: ‘Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/14/17’”

Steve-O-in NJ continues the very topical discussion of hate and partyism in our society. This story from yesterday is on point: increasingly Americans regard those supporting different parties as unfit for friendship, marriage, and other forms of association. I have been writing about this trend for almost two decades; it has accelerated greatly due to social media, the increasing bias and incompetence of the news media, divisive political leaders and bad luck. Democracy cannot thrive or even survive in an atmosphere of such distrust. This should be obvious, and as I have observed elsewhere on Ethics Alarms, those who are feeding the hate and distrust appear to bee doing so deliberately for some imagined political gain. This is madness.

More stories surface every day showing members of the political class embracing the madness. Like this one, about a Democratic strategist who has started promoting the hastags #HuntRepublicans and #HuntRepublicanCongressmen. on Twitter. “We are in a war with selfish, foolish & narcissistic rich people,” wrote James Devine on Twitter. “Why is it a shock when things turn violent? #HuntRepublicanCongressmen.” A Democrat who has has run for office, consulted for numerous New Jersey candidates, and worked for New Jersey lawmakers, Devine said in an interview, “If you want to invite a class war, then you have to expect people to fight back at some point.”

Wait….Bernie Sanders is a Republican? All those people cluttering up Wall Street vilifying the “1%” were conservatives? Republican Congressmen called citizens who wouldn’t fall into line “deplorables’? 

This is the latest rationalization I have been seeing on Facebook: Donald Trump has made Democrats act like spoiled street gang members. How? Why, by having the audacity and bad manners to win the election, of course. Here was Peggy Noonan correctly diagnosing the phenomenon:

Here I want to note the words spoken by Kathy Griffin, the holder of the severed head. In a tearful news conference she said of the president, “He broke me.” She was roundly mocked for this. Oh, the big bad president’s supporters were mean to you after you held up his bloody effigy. But she was exactly right. He did break her. He robbed her of her sense of restraint and limits, of her judgment. He broke her, but not in the way she thinks, and he is breaking more than her.

We have been seeing a generation of media figures cratering under the historical pressure of Donald Trump. He really is powerful.

They’re losing their heads. Now would be a good time to regain them.

They have been making the whole political scene lower, grubbier. They are showing the young what otherwise estimable adults do under pressure, which is lose their equilibrium, their knowledge of themselves as public figures, as therefore examples—tone setters. They’re paid a lot of money and have famous faces and get the best seat, and the big thing they’re supposed to do in return is not be a slob. Not make it worse.

By indulging their and their audience’s rage, they spread the rage. They celebrate themselves as brave for this. They stood up to the man, they spoke truth to power. But what courage, really, does that take? Their audiences love it. Their base loves it, their demo loves it, their bosses love it. Their numbers go up. They get a better contract. This isn’t brave.

Today, on Facebook, my wife intervened in a liberal echo chamber exchange among women saying they were going to boycott a local department store because it sold Ivanka Trump’s merchandise.  She pointed out that this was unfair and made now sense, and kept batting away various rationalizations offered by the women, who were lawyers. Finally one wrote, “Ok, I admit it. I just hate Donald Trump.” That was the best and only argument she had.

This is both admitting bigotry and being so comfortable with it that you accept it.

Here is Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Comment of the Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/14/17”: Continue reading

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From The Law vs. Ethics File: The Discriminatory Charlotte Pride Parade

Brian Talbert, a member of “Gays for Trump,” submitted  an application to Charlotte Pride, Charlotte’s Gay Pride parade, so they could have a float in this year’s event. His application was rejected, with this explanation:

 

Charlotte Pride reserves the right to decline participation at our events to groups or organizations which do not reflect the mission, vision and values of our organization, as is acknowledged in our parade rules and regulations by all groups at the time of their parade application. In the past, we have made similar decisions to decline participation from other organizations espousing anti-LGBTQ religious or public policy stances.

Charlotte Pride envisions a world in which LGBTQ people are affirmed, respected and included in the full social and civic life of their local communities, free from fear of any discrimination, rejection, and prejudice.

Charlotte Pride invites all individuals, groups, organizations and causes which share our values to join our community’s celebration of the LGBTQ community, history, arts and culture during the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade, Aug. 26-27, 2017.

In other words, because Charlotte Pride does not support Talbert’s political views, he is being denied the opportunity to present a minority point of view. Constitutional Law prof Eugene Volokh explains why this is entirely legal:

“First, Charlotte and North Carolina do not ban discrimination by parade organizers based on political affiliation. Only a few jurisdictions include political affiliation on their lists of prohibited bases for discrimination.

Second, even if a public accommodation law did ban such discrimination, it couldn’t apply to parades organized by nongovernmental organizations. Such parade organizers have a First Amendment right to exclude groups from their parades based on the messages the groups convey about their members’ sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, race and whatever else to make sure that a parade conveys just the speech that parade organizers want to convey.”

The precedent Volokh cites for this principle? Why, it’s Supreme Court’s holding in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc. (1995), declaring that the organizers of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade had a First Amendment right to exclude the gay/lesbian/bisexual group.

It seems that many groups advocate diversity, tolerance and fairness until they achieve the power to do their own discrimination. That is, good bigotry. Discriminating against gays is bad.  Gays discriminating against gays who support the President of the United States is good.

Sure it is. Golden Rule? What’s that? This is intolerance, bigotry, a failure of integrity, hypocrisy….and also bullying, as it aims to coerce group members to accept mandated political views that are not their own.

But it’s not illegal, so it’s all right! Continue reading

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Reconsidering “Lincoln,” Lincoln…And Trump

I’ve been reading a lot about Abraham Lincoln of late. A book by William Hanchett called “The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies” reminded me that while President Jackson is the closest historical match for the populist, outsider aspect of Donald Trump’s rise, the startlingly close match for the antipathy and hatred Trump has faced from the moment of his election eerily traces the experience of Abraham Lincoln.

Like Trump a minority President, Abe won only 39.8% of the popular vote but was still comfortably elected by the Electoral College. As with Trump, his opposition refused to give him a chance to govern or unify the nation, although in his case, the Democrats divided the country literally, seceding from the union before Lincoln took the oath of office. Today’s Democrats are without that option (thanks to Lincoln!), but are doing everything else in their power to undermine the elected leader. (And California, the most Democratic state, is saber-rattling about seceding.) Also like Trump, Lincoln did not concede that his lack of a popular vote majority in any way robbed him of a mandate to govern.

From the moment the election results were known, many Democrats proclaimed the election of Lincoln itself to be an act of aggression, a “declaration of war.” Many in Lincoln’s own party—even his own Attorney General—accused him, with some justification, of engaging unconstitutional measures. The Governor of New York evoked the Revolutionary War generation, saying that they would not stand for such incursions on their rights. Constitutional expert George Ticknor Curtis of Massachusetts predicted that the Lincoln Presidency would “be an end to this experiment in self-government.”

Meanwhile, pundits and critics heaped personal abuse on Lincoln, calling him grotesque, a barbarian, ” gorilla.” Diarist George Templeton Strong, whose words are so often quoted by Ken Burns in his documentary about the Civil War, called him a “yahoo.” It was said that fashionable New Yorkers would be ashamed to be seen in the presence of someone as boorish and uncultured as Lincoln;  it was rumored that he rejected handkerchiefs and “blew his nose through his thumb and forefingers, frontier-style.” As late as 1864, a New York editor wrote,

“[The President] is an uneducated boor. He  is brutal in all his habits and in all his ways. He is filthy. He is obscene. He is vicious.”

Somehow, despite this cruel barrage of ad hominem rhetoric, arguably more successful then that it would be now since the public has more knowledge of the President and can make their own observations, Lincoln persevered to meet the greatest challenges any President ever faced.

While still pondering some of the parallels with today’s relentless attacks on our current President, I watched again the 2012 Stephen Spielberg-directed film “Lincoln,” which was almost unanimously praised when it was released, and which I enjoyed a great deal when I first saw it. This time, however, “Lincoln” revealed itself as an ethics corrupter. Continue reading

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The Comey Testimony, Part II

[Part I is here]

Now let’s look at some direct quotes from James Comey’s testimony: 

1. “Even though I was appointed to a ten-year term, which congress created in order to underscore the importance of the FBI being outside of politics and independent, I understood that I could be fired by a president for any reason or for no reason at all. And on May 9th, when I learned I had been fired for that reason, I immediately came home as a private citizen. But then the explanations, the shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me. They confused me because the president that I had had multiple conversations about my job, both before and after he took office, and he had repeatedly told me I was doing a great job and he hoped I would stay. And I had repeatedly assured him that I did intend to stay and serve out the remaining six years of my term. He told me repeatedly that he had talked to lots of people about me. Including our current attorney general. And had learned I was doing a great job. And that I was extremely well-liked by the FBI work force. So it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation. And learned, again, from the media that he was telling privately other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation. I was also confused by the initial explanation that was offered publicly, that I was fired because of the decisions I had made during the election year. That didn’t make sense to me for a whole bunch of reasons, including the time and all the water that had gone under the bridge since those hard decisions had to be made. That didn’t make any sense to me. And although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray. That it was poorly led. That the workforce had lost confidence In its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple. And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them and I’m so sorry the American people were told them. I worked every day at the FBI to help make that great organization better. As a help, because I did nothing alone at the FBI. There are no indispensable people at the FBI. The organization’s great strength is that its value and abilities run deep and wide. The FBI will be fine without me. The FBI’s mission will be relentlessly pursued by its people and that mission is to protect the American people and uphold the constitution of the United States. I will deeply miss being part of that mission, but this organization and its mission will go on long beyond me and long beyond any particular administration. I have a message before I close for the — for my former colleagues of the FBI. First I want the American people to know this truth. The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is and always will be independent. And now to my former colleagues, If I may, I am so sorry I didn’t get the chance to say good bye to you properly. It was the honor of my life to serve beside you, to be part of the FBI family and I will miss it for the rest of my life. Thank you for standing watch, thank you for doing so much good for this country. Do that good as long as ever you can. And senators, I look forward to your questions.”

Observations: This entire statement is unworthy of the emphasis that has been placed on it by the wildly spinning news media, The key piece of information to frame the entire episode is  “I understood that I could be fired by a president for any reason or for no reason at all.” Comey also presumably understood that a sub-fact within that understanding is that he could be told some of the reasons he was fired, no reasons, or the reasons the President felt like talking about. He was told he was doing a great job and then fired? Welcome to the work force. Telling an employee that he is doing a great job when he isn’t may be good management, usually isn’t, but is still well within the range of management discretion, and certainly not illegal.

Comey said that he also concerned that the President was saying that firing “had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation.” As we learn later, the President was not being targeted in that investigation, and we know that he regards it as a politically motivated effort to distract and derail his administration and its agenda. There was nothing sinister about the President’s desire that the investigation go away as quickly as possible. I would argue that he has an obligation to do whatever he can to speed it along. If he didn’t trust Comey’s judgment—and who would?—seeing his exit as a plus is reasonable. Naturally, Comey wouldn’t see it that way.

It is amazing to me that a fired employee saying that his superior’s assessment that his organization was in disarray, that he was a poor leader and that his staff had “lost confidence In its leader” is given any weight at all. What fired employee doesn’t think his firing is unjust and the criticism of him is unfair? Comey calls it a lie: how does he know what Trump had been told or heard? How does Comey know what his agents say behind his back?

Your opinion that someone’s negative opinion about you is wrong and based on erroneous information does not make that opinion a lie. As a lawyer, Comey should know that, and should not have thrown the word “lie” around to be misunderstood by people who don’t know what a lie is—that is, most of the public. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/11/17

1.  Mainstream media bias has been such a frequent topic on Ethics Alarms that I hesitate to focus on it even when, against all odds, what passes for American journalism has another rotting chunk fall off.  The reaction of most of the media to the Comey testimony was a huge chunk, once again shocking me when I didn’t think my regard for this unprofessional profession could sink lower. Some commentators yesterday (they were conservative, but there is no reason a fair and objective liberal wouldn’t and shouldn’t come to the same conclusion) said that we are witnessing the birth of a mainstream media-progressive fusion political party. This is not a hysterical analysis. The New York Times coverage of the Comey hearing, for example, was so misleading and dishonest as to eliminate that paper from ever being regarded as a reliable political analyst again, at least until it cleans house and issues an abject apology to the nation. Ethics Alarms reader Greg did an excellent job detailing the Times’ disgraceful anti-Trump/pro-resistance spin in the thread on the Comey testimony post, as did journalist commenter Tippy Scales.

The Times knows its first take was untenable; you can tell by its editorial today, in which it already is changing the subject. If Comey had laid a glove on Trump (and he didn’t) regarding  impeachable conduct and a route to removing him—which was the Left’s fervent hope and the resistance’s confirmation bias-driven fantasy—the Times would have been  shaking its fist and demanding action in it Sunday pronouncement. Instead, it offered an extended whine about how Paul Ryan excused Trump’s clumsy handling of his communications with Comey by citing Trump’s inexperience, but that he had condemned President Obama for his inexperience, as if the two positions are inconsistent. First, they are not: Ryan did not support Trump’s nomination, though political inexperience was the least of his disqualifications. Second, the President’s cluelessness is directly relevant to the weaker than weak argument that he was obstructing justice by having the kinds of conversations with a subordinate that is commonplace in a business setting. The Times, as it has been doing a lot lately, simply assumes away an insuperable obstruction to its “resistance” position, , saying that “The president obviously knows that it’s wrong to interfere in an investigation.”

Like Hillary Clinton, apparent cyber-dolt,  “obviously” knew that using a private server for State Department business violated classified communications law?

The same logic that Comey himself used to give Clinton a Stay Out Of Jail pass applies to Trump’s statements to Comey, but far more reasonably. Not only was he not, as Ryan said, “steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between D.O.J., F.B.I. and White Houses,” the President  wasn’t interfering in the Flynn  investigation by telling Comey he hoped it would end, and he couldn’t interfere in the Russian investigation by firing the FBI director. The Times editorial reveals the real impetus behind the paper’s determination to bring down the President who dared to be elected by “deplorables” who don’t march to the Times’ ideological lock-step: Trump “[struts] about at the head of the party, insulting everyone and everything in sight: staff members, allies, laws, diplomatic decorum and common sense.”

Yes, for once the Times is reporting accurately, but that’s not grounds for removing an elected President, and it does not justify misrepresenting facts to create a public groundswell based on bias, hate, fear and ignorance.

2. And when it is clear that the news media and the Democrats are coordinating in an “Anti-Trump” party, what is a responsible stance for the Trump Administration regarding news organizations who wave the anti-Trump banner at the expense of fair reporting? Continue reading

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