Category Archives: Education

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/25/2017: NPR, Spin Cycle, A Mother Bugs A Classroom, and a Jumbo!

 

Good Morning, Black Saturday!

1 Self promotion Dept. I’m going to be back on NPR (WBUR, D.C.) in what I think is a live panel discussion (“Barbershop” is the show—I wonder what a ‘barbershop” is? ) hosted at 5: 30 pm, EST by the estimable Michel Martin. The topic is The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, though that’s not what they’ll be calling it.

2. “For every time, Spin Spin Spin, there is a season..” I may mention this New Republic article, or at least be ready to torch a fellow panelist who cites it favorably. The tortured reasoning of writer David Dayen led him to assert that the “sexual harassment crisis” resulted from ” a broken justice system.” Let me summarize it for you: men harass women in the workplace because it’s too hard to convict people and put them in jail. When did liberals start being the ones who want to dispense with civil rights protections and due process assurances in court?

“But we should identify the real culprit for this state of affairs: the long, slow abandonment of the rule of law in America. The reason adjudicating sexual misconduct claims has been left to the media and the crowd is that people have no expectation that the legal system will adjudicate those claims fairly. How can anyone blame them? They have witnessed endless instances of powerful people, mostly wealthy men, getting away with criminality and deception, in every context imaginable. When you don’t have a working justice system, you get a kind of vigilantism as a result. The problem isn’t the vigilantism—it’s the broken framework that leads desperate people to take matters into their own hands. That powerful people face little sanction for misbehavior is an old story, as true in gender as it is in class. But brazen impunity for the powerful is a hallmark of our era. The worst financial crisis in America in nearly a century led to practically no convictions for those whose actions facilitated the meltdown. The Catholic Church shuttled around sex-abusing priests for decades with little reckoning. Cops shoot black people and go back on the job….”

None of this has much to do with sexual harassment, which isn’t a crime, and the three examples cherry-picked by Dayen don’t support his stated argument. The Wall Street wheeler-dealers operated primarily within loopholes and gray areas in the laws and regulations. There were few convictions because it was hard to prove that laws were broken. When the molesting priests were identified, still living, and in the U.S., many were sent to prison. (That the Catholic Church behaved abysmally doesn’t show that the U.S. justice system is broken, obviously). And “Cops shoot black people and go back on the job” is deceitful, simple-minded agitprop. Colin Kaepernick, is that you?

The article is a desperate and clumsy attempt at ethics jujitsu, with the recent exposure of progressive hypocrites as sexual predators being flipped to pivot to the talking point that “everything is rigged against the poor, blacks and women.” What Dayen ends up arguing is that we need to make it easier to prove criminal guilt when we just know the defendants are bad dudes (white, male and rich) —shouldn’t that be enough?— and all the “beyond a reasonable doubt” stuff should be junked…except when black “non-violent drug offenders” are involved.

3.  It’s still illegal. Fark.com called this story “a woman being arrested for mothering while black.” Nice. David Dayen, is that you? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/21/17: Dead Ethics Alarms All Over, And This Just In…Ana Navarro Is Still Stupid

Good Morning, all!

1 Dead Ethics Alarms on the Hill. Just as I cannot conceive of what kind of ethics alarm malfunction allows any man to think that parading his reproductive organs before unconsenting women in a work-related setting is anything but gross and wrong (Charlie Rose???), I cannot comprehend by what tortured logic an elected member of Congress reaches the conclusion that I should pay for his sexual harassment hobby. The latter is the height of arrogance and abuse of the public trust. Yet the Washington Post reported that Congress’s Office of Compliance paid out $17 million for 264 settlements with federal employees over the past 20 years for various violations, including sexual harassment, and now we have at least one name and specifics: John Conyers, the ranking member of the House Committee on the Judiciary. Perfect.

From Buzzfeed:

Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sex acts, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic….The woman who settled with Conyers launched the complaint with the Office of Compliance in 2014, alleging she was fired for refusing his sexual advances, and ended up facing a daunting process that ended with a confidentiality agreement in exchange for a settlement of more than $27,000. Her settlement, however, came from Conyers’ office budget rather than the designated fund for settlements.

Well, this section of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck is doing some good, by throwing some light on this unethical practice. Congressional sexual harassers need to pay their hush money out of their own pockets. That’s the least they can do.

2.  Live from New York! It’s Double Standards Live! Although Saturday Night Live did have the integrity to mock alum Al Franken following the Senator’s sexual harassment accusations regarding his conduct when he was just an obnoxious comic, 36 SNL staffers, including original cast members Lorraine  Newman and Jane Curtin, felt it was appropriate to release this letter:

SNL Women Offer Solidarity in Support of Al Franken

We feel compelled to stand up for Al Franken, whom we have all had the pleasure of working with over the years on Saturday Night Live (SNL). What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms Tweeden, and to the public. In our experience, we know Al as a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer, and an honorable public servant. That is why we are moved to quickly and directly affirm that after years of working with him, we would like to acknowledge that not one of us ever experienced any inappropriate behavior; and mention our sincere appreciation that he treated each of us with the utmost respect and regard.

We send our support and gratitude to Al and his family this Thanksgiving and holiday season.

Ugh. This is blatant Ethics Accounting, as if the fact that Al was fun to work with has anything to do with his misconduct, or mitigates it in any way:

21. Ethics Accounting, or “I’ve earned this”/ “I made up for that”. You cannot earn the right to act unethically by depositing a lot of ethical deeds in the imaginary ethics bank, nor can unethical conduct be erased by doing good for someone else. The illusion that one can balance the ethics books this way is referred to on the Ethics Alarms blog as “the Ruddigore Fallacy.”  Nobody earns the right to be unethical, not even once, no matter how exemplary their conduct. An unethical act is just as unethical, whether it is performed by a saint, a hero, or a villain.

Even more ridiculous is the “he never harassed me!” bit. This is reminiscent of Greta Van Susterin’s embarrassing defense of Roger Ailes, where she “stood up for” her boss and cast skepticism on his accusers because Greta had never been abused. The SNL letter drips with similar skepticism and bias. It is “appropriate” for Al to have apologized—never mind that the apology itself stunk on ice—and Al’s conduct may have been “stupid and foolish,” but come on, it wasn’t the worst thing.

What does standing up “in solidarity” mean, when it is in support of an accused harasser? It means “we don’t believe the victim, and anyway, we like the accused sufficiently that we will give him a pass.” I’m just guessing here, but I bet there are many, many women Harvey Weinstein worked with that he never molested, and that Louis C.K. hasn’t masturbated in front of every women he ever encountered. Those lucky women should sign a letter.

3. ” Gee, you mean I really have to pay it back?” In 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts, while South Dakota suspends driver’s licenses for the same provocation.  The tone of the New York Times article on the topic is disapproving, even though seven of the 19 states don’t use the laws that allow such suspensions, and the others mostly employ them as threats to get deadbeats to take their responsibilities seriously. Nobody in any of the states loses a license who sets up a payment schedule. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/20/17: Harvard Hypocrisy, Homely Actors, Horrible Apologies, And The Head Of Apple’s Diversity Program Lands On A Pike

Good Morning.

1 And The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck rolls on…The Harvey Express ran over several more notables in various ways last week (like Lena Dunham…). Although Senator Al Franken got most of the publicity. One was actor Jeffrey Tambor, the long-time character actor turned star of the streaming show “Transparent,” about a transgender woman. Tambor’s former assistant, eager to pick up her #MeToo brownie points even at the risk of throwing the entire “Transparent” cast and staff out of work (this is another reason why these matters are more ethically handled privately), accused the actor of lewd comments and in one case “pressing up against her.” Now Tambor, and almost certainly the hit show, are, as Jeff Flake would say. “toast.”

This weekend I crafted the apology Franken should have offered, but as bad as the one he actually offered was, it was arguably better than what Tambor came up with:

“For the past four years, I’ve had the huge privilege — and huge responsibility – of playing Maura Pfefferman, a transgender woman, in a show that I know has had an enormous, positive impact on a community that has been too long dismissed and misunderstood.

I know I haven’t always been the easiest person to work with. I can be volatile and ill-tempered, and too often I express my opinions harshly and without tact. But I have never been a predator — ever.

I am deeply sorry if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being sexually aggressive or if I ever offended or hurt anyone. But the fact is, for all my flaws, I am not a predator and the idea that someone might see me in that way is more distressing than I can express.”

On the Apology Scale, this combines the worst features of a #9, a “non-apology apology,” with #10, an “insincere and dishonest apology,” with some other obnoxious features thrown in for bad taste.  Tambor begins by patting himself on the back–-I’m the star, and it hasn’t been easy, but look at all the good I’ve done!—then moves on to Rationalization # 19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”

Next, he engages in deceit, stating that he’s never been a predator, which is like saying he’s never been a race car driver or an antelope. He’s accused of sexual harassment and one incident of sexual assault. What his statement amounts to a non-denial denial: “I never did what she’s accused me of doing more than once!”

Yecchh.

2. “Because sometimes they say yes…” It is no coincidence that Tambor, Franken and Weinstein all come from the performing arts world and all are very homely men. I have observed in my own theater experience that the most aggressive violators of the boundaries of restraint and decorum in interactions with women in a theatrical settings are frequently the guys who are unattractive and feel  that it they don’t take chances, they’ll die a virgin. It is astounding how aggressive some of them are, and how resilient they remain after rejection and even physical abuse. If they fail a hundred times and succeed once, that’s positive reinforcement enough. If, through talent, hard work and luck, such individuals reach a level of power in the performing arts profession, sexual harassment is an established behavior pattern that doesn’t set off their ethics alarms at all.

3. It’s NOT OK to be white? Denise Young Smith, Apple’s first vice president of diversity and inclusion and an African-American, was part of a  panel discussion on fighting racial injustice eat the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia. At one point she said,

“Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT…there can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.” 

Apple fired her, six months into her new role after 20 years successfully running Apple’s international Human Resources department. Smith did not have the integrity to stand by her words, and instead tried a desperate Pazuzu grovel, apologizing and saying that her words “were not representative of how I think about diversity.”  It didn’t work. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, Sort-of Veterans Day, 2017:

Good Morning!

1 I had to fix the title: today is being observed as Veterans Day by banks and other institutions, but it isn’t Veterans Day. Phooey. If a holiday is observed on a certain date, then in my terms, that is the holiday. No wonder the country is fatally confused all the time.

2. Well that was fast! I see that I have to write a “Stop Making Me Defend Roy Moore!” post. Yechhh.  The Left’s shameless virtue signalers are out in force representing a slug who repeatedly failed in efforts to date teens 40 years ago as a menace to womankind. Oddly, many of these same white knights dismissed Bill Clinton using an intern half his age as a sex toy in the Oval Office as “just sex.”  How can these people stand to be in the same room with themselves?

3. Former Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he believes he was the most qualified person to be president in 2016.

Yechhh. This is right up there with a losing team saying it was really the best team, but even worse. It’s like defaulting the decisive game because it’;s chilly outside, and making that claim.

“Oprah, no woman or man should announce they’re running for president unless they can answer two questions,” Biden told O. “One, do you truly believe you’re the most qualified person at the moment — I believed I was.” He did? That in itself disqualifies him. Joe Biden has never held an executive position in his life. Being Vice-President is relevant experience, for sure, although Biden hardly covered himself with glory during his tenure. Joe is also not the sharpest knife in the cutlery set, to be nice about it. He’s been caught plagiarizing speeches. He says jaw-droppingly dumb things almost daily. Is self-delusion a qualification?

Sure, Joe was preferable to Trump or Hillary: I would have held my nose and voted for him. He’s right to say he was better qualified than those two, simply because he’s not corrupt and has at least a rudimentary concept of right and wrong. Being better than those too doesn’t make him “the most qualified” that’s Biden’s weak mind at work. Jim Webb, to name one of many, had (and has) far stronger leadership qualifications. One of those qualifications is courage, which in Biden’s case meant having the guts to step in a try to take the nomination from Hillary Clinton. Biden had a duty to do this, but when it came down to action, he ducked.

Disqualified.

4.  Can there be any more blatant Ethics Dunces than LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, the three freshmen on the UCLA men’s basketball team who apparently shoplifted Louis Vuitton sunglasses  in the Chinese city of Hangzhou? UCLA is in China for a week-long visit as it was scheduled to open its season in Shanghai this weekend against Georgia Tech. The three players are now out of that game, and it is even in doubt whether the game will take place at all, since the UCLA team is confined to its hotel. The Three Dunces could be months away from returning home as the legal process in their case plays out. If they were Chinese citizens, they would be facing prison.

<gag!><ACK!><arghhh!> This is embarrassing to the whole country, not to mention UCLA and its basketball program. Of course, Big Time college sports breed and nurture such  arrogant, entitled, sociopathic conduct. Is it possible that all the players were not instructed in the dos and don’ts of traveling in not just a foreign nation, but in a Communist power looking for ammunition to wield against the U.S. in the diplomacy wars? Oh, sure it’s possible. I wonder if the players were also told not to take a knee when they played the Chinese national anthem.

Shoplifting? Do the players shoplift at home, or is this just something they think is appropriate in China? My guess is that there will be some deal-making to get the players home, and then let’s watch carefully what happens to Ball, Riley and Hill. This will be an integrity test for the NCAA and the school.

If they don’t flunk it, I will be stunned. Continue reading

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KABOOM! Brandeis Cancels A Play About Political Correctness Because Students And Faculty Protested That It Wasn’t Politically Correct

I do want to thank Curmie, our esteemed drop-in commenter who is a drama teacher and chronicler of ethics outrages from the world of education, for ambushing me with this head-exploding story from Brandeis University. And my head had been doing so well.

Playwright Michael Weller had received a Creative Arts Award from Brandeis, and when he wrote a  a play, “Buyer Beware,” that satirized the political climate on U.S. campuses the University scheduled it to make its premiere there. The satire concerns a student who discovers the works of  iconic 50s era comedian Lenny Bruce, and attempts to stage a  production in the spirit of the taboo-challenging comic. The production offends  students affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the Brandeis-like university, which worries that the controversy will offend a crucial donor. The script, channeling Bruce (think George Carlin but more abrasive, and not as funny) called for a white character to use “nigger” in several instances. The play quotes Bruce’s famous manifesto against strictures against mere words: “Imagine if we just kept saying these words over and over again, sooner or later they’d become meaningless noise.”

Without reading the script, it appears, so many students protested that Brandeis administrators, proving that their spines and principles were noodle-flexible, capitulated and cancelled the production, when the statements of the protesters should have made it obvious that such a play was desperately needed. For example, Andrew Childs is an Undergraduate Department Representative for the Theater Arts Department and a member of the season’s play selection committee, told the student newspaper,

“The issue we all have with it is that [Weller] is an older, straight…, able-bodied and white man. [ Wait! Isn’t it okay to be white?] It isn’t his place to be stirring the pot.”

What are they teaching at Brandeis? Only certain genders and races can “stir the pot”? Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: “The Stickering”

More than a dozen handmade stickers reading “It’s okay to be white” were posted around overnight in Harvard Square earlier as well as around the nearby Harvard Law School campus.

Law School Dean of Students Marcia L. Sells, who is black, wrote an email to law students in the wake of what Stephen King might call “The Stickering”:

“It seems likely that these anonymous postings, made in the middle of the night, were provocations intended to divide us from one another HLS will not let that happen here. We live, work, teach, and learn together in a community that is stronger, better, and deeper because of our diversity and because we encourage open, respectful, and constructive discourse”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Dayand watch your step!—is…

Do you think posting the stickers was unethical? Do you think the Dean’s response was responsible?

Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Week, And A Few Related Diversions

My son is named after this President, incidentally.

The quote itself is by Ron Chernow, the historian who authored the recent well-reviewed biography of out 18th President, “Grant,”  “Hamilton,” the biography that inspired, we are told, the mega-hit musical. and “Washington” (won’t somebody send a copy to the fools at Christ Church?) was given to an interviewer as his description of another book, the Philip Roth’s historical novel  “The Plot Against America”:

[A] democracy can be corrupted, not by big, blaring events, but by a slow, insidious, almost imperceptible process, like carbon monoxide seeping in under the door.

Some random thoughts on this statement, which I believe is exactly right, and a lot more interesting than the more frequently used analogy about boiling a frog slowly:

  • Grant, as Chernow’s book (among others of recent vintage) documents, was present at one of those points when democracy seemed to be in the process of being poisoned, and acted forcefully.

By 1868, when Grant was elected to succeed Andrew Johnson, who had done everything he could to allow the South to resist extending civil rights to the newly freed slaves, the KKK had evolved into a powerful terrorist organization that referred to itself as  “The Invisible Empire of the South.” Under the  Klan’s first  “Grand Wizard,” the brilliant former Confederate cavalry general  Nathan Bedford Forrest, whites from all classes of Southern society joined the Klan’s ranks. They attacked and punished newly freed blacks for crimes like  behaving in an “impudent manner” toward whites, brutalized the teachers of  schools for black children, and burned schoolhouses. It also terrorized and often murdered Republican party leaders those who voted for Reconstruction policies.  In Kansas over 2,000 murders were committed as the 1868 election approached; in Louisiana, a thousand blacks were killed in the same period.

Grant entered office knowing that the Civil War victory could come apart. He made some bad appointments–Grant was naive about politics and trusted too easily—but his choice as Attorney General, Amos T. Akerman, was masterful. With Grant’s support, and the with the help of the newly created Justice Department under Grant, he vigorously worked to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave the vote to black men in every state, and the First Reconstruction Act of 1867, which placed tough restrictions on the South and closely regulated the formation of their new state governments. Between 1870 and 1871, the Republican Congress passed and Grant signed into law the Enforcement Acts, which made it a crime to interfere with registration, voting, officeholding, or jury service by blacks. Congress also passed the Ku Klux Klan Act, which allowed the government to act against terrorist organizations.

  • When I was growing up and becoming interested in the Presidents, a life-long passion that led me to both law and ethics, Grant was routinely listed as one of the worst in the line. All one heard from historians was about the financial scandals that rocked his administration. Grant’s great success in subduing the Klan was literally never mentioned. The main Presidential historian then was Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a member of Jack Kennedy’s inner circle. His job as he saw it was to minimize the contributions of any Republican President, like Teddy Roosevelt (“near great” in his rankings), Eisenhower (“below average”) and Grant (“failure’). Meanwhile, Woodrow Wilson, who dragged the U.S, into the first World War, botched the Versailles Treaty and who actively revived the Klan, being a stone-cold racist, was “great.” Naturally, I believed all of his distortions, which were largely those of the historians at the time, then, as now, often partisans and propagandists. It took me a while to realize that this had been my first encounter with the Left attempting to alter present perception by controlling the past.

That is one of the major sources of Chernow’s carbon monoxide today, except that the disinformation now emanates from the schools, colleges, and the news media. Continue reading

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