Category Archives: Ethics Heroes

Ethics Hero: Michelle Obama

Like it or not, Michelle Obama has established herself as a cultural role model, and millions of American respect her statements and opinions and take them to heart. As clearly contrary to reality as  her now-famous “When the go low, we go high” remark was—its is difficult to remember the last time the Democratic leadership “went high”—the statement would have been an ethical one if it were true, and was still arguably aspirational, unless regards it as cynical public deception.

(Which, I confess, I have…)

This week, as important voices in her party increasingly courted hate, anger and violence among members of the public in the wake of Operation Smear Kavanaugh failing so spectacularly, the former First Lady refused to encourage the mob, and told the Today Show,

“Fear is not … a proper motivator. Hope wins out, and if you think about how you want your kids to be raised, how you want them to think about life and their opportunities, do you want them afraid of their neighbors? Do you want them angry? Do you want them vengeful?…Which motto do you want them to live by? And I have to think about that as a mother.”

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Your Tuesday Evening Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Report

I. Let’s give a whole car to USC.

Nearly 100 students  attended a rally at noon on Monday demanding a tenured professor be fired after he sent a reply-all email last Thursday to the student body noting that “accusers sometimes lie.”

Professor James Moore, a tenured professor at the University of Southern California, replied to a campus wide email fatuously demanding that students  “Believe Survivors” on the day of Christine Ford’s testimony with a reply-all message that…

“If the day comes you are accused of some crime or tort of which you are not guilty, and you find your peers automatically believing your accuser, I expect you find yourself a stronger proponent of due process than you are now.”

For a teacher, this was a responsible and important point to make. It is also undeniable, except in dishonesty, ignorance and hysteria. So what was the campus response?  Hundreds of  emails from “concerned” students and alumni condemning the engineering professor. USC students Audrey Mechling and Joelle Montier  organized a Facebook rally against him, entitled “Times Up for James Moore.” Nearly 100 students gathered to shout, “Times Up, No Moore!” The crowd then paraded its bias and ignorance, and marched  to the office of Dean Jack Knott. He, of course…

...sided with the protesters...

“What [Professor Moore] sent was extremely inappropriate, hurtful, insensitive. We are going to try to do everything we can to try to create a better school, to educate the faculty,” said Dean Knott to the crowd. “This is going to be a multi-pronged effort. We are going to have a faculty meeting later this week around implicit bias, sensitivity towards [sexual assault]….”

That’s academia today! At Georgetown, a professor tweets that white males should be killed and castrated, and the administrators shrug and say she has a right to her opinion. AT USC, a professor corrects  indefensible cant that rejects basic ethical and judicial principles, and a dean says that he must be punished.

People actually pay to send their children to be warped by these places.

II. Let’s always believe survivors who know how to beat lie detectors.

The fact that Dr. Ford had been declared “truthful” in her polygraph test was always one of the worst reasons to believe her, but now that test throws legitimate suspicion on her account. The machines are notoriously unreliable, but the argument was that the fact that Ford was eager to take the test indicated her confidence in her account. Today, Fox News received this letter from a man who claims to be Ford’s ex-boyfriend:

Of course, it could be completely innocent that a woman who suddenly dredged up a forgotten alleged incident just in time to use it to derail the confirmation of a SCOTUS nominee her party opposes and submitted to a lie detector test as evidence of her veracity considered herself an expert on beating lie detector tests.

III. Ethics Hero meets Ethics Dunce Continue reading

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Your Mid-Day Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Update

It’s kind of like following O.J. slow-mo escape, but more interminable, and lot more ominous...

I. No, Matt Damon is not a hypocrite because he mocked Brett Kavanaugh on SNL.

Why is this so hard to grasp for those not in show-biz? Actors act. They don’t have to believe in or live by what their roles stand for? Damon said earlier last December, speaking of the situation where he was falsely accused of harassment or sexual abuse…

“If you make the same claim to me today. it would be scorched-earth. I don’t care if it would cost me $10 million in court for 10 years, you are not taking my name from me, you are not taking my name and reputation from me, I’ve worked too hard for it, I’ve earned it, you can’t just blow me up like that.”

Now conservative pundits are writing that Damon is a sell-out and a hypocrite for helping a TV satire show attack Kavanaugh for standing up for his name and reputation. Morons. Damon didn’t write that script, and very few actors, especially fading, aging leading men like Damon, can afford to demand that they personally agree with the vehicles they appear in or the characters they play. Even actors who have the money and clout to do that usually kill their careers. [See: Foster, Jody; Clooney, George; et al.] Continue reading

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Ethics Morning Sickness, 9/29/2018: The Ford-Kavanaugh Hearing Hangover

According to several sources, Republicans not only have the votes to confirm Brett Kananaugh,  a couple of Democrats may even join their ranks. If true, that’s amazing, and also the most encouraging piece of news I’ve heard since Aaron Judge went on the Disabled List.

I don’t have any special fondness for Brett Kavanaugh, and I have no stake in his confirmation. All I have ever cared about is having outstanding, smart, analytical judges on the Supreme Court. I was thrilled when President Obama nominated Elena Kagan, who fits that description; depressed when he appointed touchy-feely mediocrity Sotamayor, lowering the quality of judicial talent so he could check off a diversity box, but then, that’s Obama. Justices like Blackmun, Souter and Kennedy, all appointed to skirt controversy rather than to ensure a competent Court, do subtle, long-lasting damage to our laws. Aggressive, thoughtful, brilliant jurists like Scalia and Ginsberg keep the third branch of government strong. Kavanaugh is undeniably the kind of qualified, experienced judge who has always been routinely confirmed by the Senate regardless of the President nominating him or his party affiliation. What the Democrats and their allies among activist and the news media have done to Brett Kavanaugh is more than wrong; it is very dangerous, and threatens further the basic comity and respect without which no democracy can function. The treatment of Kavanaugh, which I have discussed in detail elsewhere—the demonizing, the fear-mongering, the character assassination, based purely on an unremarkable judicial philosophy—continues down a slippery slope, already greased by “the resistance,”  that ends in civil war.  The Democrats will only turn away from this disastrous path when they conclude that it won’t work, that the American public rejects “the ends justify the means” as an operating strategy. There are signs that the Democratic Senators televised conduct during the Kavanaugh hearings may be a tipping point. I hope so. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Nothing much has changed in my assessment since I wrote this post ten days ago. I still don’t believe or disbelieve Ford or Kavanaugh. There is no basis on which to believe either of them, but the accuser has the burden of proof, and as was true ten days ago, she can’t meet it and didn’t meet it. Nobody confirms her account. She cannot provide specifics, even as to where the alleged attack occurred, who held the party where it allegedly occurred, or an exact date, making investigation nearly impossible. Her parents, who are alive, have not confirmed her account; apparently she didn’t even tell them about the incident. Her testimony was convincing. So was Kavanaugh’s. Those who say “they believe” either party might as well have a “Bias has made me stupid” sign on top of their head. In yesterday’s New York Times, a full page ad listed thousands of names of men proclaiming “We believe Anita Hill. We also believe Charistine Blasey Ford.” All they are doing is virtue signaling for their pals, proclaiming their partisan affiliation (believing Ford is required to save abortion, and depending on which hysterical activist or pundit you listen to, female suffrage, gay marriage and the continued abolition of slavery), and or proving that they lack the power of critical thought.

I’ll have to sort through all of the logical fallacies used against Kavanaugh later: I’m sure a new rationalization for the list or twelve is in there. For example, I have been told and read that women believe Ford because they know other victims of sexual assault who never reported it. But that doesn’t justify believing Ford! It indicates that the fact that she waited all this time, until evidence was gone and memories faded, to suddenly make her accusation when it was most politically useful to her party doesn’t prove she isn’t telling the truth, but it doesn’t make it any more likely that she is, either. A commenter yesterday suggested that there should be more sympathy and accommodation for victims who are afraid to come forward soon after a sexual assault. “I would like to remind you that women often are not able to speak out against harassment until long after the fact because they are afraid and unable,” she wrote. I replied,

Then they lose their chance. There are a lot of things in life like that. If I’m reluctant to speak up and challenge a mob harassing a US Senator while he’s dining with my family, I can’t wait 20 years and do it then, can I? If you are afraid to report a community criminal when you have evidence against him because you’re afraid to snitch, it’s no mitigation to report the evidence after more people have been hurt because of your delay. How about women who don’t stop their boyfriends from sexually molesting their children because they are afraid? Is it acceptable that they wait until the Statute of Limitations has run, the damage has been done, and the kids are grown and molesting children themselves before they speak up?

You don’t have to remind me of the dilemma. I’m sorry, but I am really sick of this argument…It’s an excuse and a rationalization. It makes fairness and due process impossible, and it allows false accusers to manipulate others. Three decades? Holding a complaint until the exact moment when it can’t be defended against AND will do the most damage?

It’s explainable, perhaps, but it isn’t ethically excusable.

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Ethics Hero: Kwame Anthony Appiah, a.k.a. “The Ethicist”

In the past, I mostly visited the New York Times Magazine “The Ethicist” column to take issue with the succession of ethics amateurs and ethicist wannabes the Times employed as its ethics advice columnist. Once Kwame Anthony Appiah took over, this wasn’t as much fun, and I admit I don’t even check the column that often. Appiah is a real ethicist, and knows what he’s doing. I sometimes disagree with his conclusions, but he reaches them using valid ethical analysis, and seldom employs bias or rationalizations.

A recent column, however, deserves special praise. The inquirer asked what the ethical course would be to handle historical artifacts that reflected racist attitudes and artwork, like the card pictured above. The writer concluded her question…

I offered it to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. I never heard from them, so it moved with us. My husband thinks I should throw it away, but that feels wrong. I feel it is history that we should acknowledge, however painful and wrong. Your thoughts?

“The Ethicist’s” response is note-perfect, even with my intentional omission of its best and most surprising section. I’m doing this so you will hit the link and read the full column. Appiah wrote in part,

I am not a fan of the intentional destruction of historical artifacts….It’s a familiar thought that we need to understand our past, not least in order to help us avoid repeating the worst aspects of it. So your impulse to offer this souvenir card to a museum seems right. Of course, the sort of document you describe is well represented in collections already, and this may be why you didn’t hear back. But who knows whether there isn’t something about it that a historian might find useful in unpacking some detail of the history of American racial attitudes?

So if you think this card does have historical value, and you can’t readily find an interested archive or scholar, you could just put it up for sale on eBay, say, where it will join a large assemblage of racist artifacts. You can’t guarantee that you’ll approve of the motives of the buyer, but someone who is willing to pay for it is most likely to preserve it.

Given that your motives are honorable, I don’t share your worry about profiting from the sale. Selling an image isn’t endorsing its message. And my guess is that most contemporary collectors of such items aren’t motivated by racism. Still, if you want to avoid profiting, there’s an easy solution. Just send the proceeds to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. That’s an offer they won’t turn down. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/25/18: Kavanaugh-Free Zone

Good morning!

Regrettably, I’ll have to be writing about the Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck at length,  since it is deteriorating further has clearly merged with the  Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck AND the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck (the most dangerous of them all). To begin this day without a primal scream , however, let’s speak of other things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings, and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings.

You know. Ethics.

1.Sentencing ethics and the Coz. The judge in the Bill Cosby case signaled that the comic-turned-serial rapist would probably get less than three years behind bars for raping Andrea Costand in 2004, by announcing that the defense and prosecution had come to an agreement to merge the counts. Looking at the state sentencing guidelines, the judge said,  and that the actor has no prior history (heads exploding all over the courtroom, but though 60 or so of Bill’s other victims have come forward, in the eys of Lady Justice, they don’t exist), he declared that once Dr. Huxtable was looking at a total jail time of 22 to 36 months.

Ah, the things lawyers have to say while defending their horrible clients! Defense team leader Joseph Green argued that Cosby’s poor upbringing and battles against discrimination in his climb to success should be mitigating factors in sentencing him. This is an old Sixties argument that was dumb then and dumb now, a non sequitur. Millions of men who grew up poor and who experienced discrimination don’t take up drugging women and molesting them as a hobby. “Eighty-one year old blind men are not dangerous,” he added, apparently forgetting the fact that Bill has the assets and the enablers—like his complicit wife, Camille–do continue his avocation should he choose.

Countering all of these desperate arguments was this observation, from D.A. Kevin Steele:  “He seemingly doesn’t think he has done anything wrong. No remorse.”

Cosby deserves to die in prison, and any less of a sentence is just one more unethical nod to “The King’s Pass.”

2. Oh, great, Murphy Brown is back. Don’t these two look like fun folks to spend some light-hearted family TV time with?

That’s Candace Bergen, aka Murphy Brown, and series creator Diane English. As the New York Times explains it, the show’s creator and star feels the resurrection of the insufferably smug, liberal  broadcast media-cheering sitcom from the 90’s was needed, so someone could be bashing President Trump on TV. After all, nobody else is…just all Saturday Night Live, the late night shows, about six cable shows, and the real news media.  And there are all those shows that mock the senile House Minority leader, the pathetic angry Presidential election loser, the socialist documentary-maker who abuses his employees, the Senator who claims to be Spartacus, the other Senator who says she’s a Native American, and people who wear pussy hats. Wait–there aren’t any of those, are there? Never mind: English says that the “resistance” needs more support on TV. As for the other half of the country, “They’re not going to watch us anyway,” she says, referring to American who think an elected President has the right to govern. “I don’t think we’re looking to bring them into the tent.”

Yes. let’s divide the nation further. That should be fun. Here is my favorite quote, from the show’s producer: “If Hillary Clinton was elected there’d be no artistic reason for this show to be on the air.” Discuss, if you like. Personally, I think that one is too easy.

The hypocrisy and dishonesty of the original show seems like it will be intact. Oh, goody. My wife and I bailed permanently on “Murphy Brown” after the star “bravely” had her  fatherless baby (thus encouraging non-millionaire, real single women to do so), and the child literally disappeared except for brief moments when Murphy returned home to check in with her live-in male nanny. Amazingly, being a single mother didn’t affect Murphy’s schedule or career at all!

In the new show, we are told, Murphy will embrace #MeToo. Meanwhile, Bergen is defending Les Moonves, who was just jettisoned from CBS after many women revealed that he had Weinsteined them. Says Bergen, “I think Les’s behavior was — it was a different time. He was a different man. Is it behavior unbecoming? Yeah. But I go back with CBS, with the first ‘Murphy.’ I have great respect for Les. I would really hate to see Les go.”

Oddly, I have no respect at all for men who abuse their power and position to harm women, yet I was called a misogynist a couple of days ago, and Candace is a feminist hero.

“Murphy Brown” deserves to bomb. Where’s Charlie McCarthy when you need him? Continue reading

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Tennis Ethics: Spectacular Ethics Train Wreck At The U.S. Open

 

Wow.

And tennis is supposedly one of the most ethical sports.

This weekend’s U.S. Open women’s final opened up so many cans of ethics worms that they should be squiggling for weeks.

Here is the New York Times report in part:

Anger, boos, tears and an accusation of sexism overshadowed a remarkable victory by Naomi Osaka, a rising star who became the first tennis player born in Japan to win a Grand Slam championship.

Osaka soundly defeated her childhood idol, Serena Williams, 6-2, 6-4, in the women’s final of the United States Open on Saturday, blocking Williams from winning a record-tying 24th major singles title. But the match will long be remembered for a series of confrontations between Williams and Carlos Ramos, the match’s chair umpire, who issued three penalties against Williams in the second set, after Osaka had established her dominance.

The first was a warning after Ramos felt Williams was receiving instructions from her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, from the stands, which is against the rules. Williams was offended by the implication that she was cheating, and she demanded an apology. Later, after losing a game, she smashed her racket on the court, incurring a second penalty and the loss of a point. Finally, after she called Ramos a “thief” for taking the point from her, Ramos cited Williams a third time, resulting in the loss of a game. Williams’s anger intensified, and she pleaded for help from the tournament referee, Brian Earley, and the Grand Slam supervisor, Donna Kelso….

But what should have been a moment of uninhibited joy for Osaka turned into tears of sadness. The postmatch celebration was tarnished by the angry booing from fans upset over what they perceived as Ramos’s unfair treatment of Williams, and amid the cacophony, amplified by the closed roof because of rain, Osaka pulled her visor down over her face and cried….

In the second game, Ramos spotted Mouratoglou urging Williams to move up, and Mouratoglou conceded that he was, in fact, coaching. But he argued that it is done by every coach in every match and that the warning was the cause of what followed. He said Ramos should have quietly told Williams to inform him to cut it out. “That’s what umpires do all year,” the coach said, “and it would have ended there, and we would have avoided a drama that was totally avoidable.”

Williams approached the chair to tell Ramos that it was a “thumbs-up” gesture and that she would never accept coaching on court, which is against the rules of Grand Slam events. “I don’t cheat to win,” she said in a stern tone. “I’d rather lose.”

During the next changeover, tensions seemed to simmer down during a civil exchange when Williams explained to Ramos that she understood he might have interpreted some coaching, but that none actually existed.

Williams went back on court, held her serve in that game, and then broke Osaka’s serve to take a 3-1 lead in the second set. If she could have consolidated that break, it might have turned the flow of the match. But Osaka broke right back, and after the game ended, Williams destroyed her racket by throwing it to the court in anger. That resulted in a racket abuse penalty, a second code violation, for which the penalty is a point. Osaka would start the next game ahead by 15-0. When Williams realized that, she argued more and demanded that Ramos apologize to her and make an announcement to the crowd that she was not receiving any coaching. Ramos, known for his no-nonsense approach, did not relent.

“You owe me an apology,” Williams said. “I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her and I have never cheated.”

When the next changeover came, with Osaka leading, 4-3, Williams, still visibly distraught over what she perceived as unfair treatment, told Ramos that he had stolen a point from her and called him “a thief.” For that, Ramos gave Williams a third code violation, which meant she lost a game. Without swinging her racket, Osaka was now ahead, 5-3, and one game from the championship. Williams did not appear to realize that Osaka had been given the game until she reached the baseline again. Now fuming, she returned to the chair and demanded to speak to Earley and Kelso. Fighting back tears as the crowd yelled, hooted and booed, Williams pleaded her case. She said the treatment was unfair and argued that male players routinely behave in the same manner without facing penalties.

“There are men out here that do a lot worse, but because I’m a woman, because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me? That is not right,” Williams told one official. Later, at a post match news conference, she accused Ramos of sexism for issuing a code violation for her “thief” accusation….

As the players stood next to each other, fans booed and Williams, seeing how upset Osaka was, moved over and put her arm around the new champion and then pleaded with the fans not to boo.

Osaka, in her speech, apologized to the fans, acknowledging that most of the fans were rooting for Williams in her quest to set a career record.

Now this, from the Sporting News:

Patrick Mouratoglou admitted to coaching Serena Williams during the U.S. Open final, but believes she never received his message….Mouratoglou said he had attempted to help Williams, but added coaching was common in almost every match.”I’m honest, I was coaching. I don’t think she looked at me so that’s why she didn’t even think I was,” he told ESPN.

“But I was, like 100 percent of the coaches in 100 percent of the matches so we have to stop this hypocritical thing. Sascha (Bajin, Osaka’s coach) was coaching every point, too. “It’s strange that this chair umpire (Carlos Ramos) was the chair umpire of most of the finals of Rafa (Nadal) and (his uncle) Toni’s coaching every single point and he never gave a warning so I don’t really get it.”

If you read Ethics Alarms with any regularity at all, you should be able to predict some of the commentary here, if not all of it.

Observations: Continue reading

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