Category Archives: Leadership

Ethics Quiz: The Governor’s Dress

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer wore a “form fitting dress” or a “distractingly badly-fitting dress” during her state of the State address. After some pundits and a lot of social media users leveled harsh criticism of her attire, the matter quickly entered the battlefield of the gender wars. She said in a statement,

“In my speech I was encouraging people to see the humanity in one another in this cruel political environment. In an era when so many women are stepping up to lead, I’m hoping people will focus on our ideas and accomplishments instead of our appearance. Until then, I’ve got a message for all of the women and girls like mine who have to deal with garbage like this every day: I’ve got your back.”

Anne Doyle, an Oakland County leadership coach for women, said,

“If she had been wearing something big and baggy, she would have been criticized for wearing that. We’re going to see a significant amount of this type of criticism as more and more women are in these type of powerful, leadership roles. It’s gender bias. But we have to power our way through it and ignore it.”

No question about it, female public figures are often subjected to higher standards of appearance than males. However, does this mean that no criticism of public comportment and appearance by public officials in the official discharge of their duties is legitimate? Here’s Ann Althouse on the controversy, writing that the Governor…

…wore a dress to her State of the State Address that was just way too tight. As many of the commenters (at The Daily Mail) observe, you can see the outline of her bellybutton. It’s not really fair to accuse everyone of body shaming when you wear something that fits so poorly. People talk about Trump’s tie being too long….

And his hair, AND his skin color, AND his hands, AND his weight. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama’s every fashion choice received barrels of ink-worth of automatic praise. The issue is, or should be, whether a public figures should be held accountable for decisions regarding they present themselves to the world. Cousin Vinny kept finding himself in contempt of court for inappropriately casual attire, which was deemed disrespectful to the court. Are supporters of the governor really arguing that all criticism of a female elected official’s attire or appearance is sexist? Seriously?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day is…

Was criticism of the Governor’s dress unethical?

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership, Professions

Ethics Warm-Up, 2/19/19: College Disgrace Edition [Updated!]

Hello, Readers, and Goodby, Columbus (see #5)!

In case you care: yesterday was about the third time in ten years that I have failed to get at least one post up. I was in New Brunswick, NY, after the three and a half-hour trip from Virginia took over five hours instead of three. I had scheduled a 6:15 am wake-up call, and a room service breakfast at 6:30 in order to prepare for my 3 hour seminar and get a post or two up before I had to check out at 8 am. No wake up call. No breakfast. I was awakened at 8:05 am by Clarence Darrow, aka actor Bruce Rauscher. Somehow we made it to the seminar on time, Bruce was great, the lawyers were happy, but by the time the return journey got me home that night any Ethics Alarms post I attempted would have been in Esperanto.

I’m sorry.

1. Revelation! Hearing Darrow’s courtroom arguments in a different interpretation and pace made me realize that part of his methodology was to gradually convince juries that he was smarter than they were, and that they should just do what he said because he proved he had thought the issues through more thoroughly than they had or could. His genius was that he could do this without appearing to be arrogant or conceited. This is how effective leaders lead, and also how they corrupt, persuading normal people to just surrender their judgment.

I am an advocate of capital punishment, but when Darrow made this argument pleading for the lives of thrill-killers Leopold and Loeb….

What is the public’s idea of justice? “Give them the same mercy that they gave to Bobby Franks.”

Is that the law?  Is that justice?  Is this what a court should do?  Is this what a state’s attorney should do?  If the state in which I live is not kinder, more humane, more considerate, more intelligent than the mad act of these two boys, I am sorry that I have lived so long.

…I had to pause and wonder if he had found the fatal weakness in the logic of the death penalty. I have a rebuttal, but I have thought about the issue a long time, and Darrow wasn’t THAT much smarter than me. But if I were a typical juror (or even a judge, as was his audience in this case), I might be tempted to see the case Darrow’s way.

2.  Once again, the totalitarian instincts of progressives and attempted thought-control on campuses...I believe that this escalating phenomenon will eventually lead to an epic cultural conflagration.

Orange Coast College barred its chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom  displaying this banner….

…..at a campus student recruitment fair. The College objected to the banner’s depicting images of two rifles which college officials said were forbidden by a college policy that bars not just firearms but “any facsimile of a firearm, knife, or explosive.”

Obviously, however, such a decision violates the First Amendment. Explains Constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh, “once a university opens up a space where students may display banners, it then may not restrict such displays unless the restriction is viewpoint-neutral and reasonable. It’s hard to see a viewpoint-neutral rationale for banning even sillhouette displays of guns, which no-one would confuse for real guns….even if the rationale is viewpoint-neutral, it’s not reasonable: To be reasonable, a restriction on speech within a government-created forum must be “consistent with the [government’s] legitimate interest in ‘preserv[ing] the property … for the use to which it is lawfully dedicated.'” Nothing about the display of rifle sillhouettes interferes with the government’s legitimate interest in preserving campus property for its normal uses, except insofar as such a display conveys a pro-gun viewpoint to which some people object.”

Of course, the real purpose of the restriction is political indoctrination of students and agenda-driven limitations on advocacy. College administrators who don’t comprehend the Bill of Rights better than this may be qualified to educate trained ferrets, but not human beings less human beings.

The professor also points out that the school’s sports team logo…

…violates the school policy exactly in the manner the banner does, for it includes an illustration of a knife.

Fools and hypocrites—and nascent totalitarians. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Facebook, Government & Politics, History, Leadership

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/16/2019: The King’s Pass And Kool-Aid

Good morning…

1. A literal “King’s Pass”! The King’s Pass, #11 on the Ethic Alarms rationalization list, was acted out with perfection in Great Britain, where Prince Philip, despite causing an automobile accident that injured another driver, was not charged or ticketed by authorities. The nonagenarian royal has been persuaded to surrender his driving license, however.

2. Politics do not belong in the sports pages...but don’t tell the New York Times. In another King’s Pass-related story,“Patriarch’s Racist Emails Stagger Cubs Owners” (the print version), in which the Times subtly lobbies for the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball to take punitive action against Joe Ricketts, the billionaire whose family owns the team, we had the following statements…

  • “The false assertion that Obama, who identifies as Protestant, was Muslim and born outside the United States were prevalent in right-wing politics during his presidency.” This is just false. The birthers were a radical fringe of the conservative opposition to Obama, and that weak conspiracy theory was never “prevalent.” Nor can the birther claims be fairly called “racist,” though certainly many of their adherents were racist. Among the “racist” sentiments attributed to Ricketts in the article were “we cannot ever let Islam become a large part of our society.”  At worst that’s religious bigotry, not racism. At best it’s a defensible point of view.

In fact, I tend to agree with it, and the experience of Western Europe supports the position.

  • The article approvingly cites the mandatory grovel by Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Cubs, who denounced his father’s emails in a statement, saying, “We are aware of the racially insensitive emails in my father’s account that were published by an online media outlet. Let me be clear: The language and views expressed in those emails have no place in our society.”

Let me be clear: any language and all views have a place in a society founded on the principles of freedom of thought and expression. The casual and routine endorsement of thought-crime and censorship by the mainstream news media (and academia) is far more alarming than any private emails by an elderly billionaire. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

The Edison Contradiction, Or Why Great Achievers Are So Often Unethical People, And Civilization Is Still Better Off For It

When I noted Thomas Edison’s birthday recently, and pointed readers to the two classic old movies about Tom as a man and boy, reader Chris Marschner wrote,

Re Edison I have seen the films with Tracy and Rooney. Tracy’s portrayal was historically one sided depicting Edison as merely a slave to his inventiveness. I dont recall it showing him as an egotistical tyrant who put real meaning into unbridled competition with Nikolai Tesla. I believe the director conveniently left out the part when Edison electrocuted an elephant to show alternating current was dangerous.

Edison’s inventions are ubiquitous and spawned the growth of the American economy but I would suggest his understanding of ethics would be on par with Harry Reid.

After my response noted that Edison, “like most who reach the absolute top of a field or profession…was absolutely obsessed with one single mission, and was an indifferent father, husband, friend. That’s the sacrifice such people make; yes, ethics is not on their agendas. Nonetheless, they are essential to the advance of civilization. He was a great inventor, not a great man….and he would have never claimed otherwise.”

Reader Steve-O added,

It doesn’t stop with the great scientists and inventors. A lot of the great leaders, political, military, business, arts, and otherwise, were TERRIBLE at human relations and dreadful even as colleagues. A random sampling might include:

Political:

1. FDR – a sociopath and an adulterer.
2. Churchill – a heavy-handed functional alcoholic.
3. Clemenceau – anti-clerical bully who married one of his students.
4. Ataturk – Brute, racist, alcoholic, looked the other way on genocide.
5. Bismarck – “blood and iron.”

Business:

1. Rockefeller – intentionally drove competitors out of business, monopolist.
2. Henry Ford – anti-Semite, conspiracy theorist, Nazi sympathizer.
3. Andrew Carnegie – anti-religious bully, deliberate indifference to poor conditions on his watch.
4. George Pullman – tried to set himself up as king as well as boss of his workers.
5. James “Diamond Jim” Brady – glutton, playboy.
6. Howard Hughes – one word: Yikes!

Military:

1. Douglas MacArthur – the only difference between him and God was that God didn’t think he was MacArthur.
2. George Patton – a warrior who couldn’t live in peacetime, his own staff despised him.
3. Joseph Joffre – indifferent, borderline incompetent, very little regard for the lives of his men.
4. Horatio Nelson – extremely poor treatment of his wife, who never did him wrong.
5. Joe Stilwell – “Vinegar Joe.”

Music:

1. Richard Wagner – tenth-rate human being all around.
2. W.A. Mozart- tortured genius who sometimes tortured others.
3. Johannes Brahms – dark genius who was more at home with music than relationships.
4. Anton Bruckner – macabre, possible pedophile.
5. Rimsky-Korsakov – nasty drunk.

I nearly answered, “Don’t get me started on actors, singers, artists and directors!”

Or, for that matter, Presidents of the United States.

However, this is a serious and confounding problem in ethics. History teaches us that our greatest achievers often not only give very little priority to ethics, but that a strong argument could be mounted that a concern for ethics would have seriously curtailed their positive effect on human progress and society. Is this, in some ways, a direct challenge to the position, my position, that it is every human being’s duty to strive to live by ethical values and decision-making. It is indeed. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Family, Leadership, Public Service, U.S. Society

Lunch Time Ethics Appetizer, 2/13/2019: Rail, Restaurants, Resignation And Reality

Yum Yum!

1. When reality meets ideology… California Gov. Gavin Newsom  announced that

[He’s] abandoning a $77 billion plan to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco and will focus instead on completing a 119-mile (190-kilometer) segment in the state’s agricultural heartland. Voters approved a ballot measure in 2008 calling for the linking of Northern and Southern California, a rail project initially estimated to cost $33 billion and be completed in 2020. Subsequent estimates more than doubled the cost and pushed the timeline to 2033. Newsom pledged to finish the segment already under construction through California’s Central Valley. He rejected the idea critics have raised that it will be a “train to nowhere” and said it can help revitalize the economically depressed region.

We’ll see how much that part costs, if it’s ever completed. Meanwhile, Democrats are going to have to declare their fealty to the “Green New Deal,” which pledges to eliminate air travel nation-wide with “high speed rail.”

2. What part of “convenient double standards” is unclear to you? Kelli Goff writes at the Daily Beast (relayed by Ann Althouse, since I have the DB on my Ethics Alarms  Untrustworthy Black List):

“When Rachel Dolezal was unmasked as a white woman who misrepresented her racial and ethnic identity in part to bolster her professional bona fides as a voice of the disenfranchised, she was penalized—heavily. She went from rising media star to late-night punchline, unemployable and impoverished. I don’t wish poverty on Warren, but I don’t understand how her only punishment for a similar fraud seems to be that she may become president.”

Warren, a polished demagogue, got rave reviews for her recent speech throwing her war-bonnet  into the 2020 ring; like Barack Obama, skillful public speaking is the full extent of her qualifications for leadership. But wow—with the Democrats more or less trapped into nominating another woman to run against Donald Trump, what an awful field of openly unethical females they have assembled so far! Warren’s a fraud; Gillibrand is an anti-male bigot; Gabbard is running away from strong anti-gay positions, Harris has attacked the Catholic faith as a disqualifying feature for a judge, and then there’s Hillary, who looks outstanding in this field. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Public Service

Kamala Harris Ethics Week Continues With An Unethical Quote Of The Month!

“Listen, I think it gives a lot of people joy. And we need more joy.”

Senator Kamala Harris (D-Ca), giving a wildly irresponsible answer to a question about the legalization of pot.

Ethics Alarms is on record, now and forever, as opposing the legalization of marijuana as an inevitable societal disaster on many fronts, but there are arguably legitimate arguments for legalization.  Harris’s isn’t one. It’s facile, intellectually dishonest, a disgrace for a lawyer and former prosecutor, and a direct pander to the shallow, stupid, and drug-addled among us.

There are many, many kinds of conduct that give people joy that would cripple society if we allowed them without restriction and criticism.. Rape gives some people joy. Swindling gullible people gives people joy. Bullying. Cheating. Lying. Stealing. Sadism. (Professional football….) Moreover, drug-induced joy is the lowest form of the emotion, false, artificial, temporary and without substance. The “joy” pot provides is no more desirable than the joy provided by ecstasy or heroin. Indeed, one of the societal harms created by recreational drugs is that the kind of joy that is real and earned—the joy of creating something, the joy of self improvement, the joy of discovery, the joy of helping others, the joy of loving and being loved, the joy of making one’s community, society and the world better—are too often crowded out by Harris’s chemical joy.

Statements like Harris’s usually signal a politician who lives by smug half-truths, deception and exploitation of the foolish.

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

On Perceptions Of Racism

1. “Prehistoric Man.” Above is a musical number from the acclaimed, indeed classic, MGM musical “On the Town,” starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Ann Miller (the soloist), Vera-Ellen, and Betty Garrett. Questions:

  • Did it make you feel uncomfortable? Why or why not?
  • Should the number make you feel uncomfortable?
  • Is it blackface without blackface? Does the African sculpture late in the number matter? How about those outrageous masks and head gear?
  • If it’s not blackface without blackface, what would be the politically correct objection? That it offends cave men?
  • Would a black performer in the number eliminate any objections to it?

I felt weird about the number the first time I saw it, decades ago. Yesterday, when I watched it again, I really felt uncomfortable, and resented the fact that I did. This is what the culture does to you, whether you like it or not. Is a culture where a silly musical number like “Prehistoric Man” is considered offensive healthier than the culture that spawned it?

2. What planet was Ralph Northam raised on? The Virginia Governor, who has managed to stave off calls for him to resign despite a) wearing blackface in medical school and b) being completely unbelievable in his various explanations of when and why, has also revealed himself to be so ignorant of race issues and history that it boggles the mind that he could have been elected in the first place. Behold:

  • He dressed up using blackface to emulate Michael Jackson.
  • He saw nothing amiss for 30 years in having a photo of a man in blackface (possibly him, though he denies it) and an individual in KKK robes on his medical yearbook page.
  • He had to be told by a campaign worker in 2018 that wearing blackface was considered objectionable and a reference to racist minstrel shows and Jim Crow.
  • He was unaware until recently that the film “Birth of a Nation” is considered racist. To this I have to say, “Whaaa?” A public official should have some minimal knowledge of history, and this is the Governor of Virginia, birthplace of President Woodrow Wilson, who championed both the KKK and “Birth of a Nation.”
  • In his interview with Gayle King on CBS, Northam referred to slaves as “indentured servants.” She had to correct him. At least he didn’t call slaves “unpaid interns.”
  • In his Washington Post interview, Northam somehow managed to hold everyone else responsible for his inexplicable ignorance: “It’s obvious from what happened this week that we still have a lot of work to do. There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia, and especially in the area of equityThere are ongoing inequities to access to things like education, health care, mortgages, capital, entre­pre­neur­ship. And so this has been a real, I think, an awakening for Virginia. It has really raised the level of awareness for racial issues in Virginia. And so we’re ready to learn from our mistakes….First of all what I plan to do . . . is to make sure that we have sensitivity training — in our Cabinet, in our agencies. I also plan to reach out to our colleges and universities and talk about sensitivity training. Even into the K through 12 age range, that’s very important.”

The fact that Northam was and is jaw-droppingly obtuse and ignorant of the history of race in this country does not mean everyone is similarly handicapped.

  • Then the Governor had the gall to say  on CBS, “Virginia needs someone that can heal. There’s no better person to do that than a doctor. Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass. And that’s why I’m not going anywhere.”

Ugh. The doctor line is an insult to everyone’s intelligence, and too facile to be accepted with anything but mockery. Doctors heal wounds and illnesses, not social and political maladies. Meanwhile, nothing in Northam’s handling of this scandal shows courage or a moral compass. What it shows is cultural obliviousness, a refusal to accept responsibility, and desperation to hold onto power despite being proven unfit to do so.

Northam doesn’t know racism when he sees it, and such a leader is hardly the one to address the problem.

I bet he’d enjoy “Prehistoric Man.”

 

________________________

Sources: The Hill 1, 2, Buzzfeed, National Review

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Government & Politics, Leadership, Race