Category Archives: Leadership

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/13/18: The Mob, Bizarro World, Mid-Air Pedicures, And Robert E. Lee [UPDATED!]

1. Things fearmongers say...A Facebook friend, smart, a lawyer, good guy, wrote this: “The confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh will go down as one of the darkest days of the American experiment.” He really wrote that, and an astounding number of the Facebook leftist echo chamber “liked” the statement. Apparently Kavanaugh is going to resuscitate the Dred Scott decision, Korematsu v. United States, child labor and end women’s suffrage. He’s going to engineer from the Supreme Court chambers the equivalent of the American Civil War, or Pearl Harbor. Right. If Kavanaugh turned out to be a stealth combination of Jack the Ripper, the Marquis de Sade and Dr. Fu Manchu his confirmation couldn’t possibly rank in the top hundred “darkest days.”

That kind of rhetoric is hysterical and irresponsible, an abuse of free speech designed to make gullible and intellectually lazy people irrational and ignorant.

2. “Stop  making me defend Donald Trump…AND Robert E. Lee!”  Last night, as President Trump was speaking in front of a rally, NBC News tweeted out,

WATCH: President Trump says “Robert E. Lee was a great general” during Ohio rally, calling the Confederate leader “incredible.”

A few points to note on this: How is that observation and opinion news by any definition of the word? Lee was regarded as a “great general” well before the Civil War: that’s why Lincoln offered him the  command of the Union army when the war started. There are many, many books written by military experts that express and justify that assessment. Ghengis Khan was also a really great general, along with Julius Caesar and Curtis LeMay. This is a rare variety of fake news, joining more common varieties that have become routine of late like potential news, future news and psychic news,called past news, a new oxymoron. As for “incredible,” this, everyone conscious should know by know, is generic Trump-speak like “great,” “tremendous,” and “sad.” Who knows what it means here? It doesn’t mean Lee was an incredible human being, or at least there’s nothing in the context of NBC’s tweet that suggests that. He had an incredibly good beard for that period, at least compared to say, Longstreet, who looked like a member of ZZ Top. He was incredibly conflicted over which side to fight for. He had incredible guts.

Incredibly, though not really, because the mainstream news media has established that there are no depths to which it will not stoop in its unethical bias and incompetence, NBC tweeted that to bolster the long-running false narrative that President Trump is a racist, which he must be to extol Robert E. Lee,  the object of a particularly vile historical airbrushing and statue-toppling movement, a part of the Left’s Orwellian indoctrination and mind control effort as it slowly but surely embraces totalitarianism.

But if one actually knows the context of Trumps’ remarks, he was not praising Lee, though there is no reason why he shouldn’t, but making the point that despite Lee’s credentials and reputation, it was unheralded Ulysses Grant, denigrated as a joke when the war started, who defeated Lee. Trump was, as he usually does, talking about himself, and NBC’s tweet was intentionally misleading, and just more pandering to Trump-haters, attempting to further divide the country.

3. Floss! Floss! One of the very first posts on Ethics Alarms was about the ethics of people flossing their teeth in public. Having read this story, about a woman who began giving herself a pedicure during an airplane flight, I hereby officially proclaim that the conclusion in that post applies:

Manners and public etiquette are always evolving, and society determines what it will and will not endure. The passive, “mind your own business” theory always espoused by the least respectful, rudest and least considerate among us is a prescription for an endless deterioration in the quality of public life, and a greased slide into culturally-endorsed bad conduct. Every citizen has an obligation to his and her community to confront conduct that he or she feels does not belong in public, confront the offender, and support others who do so. Doing otherwise is not “minding one’s business,” but endorsing and entrenching bad conduct, abdicating the public duty of cultural preservation.

On a related note, there’s this.  Continue reading

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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.”

Continue reading

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Call Me Cynical, But When A Religious Leader Responds To A Scandal This Way, I Check My Pockets…

The Pope takes a page from Jimmy’s playbook!

Last week the Vatican  began a three-week-long assembly to discuss how to bring young people back into the Catholic Church. As the Synod of Bishops began, Pope Francis said, “This moment has highlighted a church that needs to listen.”

No, the moment  highlights a church that needs to stop letting its priests molest kids.

Protesters have been much in evidence at the gathering,  denouncing what they (and I) see as the Vatican’s refusal to take necessary actions to ensure that sexual predator priests and those who cover up for them be stopped. Said one protester, a victim himself, “They should center the discussions where it hurts most — and this is the outrageous abuse of power, and the thousands and thousands of children and young people hurt by officials of the church in the last decades all over the world. You can’t discuss youth without talking about this point.”

Other victims held up placards demanding, “No More Cover Up”; “Make Zero Tolerance Real”; “Establish an International Inquiry and Justice Commission”  in Italian and English.

So far, the Pope’s approach to the renewed scandal has been to point fingers, or change the subject. He did publish a letter in August that appeared to be a holy, Italian version of “huminahuminahumina,” as Ralph Kramden used to say when words and wit failed him in a crisis. That the Pope’s efforts to either ignore, or duck, or spin his accountability for the fact that children are still not safe around priests almost 20 years after the scandal of high-level cover-ups and the facilitating of serial sexual assaults in the Church across the globe were not going well became clearer than ever last week, when Francis adopted the same tragedy used by Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Lee Baker, Ted Haggard and so many other TV evangelist con artists did when they were caught either with a hand up a dress or in the till.

He blamed the Devil. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/5/18: The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck STILL Keeps Rolling Along, But There’s Always Baseball, So Hope Survives

Good Morning!

1. Ethics Dunce, Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Division: Retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who has already set a record for Supreme Court justices making post-career foolish statements that undermine their reputations, just violated a previously unbreached principle of professional ethics and protocol for ex-Justices. He told a private group that Kavanaugh doesn’t belong on the Court because of his “temperament.” I was thinking of ranking the rapidly proliferating bogus excuses for voting down Kavavaugh (I posted this instead). The temperament one is near the bottom of the barrel, in a layer or two above throwing ice and the comments in his yearbook. In his entire judicial career, there have been no incidents of unprofessional temperament or demeanor, and somehow I think that if any sitting judge was accused of being a rapist by a witness or a lawyer in his courtroom, an outburst of anger would be considered excusable. It’s a bad and unfair “gotcha!” argument by Democrats, but even it it was valid, Stevens is not supposed to be commenting on who belongs on the Court….just as Barack Obama should not be attacking his predecessor after George W. Bush was so exemplary in not attacking his successor.

2. Weird baseball ethics. I meant to include this one yesterday. In the Colorado-Cubs wild card play-off game, runners were on first and second with one out when a slow bouncer was hit to Rockies third-sacker Nolan Arrenado just as Cubs runner Javy Baez approached him on the way to third. Arenado tagged Baez out, and Baez wrapped his arms around him. Meanwhile, the runner on first went to second, and the batter reached first. Arenado smiled and disentangled himself, but he didn’t–couldn’t—throw to either base for another out.

It was absolutely interference. A runner can’t do that, but the umpires didn’t call it (the double play would have been called without a throw, and the inning ended), so the frame continued.  The game was close, and if the Cubs had scored (they didn’t) that inning, it would have been because Baez broke the rules and the umpires didn’t notice (or care). The announcers opined that Arenado didn’t “sell it,” that if he had violently pushed Baez away and tried to make a throw, interference might have been called. Instead, he smiled and treated Baez’s hug  like a sentimental show of affection.

Once upon a time, before player unions, huge contracts and routine fraternization, no player would have expressed friendly amusement as Arenado did. Nolan is the Rockies best player, and he stopped concentrating on the game. Only moral luck stopped it from being a disastrous lapse. 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.

Continue reading

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Admit It, Liberals, Progressives, Democrats, “The Resistance,” The Left, Or Whatever You Call Yourselves*: You’re The Bad Guys [UPDATED!]

In “Falling Down.” a movie I like better every time I see it (or think about it), Michael Douglas plays a man who snaps, Sweeney Todd-like, and  begins shooting people after the collective injustice, meanness, cruelty, stress and stupidity of daily life becomes unbearable. Finally cornered, he hears a law enforcement officer demand his surrender. “I’m the bad guy?” he says, in a stunning moment of self-awareness. “How did that happen?”

We’re still waiting for that moment of self-awareness from the Left. How it happened in their case is a matter of historical record: accumulated arrogance, cynicism and the rejection of their own ideology’s core principles–you know, liberalism?—did the trick. What was left was pure power-seeking, anger, hate, and “the ends justifies the means,” the “ethic” of fascism and totalitarianism.

When the metaphorical ethics Rubicon was finally crossed could be debated. For me, it was when Hillary Clinton, confident of her historic landslide victory,  lectured designated loser Donald Trump about how despicable and un-American it was for him to hint that he might not accept the legitimacy of her election as President. Then, as soon as he was the victor, Clinton, her party and all of its followers proceed to challenge the legitimacy of his election—and have continued to do so in various ways ever since.

The fact that this exacerbated dangerous national divisions, endangered the Constitution and undermined the ability of an elected President to govern didn’t, and apparently doesn’t, faze them at all. Patriotic Americans, fair human beings,  ethical people and the “good guys” don’t behave like this. It is signature significance for bad guys.

Now, I certainly knew that electing a walking ethics vacuum like Donald Trump would rot the culture’s values, as I warned here repeatedly. I did not anticipate that the primary agents of turning the U.S. into a nation of assholes would be the Left. I assumed that they would hold the values line as best they could, and not challenge the President in a race to the bottom of the barrel, much less win it. All they needed to do was to uphold traditional standards of justice, honesty, civility, respect for institutions  and integrity to ensure that Trump, at worst, would be a short-term aberration. Or, as Glenn Reynold likes to say, all they needed to do was not act crazy. They couldn’t do it.

The Left has rejected freedom of speech, accepting the often violent efforts of college students to threaten and silence speakers whose views they regard as “hate speech.” It has opposed the rule of law in immigration policy, labeling the essential sovereign function of controlling borders as “racism.” It has advocated dividing society into favored and disfavored groups Women must be “believed”; men must be presumed guilty; police must be presumed racist.

There are too many examples to cover in less than a book; I think Ethics Alarms has dealt with most of them. The current low point, however, is the issue at hand: the Kavanaugh nomination. Only the fact that the Left and its biased allies in their misguided quest, the news media, have so thoroughly corrupted their sympathetic followers among the public can explain why there isn’t a mass declaration of outrage. I’m still surprised and disappointed. I thought my liberal friends had more integrity. This is the lowest of the low, and the terrifying question is what the next low point will be.

Sticking only to what Ethics Alarms designates the Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck, one has to wonder what more documentation the Left needs to spark its collective conscience and to arrive at the same conclusion as “Falling Down’s” tragic hero. This debacle  began with the Left, all components, announcing its monolithic opposition to a qualified judge who would have been overwhelming approved under any other administration, in any other era. The very left-leaning ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary gave its highest rating to Kavanaugh. Never mind: the Democratic Party commenced a campaign of fear-mongering, insisting that in some case not yet in existence, the judge, who has been vocal in his support of stare decisus (following well-established SCOTUS precedent), would join with the so-called “conservative” wing of the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

This convenient prognostication was enough to lead to angry demonstrations by feminists and pro-abortion activists who had never read a Kavanaugh judicial opinion in their lives, and probably no SCOTUS decisions either. The tactics of the Left here were intimidation and misrepresentation, as well as revenge, tit-for-tat, or what Ethics Alarms sometimes calls “Mob Ethics.” Call attention to the treatment of Kavanaugh—it was Barack Obama who pointed out that elections have consequences, after all—and, failing to locate a legitimate defense, the social media Left’s reflex argument was “Yeah, well what about Merrick Garland?”

Of course, Ethics 101 teaches that past unethical conduct does not make unethical conduct in response less wrong, but the two strategies are not equivalent, legally or ethically. No one set out to slander and smear the character of Garland to justify doing what they had already made up their mind to do. The approach of the Democrats—decide that you want an opponent removed, so seek to find an allegation, an incident or an accuser to make that removal possible, is the opposite of what our legal process requires. Starting out with the presumption of guilt and then using the power of the prosecutor to search for a crime to pin on a target is a fascist strategy (and exactly the Democratic/”resistance” plan to undo the 2016 election by removing President Trump), and an unequivocal violation of prosecution ethics, as well as fairness and justice.

It does embody “The ends justify the means,” however: the motto of all Bad Guys in fiction and history.

Despite its own history of having the excesses of the #MeToo witch hunt mentality bite hard—Senator Al Franken was forced to resign primarily because of his pre-Senatorial conduct as a comedian before any due process or investigations—an old, old allegation of sexual misconduct was the chosen weapon for Kananaugh’s destruction. First, the discovered 30 year plus memory of another liberal professor, Christine Blasey Ford, doing her Anita Hill impression was deliberately held for two months by Senator Feinstein, thus preventing Kavanaugh from responding to them in a non-ambush scenario. Bad guys.

The tactic was unfair and cynical, based solely on the Democratic desire to run out the clock on Kavanaugh’s confirmation so maybe a “blue wave” could give the Democrats a Senate majority. As the Ford scenario has developed, the intent of stalling has become increasingly obvious. At the same time,  Democrats and their propaganda machine in the media began making the case that any attempt to defend himself would by itself make Kavanaugh unfit to serve. After all, even women making three decades old accusations at the last minute to derail the confirmation of a qualified jurist deserve respect.  Anyone, even the target of her attack, doubting her words or motives would obviously be a sexist pig, and an apologist for rapists. This is what the Democrats now regard as justice. It’s also the kind of double bind, heads you lose, tails I win process favored by James Bond villans.

Bad guys.

Meanwhile, not a thought has been given, apparently, to the disastrous long-term consequences to the political process, society and the culture if the Blasey Ford scheme is successful.:

  • High school conduct will now be considered legitimate cause to punish adults and impugn their character long after they have established  and earned public trust. No longer will any quarter be given for bad judgement and poor choices before majority.
  • No man, anywhere, will be safe from old grudges, newly “woke” indignation, and accusations by women times perfectly to undermine trust and support.
  • The standard will now be that anyone—well, any man— accused of sexual assault must be presumed guilty, and has the burden of proof of proving a negative. Two columnists for the New York Times have endorsed this standard, as well as various Democrats and activists. The accusation is enough even if it is unsubstantiated. This doesn’t even have the Salem safeguard of throwing the accused witch into the lake (Sink, and you’re innocent, though dead. Float, and you’re a witch…and soon to be dead.)
  • Women, and only women, will have been granted the power to destroy lives, careers and reputations. They will use it.
  • American society, already dangerously divided along racial, generational, regional and partisan fissures, will be more divided along gender lines as well.

The Chicago Tribune’s John Kass writes,

It threatens Republicans now, and Democrats tomorrow. It will threaten even those who don’t give two figs for politics and see all such talk as lies told by knaves to fools.

What we are seeing are founding American principles being swept — among them the presumption of innocence and the rights of the accused — to feed the appetites of power politics

That’s what Kavanaugh is dealing with, having to testify and defend himself against uncorroborated allegations of sexual predation 36 years ago, when he was in high school and in his freshman year of college.

The short-term politics of all this is quite clear, a movement led by cynics and assisted by their handmaidens in the Democratic Media Complex.

It is designed to convince suburban women voters that Republicans are hateful creatures, help Democrats pick up congressional seats in the November midterm elections and do away with President Donald Trump.

But look deeper and you’ll see something else.

The sweeping away of traditions that have been carefully nurtured from the founding of this nation, to protect individual liberty and shield us from the passions of the mob.

Without these principles, we are no longer a republic.

Kass’s analysis isn’t some novel theory. It’s essentially the same thing I have been writing since Democrats and “the resistance” plotted to defy the Electoral College. But all of this is tolerable, apparently, if a theoretical future SCOTUS opinion  in a non-existent case that might restrict the possibly too wide-ranging rights of a woman to kill her unborn child for any reason or whim can be prevented by destroying the reputation of  the presumed decisive vote in that future case.

Sounds like SkyNet’s plan in “The Terminator,” doesn’t it?

The latest news from the Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck would have Michael Douglas’s character begging, “Enough! Enough! I get it! I’m the bad guy!” halfway through the list….but then, he had some integrity. For example: Continue reading

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Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 9/19/18: Conditional Authoritarianism, Fake Reparations, And Profitable Harassment

Having a good and ethical day?

1. Here’s a useful definition…that I formulated while reading another issue of the increasingly and inexcusably anti-Trump propaganda obsessed New York Book Review section. This past weekend’s addition was more obvious than usual. “Democracy at Risk!”  (Not by an opposition party setting out to topple a Presidency with the assistance of the news media—no no no! The risk justifies the opposition party doing this!) “Is Donald Trump a Fascist?”  Hey, what’s Bob Woodward reading, just to pick a celebrity out of a hat? (The interview highlights the lack of self-awareness among the Trump-haters: Bernstein points out how intolerance and hate destroyed Richard Nixon as the Times allows and promotes hate in its war against the current President.) There’s an essay about…white nationalism! A Times reporter has written a book that pronounces the United States as “DOOMED!” And here’s Andrew Sullivan extolling an American revisionism exercise while referring to the current “spasm” of authoritarianism, and Doris Kearns, my old presidential power prof in college, with a new book about her faves, Lincoln, Teddy, FDR, and LBJ. These were great leaders.

The definition: Authoritarianism is when a President you don’t like exerts strong leadership within his powers to accomplish policy goals you disagree with. When a President you do like stretches and exceeds his Constitutional powers to achieve policy goals you approve of, that’s not authoritarianism. That’s great leadership.

As an aside, Andrew Sullivan tells us in his review that “the 2008 Heller decision rejecting a D.C. handgun ban is quite obviously bonkers.” All righty then! I guess that settles it!

2.  Speaking of Bonkers: Emmys Ethics. Michael Che appeared in a pretaped bit in which he handed out “reparation Emmys” to  black performers who supposedly were overlooked by the voting academy. These included Jaleel White (Urkel  on“Family Matters”), Marla Gibbs (nominated five times for her role as Florence on “The Jeffersons”), Tichina Arnold (“Martin,” “Everybody Hates Chris”) and Kadeem Hardison (“A Different World”).
Continue reading

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