Category Archives: Leadership

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/27/17

Good Morning!

1. Explain to me, Oh Ye Defenders of the Biased and Incompetent Media, why it’s unfair to call this “fake news.”

A Facebook friend whose entire output of late is posting links to anti-Trump screeds posted this one, which appeared on the feed as “Donald Trump’s behavior is abnormal”—ah, I see the “resistance” is transitioning again to the 25th Amendment approach to overturning the election, because the news on the impeachment front isn’t good–with a cut-line that referenced him “calling immigrants ‘animals'” at yesterday’s rally in Ohio.

No, Trump didn’t refer to immigrants as animals. Unlike most of those in my friend’s left-wing, Trump-hating echo chamber (she’s an artist and arts organization executive), I checked the speech. Indeed, it’s an ugly, undignified, over-heated, un-presidential mess that makes Trump’s Boy Scout speech look like Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. BUT HE DID NOT SAY THAT IMMIGRANTS WERE ANIMALS! He did say this;

“One by one we are finding the illegal gang members, drug dealers, thieves, robbers, criminals and killers. And we are sending them the hell back home where they came from. And once they are gone, we will never let them back in. Believe me. The predators and criminal aliens who poison our communities with drugs and prey on innocent young people, these beautiful, beautiful,innocent young people will, will find no safe haven anywhere in our country. And you’ve seen the stories about some of these animals. They don’t want to use guns, because it’s too fast and it’s not painful enough. So they’ll take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15, and others and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die. And these are the animals that we’ve been protecting for so long. Well, they’re not being protected any longer,folks.”

Now, I don’t like that rhetoric. It is typical of  President Trump, but inexcusable in a public appearance. However, as muddled and incoherent as he often is, this section could not be clearer: he is calling violent and criminal ILLEGAL ALIENS animals, meaning that they lack respect for human life, are uncivilized, and dangerous. I hate that terminology, but violent illegal immigrants are not the same as illegal immigrants generally, and illegal immigrants are not the same as legal immigrants, aka, immigrants.

The column in question does quote the passage from the speech I just did, so the Chicago Tribune’s summary isn’t even accurate about the article it describes, though the pundit still writes,

“The intent of the tale that Trump told his rabid fans in Ohio was simple: foment hatred for immigrants. You present the innocent characters who are part of the “us,” and you have them ravaged and destroyed by the murderous “them.” You call them animals, something peddlers of hate have done for ages.”

False, and unquestionably false. An editor on a fair and ethical paper wouldn’t permit this to get into print. Trump’s intent is to demonstrate how dangerous and irresponsible it is to allow illegal immigrants to cross our borders confident that they can stay here. He’s not fomenting hate for violent criminals: who needs assistance hating violent criminals, whether they are illegal immigrants or not? He was, in a particularly inflammatory way, pointing out how irresponsible it is to allow illegal immigrants easy access to our streets, especially since some of them—the “animals”— are dangerous. That’s clear as a bell, and intentionally misrepresented by the Tribune, the columnist and my friend to foment more hatred for the President of the United States.

THAT’S perfectly all right, though.

2 I point out this blatant misrepresentation to my friend, who responds, “Argue with your friends on your own page; I have no intention of arguing with you on mine.” Oh, no you don’t. You post your virtue-signaling fake news as a substitute for making your own argument—appealing to authority, and the authority, Rex Huppke, is a partisan hack by the evidence of his column—making your little echo-chamber erupt in “likes” and seal flipper applause. Then this lazy excuse for an argument  it shows up in my Facebook feed, polluting it, and I’m not permitted to point out that the linked story is dishonest, misleading crap?

This is the epitome my dad’s favorite rejoinder to such people: “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts.” Then she went off on the President’s “using lies to obscure the truth”—you know, like the column she posted just did. Yet she could write this with no sense of the irony and hypocrisy at all. This is smart woman, and The Anti-Trump Hate Virus has her IQ points and integrity dripping out of her ears.

I don’t aspire to being the Facebook police, but if you just want echo-chamber cheers for dishonest and biased assertions, keep them off of my Facebook feed.

You are warned.

3.  The criticism of John McCain’s plea for a return to comity, compromise and bi-partisanship in Congress  was met with embarrassing criticism from the Right, some of it appearing on Ethics Alarms, authored  by people who should know better. Criticizing that speech is criticizing ethical government and a functioning democracy, and embracing  the “Everybody Does It,” “They are just as bad,” “They started it,” “They have it coming,” “It can’t get any worse,” “It’s for a good cause,” “These are not ordinary times,” “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now” rationalizations for wrongful conduct rather than agreeing that it’s time to start reforming the culture to reward responsible and professional conduct. This is, in short, adopting the state of war mentality promoted by the Ace of Spades in this revolting post, which I have condemned more than once. Continue reading

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Were AG Sessions’ Comments In Las Vegas Unethical?

Ethics Scout Fred points me to a little noted episode in the increasingly fraught existence of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and asks whether the AG’s comments crossed ethical lines.

Let’s see…

During a speech about two weeks ago in Las Vegas in which he called for harsher prosecution of criminals and cooperation from local authorities as the federal government cracks down on illegal immigration, Sessions segued to the Cliven Bundy prosecution, and said, cryptically, of Nevada Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre,

“I’ve got to tell you, it’s impressive when you have a tough case, a controversial case, and you’ve got the top guy leading the battle, going to court, standing up and defending the office and the principles of the law. I’m not taking sides or commenting on the case. Just want to say that leadership requires, a lot of times, our people to step up and be accountable.”

Supporters of the Bundy-led armed stand-off with federal authorities think that the Trump administration may sympathize with their anti-government stance, but Trump administration prosecutors are still seeking penalties for Bundy and his group.

Fred notes that “while Sessions is not responsible for how others take what he says, at least no more than any public speaker,  the effect of his remarks was to encourage lawbreakers,” based on the statement by Ashley Jones, a producer for radio show host Pete Santilli. Santili, a Bundy ally, is incarcerated pending trial in the case. Jones pronounced Sessions’ comments “a victory for us.”

Comments: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/26/17

Bvuh.

[I was up until 3 AM watching a Red Sox game in Seattle that went 13 innings and five hours—they lost– and this doesn’t feel like morning, it feels like Hell. I’m dictating this to my dog, and hoping it warms ME up…]

1. The American Psychoanalytic Association told its 3,500 members that they should not feel bound by the so-called “Goldwater Rule,” which the rival American Psychiatric Association announced in 1964, prohibiting its members from diagnosing political figures from afar without the benefit of actually examining them. It’s an ethics rule, an obvious one, and shouldn’t be controversial. As I have documented here, however,  professionals of all kinds have allowed anti-Trump bias, panic and fervor to dissolve their ethical standards. The groups afflicted include college presidents, teachers, scientists, lawyers, judges, historians, legal ethicists, journalists and artists. Nobody should be shocked that psychiatrists are eager to do the same. As with the other professionals, all they will accomplish is an erosion of public respect and trust. I thought Ann Althouse’s response to the announcement was spot on:

Let them speak, and then the rest of us will speak about whether they are professionals deserving of deference or human beings like the rest of us who can’t keep our political preferences from skewing whatever it is we might think about some pressing issue of the day.

Go ahead, expose yourselves. Let us see all narcissism, impulsivity, poor attention span, paranoia, and other traits that impair your ability to lead.

2. I’m not devoting a solo post to the ridiculous Trump Boy Scout speech controversy, because despite all the efforts of the news media to maintain otherwise, it was not a scandal, was not a big deal, was not an enduring scar on the Boy Scouts of America, and is mostly significant as demonstrating how distorted the perception of those who are verging on being physically allergic to the President has become. Some points that have arisen in the thread about the speech are important to note, however. Continue reading

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From The Law vs Ethics Files: The July 24, 1983 Pine Tar Incident, When Baseball Chose Ethics Over Law, And Was 100% Wrong

I have written on this topic before, but this is the famous incident’s anniversary, and I have come to believe that the lesson learned from  the pine tar incident is increasingly the wrong one, and the consequences of this extend well beyond baseball.

On July 24, 1983, the Kansas City Royals were battling the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. With  two outs and a runner on first in the top of the ninth inning,  Royals third baseman George Brett hit a two-run home run off  Yankee closer  Goose Gossage to give his team a 5-4 lead.  Yankee manager Billy Martin, however, had been waiting like a spider for this moment.

Long ago, he had noticed that perennial batting champ Brett used a bat that had pine tar (used to allow a batter to grip the bat better) on the handle beyond what the rules allowed. MLB Rule 1.10(c) stated: “The bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from the end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip. Any such material or substance, which extends past the 18-inch limitation, shall cause the bat to be removed from the game.” At the time, such a hit was defined in the rules as an illegally batted ball, and the penalty for hitting “an illegally batted ball” was that the batter was to be declared out, under the explicit terms of the then-existing provisions of Rule 6.06.

That made Brett’s bat illegal, and any hit made using the bat an out. But Billy Martin didn’t want the bat to cause just any out. He had waited for a hit that would make the difference between victory or defeat for his team, and finally, at long last, this was it. Martin came out of the dugout carrying a rule book, and arguing that the home run shouldn’t count.  After examining the rules and the bat, home-plate umpire Tim McLelland ruled that Brett used indeed used excessive pine tar and called him out, overturning the home run and ending the game.

Brett’s resulting charge from the dugout (above) is video for the ages. Continue reading

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Welcome To Incompetent Leadership And Toxic Management: President Trump’s Jeff Sessions Attack

I detest bad leadership. I’ve studied leaders since I was 11, and studied management since I was 19. Incompetent leadership and inept management cripples business, the arts, sports, education, government, civilization, the world. I seldom see as horrible an example of both as in the case of President Trump’s verbal tirades against his own Attorney General,Jeff Sessions, first to Republican Senators at a White House dinner on this week,  and later in an interview with the New York Times. Sessions responded to his boss’s disgraceful behavior by saying that he intended to serve “as long as that is appropriate.”

The only reason it would be appropriate for anyone to work for a leader, executive, manager or supervisor who treats subordinates this was is patriotism. The nation has to be managed; the government has to function. Other than that, no one with honor, self-respect or a sense of responsibility should voluntarily subject themselves to the kind of abuse this President offers.  Reportedly the President insists on loyalty, but loyalty has to be minimally reciprocal. Criticizing a subordinate in public, as with the press, or in private, behind that subordinate’s back, is the equivalent of sin for any leader. It is cowardly. It’s unfair and disrespectful.  It is irresponsible, incompetent and stupid, stupid stupid. Continue reading

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Bravo! Professor Turley And Sir Thomas More On The Disgraceful, Dangerous, And Deranged Professionals Of “The Resistance”

Law professor/blogger Jonathan Turley’s latest essay, “Roper’s Resolve: Critics Seek Dangerous Extensions Of Treason and Other Crimes To Prosecute The Trumps” had me at “Roper,” Turley’s direct reference to the most often posted movie clip on Ethics Alarms,* the scene above from “A Man For All Seasons.”  Turley applies the scene correctly, too, to the depressingly large mob of previously respectable and responsible lawyers, elected officials, scholars, academics, journalists and pundits who have betrayed their professions’ values and ethics to falsely tell a gullible public that the President and members of his family, campaign and administration have committed treason, espionage, conspiracy, election fraud and obstruction of justice when such accusations are not supported by law or precedent, evidence, facts or common sense. These accusations are, rather, the product of unreasoning fury and bias sparked by Donald Trump’s election as President.

Some of the individuals Turley names, like Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary’s running mate, may be just spewing political bile out of a lack of integrity. Kaine is a former prosecutor and should know better. Some, like Cornell Law School Vice Dean Jens David Ohlin, may be examples of bias making smart people stupid. MSNBC legal analyst Paul Butler, who claimed Trump was “conspiring with the U.S.’ sworn enemy to take over and subvert our democracy,” and who declared it is now “clear” that “what Donald Trump Jr. is alleged to have done is a federal crime” are, sadly, typical of how the unethical and dishonest the news media now behaves much of the time. As for my fellow legal ethicist Richard Painter, also fingered by Turley, I’m convinced from his increasingly extreme and hysterical anti-Trump analyses  that he has been driven to the edge of madness by Trump’s election. He’s not the only one.

Turley also points to former Watergate assistant special prosecutor Nick Akerman, who is just plain wrong. One cannot claim, as Ackerman does, that there is “a clear case that Donald Trump Jr. has met all the elements” of a violation of the election laws when, as Turley points out, no court has ever reached such a conclusion. That is prima facie evidence that there is no clear case.

Echoing More, Turley writes, Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/19/17

Yeah? What’s so “good” about it? HUH? Well?

1. In an article/discussion about the impact of George Romero, the zombie genre creator who died last week, New York Times film critic A.O. Scott said, and I’m not making this up,

A few years ago, when I did a Critics’ Pick video on [Romero’s “Night of the living Dead,”], I hinted that [the film’s African-American hero’s]death could be read as a prophecy of Barack Obama’s presidency: A calm and competent African-American saves the white people from their own rashness and stupidity (as well as from zombies) and is destroyed. Now, of course, the prophecy seems all the more chilling. The casual, unapologetic and ultimately self-destructive violence of white supremacy is the true and enduring horror of American life.

Wait…What?

This insulting, counter-factual, absolutely crackers statement may be an opinion, but it is so stunningly biased and warped that it should have set off ethics alarms at the Times, if any exist. If the film critic could say this in print, he says it among his colleagues. If he has said it among his colleagues and no editor, pundit or colleague has grabbed him by the lapels and said, “What the hell are you talking about, man? You better keep that crap to yourself, because it embarrasses the paper. Better yet, I think you need a vacation!”, then this strongly suggests that almost everyone at the Times is marinating in a crippling fantasy culture that makes independent, objective, trustworthy reporting and punditry impossible.

A.O.’s statement self-destructs at “calm.” Obama “saved” nobody; in fact, he either deliberately or incompetently degraded the one area of our society he was elected to improve: racial harmony and respect. How does a black character’s death (the movie’s hero is shot by authorities who assume he is a zombie) “prophecy” the fate of Barack Obama, elected President twice, cheered upon his leaving office, and immediately rewarded with historical revisionism, obscene speaking fees and a book contract? [I hate to cavil, but it really needs to be pointed out that the Duane Jones character in “Night of the Living Dead,” far from saving the white characters, gets them eaten and zombified by adamantly rejecting one obnoxious white man’s insistence that they should all just lock themselves in the basement. After all those white people the Obama-like hero  “saved” according to A.O. are ambulatory brain-eaters, he survives the zombie onslaught—by locking himself in the basement! I suppose this “prophesied” leading from behind.]

The critic’s statement is thinly veiled anti-white racism, bubbling up from the concentrated anger and Trump hysteria at the Times. White supremacy. Sure, A.O. I won’t be reading any of your reviews anymore, nor your fellow critic Jason Zinoman, who either agrees with your fanciful and hateful assessment, or didn’t have the integrity to tell you that you are paranoid and nuts on the record. Either way, he is also a fool. I don’t care what either of you think about movies, since you view them through bullshit colored  glasses.

2. I have three times now prepared to write a post about what I now call Anti-Trump porn at the Times, highlighted every week by the Sunday Times “Review Section.” Last Sunday was another one. This section’s obsession is stunning: the section is loaded with unrestrained Trump hate, ad hominem insults and hysteria and  from every perspective. I would think other Times readers would be bored, not to mention alarmed, by this monotonous vive and broadcast of bias (An unbiased newspaper would not allow one topic and one point of view to monopolize its weekly commentary section), but apparently the Times readership is insatiable.

The res ipsa loquitur feature this time was an editorial cartoon by Art Spiegelman, who is a brilliant cartoonist when at his best. Like most cartoonists of a political bent, he is all ideology and advocacy, and pretty much devoid of respect for facts and balance. Here was his comment after November 8:

“I see something similar to Hitler in that it’s gone very fast to things that seem surreal to me, like Trump supporters shooting four civilians at a polling place in California – one of them died. And there’s the slide towards uncivility, from what I read on the internet. For the first time I got to see my name with three parentheses signs around it. I don’t think it was a secret that I’m Jewish, but they were making sure that the alt-right people would know that I was Jewish. That’s just something I saw a couple of days ago. ‘Oh, I see. OK, it’s a new day.’ And at this point we don’t care about refugees’ lives. They’re not white lives. So yeah, sure, I’m worried.”

Shut up and draw, Art. Trump supporters did not shoot four civilians at a polling place in California. Middle East refugees are white. And Art must not check the internet very often, if he judges any single  excess or outrage as proof of anything. His was a statement of pure intellectual laziness, bias, bigotry and hysteria—but never mind, political cartoonists don’t have to be fair, accurate or responsible. They just have to communicate what a biased paper’s editors know even its own biased pundits couldn’t get away with, and have the defense that “it was just supposed to be funny!”  Thus here was the Spiegelman cartoon featured on page two of the Times’ Review section last Sunday: Continue reading

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