Category Archives: Public Service

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/7/2017: Compromise, Competence, Verrit, A Congressional Jerk, And Democratic Crooks Don’t Matter…

Good Morning!

1 President Trump stunned the political world and particularly the left’s “I hate him” news media by crossing party lines and cutting a debt deal with Democratic leaders in defiance of his own hyper-partisan party. One reason they were stunned is because this is what competent Presidents do and are supposed to do in order to govern, and we have just finished eight years with a previous President who was unwilling and incapable of doing it.

This single episode doesn’t make Trump a competent President, but it does show that he is competent in at least one aspect of democratic leadership (Obama was competent at exactly two: appearing Presidential and speaking coherently), and has some guts. The demonstrated ability to negotiate and the willingness to act in the teeth of furious opposition were two characteristics that the advocates of his candidacy cited as justification for electing him.

It is also dawning on some that the structure of the DACA executive order may well be to fashion the measure as a bargaining chip to be cashed in later. This is also the kind of thing competent leaders do.

2. There is a new website called Verrit, which appears to be an openly, proudly, left-biased news source which purports to “verify” news stories, obviously based on its own progressive world view. Verrit founder and CEO Peter Daou told the news media,

“We’re in a time now where you just no longer trust anything that you’re reading,” Daou said. “Facts are now in question. Reality is now in question. So we want to do something where we rigorously vet these facts and we actually stand by our research and put an authentication code on every fact that we put up.”

And what qualifies Verrit as a fair and objective “authenticator”? Apparently it is the virtue of being hard-progressive and anti-conservative to the bone. Here is a recent Verrit collection of its “cards”:

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/20/17

Καλημέρα!

[This is pronounced “Kaliméra!,” not to be confused with “Calamari!” My father frequently got them confused when he visited Greece with my mom, the former Eleanor Coulouris, and embarrassed her by greeting the natives some mornings by cheerily saying, “Squid!]

1. The newspaper Arts section headline says, “Mayor Ties Arts Money To Diversity.”

The mayor in question is New York City’s DeBlasio, and since his own family is “diverse,” naturally every other entity has to be, or it is baaaad. This is why I oppose government funding of the arts unless it guarantees that the nation, state or city will not attempt to use its support to control the arts organizations in any way.  Of course, governments will never do that, because manipulating the arts to advance  political agendas is usually the underlying motive in arts grants. Ideologues like De Blasio—wow, he’s terrible—will constantly be grandstanding and doing everything in their power to manipulate artists and their art to ensure that they send the “right” messages—you know, like Nazi art and Communist art. It is exactly the same theory and practice: art as political indoctrination.

Quick: who thinks that De Blasio will be focusing on “diversity” in the management (or on the website) of the Dance Theater of Harlem? Even if the government doesn’t attach strings to its support, arts organizations know that there are more of them than there is tax-payer money to disperse, so there is terrible and often irrsistable pressure to distort their product to give their state funders what the artists think they want—just to be safe.

My professional theater company refused to do that, sticking to the integrity of our mission and not resorting to tokens and virtue-signalling. My now defunct professional theater company, that is.

2. Yesterday, I highlighted the head-blasting comments of New York Times film critic A.O. Scott and his alternate-universe pronouncements about the Obama presidency. To be fair to A.O., his entire profession is packed with historical and political ignoramuses who make their readers dumber with every review. I once created a theater reviewer’s code of ethics, which I mailed to a critic, who sent it back to me with a note that said, “Mind your own business.” Years ago, I published an essay that was called “Why Professional Reviewers Are Unethical,” that began,

When Variety announced that it was firing its in-house film and drama reviewers, there was much tut-tutting and garment-rending over the impending demise of professional reviewing in magazines, newspapers and TV stations. The villain, the renders cry, lies, as in the Case of the Slowly Dying Newspapers, with the web, which allows any pajama-clad viewer of bootleg videos to write film reviews, and any blogger who cares to write a review of a play. “I think it’s unfortunate that qualified reviewers are being replaced,” said one movie industry pundit, “but that’s what’s happening.”

I say, “Good. It’s about time.”

It’s not happening quickly enough, though. “Dunkirk” is opening this week, and, as I predicted, film reviewers are showing their utter historical ignorance. The Washington Examiner skewers them deftly in an essay called “Why the (True) History of Dunkirk Matters.” Highlights, or rather lowlights:

  • USA Today critic Brian Truitt complains that “the fact that there are only a couple of women and no lead actors of color may rub some the wrong way.” He is not the only film critic to observe this.

Morons.

  • Slate.com critic Dana Stevens claims that the British Army at Dunkirk was the “last bulwark against Nazi invasion of the British mainland.”

Not even close to true. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero, Corporate Division: Merck

Sometimes, though their implacable foes would refuse to acknowledge it, big corporations do the right thing even without a metaphorical gun at their heads. This week’s Economist magazine relates an amazing example that the public needs to know about, especially since it challenges popular stereotypes about Big Pharma.

The Economist begins by horrifying us with a deadly aspect of life in third world countries that are hot and wet: “neglected tropical diseases,” or NTDs. These are neglected because the populations that suffer from them are poor and far away, but they affect more than a billion people. Among the scourges, all parasitic, are Buruli ulcer, Chagas disease, guinea-worm disease, leishmaniasis, river blindness, trachoma and yaws. There are 18 pernicious maladies currently listed as NTSs.

In the 1970s, mega-pharmaceutical firm Merck developed the drug ivermectin after tests on animals with parasitic infections. William Campbell, one of the firm’s parasitologists,told company executives that the new drug might be effective against the parasite that caused onchocerciasis, or river blindness, which  afflicts populations in in parts of Africa, Latin America, and  Yemen.  He was given the green light to find out.

The first human trial of ivermectin as treatment for river blindness took place in Senegal in 1981, on patients who had the early stages of the disease—itching, rashes— but no damage to their eyes yet. The results were encouraging,  indicating that ivermectin was safe for humans and highly effective at stopping the disease before it blinded its victims.  Merck, however, now faced the problem that has impeded cures for all the neglected tropical diseases: those who needed ivermectin were too poor to buy it, and so were the nations where they lived. Big corporations are not charities; they have investors, stockholders and a bottom line. They are not accustomed or programmed to give away their products.

Yet Merck made a corporate decision that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren say is impossible. Starting in 1987, it made an open-ended commitment to distribute as much ivermectin as was needed to eradicate the river blindness worldwide. In the next ten years, it swallowed the cost of 100 million doses. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Day: Charlotte Hogg, Ex-Bank of England COO

“However, I recognise that being sorry is not enough. We, as public servants, should not merely meet but exceed the standards we expect of others. Failure to do so risks undermining the public’s trust in us, something we cannot let happen. Furthermore, my integrity has, I believe, never been questioned throughout my career. I cannot allow that to change now. I am therefore resigning from my position. I will, of course, work with you through any transition.”

—-The Bank of England’s chief operating officer and incoming Deputy Governor for Markets and Banking, Charlotte Hogg, in her letter of resignation over criticism regarding a possible conflict of interest and her failure to report it.

Charlotte Hogg, a senior Bank of England official who had been named a deputy governor, resigned this week after a Parliament committee found that she had failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest: her brother held a senior position at Barclay’s during her time at the central bank. Hogg insisted that she never breached her duties or passed along any confidential information to her brother, but she had helped draft an industry ethics code of conduct policy required a disclosure of such conflicts. This creates doubts about her integrity, judgment competence, as well as the appearance of impropriety.

The Parliamentary committee recently issued a report finding that Ms. Hogg’s professional competence “short of the very high standards” required to be deputy governor, adding that her failure to disclose her brother’s role was a “serious error of judgment.”

This is one of my favorite kinds of conflicts, because it may be only appearances at stake. What if, as is often the case (sadly), Hogg and her brother are estranged? What if she doesn’t speak to him? What if they hate each other? Never mind: the public, not knowing this,  will suspect that she might use her position to favor him or his bank, so disclosure is crucial to maintaining public trust. Not disclosing, in contrast, raises suspicions. Why didn’t she let everyone know about her brother? What was she hiding? Continue reading

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The President’s Most Unethical Appointment

Now that we know the whole story, it’s Michael Flynn, the erstwhile National Security Advisor, hands down. That’s amazing, when one considers some of the other appointments, like the spectacularly unqualified Ben Carson, Rick Perry, appointed to lead an agency he has previously said should be eliminated (and couldn’t remember its name); and the embarrassingly unethical Tom Price, the HHS head.

Earlier this week, Flynn, who was forced to resign February 13, for lying to Vice-President Pence, filed  with the Justice Department revealing that he had done work from August to November “that could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.”  That work had netted Flynn’s firm more than a half-million dollars, and made Flynn legally obligated to register as a foreign agent.

On Election Day, Flynn’s op-ed was published  on The Hill  praising Turkish President Erdogan as an ally against ISIS. On November  18,  Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, wrote a letter to  Pence inquiring about Flynn’s ties to the Turkish government. When the White House  confirmed that the Trump transition team knew before Inauguration Day that Flynn might be required to register as a foreign agent. it was stating the undeniable.

How  could  someone like General Flynn ever be appointed national security adviser? White House spokesman Sean Spicer (speaking of bad hires) has made the silly excuse that Flynn’s status as a registered foreign agent didn’t mean he had a disqualifying conflict of interest. A  top national-security aide who was under contract to lobby for a foreign government deeply involved with U.S. Middle East policy? Outrageous! Outrageous, and guaranteed to spark a scandal as soon as this became public.  Not only was this a bad appointment, an incompetent appointment, an irresponsible, reckless and dangerous appointment, it was a really stupid appointment. Continue reading

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Ethics Train Wreck Update: Now The Dictionary People Have Boarded The Post-2016 Election Freakout

It’s really depressing. I did not expect to see so many professions and professionals debase themselves and their ethical principles because they couldn’t deal with the results of a presidential election. . Historians. Judges. Scientists. Professors. College presidents and administrators. Performing artists. Intelligence community professionals. Judges. Journ–well, no, that one wasn’t a surprise.

My own profession, legal ethicists, booked a seat on the ethics train wreck, a development that was profoundly disappointing. Wrote one member of the profession who has remained clear -eyed while keeping his integrity, Steve Lubet in Slate,  “As a liberal Democrat, I have no sympathy for Conway’s habitual disregard for truth. As a professor of legal ethics, however, I think this complaint is dangerously misguided and has the potential to set a terrible precedent…The professors no doubt have faith in the professionalism of the District of Columbia Office of Disciplinary Counsel, but the bar authorities in other states may not always be reliably even-handed or apolitical. It is hardly inconceivable that lawyer discipline might somewhere be used as a weapon against disfavored or minority candidates, or as a means to squelch protest movements and insurgent campaigns. In the 1940s and 1950s, suspected Communists and alleged “fellow travelers” found their law licenses in jeopardy in many states. In the 1960s and 1970s, civil rights lawyers were hauled before the bar authorities in the South. The complaint against Conway is an unfortunate step back in the direction of using lawyer discipline against political enemies….”

Bingo.

Now “America’s dictionary,” Merriam-Webster, has decided that it is within its mission and purview to attack and mock the President of the United States..

Almost immediately after his election, the dictionary’s editors began trolling Trump and his administration, defined, by Merriam-Webster, as “to antagonize (others) online by deliberately posting inflammatory, irrelevant or offensive comments or other disruptive content.”

The website Acculturated has observed that on social media and its website Merriam-Webster has  ridiculed the President  “for his every spelling mistake, grammatical error, and verbal gaffe. In honor of the election, they changed their header photo to a picture of a German word defined as the “collapse of a society or regime marked by catastrophic violence and disorder.” Then they highlighted what they claimed was the word most frequently looked-up, “fascism.” On Inauguration Day, they tweeted “Welp,” a word that conveys dismay or disappointment. The company also derided Betsy DeVos, Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon, and, of course, Kellyanne Conway.

This, needless to say, is not their job, their mission, or responsible professional conduct. It is, as it is for the other derailed professionals, smug virtue signalling and tribalism. Acculturated again:

[T]he dictionary’s editors are clearly partisan. They didn’t harass Hillary Clinton, and they don’t needle sports stars, celebrities, or, well . . . anyone else like they needle the President and his people.Theoretically, even that could be okay—a good, playful, occasional joke from the dictionary could have the whole country laughing. But if you mock one person too often, you start to reveal a pattern. If that pattern persists, the fun and games lose their light-hearted feel, and begin to betray bias instead.

Ya think???

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Ethics Hero: Ohio Bus Driver Damone Hudson

Driving his route in Dayton, Ohio,  bus driver Damone Hudson saw a woman standing on the other side of the rail on the Main Street Bridge that spans the Great Miami River. He could have continued on. He could have ignored her. Instead, he made an unscheduled stop, and as his passengers waited and watched, spoke to the woman, then left the bus  to get closer to her.

He said, gently, in an exchange that was partially captured on video,

 “Why don’t we come back over on the side of the rail? … Hey miss, why don’t we come back on this side of the rail for me?…Ma’am, you look like you’re having a bad day, you know. Can I give you a hug?”

Someone  called 911 as Hudson kept talking  until a Dayton Police Department crisis intervention specialist arrived. The potential suicide stepped back over the railing, and was taken to safety and a medical evaluation. The driver got back in his bus and continued the route.

“He did a great job,”  Dayton police detective Patty Tackett told reporters.

Later Hudson said in an interview,
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