Category Archives: Quotes

Franken’s Resignation Speech: The Lost Opportunity

Senator Al Franken took to the Senate floor to announce that he would be resigning his seat.  It was Harry Truman who said,

“Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow and only one thing endures – character.” 

What did we learn about Franken’s character today?

Part of me feels that we shouldn’t be too hard on Franken. He is a human being, and this entire scenario for him must be humiliating, frustrating, and infuriating. Yet he is also a U.S. Senator, and knew that he had, perhaps for the only time in his life and professional career, an opportunity to talk when everyone would be listening, or at least interested in what he had to say. Under these circumstances, and in his high elected position, Senator Franken had a unique opportunity to accomplish great things. He had the bully pulpit, essentially, with nothing to lose except the opportunity before him. Nathan Hale had that opportunity minutes before he died, and found the character to make a statement that has rung out in the minds of patriots ever since. Even Richard Nixon, who had blown such an opportunity 12 years earlier when he thought his political career was over, made the best ethics statement of his life when all eyes were on him as he prepared to leave the White House forever. He said in part,

“Remember, always give your best. Never get discouraged. Never be petty. Always remember, others may hate you. But those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.”
Al Franken couldn’t muster the character to say something memorable, inspiring, beneficial or important. He couldn’t even bring himself to apologize: there was no apology anywhere to be found. Given the opportunity to be a statesman, an ethics leader, a role model, Al could only show us the real Al, a petty, small, angry little man. Good to know, I guess, though we already knew it.The Washington Post mercilessly handed the job of annotating the Senator’s speech to Amber Phillips, who could reliably be expected to give no quarter, and she didn’t. She was fair, however, and Al deserved what she gave him.

Franken began by virtue-signalling, saying that he had been excited that

“We were finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men’s actions affect them. The moment was long overdue. I was excited for that conversation and hopeful that it would result in real change that made life better for women all across the country and in every part of our society.”

Then the first accusation came his way, and Franken, despite his supposedly sincere statement at the time, didn’t say he was “embarrassed,” or “sorry,” or that there “was no excuse,” that he was “disgusted with himself,”  or that his conduct was “completely inappropriate.” He says he was upset. Says Phillips in her notes,

“Upset” is a pretty strong word to use on the Senate floor, suggesting he was really angry that these women would accuse him of sexual misconduct.”

Franken’s whole demeanor today was angry.  Next he went off the ethics rails:

“But in responding to their claims I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously. I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done.”

We have talked about this before. Franken had smugly joined his progressive colleagues in promoting the unethical, dangerous, irrational concept that any woman who accuses a man of sexual assault must be believed, even without evidence. It was this anti-American radical feminist claptrap that had led the Obama administration to issue the vile “Dear Colleague” letter extorting colleges and universities into putting young men accused of sexual assault before biased and unqualified Star Chambers, to be labelled rapists without due process or representation. This was also the most hypocritical stance imaginable for the party that had rescued a President from impeachment by airily arguing that “everyone lies about sex.”

So his convoluted argument was that he chose to bolster the dangerous party cant by pretending that the accusations against him had merit–that is, not challenging whether they were true—when in fact he doesn’t believe they were true. Yes, this is what his second apology sounded like he was doing, and it was obvious: I rated it cynical doubletalk.

And today, Al literally said that cynical doubletalk was “the right thing to do.” In reality, you see, all those women that good progressives should believe were in fact shouldn’t be believed. Got it.

Bye, Al.

Then he said, “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently.” Phillips pounced:

Continue reading

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The Nauseating Hypocrisy Of Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem + Bill Clinton+ Monica Lewinsky=Sauce Bearnaise, at least to me.

When I read that Gloria Steinem had boarded the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck —which she had helped start rolling when she tossed her alleged principles into the crapper to make excuses for Bill Clinton ; my favorite was when she shuffled off her previous position on inequalities of power making genuine consent impossible to say that every boss has a right to hit on a female subordinate once—I really didn’t want to revisit the topic. Her defense of Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal almost literally made me ill, and you know how Sauce Bearnaise syndrome works. (Don’t you?)

The aging feminist icon told The Guardian that she would not write the infamous May 22, 1998 New York Times column today, but that she does not regret writing the column then, because “What you write in one decade you don’t necessarily write in the next. But I’m glad I wrote it in that decade.” Translation: Outrageous hypocrisy you can get away with in one decade won’t always fly later.

Especially when it enabled two decades of sexual harassers, abusers and rapists with power who brutalized countless women, right, Gloria?

But Gloria’s credentials as an ethics corrupter needs to be renewed, and I am grateful to Jonathan Turley for taking the time when my queasy stomach couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t say it any better than the professor, who wrote in a blog post today (read the whole thing, here): Continue reading

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Case Study: How The New York Times Gave Trump The Chance To Say “Fuck You” And Saved Rex Tillerson’s Job

“Once when I was reporting, Lyndon Johnson’s top guy gave me the word they were looking for a successor to J. Edgar Hoover. I wrote it and the day it appeared Johnson called a press conference and appointed Hoover head of the FBI for life… And when he was done, he turned to his top guy and the President said, “Call Ben Bradlee and tell him fuck you.” I took a lot of static for that–everyone said, “You did it, Bradlee, you screwed up–you stuck us with Hoover forever.” I screwed up but I wasn’t wrong.”

—-Washington Post Editor-in-Chief Ben Bradley (Jason Robards, Jr.) in “All the President’s Men.”

Surely I wasn’t the only one who immediately thought about this anecdote (apparently true) from the film version of the Woodward and Bernstein book about the Post’s Watergate investigation. All yesterday, the news services were following the New York Times “scoop,” based on anonymous leaks out of the Trump Administration, claiming that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was about to be canned within days, with CIA head Mike Pompeo, a Trump favorite, taking his place.

I know a little bit about leadership and the kind of people who get to the top of the heap, the Presidents of the United States. I also know how I would think if I disliked and distrusted a newspaper and someone betrayed me within my staff, resulting in a premature revelation of my plans. Unless I regarded a personnel matter as essential, I’d change course to discredit the leaker and make the newspaper look bad.

Sure enough, President Trump tweeted today,

The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon – FAKE NEWS! He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!

Good for him. Continue reading

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I LOVE IT When This Happens!

Two recent Ethics Alarms posts collided on Ann Althouse’s blog today. She wrote that she was listening to the audiobook “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion,”by none other than Jonathan Haidt, who uttered the Ethics Quote Of The Month recently discussed here.

In his audiobook, Haidt said that this statement “captured the spirit and self-image of the modern American left”:

“I am a liberal, and liberalism is the politics of kindness. Liberals stand for tolerance, magnanimity, community spirit, the defense of the weak against the powerful, love of learning, freedom of belief, art and poetry, city life, the very things that make America worth dying for.”

Who authored this ringing declaration of liberal principles?

Garrison Keillor, that’s who. Continue reading

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Paul Krugman, The Anti-Haidt

I don’t bother with New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman here, for the most part. He constantly discredits himself by intentionally misleading his gullible readers, hiding the ball, engaging in deceit as an advocacy tool, over-stating and hyping and generally bolstering his progressive opinions with a nauseating combination of intellectual dishonesty, hypocrisy and condescension. I have no patience with such columnists, or any publication that inflicts them on its readers.

A parallel in the sportswriting field is the much lionized Thomas Boswell, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who writes for the Washington Post. Boswell has written several books, and is regarded by many as a deep thinker about baseball. (My wife and I once were friends with a couple that socialized with the Boswells, and invited us to join the four of them for an evening. I told them that I could not stomach being in the same room with the guy.)  Many years ago, Boswell was writing about the individual talents of the Boston Red Sox, a topic I know at least as much about as he does. In assessing then-Sox catcher Jason Varitek, Boswell noted that “Tek” led the league in passed balls, leaving the impression that this demonstrated a serious flaw in his catching abilities. But I knew, and more importantly Boswell knew, that the Red Sox  had a regular rotation starting pitcher, Tim Wakefield, who was a knuckleballer, and was the only starting pitcher in the league who threw that confounding pitch.  If a catcher regularly catches a knuckleball pitcher, he leads the league in passed balls, usually by a large margin. Always. It has nothing to do with how good a catcher he is, and Varitek was a very good catcher. Yet Boswell deliberately cited the statistic without explaining to his readers what it meant in Vartitek’s case. He did this because he was trying to argue that Boston had defensive problems. This is unethical advocacy, and unethical journalism.

After that, I only read Boswell’s columns to document his dishonesty. I was never disappointed. He’s a cheat, relying on the ignorance of his audience to deceive them.

Paul Krugman is like that. After I posted the quote from Jonathan Haidt’s speech in which the professor perfectly described the ideology-driven betrayal of the culture and our democracy by institutions of higher education, I recalled a recent Krugman piece in the Times that I had instantly dismissed as classic deceit. One passage was literally the anti-matter version of Haidt’s hard truth regarding the rot in our colleges, a deliberate lie that denied the existence of the problem in order to further Krugman’s perpetual attack on Republicans and conservatives.

Behold: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/27/2017: Gibberish From Congress, Race-Blindness in the UK, Cruel Law Enforcement In Atlanta, And More

Mornin’!

1 “Rarrit!!” You will seldom see or hear as excellent an example of Authentic Frontier Gibberish than this word salad belched out by the leader of House Democrats on “Meet the Press” yesterday. Nancy Pelosi attracted so much negative attention with her “Rep. Conyers is too much of an icon to hold accountable” blather that this masterpiece was relatively ignored. Pelosi was asked by Chuck Todd whether she would support releasing to the public the full information behind heretofore secret settlements of sexual harassment accusations against Congressmen, even indispensable, virtuous icons like John Conyers. She said…

“Well, here’s the thing. It’s really important. Because there is a question as to whether the Ethics Committee can get testimony if you have signed a nondisclosure agreement. We’re saying we think the Ethics Committee can, but if you don’t agree, we’ll pass a law that says the Ethics Committee can, a resolution in Congress that the Ethics Committee can…. But there’s no– I don’t want anybody thinking there’s any challenge here to our changing the law and see how people– when we know more about the individual cases. Well, because you know what our biggest strength is? Due process that protects the rights of the victim, so that, whatever the outcome is, everybody knows that there was due process….”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_2Npp-euLU

If Chuck Todd wasn’t a partisan hack, he would have recognized his journalistic obligation to say, “That made no sense at all, Congresswoman. Please try again.”

Public pressure is increasing to force Congress to release the names of the members of Congress who paid taxpayer funds to settle with their accusers. Good. Democrats are obviously terrified, and presumably Republicans are as well.

2. That mean Trump Administration insists on enforcing the law. The New York Times had a front page story Sunday about the plight of illegal immigrants in Atlanta. The story, entirely sympathetic to the arrested, deported, and those afraid of being arrested and deported, saying in one headline that “immigrants” (that’s illegal immigrants, NYT editors, a material distinction) fear “even driving.”

“Even driving” without a license.

Here’s a quote to make any rational American’s head explode, about a local journalist who uses social media to warn illegal immigrants when ICE is lurking,

“Asked whether he had any reservations about helping readers evade immigration law, he said he preferred to think he was helping people with no criminal records stay in the country. “Honestly, I believe it’s an honor as a journalist if the people can use your information for protecting their own families,” he said.”

Translation: “I prefer to think of what I am doing as something other than what I am really doing.”

It’s kind of like a newspaper calling illegal immigrants “immigrants.” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/20/17: Harvard Hypocrisy, Homely Actors, Horrible Apologies, And The Head Of Apple’s Diversity Program Lands On A Pike

Good Morning.

1 And The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck rolls on…The Harvey Express ran over several more notables in various ways last week (like Lena Dunham…). Although Senator Al Franken got most of the publicity. One was actor Jeffrey Tambor, the long-time character actor turned star of the streaming show “Transparent,” about a transgender woman. Tambor’s former assistant, eager to pick up her #MeToo brownie points even at the risk of throwing the entire “Transparent” cast and staff out of work (this is another reason why these matters are more ethically handled privately), accused the actor of lewd comments and in one case “pressing up against her.” Now Tambor, and almost certainly the hit show, are, as Jeff Flake would say. “toast.”

This weekend I crafted the apology Franken should have offered, but as bad as the one he actually offered was, it was arguably better than what Tambor came up with:

“For the past four years, I’ve had the huge privilege — and huge responsibility – of playing Maura Pfefferman, a transgender woman, in a show that I know has had an enormous, positive impact on a community that has been too long dismissed and misunderstood.

I know I haven’t always been the easiest person to work with. I can be volatile and ill-tempered, and too often I express my opinions harshly and without tact. But I have never been a predator — ever.

I am deeply sorry if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being sexually aggressive or if I ever offended or hurt anyone. But the fact is, for all my flaws, I am not a predator and the idea that someone might see me in that way is more distressing than I can express.”

On the Apology Scale, this combines the worst features of a #9, a “non-apology apology,” with #10, an “insincere and dishonest apology,” with some other obnoxious features thrown in for bad taste.  Tambor begins by patting himself on the back–-I’m the star, and it hasn’t been easy, but look at all the good I’ve done!—then moves on to Rationalization # 19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”

Next, he engages in deceit, stating that he’s never been a predator, which is like saying he’s never been a race car driver or an antelope. He’s accused of sexual harassment and one incident of sexual assault. What his statement amounts to a non-denial denial: “I never did what she’s accused me of doing more than once!”

Yecchh.

2. “Because sometimes they say yes…” It is no coincidence that Tambor, Franken and Weinstein all come from the performing arts world and all are very homely men. I have observed in my own theater experience that the most aggressive violators of the boundaries of restraint and decorum in interactions with women in a theatrical settings are frequently the guys who are unattractive and feel  that it they don’t take chances, they’ll die a virgin. It is astounding how aggressive some of them are, and how resilient they remain after rejection and even physical abuse. If they fail a hundred times and succeed once, that’s positive reinforcement enough. If, through talent, hard work and luck, such individuals reach a level of power in the performing arts profession, sexual harassment is an established behavior pattern that doesn’t set off their ethics alarms at all.

3. It’s NOT OK to be white? Denise Young Smith, Apple’s first vice president of diversity and inclusion and an African-American, was part of a  panel discussion on fighting racial injustice eat the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia. At one point she said,

“Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT…there can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.” 

Apple fired her, six months into her new role after 20 years successfully running Apple’s international Human Resources department. Smith did not have the integrity to stand by her words, and instead tried a desperate Pazuzu grovel, apologizing and saying that her words “were not representative of how I think about diversity.”  It didn’t work. Continue reading

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