Comment of the Day: “Ethics Questions And Answers Regarding The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis”


Commenter Paul Compton addressed one issue in my post about the Flint water crisis, the question of whether avoidable disasters require some high-ranking individual with responsibility for the problem to resign or be fired as a vital symbolic statement that there will be official accountability when a system breaks down. I wrote, in reference to the calls for Michigan Governor Snyder to resign:

“Should Snyder resign? He wasn’t responsible for the fiasco, but he’s accountable: it’s his state, environmental protection agency, and water boards. He’s not the only one who should step up and fall on his sword, but sure: if you’ve read here for long, you know I support leaders and managers losing their jobs when massive screw-ups happen on their watch, especially when, as in this case, it is a joint effort.”

Here is Paul responding to that statement, in the Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Questions And Answers Regarding The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis”:

I agree completely; and disagree just as completely.

I have mentioned before that I am opposed to the Darth Vader school of man management. If someone has to fall on their sword every time they fail somewhere – even fail fairly spectacularly – not only will it be impossible for people to learn from their mistakes but we will soon run out of people who have any sort of competence at all.

An example:

Arthur Wellesley purchased a commission as Lieutenant-Colonel in the 33rd Regiment – he was already in the army and had seen some action by that time. At the battle of Seringapatam he advanced at night over un-reconnoitred ground and was soundly defeated resulting in some twenty five men killed. It has been suggested that if his brother had not been Governor-General of India he would have been court-martialed. We would never have had the Duke of Wellington, the only undefeated commander of his era.

Surely as people move up the chain of command their opportunities for catastrophic failure increase at each step. Added to that, the further up you go the more you are dependent on the performance of those below you. This, coupled with armchair critics and those with an agenda, can lead to a situation where the ‘boss’ cops it in the back for situations that are completely beyond their control.

An example:

Continue reading

Comment of the Day on… Oh, Never Mind, It Had Nothing To Do With The Original Post Anyway

Make Believe sign

This mind-blowing comment by the one-hit wonder “bubbabru” struck me as uniquely appropriate as we head into next week’s elections. I apparently set him off by my response to a commenter expressing wonderment at the defenses being offered by supporters of an animal abusing and crooked veterinarian. She wrote, ” I can’t even figure out the kind of mindset that requires pooh-poohing such overwhelming evidence of someone who is, at the very least, a depraved and wicked person.” I responded,

“Why do people still claim Michael Jackson was pure as the driven snow? Why do people still say Nixon was hounded from office, or that Clinton was a victim? Why does anyone say that JFK was a great man? Why is anyone fooled by Hillary? Why do people still insist that Obama is a brilliant, honest, skilled leader? Why do people still think the Rosenbergs were innocent? It’s self-delusion, because people fight to hold on to their illusions, and resent those who try to point out the horrible truth, especially when it makes them feel like dupes.

This relatively bi-partisan list of delusions unwittingly triggered the vomiting up of the Angry Left talking points, lies and mythology that follow. Is this what the “base” of a major party is like? (I assume that there is a polar version, equally unhinged, fact-resistant and hateful,  for Republicans.) If so, one can only diagnose being part of a base as akin to being a member of a cult. For any responsible politician to intentionally nurture and try to profit from this kind of disability is not only antidemocratic, it approaches evil. How many American are mired in the hyper-partisan hate fantasies illustrated by this Comment of the Day? Can they be saved?

I worry about the answers to those questions, and a third: how can we stop this crippling contagion from spreading? Here is the Comment of the Day. Res ipsa loquitur: Continue reading

Racism, Abuse of Power, And Grosse Pointe Abu Graib

This story is so upsetting, I recommend periodically checking this picture to get you through it. It helped me.

This story is so upsetting, I recommend periodically checking this picture of a Jack Russell puppy to get you through it. It helped me, anyway.

This, I think, should be a crime, and perhaps it is, a civil rights law violation. The police officers who perpetrated this outrage on African-Americans—I really don’t care what the victims did, from petty theft to mass murder, it doesn’t matter–need to be jailed, and for a long, long time. I wish they could be deported. They aren’t Americans. They are viruses.

In Grosse Pointe Park, the ritzy section of Detroit—which sounds like an oxymoron, I know—police forced African-American citizens to sing, dance, and make noises “like a chimp.” Then, like idiots everywhere, these cops posted the videos of this racist cruelty online. They were proud of it, you see.

The racism alone is sufficient cause to fire these villains, but bigotry alone isn’t a crime. Using police power to humiliate another human being, strip him of dignity and attack the essence of his humanity is a crime, whether it happens to fit the specifics of any statute or not. What the Detroit police did was the domestic, racist equivilent to what was done to the Abu Ghraib Muslim prisoners, which Rush Limbaugh, to his permanent shame, called “just fooling around.” Treating another human being as a toy, a prop, and a puppet isn’t fooling around, it is dastardly. Showing such contempt and disrespect for American citizens based on color, creed, or on any basis smacks of a domestic Kristallnacht. When the military or the police do it in our name, it implicates all of us, undermines trust in government, impugns the honor of good and professional police officers and soldiers, and divides communities, races, and civilizations.

It has to be a crime. And every second those officers are allowed to keep their badges disgraces Detroit, Michigan, and the United States of America.


Facts: New York Daily News

Twelve Ethics Observations On “The Scandal Trifecta”


1. “The Scandal Trifecta” may be gaining traction in D.C. and in the news media as the hot term to handily describe the Obama Administration’s three instances of serious and significant misconduct: the Benghazi deceptions, the I.R.S. harassment of conservatives and conservative groups, and the Justice Department’s surveillance of Associate Press reporters. It should be rejected. I know conservatives and Republicans are especially smug and gleeful right now to have their suspicions and warnings confirmed, but this is a national crisis, at a time of dire challenges to the nation, and tragic in many ways. It is not a game, and should not be likened to one. Nor should the three situations be lumped together, though they have, to some extent, common seeds. They are each important in and of themselves, and packaging them like stop-light peppers risks allowing all or some of them receive less than the individual attention they must have. This is the first and last time I’m using the term, and I urge everyone, in the media or out of it, to similarly drop it. Labels matter, in this is a bad one.

2. Here’s someone Democrats and the rest of us can blame, in part: the left-biased news media. You see, knowing that the news media is looking to expose them when they make mistakes, blunder, show corruption and otherwise do a bad job when entrusted with the welfare of the greatest nation on earth makes our leaders better, more responsible, more objective, and more competent, out of fear, if nothing else. The media does nobody any favors when it lets its biases take over and lies down on the job—not the public, not Republicans, certainly; not the nation, not their profession, but also not even those they are desperately trying to help succeed. Continue reading

Why Can’t We Trust Our Government? Here’s One Big Reason…

A complete lack of accountability.

Now THERE'S something you won't see in Washington: heads rolling.

Now THERE’S something you won’t see in Washington: heads rolling.

Here is part of the Associated Press report on the internal review of the Benghazi Ethics Train Wreck. The bolding is mine: :

“An unclassified version released late Tuesday said serious bureaucratic mismanagement was responsible for the inadequate security at the mission in Benghazi where the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed. Systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place, the panel said.

“Despite those deficiencies, the board determined that no individual officials ignored or violated their duties and recommended no disciplinary action. But it also said poor performance by senior managers should be grounds for disciplinary recommendations in the future.” Continue reading

The Darkness of the Right, Pissing Away American Values

Doesn't it make you proud to be an American?

I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming, but indeed I did not. After all, when photographs surfaced showed American servicemen and women abusing, tormenting and torturing helpless (and untried) Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the hard right, led by conservative radio talkshow hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, attempted to minimize America’s disgrace and the catastrophic failure of the military chain of command by wielding the worst of rationalizations.

“They do worse things to us!”

“We’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys!”

“They had it coming!”

“At least the soldiers didn’t saw their heads off, like the Arabs did to Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg!”

The fact that the atrocities in the prison violated the core values of the Declaration of Independence and the very foundation of America’s reason for existence—human dignity and inalienable human rights—never occurred to these warped culture warriors, who did not have the decency to be ashamed that the United States military would present itself to the world as bullies, thugs and sadists.

Now we, and the world, have seen a video taken by one U.S. Marine in Afghanistan of four of his colleagues gleefully urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban combatants. The Obama administration, hopefully having learned its lesson from the Bush Administration’s botching of its response to Abu Ghraib, immediately and unequivocally condemned the conduct of the marines and vowed that it will not go unpunished. (Whether there will be proper consequences for the brass responsible for such a catastrophic collapse of military discipline remains to be seen.) Of course this is the correct response, and the only responsible response,

Yet last night I heard talk show rant-master Mark Levin, dubbed “The Great One” by his talk show host colleagues (Jackie Gleason’s estate should sue for defamation), furiously denounce the Obama administration and praise the Marines. Continue reading

Ethics, History, and Robert Redford’s “The Conspirator”

James McAvoy as Frederick Aiken, a Civil War era Ethics Hero you've never heard of.

Throughout Hollywood history, there have been actors who regularly used their screen personas to explore ethical issues: Henry Fonda, Glenn Ford, Paul Newman, John Wayne of course, Clint Eastwood, and recently, George Clooney. None of these focused their artistic attentions on ethics more sharply than Robert Redford, however, in such films as “All the President’s Men,” “The Candidate,” “The Proposition,” and “The Natural,” and he has continues his exploration of ethics as a director, in such films as “The Milagro Beanfield War” and “Quiz Show.”

Redford’s most recent film, “The Conspirator,” is another ethics movie, as well as one that explores law and American history. I am a Lincoln assassination buff, and I was eager to see the movie until I read several reviews criticizing it as a heavy-handed allegory attacking the Bush administration’s response to 9/11. Score one for the confirmation bias trap: the movie is nothing of the kind. Continue reading

Oh, Shut Up, Rush.

I tuned in to Rush Limbaugh this afternoon expecting what I got, but hoping otherwise. Sure enough, Limbaugh spent the first half-hour of his broadcast mocking President Obama for taking “single-handed” credit for Osama bin Laden’s death, counting the number of times the President uttered the words “me,” “I,” “my,” and “mine,” and minimizing any credit due to the Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief when the nation he leads finally accomplishes something it has been trying to do for a decade.

The President of the United States gets the blame and is held accountable for gas prices he cannot control, international upheavals, incompetent local disaster management after hurricanes, economic meltdowns caused by lazy regulators, irresponsible investors, unqualified homeowners and greedy business executives, the botched clean-up of unprecedented oil spills, the abuse of prisoners by hillbilly soldiers thousands of miles away, and every other  social, societal and economic ill imaginable. That’s his job, and he wanted it: fair or not, he has to take it. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Attorney Greg Adler

Vincent Cardinalli had been running a remarkably lucrative and heartless scam for years in Santa Clara, California, filing phony lawsuits against innocent citizens for towing and storage fees on vehicles they no longer owned or, in some cases, never owned. He was aided by a commissioner who routinely sided with him in the suits while ignoring obvious signs of a swindle. Cardinalli’s salad days ended, however, because a young lawyer decided to do his own investigation, on his own time, and uncovered enough to send the crook and his crooked son to jail. Continue reading

Bush’s Torture Admission, Absolutism, and America’s Survival

George W. Bush, currently hawking his memoirs, has admitted in the new book and in interviews about it that yes indeed, he approved waterboarding of terrorist suspects, believed it was legal, and moreover offers evidence that the information thus acquired saved American lives. W’s opinion on these matter are hardly a surprise, but they have re-energized the defenders of the Administration’s policies of “enhanced interrogation” and rendition of apprehended terror suspects to foreign locales where the interrogation techniques were “enhanced” even more.

“NOW do you agree with the policy?” they ask, as if the answer was obvious. “The information prevented a horrific terrorist attack on Heathrow Airport (in England). See? See?

Let us assume, just to simplify things, that everything is as President Bush represents. Waterboarding was, by some legitimate analysis, legal. The information saved American lives and prevented terrorist attacks. Do these facts mean that the use of torture—and waterboarding is torture, whether one defines it as such or not—by the United States of America was justified, defensible, and ethical?

No. I don’t think so. I believe that for the United States of America to approve and engage in the use of torture is by definition betrayal of the nation’s core values, and thus threatens its existence as the nation our Founders envisioned as completely as a foreign occupation.  I wrote on this topic in 2009… Continue reading