Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/23/2021: Farewell Everly Brothers And Other Problems

Don Everly has died, and that’s the end of the Everly Brothers (Phil died years ago), one of the most influential and perhaps the most harmonious singing group of all time. The unique sympathetic vibrations that only sibling singers seem to be able to achieve is a marvelous metaphor for the ethical benefits of teamwork and trust.

This date also marks the demise of another famous duo: despite worldwide demonstrations in support of their alleged innocence, Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed for murder in Massachusetts in 1921 .On April 15, 1920, a paymaster for a shoe company in South Braintree was shot and killed along with his guard. The murderers, who escaped with more than $15,000, were described by witnesses as two “swarthy Italian men.” Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested and charged with the crime. The men carried guns and lied to the police, but neither had a previous criminal record, and they definitely didn’t get a fair trial by modern standards. Prejudice against Italian-Americans was strong, and suspicion of anarchists was stronger. The pair was convicted on July 14, 1921, and sent to the electric chair on August 23.

A TV dramatization of their case, written by Reginald Rose (who authored “Twelve Angry Men”) made a huge impression on me as a child, and sparked the first stirrings of my interest in the law. In 1961, a test of Sacco’s gun using modern forensic techniques proved that it was his gun that killed the guard; he, at least, was guilty, but there was little evidence to implicate Vanzetti in the killing. To make this ethics train wreck complete, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis ignored the evidence of Sacco’s guilt and issued a proclamation exonerating both Sacco and Vanzetti and proclaiming that no stigma should be associated with their names.

Typical of Dukakis.

1. Accountability? What accountability? “Sources”—and I stipulate that un-named “sources” are untrustworthy—tell various news outlets that “President Biden isn’t inclined to fire any senior national security officials over the chaos in Kabul unless the situation drastically deteriorates or there’s significant loss of American life.” That sounds as likely as it is depressing. The reluctance of American Presidents to fire subordinates for gross incompetence has become the norm rather than the exception, and the trend ensures that our government, whoever is the President and whatever party is power, will continue to decline in competence and trustworthiness. Consider President Bush’s refusal to fire any of those responsible for the botched intelligence regarding Iraq’s WMDs, and later Abu Ghraib, or my personal favorite, Barack Obama’s refusal to acknowledge the gross incompetence of Kathleen Sebelius, his Secretary of Health, after her inexcusable reliance on a flawed website to launch the Affordable Care Act.

Dumber still is the qualification “unless the situation drastically deteriorates or there’s significant loss of American life.” Morons. Morons! Whether the situation gets worse or not is pure moral luck; it doesn’t change the utter incompetence of the Afghanistan abandonment. Imagine a babysitter who gives a toddler knives to play with, and a parent whose reaction is, “Well, the kid wasn’t hurt, so there’s no reason to fire her.” That is literally what the reasoning at the White House is…if “sources” are accurate.

Continue reading

No, No, NO, Biden Must NOT “Go”: Biden Must Stay, And All Responsible For Putting Him In The White House Must Be Made Accountable

Joe confused

Over at the Spectator, conservative pundit Dominic Green writes in a piece titled Biden Must Go,

“If Trump had confused his Vice President with a ‘general’ or fumbled with his cue cards because he couldn’t match a scripted question to a scripted answer, as Biden did at his press conference on Thursday; or shown the bizarre callousness and failure of short-term memory in his ‘That was four days ago, five days ago!’ outburst; or spontaneously abandoned the policy of strategic ambiguity on Taiwan in an interview with ABC, as Biden did with George Stephanopoulos on Thursday, the psychiatrists would be lining up outside the cable stations to explain why the 25th Amendment needed to be deployed now. It’s that simple. The buck really does stop with the President. The world has always seen Biden’s incapacity, and now the American people can see it too. He carries direct responsibility for a disaster so undeniable that even a partisan media can no longer deny it. He can neither speak truthfully nor accurately. Not so much the emperor with no clothes, as Lear’s fool on the heath, naked and shivering as the kingdom comes to the ‘great confusion’.”

Oh no you don’t! “The resistance,” progressives, Democrats and the news media can’t be let off that easy. It is essential to restoring the nation’s principles and the integrity of the political process that Joe Biden remain in office to do all the damage and inflict all the embarrassment on the nation he will undoubtedly can and will. It will be painful for him to be sure: good. He was irresponsible and unethical to allow himself to be used by his party when he knew—and I’m sure he knows—that he had become a shadow of his already mediocre self. It will be even more painful for his party and its supporters, which will not be able to blame anyone but themselves for the disaster at the border, the stuttering response to the latest virus strains, the exploding national debt, the creeping inflation and the disgraceful embrace of racial discrimination. And, of course, it will be painful for the public, and again I say, good. They were dupes, fools and incompetent citizens. They deserve to suffer. There are consequences to being lazy, gullible, biased and stupid. They are about to learn them. Hard.The Democrats and media tried to brainwash America with the dangerous idea that when we elect a President that enough people don’t like and the news media decides to destroy, there are constitutional ways to ignore elections and get rid of him. There are not. Impeachment, contrary to the undemocratic plots endorsed by Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters and the rest, requires actual “high crimes and misdemeanors,” not mean tweets, contrived violations of dead letter provisions and conduct routinely engaged in by other Presidents that are suddenly repurposed into “crimes” to avoid the trouble of defeating an incumbent at the polls.

Continue reading

July 3: Pickett’s Charge, Custer’s First Stand, Ethics And Leadership

Picketts-Charge--330-to-345-pm-landscape

[I started to write a new post and while doing my research discovered that I would basically be repeating what I posted last year. Thus I am re-posting that July 3 Gettysburg essay as well as the one I attached to it, but with several substantive additions.]

July 3  was the final day of the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, reaching its bloody climax in General Robert E. Lee’s desperate  gamble on a massed assault on the Union center. In history it has come to be known as Pickett’s Charge, after the leader of the Division that was slaughtered during it.

At about 2:00 pm this day in 1863, near the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg,  Lee launched his audacious stratagem to pull victory from the jaws of defeat in the pivotal battle of the American Civil War.  The Napoleonic assault on the entrenched Union position on Cemetery Ridge, with a “copse of trees” at its center, was the only such attack in the entire war, a march into artillery and rifle fire across an open field and over fences. When my father, the old soldier, saw the battlefield  for the first time in his eighties, he became visibly upset because, he said, he could visualize the killing field. He was astounded that Lee would order such a reckless assault.

The battle lasted less than an hour. Union forces suffered 1,500 casualties,, while at least 1,123 Confederates were killed on the battlefield, 4,019 were wounded, and nearly 4000 Rebel soldiers were captured. Pickett’s Charge would go down in history as one of the worst military blunders of all time.

At Ethics Alarms, it stands for several ethics-related  concepts. One is moral luck: although Pickett’s Charge has long been regarded by historians and scholars as a disastrous mistake by Lee, and in retrospect seems like a rash decision, it could have succeeded if the vicissitudes of chance had broken the Confederacy’s way.  Then the maneuver would be cited today as another example of Lee’s brilliance, in whatever remained of the United States of America, if indeed it did remain. This is the essence of moral luck; unpredictable factors completely beyond the control of an individual or other agency determine whether a decision or action are wise or foolish, ethical or unethical.

Pickett’s Charge has been discussed on Ethics Alarms as a vivid example, perhaps the best, of how successful leaders and others become so used to discounting the opinions and criticism of others that they lose the ability to accept the possibility that they can be wrong. This delusion is related to #14 on the Rationalizations list,  Self-validating Virtue. We see the trap in many professions and contexts, and its victims have been among some of America’s greatest. Those who succeed by being bold and seeing possibilities lesser peers cannot perceive often lose respect and regard for anyone’s authority or opinion but their own.

Continue reading

Ellen DeGeneris Meets The Cognitive Dissonance Scale

Ellen DeGeneres’s brand and reputation have always been built on the illusion that she was nice. She was called the “Be Kind” Lady. Then, last July, BuzzFeed reported that several of her popular daytime talk show’s former and current staff members said they had been subjected to “racism, fear and intimidation” on the set. Other staff members said producers had sexually harassed them. Warner Bros. investigated the complaints and concluded that there were major problems. Three of the show’s producers were fired. When DeGeneres returned from the show’s summer hiatus to open its 18th season, she began with a vague and deeply unsatisfying apology. “I learned that things happen here that never should have happened,” she said in part. “I take that very seriously. And I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected.”

Well wait a minute: whose name is on the title card? Who believes that Ellen DeGeneres had no idea what was going on in the management of the Ellen DeGeneres show? How is that even possible? And if it is possible, it’s still unforgivable. She is accountable.

There were also increasingly frequent accounts suggesting that Ellen herself wasn’t so nice. (I am reminded of my late night conversation with the late Broadway choreographer Thommie Walsh, who said, “You have to remember, Jack, that virtually all star performers are horrible people.”) Among the disturbing allegations was the claim that staff on DeGeneres’ show were instructed not to talk to her. She supposedly tried to get a waitress fired who chipped one of Ellen’s nail. There were leaks that she expressed contempt for her audience behind the scenes.

Sometimes the public surprises me: after all, it voted for Joe Biden to be President, and Joe has a completely phony nice-guy image that has been exposed again and again as a cynical facade. Yet in Ellen’s case, her hypocrisy was rejected. “Ellen,” the ratings companies report, has lost more than a million viewers since September, averaging 1.5 million viewers over the last six months, down from 2.6 million in the same period last year.

Continue reading

The Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List Welcomes The Know-It-All’s Dodge,Or “I Knew This Would Happen”

Obama

The Know-It-All’s Dodge has been hanging around waiting for me to add it to the Rationalizations List for a long time. I should have added it when President Barack Obama exploded my head with this exchange, in 2015, regarding his pathetic and disastrous handling of the Syrian civil war.

In an interview with CBS’s Steve Kroft, who had earlier in Obama’s administration stated outright that his questions to the President would not be confrontational ones, there was this:

KROFT: You have been talking a lot about the moderate opposition in Syria. It seems very hard to identify. And you talked about the frustrations of trying to find some and train them. You had a half-a-billion dollars from congress to train and equip 5,000, and at the end, according to the commander of CENTCOM, you got 50 people, most of whom are, are dead or deserted. He said you’ve got four or five left.

OBAMA: Steve, this is why I’ve been skeptical from the get-go about the notion that we were going to effectively create this proxy army inside of Syria.

KABOOM!

Continue reading

Ethics Corrupter: The Boston Red Sox

red_sox disgraced

Sometimes, a mere “ethics dunce” designation isn’t enough.

The decision, announced yesterday, by the Boston Red Sox to rehire disgraced manager Alex Cora to a two-year contract that will again put him at the helm of the team is disgusting and indefensible, unethical to the core. For me, it constitutes 2020’s second major ethics offense by an organization and a sport that has been important on many levels throughout my life, substantially challenging my loyalty and affection.

I was going to call the post “Ethics Strike Two On the Boston Red Sox,” but that formula would require me to give the team a third chance to disgrace itself before I called it “out” of my life, and I don’t know if I can do that. Nonetheless, I’m going to attempt to keep the emotional component of this most recent ethics breach on the metaphorical bench in this post as I try to be objective.

I won’t promise that I will succeed.

Cora was fired by the Red Sox in January after he was found to be the architect of the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scheme, one of the worst scandals in Major League Baseball history, trailing only the 1918 Black Sox scandal and the illegal player steroid era in its degree of damage to the sport. Commissioner Rob Manfred later suspended Cora through the end of the 2020 postseason. The revelation that Cora, a bench coach for then Astros manager A. J. Hinch,  had been at the center of an organized cheating scheme that helped bring the Houston Astros a World Championship also cast a shadow over the following year’s World Championship achieved by the Boston Red Sox, which had hired Cora as its manager. Did the cheating mastermind from Houston bring his unethical ways to his first managing job? Why wouldn’t he?

Continue reading

Scary Tales Of The Great Stupid: San Diego Schools Decide That To Fight Racism, Character And Education Have To Go

Triple facePalm

Oh, yes, this will work out well.

Seldom have social upheavals combined with irresponsible propaganda resulted in more devastating mass amnesia by institutions regarding well-settled reality than “The Great Stupid,” now playing in your community and mine. Joining advocacy for such self-evident disasters as open borders, eliminating police, self-declared childhood gender flips and re-segregation is the decision to eliminate basic standards in education because educators can’t seem to explain stubborn racial gaps. Make everyone equally ignorant, unethical and undisciplined! Brilliant!

I’m not exaggerating; I wish I were. The San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), the second largest school district in California with over 106,000 students, announced that it is overhauling how students will be evaluated because “teachers fail minority students more than White students.” Since the possibility that the reasons for this persistent problem may rest within minority culture and society pathologies rather than failures of the educational system is unpalatable to the Left and politically incorrect, the proscribed solution is to overhaul the way students are graded as part of what school board members call  “a larger effort to combat racism.”

“This is part of our honest reckoning as a school district,” says SDUSD Vice President Richard Barrera. “If we’re actually going to be an anti-racist school district, we have to confront practices like this that have gone on for years and years.” Thus the school board voted unanimously last week —unanimously; think about that— to make sweeping changes. There will be no yearly grade averages. “Things like” turning work in on time and classroom behavior will not affect academic grades, but will only count toward a so-called “citizenship grade.” On the docket for reconsideration in an upcoming meeting: de-emphasizing discipline and penalties for cheating.

Continue reading

Yes, We Have Another New Rationalization! Welcome #20 A: “Everyone Deserves A Second Chance!”

Cora

No, in fact everyone doesn’t.

I encountered this inexplicably omitted rationalization—“inexplicably” because we all hear it so often, yet its obvious rationalization character had not occurred to me—today while reading a post by a friend, a Boston Red Sox sportswriter. My friend was answering a query about who the Sox, just off a terrible season, might tap to become the new manager, since the team had unceremoniously dumped poor Ron Roenicke, who literally never had a chance to do anything but fail. The inquirer wondered if Alex Cora, the Sox manager in 2018 and 2019, might return though he had been fired before the 2020 season since he was serving a year-long suspension for his part in the Houston Astros cheating scandal while he was a Houston coach in 2017. My friend, who has made this same argument to me in private conversations, wrote,

I’m not an oddsmaker, but if I was making the decision, I would bring Cora back in a heartbeat. Players responded well to Cora in his two-year stint managing the Red Sox, and it would obviously be well-received in the clubhouse if he comes back. Cora is also popular among Red Sox fans as many of them have been pining for his return. Bringing Cora back could help to rejuvenate a fan base that was discouraged by the 2020 season. As for the detractors who say he was part of a sign-stealing scandal with the Astros? Everyone deserves a second chance.

Ugh. This was not my friend’s finest hour—wait, that’s a rationalization too (19A The Insidious Confession, or “It wasn’t the best choice.”). Okay, the statement was awful:

Continue reading

Rationalization #3A, Pollyanna’s Mantra, or “Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining”

pollyanna

Not only is the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List getting its first new addition since April, it’s also finally up to date. I had neglected to add the two most recent rationalizations, Rationalization 25C, The Romantic’s Excuse, Or “I care so much!” and #52A, Kennedy’s Stall,  or  “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it”  to the main list after introducing them in posts

I think today’s addition is the 104th Rationalization, and I’m as surprised as you probably are that there are so many. Most of the recent additions have been close relatives of previously entered ones, indicated by the letters A,B, and C, and also making counting them difficult, especially for me, since I count only slightly more accurately than I spell.

Pollyanna’s Mantra, named after the 1913 children’s literature classic by Eleanor H. Porter (and the now more famous 1960 Disney adaptation of the novel that made a sensation out of child actress Hayley Mills, above) about a little girl who was determined to see the good in everybody and everything, is another in the sub-rationalization category, stamped 3A to mark its close relationship with #3, Consequentialism. “Every cloud has a silver lining” carries on the deception of #3, which takes advantage of a quirk of human nature that wants to confer credit for the accidental and unintended benefits of an unethical decision or unethical conduct on the individual responsible for the decision or conduct. Pollyanna’s Mantra seeks to mitigate accountability for unethical conduct that has had predictable negative results by trying to shift attention to some positive consequences, real or contrived.

Continue reading

Dan Rather, Ethics Villain; Esquire, Ethics Villain Enabler

My, this is ironic! In an essay defending journalism while attacking President Trump for labeling current day journalists as “enemies of the people,” Esquire writer Ryan D’Agostino both manages to prove Trump correct, and while lionizing disgraced journalist Dan Rather,  inspires Rather to show how he exemplifies what’s rotten within his profession.

“In a wide-ranging interview,” the essay/interview ‘s description says, “the legendary reporter gives a clinic on journalism, its intersection with politics, civil rights, and the future of American culture.” This alone would normally keep me from reading such a piece, were it not part of my job to expose unethical mind rot. Rather is a legend, as the cliche goes, in his own mind. Having him give a clinic on journalism would be like  Sweeney Todd giving a clinic on barbering, and no one should care what he says or thinks about anything, having proven himself to be untrustworthy and afflicted with warped reasoning.

Here, for example, is Rather’s description of the fake news scandal that cost him his reputation and career. Well, let me take that back: first read part of D’Agostino’s self-indicting introduction of it:

There were proven technical and even journalistic flaws in the evidence Rather’s team found—but no one questioned the truth of what they were saying. Bush never disputed the veracity of the claims. It was a strange situation: By way of a possibly forged document, they had uncovered a damning truth about the sitting president.

Wow.

  • Equivocation and deceptive verbiage: “Proven technical and even journalistic flaws in the evidence Rather’s team found.” The “technical flaw” was that the only tangible evidence Rather found was a forgery, and the journalistic “flaw” was that Rather’s report was built on a lie, which is what a forged document is.

That’s not “flawed” journalism; it’s a political attack disguised as journalism. Continue reading