Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/21/19: Planes, Tribe and McCain

Good morning!

I’m pretty groggy after one intense early morning seminar, five delayed flights,  the long trip home from San Diego, and a midnight arrival back in Virginia, but my ethics alarms seem to be functioning…

1. Today’s air travel ethics saga: I travel as light as possible for trips of two nights or fewer, carrying only my stuffed soft briefcase and a garment bag the is almost empty. I will not become part of the selfish flying hoards who lug ridiculous roller-boards onto the plane, slowing the loading process and hogging the limited storage space. (The airlines should charge passengers for bringing the luggage on board, not for checking it. Morons.) The barely filled garment bag (I wear my suit on the plane) always fits somewhere,  and even when they announce that all bags must be checked at the gate because there is no more space in the bins, I have always been allowed to bring my bag on board…until last night. Two rude and officious American gate monitors ordered me to surrender my bag or, they threatened, be forced to take a later flight. (“Hmmm..what does “later flight” mean to American since this flight is late taking off and the other four flights I’ve been booked on this trip were also late?” I queried. They just didn’t listen to what I was saying, and kept reciting the policy that I had to store one bag overhead and another under my seat.

I have always believed that you can’t take bureaucratic bullying passively, so I asked if there was a supervisor I could talk to. There was: a harried middle-aged guy with a bad toupe. He did listen, as I explained that I knew my own travel supplies, and that unless every compartment was filled with cement, I could easily find a place for my bag, because in nearly a hundred flights, I always have. Furthermore, I pointed out that it was unfair to treat me , one of the few passengers who carries minimal baggage as a matter of consideration and ethics, this way when other passengers were abusing the privilege of carry-on luggage. The guy said that he agreed with me, but since he hadn’t seen my confiscated bag, he couldn’t assess whether I was right or his subordinate Gate Nazis were. Having made my stand, I thanked him, and made my way down the jetway. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/15/2019: Fevered Ethics Musings, and More

Good morning

…after a lousy night’s sleep.

 I’m going to deal with the Peter Strzok/Lisa Page Congressional testimony in a full post, but I’ll give a preview here.. As I will elaborate then, this makes me feel like I am going crazy, and also creates dilemmas regarding what this blog is about, and how to keep it trustworthy. The story that has developed over the past week is almost incredible in its objective implications for the Obama administration’ legacy (Did you know that there were NO SCANDALS under President Obama?), the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, the Mueller investigation, the Justice Department, the Democratic Party, and the efforts to undermine the Trump Presidency, and by extension, our democracy. When I write about all of this, however, the result will sound like an over-heated conspiracy theory from the depths of Breitbart. I know that’s what my bubble-dwelling friends on Facebook will say, and what the Ethics Alarms exiles who were, and, I’m sure, still are, incapable of believing anything but “resistance” and Democratic anti-Trump talking points will think as well. I checked yesterday’s New York Times page by page: there was nothing about what Peter Strzok and Lisa Page revealed under oath…not in the news, not on the op-ed page, not in the letters to the editor. How can that be, in a paper that claims to present “all the news that’s fit to print?” I didn’t check the Washington Post (I don’t get the paper version) , but I assume a similar black-out from the paper that hypocritically proclaims that “Democracy Dies In Darkness.” Senator Lindsay Graham s calling for a new Special Prosecutor, and if we had an honest, non-partisan news media, I assume—I hope—that the informed public, at least the uncorrupted portion that has principles that transcend politics, would be doing the same. I know U.S. government and Presidential history better than most, and what I see—and can see only because I do not trust the mainstream media–is worse than Watergate (that over-used phrase) and far, far scarier, because this time, the press is part of the cover-up.

1. Addendum. One legacy that may be ticketed for oblivion is that of John McCain. We learned yesterday that a close McCain associate aggressively circulated the discredited, Trump-smearing Steele memorandum to media outlets all over D.C. after the President was elected. From the Daily Caller:

David Kramer, a former State Department official, said in a deposition on Dec. 13, 2017 that he provided a copy of Christopher Steele’s dossier to reporters from McClatchy, NPR, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and BuzzFeed and CNN’s Carl Bernstein. He also shared the report with State Department official Victoria Nuland, Obama National Security Counsel official Celeste Wallander and Illinois GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

If Senator McCain knew about this, or worse, engineered it, he was trying to undermine the sitting President. Based on his petty and vindictive conduct in the period between the election and his death, this seems very plausible, and even likely.

2. Meanwhile, here’s another irresponsible Trump Tweet storm…which has received more publicity in major news sources than indications that the Obama Justice Department was working to manipulate the 2016 Presidential election. The President tweeted that “airplanes are becoming too complex to fly”   two days after the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed all 157 people aboard, and before any official assessment of the causes of the crash  was made, “Split second decisions are needed, and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cost yet very little gain. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!”

Ugh. Talk about abusing a position to make the public dumber. This is just Luddite blathering from someone who has no more expertise regarding airplanes than my mailman. It is not an informed opinion, and the comments can do no good, while causing tangible damage in unfounded fear.

I do agree that Albert Einstein would be a poor choice as a 737 pilot, as would Genghis Khan, Ed Wynn, and Katherine the Great, being untrained in flying AND being dead as mackerels.

2. Another liberal champion bites the dust (and I think I know why).  From the Montgomery Advertiser:

The Southern Poverty Law Center fired Morris Dees, the nonprofit civil rights organization’s co-founder and former chief litigator. SPLC President Richard Cohen said in a statement Dees’ dismissal over his misconduct was effective on Wednesday, March 13. When pressed for details on what led to the termination, the organization declined to elaborate. “As a civil rights organization, the SPLC is committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world,” Cohen said in the emailed statement. “When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action.”

The Law Center is literally an extension of Dees; he has been its face and founder. I’ve been at an award ceremony for Morris Dees. An organization doesn’t treat its progenitor this way unless it has to, and Dees, according to reports, was no longer active in the SPLC’s activities. There is an undropped shoe, and I’m betting the Oxford is one more sexual harassment scandal involving a liberal icon. What other “conduct” would get Dees fired, unless the hate-group labeling group’s founder was using shoe-polish to imitate Michael Jackson?

3.  So how long before college tuitions come down, people stop assuming those with degrees from Harvard are smarter than those who don’t, and higher education admits that a complete overhaul is overdue and mandatory, since colleges have become political indoctrination centers rather than educational institutions?  Commenting on the college admission scandal, George Mason University professor Bryan Kaplan writes at TIME:

…The admissions scandal is an opportunity to separate the lofty mythology of college from the sordid reality. Despite the grand aspirations that students avow on their admission essays, their overriding goal is not enlightenment, but status. Consider why these parents would even desire to fake their kids’ SAT scores. We can imagine them thinking, I desperately want my child to master mathematics, writing and history — and no one teaches math, writing and history like Yale does! But we all know this is fanciful. …Most majors, however, ask little of their students — and get less. Standards were higher in the 1960s, when typical college students toiled about 40 hours a week. Today, however, students work only two-thirds as hard. Full-time college has become a part-time job….Why do employers put up with such a dysfunctional educational system? Part of the answer is that government and donors lavish funding on the status quo with direct subsidies, student loans and alumni donations….The deeper answer, though, is that American higher education tolerably performs one useful service for American business: certification.

… When I was in high school, my crusty health teacher loved to single out a random teen and scoff, “You’re wanted … for impersonating a student.” If you can get your less-than-brilliant, less-than-driven child admitted, he’ll probably get to impersonate a standardly awesome Ivy League graduate for the rest of his life.

…[T]ruth be told, this salacious scandal proves next to nothing. It just illustrates the obvious. Though we casually talk about our “institutions of higher learning,” little learning is going on. Sure, college is an intellectual banquet for the rare students with a passion for ideas and the energy to locate the also-rare professors with a passion for teaching. The vast majority, however, come in search of a stamp on their foreheads that says grade a — and leave with little else. If the parents accused by the FBI are guilty as charged, don’t say they failed to understand the purpose of a college education. Say they understood its purpose all too well.

Bingo.

 

 

A Jumbo! One More Time: If You Trust PolitiFact, You Are As Biased As They Are

“Airplanes? I don’t see any airplanes!”

There are no good political factchecking organizations. Some are more ethical than others. Snopes is terrible, biased, and unreliable unless it is really checking urban legends. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler tries, but he works in the progressive bubble of Democrats who run the place, and he is corrupted. The Annenberg Foundation’s Fact-Check.org claims to be non-partisan and often succeeds, but of late it too has entered political advocacy into a category that is supposed to be only about objective facts.

As a general proposition, it is fair to call the  exercise of “factchecking” inherently misleading and so ripe for abuse that any fact check by a media organization should be viewed with extreme skepticism.

This goes double for PolitiFact; indeed, someone saying that this is their favorite fact checker has triggered signature significance. Nobody who is properly sensitive to partisan bias and committed to objectivity can possibly trust PolitiFact, a feature launched by a Democrat newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, and recently taken over by the Poynter Institute, which I once respected as a voice for ethical journalism. Like its industry, however, it is corrupt. Either that, or Poynter isn’t providing oversight for PolitiFact.

This is res ipsa loquitur. PolitiFact, like many other media hacks from the Left, meaning almost all of them, is trying to provide cover for the “Green New Deal” that the Democratic Party has foolishly embraced, by throwing up dust, word-salads and lies. The current approach is pure Jumbo, the Ethics Alarms category for a lie in the style and scale of Jimmy Durante’s classic, trying to steal an elephant and upon being stopped by a constable and asked what he was doing with a pachyderm on a rope, exclaiming, “Elephant? WHAT elephant?”

Here’s Politifact, lying: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/7/19: Kneeling Cub Scouts! Face-licking Politicians! Everything Is Spinning Out Of Control!

Good morning from Austin!

I really woke up in the Austin Marriott feeling pretty well for the first time in over a month. The bad news is that I might just have to stay here forever…

1. Tales of the double standard. The news media almost universally thinks that Nancy Pelosi’s sarcastic applause routine at the State of the Union this week was hilarious. Let’s keep this in mind the next time these people bemoan the deterioration of civic discourse and the toxic partisanship in Washington. It’s such a cliché by now that it is useless to repeat it, but I’ll say it anyway: imagine what the media reaction would have been if John Boehner or Paul Ryan had treated Barack Obama that disrespectfully during one of his speeches. They would have been up in arms in protest, and they would have been right. Or, if you like, imagine the fury from the news media if President Trump had responded in kind to Pelosi’s affront, and raised his middle finger right in her face.

At this point, he might as well.

2. Air Travel Ethics. I usually make sure that I have an aisle seat, but this time I was stuck at a window. When the plane reached the gate, the gentleman on the aside in my row just sat there, refusing to get up and allow me and the woman in the center to begin gathering our belongings from the upper bins. The woman in the center seat did everything short of saying, “Hey, ass, get up and let us out,” but he just sat there, chatting with his friend across the aisle.  In actual time, this probably delayed my exit from the plane a minute or two, but the feeling of being trapped is not pleasant. I’ve been on hundreds of flights, and this is the first time anyone deliberately blocked me in.

3. Northam-Fairfax-Herring fiasco updates!

Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, 1/24/19: Return To The Ethics Trenches Edition

Bvuh.

My old friend Robin Langer claimed when we were kids that “Bvuh” was the stupidest-sounding syllable that could be uttered in any language. It accurately expresses my state today, after a business trip that involved 6 hours of delays in two flights into and out of Ft. Lauderdale.

1. Is this fair? I’m in no shape to judge. Our second flight, last night, was delayed over an hour because Jet Blue delayed take-off for more than an hour so a plane of travelers from Aruba could make their connection to D.C. That’s funny: I’ve missed connections when my flight was a half-hour late landing. So the deal with Jet Blue is that your flight is late if your plane or its connections have problems (like the late arriving aircraft that caused me to arrive the night before at 12:30 am instead of 7:30 pm), and it’s also going to be late if any other flights are late, is that it? We got on the plane last night with the entire front of the plane empty, waiting for the Arubans.

2. CNN is now completely insane. Both airports play nothing but CNN on the TVs in the terminal—someone might want to review that policy, which probably originated from the period when it was a news channel, like when Bernie Shaw was on the air—and the guy sitting next to me on Jet Blue last night had CNN playing on his seat screen the whole three hours we were on the plane. It’s incredible: there are virtually nothing but anti-President Trump stories on CNN, without a break or end. Anti-Trump spin (“Of course Nancy Pelosi should block his speech!”), unsubstantiated anti-Trump hearsay (“Cohen says he was “threatened” by Trump!”), anti-Trump panels (“What has Mueller found and how soon should the House impeach him?”), and anti-Trump gloating (“The art of the deal hasn’t produced a deal, has it? Nyah nyah!”) One after another. Relentless. It is much, much worse than it was on my last trip, and the CNN obsession with feeding hatred and anger against the President was absurd then. No other stories appeared to be being covered except in the crawls across the bottom of the screen. Is it possible that people aren’t sick of this? Even the most drooling, deranged Trump-hater? It isn’t just propaganda; it’s more like brainwashing, a constant drum-beat of “Trump bad! Hate Trump!,” usually devoid of anything approaching fair analysis.

3. Today’s baseball ethics note: Yankees relief ace Mariano Rivera, who was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame this week, is  being praised to the skies in the sports media and elsewhere because the vote was unanimous for the first time in the Hall’s 80 year history. (A retired player needs 75% of the vote to be enshrined.) Nobody disputes that Rivera deserved to be admitted, and that his qualifications were beyond argument, but the fact that this time some idiots didn’t choose not to vote for him has nothing to do with the pitcher whatsoever. It certainly doesn’t mean that he’s somehow more deserving that the other slam-dunks (is that a mixed metaphor?) who didn’t get every vote they were due, like Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Willie Mays, Ted Williams and Hank Aaron.

If everyone before you has been treated unjustly, the fact that you weren’t mistreated isn’t something to be proud of. Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/10/18: “Ugh!” “Bah!” “Arf!””Ew!”And “Ahh!”

Why are these guys happy? Read on…

Goooood morning!

1. Why does anyone pay attention to what Dan Rather has to say about the trustworthiness of the news media? Interviewed in some Trump-bashing forum or another, the man who was fired from CBS for using a fake document to bolster an anti-President Bush story argued that President Trump was waging a “war on the press” in order  to “undermine the public’s trust in the rule of law, ” and that he was making “some headway” in undermining the press’s legitimacy.

To the contrary, Dan Rather and his biased news media colleagues have been 100% responsible for undermining the public’s trust in journalists. All of the Presidents attacks and insults would come to nothing if it were not so obvious, which more evidence every day, that the news media was biased, incompetent, dishonest, and pursuing a partisan agenda. Indeed, the fact that CNN, MSNBC and other news sources still resort to Rather as a credible commentator is enough to justify distrusting the new media all by itself.

2. Yup, those Republicans won’t return to civility…Kathy Griffin, trenchant as always and teeming with wit, has now called President Trump a “stupid racist piece of shit.” It is time to definitively establish that the “Trump is a racist” slur is a Democrat/”resistance” Big Lie, and nothing else. There is no evidence that Donald Trump is a racist. I have reviewed the episodes that supported support that contention, and ultimately they boil down to “If you aren’t a progressive, you’re a racist.” Trump opposes illegal immigration, and the dishonest advocacy of open borders has relied on intimidating supporters of this self-evidently correct position by tarring them as racist. Trump challenged Barack Obana’s birthright citizenship exactly as he challenged Ted Cruz’s citizenship in the 2016 campaign for the GOP nomination. (Ted’s not black, in case you hadn’t noticed.) The argument that this proves Trump is a racist is a failed syllogism: Many racists were birthers, Trump was a birther, ergo he’s a racist. False. He’s an asshole. He would have trolled any President, of any color, with the same idiotic accusation if it suited his purposes. But, again, the Democratic play-book for eight years now has dictated that any criticism of Obama is suspect of racist motives. And, of course, the President must be racist because he wants to limit the number of Muslims who enter the country from hotbeds of terrorism.

The hypocrisy of Trump’s foes using the Nazi Big Lie tactic while accusing him of being a fascist is so obvious that it’s hard to believe everyone doesn’t see it. I admit, it’s a versatile Big Lie, allowing pundits to equate Trump’s advocacy of “nationalism,” meaning opposition to the world government dreams the Democratic Party (and quite a few Republicans) have been promoting since Woodrow Wilson (who WAS as racist) with “white nationalism.”

Griffin’s “evidence”? The President said the White House might pull the press credentials of April Ryan, who happens to be black. If CNN was real news organization, it would have fired Ryan, who is a biased, ideologically-driven hack, long ago. Here are the Ethics Alarms Ryan files. Here is what April Ryan considers legitimate questioning of the White House Press Secretary:

“Sarah, is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong? Sarah, does this administration believe slavery was wrong?”

Stop making me defend President Trump. Continue reading

The Flight Connection Dilemma, Or “It’s Hell Being An Ethicist”

Increasingly, I find myself wondering whether everyone who travels on business regularly encounters the vast range of irritations, outrages and generally unpleasant experiences I do, or if it’s just me. This time, on an over-night trip to Boston, I had important medicine confiscated by the TSA, got trapped in a hotel elevator, ran out of the house without my computer, injured my mouth when a sharp piece of food pierced a gum, and, of course, my flight was delayed. This time the delay would cause a genuine hardship: I had an important and time-sensitive task to complete involving the welfare, indeed safety, of two family members, and it meant that I had to be home no later than 6:40 pm.

When we finally landed at Reagan National, which is less than a 20 minute cab ride from my home if the lights and traffic break well, there was still a slim chance that I could make my deadline, IF the plane emptied quickly. The flight attendants said that there were several passenger who probably had tight connections, and asked them to raise their hands so everyone could stay seated to help them bolt the plane and try to make their flights.

Being human, my mind filled with rationalizations for raising my hand. I did have a tight connection, sort of. The urgency of my need to leave the plane wasn’t necessarily less than any of my fellow passengers. In fact, it was objectively important. And really, what would be the harm if I raised my hand? What might that cost one of the passengers trying to make a connection, 5 seconds? Ten? And how did I know everyone raising their hands really had a plane to catch?

But crap. I’m an ethicist. Raising my hand would be a lie, and there were no substantial or legitimate justifications for it. So I kept my hand down. I missed my crucial appointment, and it is going to cause me and two family members a lot of unpleasantness. Nonetheless, it was the right thing to do.

Right?