Ethics Lunch, 9/24/2019: Big Hairy Men! Teen Rants! Legalized Theft! Insulting The Poor With Kindness!

 

Yum!

Or rather, “yecchhh!”

1.  Ben Carson doesn’t think women’s shelters should admit men identifying as women. Obviously, he must be destroyed. Has there ever been a tiny minority that has triggered so many gotchas and excessive controversies like trans citizens?

Let me stipulate that Ben Carson has no business being Secretary of HUD, as he is completely unqualified and possessed of narrow brilliance in an unrelated area and crippling dufus-ness in all others, so this goes in the “Stop Making Me Defend Ben Carson” files.

Nonetheless, the current outrage over remarks he made in a closed-door meeting with roughly 50 HUD staffers at the agency’s San Francisco office are contrived, and blatant virtue-signaling to the hyper-sensitive Democratic base.

Let me also stipulate that Carson is an idiot for not being able to figure out that in any group of San Francisco residents there would be several just looking for a “Ben Carson is an anti-trans bigot” smoking gun.

Carson wrote in an all-staff email that he

“…made reference to the fact that I had heard from many women’s groups about the difficulty they were having with women’s shelters because sometimes men would claim to be women, and that HUD’s policy required the shelter to accept—without question—the word of whoever came in, regardless of what their manifested physical characteristics appeared to be.This made many of the women feel unsafe, and one of the groups described a situation to me in which ‘big hairy men’ would come in and have to be accepted into the women’s shelter even though it made the women in the facility very uncomfortable,. My point was that we have to permit policies that take into consideration the rights of everybody, including those women.”

This was relayed to the media by a few enraged staffers as Carson referring to trans individuals as “big hairy men,” as well as representing insufficiently supportive sentiments towards the transgender community. “The sentiment conveyed was these were not women, and they should not be housed in single-sex shelters — like we shouldn’t force people to accept transgender people in this context because it makes other people uncomfortable,” one staffer told the Washington Post.

To the contrary, what Carson was referencing  is a legitimate concern. Having recently been served at McDonalds by someone who certainly appeared to be a big hairy man wearing a beard, a woman’s wig and a bra, I understand the problem, and it is a problem—not at McDonalds, but surely in a women’s shelter.  Because Carson acknowledged reality,  Julián Castro, a former HUD secretary and a 2020 Democratic candidate for President, said Carson’s comments “normalize violence” against transgender people. Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats piled on.

2. Immunity again, bad judges again, KABOOM! again. Where do these judges come from?

The Fresno Police Department carried out a raid on Micah Jessop and Brittan Ashjian, who were suspected of operating illegal gambling machines, though no charges were ever brought. After the search, officers provided both men with a ledger stating that the police had seized $50,000. Jessop and Ashjian allege that the officers really took $151,380 in cash and $125,000 in rare coins, pocketing $226,380 in what was outright robbery.

Are you ready? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/17/2019: Georgia On Various Minds, Carson’s Deficiencies, Harris’s Pandering

Good morning, Ethics Lovers!

The solo performer is the immortal Doodles Weaver, Sigourney’s uncle.

1.  This is indefensible, and—I hate to keep using this word, but don’t blame me, blame prevailing political winds—totalitarian. Carl Malamud believes that there should be open access to government records, and he has a group that has been  putting them online for years. When his group  posted the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, however, the state sued for copyright infringement claiming that giving the public access to the state’s laws and related legal materials without the state’s authorization is the “strategy of terrorism.”

No, having laws that the public has no way to see or understand without paying for them is the strategy of dictators. A federal appeals court has ruled against the state, and now Georgia wants the Supreme Court to step in. So does Public.Resource.Org, Malamud’s group, which also wants SCOTUS to resolve the issue,  since the question of who owns the law is  current in  20 other states that have copyrighted their  annotated codes. The issue is whether citizens can have access to “the raw materials of our democracy.”

I think Georgia is going to lose and lose ugly, though I have given up prediction 9-0 Supreme Court rulings. That’s what this one should be, though.

2. More on “the best people” front. One awful aspect of the Trump Administration that cannot be defended is the President’s irresponsible appointments, which are too numerous to list. In the case of Dr. Ben Carson, whom Ethics Alarms assessed as some kind of idiot savant based on his embarrassing performance in the debates, we knew, or should have known, that Trump appointing him Secretary of HUD was a guaranteed fiasco in the making. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/2/18: Stupid Legislature Tricks, NFL Values, And Google Is Now Evil, So Watch Out

Good Morning!

Haven’t featured the Battle Hymn of the Republic for a while: it was the musical climax of my Dad’s funeral service at Arlington National Cemetary. My many performer friends sure came through that day. “Wow,” the chaplain exclaimed when the rousing three choruses were finished.

1. On Wisconsin. After a party flip in state governments, the party on the way out will occasionally try to pass lame duck legislation to try to hamstring the new majority. I’m pretty Ethics Alarms has covered other examples of this in the past; if not, it’s because the stunt is usually grandstanding for the base, or mere politics Such laws often fail to  withstand judicial challenge. If a legislature can get away with it, then it’s in the ethics gray zone of politics.

On Monday, the GOP majority Wisconsin legislature will try to pass as much as it can of a huge bill with many dubious or controversial provisions, including some that would limit the new governor’s powers to control the state attorney general, and others that would constrict broad powers the same legislature gave to the defeated Republican governor, Scott Walker. As long as a legislature has power to act, one cannot logically criticize efforts to benefit that legislature’s majority party and its constituents until it has the power to do so no more. If the parties mutually agreed to informally ban such lame duck tricks, that would be wonderful.

As it would be if I could win an Olympic swimming medal.

Sources: Journal-Sentinel 1, 2, 3

2. How clever, and further vulgarizing public discourse, too! I have now heard two ad for Christmas products use the term “elfing,” as in “It’s elfing awesome!” ZOne was a TBS ad for the movie “Elf.”

Really? Obvious plays on the word fuck to promote Christmas and a children’s film? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/2/18: Of Tyros, Typos, Grandstanders And Rotting Fish Heads

Good Morning!

1 Don’t try that here! Several commenters on the Ethics Hero post yesterday , about a British minister resigning in self-declared disgrace after he was late for a session in Parliament, argued that his wasn’t a true resignation because he had to know it wouldn’t be accepted. I had written a comment to that theory, but I decided to post it on the Warm-up instead.

Fake resignations are unethical. Ethical people don’t attempt such a stunt, which is designed to make everyone beg them to return and create a sense of power and importance. I learned long ago in my parallel theater and management careers not to trust or tolerate subordinates who threatened to quit, telling one cast member of this ilk, in what he thought was  too-vital a lead role to be relaced last in rehearsals and who made the threat in a full cast rehearsal, “You have ten seconds to either quit, be fired, or retract that threat. I’ll play your part myself if I have to, and I’ll be a lot better at it. 10-9-8…” He retracted the threat. When I took over a struggling, spectacularly badly managed health promotion organization in Maryland and announced major policy changes, two legacy managers of the non-profit handed in their resignations in protest.  Then they came to work the next day. My predecessor, it seemed, routinely tolerated such games. They were shocked, indignant and angry when I told them, “You don’t work here any more, remember? You quit. Good luck in your future endeavors. Now get out.”

Ethics Alarms, as veterans here know, has the same policy regarding commenters who self-exile, usually with a “Good day, sir! I am done here!” flourish. When they try to weigh in days, weeks, or months later, they find that their self-banning is permanent. This is now explicit in the Comments Policies. As at least six regulars here know from their own experiences, I reserve the right to try persuade a valued commenter to reconsider his or her exit, and I have done that as a manager with subordinates too. But anyone who counts on a resignation being rejected is a fool.

I have to believe that Lord Bates’s resignation was principled, not grandstanding.

2. Fox owes me a keyboard!  Yesterday afternoon,  I spit out a mouthful of coffee when Fox News flashed this news item under a feature while I was surfing the news channels to see what was happening to the “secret memo”: “Poll Says Majority of Americans Support Border Ball.”

This came up multiple times. I think spending billions of dollars for any ball is unethical, whether it is the party or the toy, or even if “Border ball” is a new professional sport that doesn’t give its players CTE.

And speaking of typos, yes, I would fire for cause everyone in the chain who let this happen…

If you don’t have enough respect for the government, its institutions and the nation to take more pride in your work than that, you shouldn’t be working for the government.

3. A show of hands: Who has heard about this depressing story? Anyone? Funny that the mainstream news media doesn’t think it’s newsworthy… The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that many of the nation’s “historically black colleges and universities” have ridiculously low graduation rates.  The newspaper found that the six-year graduation rates at twenty schools were 20% t or lower in 2015, and some schools in the category had graduation rates as low as 5%.  Here was the explanation offered by Marybeth Gasman, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania who directs the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions: Continue reading

The Alabama U.S. Senate Republican Run-Off: The Worst Choice Ever [UPDATED]

And you thought having to choose between Hillary and Donald Trump was bad!

The upcoming Republican run-off for the special election to choose a successor to Alabama previous GOP Senator Jeff Sessions, now U.S. Attorney General, is as bad as it gets. Whoever wins is certain to be elected in super-red Alabama over Democrat Doug Jones, but one GOP candidate is corrupt and absurd, and the other is absurd, a fanatic and a habitual scofflaw. Both can be counted upon to immediately lower the ethical and intellectual level of the U.S. Senate, and normally I would assume that only electing a horseshoe crab or some other lower species could do the latter, while nothing short of sending Hillary Clinton back there could accomplish the former. That Alabama voters would allow their state’s seat in the U.S. Senate to depend on a run-off between these two examples of the worst of the U.S. politics bestiary doesn’t merely show that the state is backwards, it shows that its voters deserve one of these jerks. The rest of us, however, do not.

Let’s look at the two contestants, shall we? First current Senator Luther Strange, whose best feature is his name. Allow me to save you a click by re-posting a substantial section from February’s post about him:

When the Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General in hearings that may be best remembered as the time Elizabeth Warren earned the fawning admiration of feminists by behaving like a mean-spirited jerk, it meant that Alabama’s Republican governor got to appoint his successor. There wasn’t much discussion in the news media about who this might be, because it’s hard for journalists to inform the public properly when it is concentrating on bringing down the President, per the orders of their Eldritch Progressive Masters—sorry, I’ve got Dr. Strange stuff rattling around in my brain now—but there was some interesting speculation in Alabama.

You see,  Republican Governor Robert Bentley is fighting to avoid  impeachment as the result of a sex scandal, and one that called his honesty into question as well.

An official fired by Bentley alleged that the Governor had engaged in an extramarital affair with his senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. An audio recording surfaced in which Bentley told a woman named “Rebekah” that he “worr[ied] about loving you so much” and that “[w]hen I stand behind you, and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts […] and just pull you real close. I love that, too.” At a press conference, Bentley apologized for the comments but denied having an affair and stated that his relationship with Mason was purely platonic.

Sure.

Bentley invaded the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List, saying that  he “had made a mistake” by saying “inappropriate things” to his aide, and apologized to Mason , her family and to the people of Alabama. On April 5, 2016, an impeachment resolution against Bentley was filed in the State Legislature, which appointed a special counsel to lead an investigation into the impeachment charges. Then, in November, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange asked that the investigation be halted pending “related work” by his office. This was widely interpreted to mean that Strange, also a Republican but not an ally of Bentley’s, was overseeing his own investigation of whether charges should be brought against Bentley.

Trump was elected President on November 8, and ten days later he announced his intention to nominate Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. On December 6, 2016, Strange announced that he was a candidate for the soon to be vacant seat, meaning that he would run in the 2018 election, if he wasn’t appointed to fill the vacancy by Bentley.

With the wolves gathering at  his door, however, that’s exactly what Gov. Bentley did. He appointed the man who was overseeing his current impeachment investigation to the U.S. Senate, thus creating a vacancy in the Attorney General’s post. Then he appointed a new AG named Steve Marshall (no relation), who many doubt will vigorously pursue an indictment against the governor.

Can you say, “Appearance of impropriety”?

I can’t imagine a better example of how the law can’t anticipate everything, making ethics indispensable.   There is an Alabama law prohibiting a governor from appointing himself to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy, but nobody foresaw a situation where a governor facing impeachment would interfere with the investigation by appointing a political adversary and the Attorney General overseeing the investigation to fill the slot. This is entirely legal, and spectacularly unethical.

Some in the state wonder if Strange’s request to the legislature wasn’t part of a deal with the Governor, in anticipation of a Sessions departure.  “He definitely slowed down the impeachment process, which put the governor in a place to actually appoint him. That’s the problem we have,” said Ed Henry, the legislator who brought the original  impeachment motion to a vote.  “He stopped an impeachment process and then in turn accepted the nomination to the Senate. I believe the damage is already done.”

For this to have been a pre-arranged  quid pro quo would have required that Strange and Bentley both believe that Trump would win, however. Hmmmm. Maybe they were in league with the Russians too…?

Yet it requires no conspiracy theory to conclude that for Strange to accept Bentley’s appointment makes him complicit in a sequence of events  that appears corrupt. It is too redolent of the Roland Burris affair, when now jailed former Illinois governor Rod Blagojavich was caught selling a Senate appointment. Burris swore in an affidavit  that he had no contact with the governor prior to his appointment to a Senate seat he had no qualifications for, and then as soon as he was safely on office, suddenly remembered that he had met with “Blago.”

The newly minted Senator Strange, had he been an ethics hero—and shouldn’t we be able to expect our elected officials to be ethics heroes?—could have foiled Bentley, inspired Alabamans, and proved that he would be a worthy Senator when he ran in 2018, if he had simply turned down the appointment, saying,

‘I am grateful and honored that Governor Bentley felt that I was qualified to represent the citizen of Alabama in the U.S. Senate. However, I feel I would betray the trust of those same citizens if I were to accept the post under these circumstances. As the lawyer for the people, I am obligated to undertake and oversee a fair and objective investigation of serious allegations against the Governor, and this raised a conflict of interest for me, pitting my personal political ambition against my duties in my current position. Moreover, should I accept the Governor’s offer, it would raise doubts regarding the functioning of the legal system as well as my personal integrity. Therefore I must decline the appointment.’

Nah.

Now, however, the Senator has proven himself unworthy of his new job by accepting it.

Strange!

Now normally I would say that anyone—Kathy Griffin, Jimmy Kimmel, Dormammu—is a preferable U.S. Senate choice than this shameless, ambitious hack. Roy Moore, however, is a piece of work. The one-time kickboxer and full time fundamentalist Christian fanatic first warranted Ethics Alarms notice as an Incompetent Elected Official in 2014, and his recognition came that late only because I viewed his stand-off over displaying the Ten Commandments in his court room and trying to turn Alabama justice into a theocracy too ridiculous to write about (and Ethics Alarms didn’t exist then.) Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Double Standards, Hypocrisy, News Media Bias, “Bias Makes You Stupid” And Cognitive Dissonance—This One Has Them All! Thanks, Ben Carson!”

Literally everyone I told about Ben Carson equating slaves with immigrants made a face like they had bitten on a lemon. The comparison is distasteful at a visceral level, because what we think of as immigration does not include being captured and shipped in chains to a strange land for sale, raping and breeding. Once it was pointed out that Barack Obama, rather than only Trump’s notoriously clueless HUD Secretary ( He believes, for example, that Egypt’s pyramids were built to store grain, not dead pharaohs), also championed this false equivalency, many rushed to defend it. The default argument was  that old standby of the desperate, the dictionary, asserting that the most common definition of  immigrant,  “a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country,” applies to those who arrived in slave ships too. It is an intellectually dishonest position. Wikipedia accurately describes what immigrant means in common parlance–and it isn’t slavery:

Immigration is the international movement of people into a destination country of which they are not natives or where they do not possess citizenship in order to settle or reside there, especially as permanent residents or naturalized citizens, or to take-up employment as a migrant worker or temporarily as a foreign worker

In discussing “push and pull factors,” the article notes:

Push factors refer primarily to the motive for immigration from the country of origin. In the case of economic migration (usually labor migration), differentials in wage rates are common. If the value of wages in the new country surpasses the value of wages in one’s native country, he or she may choose to migrate, as long as the costs are not too high. Particularly in the 19th century, economic expansion of the US increased immigrant flow, and nearly 15% of the population was foreign-born, thus making up a significant amount of the labor force.

How odd, then, that the Africans slaves were pushed to “migrate” to a land where they received no wages at all! Of course, the “costs” were paid for by others, so that was one incentive, I guess…

Non-economic push factors include persecution (religious and otherwise), frequent abuse, bullying, oppression, ethnic cleansing, genocide, risks to civilians during war, and social marginalization..

Wow, those African “immigrants” were strange. They immigrated to get more persecution, terrible abuse, and ultimate social marginalization!

I confess I find the defense of this intentional blurring of material distinctions for cynical demagoguery as annoying as the demagoguery itself.

Fortunately, texagg04 managed to be more restrained, and approaches the issue from a different and interesting perspective. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Double Standards, Hypocrisy, News Media Bias, “Bias Makes You Stupid” And Cognitive Dissonance—This One Has Them All! Thanks, Ben Carson!”: Continue reading

Double Standards, Hypocrisy, News Media Bias, “Bias Makes You Stupid” And Cognitive Dissonance—This One Has Them All! Thanks, Ben Carson!

Here come some dreamy immigrants, longing to be free!

HUD Secretary Ben Carson is, as we learned last year, an idiot, or perhaps and idiot savant. He’s also a Republican and currently in the Trump Administration. Clearly, anything he says is likely to be  ridiculous, and probably offensive. Barack Obama, on the other hand, is brilliant. Brilliant, I tell you! He is also idolized by journalists—he sends a thrill up Chris Matthews’ leg!—, and, indeed in part because he is a Democrat and a liberal. Obama is also, of course, worshiped by blacks, intellectuals and progressives. Carson is black too,  but he is a Republican and a conservative, so the black thing is cancelled out.

Now, what happens when Carson and Obama say exactly the same thing?

While speaking to a group of employees at his department on Monday, Carson said:

“There were other immigrants who came in the bottom of slave ships, who worked even longer, even harder, for less, but they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great grandsons, great granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”

What an idiot! “Immigrants?” mocked the NAACP. The Washington Post, New York Times, the Hill, Politico, and others headlined Carson’s comments, so bizarre, stupid and insensitive were they. Listen to this dummy! And Trump appointed him as a Department head! “Ben You’re A Fool! Slaves were not Immigrants! headlined the Miami Herald.

Now, a while back, when the brilliant, progressive, President Barack Obama ,said this about slave ships:

We say it so often, we sometimes forget what it means — we are a nation of immigrants. Unless you are one of the first Americans, a Native American, we are all descended from folks who came from someplace else — whether they arrived on the Mayflower or on a slave ship, whether they came through Ellis Island or crossed the Rio Grande.

Continue reading