Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/11/2019: Smears, Excuses And Betrayals

Ethics Alarms wishes you the best this morning…

1. How low can they go? NBC News published a 1768-word article this week examining Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s slave-holding  ancestors.

The 1850 and 1860 censuses reveal that between them, two of the Kentucky Senators’ great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned at least 14 slaves in Alabama.The article’s apparent objective is to suggest that  Sen. McConnell’s ancestors may have influenced his policy positions, implying that he is racist by blood.

Nah, there’s no mainstream news media bias!

Asked about his ancestors in a press conference, McConnell pointed out that Barack Obama also has slave-holding  relatives in his family tree. Mitch was nicer than I would have been. I yield to no one in my dislike for the Senate Leader, but this is a self-evident smear ny NBC, a blatant “guilt by association” ploy with the damning associations being with people McConnell never knew.

Have you no sense of decency, NBC, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

In full disclosure, my father’s mother’s family, also from Kentucky, owned slaves. One of them, a housekeeper, continued to be employed by the family, and my grandmother cared for her in the woman’s old age, as a permanent guest and companion until she died.

Amazingly, this did not make me a fan of Mitch McConnell.

2. I’m STUNNED! Well, no, actually I knew this more than 30 years ago, when I oversaw a non-partisan study on the issue. From NPR:

Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would increase the pay of at least 17 million people, but also put 1.3 million Americans out of work, according to a study by the Congressional Budget Office released on Monday.

The increased federal minimum could also raise the wages of another 10 million workers and lift 1.3 million Americans out of poverty, according to the nonpartisan CBO. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 and last increased a decade ago.

The budget watchdog’s report comes ahead of next week’s vote in the House of Representatives on a bill to gradually raise the federal minimum to $15 an hour by 2024.

The minimum wage is an example of the Left’s “Don’t confuse us with facts, our minds are made up!” orientation when it comes to thoroughly debunked socialist cant. It’s pretty simple: when the compensation required for  certain jobs outweigh the value of those jobs, the jobs disappear. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the author of  the Raise the Wage Act, argued that the benefits in CBO’s forecast far outweighed the costs. Tell that to the restaurant owners who will have to close up shop, and the 1.3 million who lose their jobs, Bobby. All for the greater good!

Politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who push a massive minimum wage increase are counting on the public’s ignorance, as in other issues. Continue reading

Ethics Hero Or Ethics Dunce? The Rogue Valedictorian

I couldn’t find an appropriate graphic for this story, so I decided to post this, my favorite photo of anything, ever.

[My mind is made up about this one, but because my brain is fried after my just completed Rhode trip, I’m willing to be dissuaded.]

Nataly Nolastnamebecauseapparentlyshesoldenoughtobeapublicjerk-Buttooyoungtoaccepttheconsequencesofheractions (I wonder what nationality that is?) was the valedictorian  at the San Ysidro High School  graduation ceremonies. All was going well with the young woman’s speech, which, according to the communications director for the Sweet Union High School District, had been duly approved by the San Ysidro school administration, when her oratory suddenly took a dark and unexpected turn.  After expressing gratitude to her friends, family and some teachers at the school, she began using her moment on stage to throw metaphorical bombs and settle scores.

“To my counselor, thank you for letting me fend for myself,” she said. “You were always unavailable to my parents and I, despite appointments….You expressed to me your joy in having one of your students be valedictorian when you had absolutely no role in my achievements.”

Ms. Nolastnamebecauseapparentlyshesoldenoughtobeapublicjerk-Buttooyoungtoaccepttheconsequencesofheractions moved on to attacking the administration staff, for “teaching me how to be resourceful” because, she claimed,  they failed to inform her of scholarships in a timely manner. Then she really got down to it, telling the audience about a San Ysidro teacher who , she said,“regularly” came to class up drunk.  Natalie thanked the teacher sarcastically for warning students about “the dangers of alcoholism.”

With a final coda—- “I hope that future students and staff learn from these examples”—she left the stage to the cheers of her fellow students.

Here is the Ethics Hero argument, which I expect some, especially some  current high school students, to make: Continue reading

From The “Easy Ethics Questions That Some People Think Are Hard” File: “Should A Father Warn His Daughter’s Boyfriend That She’s A Sociopath?”

Of course not.

On the the sub-Reddit “AmITheAsshole” board,  a father consulted the group as to whether it would be  wrong for him to warn daughter’s fiancé-to-be  that she’s been diagnosed  as a clinical sociopath. She is  attracted to her boyfriend, he said, she has told him in the past that  she doesn’t feel love or empathy towards anyone, nor guilt or  grief.  Yup, that sounds like a sociopath, all right. A doctor diagnosed the daughter as suffering from antisocial personality disorder at age 18.

“She exhibited odd, disturbing behavior at a young age, and after a serious incident of abuse towards her younger sister, I realized she needed professional help,” Dad wrote. “Throughout her elementary years she struggled heavily, getting in lots of trouble in school for lying, cruelty, and all other types of misbehaviors. With an enormous amount of therapy and support, her bad behavior was minimized as she grew older.”

Her boyfriend has no idea, the father believes, what kind of person he will be marrying, and the father believes that he has a right to know, saying,  “I really like and respect this young man, and would feel awful keeping this ‘secret’ from him, and letting him walk into a marriage without this piece of knowledge.”

Yet since her diagnosis, the daughter seems to have her behavior under control. She has a good job, successfully navigated through college and has  many friends. She is also popular on the dating scene.

The Reddit participants seem to have been flummoxed by the father’s dilemma. I’m not. The ethical course is clear. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/6/2019: Who’s The Worst? [CORRECTED]

Good morning!

The day got off to a grand start when the first thing that came up on TV was the ending of John Wayne’s “True Grit.” When the Coen Brothers did their (dark) remake starring Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, I wondered which version would survive as the definitive one. Sometimes remakes of classic films obliterate the originals, like “The Thing,” or “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.” Sometimes the original films are so obviously superior that the remake just vanishes. Sometimes it should vanish, but doesn’t, like the ugly “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” created by Tim Burton. Both “True Grit’s ” are excellent, but so far, at least, the Duke’s Oscar-willing performance has prevailed. Good.

1. From the “You can’t fool all of the people all the time, especially if you’re a callow, arrogant fool” files:  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offended an audience made up predominantly of African Americans when she slipped into assumed regional slang to lecture them about the dignity of menial jobs for life

“I’m proud to be a bartender, ain’t nothing wrong with that!” Ocasio-Cortez proclaimed. [CORRECTION NOTE: Originally, the version of this statement I had was an Ebonics-fest that I got off of a tweet from an attendee. This was incorrect: thanks to Chris Marschner for the fact check.]

Actually, the real offense was her content, not her delivery. This is communist cant for the proles: don’t aspire to more than your hum-drum jobs, for you are serving the greater good (and your superior overlords). That’s not the American values system, or American culture, which encourages productive dissatisfaction, personal initiative, and determination to be better and do better.

2. I knew Harvard wouldn’t be able to duck the college admission scandal! Harvard has launched  an “independent investigation” into a series of suspicious events that occurred in 2016. Wealthy businessman  Jie “Jack” Zhaopaid inexplicably paid $989,500  for a home in the Boston suburbs that was valued at only $549,300.  Seventeen months later he sold that home for $665,000, for a loss of $324,000. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “KABOOM! Biden Takes A Bribe”

Well, yes, he took the 30 pieces of silver, but Judas genuinely supported what the Romans had done, in a spirit of bi-partisanship…

Side-issue: Is it proper to give out a Comment of the Day when it is almost entirely a quote from another source? In this case, I’m doing it, in part because the commenter, Michael, is perfectly capable of writing the same sentiment just as articulately, if not better, and second, because I want his argument on the record, because it is so wrong.

I must admit, I never expected anyone to disagree with the post regarding Joe Biden’s betrayal of his party in exchange for $200,000. Such speaking fees are per se ethically dubious, as the Clinton Foundation experience should have taught us, especially when the speaker is a blathering fool like Joe Biden. I’d pay something to hear Hillary, Bill or Obama speak. But giving Biden six figures for his usual gaffes reminds me of Gerald Ford’s speaking fees after he left the Presidency. Gerald Ford never gave a non-soporific, inciteful speech in his life. He was selling influence, just like the Clintons, and just like Biden. It’s not illegal if you’re not holding office, but it is always unethical.

What Biden did was especially unethical. Both Michael and his authority call what Biden did bi-partisanship. It was not. Bi-partisanship is when partisan elected officials work across the aisle toward legislation and policies that their had-core party base might oppose, in the best interests of the nation and the public. That’s ethical, because an elected official’s duties, which all swear tom are bipartisan. Joe Biden, however, is not an elected official. He is a leader of the Democratic Party. His duty is to the party and the party’s legitimate interests. If he does not support those interests, then he should stop calling himself a Democrat, or at very least abstain from leadership.

Biden’s duty was to try to make sure his party won the House. Losing the House would have been a disaster. For all he knew, that single race might have been the difference between a House majority and a Democratic loss. He could not ethically choose his own interests over the party, and that’s what he did. The endorsement was based on Biden’s personal interests—cancer research, because of his son—and not the party’s. This is a serious conflict of interest. Now, since Joe is a dolt, this might not have occurred to him. Still, based on his personal agenda, he saw fit to harm the prospects of his own party’s candidate. Betrayal, by definition. Frankly (to quote from Miachel’s quoted source), I don’t care whether “most Americans” don’t recognize what’s wrong here. Most Americans, indeed most politicians, don’t comprehend what conflicts of interest are. I do. It’s my job.

Biden’s conduct was unethical, placing his personal agenda above hos party’s, even before we get to the ugly fact that he was paid to do it—by a foundation run by the family of the GOP candidate he was praising. Note that the piece ahead doesn’t mention this little detail at all.  It’s hilarious, really. “This is what we’ve come to: partisans attacking a lifelong public servant because he has the nerve to show active support for a member of another party who played a key role in the passage of legislation that vastly improves efforts to fight a disease that took the life of his child.” Yes, and all he need to work up that “nerve” was a check for $200,000. 

Here is Michael’s Comment of the Day on the post, KABOOM! Biden Takes A Bribe:

My “feeling” (perhaps naive, or perhaps you infer more than I do) are almost captured by this from The Hill:

“Recently, the New York Times breathlessly reported that former Vice President Joe Biden had the temerity to praise a long-serving Republican member of Congress during a speech to a Midwest audience in the run-up to the 2018 election. This member—Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan—went on to win re-election by a relatively narrow margin. And now that Biden is signaling that he may very well run for president in 2020, the partisan knives are out—and it’s members of his own party who are holding them. This sad little vignette exemplifies exactly what is wrong with American politics today.

“Mr. Biden stunned Democrats and elated Republicans by praising Mr. Upton while the lawmaker looked on from the audience,” the Times reports. “Alluding to Mr. Upton’s support for a landmark medical-research law, Mr. Biden called him a champion in the fight against cancer—and ‘one of the finest guys I’ve ever worked with.’” As the Times also notes, Upton had nothing to do with Biden giving the speech, and there is “no evidence Mr. Biden was motivated to praise the lawmaker by anything other than sincere admiration, stemming from Mr. Upton’s role in crafting the 21st Century Cures Act after the death of Mr. Biden’s elder son, Beau, from cancer in 2015.”

This is what we’ve come to: partisans attacking a lifelong public servant because he has the nerve to show active support for a member of another party who played a key role in the passage of legislation that vastly improves efforts to fight a disease that took the life of his child. It’s shameful, self-serving—and frankly bad politics. Most Americans would look at Biden’s praise for Upton for what it is: a genuine expression of humanity, respect, and gratitude. Upton responded in turn: “Being in the audience with my family and hearing Vice President Biden reference our work together was an immense honor…He was warmly received by everyone in attendance who were thrilled to have him there, including myself.”

As Biden spokesman Bill Russo says in response, “Vice President Biden believes to his core that you can disagree politically on a lot and still work together in good faith on issues of common cause—like funding cancer research.” Biden himself responded similarly and with good humor: “I read in New York Times today…that one of my problems is if I ever run for president, I like Republicans,” Biden told the Conference of Mayors. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” He added: “But, you know, from where I come from, I don’t know how you get anything done…unless we start talking to one another again.” Continue reading

KABOOM! Biden Takes A Bribe

I have low expectations of Joe Biden ethically and intellectually, but this made my head explode.

Three weeks before the November elections, Joe Biden spoke at Lake Michigan College before an audience including Representative Fred Upton,  Republican, who represented the area and was in a tough race for reelection. Biden effusively praised Upton, reflecting on his support for cancer research and calling him “one of the finest guys I’ve ever worked with.” Biden’s surprising endorsement was included in Upton’s campaign ads, and the Republican narrowly defeated his Democratic challenger. This week, the New York Times revealed that Biden received $200,000 from the The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan to give the speech, according to a  contract obtained by the Times and and its interviews with organizers. The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan  is supported in part by grants from a foundation run by Fred Upton’s family.

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

That’s a bribe, my friends. It’s not the illegal kind, though if Upton were a lawyer and he paid Biden to say that he was a great one, that could get Upton suspended or disbarred. Joe Biden, a former Democratic VP with the accumulated prestige and respect that position carries, accepted $200,000 from Republicans to help defeat a fellow Democrat.

Nice.

Of course that was unethical; also venal, disloyal and dishonest. It was, at very least, what the government ethics regulations call “the appearance of impropriety,” endangering the public trust. What was represented as a genuine endorsement was no more sincere than when celebrities pimp for breakfast cereal or cosmetics; it was baught and paid for. Did Biden’s audience know he was paid that much endorse Upton? Did the voters who saw his remarks not think, “This guy must be great: he was endorsed by a leader of the Democratic Party!”

Biden now acts as if there is nothing to be ashamed of, telling the US Conference of Mayors after the story came out, “I like Republicans. Bless me, father, for I have sinned!” This is deceit and obfuscation: it’s not the endorsement itself that is damning, it’s the bribe. Biden accepted an obscene speaking fee to throw a fellow Democrat under the bus.  Vox, which has about as much integrity as Biden has, also tried to lead readers away from the real issue. “Praising a House Republican for their good work on cancer research isn’t exactly at odds with how Biden views himself or wants to present himself to the public. He wants people to believe he can bring Americans together. But if Biden decides to jump into the race, the question will be whether that’s the message Democratic primary voters want to hear right now,” the progressive site concluded.

Gee, do you think voters might also have doubts about the character and integrity of a politician who takes a bribe to undermine his own party? Vox doesn’t even seem to see that as an issue, or sees that it is an issue and is helping Uncle Joe bury it.

Biden is currently the front-runner in polling regarding possible Democratic Presidential candidates.

Ethics Observations On The Mattis Resignation

President Trump announced that he was ending the U.S. mission in Syria, and drawing down the troop level in Afghanistan. His Secretary of Defense,General Mattis, resigned in protest, and copied his letter of resignation to the world.

The news media, social media, and full time anti-Trump hysterics, among others, went bonkers.

  • What’s going on here? A President who has long held that U.S. domestic priorities are more important than “being the world’s policeman” followed through on his promise. As is his wont, he sprung the actual news without laying a foundation to cushion the blow. Nobody knows whether the decisions will work out or not, but the assumption is that because this President is the one making the decisions, they must be stupid, evil, or both. This, despite the fact that Barack Obama essentially did the same thing regarding Iraq, except that Iraq gave much more promise of stabilizing with continued U.S. presence. Syria is still in chaos, and nobody can confidently say when and if it will not be. As for Afghanistan, the U.S. has been expending lives and treasure there for a mind-blowing 17 years. What is the mission? Funny—I thought the original mission was to punish the country for sponsoring the 9/11 attacks. We could have declared the point made long, long ago. Is the President wrong to say “Enough is enough”?

I have no idea—and neither do you.

  • Having no idea, not having seen the data, not having been advised, and not being President of the United  States, I have little basis to challenge or deride the decision. But what’s really going on here is what has been going on since January, 2017. Any decision or action by this President is immediately assumed to be wrong. The analysis attached to it afterwards is superfluous. The position is that President Trump did it, it’s wrong because he’s a Nazi/idiot/ grifter /fool, and that’s all we need to know.

This, of course, makes it impossible, literally impossible, to get honest, trustworthy analysis about anything.

  • Anyone who criticizes Trump in public, even certifiable slime like Steve Bannon, James Comey, and Omarosa, suddenly is embraced by “the resistance ” and the news media using the formula that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. This rewards unethical conduct, and “Mad Dog” appears to have fallen into the trap, to his eventual shame. As a lawyer, I know it is unethical to drop a client, my employer, and make any pubic statements whatsoever impugning his or her judgment or conduct. It is also unethical to do this in any professional relationship. Professionals know this: I presume at one time Mattis knew this. But having paid attention to how routine betrayals of this President have been cheered and praised, he apparently couldn’t resist temptation.

Now, as a lawyer, my duties are codified. That doesn’t mean that professionals who don’t have the same duties codified aren’t obligated to follow them. Continue reading