Saturday Ethics End Notes, 4/3/2021: “Let it be written, let it be done!”

You can’t blame me for featuring this ethics landmark today: On April 3, 1948, President Truman signed the Economic Assistance Act, commonly known as the Marshall Plan, which authorizing the a program to help the nations of a war-torn Europe to rebuild. The effort was designed to stabilize Europe economically and politically so that the Soviet Union would not be able to spread communism further. U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave the plan its name with a speech at Harvard University on June 5 of the previous year. He proposed that the European states meet to agree on a program for economic recovery, and that the U.S. would would help fund it. The same month Britain and France invited European nations to send representatives to Paris to follow-through with Marshall’s formula. The USSR, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland declined the invitation. The resulting Committee of European Economic Cooperation eventually presented its plan to Congress, which authorized the “Marshall Plan” on April 2, 1948. The next day, it was signed into law.

  1. It’s that time again! The Cecil B. DeMille classic “The Ten Commandments” airs at 7 p.m. tonight on ABC. I recommend renting it for a few bucks on Amazon Prime: commercials now add a full hour to the movie, which is already one of the longest U.S. films ever made. I watch the 1956 jaw-dropper at least once every year. No movie ever blew my mind like that one did when I saw it as a child, and, I noted with amazement last week when I watched it again, certain scenes still blow my mind now, like the Exodus, easily the greatest crowd scene that ever had been or ever will be. My top ethics notes:
  • The screenplay’s direct condemnation of slavery in Moses’ early speech is remarkable for the period, and gutsy for the most expensive movie ever made (to that point) that needed big audiences from the old Confederate states during the middle of a growing civil rights movement.
  • Like Ted Williams’ home run in his last at bat, DeMille bet everything on his biggest challenge at the end of his career when he had already made Hollywood history and was a living legend….and he succeeded. I admit, I’m a sucker for that. The movie killed him, essentially: CB suffered a heart attack while directing the huge scene where Moses leads the Jews out of Egypt, and never recovered. I’m sure he’d say it was still worth it.
  • As a director, I have learned that the greatest and most frightening challenge is trying to top yourself. I admire the artists who attempt it, and especially those who succeed. DeMille had already made a silent movie version of the story that stood as the top-grossing film of all time until his own talkies broke its record.
  • I cannot think of a better example of the ethical principle that if you are going to do something that matters, do it right and don’t cut corners. Like David O. Selznick’s “Gone With The Wind,” TTC is filled with astounding grace notes and details that are the mark of a perfectionist. On this week’s viewing, I noticed for the first time that when we see Egyptian princess Nefertiri primping in a mirror, her image is dark and indistinct. That’s because glass mirrors were unknown in ancient Egypt: the mirror is polished metal.
  • The 1957 Oscars , which largely snubbed De Mille’s masterpiece, show how bias makes you stupid, and how little the movie community understands its own medium. “The Ten Commandments” was the movie of the year and everyone knew it: it was the top grossing film and had scenes that were immediately recognizable as likely to become legendary (like the parting of the Red Sea.) But most of the Oscars, including Best Picture, went to “Around the World in 80 Days,” the over-stuffed “spectacular”—unwatchable now— made by industry darling Mike Todd. DeMille didn’t even rate a Best Director nomination. He was considered a conservative pariah and a dinosaur, and the “new Hollywood” wouldn’t bring itself to recognize an old pro doing his best work.

2. And now, speaking for the arrogant, biased, not as smart as they think they are people who lie to you daily, Lester Holt! At the 45th Edward R. Murrow Symposium at Washington State University, Holt received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, presumably because they had to find a black journalist to give the thing to. Among his comments, which generally proved the stunning lack of self-awareness of himself and his industry, he said, .

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The Left’s Assault On The Rule Of Law And The Legal Profession’s Cowardice, Or “Nice Little Firm You Have Here—Be A Shame If Something Were To Happen To It!”

unbalanced-justice-scale

One of the many benefits of the Trump Administration and the concomitant 2016 Post-Election Ethics Train Wreck, one theory goes, is that it has exposed the ethical rot and lack of integrity of so many previously admired and trusted professions.

Among those that have thoroughly disgraced themselves in their rush to enamor themselves before their progressive, President Trump- loathing colleagues and friends—you know, the good people—have been journalists (of course), academics, psychiatrists, doctors, epidemiologists, ethicists, historians, teachers, judges and lawyers. Thus it shouldn’t have been a surprise (though it was to me, as always an optimistic sap) when efforts to prevent the Trump campaign from having the best possible legal advocates as it pursues challenges to the 2020 election results would bear ugly fruit.

The NeverTrump Lincoln Project joined the anti-Trump Democrats in targeting the law firms hired by the campaign. Election law specialists Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur and its lawyers were threatened with professional ruin. The theory went that daring to support the President of the United States constitutes a “dangerous attack on our democracy.” The firm, showing a dearth of legal ethics and integrity withdrew, whining that the assault on its reputation created a conflict of interest, was disrupting the firm, and had prompted at least one lawyer’s resignation. Since then other firms have dropped the campaign as a client, and the reason was fear—of losing clients, of being shunned in the legal community, of losing money. Mostly the latter.

This is only the latest progression in the decay of basic law firm ethics that began during the Obama administration. The reason is—broken record here—bias.

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Business Ethics: Tales Of Two Partisan Dunces

grocery Discount

1. The Trump Supporter: Jose Colon, owner of the Fresh Food Supermarket in Oakdale, New York,

Mr. Colon, a legal immigrant  from the Dominican Republic and a naturalized citizen, advertised a discount for supporters of President Trump on the store’s Facebook page last week.

“Trump supporters get 20% off.  Mention at the cash register you are a Trump supporter to get discount. (Excludes beer),” it read, as you can see above.

The store was immediately inundated with threats and social media posts advocating a boycott. Colon says he’s puzzled. .“We’re supposed to live in a free country,” Colon told Fox News. “This is weird. It’s crazy…We live in a free country where we support democracy, where we can go both ways, we can support left, right — whatever you want. I decided to vote and support the best interest, I believe, for this country.”

He has responded by offering the same discount to Biden supporters, and is claiming that this was his intent all along, though he is a vocal supporter of the President.

Let me try to explain what this particular citizen doesn’t seem to understand about his free country. It’s not going to remain free if people and businesses withhold goods and services from citizens based on their political beliefs, just as it is destructive to discriminate based on other criteria. If you want to break the nation into armed camps, having special restaurants, bars, grocery stores and movie theaters restricted to those of certain political persuasions is an excellent way to do it. What Colon did was well-intentioned, but un-American. He deserved the blowback, though the social media messages quotes don’t demonstrate any more civic comprehension than the grocery store owner seems to posess: what’s wrong with the discount isn’t that “Orange Man Bad,” but that it is unethical  for businesses to reward customers for their political views, which is the same as penalizing other customers for their political views. What does Colon think he’s doing? Buying votes with his discount?

I wouldn’t organize a boycott against a store that did this, but I wouldn’t buy groceries there again.

Then Colon’s solution to this dilemma of his own making was to offer the same discount to Biden supporters, discriminating against those who want to vote for the Libertarian or Green Party candidates, or Kanye West. Or me. Wrong. This flunks the Golden Rule test, Kant’s Universality test, and simple utilitarianism. In short, it’s unethical, and there is no ethical or civic defense for what he did. To be fair, the conservative news sources I’ve checked on this story, like Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, don’t seem to comprehend the problem any more than Colon does.

Meanwhile, does anyone believe that Colon always intended to offer a 20% discount to both Trump and Biden supporters as he now says? This is another reason for amateurs to stay out of politics: the pros lie better.

Well, usually.

2. The Biden Supporter: David Barrett, CEO of the software company Expensify.

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Note To Senate Democrats: Tantrums Are Not Civil, Responsible, Professional Or Statesmanlike

child-temper-tantrum

I suppose this is a futile reminder, since the Democratic party, prodded by the infantile “resistance” that the party  lacked the courage and integrity to tell to shut up and shape up, has been engaged in one tantrum after another since it lost the Presidential election in 2016. In their determination to bake hate, anger and uncontrolled emotion into our once honorable political process, the Democrats have divided the nation, wrecked communities, and quite possibly damaged our democracy beyond repair. It has been opposition by tantrum, from the increasingly personal attacks on the President of the United States, to the contrived Mueller investigation, to the disgraceful impeachment sham. Of course the Democrats’ African American and extremist base would take the cue and expand the tactic into the streets, throwing a series of violent fits over isolated and ambiguous incidents that could be falsely characterized as typical, racist, and criminal.

Today, the metaphorical holding of breath and stamping of feet continued. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced they will boycott Thursday’s markup of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, in protest of Republicans’ decision to move forward with President Donald Trump’s high court pick so close to Election Day. In this they are depending upon the public’s ignorance and amnesia, supported, as usual, by news media spin. What the Republican are doing with the Barrett nomination is exactly what Democrats insisted was the proper process four years ago. It is exactly what Democrats would do if the parties’ circumstances were reversed. It is constitutional and it is legal. Moreover, the nominee, Judge Barrett, acquitted herself with brio under Democratic questioning.

This is not a “we must protest an outrage and injustice” boycott. It’s an “Ooooo, we are just so darn mad that we can’t have our way!” boycott.

How petty and foolish.

The official statement just compounds the disgrace.

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Comment Of The Day: “Goodyear’s ‘No Tolerance’ Policy Is Cowardly, Unethical, And Wrong, And The President’s Response Was Worse”

Commenter Steve Witherspoon has colorfully expressed  the Ethics Alarms position regarding President Trump’s “punching down” with his direct attack on Goodyear Tires and Rubber for endorsing Black Lives Matter attire in the workplace while banning MAGA hats. In a comment to the recent Goodyear post, he wrote in part,

I absolutely HATE the way President Trump punches down like this from the Oval Office, it’s unpresidential! This is where his unethical loose cannon mouth gets him into trouble. Calling for a boycott from the office of the President of the United States is inappropriate….President Trump, shut the hell up and stop punching down; let the consumers make their own choices and speak with their dollars in the manner in which they choose.

Michael R, in his Comment of the Day on the post, “Goodyear’s ‘No Tolerance’ Policy Is Cowardly, Unethical, And Wrong, And The President’s Response Was Worse,” makes his case to the contrary:

When someone is acting unethically towards you, what should you do? What if there is no actual, ethical recourse for you because EVERYONE around you is acting unethically? Do you just accept it or do you fight back anyway? The press and the DNC are pushing a murderous agenda. Didn’t Andrew Cuomo kill 4x+ as many New Yorkers as the 9/11 terrorists? How many lives have been lost and businesses destroyed by their actions in the recent ‘peaceful protests’? What about their calls for perpetual lockdowns and states of emergency? Gangs of people are setting up roadblocks to harass and attack people. They are intimidating any local official that dares oppose them. They are demanding people turn over their houses. They are teaching elementary school children that all white people are racist. The press’ 1619 project teaches that this country is ONLY about slavery and uniquely so. What happens if their Marxist agenda succeeds? Continue reading

Thursday Ethics Thirst-quencher, 8/20/2020: Actually, This Doesn’t Taste So Good….

I filled in a gap in my history knowledge today, one I’m embarrassed to have had for so long. I remember being creeped out the first time I heard John Hinckley crooning the song he dedicated to Jodie Foster on her answering machine at Yale. “Ohhh Jodie! Ohhh Jodie! My love will turn you on!” All these years, I thought Hinckley had composed that song in his sick infatuation. Today, almost 40 years later, I found out that he just ripped off a John Lennon song called “Oh Yoko,” which I heard for the first time on the Beatles Channel on Sirius-XM. Am I the only one who didn’t know that? My ignorance is my fault: I would no more listen to anything extolling Yoko than I would voluntarily groove on “William Shatner’s Greatest Hits.”

And what was it about  Beatles compositions that inspired aspiring killers?

1. Yes, this seems rather irresponsible...Here’s a trailer for an upcoming Netflix series:

Over at The American Conservative, columnist Rod Dreher is disgusted, with good reason. He writes in part,

“Twerking their way to stardom. Eleven years old….These are little girls, and this Netflix show has the acting like strippers as a way of finding their way to liberation. What is wrong with these Netflix people? Do they not have children? Do they think our daughters are only valuable insofar as they can cosplay as sluts who are sexually available to men? ….There is nothing politicians can do about this…I hope sometime this fall a Senate committee calls Netflix CEO Reed Hastings] to Capitol Hill and forces him to talk about how proud he is that he has 11 year olds twerking on his degenerate network.”

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Goodyear’s “No Tolerance” Policy Is Cowardly, Unethical, And Wrong, And The President’s Response Was Worse.

An angry employee took that photo of a slide used in a diversity training  program.  Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company’s has a “zero-tolerance policy”,” and like almost all such policies, the employee or committee charged with developing it lacked the wisdom, perspective, legal guidance, common sense, and ethics skills to do it competently.  The employee says the obviously incompetent slide above was presented at the Topeka plant by an area manager and says the slide came from Goodyear’s corporate office out of Akron, Ohio.

“If someone wants to wear a BLM shirt in here, then cool. I’m not going to get offended about it. But at the same time, if someone’s not going to be able to wear something that is politically based, even in the farthest stretch of the imagination, that’s discriminatory,” said the whistle-blower. “If we’re talking about equality, then it needs to be equality. If not, it’s discrimination.”

Bingo. A lawyer could hardly do better. Here’s one, Professor Turley, regarding the slide: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/11/2020: Still Crazy After All These Posts

1. Atticus, Aaron and Alexander. Today, July 11, was a crucial date in history for two great Americans, now in danger of being canceled by the ignorant woke. One cancellee was a real man, Founder Alexander Hamilton; the other is fictional, Atticus Finch. Both have been pronounced wanting in character of late because they did not manage to discern in their eras the full extent of the necessary racial equities Americans have largely come to understand today, with the benefit of decades more of debate and experience than Finch, and with a 250 years advantage over Hamilton.

In Finch’s case, this is his “birthday”:  on July 11, 1960,  34-year-old novelist  Harper Lee published her first, and except for a rejected “sequel” to  “Mockingbird” published later under ethically dubious circumstances, her only, novel.  Fortunately for Atticus, the version of the Depression Era small town Alabama lawyer that most Americans know is the film’s, where he is played by Gregory Peck as a pure idealist without any of the alleged flaws—like saying that it is wrong to assume that racists can’t still be good people—that the novel’s Atticus is condemned for today. (The multiple Atticus problem is discussed here.)

While Atticus Finch was “born” on this date, Alexander Hamilton died, perhaps by bravely but naively exhibiting ethical character while at the mercy of a man whose ethics were elusive at best, Aaron Burr, who fatally shot the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury in a duel this day in 1804.

The adversaries met at 7 a.m. at the dueling grounds near Weehawken, New Jersey on the same spot where Hamilton’s son had died defending his father’s honor in 1801. (The concept of karma was apparently unknown in 1804.)  According to Hamilton’s “second,” Hamilton deliberately fired his weapon into the air rather than at Burr (Burr’s second claimed that Hamilton fired at Burr and missed) , whereupon Burr, who had the second shot,  killed  Hamilton by sending a bullet through his stomach into his spine. Hamilton died the next day.

If you think politics are crazy now, consider: Hamilton’s death was the direct result of his publicly attacking and demeaning Burr for years (“I feel it is a religious duty to oppose his career,” he once wrote). Hamilton also was instrumental in blocking Burr from becoming President in the ridiculous election of 1800, when a quirk in the election rules threatened to allow the sociopathic Vice-Presidential candidate  to defeat his running mate, Thomas Jefferson. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Reflections, 6/28/2020: For The Defense….

Greetings from the Ethics Alarms bunker…

1. I’m current reflecting on a personal and professional ethics conflict. A colleague and long-time professional competitor—I would never call him a friend—has been ousted from his leadership position in the very successful organization he founded as a result of unproven allegations of sexual harassment and assault. It was a “believe all victims” situation, as well as what feels like a successful coordinated effort to “get” someone who had accumulated a lot of enemies, resentment and envy in a notoriously nasty industry once his power was waning.

On one hand, I feel like I should reach out to him and offer my guidance and support (as an ethicist and sexual harassment trainer, not a lawyer, and gratis, of course). On the other, I am pretty certain that he is guilty of at least some of what has been alleged, based on confidential accounts I have recently heard from reliable sources. Ethically, however, his ousting (it appears that he was given the option of “retiring”) lacked due process and fairness, and the organization was guided by public relations motives rather than legal or ethical ones.

Whose side should I be on?

2. Stop making me defend Facebook! As if there wasn’t enough to worry about, the aggressive pandering mode of corporations right now is being exploited by would-be censors of political speech. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced updated election policies and stricter “hate speech” rules in response to employee protests and pressure from activists, whose transparent objective is to silence or constrict any political views antithetical progressive positions and goals. In a message last week, Zuckerberg  outlined plans to police disinformation relating to voting and elections, to flag certain content that risked triggering violence (I wonder what  that standard is like today?) and concluded,

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Ethics Dunce: Twitter

Twitter crossed the digital Rubicon this week, as we had to know it would sooner or later.  It added qualifying links to two of President Trump’s tweets  about mail-in ballots, in which he claimed they would cause the 2020 Presidential election to be “rigged.” The New York Times, typically, wrote that he “falsely” predicted that result, and there you have it: social media now is choosing to use its power to tell the public what opinions are “true.”…just like the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media.

The links — which were in blue lettering at the bottom of the posts and punctuated by  exclamation marks — urged people to “get the facts” about voting by mail. Clicking on the links led to a CNN story that said Mr. Trump’s claims were unsubstantiated and to a list of bullet points that Twitter had compiled rebutting the “inaccuracies.”

Because CNN is where reasonable people go who want “the facts.”

Twitter, as a private rather than a government communications platform, can do this if it chooses, and the consequences to the company are likely to be far less serious than the consequences to public discourse. There is no way this kind of policing of speech, from the President or anyone else, can be done fairly, consistently and even-handedly. Already, Twitter has demonstrated hard ideological bias in its choices of which Twitter users to suspend or otherwise censor, and this escalation opens the door wide to more abuse. Will Twitter be similarly vigilant in calling out Democrats, activists, pundits and journalists on their excesses? You know they won’t; they couldn’t if they tried. Twitter’s wan excuse is that Trump’s tweets are special. I suspect the company is setting itself up for some serious federal regulation. Continue reading