Tag Archives: Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck

Ethics Quiz And Comment Of The Day: The Governor’s Yearbook Photo [Corrected]

You know you’re having a bad week as a politician when one scandal knocks a another scandal you’re involved in off the front page. Welcome to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s world right now, and where he’ll end up in it, nobody knows.

In case you missed it, Northam and abortion-loving Democrats were in the midst of trying to justify his comments earlier in the week accepting the concept of legal infanticide when a medical school yearbook photo turned up on social media, showing the governor-to-be either in black face or wearing Ku Klux Klan garb. Yes, this was another Hader Gotcha: conservatives were looking for dirt under very old rugs.  Northam confirmed that it was indeed him in one of the two costumes (but not which!) and issued the now familiar “this is not who I am now” apology:

“I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now,” Northam said in his statement. “This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment. I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.”

It was immediately clear that this would not suffice. Northam is a Democrat, after all, and that is the party of race-baiting. Republicans weren’t likely to let Northam talk his way out of this either, not after he won his close 2017 gubernatorial election against Republican Ed Gillespie with the assistance of a jaw-dropping TV ad ad linking Gillespie to  the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville and showing the GOP candidate trying to run down minority kids in his car.  Although the ad was not a product of his campaign, Northam refused to condemn it, and his campaign reported it as an “in-kind contribution.” The campaign also sent out a mailer tying Guillespie to white nationalists.

What Republicans say about the yearbook photo doesn’t matter, however. Northam’s own party turned on him, with his Democratic predecessor Terry McAulliffe, the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, and the Democrats in Virginia’s state legislature all calling on him to resign.

After all, casually endorsing infanticide is easy to defend to the hard-core Democratic base, but wearing a tasteless costume 38 years ago while a student is unforgivable.

Wait…what?

The instant issue might be moot in a few hours, as the betting is that Northam will resign, but  your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day’s  question will remain:

Should Ralph Northam’s 1984 yearbook photo require him to resign as Virginia Governor?

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Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Leadership, Race, Rights

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/25/19: Fleas, Fake Movies, False Equivalency, And Female Bigotry

Good Morning!

1. Roger Stone’s arrest a) Stone is a thoroughly loathsome individual—the man has Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, for heaven’s sake—but like the Mueller investigation generally, his arrest seems more like continued politically-motivated harassment of anyone connected to Donald Trump in order to isolate and impede his Presidency rather than part of a legitimate and independent investigation. Stone’s indictment is substantially made up of the now-familiar “obstruction of justice” bootstrap regarding an investigation of a non-crime charge. In Watergate, there was a crime. In the Clinton impeachment, there was a crime (a President lying under oath). In the Valerie Plame fiasco, there was at least a sort-of crime. Even Martha Stewart’s “obstruction of justice” conviction was related to the crime of insider-trading. “Collusion” isn’t a crime, and if Stone lied to Congress about the degree to which he was communicating heads-ups to the Trump campaign about what Wikileaks had and was about to release, that has no implications of wrongdoing for the Trump campaign at all. Stone telling the Trump campaign, “Hey, Wikileaks has a bunch of DNC emails that show Hillary’s campaign was sleazy and that the Clinton Foundation is an influence peddling scam!” isn’t illegal, it isn’t unethical, and I doubt that this sort of communication is unusual for any campaign in any party. b) CNN cameras were on the scene when Stone was arrested, which means the FBI or the Mueller team leaked to CNN. Now THAT’s unethical, and possibly illegal. c) Once again, President Trump’s persistent failure to avoid close contact with obvious slime-balls has caused problems. “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas” : It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but for a man who was raised and rose to wealth and power in the dog-dominated worlds of real estate, hotels, casinos, show business and now politics, I suppose its hard to imagine NOT being surrounded by the metaphorically flea-infested.

2. Integrity watch: OK, I no longer know what a “movie” is. Netflix is streaming “Roma,” which was just nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar. It has sold no tickets, and as far as I can see, is indistinguishable from any movie-length TV program, like the Christmas drama that spawned “The Waltons,” “The Homecoming.” I though movies were things shown in theater with big screens by projectors. Netflix’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (which is terrific) also got some Oscar nominations. Are Hallmark Christmas weepies now eligible for Oscars? To me, those are “TV shows.” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Ruth Graham, In Slate.

This is almost too easy, especially now, and others have flagged it too, but really, she can hardly be shunned enough for this…

“But I think the real reason the clip has spread is simpler: It’s the kid’s face. The face of self-satisfaction and certitude, of edginess expressed as cruelty. The face remains almost completely still as his peers hoot in awed delight at his bravado. The face is both punchable and untouchable. Many observers recognized it right away.”

Ruth Graham in her Slate piece, , “The MAGA Teenager Who Harassed a Native American Veteran Is Still Unnamed, but We’ve Seen His Face Before” an attack on Coventry Catholic school student Nick Sandmann based on what we now know was a politically motivated fake news smear based on a deceptively edited video and knee-jerk media bias against anyone daring to support the President.

Her post is still up.

I was going to include this in my hate-themed warm-up yesterday, but Graham deserves her own post, so utterly despicable is she. Ann Althouse’s son, also a blogger, issued two tweets that almost encompass her void of ethics and fairness, writing,

How is it OK to make a national news story out of not liking someone’s smile? Mocking someone’s smile is as bad as telling someone they have to smile more, and we’re all supposed to think the latter is blatantly offensive, right?,

and

Slate’s Facebook post of this article calls the kid’s facial expression “the smirk of evil.” I don’t know how adults can sleep at night after publicly trashing a kid and calling him “evil.”

Graham wasn’t alone. Here’s BuzzFeed writer Anne Helen Petersen on Twitter about Sandmann’s face:

One theme of the conversations over the past 24 hours = how deeply familiar this look is. It’s the look of white patriarchy, of course, but that familiarity — that banality — is part of what prompts the visceral reaction. This isn’t spectacular. It’s life in America.

After the more extensive videos acme out, Petersen, like many others, just refused to accept the fact that she was wrong, and the kids had been smeared:

I have watched all of the videos. You can understand that the situation was more complex than the first video and still recognize why the sight of that face caused a visceral reaction in so many.

Yeah, I understand why: Petersen is a bigot who is now incapable of accurate perception. She has absorbed the Big Lie that “Make America Great Again” is some kind of coded white supremacy slogan, along with the narrative that white men are viruses in society. The correct analogy is the “Hands up, Don’t shoot” lie. It was accepted as true by the news media and activists who wanted to hang the involved police officer to advance their propaganda that innocent young blacks were being gunned down in the streets, and even after the lie was exposed, many still repeat it as fact today. In that spirit of convenient denial,  Deadspin’s Laura Wagner wrote, “Don’t Doubt What You Saw With Your Own Eyes,” and accused the Covington student’s’ defenders “siding with some shithead MAGA teens and saying that 2+2=5 in the face of every bit of evidence there is to be had.” Continue reading

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Welcome The 2019’s First New Rationalizations: 1C. It Happens To Everybody, And 19 B. Murkowski’s Lament

These have been on the drawing board waiting for induction into the Ethics Alarms list of Unethical Rationalizations and Misconceptions far too long.  It’s also a good time to re-read the list, which was recently brought up to date. I wrote the damn thing, and it it still reminded me of some things.

Rationalization 1C. It Happens To Everybody, or “You’re not alone!’

This is yet another variation on the Golden Rationalization, “Everybody Does It,” but the transitive version. The theory is the same, that somehow the ethical nature of an act is changed by its frequency, or, in the case of #1C, how many victims the unethical conduct has claimed. This one is so frequently employed that it doesn’t register as a rationalization, perhaps because the one who wield’s it is often a third party. “Don’t feel too bad,” the nice person patting your head says, “You’re not the only one.” The swift answer to this should be, “So what?” Should I feel less raped because others have been raped? Should I feel less lied to because others have been deceived? Should I feel richer because others have been robbed?” Even if it is offered in kindness, this is a rationalization that aides the wrongdoer. Arguing that as long as the misery inflicted has company, what was done isn’t as bad as it was.

Rationalization 9 B. Murkowski’s Lament, or “It was a difficult decision”

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2018 Ethics Retrospective Poll #4: The Ethics Train Wrecks!

Nominations for “Ethics Train Wreck Of The Year”

This one is self-explanatory, I think. Don’t automatically default to the obvious choice.

(Still rolling and still being used illicitly to exert gender-based power while undermining civil rights.

(which encompasses “the resistance,” the “Get Trump” campaign by the news media, and the ongoing effort to concoct a justification for impeachment)

(The Parkland shooting aftermath was nothing but a resuscitated and refueled version, with different demagogues, and the same lies)

(Statues are still falling, universities are still purging their histories, and “The Sound of Music” can’t mention Nazis…)

(An offshoot of the Harvey Weinstein express,  and perhaps the canary dying in the mine…)

(So long-running and constant that I forgot to call it one, with the “Think of the Children! caboose.)

The Big Tech Social Media Ethics Train Wreck, which has pulled out of the station, will have to wait a few months before we can assess it…

The poll:

 

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‘Twas Two Nights Before Christmas Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/23/18: Ho-Ho-Hypocrisy

Merry Christmas!

1. Yes, Merry Christmas, dammit. Those responsible for that moment of doubt and ethical uncertainty every time I encountered a stranger on my just completed Ethics Rock Extreme road trip to New Brunswick, New Jersey deserve to be entombed alive in peppermint and plum pudding.  The greeting simply says, “I wish you to be joyful and happy in a season where people are a little less selfish and a little more ethical: I’m not trying to indoctrinate you into Christianity!” Much of this completely unnecessary addition to holiday stress is due to to jerks—yes, I think the word is fair—like Julia Ioffe, the author of  “Please don’t wish me ‘Merry Christmas’/It’s impolite and alienating to assume I follow your religion.”

I thought Charles Dickens slam-dunked that nonsense definitively in “A Christmas Carol,” followed by almost all the Christmas movies that make the same obvious point except to deliberate holiday wet-blankets like Ioffe. No, jerk, the greeting is an expression of cultural unity among human beings, and the celebration of values that need have not be restricted to religious Christmas holiday because this is also a secular tradition as well. As soon as I get this post up, I’m going to re-post the Ethics Alarms Christmas commentary.

Somebody send it to Julia.

2. 2018 Hypocrisy Award, locked up! It doesn’t matter if you are happy or disappointed to see President Trump pull U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan; you should still be able to marvel at the blatant, shameless, pandering, hateful and, really, laughable—if the cultural fad of denigrating the President of the United States regardless of what he does wasn’t so destructive and wrong— hypocrisy by news media Trump-haters, among others. Glenn Greenwald, who sees the world from a leftward perspective but maintains his integrity, called out MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who could be the symbol of the whole nauseating. He tweeted,

The most bizarre aspect of Rachel Maddow’s deep anger over troop withdrawal from Syria is that she wrote an entire book in 2012 denouncing illegal US Endless War without congressional approval – exactly what Syria is. I interviewed her about it here: Funny: citing that interview I did of Maddow’s book on the evils of Endless War without Congressional approval reminded me that she asked me to blurb that book, which I did. Here’s what I said – so ironic in light of her anger over Syria troop withdrawal

This upset Glenn’s loyal progressive followers, one of whom sent this fascinating retort:

“The most bizarre aspect of Glenn Greenwald’s inexplicable credibility is his ability to appear as first an advocate and then an opponent of almost everyone and everything. Can’t choose one perspective.”

See? To people like this—the commenter’s handle is IstandwithMaxine, which pretty much explains everything—is that they have been brainwashed to believe that is is bizarre unless adopts a single  view—theirs. of course, otherwise you are evil–and never alters it or admits that it may need re-thinking when that view leads to dead ends, disasters and pitfalls, no matter what new information arises. Someone like Greenwald, who tries to apply the same standards of analysis and ethical judgment to all regardless of whether it advances an ideology, is just untrustworthy, a traitor.

This cartoon has been circulating online. It is 100% fair and accurate regarding Trump’s critics self-indicting reaction: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, December 19, 2018: Facebook’s Lies, Hillary’s Letter, Harvard’s Defenders, And Kavanaugh’s Victory

Good Morning!

1. Open Forum today! As soon as this post is up, I’ll open a forum for readers here to raise their own suggestions for ethics topics and to offer their commentary without me getting in the way. The last one was a spectacular success, attracting over a hundred comments, generating many fascinating threads, and producing three Comments of the Day so far. Just keep the topics on ethics, don’t get distracted by tangents and bickering, and keep it civil.

The immediate motivation for today’s forum is that I have to prepare for and deliver an annual end of year ethics CLE seminar at the D.C. bar. If you’re in the vicinity and need the credits, or just want a lively ethics workout, come on by and say hello. Here are the details:

Date: December 19, 2018

Event start time :1:30 PMEvent end time:4:45 PM

Venue:D.C. Bar: 901 4th ST NW, Washington, DC 20001-2776

Credit: 3.0 Ethics Credit Hours, including 3 hours of professionalism for those states with such requirement.

Description: Widespread discord in our current culture places unusual stress on professional ethics, and unfortunately, the legal profession is not immune. The past year saw many legal professionals, including famous names in the law, make questionable decisions and breach legal ethics standards, providing both cautionary tales and fodder for analysis. This challenging and interactive class will explore important developments and looming perils that every lawyer should be ready to face.

Topics include:

• Direct adversity vs. “general adversity,” and whether it matters
• Sexual harassment as a legal ethics problem, and the profession’s vulnerability to “The King’s Pass”
• Defying a client for the client’s own good
• Fees, referrals and gaming the rules for fun and profit
• Professional responsibility vs. legal ethics
• The increasing threat to law firm independence and integrity
• The technology ethics earthquake

..and more!

Faculty: Jack Marshall, Pro Ethics Ltd.
Fee: $89 D.C. Bar Communities Members; $99 D.C. Bar Members; $109 Government Attorneys; $129 Others

2. Meanwhile, here are Facebook’s “standards”… As Ethics Alarms posts continue to be blocked on Facebook in various ways, including by “community standards” that for some reason reject the ethics of “Miracle on 34th Street,” the social media behemoth’s own standards are coming into focus: From CNBC: Continue reading

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