Tag Archives: candor

Lying To Us To Make Us Feel Better: Those Fake Crosswalk Buttons

In the classic science fiction story “The Marching Morons”  by American writer Cyril M. Kornbluth,  the world hundreds of years in the future is a reverse-eugenics nightmare. Between centuries of intelligent people not having children (perhaps to address climate change?) and excessive breeding by fools and dolts, the typical member of the public has an IQ of around 45, while an elite few who have IQs of 100 or more work around the clock to save the world, and the morons, from chaos. One of their tricks is to manufacture cars that make lots of noise and create the illusion of high speeds to fool the morons, who are (as we all know) wretched drivers. In truth, the cars crawl along more slowly than tricycles.

I thought of this when reader and frequent commentator here Charles Green noted in his excellent newsletter that those buttons at pedestrian crosswalks in major cities are an intentional fraud on the public, a placebo to keep us calm and feeling in control when we are not. Charles link was to my old hometown paper, the Boston Globe, but it’s behind a paywall. Never mind, though: newspapers have periodically been noting this phenomenon for years. They apparently think it is amusing. It isn’t.

The New York Times reported in 2004 that the city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago with the advent of computer-controlled traffic signals.  Today there are 120 working signals; about 500 were removed during major construction projects. But it was estimated that it would cost $1 million to dismantle the rest of non-functioning mechanisms, over a thousand of them, so city officials decided to keep them in place. And people keep pushing them. After all, sometimes, by sheer luck, the light changes soon after the button has been pushed. It works!

Tribal rains dances “work” the same way.

ABC News reported in 2010 that it found only one functioning crosswalk button in a survey of signals in Austin, Texas.; Gainesville, Florida, and Syracuse, New York. Other studies have turned up similar results in dozens of other cities. To be clear, presenting a button to pedestrians that is represented as a legitimate tool to cross the street when in fact it does nothing is a lie. It is an intentional falsehood, designed to deceive. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Literature, Science & Technology, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: Trump’s Tweet On Fidel’s Demise

castro-tweet-trump

We are taught to speak only good of the dead in the immediate aftermath of one’s demise, and especially in the world of international diplomacy, restraint, respect and the Golden Rule are the accepted standards of ethical conduct on such occasions

This being the case, what is the right ethical diagnosis of President Elect Donald Trump’s tweet above about the announcement of Fidel Castro’s death, which includes an explanation point widely interpreted to suggest “GOOD!” of “Yippee!” ? Trump’s subsequent statement removed all doubt that he was not sorry to see Fidel go to that big sugar cane plantation in the sky, or better yet, well, you know:

“Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades,’ Mr Trump’s statement reads. “Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. “While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve. Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty. I join the many Cuban-Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba.”

Contrast that with President Obama’s equivocal statement, which said in part,

“We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”

Then there was former President Jimmy Carter, who said,

“Rosalynn and I share our sympathies with the Castro family and the Cuban people on the death of Fidel Castro. We remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country. We wish the Cuban citizens peace and prosperity in the years ahead.”

Hmmmm!

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for this Thanksgiving Day weekend:

Were Trump’s tweet and statement about Castro responsible, prudent and ethical?

I think so, and I’m surprised at my own response. I suppose I am tired of seeing and hearing public figures lie when everyone knows they are lying, and if Carter and Obama really don’t think Castro was a brutal, murderous dictator whose departure is a blessing to all, then the Democratic Party is in even worse shape than I thought it was.

I have a hard Left friend who actually expressed praise for Castro’s legacy today on Facebook. When a figure who is objectively and factually as bad as Castro was, our leaders should not hesitate to be frank and direct. Obama’s non-commital History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him” is cowardly and evasive. Yes, and if history judges that Fidel’s ends justified his means, then civilization is doomed. Carter’s statement is even worse. “His love of his country”—that’s mitigation for oppression and murder, eh, Jimmy? If love of country your standard, you and Rosalyne must love Hitler.

Trump’s excessive candor and rogue mouth obviously are going to do a lot of damage in the next four years, just as they did during the campaign. Nonetheless, I don’t see anything unethical about calling a murderous dictator when he was, whether it’s on the day of his death or ten years later. This is one time when Trump’s refusal to be politically correct cuts through crap that should be cut through. As Edgar says at the end of “King Lear,”

“We should speak what we feel, not what we ought to say,”

…at least when bastards like Castro die.

Rather than using the occasion to find another excuse to attack Trump, Democrats should think about why it is that so many Castro admirers are in their ranks.

 

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, language, Leadership, Quizzes, Social Media

Unethical Quote Of The Day: Hillary Clinton

“We have to have a candid national conversation about race and about discrimination, prejudice, hatred. But unfortunately the public discourse is sometimes hotter and more negative than it should be, which can, in my opinion, trigger people who are less than stable. For example, a recent entry into the Republican presidential campaign said some very inflammatory things about Mexicans. Everybody should stand up and say that’s not acceptable. You don’t talk like that on talk radio. You don’t talk like that on the kind of political campaigns. I think he is emblematic. I want people to understand it’s not about him, it’s about everybody.”

—Democratic Presidential Anointee Hillary Clinton, in an interview with KNPB’s Jon Ralston, discussing the Charleston church shooting of nine African-American worshipers

Note that this is just the unethical quote of the day, rather than week or month, and to be fair, it probably wasn’t even the most unethical quote of the day on this particular topic. Later today I hope to announce the top ten most unethical public statements on the Charleston tragedy (so far), and it is not certain that Hillary’s comment will even make the list.

It’s that bad out there.

I wonder if anyone in the Democratic Party is at all concerned that Clinton is apparently incapable of speaking without a script and avoiding saying absurd and outrageous things? Or do Democrats not recognize that they are outrageous? Which is more disturbing, that they seem ready to hand the most powerful job on earth to this awful, addled, corrupt woman knowing how terrible her judgment and political skills are, or that they can’t tell how terrible they are?

Or that there isn’t a single qualified individual in the entire party that they think is far superior? Or two? Or a hundred?

Well, like wading through day old garbage, let’s analyze this mess. Yuck:

1. To suggest that Donald Trump’s crude statements about illegal immigrants (which was, you know, literally accurate, just needlessly offensive) did have, could have had or is “emblematic” of rhetoric that might have “triggered” Dylann Roof’s act is slimy, gutter level politics at its worst. Clinton implicates Republicans in a murder by linking the party to a self-promoting fraud who is not a serious candidate. Nice.

2. She doesn’t have the guts or fairness to name the man she is sliming (the host asked her to). Who campaigns like that? “I’m not going to name names, but a certain Republican who just entered the race and said this...”  Feminists should throw up: this is girly campaigning…for 7th grade class president.

3. Does Hillary not recall that the Democrats and various pundits thoroughly disgraced themselves by accusing Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin of “triggering” the Tuscon shooting that wounded Rep. Giffords, in a flagrant effort to shut down the speech of political opponents and tie them to the act of a madman? Or did she approve of that miserable, censorious tactic? Presumably it is the latter, because this statement exemplifies the same foolish, dishonest lack of ethics.

4. Hillary begins by saying that we need to have a candid conversation, and then goes on to condemn Trump for being candid. Trump has nothing to recommend in his character or leadership ability whatsoever, but candor is not a quality he lacks. Clinton can’t  maintain honesty and integrity in the span of one short statement in an interview! How can there be candor on race, if  everyone should stand up and say that candor is not acceptable? Hillary’s version of candor is “candor that doesn’t disagree with what my party has declared as acceptable speech and belief.”

Perhaps worst of all, Clinton made a victim out of Donald Trump, and allowed him to say in response, “politicians are just no good.” This is as close to correct as Trump will be in his entire life, except that Hillary Clinton makes other politicians look good by comparison.

 

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Filed under Character, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Race

Ethics Hero: Popehat’s Ken White

sunshine-through-the-clouds

I can’t really say Ken White is a friend. We have never met, though we have spoken on the phone. I sent him a copy of my book. He has cited my posts and I have (often) cited his; we have disagreed and argued. I think he’s still ticked off at me for asserting here that well off, smart, educated professionals (like him) who argue for drug legalization share responsibility for the fates of the poor, uneducated or not so smart people who ruin their lives using the junk because the elite have proclaimed that the laws are foolish. (I still believe that, by the way, more today than ever.)

Ken also advised me wisely when I was being threatened with a lawsuit. I am eternally grateful for his kindness. We share a profession and the avocation of blogging, as well as a professional interest in ethics. We are both fervent believers in the First Amendment, but Ken is a true warrior on the front lines, while I just occasionally submit a dispatch from the battlefield. We both adopted children from overseas, and have some similarly warped strains to our humor. One thing I do not share with Ken is clinical depression, thank goodness. He suffers from it, I don’t. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Health and Medicine, The Internet

Ethics Quote of the Week: “Meet the Press” Host Chuck Todd

“Can Kentuckyians expect her to cast a tough vote on anything? Is she ever going to answer a tough question on anything? You want to be a U.S. Senator? If you can’t say — if you can’t find a way to stand behind your party’s president, you can disagree with him but can’t answer that basic question and come across looking ridiculous. I think she disqualified herself”

—–New “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” reacting with disgust to Kentucky’s Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes refusal to answer a reporter’s question regarding whether she voted for President Obama.

Did Allison hear the cock crow, I wonder? And is this why we call such conduct being "chicken"?

Did Allison hear the cock crow, I wonder? And is this why we call such conduct being “chicken”?

Well, she disqualified herself if voters believe senators should possess minimal levels of loyalty, candor, honesty, integrity or courage.

This latest fiasco for GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s opponent comes on the heels of her staff and supporters being caught on video opining—Happily! Smugly! Proudly!— that she is lying about supporting the state’s coal industry in order to get elected. It takes a lot to make McConnell look good by comparison, but Grimes seems to have pulled off that amazing achievement with brio.

That’s something, I guess.

_____________________________

Pointer: RealClearPolitics

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership

Ethics Quiz: The Overly-Trusting Law School

The almost lawyer, learning about the justice system...

The almost lawyer, learning about the justice system…

Mauricio Celis, 42,was expelled from Northwestern Law School, just before he was due to graduate, for not telling the school when he applied that he was a former felon in Texas,  convicted there for falsely holding himself out as a lawyer and also for  impersonating a police officer. Northwestern confirmed that it never asked him to disclose any criminal history, but argued that Celis should have known that his criminal record was material.

The school didn’t check on his background; it didn’t even google him. If it had, it would have learned that Celis was infamous in Texas, and called “The Great Pretender.” A prosecutor called him “the biggest con man in the history of Nueces County.”  He certainly was audacious, opening law offices in multiple cities, raking in fees, using his success as a fake lawyer to raise money for Democrats. Compared to his scam, Northwestern was timid. It just took his money, $76,000, and then expelled him without giving him a diploma.

Your strange Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz:

Was it ethical for Northwestern to expel Celis?

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Integrity And Future “Madam President”

Are you excited about having Hillary as run for President yet?

hillary-clinton1From Mediaite:

During a contentious interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Clinton scolded host Terry Gross for persistently asking questions about the former Secretary of State’s “evolution” on the issue of gay marriage….Clinton publicly endorsed same-sex marriage only last year, leading many to surmise that she either withheld her true feelings on the issue all along, or had simply come around to the voting public’s increasing support for the issue. On Thursday morning, Gross attempted to understand Clinton’s change of heart, provoking a testy response.fter repeated questioning and several defensive responses, Gross told her interviewee: “I’m just trying to clarify so I can understand.”

“No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify,” Clinton fired back. “I think you’re trying to say I used to be opposed and now I’m in favor and I did it for political reasons, and that’s just flat wrong.”

She continued: “So let me just state what I feel like you are implying and repudiate it: I have a strong record, I have a great commitment to this issue, and I am proud of what I’ve done and the progress we’re making.“

What could this possibly mean? What is Clinton repudiating? That she opposed gay marriage until last year? That she said she opposed gay marriage? What is she proud of? That she only changed her mind when it was politically expedient? That she came to the conclusion that gay marriage was a human right after lots of other non-gay American—like me—had been making the point for years? Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership