Tag Archives: competence

Comment of the Day: “‘White Christmas’ Ethics Addendum: Battlefield Incompetence, Insubordination And More In The Holiday Classic”

To kick off the Not-Too-Early-To-Play-Christmas-Music Season, here is a Comment of the Day that adds another chapter to the Ethics Alarms commentary on “White Christmas,” the Bing Crosby-Danny Kaye musical film that is one of the five or six most resilient of the Christmas classics. The initial ethics analysis is here.

The post that spawned the latest take was a rare guest essay by Ethics Alarms veteran texagg04.

Now comes new commenter SykesFive to provide insight into the pivotal character of General Waverly, played by Dean Jagger. Among other things, he argues that one reason the general was so beloved was that he was poor general, treating the lives of his men as more important than his mission.

Here is his Comment of the Day on tex’s post, “White Christmas” Ethics Addendum: Battlefield Incompetence, Insubordination And More In The Holiday Classic:

I have a somewhat different take on this. I sometimes think I am the only person who thinks so much about the Waverly character.

As the scene opens, Major General Waverly is being relieved for frankly the only reason American unit commanders were relieved during the war: he didn’t take the objectives. That is failure. It could be lack of aggression or poor coordination or anything else, but ultimately it is failure and the commanding officer will pay the price. He will be shuffled off to a rear area command, or maybe just left to bum around the theater, and be out of the Army by the end of 1945 because his record will be so tarnished. He will be lucky not to revert to his prewar rank.

Waverly’s age suggests he was a company-grade officer during WWI and may or may not have seen combat during that conflict’s closing weeks, then spent decades idling in the interwar army. Apart from whatever happened in 1918, Waverly has no more combat experience than anyone else in the division. He is not an experienced commander by any measure. He had the right credentials–a few articles in service journals, no serious problems on his posts, and of course a West Point Ring–but had never really been tested as a field-grade officer. Again this is a common profile.This is a very common profile for WWII US Army division commanders.

So in 1940, let’s say Colonel Waverly seemed like a likely candidate for command of an infantry division in the expanding army. He did well enough with some trial commands–all during stateside training and expansion–and was promoted to one and then two stars. He seemed competent enough when the 151st Division was formed and went through let’s say nearly two years of intensive training in Texas or California or wherever. And so the division was sent to Europe in let’s say August 1944, then spent a couple months languishing in Normandy or the Pas de Calais region, during which time Waverly was a friendly presence at other officers’ headquarters as well as around his division. Bear in mind that at this point, and really for the whole war after the breakout from Normandy, the limit on American frontline strength was providing fuel and artillery shells. There were more men and tanks than could be sustained at the front. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Leadership, War and the Military

KABOOM! Roy Moore’s Lawyer Just Made My Head Explode. Or As He Would Say, Just Made My Head Exploded

I hate early morning head explosions. Among other reasons, those bits of skull and brain ruin the taste of my coffee.

No, I don’t blame Trent Garman for representing a vile creepazoid like Roy Moore. Creepazoids have rights too, and should have access to trustworthy and competent counsel. My problem with Garman arises from those last four words. Lawyers as untrustworthy and incompetent as Garman, in my opinion (don’t sue me, Trent, it’s just my opinion that you’re an idiot; I can’t prove it, but I do think you did), shouldn’t be representing clients. Garman, in truth, needs to go back to the sixth grade.

Here is the letter Garman authored on Moore’s behalf. I’ll follow it with the stuff that blew my head; you don’t have to read the whole thing unless you’re into inflicting pain on yourself, like that albino monk in “The Da Vinci Code.”

If you do read the letter, you will note that Attorney Garman never learned that the possessive “its” has no apostrophe, and that he writes English like it is a second, and perhaps third, language. Here are the best, as in worst, examples of his professional writing:

 Your client’s organization has made and/or supported defaming statements. This is due to the careless and/or intentionally refused to advance the truth regarding our clients. We also believe that your client, by and through its agents, have damaged our clients by being careless in how they handle headlines and report the contextual of the allegations.

The second statement  actually says “This is due to the careless and/or intentionally refused to advance the truth regarding our clients.” Diagram that for me. That head-scratcher is followed by “We also believe that your client, by and through its agents, have damaged our clients by being careless in how they handle headlines and report the contextual of the allegations.”This isn’t even the worst example of Authentic Frontier Gibberish in the letter. This is:

Thus, do you know this clearly, yet significant difference which your client’s publication(s) have failed to distinguish. And the legal requirement that your client retract the stories, to include the details which clearly are false.

I can’t even decide what to bold on that one.

Disturbingly, we learn in Trent’s biography that he earned a Masters in Theology from Regent University and  translated two books of the Bible from Greek.  I can just imagine what that translation was like.

I’m not nit-picking a blog comment or a hasty tweet. Roy Moore is fighting for his professional life and reputation, and this is the best legal representation he can find? That letter is a professional product. Garrman is obligated to be competent and diligent, not to send the message far and wide that the former judge thinks that this is persuasive logic and deft prose. Do they not proofread at Garman & Liddon? Do they know what proof-reading is? Do they know what syntax, punctuation and grammar are? Coherence? Professionalism?

Shame on the Troy University and Birmingham School of Law for graduating this careless, inarticulate boob. Heck, no high school should graduate someone who can’t write a letter better than that. Shame on his high school too. Shame on his the Alabama Bar for giving him a license.(I would use words other than “shame,” just to reliev the monotony , but as I’m sure you understand, my vocabulary is affected when my brains are on the ceiling…)

The legal field’s dirty little secret is that lawyers who can’t write or articulate a coherent argument are not as rare as they should be, and they should be extinct.  Nonetheless they get fees from innocent clients who assume that these hacks are smart and skilled because they call themselves lawyers.

But Roy Moore called himself a judge, didn’t he?

Hmmmm…

Maybe this is what George Will calls “condign justice.”

______________________

Pointer: Red Ipsa Loquitur

 

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Kaboom!, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

The Tragedy Of Shahid and Aasia, Or “Murder Isn’t For Idiots”

From Pakistan comes this story, which alternatively sounds like a Coen Brothers black comedy or that lost Shakespeare tragedy, “Shahid and Aasia.”

Aasia Bibi, 21, lived in the small village of Alipur. She was in love with a young man, Shahid Lashari, but her Muslim parents forced her to marry another man of their choosing. After the marriage, Aasia continued to see her lover secretly, and they decided on a desperate plot. Shaid procured some poison, and the bride put it her husband’s milk.

Unexpectedly, he refused to drink it. Maybe it tasted funny: this is what any good “How to Poison Your Spouse” book would have explained. Milk is a really bad drink to poison. Then Aasia left the poisoned milk lying around, and her enterprising mother-in-law used  it to make a traditional yogurt-based drink and served it to 27 members of her extended family.

Wait: how much milk did Aasia expect her husband to drink?  Was she married to the Pakistani Paul Bunyan? Assuming he wasn’t twenty feet tall like Paul, the term “overkill” comes to mind, and appropriately so, for “Oopsie!” does not begin to express the magnitude of her mistake. All of 27 people who drank the yogurt—see, yogurt always tastes like its poisoned— passed out and were rushed to the hospital.  Seventeen of them died. Aasia’s husband, however, remains hale and hearty.

Observations:

1 I liked “Romeo and Juliet” better.

2. Moral luck is a bitch. Still, if you poison food and leave it around, you are asking for random bad things to happen. Usually it isn’t this many or this bad, but you never know. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Religion and Philosophy, Romance and Relationships

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/25/17: The Clinton Campaign’s Russian Dossier Connection, Her Lying Lawyer, And Jeff Flake

GOOD MORNING!

1 I have long been an admirer of Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who is one of the few members of Congress, more’s the pity, who will stick to his principles even when they pit him against his own party. However, his freak-out and verbal attack on President Trump accomplish nothing positive (unless you consider making Democrats happy positive) and  at this point constitute pure self-indulgence and, yes, these words are coming up a lot lately, virtue-signalling and grandstanding. I have no sympathy for Flake, Senator Corker, or any other Republican leaders who stood by and allowed Donald Trump to hijack their party. The time for Flake to take a stand was last March, or even earlier. Ethics Alarms stated that the GOP shouldn’t have let Trump into the debates or on its ballot. I said that he should have been kicked out of the debates when he began trashing the party, and when he  became disgustingly boorish and uncivil. I explained that it could have and should have refused to nominate him by changing the rules. The party had a duty to the country to present a competent, trustworthy alternative to the corrupt, venal, dishonest candidate the Democrats were going to nominate: everyone knew who that would be. Instead, the GOP sold its soul. Jeff Flake now says that Trump is reckless, outrageous and undignified? Who didn’t know that? I assume the President’s  voters knew that. On Ethics Alarms, I wrote about those Trump character traits in 2011.

It is particularly galling for me to read Flake’s attack on Trump in the Washington Post today, which begins, “As I contemplate the Trump presidency, I cannot help but think of Joseph Welch.” In fact, it makes me want to scream helplessly at the sky. In this Ethics Alarms post, I invoked Welch’s famous televised slap-down of Joe McCarthy before the first Republican candidates debate, and concluded “If someone doesn’t at least try it, none of these 15 non-Trumps are smart enough to be President.” I wrote that on September 16, 2015. 

Senator Flake is like a Senator  going to Honolulu in December of 1942 and proclaiming that the Japanese can’t be trusted. He deserves no sympathy or support now.

He should have been reading Ethics Alarms.

UPDATE: My friend and frequent ProEthics collaborator Mike Messer called this “flake news.”

2. I haven’t had time to thoroughly unravel what yesterday’s revelation that Hillary Clinton’s campaign funded what became the infamous “Russian dossier” means. A couple of points, however, Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

The Washington Post, Pit Bulls, And How We Know It Is Foolish To Trust The News Media

 

If you think about it, you know you shouldn’t trust the news media.

Decades ago, I realized that almost any time I read or watched a news report involving something I knew about, it was almost always wrong, confused, left out important data, or lied.  Initially this realization manifested itself in sports reporting about baseball in general and the Boston Red Sox in particular, but later, as my knowledge expanded, so did my experience with authoritative news reports that were, metaphorically of course, full of crap. When I ran a research foundation for the US Chamber of Commerce, this phenomenon really came into focus. Reporters misunderstood what researchers said in answer to their questions. They misrepresented the press releases. They obviously didn’t read the full studies, and pretended they had. They misquoted me.

I didn’t think this was sinister. Mostly, the cause was laziness and inadequate intellectual training and cognitive skills. Most reporters I dealt with just weren’t very bright or well-educated. And I it suddenly hit me, one fine day in the Spring of 1981, like bolt from the blue:

Tf news reports are so often significantly wrong when I know a lot about the topic, why do I believe and rely on news stories about topics I don’t know much about? It makes no sense to trust these people.

The depressing thing is that the news media was far less biased and far more professional then than now. At least you know, however, that my distrust of U.S. journalism isn’t of recent vintage.

I thought about my 1981 epiphany when I read this story in the Washington Post this morning. It is crafted as a heart-tugging report about the tragic death of a 7-year-old boy, with the headline,  “‘It’s my baby. It’s my baby’: Two pit bulls fatally maul 7-year-old boy in Mass., authorities say.”

As readers here know, Ethics Alarms has thoroughly researched and covered the topic of ignorant anti-pit bull breed bias. The argument that the three to five breeds commonly regarded as “pit bulls” are inherently dangerous and more so than any other large breed rests on the same illogic as racial bias against humans; it has no factual basis in science or experience. I also, quite separately from my research, have a lot of personal experience with dogs of all kinds, including the so called “bully breeds.”

The reporter obviously does not, nor did he do the research necessary to write this story competently. The first sign is that the dogs are identified as “pit bulls” according to “authorities.” The authorities are obviously not authorities on dog breeds, and multiple studies have shown that few people are capable of accurately identifying a “pit bull.”   First, there is no such breed. The breeds commonly called “pit bulls” are American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers  and the American Pit Bull Terrier, as well as the American Bull Dog, because it kind of looks like a pit bull, and the Bull Terrier, which has “bull” in its name. Pit breed mixes are also often identified as pit bulls, though a lab/pit bull breed mix, for example, is as much a Labrador retriever as a “pit bull.” Never mind. If a large dog has short ears, a muscular body, a square muzzle and bites someone, that’s plenty, along with confirmation bias, to lead an “authority” to identify a dog as a “pit bull,” and for the news media to report it that way. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Animals, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/7/2017: Compromise, Competence, Verrit, A Congressional Jerk, And Democratic Crooks Don’t Matter…

Good Morning!

1 President Trump stunned the political world and particularly the left’s “I hate him” news media by crossing party lines and cutting a debt deal with Democratic leaders in defiance of his own hyper-partisan party. One reason they were stunned is because this is what competent Presidents do and are supposed to do in order to govern, and we have just finished eight years with a previous President who was unwilling and incapable of doing it.

This single episode doesn’t make Trump a competent President, but it does show that he is competent in at least one aspect of democratic leadership (Obama was competent at exactly two: appearing Presidential and speaking coherently), and has some guts. The demonstrated ability to negotiate and the willingness to act in the teeth of furious opposition were two characteristics that the advocates of his candidacy cited as justification for electing him.

It is also dawning on some that the structure of the DACA executive order may well be to fashion the measure as a bargaining chip to be cashed in later. This is also the kind of thing competent leaders do.

2. There is a new website called Verrit, which appears to be an openly, proudly, left-biased news source which purports to “verify” news stories, obviously based on its own progressive world view. Verrit founder and CEO Peter Daou told the news media,

“We’re in a time now where you just no longer trust anything that you’re reading,” Daou said. “Facts are now in question. Reality is now in question. So we want to do something where we rigorously vet these facts and we actually stand by our research and put an authentication code on every fact that we put up.”

And what qualifies Verrit as a fair and objective “authenticator”? Apparently it is the virtue of being hard-progressive and anti-conservative to the bone. Here is a recent Verrit collection of its “cards”:

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Public Service, War and the Military

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Hillary Clinton In Her Upcoming Book, “What Happened”

You see the quote above. This is a section of one of the excerpts being doled out to the media and public to build interest in Clinton’s latest book. In the excerpt she blames Bernie Sanders, among others, for her defeat, saying that his attacks against her during the primary caused “lasting damage” and laid the foundation for “(Donald) Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.”

Observations:

1 As with her earlier excerpt about how she wishes she had acted more assertively when Donald Trump was “stalking her” during a debate, Clinton displays the opposite of leadership instincts here. Although she was the one offering herself as the leader of the free world, she whines that she was rendered powerless by the advice of others and the recommendation of President Obama. Saying that she felt that she was “in a straitjacket” is simply admitting that she was indecisive and accepted the judgment of others over her own. However, that decision was hers; she was not in a straitjacket, and she is accountable for the ultimate decision to “lay off Bernie.” She can’t credibly blame anyone else.

2. Bernie Sanders was as inoffensive and respectful as opponent as Hillary could have possible drawn for the Democratic Party nomination. His obvious reason for running was to get a national platform for his far-left, Socialist positions. He was too old, he was eccentric, and he wasn’t even a Democrat. Like Barack Obama, who also ran against Hillary believing that he had no chance, Hillary’s lack of charisma, chilly public persona and inherent untrustworthiness suddenly made Sanders’ underdog candidacy viable. Nonetheless, as Ethics Alarms discussed during the campaign, Sanders never behaved as if he was committed to winning. Most remarkably (and unforgivably for his supporters), he gave a pass to Clinton on her e-mail server scandal, saying more than once that he didn’t care about her “stupid e-mails.” Since Clinton was lying about, double-talking around, spinning and ducking the issue almost daily, this was a gift that no other serious candidate would have given her. Yet she’s blaming Bernie now for not being even less competitive.

Incredible! Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Leadership, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President