Tag Archives: Cornell

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/9/2019: “Your Host Is Finally Feeling Better’ Edition.

Good day!

1. More evidence that a lot of Americans have trouble with this “democracy” thing. Former Democratic Representative John Dingell ofMichigan died this week at 92. He became  the longest-serving member of Congress in history before he finally agreed not seek re-election in his 80s, but that’s not the real head-exploder in his obituary. It was this…

“Dingell first arrived to Congress in 1955, taking over the seat held by his father John Dingell, Sr., who had died earlier that year, and the younger Dingell continued to serve in the House for more than 59 years. He announced in 2014 that he would not seek re-election and instead his wife, Debbie Dingell, ran for his seat and is now serving her third term.”

A little googling will reveal that Daddy Dingell served in Congress from 1933 until Junior took over. That means that voters in the district have sent only members of the Dingell family to Washington for 86 years. Debbie Dingell, the alliterative named widow of the departed, had no apparent experience in legislation before she was elected to hold the Perpetual Dingell Seat.

This is laziness, civic inattention, vestigial aristocracy and passive democracy at work, or rather, in a semi-coma. There is no excuse for electing leaders based on family connections and name recognition, except that Americans have been doing it for a couple of centuries. I know you can’t fix stupid, but the parties are exploiting stupid, and that goes to the heart of democracy’s greatest weakness: government by the people means a lot of really lazy, ignorant, biased and irresponsible people are going to involved in government.

2. Of course. The New York Times today defends the ongoing efforts by Congressional Democrats to make it impossible for the elected President to govern by burying the administration in specious and intrusive investigations. “Harassment? Nope. Oversight.” is the disingenuous headline of the paper’s Saturday editorial. Oversight is an important Congressional function, but investigations based on the logic “Gee, this guy seems sleazy to me and we don’t trust billionaires, so let’s keep digging into his personal and business affairs until we find some dirt” or “So far our impeachment bills have gone nowhere, but if we keep investigating, I bet we can find some real offenses” are not oversight. Oversight must be handled in good faith, and there is no good faith among Democrats, who made their intentions clear the second Trump humiliated Hillary Clinton. Their stated objective is to get him removed from office by any means possible, and if that fails, at least to reduce his public support to the point where he cannot govern. Harassment in the workplace is defined by creating a hostile work environment that makes it impossible for the target to do his or her job. Could this describe what kind of work environment the “resistance” and the news media (the Times, in defending Congressional Democrats, is also defending itself) have created for President Trump any more precisely? Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics

Ethics Musings On The Project Veritas Cornell Video

1. I am deeply conflicted about how to handle the results of James O’Keefe’s “undercover video” operations when they hit gold like this. His methods are dishonest, Project Veritas does not treat his targets fairly, and publicizing his work just ensures that he will do more of it, and that imitators will follow in his slimy footsteps.

2. On the other hand, it makes no sense to apply an ethics blog exclusionary rule, and pretend that the videos don’t show what they show, when what they show is enlightening.

3. I’m not entirely certain that this video shows what it shows. It may show Cornell’s assistant dean for students, Joseph Scaffido, slipping into automatic sales mode, and neither paying attention to what comes out of his mouth nor applying critical thought. Surely he knows–please, please, tell me he knows!— that a pro-ISIS group on any American campus, especially a high-profile and prestigious one like Cornell’s, would be a public relations nightmare.

4. What should we want to happen to Scaffido? If he’s fired, he has lost his job because of tricks and lies, and because he trusted a stranger. That seems unfair. Yet if Cornell just shrugged this off, it is guaranteed to upset parents and alumni. What kind of people are teaching today’s college students at Cornell? Are they really this stupid? How many people like Scaffido are in positions of authority, or worse, tenured professors? Isn’t this obviously a problem? Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media

The John Edwards Indictment

Cornell law professor Michael Dorf makes my heart leap in admiration by bucking the popular trend—especially among Democrats and soft-hearted media types who 1) only like seeing Republicans and conservatives get in trouble for sex scandals and 2) think Edwards “has suffered enough” —of arguing that the prosecution of John Edwards for campaign fundraising violations is based on a weak legal case. On his blog, Prof. Dorf  argues persuasively to the contrary:

“At its core, the indictment alleges that Edwards knowingly: 1) in violation of federal campaign finance law, accepted money well in excess of the individual campaign contribution limits; 2) spent that money to hide his extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter; and 3) in violation of federal campaign finance law, failed to disclose either the donations or the expenditures….

“…The real question with respect to the government’s point number 1) is whether the hundreds of thousands of dollars were given to Edwards ” for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.”  Subject to a whole lot of irrelevant exceptions, that’s the statutory definition of a “campaign contribution.”  It is nearly inconceivable that the money for hiding the Hunter affair was not “for the purpose of influencing” the 2008 Presidential primary.  What other possible purpose could it have served? Continue reading

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Filed under Finance, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions, Research and Scholarship