Lunchtime Ethics Snack, 1/17/2020: Dirty Money, Dirty Baseball, And “Parasite”

Yum or Yecchh?

1. And the baseball cheating scandal is still roiling! I feel sorry for ethics enthusiasts who are missing out on this fascinating episode because they shut down when baseball is mentioned. One emerging issue that focuses on “woke” (and in some quadrants, sadly, female) leadership models has become evident. The two managers fired in the sign-stealing scandal were part of the “new wave” of “collaborative” baseball managers that teams embraced in recent years. They are sensitive to the players’ needs; they don’t give orders as much as set flexible boundaries; they are not confrontational, and they absorb and guide the culture of the clubhouse rather than dictate it. Then we learn, in MLB’s report on its investigation, that when Houston’s A.J. Hinch discovered (in 2017) that his bench coach and his players were operating an elaborate sign-stealing operation that he knew violated the rules , he made it known that he disapproved, but never ordered them to stop. Now baseball commentators are saying that the Astros need to hire an “old school” manager (like the ones who have been put out to pasture over the last five years) who will be leader, who will lay down the law, and who won’t shy away from confrontation for fear of not being “collaborative.”

Duh. How did anyone come to think effective leaders should do otherwise? Leaders need to lead. Leading doesn’t have to be autocratic, but a leader who acts like Hinch did in this matter is no leader at all.

In another revelation regarding the scandal, the report by Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred states that when Manfred put teams on notice in a Sept. 15, 2017 memo that using electronic means to steal and relay opposing teams’ signs during games would henceforth be  severely punished, Houston General Manager Jeff Luhnow “did not forward the memoranda and did not confirm that the players and field staff were in compliance … Had Luhnow taken those steps in September 2017 it is clear to me that the Astros would have ceased both sign-stealing schemes at the time.”

This is gross managerial negligence, and it puts Lahlow’s self-serving statement that he had no involvement in his team’s cheating in perspective. Continue reading

It Is With Great Reluctance That Ethics Alarms Concludes That As Generally Repugnant And Vulgar The Term “Asshole” Is, Mayor Pete Buttigieg Is One.

If this was just disgraceful pandering, grandstanding, and shameless virtue-signaling, he would only  have proven himself to be a jerk—a big jerk, to be sure,  but still just a jerk. But it is far more.

The new fad contender for the Democratic Presidential nomination is returning thousands of dollars in donations because they came from two lawyers who had the audacity to represent Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as he attempted to defend himself against the contrived  ambush accusation of a sex crime, made in a Congressional hearing  on national television, a ploy designed to destroy his reputation. Buttigieg’s campaign said that it will not accept funds from people who helped secure the justice’s seat on the Supreme Court. You know. Dirty money.

Buttigieg’s campaign had received $7,200 from Alexandra Walsh, and $2,800 from Beth Wilkinson, Walsh’s law partner. Both represented Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation ordeal. As I have vowed to point out every time some ignoramus asserts that lawyesr must be punished for the character, conduct or beliefs of the clients they represent and are responsible or culpable in any way for what those clients have said or done (or NOT done), it is a core and essential principle of our legal system that such an assumption is not only wrong but dangerous. It threatens the right of every citizen to receive competent legal representation and access to our laws and other rights.

Here, once again, is my favorite ethics rule, from the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct:

(b) A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.

Whether the target is Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Elizabeth Warren, Harvey Weinstein’s defense attorneys (also here), Larry Tribe, Gitmo defense lawyers, or Clarence Darrow, Johnny Cochran, Leslie Abramson and other defense lawyers who defend murderers and worse, the false claim that lawyers who take on unpopular, repulsive or guilty clients have done anything less than protected  the Bill of Rights and the rule of law is either rank ignorance or a deliberate effort to reduce the civic literacy of the public.

Buttigieg isn’t a lawyer, but he is very well educated and has a reasonable claim to brilliance.  Thus he knows and understands what lawyers do, but is acting as if he does not, intentionally making the public stupid (or keeping it conveniently as stupid as it already is ) for his own benefit.

Despicable.

But that’s not all. Continue reading

Insomnia Ethics Dump, 8/19/2019 (at 3:16 am): What Keeps Me Up At Night

Hi.

So depressing to observe the reactions of the Facebook Borg to my post about Elizabeth Warren’s self-outing as a lying demagogue. They couldn’t process it; they put their metaphorical fingers in their ears and hummed; they attacked the messenger (me); they channeled the generally-derided Politifact whitewashing of the “Mike Brown was murdered” lie. One lawyer friend apparent deep-dived Ethics Alarms to try to  find a post that would contradict my position regarding Warren (and Kamala Harris). She couldn’t, but pretended she had by metaphorically waving an essay in which I applauded a man acquitted of murder by reason of insanity who later admitted to others that he had killed someone when he was younger and insane. (I can’t find the damn thing myself.)  She then called me a liar and a hypocrite, because I had described the man as a murderer when he was innocent in the eyes of the law. A lawyer made this argument, mind you. I explained, not too nicely, that her analogy was idiotic, since there was no murder and no crime in the Brown case, so law prof Warren’s calling it either was dishonest and indefensible, while in the case of the recovered madman, there was a murder, a crime, and a murder victim. Though the acknowledged killer he was fortunate enough to have committed his crime in a state that holds the insane unaccountable, that fact didn’t change the act or the  crime.

I don’t know why I bothered. Warren fans, like Bernie Bros, appear to be completely immune to facts and reality.

1.  Why is there such a compulsion to corrupt the innocent, even the fictional innocent? I was hardly an admirer of those late 60s and 70s Sid and Marty Kroft Saturday Morning TV shows with people dressed in huge, garish thing-costumes and being relentlessly cheery. You know the ones: “H.R. Puffnstuff,” “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour,” “Lidsville”—those. In addition to being assaultive and unfunny, they also inspired Barney, for which the Krofts should never be forgiven.

Still, lots of kids loved the shows and characters, and they should be able to cherish those memories. Hollywood, however, seems determined to debase everything it can, especially fond memories, either by sexualizing them or making them dark, or both. (The re-boot of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “Riverdale,” the series based on the “Archie” comics, are cases in point.) Now we have the new in which are re-imagined as murderous psychopaths.

Nice. Continue reading

“Reputation Laundering” And The Dirty Money Fallacy

Meharry Medical College is a 143-year-old historically black institution in Tennessee. Last week it announced that it had received the second-largest grant in its history, a $7.5 million gift to study public health issues that affect African-Americans.

But the gift has prompted attacks from African-American health experts and activists. The source of the funds, Juul Labs, is the fast-growing e-cigarette company and partially owned by the tobacco giant Altria. “Juul is cozying up to the black community, and that makes it harder for some parts of the black community to call them out on their targeting of African-Americans,” says Sharon Y. Eubanks, who is an advisory board member of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California. By “targeting African-Americans”, she means that the company and Altria market its completely legal products to blacks (among other groups), who choose to buy them. [Full disclosure: I worked as an ethics consultant for Altria for many years, and enjoyed the relationship tremendously. Altria was the reason I shaved my head.]

According to the NAACP’s Youth Against Menthol campaign, about 85 percent of African-American smokers aged 12 and older smoke menthol cigarettes, compared with 29 percent of white smokers, and Juul markets menthol pods while Altria markets menthol versions of its cigarettes, like Marboro.  And how, exactly, is the African -American community helped if Meharry,  the nation’s largest medical research center at a historically black institution, refuses the Juul grant to demonstrate, well, something?

You got me. This, however, is part of a growing fad among the virtuous and the “woke”—refusing to allow organizations, entities and families that they have decided are bad from using  alleged ill-gotten gains to do good. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/6/2018: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Gooooood Morning!

1. From the Moral Luck files:

What you just saw is a bald eagle landing on Seattle Mariners starter James Paxton’s shoulder during the National Anthem before yesterday’s Mariners-Twins game.  Here’s a closer look…

The eagle got confused: it is supposed to go to his trainer, in one of the more spectacular Anthem displays that has ever been devised: I’ve seen this performance several times.  After the game, Paxton was asked why he didn’t try to escape. His answer:

“I’m not gonna outrun an eagle, so just thought, we’ll see what happens.”

Heck, he had already endured the horror of Dessa’s incredibly off-key rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” what’s a mere bald eagle attack? Seriously, Paxton’s quote is an ethics guide: Don’t panic, don’t act on emotion, assess the situation, see what happens, and act accordingly. Of course, the fact that this strategy worked out well helps: if the eagle had ripped his eyes out, everyone would be saying Paxton was an idiot not to run.

How I would have loved to see this happen to Colin Kaepernick!

2. How the President gets himself into ethics trouble. I just watched a clip of Trump speaking yesterday about California’s sanctuary cities. “The thing is that these cities are protecting bad people,” he said, with emphasis. Naturally, this will be characterized as racism. It’s not racism, however. The statement is just overly simplistic, and exacerbated in its inflammatory elements by the President’s rudimentary vocabulary, in which the only operable adjectives appear to be great, bad, horrible, wonderful, terrible, sad, and a few more. It is impossible to communicate about complex issues competently and fairly with such meager tools. Illegal immigrants have broken our laws and willfully so. That is not good, but it does not make all of them bad people….though many are. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up,1/28/2018: Looking For The Silver Lining

Good Morning!

1 Phooey. This was one of those annoying weeks where the blog covered a lot of diverse topics (28 posts in the last 7 days), featured excellent comments, and was rewarded by a kick in the teeth. There was a big drop in followers, especially after the post about the Larry Nassar sentencing fiasco (I got slammed on Facebook, too.) That one is not open to legitimate controversy: the judge was unethical, the manner of sentencing did breach the Judicial Canons in Michigan and elsewhere, the length of the sentence was  disproportionate, and the parade of victims was a disgrace to the system. Never mind, though: he’s a monster and didn’t deserved to be treated any better by the judge, so good for her. No wonder trying to get people to reason using ethics tools and systems is so difficult. Most people default to emotion; some lawyers on Facebook even expressed that sentiment—“You go girl!”

It is such basic ethics, and so core to the justice system, that even the worst human beings deserve to be treated with the same respect and fairness as anyone else in the justice system. It is the bedrock of professional ethics that those with the job of protecting the public’s health, safety and welfare must be role models and eschew the passions and indulgences of the public they are pledged to serve. Yet people are frustratingly resistant to both concepts, giving lip service, pretending to understand, then  regularly bouncing back to rationalizations and mob reasoning like their values were on a bungee cord.

Silver Lining: It is satisfying to be 100% sure you are right in principle, even when, indeed especially when, you are getting beaten up for it.

2. And speaking of bitches…Contemporaneously with Hillary Clinton’s transparently cynical and damning response to the revelation that she responded to a campaign staffer’s complaint about sexual abuse by Hillary’s “spiritual survivor” in 2008 by transferring the accuser while keeping her advisor around (to harass others, it seems), she released a video…

…that began with the words, “And let me just say, this is directed to the activist bitches supporting bitches.” And thus we see how the Nation of Assholes is progressing. Somehow, I didn’t see the coarsening of the culture as Americans, as they always so, emulate the conduct of the President, extending to  Hillary Clinton, but why not? She has no integrity or ethics alarms. If she thinks going potty mouth will bring her money and power, why wouldn’t she ditch civility? The woman is first and always an ethics corrupter. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/13/17: All Aboard The Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck!

Good Morning, Hollywood!

I’m sorry to bombard you with this ugly topic again first thing, but I’d like to stop having to think about it as soon as possible.

1 My sister, a committed Democrat who naturally prefers that damning stories about her favorite politicians go down the memory hole as soon as possible, complained yesterday that she didn’t understand why Harvey’s demise was such a long-running story. He’s a pig, we’ve seen it before, he’s fired, big deal, she protested. There are more important things going on.

There are undoubtedly more important things going on, but from an ethics perspective, the importance of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck and who boards it (and who has been riding it for decades) is as significant and chock full of lessons as a story can get. The Penn State-Jerry Sandusky-Joe Paterno scandal was important for some of the same reasons. It exposed the tendency of organizations to become corrupted when non-ethical considerations, usually money, freeze the clappers on multiple ethics alarms. It showed how “virtuous” people with power and influence can betray their values, admirers and supporters in the pursuit of personal or organizational goals. It showed how even usually complacent and biased journalists will suddenly become responsible when the details are juicy enough…and how some won’t. The Sandusky saga also was one more clue to how inherently warped an entire industry’s culture—in that case, big time college football—was (and is).

The Weinstein Train Wreck is worse, however, and also more significant. Weinstein is typical—extreme, perhaps, but typical—of  a popular and glamorous industry that has abused power to debase and exploit women for a century. The trade-offs and incentives turned many of the abused women into accessories of future crimes against other women, while some women, too powerful to have to fear the consequences of doing the obviously right thing, chose to protect the community and the industry rather than human beings. That they, and complicit men in the industry as well, did this while spending the past six years making angry public speeches about the sexist and misogynist attitude of Republicans flagged the kind of hypocrisy that demands substantive consequences.

It also demands reform. Anyone who  thinks Hollywood is going to retire the casting couch because of one especially disgusting and prolific predator is kidding themselves. Sexual harassment and gender discrimination is rampant at every level of the performing arts, from high school theater up through Broadway, and on to Hollywood. I question whether that culture will ever change significantly. At least this episode might educate the public that if they take moral grandstanding from the likes of John Legend, Meryl Streep and Jimmy Kimmel seriously, they are asking to be betrayed and disillusioned.

And that doesn’t even reach the political hypocrisy exhibited by the Democratic Party and progressives, which embraced and celebrated a sexual predator from Hollywood because he gave them money, just as they have been giving a sexual predator from Arkansas the King’s Pass on similar conduct because he gave them power. As long as the only voices calling attention to this are from the Right,  count on progressives to ignore or minimize the issue. After all, conservatives and Republicans accepted the devil’s bargain in allying themselves with Roger Ailes. Still, the criticism of the party and predator enablers like Hillary Clinton needs to come from the Left to do any lasting good. So far there has been some criticism from that direction, but not nearly enough.

2. Weinstein’s contract with The Weinstein Company  included a clause that allowed  his sexual harassment as long as he paid the costs of settlements out of his own pocket, TMZ reported yesterday. So much for the sham posture that the company was shocked and disgusted at his conduct. Poor Donna Brazile, desperately trying to join the futile virtue signalling by hypocrites who have been cheering on Hillary and her husband for decades, tweeted her admiration for the TWC board thusly

…only to have to delete the tweet later. Did Donna really believe that the TWC board, including Harvey’s brother, didn’t know what Weinstein was doing? Is she that stupid?

3. A lot of contentious debate on this topic at Ethics Alarms has arisen regarding the complicity and obligations of various Hollywood actresses. There are different categories, and conflating them only leads to confusion. Here are the categories and subcategories:

A. The powerless victims of harassment These are the young, aspiring actresses who were propositioned or assaulted by Weinstein, and convinced, rightly or not, that they would never have a chance if they complained

These are the equivalents of Bill Cosby’s victims, who only came forward after their abuser was wounded and vulnerable.

A 1. Powerless victims who accepted cash settlements. This means that since other remedies were unavailable to them, they at least triggered some kind of punishment and compensation. This required, however, allowing future victims to go unwarned, since the pay-offs were accompanied by confidentiality agreements.

B. Victims who were not powerless, due to connections in the industry. I place actresses like Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow in this category.

C. Victims who, over time, became powerful, wealthy, popular and influential enough that they could have exposed Weinstein, if they chose, but didn’t.

C 1 Victims who received cash settlements when powerless but whose careers  progressed to the point that they could forfeit the cash and accept any legal consequences of breaking the contractual agreements.

D. Rape victims. Sexual harassment is a civil offense; rape is a crime. Many rapes can be substantiated by medical examinations, and rapists are dangerous. Accepting a cash settlement for not reporting one’s rape when the rape could have been substantiated—this is what Rose McGowan did—is a breach of multiple civic duties.

E. Women in the industry who became aware of Weinstein’s conduct and did nothing about it.

F. Women in the industry who became aware of Weinstein’s conduct,  did nothing about it, and continued to praise him in public.

G. Actresses who accepted Weinstein’s proffered bargain, and exchanged sexual favors for roles and contracts, turning what is laughably regarded a a meritocracy into sexual commerce. We don’t know who these women are, but it strains credulity to think there were none.

Of course, many male Hollywood figures also fall into categories E and F.

Categories C, EF and G are the most unethical categories. D is problematic as well.

4. Jane Fonda revealed to Christiane Amanpour that she is in category E. She “found out about Harvey about a year ago,” said the certified Hollywood royalty, outspoken feminist and progressive champion.  “I’m ashamed that I didn’t say anything right then,” Fonda said. 

Well, that’s nice. As long as she is ashamed.

We can proclaim our principles and values all our lives, but if we don’t act according to them when the lives of others are at stake, all of what went before is meaningless. How many women suffered at Weinstein’s hands after Jane knew? Continue reading

Does A Church Receiving Dirty Money Cleanse It, Or Can Only The Government Do That?

I can see why that $300,000 didn't last long...

I can see why that $300,000 didn’t last long…

For some divine reason it appears to be church day at Ethics Alarms, though I attribute much of the phenomenon  to my #1 topic scout Fred, who has been on fire of late.

David McQueen was the architect of a ruthless $46 million Ponzi scheme. While filling his own bank account, he also gave generously to Resurrection Life Church in Grandville, Michigan, one of the so-called “mega-churches,” as you can see in the photo above. McQueen donated about $300,000 in a three-year period, beginning in 2006, when the church was involved in a building project. See? He wasn’t so bad!

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Borgula is involved in effort to reimburse victims by recovering some of the money taken by McQueen. The $300,000 looked like a nice chunk to go after, so he sent an e-mail to the church elders asking, pretty please, if they would give the money back.

The church said “No.” Continue reading

Is Obama Ethically Obligated To Reject Bill Maher’s Million? Don’t Be Ridiculous!

Classy, Bill...but don't worry, your money's still good, even if you aren't.

Confirming the Ethics Train Wreck status of the church-run institutions/health care/ religious freedom/contraceptives coverage/Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke mess, the Weekly Standard and other conservative pundits are playing the hypocrisy card and arguing that if Limbaugh is so reprehensible, then the Obama super-pac should apply the same standards to serial misogynist Bill Maher and return his recent $1 million contribution.

Idiots. As long as campaign contributions aren’t the fruits of a crime, the whole concept of rejecting “dirty money” is silly beyond belief. Do Republicans really want to stand for the proposition that only contributions from the pure of heart and word can be accepted by those running for office? Jerks like Bill Maher have rights too; he should have the same opportunity to support political candidates of his choice no matter what offensive and crude things he says to his cheering lap dog audiences on HBO. Politicians are not accountable for the character, words, beliefs and misdeeds of his supporters, nor should they be. This is not a standard that Republicans, of all people, want to establish. Nor should any of us.

Absolutely: Democrats and feminists who are furious at Limbaugh’s despicable misogyny  show themselves as hypocrites by appearing on Maher’s show. But his money is as good as anybody’s, and he has not forfeited his right to support candidates of his choosing. Nobody should be trying to take that away from him.

Hitler’s Paintings, Dirty Money, and an Ethics Quiz

A Hitler masterpiece during the artist's controversial "Care Bears" period

As readers here probably know, I don’t do much commentary on Swedish ethics, but this intriguing story touches on a couple of Ethics Alarms topics of continuing interest: so-called dirty money and political correctness.

Sweden’s debt collection agency had planned to sell seven paintings by that noted 20th Century artist Adolf Hitler to bring the government some extra cash to pay off debts. A genuine Hitler can fetch $40,000 or more on the global art market. The intended sale never happened, because the agency concluded that the paintings were fakes, but never mind: what is ethically provocative is that Stockholm’s Jewish association protested that it would be morally offensive for the government to make money off of Hitler’s artistic labors. “It is symbolically unfortunate that people earn money on these items,” said the group’s spokesperson. Continue reading