Lunch Time Ethics Appetizer, 2/13/2019: Rail, Restaurants, Resignation And Reality

Yum Yum!

1. When reality meets ideology… California Gov. Gavin Newsom  announced that

[He’s] abandoning a $77 billion plan to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco and will focus instead on completing a 119-mile (190-kilometer) segment in the state’s agricultural heartland. Voters approved a ballot measure in 2008 calling for the linking of Northern and Southern California, a rail project initially estimated to cost $33 billion and be completed in 2020. Subsequent estimates more than doubled the cost and pushed the timeline to 2033. Newsom pledged to finish the segment already under construction through California’s Central Valley. He rejected the idea critics have raised that it will be a “train to nowhere” and said it can help revitalize the economically depressed region.

We’ll see how much that part costs, if it’s ever completed. Meanwhile, Democrats are going to have to declare their fealty to the “Green New Deal,” which pledges to eliminate air travel nation-wide with “high speed rail.”

2. What part of “convenient double standards” is unclear to you? Kelli Goff writes at the Daily Beast (relayed by Ann Althouse, since I have the DB on my Ethics Alarms  Untrustworthy Black List):

“When Rachel Dolezal was unmasked as a white woman who misrepresented her racial and ethnic identity in part to bolster her professional bona fides as a voice of the disenfranchised, she was penalized—heavily. She went from rising media star to late-night punchline, unemployable and impoverished. I don’t wish poverty on Warren, but I don’t understand how her only punishment for a similar fraud seems to be that she may become president.”

Warren, a polished demagogue, got rave reviews for her recent speech throwing her war-bonnet  into the 2020 ring; like Barack Obama, skillful public speaking is the full extent of her qualifications for leadership. But wow—with the Democrats more or less trapped into nominating another woman to run against Donald Trump, what an awful field of openly unethical females they have assembled so far! Warren’s a fraud; Gillibrand is an anti-male bigot; Gabbard is running away from strong anti-gay positions, Harris has attacked the Catholic faith as a disqualifying feature for a judge, and then there’s Hillary, who looks outstanding in this field. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Questions And Answers Regarding The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis”

Indianapolis

Commenter Paul Compton addressed one issue in my post about the Flint water crisis, the question of whether avoidable disasters require some high-ranking individual with responsibility for the problem to resign or be fired as a vital symbolic statement that there will be official accountability when a system breaks down. I wrote, in reference to the calls for Michigan Governor Snyder to resign:

“Should Snyder resign? He wasn’t responsible for the fiasco, but he’s accountable: it’s his state, environmental protection agency, and water boards. He’s not the only one who should step up and fall on his sword, but sure: if you’ve read here for long, you know I support leaders and managers losing their jobs when massive screw-ups happen on their watch, especially when, as in this case, it is a joint effort.”

Here is Paul responding to that statement, in the Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Questions And Answers Regarding The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis”:

I agree completely; and disagree just as completely.

I have mentioned before that I am opposed to the Darth Vader school of man management. If someone has to fall on their sword every time they fail somewhere – even fail fairly spectacularly – not only will it be impossible for people to learn from their mistakes but we will soon run out of people who have any sort of competence at all.

An example:

Arthur Wellesley purchased a commission as Lieutenant-Colonel in the 33rd Regiment – he was already in the army and had seen some action by that time. At the battle of Seringapatam he advanced at night over un-reconnoitred ground and was soundly defeated resulting in some twenty five men killed. It has been suggested that if his brother had not been Governor-General of India he would have been court-martialed. We would never have had the Duke of Wellington, the only undefeated commander of his era.

Surely as people move up the chain of command their opportunities for catastrophic failure increase at each step. Added to that, the further up you go the more you are dependent on the performance of those below you. This, coupled with armchair critics and those with an agenda, can lead to a situation where the ‘boss’ cops it in the back for situations that are completely beyond their control.

An example:

Continue reading

Ethics Questions And Answers Regarding The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis

how-lead-gets-injpg-1e9d798a1edee129

First, a background question: What is the Flint water crisis?

Here is what has happened so far:

1. In March of 2013, the Flint City Council voted to leave the Detroit water system and join a new pipeline project that would deliver water to the city from Lake Huron. The state agreed that it was a good idea, since it would save the financially strapped Flint 19 million dollars over 8 years. [ Addendum: The news media and progressive spin is that the cruel state unilaterally imposed this decision on Flint. That’s not true, and don’t trust any source that claims it is. Here’s one such hack, who states “In 2013, the Emergency Manager for Flint, Ed Kurtz, signed the order that Flint would stop relying upon Detroit for water and, instead, switch to a the Karegnondi Water Authority run out of Lake Huron.” The Flint City Council voted 7-1 to take this course prior to the sign-off. It was approved by Kurtz, but this blogger’s statement that the crisis “is a direct result of reckless cost-cutting by the unelected bureaucrat who Governor Snyder appointed to run the city under the state’s controversial “Emergency Financial Manager” law” is deceptive and false.]

2. Detroit retaliated by announcing that it would cut off Flint’s water supply. Since the new pipeline wouldn’t be ready for three years, Flint had to find a temporary supplier of its water needs. It then spent millions upgrading its water processing plant.

3. The months leading up to the Detroit shut-off deadline generated many meetings with the state and regulatory bodies. Mayor Dayne Walling, a Democrat, announced that the temporary supply would come from the Flint River. The plan for the switch was implement by state-appointed emergency manager, Darnell Early. The system went into operation in April of 2014.

4. Immediately, residents started complaining about the water’s taste and appearance. Early (the state) and Mayor Walling (the city) insisted that it was safe to drink. Four months later, there was a fecal content alert, meaning that the water wasn’t being sufficiently purified. In October of 2014, General Motors said that the water seemed to be corrosive, and it would no longer use it in its plant.

5.  In January of 2015, Flint told its residents that the water wasn’t safe because of chemical contamination that could cause serious health problems. Detroit offered to go back to the old arrangement. Flint declined. Erin Brockovich (yes, that Erin Brockovich)  publicly argued that there was a water safety  crisis in Flint. The Mayor asked the state for assistance, and was assured that they were “working on it.”

6.  Activists said that the water was dangerous and the city should go back to its old arrangement with Detroit. The city hired an expert who claimed the water was safe. More work was done to fix the problem, but the City Council voted to re-connect to the Detroit system, and Lake Huron water. However, the vote had to be approved by the State’s emergency manager for the city. He didn’t approve it. The advocates for going back to Detroit water sued in Federal court, and lost.

7.  This mess  dragged into last fall. In September of 2015, researchers from Virginia Tech University reported online that their testing of Flint’s water found it “very corrosive” and that it was “causing lead contamination in homes.”  “On a scientific basis, Flint River water leaches more lead from plumbing than does Detroit water,” the report concluded. “This is creating a public health threat in some Flint homes that have lead pipe or lead solder.” The very same day, Michigan told Flint that the earlier chemical contamination had fallen within acceptable levels due to improved treatment methods, and the water was officially compliant with all standards, and safe.

8. Later that month, however, testing showed frightening levels of lead in the blood of Flint infants and children. A new lead warning was sent to Flint residents.

9. In October, 2015, the County issued a warning that Flint’s water was dangerous, and asked the Governor to declare a State of Emergency. The next day, Governor Rick Snyder announced various measures to address the problem.

10. Again, the city, this time through a special advisory committee, recommended that Flint switch back to the Detroit supply. On October 8, Snyder announced a multi-million dollar plan to reconnect Flint to Detroit’s water.  A week later, the Michigan Legislature and Snyder approved  $9.4 million in aid to Flint, including $6 million to  switch its drinking water back to Detroit.

11. Thanks to the water problem, Walling was defeated in his race to be re-elected as mayor  by Karen Weaver. The switch didn’t stop the lead problem, because the corrosive water had prompted a deterioration in Flint’s lead pipes. It took a the entire holiday period for this to become sufficiently obvious, for some reason, as many residents drank lead-contaminated water they had been told was now safe.

12. Shortly after Christmas, Snyder fired Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant and apologized for what was happening in Flint. He declared a state of emergency.

13. On January 13, Governor Snyder activated the Michigan National Guard to  distribute bottled water and filters in Flint, and asked the federal government for assistance.  The same day, Michigan health officials reported an increase in Legionnaires’ disease cases during periods over the past two years in Flint and the surrounding county. Snyder requested a major disaster declaration from President Obama, and more federal aid. Obama signed an emergency declaration last week, ordering federal aid for Flint and authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate relief efforts.

Why doesn’t everybody know about this? Continue reading

Monday Morning Lessons in News Media Bias, Incompetence, and Manipulation of Public Opinion

Side profile of a journalist typing on a typewriter

It took all of 15 minutes this morning to see the incompetence and bias of the new media in action regarding two politically charged events currently unfolding:

1. The Washington Post: The Rick Perry Indictment

On page A3 of the Washington Post front section, this report by Post reporter Sean Sullivan was sub-headlined like this:

Texas governor denies any impropriety in feud with district attorney

Continue reading

More On The Perry Indictment: The Mark Of Hack Partisan Journalism

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The unethical indictment of Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry in Travis County (Austin) for the “crime” of trying to force a drunk, power abusing, ethically corrupt district attorney from continuing to head the Public Integrity Unit—quick, now, Democrats…why is this a bad thing?—is a rare opportunity for otherwise incorrigibly biased journalists to show some token integrity and fairness. What is forfeited, after all, by admitting the obvious, that Perry is being railroaded by an abuse of prosecutorial power to derail him politically? Perry is no real threat to win the Presidency, no matter how high his stock is now. We all saw why in 2012.

So the liberal media has no need to play gotcha, and could, for a change, actually do its job: show the public why the indictment is nothing but a political hit job; why it’s a breach of legal ethics, how disgracefully Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg has conducted herself; why she is obligated to resign after breaking the law, trying to use her position to intimidate police officers on video, having her law license suspended, and apparently doing nothing about the fact that she is a raging drunk; why having such an individual heading up the agency responsible for public integrity is a threat to the public well-being and the public trust; and why a Governor of any political affiliation doing everything he can to pressure such a miserable and incompetent DA to resign as she had a professional obligation to do is, not merely not criminal, but admirable.

But most of them just can’t bring themselves to do it. So here is the Daily Beast partisan hack news commentary website, the yin on the left to the yang of Tucker Carlson’s partisan hack Daily Caller on the right, which wouldn’t be necessary if there weren’t a Daily Beast,  publishing this piece by its partisan hack staffer Mark McKinnon, implying that there may be validity to the indictment, suggesting that Perry did something wrong, and glossing over how disgusting it is that Lehmberg  still holds office. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: ABC News, Jonathan Karl and the Sunday Morning “Roundtable”

Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry is being threatened with prison by a per se unethical and illegal grand jury indictment, obtained by special prosecutor Michael McCrum, that attempts to criminalize not merely political tactics, which is how critics are describing it, but the essential and obligatory efforts of a state’s elected leader  to remove a corrupt and unqualified district attorney who is unfit to serve, corrupt,defiant….and drunk as a skunk.

You can read various eviscerations of the indictment here, here and here; there are many more. So far, I can’t find a respectable legal source that finds the indictment anything better than jaw-droppingly absurd and an abuse of prosecution. Jonathan Chait, a left-ish pundit and far from a Perry fan (much like me, except for the left-ish part), nicely expresses his contempt of the charge here. A short hand version would be that Perry has been threatened with jail based on what he said about vetoing a bill, which seems like a First Amendment violation to me.

The reason for the Ethics Dunce call on ABC is that this morning, the network reported on the indictment of Perry and its effect on his Presidential prospects in 2016 without explaining the reason for the Governor’s actions that the prosecutor is straining to call illegal. A simple, thorough, clear explanation would be sufficient to cause any reasonable reader or listener to cry “What? You’re kidding! That’s not possible!” That explanation, however, was not forthcoming on ABC, and has been missing from other reporting as well. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On Tim Geithner’s Ethics Quote Of The Month

Stress Test

“I remember during one Roosevelt Room prep session before I appeared on the Sunday shows, I objected when Dan Pfeiffer wanted me to say Social Security didn’t contribute to the deficit. It wasn’t a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute. Pfeiffer said the line was a ‘dog whistle’ to the left, a phrase I had never heard before. He had to explain that the phrase was code to the Democratic base, signaling that we intended to protect Social Security.”

—- Former Obama Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, revealing that the White House wanted him to mislead the public on the deficit, debt and Social Security, in his newly published memoir, “Stress Test.”

Some ethics observations:

  • Sadly and predictably, the conservative news organizations are going bananas over this passage, while the liberal organizations—that is to say, all of the rest—are scrupulously ignoring it or trying to. Why sadly? Because in an ethical, objective journalistic culture, every reporter would be examining this admission, and critically.
  • Any journalist who is not bothered by this account has implicitly adopted the position that it is acceptable for the President of the United Sates and U.S. officials to mislead the public regarding crucial matters they have a right to know and understand. This is an unethical position for anyone, but especially for a journalist.
  • Of course, this is not the position of most left-oriented journalists. The position of these journalists is, apparently, that it is acceptable for Democratic Presidents of the United Sates and officials in Democratic administrations to mislead the public regarding crucial matters they have a right to know and understand, since they have exhibited no such tolerance when Republicans have occupied the White House.

Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.)

Hey, maybe Trey Radel is trying to emulate the coke-addicted Congressman Peter Russo on "House of Cards"! Quick...somebody tell Trey what happened to him. THAT should make him quit...

Hey, maybe Trey Radel is trying to emulate  coke-addicted Congressman Peter Russo from  “House of Cards”! Quick…somebody tell Trey what happened to him. THAT should make him quit…

This is rather straight-forward.  Trey Radel was elected to represent his district and his state in Congress, and to make laws. He broke the law instead, getting arrested for trying to purchase cocaine. The short term for the Florida Congressman is “disgrace,” and if he had any respect for those who thought  they were voting for an honest, trustworthy man, he would resign. Instead, after taking a leave of absence to complete a rehab program (meaning that a self-inflicted disability robbed his district from representation for about 4% of the term he pledged to serve), he vows to stay on the job. Typical of his nonsensical posturing is this statement: Continue reading

A Prosecutor Is Sent To Jail For Unethical Conduct, And It’s About Time

Good.

Good.

In the resolution of a case already discussed on Ethics Alarms, Former Williamson County (Texas) District Attorney Ken Anderson has been  sentenced to serve 10 days in jail, pay a $500 fine and complete 500 hours of community service as punishment for intentionally failing to turn over exculpatory evidence that would have exonerated Michael Morton, who spent nearly 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Anderson also was forced to surrender his law license and resign his post as a judge because of his ethical breaches in the 1987 case, ultimately overturned after DNA evidence proved that Morton did not beat his wife to death.

Ten days for the prosecutor who disgraced his profession, sullied the justice system and destroyed a life seems like a rap on the wrist, and even an insult to the man who had to spend  nearly 9000 days in jail because of Anderson’s deception. Consider, however: despite blatant prosecutorial misconduct, in every state and for centuries, with untold numbers of innocents jailed and executed, most never vindicated, this appears to be the first time on record that any prosecutor has been punished with jail time. Few, compared to the number deserving punishment, have been punished at all.

It’s a start. It’s a precedent.

The justice system just became a little more accountable.

_____________________________

Pointer: Legal Ethics Forum

Sources: New York Times, ABC KVUE

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work or property was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

Bob Filner Is A Fick

Leroy Fick (L); unidentified woman, (C) Mayor Filner (R)

Leroy Fick (left); unidentified gropee, (right); Mayor Fick (far right)

“Fick” is a term of art on Ethics Alarms, describing the rare unethical miscreant who is not only  engaged in misconduct but perfectly happy to profit from it in full view of the public eye, apparently without shame. The appellation  is named after the despicable Leroy Fick, a Michigan lottery winning millionaire who exploited a loophole to keep getting public assistance. Ficks are the worst of the worst.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is a fick.

As the number of women who have accused him of groping, head-locking, kissing or otherwise sexually harassing them climbed beyond 18, Filner adamantly refused to do the right thing and resign (call me crazy, but I think even Bill Clinton would have had the decency to resign if a new Monica surfaced every other day for a month), even as other allegations of his misdeeds in the financial realm were being investigated. Knowing the recall effort rapidly gathering steam would cost the city many thousands of dollars, and understanding that San Diego was being humiliated as well as being barely governed while Mayor Fick, er, Filner, held it hostage, the city council has negotiated an exit by Filner, one that requires the city to pick up his legal tab, as well as the damages or settlements he would otherwise pay in any law suits against him arising out of his various incidents of harassment. Continue reading