Bad Day Ethics

Here I am, getting the first Ethics Alarms post up after 2:00 am, and feeling guilty. There are about ten important ethics issues and stories to be covered, and I feel I am obligated to get them covered.

But it’s going to be more difficult than usual. We just learned that two members of our household have tested positive for the Wuhan virus. I am sick with some other damn thing, basic flu symptoms plus traveling, intermittent pain in the muscles of my back and legs (no fever, no dry cough, really no Wuhan symptoms at all other than being tired). I also have a sudden backlog of paying consultant work, which takes me twice as long as it should when I’m drugged and run-down, and I am really drugged and run down.

My father and the various cultural and historical models that formed my own values, caused me to place soldiering through these kinds of  obstacles high among my life’s priorities. My dad went though his post-military life walking, hiking, playing with his children and other activities with a roughly reconstructed foot—the result of a W.W. II hand grenade’s carnage—that looked like some kind of demonic potato. He never complained or used it as an excuse to beg out of what he considered his duties; I remember saying to my mother, “It’s amazing that Dad does everything he does with a foot that looks like that. I would think it would hurt him.” She said, “Are you kidding? His foot hurts him terribly all the time.” My father’s attitude was that tough times, seemingly overwhelming challenges  and misfortunes were inevitable and were such intrinsic aspects of life that to overreact to them or allow yourself to be paralyzed in their wake was foolish.  One of his favorite quotes was Joan Howard Maurer’s tale,

“One day as I sat musing, sad and lonely without a friend, a voice came to me from out of the gloom saying, ‘Cheer up. Things could be worse.’ So I cheered up and sure enough—things got worse.”

 

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/13/2020: Oh Oh! The Oscars Are Racist And Sexist Again!

 

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning!”

1. Thoughts on the announced Oscar nominations. Well, very few African Americans made it, and no female director despite all the blatant lobbying for “Little Women” director Greta Gerwig.  Thus I have to conclude that the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences DOES have a measure of integrity after all,  because it will catch all sorts of hell for this. Even after adding many voters “of color” and kicking out some ancient, unwoke voters members, it’s still a mostly white field, maybe because the most deserving candidates happened to be the wrong color this year. It doesn’t matter: the Academy will be beseiged again for implicit racism. Watch. And it will seek “reforms.” The problem is that race-based categories looks like apartheid. The only other alternative is to have secret quotas, which is what I thought were already in effect.

It doesn’t help that both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci were nominated as Best Supporting Actors for, in Pacino’s case, standard issue Al, and in Pesci’s case, an embarrassingly  flat performance. If the Academy is going to give out legacy nominations, why not some token nominations for minorities? I bet there were 50 “of color” performances this year objectively superior to these two from the dead-fish “The Irishman.”

2. It amazes me that so many Americans defend Meghan Markle’s “Megxit.” I know, I already wrote about this, but her conduct appears to be a continuation of the Obama phenomenon, where a prominent individual exploits her race to declare all criticism as based on racial bias. “Black Britons” as the New York Times calls them, are lining up to support Markel because they allege she was “savaged” by the British tabloids because of her race. Similarly, the Times finds dark implications in the fact that the Royal Family didn’t rally to her side when she came under fire: they must be racists too. All the evidence I’ve seen suggests that they didn’t support Markel because she’s an annoying jerk: Occam’s Razor applies.

If she really married into the Royal Family and didn’t know that the tabloids would be dissecting her every word and move, she was negligent and foolish. Did she consider chatting with Sarah Ferguson, or did Markle think the Duchess of York was attacked because of media bias against redheads?

For once I agree with ex-CNN talking head Piers Morgan, who wrote, “I’ve seen some disgraceful royal antics in my time, but for pure arrogance, entitlement, greed and willful disrespect, nothing has ever quite matched the behavior of the ‘Duke and Duchess of Sussex.’

She has provoked a crisis in the monarchy to further her own goals of unearned mega-celebrity. I have a Facebook friend who argues that since royalty is unethical, Meghan should be praised for setting out to bring it down in England. (Yes, he’s a Communist.) The real Markle is already becoming more apparent. She has said that she will only move back to the U.S. after President Trump is out of office, already pandering to the Angry Woke. Disney announced that it had a voice-over deal with her, with her compensation to be donated to a charity….but she made that deal as a Royal, not a rebel. Disney has the right, but not the guts, to void the arrangement. Continue reading

“Megxit,” A Royal Ethics Mess That The Brits Should Have Seen Coming

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have essentially resigned from their duties as British Royals . The Duke and Duchess of Sussex—remember, Harry is one of Price William’s backups,  likely to become King, if ever, in his dotage, if at all, and only if some catastrophe befalls his his brother’s offspring.   The couple announced  on Instagram yesterday,

“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”

What this means is a matter of great debate, but whatever it means, it’s unethical.

Prince Harry and Meghan are members of the Royal family, who are ridiculously compensated by British taxpayers to be living flags and cultural icons of Great Britain’s days of glory long past. That’s what they are. Being members of the Royal Family are their only claim to celebrity and significance, and, to Americans and anyone else who isn’t confused, that’s one wan claim at best. The Windsors are neither especially bright nor accomplished, though Harry’s great grandfather, the last King George, did play a part in helping to defeat Hitler in World War II, and his grandmother, the apparently immortal Queen Elizabeth II has done a respectable job assisting in Great Britain’s decline from a world  power to nation whose status outweighs its power and influence.

For senior members of British royalty to declare that they will be “progressive” royals is like a Pope announcing that he’s going to be a swinger. The Royal Family isn’t progressive by definition; it’s anachronistic.  It can’t be progressive, because the only progressive approach to the Royals is to jettison them, say goodby and thanks for fish and chips, and add their vast wealth to the national treasury to pay for national health care for a few years. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: ME. An Abashed Apology From Your Host…

It was the blog equivalent of coming home and finding that you left the bathtub water running.

At 6: 56 this morning, I read reader Marie Dowd’s comment that said,

“7: ‘This cover’ has no link and a search showed a cover with people in the spray of a fire hydrant?”

Initially I had no idea what she meant, and then, when it dawned on me, I rushed to check out yesterday’s Warm-Up while screaming “NOOOOOOOO!” in slow motion. Sure enough, I had never posted the New Yorker cover showing the President looking flat and arguably dead at the bottom of an escalator, and that was what I was writing about. Thus the post made no sense. Here, for anyone who cares, and apparently few did, is what was supposed to be shown. Does it make  sense now?

7. Is this New Yorker cover responsible?

It is perilously close to Kathy Griffin’s severed head: many read the image as the President being dead, and members of “the resistance” have openly alluded to Trump’s death or hope thereof over the past 18 months.  (Note the double thumbs up, however.) I rate the cartoon as well within the boundaries of political commentary, but, again, wonder what the reaction would have been if a similar image of President Obama was run on the cover…and it easily could have been, many, many times, with justification.

It’s fixed now, but 14 hours after I posted it. Continue reading

Where Have You Gone, Ernest Hemingway? Of Baseball, Tanking, Winning, Trying, And Life…

This essay is only incidentally about baseball, but like so many things that sieve through my brain, it was sparked by a conversation about baseball. On the satellite radio MLB channel, one of the interchangeable hosts—I really have trouble telling them apart: some are ex-general managers who nobody will hire, some are ex-players, and a few are sportswriters, but they all seem to say the same things, though one says them with a bilateral lisp—was interviewing a New York sportswriter. That alone would normally prompt me to switch to the Beatles Channel (or the weather), but as I reached for the dial I caught one of the writer’s comments. He was talking about the fact that the New York Yankees’ opponent at the time, the Tampa Bay Rays, were almost a .500 team, and were competing despite a tiny payroll, unlike many other teams this year, which have adopted the controversial strategy of fielding cheap and crummy teams (called “tanking’) in the hopes of getting high draft choices as a reward for  miserable won-lost records.

“I guess you have to admire the Rays,” he said, “though in this day and age, it makes no sense to try to be a .500 team.”

What a nauseating, unethical position, and how characteristic of the downward trend in American values and spirituality!  It makes no sense to try be a .500 team? This sentiment warps so much in American life today. It translates into the envy, resentment and anger that typical, normal, healthy Americans lug around on their souls all day because they aren’t rich like the people they see on TV, or the neighbor down the street who had wealthy parents and left him a bundle.

It makes sense for the Rays to try to be a .500 team because it means the team is doing the best it can, despite limitations beyond its control, to give its fans something to cheer and care about. It makes sense to try to be a .500 team for the same reason it makes sense to aspire to be the kind of steady, honest, hard-working middle class American who raises happy and well-adjusted children in a stable home but will never win any major awards or be the subject of features in their local newspapers. It makes sense to try to be a .500 team for the same reason it is right to work hard and well no matter what your salary, or whether you are being paid at all.

Ambition is a great motivator, as long as one understands that achieving one’s goals is often as dependent on chance and chaos as it is on industry and talent, and if you prepare yourself to be bitter about that, bitter is how you are likely to wind up.

I learned to love baseball passionately following a .500 baseball team–indeed a sub-.500 baseball team— that seemed like it would never be anything but. This was in an era where the New York Yankees literally won the pennant every year, with a rare exception now and then. The system was rigged to favor them, and had been for decades. The Boston Red Sox began every season knowing that getting to the World Series was a pipe dream, and their fans knew it too. Nevertheless, they tried. As an almost good team, they had a chance to win every game—not a great chance, when they were playing the Yankees, but a chance. Often the Sox made a good fight of it while going down: our hopes were raised, and there was that wonderful-horrible moment that is the beating heart of baseball where anything can happen from a miracle to a tragedy as the ball is hurtling toward the plate and fate’s resolution. Life is like that, and the sooner you realize and accept it, the better off you are.

The best hitters make outs 60% of the time, and the best teams still lose at least 35% of their games. The typical players and teams do worse than that, just like the typical American, indeed human being, loses a lot more often than he or she wins. The important thing, the thing that undergirds ethics, and integrity, and responsibility, and honor, is that you do the best you can, and pick yourself up when you fail, and try again. It’s not a bromide. It’s the only way to live without going crazy, becoming a serial killer, or surrendering to despair. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/26/18: Spin! Hypocrisy! Heresy! Demagoguery! Idiocy! And Weren’t Those Sex Slaves Cheering For North Korea Adorable?

Good Morning!

Of course it’s a good morning…the 2018 Winter Olympics ended last night!

1 The Schiff Memo. The Democrat’s alleged rebuttal to the Devon Nunes memo regarding how Carter Page came to be the object of secret surveillance that extended into the Trump campaign should have been the big story of the weekend, along with the fact that government systems repeatedly failed to protect the students in Parkland from an unbalanced young man who had been repeatedly identified as a risk for exactly the kind of mad act he ultimately engaged in. But the left-biased news media downplayed it after trying to spin it, because the hyped memo did not rebut the key allegations in the previous Republican House document. The FISA court was not informed that the Russian dossier was created and funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. The dubious dossier  was a key component of the evidence that led a secret court to remove the Constitutional rights of a citizen, while interfering with a Presidential campaign.

Amusingly, the Schiff memo spins that the Obama Justice Department application was “transparent,” and then describes transparency as a FISA warrant application that said that Christopher Steele, referred to as “Source #1,” was “approached by” Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, referred to as “an identified U.S. person,” who

indicated to Source #1 that a U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. Person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s [i.e., Trump’s] ties to Russia. (The identified U.S. Person and Source #1 have a longstanding business relationship.) The identified U.S. Person hired Source #1 to conduct this research. The identified U.S. Person never advised Source #1 as to the motivation behind the research into Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. Person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.

Andrew McCarthy, in the National Review, concludes that the Schiff memo does the Democratic narrative more harm than good. I agree: it looks like a desperate spin attempt to me, so desperate that the news media abandoned the story as quickly as it could.

2. Segue Alert! And speaking of transparency…From the Boston Herald: Continue reading

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

Happy Non-Birthday, Frederick! And Welcome Rationalization 25A, Frederick’s Compulsion or “It’s My Duty!” To the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List

As any Gilbert and Sullivan fan knows, February 29 is the troublesome birthday of Frederick, the dim and conflicted hero of “The Pirates of Penzance.” (He doesn’t get a birthday this year.)  Apprenticed to a pirate as a child by mistake (his nurse heard “pirate” rather than “pilot”),  the lad was bound to serve as a cutthroat until his 21st birthday, and thinking that the terms specified his obligation to reach until his 21st year, quits the pirate band that raised him and joins the police, who are  seeking to put his old comrades behind bars, or worse. But poor Frederick  learns that because he would only be free of his obligations until his 21st birthday, and since he was born–Oh, horror!—on Leap Year,  he is technically only five (“and a little bit over”), and won’t be 21 by the terms of his apprenticeship until he is 84 years old. His beloved, the equally dim Mabel, vows to wait for him. Meanwhile Frederick, declaring himself a “slave of duty,” joins the pirates again, as they prepare to murder Mabel’s father.

W.S. Gilbert, who wrote this famously nutty plot, was satirizing the substitution of duty (and legal contracts) for reason, morality, ethics, and sanity. The latest addition to the Rationalizations List,  Frederick’s Compulsion is a sub-rationalization of #25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!” Frederick believes that the existence of a contract creates a duty that he must obey without question, regardless of the consequences. He would have made a fine Nazi soldier. He would have shined in the Nixon White House. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Aborted No-Hitter

Friday night, Miami pitcher Adam Conley  was pitching a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers with two outs in the eighth inning, meaning that he was just four outs away. A no-hitter—no hits, no runs, for an entire game—places a pitcher name in the  Hall of Fame. It makes him an instant part of sports history. In today’s hyper-celebrity culture, it means interviews and endorsements.

Moreover, the Marlins needed something to make their fans feel better. Dee Gordon, the team’s star second baseman, had just tested positive for steroids and was suspended for 80 games. Nonetheless, Marlins manager Don Mattingly lifted Conley because he had exceeded his pitch count. Though baseball paid little attention to the statistic for 70 years, today teams carefully monitor how many pitches a hurler throws, both to anticipate ineffectiveness, and to guard against injury.

In Conley’s case, he had never thrown more than a hundred pitches in a game, and had topped out at 116. To Mattingly and Marlins pitching coach Juan Nieves, that meant that even on the verge of immortality, Conley had to be removed. Conley was angry, though he said all the right things after the game. Still, knowing the alleged risk to his arm and career, he wanted to try to finish his masterpiece. (The Marlins blew the no-hitter and the shutout in the 9th, though still managed to win 5-3.)

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was removing Conley “for his own good” when he wanted to have the chance at a no-hitter fair?

Continue reading

Post-Debate Ethics, The Final Question: Will The GOP Be Unethical If It Rejects Trump?

Republican_Party

When I first planned this post, I had seen only one column that argued that the GOP could not fairly refuse to nominate Donald Trump if he comes to the convention having won the most primary contests and delegates. Since then, I have read many more, as well as statements from various Republican leaders to that effect.

All of them are very, very wrong.

In the law, we look at this as a “who is the client?” question. To whom does the Republican Party owe its primary loyalties? What is the party’s purpose, and how does it best accomplish it? The answers to these question dictate its actions regarding Donald Trump’s fate.

Neither the election process nor the nominating process involve direct democracy. If the only purpose was to determine which candidate the citizens who consider themselves Republicans want to have on the ticket, a national primary would do the trick, and the party would barely be anything but a bystander. That is not the objective, however. The objective is to identify the most qualified and competent individual who represents the values of the Republican Party, and who has, in the judgment of professionals whose job is to discern such things, the best chance of winning, and to present him (or her) to the American public for their judgment, in order to maximize the likelihood of a fit and admirable citizen undertaking the awesome responsibility of leading the United States of America, and ensuring the success and survival of the nation, as well as the vital principles it represents to the world.

In the pursuit of this objective, the Republican Party has many stakeholders..itself, to begin with.  As a public institution, the party’s survival depends on the public perception that it is performing its duty competently and with the dignity and transparency such a role requires. Another group of stakeholders are its citizen members, who joined the party, contribute to it, volunteer their time, and give the benefit of many doubts to the party’s candidates in the polling booth. These citizens expect the party not to embarrass them, at a minimum, and ideally to actually accomplish some of the goals and policy measures the party’s principles support.

Non-Republicans are also stakeholders. If the parties do not do perform their duties with seriousness, diligence and skill, then the citizens will be faced with poor choices and unsatisfactory alternatives  on election day.

Ultimately, the Republican Party, like the Democratic Party, must regard its most important stakeholder as the United States of America. The President is both the symbol of the nation abroad and the embodiment of its hopes, ideals, history and continuity domestically. If the parties choose their candidates irresponsibly, then the nation itself is at risk. And as history has shown again and again, the world needs a vibrant and thriving United States of America. The planet itself has a stake in how well the Republican Party does its duty.

In the priority of Republican Party stakeholders, or “clients,” the candidates themselves are at the very bottom of the list. They exist to serve the party’s needs and responsibilities, not the other way around. True, they invest their time, money and passion in the task of proving themselves worthy of nomination, and they have a right to expect that the process they are engaged in will be consistent, reasonable and fair. They must understand, however, that the process, in the end, is not about them, but about fulfilling the responsibility of finding a worthy candidate for the office of President of the United States.

In a process that was designed to identify worthy candidates, Donald Trump has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is unworthy. He had, in fact, proven that long, long ago, and the GOP’s leaders were foolish to allow him to run for the party’s nomination. It provides me some rueful amusement to read Senator Lindsay Graham’s comments yesterday that the GOP should have kicked him out of the party. Why, yes, Senator, I pointed that out more than six months ago, and it was obvious then.

Since that time, Trump has provided myriad justifications for declaring him persona non grata. The first time he engaged in name-calling and vulgarity, he should have been given an ultimatum. His personal attack on Megyn Kelly was sufficient to remove him; his conduct regarding the handicapped reporter, towards John McCain and prisoners of war; his attacks on George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, threatening to sue Ted Cruz—on and on, you know the litany. The party has an obligation not to present as its standard bearer a candidate who does not embrace and cannot be trusted to support its values, ideals and principles, and Trump has made it inarguable that he does not.

Moreover, the evidence of his lack of fitness to be President accumulates daily, and at an accelerating rate: Continue reading