Tag Archives: Elizabeth Warren

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/23/17

1. When I am forced to be away from Ethics Alarms for a long time, as was the case yesterday, it often renews my musings about whether I respond too much to reader comments. Everyone generally does just fine when I’m silent, and sometimes I find that fascinating and unexpected new topics have not only sprung from whatever ethics fertilizer I left behind,  but have grown and flourished like bamboo.

Unfortunately, I have also noticed that there have been a lot ( as in “too many”) of extended arguments between commenters that not only extend beyond reasonable limits, but also explode into personal attacks. I admit that Ethics Alarms is, for a moderated blog, unusually tolerant of this phenomenon. One reason for that is that sometimes such epic confrontations are both entertaining and enlightening, as when liberal commenter and Ethics Alarms immortal tgt and uber-conservative commenter Steven J. Pilling engaged in the Ethics Alarms equivalent of the Lincoln Douglas debates, only occasionally snapping and calling each other names.

However, while the occasional emotional outbursts are excusable, they should be rare. Reprimanding a commenter for  commenting style and habits is certainly fair, but doing it repeatedly is boring; and I want to remind everyone that while it is often frustrating, allowing someone to have the last word is not capitulation, especially when that last word is not particularly persuasive.

We also owe ourselves and everyone else self-awareness. When a commenter finds himself or herself repeatedly embroiled in long, heated exchanges, that commenter should consider the possibility that he or she is the problem.

The general principle is that we should strive to have all comments contain substance that advances the discussion. “You’re an asshole” is occasionally justified (when a comment has objectively revealed a commenter to be an asshole, and even then is not mandatory), but rarely.

2. When President Trump issued his trolling tweet about James Comey and the possibility that there were “tapes” of their conversations, I wrote that it was the President’s dumbest tweet to date. (I think he has made worse ones since, but at this point any tweet by the President is evidence of crippling stubbornness, impulsiveness and bad judgment). I did not think that what was obviously a bluff without substance would still be considered a headline-worthy issue many weeks later. Continue reading

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Ethics Q & A On Obama’s Speaking Fees

Former President Barack Obama received a $400,000 speaking fee for an appearance at an A&E Network event  yesterday, just as controversy was building over Obama accepting the same fee to appear at a Wall Street firm’s conference.

What’s going on here?

The ex-President is cashing in, that’s what’s going on here. This has become standard operating procedure for former POTUSes, beginning with Gerald Ford, who was showered with criticism by Democrats and the news media for signing with the William Morris agency and picking up what was at the time considered obscene speaking fees from corporations and foreign governments. Ford’s fees are dwarfed by Obama’s, but then Barack is a much better speaker than the late President Ford was. (Almost anyone is.)

Jimmy Carter showed admirable restraint by not devoting his post-Presidency to enriching himself off of his years in office, but Ronald Reagan took some mega-fees to speak abroad. The Clintons, as we know too well, instantly went from rags to riches by selling their celebrity, an exercise that was especially dubious because Hillary was on the rise. Obama’s speaking fees are just one more step along the cashing-in path that both he and Michelle had already begun traveling with the astounding 65 million dollar deal the couple signed to write their biographies.

Some questions and answers on the ethics of Obama’s payday:

1.  Is Obama ‘s acceptance of all this money ethical?

In a vacuum, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t. He set a fee, and someone is willing to pay it. Hillary’s fee was $250,000; if she can get that much for her dry-as-toast delivery as a former Senator, Secretary of State and First Lady, Obama’s a bargain at $400,000. As a private citizen, he has the same right any of us do to sell his books and speeches at whatever the market will bear.

I, for example, get $37.56 for an hour long speech, and am glad to get it..

2. But it isn’t in a vacuum, right?

Right. Obama still has power and influence; he still promises to be a voice in the Democratic party. He’s not exactly a private citizen, and no ex-President is. Taking such a large payment from a Wall Street firm, after all of Obama’s rhetoric (and that of Bernie Sanders, the non-Democrat now being paraded as a leader of the Democratic party) condemning Wall Street has the decided whiff of hypocrisy about it. Not only, that, but as with Hillary Clinton and Bill, the payment of such jaw-dropping amounts for minimal service natural raises questions of pay-offs. Obama’s administration famously sought no criminal sanctions for Wall Street executives despite their  role in what Obama called “driving the economy into a ditch.” How do we know this wasn’t part of an installment payment to Obama for services already rendered, a quid pro quo? We don’t.

It is also hard to make sense out of those fees if they aren’t paying for something more than an hour long speech.

3. So these fees create “the appearance of impropriety?” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Finance, Government & Politics, Leadership

Ethics Quiz: The Fate of Rachel Dolezal

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I hope you remember Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP branch president who falsely claimed to be black, double-talked and lied about her racial origins, and was defended by the “race is just a social construct” crowd on the left, as part of the same ideological fantasy that holds that a man can be a woman by just deciding that she is one. Ethics Alarms discussed her strange story here, here, and here.

Following her 15 minutes of fame, Rachel was somehow unable to manage a book contract or a speaking tour, perhaps because she is a walking, talking Achilles heel for several beloved progressive myths, Now she’s jobless and living on food stamps, and facing foreclosure and expects to be evicted next month.

“There’s no protected class for me,” she told The Guardian. “I’m this generic, ambiguous scapegoat for white people to call me a race traitor and take out their hostility on. And I’m a target for anger and pain about white people from the black community. It’s like I am the worst of all these worlds…I do think a more complex label would be helpful, but we don’t really have that vocabulary. I feel like the idea of being trans-black would be much more accurate than ‘I’m white.’ Because you know, I’m not white.”

Of course, she is.

Dolezal says she’s been rejected for  over 100 jobs. She has had offers on the freak show circuit,  in porn and reality TV. But Dolezal is not uneducated or dumb. Surely there are many jobs that she could perform, and well.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day is this…

Would you hire Rachel Dolezal?

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Government & Politics, Quizzes, Race

Wells Fargo Ethics: The Unethical Demagoguery Of Elizabeth Warren

warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), picks her adversaries so well that she gains popularity and unearned credibility through the power of cognitive dissonance. Listen closely, however, and you will hear the ranting of a class-biased demagogue.

Joining in on the bipartisan and well-deserved roasting of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf before the Senate Banking Committee hearing this week, Warren accused Stumpf of profiting from the mass scam in which over 5000 bank employees signed up customers for services they hadn’t requested, without their knowledge. The bank collected fees for these accounts, cards and services, and the employees got bonuses.

He probably did profit, since the bank did more business and his stock holdings increased in value. Was he aware of the scam, or even behind it? There is no evidence of that yet. Warren also said he should resign. She’s sure right about that. He is accountable as the CEO, and he failed his duty of oversight. It is, as Warren said, typical and wrong that all the firing so far have avoided the executive suites.

But Warren seems to be oddly unaware of her double standard regarding management and leadership accountability. The standards that she was railing at Stumpf for not meeting should also apply to Barack Obama’s accountability for a corrupt IRS, a rogue NSA, a drunk Secret Service, a politically-biased Justice Department, a horrifically incompetent Office of Personnel Management, a criminally negligent VA, and, of course, a technically-challenged State Department that was operated as cash-cow for its Secretary’s personal foundation.  Elizabeth Warren’s application of standards are driven by class bias and partisanship, not conduct or principle. She has enables an administration that has avoided assigning accountability or accepting it for multiple fiascos. The most recent? From Fox News:
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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Ethics Heroes: Five Democratic Economists

Senator Warren, who is always right.

Senator Warren, who is always right.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass)  was annoyed that Robert Litan, a nonresident and unpaid economics fellow at the reliably liberal Washington think tank, the Brookings Institute, dared to author a study critical of financial advisor regulations being pushed by Warren and the White House. Thus she sent a letter to Brookings last week, challenging the independence of the study and the integrity of Litan, since the study was, as Litan states up front, “supported by the Capital Group, one of the largest mutual fund asset managers in the United States.”

Warren called the report “highly compensated and editorially compromised work on behalf of an industry player seeking a specific conclusion.”

You know, unlike the various donors to Warren’s political war chest, who are not trying to buy specific policies and votes from her.

Literally hours after receiving the letter, Brookings, knowing which side of the bread its butter was on, dutifully forced Litan to resign.

The issue isn’t whether the policy Warren wants is a good one or not; personally, I tend to agree with Warren on the need for the regulation, which would make 401(k) and 403(b) advisors as well as other compensation-related retirement plan advisors be subject to fiduciary duties. the issue is Warren’s embrace of the increasingly popular tactic from the Left of dealing with adversaries by silencing them. Continue reading

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“If Caitlyn Jenner Can Identify As Female And Be Cheered For it, Why Is White NAACP Leader Rachel Dolezal Wrong To Identify As Black?” And Other Ethics Musings On A Really Strange Story

NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal, before she decided to be black.

NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal, before she decided to be black.

Rachel Dolezal, a prominent civil rights activist, the leader of Spokane’s NAACP chapter, chairwoman of the city’s Office of Police Ombudsman Commission and a professor in the African Studies Program at Eastern Washington University, has been falsely representing herself as black for years. When someone is asked if he or she is really black, and the answers he or she comes up with includes “That question is not as easy as it seems,” and “We’re all from the African continent,”  it’s fair to say the jig is up.

Or is it? Although Dolezal’s mother has spoken out about the 37 -year-old’s background, noting that there is no black ancestry that they know of in the family and that Rachel’s self-identification as black seems to arise out of the fact that she was raised with adopted African-American siblings—you know, like Steve Martin in “The Jerk”?—she may well sincerely believe she is black. Then what?

Dolezal’s actual race, if there is such a thing in her case since she sometimes identifies herself as “white, black, and American Indian,” has suddenly become an issue because she has reported alleged instances of harassment and hate crimes. An inquiry has also been opened at Spokane City Hall. “We are gathering facts to determine if any city policies related to volunteer boards and commissions have been violated,” Mayor David Condon, who appointed her to the city oversight board,  and Council President Ben Stuckart said in a joint statement. “That information will be reviewed by the City Council, which has oversight of city boards and commissions.”

Stuckart said the council will meet soon to discuss the developments and that he didn’t want to speak for the group until then. “But if this is true I’ll be very disappointed,” he said..

Is Dolezal credible? Is she courageous? Is she deluded? Is she nuts? Or is being black just, as Gore Vidal said about Truman Capote’s death, a good career move?

Some ethics musings:
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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Race

Janay Palmer’s Ethics Fallacy Cornucopia

horn_of_plenty

I suffer pangs of conscience as I do this to Janay Palmer, who has plenty of other pressing problems, but it you are going to put out a public statement on social media that threatens to melt the ethics alarms of millions, you can’t reasonably expect me to stand by and take it.

Palmer produced this on Instagram in response to the NFL’s bizarre do-over on her husband’s punishment, which combined with his team, the Baltimore Ravens, releasing him as persona non grata, effectively makes Ray Rice an ex-star running back for the foreseeable future:

I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend. But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is a horrific [sic]. THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is! Ravensnation we love you!

Observations:

  • Who is her “closest friend?” Ray Rice, her husband and sparring partner? If your best friend is prone to punch you silly in elevators, I think your relationship either has trust issues, or should have. Does she mean his career, which is what actually “died”? That’s telling, if so, and crassly. Was her best friend really Ray’s 8 million dollar a year pay check? Did that justify standing up for the right of rich, famous celebrities to knock their arm-candy around when they think nobody’s looking?
  • Competence check: like it or not, Janay is in the public eye, and what she has to say right now is likely to be read far and wide. How about having someone literate check out your screed before reminding us again what a cheat the public school system is?
  • Janay’s husband beats her unconscious, she lets him get away with it and sends the message to women trapped in abusive relationships that security and a ring is worth the occasional black eye, and her position is that Rice’s demise is the fault of the media and the public? Let’s go to the videotape, shall we?

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