Tag Archives: ethics alarms

The Lesson Of The Harvard-Chelsea Manning Fiasco

I often point out to my ethics classes that when the ethics alarms don’t sound, one can make decisions that result in ethics zugswang, which is the hopeless bind where there are no ethical solutions, only unethical ones. Then the only practical objective left is damage control: determine which course  is the least unethical. An ethical result is no longer possible. It was precluded forever by the original ethics failure.

I can’t think of a better example of this process than the Kennedy School’s botched appointment of Chelsea Manning as a ” visiting fellow.” It was an incompetent, foolish, reckless decision that a half-wit should have known would cause an ugly and unnecessary controversy. What was the school thinking?

I can only speculate. Either the school was looking for “buzz’—it got that all right— , or was trying particularly odious progressive virtue-signaling to the anti-war crowd that still hangs out around Harvard Square clutching their love beads, or most indefensible of all, was giving a gratuitous nod to the current transgender fad. Whichever it was of these, it should have been obvious that the choice was a terrible idea, and it says a lot about the school’s leadership and procedures that nobody in a position of influence shouted, “Wait, are you kidding? Chelsea Manning?  She’s a convict and a felon who leaked secret information to enemies of the United States!” Manning, as I noted in the Morning Warm-Up covering the story, isn’t a scholar, a deep thinker, or a stable or a trustworthy individual. Selecting her was bound to upset other more qualified teachers at the school as well as any American not partial to traitors, and it did. It also devalued every previous fellow at the Kennedy School, by demonstrating that being a Kennedy School fellow wasn’t a credential signifying special talent or admirable qualities. Not if Chelsea Manning qualified, it wasn’t.

The fury over the appointment erupted so vigorously in public, and, I suspect, even more vigorously behind the ivy-covered doors in Cambridge (my mother spent most of her working life at the University, and ended it as Asst. Dean of Housing: the Marshalls know how Harvard works), that the reversal wasn’t as big a surprise to me as it seems to be to some. Nonetheless, the criticism levied by many has justification. Wrote Jonathan Turley, for example,

“The only thing worse than Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government appointing Chelsea Manning as fellow was the school’s withdraw of the fellowship…My concerns are not really focused on Manning but the danger of universities tailoring its academic programs to public opinion. I have written extensively about the hostile environment for conservative speakers on campus. Invitations have been withdrawn due to opposition groups and protests. This case is even more concerning because it was a formal invitation to join the program as a fellow. The invitation and then the withdrawal leave total confusion as to the purpose and academic content of these fellowship positions. Harvard appears to have carefully avoided any principled ground in both the appointment and the withdrawal.”

Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Research and Scholarship, War and the Military

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/1/17: Richard Simmons, Stilettos, A Sarcastic Cop, And The Post Sides With Palin

GOOD MORNING SEPTEMBER!

1.Good riddance to August, which had the worst fall-off in traffic here relative to the previous year of any month in Ethics Alarms history. I only have theories, the main one being that last August’s surge was an anomaly fueled by the Presidential campaign and the fact that Ethics Alarms was analyzing the ethics deficits of Hillary, Trump, the news media and both parties in roughly equal measure, since they were misbehaving in roughly equal measure.  Since “the resistance” and their allies in the news media, academia and elsewhere decided to reject democratic institutions like elections and the office of the Presidency in their revulsion, and mount a dangerous perpetual assault on the President with the objective of  undermining his leadership and having him removed extra-Constitutionally, the left-leaning end of the blog-reading pubic has become rigid and unyielding, and unable to tolerate even considering any position but their own. I’m seeing it on Facebook, every day. Their position is indefensible on the facts, so they find any critical analysis of their conduct and attitudes unpleasant. Then again, it could be because Google is burying my posts for being insufficiently politically correct, or because I suck.

2. Here’s a perfect example of the kind of ethics issue that only deserves Warm-Up status: Melania’s shoes as she boarded Air Force One on the way to  Houston.

(She was in sneakers when she landed, and was mocked for that, too.)

The New York Times and other Trump-Hate news sources actually thought this fashion choice by the ex-model was worthy of criticism. In Melania Trump, Off to Texas, Finds Herself on Thin Heels , Vanessa Friedman spend hundreds of words dissecting how the stilettos were “a symbol for what many see as the disconnect between the Trump administration and reality.” Apparently the First Lady broke the “No high heels when leaving a disaster” rule in the First Family Ethics Manual. Letter writer Dennis Donalson correctly chided the Times, writing in part,

The fact that she wore high heels when boarding a plane, regardless of her destination, is not newsworthy. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and shoes are just shoes, not “the go-to stand-in for more nuanced, complicated emotions and issues.” Give Melania, and us all, a break.

Dennis notwithstanding, I’ve decided stories like this are wonderful: they are smoking gun evidence for anyone who isn’t similarly deranged that the news media is so consumed with anti-Trump mania that it is literally unable to determine what is or isn’t fair, proportionate and reasonable coverage. If the Times thinks Melania’s shoes are such a big deal, no wonder it goes nuts over what the President says to the Boy Scouts…and no wonder it is no longer reasonable to accord such a paper any credibility or respect at all. Continue reading

47 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/24/17

Good Morning…

…and gee, it’s good to be back home! You have no idea how good it is.

1. ARRRGH! I returned to Ethics Alarms with 6 pending comments, and I want to apologize profusely for the back-up, especially to poor Paul Schlecht, whose avatar inexplicably makes WordPress hold every single one of his comments  in moderation until I rescue it. Only one post got up yesterday, and that was a close call: I was in resort/airport/travel Hell yesterday in Daytona  Beach, then Charlotte, pretty much from the moment I got my wake-up call at 6 AM to when my plane finally arrived at D.C.’s Reagan National Airport at just short of 1 am. today.

At least my law firm retreat seminar on legal ethics and technology was lively, but now I am way behind on posts, and also not exactly at the top of my game. Again, my apologies to all. And I’ve got to get a new laptop without a jumping cursor and that doesn’t crash my browser every 20 minutes or so.

2. I mentioned last week that the New York Times Sunday Review section is a weekly exercise in anti-President Trump porn. I couldn’t find a Sunday Times yesterday, so as a test, I’m going to open the copy my wife saved for me and look at the section now.

Let’s see…well the above the fold story is a feature about “why women aren’t CEOs.” The anti-Trump shot doesn’t come until the last paragraph, where the author, Susan Chira, couldn’t help herself from quoting Hillary Clinton as she blamed misogyny for her defeat. The Deplorables, you know. The second story on the front page is a mocking piece by a British historian, about a new Trump Doctrine, but with the term in scare quotes. How dare the President stand up for Western Civilization, we are asked to consider? This author, Stephen Wertheim, claims that the Trump administration’s problems with Iran, North Korea and China are based in racism and religious bias.  (Obama’s problems with the same nations were, presumably, based on a sincere concern for peace.) The  essay is also fairly anti-American, but concludes with the insult that the problem with the President isn’t so much what he does as who he is.

This is essentially the argument of “the resistance.” You know. Bigotry.

Let’s see—that piece took up all of page two, so we move on to page three. Two op-eds are there, one again mocking the ex-press secretary Sean Spicer, which the Times editorial board had already done, and the other, by Frank Bruni, attacking Jared Kushner. It closes with this, in part:

His counsel to Trump has been flawed, to say the least. He reportedly lobbied for the firing of James Comey, which didn’t turn out so well….I hear that he feels persecuted. Wronged. In that regard, too, he’s like his father-in-law, though Trump wears his self-pity, fury and ruthlessness right out front, for the whole world to see.

This is the company line. Actually, firing Comey turned out spectacularly well: the President was able to get rid of a highly placed leaker who had proven himself incompetent and untrustworthy. Bruni and the Times feel it was a mistake because the completely legal, appropriate, indeed overdue dismissal brought down the ire of the news media determined to get rid of the President. Message: When will you learn that we call the shots, you fool?

In fact, the President and his entire family have been persecuted by the Times from the very beginning, in obvious contrast to the news media’s disgusting fawning over the Clintons and Obamas, and even their chilly respect for the Bushes.

On to page four! Oh! Here’s a cartoon of the President as Donald Duck, and an op-ed by a New York City mother about how embarrassing it is to have a toddler who–The Horror!—likes the President of the United States! Beneath that screed, with a picture of Don, Jr., is an op-ed attacking another member of the President’s family in a piece about “men who never grow up.” The Trump boys are lumped in with Billy Bush, Ryan Lochte (the moronic Olympic swimmer), the fortunate college rapist Brock Turner, and the police officers who shot Tamir Rice!  Funny, the nation’s most prominent perpetual adolescent, who embarrassed the whole nation by using the White House as his passion pit, is never mentioned.

The non-Trump stories then take over for a few pages, and we’re finally at the editorial page. Two of the three editorials attack the President’s policies as the embodiment of evil: one condemns the very concept of the Election Integrity Commission— did you know that trying to find out how much actual voter fraud there is constitutes voter suppression?—and the other uses the President’s border wall plan as a prop to level general insults.  The rest of that page is devoted to a special selection of Letters to the Editor critical of…Donald Trump! Every one, all ten. You’re right, NYT, the paper doesn’t reflect this opinion thoroughly enough. On the facing page, two of the three op-eds consist of more Trump bashing. Maureen Dowd is one, but to be fair, all she does is level snark at everyone. The other is a second attack on Jared Kushner, because one per section is not enough.

The total: Nine Trump-hate pieces, plus ten anti-Trump letters, and not a single supportive word, balanced analysis, or defense. And the Sunday Review section is like this every week.

3. I can’t believe I’m writing this. The Discovery Channel’s always idiotic and often misleading “Shark Week” told audiences that Olympic Gold  Medal swimmer Michael Phelps would be racing a Great White Shark in the ocean. Admittedly, most potential viewers should be smart enough to figure out that there had to be a catch (no pun intended) despite the misleading title “Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs Great White.”  They should be, but we know they aren’t, based on the other stupid shows they fall for on the network, and also because there have been three “Sharknado” movies with a fourth on the way. That Discovery Channel title is a lie: Phelps never was in the water with a shark; he never saw a shark; he never raced a shark. He “raced’ a computer-generated shark that was put into the film after Phelps was safe and dry. Some of Phelps’ gullible fans are annoyed.

They should be. On the other hand, they are morons. The entire exercise should have taken about 6 seconds, the amount of time it takes to say “White sharks swim faster than humans, even Olympic champions. Bye.” Continue reading

112 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society

Comment Of The Day:”Comment Of The Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘From The Law vs. Ethics File: The Discriminatory Charlotte Pride Parade’”’

This Comment of the Day is atypical, but I want to highlight it.

It’s doesn’t really matter what the original exchange was that prompted it, or who the other commenter was. What matters to me is that a respected, smart, articulate member of the colloquy here felt denigrated and mistreated, and that her experience as a commenter was diminished as a result. There may even have been a misunderstanding  involved; right now that is not my concern either.

I allow the discourse to get very intense here at times, and I will continue to. Lines are crossed—civility, insults, epithets, outbursts, personal attacks, mockery, blatant contempt–I cross them myself on occasion. Those who thrive here are remarkable, I have found, in taking rhetorical punches to the jaw and the gut and bouncing back without rancor or reduction in passion.

Nonetheless, the Golden Rule should never be too far out of mind on an ethics site. We can all make our points without being gratuitously nasty and mean. Stinging slapdowns can be fun–I enjoy them, though I save my worst for especially annoying visitors who I don’t care to have return—but they need to be kept to a minimum. Sincere, thoughtful, honest and perceptive commenters like Mrs. Q should never feel the way this post indicates that an exchange made her feel. Ethics Alarms is designed to be challenging and contentious, but not hostile. She hasn’t commented since this was filed; I hope that she has just been busy, because Mrs. Q  has been a unique and wonderful asset since she first dropped in a few months ago.

Let’s do better.

Here is Mrs. Q’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Comment Of The Day: “Comment of the Day: ‘From The Law vs. Ethics File: The Discriminatory Charlotte Pride Parade’”

The level of disrespect you have shown me, with the snark & unwillingness to do the research yourself, tells anyone reading that there is something inside you that is either terribly unhappy or unhealthy. I cannot in good conscience continue to deal with someone who is so vengeful. You’ve proven you’re incapable of responding in a civil manner towards me when I have not insulted you in any similar way. It’s been a pattern & if you & I were in person I’d simply walk away & pray for you.

My disability makes my time precious & my family comes before internet commenting. That you would make fun of my need to prioritize my family over responding online says so much more about you than me.

I was planning on answering your questions but your last little dig is my last straw. I’m sure you’ll say I’m weak or not answering you b/c I’m scared or stupid or a TERF or whatever disparaging term you can think of & that’s fine. I won’t be goaded into your games. Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/15/2017

Gooooood Morning Ethics Alarms Readers in Vietnam (3, 501 views so far)!!

1. I am three new rationalizations and at least two Comments of the Day behind. Sorry.

2. One of the more creative efforts to make Donald Trump Jr.’s aborted opposition research meeting seem significant, sinister and one more step to the impeachment “the resistance” and the news media so, so desperately want is this article in the Washington Post, by a Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, the director of the Intelligence and Defense Project at Harvard’s Belfer Center, who was a director of intelligence and counterintelligence at the Department of Energy and previously a CIA intelligence officer in domestic and international posts. His analysis is a masterpiece of projection, supposition, unwarranted assumptions and exaggeration. Rolf’s argument is that the meeting is important because it constituted a “green light” to Russia that the Trump campaign approved of Russian meddling in the election, would not blow the whistle on it, would be open to more serious involvement, and would respond to such action with future quid pro quo favors. All of this, simply based on the willingness to meet on the hopes of acquiring dirt on Hillary Clinton.

It is useful a a microcosm of the entire Russia-Trump conspiracy theory, and indeed conspiracy theories generally. Applied to an agreement between a married man and a single woman to have drinks together, the fact that the man never tells his spouse about the meeting means that the man thought the meeting was illicit, was open to having adulterous sex with the woman, would react favorably to the woman’s subsequent efforts to undermine his marriage, and was a green light to the woman to escalate her seduction. But as in the case of Trump’s meeting, a married man having drinks with an unmarried woman is not illicit, no matter what Mike Pence thinks, and is not proof of any further actions or unethical intent no matter what conclusions the woman leaps to. There is also the disconnect that under Mowatt-Larssen’s analysis and his version of the Russian thinking, Donald Trump Jr was central to the Trump campaign rather than incidental. He also seems to think the right hand in this chaotic organization knew what the right hand was doing, which we know not to be true. Continue reading

26 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/10/17

Morning, All!

(That’s a Flat Earth sunrise! I couldn’t resist...)

1. I’m encountering Ethics Alarms ethics alarms. For example, is it unethical for me to choose not to fix the typos in a comment from an obnoxious commenter? I generally fix mistakes when they turn up in comments from regulars here, or missing words and letters in first posts by newcomers. But the other day an annoying commenter of recent vintage registered a comment that seemed as careless as it was badly reasoned, and had several typos.Yeah, I fixed them. But I didn’t want to.

Then, after a long period without any blog banishments, I banished a commenter yesterday whose first post was really poor, and whose last was insulting in response to my pointing out just how poor it was. As I told him in the exit response, he had triggered The Stupidity Rule. I really don’t allow stupid people to comment here once I determine that they are hopeless. Is that wrong? Elitist? Mean?

I don’t want to keep explaining things to people whose comments indicate that they have preconceived notions, unshakeable biases, inadequate education and training in critical thinking, and are under the impression that an uninformed opinion is worthy of publication because it’s theirs. Yesterday’s exile also made the fatal error of criticizing the blog because it was “judgemental.” Yes, it’s a blog in which we analyze whether conduct is right or wrong, or something else. That demands judgment, and being judgmental. The fact that the matter at issue was a lawsuit—you know, before a judge?—and the commenter still made that observation anyway sealed his fate, even before he wrote that I was bald and presumably “repulsive to women.”

Wait…I’m bald???

2.  The University of Missouri, aka Mizzou, is in crisis as a direct result of its administrators craven capitulation to race-based extortion triggered by general angst and the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck in 2015. Before the protests (which were based on nothing specific at the University that was ever demonstrated by the protesters, other than the President refusing to bow to demands that he condemn random reported racial incidents that didn’t involve students), Mizzou was thriving, growing, and building new dormitories. Now, in response to the nationally publicized meltdown of common sense and adult supervision (climaxed by a  protester-allied communications professor, Melissa Click, being caught on video calling for “some muscle” to prevent a student reporter from recording an ugly campus confrontation), enrollment is down 30%. The university is  closing seven dormitories and cutting more than 400 positions, including  faculty members.

Good.  But from the comments of students and remaining faculty members, it doesn’t sound as if the right lessons have penetrated the campus culture’s race-addled skull. Continue reading

41 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race, The Internet

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/2/17 [UPDATED]

1. I wonder when and if the LGTBQ community will ever grow up. I had an annoying exchange yesterday when a Facebook friend began whining that President Trump hadn’t done or said anything to honor Gay Pride Day, proving again that he was the spawn of Satan. A friend of that friend then added, to the usual flood of “likes”—all you hve to do is insult the President to get likes— that for him to honor Gay Pride Day would be like Hitler observing ceremonies for Holocaust victims. Of course, nobody had the integrity or the decency to point out what an idiotic comment that was, so I did. When will people stop making me defend Donald Trump? He is the first and only President to enter office fully accepting same sex marriage (unlike Obama and Clinton) and the unending slur that he is hostile to gays is the product of two factors: fearmongering (He was going to put gays in camps!) and bigotry (If he’s a Republican, he must hate gays.) One response to my rejoinder was someone posting this NBC story as a “rebuttal.” The sum total of the anti-gay actions of the Trump administration, according to this alleged indictment? Here’s the description:

“For many LGBTQ Americans, the early days of Trump’s Republican administration have been fear-inducing. A series of Cabinet appointments have been roundly criticized by LGBTQ advocacy groups. An early draft of a reported executive order legalizing broad discrimination against LGBTQ people threw the community into a panic. The dismantling of Obama-era protections through executive orders came with the simple stroke of a pen.”

This is modern day fake-news journalism at its most obvious. All  the paragraph says is… Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Kaboom!, Leadership