Personal Responsibility? What Personal Responsibility? The Washington Post Explains How Aspiring Supreme Court Justice George Floyd Was Destroyed by Systemic Racism

Screen shot of George Floyd mural

You think I’m kidding, don’t you? Sadly, I’m not.

Here’s a silver lining: thanks to the parade of bizarre and illogical demands and assertions during the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck and the concomitant “Great Stupid,” my head appears to be immune from explosions. (Is head immunity anything like herd immunity? A topic for another time…)

It is amazing—I would have once said head exploding—that anyone would attempt to sanctify a long-time criminal and blight on his community like George Floyd, much less get away  with it. Nonetheless, months after Floyd died after a  cruel and incompetent (but not racist) police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck, the news media and Black Lives Matter flacks are successfully selling the tall tale that his life was a tragedy of unfulfilled potential because he had the misfortune to live in the United States of America.

[Quick review: Floyd moved to Minneapolis after being released from Texas prison for aggravated robbery. He went to jail 5 times and as a perusal of his record shows, he can be fairly described as a career criminal. Floyd was a habitual lawbreaker, involved in drug abuse, theft, criminal trespassing, and aggravated robbery, who once broke into a woman’s home and pointed a gun at her stomach while looking for drugs and money. He had probably taken an overdose of fentanyl and methamphetamine at the time of arrest, and it is quite likely that this, and not Derek Chauvin’s knee, is what killed him.]

I’m old enough, more’s the pity, to remember the Sixties fad of arguing that all criminals were victims of  their upbringing and a Hobbesian society for those who were not white and rich, and that it was heartless to punish those who were really society’s victims, not its predators. This was a very old progressive trope, notably championed by Clarence Darrow, who argued that there is no free will, and that criminals are doomed from birth, this making it an abuse of power for society to punish them. This logic was the epitome of bleeding heart liberalism, and helped make the word “liberal” a term of derision. I did not expect it to make a comeback.

Yes, I’m an idiot.

Now, however, in no less a legitimate forum than the Washington Post, Toluse Olorunnipa and Griff Witte make the argument that if the U.S wasn’t so racist, Floyd, despite all outward appearances, might have been a great American.

Read the thing, take a while to tape your skull back together, and then resume reading here. Watch out;  this is the third paragraph, and it comes up quick:

Continue reading

Going Right Into The Signature Significance Files: The President’s Claims His Blather About Light And Disinfectant to Cure The Virus Was “Sarcasm”

Ugh.

President Donald Trump told reporters and the country yesterday that he was only testing the media when he suggested that using disinfectant and light to fight off the coronavirus was worth exploring. “I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen,” he said.

Does anyone believe that? Anyone? It’s not quite a Jumbo—“What? I didn’t say that!”—but it’s almost as outrageous. Now, the “Trump is a liar!” tropes are re-energized (that’s no big lie, but it’s exaggerated and hyped), and the President has nobody to blame but himself. My sister, who actually participates in a Hate Trump neighborhood group, sent me a musical parody, “The  Liar Sleeps Tonight” (it’s not bad) yesterday.

I know what he was thinking: the news media did distort and misrepresent what he said, so “It was a test, and you flunked!” might have seemed like a good gambit. The flaw in that strategy is that the president’s  demeanor when he’s riffing is unmistakable by now.  The sarcasm excuse was desperate, and more importantly, needless.  Trump easily could have said that he was thinking out loud about some possibilities, and that most listeners understood that. What he said instead was stupid (and insulting), and, for what feels like the millionth time, handed a club to his critics.

For the record, the rationalization the President chose in this case is #64, Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is.”

Continue reading

Oh-oh…Ethics Quote Of The Week: Joe Biden

“My name’s Joe Biden, I’m a Democratic candidate for the United States senate—if you like what you see, help out, if not, vote for the other Biden”

Democratic candidate and gaffe grandmaster Joe Biden, speaking today, before tonight’s South Carolina debate,  to a South Carolina campaign crowd.

It isn’t that Biden’s statement has anything to do with ethics, whatever he was saying.  It’s that his bizarre pronouncement raises an immediate ethics issue. If we were playing “Ethics Password,” the announcer would say in hushed tones, “The password is fairness.” What is fair to Biden here, and how can I get past my biases to decide? I have believed for more than a decade that Biden is an idiot-savant with surprising political skills; I don’t believe you can say ridiculous and nonsensical things as often as he has for so long and not be inherently untrustworthy and more than a little addled. I also have found his demeanor, appearance and increasing tendency to speak in  gibberish of late evidence of precipitously declining faculties from a height that was never all that impressive to begin with.

And yet I am in favor of  giving any politician, disk jockey or improv comic the benefit of the doubt, because I know the perils of speaking extemporaneously from first-hand experience. Thus the question is, how eager should we be to shrug off this latest jaw-dropper from Biden as the natural and forgivable result of flying around the country and its inevitable “If this is Tuesday, it must be Saginaw” confusion? Is it just a particularly egregious example of wacky old Joe being wacky old Joe, and thus an occurrence where the Julie Principle is in play, or, in the worst case, is this latest head-scratcher so close to the former VP showing up nude with a duck on his head that an intervention is called for?

Help me out here.

 

Eureka! Here’s One Way To Guarantee Diversity In College Admissions: Eliminate Objective Standards

Oh, it can’t be you! It’s always the test.

A group of students, advocacy groups and a primarily black and Hispanic California school district filed suit against the University of California last week,  alleging that  the SAT and ACT college admission tests discriminate  against black and Hispanic students and demanding that the school stop using standardized test scores in its admissions process.

The theory that the tests are biased against poor and mainly black and Hispanic students concludes that the system illegally discriminates against applicants on the basis of their race, wealth or disabilities, thus denying them equal protection under the California Constitution. This battle has been fought before, of course. There was a time, decades ago, when foes of standardized testing could point to test questions referring to yachting and Western philosophers, baking in a bias that handicapped students fromracial and ethnic  sub-cultures in America. Those prejudicial questions have been purged, but the long-time disparity between the test scores of white and Asian applicants on one side and black and Hispanic students on the other continues. Continue reading

The Garrett-Rudolph Attack: Yes, It’s Unethical For Even NFL Players To Try To Kill Each Other….

As if the game itself, legally played, weren’t enough to cause its players brain damage, in a Thursday Night televised pro football game this week Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett ripped the helmet off Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and clubbed him in the head with it. The league acted swiftly, suspending Garrett for the rest of this season, including the playoffs should the Browns make them, and reinstatement is by no means assured.

Good.

This is the longest suspension for an on-field incident in NFL history. I can find no fault with Garrett’s apology, Level One on the Apology Scale, issued before the sentence came down. He said, Continue reading

Funny! But Inexcusably Incompetent : “Game Of Thrones” Ethics

Yes, somebody left a Starbucks cup on the set of last night’s much ballyhooed “Game of Thrones” episode on HBO.

It would be a good exercise to list all the rationalizations one could access to try to minimize such a massive botch, and avoid the likely consequences of making it. Without breaking an ethics sweat, I came up with…

  • 6. The Biblical Rationalizations, “Judge not, lest ye not be judged,” and “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
  • 8. The Trivial Trap (“No harm no foul!”)
  • 19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”
  • 20. The “Just one mistake!” Fantasy
  • 22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”
  • 38. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him/her/them/me a break!”
  • 50. The Apathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.”
  • 64A. Bluto’s Mistake or “I said I was sorry!”

As silly as that “one mistake” seems, a head, or many heads, should roll. This tweet from an annoyed fan nicely sums the situation up: “You’re telling me they had TWO YEARS to put together a decent show and they couldn’t even spot the goddamn Starbucks cup in Winterfell??!” Continue reading

Recent Ethics Thoughts On The Fyre Festival Fiasco

This Instagram photo of one of the “luxury gourmet meals being served to attendees of the 2017 Fyre Music Festival has come to symbolize the whole stunning debacle.

When Ethics Alarms last posted about the ridiculous Bahamas Fyre Festival  debacle, it was this, last July: “Remember the Frye Festival fiasco? Billy McFarland, the inept con man/idiot who set it up has been arrested and charged with fraud. Good!” Now more about that epic ethics fail is coming out. Two documentaries about the ridiculous scam/botch/whatever it was were released in January, one on Hulu and one on Netflix. I just saw the latter, and it’s pretty incredible. Here, to refresh your horror, was the original Ethics Alarms description:

Celebrities with ties to the organizers  tweeted and Instagrammed, building buzz about Fyre.  Ja Rule tweeted just a month ago, “This is where the cool kids will be April 27-30 May 5-8!!! #fyrefestival #fyre.” Ticket packages to experience the self-proclaimed “cultural event of the decade” included accommodations and chartered flights from Miami, with a low price of $900 and a luxury tag of $399,995 for access to the performers.  Days before the festival was to begin, @fyrefestival  was still ginning up anticipation.

Then the festival-goers arrived on the first day to find…nothing. Well, worse than nothing: chaos. Those who had  paid $500 apiece for what the festival’s promotion described as “villas” found that the only shelter provided were FEMA-style refugee tents. There was no food, except some hastily packaged cheese sandwiches. All of the scheduled performers canceled.

The festival-goers who hadn’t arrived by private yachts found themselves confused and stranded, with luggage but nowhere to sleep for the night. Some paid festival employees $100 to return them to the airport in a flatbed truck, but when they arrived at the airport gate, they were told that they couldn’t access the airport, requiring more bribes to get to a plane, if they were lucky. The stampede of shocked glitterati desperately trying to flee backed up the local airports, stranding many attendees in deplorable conditions, like understaffed kitchen tents with pots of uncooked food.

Subcontractors and suppliers went unpaid, Bahamian workers were stiffed, millions of dollars vanished.  The interviews with McFarland’s “team” are jaw-dropping. One fast-talking, ever-optimistic leader, McFarland, somehow convinced everyone, some who were experienced in event planning,  that he could pull off the impossible, even as the days counted down to zero hour and it was obvious that there would be no festival, just broken promised and angry rich people. There’s also an amazing coda to the Netflix documentary: while McFarland was out on bail, awaiting trial, he set up another scam, using the mailing list for the Fyre Festival to get some of the same suckers to buy phony event tickets.

Some new developments and thoughts: Continue reading

Ethics Analysis: My CVS Confrontation

As with many ethics problems, the most important question to answer  is “What’s going on here?”

This is what happened.

I take quite a few drugs, some of which keep me breathing. My doctor now e-mails the full slate, usually a three-month supply, but with automatic refills, after every check-up. This time, I actually witnessed the prescriptions being sent. From the start, however, there was a screw up. The first three drugs I tried to get refills for turned up expired: there was no record of the directive from my doctor. Each time, the same thing happened: the CVS pharmacy automated line said the order “was being filled;” when I arrived to get it, I was told that the prescription had expired; I explained that they had a glitch in their system; one of the staff agreed (“Ugh! This ticks me off! Someone is automatically cancelling these orders!”); and I eventually got my drug, sometimes after giving me a partial refill and my having the doctor call CVS to confirm. The last time, however, the prescription I sought was ready. (They all had been e-mailed at the same time.) They also offered me another drug, and extremely expensive one, that I didn’t need immediately. I said I didn’t care to spend the money just then, and they told me they would hold it.

Yesterday I needed that drug, the previous supply having run out the day before. I had no opportunity to go to the pharmacy until nearly 9 PM, but it shouldn’t have mattered: the pharmacy during the week is open until the CVS closes at 10 pm, and I knew the prescription was ready, because of my previous visit.

But it wasn’t. The pharmacist, a young woman, told me that I had no valid prescription. “Nope,” I said. “Wrong.” And I explained what had been happening with my drugs, how I was told that the system glitch had been fixed, and also that I actually saw the filled prescription I now needed when I picked up my last prescription. AND, I said, firmly, skipping a day was not an option. This drug was one of the ones I could not skip.

Then the excuses started. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Hangover, 7/15/2018: “Animal House” And The Death Of Truth [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

(WordPress isn’t working properly this morning. Perfect…)

1. Not being biased helps you be non-stupid…Yesterday, chatting with lawyer attendees at my ethics seminar, a former government attorney told me that he had several ex-FBI colleagues who were horrified at many aspects of the Peter Strzok hearings, as was he. Among their concerns:

  • The news media was failing its duty to explain to the public the duties of professionals, and why Strzok’s conduct was unacceptable, unethical, and undermined the credibility of the investigations he was involved in.
  • Democrats were defending the indefensible, and also breaching their duty to the public. They ought to be exactly as outraged as Republicans at a figure as demonstrably biased as Strzok polluting important law enforcement inquiries, and also should have rebuked him for his defiant attitude.
  • The Strzok scandal was immensely damaging to the public image of the FBI, and should be. It demonstrates an agency that has been seriously mismanages, and that has a damaged culture.
  • The simple fact that Strzok would use FBI equipment to send his texts demonstrated outrageous incompetence and lack of judgement. Even setting aside the bias issue, for a key figure in an investigation to behave so recklessly proves that the current FBI is untrustworthy.

Naturally this is gratifying, since the positions are all consistent with those I have expressed here, and also because they are correct.

2.  When miscreants emulate “Animal House” and Democrats applaud...We also discussed Strzok’s ridiculous “Otter defense”in the hearing, as he emulated the cynical (but in that case, funny) argument offered by the “Animal House” character played by Tim Mathieson (“Take it easy! I’m pre-law!” “I thought you were pre-med!” “What’s the difference?”) in a student council hearing over his fraternity members’ outrageous conduct, especially his own:

” Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be brief. The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guests – we did. But you can’t hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn’t we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America!”

This, of course, is exactly the disingenuous tactic employed by Strzok when he pronounced himself grievously offended that his accusers would dare to impugn the integrity of the FBI, knowing well that the harm done to his agency was entirely due to his own actions. Continue reading

Mayor De Blasio, Mrs. De Blasio, And Rationalization #68: The Volunteer’s Dodge, Or “You Don’t Pay Me Enough To Be Ethical!”

New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), an unapologetic social justice warrior and crypto-socialist, installed his wife, Chirlane McCray, as the executive director of  the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, NYC’s nonprofit foundation. Under the previous mayor, the Fund had raised tens of millions of dollars annually for a wide range of projects, from anti-poverty initiatives to Superstorm Sandy recovery. McCray cannot receive a salary for her job, though the mayor has complained bitterly about this. Nepotism is outlawed under the City Charter in Chapter 68 which forbids public servants using their positions “to obtain any financial gain, contract, license, privilege or other private or personal advantage, direct or indirect, for the public servant or any person or firm associated with the public servant.”

Under the leadership of McCray,  fundraising for the Mayor’s Fund has stalled. In the Bloomberg years, the nonprofit raised an average of $32 million per year, while under Mrs. de Blasio’s stewardship  it has raised an average of $22 million annually, a third less. This may be explained in part by the fact that she often isn’t working at her job. She has attended fewer than half of the meetings of the Fund’s board, and spends just an hour each week on the foundation’s business. It is June, and the New York Times reports that she hasn’t  visited the Fund’s offices in 2018, and was largely absent in the latter half of 2017. As the fund’s revenues have dived, its expenses have soared 50% since she took over,  with the organization moved into bigger offices. The Fund also supports fewer projects.

Sniffs the Times in an editorial, “the Mayor’s Fund under Mr. de Blasio and Ms. McCray has done less with more.”

De Blasio, who has pretty much solidified his reputation as a jerk, defended his wife by saying that she had done “an extraordinary job,” insisting to critics that  “You’re missing what her work is about.”

Her work is about raising money, and she’s not doing that very well. As the Times says, the first rule of fund-raising is to show up.  Mrs. Mayor helpfully added,  “It’s not about who can raise the most money.” Wait, what? Has anyone explained to her what her job is?

Then de Blasio said this, thus causing the proverbial light bulb to go off in my head, as he perfectly illustrated a rationalization that has somehow missed inclusion on the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List:

“She does all that for zero dollars a year.”

“All that” meaning “a crummy job.”

Say hello. Mr. Mayor,  to… Continue reading