Independence Day Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/4/19: Jefferson, Amash, Snyder [UPDATED]

Happy birthday, USA!

1. Thomas Jefferson’s Day. Since Nike chose this time to announce that it was ashamed of the Revolutionary War flag, and Charlottesville similarly picked this week of all weeks to distance itself from it most famous and accomplished son,  it is appropriate to recall why Thomas Jefferson is the single American who should be most honored on the Fourth of July.

At the Foundation for Economic Education site (excellent site, by the way), the organization’s president, Lawrence W. Reed, offers a cogent rebuttal to those who would metaphorically (or literally) tear down Jefferson’s memorials because he could not find it in himself to stop practicing slave-holding while publicly making the case against it. Reed writes in part,

More than any other man or woman, July 4 belongs to Thomas Jefferson. As the principal author of the charter that proclaimed America’s independence and the reasons that impelled it, his spirit and his words are essentially what we celebrate on this day.

That such praise is not deemed “politically correct” in some quarters and may even evoke hostility in others is not a pleasant commentary on the state of current political dialogue. A kind of intertemporal bigotry is loose in the land. It prompts the virtue-signaling self-righteous to judge people of the past against the conventions of today. Isn’t it strange that evolution is accepted as natural in the biological world but often not in the realm of human thought?

…[H]umans didn’t support slavery one day and then oppose it when they all woke up the next. Some people never saw the light; others were against it from the moment it first entered their minds. Millions in the late 18th and early 19th centuries were somewhere in between, and lots of them evolved on the issue over the course of their lives. In other words, they learned and they changed. That’s how humanity progresses.

Thanks to visionaries like Jefferson, Americans were forced eventually to end the contradiction between the words of the Declaration of Independence and the reality around them. Jefferson’s own words were evoked to accomplish that.

Historian Jim Powell, in his FEE article of July 1, 1995, titled “Thomas Jefferson’s Sophisticated, Radical Vision of Liberty,” addressed the slavery issue thusly.

“Though Jefferson had personal failings—in the case of slavery, a monstrous one—they don’t invalidate the philosophy of liberty he championed, any more than Einstein’s personal failings are evidence against his theory of relativity. Moreover, every one of Jefferson’s adversaries, past and present, had personal failings, which means that if ideas are to be dismissed because of an author’s failings, Jefferson and his adversaries would cancel each other out. When historians finish dumping on Jefferson, they still won’t have cleared the way for Karl Marx or whomever they admire. Jefferson’s accomplishments and philosophy of liberty must be recognized for their monumental importance.”

So yes, Thomas Jefferson wasn’t perfect. And neither are his critics. They should hope that across their entire lives, they might accomplish for liberty what Jefferson achieved in a few weeks of literary genius. He marshaled the English language on behalf of ideas, and they sparked liberty’s loudest thunderclap in human history….

2. Yes, Rep. Amash is an Ethics Dunce. One reason the Tea Party movement ran out of gas is that the elected officials who rose to power under its banner were mostly unqualified, doctrinaire, simplistic grandstanders who seemed to think bumper-sticker slogans are a substitute for reasoning. Amash is typical of the breed. He recently gained the praise of the Trump Deranged by declaring that the Mueller Report proves that the President engaged in “high crimes and misdemeanors” (it doesn’t, but any effort to undermine President Trump qualifies as heroic  to “the resistance”).  This predictably attracted a furious backlash in his district and his party, and Amash’s prospects for re-election in 2020 now appear to be about on par with John McCain’s.

His solution? Amash has declared that he is “disenchanted” and “frightened” by party politics, so he is leaving the Republican Party and becoming an Independent.

Party flipping mid-term is per se unethical, as I have pointed out here before.  He has a contract with his voters to serve in the party whose banner under which he presented himself for public service, and the party that helped fund his campaign. One of the few party-switchers in political history who did the deed ethically was former Texas  Senator Phil Gramm. [CORRECTION NOTICE: I had originally written “the late” here, because I was sure Gramm was dead. He’s not. I’m glad.] From my post about West Virginia’s Governor Jim  Justice, who switched from Democrat to Republican in 2017…

Just days after  he had been reelected to a House seat  as a Democrat in 1982, Gramm was thrown off the House Budget Committee in a dispute with party leadership. In response, Gramm resigned as a Representative, changed parties, and ran for his old seat as a Republican in a special election. He won easily, and  was a Republican ever after. That’s the honorable way to do it.

Rep. Amash isn’t honorable. He isn’t ethical. And after Election Day 2020, he won’t be in Congress.

Good. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/10/2008: Post-Newark Hangover Edition

Good morning!

Trying to get back to normal here. I hope it isn’t age, but I suspect it is: for quite a while now I have found myself foggy and exhausted up to three days after a period of stressful travel combined with one or more three-hour seminars. One reason is that I never can sleep in hotels;  another is all the walking around airports lugging two heavy bags, since 1) I cannot risk checking luggage 2) My presentation materials alone weigh more than ten pounds and 3) I object to bringing rollerboards on airplanes as inconsiderate and unfair to other passengers. The side effects right now include a sprained wrist and a swollen knee.

Speaking of side-effects, one of the unfortunate ones of the craven abandonment of the field of battle by the blogs’ “resistance” participants is that traffic collapses quickly without new posts. Over at Popehat, Ken sometimes goes weeks without posting anything. Then again, maybe he’s smart enough not to pay any attention to daily, weekly and monthly fluctuation in traffic, unlike me. Once, if travel and schedule snafus stopped me from posting, I could count on Chris, deery or Charles to have a long-exchange of contentious opinions with other commenters as they maintained that there was no media bias, that Trump should be impeached because he violated “norms,” and the FBI was as professional and uncorruptable as Elliot Ness, or at least Elliot Ness as portrayed by Robert Stack. Now they have retreated into the comforting warmth on the left-wing echo chamber.

1.  Tipping ethics. I was going to include this in yesterday’s salvage operation, but literally had to end the post so I could take a nap. The following tipping dilemmas occurred during my trip, not for the first time: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/15/17 [UPDATED]

1. Topic for a longer post when I can think hard about it: five officials in Michigan, including the head of the state’s health department, were charged with involuntary manslaughter yesterday in connection with the Flint water fiasco. The use of criminal sanctions based on gross incompetence by public servants is such a slippery slope that I instinctively recoil from it. Unless an official can be shown to have deliberately harmed people, trying officials for crimes when the real “crime” is that they were  stupid, negligent, incompetent or lazy has the whiff of scapegoating about it, will discourage more citizens from entering government service, and is so likely to become a political weapon—especially these days–that abuse of process is almost inevitable. The Flint catastrophe involved culpability at three levels of government, all the way to the EPA. These five officials are criminals, and the rest are—what? Acceptably incompetent?

2. The polarization in the news media and society is such that I find myself hesitating to use material that appears on an openly conservative website,  papers like the Washington Times or New York Post, or Fox News. This, despite the fact that I use the New York Times and the Washington Post more than any other sources, despite the undeniable evidence that their coverage is often partisan and biased. In the current environment where the Left and its allies appear to be circling the wagons, I encounter articles like the one by Megan Fox discussed in the next item and wonder why similar  analysis isn’t  appearing in the Times, the Post, or Vox? It is obviously valid and fair. But it is also critical of the left-biased news media, and so far, that entity is refusing to acknowledge how much harm its abandonment of objectivity is inflicting on the nation. So the analysis appears on a right-biased site, giving half the country an excuse to ignore it, and those who read my related post an excuse to dismiss it, and Ethics Alarms.

Good system. Continue reading

The Flint Water Bills: Is This The Most Outrageous Ethics Story Of The Year?

“What do you mean it’s brown and poisonous? Water is water! Pay up.”

This story out of Flint, Michigan is so wrong, so astoundingly and obviously unethical, such a satire of government ineptitude at its worst and bureaucratic soullessness at its most damning, that I literally didn’t believe that it could be anything but a momentary hiccup, and that it would be resolved by the state, the city, an elected leader with guts and the sense God gave a mollusk, within a day or two, after the voices of millions were heard screaming. “WHAT????”

I was wrong. You want to know why it is insane to place your freedom, health, livelihood and survival and that of your families in the hands of government? THIS is why. Exactly this.

Thousands of Flint, Michigan residents risk losing their homes if they don’t pay their overdue water bills  less than three years since the start of a prolonged, botched, water safety crisis that led to extremely dangerous levels of lead in the city’s water pipes. In a move that will stand through the ages as the epitome of shamelessness and gall,  the Flint government sent threatening letters to more than 8,000 residents warning them they will face a tax lien if they do not pay water and sewage bills they have avoided for six months or more. Residents have until May 19 to pay the delinquent bills, and after that, a process begins that could end with foreclosure on their homes. Flint sends these letters annually to property owners whose payments are at least six months late, but skipped this process in 2016, given that the water the residents weren’t paying for was only technically water at all. The better label was “poison.” This year’s letters cover two years of past-due balances. Continue reading

The 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2016: The Last Of The Worst

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Ethics Alarms wraps up the Worst in 2016 Ethics with the usual education and journalism breaches, Ethics Dunce of the Year, and more delights for the sadistic…

Unethical Government Fiasco Of The Year

The Flint, Michigan water crisisA failure of competence, diligence, responsibility and honesty, compounded by bureaucrats, elected officials, the city of Detroit, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the EPA made people sick and cost billions.

Good job, everybody!

Scam of the Year

Sen.Ted Cruz’s fake “official” mailer before the Iowa Caucus. Cruz’s campaign  sent out mailers labeled in all capital letters, “ELECTION ALERT,” “VOTER VIOLATION,” “PUBLIC RECORD,” and “FURTHER ACTION NEEDED.” On the other side, the mailer said, in red letters at the top, “VOTING VIOLATION.” The text read:

You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.

This is why Trump’s nickname for Cruz, “Lyin’ Ted,” was crude but accurate.

Ethics Dunces Of The Year

All the social media users and others who ended Facebook friendships, genuine friendships and relationship over the 2016 election. Haven’t they ever seen “It’s A Wonderful Life”? Morons. Shame on all of them.

Weenies of the Year

The college students who demanded that exams be cancelled, therapists be available, safe spaces be found, puppies be summoned and cry-ins be organized because the awful candidate they supported in the Presidential election lost, as candidates often do.

How embarrassing.

Unethical University Of The Year 

Liberty University.  This is the most competitive of categories, with all the schools that railroaded male students based on questionable sexual assault claims while quailing in fear of the Dept. of Education’s “Dear Colleague Letter,” and all the schools that signaled that the results of a simple election justified PTSD treatment for their shattered charges, as well as making it clear to any students who dared to tilt Republican that they were persona non grata. Nonetheless, Liberty University takes the prize with its unique combination of greed, hypocrisy, and warped values. From the Ethics Alarms post:

Last week, with great fanfare, Liberty hired Ian McCaw as its new athletic director. “My vision for Liberty is to position it as a pre-eminent Christian athletic program in America,” McCaw said during a news conference.

This is his first paying assignment since May, when he left his job as the athletic director at Baylor, also a Christian university. His departure was made essential after a thorough investigation that found that those overseeing Baylor’s  football team as well as the management of  the athletic department—that is, McCaw— had been informed of multiple gang rapes and sexual assault by team members and had ignored it, as any good football-loving Christian would….especially when a star was involved.

Continue reading

Observations On The Democratic Candidates Debate In Flint, MI.

Dems debate

Here’s the transcript.

1. The smug comments from Democratic pundits and operatives about how “substantive” the Democratic debates have been and how “ugly” and “childish” the GOP debates have been is really nauseating, and the news media should flag it as such. When one candidate is ugly and childish, as well as shameless about being so, the other candidates have little choice but to get down in the mud. That’s the situation in the Republican debates, and that is entirely due to Donald Trump. When, meanwhile, one candidate is notable for lack of trustworthiness and dishonesty, and her only opposition refuses to reference the major reason the public (accurately) believes her to be so,  the resulting debate will be muted. Sanders, in short, isn’t doing his job. That’s nothing for Democrats to be smug about.

2. Last week it was learned that at least 2,079 emails Clinton sent or received on her unsecured, private server contained classified material, though she initially said that she handled no classified material whatsoever. That’s at least 2,079 lies. We learned that she received those emails on two devices , a BlackBerry and an iPad that she received in June 2010, despite the fact that she said, after news broke about her personal email account,  she’d done this as a matter of convenience so she would not have to carry two devices, saying, “I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two.” This was also a lie.

We learned that many, many  people, including lobbyists, lawmakers, White House officials, State Department employees, John Kerry and President Obama communicated directly with Clinton using her personal email address. This is just another part of the Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck, Outrageous Arrogance and Incompetence Division. That so many should have reported it and didn’t, as well as stopped it, is no excuse for the corrupted Clinton enablers to latch onto, and it doesn’t make what she did any less outrageous and reckless. It doesn’t excuse her irresponsible conduct at all. It just shows how lazy and amateurish others were as well.

We earlier learned that hackers with ties to Russia tried at least five times to access Clinton’s account over a four hour period  on the morning of Aug. 3, 2011, by sending her emails. The Clinton campaign says there is no evidence to suggest she opened them, giving the hackers access to her computer. That is just moral luck.

Finally, we learned this week that Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State WROTE 104 emails, using her private server, that the State Department has since designated as classified.

Was Clinton asked about anything related to her e-mail lies and incompetence regarding national security last night, or about her incompetent oversight of her own agency, which is supposedly one of the credits that makes her so qualified to be President?

No. That’s a breach of competence by CNN and Anderson Cooper, with pure complicity by Bernie Sanders. Continue reading

The Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2015, Part 1

Donald and Hillary

Sigh.

Watching the (encouraging) Iowa Caucuses results drip in last night, I was reminded that I hadn’t finished the task of completing the Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards for 2015’s Worst in Ethics. There are two reasons for my tardiness: a lot of other ethics issues have arisen of late, and this job makes me physically ill. It is depressing and discouraging: 2015 was much worse than 2014, which was considerably worse than 2013. What am I doing here? What is the point of spending all of this uncompensated time—it is more profitable bagging groceries—trying to nurture a more ethical culture and a more ethically competent public when all evidence points to utter futility as the result? Well, that way madness lies, I guess. I’m just going to grit my teeth and do my duty.

Last year I began by saying that 2014 was the year of the Ethics Train Wreck. There were far more of them in 2015, and they were more serious and damaging. That should give you sufficient warning of the horrors to come…

Ethics Train Wreck of the Year

trainwreck

The Illegal Immigration Ethics Train Wreck

One reason 2015 was a train wreck fest was that last year’s winners, the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, which begat the Freddie Gray Ethics Train Wreck, both begat by the 2012 winner, The Trayvon Martin- George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck, and The Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck, were still running amuck this year as well. The latter managed to run head-on into the immigration mess, with the President over-stepping his Constitutional limits to decide unilaterally not to enforce the law, and the Middle East foreign policy fiasco, causing Democrats to bury their heads in the sand and deny that admitting unvetted Syrian refugees into the country was unacceptably dangerous, and Republicans to start talking like 1930s Germans. Then everyone was demonizing the issue, including the President and all of the Presidential candidates. Runners-up: The Donald Trump Presidential Campaign Ethics Train Wreck and the Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign Ethics Train Wreck

Fraud of the Year

Rachel Dolezal, the militant, angry, anti-white NAACP official who, we discovered, was lily white and had magically become black by “identifying” so.  This ridiculous episode neatly encapsulated the entire year, which included sexual predator-enabler Hillary Clinton becoming a feminist champion by identifying as one, Bruce Jenner turning himself into herself by just saying so (and cashing in as a result), and President Obama making failed policies successful by repeating over and over that they were. RUNNER-UP: The Illinois Lottery, which first lures poor citizens into paying millions they can’t afford for a distnat chance at a jackpot, and then doesn’t pay up when one of them wins.

Incompetent Elected Officials of the Year

Every elected official involved in the Flint, Michigan water disaster. Plenty of unelected officials were accountable too, but I don’t have a category for them.

Sexual Predator Of The Year

 Bill Cosby. He won this category handily in 2014, and added about 20 more alleged victims to his total this year. Who know how long he will hold the title? Meanwhile, his own Ethics Train Wreck sucked in Walt Disney World, the Smithsonian, and Claire Huxtable, among others.

Runner-up: Bill Clinton. Karma’s a bitch. 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

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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