Sunday Ethics Scripture, 5/10/2020: It Doesn’t Include “Forgiveness”

1. You know…Kool-Aid! Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) finally was forced into releasing the transcripts from the House’s investigation “collusion,” one of the more extensive of the multiple Democratic coup attempts. The Federalist explains, :

Former Obama administration defense official Evelyn Farkas testified under oath that she lied during an MSNBC interview when she claimed to have evidence of alleged collusion, a newly declassified congressional transcript of her testimony shows. Farkas testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on June 26, 2017, as part of the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election between Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Lawmakers keyed in on an appearance Farkas made on MSNBC on March 2, 2017, in which she urged intelligence community bureaucrats to disseminate within the government and potentially even leak to media any incriminating information they had about Trump or his aides.

“I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior [Obama administration] people who left…[that] it would be hidden away in the bureaucracy,” Farkas said.

[…]

“Why don’t we go back to that sentence that I just asked you about. It says ‘the Trump folks, if they found out how we knew what we knew about their staff dealing with Russians,” [Rep. Trey] Gowdy said. “Well, how would you know what the U.S. government knew at that point? You didn’t work for it, did you?”

“I didn’t,” said Farkas, a former mid-level Russia analyst who left the federal government in 2015.

“Then how did you know?” Gowdy responded.

“I didn’t know anything,” Farkas said.

Writes Matt Vespa, in a distinctly partisan tone but completely accurately,

“Everyone who isn’t Trump deranged knew this was a pile of crap. How many “bombshells” have there been? How many have turned out to be nothing burgers, not even lasting 36 hours in the news cycle because there was never solid evidence to prove such a conspiracy? This is what happens when the entire myth was based on a political opposition research document—the Trump dossier—which was compiled by an ex-MI6 spook Christopher Steele, whose anti-Trump efforts were funded by Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign. It was probably never vetted by the FBI, given the glaring errors in it, and it was used as credible evidence to secure a spy warrant against Carter Page, a former Trump campaign official. It was biased political propaganda. This collusion delusion was already debunked in the original Mueller report, which said there was no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion and shredded what was left of the unverified Trump dossier. The Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on the FISA abuses during the Obama administration also took a tomahawk to the dossier. The core of this collusion myth was already dead, but with the exoneration of Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, more pieces are falling off this dead collusion carcass. 

2. And no..I will not forgive, nor will I forget, the arrogant, biased and ignorant people who called me partisan and worse for fairly, objectively and correctly analyzing this historic attack on democracy and accurately calling it a soft coup attempt, one of many. Allowing people who behave this badly to expect forgiveness encourages them to keep being as destructive,  reckless and lazy, and to assume there are no consequences for their conduct. There are, and there should be.

There is a great deal that I will forgive. Not that.

3. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Here’s Friday’s Times headline: “U.S. Drops Pursuit Of Flynn, In Move Backed By Trump.” Shameful. The case was dropped because there was irrefutable evidence that it was illegal and a set-up; that it was the epitome of a wrongful and corrupt prosecution. Never mind: the Times chooses to fuel the desperate spin the AUC (“Axis of Unethical Conduct”) is trying to put on this despite unequivocal evidence and documentation. This is a cover-up by Barr and Trump! Except it isn’t. But the New York Times, the self-proclaimed paragon of American journalism, is using its reputation and visibility to deceive Americans that it is.

I’m not forgiving or forgetting this, either.

4. I finally watched “The Post,” the star-studded film hymn to the glory of our newsmedia that recounts the mostly accurate tale of how the Washington Post and the Times published the Pentagon Papers.  The movie is dominated by progressive Hollywood icons Tom Hanks ( as Ben Bradley) and Meryl Streep (as Katherine Graham). The problem is that it falsely conveys to audiences—and, I believe, was intended to convey—the propaganda that the the Post and the Times are still serving the interests of the nation, the public and democracy by their relentless, courageous and objective search for the truth. As the entire “collusion” debacle proved, they are not (if they ever were). Let’s assume for the sake of argument that was what print journalism was like when the Pentagon Papers were published….in 1971. That was 50 years ago, a full half-century. Today’s journalism is as materially different from journalism then as today’s entertainment, drug laws, sexual mores and fashion would be  unrecognizable to a Seventies time-traveler.

The Banjo/Damien Patton Affair: Can You Ever Escape A Disgraceful Past? Should You Be Able To?

Damien Patton is the the 47-year-old co-founder and CEO of the rising data gathering startup Banjo. The combination of the company’s success and its founders’ inspiring life story has made him the subject of many tech media and business publication profiles, for it is the kind of gutter to boardroom story on individual bootstrapping America has always celebrated.  He has described an abusive childhood that caused him to run away from home at age 15. He joined the U.S. Navy, then worked as a NASCAR mechanic before learning the craft of crime-scene investigation.  He  learned to code, and then became a co-founder of Banjo as he raised  nearly $223 million in venture capital for the Utah-based company.

However, Americans don’t like their rags-to-riches stories to begin too deep in the gutter. The tech news outlet OneZero uncovered transcripts of courtroom testimony, sworn statements, and more than 1,000 pages of federal records revealing that before he turned to coding, Patton was a member of the Dixie Knights, a Ku Klux Klan group active in the Nashville area in the late 1980s and early 1990s,  and not a passive one. He was was involved in shooting up a synagogue, for example. Understandably, this detail was something Patton did not highlight in his inspirational speeches before aspiring entrepreneurs.

The question is, now what? What does this mean today? What should it mean? Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: Plot E”

The quiz about the American military cemetery of shame in France provoked many varying opinions, none more eloquently expressed than this Comment of the Day by JutGory.

I only post quizzes when I am at least somewhat unsure of the ethics call. My position in the post was in response to the blogger’s argument in favor of giving the graves headstones, which I felt was unpersuasive. I’m not sure Jut has changed my mind, but his points are much, much better.

Here is JutGory’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Quiz: Plot E”: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Plot E

The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial is an American military cemetery in northern France consisting of four main burial plots, labeled A, B, C and D, containing the remains of 6,012 service personnel who died during World War II.

There is also a secret Plot E. It lies about a hundred yards away from the cemetery, and  contains the remains of 96 American soldiers who were executed by hanging or firing squad for serious crimes committed during or shortly after World War II. Collectively, they were responsible for the murders of 26 American soldiers and the murder or rapes of 71 British, French, German, Italian, Polish and Algerian civilians.

Plot E was established in 1949 to contain the remains of what the Graves Registration call “the dishonored dead.” It was deliberately hidden from view,  surrounded by hedges and located in a forest. Officially, Plot E does not exist. The plot  is not mentioned on the cemetery’s website or in any maps brochures.

The dead have small flat stone markers the size of index cards: no names, just sequential numbers engraved in black. Individual graves are supposed to be impossible to identify. It was not until 2009 that a Freedom of Information request obtained the full list of those buried in Plot E, and the names can now be found on-line, most notably on Wikipedia. One name of note is Louis Till (that’s his marker above) , the father of the 14 year old Chicago teen lynched for “looking at a white woman” while visiting Mississippi.

Darren Smith, Jonathan Turley’s weekend blogger on Res Ipsa Loquitur, argues regarding the strange and cruel burial ground:

[I]n addition to what is at least in my view a human right to a proper and named burial, a historical aspect is sacrificed in the anonymous enumeration of the dead whose history becomes lost to oblivion…[A]t what point does the punishment end? In the case of death of a convicted person is the sentencing extended to eternity through the erasure of the convicted from the human consciousness? Must they fall into oblivion? We would be rather callous to think that these men did not have children, parents, or siblings and were erasable…

[Former Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War Robert] McNamara lamented how [ General ] Curtis LeMay proposed that if their side lost the war, they would be tried as war criminals. “And we were”, according to McNamara “acting like war criminals” in area bombing Japanese cities. The justification to this is of course based on one’s perspective and certainly which side of the pond they were born upon. Yet there was a great amount of evil done at that time, but it was often the leaders and policy makers who justified such actions who are honored with their own large memorials. Yet these ninety-six Dishonored Dead are ordinary soldiers, [have] no right to be named, it seems. Or perhaps these Dishonored Dead present a topic of a perpetual embarrassment to the American Military or government, one that is best forgotten. It is a hard pill to swallow that among the millions who served honorably, there were at least a hundred who acted with evil intent and greatly unbecoming a professional soldier. Yet given the aging population of those serving, I very much doubt that any living military personnel of WWII today can truly argue they suffer any affront resultant from the naming of these men. Seventy years ago, yes–today I think time has healed that wound.

We would not pardon these men’s crimes by granting them a proper burial, with name and epitaph afforded all other soldiers. But they at least deserve to be known.

Do they?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz is…

Is there a valid and persuasive ethical reason to provide marked graves and accessible burial sites for the executed residents of Plot E?

Continue reading

The Limits Of Graciousness: The President Rejects Nancy Pelosi’s Hand

The President in 2018 wearing a different tie.  Pelosi’s hand is the same

Though she offed it, President Donald Trump declined to shake House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s  hand prior to delivering the 2020 State of the Union address tonight. (I’m watching the State of the Union Address as I write this.)

Perhaps those who are frequent readers here expect me to chide the President. He should remember that political disagreements aren’t personal, after all. As America’s leader, he should model the ethical virtues of forgiveness, civility, grace, and the Golden Rule. Our elected officials should always stand for the principle that though we may disagree as a people, we should never be disagreeable. In this case, such symbolic comity is especially essential. The nation has seldom been more divided, or more contentious in its division. Shaking the Speaker’s hand would be a step, albeit a small one, toward healing the rift.

Although this would be my ethics prescription under normal circumstances, this is not such a circumstance, and everyone knows it, or should.  Under Nancy Pelosi’s leadership, the partisan opposition of the Democrats to this President has breached all political norms and ethical traditions. The attacks on him, and not only him, but his family as well, have been directly personal, with Pelosi and her lieutenants using savage and unconscionable rhetoric to embarrass and insult him and, if possible, disable the President’s influence and lawful power. During the reprehensible impeachment burlesque, still ongoing,  the President has been denigrated as no Chief Executive before him, and as no leader of the United States should ever be denigrated by members of Congress, or any citizen. Continue reading

An Ethics Quiz Returns With A New Context And An Ancient Conundrum, And The Answer, My Friends, Is Still Blowin’ In The Wind…

The Ethics Quiz from 2013, “Peter’s Problem,” that I have re-posted in its entirety below has come circling around like boomerang, in a different context. Then, singer activist Peter Yarrow of Peter,Paul and Mary fame was being attacked by the political Right, which argued that his participation in a political campaign event for a Democratic Congressional candidate was proof of that candidate’s poor judgment. Yarrow, as we were told by PBS when it raised fund by showing Peter,Paul and Mary concerts, had answered a knock on his hotel room door naked when  two teenage sisters, 14 and 17, stopped by in 1969 to seek an autograph. The 14-year old got a lot more than his signature. Yarrow was eventually charged with taking indecent liberties with a minor, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three months in jail. President Jimmy Carter pardoned him in 1981.

Lat week, Yarrow’ s past (he was 31 then; he’s 81 now)  caused one of his appearances to be cancelled, but this time it wasn’t those Puritanical conservatives complaining about Yarrow’s “if it feels good, do it” sexual misconduct (which most of Yarrow’s younger fans in the Peace and Love Era didn’t think was misconduct at all), but the Left’s #MeToo furies.

Yes, Peter Yarrow and his critics have boarded the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck.

Since that rollicking night in 1969 , Peter Yarrow has solidified his folk singing and progressive activist status without further public blemishes, and having him associated with an event has usually been regarded as a positive, not a negative, feature when progressives and their causes are involved. John Kerry had him sing at his wedding. Bill Clinton featured him at an Inauguration. He has collected lifetime achievement awards like little Jackie Paper collected painted wings and giant rings.

Last week, however, the Colorscape Chenango Arts Festival, which had  had described Yarrow in its advance publicity for his participation in its annual  September festival as  one of “America’s longtime favorite musicians and performers,”  canceled his appearance, saying in a statement…

“Some members of our community expressed concern, and after further investigation and careful consideration the decision was made to remove Yarrow from the music schedule.”

In the 2013 post, , I criticized Yarrow’s apologetic statement at the time, which was tainted by rationalizations. His statement last week was much better: Continue reading

The Forgiveness Of Victoria Ruvolo

I’m not great on forgiveness; it’s not one of my virtues. I especially don’t forgive betrayal, but there are other kinds of behavior that I don’t forgive. There are three local theater companies in the D.C. area that I will go out of my way to undermine and if possible, destroy, for the disgusting culture they revealed to me when I had the misfortune to work with them. When my son was four, a local T.G.I.F. that we often frequented treated our family like bugs, then using the excuse that they were short-staffed (their problem, not mine) and offering me a coupon to entice me to come to their crappy restaurant again when it had just given us a humiliating experience. I told the manager to keep his sop, and that we would never set foot in his restaurant again, and we never have. My son is now 24. My problem with  unearned forgiveness is that it diminishes the appreciation of accountability. The fact that when you behave unethically people resent it and no longer trust you is a powerful motivation to be better.

Victoria Ruvolo, who died last week at the age of 59, disagreed. Here is her own description of what happened to her. Her journey began when on November 12, 2004, when six teenagers in Ronkonkoma, New York bought a 20 pound turkey with a stolen credit card. 18 year-old Ryan Cushing threw the frozen-solid bird out of a back seat window, and it crashed through the windshield of the car driven by  Victoria Ruvolo’s and crushed her face.  Her passenger managed to steer the car to the side of the road. Ruvolo awoke in a hospital several weeks later with no knowledge of what had happened. The missile  had broken the bones in her cheeks and jaw, fractured her left eye socket, collapsed her esophagus and left her with a closed-head brain injury.

Later, she wrote, Continue reading

More Amazing Tales Of “The King’s Pass”: The Megan Barry Saga

You can’t make this stuff up. Well, you could, but nobody would believe you. That’s not quite right: I would believe you, but then I’ve seen this story.

Maybe you’ve seen some of it. There are interesting posts on Nashville’s disgraced and jettisoned mayor here, here, and here. 

Surely you read them. No? I forgive you—after all, Facebook deems the output of this blog not fit for human eyes, so why should anyone bother reading, especially when Ethics Alarms persists in pointing out the astounding double standards being fought for in the media and by progressive warriors? Here, let be provide some quick bullet points as a review, kind of like those Netflix shows do in their second seasons to recap the previous season…

  • “Nashville’s first term mayor Megan Barry admitted yesterday that she had an extramarital affair with the police officer in charge of her security detail. She apologized “for the harm I’ve done to the people I love and the people who counted on me” but said she won’t be resigning. In a news conference, she said nothing illegal happened and no policies were violated.” The Nashville Mayor’s Affair, 2/1/18
  • (Same source as above): “This is sexual harassment. The officer was a subordinate, and she was his boss, with the power to fire him or worse. There can be no genuine consent in such situations….the conservative media constantly points out that when Republicans are involved in scandals, the news media always places their party affiliation in the first paragraph, but when the miscreant is a Democrat, it is buried or not mentioned at all. Let’s use this story as a test:1. NOLA (local), below: No mention of the Mayor’s party at all.2. The Tennessean (local), below: Third paragraph.3. USA Today: 22nd paragraph!

    4. NPR: Nope!

    5. NBC: Nope!

    6. ABC: Nope!”

  • And this just in! Nashville’s main newspaper, the Tenneseean, reports that Rob Forrest, the Mayor’s married lover, earned substantially more overtime than the other bodyguards on Barry’s secuirty detail, $173,843.13  between July 2015 and January 2017, which was nearly $53,000 more than the other four bodyguards received combined. But, as several internet wags have noted, let’s be fair: Rob was doing more for the mayor than those other bodyguards..How Many Rationalizations Can You Spot In This Op-Ed? (2/20/18)
  • “The statement is a whitewash, a delusion, and a lie. It is the upbeat farewell of a successful leader, not what it should be, the humble request for forgiveness from a terrible one, acknowledging wrongdoing and promising to be better. The statement shows no contrition, no remorse, no accountability, no courage, and no conscience. Based on these words, I think Megan Barry is a sociopath.” Unethical Quote Of The Week: Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s Resignation Statement, 3/7/18
  • Same source: “… after various revelations that suggested illicit and excessive compensation somehow made their way to her huggy-bug, both Barry and paramour Robert Forrest had to plead guilty to theft of property over $10,000 — a Class C Felony. She will pay $11,000 to the city in restitution and serve three years’ probation, as will Forest, though he will have to pay back $45,000 to the city.”

Continue reading

Encore: On the Importance Of Christmas To The Culture And Our Nation : An Ethics Alarms Guide

[As promised, here is the Ethics Alarms Christmas package, lightly revised, last posted three years ago]

I don’t know what perverted instinct it is that has persuaded colleges and schools to make their campuses a Christmas-free experience. Nor can I get into the scrimy and misguided minds of people like Roselle Park New Jersey Councilwoman Charlene Storey, who resigned over the city council’s decision to call its Christmas tree lighting a Christmas Tree Lighting, pouting that this wasn’t “inclusive,” or the  CNN goon who dictated the bizarre policy that the Christmas Party shot up by the husband-wife Muslim terrorists had to be called a “Holiday Party.”  Christmas, as the cultural tradition it evolved to be, is about inclusion, and if someone feels excluded, they are excluding themselves.  Is it the name that is so forbidding? Well, too bad. That’s its name, not “holiday.” Arbor Day is a holiday. Christmas is a state of mind. [The Ethics Alarms Christmas posts are here.]

Many years ago, I lost a friend over a workplace dispute on this topic, when a colleague and fellow executive at a large Washington association threw a fit of indignation over the designation of the headquarters party as a Christmas party, and the gift exchange (yes, it was stupid) as “Christmas Elves.” Marcia was Jewish, and a militant unionist, pro-abortion, feminist, all-liberal all-the-time activist of considerable power and passion. She cowed our pusillanimous, spineless executive to re-name the party a “holiday party” and the gift giving “Holiday Pixies,” whatever the hell they are.

I told Marcia straight out that she was wrong, and that people like her were harming the culture. Christmas practiced in the workplace, streets, schools and the rest is a cultural holiday of immense value to everyone open enough to experience it, and I told her to read “A Christmas Carol” again. Dickens got it, Scrooge got it, and there was no reason that the time of year culturally assigned by tradition to re-establish our best instincts of love, kindness, gratitude, empathy, charity and generosity should be attacked, shunned or avoided as any kind of religious indoctrination or “government endorsement of religion.”  Jews, Muslims, atheists and Mayans who take part in a secular Christmas and all of its traditions—including the Christmas carols and the Christian traditions of the star, the manger and the rest, lose nothing, and gain a great deal.

Christmas is supposed to bring everyone in a society together after the conflicts of the past years have pulled them apart. What could possibly be objectionable to that? What could be more important than that, especially in these especially divisive times? How could it possibly be responsible, sensible or ethical to try to sabotage such a benign, healing, joyful tradition and weaken it in our culture, when we need it most?

I liked and respected Marcia, but I deplore the negative and corrosive effect people like her have had on Christmas, and as a result, the strength of American community. I told her so too, and that was the end of that friendship. Killing America’s strong embrace of Christmas is a terrible, damaging, self-destructive activity, but it is well underway. I wrote about how the process was advancing here, and re-reading what I wrote, I can only see the phenomenon deepening, and hardening like Scrooge’s pre-ghost heart. Then I said… Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/8/18: Last Weekend Before I Have To Decorate The %^&$! Christmas Tree Edition

Good morning!

1. How can this be? Based on the same documents, the President crowed that Mueller had nothin,’ and the mainstream Trump-hating media crowed that the walls were closing in. It’s a confirmation bias orgy! Charges aren’t evidence, and attempted contacts with a foreign power isn’t “collusion,” and we’ve already talked about the theory that paying off a floozy not to kiss and tell, which is 100% legal at all other times, is a stretch to call and election law violation when the rake is running for President. No such case has ever been brought; it’s dubious whether one would prevail; even if it did, this is a fining offense at most. [ For the record, this is the “resistance’s” Impeachment Plan K, in my view, one of the lamest.]

Both sides are jumping the gun. In the media’s case, it’s more fake new, future news and hype.

2. Stare decisis vs. the prohibition on double jeopardy. In Gamble v. US, just argued before the Supreme Court, the question is whether the federal government can try a citizen for the same crime a state court acquitted him of committing. I’ve always hated the rule that it can (the cops in the Rodney King case were jailed that way), because it seems clear to me that the Constitutional prohibition on double jeopardy (that’s the Fifth Amendment) was intended to prevent such trials. Still,  previous Supreme Court decisions have upheld the convictions.  In the current case, it appears from oral argument that a majority of the current justices agree with me, but are hesitant to so rule because of the doctrine of stare decisis,  which means respecting long-standing SCOTUS precedent.

A ruling to apply double jeopardy would be a ruling against stare decisis, meaning that Roe v. Wade might have less protection than many—including me–have thought. Stay tunes, and watch Justice Kavanaugh’s vote particularly.

3.  Is wanting to/needing to/ actually taking steps to changing one’s sex a mental disorder? There have been a lot of articles about this lately, especially in light of evidence that peer groups, the news media, LGBT advocacy and parents are making many young children want to change their sex before they even know what sex or gender is. The question is itself deceptive, because it pretends that “mental disorder” is anything but a label that can be used or removed with a change of attitude or political agendas. Vox writes,

Major medical organizations, like the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association, say being transgender is not a mental disorder. The APA explained this in explicit terms when it stopped using the term “gender identity disorder” in favor of “gender dysphoria”: “Part of removing stigma is about choosing the right words. Replacing ‘disorder’ with ‘dysphoria’ in the diagnostic label is not only more appropriate and consistent with familiar clinical sexology terminology, it also removes the connotation that the patient is ‘disordered.’”

Well, “removing a stigma” is hardly a valid criteria for deciding whether something is a malady or not. What being transgender “is” can’t be changed by what we call it. Recently narcissism was removed from the mental disorder list—that doesn’t change the fact that narcissists see the world and themselves in a way that most people do not, and that this perspective causes them and the people around them a lot of trouble during their lives. The process worked in reverse with alcoholism, where being officially labelled a disease removed a stigma.

I once directed the comedy/drama “Nuts,” which opines that “insanity” is just a view of reality not shared by the majority. It was on this basis that the Soviet Union sent dissidents to mental hospitals. I don’t care what various associations or professionals call these minority positions: we know that they are using bias and political agendas to devise the label. This is one area where a phrase I despise, “It is what it is,” may be appropriate. Continue reading