Sunday Before Christmas Ethics Ornaments, 12/22/19: Googling Ethics, “Cats,” Goldman Sachs, De Niro, Trump Derangement

Here’s hoping that the the next three days rescue the Spirit of Christmas…

…because the last few weeks have been a downer, man.

1. Googling ethics:  Phillip Galanes, at Social Q’s was consulted by a woman who had bad vibes about her girlfriend’s new love, so she googled him, and found out, as she suspected, that he had some serious red flags in his past. She told her friend, who had discovered the bad news herself, but who was hurt and angry that the inquirer did a background check on her boyfriend. “Was I wrong?” she asked. In his answer, Gallanes implies that she was, although “everybody does it.” I’d like a nice, succinct, substantive explanation of by what ethical theory it can ever be wrong to access publicly available information about anyone. This isn’t an issue of privacy, because the information isn’t private. There was nothing wrong with the inquirer’s motives, because she was concerned about her friend.

I’d call this the Ick Factor at work. It seems unethical because the fact that anyone can check our lives out online is creepy. The research itself, however, is ethically neutral. The ethics comes in with how the information is used.

2. I guess I have to mention “Cats”…since it is getting the most spectacular negative and cruel reviews since “Showgirls,” and maybe before that. “Exorcist II, The Heretic” perhaps. Oddly, the usually hyper-critical New York Times is not one of the worst defilers, but here was what the reviewer really found objectionable :

“It’s too bad that no one seems to have thought through the semiotics of Victoria’s chalky white cat face, given that Hayward is of mixed race and that the heavy is Idris Elba’s predatory Macavity. Elba seems to be having a fine time, but come on!”

Ah! The old “mixed-race actress in whiteface being menaced by a black actor playing a cat” racist imagery!

I can’t wait for them to write down these rules. Continue reading

Ethics Update : Donald, Hillary, Ted and Bernie

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It’s time once again to examine the latest ethics escapades of our four front-runners to be the next President of the United States:

Donald Trump

Well, what do you know? Despite turning the last Republican debate into a “Bush lied, people died” bloodbath of accusations right out of Move-On.org and asserting that his judgment is superior because he opposed the Iraq invasion “from the start,” Donald Trump in fact did support the war “from the start.” Newly re-discovered tapes from the Howard Stern show reveal the shock jock asking Trump, “Are you for invading Iraq?” and Trump replying, “Yeah, I guess so.” Asked at town hall forum by CNN moderator Anderson Cooper about the statement,  Trump responded: “I could have said that.”

Well, it’s on tape, Donald; you did say that.

Trump then insisted that his past support for the war did not matter because “by the time the war started I was against it.”

Oh, after the war started you were against it! 1) Prove it. 2) If someone makes public statements on all sides of controversies, does that allow them to pick whichever one turns out to be correct after the fact? Or does it just mean that the individual is an untrustworthy, dishonest, feckless hack?

It’s a rhetorical question.

Trump blew up the last debate and wounded his entire party based on a misrepresentation.

What utter scum this man is!

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Continue reading

New Hampshire Reflections: Let’s Leave Aside The E-Mail And The Lies For Now: Hillary’s Reaction To Adversity Shows She Is Unfit To Lead

I freely admit that it is unfair to use unflattering photos like this, which Drudge is featuring today. But it made me laugh, and maybe it will brighten someone else's day.

I freely admit that it is unfair to use unflattering photos like this, which Drudge is featuring today. But it made me laugh, and maybe it will brighten someone else’s day.

Preface: I’m not going to bother pointing out the obvious about Trump and his supporters, nor harp on the fact that the man used both “fuck” and “pussy” in recent speeches. Nothing has changed regarding the national embarrassment of his ugly candidacy, nor the utter idiocy of anyone who would be willing to have him by the face of the United States of America. If there are any readers here who support him, they have the good sense to sit silently in the Ethics Alarms cellar with Justice Scalia’s metaphorical bag over their heads. This post remains the verdict on Trump here. It’s five months old, and nothing has changed. Please circulate it to your dumbest friends.

Most of the Ethics Alarms posts about Hillary Clinton’s atrocious ethics and untrustworthy character have focused on her influence peddling, her conflicts of interest, her hypocrisy and her dishonesty. I keep hearing and reading desperate Democrats nonetheless rationalizing their supporting Clinton because of her alleged competence. We are seeing, right now, how she responds to adversity, stress, competition and crisis. What we are seeing isn’t competence by any definition.  Hillary is showing the nation  that under pressure and in crisis, she becomes angry, stonewalls, jettisons principle and ethics, and makes panicky, ill-considered statements and decisions, and defaults to “the ends justify the means.”

Exhibit #1: The Wall Street Speeches Defense.

We won’t know unless they turn up, but it’s pretty clear to everyone—isn’t it?— why Clinton’s $600,000 speeches to Go9ldman Sachs are a problem, and why she hasn’t turned over the transcripts. Companies don’t pay that kind of money to have their employees told that they are evil and their business is a blight on humanity. They do pay money to curry favor with a woman then assumed to be on an unstoppable path to the White House. The Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza connected the dots…

“My guess is that in the speeches, Clinton acknowledges her various friends and acquaintances at Goldman Sachs (and other Wall Street firms) and praises them for the work they are doing. “You guys get a bad rap but . . .” Yes, it’s standard-issue small talk. But it could look really, really bad in the context of the campaign. Imagine a transcript of Clinton speaking to some big bank or investment firm, thanking a litany of people she’s “been friends with forever” and praising the broader enterprise for “all you do.”

Of course. Cilizza minimizes it, saying that it “would look bad,” but in fact it is bad. Hillary can’t make the sweeping statements she has (in order to imitate Sanders) about how she will be tough on Wall Street villains, when she not only accepted huge speaking fees from the same people she says she will fight, but also fawned all over them when they were face to face. Already one attendee of a Goldman Sachs speech has supported Cilizza’s thesis. Maybe he’s wrong, and there’s exactly one way to find out. A confident, honest, competent and transparent leader would release the speeches, and explain the discrepancy between what she told the Wall Streeters then and what she says now, being ready and to answer the obvious question, “If you’ll lie to them, why wouldn’t you lie to us?”

Instead, Clinton sent her #1 surrogate,Bill, to make the hilarious accusation that Sanders was hypocritical to attack her Wall Street speaking fees. After all, Bill told one New Hampshire audience this week, Sanders, has given paid speeches too! This is the level of respect with which President Clinton, the female one, would treat the public. In 2013, Sanders received speaking fees totaling  $1,500, which he donated to charity as required by federal law. In 2014, he got $1,850 for paid speeches. Hillary Clinton made and kept over $21 million during the same time period.

A competent President has to be able to spin better than this. That aside, this shows us that a Clinton Administration would be, if possible, even less transparent than the current one.

Exhibit #2: Race-baiting and Division Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Ann Althouse

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“What’s to “look into”? Why not a straightforward “yes”? She said “I’ll look into it,” and the, opaquely, “I don’t know the status, but I will certainly look into it.” What “status”? Who even has an idea what that means? Does she not own the rights to her speeches?”

—-Law prof. and eccentric blogger Ann Althouse, reacting to Hillary Clinton’s evasive response “I will look into it,” when asked during the recent debate if she would release transcripts of her high-priced speeches to various corporations, like Goldman Sachs.

Two points before I discuss Althouse’s analysis:

1. Somehow I missed this in my review of the debate. I shouldn’t have, but I was so pummeled by the sheer awfulness of it all that my observation skills were obviously impaired. Not as badly as most, however: the number of journalists who have praised that festival of platitudes and lies as “the best debate so far” are every bit as pathetic as Donald Trump’s throng. There is no excuse for being that estranged from reality.

2. To anticipate the complaints: I’ll stop posting on Hillary Clinton’s lies, deceits and unethical machinations when she stops engaging in them. That is not only fair and responsible, it is the only way to foil the Clinton game, which consists of making everyone sick and tired of pointing out how corrupt they are.

Professor Althouse nailed Hillary on this. She continued in part… Continue reading

Greg Smith’s Urgent Ethics Alarm

“Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it”

This, says Greg Smith, is how the leadership of Goldman Sachs sees its clients.

With that, Goldman Sach’s executive Greg Smith began his remarkable op-ed in the New York Times, sending his former employers into crisis mode, panicking investors, and setting the financial, political and journalistic worlds buzzing. Obviously, it was an exposé about ethics as much as anything else.  Smith described a corporation-wide breach of trust with clients, a culture in which leadership openly derided those the company pledged to serve as “muppets,” and apparently, sheep to be sheared:

“It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off… I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.”

Smith cites a breakdown in leadership, resulting in a corruption of values: Continue reading

The S.E.C.’s Betrayal and Why Regulation Can’t Cure Unethical Cultures

Your SEC at work....

I awoke this morning to read that a former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission official has credibly claimed that the S.E.C. destroyed thousands upon thousands of records of enforcement cases in which it had decided not to file charges or to launch full-blown probes. The case records dumped included prominent Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and SAC Capital.

Here’s is how Rolling Stone concluded its excellent report on the scandal:

“Forget about what might have been if the SEC had followed up in earnest on all of those lost MUIs(“Matters Under Inquiry”). What if even a handful of them had turned into real cases? How many investors might have been saved from crushing losses if Lehman Brothers had been forced to reveal its shady accounting way back in 2002? Might the need for taxpayer bailouts have been lessened had fraud cases against Citigroup and Bank of America been pursued in 2005 and 2007? And would the U.S. government have doubled down on its bailout of AIG if it had known that some of the firm’s executives were suspected of insider trading in September 2008?” Continue reading

Cheater’s Remorse: ABC News Gets Ethical Without Knowing What “Ethical” Means

"Right now, cheating doesn't pay, so we're committed to ethics."

If you think ABC News is going to get any credit here for officially (sort of) banning the practice of paying so-called “licensing fees” to get exclusive interviews, I’m going to disappoint you. For there is nothing admirable about….

1….. engaging in the discredited practice of paying big money to central figures in news stories in order to gain access to them, and

2….disguising the practice by technically paying them inflated fees for the rights to photographs, even though the real reason for the pay-off is #1 above, then…

3….rejecting the practice when it leads to questions about how the network got an interview when it didn’t pay “licensing fees,” but…

4…noting that it might still go back to the unethical practice “perhaps once every couple of years,” since…

5….the other networks do it.

Yuck, pooie, ichhhh, petah!  ABC’s decision, outlined in a report by media watchdog Howard Kurtz, tells you everything you need to know about the state of ethics in broadcast journalism in general and ABC in particular, and I have seen prettier sights floating in an unflushed toilet bowl. Continue reading