Monday Ethics Musings, 11/26/18: Surprise! I’m Not Going To Discuss The Border Mess Here.

Good Morning!

Well, the combination of the holidays and my extended illness, plus some lost days due to travel and speaking engagements, just resulted in the worst 9 days of traffic in recent Ethics Alarms history. As Robert E. Lee said after Pickett’s Charge, “It’s all my fault,” and I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to the readers and loyalists here who continued to visit, read and comment despite my failure to keep up on content.

1. I WAS going to cover the “caravan’s” travails...but when I started it was clear that the topic would be too long for the Warm-Up. Reflecting my disgust as the dishonest and hysterical punditry on the matter, low-lighted by the “They’re gassing women and children!” narrative, I was also going to title the post, “Morning Ethics Throw-Up.”

2. Yesterday’s post about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson has garnered an unusual response so far: far more links to social media than comments. This essay is a good example of why I miss the self-exiled progressives here. I really would love to read an argument of why Fred Astaire’s homage to his friend and teacher is nonetheless racist, because it’s “blackface.” I don’t expect good or persuasive arguments, mind you, because I doubt there are any. But we all benefit from the process of debate when both sides are intelligent and arguing in good faith. Even the most doctrinaire ideologue’s per-programmed talking points can be valuable, if only to help us understand how the hive-mind is buzzing.

An aside: I wonder how many Americans under 50 know what The Kingston Trio was, or have any idea how influential they were on music and the culture in the Fifties and Sixties?

3. Yeah, I guess this is bias. Still...A Nassau County (New York) judge, Thomas Rademaker, had ordered the jailing of a dead-beat dad, Michael Berg, in November 2016 and said he could win his release by paying nearly $518,000 to satisfy his obligations. Rademaker also told Berg that he “symbolizes everything that’s wrong with the world today.” He called Berg “selfish,” “self-interested,” “lazy,” “arrogant,” and said Berg was the last guy he would “want to be in a foxhole with” because he would “fold like a cheap suit.”

The appeals court decided that the judge’s comments had crossed the line and constituted sufficient evidence of bias to mandate a new judge to be appointed to consider whether Berg had willfully failed to pay child support. Berg had not moved for a recusal, which meant the bias issue was not preserved for appellate review. The court said it was nonetheless considering the issue of bias “in the interest of justice.”

I’d love to see how Berg argues that he unintentionally neglected to pay a half-million in child support. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Hillary Clinton

hillary-inauguration

The criteria for an Ethics Hero honor here includes doing the ethical thing despite significant countervailing non-ethical considerations, and often at some personal sacrifice. It was Bill Clinton’s duty to be present at Donald Trump’s Inauguration yesterday, but not Hillary’s.  While defeated Presidential candidates usually attend, they sometimes don’t, especially when they feel  particularly aggrieved byt the way the successful campaigns against them were handled. Recent inauguration no-shows include Mitt Romney and Michael Dukakis, both of whom felt, with some justification, that they had been ill-treated on their way to defeat.  Four Presidents didn’t even attend the swearing in of their successors: John Adams (bitter), John Quincy Adams (bitter, and Andrew Jackson hadn’t attended his inauguration, so there!) Andrew Johnson (impeached), and Richard Nixon (persona non grata).

Nobody, especially her supporters, would have blamed Mrs. Clinton if she had passed. However, it was important that she be there, as her presence symbolized acceptance of the result and the orderly transfer of power as much as Barack Obama’s presence did. She came, she was seen, and it was the right thing to do.

It could not have been easy or pleasant. Some in the audience were heard to chant “Lock her up!” when her name was announced. (See: “A Nation of Assholes”) Bill may have embarrassed her by being caught on video seeming to ogle Ivanka Trump. (I wrote a satirical song about Clinton ogling Julie Eisenhower at Nixon’s funeral in 1994, but that was a joke. Good old Bill. ) Jerkish journalists pestered Hillary with the predictable and needless questions: “Madame Secretary, how does it feel to be here today?” and  “How are you feeling, Madame Secretary?” Ann Althouse made me laugh out loud with her comment:

What’s she supposed to say? I’ll say it for her: How the fuck do you think it feels?

 

Ethical Quote Of The Week: Tom Hanks

tom-hanks-moma

“This is the United States of America. We’ll go on. There’s great like-minded people out there who are Americans first and Republicans or Democrats second. I hope the president-elect does such a great job that I vote for his reelection in four years.”

—-Actor Tom Hanks, to the Hollywood Reporter which was covering his remarks while being honored at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Hanks was a critic of Trump during the campaign, and contributed to skewering the President Elect during a recent Saturday Night Live show. His statement is one which every fair, rational, patriotic citizen should be able to endorse.

In the alternative, one can adopt the approach of Progressive Scold in Exile Keith Olbermann, who said on his web show, “The Resistance”:

“Give him a chance? What, in the hope that he will someday grow up enough to be able to see over the top of the Oval Office desk? We do not have time for the White House edition of “Celebrity Apprentice” starring President-Elect Pussy-Grabber. And so we will resist,” he intoned.

It should be an easy choice.

Hanks’ remarks at the museum ceremony are also worth reading. You will see them here.

Ethics Dunces: Bitter, Spoilsport, Fuddy-Duddy Republicans and Conservatives

Nope, no Republicans there...

Nope, no Republicans here…

A grand welter of celebrities ranging from Pussy Riot and Paul Krugman to Willie Nelson and Big Bird joined comic Stephen Colbert in his farewell to Comedy Central, as he prepares to step into David Letterman’s shoes and hopes to do a Jimmy Fallon as Dave’s (overdue) replacement, rather than a Conan O’Brien. Obviously the producers and Colbert sought a ridiculously diverse group symbolizing U.S. culture and whimsy, and sent out invitations far and wide. Instead, the got an overwhelmingly liberal and progressive group that may make up half of MSNBC’s total viewership, a group that would almost all have been at home on the floor of the Democratic National Convention.

Don’t blame Colbert. It was clear that ideological animus with Colbert’s almost entirely anti-conservative schtick was no bar to the option of participation. Republicans and conservatives, however, almost unanimously decided to sulk, stay home, and boycott the party. Continue reading

Ethics Observations on the 2014 Mid-Term Elections

election 2014

1. After the 2006 election, in which a Republican majority in the House and Senate became a well-deserved minority, the losing Republicans, in sharp contrast to their Democratic brethren after their losses in 2000 and 2004, were remarkably frank and gracious. I wrote on November 15, 2006…

When the Democrats were rejected at the polls in 2004, they and many of their supporters in the media declared that it was proof positive that the U.S. public was stupid, ignorant, and reckless. Many claimed that the election must have been rigged; others announced that the U.S. was a lost cause and that good people should consider moving to Canada. Some actually did.

The Republicans, who were resoundingly punished at the polls for everything from corruption to arrogance to incompetence, could not present a more dramatic contrast to their Democratic counterparts. They overwhelmingly placed responsibility for their losses squarely on their own mistakes and transgressions, where it belongs. They congratulated their victorious opponents. They avoided making legal challenges or suggesting that any elections were “stolen.” Defeated Republican Senator George Allen, whose race was close enough to demand a recount, did not. And no Republicans, as far as we know, have fled the country. They will be staying around to contribute to the process of democracy, because they respect both it and its results. In short, the Republicans have demonstrated the honorable and ethical was to lose.The deportment of the losers in a democracy is every bit as important as the behavior of the winners. As the Democrats attempt to teach their rivals something about how to govern when you win, let’s hope that they learned from the GOP’s lesson in how to behave when you get throttled. Some recent Canadian immigrants might think about it as well.

Will Democrats be model losers as well?

We shall see.

2. This “concession speech” by losing Kentucky Senate candidate Allison Grimes does not bode well: Continue reading

Ethic Dunce: California Chrome Owner Steve Coburn*

horses-assAs you probably know by now, California Chrome attempted to become the 12th horse and first since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Triple Crown and join a fabled group that includes such esteemed equines as Gallant Fox, Whirlaway, Citation and Secretariat…and fell right on his long face, finishing fourth. The  winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness lost the Belmont Stakes to 9-1 long-shot Tonalist, who did not run the opening two races of the series. Ah, there’s the rub. Part of the challenge of the Triple Crown, a not insubstantial part,  is that it is an endurance test. CC lost to a fresher horse.

Well, you know, that’s why winning the Triple Crown is so special and the horses who achieved it are the sport of racing’s four-footed immortals. It’s hard. When your horse loses the final and most difficult (it’s longer) of the three races after winning the first two, as many horses have, the correct, classy and ethical response is well established. It doesn’t take any imagination. You say that you congratulate the winning stables, the owners, the horse and the jockey, that of course you are disappointed, that your horse ran the best race he could but on this day it was not good enough. Then you shut up, and let sportswriters make excuses for the loss, if there are excuses to be made. Continue reading

Ethics Hero, Mother’s Day Division: NBA MVP Kevin Durant

kevin-durant-nba-kevin-durant-mvp-press-conference2

Just in time to temporarily relieve the National Basketball Association from public exposure of its expediency, hypocrisy and criminalization of thought, and also just in time for Mother’s Day, Oklahoma Thunder forward Kevin Durant delivered an ethics slam-dunk of an acceptance speech when he was honored with the league’s Most Valuable Player Award.

‘Tis not always thus. Another NBA great, Michael Jordan, revealed the bleakness of his character in his nauseating speech upon being admitted to pro basketball’s Hall of Fame, settling old grudges and celebrating himself. Durant, in glorious contrast, was graceful, humble, sincere, gracious, and filled with gratitude, particularly toward his mother, who was in the audience. It takes a sense of fairness, respect and perspective, as well as confidence,  to use the spotlight at an event that honors you to shift attention to others, and that is what Durant did. His speech itself is proof that his mother raised him well, and his words drove the message home:

“One my best memories I have is when we moved into our first apartment. No bed, no furniture, we all just sat in the living room and just hugged each other. We thought we made it. … You wake me up in the middle of the night in the summertime, making me run up a hill, making me do push-ups. Screaming at me from the sidelines of my games at eight or nine years old … When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.”

Here is his entire speech, displaying an ethical character that can’t be faked.

The Obama Campaign’s Ungracious Character

Poor choice of role model, Mr. President.

Consider these post-debate quotes from various key figures in the Obama campaign:

” The President did a good job explaining his positions, but give credit where credit is due. Governor Romney had a great night. He was focused and clear, and obviously connected with the audience. He’s a capable adversary, as we always knew. President Obama can and will equal and surpass his performance in the coming debates.”—David Axelrod

” Governor Romney proved himself to be a formidable debater, and the President will have to be more aggressive in countering his arguments, which he certainly has the ability and the ammunition to do.”—Stephanie Cutter

“I didn’t feel I had a poor debate, but I obviously need to have better ones. Sometimes the other guy just beats you, and you have to accept that, tip your hat, and win the next time.”—President Obama

If you haven’t seen these respectful, gracious quotes, all typical of the comments of past candidates and their staff after debate performances that were seen as falling short of their opponents’, there’s a reason. Nobody on the Democratic side, including Obama himself, nor most of the media pundits except those who would be fairly classified as conservative, have been willing to give Mitt Romney any recognition for a well planned, well-executed, professional and compelling debate. “What happened?” Diane Sawyer asked the President. “I had a bad night,” he replied. Romney, you see, had nothing to do with it. Continue reading

Most Entertaining Ethics Alarms Discussion Ever: A Salute

Ethics Alarms now pauses in gratitude to give a stunned and admiration-filled salute to all the participants in the still perking comment donnybrook that has followed what I thought initially would be a minor, fairly obvious post about the ethics of vegetarians hosting a wedding reception and imposing a strict vegetarian menu despite the protests of their parents that some guests would be uncomfortable. Triggered by a first-time visitor, her unique perspective and her sometimes  cloying way of expressing it, what erupted has been a 375+ comment multi-party debate that had everything: wild analogies, accusations, counter-accusations, common sense, enlightenment, gibberish, creativity, hypocrisy, Eastern philosophy, tangents, 60’s nostalgia, humor (intentional and not), at least two terms I had never encountered before but will cherish forever—“deepity” and “wackaloon” —-and even some ethics. In addition to provocateur livvy1234, who has registered more than80  comments so far and enough words to comprise a novella, key combatants include Joe Fowler, Karla Marie Robinette, Brian, deery, Elizabeth I, Michael, Libby Torgeson, Joy, Jan Chapman…but especially tgt, the Ethics Alarms 2011 Commenter of the Year, who really has justified his title with gusto this time.

Thanks, everybody. What fun.

The Vegetarian Reception: Carolyn Hax Strikes Out

Well, nobody bats 1.000.

“Where’s the shrimp?”

My favorite ethical advice columnist, Carolyn Hax, missed a soft pitch by a mile recently. The question came from a couple—an apparently insufferable couple, I may add—who sought Hax’s confirmation that they were within rightful boundaries by wanting to have only vegetarian fare at their upcoming wedding reception, since they were vegetarians themselves. “We don’t want to spend money purchasing meat or fish, and feel that a celebration of our union and the home we are making together should not have meat or fish in it,” they explained. Her parents objecedt on the grounds that, among other things, many of their older friends can’t tolerate beans and dairy. Hax’s correspondent retorts that they can certainly stand to go meatless for one reception.

And Carolyn sided with the soon-to-be insufferable married couple, saying,

“I believe the range of food permissible within a vegetarian diet is broad enough to satisfy all, allowing me to duck the question of whether the guests’ comfort trumps the hosts’ principles. I believe it’s a case-by-case call, depending on both the principles and (dis)comfort involved for the guests.”

Oh Carolyn, Carolyn. A few more duds like this, and the New York Times will offer you its post as “The Ethicist.” Continue reading