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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, October 11, 2018: Ethics Flotsam and Jetsam

Hello, I must be going…

Ugh! Big seminar to teach at a downtown D.C. law firm and no time to linger! Some quick ethics notes…

1. The Nike pander. Can a TV commercial be pandering to one side of the political spectrum and dubious ethical conduct more? In the new Adidas ad, Colin Kaepernick, grandstanding boob, is treated like a cultural hero. So is one of the most abrasive of the Parkland shooting anti-gun kids, and Serena Williams. It made me wonder what was the matter with the other pseudo-celebrities who quickly crossed my vision: I assume that they are ethics corrupters too. Like Nike…

2. So much for Plan E. Plan E is the 25th Amendment impeachment plot (the whole list of Democratic and “resistance” plans to undo the election is here.) President Trump gave Fox and Friends another of his hyper-energized monologues today, over 45 minutes-worth. He still sounds like Trump, but anyone listening to that who wants to claim the man is disabled will have a lot of explaining to do. I dare Nancy Pelosi to free-style for 45 minutes without crashing and burning.

3. Maybe this will be Plan O: After the President’s rant, Fox and Friends’  co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked the President to wish her father a happy birthday over the air, which he graciously did. I’m not sure what was horrible about that, but I’m sure someone will claim that it is a dangerous breach of some “norm” or other.

4. Now, impeaching Fox talking heads is another story. The K-pop group NCT 127 appeared on Fox’s Good Day L.A. yesterday.  Following their performance, band member Mark Lee told  co-host Megan Colarossi—guess what color her hair is? Come on, guess!— that he is from Vancouver. She responded with, “Very cool, your English is awesome. I love it.”

Asked one Twitter wag…“I mean he’s from Canada, what is he supposed to speak, moose?”

Why should the public trust the news media when so many of them regularly expose themselves as idiots? Continue reading

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John McCain (1936-2018) And Ethics

Senator John McCain died last night, just a day after the announcement that he had suspended treatment for the brain cancer diagnosed last summer. His passing is an event that must be noted on an ethics blog, even though the Senator was nearly as prominent in his ethical missteps as he was in his moments of principle and heroism.

I think the fairest way to assess the career of John McCain is that he tried to do the right thing, and like most essentially good human beings, was sometimes misled and confused by emotion, bias, self-interest and careless ethical analysis. Senator McCain was an adherent of the common belief that if you know you are essentially good, your gut will guide you through ethical challenges. That belief is erroneous, unfortunately—ethics is harder than that—and sometimes steered McCain tragically wrong. Nonetheless, I have little doubt that if all elected officials had the approach to ethics that John McCain did and possessed the values that guided him, our politics would be cleaner and more trustworthy, and our nation and our culture would be better. Not perfect, for McCain was not perfect. But definitely better.

The reason this is true is that McCain refused to be locked into ideologies and partisan cant. When he thought his party or its leadership was wrong, he was unusually willing to say so, and to act on his words. This garnered him the over-used label of “maverick,” which trivialized a personal ethical code: Don’t do what everyone else—your friends, allies and followers–is telling you to do just because it’s the easier choice. If there was ever someone who rejected the #1 Rationalization, “Everybody does it,” and all of its variations, it was John McCain. That alone made him more ethical than the vast majority of his fellow citizens, and especially his fellow politicians.

I wish I could designate McCain an Ethics Hero Emeritus, but I can’t. He was certainly a hero in wartime, as a prisoner of war who endured great suffering without succumbing to the temptation to ease his own pain by inflicting more on his comrades in arms. His ethical compass failed, however, in many high-profile situations and events.

He blundered into the Keating Five scandal. He convinced himself that betraying the principles of the First Amendment was necessary to limit corruption in political campaigns, an embrace of “the ends justify the means” that despite being foiled by the U.S. Supreme Court, has undermined public support and understanding of the Bill of Rights. Seeking the GOP Presidential nomination in 2000, McCain refused to condemn South Carolina’s official use of the Confederate flag during the state’s crucial primary, then, after he lost, pandered to the left and moderates by announcing that he had been wrong—a sickening example of flip-flopping for a public figure whose trademark was integrity. (The episode marked the end of my illusions about John McCain.) He behaved similarly when his re-election campaigns in Arizona looked daunting, rejecting his own compromise proposals on illegal immigration and taking the same hard-line that his conservative opponents had taken against him. This was pure political expediency, hardly unusual in a politician, but disqualifying for membership in the Ethics Alarms Hall of Heroes. Continue reading

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Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/25/2018: Train Wrecks, Gotchas, Fake News, Idiots, And Progress, Sort Of…

Thus endeth one of the worst weeks in Ethics Alarms traffic in years. It depressed me so much I stopped checking the figures. The comments remained vigorous and high quality, and for that I am grateful. Obviously my being on the road, pseudo-vacationing and without a charged computer were factors, as is August. I do feel, however, that a lot of people just don’t want to be objective, rational or ethical where political news is concerned, just angry and emotional.

Well, at least the libel lawsuit by the banned commenter was dismissed this week.. He told the judge that this was an extreme right-wing website, you know.

1. Not the Michael Cohen Ethics Train Wreck, just the Trump Administration Ethics Train Wreck. On one hand, Cohen is as sleazy, unethical and untrustworthy a lawyer ever to blight the profession (now don’t sue me, Mike, this is just my opinion, not an assertion of fact!), as I noted years ago when I first wrote about the creep.  On the other, Trump was literally asking for a disaster by continuing to employ such an obvious low-life. On the one hand, Trump obviously lying about his relationships with various strippers, models and other sex toys for hire was unconscionable; on the other, “everybody lies about sex” was the official Democratic talking point when Bill was doing it. On the one hand, paying hush money to cover up adultery is slimy, on the other, it’s not illegal, and despite what the news media is selling, it probably isn’t an election law violation either. On the one hand, the news media having yet another impeachment wet dream is disgusting, biased, unethical journalism; on the other, Trump keeps handing the “resistance” ammunition on a silver platter.

Nonetheless, the news media and the Democrats still somehow manage to out-misbehave the President. The latest is the ridiculous argument that the Kavanaugh nomination is now somehow “illegitimate” because the President is under suspicion of illegal conduct. Any pundit or authority who makes this totured and desperate case deserves to be permanently ignored and designated a partisan hack; the current list includes Democratic Senators Mazie Hirono and Ed Markey,  and The New York Times’ Paul Krugman, David Harsanyi explains succinctly for those who can’t figure this out for themselves.

2. Great. Now we have legacy racism to worry about. When the kind of “gotcha!” mentality that prompts people to search for insensitive tweets athletes made as teenagers mates with the corporate cowardice that  prompts a company like Nabisco to cave to complaints by deranged extremist group like PETA, in an environment where “Racist” has become the full equivalent of crying “Commie!” or “Witch!,” I guess this is inevitable. Inevitable, but scary, and really, really stupid.

Lilly Diabetes pulled its sponsorship of Indy racer Conor Daly’s  car in the NASCAR Xfinity race at Road America, because the driver’s father allegedly made a racist remark in the 1980s. I could go into more detail, but it would nauseate me. You can read more here. The sponsorship was designed to raise awareness for treatment options and resources for people living with diabetes.

“Unfortunately, the comments that surfaced this week by Derek Daly distract from this focus, so we have made the decision that Lilly Diabetes will no longer run the No. 6 at Road America this weekend,” the company said in a statement. Craven, principle-free, cowards. I have diabetes, and I want to make certain that the focus is on Lilly’s utter disregard for fairness, proportion and common sense. If corporations are this easy to intimidate—and I think they are—the Left’s escalating efforts to constrain free speech, thought, advocacy and conduct are going to be successful. When will conservatives work to make all those Kennedys pay for old Joe’s pro-Hitler sentiments?  That would be about as logical and fair as punishing Conor Daley for a 30-year-old comment by his father.

3. Remember that story about ICE detaining a man while he was driving his pregnant wife to the hospital when they stopped for gas? It was more pro-illegal immigration spin. The coverage of the news that made it not the “children in cages” anti-Trump propaganda it was spun to be was given a fraction of the exposure that the original, misleading story was. The LA Times eventually told what Paul Harvey called “the rest of the story”:

An immigrant in the U.S. illegally who was detained by federal officers in San Bernardino last week while heading to the hospital with his pregnant wife is one of three men listed in an arrest warrant for a 2006 murder in Mexico. Joel Arrona-Lara is wanted in connection with the killing of Miguel Ángel Morales Rodríguez, alias “El Garcia,” according to the arrest warrant…

Gee, can ICE arrest illegal immigrants who are murderers now, or should we just “think of the children’ and leave them alone too? A recent poll concluded that a majority of the public doesn’t approve of how the Trump administration is handling immigration. Well of course not! Children in cages, innocent expectant fathers stopped on teh way to the hospital, all of those good illegal immigrants minding their own business…

This is disinformation designed to influence U.S. elections.

4. Life Incompetence Department: In Bijie, China, a concerned 26-year-old husband and 24-year-old wife consulted a doctor to learn why they had been unsuccessful in their efforts to have a child for four years. Intercourse was painful for the wife, she said. The doctor explained the problem after some further questioning:  they had been having anal sex the entire time. After he gave them a little instruction book, the wife was with child in short order.

5. Good! The National Federation of State High School Associations reports that  participation in 11-player high school football declined nationwide for the second consecutive year. “We are encouraged that the decline in high school football was slowed, due in part, to our efforts in reducing the risk of injury in the sport,” said Karissa Niehoff, the NFHS executive director, in a statement. “While there may be other reasons that students elect not to play football, we have attempted to assure student-athletes and their parents that thanks to the concussion protocols and rules in place in every state in the country, the sport of football is as safe as it ever has been.”

As safe as it has ever been…..

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Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/23/2018: A Quote Fest!

Good Morning!

1. Now THIS is narcissism! It’s long, but go ahead and read it.  This  was Madonna’s “tribute” to the late Aretha Franklin at the VMAs this week:

Aretha Louise Franklin changed the course of my life. I left Detroit when I was 18. $35 in my pocket. My dream was to make it as a professional dancer.
After years of struggling and being broke, I decided to go to auditions for musical theater. I heard the pay was better. I had no training or dreams of ever becoming a singer, but I went for it. I got cut, and rejected from every audition. Not tall enough. Not blends-in enough, not 12-octave range enough, not pretty enough, not enough, enough. And then, one day, a French disco sensation was looking for back-up singers and dancers for his world tour. I thought, “Why not?” The worst that can happen is I could go back to getting robbed, held at gunpoint and being mistaken for a prostitute in my third floor walk-up that was also a crack house. So I showed up for the audition, and two very large French record producers sat in the empty theater, daring me to be amazing. The dance audition went well. Then they asked if I had sheet music and a song prepared. I panicked. I had overlooked this important part of the audition process. I had to think fast. My next meal was on the line. Fortunately, one of my favorite albums was “Lady Soul” by Aretha Franklin. I blurted out, “You Make Me Feel.” Silence. “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman.” Two French guys nodded at me. I said, “You know, by Aretha Franklin.” Again, “Mmmhmm.” They looked over at the pianist. He shook his head. “I don’t need sheet music,” I said, “I know every word. I know the song by heart, I will sing it a cappella.” I could see that they did not take me seriously. And why should they? Some skinny a– white girl is going to come up here and belt out a song by one of the greatest soul singers that ever lived? A cappella? I said, “Bitch, I’m Madonna.”

No, I didn’t. I didn’t say that. Cause I wasn’t Madonna yet. I don’t know who I was. I don’t know what I said. I don’t know what came over me. I walked to the edge of the pitch black stage and I started singing. When I was finished and drenched in nerve sweat. Y’all know what this is, right, nerve sweat? They said, “We will call you one day, and maybe soon.” So weeks went by and no phone call. Finally, the phone rang, and it was one of the producers, saying, (French accent) “We don’t think you are right for this job.” I’m like, “Why are you calling me?” He replied, “We think you have great potentials. You are rough for the edges but there is good rawness. We want to bring you to Paris and make you a star.” We will put you in a studio . . . it sounded good, and I wanted to live in Paris and also I wanted to eat some food. So, that was the beginning of my journey as a singer. I left for Paris.

But I came back a few months later, because I had not earned the luxury life I was living. It felt wrong. They were good people. But I wanted to write my own songs and be a musician, not a puppet. I needed to go back home and learn to play guitar, and that is exactly what I did. And the rest is history.

So, you are probably all wondering why I am telling you this story. There is a connection. Because none of this would have happened, could have happened, without our lady of soul. She led me to where I am today. And I know she influenced so many people in this house tonight, in this room tonight. And I want to thank you, Aretha, for empowering all of us. R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Long live the queen.

Another anecdote I would like to share: In 1984, this is where the first VMAs were, in this very building. I performed at this show. I sang “Like a Virgin” at the top of a cake. On the way down, I lost a shoe, and then I was rolling on the floor. I tried to make it look like it was part of the choreography, looking for the missing stiletto. And my dress flew up and my butt was exposed, and oh my God, quelle horreur. After the show, my manager said my career was over. LOL.

The fact that Madonna is getting flack for this is almost as funny as the fact that she would think a long monologue about herself qualified as an appropriate tribute to Franklin. This is a manageable mental illness, but it is pathological, and Madonna is an extreme narcissist in a business that produces them in bushels. But didn’t everyone know that? Why, knowing that this woman only sees the world in terms of how it can advance her interests, would anyone entrust  her with giving a tribute to anyone else? That’s rank incompetence.

Narcissists are incapable of ethical reasoning, since ethics requires caring about someone other than yourself.  Madonna’s “tribute” is a valuable window into how such people think. Madonna really thought the nicents thing she could say about Aretha Franklin is that she made a cameo appearance in Madonna’s epic life.

2. Next, a ventriloquist act! Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: Symone Sanders

“Mollie Tibbetts was murdered b/c she told a man to leave her alone while she was jogging. Her murderer happens to be undocumented. This isn’t about border security. This is about toxic masculinity. Mollie Tibbetts lost her life b/c a man couldn’t take her saying no. Full stop…Her murderer actually might not even be undocumented. Regardless it is problematic for people to characterize an entire community based off the actions of one person. The majority of mass shootings in America are carried out by white men. So are we going to round them all up?…”

Symone Sanders, former Bernie Sanders spokeswoman and current CNN contributor.

Thoughts:

  • So now we know that Symone Sanders is a bigot and an idiot. Is the left really going to try to push this latest fad bigotry, targeting men as being a virus on society? Is this wise, especially as some high-profile feminists have been hit with credible sexual assault and sexual harassment accusations?
  • Sanders says that “it is problematic for people to characterize an entire community based off the actions of one person” immediately after she used the actions of one person to impugn his entire gender! How arrogant and dim does someone have to be not to realize that she’s contradicting herself in the same tweet series? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 8/22/18: Manafort, Cohen, and Mollie

Gee, it’s good to be back home…

It took 9 and a half hours to get back to home and office after my CLE tour in rural Pennsylvania, an adventure that also featured a malfunctioning transmission and new Garmin GPS that went rogue, took us in circles once and 20 miles in the wrong direction another time. This is why the ProEthics, aka the Marshalls, never take vacations. It’s cheaper and safer to have such disasters at home.

1.  Explain to me, somebody...why Paul Manafort’s conviction on ten charges that occurred before Donald Trump ran for President and that have nothing to do with Russia or the Trump campaign somehow endangers Trump’s Presidency? Why is this significant news? Why is it on the front page? Now, I can see why his acquittal would be big news, and it would raise fascinating questions about the Mueller investigation’s focus and competence, but the convictions? Please explain. Somebody?

Right-wing blogger Liz Shield’s cynical explanation of why Manafort was involved in the investigation at all is beginning to look good to me. Shouldn’t it? She writes,

He was put on trial because he worked for Trump so that the left can interfere with Trump’s presidency by clouding everything he does with the threat of looming criminal investigations. That way the hyenas on the cable news network have something to squeak about on their nightly clown shows and most importantly, so that no one wants to work for Trump because the cost is too high.

Now, Liz unfortunately resorts to an “everybody does it” defense of Manafort himself, which undermines her credibility:

Manafort was charged with being a sleazy political consultant like many, many others who operate inside the beltway. Did I mention almost everyone in the consulting business in the D.C. area is a sleaze bucket?…Manafort is 69 years old and he faces decades of prison time. He has another trial with more charges in Washington, D.C., and that starts next month.The never-Trump maniacs danced around in glee in their sad Twitter reality, but no one, and I mean no one, could withstand the scrutiny of a federal investigation of this magnitude. I’d love to see any of these never-Trump sad sacks come out clean after a probe by a massive army of government lawyers and investigators.

There is nothing wrong with Manafort being charged, convicted and punished. If what Shield says is true, then more sleazy consultants should be investigated and face the same fate.

2. And speaking of “sleaze buckets” and  “never-Trump maniacs danced around in glee”…The plea deal by ex-Trump fixer Michael Cohen is also being hyped absurdly, though it does have something to do with the President, and definitely raises all sorts of ethics issues. The funniest one is whether anything Michel Cohen says has any credibility at all. Astoundingly, Times columnist Bret Stephens wrote that Trump should resign or be impeached after Cohen guilty plea. This is an excellent example of how the resistance is so hungry for impeachment that it leaps at any theory, no matter how dubious. I seriously doubt that Jack the Ripper could be found guilty of a crime based on the testimony of Michael Cohen. Why does Stephens believe him? Because he wants to believe him, that’s all, even though there are few public figures alive with less integrity or trustworthiness. Has Stephens read the Constitution? “High crimes and misdemeanors” is usually believed to mean “while in office.” A pre-election election law violation, even a serious one, would not, or should not, qualify. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/21/18: Road Trip Edition

Good Morning!

We’re just about to hit the road and return home, with a 6 hour drive ahead and a car that periodically flashed “TRANS FAIL PROG.” at  us before the engine stops. Gotta get that checked! Thanks for bearing with me during the past few days. Now that I have my little laptop charged, I have less than a n hour of access to the hotel internet. I hate road trips…

1. What exactly are the #MeToo rules? Obviously they are too complicated for me. I’m going to devote a whole post to this soon, but I wouldn’t mind some advance feedback. Pretty clearly, whatever the rules are, they are ripe with double standards. How can the Democrats and feminists justify standing behind DNC co-chair Keith Ellison, for example, who has been credibly accused of domestic violence? How can feminists and scholars still support Avitell Ronell, whose situation I wrote about here? 

It seems pretty clear, does it not, that race, gender, and political orientation change the rules, right? Of course, the King’s Pass is also in play, as it usually is. I wonder how Al Franken feels right now. Will Bill Clinton be “in” again? Is the new standard that women should be believed when they accuse men of sexual assault as long as their alleged abuser is white, Christian or Jewish, or a Republican? It is particularly peculiar that Ellison’s denials are being taken seriously, since his record of candor is shaky at best. Senator Gillibrand, who led the charge to run Franken out of office, hasn’t exhibited any similar indignation regarding Ellison. Why is that?

2. Wait, I thought President Trump was a Nazi…Jakiw Palij, who claimed he was working on a farm and in a factory during World War II when he applied for U.S. citizenship, had that citizenship revoked in 2003 by a federal judge, and he was ordered to be deported a year later. His appeal was denied in 2005. But he stayed..and stayed…. in the United States until now, because, as we know, the Obama Administration didn’t think deporting people who have no business being here should be a major priority, and the Bush administration, as was often the case, wasn’t paying attention. The  problem was, we are told, that no nation would take Palij, even Germany, which has the ethical obligation to be accountable for all Nazis, living and dead. It appears that Germany relented because this President was willing to go to the mat on the principle.

Trump deserves credit for pushing to do what the previous administrations didn’t care enough about to do. He’ won’t get it, except on Fox News, the hacks. Continue reading

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