Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/3/2018: Katie’s Rationalization, Teachers’ Extortion, Rudy’s Zugswang, And Kanye’s Influence

Goooood morning!

(I thought it was time for “Singin’ in the Rain” again. Of course, it is always time for “Singin’ in the Rain”…)

1. And that’s when you know…When alleged sexual harassers are accused, the way you know whether they are guilty or not often depends on whether the floodgates open, and large numbers of other women step forward. This was Bill Cosby’s downfall. Now we learn that 27 more victims of Charlie Rose have raised their metaphorical hands. Sorry, Charlie!

The mystery to me is why  current and former colleagues of outed abusers and harassers so often rush to defend them, even post #MeToo, and even women. I suppose is cognitive dissonance again: the defenders have high regard for the harasser, and simply can’t process the fact that they may have been engaged in awful conduct. Katie Couric’s defense of Matt Lauer, however, is especially damning.

Variety reported that Lauer’s office had a button that allowed him to remotely lock his office door when he had female prey within his grasp…

“His office was in a secluded space, and he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy. It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer.”

Yet on “The Wendy Williams Show” this week, Couric “explained”…

“I think the whole button thing, you know? I think — NBC — a lot of stuff gets misreported and blown out of proportion. A lot of NBC executives, they make it sound like some kind of den of inequity. I don’t know what was happening. A lot of NBC executives have those buttons that opened and closed doors… They did. I mean, it was really just a privacy thing. It wasn’t..Honestly I think it was an executive perk that some people opted to have and I don’t think it was a nefarious thing. I really don’t. And I think that is misconstrued….”

Wowsers. First, Couric is intentionally blurring the facts, using “open and close” as a euphemism for “unlock and lock.” I guarantee that no button would cause the office door to swing open or swing closed, as Couric suggested. I’ve searched for such a device: all I can find are remote office door locking mechanisms. Second, while it is true that other NBC execs once had that feature, it appears that Lauer was “was one of the few, if not the only, NBC News employee to have one,”a senior NBC News employee told the Washington Post.

Second, Couric is engaging in The Golden Rationalization: “Everybody does it.”

2.  Extortion works! Arizona’s governor signed a 9% pay increase for the state’s teachers, because the teachers engaged in a wildcat strike, kids were missing school, and parents couldn’t go to work without their state funded child-sitters. I’m not going to analyze whether the teachers demands were right or wrong, because it doesn’t matter. The teachers’ tactic was unethical, just like the Boston police strike in 1919 was unethical, just like  the air traffic controllers strike in  1981. In the former, Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge (what happened to that guy?) famously fired all the striking cops, saying in part that  “The right of the police of Boston to affiliate has always been questioned, never granted, is now prohibited…There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” President Reagan quoted Cal when he fired the air traffic controllers and eliminated its union.

Striking against children and their education is also a strike against the public safety. What now stops the teachers, in Arizona or anywhere else, from using similar extortion tactics for more raise, policies they favor, or any other objective?  What was lacking here was political leadership possessing the integrity and courage to tell the teachers to do their jobs during negotiations, or be fired.

This precedent will rapidly demonstrate why public unions are a menace to democracy Continue reading

Shaun King: Activist Ignoramus

Deep thoughts from Shaun King…

Activists who have neither knowledge nor understanding of the government, the Constitution, civics and basic political realities should be accorded no respect, attention or influence. Since their pronouncements and assertions are based on bad information and misconceptions (and perhaps stupidity), who cares what they think about an issue? The news media should ignore them; politicians should ignore them; everyone should ignore them. Well, except to mock them. They deserved to be mocked.

This brings us to Shaun King, the Black Lives Matter activist and writer—and the fact that someone as ignorant as King can make a living as a writer is disturbing in itself.  He is on the staff of The New York Daily News as the “senior justice writer.” I’ll remind you of this later.

King just delivered his signature significance self-exposé via his favorite mode of communication, social media, in this case, Twitter. This means that many thousands of his followers, as well as the news media, now have incontrovertible evidence to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he knows less about the country he lives in and its government than we should expect from a 7th grader.

Behold!

Yesterday, King announced on Twitter what he called “serious but wild” questions. Sit down for this. I mean it.

His first:

1. Can the people of the United States somehow hold a vote now, or next year, to oust Donald Trump? Like a recall of some sort?

His second…

In laymen’s terms, what would it take for the USA to pass a Constitutional Amendment for a President Recall like CA has for a Governor?

Uh oh…I was afraid of this…

There goes the head…

Continue reading

For Your Labor Day Ethics Edification: “The Science of Persuasion”

The-Six-Universal-Truth-of-Influence-Robert-B-Cialdini

Making better decisions is essential to making ethical decisions, and a lot of what we discuss here relates to overcoming impediments to unethical thinking and decision-making. This 2012 video is germane to Ethics Alarms; it also includes some of the ideas in Dr. Z’s Rules, which I presented here.

This animated video describes Dr. Robert Cialdini ‘s “six universal principles of persuasion” that people and organizations tend to use to influence the thinking, values and opinions of those of us who are not willing or able to reason in an orderly and unbiased fashion. (Dr. Zimbardo las a somewhat different six). It reflects the research in Dr. Cialdini’s book, “Influence” The Science of Persuasion.”

As those who come here often know, I like to use a variety of approaches and tools. Cialdini’s framework is just one of them, but one worth understanding.

The video is a bit over 11 minutes.

 

Jerry and Jared Remy, Parental Accountability, Hindsight Bias, and The Bad Seed

This is a tragic local story with vast ethics significance.

Father and son.

Father and son.

Long-time Boston Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, a native Bostonian and former player who has been a vivid part of the Boston sports scene since 1977, was stunned by tragedy last summer when his oldest son, Jared, 35, allegedly murdered his girlfriend by stabbing her to death as their  ive-year-old daughter looked on. Prior to the incident, most New Englanders were unaware of Jared Remy’s problems, but his ugly past soon found its way into the newspapers.

A recent Boston Globe investigative report appeared to be the saga of a “bad seed” right out of a horror movie, for Jared Remy, son the popular, affable Jerry, had been arrested, and released, 19 times, for an assortment of alleged crimes, many of them violent. They included battering and threatening a high school girlfriend; pushing a pregnant girlfriend out of a moving car; texting death threats to her, and attempting to beat her up; threatening to kill yet another girlfriend;  terrorizing a fourth sufficiently that police were called to their apartment eight times; and involvement in steroid peddling and abuse. The Globe also obtained the testimony of a woman who alleges that Jared joined her in brutally beating a high school boy, causing him permanent brain injuries.

The Globe story (and others) raised the question of how and why the Massachusetts justice system kept releasing Jared. It is a valid question, not peculiar to his case, unfortunately. Many have speculated that Jared’s  status as the son of popular Boston sports figure played a part in getting him extraordinary leniency, but as Remy’s lawyer pointed out, several of the incidents also involved complainants and alleged victims who refused to testify or withdrew their complaints. In the realm of domestic abuse, evidently Jared Remy’s specialty, this is too common. The Globe writer, Eric Moskowitz, also insinuated that the Remys went too far in supporting their disturbed, violent and troubled son, who had learning disabilities and other clinical behavioral problems. They apparently paid for psychiatric treatment, counseling and legal fees, and helped with his rent and other expenses, though the extent of this has not been confirmed by the Remys, the only ones who could be authoritative on the topic. The rest is hearsay.

Jerry Remy, who has battled depression his whole adult life, withdrew from his role as color commentator after his son’s arrest, missing the Red Sox championship run. Outside of a brief statement condemning his son’s actions and expressing condolences to the parents of the victim, Jennifer Martel, Remy was silent until announcing this Spring that he would try returning to the broadcast booth for the upcoming season. Then, as Spring Training for the Red Sox ran down and Remy seemed, outwardly at least, capable as ever of being an affable presence with whom to watch the home team’s exploits,  the Globe story appeared. The revelations about Jared unleashed an unexpected (by me, at least) backlash against his father, and Bostonians in droves bombarded the sports radio talk shows, blogs and news media websites with the opinion that Remy should step down as Red Sox color man for cable broadcasts. How they reached this ethically indefensible position is instructive regarding how inept and unskilled most people are in day-to-day ethical analysis, how emotion becomes a substitute for objectivity and logic,  how hindsight bias makes experts and judges out of individuals with the credentials of neither, and also how ignorant most of the public is about the ethical obligations and duties of the legal profession.

Here are the reasons being cited for why Jerry Remy should give up his career:

Continue reading

The Fifth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2013 (Part Two of Three)

Snowden

The Ethics Alarms review of a truly disheartening year in ethics continues with fallen heroes, ficks, fools and follies with Part Two of the 2013 Worst of Ethics awards….and there’s one last section to come. Be afraid..be very afraid:

Fallen Hero of the Year

Edward Snowden, whose claim to civil disobedience was marred by his unwillingness to accept the consequences of his actions, whose pose as a whistle-blower was ruined by the disclosure that he took his job with the intention of exposing national secrets, and whose status as a freedom-defending patriot lies in ruins as he seeks harbor with not only America’s enemy, but a human rights-crushing enemy at that. The NSA’s over-reach and mismanagement is a scandal, but Snowden proved that he is no hero.

Unmitigated Gall of  The Year

Minnesota divorce lawyer Thomas P. Lowes not only violated the bar’s ethics rules by having sex with his female  client…he also billed her his hourly fee for the time they spent having sex , a breach of the legal profession’s rule against “unreasonable fees.” Yes, he was suspended. But for not long enough…

Jumbo Of The Year

(Awarded To The Most Futile And Obvious Lie)

Jumbo film

“Now, if you had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”

—–President Obama

2013 Conflicts of Interest of the Year Continue reading

The CBS-White House Fraternal Connection: THAT’S An Apearance of Impropriety…So Now what?

OK, so they're brothers. What makes you think they're in cahoots?

OK, so they’re brothers. What makes you think they’re in cahoots?

What are we to make of these facts?

  • The Benghazi talking points prepared by the CIA went through 12 revisions before they were revealed to the press and the public. The White House was  involved in that process, and the original references to a terror attack were removed. President Obama’s deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes, was instrumental in this.
  • CBS News executives are reportedly upset with award-winning CBS reporter, Sharyl Attkisson, who has, almost alone in the mainstream media, continued to investigate and report on the Obama administration’s controversial handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack in Libya, including the apparent obfuscations regarding its cause. Attkinson is having trouble getting her reporting aired, and her position may be in peril.

The “Do You Know Who I Am?” Prosecutor and the Strip Club

"My mistake--that's a POLE, not the Florida BAR! Silly me. I just made a mistake..."

“My mistake–that’s a POLE, not the Florida BAR! Silly me. I just made a mistake. Wrong address…”

Personally, I find few varieties of unethical conduct more nauseating than individuals of fame, position, power or influence who use that status to squeeze special privileges and considerations from ordinary citizens. From the cop who assumes that he won’t be charged for street grocer’s apple, to the judge who talks his way out of a speeding ticket, to the famous actress  who tries “Do you  know who I am?” when she’s stopped while driving drunk, this behavior warps justice, broadcasts unfairness, and saturates the culture with the toxic assumption of class and privilege, the idea that not only are the rich, powerful and famous subject to different and more lenient standards than the rest of us mere mortals, but that they deserve such treatment.

Ari Pregren, a Miami-Dade County prosecutor, was just fired from his job for embracing this tactic, and appropriately so. The fascinating aspect of the incident for me is that I am certain that his miserable conduct does not rise to level that the legal profession would deem professional misconduct. In Pregren’s case, this means that a state prosecutor who uses his position to get special consideration at a strip club is an unethical jerk, but not necessarily an unethical lawyer, at least in the eyes of the legal profession.

Hmmmmm…. Continue reading