Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/10/2019: The All-Star Game, The National Anthem, Quotas, And Secretary Acosta

Good morning!

1. All-Star Game ethics reflections (with a dash of women’s soccer):

  • Competence. Can someone tell me how many different keys MAX wandered into while trying to sing the National Anthem at the MLB All-Star game last night? He was flat, he was sharp, he fluctuated mid-phrase.  My rule is that I don’t care to hear a singer’s self-indulgent riffs at the end of the anthem if he couldn’t sing the real notes accurately earlier. That was awful. I know: it’s a tough song to sing on pitch without accompaniment, but these people are supposed to be professionals, and that was an amateurish, sloppy job.Incredibly, MAX has performed the Star-Spangles Banner at other sporting events.

Somebody tell him.

A saving grace: at least he remembered all the words (more or less) and didn’t kneel.

  • [ Speaking of kneeling: Women’s soccer team captain Megan Rapinoe “explained” her disrespecting the National Anthem (in defiance of her own team’s rules) while representing the nation abroad, telling Anderson Cooper last night (of course Anderson had neither the wit nor integrity to challenge her nonsense,

“I think that protest is not comfortable ever. It’s going to force people to look inward and question everything they thought that they knew….taking care of others, standing up for yourself and other people if they don’t have the ability to do so, is very uniquely American…I don’t think anybody can deny the horrors of racism and Jim Crow and mass incarceration and what’s happening on the southern border and gay rights and women’s rights.”

This is a sub-breed of Authentic Frontier Gibberish, the increasingly common species called the Self-Righteous Virtue-Signaling Authentic Frontier Gibberish, or “Kaepernick-speak,” SRVSAFG for short.. If an athlete hates the country because of its past mistakes more than he or she is proud of the country because of what it stands for, aspires to, and has accomplished, then it is hypocritical to play for a national team. “What’s happening” on the Southern border is an under-funded law enforcement and security agency doing the best it can to handle a flood of deliberate law-breakers who have chosen to endanger their own children. “What’s happening” in gay rights is that they are stronger now than they were during the first term of the previous administration. “What’s happening” in women’s rights is a healthy national debate over whether those rights should include an upon-ended right to end the life of  another human being—none of which has anything to do with soccer.

But I digress–we were talking about an American sport, baseball…

  • Integrity. Fox’s baseball broadcasting is marginally better than ESPN’s but only because Fox doesn’t include a sociopathic steroid cheat like Alex Rodriguez on its broadcast team. However, the devise of having live interviews with the players on the field during the game is offensive and insulting. MLB is foolish to allow it.

2.  Oh for God’s sake...In her review of “Dog Man: The Musical,” New York Times reviewer Laurie Graeber writes, “[M]y only quibble is the same one I have with the novel: All the really interesting characters are male.” Okay, it’s only a quibble, but it’s an offensive and biased quibble, and since her editor–if the Times still uses editors; I see no sign of them of late—didn’t have the sense to slap her down, it’s up to the rest of us. What does she want, EEOC quotas in every story now? Yes, that’s exactly what she wants, and the idea is creatively stultifying. This quibble leads to other similar quibbles, and the next thing you know, a production of “Twelve Angry Men” or “That Championship Season” or “The Fantastiks” will be labelled racist, sexist, homophobic or “ablist” because it does’t perfectly balance its casting with an equal number of men, women, blacks, Asians, Hispanic, gay, transgender, non-binary, “differently-abled” characters. If there aren’t enough characters to get them all in, then eliminate the white males.

Graeber’s “quibble” is based on tribalism and bigotry, and she should not be allowed to get away with it without a fight.

3. Apparently Labor Secretary Acosta is resigning today. GOOD. Ethics Alarms covered the reasons this is necessary and now long-past due in a November 2018 post about the revelations involving Jeffrey Epstein’s unconscionable plea deal. I wrote then..

I do not see how Acosta can remain as Secretary of Labor following these revelations, incomplete as they are. I don’t see how we can trust his judgment, and even if, somehow, he could justify the deal with Epstein on legal, technical or pragmatic grounds, I doubt that the general public would be reassured. He should resign.

Yet it took eight more months and a new set of charges against Epstein for President Trump, or Acosta to accept the obvious and to do the right thing. There’s no excuse for this.

Ethics Hero: Montana Firefighter Presley Pritchard

This is how female empowerment is supposed to work.

Presley Pritchard was a paramedic who aspired to be a firefighter. She was told, however, that at 120 pounds (that’s the “before” photo on the left above) she was too small and weak for the physically demanding job. Did she sue? Did she take advantage of reduced strength and fitness qualifications to get what she wanted anyway? Did she try to find a firefighting outfit that had a “diversity” quota to meet? Did she give up? Did she decide that she treasured her Size 2 wardrobe more than her ambition?

No, what Presley Pritchard did was begin a long, tough training regimen involving weight training and power-lifting along with a muscle-building diet and increased caloric intake. She raised her body weight by 30%, and aced the firefighter fitness requirements, allowing her to join Evergreen Fire Rescue in Flathead County, Montana without any relaxed standards. She writes, Continue reading

Not Just Justice Gorsuch, Prof. Turley: The Entire Supreme Court Is Owed An Apology.

In an article yesterday in The Hill, Constitutional Law expert Professional Jonathan Turley proclaims that Justice Neil Gorsuch is  owed an apology by the Washington political establishment (meaning D.C. Democrats and progressives) which had labeled him a “rubber stamp” and a right wing ideologue in the course of its non-stop wailing about the loss of Obama nominee Merrick Garland, the victim of a ruthless bit of partisan maneuvering by Mitch McConnell. One would have thought that Gorsuch had conspired with “Cocaine Mitch.”

Turley (who testified on Gorsuch’s behalf, so his essay has more than a bit of a smug “I told you so!” ring), focuses particularly on yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling in U.S. v. Davis, in which Gorsuch joined to so-called liberal wing to strike  down an ambiguous law that allowed enhanced penalties for a “crime of violence.” Turley was impressed that Gorsuch squared off against Supreme Court rookie Bret Kavanaugh, whose dissent seemed to be based on a version of the “Everybody does it” rationalization, arguing that the statute was used in “tens of thousands of federal prosecutions” for over 30 years and calling it “surprising” that it should suddenly be ruled unconstitutional. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/7/2019: The Duke’s Revenge, Biden’s Integrity, The VA’s Incompetence, And A Teacher’s Cruelty [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

Last night we managed to watch both “The Longest Day” and “Saving Private Ryan,” which especially amused me as I recalled the places my father shouted at the screen. Especially after “The Longest Day,” the complete absence of any sense of what the D-Day invasion was about or why we were fighting at all is particularly irritating, but then that’s Spielberg all over.

I also recalled the story about John Wayne’s participation in “The Longest Day.” (The Duke is really good in it, though if there is a star of “The Longest Day”, it is Robert Mitchum as  Brigadier General Norman Cota, Assistant Commander, 29th Infantry Division, the man who was also a primary hero of D-Day itself. )

You who else is surprisingly good? Paul Anka, in his small role. He was only in the movie because he wrote the title song, but the singer shows a genuine talent for projecting his character on screen.

[Correction note: I originally wrote, “As far as I can determine, it was Anka’s only film appearance.” Wrong, Ethics Breath!  Reader VinnyMick points out that Anka has several other, less successful, screen appearances. I regret the error.]

This was a passionate,  emotion-and-patriotism- driven project by Darryl F. Zanuck, and he was betting everything on its success: the studio, his personal finances, his love life (Zanuck’s girlfriend at the time had the only female role in the movie), everything.  The producer realized that he had to have Wayne in the film for credibility, as the Duke had been  the Hollywood face of the American fighting man in World War II.  Wayne knew it too, but was angry with Zanuck, who had mocked Wayne’s equivalent project of the heart, “The Alamo.”

He refused to do the film for scale (then $25,000) like the many other Hollywood stars in the film, and insisted on receiving $250,000 as an expensive crow-eating exercise for Zanuck. (That was what Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger, Red Buttons, Richard Burton, Peter Lawford, Eddie Albert,  Jeffrey Hunter, Robert Wagner and Robert Ryan received combined. ) Even though the producer had Charlton Heston lined up to play Wayne’s role if no deal could be struck, he agreed to the punitive fee, as well as giving Wayne special billing in the credits, an out-of-alphabetical order “and John Wayne” at the end.

Yes, that was revenge…but Zanuck didn’t have to agree to it. The lesson is worth remembering: don’t spite anyone gratuitously, or make an enemy casually. You never know when you might need them.

1. Biden flip-flops, but at least he flipped in an ethical  direction. Joe Biden is not modelling a lot of integrity as he desperately tries to appease the radical Left in his party so they might hold their noses and vote for an old, sexual harassing white guy to run against President Trump. His latest reversal was to repudiate the Hyde Amendment, which he had once supported and indeed voted for in the Senate. That’s the law that forbids any taxpayer funds from being spent to fund abortions.

The Hyde Amendment never made any sense. If abortion is a right, and it has been one for decades, then government support for access to that right ought to be no less a requirement than with any other right. The Hyde amendment stands for the proposition that if enough Americans don’t agree with government policy, they should be able to withhold financial support of it. That, of course, wouldn’t work as a universal principle, so the Hyde Amendment is an ethical and legal anomaly. I doubt Joe’s flip-flop is one of principle rather than expediency, but it’s still the right position to have.

2. Nevertheless, Joe’s not going to make it. The New York Times—it wants someone else to get the nomination, so it is reporting negative things about Biden that it might bury with another candidate—revealed once again that Biden repeatedly lied about participating in 1960s civil rights marches,  despite being warned by aides not to do it. Such straight-out falsehoods are debilitating for a candidate who will be claiming to be the champion  to elevate the Presidency beyond the incessant petty lies of Donald Trump; this was one reason Hillary Clinton was unable to exploit candidate Trump’s mendacity. She’s a habitual liar too.

So is Joe. It happens when you will say anything to get elected. Continue reading

Lunchtime Ethics Appetizer, 6/3/2019: Self-Censorship, Trump’s Ridiculous Jumbo, Turley On Mueller, And A College Ranking Scandal [Updated]

Bon Appettit!

1. To self-censor or not to self-censor. Right after expressing here my dilemma about whether to risk political and partisan backlash by raising current, important and legitimate legal ethics issues from the Mueller investigation, there were a flurry of articles and podcasts about the dangers of self-censorship in a climate where Americans are being systematically intimidated from opposing the Woke Collective. This is a classic ethical dilemma, with ethical considerations like integrity, duty, citizenship, honesty and responsibility, are opposed by non-ethical considerations, like keeping one’s job, paying the bills, and not being cast as a pariah in one’s profession.

I was also reminded of my problem by Instapundit referencing today an old  Washington Post article about Mao’s mass murders. My company lost a lucrative sexual harassment training deal after two Chinese nationals (that I did npt know were in the audience) too offense at a tangential comment about Mao’s exterminations dwarfing those of Hitler and Stalin  (but not Darth Vader). Both contacted me and demanded apologies, claiming that it was Western propaganda and that the Great Leader had “only” executed millions out of necessity. I refused (I know I have mentioned this before here) and said I was sincerely sorry they had been subjected to cultural influences that had warped their ethics, and that if I had been aware that this was a sensitve topic to anyone in the audience, I would have omitted the reference. Having spoken the truth, however, I was not going to deny or apologize for it.

“Why didn’t you just apologize?” my client asked. And I was reminded of the moment in “1776” when a royalist in the Continental Congress asks Jefferson why he called King George “a tyrant” in the Declaration. “Because he is a tyrant,” Jefferson answers.

I’m an ethicist, I said. I’m not going to whitewash the massacre of 45-60 million people because someone is offended by the truth.

That was the end of that contract…

2. The President issues a Jumbo. Why does he do things like this? I have no idea. It si the political equivalent of pushing a pie into his own face. In an interview with the British tabloid, The Sun tabloid, Trump responded to a query about his reaction to  Megan Markle’s statement  that he is a “misogynist” and her suggestion that “she’d move to Canada if you got elected; turned out she moved here.” He said, “Well, a lot of people are moving here, so what can I say. No, I didn’t know that she was nasty.”

Of course Trump was attacked for saying that to a British newspaper—it was racist, it was an insult, the usual. Of course the President shouldn’t stoop to personal swipes at anyone; on the other hand, that’s what he does when he is attacked himself.  “Tit for Tat” and “doing unto others as they did to you” are part of Trump’s “ethics.” Can’t we stipulate this by now? Can’t TRUMP stipulate it at this point?

Then he tweeted, “I never called Meghan Markle ‘nasty.’ Made up by the Fake News Media, and they got caught cold! Will @CNN, @nytimes and others apologize? Doubt it!” He did this knowing that the Sun had his statement recorded, and sure enough, the paper  released the audiotape.

See, the idea behind Jimmy Durante saying “Elephant? What elephant?” when caught stealing the biggest pachyderm in the world in a musical comedy is that it’s obviously desperate and ridiculous, and intended to be funny.

This is just self-destructive, disturbing, and really, really stupid.

3. Jonathan Turley on Mueller. The George Washington Law prof has consistently been a voice of reason and objectivity reagarding the Mueller investigation. He has recently written two excellent columns on Mueller’s public statement, here, and here.

Greg should send them to his ex-friend.

4. Why is this more damaging to a school than, say, falsely instructing students about justice, the right to representation, and due process?

From TaxProf Blog: “University Of Oklahoma Inflated Its Alumni Giving Data For 20 Years, U.S. News Strips Its #127 Ranking”

The University of Oklahoma admitted to  U.S. News that it had inflated its alumni giving data since 1999, which affects its placement in the National Universities, Best Value Schools, Top Public Schools, Best Colleges for Veterans and A-Plus Schools for B Students rankings and lists. For the 2019 Best Colleges rankings, the University of Oklahoma originally reported its two-year alumni giving rate at 14 percent. The school informed U.S. News the correct value is 9.7 percent. The average alumni giving rate has a weight of 5 percent in the Best Colleges ranking methodology.

And now,

A former OU student has filed a class action lawsuit against the University of Oklahoma as a result of the university being stripped of its U.S. News & World Report ranking. [Gretzer v. Oklahoma, No. 19-490 (W.D. OK May 28, 2019]

The lawsuit, which was filed May 28 on behalf of former OU student Elani Gretzer and all OU undergraduate students since 1999, alleges the university broke contract by providing false alumni giving data to U.S. News & World Report, inflating its ranking in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” ranking as a result.

The lawsuit alleges the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the Price College of Business was a “material factor” in Gretzer’s decision to enroll at OU. … The suit is also filed on behalf of an estimated minimum of 350,000 people — all OU students who have enrolled since 1999, the year in which OU has admitted it began providing false information to U.S. News & World Report.

Morgan Cloud (Emory) & George Shepherd (Emory), Law Deans In Jail, 77 Mo. L. Rev. 931 (2012):

A most unlikely collection of suspects — law schools, their deans, U.S. News & World Report and its employees — may have committed felonies by publishing false information as part of U.S. News’ ranking of law schools. The possible federal felonies include mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, racketeering, and making false statements. Employees of law schools and U.S. News who committed these crimes can be punished as individuals, and under federal law the schools and U.S. News would likely be criminally liable for their agents’ crimes.

Some law schools and their deans submitted false information about the schools’ expenditures and their students’ undergraduate grades and LSAT scores. Others submitted information that may have been literally true but was misleading. Examples include misleading statistics about recent graduates’ employment rates and students’ undergraduate grades and LSAT scores.

U.S. News itself may have committed mail and wire fraud. It has republished, and sold for profit, data submitted by law schools without verifying the data’s accuracy, despite being aware that at least some schools were submitting false and misleading data. U.S. News refused to correct incorrect data and rankings errors and continued to sell that information even after individual schools confessed that they had submitted false information. In addition, U.S. News marketed its surveys and rankings as valid although they were riddled with fundamental methodological errors.

One question: why isn’t Harvard’s ranking being lowered? I suspect that it’s because maleducating students and systematically undermining American values and civil rights isn’t included in the criteria.

It should be.

Ethics Observations On Barack Obama’s $596,000 Speaking Fee

A report from El Tiempo, a Colombian news outlet, states that former President Barack Obama will recieve “2 mil millones de pesos” for delivering a speech engaging in an  on-stage discussion about leadership strategies at the EXMA Conference in Bogota. Obama’s fee is the equivalent of $594,000 in U.S. dollars

The Colombian news website Publicmetro.co, further reports that conference attendees who want to attend the event and take a photo with Obama will pay 11 million Colombian pesos, or about $3,267.

Ethics Observations: Continue reading

My Involuntary Evolution On “Never Apologize…It’s A Sign Of Weakness!”

“Never apologize…It’s a sign of weakness!” is one of John Wayne’s many famous quotes from the characters he portrayed on film, though no one ever wrote a song about it like Buddy Holly did after he watched “The Searchers” and couldn’t get “That’ll be the day!” out of his head.

The line was given renewed life when NCIS leader Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) repeatedly cited it to his team of investigators on the apparently immortal CBS procedural “NCIS,” as he taught them about life, their duties, and ethics. “Never  say you’re sorry…It’s a sign of weakness!” is #8 (on some lists, #6) among  36 “Gibbs’ Rules” that include “If it seems like someone is out to get you, they are” (#30) and “Never date a co-worker” (#14).

Once, not very long ago, I regularly referenced #8 in ethics seminars as one of Gibbs’ worst rules when I discussed “Dr. Z’s Rules,” social scientist Philip Zimbardo’s tips for girding oneself against corruption in the workplace. One of the points on that list is,

“Be willing to say “I was wrong,” “I made a mistake,” and “I’ve changed my mind.” Don’t fear honesty, or to accept the consequences of what is already done.

I would tell my students that Gibbs and the Duke were wrong, that apologizing for wrongdoing is a sign of strength and integrity, signalling to all that you have the courage and humility to admit when you were wrong, and to move forward.

Then came the advent of social media bullying and Twitter lynch mobs, and I saw how I had underestimated the noodle-content of the  spines of politicians, celebrities, CEOs, and others… Continue reading