Tag Archives: integrity

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/21/18: “Ho Ho Hey Hey!”

Good morning!

1.  Oh! You’re bigots and fools, then! Got it. I was watching a mob of—I don’t know, feminists? The “resistance”? chanting yesterday at the Senate: “I believe Anita Hill! I believe Blasey Ford!” I believe that the only reasonable translation of this particular chant—all chants make protesters sound dumb, some chants more than others; at least this one doesn’t start with “Ho ho, hey hey!”—is “I believe whatever story supports my political agenda, and I believe people according to what they are, rather than based on any objective criteria!”

I guess it’s not sufficiently catchy.

2. In case you aren’t nauseous enough...Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be one of the eight honorees of Harvard University for their contributions to black history and culture, the university announced yesterday.

Kaepernick, distinguished for his incoherent on field protest  during the national anthem, instantly setting off the NFL’s version of  #MeToo, as in “I want make my own pointless, annoying protest that I can’t adequately explain!,” thus costing the NFL fans and billions of dollars, will receive the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard’s  Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. The deliberately divisive honor to Kaepernick, who favors socks with cartoons of pigs in police uniforms, is apparently the work of Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the Hutchins Center and Barack Obama pal. You may remember Professor Gates as the race-baiting catalyst for Obama’s “beer summit,” after Gates impugned the character of a Cambridge police officer. No personal agendas here!

The award supposedly honors individuals who “Emerging from a variety of backgrounds and professions…represent the quest for knowledge, freedom of expression, and pursuit of truth that are foundational to black history and culture, and that were foundational to Du Bois as a thinker and activist.”

Yup, that sure sounds like Colin Kaepernick!

3. Ed Whelan, call your ethicist! Ed Whelan, an attorney and president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, upped the craziness quotient in the Kavanaugh confirmation process and took a First Class seat on the Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck by announcing that Ford’s accusation from three decades ago was based on mistaken identity, and that another student, whom Whelan named and thoroughly doxxed, along with publishing his yearbook photo, was the real alleged assailant.

Well, you can’t just accuse a random private citizen of sexual assault, or even alleged, unsubstantiated sexual assault while a drunken high schooler. I know Ed went to Harvard College and Harvard Law School, but even then, he’s no idiot. I have to believe that this isn’t just an unfounded accusation, because  Ed knows that he’s asking for a lawsuit if it is. He wrote:

“By one week from today, I expect that Judge Kavanaugh will have been clearly vindicated on this matter. Specifically, I expect that compelling evidence will show his categorical denial to be truthful. There will be no cloud over him.”

Whelan has to deliver on a statement like that, or have his own reputation permanently scarred. The only explanation I can come up with is that Kavanaugh’s  twin has already agreed to admit to being at the infamous party and having some kind of episode involving Ford. Of course, there will be no reason to believe him, either.

Still, I may go to the Senate and chant, “I believe Brett Kavanaugh, I believe his secret twin!”

Just for fun. Continue reading

31 Comments

Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Sports

Ethics Dunce State: California (Who Else?)

We don’t need further evidence that the Golden State has jumped the ethics shark, has general contempt for the Bill of Rights and is in thrall to Alinskyite “ends justify the means” rationalizations, but here it is anyway. California state lawyers tried to defend in federal court an old law, California Penal Code §26820, which read:

No handgun or imitation handgun, or placard advertising the sale or other transfer thereof, shall be displayed in any part of the premises where it can readily be seen from the outside.

Now, don’t ask me how a law like lasted as long as it has; the thing is 95 years old. But it’s embarrassingly unconstitutional. That’s prior restraint by definition. If a first year law student, or a well-educated college student (if thee are such things), reads that law, the First amendment alarms have to start ringing. Why wouldn’t California just repeal such a law, quietly, so as not t embarrass the state? Why wouldn’t California, like a state with some integrity that supports  core U.S. values, just concede to the Court that the law is a dud, and not oppose the claim that it is illegal? I think we have to assume that is because the culture of this particular state has rotted through. It doesn’t support core U.S. values like the freedom of speech, which might be the most vital of them all. Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Rights, U.S. Society

LATE Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow”

My inexcusable failure to previously post this Comment of the Day by Curmie, originally offered nearly two months ago, is especially bad because of the rapidity with which the news media concocts, hypes, or otherwise featured new tangential assaults on President Trump every day. I had forgotten about this one: the White House posted an incorrect version of the Helsinki press conference transcript. Boy, that seems like a hundred scandals, real, manufactured, and imagined, ago!Allow me to refresh your memory and mine:

MSNBC hostess Rachel Maddow, along with many of her fellow journalist members of “the resistance,” pounced on the mistake, accusing the White House of intentionally editing the transcript. Then, after the Washington Post explained  that the omission was not the fault of the White House, Maddow, who is often cited as a trustworthy left-wing journalist simply because she is so much less flagrant than her MSNBC colleagues, denied that her reporting was incorrect, saying,

“This is one possible explanation for why the White House transcript & video from Helsinki doesn’t include Putin saying he wanted Trump to win. But Putin really did say that in Helsinki…..and the White House transcript & video still does leave it out. WaPo now says it has updated its own transcript. Will the White House? After more than a week of reporting on the bad transcript (see link below)…

(1): White House has let it stand uncorrected, and

(2): POTUS now asserts that Putin wants *Dems* to win, not him.

I love WaPo with the heat of 1000 suns, but nothing here from WaPo disproves our report.”

 Washington Post reporter Philip Bump, quickly pointed out Maddow’s dishonesty, writing,

“Your report asserts that the video was edited and implies that the incomplete transcript was posted intentionally. There’s no evidence for the first point and my piece provides context to suggest that the second was unintentional.”

With that background, here is Curmie’s much delayed Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Dunce: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. He also gets extra points for the baseball reference at the end…

Apparently I’m one of the few lefties who comment here even occasionally these days. I trust I will not become an “exile.”

This story becomes an intriguing example of the partisan fragmentation of the country that has been happening for about a generation. Some people will believe everything Rachel Maddow (or Sean Hannity, or…) says; some will believe nothing. Too few will parse the content.

Maddow’s allegation that someone intentionally edited the tape/transcript is unsupported by facts, and her smug reassertion of a discredited argument is, to say the least, problematic.

But I’ve written on my blog about two variations on what I call the Christine Vole effect, named for the character in the Agatha Christie short story/play and subsequently Billy Wilder movie who intentionally allows her absolutely truthful testimony describing her husband’s guilt to seem instead to be the vengeance of a jealous wife. The jury was influenced by the implosion of her testimony, which was, by the way, unnecessary to the prosecution’s case; they acquit.

The variation, as we saw often in the likes of James O’Keefe, and here with Maddow, is the unintentional corollary: by making an extreme statement, the speaker undermines the rest of an otherwise persuasive argument. Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Rationalization Pop Quiz: What Do Barry Bonds And Elizabeth Warren Have In Common?

I wonder how many strategy sessions it took for the supporters and enablers of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) to come up with their latest defense of her ongoing lie that she is part Cherokee? We know it’s a lie now—a deliberate misrepresentation designed to deceive—because the Bay State crypto-socialist has refused the obvious resolution of taking a DNA ancestry test….again. You know she’s taken at least one, and maybe more. Being able to wave scientific proof that she had Native  American ancestors after all the “Fauxahontas” jibes would be a political bonanza for Warren, and solve her most daunting public relations problem outside of my home state, the Land of Michael Curley, where corruption, lies and letting young women drown don’t put a dent in your popularity or vote totals, for some reason. Sure, Warren took the test. She probably took another one just in case it was wrong….and she still doesn’t have the integrity or courage to admit her lie.

And that, now and forever, is why her Cherokee fantasy matters. It shows that Warren lies, and lacks integrity. It shows that she was willing to use a falsehood to gain traction in university employment competitions where gender, race and minority status often made all the difference….even if it meant that a real minority candidate failed because of her subterfuge.

Yet those strategy sessions yielded this defense on Warren’s behalf: according to an investigation by the Boston Globe, Warren’s fake Cherokee claim wasn’t a factor in her hiring by Harvard Law School:

The Globe examined hundreds of documents, many of them never before available, and reached out to all 52 of the law professors who are still living and were eligible to be in that Pound Hall room at Harvard Law School. Some are Warren’s allies. Others are not. Thirty-one agreed to talk to the Globe — including the law professor who was, at the time, in charge of recruiting minority faculty. Most said they were unaware of her claims to Native American heritage and all but one of the 31 said those claims were not discussed as part of her hire. One professor told the Globe he is unsure whether her heritage came up, but is certain that, if it did, it had no bearing on his vote on Warren’s appointment.

Perhaps the editors and journalists at the Globe never heard of moral luck, but I bet at least some of those law professors comprehend the concept. Whether or not Warren’s deliberate lie and misrepresentation of her ancestry actually was a factor in her hiring at Harvard was pure chance, and occurred after Warren had embraced a false identity. Once she did that, the consequences were out of her control. Her lie doesn’t become less unethical because it didn’t have any effect after the fact of it. A lot of people have trouble grasping this basic ethical concept, but it isn’t that hard. A person who drops a bowling ball from a bridge onto an express way is just as irresponsible and reckless if the ball misses every thing as he would be if the ball caused a ten car pile-up and the death of ten. He’s just as bad either way, and the rest is all luck. The same is true of Warren’s affirmative action-courting lie. Continue reading

27 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race, Science & Technology, Sports

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Barbara Harris (1935-2018)

“Everyone gets acting mixed up with the desire to be famous, but some of us really just stumbled into the fame part, while we were really just interested in the process of acting.”

—Actress Barbara Harris, who died last month at the age of 83.  The statement was quoted in he New York Times obituary from an interview she gave in 2002.

If you didn’t know Barbara Harris had died—indeed, if you didn’t know who Barbara Harris was—it is a measure of her integrity that she would have been pleased. I knew Harris’s work well (though I found out she had died just recently), but only because I have long been dedicated to show business history. Indeed, she was one of my favorite actresses who was a welcome accent to any movie she deigned to appear in, striking, but not beautiful, versatile, but not flashy, funny when the role required it, powerful when the challenge was dramatic or tragic, always a bit off-center, always surprising, never predictable.

She was an off-center ethics hero too, by rejecting the malady not only of her era but of her chosen profession as well. Barbara Harris rejected celebrity as a career goal or a life value, sneered at fame, and believed that it was what you accomplished in life that mattered, not how well-known or admired you became by accomplishing it. Harris often chose her projects according to how obscure she thought they would be, and actively avoided recognition. What a marvelous obsession! In her case, it was also an ironic one, because the most quirky and unpromising projects often became viable because she elevated them.

Her entire career was proof of the wisdom of Harry Truman’s great observation, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Harris did not care about the credit, but she accomplished a great deal. As a young teenaged actress who loved the process of improvisation, she was a founding member of the Second City improvisational theater in 1959, planting the seeds that gave our culture too many comic geniuses to count, along with Saturday Night Live and everything it spawned as well. Harris was the very first performer to appear on stage for Second City, in fact.  From there it was stardom on Broadway, often with her more famous Second City pals Alan Alda and Alan Arkin. She starred in a the musical  “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” (Harris could sing, too); “Oh Dad Poor Dad Mama’s Hung You In The Closet And I’m Feeling So Sad”; and “The Apple Tree” (and won a Tony Award in 1967). Her movies included a classic Harris turn in A Thousand Clowns (1965), Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? (which got her an Oscar nomination in 1971), Nashville (1975),the first Freaky Friday (1976) opposite Jody Foster, Hitchcock’s last film, Family Plot (1976), the cool, clever nostalgic spoof  Movie Movie (1978) that I bet you have never seen, a seering performance as the betrayed wife of a Senator in The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979), and her final film, Grosse Pointe Blank  in 1997. Then she retired from performing to teach acting.

During Harris’s career, she did none of the things actors typically do to keep their name before the public—no talk shows, few guest appearances on TV, no celebrity cameos on “Murder She Wrote” or “The Love Boat.” Somehow she instinctively understood that it wasn’t popularity or fame that defined her worth, or any human bieng’s worth, and refused to allow our society’s corrupting elebrity obsession of  warp her values or dictate her needs.

For me, Barbara Harris’s defining moment occurs at the end of the perfect movie for her, Robert Altman’s rambling, improvisational film “Nashville,” which is, among other things, about the sick obsession with fame and fortune that Barbara Harris rejected. Harris has few lines, and plays a runaway middle-aged wife who is determined to be a Country Western star. Her efforts are desperate, pathetic, and darkly comic, but at the film’s climax, when a famous singer is shot at a political rally for a renegade Presidential candidate, she grabs the suddenly open microphone of the fallen star she envies, and begins to sing in the chaos.

Let’s watch it now, and remember a woman and an artist of unshakable integrity and dedication to her art, and only her art.

9 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Quotes

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

27 Comments

Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Leadership, War and the Military

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

6 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions, Social Media, Workplace