Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/21/19: Planes, Tribe and McCain

Good morning!

I’m pretty groggy after one intense early morning seminar, five delayed flights,  the long trip home from San Diego, and a midnight arrival back in Virginia, but my ethics alarms seem to be functioning…

1. Today’s air travel ethics saga: I travel as light as possible for trips of two nights or fewer, carrying only my stuffed soft briefcase and a garment bag the is almost empty. I will not become part of the selfish flying hoards who lug ridiculous roller-boards onto the plane, slowing the loading process and hogging the limited storage space. (The airlines should charge passengers for bringing the luggage on board, not for checking it. Morons.) The barely filled garment bag (I wear my suit on the plane) always fits somewhere,  and even when they announce that all bags must be checked at the gate because there is no more space in the bins, I have always been allowed to bring my bag on board…until last night. Two rude and officious American gate monitors ordered me to surrender my bag or, they threatened, be forced to take a later flight. (“Hmmm..what does “later flight” mean to American since this flight is late taking off and the other four flights I’ve been booked on this trip were also late?” I queried. They just didn’t listen to what I was saying, and kept reciting the policy that I had to store one bag overhead and another under my seat.

I have always believed that you can’t take bureaucratic bullying passively, so I asked if there was a supervisor I could talk to. There was: a harried middle-aged guy with a bad toupe. He did listen, as I explained that I knew my own travel supplies, and that unless every compartment was filled with cement, I could easily find a place for my bag, because in nearly a hundred flights, I always have. Furthermore, I pointed out that it was unfair to treat me , one of the few passengers who carries minimal baggage as a matter of consideration and ethics, this way when other passengers were abusing the privilege of carry-on luggage. The guy said that he agreed with me, but since he hadn’t seen my confiscated bag, he couldn’t assess whether I was right or his subordinate Gate Nazis were. Having made my stand, I thanked him, and made my way down the jetway. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/31/18: Labor Day Weekend Edition

Good Morning.

This was in some respects the worst month in Ethics Alarms history, and I won’t be sorry to see it go. This weekend I will be spending more hours trying to cover ethics issues and developments while  knowing that an even smaller group of readers will bother to consider them, as they will off at beaches and mountain retreats, or sweltering at backyard barbecues. I have to admit it’s discouraging, and makes what needs to feel important and stimulating feel like an unsatisfying slog instead. Well, if you’re reading this, it’s not your fault.

1. Ethics estoppel. I couldn’t believe I read more than one local account of last night’s Detroit-Yankee game, a crushing loss for New York, complaining that Tigers DH Victor Martinez’s game-tying homer in the 9th “wouldn’t have been a home run in any of the other 29 Major League stadiums.”  Wow. The unmatched dominance of the New York Yankees over all of baseball has been significantly aided by its uniquely short right field fence ever since the original Yankee Stadium was built to provide cheap right field home runs to Babe Ruth, who hardly needed any help. Even though the shot to right isn’t as easy as it used to be (those old Yankee Stadium dimensions are illegal now), the Yankees still build their offense around that fence, and it is substantially responsible for the fact that the team leads all of baseball in home runs, and games won by cheap home runs.

Yankee fans and media are estopped from complaining when an opposing player benefits for a change. What utter gall!

2. Worst management ethics ever. President Trump is again tweeting about what a lousy job Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doing. Is he trying to make Sessions resign? Why? Why doesn’t he just fire him? This is a guy who became famous using “You’re fired!” as a trademark. Undermining a subordinate in public can’t possible make him or her perform better. It also signifies a dysfunctional organization and chain of command. In Sessions’ case, it makes the target look like a pathetic weenie devoid of self- respect. If my boss complained in public about me, I would resign that very day, with a brief statement that no professional should have to endure such gratuitous abuse from a superior, and that I would not. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/30/18: Double Standards, Signature Significance, Facebook Tricks, And Pettiness From Beyond The Grave!

Gliddy glup gloopy!!

1. Tennis Ethics: Yes, I’d call this a double standard…When I saw the headline at AOL— “The US Open has been accused of sexism after a female tennis player was slapped with a code violation for changing her top in the middle of a match”—I assumed that this was another bare-breasts equality story. No, it was even stupider than that. At the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows this week,  Alizé Cornet was playing Swedish star Johanna Larsson when Cornet realized she  had put her her top on backwards during a break.

So she quickly fixed the wardrobe malfunction on the court, briefly exposing her black sports bra. The Horror. The umpire slapped Cornet with a code violation, unsportsmanlike conduct. But male players frequently remove their shirts on the sidelines, and usually aren’t wearing any bra at all. Indeed, male player Novak Djokovic  removed his shirt on the same day Cornet received her warning. Women’s Tennis Association rules state that women are not allowed to change clothes while on the court, but there is no similar rule for men.

2. Signature significance for an unethical politician. (But it’s Andrew Cuomo, so we knew that anyway.) During the New York  gubernatorial candidates’ debate  between Governor Andrew Cuomo and actress-turned-politician Cynthia Nixon, there was this exchange,

Cuomo: Excuse me, can you stop interrupting? 

Nixon: Can you stop lying?

Cuomo: Yeah, as soon as you do!

The audience thought this was funny.

New Yorkers.

3. Today’s  alarming “Nah, [enter Social media of mega-tech company here]  doesn’t abuse its power 0r manipulate information for a political agenda! Why would anyone suggest such a thing?” note:

NPR, to its credit, published an investigative reporting piece debunking a popular anti-gun fake stat, one that David Hogg et al. have wielded repeatedly: the U.S. Education Department’s claim that in the 2015-2016 school year, “nearly 240 schools … reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting.”  The NPR investigation findings:

“…NPR reached out to every one of those schools repeatedly over the course of three months and found that more than two-thirds of these reported incidents never happened. Child Trends, a nonpartisan nonprofit research organization, assisted NPR in analyzing data from the government’s Civil Rights Data Collection.

We were able to confirm just 11 reported incidents, either directly with schools or through media reports.

In 161 cases, schools or districts attested that no incident took place or couldn’t confirm one. In at least four cases, we found, something did happen, but it didn’t meet the government’s parameters for a shooting. About a quarter of schools didn’t respond to our inquiries.

“When we’re talking about such an important and rare event, [this] amount of data error could be very meaningful,” says Deborah Temkin, a researcher and program director at Child Trends.

Gee, ya think?

This statistic has been disputed before, but since the challenges came from conservative news media, the NRA or other Second Amendment supporters, the mainstream media kept using it, and I’m sure the Parkland kids will keep using it anyway, since facts seem to have little importance to them. National Public Radio, however, has been resolutely anti-gun for decades, and never saw a liberal cause it didn’t admire.

When a Facebook user shared the NPR article on Facebook, however, it was removed because, as Facebook informed him,  “it looks like spam and [it] doesn’t follow our Community Standards.” See?

Again: You cannot trust these companies or the people who run them. Continue reading

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

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2017: Oh, Lots Of Stuff…

Let’s clear the runway; flights are being delayed…

1 Please, somebody do me a favor and read Fattymoon’s Medium piece  on why he doesn’t comment here any more. Let me know what it says. I don’t know if it’s another “I hate Jack” web piece, but I have feelings too, and miles to go before I sleep. He should have posted it here, and assuming it is as quirky and thoughtful as many of Fatty’s posts were, I might have made it a Comment of the Day. Posting it elsewhere without a heads up is a Golden Rule breach.

2. Jamelle Bouie’s racialist demagoguery in Slate is an ongoing embarrassment to the once readable web-mag, and in a recent exchange on Twitter, he showed that he’s not too quick on the uptake either.  Tweeting about the planned hit job on the President plotted by Rep. Wilson and an angry, grieving anti-Trump Gold Star wife. Bouie wrote,

“Trump and the White House have an unmistakable pattern of going after prominent black women.”

Quick! Hands: who believes that if the Democratic Representative who accused the President of being  insulting on his condolence call had been a white male, Trump would have behaved any different? Anybody? This is Bouie personified: he will engage in race-baiting no matter how forced, unfair and absurd it is.

I’m not a Ben Shapiro fan, but the conservative pundit knows a hanging curveball in his wheelhouse when  he sees one. He responded,

“Yes, McCain, Hillary, Barack Obama, Cruz, Jeb!, Rosie O’Donnell, Kim Jung Un are all black women”

And he didn’t even mention Bob Corker!

Exposed, owned, embarrassed and squashed, a wiser, smarter progressive would know enough to shut up and allow his idiocy to be gently wiped from cultural memory by the sands of time…like in about ten minutes. But no, Bouie shoots back,

“Nice. A retweet from Honest Conservative Ben “The genocide of Native people’s was Actually Good” Shapiro”

YES! A perfect example of a real, genuine, ad hominem attack, the kind that says, “I have no rebuttal for your devastating argument, so I’m just going to say that you’re personally horrible, so your arguments don’t count.” I’ve gotten so sick of explaining to commenters that their accusations of ad hominem are mistaken and ignorant that I put a warning in the Comments guidelines. “Your argument is idiotic, so I think you are an idiot” is not ad hominem (not nice, but not ad hominem). “You’re an idiot, so your argument must be idiotic” is ad hominem. Now I have a perfect example–from an editor at Slate! (If you think ad hominem  is logical, then you are unqualified to be an editor, even if you aren’t a race-baiting anti-white bigot.)

Not surprisingly, Shapiro knocked this one out of the park too, tweeting,

“Thanks for the ad hominem non sequitur, guy who says every Trump voter is an evil racist”

3. If there was any doubt that John McCain’s recent escalation of his anti-Trump, burr-under-the-saddle, “I’m going to make you rue the day your denigrated my prisoner-of-war heroism” campaign is personal and motivated by revenge, his gratuitous swipe at the President’s deferment from the draft almost 50 years ago should eliminate it.  That is personal, it is a cheap shot, it is intentionally disrespectful, and it is deliberately throwing raw meat to the President’s enemies.

It is also a Golden Rule breach: how would McCain react if Trump referenced the Keating Five scandal just to impugn McCain?

A lame duck who may well be dying, McCain has apparently decided that he can misbehave, settle scores, and undermine his party’s President with impunity. Somebody should tell him that he is dismantling his own reputation and legacy in the process, revealing himself as petty, vindictive, and willing to place his own vendetta over national interests and his duty as a U.S. Senator.

This is one more reason that he should resign.

4. While we are mentioning embarrassment, it appears that the news media is not yet embarrassed by treating as substantive news the self-evident set-up and subsequent escalation of a non-incident into another manufactured anti-Trump race scandal . It should be.  Imagine: yesterday all of the Sunday talking head shows gave far more time to this transparent hit-job than to the revived Russian influence allegations involving the Clintons. ABC and NBC have yet to mention that story at all; CBS, five days after it broke, gave a few seconds to it on “Face the Nation.” The excuses for this from journalists sound an awful lot like “Hey! We buried this story once; she shouldn’t have to report on it now.” FACT: As of this moment, there is more public evidence suggesting that Hillary Clinton was colluding to help the Russians than there is to suggest that President Trump did anything improper in that regard.

Back to the Rep. Frederica Wilson smear-job: The Congressional Black Caucus  called for Chief of Staff John Kelly to apologize for his remarks defending the President.  “We, the women of the Congressional Black Caucus, proudly stand with Congresswoman Wilson and demand that General Kelly apologize to her without delay and take responsibility for his reckless and false statements,” the female lawmakers said in a statement.

The wife of the late La David Johnson, meanwhile, has been making the rounds of talk shows. To recap: a woman who was determined to hurt Trump made sure that a Congressional Black Caucus member who had boycotted the President’s Inauguration was listening in on his condolence call, then collaborated on accusations of disrespect. When Trump denied their characterization–at best an example of likely confirmation bias if there ever was one —he was accused of racism, since both women are black. Then other members of the Caucus expanded the attack to Trump’s Chief of Staff, implying that he is racist as well.

This might have been a bit more convincing if the entire Caucus hadn’t declared their revulsion at Trump before he took office. Who believes that any criticism from this quarter is anything but cynical, political, and unfair? Meanwhile, as this was going on, esteemed CBC member Maxine Waters declared that she was going to “take out” the President, presumably not meaning that they were going on a date.

I note that even many of my Democratic, anti-Trump Facebook friends are rolling their metaphorical eyes at this one. Some of them—many, in fact— are still capable of feeling sympathy when a President is being mistreated.

5. I’ve been getting better at suppressing my head explosions, and just in time: Harvey Weinstein has supposedly completed rehab for his sex addiction already. What was that, less than a week? What an insult to everyone’s intelligence for Weinstein to say he was getting “help” for his “problem.” It couldn’t have been too much of a problem if it could be fixed in few days. The other side of the ethics coin is this: going into rehab has been the routine PR response whenever a Hollywood figure misbehaves. We should thank Harvey for making it clear for all time that this is often, perhaps usually, a cynical sham. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/24/17: Sen. McCain, His Pal, And The Amazing Brain Of Hillary Clinton.

Isn’t it a beautiful morning?

1 Another mind-blowing Hillary Clinton note: in an interview on MSNBC, she said that women who supported candidate Trump publicly disrespected themselves, and expressed amazement that any women would be so foolish as to associate themselves, even distantly, with such a sexist.. I’d love to know what internal editing, re-casting of reality, obliteration of integrity and massive lack of self-awareness goes on in Hillary’s head to allow her, of all women, to say things like this, and even more remarkable, assume that nobody—rather than virtually everybody— would find it laughable.

I’m not even going to elaborate on why Hillary Clinton saying women disrespect themselves by supporting a sexist and misogynist is astounding, even for her. I respect my readers’ intelligence. I bet you can figure it out on your own.

2. Senator John McCain is suddenly a hero, twice, for again announcing that he will not support another apparently lousy, GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.  While I have my doubts about the nobility of the Senator’s motives—I think his bitterness at Trump goes deep, and that bias affects his professional actions—but it is worth reading McCain’s arguments for why he will not support the bill, which are solid and ethical, and hardly an endorsement of the ACA: Continue reading

Media Cheap Shots For Hillary

NPR's Diane Rehm: she has a list, and Bernie's on it.

NPR’s Diane Rehm: she has a list, and Bernie’s on it.

In retrospect, we should have known that the mainstream news media would be actively campaigning for the Democrats  in 2008 when the New York Times, often referred to as the “flagship” of the MSM, ran a bizarre, inexcusable hit piece on John McCain as a front page story, alleging, via anonymous sources, not that McCain was involved in a Bill Clinton-style inappropriate relationship with a comely female lobbyist eight years earlier, but that unnamed staffers at the time were “concerned” that they were too friendly to each other. What followed was the most openly biased coverage in U.S. presidential campaign history, with candidate Obama repeatedly featured in messianic poses on magazine covers, virtually no media vetting of his background and a full-out, often sexist assault on the GOP Vice-Presidential candidate for being unqualified (though she had far more relevant experience than the Democratic presidential candidate),and for being a dummy, while the hilariously addled Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate was treated like a beloved eccentric uncle.

From an ethics standpoint, it didn’t matter that McCain was an awful candidate, that the chance to elect a black President was irresistible and that once the economy collapsed, the Democrats could have nominated a deaf pangolin and still won with ease. What mattered was that the media proved itself biased, unprofessional and untrustworthy as never before. I was nauseated by the debacle, but always optimistic, thought there was a chance that U.S. journalists would eventually wake up from their Obama fever, admit that they betrayed their professional duty and reform. Sadly, the problem has only worsened.

We are now seeing, even earlier than before, that the news media is prepared to throw cheap shot blocks on anyone, Democrat or Republican, who threatens the Presidential path of Hillary Clinton. Everyone—yes even Clinton supporters, as soul-dead and corrupt as they must by definition be—should be alarmed by this. It means that the United States has no objective news media, but one that is in league with, rather than exposing and challenging, entrenched power. Democracy won’t work thus encumbered. This should be a bipartisan issue.

The New York Times has equalled its John McCain fiasco with a pair of embarrassing attacks on Marco Rubio, first exposing the disqualifying scandal of his wife’s poor driving record (Hillary hasn’t driven in decades—chauffeurs, you know) and then the damning fact that he isn’t rich as Croesus and thus has no business purchasing, for example, a new home. This, like the McCain gossip, was deemed front page worthy. Even Jon Stewart, who comes to the defense of Republicans as often as he makes a joke about Obama, was appalled, devoting a five minute rant to mocking the Times.

Stewart noted the Times’ reporting of the Rubios’ purchase in 2005 of a larger home for $550,000 in 2005 that included, according to the paper, “an in-ground pool, a handsome brick driveway, meticulously manicured shrubs and oversize windows.” Calling the story “inconsequential gossip,” and asking, “How is this front-page news?,” he said,

“What’s The New York Times going to do? Exercise editorial control? No. … It’s like their motto says: ‘Don’t hate the paper, hate the game.’”

“The game” is called “Rig Democracy for Democrats.” The Times editorial staff indignantly demands the reversal of Citizens United because its editors deplore the law (and the Firts Amendment)  allowing “big corporations” to influence elections by funding obvious political advocacy, while The Times, owned and operated by a large corporation, uses its resources to engage in daily political advocacy under the guise of objective journalism.The media is just getting started, it seems. Yesterday,  NPR public affairs talk show host Diane Rehm began an interview with Hillary challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders with an accusation:

“Senator, you have dual citizenship with Israel.” 

Sanders interrupted, “Well, no I do not have dual citizenship with Israel. I’m an American. I don’t know where that question came from. I am an American citizen, and I have visited Israel on a couple of occasions. No, I’m an American citizen, period.”

“I understand from a list we have gotten that you were on that list, forgive me if that is [untrue.]” Rehm said. She later apologized. Sure she did! Mission accomplished! As Jewish Journal noted,  Rehm’s “list” was  probably the one that has circulated on the Internet for several years concerning U.S. government officials and members of Congress who allegedly hold dual citizenship with Israel, making them, the theory goes, agents of a successful Israeli effort to manipulate U.S. policy. Why wouldn’t veteran journalist Rehm, as fair and ethical journalism demands, check her facts before asserting a falsehood?

Ann Althouse’s explanation seems astute:

“It was only last weekend that Bernie Sanders shocked the Clinton campaign in the Wisconsin straw poll by getting 41% to Hillary’s 49%. He’s not an amusing sideline anymore. What can be done to keep Democrats from drifting his way? An outright lie about him doesn’t work, does it? Well, yes it does! It made everyone take notice that Bernie Sanders is Jewish. He’s not an Israeli citizen. That’s cleared up, but the impression remains: He’s Jewish. That stirs up any free-floating anti-Jewishness that may be useful to his opponent. It stirs up suspicion that Sanders feels affiliated with Israel in a way that is inconsistent with the American presidency. I’m sure many people hadn’t even noticed that Sanders is Jewish, and now we all know that, and we know additional facts. From the first link above, which goes to Politico: “Sanders, who is Jewish, has visited Israel several times and spent several months working on a communal farm called a Kibbutz in the 1960s.” That’s all powerfully useful to Hillary. Am I supposed to believe this was a mere oopsie by a nice old lady?”

Stumping for Obama was unethical, but the mainstream media’s journalists, being human and none too bright, could be cut a little slack (though not by me) for their enthusiasm for a fresh, eloquent young black man who spoke persuasively of bringing us together, restoring peace and making America respected again abroad. Doing the same for a corrupt, cynical, dishonest candidate like Clinton, however, is the journalism equivalent of treason.

______________________________

Sources: Politico 1,2, NYT, Althouse

Continue reading