Tag Archives: justice

Comment Of The Day, Rebuttal #1: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018:…A Presidential High Crime…”

Is Teddy looking down from Rough Rider Heaven and smiling at Trump’s Big Tweet?

Of course, I knew suggesting that President Trump’s deliberate attacks on Amazon via Twitter was an impeachable offense would set heads a-blowing. The resulting debate has been fascinating, with interesting historical parallels being proposed. This comment, by Chris Marschner, is the first of two erudite and well argued rebuttals.

Not to hold you in unnecessary suspense, I am not convinced or dissuaded. I do not see Teddy Roosevelt’s  policy-oriented attacks on the era’s monopolies, correctly leading a movement to reform an area of widespread capitalist abuses that eventually were agreed to be criminal, with Trump’s tweeting crudely phrased animus to the public. Nor do I find Obama’s general criticism of big money lobbying efforts by energy interests in general and the Kochs in particular at the same level of abuse of power as Trump taking aim at the owner of the Washington Post,

I am a lifetime fan of Teddy, but he crossed many lines, and could have been legitimately impeached himself. As I have stated before in multiple posts, the power of the Presidency is too great to be abused with casual wielding against individuals and named businesses. As always, there are exceptions.  I’ll concede that taking on the robber barons and the monopolists in the early 20th Century can be fairly designated as one.  Chris seems to feel that there is a close parallel in Amazon’s growing power, but that’s not the case the President chose to make, instead focusing on a deal Amazon forged with the Postal Service, as much to keep the latter in business as to benefit Amazon.

Basic lessons in POTUS leadership: if you are going to cross lines of appropriate uses of  power, 1) You better be right and 2) Be Presidential about it.

Other examples, like Obama designating Massey Energy as responsible for the Upper Big Branch mining disaster before the investigation was complete, can not be so easily excused, but can be fairly labelled a mistake. (Obama made many, too many, such mistakes.) Trump’s attack on Amazon is neither as limited as Obama’s mistake, not as carefully considered and justifiable as Roosevelt’s trust-busting. I would like to see future Presidents restrained from abusing power in this way, even if it takes a trail before the Senate to do it. If we don’t restrain it, we will be sorry.

But the other side has some good arguments: by all means, read them.

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the #2 in “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018: Baseball Lies, A Presidential High Crime, And A Judge Makes A Panty Raid”:

I would like to point you to this in 2015:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/08/26/war-words-obama-v-koch-brothers/32423959/

“When you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding, that’s a problem,” Obama said at the summit. “That’s not the American way.”

“Josh Earnest said the exchange illustrates the kind of president Obama set out to be.”

“This is exactly why the president ran for office, it’s why he ran for this office, is that for too long, we saw the oil and gas industry exert significant pressure on politicians in Washington, D.C.,” he said. And when Obama fights that influence, “the special interests, including the millionaires and billionaires that have benefited from that paralysis, start to squeal. And I guess in this case, at least one billionaire special interest benefactor chose to squeal to a Politico reporter.”

This type of rhetoric does not include Obama officials publicly stating (incorrectly and improperly) that one of the Koch brothers paid no income taxes. (http://freebeacon.com/politics/hazy-memories/)

Is it only an abuse of power when referencing specific individuals? Does it matter if you say the 1% don’t pay their fair share or is it an abuse of power only if you identify them by name?

I will concur with the Koch brothers that it is beneath the dignity of the president to go after a specific individual, but to suggest that it amounts to even a misdemeanor abuse of power is a stretch. If calling out a specific firm is an impeachable offense then why was there no call to impeach Obama when he routinely criticized and mocked Koch Industries, Fox News and others that did not line up with full throated support of his agenda.

But , Obama was not the first to chastise “punch down” on a business person. Who can forget the trust buster himself Teddy Roosevelt. JP Morgan was singled out for bad behavior. Continue reading

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Ethics Review: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

I watched last year’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” twice, just to make sure it was the profound ethics movie I thought it was. It is. None of the reviews described it that way, of course. Here is the New York Times:

“The movie opens on low boil with Mildred behind the wheel of her station wagon near three derelict billboards…she uses the billboards to announce her crusade … a way to get things jumping (the investigators, the tale) and splash some foreboding on an outwardly pacific scene. Much of the story involves the ripples of outrage, confusion and buffoonery that the billboards inspire and that soon envelop almost everyone Mildred knows. Months after her daughter’s death, grief has walled her in; isolating and seemingly impenetrable, it is inscribed in the hardness of her gaze and in her grim new identity as a mother of a dead girl. The billboards turn that grief into a weapon, a means of taking on the law and assorted men — a threatening stranger, a vigilante dentist and an abusive ex (John Hawkes) — who collectively suggest another wall that has closed Mildred in….”

None of which addresses what is remarkable about the film, which is that it shows what causes our ethics alarms not to ring—Frances McDormand as Mildred and Sam Rockwell as Dixon, a racist and vicious deputy, in particular demonstrate  what it is like to be driven by non-ethical considerations of the darkest and most passionate sort—and more important, what causes them to start ringing again. Most reviewers described this as a dark and depressing film. The ethics alarms are mostly off again as the film ends, and that is ominous, but its main ethics message is uplifting in many ways. “Three Billboards” teaches us that even broken, ignorant, alienated human beings have the capacity to access their innate instincts for compassion, justice, forgiveness, selflessness and kindness, and even when our ethical selves seem permanently overcome and decisively defeated, they can burst out again, in control, salvaging what’s best about the species.

There is a moment early in “Three Billboards” that signals that it is not only going to show us what monsters anger and grief can transform us into, but also that what George Washington’s list of 110 Rules called “that little spark of celestial fire called conscience” is remarkably resilient.  A sheriff—the ethics compass of the story, played by Woody Harrelson— visits Mildred after her billboard messages embarrass him and roil the town. She is hard and cold as marble as he tries to explain his failure to find her daughter’s rapist/killer, even after he reminds her that he is dying of cancer. Suddenly the sheriff has a violent  spasm: he coughs up blood on himself and Mildred. And we see her fury evaporate in an instant. The compassionate and caring mother she once was emerges, if only for a few moments. ( McDormand is such a superb actress that she pulls off the sudden transition convincingly and movingly: you believe it, though it is like watching Mr. Hyde turn into Dr. Jekyll in the snap of a finger.) Later, when again her fury has been aroused, we see the same woman firebomb the police station and watch implacably as her nemesis deputy burns. A warning: just because the ethics alarms can ring doesn’t mean they are working well enough.

Sam Rockwell’s character also reveals surprisingly that his ethics spark has not been entirely extinguished, again thanks to a catalyst supplied by the sheriff. This transformation caused considerable  criticism of the film among critics and artists in Hollywood, and some attribute the film’s failure to win the Best Picture Oscar to the fact that a racist is redeemed and revealed to have an ethical core. But except for the sociopaths and psychopaths among us, admittedly a disturbingly large group, we all have that ethical core. We have the ethics alarms too, ready to be re-activated, even if they aren’t in perfect working order. Yes, this is  even true of racists. So much of our current political discourse is driven by the false construct that a single belief or a single lapse of reason marks an individual as irredeemable. Its easier to marginalize and demonize them that way. But it isn’t true.

Indeed Ethics Alarms often declares certain conduct and words as signature significance, proving that an individual is unethical because such actions and thoughts are alien to ethical human beings. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” reminded me that people may be unethical–Mildred and Dixon, the deputy, could never be called ethical, for ethical people don’t set police stations on fire or throw young men out of second story windows, as Dixon does—but that even unethical individuals can find their ethics if you give them a chance.

And if they can find their ethics, so can all of us, and so can society. There is hope.

________________________

Addendum: I cannot leave “Three Billboards” without a salute to one of its most powerful scenes, when Mildred tells a priest why she doesn’t care what he has to say when he comes to her home to admonish her for the messages on the billboards:

Bingo.

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Comment Of The Day: “NOW What? The Most Discouraging News Of All”

As usual with her contributions, Mrs. Q  is thought-provoking and frank in her searing Comment Of The Day on the post,,NOW What? The Most Discouraging News Of All:

Far from this information being new, black conservatives for years have discussed this very topic only to be labeled traitors and Uncle Tom’s for doing so, often by white liberals. Shelby Steele, George Schuyler, Marc Lamont Hill, and many others have been outright dismissed or smeared in their attempts to get the message out that (white) liberal social policies and the welfare state are hurting blacks for more than helping. To allude to the anti-discernment, infantilizing policies of the Great Society, subsidized housing (which are often ghettos), affirmative action, welfare, etc, as potentially making things worse for minorities is to be a heretic and worse… ungrateful for all “they” have done for us.

At our local bookstore, Burgess Owens, books were shelved in the Fascism section. Yup, a black questioning communism and public assistance is apparently a straight up fascist. Is it any wonder that blacks trying to make something of themselves and encouraging others to do the same is barely heard? Look at a recent example when sports commentator Sage Steele pointed out that a protest over immigration at an airport was actually blocking immigrants from getting home. She lost her job, had her life threatened, and was called often (again mostly by white liberals) traitor. How can blacks be a part of a good conversation about self-sufficiency and public policy if any and every thing said that doesn’t tow the leftist line is traitorous? Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/27/2018: “If You Want It, Here’s How To Get It” Edition”

Chris Marschner, who has had several, scored another Comment of the Day today with his reflections on the strange nature of “obstruction of justice ” charges, when justice would in fact be for no charges to be brought at all.

He was focusing on #3 in today’s warm-up,  which discussed yesterday’s “resistance” theory that  allegations  that the President wanted to fire the Special Prosecutor (but didn’t) prove that he was trying to obstruct justice when he fired James Comey, who so, so deserved it.

I see unmistakable signs that the “resistance” is losing its already tenuous grip on reality, and is increasingly yielding the raw hate and fury that long ago supplanted any rational criticism of Donald Trump. Consider has-been Leftist documentarian Michael Moore, who with fellow progressive performers Mark Ruffalo, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie Perez and Cynthia Nixon, who have to do something between jobs, is pushing  Monday’s Counter-State of the Union , which is only slightly more sensible than the “scream pointlessly at the sky” event. Remarkably, among Moore, Whoopie, Rosie, Cynthia and Mark there isn’t a single political science, history, economics, or government major. In fact, there isn’t a single college degree of any kind between them, or business, government or executive experience of any kind.

 Michael Moore, speaking on behalf  of MoveOn.org (Do the Time’s Up and #MeToo crowd recall that Move-On was spawned to protest Bill Clinton facing accountability for his cover-up of sexual misconduct? Nah.), sent out an email that read in part, before the fundraising pitch,

Donald J. Trump has proven himself to be completely unfit for office, a threat to our country, and an imminent danger to the world. He is not well; he is a malignant narcissist and an active sociopath. And because he holds the codes to fire nuclear weapons, he is a singular threat to humanity.

This situation is a nightmare. And the only reason that things aren’t FAR WORSE than they already are is that millions of us have come together to engage in our democracy, resist, and organize.

But our problems go far beyond one sociopath president. The mission that we are on and the work that we must do is to tear down the rigged system that produced Trump in the first place. We must imagine the America that we want to live in. We must create the post-Trump America.

And this is actually possible: The fierce, determined Resistance movement that began after Trump’s election could create an avalanche at the polls this November. Together, we can stop Trump and the GOP and begin the work of creating the country that we imagined.

The country the Moore imagined was called the USSR. But I digress.

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 1/27/2018: “If You Want It, Here’s How To Get It” Edition: Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “I’m Curious: Do Women—Any Women, A Lot Of Women, Adult Women, Rational Women—Think This Times Column Makes Sense? (Because It Doesn’t)”

(This is sort of what Juliet has in mind, I think...)

Juliet Macur’s column in the New York Times calling for what was essentially Old Testament Biblical vengeance against one of the more recently accused sexual harassers disturbed me greatly, and the resulting Ethics Alarms post reflected my reaction.  Steve-O-in NJ picked up the baton, and the result was this, his Comment of the Day on the post, I’m Curious: Do Women—Any Women, A Lot Of Women, Adult Women, Rational Women—Think This Times Column Makes Sense? (Because It Doesn’t):

The principle that those who do wrong should not be allowed to profit from their wrongs is not without basis in either ethics or the law. It is that principle which gave rise to the “Son of Sam” laws that allow suits against convicted criminals by their victims or the victims’ families if they receive assets from the sale of their stories. It is also that principle that sometimes leads to “Son of Sam” clauses being worked into plea agreements, whereby any profits made from the sale of a pleading wise guy or terrorist’s story goes to the government. Much more than that, and you run into First Amendment problems. It’s also a given that courts can order restitution to victims as part of a sentence or as part of a plea deal.

However, as pointed out above, all of these legal principles involve, presumably, a wrongdoer who has either had his day in court or decided to forego his day in court in the hopes of better terms. Even in an employment or other civil setting, an accused wrongdoer is not without rights. A company who not only terminated an accused harasser but stripped him of his pension and whatever other assets came with the position, all without so much as an investigation, would almost unquestionably find itself on the wrong end of a lawsuit, and could conceivably lose, which is why a lot of those situations resolve with a more favorable deal. In this case, the accused is choosing to walk away before it even comes to that, and cash out.

Juliet Macur is looking for blood, or the equivalent. I know the feeling, we all know the feeling, and writers and sports entertainers the world over know how to exploit that feeling very well. That’s why thrillers almost always end with the initial wrongdoer dead and WWE kayfabe angles always end with the heel badly injured and humiliated. We all have that urge to jump to revenge, that snap reaction of “why that blankety-blank, I’ll teach him!” Continue reading

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Compassion! Crime! Betrayal! Law vs. Ethics! Illegal Aliens! Christmas Spirit! The Golden Rule! Five Golden Rings! (Okay, Only Three Rings, And One Was Junk, But Still…) The ‘Awwwww Factor’! Could This Be “The Greatest Ethics Quiz Ever Asked”?

[Special thanks to my friend (and the inventor of The Three Circles) lawyer/legal ethicist John May for alerting Ethics Alarms to this one.]

Sandra Mendez Ortega, a 19-year-old maid, stole three rings worth at least $5,000 from a house she was cleaning in Fairfax City, Virginia. Lisa Copeland, the client of the cleaning service, discovered her engagement and wedding rings were missing from the container where they were usually kept. The two rings were appraised at $5,000 in 1996, and a third less valuable ring was taken along with them. Fairfax City police  interviewed the three women who had cleaned the home, and they all denied seeing the rings, much less stealing them. Ortega, however, subsequently had second thoughts, and confessed to the theft. She told her boss that she had the rings and turned them over to him. He contacted the police,   Mendez Ortega confessed to them as well, saying she returned the rings after learning they were valuable. (Thus she only took them because she thought they weren’t valuable. Okaayyyy…) The police told her to write an apology letter to Copeland, in Spanish, in which she said in part, “Sorry for grabbing the rings. I don’t know what happened. I want you to forgive me.”

(I’m sorry, but I have to break in periodically so my head won’t explode. ” I don’t know what happened?” She knows what happened! She stole the rings because she thought she could get away with it.)

Copeland says she has never seen that letter, and that Mendez Ortega has never apologized to her in person. The maid was charged with felony grand larceny. At the trial, the jury found her guilty. (If she had confessed and was remorseful, why did she plead not guilty?)

But we are told that they felt sympathy for the defendant, who was pregnant with her second child, during the sentencing phase. “The general sentiment was she was a victim, too,” the jury foreman, Jeffery Memmott, told the Washington Post. “Two of the [female jurors] were crying because of how bad they felt.”  Although the  jurors convicted the maid of the felony, they agreed among themselves that it was just a “dumb, youthful mistake.” So they decided that her punishment would be only be her fee for cleaning the house the day of the theft, $60. Then they took up a collection and raised the money to pay the fine, plus and extra $20.

(Yes, she made money on the transaction. Crime pays.) Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/10/2017: Posts Collide! Journalists Self-Destruct! Women Undermine Themselves! And A Poll…

Good morning!

1  Bingo!  Amy Alkon, aka the Advice Goddess, has been staking out lonely territory as a feminist who feels the #MeToo mob and its attendant hysteria is setting the cause of women back, not advancing it. Here most recent post begins by mocking an LA Times hysteric who wrote that

“What happens when society ignores sexual assault? You get Lesotho, where girls aren’t even safe at the grocery store…”

Akon responded in part…

This sort of ridiculous hysteria — that our country is anything like a place where 19% of teenaged girls are forced to marry — makes things here cumulatively worse, not better.This is the safest, most modern, most individual rights-driven country in the world.

If you are in a profession where there’s a great deal of money and power, there are likely to be sociopaths of various stripes who will prey on you — whether you’re a man or a woman. No, sexual assault should not be ignored, but we also don’t help ourselves by turning an invitation out for a drink by a co-worker into some sort of victimization.

If it isn’t your boss trying to manipulate you into the sack when you want no such thing; if there’s no quid pro quo; if requests for a date stop when you ask for them to stop (or maybe after the second time), do you really need to identify as a victim?…

People have conflicting goals and desires. Any two people. Heterosexual men negotiate these with each other. They’re very comfortable with it — as am I, no matter what sex or sexuality you are or have. If one person isn’t holding the other down or saying “fuck me, or you lose your job…” …If there’s merely a need for a mild rebuff (like, “Sorry, I don’t date co-workers), well, this seems to me like a normal part of adult life.

I predict two things from the current hysteria (where, say, a stolen kiss from a drunken co-worker is equated with Harvey Weinsteining and may even be seen as a firing offense):

1. Employers will think twice about hiring women, especially when they have the option of hiring a commensurately qualified male.

2. Men will start seeing escort workers in larger numbers than ever, and it will become more acceptable than it’s ever been to pay for sex.

2. Who will save journalism, and when will it admit is needs saving? Washington Post politics reporter Dave Weigel‏ mocked the President for declaring his Florida rally “packed to the rafters” last week. Wiegel’s tweet included a picture of a half-empty Pensacola Bay Center.This was, it turned out, a mistake, but also a mistake brought about by confirmation bias, sloppiness, and hostility to the President. Once again, the news media handed the President the ammunition to discredit it, as it deserves to be discredited.Trump tweeted after the rally...

“@DaveWeigel WashingtonPost put out a phony photo of an empty arena hours before I arrived the venue, w/ thousands of people outside, on their way in…Real photos now shown as I spoke. Packed house, many people unable to get in. Demand apology & retraction from FAKE NEWS WaPo!”

Weigel apologized, tweeting,

“Sure thing: I apologize…Was confused by the image of you walking in the bottom right corner…It was a bad tweet on my personal account, not a story for Washington Post. I deleted it after like 20 minutes. Very fair to call me out.”

Weigel is a well-known Washington Post reporter, and the fact that he botched this in his own name rather than the Post’s doesn’t diminish its harm to the credibility of the already reeling news media one whit. The apology was nice, but it was also unavoidable. While Trump certainly has primed journalist skepticism with his adversarial relationship to reality, reporters are supposed to be professionals, and leaping to conclusions without confirmation or sufficient evidence isn’t professional, or worthy of public trust. Fact: Weigel would not have done this to Barack Obama.

Weigel’s gaffe was minor compared to CNN’s fiasco the day before, or the Brian Ross episode at ABC, but it deserves to be considered as part of the same pathology. Wrote Glenn Reynold on his blog today,

In attempting to “denormalize” Trump, they’ve denormalized themselves. If they simply reported fairly and accurately, without their screamingly obvious bias, they’d be able to do him much more damage. But they can’t help themselves.

Bingo. They can’t help themselves, and the ethics alarms when bias looms just don’t sound. Today the New York Times has a front page story, complete with a creepy photo of the President, featuring a long, insulting quote from Nancy Pelosi about how “unprepared” Trump was for the job. Oddly, nobody thought, “Wait, did we publish anything like this about the most unqualified President elected up to that  point? You know, the last one?”
Continue reading

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