Tag Archives: loyalty

Ethics Hero: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley

Usually it is a sign of loyalty and responsibility when a subordinate takes the fall for his or her superior in the best interests of the organization. Not in this instance, however. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was the victim of another inexcusable example of  White House incompetence, and was designated to take the fall. She refused.

Brava.

White House aides tried to blame Haley for speaking on national television about the administration’s plans to roll out new sanctions against Russia when the President had decided to defer them but never informed her of his course correction.White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, either on his own or according to direction, said in a statement that Haley had suffered “momentary confusion” and gotten “out ahead of the curve.”  Haley didn’t stand for it, and demanded and received an apology. “With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” she said.

Says Politico:

“But the sanctions episode is a stark reminder that this president has little compunction about letting his top staffers and appointees dangle. As the White House scrambled to explain the president’s change of heart on issuing Russia sanctions, Haley became a convenient target for West Wing aides working to smooth a ragged decision making process without blaming the president himself.”

Good. The White House needs such a reminder, and needs to be embarrassed, publicly. This kind of ridiculous sloppiness has plagued the Trump Presidency from the start, and while I doubt that he is capable of learning and reform, covering for his incompetence will just guarantee more and worse.

Before Kudlow tried to make Haley Trump’s scapegoat, the White House spun that while the President signed off on sanctions legislation last week, the announcement was delayed because the Treasury Department did not have the legislation ready.  Oh, it was the Treasury Department’s fault then. Welllllno. The White House sent talking points to spokespersons the day before Haley’s TV appearance. It just forgot to alert the President’s official voice in the international body known as the United Nations. Hey, anyone can make a mistake!

Morons. Continue reading

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Is James Comey An “Untruthful Slimeball?”

That was the measured, dignified description of the fired FBI chief in President Trump’s latest tweet on the matter of Comey’s tell-all book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership. The Ethics Alarms verdict on the allegation doesn’t require reading the book, which I wouldn’t do if Jigsaw had me trapped in a room and gave me the choice of writing a book report on it or chewing off my own foot. (Okay, maybe I’d read it then, but I’d still have to think about it.)

We know Comey is untruthful already—he lied to Congress—and the fact that his book exists proves that he’s a slimeball.

I know I repeat myself a lot, for ethics issues are on a merry-go-round that never stops. However, I think I’ve written more than enough about the unethical practice of government officials who have left an administration cashing in with tell-all books before the administration has ended. The practice  is a crass  betrayal, venal, disloyal, damaging to the nation and its institutions, and I don’t care who the slimeball author is, or which President he slimes. They are all slimeballs, by definition. One of the first was President Reagan’s arrogant Budget Director, Stockman, early in that administration. Prior to Stockman, the predominant attitude and ethics was the one embodied by General George Marshall (no relation, alas), World War One and Two military leader, former Secretary of State, and architect of the Marshall plan, when he was offered a million dollars to write his memoirs in the 1950s, after he had retired from public life.  Marshall turned down the cash, explaining that he couldn’t write a truthful memoir without undermining people still at working for the United States in the government and military.

How quaint! What a sap!

Or so James Comey probably thinks. Continue reading

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Baseball Brawl Ethics [UPDATED]

I noted in the Morning Warm-Up that last night’s Red Sox-Yankee rumble put me in a good mood. I should elaborate: it’s not because I like seeing a New York Yankee player get a fat lip, although I do. It is because such episodes are usually rife with ethics good and bad, and this one was no exception. Here it is again…

It began with an earlier play. Yankee rookie DH Tyler Austin employed an illegal slide when he was forced at second base. A few years ago, the Dodgers’ Chase Utley broke a shortstop’s leg while sliding into him hard to break up a double play. The ugly injury was on national TV, because it was in the play-offs, and Major League Baseball enacted a major rule change.

From the beginning of professional baseball, runners had been allowed to plow into infielders trying to make the pivot at second base and complete a double play like linebackers blitzing a quarterback. The resulting collisions often wrecked knees, ankles and careers, and a ridiculous tradition developed. Umpires allowed infielders to come off the bag before they actually received the ball for the force-out, as long as they were close to the base. The out was called anyway: it was known as the “neighborhood play,” because the infielder’s foot was in the neighborhood of second. After Utley’s slide, baseball made the attempt to interfere with the double play by slamming into the fielder illegal, with the consequence being that the double play was called complete whether the relay throw to first was completed or not.

Ethically, I applauded the rule change. For one thing, the take-out slide was already illegal: runners aren’t allowed to interfere with fielders according to the original rules, but take-out slides were tolerated, indeed encouraged anyway. As often happens when rules are ignored, integrity suffered, resulting in that absurd “neighborhood” convention. The so-called baseball purists complained, and still are complaining, but trading illegal-but-allowed hard slides that required calling imaginary outs and needlessly injured players for some gratuitous violence in a non-violent sport was always an unwise exchange.

So now a baserunner bearing down on second base when a double-play may be in progress has to slide  at the base, not at the fielder. But last night, Austin had his leg high as he slid, and spiked second baseman Brock Holt, Holt, who never threw to first, had words with the Yankee, and both dugouts emptied, though no punches were thrown. It was an illegal slide, no question about it, but because Holt wasn’t interfered with, the umpires did nothing. No penalty out was called. Austin wasn’t thrown out of the game.

This is when the ancient baseball code kicked in. A Yankee had tried to hurt a Red Sox player with an illegal slide, and had gotten away scot-free. If the Sox did nothing to retaliate, they would be showing weakness. I have literally  seen this plot a thousand times. I said to my wife, watching the game with me, “The Red Sox are going to throw at Austin, and there will be a fight.”

Sure enough, Sox reliever Joe Kelly, who throws pitches between 96 and 100 mph, threw a fastball into Austin’s back  later in the game. Austin charged the mound, as you can see, and all heck broke loose.

Ethics notes: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/13/18: You Can’t Get Much More Ethics Issues Variety Than This!

Good Morning!

[Mickey is really playing that piano. Boy he was amazing…]

1 A Russian Jumbo!  And it worked! In Russia, Irina Kudinova was charged with mocking the Church after she  posted a photograph that prosecutors alleged was obscene and thus constituted the “deliberate desecration of a religious object” and “insulting the feelings of believers.”   Gee, I can’t imagine why anyone would think THAT..Here’s the photo:

The judge ruled that it was merely a photo of an Easter cake and nothing more. Elephant? What elephant? Or maybe “What elephant phallus?” would be more accurate. Kudinova was awarded 20,000 rubles in a court action for false accusations.

Few cases better illustrate the principle that in Bizarro World attempts at ethical acts become unethical. The problem is that Russia has laws that discourage free speech. In order to undermine an unethical law, the judge in this case made a ruling that is obviously contrary to reality, and what anyone can see with their own eyes. If judges can ignore evidence and deny reality to protect citizens from an unjust law, then they can do the same to unjustly punish citizens who break no laws at all.

I’m happy for Kudinova, but the Russian judge is a well-intentioned ethics dunce. His solution does as much damage as good.

2. “Thanks, Mom and Dad…and bite me.” The parents of GOP Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson each gave $2,700, the maximum allowed, to the primary campaign of the Democrat their son is challenging, Senator Tammy Baldwin. Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The Steve Bannon-President Trump Blow-Up

Excerpts from his new book revealed that journalist Michael Wolff extracted some highly inflammatory quotes from ex-White House aide Steve Bannon, who criticized his former boss, members of his family, and White House colleagues. In an unusually well-written, if unrestrained, response, the President used a rhetorical blowtorch on his former ally, writing,

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”

Observations:

  • Once again, we have the unforgivable spectacle of a once highly placed member of an administration team betraying trust to vent, to get publicity, to settle scores, or to cash in. It’s not whistle-blowing, and its not in the public interest. It hurts the current President and future Presidents, by making a breach of loyalty and confidentiality that was once unimaginable routine. David Stockman, Reagan’s bitter budget director, started this trend with a tell-all book after his star fell to earth, and now every Presidential appointee is a potential Judas. If any of these creeps were ethical, professionals or patriots, they would wait until the administration they had worked for were out of power and in the rear-view mirror, and ideally, way, way in the rear view mirror, like a decade or more. Better yet, they would take the secrets they were entrusted with to the grave.

But what’s the fun in that? More to the point, where’s the money in it? Ten years from now, Steve Bannon will be the answer to a trivia question. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2017: Is Robert Mueller Biased? Are The Patriots Cheating Again? Is Larry Tribe Deranged? Is President Trump A Robot?

Good Morning!

(Nothing better than waking up to a light dusting of snow!)

1 When you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat and legal expert who has prominently avoided the ravages of anti-Trump mania that have crippled so many of his distinguished colleagues, tried to clarify several issues in the Mueller investigation on Fox News.

On Special Prosecutor Mueller personally and professionally: “I don’t think he’s partisan, I don’t think he cares whether the Democrats or the Republicans benefit from this.I think he’s a zealous prosecutor and if he were going after Hillary Clinton, he’d be going after her with as much zeal.”

On his investigative team: “Now that’s not true for some of the people on his staff. He should never have allowed these people to serve on this investigative staff, if they had the points of view that they’ve had towards Hillary Clinton and towards Donald Trump. That was a mistake…when you’re going after a president or a presidential candidate, you have to be ‘Caesar’s wife,’ you have to be above reproach, and he didn’t do a good enough job in vetting the people that he brought on to the prosecution and the investigative team, and that hurts his credibility.”

Correct, and obviously correct. So why is the White House and Fox News being criticized daily for questioning the legitimacy, fairness, objectivity, and independence of the investigation? It doesn’t matter if Mueller is personally fair and objective if he appoints biased and conflicted lawyers to do the work. That still means the investigation is compromised and untrustworthy. It also means that Mueller undermined the investigation exactly the way he could not afford to if he wanted its results to be accepted.

There is nothing inappropriate about those being investigated pointing out bias, incompetence and conflicts of interest by the investigators. Criticism of a legitimate complaint, backed up by facts, indicates that those critics  don’t care about bias, incompetence and conflicts of interest, if they lead to the result they crave.

2. Suspicion! Why would the NFL’s New England Patriots sign a washed-up, 39-year-old Pittsburgh Steelers veteran, James Harrison, with only one game left in the regular season, at a cost of about $60,000 for that game and for any play-off games the Patriots participate in? Harrison has barely played all season, is no longer a top performer, and was a discordant and disruptive presence in the locker room. Many sportswriters and fans believe that he is being paid by New England to be a turncoat, and to reveal  Steelers’ secrets that might provide an edge if the Patriots, as many expect, have to defeat Pittsburgh on the way to another Super Bowl. The Patriots have been caught cheating more than once. Would this be cheating?

I assume not, unless Harrison had an enforceable non disclosure clause that prohibited him from revealing Steelers plays and strategies even after he was no longer on the team. Indeed, it would be unethical for Harrison not to help his new team in any way possible. When New England signed him, they signed his body, mind and accumulated experience. Continue reading

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It’s Thanksgiving, And Time For The Complete “It’s A Wonderful Life” Ethics Guide [Updated And With A New Introduction For 2017 ]

 

Last year (to the day) when I posted the Ethics Alarms ethics guide to Frank Capra’s 1946 masterpiece “It’s A Wonderful Life,” one of the great ethics movies of all time, as this blog’s official welcome to the holiday season, I wrote, “I suspect we need it more in 2016 than usual.”  As it turned out, we need it even more in 2017.

Multiple forces have been hard at work for a full year now, roiling the nation, painting the future as dire and the present as unbearable, trying to divide us and even to encourage discord and conflict during this special time when we are supposed to remember what is most important in life. In case you have been infected, it’s not politics and not partisan agendas, but love, family, community, kindness, and friends. The simple message of Frank Capra’s masterpiece—it has aged far better than his other films, including, and maybe especially, “Mister Smith Goes To Washington”—that no one is a failure who has friends, is vital to recall when so many are rejecting friends because they don’t conform to some ideological talking point. This is madness, and watching and heeding “It’s A Wonderful Life” is a better remedy than Thorazine.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer actually told his Twitter followers this week to bring a chart prepared by a  think tank to attack the Republican tax plan during Thanksgiving dinner. This is part of the effort to politicize everything in our lives, by zealots who value power over humanity, country, and spirituality. They belong with Mr. Potter, not George and Clarence.

I need this movie more in 2017 than usual for other reasons. It has been a year in which I have lost many peers and cherished friends, and listened to too many of the living bemoan the passage of time and looming mortality.  I don’t think like that—a lifetime gift from my brave and fatalist father—but I can’t pretend that the game clock isn’t running out, or not face the fact that I have not sunk anywhere near the baskets I could have and should have. Fortunately, what I wrote in an earlier year introducing this post still resonates…

Everyone’s life does touch many others, and everyone has played a part in the chaotic ordering of random occurrences for good. Think about the children who have been born because you somehow were involved in the chain of events that linked their parents. And if you can’t think of something in your life that has a positive impact on someone–although there has to have been one, and probably many—then do something now. It doesn’t take much; sometimes a smile and a kind word is enough. Remembering the lessons of “It’s a Wonderful Life” really can make life more wonderful, and not just for you.

Have a terrific Thanksgiving, everyone.

And here we go:

1. “If It’s About Ethics, God Must Be Involved”

The movie begins in heaven, represented by twinkling stars. There is no way around this, as divine intervention is at the core of the fantasy. Heaven and angels were big in Hollywood in the Forties. The framing of the tale seems to advance the anti-ethical idea, central to many religions, that good behavior on earth will be rewarded in the hereafter, bolstering the theory that without God and eternal rewards, doing good is pointless.

Yet in the end, it is an ethics movie, not a religious one. George lives an ethical live, not out of any religious conviction, but because step by step, crisis after crisis, he chooses to place the welfare of others, especially his community and family, above his own needs and desires. No reward is promised to him, and he momentarily forgets why we act ethically, until he is reminded. Living ethically is its own reward.

We are introduced to George Bailey, who, we are told, is in trouble and has prayed for help. One has to wonder about people like George, who resort to prayer as a last resort, but they don’t seem to hold it against him in Heaven. The heavenly authorities assign an Angel 2nd Class, Clarence Oddbody, to handle the case..He is, we learn later, something of a second rate angel as well as a 2nd Class one, so it is interesting that whether or not George is in fact saved will be entrusted to less than Heaven’s best. Some lack of commitment, there— perhaps because George has not been “a praying man.” This will teach him—sub-par service!

2. Extra Credit for Moral Luck

George’s first ethical act is saving his brother, Harry, from drowning, an early exhibition of courage, caring and sacrifice. The sacrifice part is that the childhood episode costs George the hearing in one ear. He doesn’t really deserve extra credit for this, as it was not a conscious trade of his hearing for Harry’s young life, but he gets it anyway, just as soldiers who are wounded in battle receive more admiration and accolades than those who are not. Yet this is only moral luck. A wounded hero is no more heroic than a unwounded one, and may be less competent as well as less lucky.

3.  The Confusing Drug Store Incident

George Bailey’s next ethical act is when he saves the life of another child by not delivering a bottle of pills that had been inadvertently poisoned by his boss, the druggist, Mr. Gower. This is nothing to get too excited over, really—if George had knowingly delivered poisoned pills, he would have been more guilty than the druggist, who was only careless. What do we call someone who intentionally delivers poison that he knows will be mistaken for medication? A murderer, that’s what.  We’re supposed to admire George for not committing murder.

Mr. Gower, at worst, would be guilty of negligent homicide. George saves him from that fate when he saves the child, but if he really wanted to show exemplary ethics, he should have reported the incident to authorities. Mr. Gower is not a trustworthy pharmacist—he was also the beneficiary of moral luck. He poisoned a child’s pills through inattentiveness. If his customers knew that, would they keep getting their drugs from him? Should they? A professional whose errors are potentially deadly must not dare the fates by working when his or her faculties are impaired by illness, sleeplessness or, in Gower’s case, grief and alcohol.

4. The Uncle Billy Problem

As George grows up, we see that he is loyal and respectful to his father. That’s admirable. What is not admirable is that George’s father, who has fiduciary duties as the head of a Building and Loan, has placed his brother Billy in a position of responsibility. As we soon learn, Billy is a souse, a fool and an incompetent. This is a breach of fiscal and business ethics by the elder Bailey, and one that George engages in as well, to his eventual sorrow.

5. George’s Speech

Continue reading

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