Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/1/2017: The New York Terror Attack, Indictment Hype, A New Statue Makes My Head Explode, And Jack Russell Ethics

Good Morning, November!

[Programming Note: My original and stated (in the comments) intention was to devote the whole Warm-up to the jaw-droppingly dishonest and contrived media outrage over John Kelly’s completely accurate and reasonable comments regarding the The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck yesterday. You know, Kelly’s critics should realize when political correctness and false narratives literally require them to argue the opposite of the facts they are using to support their false arguments, that should set off an ethics alarm—but don’t get me started now: I’m going to do the next post on this. There is too much going on not to use the Warm-Up to clear the jam.]

1 I was just nauseated by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s fatuous remarks at the press conference regarding yesterday’s terror attack. Essentially he channeled Michael Moore’s disgraceful riff after 9-11: terrorist attacks are just little bumps in the road that we have to get used to, there’s nothing to be done, it’s a tragedy, but nothing to freak out over, New Yorkers are resilient, the attack failed because the Halloween parade went on as planned, and he’s so proud of the city’s residents  for going on with business and pleasure without submitting to fear and intimidation. Then Governor Cuomo seconded him.

This isn’t the London during Blitz, or Tel Aviv under daily assault by Palestinian scuds. The United States doesn’t have to shrug away terrorists and terrorism. De Blasio’s attitude is politically calculated to undermine serious efforts to stop terrorists from entering the country.  I, for one, do not accept that the future of the United States includes accepting an unacceptable probability that I am going to be blown up, shot or run down by someone, heaven knows why, screaming, “Allahu akbar!”

2. The original sub-title of the Warm-up was going to be, “Now the Left is really starting to scare me.” That title would be appropriate to describe my reaction to yesterday’s tweet by increasingly deranged Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, who wrote (Remember, Twitter is an invention of Satan to make people destroy their credibility);

“The NYC terrorist had a pellet gun and a paintball gun. Good thing that in NYC he couldn’t buy assault rifles, or the toll would be higher.”

How shameless and obsessed does an anti Second Amendment fanatic have to be to use a terrorist attack employing a truck (to kill 8 and wound 12) as a platform for gun control hectoring? Kristof’s  point was willfully dishonest and ignorant. The pellet gun and paintball gun were irrelevant to the attack. Terrorists are not dissuaded by laws; if Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov had wanted to use a gun in the attack, he could have acquired one. Moreover, New York’s gun laws weren’t involved: Saipov was from Florida, where he could have legally have bought all sorts of deadly firearms.

3. Jack Russell Ethics: last night, for no discernible reason, my dog decided to bark furiously to go outside at 2 am, 2:30, 3: 10, 3:25, 3: 48, 4: 12 and again around 5 this morning. This on the first night in over a week when I wasn’t plagued by insomnia. Twice he issued a high-pitched, sharphysterical bark that I have never heard before: Rugby has a large and eloquent repertoire of yips, barks, wheezes, snorts, quacks, purrs, growls and other noises yet to be named; I know what they all mean, but this one was indecipherable.  When Rugby was outside, he didn’t relieve himself; he was in full alert, guarding mode.

I have no idea what was going on. I was finally able to calm him down by curling up on top of the sheets with him, and talking to him quietly about the World series while he happily licked my hands. Eventually the dog fell asleep. I, however, never did. Today is officially wrecked.

Why, Rugby? WHY???

4. The misleading news media reporting on the Special Counsel indictments are another smoking gun example of how untrustworthy and biased our journalism has become. The Manafort-Gates indictment literally had nothing to do with obstruction of justice or the Russian collusion theory, but to listen to broadcast news reports and commentator bloviation on the topic, one would think that the President is minutes away from being frog-marched out of the White House in cuffs. Naturally, the President is annoyed by this. I don’t blame him. Everyone should be annoyed by it.

Ken White of Popehat, a former federal prosecutor, summed up the indictments this way:

“The Manafort/Gates indictment is a fairly standard “kitchen sink” white collar indictment that illustrates the wide array of tools available to federal prosecutors, as well as the power prosecutors have to use an investigation to provoke further federal crimes as leverage against the foolish.”

That nicely describes what happened to the third individual, an obscure Trump campaign advisor who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conduct that wasn’t illegal by any definition. Ken’s entire post is worth reading, as well as linking for your clueless, ranting Facebook friends.

5. This story makes me glad I have the Warm-Up to cover awful things like this without devoting a full post to it, because I would have to devote a full post to it, and the disgust might kill me. Even this short report made my head explode, however. KABOOM.

The District of Columbia, through  the Executive Office of the Mayor,  the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) and the Marion Barry Commission, is going to spend $300,000 to have an eight foot statute of Marion Barry erected outside the John A. Wilson Building along Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation’s capitol. It is scheduled to be unveiled in for March 6 of next year, Barry’s birthday.

I shall not mince words. I would fall down on my knees and sacrifice a virgin in front of  a statue of Robert E. Lee before I would voluntarily gaze respectfully at a statue of Marion Barry. His most memorable act was getting caught on video smoking crack cocaine with a former mistress, while he was mayor and making regular speeches to inner city school children about the evils of drugs. He openly cheated on his wives while serving as mayor, “catting around” the District late at night, looking for “fun.”. Later he was indicted for failing to pay his taxes, year after year, while serving as an elected official.

As a city councilman after spending time in prison, Barry used tax-payer money to hire his girl friend for a job she was completely unqualified for, then argued that since there was no law against doing that, it was ethical. There is a rationalization named for him on the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List:

4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.”

The late D.C. Mayor and lovable rogue Marion Barry earned himself a place in the Ethics Distortion Hall of Fame with his defense of his giving his blatantly unqualified girlfriend a high-paying job with the DC government. Barry declared that since there was no law against using the public payroll as his own private gift service, there was nothing unethical about it. Once the law was passed (because of him), he then agreed that what he did would be wrong the next time he did it.

Ethics is far broader than law, which is a system of behavior enforced by the state with penalties for violations. Ethics is good conduct as determined by the values and customs of society. Professions promulgate codes of ethics precisely because the law cannot proscribe all inappropriate or harmful behavior. Much that is unethical is not illegal. Lying. Betrayal. Nepotism. Many other kinds of behavior as well, but that is just the factual error in the this rationalization.

The greater problem with it is that it omits the concept of ethics at all.  Ethical conduct is self-motivated, based on the individual’s values and the internalized desire to do the right thing. Barry’s construct assumes that people only behave ethically if there is a tangible, state-enforced penalty for not doing so, and that not incurring a penalty (that is, not breaking the law) is, by definition, ethical.

Nonsense, of course. It is wrong to intentionally muddle the ethical consciousness of the public, and Barry’s statement simply reinforces a misunderstanding of right and wrong.

As mayor, he hired cronies, crooks and con men to high ranking posts; many of them eventually went to jail. The D.C. government has never recovered from the culture Barry established. It is still dogged by corruption top to bottom; the last mayor barely avoided a conviction, but seemed pretty clearly guilty of paying off a political adversary to get elected. Barry is a hero to many because he openly, unapologetically, used his office to hire as many blacks as he could, often in complete defiance of any standards or qualifications. Hiring based on race is also called “discrimination.” He used the city payroll as a social welfare program, with the result that the city ran up crippling deficits and debt.

Honoring a corrupt public official as a hero in the District is a catastrophic decision, ensuring that the toxic cultural values that plague the black community in D.C. will not only persist, but that their advocates will have a champion and role model to help them persist. Yet if this community insists that Marion Barry should be honored, crook, rogue, hypocrite and sociopath that he was, that choice should be respected, and respected forever. I would never advocate tearing down Barry’s statue, though if I were a really big pigeon, it would be in my bomb-sights at every opportunity. Indeed, it is important to remember that such a cynical, corrupt leader was regarded as a hero, and why.

Heeeeere’s MARION!

 

 

Trump, Master Of Rationalizations, Scores A Perfect #4 AND A Perfect #5!

Former District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry attends a news conference on the steps of Washington's city hall Monday, July 6, 2009. At the news conference Barry's attorney Frederick Cooke said Barry vehemently denies the allegation by Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, and that he's confident the stalking charge will be dropped. Barry, 73, stood behind Cooke but said nothing. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Somewhere, Marion Berry is smiling…

This is juuuust the beginning…

I have noted before that our President Elect never expresses any ethical awareness, and uses rationalizations exclusively to explain and justify his conduct. This is typical of say, 12-year-olds, but is less common among professionals in responsible positions.

Trump just authored a classic example, following the expression of concerns about his conflicts of interest, which are massive, unavoidable, and which should have been addressed seriously long ago, like in a Presidential debate, and at length. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton and various journalists felt it would be more helpful to their cause to spend time talking about what Trump had said about an over-weight Miss Universe and in a private conversation with Billy Bush. How did that work out for you, guys?

Now various lawyers and ethics experts are saying that Trump “must” sell off his business holdings because his company’s myriad business entanglements will cast many White House decisions under a cloud. The President Elect has a neat answer for them, to wit:

“The law’s totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

— Donald Trump, interview with the New York Times, Nov. 22, 2016

Bravo! This is a perfect expression of Ethics Alarms Rationalizations #4, and #5

4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.”

The late D.C. Mayor and lovable rogue Marion Barry earned himself a place in the Ethics Distortion Hall of Fame with his defense of his giving his blatantly unqualified girlfriend a high-paying job with the DC government. Barry declared that since there was no law against using the public payroll as his own private gift service, there was nothing unethical about it. Once the law was passed (because of him), he then agreed that what he did would be wrong the next time he did it.

Ethics is far broader than law, which is a system of behavior enforced by the state with penalties for violations. Ethics is good conduct as determined by the values and customs of society. Professions promulgate codes of ethics precisely because the law cannot proscribe all inappropriate or harmful behavior. Much that is unethical is not illegal. Lying. Betrayal. Nepotism. Many other kinds of behavior as well, but that is just the factual error in the this rationalization.

The greater problem with it is that it omits the concept of ethics at all.  Ethical conduct is self-motivated, based on the individual’s values and the internalized desire to do the right thing. Barry’s construct assumes that people only behave ethically if there is a tangible, state-enforced penalty for not doing so, and that not incurring a penalty (that is, not breaking the law) is, by definition, ethical.

Nonsense, of course. It is wrong to intentionally muddle the ethical consciousness of the public, and Barry’s statement simply reinforces a misunderstanding of right and wrong.

Continue reading

The AWOL Walter Fauntroy, Flawed Black Martyrs And The Duty Of Outrage

Walter Fauntroy, D.C. icon, civil rights hero, fugitive, coward, crook...but still a hero. Somehow.

Walter Fauntroy, D.C. icon, civil rights hero, fugitive, coward, crook…but still a hero. Somehow.

As I was composing this post in my head, I stumbled upon—and I mean that, because I normally avoid her columns like cheap Chinese food—Kathleen Parker’s latest column. Parker is the sort-of conservative, sort-of op-ed pundit who has mastered the art of compassionate equivocation, meaning that her opinions on public affairs usually consist of one long sigh. She was at it again here, except that the topic she was sighing about confounds me, he who does not shrink from assigning blame, almost as much as it does she who usually spreads blame so evenly that its ethical impact is nil.

Parker wrote…

At the same time that people avoid too-sensitive subjects, they seem to fear stating the obvious lest their thoughts be interpreted as an act of betrayal to “the group.” Politicians are the most risk-averse of all. Few are the Democratic women who will find (or express) fault with Clinton. It is the rare African American who finds fault with Obama. When Rawlings-Blake also said that she “gave those who wished to destroy space to do that,” her Democratic colleagues spoke only of her “poor choice of words.” Not poor thinking? Not lousy leadership? Republicans don’t get a pass. Heaven forbid they should call out someone who wants to inject biblical end-times into political debate.”

Ah, how it makes my chest fill with pride that I have flagged all three of the ethical breaches Parker mentions within the few daysHillary Clinton’s brazenly suspicious conduct and the disgraceful refusal of her cheering section to either acknowledge or question it…Rawlings-Blake’s “lousy leadership”… and Republicans who use religiosity as a prop. Parker being Parker, she had earlier used an example of missing outrage that sets my teeth on edge because, while correct, it calls to mind another area of missing outrage and societally-damaging martyrdom that I can’t quite figure out how to talk about.

Where is the outrage beyond the African American community about police brutality and the deaths of young black males? Where are members of Congress other than those belonging to the black caucus? My God, the list of those killed is staggering,” she writes, “yet this is not a new phenomenon. Baltimore’s Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old who suffered spinal injuries while in police custody and died, is but the most recent. Yet you see only the usual black activists speaking up.”

True. The missing paragraph, however,  is this: “Where are the African-American activists asking why so many young black men are constantly in positions that place them in conflict with the police? When protesters chant the names and carry photos of police victims like Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, yes, and Mike Brown, they are presenting in honored terms African-Americans who weren’t credits to their communities or examples for the next generation to emulate. Indeed this ritual sanctifies lives and backgrounds that are part of the same urban pathology as the police attitudes that killed them.”

Freddie Gray was only 25-years-old, and yet he already had a staggering 18 previous arrests since he turned 18-years-old. His mother was a heroin addict; he had no father in his life. Why was someone like this even out of jail, in a position to become yet another victim of police anger and contempt against the endless wave of young, irresponsible, law-defying young men who undermine the vitality of their own communities and the nation?

The fact that Gray’s death was undeniably the greater outrage shouldn’t allow the outrage of lives like his to be ignored. Black crime and police dysfunction are part of the same pathology. If only the Bill O’Reillys are going to ask the hard questions about black communities policing their young and changing their deadly culture—and are they really hard for O’Reilly, whose audience is inclined to look for ways to side with the police even when they commit murder?—then those questions and their equally hard answers, involving, among other things, avoidance of responsibility and accountability, can be and will be largely ignored.

This is part of the loyalty to “the group” phenomenon that cripples the African-American community and warps its values. It is especially powerful when prominent leaders, those African-Americans who should be leading the way away from self-destructive conduct and who have the power, visibility, and credibility to do so, demonstrate an atrocious lack of ethics themselves. Where are the black voices—those not belonging to black women he sexually assaulted, that is—condemning Bill Cosby? Or Al Sharpton? Charles Rangel?

Washington, D.C.’s overwhelmingly black population was conditioned to accept black leadership outrages by the late Marion Barry. I was not quite aware of the extent of this cultural purging of the ability to hold prominent African-Americans to ethical standards until I read a jaw-dropping Washington Post feature about the wife of local civil rights legend Walter E. Fauntroy, who helped Martin Luther King plan the 1963 March on Washington, and who served as the District’s congressional delegate for two decades. The tone of the article is enough to make a reader think he or she is going mad. The loving 80-year-old wife, Dorothy Fauntroy, speaks about her husband in glowing terms that nothing in the article suggests is inappropriate. Continue reading

March 1 Is “Remember What Drugs Cost Society Day”

Belushi

The District of Columbia is poised to completely legalize pot, which will be the most ringing of government endorsements of  societally destructive personal conduct, in a malfunctioning culture that should not be placed at further risk. This overwhelmingly black, poor, educationally-challenged and struggling population needs competent, trustworthy leadership and an injection of values.  It is a community, after all, that idolized the late Marion Barry, a mayor who smoked crack on the job, and never apologized for it. It’s not surprising that the adults in the District would tell the young African-Americans that it’s cool to spend their your money to get stupid, to avoid clear thought rather than practice it.

Every March 1, I watch this old clip (below) from Saturday Night Live  (it’s not on YouTube, so I can only link to it) , featuring the great, and thanks to recreational drugs, late John Belushi. It unfailingly makes me laugh out loud. It also makes me furious that a talent like this gave himself so little time to entertain us, because he killed himself with an insatiable appetite for illegal drugs.

For me, March 1 is “Remember What Drugs Cost Society Day.” Those arguing for our government placing a societal  seal of approval on these costs have yet to persuade me that it is ethical, wise or even sane to not just accept them, but to multiply them by a number unknown.

Here’s John Belushi (1949-1982), enlightening us about March around the world.

Ethics Dunce: Ashlea Johnson And The Supporters Of Her Petition

Crack Mayor

How wrong is the Change.org petition posted by Ashlea Johnson and demanding that TMZ remove and apologize for the above headline announcing the death of Marion Barry?

1. This is an attempt to whitewashing a very soiled legacy.

2. Barry, and no one else, ruined his legacy. Next to using crack while Mayor of Washington D.C. (and being filmed in the process), Barry is best known for his immortal quote after his arrest with an old girl-friend and drug pal: “Bitch set me up!”

3. TMZ has both the freedom to publish whatever it chooses however it chooses, as long as it is true. This is true. Barry was “the Crack Mayor.” Deal with it.

4. It would have been good for all if Barry’s enablers and supporters forced him to apologize and be accountable for his various crimes, hustles and misdeeds, of which the crack was only the most spectacular. Instead, Ashlea Johnson and those like her kept electing Barry, who was unrepentant and unreformed, to office,  sending the message to District politicians that character and honesty, even good citizenship, don’t matter as much as group identification and cronyism

The TMZ headline was certainly not kind, polite or diplomatic, but rogues, miscreants and thieves do not deserve pleasant or respectful obituaries. When Bernie Madoff dies, he will be called a swindler, because he was one. When Anthony Weiner passes on, he will be noted as the “sexting Congressman,” because that was his legacy. Monica Lewinsky will be eulogized in the press as Clinton’s intern plaything, or something nastier: what else should she be remembered for? Marion Barry could have earned a headline describing him as a transformative mayor of the nation’s Capital, for he had the ability to be that and more. Barry chose to be the Crack Mayor instead.

Ashlea should have sent him a petition about forty years ago, demanding that he stop being such a jerk.

________________

Pointer: Mediaite

 

Marion Barry and The Julie Principle

Poor Julie. Luckily for her, she didn't exist. Washington, D.C. does.

Poor Julie. Luckily for her, she didn’t exist. Washington, D.C. does.

The Washington Post just discovered that D.C. Councilman Marion Barry is unethical, and boy, is it steamed!

Well, that’s not quite fair. The Post editors authored an editorial about Barry’s latest example of his complete rejection of ethical principles other than his guiding star, which is “If it’s good for Marion Barry, it’s good for everyone else.” Barry recently published a self-congratulatory, delusional autobiography (I nearly wrote about it, but I was afraid doing so would make me nauseous), “Mayor for Life,” and right in the acknowledgments, he announces that one of his council aides, LaToya Foster, spent “nights, weekends, and many long hours of assistance” working on book at taxpayer expense.  Using D.C. government employees as his personal staff was standard operating procedure for Barry during his various pre- and post-crack terms as mayor, so there is little chance that he played it straight this time. No chance, really. A Washington City Paper investigation of calendar entries and emails showed that Foster’s work on Barry’s book “stretched far beyond her off-hours and into the D.C. Council workday, an arrangement that appears to violate D.C. Council ethics rules.”

The Post should stop editorializing about Barry’s ethics and instead focus attention where it might do some good: the D.C. voters and citizens he has thoroughly exploited and corrupted. Barry is a prime example of what I have dubbed The Julie Principle, evoking the famous lyrics of Julie’s lament in “Show Boat,” “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly…”   If Oscar Hammerstein was writing those lyrics today about Barry, the song, sung by voters of D.C.’s Ward 8, would go,

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly”

Marion Barry will cheat, steal and lie..

Can’t help loving that man of mine. Continue reading

The Sterling Backlash: Signature Significance, Racism, Hypocrisy, and Double Standards

Bennie Thompson

“No big deal, he’s  just a Congressman…”

I often use the term “signature significance” in posts, and since it is a term that is not often applied to ethics, I thought today would be a perfect time to illustrate it in its original context, while clarifying the ethical murk around the Donald Sterling Ethics Train Wreck.

The original context of the phenomenon of signature significance is baseball, and I just watched an example of it. Today Red Sox left-hander John Lester beat the Oakland A’s, a very good team, by hurling eight innings in which he gave up no runs, only one hit, two bases on balls, while striking out 15 batters. If you don’t know anything about the game, let me tell you: this is extraordinarily good. Pitching performances can be measured and compared by using the “game score” method, developed by sabermetrics (that is, baseball statistics) pioneer Bill James. The best game score ever achieved was 105; the highest score in major league history for a pitcher who did not pitch all nine innings (as with Lester today) is 95, and has only been done once. (Theoretically, a game score could be as high as 145)

James also devised the term “signature significance” in the context of such games. His research showed that pitchers who were not outstanding talents never pitched a game with such a high game score even once—it simply didn’t happen. Thus, he reasoned, pitching a single game like Lester’s (the actual game he used was a similar performance by a young Roger Clemens before anyone knew what Clemens would become) was sufficient proof, all by itself, to conclude fairly and scientifically that the game was meaningful, without any other data. In cases of signature significance, he explained, the usual statistical rule that small sample sizes are not reliable indicators do not apply. Sometimes one incident, performance or episode is sufficient to make a confident verdict.

Signature significance is very useful, I have found, to rebut unethical rationalizations for unethical conduct that are used to excuse the agent of the ethical breach. “It’s only one mistake” and “Anyone can make a mistake” are the main ones. In the case of some serious kinds of bad conduct, this reasoning is misleading and false. Donald Sterling’s comments recorded and publicized by his whatever-you-call-her V. Stiviano have signature significance: they prove he’s a racist. Can you imagine any non-racist individual saying, in public or private, that he didn’t want his girlfriend being seen at his team’s games in the company of blacks?  How could this possibly occur? It wouldn’t, of course. Only those who hold racist attitudes and beliefs think and say such things. Sterling is a racist.

Stiviano, for her part, despite being the one who brought the media, the sports world and the public down on Sterling’s 80-year-old head, now says she doesn’t believe he’s a racist. Of course, she also says she’s his “silly rabbit” and that she is going to be President some day. She is an idiot. But I digress.

Other figures have made statements in the media that also have signature significance of the same sort as Sterling’s, yet the very same groups and journalists who have been whipped into a self-righteous froth over Sterling are strangely silent: Continue reading