Tag Archives: op-eds

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/13/2018: A Strange Philanthropist, A Redeeming Cadet, A Good Idea, And An Obvious Observation

Good Morning!

(This was definitely the oddest LP in my Dad’s Jimmy Durante collection….And good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are…)

1. Ethics Hero, I guess. A sad one…The Henry Street Settlement , a community charity, was shocked to receive $6.24 million donation, the largest single gift from an individual in its 125-year history, from the estate of the late Sylvia Bloom, a legal secretary from Brooklyn worked for the same law firm for 67 years until she retired at age 96 and died  in 2016. When one of the wealthy lawyers she worked for bought a stock as she made the transaction for him (or her; I don’t know), she bought the same stock for herself, in a smaller amount. The woman amassed all this money, which she could have used while she was still breathing to assert some beneficial influence over society, help others, or just to expand her own experiences and life opportunities, but instead delegated the responsibility to a non-profit organization to handle after her death. She spent a lifetime in thrall to a law firm, and never could take the initiative to be free.

I view this story as a strong argument for feminism.

2.  Progress: For the first time in The Citadel’s 175-year history,  the Corps of Cadets command was awarded to a female cadet, Class of 2019 Regimental Commander Sarah Zorn. This was no affirmative action or gratuitous diversity moment, but an honor well-earned. In addition to her academic record and demonstrated leadership abilities, Zorn can do 70 pushups in two minutes (I’ve done 7 push-ups in two decades) and has three martial arts black belts. This triumph finally eradicates the humiliating beginnings of the South Carolina military academy’s gender integration, when Shannon Faulkner won a lawsuit against the school’s strict male-only admissions policy, became the first female cadet admitted, then showed up out of shape and irresolute, washing out after five days, four of which were spent in the infirmary. I have always regarded Faulkner as the anti-Jackie Robinson, the perfect example of how a trailblazer without sufficient character can make the trail worse than it was before.

3. An ethics inspiration from Europe. 15,000 European 18-year-olds will be able to travel free of charge in Europe this summer, using special free travel passes valid for 30 days. The European Parliament initiative was passed “to enhance a sense of European identity and European values.” . The cost will be about $14.2 million dollars in American currency.

Great idea, and better, in fact, for the United States to try than Europe, since the United States actually has a national culture and one that a majority of young people are neither learning about nor understand. The U.S. version should include tickets to a baseball game, of course.

4. Duh. Imagine my surprise when, after opening the Sunday New York Times Sunday Review section, I found leading off the insert that has been dominated by anti-Trump hate and hysteria since last November an essay that dovetails nicely with this Ethics Alarms post from yesterday.  Liberals, You’re Not as Smart as You Think” by Gerard Alexander, professor of political science at the University of Virginia, was given the front page of the section to make a point, a full year and a half into President Trump’s administration, that has been a theme on Ethics Alarms for all of that time, and should have been screamingly obvious to anyone whose own ethics alarms still had functioning clappers. Alexander writes in part, Continue reading

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Ten Points Regarding The Rob Porter/White House/Domestic Abuse Scandal…

1 We know that the FBI had told the Trump White House about allegations from Porter’s two ex-wives that he had been physically abusive. Apparently, the FBI did not confirm, or could not, that the accusations were true. The allegations were still sufficient to prevent Porter from getting security clearance, whether they were true or not. There are good reasons for this. That does not mean that it is fair that someone’s career can be derailed and his reputation smeared without proof of wrongdoing, but it is necessary.

2. The position of an employer that has its own integrity and reputation to protect when an explosive allegation of personal and criminal misconduct regarding an employee arises is an ethics conflict. The Golden Rule suggests that such an employer should not jettison such an employee absent due process and sufficient proof of wrongdoing. However, the greater duty in this case is to the administration.

3. Porter should have resigned. In fact, that he did not resign was the best reason to fire him. This was his domestic problem, and he had no right to  inflict it on the White House, even if he was innocent.

4. There was nothing inconsistent about President Trump’s tweets condemning domestic violence and regretting the lack of due process and fairness in the current #MeToo witch hunt environment. He is right on both counts. As usual, he was not as articulate as he needs to be when opining on such delicate topics. He is not going to become more articulate, however.

5. Porter’s denials of wrongdoing, absent more, should carry no more nor less weight than the accusations against him.

6. Nobody who does not know Porter, the women involved or the intimate details of their relationships should be saying things in public like “I believe the wives” or “I don’t believe them.”  This flips us back to “I believe Anita Hill but don’t believe that slut Paula Jones” territory. People believe who they want to believe. Women who accuse men of abuse have no more claim or right to be believed without evidence than any other accuser, including those who accuse you.

7. Domestic disputes are infamous for the frequency with which previously honorable combatants will use false or exaggerated accusations to gain legal leverage or for old-fashioned revenge. It is possible that Porter’s two wives want to destroy his life. They seem to be doing a good job of it, if that’s their objective. Continue reading

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Bret Stephens’ Capitulation To New York Times’ Anti-Second Amendment Culture

The New York Times, to nobody’s surprise, is all-in to assist its progressive compatriots in using  every tragedy involving guns to strip away the core individual right to bear arms.  The op-ed pages and website , have, once again, become an oppressive barrage of anti-gun fanaticism and disinformation. Take this morning, for example. There is Timothy Eagan’s claim that the Second Amendment is a “cancer in the Constitution.” “The Second Amendment,” he writes, in the process of declaring the individual right enshrined in the Amendment abd confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court as null and void, “as applied in the last 30 years or so, has become so perverted, twisted and misused that you have to see it now as the second original sin in the founding of this country, after slavery.”

Other aspects of American ideals, traditions, values and cultures that Eagan’s allies on the Left also consider cancers would include, I imagine, the Electoral College, Due Process (see: the Obama Education Department’s now defunct “Dear Colleague” letter), Freedom of Speech (“Hate speech kills!”), Freedom of Religion,  Equal Protection,  the Commerce Clause and, of course, the requirement that impeachment has to be based on a substantive crime. We get it, Tim: the Constitution is an infuriating roadblock to turning the U.S. and its culture into a clone of Sweden.

Then there is David Brooks, once the token conservative among the Times otherwise leftist columnists until his brain was removed while he slept and thoroughly washed. In today’s exhibit of Brooksian pseudo-intellectual gobbledygook, he bemoans “the left’s massive failure to persuade.” (The failure to persuade in this case is based on an escalating failure to be honest, vilifying adversaries, and the fact that the left’s strategy is based on emotion a biased presumption that the right to bear arms is “a cancer on the Constitution.”) Brooks also begins with that assumption, but as usual buries his motives in false objectivity: he writes, for example,

“The research doesn’t overwhelmingly support either side. Gun control proposals don’t seriously impinge freedom; on the other hand, there’s not much evidence that they would prevent many attacks.”

Then he declares the controversy an “epiphenomenon”—I think I know what that means, but I don’t trust writers who use words like that—to end with,

“Today we need another grand synthesis that can move us beyond the current divide, a synthesis that is neither redneck nor hipster but draws from both worlds to create a new social vision. Progress on guns will be possible when the culture war subsides, but not before.”

Brooks began with the presumption that “progress on guns” means acceptance of the anti-gun position on guns. Of course he did.

The day before, the New York Times’s new token conservative columnist had thrilled the anti-gun Left with his latest column, ‘Repeal the Second Amendment.

He deserves credit in one respect: unlike his liberal colleagues who would kill the individual right to gun ownership by incremental cuts, at least Stephens is honest. His arguments, however, are lazy and shallow. Indeed, the entire piece reads like clickbait , or perhaps something written with an editor’s gun—well, crossbow—at his head.

He writes, “From a law-and-order standpoint, more guns means more murder. “States with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides,” noted one exhaustive 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health.”  This is a fake and misleading stat arrived at by including suicides among actual murders. Since 1990, the homicide rate has dropped like stone while gun ownership has risen. “More guns mean more murder” is not even a defensible opinion; it certainly isn’t fact. He should have checked with David Brooks on that.

The whole essay is like this, however, He begins by writing, “I have never understood the conservative fetish for the Second Amendment.” It’s not a “fetish,” and it’s not intrinsically conservative. Belief in the Second Amendment springs from a commitment to individual liberty and inherent suspicion and distrust of expanding governmental power that insists that only the State, and not the citizens it is supposed to serve, should possess deadly force.

In a terrific rebuttal in The Federalist, David Harsanyi writes, “As an American-Jew whose ancestors came here escaping both Nazism and communism, I totally ‘get’ the Second Amendment ‘fetishists.’And when I read columns like the one Stephens wrote today, I definitely get it.”  For Stephens’ argument reduces to “Resistance is futile”–Come on, he asks, how are a bunch of pathetic citizen gun owners going to resist the government? Better to just submit: I swear, we can trust these people! I work with them every day! They only want the best for everyone!” Stephens writes like he has Stockholm Syndrome. Continue reading

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Unethical Op-Ed Of The Month: “Don’t Weaken Title IX Campus Sex Assault Policies” (The New York Times)

Do you know what this monstrosity of an op-ed finds outrageous about Betsey DeVos’s efforts to undue the Obama administration’s “guilty unless proven innocent”  standard for campus rape allegations?  It involves too much due process, as in basic fairness before a citizen is grievously punished and harmed by the determination that he or she has committed a crime.. The authors, Jon Krakauer and Laura L. Dunn, put it this way:

Damn right it does. Before someone is punished for a vile crime like rape or sexual assault, the accuser’s credibility and motives must be established. Astonishingly, with all the horrific examples of men being falsely accused of rape, like here, here, and here, the campus activists, feminists, progressives and the social justice warriors continue to insist that any female accuser should be presumed to be a victim, meaning that the accused is de facto presumed to be guilty.

“Sex-crime trials, like all criminal proceedings, set an extremely high bar for conviction to diminish the chance that an innocent person will be unjustly incarcerated. In contrast, the harshest penalty a university can inflict in a Title IX hearing is expulsion, an outcome that does not demand such a stringent burden of proof. In these hearings, neither party is favored, and by leveling the procedural playing field, Title IX makes it more likely that students will report sexual violence.”

The problem with this supposed fairness of “neither party is favored” is that for one party, there are no negative consequences of an insufficiently-supported accusation being rejected. For the individual accused, the stakes are far greater, life altering and potentially dire. More:

“Whenever a student is accused of sexual assault, university administrators need to render their judgment with tremendous care, because erroneously determining that a student is responsible for sexual misconduct can cause lasting harm. But just as much care needs to be taken to make sure that students who commit sexual assault are not let off the hook.”

In other words, the ends justify the means. This is the same mindset expressed in 2015 by Democratic Congressman  Jared Polis, at a congressional hearing on campus sexual assault. 

He said, earning him an Unethical Quote and an Incompetent Elected Official designation on Ethics Alarms,

“If there’s 10 people that have been accused and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, seems better to get rid of all 10 people. We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty, we’re talking about their transfer to another university.”

Krakauer and  Dunn similarly shrug off the consequences to a young man of being falsely tarred as a rapist and kicked out of school: it’s not like staying in the college you enrolled in is a right. Like Polis, they pretend that there are minimal adverse life consequences from being branded a rapist. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: NYT Columnist David Brooks [UPDATED}

“Biographies describe a man intent on making his fortune and not afraid of skating near the edge to do so. At one point, according to Politico, federal investigators found that Frederick used various accounting measures to collect an extra $15 million in rent (in today’s dollars) from a government housing program, on top of paying himself a large “architect’s fee.” He was hauled before investigating committees on at least two occasions, apparently was arrested at a K.K.K. rally in Queens (though it’s not clear he was a member), got involved in a slush fund scandal with Robert Wagner and faced discrimination allegations.”

—New York Times columnist David Brooks arguing that Donald Trump, Jr.’s conduct in holding the controversial meeting  with some Russians and Russian-Americans to acquire useful negative information about Hillary Clinton for his father’s campaign came about because his family is just no damn good, as shown by the conduct of Fred Trump, the President’s storied father.

Unlike some commentators, I have no ethical problem with Brooks’ basic thesis. Culture molds ethics, children are influenced by the conduct and values modeled by their parents, and I have pointed out too many times to  count that Donald Trump doesn’t know ethics from a merry-go-round, and appears to have no  conventionally functioning ethics alarms at all. It makes perfect sense that Donald Jr. would grow up similarly handicapped.

However, Brooks’ evidence that Trump family patriarch Fred Trump was corrupt and without scruples is all innuendo and supposition, and thus dishonest, incompetent, and unfair. Let’s examine the components of Brooks’ attack:

  • “federal investigators found that Frederick used various accounting measures to collect an extra $15 million in rent (in today’s dollars) from a government housing program, “

Were the accounting measures illegal? Apparently not. Was the  “architect’s fee”? I guess not: Fred wasn’t indicted or prosecuted. Being investigated by the feds does not prove or indicate wrongdoing. Maybe Fred was cheating; I wouldn’t be surprised. But Brooks has no facts to support that assumption, just a pejorative characterizations.

  • “He was hauled before investigating committees on at least two occasions…”

I love the “hauled.” Being asked to testify isn’t evidence of wrongdoing either. Continue reading

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The New York Times’ Smoking Gun Op-Ed

Robert Leonard is the news director for the radio stations KNIA/KRLS. He wrote a jaw-dropping op-ed yesterday, one that only could be written and voluntarily made public by someone completely committed to the idea that the news media should decide what the public thinks, and who should run the government. That the New York Times would publish this unethical, biased and anti-democratic screed is signature significance. If the Times editors had any respect for the nation’s democratic processes or the proper boundaries of journalism, it would have regarded the column as risible and an embarrassment to its profession. Instead, the Times published Leonard’s piece in the prime left-hand column of its op-ed page.

Let’s begin with the creepy headline: “Want to Get Rid of Trump? Only Fox News Can Do It.”

No, you arrogant jerk, only democratic elections can “do it.” The entire premise of Leonard’s essay, and it is the premise that the mainstream media now believes, though won’t admit, is that journalists have the power and the obligation to take down a government they don’t approve of. That is what it is trying to do, and that is what the Times is trying to do in concert with the rest. If this was not the case, the Times would not allow such an incendiary headline in its paper.

The op-ed begins with a lie, at least a lie by the kinds of standards applied by the Times in assessing what constitutes “lying” by the President:

“President Trump’s administration is in crisis, consumed by fears of what Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s meddling in the election, might find. Everyone’s lawyering up — even the lawyers have lawyers.”

The Trump Administration isn’t in a crisis according to any facts in evidence. It’s a crisis because the news media wants it to be in crisis, and keeps publishing whispers from leakers  trying to undermine the administration as it says so. Everyone is “lawyering up” is a pejorative phrase intended to imply guilt: in a government investigation, anyone likely to be questioned or come under scrutiny gets legal representation, and this partisan hack knows it. Nevertheless, he is making an innuendo suggesting guilt. Nor does he have any justification that the Trump administration is “consumed by fears of what Robert Mueller might find.” That assumes there is something incriminating to find,  a false assumption, and thus a false statement.

Normally, I would stop reading at that point. This is an incompetently cooked stew of partisan, anti-Trump propaganda, not worth my time, written to appeal to the Times’ “resistance” subscribers. I continued however, because I sensed a vivid illustration of how estranged from objectivity, moderation and responsible writing the Times has become.

The op-ed continues… Continue reading

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It’s Time For That Exciting Ethics Alarms Game Show,”Spot The Hypocrisy!”

time-to-play

Are you ready?

Here comes…

Hypocrisy Challenge I

The New York Times

Like much of the mainstream news media but more so, The New York Times is flogging the “fake news” narrative. In part there is something legitimate to report, as with the crazy conspiracy theory about a pedophilia ring run out of a Washington, D.C., pizza place by John Podesta and Hillary Clinton that culminated in a nut case showing up there with a gun “to rescue children.”  (Most of the “fake news” crisis is really the “Stupid people” crisis.) The media’s excessive enthusiasm and daily fulminating about fake news, however, appears to be a desperate effort to make its own incompetent, inaccurate, slanted and dishonestly selective reporting during the campaign and election just completed appear more palatable by invoking Ethics Alarms Rationalization #22, Comparative Virtue, or “It’s not the worst thing.” This story, for example, was on today’s Times front page, where its headline read, “As Fake New Spreads Lies, More Readers Shrug At Truth.”

Meanwhile, tucked away at the bottom of the op-ed page of the same issue, was this “Correction”:

Because of an editing error, an Op-Ed essay on Friday about Donald Trump’s efforts to keep jobs in the United States misstated the change in auto sector employment in both the United States and Mexico between 2007 and 2015. In Mexico, jobs grew to 558,000 from 405,000, not to 675,000 from 174,000. In the United States, auto jobs declined to 762,000 from 828,000. The article also misstated plans by Detroit car companies in Mexico. Ford and General Motors plan to invest a combined $9.1 billion and hire 12,200 more workers; Detroit car companies are not planning to invest $30 billion and hire 30,000 more workers.

Now…

Spot the Hypocrisy!

Continue reading

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