The Tangled Ethics Of Men, Women, Sexual Harassment,Sexual Discrimination, Romance, Common Sense, And “Vive La différence!”

Mike Pence would not have a business dinner with Debrahlee Lorenzana. What’s wrong with him?

Many years ago I did a sexual harassment seminar for a New York law firm. Afterwards, the partner responsible for handling the firm’s EEOC and workplace matters told me that my ethics-based approach to the topic wasn’t sufficiently rigorous, since he believed that innocent contact between employees in the firm could spawn lawsuits. “I refuse to travel with female associates,” he told me. “I can’t be sure what they will think is harassment.”

“Wait,” I asked. “So because you’re afraid of being accused unjustly of sexual harassment, you engage in sexual discrimination?”

He sputtered something and left to arrange his sock drawer.

I think of this conversation often. I thought of it when Vice-President Mike Pence was reported as saying in 2002  that he never had a meal with a woman who was not his wife, and was promptly savaged for it by feminists and the news media. Because the new rules and practices of the workplace have developed amid contradictions and rigid doctrine rather than with attention to whether they were workable or not, Pence and that hypocritical lawyer years ago are both victims and victimizers. It is often impossible to know what ethical workplace conduct is.

The New York Times was happy to bash Pence for his candor as part of a requirement of membership in “the resistance,” but then, as is often the case for the schizoid paper, later competently and objectively examined the issue away from politics. A Morning Consult poll conducted for the paper  found that there is widespread fear of one-on-one situations, male-female interactions in the workplace.  About 25% think private work meetings with colleagues of the opposite sex are inappropriate. Almost 2/3  say it is prudent to be especially wary and sensitive around members of the opposite sex at work. A majority of women, and nearly half of men, say it’s unacceptable to have dinner or drinks alone with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse. Continue reading

Ethics Heroes: American Journalists. Finally.

"Wait, I didn't hear you say, 'Thank-you, sir, may I have another!"

“Wait, I didn’t hear you say, ‘Thank-you, sir, may I have another!”

It is heartening, I suppose, that the subjugation of independent journalism to the Democratic party and its leadership is not yet total, and that there are still limits to how much toadying and boot-licking the once-principled  professional will tolerate.

Incredibly, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest wrote a letter to the New York Times complaining that the  paper “did not acknowledge the important and unprecedented steps that the Obama administration has taken to fulfill the president’s promise to lead the most transparent White House in history.” He concluded, “If President Obama’s government transparency effort is not even noted by The Times’s media columnist, then why would future presidential candidates make it a priority?”

This required breath-taking gall. Indeed, journalists and others do remember the President’s transparency pledge, which he has breached at every turn. Indeed, the lack of transparency in the administration has been a topic of discussion, complaint and anger for nearly eight years. It is especially bold for Earnest to make such an absurd claim—and indignantly!— as the President stumps for his former Secretary of State, who risked national security and breached protocol by employing a private server in order to avoid Freedom of Information Act access to her communications.

Assessments of journalists across the political spectrum, who can agree on little else, agree on this: Barack Obama’s administration is among the least open and transparent in history, and perhaps the least. A sample demonstrates the fact: CNN, The Atlantic, The Daily Caller, Democracy Now, Truth Revolt, Associated Press, The Washington Post, The National Journal’s Ron Fournier, the Wall Street Journal, and too many others to list.

How could Earnest (which is to say, his boss) even attempt to squeeze a statement from the press that would be the exact opposite of the truth, and have the chutzpah to  demand that it be in the form of praise? The answer should be obvious: the President has no reason to respect the news media, which has been incompetent, timid, fearful and compliant with Administration propaganda and spin from the start.

In addition, a theme of this administration has been to employ Orwellian interpretations of the administration’s performance at every turn, usually with media assistance. Failures are successes, marginal improvements are miraculous victories. An epic decline in racial trust and comity qualifies as improved race relations.  An irresponsible deal with a rogue state determined to fry Israel makes the world safer. A doubled national debt shows progress in fiscal management. We are winning the war against terrorism, and Bowe Bergdahl was a military hero. Day is night and white is black. No wonder Earnest felt that a President who has consistently defied his transparency promise could  get away with claiming that he had kept it, and could command applause.

But eventually even the most lowly worms can turn if you abuse them enough, and the journalists, to their credit, decided this was one filthy boot they would not lick clean while crying out on cue, “YUM YUM!” In a letter sent to Earnest (and copied to the President) the Society of Professional Journalists and a coalition of 40 groups set the record straight: Continue reading

Flunking the Keith Olbermann Test

Every so often there is a news story that exposes the serious deficiencies in the ethics comprehension in the public and the media. The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal was one such story; Major League Baseball’s steroid controversy was another. I confess: I didn’t see the Keith Olbermann suspension for making political donations as having the potential to be another test of ethical competence, but it is. And almost everyone is flunking it.

The facts of the Olbermann incident are deceptively simple. The rant-prone, self-annointed champion of the Angry Left violated an NBC ethics policy that forbade its reporters and commentators from making political contributions, on the theory, absurd when applied to Olbermann,  that it compromises their reputation for objectivity. Olbermann has no objectivity, or reputation for it either. Nonetheless, he intentionally and flagrantly violated his employer’s policy. That alone justifies his suspension, whether or not the policy is idiotic. And it is.

But Olbermann’s fans and critics alike are all over the internet attaching rationalizations and flawed ethical reasoning to the episode. Such as: Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: White House Economic Adviser Austan Goolsbee

“The vice president was talking about the summer of recovery in reference to the Recovery Act, that you would see the creation of a series of infrastructure and other projects ramping up over the summer. And you did see that.”

White House Economic Advisor Austan Goolsby, when asked on “Fox New Sunday” about Vice President Biden’s proclamation in June that this would be “the summer of recovery”—a predication that has fallen embarrassingly flat, and that sounded rash and even silly at the time.

Of course, nobody but nobody really believes that Biden wasn’t talking about jobs when called this the “summer of recovery.” Continue reading

Summer Rerun: “Ending the Bi-Partisan Effort to Destroy Trust in America”

[TV is full of reruns these days, and sometimes I am grateful for them, for it gives me a chance to see episodes of favorite shows I had missed for some reason or another. Back in early March, I posted the following essay about the origins of America’s current crisis of trust in our government, and how it might be cured by our elected leaders. Since then, the crisis has deepened, and as I was doing some routine site maintenance, I reread the post. It is still very timely (unfortunately), and since far fewer people were visiting Ethics Alarms in March, I decided to re-post it today, with just a few minor edits. I promise not to make this a habit. Still, trust is the reason why ethics is so important in America: if there is a single post of the more than 700 I have written here since October 2009  that I would like people to read, this is it.] Continue reading

Essay: Ending the Bi-Partisan Effort to Destroy Trust in America

Both the Pentagon shooter and the Texas I.R.S. attacker were motivated by a virulent distrust of the U.S. government, the distrust mutating into desperation and violence with the assistance of personal problems and emotional instability. We would be foolish, however, to dismiss the two as mere “wingnuts,” the current term of choice to describe political extremists who have gone around the bend. They are a vivid warning of America’s future, for the media, partisan commentators, the two political parties and our elected officials are doing their worst to convert all of us into wingnuts, and the results could be even more disastrous than the fanciful horrors the Left and the Right tell us that the other has planned for us. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week

“Let me just make this point, John, because we’re not campaigning anymore.  The election is over.”

———-President Barack Obama at the so-called “Health Care Summit” at Blair House, in response to Sen. John McCain’s complaint that the process used to craft the Presidents’ health care reform bill expressly violated promises Obama made during the 2008 campaign. Continue reading