Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/2020: And The Ethics Beat Goes On…

Good morning.

That’s a perfunctory good morning, to be transparent. Mourning would be more accurate. Yesterday’s news that Red Sox manager Alex Cora, a man who had impressed me with his leadership ability, personality and, yes, ethical values, was exposed by an investigation as the primary instigator of cheating schemes that involved two baseball teams and World Series champions (the Astros and the Red Sox), disillusioned two fan bases, harmed his sport, and led, so far, to the fall of two of the games most successful and admired management figures. Cora is also the first minority manager the Red Sox have had, and was regarded as a transformational figure for the team and the city, both of which have long and troubled histories of prejudice and discrimination. Smart, articulate, creative, funny, brave, knowledgeable—all of his positive qualities, rendered useless by the lack of functioning ethics alarms.

1. Congratulations to Ann Althouse…on this, the 16th anniversary of her blog. With the demise of Popehat, she supplanted Ken White as my most admired blogger, and most quoted by far. The fact that her fiercely non-partisan analysis of ethics issues so frequently tracks with my own is a constant source of comfort for me , particularly during these difficult times. Ann has an advantage that I don’t—“I only write about what interests me” is her description of her field of commentary— because this blog is limited to ethics and leadership. Fortunately, Ann is interested in ethics, though she seldom says so explicitly.

2. Bernie vs Liz. Feeling that Bernie Sanders was pulling away as the standard-bearer of the Leftest of the Democratic base as her own support appears to be waning, Elizabeth Warren went low, and had her aides reveal the content of what was supposed to be two-hour a private summit between the fake Native American and the Communist sympathizer in December 2018. According to them, Bernie told Warren that he disagreed with her assertion that a woman could win the 2020 election. Bernie denies it. Observations:

  • This kind of thing stinks, though it is kind of fun to see Democrats dirtied by it instead of President Trump. Anonymous accounts of what was said in phone conversations and private meetings in which the participants reasonably believed they could speak freely are unreliable, untrustworthy and unethical.
  • The Warren camp’s spin on Bernie’s alleged statement is that it shows he’s a sexist. That makes no sense. If I say that I can’t win the election in 2020, does that mean I’m biased against myself? There is no logical reason to assume an opinion like “A woman can’t win is 2020” represents bias, though it could. I will state here and now that a gay man can’t be elected President in 2020, even if that man weren’t a pandering asshole like Pete Buttigieg, but I am not anti-LGBTQ is any way. The statement reflects my objective analysis of the state of the culture.
  • I suspect that Sanders meant, “YOU can’t win in 2020, nor can Kamala Harris nor any of the other equally weak announced female candidates.” The truth may hurts, but that doesn’t make it biased
  • (Psst! Bernie! A delusional septuagenarian socialist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union can’t win either!)

3. No, the fact that there are no more African-Americans running for President doesn’t mean an African-American can’t win. It means weak African-American candidates like Cory Booker, who just dropped out, and Kamala Harris, who is long gone, can’t win, not because of their race, but because they can’t convince voters that they could do the job. Continue reading

Mayor Buttigieg Is—What, A Panderer, A Jerk, An Ass?—And His Unethical Tweet Of The Week Proves It. [UPDATED]

Nice. Iran shoots down a passenger plane because its military forces are incompetent, and he blames President Trump.

The now apparent roles of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls, just to be clear:

Senator Warren is the demagogue.

Senator Sanders is the Communist.

Joe Biden is the sputtering, over-the-hill boob.

Andrew Yang is the eccentric gadfly.

Tom Steyer is arrogant rich guy.

Amy Klobuchar is the moderate by comparison only.

And Buttigieg is…what exactly? What do you call someone who will go so far to pander to Trump haters that he will tweet utter, illogical nonsense like that? Continue reading

Verdict: Worst Candidates Debate Ever, Part IV: Weak, But Strong On Pandering [Corrected]

You want “a weak presidential field”? I’ll show you a weak presidential field!

[Part 1 is here; Part II is here; Part III is here, and the November debate review is here.]

David Leonhardt, whom I sometimes think is the worst of the horrible stable of New York Times op-ed writers until Michelle Goldberg launches into another fact-free rant or Charles M. Blow authors the latest escalation in his campaign to convince readers that President Trump is the spawn of Satan, wrote an op-ed last week attacking the parties’ nominating processes and asserting that “We have an unnecessarily weak presidential field, especially the incumbent.” Read the article. There is no logic to it, nor consistency; it is yet another “I wonder how gullible and ignorant my readers are?” experiment. Essentially the piece is anti-democratic, as a majority of progressives seem to have soured on democracy once it “failed” by not electing Hillary Clinton President. (I regard the election of Donald Trump over Clinton as one of the most important and exhilarating expressions of democracy in our history, though it was substantially due to moral luck.) Leonhardt’s argument is also historical nonsense, as he claims that the parties were better at picking qualified and electable candidates in the past. They most certainly were not: overage generals like Winfield Scott*, W.H. Harrison and Zachary Taylor, the latter two who, though elected,  promptly died, thus elevating to the White House VPs that nobody ever wanted or envisioned as Presidents…popular generals with no governing experience whatsoever, like U.S. Grant and John C. Fremont…wildly popular outgoing Presidents’ handpicked successors who would never have been nominated otherwise, like Van Buren, Taft, and Bush? Packaged puppets like Warren G. Harding and William McKinley? Doomed losers like Horace Greeley, James Cox, Bob Dole, Walter Mondale, George McGovern, Mike Dukakis  and (yechh) John Kerry? Already once or twice beaten past candidates like Henry Clay, William Jennings Bryan, Thomas Dewey and Adlai Stevenson?  Brilliant!

Leonhardt even offers Abraham Lincoln as an example of the effectiveness of past party nominating systems, ignoring, or, based on his established level of acuity, unaware of the fact that Abe won despite getting only 38% of the vote, or about the same proportion Barry Goldwater and George McGovern received while losing in landslides. That he turned out to be a great President was more moral luck: Lincoln had no executive governing experience at all before being thrust into the most difficult challenge a President had faced since Washington, hadn’t even been a general, and was known mostly for his wit and oratory. With the nation teetering on destruction, the candidates selected by the Democratic and Republican parties in 1860 consisted of Lincoln, John Breckinridge, Buchanan’s inert Vice-President, who had also no executive governing experience, and Stephen Douglas, who also had never run anything and had been a full-time legislator for two decades. In his favor, he had a lot more relevant experience than Lincoln. On the deficit side, he would die in 1861, meaning that if Douglas had been elected the new President would have been the immortal Herschel Vespasian Johnson.

Leonhardt explains why the current field of Democrats is so weak, as if that wasn’t already depressingly obvious, but he never points to a single current non-candidate who would be any more promising, because there aren’t any.  He muses about Democratic governors who might be more promising: Like who, exactly…the ridiculous Andrew Cuomo? How many Democratic governors have distinguished themselves enough to have any national name recognition at all, other than Cuomo and Virginia’s Ralph Northam, of blackface fame?

It’s not the process, obviously, it’s the people. Then Leonhardt ends with “Of course, the biggest sign that the process is broken isn’t any of those seven. It is the man in the Oval Office.” Got it. The op-ed is just more anti-Trump teeth gnashing.

Whatever Donald Trump may be, the fact that he beat a supposed Democratic star overwhelmingly expected to win proves that he was not a weak candidate by definition, and as an incumbent President, he is stronger now. Incumbent Presidents are usually strong candidates because no matter who they are, if the economy is thriving, their foreign policy weaknesses haven’t crippled them, and there’s no prominent third party candidate to siphon votes away, they win, like Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Nixon, Ike, Truman and FDR (and going back further yet to the beginning of the 20th Century, , Wilson, Teddy, and McKinley).

But I digress. The shocking deficiencies of the current Democratic hopefuls were on full display as the awful awful, awful December debate wound down.

Pete Buttigieg began the worst pander-fest of the evening: Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Pete Buttigieg

“The people who wrote the Constitution did not understand that slavery was a bad thing.”

South  Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg in 2011, disgracing himself and betraying the trust of the a group of students who trusted him to tell them the truth. Instead, he made them ignorant while encouraging disrespect and distrust of the Founders, an especially sinister component of the Democratic effort to undermine the Constitution and to “remake” America.

I reluctantly concluded that Buttigieg was, to be indelicate, an asshole almost exactly a month ago, after he returned the contributions of two lawyers who represented  Justice Kavanaugh when Buttigieg’s party was attempting to destroy him using an unsubstantiated and conveniently recalled alleged episode when he was in high school. With Buttigieg, unlike, say, Joe Biden, I assume he is educated and intelligent, and thus I knew that this was dishonest grandstanding. Mayor Pete knows that lawyers do not personally endorse those they represent, even if much of the public does not. Worse, in justifying his actions, Buttigeig’s campaign declared that Justice Kavanaugh was guilty of sexual assault. I wrote,

Buttigieg rejects fairness, due process, logic and decency to declare a Supreme Court Justice with a history of  impeccable professional and personal conduct guilty of a crime without evidence, and further impugns the lawyers who helped protect him from a vicious political attack, all to suck up to the worst elements of the Democratic base. This is signature significance. Pete Buttigieg is an asshole. Good to know.

It’s also good to know that my assessment in November was accurate, as this re-surfaced episode confirms, and that the mayor didn’t just recently become an asshole as he pursued the Presidency (an occupational hazard) but has been one all along.

Good to know. Continue reading

Friday Ethics Sigh, 12/20/2019: Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Rowling, And An Idiot.

Tomorrow the dreaded tree lights hanging begins….

I’m not a big Sinatra fan, but I’ve always thought it a shame that the two Christmas songs he “owns” are both mediocre: “The Christmas Waltz” and “Mistletoe and Holly (which he co-wrote.) Frank sang the whole canon, of course, and well, but still, Judy Garland owns “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” Nat King Cole owns “The Christmas Song” (even though Mel Torme wrote it), Bing has “White Christmas” (and others,), Gene Autry has “Rudolph…” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” even after Bruce Springstein stole “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” away from him, but Ol’ Blue Eyes is second or third best to lesser singers on the really great songs, leaving him with those two wan ditties to call his own. It’s unfair.

1. The social media mobs are after J.K Rowling. Her offense? British Researcher Maya Forstater was fired last year by a London think tank for her “gender critical” views, including the position that “it is impossible to change sex.” Forstater filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging discrimination, but an employment tribunal in London ruled against her this week, holding that her views were “not a philosophical belief protected” by British law but were instead “incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others. It is also a slight of hand to suggest that the claimant merely does not hold the belief that trans women are women. She positively believes that they are men and will say so whenever she wishes.” The court  added that Forsater held beliefs that are “not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

No, they don’t believe in freedom of speech or thought in the UK. Remind people of this when they make one of those fatuous “the U.S. is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t do X” arguments. We are special.

Harry Potter’s mom criticized that ruling and said she supported  Forstater: “Dress however you please,”  Rowling  tweeted  to her more than 14 million followers (this makes me want to hurl myself into a shredder, as I desperately try to recover the lost Ethic Alarms followers since 2016). “Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya.”

Oh, sex, gender, whatever. I know that to trans individuals the distinctions are a matter of honor, identity and self-esteem, and as far as I’m concerned, if an XY individual has changed everything but her chromosomes and wants to be regarded as, treated as and referred to as a woman, I will accommodate her in the interests of comity, kindness, and the Golden Rule. However, if someone as a matter of linguistic or biological rigor (or pedantry) wants to insist that such an individual is still technically female, that’s a legitimate, if unpopular, position.  This is a dispute about manners and definitions, not facts.

The researcher should not have been fired, and Rowling’s tweet was not “transphobic.” Continue reading

12/2/2019 Ethics Update, So I’m Not One Day Behind Forever: Hospital Stay Observations, And Other Things

I’m not going to make a habit of it, but today I’m doing a second short form post. First, I’m backed up, thanks to losing a day; second, There was no warm-up for this date, since I posted yesterday’s overview this afternoon; third, I’m not feeling so hot, after all the tests, anxiety, and no sleep at all.

1. Hospital items.

  • What’s the ethical way to handle people like this? My night nurse, whom I saw a LOT of and who was terrific, saw me watching “Jurassic Park III” on the hospital room TV and commented that she loved dinosaurs. Then she said that it must have been hard for the people living in caves to survive with all the raptors running around, and that it was a good thing the Great Flood killed the dinos off.

In the past, I have tried to explain—nicely—that this kind of fake natural history is nonsense and impossible in too many ways to count, discussed the timeline and the fossil record, and tried to bring them into something approaching enlightenment. This has never done any good at all if my audience was over 30, and usually just made them angry and convinced that  I’m the idiot as well as a pagan.

Yet ignorance is a social disease, especially this particular variety. I don’t think it’s responsible or kind  to enable the spread of misinformation.

  • That picture above is part of the NIH stroke protocol, which I now know by heart having been subjected to it several times. When was it drawn, 1958?

Could it be more gender stereotyped?

  • About half the hospital personnel under 35 had unpronounceable foreign names, recalling this article which I read last week, Once upon a time, immigrants coming to the U.S. wanted to have American-sounding names. It signaled a desire to commit to the culture, just like learning the language and adopting American values. My mother’s bothers and sister had Greek first names, but outside the home the family used the Anglicized versions of them. My mother was Helena, and called herself Eleanor.

This was, culturally, a much healthier tradition than what we have now—unifying, respectful, responsible. I see ostentatiously foreign-sounding names as defiant, and signaling a determination to avoid assimilation, to enjoy the rights and privileges here, without fully committing to them. I definitely regard any problems and inconvenience resulting from keeping the names Ngongsa or Ijeoma entirely self-inflicted. Continue reading

It Is With Great Reluctance That Ethics Alarms Concludes That As Generally Repugnant And Vulgar The Term “Asshole” Is, Mayor Pete Buttigieg Is One.

If this was just disgraceful pandering, grandstanding, and shameless virtue-signaling, he would only  have proven himself to be a jerk—a big jerk, to be sure,  but still just a jerk. But it is far more.

The new fad contender for the Democratic Presidential nomination is returning thousands of dollars in donations because they came from two lawyers who had the audacity to represent Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as he attempted to defend himself against the contrived  ambush accusation of a sex crime, made in a Congressional hearing  on national television, a ploy designed to destroy his reputation. Buttigieg’s campaign said that it will not accept funds from people who helped secure the justice’s seat on the Supreme Court. You know. Dirty money.

Buttigieg’s campaign had received $7,200 from Alexandra Walsh, and $2,800 from Beth Wilkinson, Walsh’s law partner. Both represented Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation ordeal. As I have vowed to point out every time some ignoramus asserts that lawyesr must be punished for the character, conduct or beliefs of the clients they represent and are responsible or culpable in any way for what those clients have said or done (or NOT done), it is a core and essential principle of our legal system that such an assumption is not only wrong but dangerous. It threatens the right of every citizen to receive competent legal representation and access to our laws and other rights.

Here, once again, is my favorite ethics rule, from the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct:

(b) A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.

Whether the target is Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Elizabeth Warren, Harvey Weinstein’s defense attorneys (also here), Larry Tribe, Gitmo defense lawyers, or Clarence Darrow, Johnny Cochran, Leslie Abramson and other defense lawyers who defend murderers and worse, the false claim that lawyers who take on unpopular, repulsive or guilty clients have done anything less than protected  the Bill of Rights and the rule of law is either rank ignorance or a deliberate effort to reduce the civic literacy of the public.

Buttigieg isn’t a lawyer, but he is very well educated and has a reasonable claim to brilliance.  Thus he knows and understands what lawyers do, but is acting as if he does not, intentionally making the public stupid (or keeping it conveniently as stupid as it already is ) for his own benefit.

Despicable.

But that’s not all. Continue reading