Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/3/2018: Katie’s Rationalization, Teachers’ Extortion, Rudy’s Zugswang, And Kanye’s Influence

Goooood morning!

(I thought it was time for “Singin’ in the Rain” again. Of course, it is always time for “Singin’ in the Rain”…)

1. And that’s when you know…When alleged sexual harassers are accused, the way you know whether they are guilty or not often depends on whether the floodgates open, and large numbers of other women step forward. This was Bill Cosby’s downfall. Now we learn that 27 more victims of Charlie Rose have raised their metaphorical hands. Sorry, Charlie!

The mystery to me is why  current and former colleagues of outed abusers and harassers so often rush to defend them, even post #MeToo, and even women. I suppose is cognitive dissonance again: the defenders have high regard for the harasser, and simply can’t process the fact that they may have been engaged in awful conduct. Katie Couric’s defense of Matt Lauer, however, is especially damning.

Variety reported that Lauer’s office had a button that allowed him to remotely lock his office door when he had female prey within his grasp…

“His office was in a secluded space, and he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy. It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer.”

Yet on “The Wendy Williams Show” this week, Couric “explained”…

“I think the whole button thing, you know? I think — NBC — a lot of stuff gets misreported and blown out of proportion. A lot of NBC executives, they make it sound like some kind of den of inequity. I don’t know what was happening. A lot of NBC executives have those buttons that opened and closed doors… They did. I mean, it was really just a privacy thing. It wasn’t..Honestly I think it was an executive perk that some people opted to have and I don’t think it was a nefarious thing. I really don’t. And I think that is misconstrued….”

Wowsers. First, Couric is intentionally blurring the facts, using “open and close” as a euphemism for “unlock and lock.” I guarantee that no button would cause the office door to swing open or swing closed, as Couric suggested. I’ve searched for such a device: all I can find are remote office door locking mechanisms. Second, while it is true that other NBC execs once had that feature, it appears that Lauer was “was one of the few, if not the only, NBC News employee to have one,”a senior NBC News employee told the Washington Post.

Second, Couric is engaging in The Golden Rationalization: “Everybody does it.”

2.  Extortion works! Arizona’s governor signed a 9% pay increase for the state’s teachers, because the teachers engaged in a wildcat strike, kids were missing school, and parents couldn’t go to work without their state funded child-sitters. I’m not going to analyze whether the teachers demands were right or wrong, because it doesn’t matter. The teachers’ tactic was unethical, just like the Boston police strike in 1919 was unethical, just like  the air traffic controllers strike in  1981. In the former, Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge (what happened to that guy?) famously fired all the striking cops, saying in part that  “The right of the police of Boston to affiliate has always been questioned, never granted, is now prohibited…There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” President Reagan quoted Cal when he fired the air traffic controllers and eliminated its union.

Striking against children and their education is also a strike against the public safety. What now stops the teachers, in Arizona or anywhere else, from using similar extortion tactics for more raise, policies they favor, or any other objective?  What was lacking here was political leadership possessing the integrity and courage to tell the teachers to do their jobs during negotiations, or be fired.

This precedent will rapidly demonstrate why public unions are a menace to democracy Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/4/17: Labor Day, Google Being Evil, Antifa, And Hollywood

Good Morning!

1.Happy Labor Day! My dry cleaner has a sign out that reads, “Happy Labor Day! Support Our Troops!” Now, any day is a good day to support our troops, but I strongly suspect that this is an unfortunate example of our increasing cultural and historical ignorance (ignorance that the war on statues and memorials will exacerbate, and that’s the intention). No holiday is more misunderstood than Labor Day, and the news media barely makes an effort to remedy the problem.

Ethics Alarms explained the history behind the holiday in a 2012 post that began,

Labor Day commemorates one of the great ethical victories of American society, and not one in a hundred Americans know it. Labor Day marks the end of summer, and a time for retail store sales, and the last chance to get away to Disney World, but few of us think about the real meaning of the word “labor” in the name, and how it is meant to honor brave, dedicated men and women who fought, sometimes literally, the forces of greed, political influence, wealth and privilege in this country to ensure a measure of safety, consideration, fairness and justice for the hardest working among us.

The post is here.

2. This is traditionally a big movie weekend, but it has already been declared a dud. Hollywood is having its worse summer in more than two decades.  Conservative commentators have speculated that one reason is that Hollywood’s loudly and obnoxiously proclaimed contempt for about half of its potential audience—you know, The Deplorables–has alienated a significant segment of the market. That would be nice, since Hollywood has traditionally been a unifying cultural force rather than a divisive one, and this might shock Tinsel Town into getting off its high, blind horse and doing its job. I doubt it, though.

Astoundingly, the public is not yet sick of super hero movies, one of the few genres that continues to do well at the domestic box office.  I wonder when the public will figure out this is partially political indoctrination by the Hollywood Left too: super heroes don’t use those evil guns. They just kill people with their innate powers, or, as in the not-bad NetFlix/Marvel series “The Defenders,” in ridiculously long, drawn-out martial arts combat sequences that resemble ugly dancing more than real fighting. Some of the heroes are bullet proof, however.

The flaw in this anti-Second Amendment propaganda is that real people do not have super powers, and there aren’t any super heroes running around protecting them. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Day: Calvin Coolidge

“There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”

—-Calvin Coolidge, then Governor of Massachusetts, soon to be Vice-President and later President upon the death of Warren G. Harding, in a September 14, 1919 telegram to labor leader Samuel Gompers on the occasion of the Boston police department strike.

Cal made his words count.

The Boston police were fired for extorting the city, and Coolidge’s words were in the air when President Ronald Reagan responded to an illegal strike by air traffic controllers by firing the strikers and banning the union.

Now Chicago’s teachers are striking, not against the city management that is denying their demands, but against the children of the city and their families.

What would silent Cal say? I think I can guess. Harming children and families for higher wages is as much extortion as leaving a city unprotected against crime, and cannot be defended ethically. The defense will be, inevitably, “Well, management is unfair, and their offer is unjust. What are we supposed to do?”

The answer is: something else.


Facts: Chicago Tribune

Source: Wikipedia

Graphic: Washington, Jefferson and Madison Institute

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

The Forgotten Meaning of Labor Day

Do you know who this is? You should! It’s Labor Day, dammit!

Labor Day commemorates one of the great ethical victories of American society, and not one in a hundred Americans know it. Labor Day marks the end of summer, and a time for retail store sales, and the last chance to get away to Disney World, but few of us think about the real meaning of the word “labor” in the name, and how it is meant to honor brave, dedicated men and women who fought, sometimes literally, the forces of greed, political influence, wealth and privilege in this country to ensure a measure of safety, consideration, fairness and justice for the hardest working among us.

Today labor unions are controversial, and with good reason. Many of them have been run as criminal enterprises, with deep connections to organized crime; many operate in a blatantly coercive and undemocratic fashion. Union demands and strong-arm tactics, while providing security and good wages to members, have crippled some American industries, and limited jobs as well. Today the unions  get publicity when one of them tries to protect a member who should be punished, as when the baseball players’ union fights suspensions for player insubordination or even drug use, or when school districts are afraid to fire incompetent teachers because of union power, or when the members of public unions protest cutbacks in benefits that their private sector counterparts would be grateful for. It is true that today’s unions often embody longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer’s observation that  “Every great cause begins as a movement, degenerates into a business and ends up as a racket.” *

That not what Labor Day honors, however. It is celebrating the original labor movement that began at the end of the 19th century, and that eventually rescued the United States from an industrial and manufacturing system that was cruel, exploitive, deadly and feudal. Why the elementary schools teach nothing about this inspiring and important movement, I do not know. I suspect that the story of the American labor movement was deemed politically dangerous to teach during the various Red Scares, and fell out of the curriculum, never to return. Whatever the reason, it is disgraceful, for the achievements of the labor movement are every bit as important and inspiring as those of the civil rights movement and the achievements of our armed forces in the protection of liberty abroad. Continue reading

Anything Goes: Campaign by Rumor and Slander in the Wisconsin Recall

Wait…who’s “Dan”?

Combining  confirmation bias, whereby any uncomplimentary rumor about one’s enemy is assumed to be true, with “ends justify the means” political warfare philosophy, can banish all fairness and honesty from political campaigns. Spreading slanderous falsehoods about candidates for office is as old as the United States, but the internet and social networking sites, along with the increasingly irresponsible news media, allow the unethical tactic to be more effective, and sinister, than ever.

Now, fearing that the vengeance of the public unions, as orchestrated by the Democratic Party, is going to fall short in tomorrow’s recall election in Wisconsin, the foes of Governor Scott Walker grabbed a manufactured smear about Walker fathering a love child 24 years ago, and have made every effort to make it viral. An anti-Walker website called the Wisconsin Citizens Media Co-op [“a group of citizen journalists who began covering the Wisconsin Uprising in February, 2011. We came from different walks of life, different professional backgrounds and different parts of the state to document the dismantling of democratic process and tradition taking place in our state under the right wing onslaught of the Scott Walker regime”] recounted a second-hand story by an anti-Walker  classmate of the governor, who purported to have inside knowledge about his efforts to cover-up his impregnation of her roommate while he was running for class president (yes, this is another school days smear, like the Romney prep school episode. If you can’t beat ’em as adults, beat ’em as kids. That seems to be the current philosophy in both political camps. Phew!). Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Carnage in Wisconsin…”

Pat earns the Comment of the Day by refocusing my attention on an issue I had been planning to examine in detail, only to be distracted by the swirl of current events. The issue is the ethics of public unions, a controversy in sharp focus during Governor Scott Walker’s overhaul of public employee pensions and collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin. Thanks, Pat, for  both your thoughtful comment and for getting me back to this important matter. You’ll  have my response soon.

Here is Pat’s commentary on “Ethics Carnage in Wisconsin: the Ethics Grades So Far”:

“No one need be a member of the union of concerned scientists to figure out the problem of collectivism in government. If Congress (or the Union) together decided to vote themselves $1,000,000 salaries per year (or exorbitant pensions for life), they could do it. That is the problem of collectivism and it is the problem of democracy – that can defeat the purpose of the freedom of elections. Ordinary taxpayers can be defeated by their own democracy in that regard, and it is no better than having a dictator under tyranny.

“The function of having free elections is to avoid that tyranny, i.e., by electing persons to office temporarily, not to be saddled with them for life (which is what congressional pensions produce). By most ethical standards, it would be congressional embezzlement by the nature of the authority to grant itself those pensions. The same would be true if Congress worked in conjunction with government employees to help them get reelected in order to perpetuate elective office for incumbents so that it can be effectively, for life.

“Both methods defeat the purpose of freedom of elections that is built into the congressional constitutional scheme that separates the elective office from the appointed and the government employee. Government pensions meant for government employees alone has been unethically and grossly inflated and granted to Congress and appointees in a blatant self-serving reward that defeats the purpose of having elections. Terms limits is the only method that can control that abuse of power.

“If government unions demands are too high, they may also need term limits to prevent arbitrary tapping into the proceeds of the taxpayer’s treasury, and thereby limiting what can be paid, and what can be taxed for.

“Public finance can defeat the purpose of democracy without such protections, and it is a necessary feature of all democracies to prevent the power of authority to abuse the power of the people, or there will be only wage slavery by government taxation.

“By tradition before government exploitation, government pensions were granted only to government employees – distinct from those elected – because they were employees. Elected persons are only temporary employees, and meant to be only temporary employees, and therefore not entitled to pensions. But that tradition has been grossly abused by self-serving elected employees to become privileged as elected and privileged as employees where it was designed to be one “or” the other, not one “and” the other.”

To Wisconsin Unions, a Depressed Woman’s Suicide Is Just Another PR Weapon

"Oh, no. Poor ..hey, wait a minute! We just might be able to use this!"

“The ends justify the means,” for better or worse, has always been the modus operandi of the American union movement. Back at the beginning of the 20th Century, this often translated into violence, as union leaders used bombs and murder to counter equally vile tactics—or worse—by their industry foes. Union violence is more common today in the threatening than in the actual execution, but the public unions battling Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin have made it increasingly clear that ethics, fairness and truth are not going to stand in the way of their objectives, particularly the objective of winning the battle for public support.

A new low may have been reached with the effort to blame Walker for the suicide of Jeri-Lyn Betts, a 57-year-old teacher suffering from chronic depression, who apparently committed suicide last week.  Continue reading