Ethics Quote Of The Day: “Reston Now”

“Unethical, sketchy, and uncomfortable behavior among Herndon officials are some of the main reasons behind the push to strengthen the code. The councilmembers shared stories of unnamed former town officials who publicly berated staff, grabbed a staffer in a sexual manner, and solicited jobs from other elected officials in the performance of their official duties.”

—From “Town of Herndon Grapples with How to Revamp Ethics Code,” an article in Reston Today, describing the classic and unresolvable problem with Ethics Codes.

Herndon, Virginia, isn’t too far from where I live.

The problem the article encompasses is as old as the hills. Simply passing laws, or regulations, or rules prohibiting wrongful conduct doesn’t do anything to make the people subject to these laws, regulations and rules better human beings. It simply tells them that there are specific consequences to their bad conduct. Maybe that will discourage them, and maybe it won’t. After all, they have to be caught first.

The conduct described in the quote is unethical, and anyone with functioning ethics alarms knows its unethical. Abusing subordinates? Sexual assault and harassment? Using official duties to barter for career advancement? If an official knows this conduct and others equally blatant are wrong, then they don’t need a code. If they don’t know they are wrong, no code is going to help them, and individuals that ethically clueless shouldn’t be government officials.

That doesn’t mean that codes of conduct aren’t essential tools of creating an ethical culture in a local government or tree house clubs. They are, but they are just a starting point, putting in place external standards that have to be internalized, which is to say that they are then used to fix the settings on everyone’s ethics alarms in that culture. By themselves, codes do nothing, and they may even cause more misconduct. Unethical people who are also smart love the Compliance Dodge, from the Rationalizations List: Continue reading

One More Time…Ethics Dunce: California, And Its “Jumbo” Culture

Has any state…heck, has any 10-year-old’s tree house club…had as many terrible ideas as California? No wonder its presidential vote single-handedly gave the popular vote to Hillary. And the United States is supposed to allow itself to be the dog wagged by this Bizarro World ethics culture?

The latest: Under a bill now heading through the California State Legislature, millions of criminal Californians who have misdemeanor or lower-level felony records would have their criminal records officially sealed from public view once they completed prison or jail sentences. I’m shocked to read that the legislation would not apply to people convicted of committing  murder or rape. Well, give the Golden State time.

We are told with a sniff and a tear that in the United States, a record showing a criminal conviction or even an arrest that does not lead to a conviction can make it difficult for someone to find a jobs, rent an apartment or obtain professional license. Well, that’s because conduct has consequences, and in particular breaking trust has consequences. Society is based on mutual trust. Committing criminal acts raises reasonable doubts in society as to whether an individual can be trusted to–let’s see, handle money for an employer, follow rules, meet financial obligations or serve in a professional capacity, the primary requirement of which is trustworthiness.

Simply because someone has been in jail doesn’t mean they have become more trustworthy. Why would it? So under California’s brilliant scheme, a bank could hire a convicted embezzler as a bank teller. A law school could hire a convicted bank-robber as a law pro—oops. Sorry. My alma mater already did that. But at least it had the opportunity to know what it was doing.

This is kindergarten easy: if I am going to trust someone with my business or my property, I have a right to know who that person is, and if he or she has a record of warranting trust. The fact that convicted criminals have a tough time doesn’t mean I should be put at risk. They committed the crime, why are the citizens who haven’t broken any laws being forced to take risks they don’t want to take? Continue reading

The Cheerleader Awards

What would EVER possess someone to give out body part awards to cheerleaders?

This astounding, depressing story, out of Wisconsin, not only makes me wonder about the ethics alarms of everyone involved. It makes me wonder about whether such alarms exist in out species.

Kenosha’s Tremper High School  cheerleading squad held its annual banquet last March,  and handed out some “gag awards” to members of the squad. Among them:

  • The Big Boobie Award. for the girl with the biggest breasts. The coach giving the award joked that the girl  concussions when she ran because  her “enormous boobs” might flip-up and knock her out.
  • The Big Booty Award.  The coach presenting that one said: “We love her butt. Everybody loves her butt.”
  • The String Bean Award, given to a  freshman who “was so light and skinny.”
  • The previous year, a blonde wig was awarded to a cheerleader for being a “ditzy girl.”

The one hundred guests at the event included many parents. Apparently the coaches were surprised that many of them had problems with the tenor of the “awards.”  As this tear’s awards approached, and after the school and its coaches had brushed aside the complaints, arguing that it was all in good fun, the ACLU interjected itself for some reason. (A parent sicced the civil rights group on the school.) From the Times story: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/25/19: Fleas, Fake Movies, False Equivalency, And Female Bigotry

Good Morning!

1. Roger Stone’s arrest a) Stone is a thoroughly loathsome individual—the man has Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, for heaven’s sake—but like the Mueller investigation generally, his arrest seems more like continued politically-motivated harassment of anyone connected to Donald Trump in order to isolate and impede his Presidency rather than part of a legitimate and independent investigation. Stone’s indictment is substantially made up of the now-familiar “obstruction of justice” bootstrap regarding an investigation of a non-crime charge. In Watergate, there was a crime. In the Clinton impeachment, there was a crime (a President lying under oath). In the Valerie Plame fiasco, there was at least a sort-of crime. Even Martha Stewart’s “obstruction of justice” conviction was related to the crime of insider-trading. “Collusion” isn’t a crime, and if Stone lied to Congress about the degree to which he was communicating heads-ups to the Trump campaign about what Wikileaks had and was about to release, that has no implications of wrongdoing for the Trump campaign at all. Stone telling the Trump campaign, “Hey, Wikileaks has a bunch of DNC emails that show Hillary’s campaign was sleazy and that the Clinton Foundation is an influence peddling scam!” isn’t illegal, it isn’t unethical, and I doubt that this sort of communication is unusual for any campaign in any party. b) CNN cameras were on the scene when Stone was arrested, which means the FBI or the Mueller team leaked to CNN. Now THAT’s unethical, and possibly illegal. c) Once again, President Trump’s persistent failure to avoid close contact with obvious slime-balls has caused problems. “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas” : It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but for a man who was raised and rose to wealth and power in the dog-dominated worlds of real estate, hotels, casinos, show business and now politics, I suppose its hard to imagine NOT being surrounded by the metaphorically flea-infested.

2. Integrity watch: OK, I no longer know what a “movie” is. Netflix is streaming “Roma,” which was just nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar. It has sold no tickets, and as far as I can see, is indistinguishable from any movie-length TV program, like the Christmas drama that spawned “The Waltons,” “The Homecoming.” I though movies were things shown in theater with big screens by projectors. Netflix’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (which is terrific) also got some Oscar nominations. Are Hallmark Christmas weepies now eligible for Oscars? To me, those are “TV shows.” Continue reading

Is There A “Naked State Legislator Principle”? [Updated]

 

I guess we may find out.

In a profile of Virginia’s new House of Delegates member Lee Carter, one of the Ocasio-Cortez school socialists that snuck into the Virginia’s House under the Democratic Party banner, the New York Times quotes him as tweeting this as part of his (smart) efforts to get all of his dirty career and personal laundry out and in public before the next election:

“Just like everyone else under 35, I’m sure explicit images or video of me exists out there somewhere. That’s just a reality of dating in the smartphone era.”

I could concentrate on the statement itself, which does not bode well for Carter’s ethical decision-making in the future. It is, after all, an appeal to the biggest rationalization of them  all, #1 on the list, “Everybody does it,” as he is suggesting that if “everyone else” exposes their naughty bits inline, it’s a responsible thing to do. Carter also evokes #41 (I HATE #41),  The Evasive Tautology, or “It is what it is” as well as 1A, Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it,” claiming that there is no choice other than to go full-Weiner to court the opposite sex.  In fact, there are other choices, like being modest and responsible, and not sending your crotch into cyber-space where it can get into all sorts of mischief.

While we are here, I also have to ask what “explicit images or video” means. Explicit how? Is Carter really saying that it doesn’t matter whether an explicit video shows him flexing in the mirror of going full Louis C.K.?

The statement itself suggest to me that Carter is neither especially ethical, trustworthy or bright, but then I don’t consider socialists ethical, trustworthy or bright. They want to constrain personal liberty and autonomy, and advocate increased government  incursions on our freedom based on their presumed superior priorities and values. They also are either unaware of how routinely socialism has failed, or dishonestly choose to pretend otherwise.

But I digress. The issue at hand is whether in this “smartphone era” an elected official should be able to maintain that his (or her) explicit photos or videos in no way reflect on fitness to serve. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/10/2019: Rabbits, Time Lords, Elephants And Fools

Good morning.

This a reluctant warm-up, and I was tempted not to create distractions from the previous post, which is important, especially so because there is a near complete media embargo on what the Times did. Has anyone seen a mention of it anywhere besides here and in the conservative media? I haven’t. Yet a more convincing example of  what the news media has become could not be imagined, and the public has the right to know. I want people to be outraged about this. I want people to shake the story in the face of their biased journalism-defending friends. I want to see the cowards who fled the discussions here accusing me of bias return and explain how this could happen innocently, or try to justify it, or continue to insist that there is no organized effort to destroy the Trump Presidency and with it our democratic institutions.

I admit it: this episode makes me as angry as I am disgusted and worried.

1. In a lighter vein, on the topic of life competence…In  Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, a 41-year-old man was reportedly trying to impress other tourists by getting out of his car (which is illegal) and attempting to hypnotize an elephant. The man’s name has not been released, but now they call him Matt, because the unimpressed elephant trampled him flat. Now watch them blame the elephant. Says Professor Turley, who found this story, ” some at the scene suggested that alcohol may have played a role.”

Ya think?

What is the ethical response to someone who gets himself killed like this?

2. It looks like we have at least two ethically-challenged new Congresswomen...Rep. Tlaib of “impeach the motherfucker fame” unreeled a combination of Authentic Frontier Gibberish (AFG) AND ethical ignorance as she continued to dig her hole following the outburst. Tlaib told CNN on this week that she’s “very unapologetically me” [Rationalization #41 A. Popeye’s Excuse, or “I am what I am.”] and her constituents “are kind of used to my realness, used to this passion that I have” [Excuse me a second…Gag! Uck! Gack! Yecch! Ptuii!…This is #44, The Unethical Precedent, or “It’s Not The First Time.”

“And I know for many people, it did — it did get the best of me at that moment and for many people it might have been very much a distraction…”what I want to do is not allow women like myself that have every right to be angry and upset and mad and to curse — that somehow they’re not allowed to do it in some sort of public forum.”

Ah! She’s an idiot. Women and everyone else have a right to be vulgar, uncivil, insulting, obscene, undignified and generally rude in public. The fact that they have the right to act badly doesn’t mean it is right. Most relatively educated 12-year-olds understand this, and Tlaib, who is in Congress, doesn’t. Continue reading

Welcome The 2019’s First New Rationalizations: 1C. It Happens To Everybody, And 19 B. Murkowski’s Lament

These have been on the drawing board waiting for induction into the Ethics Alarms list of Unethical Rationalizations and Misconceptions far too long.  It’s also a good time to re-read the list, which was recently brought up to date. I wrote the damn thing, and it it still reminded me of some things.

Rationalization 1C. It Happens To Everybody, or “You’re not alone!’

This is yet another variation on the Golden Rationalization, “Everybody Does It,” but the transitive version. The theory is the same, that somehow the ethical nature of an act is changed by its frequency, or, in the case of #1C, how many victims the unethical conduct has claimed. This one is so frequently employed that it doesn’t register as a rationalization, perhaps because the one who wield’s it is often a third party. “Don’t feel too bad,” the nice person patting your head says, “You’re not the only one.” The swift answer to this should be, “So what?” Should I feel less raped because others have been raped? Should I feel less lied to because others have been deceived? Should I feel richer because others have been robbed?” Even if it is offered in kindness, this is a rationalization that aides the wrongdoer. Arguing that as long as the misery inflicted has company, what was done isn’t as bad as it was.

Rationalization 9 B. Murkowski’s Lament, or “It was a difficult decision”

Continue reading