Georg Floyd Train Wreck Public Official “Racial Insensitivity” Controversies: Eight Case Studies

train wreck painting

It is instructive to periodically read what “America’s paper of record” represents as fair and informational reporting. Here is a fine example: an article below the fold on page 13 of the issue from three days ago. Its title in the print edition: “When Sorry Doesn’t Heal the Wounds.” The theme is small town mayors and other officials being held accountable for “racially insensitive remarks” during the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck.

Case Study #1:  Brian Henry, mayor of Pawleys Island off the coast of South Carolina, whom protesters are insisting must resign for Facebook posts that “outraged and divided much of the community.”

 What did he say? He opined that the killings of two town residents had not received national attention because the victims were white and the suspect is black, and also characterized Black Lives Matter and antifa as terrorist organizations that were destroying American cities. He is in full retreat and grovel mode, saying at a news conference last month that conversations with friends, faith leaders and his staff had given him “a deeper understanding of racial inequality and the importance of diversity sensitivity, which is very much needed to heal Pawleys Island, Georgetown and our country.”

Observations:

A. This is one more example of social media being a menace for public officials unable to keep their fingers still. Why would anyone on public office think it was wise or responsible to make either of these statements without good reason?

B. His first statement was obviously correct. People should not apologize for statements that are correct, unless the apology is for inciting controversy for no good reason.

C. His second set of assertions are also inflammatory but close enough to truth for social media horseshoes. Both groups depend on threats of violence to intimidate citizens into supporting them. Does that make them technically terrorist groups? I don’t care. They need to be de-glamorized and labeled the undemocratic and destructive organizations that they are.

D. However, again, if there was no good reason to make these observations on a little island town, it was foolish and unethical to stir up division by making it.

Case Study #2:  Boston School Committee Chair Michael Loconto, who was caught on audio in a virtual meeting mocking the Asian surnames of community members who wanted to speak. He apologized a few moments later, explaining that he was “talking about a children’s book.” (Right.) Eight members of Boston’s City Council called for Loconto’s resignation, and he stepped down,

Observations:

A. Good. He should have stepped down.

B. “After the ongoing discussion about racism in our country, that type of comment could no longer be accepted,” said Ed Flynn, a city councilor who represents Boston’s Chinatown, as well as parts of South Boston and the South End. “Society will no longer tolerate or accept inappropriate comments from a member of city government.” Wrong. Ridiculing citizens seeking to be heard was never ethical conduct. Stop making everything about George Floyd. The hanging “inappropriate” is a threat to legitimate opinions and speech. Who decides what speech is “inappropriate”?  Society should not tolerate public officials showing disrespect for the public by mocking them based on ethnicity. Be specific. Freedom lies in the balance between details and vagueness.

Case Study #3: Mark Chambers, the mayor of Carbon Hill, Alabama. He resigned after criticizing the University of Alabama’s football team’s support of Black Lives Matter.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/4/2020: Three Out Of Four Positive Items!

Good morning to you!

1. Let’s start with some good news! In April of last year, I wrote about Massachusetts judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph, who  was charged with obstruction of justice, along with another court officer, for helping an illegal immigrant (and criminal) elude arrest by the ICE. The story is here. It looks like the judge is going to trial.

U.S. District Judge Leo Sorokin has now denied the judge’s lawyers’ motions to dismiss in a July ruling. “After careful consideration, the motions to dismiss are DENIED because the Indictment alleges the elements of the offenses and sufficient supporting factual detail,” he  wrote . Joseph’s attorneys are claiming was that she is protected by judicial immunity, though that should only apply to actions a judge engages in under judicial authority and in the course of her duties. Instructing a court employee to help an illegal immigrant evade being taken into custody by ICE agents  after his hearing on criminal charges, including drug possession, is not known as “being a judge.” It is known as “obstructing  justice.” Even if the judge avoids punishment, her days as a judge are over.

Good.

2. What’s this? MORE good news? I have been looking for cracks in the monolithic mainstream media, with defections by individuals in the midst of the journalism’s abandonment of its duties to democracy in favor of news manipulation and partisanship. Less than a month ago, New York Timed editor Bari Weiss called out the oppressive culture of partisanship and conformity at the her paper, earning her Ethics Hero status.

Last month MSNBC producer Ariana Pekary quit the network, arguably the most unethical of all the broadcast news outlets, and yesterday she published a blog post explaining why. “I simply couldn’t stay there anymore.” She wrote:

“My colleagues are very smart people with good intentions. The problem is the job itself. It forces skilled journalists to make bad decisions on a daily basis….It’s possible that I’m more sensitive to the editorial process due to my background in public radio, where no decision I ever witnessed was predicated on how a topic or guest would ‘rate,’ The longer I was at MSNBC, the more I saw such choices — it’s practically baked in to the editorial process – and those decisions affect news content every day. Likewise, it’s taboo to discuss how the ratings scheme distorts content, or it’s simply taken for granted, because everyone in the commercial broadcast news industry is doing the exact same thing. But behind closed doors, industry leaders will admit the damage that’s being done…I understand that the journalistic process is largely subjective and any group of individuals may justify a different set of priorities on any given day. Therefore, it’s particularly notable to me, for one, that nearly every rundown at the network basically is the same, hour after hour. And two, they use this subjective nature of the news to justify economically beneficial decisions. I’ve even heard producers deny their role as journalists. A very capable senior producer once said: “Our viewers don’t really consider us the news. They come to us for comfort.”

She claims to want to be part of a solution to this dire situation. We shall see. I reached out to her in an email yesterday, offering my guidance and expertise, gratis of course.

3. On the theory that transparency is good news, it was nice to see Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, supposedly one of the top contenders to be Joe Biden’s running mate, demonstrate how dim-witted she is and unqualified to be President, though at this point even she could probably beat poor Joe Biden in a spelling bee. Over and over, on several Sunday news shows, she repeated her previous explanation for praising Fidel Castro , telling Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press,” for example, regarding calling the brutal dictator’s death a “great loss to the people of Cuba,” that she “wouldn’t do that again. Talked immediately to my colleagues from Florida and realized that that was something that just shouldn’t have been said.”

Astounding. She wouldn’t say that what she said was wrong, outrageous for a member of Congress and demonstrated inexcusable ignorance, but that she should have kept the opinion to herself.  Todd, of course, being one of the worst hacks in captivity, didn’t bother to press her on the point for the benefit of members of his audience who can’t recognize signature significance when it’s right in front of them.

Biden, or whoever his ventriloquist is, is officially trapped in ethics zugzwang. The only reason Bass is even being considered is that Biden has to select a black (George Floyd!) woman (#MeToo!) as his VP, and all of his remaining options are horrible by any objective standard. This will be a flaming lesson in the foolishness of placing physical characteristics over ability, experience and character, a perfect example of  why affirmative action doesn’t work and will never work. Bass is a light-weight, but Biden’s two other options are Kamala Harris ( whose ugly Ethics Alarms dossier is here), and <ack! choke! yecch! barf! gag!> the even more horrible Susan Rice, Barack Obama’s ethics-free acolyte. Her dossier is here. She would be the most sinister Vice-President candidate since Aaron Burr.

I have to poll this: Who is Joe’s best choice among this unethical trio?

I’m not going to allow “None of the above,” because I don’t think he has that option, or at least doesn’t have the integrity to insist on choosing a qualified candidate who has the wrong tint or chromosomes.

4. Finally, to end on a downer, the Unethical  Non-Trump Tweet of the week.  Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac was the only NBA player not to kneel during the National Anthem, and also refused to wear a “Black Lives Matter” warm-up like  the rest of his teammates. In Sunday’s game, he tore his ACL, a season-ending and career threatening injury. ESPN radio host Dan Le Batard then ran a poll on Twitter asking, “Is it funny the guy who refused to kneel immediately blew out his knee?” 

When the poll was pulled, about 45% of respondents said that it was funny, which tells you all you need to know about NBA fans and Black Lives Matter supporters—the genuine kind, not the grovelers. Le Batard issued a phony apology, Level 10 on the Apology Scale.

“We apologize for this poll question,”  he wrote. “I said on the front and back end of the on-air conversation that I didn’t think it was funny. Regardless of the context, we missed the mark. We took the tweet down when we realized our mistake in how we posed the question to the audience.”

Lies and more lies. They took the tweet down when it was clear they were getting slammed for it. If he didn’t think a young athlete getting injured was funny because he dared to oppose the BLM mob, why would he think anyone else would? When is someone getting hurt who has done nothing wrong and who did not do something foolish to cause the injury ever funny?

Ethics Dunce: Gary Garrels

The carnage of the George Floyd Terror, aka George Floyd Freakout, aka George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck, claimed another victim yesterday, and Ethics Alarms is designating him the Ethics Dunce. We really need a new category for people like Gary Gerrels, the now ex-senior curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). Placed in a position where he could take a strong  position against unhinged woke bullying, when every element of common sense, integrity, fairness and reality was aligned in his favor, he prostrated himself to the mob. “Ethics Coward,” perhaps? “Ethics Weenie”? “Ethics Fool”? “Useful Ethics Idiot”?

Garrels  triggered the process of his cancellation by concluding a presentation on how to diversify the museum’s holdings by saying, “don’t worry, we will definitely still continue to collect white artists.” In a ZOOM meeting of museum employees, Garrels  voiced a similar position, saying  that the museum could not avoid collecting the work of white men, which he described as “reverse discrimination.” Shortly thereafter employees created and began signing an online petition demanding that he leave the museum.
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Ethics Hero: New York Times Editor Bari Weiss

I supposed that should have read “former New York Times editor Bari Weiss.” Until her resignation today,  from 2017 to 2020, Weiss was the staff editor for the opinion section of the The New York Times.

Her letter of resignation to the Times publisher is here.  It is beyond excellent, beyond brave, beyond important.  It is breathtaking.

She writes in part,

I joined the paper with gratitude and optimism three years ago. I was hired with the goal of bringing in voices that would not otherwise appear in your pages: first-time writers, centrists, conservatives and others who would not naturally think of The Times as their home. The reason for this effort was clear: The paper’s failure to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election meant that it didn’t have a firm grasp of the country it covers…

But the lessons that ought to have followed the election—lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else…

Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative. Continue reading

A Whole Lot Of Resigning Going On

There have been a lot of interesting resignations in the last couple of days, all with ethics implications.

1. Reddit Co-founder Alexis Ohanian  announced his resignation from the company’s board. This was an apparent capitulation to  critics who claimed Reddit didn’t do enough opinion censorship, the new rage among tech companies and social media platforms.

Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, who lost her position under fire for being censorship-minded, criticized the tech company earlier last week after it published its mandatory George Floyd letter. Pao responded by accusing the social network knowingly of profiting from hate. “You don’t get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long,” Pao tweeted. Smart–she knew that in the throes of mass virtue-signaling and white flagellation, nobody would have the guts to ask her, “Who gets to define hate, Ellen? You?”

Lacking the fortitude to make an argument, Ohanian, who is married to professional tennis player Serena Williams, said he would commit to using future gains from his Reddit stock to serve the black community and focus on curbing racial hate, because, as we all know, throwing money around has been so effective at that.  Ohanian said he would donate $1 million to former NFL player and activist Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp. Then he said that he wanted his replacement to be black, Not experienced, fair, wise, savvy or effective. Black. That’s what matters. Continue reading

The Forgotten Ethics Hero: William Ruckelshaus (1932-2019)

I’m supposed to be student of American Presidential history, and even I had virtually forgotten about William Ruckelshaus, who just died. It was Ruckelshaus who, along with Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson,  rejected Ethics Rationalization #15, The Futility Illusion or  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will” when the United States of America needed a hero, and got two.

His moment of courage arrived on an October night in 1973 destined to be known in the annals of American history as  the “Saturday Night Massacre.” Ruckelshaus was then Assistant Attorney General, and President Richard Nixon, was panicked that the ongoing investigation by Special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox was closing in on his blatant obstruction of justice. A White House-triggered burglary of the Democratic National Committee’s offices at the now-famous Foggy Bottom condo complex and hotel in Washington, D.C., seemed about to bring Nixon down, so Nixon resolved to have cripple the investigation by having Cox removed.  Ruckelshaus was the second of three officials the beleaguered POTUS ordered to fire the Harvard law professor. For some reason Nixon thought this might relieve him from having to produce the  nine incriminating Oval Office tape recordings that Cox had subpoenaed.

Ruckelshaus, under Nixon the first head of the new Environmental Protection Agency,  had been named acting head of the FBI in April of 1973, replacing L. Patrick Gray III. He was soon named the top deputy to Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson. When Nixon ordered the mild-mannered Richardson to fire Cox that fateful night, Richardson shocked Nixon by refusing, and resigning immediately. That made Ruckelshaus the Acting Attorney General, and he was suddenly on the hot seat, tasked with carrying out Nixon’s legally and ethically questionable orders.

Cox had been guaranteed complete independence by Nixon and Attorney General Richardson during the prosecutor’s Senate confirmation hearings in May of 1972.  Congress directed that he could be  be removed only for “gross malfeasance” in office, and by October 20, 1973, there had been none. “I thought what the president was doing was fundamentally wrong,” Ruckelshaus said  later. “I was convinced that Cox had only been doing what he had the authority to do; what was really of concern to the President and the White House was that he was too close. He hadn’t engaged in any extraordinary improprieties, quite the contrary.” Continue reading

The Naked Congresswoman Principle Is Confirmed, Rep. Hill Resigns, And She Refuses To Accept Responsibility

Of course she does.

Democratic Rep. Katie Hill of California has resigned. from the House of Representatives. Ethics Alarms examined Rep. Hill’s plight in the recent post, Just What We Needed: The Naked Congresswoman Principle. It concluded,

“The Naked Teacher Principle, Naked Congresswoman Variation, rules. The fact that these photos became public undermines trust in Hill’s judgement, competence, and trustworthiness, if not her physical fitness. It doesn’t matter how or why they got online. The person ultimately responsible is Hill. If you want to have a career based on respect and trust, don’t pose for naked pictures, sex photos, or pictures that make you look like you’re employed by an escort service. That shouldn’t be so hard.”

The lesson of the Naked Teacher Principle and most (though not all!) of its variations held true for Hill: once there are photos out there of a professional holding a position requiring dignity and trust behaving like or looking like a porn star, a drunken frat date, Kim Kardashian or a Sports illustrated swimsuit model, that professional’s ability to do her (or his) job has been seriously wounded, perhaps mortally. It would have been nice, and admirable, if Hill acknowledged this fact of life, the workplace and politics, but as you can see from her resignation letter below, she did not:

Ugh.

Hill appears to be taking no responsibility for her fate at all. This was a “rising star” in the Democratic Party firmament? Yechh.  Continue reading

Acosta-Epstein Scandal Update: Acosta Resigns As Labor Secretary

The resignation is effective one week from today. Acosta’s deputy, Pat Pizzella, will become acting Secretary. In the Trump administration, acting secretary is a real growth position, since the appointments to the administration’s top jobs are so uniformly wretched. As with so many other disastrous appointments, Trump, or someone, should have seen this scandal coming before Acosta was nominated..

In confirming reports that he had stepped down, Alexander Acosta said, “I do not think it is right and fair for this administration’s labor department to have Epstein as the focus rather than the incredible economy that we have today.” He said that he called President Trump and “told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside. Because cabinet positions are temporary trusts. It would be selfish for me to stay in this position and continue talking about a case that’s twelve years old rather than about the amazing economy we have right now.”

It was the right move for Acosta whether you believe that he needed to be held accountable for the Jeffrey Epstein fiasco or not. The Democrats are desperately trying to tie Epstein to Trump, and the narrative that Acosta was rewarded for helping a Trump “pal” needed to be squashed. I second the reaction of Ann Althouse, who doubled down on her earlier opinion by re-publishing it  after she heard the news:

“I do think Acosta should resign. When it mattered most, the cries of a wealthy man overwhelmed those of ordinary people. That’s not what belongs in the Labor Department.”

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From The “Stop Making Me Defend President Trump” Files: Criticizing Trump For Following Management 101 Really Shows You To Be Ignorant As Well As Trump Deranged

I bet you can guess what Trump was saying here…

You know, it’s late, I’m finally finished decorating the tree, nobody’s visiting the blog anyway, and when they do and try to share an article without an scintilla of “hate speech” in it, Facebook blocks it. But ethics never rest, and I’m going to post this anyway.

The President announced that ol’ Mad Dog won’t be staying on for an” orderly transition” at DOD after all: today the President announced that Mattis’s deputy would take over on January 1, and Mattis can get head start on collecting shells in Boca, or something. One more time, the news media and social media are acting like this is some kind of scandal, because they 1) hate the President and 2) couldn’t manage a lemonade stand themselves.

I’m sure Mattis would have been welcome to stay on a couple more months as originally announced—if hadn’t publicized a resignation letter that implicitly attacked the President. You can’t do that and expect to stay in any job, much less one as powerful and important as Secretary of Defense.Oddly, Trump’s perpetual critics don’t understand this, either because bias has made them stupid, or they were ignorant to begin with. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Mattis Resignation

President Trump announced that he was ending the U.S. mission in Syria, and drawing down the troop level in Afghanistan. His Secretary of Defense,General Mattis, resigned in protest, and copied his letter of resignation to the world.

The news media, social media, and full time anti-Trump hysterics, among others, went bonkers.

  • What’s going on here? A President who has long held that U.S. domestic priorities are more important than “being the world’s policeman” followed through on his promise. As is his wont, he sprung the actual news without laying a foundation to cushion the blow. Nobody knows whether the decisions will work out or not, but the assumption is that because this President is the one making the decisions, they must be stupid, evil, or both. This, despite the fact that Barack Obama essentially did the same thing regarding Iraq, except that Iraq gave much more promise of stabilizing with continued U.S. presence. Syria is still in chaos, and nobody can confidently say when and if it will not be. As for Afghanistan, the U.S. has been expending lives and treasure there for a mind-blowing 17 years. What is the mission? Funny—I thought the original mission was to punish the country for sponsoring the 9/11 attacks. We could have declared the point made long, long ago. Is the President wrong to say “Enough is enough”?

I have no idea—and neither do you.

  • Having no idea, not having seen the data, not having been advised, and not being President of the United  States, I have little basis to challenge or deride the decision. But what’s really going on here is what has been going on since January, 2017. Any decision or action by this President is immediately assumed to be wrong. The analysis attached to it afterwards is superfluous. The position is that President Trump did it, it’s wrong because he’s a Nazi/idiot/ grifter /fool, and that’s all we need to know.

This, of course, makes it impossible, literally impossible, to get honest, trustworthy analysis about anything.

  • Anyone who criticizes Trump in public, even certifiable slime like Steve Bannon, James Comey, and Omarosa, suddenly is embraced by “the resistance ” and the news media using the formula that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. This rewards unethical conduct, and “Mad Dog” appears to have fallen into the trap, to his eventual shame. As a lawyer, I know it is unethical to drop a client, my employer, and make any pubic statements whatsoever impugning his or her judgment or conduct. It is also unethical to do this in any professional relationship. Professionals know this: I presume at one time Mattis knew this. But having paid attention to how routine betrayals of this President have been cheered and praised, he apparently couldn’t resist temptation.

Now, as a lawyer, my duties are codified. That doesn’t mean that professionals who don’t have the same duties codified aren’t obligated to follow them. Continue reading