January 7, 2021 Ethics Nightcap, The “Everything Is Spinning Wildly Out Of Control” Edition

spinning-out-of-control

Well, the national mood is clearly infecting Ethics Alarms. First a self-banned commenter from the past starts sending me private hate mail for no discernible reason. Then another banned commenter sends an attack comment while I’m sleeping. THEN a previously rational commenter of some note proclaims his exit because, he says, all I write about is politics, and because he said I excused the President for inciting a riot (which I did not). Then another commenter started calling participants here Nazis,and yet another commenter, whom I trust to use more restraint, also used a Nazi analogy to describe the Hill riot yesterday.

I expect better here, frankly; better, fairer, and more civil.

I get it: readers aren’t immune from being freaked-out during freakouts, but please, read “If,” (my father’s favorite poem, and a lifetime credo for him and his son) and calm the hell down:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

(And if you let Rudyard’s 19th Century male bias dissuade you from paying attention to his message, you’ll be a fool, my friend.)

I’ll only address one of the commenter upsets I described above: the accusation that Ethics Alarms has been writing about politics and neglecting ethics. I resent that, because I have been killing myself trying to find non-political ethics stories that are worth writing about, at a time when almost everything has been politicized. At the same time, I cannot in good conscience fail to explicate the unethical and unprecedented effort to sabotage an elected US President and all that has involved and corrupted since 2016, so this has necessarily involved many posts, more than I would have liked. It is the most significant U.S. ethics catastrophe of the last hundred years at least, and attention should be paid. What happened yesterday was a direct and predictable consequence of this.

Yet even so, Ethics Alarms has been and continues to be about all topics and all spheres of ethics. There are four or more posts most days, and four or five mini-posts in the “warm-ups.” Find another website that includes more diverse material on the topic of ethics; go ahead, try.

I will also note that the complaining commenter has not availed himself of the open forums, which exist specifically to invite readers to raise issues related to ethics that I may have missed or neglected. This is a participatory forum.

Annoyingly, the commenter who made this complaint also said that he had mostly “skimmed” posts here for the last year or so. Well, Ethics Alarms is not for “skimming,” and if one cannot read all of what I write, I’m not very interested in your opinions on what you have only half-comprehended.

Continue reading

Ethic Hero: Former White House Chief Of Staff Mick Mulvaney

Mick M

Mulvaney resigned in the wake of yesterday’s lunacy, saying “I can’t stay here…It doesn’t affect the transition. But it’s what I’ve got… And I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of my friends resign over the course of the next 24-48 hours.Those who choose to stay, and I have talked with some of them, are choosing to stay because they’re worried the president might put someone worse in.”

His current position is as a special envoy to Northern Ireland—not exactly a crucial cog— and he only had a few months left in the role at best. Still, this is the principled way to show disapproval of one’s own administration’s conduct. It will be interesting to see if his prediction of further resignations comes true.

Even Trump’s most ardent defenders have to concede that the President asks a lot of those under him, and often expects them to accept outright abuse. I won’t miss the workplace chaos that this management style brought to the White House; nobody will.

High level public resignations—higher level than Mulvaney’s, frankly—would benefit the Republic in general if they became commonplace tools to hold Presidents publicly accountable for misconduct.

Maybe Mulvaney can create a new “norm.” I hope so, but will not be holding my breath.

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.

Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading