Before The Rot Set In: Wendell Willkie And James Beggs [Corrected]

A quote in an obituary for long-time NASA chief James Beggs, who died this week at the age of 94, shocked me into realizing once again how alien basic ethics have become to our leaders in business, government, politics…hell, just about anywhere.  And once again, I’m wondering what good I’m doing, and why I bother.

Beggs had overseen more than 20 successful space shuttle launches, but he was on administrative leave due to an investigation of his conduct when the Challenger launched and exploded in 1986. As we have discussed on Ethics Alarms, a landmark example of failed ethics and decision-making caused the temporary leadership of NASA to ignore dire warnings from two engineers and send the shuttle and its precious human cargo up in dangerously cold weather.  Indeed Beggs called NASA  from his exile that fateful day to express his concern about icing. He resigned from NASA in 1986, about a month after the Challenger disaster.

Beggs was reluctant to criticize his former agency’s culpability in the accident, but he was adamant that “they shouldn’t have launched.”  “Whether I would have done anything different at the time, I’ve thought about that,” he said. “I think I would have, but that’s pure conjecture.”

Remarkable. How often does a critic of a past decision have the intrinsic fairness and integrity to say that? The Wuhan virus landscape has been polluted by extravagant and unjust second-guessing from the start, as everyone from politicians to pundits to plumbers are just certain that they would have known how to handle an unprecedented situation with significant unknown factors and substantial risk. They would have reached a different, quicker,better approach than the individual who actually had to make the call.

It’s a disgusting spectacle, and an unethical one. The “right” decision can always be made to seem obvious after the fact; critics cannot possibly know what their state of mind would have been at the actual time the decision had to be made by someone else. Beggs’ acknowledgement of that, in a situation where he could have credibly second-guessed his colleagues without equivocation, demonstrates the character of a decent and ethical professional determined to do and say the right thing even when opportunities are present for personal gain.

That story, in turn, reminded me of…Wendell Willkie. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “From The Ethics Alarms Archives: ‘Age and the Judge’…” And A Current Day Example.

Pretty late last night, an Ethics Alarms post about mandatory ages of retirement for judges moved JutGory to offer this remarkable Comment of the Day, a tribute to a role model in his life. Coincidentally, it now follows yesterday’s last post, about a failed role model, or perhaps someone who should have become a role model but who never did.

I’m hopping Jut’s comment over a couple of waiting COTDs because I think it’s good to start off the day with some inspiration when possible.

Here is JutGory’s Comment of the Day on the post, “From The Ethics Alarms Archives: ‘Age and the Judge,’ And A Current Day Example.”

Meet Floyd.

And, if nothing else, this is the perfect post in which to mention Floyd.

Floyd was at the top of his class at West Point.

Scwartzkopf was a plebe when Floyd graduated.

Floyd injured himself parachuting into Germany on a training exercise.

He became a lawyer and the consummate Southern Gentleman.

He told me about the time that he handled one of those big divorces and his firm submitted a one-page bill in the amount of over $500,000.00 “For Services Rendered.”

He told me about the time he was able to obtain a Writ of Ne Exeat (I had never heard of it either).

And, after a career of legal practice in Georgia, this principled conservative southern lawyer relocated to the State that Mondale Won.

He did it for two reasons: his wife and one of his kids needed a change of environment because of pollen counts, etc., and Dick.

Dick was looking for a legal partner and Floyd was looking to move north. Dick was Floyd’s exact opposite in every way. Continue reading

Yes, It’s Another “Ick Or Ethics?” Quiz: Sarah Palin’s Surprise

Believe it or not, that’s Sarah next to the bear….

To be absolutely transparent, my mind’s made up on this one: I think it’s unethical. However, I admit to be a hard-liner on this issue, which is “The duty of leaders not to debase their positions or former positions for personal gain or ego gratification.”

Let me introduce this  horrific cultural episode by saying that I regard the TV show involved, “The Masked Singer,” among the Top Ten Stupidest Shows in the history of network television, and I’ve seen a LOT of network television, far more than is good for me. Its existence is an insult to the public, its taste and intelligence, and the United States of America. Maybe the species too. Adam and Eve.

Now here is the video clip. Consider yourself warned: it cannot be unseen or unheard:

Yes, Sarah Palin dressed up in a rainbow teddy bear suit and rapped “Baby Got Back” on national television.

The lyrics from Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Noel Cowardesque 1992 hit:

Oh, my, God Becky, look at her butt
It is so big, she looks like
One of those rap guys’ girlfriends.
But, ya know, who understands those rap guys?
They only talk to her, because,
She looks like a total prostitute, ‘kay?
I mean, her butt, is just so big
I can’t believe it’s just so round, it’s like out there
I mean gross, look
She’s just so, black
I like big butts and I can not lie
You other brothers can’t deny
That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist
And a round thing in your face
You get sprung, want to pull up tough
‘Cause you notice that butt was stuffed
Deep in the jeans she’s wearing
I’m hooked and I can’t stop staring
Oh baby, I want to get wit’cha
And take your picture
My homeboys tried to warn me
But with that butt you got makes (me so horny)…

Nice. Classy!

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was Palin’s appearance on “The Masked Singer” icky, funny, or unethical?

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: Santa In A MAGA Cap”

The issue of whether a mall should have fired a long-time Santa who posed for gag photo in a MAGA cap inevitably invited comparisons with the Naked Teacher Principle, which holds “that a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for  children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.” There are many variations of the NTP, including the recently visited Naked Congresswoman Principle, which cost Rep. Katie Hill her seat.

The question: Is there, or should there be a “President Trump-supporting Santa Claus Principle?

Here is Alizia’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Quiz: Santa In A MAGA Cap”

“I think this one might fall into The Naked Teacher Principle.”

I think I can understand why you would say that, but I think there are a few problems with that assessment. I will try to explain:

First, a school teacher who engages in sexual misconduct, is transgressing in a limited area. Our social norms — though this is changing of course — does not allow teachers of children to appear to be loose sexually. Long ago, and more especially for women who were teachers — and mostly women were teachers — it was part of cultural norms that a teacher have a ‘chaste appearance’.

But in a sense there is no issue of ‘speech’ involved when and if a teacher posts a naked photo. That is, there is no ‘speech content’ or political opinion expressed. If there is a ‘speech’ issue it is only of a vary limited sort.

The Santa who had his photo taken with a Trump hat should never have had to apologize to anyone. He was completely free to take such a photo of himself. There is no possible argument that could be brought out in a so-called free society that could successfully take the man’s right away. 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

Just What We Needed: The Naked Congresswoman Principle

Rep. Hill? Is that really you? AND WHAT THE HELL IS THAT GUY DOING?”

There have been many variations on the Naked Teacher Principle since I began tracking the issue, back in the halcyon days of the Ethics Scoreboard (still trapped in website host limbo). Some of the more interesting versions that have been explored on Ethics Alarms include The Female Bodybuilder Firefighter Principle, The Drag Queen Principal Principle, The Online Porn Star Teacher Principle, Naked Naval War College Professor Principle, and many others that one can explore here.

All involve the basic concept that when one has a job that requires respect, an image of dignity, the perception of good judgment and role model status, allowing naked, semi-naked, sexually provocative or otherwise compromising photos to be created, and they eventually find themselves online and available to those the individual thus exposed is responsible for leading, teaching, or guiding, the individual  cannot reasonably protest if this results in their losing their job. This is true even if the Naked Teacher or equivalent has been betrayed, victimized, or wronged. The Naked Teacher Principle involves strict liability. The lesson: if you intend to have a career requiring the public trust, don’t get photos made of yourself that you would not want to show to your mother or have appear on the front page of USA Today.

Now Democrats, feminists and progressives are defending Democratic Rep. Katie Hill  elected in 2018 as the first openly bisexual congresswoman from California. In connection with allegations that Hill had extramarital affairs with a female campaign staffer and a male congressional aide,  RedState, a conservative news website, and The Daily Mail, a British tabloid site,   published sexually explicit photos of Hill engaged in various versions of flagrante delicto. These are now viral. Some are porn mag-graphic; I’m not even going to discuss the bong she appears to be using in one of them. (And who was taking those photos?)

The House Committee on Ethics has begun an investigation, since it is against House rules for representatives to have sexual relationships with congressional staff.

Here is the Huffington Post  running interference for Hill, because God forbid a Democrat ever lose her House seat to an evil Republican: Continue reading

Ethical Quote Of The Month: Ellen DeGeneres

“We’re all different and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay that we’re all different… but just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them.”

—-Ellen DeGeneres, countering social media criticism of her hanging out with former President George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys game.

She prefaced that comment with this:

“When we were invited, I was aware that I was going to be surrounded with people from very different views and beliefs. And I’m not talking about politics… I was rooting for the Packers. So I had to hide my cheese hat in [her spouse] Portia’s purse. People were upset. “They thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?… A lot of people were mad. And they did what people do when they’re mad… they tweet.”

If they are morons, that is. These are the people who harass those wearing MAGA hats, who won’t speak to family members who voted differently than they did, who seek to boycott companies and individual who contribute to causes they oppose. They are unethical citizens and corrupted human beings. Continue reading

Saturday Night Ethics Dump, 8/31/2019.

Still trying to clear the ethics Augean stables…

1. Fox News headline: “The Dangers of Vaping.” Fake news! The story following that headline explained that teens were falling ill of serious lung difficulties after using what we once called “electronic cigarettes” to inhale THC. There is little convincing evidence that using e-cigarettes as they were designed to be used causes any lung problems. Thus the headline is as accurate as leading off a story about tainted beef with “The Dangers of Eating.”

2.  Another old ethics question comes around again. In 2017 I questioned the wisdom of the Miami Marlins baseball team loudly honoring the memory of Jose Fernandez, a rising pitching star who got himself and others killed by driving his speed boat while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. died July 1 in his hotel room

There is a level of recklessness, irresponsible conduct, arrogance and stupidity that cannot be excused, and whatever the level is, Fernandez exceeded it. The fact that he was killed himself was moral luck: imagine if only he had survived. Fernandez would be facing homicide charges and serious prison time….and would deserve it all. He had a family, a child, a city, a baseball team, and a sport all relying on him, and he decided to risk it all for coke, booze, and a speed boat ride, killing not only himself but two other human beings, who had families and responsibilities of their own. He was  no hero. He was a deadly, selfish, asshole.

No other message should be sent to the kids who once admired him that that one. Honoring Fernandez now would be a particularly ugly example of The King’s Pass or The Star Syndrome, Rationalization #11 on the list. A non-celebrity did what Fernandez did would be guaranteed posthumous infamy. The fact that the pitcher was a baseball star doesn’t make him better than that; if anything, it makes him worse.

Now we learn that Anaheim Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, a 27-year-old Angels pitcher who died on July 1 in his hotel room,  perished because he had mixed multiple opioids with alcohol. The Red Sox are playing in Anaheim, and the Angels players are all wearing tributes to Skaggs on their uniform, a prominent “45.” True, Skaggs didn’t get others killed by his irresponsible behavior, but his death was still the result of conduct that needs to be discouraged, condemned, and certainly not romanticized. The Angels can honor their dead team mate privately, but a public display that suggests that Skaggs’ death was anything but a self-made tragedy send a dangerous and irresponsible message. Continue reading

Pssst! CBS! “NCIS” Is Confusing People About Sexual Harassment And Sexual Assault!

“NCIS” starring Mark Harmon and an ensemble cast, is the second longest running scripted drama on television at 15 full seasons (trailing only “Law and Order: SVU,” which will apparently continue until Mariska Hargitay drops dead of old age) and the seventh longest running such show since television began. A breezy procedural that records the adventures of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, it depicts a diverse team that demonstrably idolize its leader, the enigmatic and tragic Jethro Gibbs, and support each other like a family.

As with all series that run this long and go into syndication while the show is still being produced ( “Criminal Minds,” “The Simpsons,” “NCIS LA,” and “Blue Bloods” is getting there), I eventually got sick of “NCIS” and hadn’t watched it for several seasons. However, last night’s Red Sox game was so dispiriting that I gave up for an inning or so, and peeked in to see how Gibbs and the gang were doing in Season 16. Almost immediately, I witnessed Harmon’s character planting a kiss on the face of the team’s new forensic specialist, Kasie Hines (Diona Reasonover, who appears to be about 18) just as he had often kissed Hines’s predecessor, Abby Sciuto (now departed Pauley Perrette), as you can see in the clip above. I gathered from Kasie’s reaction that this was the “new kid’s” first kiss from Gibbs, and she behaved as if it was both a surprise and the thrill of a lifetime.

For God’s sake.

A leader, manager, or supervisor should not, cannot, and must not kiss (or hug, or in my view, even touch) subordinates, particularly when the supervisor is male and the subordinate is female. This conduct was never appropriate, but beginning around 1980 the law began flagging it as potentially discriminatory, and once sexual harassment law crystallized—and Joe Biden’s memory to the contrary, that was a long time ago—such kisses, touches and hugs could be actionable. Continue reading

Naked Teacher Principle, The Selfie Variation

Pure as the driven snow! Especially if her breasts really look that THAT…

The Naked Teacher Principle (NTP) states that a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.

Ah, would that it were always this simple! In the past, we have had to deal with the “naked teacher who paints with his butt and naughty bits on camera with a bag over his head” principle, for example.  Another teacher got fired when the naked photos of herself she had on her own tablet inadvertently was sent to the students in her class. Continue reading