Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/10/2019: The All-Star Game, The National Anthem, Quotas, And Secretary Acosta

Good morning!

1. All-Star Game ethics reflections (with a dash of women’s soccer):

  • Competence. Can someone tell me how many different keys MAX wandered into while trying to sing the National Anthem at the MLB All-Star game last night? He was flat, he was sharp, he fluctuated mid-phrase.  My rule is that I don’t care to hear a singer’s self-indulgent riffs at the end of the anthem if he couldn’t sing the real notes accurately earlier. That was awful. I know: it’s a tough song to sing on pitch without accompaniment, but these people are supposed to be professionals, and that was an amateurish, sloppy job.Incredibly, MAX has performed the Star-Spangles Banner at other sporting events.

Somebody tell him.

A saving grace: at least he remembered all the words (more or less) and didn’t kneel.

  • [ Speaking of kneeling: Women’s soccer team captain Megan Rapinoe “explained” her disrespecting the National Anthem (in defiance of her own team’s rules) while representing the nation abroad, telling Anderson Cooper last night (of course Anderson had neither the wit nor integrity to challenge her nonsense,

“I think that protest is not comfortable ever. It’s going to force people to look inward and question everything they thought that they knew….taking care of others, standing up for yourself and other people if they don’t have the ability to do so, is very uniquely American…I don’t think anybody can deny the horrors of racism and Jim Crow and mass incarceration and what’s happening on the southern border and gay rights and women’s rights.”

This is a sub-breed of Authentic Frontier Gibberish, the increasingly common species called the Self-Righteous Virtue-Signaling Authentic Frontier Gibberish, or “Kaepernick-speak,” SRVSAFG for short.. If an athlete hates the country because of its past mistakes more than he or she is proud of the country because of what it stands for, aspires to, and has accomplished, then it is hypocritical to play for a national team. “What’s happening” on the Southern border is an under-funded law enforcement and security agency doing the best it can to handle a flood of deliberate law-breakers who have chosen to endanger their own children. “What’s happening” in gay rights is that they are stronger now than they were during the first term of the previous administration. “What’s happening” in women’s rights is a healthy national debate over whether those rights should include an upon-ended right to end the life of  another human being—none of which has anything to do with soccer.

But I digress–we were talking about an American sport, baseball…

  • Integrity. Fox’s baseball broadcasting is marginally better than ESPN’s but only because Fox doesn’t include a sociopathic steroid cheat like Alex Rodriguez on its broadcast team. However, the devise of having live interviews with the players on the field during the game is offensive and insulting. MLB is foolish to allow it.

2.  Oh for God’s sake...In her review of “Dog Man: The Musical,” New York Times reviewer Laurie Graeber writes, “[M]y only quibble is the same one I have with the novel: All the really interesting characters are male.” Okay, it’s only a quibble, but it’s an offensive and biased quibble, and since her editor–if the Times still uses editors; I see no sign of them of late—didn’t have the sense to slap her down, it’s up to the rest of us. What does she want, EEOC quotas in every story now? Yes, that’s exactly what she wants, and the idea is creatively stultifying. This quibble leads to other similar quibbles, and the next thing you know, a production of “Twelve Angry Men” or “That Championship Season” or “The Fantastiks” will be labelled racist, sexist, homophobic or “ablist” because it does’t perfectly balance its casting with an equal number of men, women, blacks, Asians, Hispanic, gay, transgender, non-binary, “differently-abled” characters. If there aren’t enough characters to get them all in, then eliminate the white males.

Graeber’s “quibble” is based on tribalism and bigotry, and she should not be allowed to get away with it without a fight.

3. Apparently Labor Secretary Acosta is resigning today. GOOD. Ethics Alarms covered the reasons this is necessary and now long-past due in a November 2018 post about the revelations involving Jeffrey Epstein’s unconscionable plea deal. I wrote then..

I do not see how Acosta can remain as Secretary of Labor following these revelations, incomplete as they are. I don’t see how we can trust his judgment, and even if, somehow, he could justify the deal with Epstein on legal, technical or pragmatic grounds, I doubt that the general public would be reassured. He should resign.

Yet it took eight more months and a new set of charges against Epstein for President Trump, or Acosta to accept the obvious and to do the right thing. There’s no excuse for this.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/15/2019: Fevered Ethics Musings, and More

Good morning

…after a lousy night’s sleep.

 I’m going to deal with the Peter Strzok/Lisa Page Congressional testimony in a full post, but I’ll give a preview here.. As I will elaborate then, this makes me feel like I am going crazy, and also creates dilemmas regarding what this blog is about, and how to keep it trustworthy. The story that has developed over the past week is almost incredible in its objective implications for the Obama administration’ legacy (Did you know that there were NO SCANDALS under President Obama?), the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, the Mueller investigation, the Justice Department, the Democratic Party, and the efforts to undermine the Trump Presidency, and by extension, our democracy. When I write about all of this, however, the result will sound like an over-heated conspiracy theory from the depths of Breitbart. I know that’s what my bubble-dwelling friends on Facebook will say, and what the Ethics Alarms exiles who were, and, I’m sure, still are, incapable of believing anything but “resistance” and Democratic anti-Trump talking points will think as well. I checked yesterday’s New York Times page by page: there was nothing about what Peter Strzok and Lisa Page revealed under oath…not in the news, not on the op-ed page, not in the letters to the editor. How can that be, in a paper that claims to present “all the news that’s fit to print?” I didn’t check the Washington Post (I don’t get the paper version) , but I assume a similar black-out from the paper that hypocritically proclaims that “Democracy Dies In Darkness.” Senator Lindsay Graham s calling for a new Special Prosecutor, and if we had an honest, non-partisan news media, I assume—I hope—that the informed public, at least the uncorrupted portion that has principles that transcend politics, would be doing the same. I know U.S. government and Presidential history better than most, and what I see—and can see only because I do not trust the mainstream media–is worse than Watergate (that over-used phrase) and far, far scarier, because this time, the press is part of the cover-up.

1. Addendum. One legacy that may be ticketed for oblivion is that of John McCain. We learned yesterday that a close McCain associate aggressively circulated the discredited, Trump-smearing Steele memorandum to media outlets all over D.C. after the President was elected. From the Daily Caller:

David Kramer, a former State Department official, said in a deposition on Dec. 13, 2017 that he provided a copy of Christopher Steele’s dossier to reporters from McClatchy, NPR, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and BuzzFeed and CNN’s Carl Bernstein. He also shared the report with State Department official Victoria Nuland, Obama National Security Counsel official Celeste Wallander and Illinois GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

If Senator McCain knew about this, or worse, engineered it, he was trying to undermine the sitting President. Based on his petty and vindictive conduct in the period between the election and his death, this seems very plausible, and even likely.

2. Meanwhile, here’s another irresponsible Trump Tweet storm…which has received more publicity in major news sources than indications that the Obama Justice Department was working to manipulate the 2016 Presidential election. The President tweeted that “airplanes are becoming too complex to fly”   two days after the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed all 157 people aboard, and before any official assessment of the causes of the crash  was made, “Split second decisions are needed, and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cost yet very little gain. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!”

Ugh. Talk about abusing a position to make the public dumber. This is just Luddite blathering from someone who has no more expertise regarding airplanes than my mailman. It is not an informed opinion, and the comments can do no good, while causing tangible damage in unfounded fear.

I do agree that Albert Einstein would be a poor choice as a 737 pilot, as would Genghis Khan, Ed Wynn, and Katherine the Great, being untrained in flying AND being dead as mackerels.

2. Another liberal champion bites the dust (and I think I know why).  From the Montgomery Advertiser:

The Southern Poverty Law Center fired Morris Dees, the nonprofit civil rights organization’s co-founder and former chief litigator. SPLC President Richard Cohen said in a statement Dees’ dismissal over his misconduct was effective on Wednesday, March 13. When pressed for details on what led to the termination, the organization declined to elaborate. “As a civil rights organization, the SPLC is committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world,” Cohen said in the emailed statement. “When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action.”

The Law Center is literally an extension of Dees; he has been its face and founder. I’ve been at an award ceremony for Morris Dees. An organization doesn’t treat its progenitor this way unless it has to, and Dees, according to reports, was no longer active in the SPLC’s activities. There is an undropped shoe, and I’m betting the Oxford is one more sexual harassment scandal involving a liberal icon. What other “conduct” would get Dees fired, unless the hate-group labeling group’s founder was using shoe-polish to imitate Michael Jackson?

3.  So how long before college tuitions come down, people stop assuming those with degrees from Harvard are smarter than those who don’t, and higher education admits that a complete overhaul is overdue and mandatory, since colleges have become political indoctrination centers rather than educational institutions?  Commenting on the college admission scandal, George Mason University professor Bryan Kaplan writes at TIME:

…The admissions scandal is an opportunity to separate the lofty mythology of college from the sordid reality. Despite the grand aspirations that students avow on their admission essays, their overriding goal is not enlightenment, but status. Consider why these parents would even desire to fake their kids’ SAT scores. We can imagine them thinking, I desperately want my child to master mathematics, writing and history — and no one teaches math, writing and history like Yale does! But we all know this is fanciful. …Most majors, however, ask little of their students — and get less. Standards were higher in the 1960s, when typical college students toiled about 40 hours a week. Today, however, students work only two-thirds as hard. Full-time college has become a part-time job….Why do employers put up with such a dysfunctional educational system? Part of the answer is that government and donors lavish funding on the status quo with direct subsidies, student loans and alumni donations….The deeper answer, though, is that American higher education tolerably performs one useful service for American business: certification.

… When I was in high school, my crusty health teacher loved to single out a random teen and scoff, “You’re wanted … for impersonating a student.” If you can get your less-than-brilliant, less-than-driven child admitted, he’ll probably get to impersonate a standardly awesome Ivy League graduate for the rest of his life.

…[T]ruth be told, this salacious scandal proves next to nothing. It just illustrates the obvious. Though we casually talk about our “institutions of higher learning,” little learning is going on. Sure, college is an intellectual banquet for the rare students with a passion for ideas and the energy to locate the also-rare professors with a passion for teaching. The vast majority, however, come in search of a stamp on their foreheads that says grade a — and leave with little else. If the parents accused by the FBI are guilty as charged, don’t say they failed to understand the purpose of a college education. Say they understood its purpose all too well.

Bingo.

 

 

The Alexander Acosta-Jeffrey Epstein Scandal

That’s Epstein…a popular guy.

You have to buckle your seat belt and read this story.

The Miami-Herald undoubtedly earned itself a Pulitzer Prize with its detailed and horrifying account of rigged justice involving jet set multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who parlayed money, connections, friends in high places and quite possibly extortion into a lighter-than-light sentence despite overwhelming evidence that over many years he had used his resources to gather “a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day…The eccentric hedge fund manager, whose friends included former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, was also suspected of trafficking minor girls, often from overseas, for sex parties at his other homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and the Caribbean, FBI and court records show.”

The prosecutor who allowed Epstein to virtually escape accountability for crimes that make such recent cultural villains as Harvey Weinstein appear to be benign in comparison was the Trump Administration’s Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, then the U.S. attorney for Southern Florida.

Nobody’s talking, except the alleged victims, who are now mounting a legal challenge to the fiasco. Epstien’s lawyers, the kind of high-powered, high-priced super-team that only the richest of the rich can summon, included Allan Dershowitz, Roy Black and Ken Starr, among others, can’t discuss their representation under the rules of client confidentiality. So far, Acosta has been silent as well. The evidence that the paper’s investigation has uncovered—and again, don’t rely on this brief post, read the whole story—is persuasive, damning, and for me, someone who works in and with the legal profession, spiritually devastating. This, from the Maimi-Herald’s introduction and conclusion, provides some sense of the magnitude of the scandal: Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/29/18: (Yes, #4 Should Be A Free-Standing Post, But I’m In A Hurry…)

Good Morning!

I love “Onward Christian Soldiers,” of course, but this is my favorite Arthur Sullivan-composed hymn…

1. Reminding me of the basic unethical and cynical nature of state lotteries...A middle-aged African American woman sits outside of our local 7-11 pretty much all day, seven days a week. I’ve written about her before, most recently when she let the door slam in my face despite our family occasionally giving her food, cigarettes and a ten-dollar bill now and then. This morning she bought 40 dollars worth of lottery tickets.

And if she hit the jackpot, she’d be back sitting out front and begging for money in a year or less.

2. My Facebook. theory. You noticed, I’m sure, that Facebook took a 100 billion dollar hit to its paper value in less than 48 hours last week. It all could have been avoided by honesty, transparency, humility, avoidance of virtue-signaling, and fealty to free speech.

  • Users should have been told, in automatic emails and in big, bold letters in disclaimers on the site, since too many of them are too dumb to figure it out, that anything they put on the free platform was fair game to be harvested, sliced, diced, used, sold, analyzed and exploited for any legal purpose, by any group, party, nation or organization, and if potential users didn’t like the terms, nobody was making them post.
  • Facebook should have avoided pretenses of virtue. It provides a useful means of networking and communication as well as cost-free mini-blogs to people unwilling to maintain real ones. It does so to make money, not to make a better world…especially since social media arguably makes a worse one.
  • It should have denied responsibility, in court if necessary, for “fake news” regardless of who created it. Any ad or “sponsored story” should have been so labelled, with Facebook’s position being “read and believe at your own risk. Check “facts” before you spread them around. It’s your responsibility, not ours.”
  • Facebook should have had faith and belief in the freedom of expression and speech, and not attempted to censor “hate speech” or “fake news,” neither of which are subject to precise identification and analysis without the corrupting influence of bias. Indeed, Facebook was obligated to support the First Amendment, as a major cultural force.
  • Facebook should have stayed apolitical. Instead, it joined the “resistance” freakout over Hillary Clinton’s loss, and signaled its virtue by agreeing with absurd and unsupported claims regarding the importance of fake and risible news stories on Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

Mark Zuckerberg is a classic example of a narrow, limited, juvenile savant whose one big idea gave him more power and influence than he was qualified to handle. Maybe losing all of that money will make him appropriately humble, but I doubt it. Such people almost never learn.

3. Is the U.S. State Department intentionally hassling trans women? This story makes a prima facie case that it is, and if that’s really what is going on, it is petty and wrong. It also is a classic Rashomon situation.  Government bureaucracies are inherently inefficient, incompetent, and screwed up beyond all reason or toleration. (Oddly, progressives want more such agencies, with more employees. Go figure.) The story linked appears to show the system trying to make things difficult for a particular group, but the individual targeted only sees how she is being treated, so it appears like obvious discrimination. That, however, is a very subjective assessment.

A member of my family is in jail for a few months, and had been granted work-release privileges so he could continue his job and career. However, those in charge of the program were openly hostile to his efforts to complete the paperwork and arrangements. They kept changing the rules, increasing requirements, threatening him, and delaying the process. When he contacted his lawyer, he was told, “these people can do anything they want to, and get their satisfaction from boring, low-paying jobs by abusing people like you, meaning anyone who would normally be their equals or better, but who is now under their thumbs. You have no choice. Do what they want, or you will suffer. Simple as that.”

My jailed family member is white, male, educated, well-spoken and polite. Eventually, after he grovelled enough, everything was straightened out. “You know,” he said ,”It I were black, there is no way you could have convinced me that I wasn’t the victim of racism.”

It could be the same with the alleged trans discrimination in the passport system. When one of the alleged victims says, “Make no mistake, this was an intentional action by the State Department to withhold recognizing my gender,” she is being sincere and perhaps naive. It may have been an intentional action by low level State Department employees to be assholes because they could be. [Pointer: valkgrrl] Continue reading

Wait: Does President Obama Consider THIS A Scandal? Because, You Know, It Is…

Every time either ex-President Obama or one of his slavish acolytes—you know, journalists?—make the statement that his tenure was “scandal free,” honest Americans who have been paying attention grind their teeth down a few more millimeters.

Of course, Obama had plenty of scandals, serious ones—at least they would have been serious in any other administration. The fact that the news media chose to minimize them or ignore them doesn’t make them less scandalous…in fact, that’s a scandal itself.  To name one example that especially rankles me, the IRS, an Executive Branch Agency, eventually admitted that it used its power to meddle in the 2012 Presidential election, against Obama’s opponent. However, the formula of lying, covering up, stalling, and having allies in the press call everything negative under Obama a “nothingburger” carried the day. This was SOP for eight years.

When Obama personally lied—20 times? 30?— about how his signature health care plan would work (All together now: “If you like your plan…”), somehow this Nixon-Clinton level of intentional dishonesty was shrugged off as “the ends justify the means.” The fact is that it was a real, calculated, intentional lie used to trick the American people, not just a case of a President being wrong. Bush didn’t know that Iraq didn’t have WMD’s. Obama had to know what his own health care bill would do.

Blecchh!. I can taste the tooth powder!

This week, another genuine Obama scandal was uncovered that would have had Democrats seeking impeachment votes if it had occurred under Reagan or Bush. The Obama administration secretly gave Iran access to the U.S. financial system, defying the sanctions still in place after the 2015 nuclear deal, despite repeatedly telling Congress and the public that it would not and did not do anything of the sort.

What would you call that?

After striking its bone-headed, constitutionally-dubious nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration wanted to give Iran the promised access to its freshly unfrozen overseas reserves, including $5.7 billion stuck sitting in an Omani bank.  Iran wanted to convert the money into U.S. dollars and then euros, but that would require our giving the rogue nation access to the U.S. financial system. Obama officials had  promised Congress that Iran would never gain such access. As was the usual solution for Obama when law, the Constitution or established procedure stopped something he had decided in his Wisdom was Good and Just, Obama had his Treasury Department issue a license in February 2016 that would have allowed Iran to convert $5.7 billion it held at a bank in Oman into euros by exchanging them for U.S. dollars. The scheme failed, for the Omani bank blocked the transaction, but this is just moral luck, and does not make the secret end-around the sanctions less wrong.

The license issued to Iran’s Bank Muscat made lies of public statements from the Obama White House, the Treasury and the State Department denying that the administration was contemplating allowing Iran access to the U.S. financial system. After the nuclear deal was announced  in July 2015, Obama Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testified under oath—lying to Congress is still a scandal, unless Obama officials do it, and they did it a lot—that even with the sanctions relief, Iran “will continue to be denied access to the world’s largest financial and commercial market.” A month after that, another Treasury official, Adam Szubin, testified that  “Iran will be denied access to the world’s most important market and unable to deal in the world’s most important currency.”

“The Obama administration misled the American people and Congress because they were desperate to get a deal with Iran,” said Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio).   Verdict: Fair and accurate. And what is the rebuttal by the Obama-ites?

Ooooh, lame. Lamer than usual, in fact. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/22/2017: The Best Laid Plans….

GOOD MORNING!

I’m really trying hard to be positive today: guaranteed low traffic, behind the Christmas 8-ball, and last night I heard what is, along with the sound of an atom bomb, Nancy Pelosi’s voice, fingernails on a blackboard, and the screaming of the lambs, among the most horrible sounds in existence: that made by a fully decorated, 8-foot Christmas tree falling over….I don’t want to talk about it.

1 Leaks are unethical. What about this is so hard to understand? This story is being widely interpreted as meaning that the reassigned FBI attorney was one of the likely leakers in the agency. Lawyers leaking confidential information related to their representations is unethical, and ground for disbarment, and of course firing with cause. I hope to get to this in more detail  later, but the widespread attacks in the media on criticism from conservatives, Fox news and President Trump on the FBI is Bizarro World stuff. The FBI would have no leakers if it were professional, competent and trustworthy. None. The botched Clinton e-mail investigation and the Peter Strzok scandal are proof of deep, deep, incompetence and corruption.

2. Well, there goes Plan C! In discussing Plan J, also now on life support, I laid out the Democrats’ other nine plans to over-turn the election and overthrow the Trump Presidency by non-democratic means ( I also hope to get to this in more detail  later, but the widespread attacks in the media on statements from some conservatives and Fox News that Democrats and “the resistance,” aided by the news media, have been attempting a “coup” is Bizarro World stuff as well. The justification for the indignation is that the term coup usually implies a violent overthrow of a government, but there have been coups that were quiet, peaceful and non-violent as well. The key factor in coups is that they are illegal or extra-legal. Calling the various plans to undo a legal election too similar to a coup to ignore places what has been going on since last November in its proper, sinister perspective.

Again: Plan A was to reverse the election by hijacking the Electoral College. Plan B was pre-emptive impeachment. Plan C was the Emoluments Clause. Plan D was “collusion with Russia” (The New York Times, to give credit where it is due, actually created a chart to explain this one, and if it isn’t obvious to you how pathetically weak the case is, you played NFL football…), Plan E is”Trump is disabled because he’s a narcissist and a Republican, so this should trigger the 25th Amendment.”, Plan F, the Maxine Waters plan, is to just impeach the President because she really, really doesn’t like him, Plan G is “The President obstructs justice by firing incompetent subordinates,” Plan H is “tweeting stupid stuff is impeachable,” Plan I is “Let’s relentlessly harass him and insult him and obstruct his efforts to do his job so he snaps (see E) and does something really impeachable.” Plan J is to force Trump’s resignation based on alleged sexual misconduct that predated his candidac.

Plan C was just kicked out of court:

“Judge George B. Daniels of United States District Court in Manhattan found that the plaintiffs had failed to show that they had suffered as a result of specific actions by Mr. Trump intended to drum up business for his enterprises. . . . Beyond that, the judge found, the emoluments clauses of the Constitution are intended to protect the country against presidential corruption from foreign influences or financial incentives that might be offered by either states or the federal government. They were not meant to protect businesses from competition from presidentially owned enterprises, he ruled.”

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/20/2017: Maybe It’s The Christmas Tree Lights That Are Putting Me In A Rotten Mood, But This Stuff Isn’t Helping…

(It only looks this way to me…)

Good morning, everyone!

Grrrrrrrr…!

1 Again I ask: how does democracy survive this? It is so discouraging to read about facts that “the public has a right to know,” that are”fit to print,” or that must be revealed if democracy is not to “die in darkness,” and know, know, that they will not be honestly or properly covered by the mainstream news media for purely partisan and ideological purposes. It is doubly discouraging to know that so many Americans are either so brainwashed or without integrity to begin with that they will defend this betrayal…and even attack those who try to let the truth out.

There was  a story published earlier this week by Politico, which is largely left-leaning but a major source of political news on the web. It was thoroughly sourced, and thoroughly shocking.

It described how Obama administration secretly quashed efforts to stop Hezbollah from funding its operations through criminal enterprises in the United States, deliberately sabotaging US law enforcement’s efforts to fight terrorist drug and money laundering operations, by  curtailing long-standing efforts to interdict cocaine shipments in the U.S. by Hezbollah, the terrorist organization closely allied with Iran.

The federal and international effort to root out Hezbollah’s crime network predated the Obama administration:

The campaign, dubbed Project Cassandra, was launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hezbollah had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.

But President Obama was determined to get his nuclear deal with Iran done in his second term, so this effort was suspended by executive directive. “This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” said Politico’s on-the-record source David Asher, a Defense Department official charged with tracking Hezbollah’s worldwide criminal enterprise “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.” Continue reading