Tag Archives: “The Compliance Dodge”

Comment Of The Day: “How Many Rationalizations Can You Spot In This Op-Ed?”

In the post, How Many Rationalizations Can You Spot In This Op-Ed?, I challenged readers to read the depressingly meat-headed New York Times op-ed by a defender of Nashville mayor Megan Barry. and challenged them further to identify all of the rationalizations and fallacies it contained. Only one of you took on the challenge in its full, horrible scope, in part because not everyone pays to get past the Times paywall. Fortunately one who did take it on was the newly-minted Michael West, who dissected the essay as if it were a pithed frog.

Here is his Comment of the Day, freeing me from the obligation to post the answers to my question.

Having reviewed the Rationalizations List, here’s my go:

Paragraph 2:
“Along with this confession, the mayor offered the kind of full-throated apology we almost never get from public officials: “I accept full responsibility for the pain I have caused my family and his,” she said. “I knew my actions could cause damage to my office and the ones I loved, but I did it anyway.””

But she doesn’t accept full responsibility. If she did, and clearly her affair led to extreme financial irregularities which amount to defrauding the public, then accepting responsibility probably requires resignation.

Paragraph 3:
“She ended her statement with a pledge: “God will forgive me, but the people of Nashville don’t have to. In the weeks and months to come, I will work hard to earn your forgiveness and earn back your trust.””

I don’t think “God will forgive me” is a rationalization. It may be an actual deeply held belief, but the State of Tennessee is a bit more hard-nosed. At best this is just poll-tested platitude, but at worst, it is meant to convince some people to forgive her also (which makes it a diversion, not a rationalization). Working to earn their forgiveness and trust is an appeal to 21A Ethics Accounting: Criminal’s Redemption. She thinks future “good works” can atone for past sins. They cannot. What atones for past sins is having that sin and its effects blotted out, which in the case of defrauding the public, the only atoning that works is resignation.

Paragraph 4:
“This promise did not seem like an act of damage control. This is the way Megan Barry really talks. The language of full emotional availability is her native tongue.”

Appeal for sympathy, which is the opener for the next string of rationalizations.

Paragraph 5:
“Perhaps that’s why this city loves her. She hugs schoolchildren. She looks genuinely joyful at city parades and festivals. She grieves that too many Nashville teenagers are slain by guns. When Max Barry, her own son and only child, died suddenly last summer, the people of Nashville wept with her. When she spoke openly about the drug addiction that killed him, we marveled at her courage and admired her resolve to bring addiction out of the shadows of shame.”

This is Ethics Accounting again. She’s a really great person…so it’s implied we should overlook this one thing.

Paragraph 6:
“But in a red state like Tennessee, this liberal mayor also has powerful opponents, and they are not idiots. An editorial in the conservative Tennessee Star wasted no time in calling for her resignation: “Barry and the fawning, liberal Nashville media are trying the Clinton defense.””

This is a diversion away from the miscreant by accusing the accusers of bad faith motives. #48 Haters gonna hate. Her critics are ONLY demanding accountability because they want a political advantage or want to win a tactical maneuver. Continue reading

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How Many Rationalizations Can You Spot In This Op-Ed? [UPDATED!]

 

At the beginning of the month we discussed the scandal in Nashville, Tennessee, where the female mayor, —the news media tried oh so hard to bury her party affiliation deep in reports, but she’s a Democrat— was carrying on an adulterous affair with the head of her security detail.  Some quotes from the Ethics Alarms essay to refresh your memory for the horrors to come:

—She apologized “for the harm I’ve done to the people I love and the people who counted on me” but said she won’t be resigning. In a news conference, she said nothing illegal happened and no policies were violated.

—“I know that God will forgive me, but that Nashville doesn’t have to,” Barry said. “And I hope that I can earn their trust and I can earn your trust back, and that you will forgive me

—-This is classic appearance of impropriety.

—-In the Bill Clinton mold, the mayor is framing this as a matter of marital fealty rather than official misconduct—which it is—so she can argue that it’s just “personal private conduct.”

—-The conduct is unethical whether there are policies or not.

—-This is sexual harassment. The officer was a subordinate, and she was his boss, with the power to fire him or worse. There can be no genuine consent in such situations. In these cases with the typical genders reversed, neither the news media, nor the public, nor, in all likelihood, a hypothetical jury, would see it that way.

—-Barry’s playing the God Card is grounds to remove her all by itself.

—-Come on, #MeToo, show some integrity. Get this workplace predator kicked out of office.

Interestingly, a prominent and respected female, feminist Democrat who comments here with distinction argued in the comments to that post that this wasn’t even a newsworthy story outside of Nashville. Also interestingly, the New York Times disagrees, and even published a spirited—but stupid!—defense of Barry’s conduct, arguing that unlike, say, Al Franken, who was forced to resign for pre-political career conduct and unproven post-political career allegations, the fact that a Democratic mayor—FEMALE! Don’t forget that she is female!–was using state-paid employees under her supervision as a personal, state-funded dating pool does not mean she’s untrustworthy or qualified for high office.

Okey-dokey then! What we have here is an old-fashioned convenient double standard!

And this just in! Nashville’s main newspaper, the Tenneseean, reports that Rob Forrest, the Mayor’s married lover, earned substantially more overtime than the other bodyguards on Barry’s secuirty detail, $173,843.13  between July 2015 and January 2017, which was nearly $53,000 more than the other four bodyguards received combined. But, as several internet wags have noted, let’s be fair: Rob was doing more for the mayor than those other bodyguards..

Now let’s all read the op-ed*, by Margaret Renkl , whom the Times proudly describes as ” a contributing opinion writer.” This time around, I won’t get into such matters as the odd silence of the #MeToo warriors, who have set out to destroy successful men who were accused of being boorish on a single date. I won’t even question the competence of the Times editors, allowing such unethical, illogical, poorly reasoned hypocrisy to make its way into its pages to make Times readers more ethically inept than they already are. No, I just want to focus on Renkle and her claim that Barry shouldn’t have to resign, and the unethical rationalizations for wrongful conduct she gainfully employs along the way.

Here is the complete current list (some new rationalizations will be added soon, but this is plenty). These are just the titles; go here to get the full descriptions. Continue reading

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The Nashville Mayor’s Affair

Nashville’s first term mayor Megan Barry admitted yesterday that she had an extramarital affair with the police officer in charge of her security detail. She apologized “for the harm I’ve done to the people I love and the people who counted on me” but said she won’t be resigning. In a news conference, she said nothing illegal happened and no policies were violated. Her office released records of her text messages, calendar and travel expenses and records, and Barry said she will be transparent in cooperating with possible investigations. She accumulated more than $33,000 in travel expenses combined between her and the officer  from January 2017 to late October 2017, but claims all of the trips were business-related.

“I know that God will forgive me, but that Nashville doesn’t have to,” Barry said. “And I hope that I can earn their trust and I can earn your trust back, and that you will forgive me.”

Observations: Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day I: “The “Transitioning” Female Wrestler: A Failure Of Ethics And Common Sense”

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Jeff H, along with Tim LeVier and Glenn Logan, represents the longest commenting ethics observers on this site, their participation going back to the old Ethics Scoreboard. It is always a special pleasure to welcome one of them to a Comment of the Day honor, for, like all who venture into the comment wars, they have done a great deal to provide lively, perceptive and useful content here, and I am more grateful than I can express. (Jeff, a cartoonist, also contributed the drawing of Muhammad as cute Teddy Bear you will periodically see in the side header.

Here is Jeff H’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The “Transitioning” Female Wrestler: A Failure Of Ethics And Common Sense”:

OK. Here’s what I think:

I am the sort of person who thinks a person is whatever they feel they are inside. People like to talk about, ‘well, a transperson will never really be a woman” or whatever. I’ve not got much time for that. I ain’t got it in me to judge people for something like that. As I said to someone who was talking about the ‘perverts’ who dress like women, “Far as I care, I ain’t going to say you’re wrong. You are whatever you say you are. You say you’re a toaster, I’ll give you two pieces of bread.”

That also means that I think that a transperson should use the bathrooms they’re comfortable with. The notion that there are creeps purposely crossdressing to get into the ladies’ room seems basically fictitious. Even if it was true, unless it was to a gigantic density, I don’t see that as a legitimate reason to force them to use a bathroom they’re not comfortable with.

(It’s been going around, but there have been three Republican congressmen arrested for inappropriate conduct in men’s rooms, and they say no transpeople have been arrested for the same. I hope it doesn’t turn out that is HAS happened, but if it had… I think someone would have brought it up by now.)

So this is where I stand on the issue of the transgendered. I try to be as permissive and accepting as possible without being dismissively so. I’m not likely to budge on this, since most of the arguments against it seem similar to the anti-homosexual arguments most of us reject on sight.

Having said this… if Mack is really, in his heart of hearts, a male… then I don’t understand what possible pride he can take beating a bunch of girls at a sport when he’s ALSO taking performance-enhancing drugs. (Aside from everything else, I don’t really care if you have a legitimate reason to take steroids; I think you shouldn’t play competitive sports if you have to take them because they self-evidently give an unfair advantage.) Continue reading

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The “Transitioning” Female Wrestler: A Failure Of Ethics And Common Sense

The girls wrestling champion, Matt Beggs.

The girls wrestling champion, Mack Beggs.

Mack Beggs is a competitive wrestler at Euless Trinity High School, and also is a biological female more than a year into the process of “transitioning” to male.  Beggs just won his third consecutive girls’ wrestling tournament victory in the 110-pound weight class. I’ll call him “he” because that is what the student wants to be called, and he, in great part due to the male steroid treatment he has been undergoing,  is now 55-0 on the season. All of his opponents have been high school girls who are not taking steroids, and unlike Mack, do not intend to become, for all intents and purposes, male.

While Beggs says he wants to wrestle in the boy’s competitions,  the University Interscholastic League rules use an athlete’s birth certificate to determine gender, a measure that makes sense in most cases, just not this one. (See: The Ethics Incompleteness Principle) The rules prohibit girls from wrestling in the boys division and vice versa, and rules are rules. If you are a rigid, non-ethically astute bureaucrat, you follow rules even when you know that they will lead to unjust, absurd results, like Mack’s 55-0 record in matches.

The  rules also say that taking performance enhancing drugs like the testosterone that has given Beggs greater muscle mass and strength than his female competitors is forbidden, but  UIL provides an exception for drugs prescribed by a doctor for a valid medical purpose. After a review of Beggs’ medical records, the body granted him permission to compete while  taking male steroids—compete as a girl, that is.  Rules are rules!

One athletic director, after watching Beggs crush a weaker female competitor who left the ring in tears,  asked for his name not to be used as he commented to reporters, and opined that “there is cause for concern because of the testosterone,” and added, “I think there is a benefit.”

Really going out on a limb there, sport, aren’t you?

Here, let me help.

This is an unfair, foolish, completely avoidable fiasco brought about by every party involved not merely failing to follow ethical principles and common sense, but refusing to. Continue reading

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The Flynn Fiasco: Flynn Doesn’t Understand That Ethics Thingee, And That’s Reason to Fire Him All By Itself

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From The Daily Caller:

In the final hours before his resignation, now-former White House National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn said he “crossed no lines” in his discussion with Russia’s ambassador, but ultimately he was most concerned about the steady stream of leaks to reporters based on classified information.

“In some of these cases, you’re talking about stuff that’s taken off of a classified system and given to a reporter. That’s a crime,” Flynn told The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group during a telephone interview from his White House office on Monday.

“You call them leaks. It’s a criminal act. This is a crime. It’s not just a wink and a nod,” Flynn said.

Signature significance: any time an official under fire claims that he”crossed no lines,” he or she is asserting The Compliance Dodge, Rationalization #6 on the list:

5. The Compliance Dodge.

Simply put, compliance with rules, including laws, isn’t the same as ethics. Compliance depends on an individual’s desire to avoid punishment. Ethical conduct arises from an individual’s genuine desire to do the right thing. The most unethical person in the world will comply if the punishment is stiff enough. But if he can do something unethical without breaking the rules, watch out!

No set of rules will apply in all situations, and one who is determined to look for loopholes in a set of laws, or rules, or in an ethics code, so that he or she can do something self-serving, dishonest, or dastardly, is likely to find a way…

In an earlier version of #6, this was called the Al Gore Dodge, in honor of then Vice-President Gore, who had been caught engaging in some of the slimy Clinton administration fundraising machinations, and  justified his conduct by arguing that “no controlling legal authority” prohibited what he did, which was to raise campaign funds  from his office in the White House. Flynn lied to the  current Vice-President and attempted to cover-up his conversation with the Russian ambassador. The FBI was spying on him at the time, which raises other issues. But even if the FBI’s surveillance was a part of a rogue operation by Sally Yates to take over the government and make Barack Obama King, it doesn’t change what Flynn did, or make his conduct any more acceptable. Continue reading

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Trump, Master Of Rationalizations, Scores A Perfect #4 AND A Perfect #5!

Former District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry attends a news conference on the steps of Washington's city hall Monday, July 6, 2009. At the news conference Barry's attorney Frederick Cooke said Barry vehemently denies the allegation by Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, and that he's confident the stalking charge will be dropped. Barry, 73, stood behind Cooke but said nothing. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Somewhere, Marion Berry is smiling…

This is juuuust the beginning…

I have noted before that our President Elect never expresses any ethical awareness, and uses rationalizations exclusively to explain and justify his conduct. This is typical of say, 12-year-olds, but is less common among professionals in responsible positions.

Trump just authored a classic example, following the expression of concerns about his conflicts of interest, which are massive, unavoidable, and which should have been addressed seriously long ago, like in a Presidential debate, and at length. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton and various journalists felt it would be more helpful to their cause to spend time talking about what Trump had said about an over-weight Miss Universe and in a private conversation with Billy Bush. How did that work out for you, guys?

Now various lawyers and ethics experts are saying that Trump “must” sell off his business holdings because his company’s myriad business entanglements will cast many White House decisions under a cloud. The President Elect has a neat answer for them, to wit:

“The law’s totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

— Donald Trump, interview with the New York Times, Nov. 22, 2016

Bravo! This is a perfect expression of Ethics Alarms Rationalizations #4, and #5

4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.”

The late D.C. Mayor and lovable rogue Marion Barry earned himself a place in the Ethics Distortion Hall of Fame with his defense of his giving his blatantly unqualified girlfriend a high-paying job with the DC government. Barry declared that since there was no law against using the public payroll as his own private gift service, there was nothing unethical about it. Once the law was passed (because of him), he then agreed that what he did would be wrong the next time he did it.

Ethics is far broader than law, which is a system of behavior enforced by the state with penalties for violations. Ethics is good conduct as determined by the values and customs of society. Professions promulgate codes of ethics precisely because the law cannot proscribe all inappropriate or harmful behavior. Much that is unethical is not illegal. Lying. Betrayal. Nepotism. Many other kinds of behavior as well, but that is just the factual error in the this rationalization.

The greater problem with it is that it omits the concept of ethics at all.  Ethical conduct is self-motivated, based on the individual’s values and the internalized desire to do the right thing. Barry’s construct assumes that people only behave ethically if there is a tangible, state-enforced penalty for not doing so, and that not incurring a penalty (that is, not breaking the law) is, by definition, ethical.

Nonsense, of course. It is wrong to intentionally muddle the ethical consciousness of the public, and Barry’s statement simply reinforces a misunderstanding of right and wrong.

Continue reading

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