Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/12/2019: Sorry, An All “Bad Left” Post. Just The Way It Worked Out, I Swear….

Good morning…

A good and long, LONG-time friend whom I forced to abuse his legs through years of bruising choreography comes home from knee replacement surgery today, and I’m feeling guilty. So I need to watch Gene, Donald and Debbie hoof it up, even if you don’t…

1.  This is New York Times punditry. Over the weekend, Bret Stephens, the Trump-loathing token conservative on the Times op-ed team, wrote of the Presient’s generally well-received remarks on D-Day that “he didn’t mean the words he mouthed.” How does Stephens know what the President does and doesn’t mean? It’s the biased news media Catch-22: If the President says something outrageous, they criticize him. If he says something admirable, he doesn’t really mean it.

2. Why is John Dean a witness in the Democrat’s faux-impeachment hearings?  He has no direct knowledge of anything that occurred in the Trump Administration. He’s a disbarred lawyer who has made his living accusing other Presidents—all Republicans—of impeachable offenses.

His appearance as the very first witness to testify signals that this is not a serious inquiry. Continue reading

Rueful Observations On The Latest Development In Virginia Governor Northam’s Blackface Scandal

Well, let’s see: my college has embarrassed me, my law school’s professors continue to make me wish I had earned a law degree by drawing “Skippy” from the cover of a matchbook, black students were apparently insulted in my home city’s famous art museum, my baseball team allowed itself to be split by “the resistance,” and my adopted state of Virginia has the most ridiculous governor since Rod Blagojevich was making Illinois residents consider moving to Tierra del Fuego.

To refresh your memory regarding  the Ralph Northam Ethics Trainwreck, since it’s been stashed in the news media memory hole for a while: the same week  that he appeared to casually explain how post-birth abortion works while showing all the passion of someone describing how to replace a carburetor, Northam’s med school yearbook surfaced showing the governor-to-be either dressed as a Klansman or wearing blackface, unless you subscribe to the theory that the photo of two men in such get-ups was just randomly planted on Northam’s page.

In a dizzying sequence, the Governor 1) apologized for the photo and wearing blackface in it, apparently admitting that it was him 2) said that he didn’t think either figure was him, and he could “tell by looking at it” 3) admitted that he did once wear blackface to look like Michael Jackson in a talent show 4) said that he had to have someone explain to him recently that blackface was considered offensive.

The short version: he’s a babbling, untrustworthy idiot. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 4/25/19: Hypocrisy Edition

Having a delightful afternoon I hope?

1. “Ethics Bob” is back! After what I gather have been extensive world travels with his wife, Ethics Bob  reanimated his blog this week, and I am hoping that Bob, who kindly credited me with inspiring him to write his ethics book, and who teaches ethics himself, will begin commenting again on Ethics Alarms. He is that rarity around here, a committed liberal who plays fair in debates. Unfortunately, Bob’s return post is wrong—and I distinctly remember a lunch with Bob in which he insisted that Bill Clinton shouldn’t have been impeached—but that’s OK.  He’s ethical, thoughtful, and open-minded. Check in with him, and hope along with me that he starts checking in here.

2. How much hypocrisy can Democratic voters stand? In Virginia, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has been hit with multiple allegations of rape and sexual assault. Despite the lip  service the national party has given to “believe all women,” and its position during the Kavanaugh hearings that accusations alone were enough to disqualify a judge for the Supreme Court,  Virginia  Democrats refused to join Republican efforts to sanction or remove Fairfax, who is black and the #2 official ins a state where #1 has admitted to wearing blackface. In order to show that they don’t approve of Fairfax (while not having the integrity to make him hew to the standards they have been advocating for years) the Democratic Party of Virginia rejected his $2,500 donation for the party’s Blue Commonwealth Gala in June.

“We were not comfortable accepting the Lieutenant Governor’s PAC’s contribution and we let his team know that when they reached out,” party spokesman Jake Rubenstein told the  The Washington Post .

“The Lt. Governor’s We Rise Together PAC was planning to have a group of African-American pastors and other supporters sit at his table,” Fairfax spokeswoman Lauren Burke told the Post. “He is innocent and has passed two polygraphs and repeatedly called for an investigation. DPVA has assumed he is guilty of a violent criminal act with no investigation or even a conversation to ascertain his version of events.”

But if the party believes Fairfax is guilty of violent crimes and #MeToo outrages, why is he still in office? Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Day: “Reston Now”

“Unethical, sketchy, and uncomfortable behavior among Herndon officials are some of the main reasons behind the push to strengthen the code. The councilmembers shared stories of unnamed former town officials who publicly berated staff, grabbed a staffer in a sexual manner, and solicited jobs from other elected officials in the performance of their official duties.”

—From “Town of Herndon Grapples with How to Revamp Ethics Code,” an article in Reston Today, describing the classic and unresolvable problem with Ethics Codes.

Herndon, Virginia, isn’t too far from where I live.

The problem the article encompasses is as old as the hills. Simply passing laws, or regulations, or rules prohibiting wrongful conduct doesn’t do anything to make the people subject to these laws, regulations and rules better human beings. It simply tells them that there are specific consequences to their bad conduct. Maybe that will discourage them, and maybe it won’t. After all, they have to be caught first.

The conduct described in the quote is unethical, and anyone with functioning ethics alarms knows its unethical. Abusing subordinates? Sexual assault and harassment? Using official duties to barter for career advancement? If an official knows this conduct and others equally blatant are wrong, then they don’t need a code. If they don’t know they are wrong, no code is going to help them, and individuals that ethically clueless shouldn’t be government officials.

That doesn’t mean that codes of conduct aren’t essential tools of creating an ethical culture in a local government or tree house clubs. They are, but they are just a starting point, putting in place external standards that have to be internalized, which is to say that they are then used to fix the settings on everyone’s ethics alarms in that culture. By themselves, codes do nothing, and they may even cause more misconduct. Unethical people who are also smart love the Compliance Dodge, from the Rationalizations List: Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 2/28/2019: No Birthday For Frederick Edition [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

Back last night from a whirlwind day of ethics in NYC, and leaving today on an auto safari to Washington County, Pennsylvania, where I will address bar members to kick off their annual meeting. See Facebook? THEY don’t think I should be muzzled! Meanwhile, I will be celebrating the non-birthday of the pirate apprentice hero of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” who was, you recall, indentured to a pirate band until his 2ist birthday, and since he was born on Leap Year, legally committed to a life of crime until he was 84 years old.

1. Nah, Democrats don’t automatically default to race-baiting… Well this was certainly ugly and embarrassing. During  House Oversight Committee hearing with Michael Cohen, the fallen Trump fixer accused the President of making racist comments about African Americans. Let me interject here that this was obvious pandering to Cohen’s new pals in “the resistance.” It would have no probative value as hearsay even if the speaker wasn’t testifying with his pants on fire. Thus there was no need for Rep. Mark Meadows to try to rebut Cohen by asking Housing and Urban Development staffer Lynne Patton, who is black, to silently stand before the committee to (somehow) disprove that Trump is racist. Meadows (R-N.C.) said that Patton had told him there was “no way that she would work for an individual who was racist.”

Then Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) characterized Meadow’s stunt as racist, saying, “Just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean they aren’t racist,” Tlaib said. “And it is insensitive that some would even say — the fact that some would actually use a prop, a black woman in this chamber in this committee is alone racist in itself.”

“You’re one of my best friends,” Cummings said to Meadows. “And I can see and I feel your pain, and I don’t think Ms. Tlaib intended to cause you that, that kind of pain.”

Tlaib then apologized to Meadows, saying it wasn’t her intention to call him racist. She just said that what he did was racist.

Oh.

2. Stop making me defend the Northam family! Gotcha! Just as Virginia Governor Northam was beginning to extract himself from the embarrassment of having to confess to being a Michael Jackson imitator via shoe polish, an enterprising black legislative page decided to nab her 15 minutes of fame by accusing Mrs. Northam of the dreaded “racial insensitivity.” It appears that Virginia’s First Lady, while narrating a tour of the Governor, triggered her my alluding to slavery.

“When in the cottage house you were speaking about cotton, and how the slaves had to pick it,” the teenaged page’s letter says. “There are only three Black pages in the page class of 2019. When you went to hand out the cotton you handed it straight to another African American page, then you proceeded to hand it to me, I did not take it. The other page took the cotton, but it made her very uncomfortable. I will give you the benefit of the doubt, because you gave it to some other pages. But you followed this up by asking: ‘Can you imagine being an enslaved person, and having to pick this all day?'”

“The comments and just the way you carried yourself during this time was beyond inappropriate, especially considering recent events with the Governor. From the time we walked into the mansion to the time in the cottage house, I did not receive a welcoming vibe.”

Ah. Now we see why Bernie Sanders was attacked by Democrats for saying that race shouldn’t matter. Mrs. Northam treated the black pages like she treated the rest, and that made this page feel unwelcome. And if Virginia’s First Lady had only given the cotton to the white pages? That would have been insensitive too, I’m sure.

To her credit, the Governor’s wife has not apologized. She responded that she has given “the same educational tour to Executive Mansion visitors over the last few months and used a variety of artifacts and agricultural crops.” Her intent is to illustrate “a painful period of Virginia history.” She said that she began last year to tell the “full story” of the governor’s mansion, including the Historic Kitchen. “I believe it does a disservice to Virginians to omit the stories of the enslaved people who lived and worked there — that’s why I have been engaged in an effort to thoughtfully and honestly share this important story since I arrived in Richmond. I regret that I have upset anyone,” she wrote, but she reiterated that she is  still committed to chronicling the history of the Historic Kitchen, and “will continue to engage historians and experts on the best way to do so in the future.”

Now, if she had given the tour made up as Janet Jackson, that would have been inappropriate.

3. My own private boycott: I will not buy products that continue the coarsening of our culture by employing juvenile references to gutter language to sell their wares. Now Mr. Clean joins the list, with the ad for “his” Clean Freak Mist. Today’s TV ad screamed out “Big freaking news!” As with Booking.com’s evocation of “fucking” its ads, this is neither clever nor novel. Shrug it off if you like. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up: “Important Ethics Stories That I Don’t Feel Like Writing A Lot About Or Am Thoroughly Disgusted With” Edition

Happy Weekend!

I hope you’re not working the whole time, like I am. However, the Red Sox have their first Spring Training game, they are playing the Yankees, and all is serene.

1. Another one of Trump’s “best people” bites the dust, or should soon.   Judge Kenneth A. Marra of Federal District Court in West Palm Beach ruled that accused serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s secret sweetheart plea deal agreed to by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta when he was a federal prosecutor violated federal law.

The corrupt arrangement  protected the billionaire from serious jail time and also  protected his politically-connected  friends including, notably Bill Clinton, from accountability despite their visits to Epstein’s  infamous island resort via the so-called “Lolita Express,” the private plane where young girls allegedly provided sexual services to the passengers. Ick.

I wrote a post about this unfolding scandal here. At that time, last November, I wrote,

“I do not see how Acosta can remain as Secretary of Labor following these revelation, 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.”

Hey, I beat Jonathan Turley by almost three months!

2. Is the media assault on Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) for being an abusive boss legitimate? I have to say, it sure looks like it. The moderate Democratic Presidential hopeful might also be the target of a leftist news media that favors her more extreme competitors, but most Americans don’t know much about Klobuchar and can’t pronounce her name. The news media needs to introduce her, but it also shouldn’t poison the well. Conservatives, who don’t like her but like her a lot better than the likes of Senators Warren, Harris or Booker, are defending Klobuchar by arguing that she is being subjected to a double standard, since so many male officials past and present have been equally unpleasant. That’s just an “everybody does it” rationalization. There are good reasons to worry about the judgment and temperament of leaders who treat subordinates disrespectfully and cruelly, as in yesterday’s Times story about Klobuchar demanding that an aide clean her comb.

The problem is that the mainstream news media is not applying similar scrutiny, at least not yet, to similarly dubious candidates like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.

3. Great. Just what we need.   “If Mueller is done, states could file their own charges — even against Trump,” says the Washington Post. So this is really the way it is: “the resistance” and its Democratic allies will continue to harass and obstruct the elected President forever, as their endless tantrum over losing the 2016 election. I have written that nothing could make me vote for someone with Donald Trump’s non-ethical approach to life as President, but I am beginning to think that only a Trump victory in 2020 will save the country from an endless cycle of partisan sabotage of Presidents, regardless of party, going forward. This unethical strategy has to fail, and fail hard. Continue reading

Lunch Time Ethics Appetizer, 2/13/2019: Rail, Restaurants, Resignation And Reality

Yum Yum!

1. When reality meets ideology… California Gov. Gavin Newsom  announced that

[He’s] abandoning a $77 billion plan to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco and will focus instead on completing a 119-mile (190-kilometer) segment in the state’s agricultural heartland. Voters approved a ballot measure in 2008 calling for the linking of Northern and Southern California, a rail project initially estimated to cost $33 billion and be completed in 2020. Subsequent estimates more than doubled the cost and pushed the timeline to 2033. Newsom pledged to finish the segment already under construction through California’s Central Valley. He rejected the idea critics have raised that it will be a “train to nowhere” and said it can help revitalize the economically depressed region.

We’ll see how much that part costs, if it’s ever completed. Meanwhile, Democrats are going to have to declare their fealty to the “Green New Deal,” which pledges to eliminate air travel nation-wide with “high speed rail.”

2. What part of “convenient double standards” is unclear to you? Kelli Goff writes at the Daily Beast (relayed by Ann Althouse, since I have the DB on my Ethics Alarms  Untrustworthy Black List):

“When Rachel Dolezal was unmasked as a white woman who misrepresented her racial and ethnic identity in part to bolster her professional bona fides as a voice of the disenfranchised, she was penalized—heavily. She went from rising media star to late-night punchline, unemployable and impoverished. I don’t wish poverty on Warren, but I don’t understand how her only punishment for a similar fraud seems to be that she may become president.”

Warren, a polished demagogue, got rave reviews for her recent speech throwing her war-bonnet  into the 2020 ring; like Barack Obama, skillful public speaking is the full extent of her qualifications for leadership. But wow—with the Democrats more or less trapped into nominating another woman to run against Donald Trump, what an awful field of openly unethical females they have assembled so far! Warren’s a fraud; Gillibrand is an anti-male bigot; Gabbard is running away from strong anti-gay positions, Harris has attacked the Catholic faith as a disqualifying feature for a judge, and then there’s Hillary, who looks outstanding in this field. Continue reading