Tag Archives: Washington, D.C.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/11/2018: Of Slave Cheerleading, Fake Degrees, And The Death of Pebbles

Good Morning!

(That’s the Kentucky All-State Choir serenading the hotel where they were staying last night, in observation of an annual tradition. I’m sure guests were kneeling everywhere in protest….)

1 Winter Olympics Ethics: You are all going to have to help me keep up with this, since I regard the whole enterprise as corrupt and cynical. How many of the competitors are doping? How many little girls are being molested by their coaches? How much gauging by local businesses is going on? Why are American citizens marching under flags of foreign nations? How many athletes are going to exploit the opportunity for political grandstanding? I’m dedicated to following cultural ethics, but as my terse and eloquent friend is prone to say in such situations, “There is some shit I won’t eat.”

So far, I note…

  • Vice President Mike Pence is getting roundly criticized for not being properly diplomatic regarding the North Koreans, refusing to shake hands with officials, and not standing when the unified Korean team entered the stadium during opening ceremonies. I would not criticized the Veep if he had behaved otherwise, but I won’t fault Pence for his choice, which I  assume were signed off on  by the President. Cognitive dissonance—my, this has been relevant lately!—applies. North Korea is a brutal regime that savages its people, spends money on weaponry while the public is malnourished, and has devoted a year threatening to nuke us.

They and their leader have earned contempt, not respect. The degree of criticism Pence is receiving from the news media shows how many journalists viscerally prefer North Korea to the Trump Presidency.

  • On that score, the gushing of NBC, ABC and CNN over the North Korean synchronized cheerleading squad is bizarre, dumb and tasteless. The 200+ team is propaganda for totalitarianism, and the less praise it receives from useful idiots, the better.  At one point, NBC tweeted “This is so satisfying” with a video of the beaming slave squad, then quickly deleted the tweet after a faint ethics alarm sounded.

This is one of those times we should be grateful for social media, as the Twitter assassins had their knives out, and appropriately so. My favorite of the many appropriate tweets collected here,

“Look happy or your little sister gets fed to a pack of dogs.”

  • And speaking of idiots, NBC Sports had to apologize after Asian correspondent Joshua Cooper Ramo told the Opening Ceremony TV audience  that “every Korean” respected Japan. This demonstrates astounding ignorance of culture and history, and stunning incompetence by NBC in preparing its broadcasters for covering an international event in South Korea.

2. Animal Ethics: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Social Media

A Life Ethics Lesson: The Washington Nationals And The Duty To Improve

Tex Ritter’s much-covered recording about the soldier whose deck of cards reminded him of the Bible has a parallel for me in the relationship of baseball to ethics. Like cards, baseball is a pastime, a game, but if you pay attention, there are profound lessons in ethics to be gleaned from the history, characters, and events of the game. In my official bio that I use for speaking engagements, I suggest that intensely following the travails of the Boston Red Sox since I was 12 was a major factor in sparking my lifelong interest and fascination with ethics. And it is true.

I live in the Washington, D.C. area now (unfortunately), and the local team is the Montreal Expos in exile, the Washington Nationals. The Nats’ mission is to bring Washington its first MLB World Championship since Walter Johnson was pitching and Coolidge was President. So far this goal has been elusive. That 1924 World Series-winning team, with the best names any team has had ever (Muddy Ruel, Ossie Bluege, Goose Goslin, Joe Judge, Nemo Liebold, Firpo Marberry, Mule Shirley, Pinky Hargrave, Curly Ogden, and more) has faded into forgetfulness while two Washington Senators franchises fled (to become the Minnesota Twins and the Texas Rangers, respectively) after decades of failure. The Washington Nationals, not nick-named Senators on the theory that the name was cursed, have proven cursed themselves. Despite having won more games over the last five seasons than any National League team, and having won the National League Eastern Division three times, the team has never sniffed the World Series, having lost repeatedly in the first round of the play-offs.

This season the Nats were loaded from the start, and even after terrible injuries to two of their best players, they have the best offense in the league, the best hitter (Bryce Harper) and arguably the best starting pitcher (Max Scherzer).  They are also in a lousy division where they don’t need to be great to win it without breaking a sweat.

But like the gorgeous woman with a wart on her nose, there is an obvious imperfection. The Nationals have no closer, that pitching specialist whose job is to get the last three outs (and sometimes more) to lock down victory in a close game.  This is not a new development, by any means. After the team decided to let last season’s (excellent) closer to leave via free agency, fans and sportswriters wondered how and when the team would replace him. One by one all of the established closers available by trade and free agency were snapped up, and it became clear that the Nationals ownership’s position was, “Never mind. The team is good enough. Maybe we’ll get lucky and some pitcher will surprse us, but even if we don’t, this team is good enough to win anyway. And we can save ourselves a bunch of money.Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Daily Life, Ethics Dunces

Making Us Suffer For Their Incompetence: The Secret Service and the Barn Door Fallacy

White House Security

A mentally ill veteran got inside the White House Friday. He could have had a bomb, or a gun, and the President and his family might have been targets. How did this happen? Mass incompetence and a break-down in security. Multiple “rings” of protection failed. Was it because the system was inadequate? No, it was because the Secret Service screwed up.

1. A plainclothes surveillance team stands guard outside the White House fence, and its job is to spot fence-jumpers and sound a warning before they go over. The team wasn’t paying attention.

2. Omar Jose Gonzalez climbed over the fence to the lawn, where a Secret Service officer was supposed to intercept him. Gonzalez got past him.

3.  At that point, an attack dog was supposed to be released to bring the intruder down. It wasn’t.

4. A SWAT team is next in the series of obstacles, but it was late to the party, trailing the intruder, and being apparently unwilling to shoot him as procedures dictate.

5. Gonzalez reached the White House door. A guard is supposed to be directly in front of the door. Not this time. (And still no fire from the SWAT team…I can’t imagine why a white SWAT team member would hesitate to shoot an apparently unarmed black man, can you?)

6. The door was supposed to be locked. Nope.

Of course, no system is better than the human beings working within it. Like so many agencies in the Obama Administration—the NSA, HHS, Justice, the IRS, the Veteran’s Administration, the State Department, Homeland Security, the GSA—the Secret Service had shown unambiguous signs of poor discipline, lax management and poor oversight, so its performance on this occasion should not surprise anyone, though it is cause for alarm. The Secret Service’s response to a fiasco of its own making is to place blame elsewhere, in this case, in the systems it didn’t execute properly, with new burdens falling on those who had nothing whatsoever to do their collapse.

The agency is floating a  proposal is to keep people off the sidewalks around the White House, to add barriers to the perimeter, and to screen visitors as far as a block away from the entrance gates. This is immediately recognizable as the Barn Door Fallacy, in which adopting excessive and  draconian measures that might have prevented an unusual disaster or near disaster is used by those responsible to distract from the real reasons for the event—bad luck, stupidity, incompetence—and make sure that what has already happened can’t happen again, with concern for the cost to others and other considerations being discarded entirely. Thus the fact that Boston’s Logan airport didn’t follow its existing security procedures and allowed planes to be hijacked by terrorists resulted in billions of dollars of national airport security and endless inconvenience for law-abiding passengers—to stop what had already occurred. Thus a deranged young man using an elementary school for a shooting spree was used to justify arguments to ban firearms from purchase by non-deranged, honest and trustworthy citizens. Now the fact that the Secret Service can’t perform the tasks they are supposedly trained to do—and an embarrassing episode arising from the Service’s procrastination in dealing with an existing inadequacy–is being used to continue the transformation of the nation’s capital into an eyesore of barricades being prowled by secret police, so a disturbed veteran who belonged in a mental hospital won’t elude agents, dogs and doors to burst into the home of the President. Continue reading

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Now THIS Is An Unethical Public Employee

That's Campatelli on the right,

That’s Campatelli on the right,

This is the beginning of the Boston Globe’s front page story about an investigator’s report on the conduct of Patricia Campatelli, the Suffolk County (in Boston, Mass.) Register of Probate, an elected position:

“Patricia Campatelli often worked only 15 hours a week at her $122,500-a-year job as Suffolk County register of probate, and she spent much of that time taking “numerous smoking breaks, scratching lottery tickets, looking at East Boston real estate on the Internet, and filling out puzzles,” according to employees quoted in a confidential report obtained by the Globe.

Even before the embattled Campatelli was accused of punching an employee in the face…”

The rest of the story didn’t make coffee come out my nose like the last part, but it was pretty jaw-dropping nonetheless. Campatelli, who is clearly a piece of work, is currently on administrative leave and denies everything in the report, despite the statements of virtually everyone who works with her that were provided to the court-appointed investigator Ronald P. Corbett, Jr. Corbett’s report has been forwarded to a committee of the Supreme Judicial Court for possible disciplinary action. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, U.S. Society

Case Study: Governments That Waste Money And The Consulting Firms That Help Them Do It, As D.C. Hands Out $90,000 For….WHAT????

Great. Thanks a lot, D.C. government.

Great. Thanks a lot, D.C. government.

There is so much to be outraged about regarding the Washington, D.C. “Parent and Family Engagement Summit”  hosted by the city’ s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (D.C. likes to think of itself as a state; it’s cute) in September, it’s hard to know where to start. I  also find it hard to type when I’m trying to stop my head from exploding.

1. Let’s begin with the fact that the city paid nearly $90,000 to a Chicago consulting firm to help it hold the conference, which was only one day, which is to say, about 6 hours, long. This is what having the federal government in your back yard will do to a municipal government’s sense of responsible stewardship. For perspective, think about this: the payment to Chicago-based SPC Consulting exceeds by $12,000 what the average D.C. Public Schools teacher earns in a year for actually doing something. I don’t know what a “parent and family engagement summit” is, but I have a pretty good idea what this one was: an Office of the State Superintendent of Education show-and-tell, so parents could learn what the city is allegedly doing about educating its kids. And I must say, the parents learned, if they were paying attention, what it’s doing, which is wasting their money. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Education, Government & Politics

Ethics Quiz: Mixing Math and Black Humor

[Yesterday I was en route to Las Vegas for a speaking engagement—actually one of my rock classic parodies musical legal ethics seminars with rock singer and guitarist Mike Messer—and essentially went from 7 hour trip to hotel to restaurant to bed last night, then to an all day session today. I’ll catch up: I’m not ignoring comments, just haven’t had the chance to read them.]

"If Bugs Moran has 276 gangsters, and Al Capone's men massacre 7 every Valentines day beginning in 1929, how many gangsters will he have left today?" Hey, math is fun!

At the Trinidad Center City Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., third graders have been given math problems like this…

  • “Tilda Tiger had many hungry children to feed on Thanksgiving Day. She caught 169 Africans, 526 Americans and 196 Indians. She then put the people equally into 9 enormous ovens to bake. How many desperate people were in each oven?” Not to mention…
  • “When I was sleeping in a forest last night, 2555 fire ants crawled up my nose and built a nest in my brain. I woke up screaming the next morning. My distraught mother rushed me to hospital for an emergency operation. The doctor was able to kill 1953 fire ants. The remaining ants in my brain formed themselves into 7 equal-sized groups and fled to 7 different organs in my body, one being my stomach. a) How many fire ants escaped? b) How many ants fled to my stomach?” As well as… Continue reading

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The Curse of Marion Barry

Uday isn't available, but Christopher is

Marion Barry, the former corrupt mayor of Washington, D.C., a convicted crack-user  who was caught a few days after while lecturing D.C. kids on the evils of drugs, a tax-evader, scofflaw and general embarrassment who still serves on the dysfunctional D.C. City Council, is now in his 70’s and thinking about his legacy. Oh, he’s running again in Ward 8, all right, but his long-term plan, not surprisingly, is to turn over his seat to a worthy successor with a record of being arrested for assaulting a police officer and possessing PCP with the intent to distribute.

You know. His son. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership