Tag Archives: whistle-blowers

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/26/18: “Baseball Season Begins This Week So Nothing Can Upset Me” Edition

Good morning!

1 A Comment Of The Day. I apologize to Aleksei for not devoting a full post to his excellent commentary, but the posts have been more than a little Parkland Shooting Freak-Out—yes, that is what it is—heavy of late, so I’m highlighting his comment here. I’m also going to torment my temporarily reason-deficient—for that’s what they are—Facebook friends by quoting it.

So I went to the Boston “March for our lives” as an educational thing, because I’ve never been to one of these, and I wanted to talk to people about why they were marching. I am on the pro-gun side. The signs they had definitely were variations on what Jack has provided here. The sign with the kid in the subway car, that’s actually the Boston Red Line.

This march was definitely an emotional thing, because of the 10+/- people I spoke with, nobody was very knowledgeable on guns, gun laws, background checks, what is an assault rifle, the failings of government  in the Texas church shooting, the Parkland shooting, etc. On average, older people were more willing to have a longer conversation. On average, younger people were more irritated with me, once I told them what side of the issue I am on. I was polite and respectful, so there was never a brawl or anything.

I talked with the college girls with one of the more egregious signs ( “2nd amendment = white supremacy”) and they gave me the whole systemic racism shtick. They also had NRA = terrorism. They said the NRA buys politicians. I gave a counter example, that Planned Parenthood donates a lot of money too, where I was cut off immediately and told, that’s different, they’re not murderers, and it’s nowhere near what the NRA gives. [ Ethics Alarms note: This is not accurate.] Another woman I talked with, late 20’s maybe, told me how could I look into the eyes of children that are scared for their lives and not do something. I told her that it saddens me that kids are scared, but it saddens me more that the police failed, the school failed, and the FBI failed in Parkland. She didn’t rebut me and I wished her a good day.

I also was surprised when some young people asked me, if I don’t agree with the march, what am I doing here? I told them that this is a free country, I can be here if I want and that I can speak with other fellow Americans, even if we don’t agree on everything. On a positive note, people told me they appreciated my desire to hear the other side and learn more. It was an interesting experience, but like Jack said earlier, it was a “scream at the sky” fest. Also, the chants were boring. “Hey, Hey, NRA, how many kids have you killed today”, “What do we want? Gun Control! When do we want it? Now!”, “No more guns! No more guns!”, and so on and so forth. I want to say there were more women, there were families with children, which also had signs, people from kindergarten age to old age pensioners.

Observations:

  • Bravo for Aleksei, and anyone else who had the patience to do this. My aversion to protests,demonstrations and rock festivals. along with the brian-numb, herd-like vibe the emit. goes back to my teens.  I just couldn’t do what he did.
  • Can’t somebody write some new protest chants? Do the chanters know that recycling Vietnam peace chants just reinforces the belief that this is all generic generational bitching, and more reflex that thoughtful? If I hear “Hey, Hey” in a demonstration, it only  makes me giggle. A friend in college would react to these chants by raising his arm in a protest fist gesture and shouting “Right arm!”
  • Here is another eye-witness report.

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Rights

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/20/18: Cheaters And Useful Idiots

Good Morning!

1. A Whistle-blowing dilemma.The Ethicist in the New York Times Magazine is no fun anymore, now that a competent, real ethicist is answering queries rather than the previous motley assortment of Hollywood screenwriters and others of dubious qualifications. Even when I disagree with

  • “Given how little cheating is caught, reporting them would have meant that they paid a penalty that lots of others ought to — but won’t — pay.” Ugh! A Barry Bonds excuse! So because all guilty parties aren’t apprehended, everyone should get away with wrongdoing?
  • “Because many people in your generation don’t take cheating very seriously, your friends would most likely have ended up focusing on the unfairness of being singled out, not on their wrongdoing.” That’s their problem. The attitude the Ethicist identifies is 39. The Pioneer’s Lament, or “Why should I be the first?” He’s correct that this will be the likely attitude of the busted cheaters, but since when did how wrongdoers rationalize their wrongdoing become mitigation?
  • “The intervention you were considering was likely, therefore, to be very costly to you.” Yes, doing the right thing often is.
  • “The burden of dealing with cheating in your school shouldn’t fall on you.” Boy, I really hate this one. It’s #18. Hamm’s Excuse: “It wasn’t my fault.”

This popular rationalization confuses blame with responsibility. Carried to it worst extreme, Hamm’s Excuse would eliminate all charity and much heroism, since it stands for the proposition that human beings are only responsible for alleviating problems that they were personally responsible for. In fact, the opposite is the case: human beings are responsible for each other, and the ethical obligation to help someone, even at personal cost, arises with the opportunity to do so, not with blame for causing the original problem. When those who have caused injustice or calamity either cannot, will not or do not step up to address the wrongs their actions have caused (as is too often the case), the responsibility passes to whichever of us has the opportunity and the means to make things right, or at least better.

This rationalization is named after American gymnast Paul Hamm, who adamantly refused to voluntarily surrender the Olympic gold metal he admittedly had been awarded because of an official scoring error. His justification for this consisted of repeating that it was the erring officials, not him, who were responsible for the fact that the real winner of the competition was relegated to a bronze medal when he really deserved the gold. The ethical rule to counter Hamm’s Excuse is a simple one: if there is a wrong and you are in a position to fix it, fix it.

Appiah doesn’t feel the full force of my fury because the case involves middle-school, and the questioner is a child. This is what makes it a toss-up. If this were college or grad school, I think reporting cheaters is mandatory. Appiah also says that he doesn’t care for honor codes because they are usually not followed.

Maybe I was wrong about him… Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society

The West Point Communist, How Cultures Rot, And The Whistleblower’s Letter…

West Point graduate and infantry officer Spenser Rapone recently caused a sensation through his advocacy and support of communism, while being an “official socialist organizer” of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Rapone recently posted a photo of himself as part of a declaration of support for professional football player Colin Kaepernick, including the phrase “Communism will win” with the tag “Veterans for Kaepernick.”  Rapone later posted a second photo of himself in uniform with a Che Guevara T-shirt underneath his jacket.That led to scrutiny of the hundreds of pro-Communist tweets by the former cadet, including one  calling Defense Secretary James Mattis “evil” and “vile” and another saying he will “happily dance” on the grave of Sen. John McCain.

This was not extensively covered by the mainstream media—After all, what’s the matter with Communists, as long as they don’t help Donald Trump?—though some attention was paid when Senator Rubio demanded that the Army remove Rapone. The Army said last week is it investigating and that the posts “in no way reflect the values of the U.S. Military Academy or the U.S. Army.”

I sure hope not!

Now the military community and others are asking how this is possible, and how West Point could produce a  graduate like Rapone.  In response to the episode, retired LTC Robert M. Heffington has written an open letter about what he sees as the deterioration of the culture at the storied military academy. Heffington was an assistant professor at West Point for several years, until this past August.

Note, please…

I. This is how one blows a whistle.

II.  Heffington describes how cultures rot: inattention,  poor leadership, refusal to apply standards, corruption from political agendas, silence from within.

III. Desperate and politically driven efforts to achieve diversity at the expense of integrity and quality are a major factor.

IV. West Point is a part of the higher education community. It would be surprising if it were immune from the same deterioration that the rest of America’s colleges and universities are suffering from. Thus this passage…

“…an entire semester of military history was recently deleted from the curriculum (at West Point!). In all courses, the bar has been lowered to the point where it is irrelevant. If a cadet fails a course, the instructor is blamed, so instructors are incentivized to pass everyone. Additionally, instead of responding to cadet failure with an insistence that cadets rise to the challenge and meet the standard, the bar for passing the course itself is simply lowered. This pattern is widespread and pervades every academic department.”

V. Before I read the letter, I guessed that it would have a passage like this one, and sure enough:

“The plebe American History course has been revamped to focus completely on race and on the narrative that America is founded solely on a history of racial oppression. Cadets derisively call it the “I Hate America Course.” Simultaneously, the plebe International History course now focuses on gender to the exclusion of many other important themes.”

VI. Repairing a broken culture is a long and difficult process. It involves…

Exposure

Acknowledgement

Intervention

Investigation

Transparency

Resolve

Punishment

Dedication to standards and values

Measurable goals

New leadership

Oversight

Refusal to compromise

Routine Assessment of progress

 Robert M. Heffington is an Ethics Hero. Here is his remarkable and remarkably disturbing letter: Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership, Race, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society, War and the Military

This Is How Our Educational System Teaches Students Not To Challenge Authority

hazel-tweet

Hazel Juco, a 17-year-old student at John Glenn High School in suburban Detroit, went to the school’s bathroom to wash her hands. When she turned on the faucet, ugly brown water came out. She then used her cell-phone to take the picture above of the discolored water and posted it to Facebook and Twitter.

Juco says she was soon called to the principal’s office shortly after she posted the photo.“They told me I was being suspended… It’s inappropriate use of electronics in the restroom. And every girl takes selfies in the bathroom and makes it their profile pictures and no one has gotten in trouble,” she said. Indeed, that policy, it has been noted, didn’t seem to apply to the many students in the school whose cell phone use didn’t involve exposing health hazards that school administrators should not allow to exist.

Thanks to social media, the school’s outrageous conduct didn’t remain an internal matter, as it would have in an earlier era. Hazel’s photos were widely circulated, and eventually the news media became involved. After all, this is Michigan, and there was that little episode involving inept elected officials and agency administrators poisoning the Flint water supply just a few months back. Hazel Juco was hardly being an alarmist.

When reporters called Wayne-Westland Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Michele Harmala, and she said school administrators made a mistake by not reporting the water issue to maintenance, and the rule against students taking pictures in bathrooms was misapplied, since Juco was taking photos of polluted water rather than students using the toilet. It’s an easy mistake to make! Anyone could make it!

Sure.

The deteriorating  pipe leading to the faucet is being replaced, and the suspension has been expunged from Juco’s record. How nice. Nonetheless, the fascist, incompetent and abusive administrators remain in their jobs, and though Hazel’s unjust punishment has been retracted, the message sent by it remains. The school has taught the lesson that it is dangerous to speak out, perilous to blow the whistle, and risky to point out the deficiencies of those with power.

Unless the counter-message is sent that Hazel did the right thing, and that serious career consequences await administrators and teachers who seek to cover up their own ineptitude by intimidating students, these episodes will continue.

 

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Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Education, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Facebook, Leadership, Social Media

Ethics Lessons of The Peter Chang “Plad Asshole” Affair…And No, One Of Them Isn’t “Always Serve Rice In Individual Bowls”

Peter Chang: Chef, ethical restaurant owner, tough father...

Peter Chang: Chef, ethical restaurant owner, tough father...

In my metaphorical back yard, a kerfuffle over whether Chinese restaurants should serve rice  in individual bowls or family style resulted in bad publicity for a burgeoning restaurant chain, a family rift, some lost jobs, and an internet controversy.

I almost missed the last part. Luckily, my issue scout Fred misses nothing.

It unfolded thusly:

A group of four diners at the Peter Chang restaurant in Arlington, Virginia included a man who had lived in Beijing, and he expressed  surprise when the obligatory steamed rice arrived at their table in one large bowl.  He asked, “‘Oh, you guys don’t serve them in individual rice bowls?'” The server told the group that when rice is served to three or more diners at Peter Chang, it comes in a large bowl.

After the former Beijing resident (later termed “the know-it-all” in the ensuing social media debates) noted that it was an odd choice, considering that personalized bowls  were the norm in China, the server then offered to bring individual rice bowls instead. The group declined.

Oh…for some reason, three of the four men were in plaid jackets. Believe it or not, this detail is relevant.

When the diners received their bill, they saw that it had insulting typed commentary on it as well:  “im a plad asshole” and “i have a small penis”:

peter-chang-bill

When they complained to the manager, he apologized and brought out the two servers responsible for the typed insults on the point-of-sale slip. One of the diners told the Washington Post that the manager and the server appeared embarrassed but not contrite. “It was just a joke” and “You weren’t supposed to see it” described their attitude, he said. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Family, Humor and Satire, Social Media, U.S. Society, Workplace

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Tina Brown

“The Monica Lewinsky confessional in Vanity Fair brings back a torrent of unfond memories of the appalling cast of tabloid gargoyles who drove the scandal. Remember them? Treacherous thatched-roof-haired drag-queen Linda Tripp, with those dress-for-success shoulder pads? Cackling, fact-lacking hack Lucianne Goldberg, mealy-mouthed Pharisee Kenneth Starr—the whole buzzing swarm of legal, congressional and gossip industry flesh flies, feasting on the entrails. And, of course, hitting “send” on each new revelation that no one else would publish, the solitary, perfectly named Matt Drudge, operating in pallid obsession out of his sock-like apartment in Miami… They were the face of the future. The things that shocked us then—the illicitly taped conversations, the wholesale violations of elementary privacy, the globally broadcast sexual embarrassments, all the low-life disseminated malice—is now the communications industry as it operates every minute of every day.”

—-Daily Beast publisher Tina Brown, in an essay titled “How Monica Lewinsky Changed the Media”

Tina Brown, revealing the ugliness beneath...

Tina Brown, revealing the ugliness beneath…

This is an unethical statement for the ages. It launches an dishonestly titled piece with an unethical premise and unethical motives, virtually every phrase in it is despicable, and it reveals the dearth of admirable values not only within Brown, but within the millions of people who think like her, many of whom she and her cohorts corrupted.

In Abby Mann’s important drama, “Judgment at Nuremberg” (it had three forms of presentation: TV drama, film, and finally, stage), based on the third and final stage of the post World War II war crimes trials devoted to trying the Nazi judges, a vulnerable female witness and victim of Nazi justice is harshly cross-examined about an infamous case at the heart of the trials. Her humiliation is interrupted when one of the defendant judges (in the film, Bert Lancaster), stands to halt the inquisition, asking, “Are you going to do this again?”

The answer clearly coming from the Bill and Hillary Clinton Ethics Amnesia Team is clearly “Yes! It worked before, why not now?”

Monica was responsible for the whole impeachment train wreck, you see, and all that followed. That was Hillary’s position (once the original cover lie that it was all the fabrication of a vast right-wing conspiracy became unsustainable, with that stained dress and all), and as outrageous and audaciously despicable as it is, that it is still what the corrupt, corrupted and corrupting supporters of these two Machiavellian blights on our culture and politics are determined to make Americans believe, no matter how much bending of history, facts, logic, fairness, decency and responsibility it requires. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, The Internet, Workplace

Ethics Quiz: The “You Stink” Farewell Retirement Party Speech

retirement-pocket-watch

As reported by Bloomberg and Above the Law, James Kidney, an SEC enforcement lawyer who had worked at the agency since 1986 (with a four year hiatus in the private sector) favored his retirement party with a fiery speech telling his colleagues what a lousy job they do.

The SEC has become “an agency that polices the broken windows on the street level and rarely goes to the penthouse floors,” Kidney said“On the rare occasions when enforcement does go to the penthouse, good manners are paramount. Tough enforcement, risky enforcement, is subject to extensive negotiation and weakening.”

Kidney accused SEC manager of being  focused on getting high-paying jobs after their government service rather than on bringing difficult cases. “I have had bosses, and bosses of my bosses, whose names we all know, who made little secret that they were here to punch their ticket,” Kidney said. “They mouthed serious regard for the mission of the commission, but their actions were tentative and fearful in many instances.”

He accused his soon-to-be former employers of having little interest in “afflicting the comfortable and powerful,”and condemned the agency for massaging  statistics to burnish its reputation. There was more. We only know of Kidney’s comments from notes; there was no video or formal transcript.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today:

Was Kidney’s farewell speech ethical?

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Filed under Character, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Professions, Workplace