Category Archives: Health and Medicine

Your Ethics Alarms Cognitive Dissonance Guide To The Planned Parenthood Shooter Spin Game


Robert Dear

Cognitive DissonanceTo the left is a simplified version of Leon Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance Scale. Most of the people and institutions who use the scale to mislead and manipulate public opinion neither know this diagram nor have heard of Dr. Festinger, but it is what they are employing in the daily wars to win ideological political converts by distorting the significance of current events.

Robert Dear’s as yet unexplained shooting rampage within a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood facility has immediately created an opportunity for cognitive dissonance manipulation. Festinger’s research showed that our minds will always try to resolve dissonance when something with a high, or positive score—say, “Free Speech,” appears to be closely associated with something else that is low on the scale, such as “hateful speech.” How the dissonance is resolved will depend on the scores of the two dissonant objects or beliefs.

If you want the public to decide that something it approves of is less worthy of approval, attaching it to something the public believes is reprehensible will do the job by creating cognitive dissonance and pulling the well-regarded object down the scale. If you want the public to move its opinion of a person, organization or concept from negative territory into positive, identifying someone or something the public regards far more negatively who opposes the person, organization or concept will tend to move the object of the negative entity’s opposition upward on the scale. In these situations, the mind seeks distance from the reviled entity. I hate broccoli; I learn that Donald Trump hates broccoli; I don’t want to have anything in common with Donald Trump. Pass the broccoli, please.

The latter is the process repeatedly applied by the protesters of police shootings when African Americans are the victims. The public correctly opposes abuse of power and wrongful violence by law enforcement officials; it is far below the mid-point on the scale. It also a opposes criminal activity and resisting legitimate law enforcement. With rare exceptions, every black victim of a questionable police shooting was engaging in or had engaged in criminal activity, and had resisted arrest. These have been criminals, but because the alleged misconduct of the police is far lower on the scale than the criminal activity involved, the criminal victims are propelled by cognitive dissonance into the scale’s positive territory. (The media assists the process by publicizing the most benign images of the victims they can find. The most frequently used photo of Laquan McDonald, who was executed by a Chicago cop, shows him in his high school graduation gown, for example. The cop didn’t shoot a criminal who refused to stop when ordered to, he shot a smiling young man with a bright future. The police officer is thus a monster; the victim a martyr and a hero.)

Now let’s look at the current use of cognitive dissonance in the wake of the shooting by Robert Dear. Continue reading


Filed under Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

An Ethics Mystery: Why Can’t Democrats Be Honest Or Responsible Regarding The Syrian Refugees??



The question of whether to accept Syrian refugees is not, or should not be, a partisan one. It’s simple logic, duty and priorities, as I wrote here. A needy group has an unknown component of deadly members capable of killing Americans. Until or unless those members can be identified and separated from that group, it would be irresponsible to admit them into the country. The Paris bombing vividly illustrated the risk of ignoring these facts. So why are Democrats and their pundit allies making statements attacking those who acknowledge them? You know, just because they are conservatives and Republicans who tend to think that all of President Obama’s policies are misguided doesn’t mean they can’t be right occasionally.

I have been searching for a single persuasive, fact-based argument that justifies the risk of accepting thousands of Syrians. In fact, I have been searching for one that wasn’t dishonest, an appeal to emotion over reality, or a cheap excuse to engage in race-baiting, now the Democratic Party’s favorite pastime.

I’d love to hear one. I’d love to be convinced. If the nation can take in the suffering refugees without vastly increasing the chance of a bomb going off in the a restaurant I’m eating with my family, hurray!

Such arguments just aren’t there, however. Instead we are hearing: Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society, War and the Military

The Syrian Refugee Controversy: For The US Government, An Easy Ethics Call

Syrian refugees

That does not mean that it is an easy call for Barack Obama, whose perception of his duties and the stakeholders in his decisions is often confused.

The Question: Is it competent and responsible (ergo ethical) for the  the U.S. accept 10,000 Syrian refugees (or 65,000, as Hillary Clinton advocates) in the U.S., knowing that it is statistically certain that some of them will carry the threat of Islamic terrorism with them?

The Answer: No. Of course not. How can a rational person advocate such a foolish policy?

The answers to the last question are fascinating to speculate upon, and range from 1) “A rational person won’t,” to 2) “Willful blindness to reality” to 3) “Because of a profound misunderstanding of  the ethical priorities of government and leadership” to 4) “That’s a rational policy if the policy maker-wants  terror attacks.”

The proper analogy is admitting a refugee population with members suffering from a highly-communicable, infectious, incurable and fatal disease. No responsible government would risk bringing a plague into its population without being able to make certain—certain—that none of the refugees carried it. Thus there would be a quarantine period imposed on the refugees showing no symptoms, and those infected would not be allowed to enter the U.S. population at all. This is the same situation, except that the infectious, fatal, incurable contagion is radical Islam.

Dishonest and manipulative politicians like Hillary Clinton tacitly acknowledge the plague model when they say that refugees must be admitted to the U.S. but only after they are “thoroughly vetted.” They cannot be thoroughly vetted, however. Records from Syria are neither reliable nor available. Thus what such politicians are really saying is either “I don’t support taking Syrian refugees, but want you to think I do” or “I’m hopeless detached from reality.” The first is Hillary; the second is Barack Obama, who said yesterday,

“Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.”

We can’t do both. It can’t be done. His first sentence is pure demagoguery, and demonstrates, yet again, how shockingly ignorant the President is regarding the duties of his office. His essential duties are  to do what is in the best interests of the United States, its citizens, and its mission of promoting human rights in the world. When those objectives are in conflict, the President must put the welfare and security, long term and short term, of the citizens who elected him and the nation he leads above all else.

Why can’t Obama see that? I don’t know. I’ve given up trying to understand the man.

Objectively, the question of the Syrian refugees is an ethics conflict, when warring  ethical principles and systems contradictory results.On the side of accepting the refugees and the undeniable risks they carry, we have altruism, The Golden Rule, fairness, kindness, decency, tolerance, acceptance, compassion, and caring.

On the side of rejecting them, there is utilitarianism, responsibility, loyalty, process, competence, trustworthiness,  prudence, and due diligence.

For a leader, the choice is obvious, because for a leader, it can’t be a question answered objectively. The President of the United States is not permitted the luxury of altruism, or objectivity. He holds an office of trust, and is trusted to place  citizens above others. This decision involves more than values. It is a matter of leadership and government ethics.  However much Obama or anyone else believes that assisting the Syrian refugees, of any number, is objectively the “right thing to do,” the United States Government cannot regard it that way. It is bound by its own duties, standards and priorities to be partisan: this country comes first. The Syrian refugees present a real and existential peril that cannot be avoided, except by keeping them out.

Easy ethics call.

At least it should be.

Other points:

1. Nonetheless, it is Obama’s call. The 28 state governors who have announced that they will “not permit” Syrian refugees in their states are either ignorantly or for effect asserting a power they do not have. States cannot reject immigrants and refugees duly and lawfully admitted into the country by the Federal government. (According to the Obama Justice Department, they can’t reject illegal immigrants negligently admitted into the country by the Federal government’s incompetence and corruption, either.) These announcements of defiance are a bluff, but have undeniable political power. Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, U.S. Society, War and the Military

The Unlikely Ethics Dunce, And Why Nobody Pays Attention To Ethicists And I Don’t Blame Them

Wait, how can the nation's most famous ethicist be an Ethics Dunce? It's not easy...

Wait, how can the nation’s most famous ethicist be an Ethics Dunce? It’s not easy…

Ethicists have managed to make ethics nearly invisible in our cultural debates, and nearly useless as a decision-making tool, when it ought to be the most useful tool of all. They accomplished this over centuries of work, making the discipline of ethics abstruse, elitist, abstract, and worse of all, boring. Nobody should be bored with ethics, hence my statement, “Ethics isn’t boring, ethicists are.” Once ethics was pigeon-holed in the realm of philosophy, however (it belongs with “crucial life skills” and “critical thinking”) and philosophy became associated with scholarship, advanced degrees and academia, the jig was up.

The problem is that academic ethicists teach and write about abstract ethics, and life is not abstract. Their quest is for one formula to determine right from wrong, and life and human beings are more complicated than any one formula can encompass. When I started this blog, I got a lot of grad students writing me who demanded to know whether I was a Utilitarian,  Kantian Deontologist, a follower of Natural Law Ethics,  a Virtue Ethicist or a devotee of Stakeholder theory. My answer was “all of the above and none of them.” All of these and more are useful tools of analysis, but none work all the time, and the amount of words loaded into jargon to explain and debate the nuances of any of them render them all useless except for  writing scholarly papers.

The ethics that the public learns, as a result, are what pop culture and society teach them, and most of that isn’t ethics at all. For example, in the cable series “The Affair,” a well-educated older man was advising a young woman, the mistress in the affair, about how to think about the illicit relationship that broke up he lover’s marriage. Wise and thoughtful, he described his own adulterous affair, and then said, “What you did wasn’t wrong. You didn’t kill anybody. You didn’t break any laws.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.”  There is no ethics in that statement. Itis just employs two popular and facile rationalizations (#4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical,” and #22, the worst of all, #22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”) with another lurking but unspoken one, the Cheater’s Special, #23. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants,’ underlying the whole scene.

That’s ethics, I would guess, to about 90% of the population. Scary. This is, however, where ethicists have taken us. They could be so important to the culture, if they would get their heads out of their asinine models and explain ethical principles that are relevant to real lives in a manner that doesn’t make normal people become hostile to the subject.

This brings us to Peter Singer, Princeton’s acclaimed professor of bioethics who has been called the most influential ethicist alive. It is admittedly faint praise, but probably correct. Continue reading


Filed under Bioethics, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Health and Medicine, Professions

Debate Questions No Democrat Will Ever Be Asked (2): “Do You Agree With The Obama Dept. Of Education That A School Must Allow A Physically Male Student Who Identifies As Female And Is A Member Of A Girl’s Sports Team To Change And Shower In The Girls’ Locker Room Without Restrictions?”


It is ironic that so soon after Rachel Dolezal finally admitted the undeniable and agreed that she is, in fact, white, the federal government accepted the Caitlyn Jenner Fallacy and declared that all it takes to turn a male into a female for school policy purposes is feelings, no re-assembly required.

From the New York Times:

Federal education authorities, staking out their firmest position yet on an increasingly contentious issue, found Monday that an Illinois school district [Township High School District 211] violated anti-discrimination laws when it did not allow a transgender student who identifies as a girl and participates on a girls’ sports team to change and shower in the girls’ locker room without restrictions. 

To be blunt, and I mean blunt, this means that if a human being with a fully functioning penis says he’s a girl, a public high school is obligated by the Constitution to pretend he does not have said penis, and he must be treated as a girl and no different from any other girls in all respects. This right that nobody ever heard of before thereby means that the boy-with-a-penis-who-identifies-as-a-girl-without- one is legally able to demand that he is allowed to embarrass, upset and threaten girls who do not have cocks by forcing them, rather than him—oops, her— to dress and shower away from the group.

Everyone except the victimized members of the school’s team are wrong on this one, and there will be consequences. The school was wrong to pander to a nascent transgender social justice warrior by allowing him-becoming-her to be on the girls team in the first place.”Here’s the rule,” they should have said, “The only way we can separate girls and boys is the same way doctors do when a baby is born. How you feel is irrelevant. Which team you want to be on is irrelevant. If you have a penis, which you do, and no vagina, which you do not, then you play on the boy’s teams, or no team at all. Your choice.” Unfortunately, most school are not just run by liberals, but cowardly, intellectually lazy liberals. Nor did they see that transgender activists, like most activists, will push for more and more until they end up alienating many who support their basic argument.

Then there is the boy/girl, who was offered reasonable accommodations by the school, and decided to be a trailblazer for all similarly encumbered self-identifying females [ I made a cheap and vulgar reference here, and deleted it. I am ashamed.] and fight for their right to parade such male accessories in the faces of young women who should not have to be confronted with them in the girl’s shower.

Read my commentary on this problem. I am sympathetic, and I believe that the transitioning male-born kid who is certain that he has no snakes and snails and puppy dog tails inside should be respected and treated with dignity and compassion on his way to her-dom. He shouldn’t be bullied and he shouldn’t be discriminated against. But a rule that holds “No penises in the girl’s shower ” is not discrimination. It is common sense. It is manners.

Nor does transitioning genders make it ethical to be an asshole. Continue reading


Filed under Bioethics, Character, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Two Stories To Look Back Upon Ruefully When The Nation Has Gone To Pot And It’s Too Late To Reverse Course

Once heroin is legal, there will be no more heroin problem...

Once heroin is legal, there will be no more heroin problem...

One of the horrible results of the coming election—not as horrible as the possibility of electing Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump President, perhaps, but horrible still—will be the nation’s final capitulation to the movement started in the 1960’s to keep the country, the culture and the poor stoned. Cognitive dissonance will ensure it on the Republican side, as opponents to legal pot will be the same old fogeys who proclaim that gay marriage will destroy the earth, causing a valid and correct argument to be destroyed by a senseless one. Others in the party, caring about staying in power more than our society’s welfare, will just give in, citing the usual ethically inert rationalizations that legalizing drugs is the lesser of two evils and that we need to use treatment, not punishment. Meanwhile, Democrats will pander to its pot-loving base, while also stumping for state governments legalizing the crap to close budget deficits created by their fiscally irresponsible policies. Heck, even I would rather see the pot industry taxed instead of me.

And we will be bombarded by the pairing of pot legalization with the allegedly racist “mass incarceration problem,” which is really and truly the “too many African Americans break laws and expect to get away with it because their parents and culture don’t send the message that its a big deal” problem. The big deal they, and we, are now being told is that they get punished for breaking laws, which is racist because Black Lives Matter.

I was in court watching sentencings a couple months back in Northern Virginia. While the crimes the defendants being sentenced for were not drug related, every single one of those sentenced–-every one—had either  a pot charge dropped in favor of a guilty plea for a more serious crime, had record of drug arrests, or had tested positive for pot during while awaiting sentence or on parole. Bernie and Hillary and the gang (the gang including journalists, who like their weed) would have us believe that the prisons are just teeming with otherwise law-abiding black citizens who are there because they engaged in harmless recreational drug use and nothing else. The new paradigm, pushed by the President (of course), is that prison should only be for violent felons, not habitual scoff-laws who often dabble in violence too.

Ah, yes, this is all going to work out so well.

I  encountered two stories on the web that show the path we are on as well as the muddled thinking and dishonesty that got us there. Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Literature, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Ethics Quiz: “Fixing” “Elf Ears”


6-year-old Gage Berger was being bullied by his first grade classmates because he had protruding ears, and was often derided as “Elf  Ears.” His Salt Lake City parents decided to address the problem here and now, before, they say, his self-esteem (I almost wrote elf-esteem…) was  permanently damaged, so they had his ears de-elfed to look like everyone else’s.

Now he’s bullying other funny-looking kids.


I hope.

But seriously, folks, the story has aroused a controversy over societal and medical ethics. Did the parents choose plastic surgery too early and for the wrong reasons? Is that how we want society to be, where bullies and critics can pressure individuals to conform to a narrow standard of acceptible appearance? Doesn’t this give them power? Does it not encourage bullying? Is a first-grader old enough to meaningfully weigh these issues? Isn’t this a choice he should make, when he’s old enough to make it?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today is…

Was it ethical to clip Gary’s ears?

Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Education, Family, Health and Medicine, Popular Culture, Quizzes, U.S. Society