Category Archives: U.S. Society

An Open Letter To America Ferrera In Response To Her Open Letter To Donald Trump

America, America...

America, America…

Dear America (It’s really neat to be able to write a real letter to America on Independence weekend—thanks for that),

I can see why you called your open letter to Donald Trump “Thank You, Donald Trump!” The Donald did indeed do the supporters of illegal immigration a big favor by attaching his obnoxious face, words and character to the proposition that the United States has an obligation to control who comes into the country, like every other responsible nation. It is easy to pretend that any assertion by a big, loud-mouthed jerk is wrong, even when it is right, because most people can’t distinguish a message from its messenger. Similarly, a dishonest and dangerous message communicated by an attractive, Hispanic American celebrity and actress is typically accorded more legitimacy than it deserves, especially since the historical and political acumen of professional actors tends to be limited.

Well played. But that’s not the same as being right.

Your letter begins with a multi-layered lie. “You’ve said some pretty offensive things about Latino immigrants recently,” you say. In fact, Trump said nothing about immigrants. Did you read a transcript of his remarks, or just the portion clipped out of it by news organizations because this is Donald Trump, rich Republican buffoon, and fairness and ethical journalism don’t matter. My guess is that you didn’t read the transcript, which makes your open letter incompetent and irresponsible. Or, if you did, it is intentionally misleading, and an attempt to increase the ignorance of people who take policy screeds from actresses seriously. Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Independence Day Ethics Dunce: Sports Illustrated Illustrates How Too Many Americans Regard The Nation’s Veterans

McCain tweet

Sports Illustrated tweeted out the above image and message that linked to a story by “Extra Mustard.” That masterpiece noted that

Senator John McCain attended Tuesday night’s Dodgers–Diamondbacks game and had a chance to grab a souvenir in the seventh inning.Dodgers’ shortstop Jimmy Rollins fouled a ball over the backstop that went bouncing into the lap of the senior senator from Arizona, but McCain couldn’t get his hands on the ball. But McCain deserves a break from critics: As you can see the ball was approaching from a very awkward angle. Still, this photo from Dodgers photographer Jon SooHoo does not make the former presidential candidate look particularly athletic.

Apparently neither the reporter nor any of his/her/its editors were aware that McCain has extremely limited use of his arms as a result of being tortured as a North Vietnam prisoner of war. Both arms were broken by his captors and left untreated for so long that he was permanently handicapped, as anyone who watched even a little bit of his 2008 campaign for President could hardly fail to notice. McCain is also 78 years old, not that respect for seniors who have spent their lives in public service could be expected to be a factor in SI’s commentary.

Would any of the magazine’s staff attending a game dare to openly mock a disabled serviceman who didn’t catch a foul ball?  Probably not, since the likelihood of some fans of the National Pastime taking offense and throwing a beer in their smug, ignorant faces would be a real risk. Ah, but from the safety of an office  in New York City and hiding behind a pseudonym—of course, Extra Mustard might be the jerk’s real name, I suppose—it’s easy to insult an elderly U.S. Senator, military veteran and war hero for the consequences of the wounds he sustained in the service of his nation.

Eventually SI was tipped off to its error, and it quietly removed the last sentence. No apology, of course. Such is the historical, cultural, political and ethical ignorance of a substantial portion of our national media.

_____________________

Pointer: Newsbusters

17 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, U.S. Society, War and the Military

Anti-Gun Zealots Must Reconcile Their Rhetoric With This, Or Concede That Their Adversaries, And All Citizens, Have A Right To Protect Themselves

In Macon, Georgia, a coordinated mob of teens attacked a Walmart like a scene out of “Dawn of the Dead.” Surveillance cameras revealed this:

The Macon Telegraph reports that a group of about 50 teens swarmed the store and began destroying property, apparently for the fun of it. A customer in a motorized scooter was pulled from his seat and dragged on the floor, police say.  17-year-old Kharron Nathan Green entered the store at about 2 a.m. last Sunday morning and flashed “gang signs.” At his signal, a group of about 50 people, apparently teens or a bit older, charged into the store. They departed when police arrived. Green, was the only one arrested, not because he was the ringleader, but because he is an idiot. He returned to the scene of the crime to fetch a dropped phone.

That nobody was seriously hurt or killed is moral luck, nothing more.

Is it relevant that all of the teens appear to be black? Sure it is, though many news outlets—like the Macon Telegraph, in fact— didn’t think so, because that creates inconvenient implications. For one thing, it was very relevant to any police officer trying to deal with the onslaught, as having to shoot one of the mob if he was aggressive would have the cop branded as a racist killer  and possibly railroaded into a murder trial by the Georgia equivalent of Marilyn Mosby. Continue reading

84 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Facebook, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Speaking Of Doing The Right Thing For Unethical Reasons, TV Land Has Pulled “The Dukes of Hazzard”

Wait, there's a CAR in this photo?

Wait, there’s a CAR in this photo?

You know, I think I’m as sensitive as anyone (sane) to nascent racism, and yet somehow I missed the fact, when in my youth I would watch  TV’s “The Dukes of Hazzard” for an average of six minutes before thinking, “BOY is this dumb!” and change the channel lest my IQ be permanently lowered, that the show was a KKK product. That’s because there was nothing vaguely racist or even Confederacy-ish about the show, except the flag design on the fictional super-car the good ol’ Duke boys drove, “The General Lee,” named after a historical figure who, you will recall, was a Confederate general. What would you expect a car called the General Lee to have on its roof, the Portuguese flag?

Never mind. TV Land, the cable channel that celebrates TV shows so old that they provoke mid-life crises by their very existence, just decided to join the political correctness purge that has the Park Service representing at its battlefields that the Union prevailed over a mysterious foe Which Cannot Be Named, and which definitely had no flag to fight for. It has pulled “The Dukes of Hazzard” from its schedule….not because it is trash and no more worthy of preservation for future generations than less popular stinkers like “It’s About Time,” “Pink Lady and Jeff,” “Mr. Terrific” or “Hart to Hart,” but because of the design on the roof of the car.

As a self-appointed guardian of pop culture history, TV Land is obligated to resist such efforts at whitewashing, which I assume will also claim every Norman Lear show (You think you are a progressive, Norman? HA! You’re a racist who dealt in toxic stereotypes!!!) like “The Jeffersons,” “Sanford and Son,” and “Good Times.” Ah, but #blackhypersensitivitymatters, you know, a lot more than letting people watch Catherine Bach in her shorts. Continue reading

31 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Popular Culture, Race, U.S. Society

Ethics Quote Of The Week: The Washington Post

“The court’s legal analysis in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission was something of a reach. But the ruling’s practical implications are unequivocally positive.”

—–The Washington Post in an editorial praising the Supreme Court’s approval of Arizon’s unconstitutional solution to the persistent problem of gerrymandering abuse.

"IGNORE WHEN INCONVENIENT" Really?

“IGNORE WHEN INCONVENIENT” Really?

The Post’s quote means nothing more nor less than “the ends justify the means.” “Something of a reach” is a shameless equivocation: John Roberts’ dissent to the 5-4 majority’s “legal analysis” —there really is none—resembles Mike Tyson slapping around Honey Boo-Boo. The decision’s argument approving the Arizona end-around the Constitution’s Elections Clause that reads, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof” can be fairly summarized as “this will work, so the Constitution be damned.” It’s not a “reach.” It’s  obvious defiance of what the document says.

It that so bad? It depends on what you think is more important, integrity or solving a problem. All of the big Supreme Court decisions in the past week have essentially raised this ethics conflict, and it is clear that the liberals on the Court is on the side of solving problems—at least as they see them— even when it means compromising what the Constitution says and what the Founders intended who drafted it, with the libertarian Justice Kennedy, who tends to lean away from laws constraining citizens anyway, often joining the  colleagues to his left. This issue is as stark an example as there can be,

Gerrymandering is unethical and anti-democratic. It was not foreseen by the authors of the Constitution, who can’t be expected to have predicted every devious political maneuver their successors would come up with to pollute their ideals. Unfortunately, the Constitution doesn’t provide a way for the public to stop the practice, other than electing less corrupt legislators, and legislators use gerrymandering to make that exceedingly difficult. A tweak of the wording in the Constitution could carve out an exception, but the Founders also made amending the Constitution in any way at all an almost impossible chore, including amending it to allow easier amending.

What’s a country to do? Well, sometimes the ends really do justify the means: that’s what utilitarianism means. If the Court can kill or limit gerrymandering by, as John Roberts felicitously put it in his dissent, gerrymandering the Constitution, it might be a good choice on balance. It benefits democracy. The conservatives argue, however, and legitimately so, that such a decision also creates a dangerous, even sinister precedent despite its good intentions (none of the Justices seem to think that gerrymandering is anything but unhealthy for democracy). What other laws that violate the plain words of the Constitution will the Court approve because its “practical implications are unequivocally positive,” to the cheers of partisans?  How many times can the Court do this before the Constitution is a dead letter, and any executive–or despot— can claim that government action, regardless of what Constitutional guarantees oppose it, is to be rubber stamped because it solves a real problem? Continue reading

25 Comments

Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Playing Dangerous Cognitive Dissonance Games With U.S. The Supreme Court

The cognitive dissonance scale, now being used to weaken a crucial U.S. institution for political gain.

The cognitive dissonance scale, now being used to weaken a crucial U.S. institution for political gain.

Of all government institutions, the U.S. Supreme Court has traditionally only trailed the Presidency in public trust and esteem. There are several good reasons for this. One is that being appointed for life, the Justices are presumed to be less subject to the personal and political agendas that make the positions of politicians suspect. Another is that the Court has often taken heroic stances that made the United States a better nation and more just culture. A third is that unlike elected political offices, that of a judge requires an education and technical expertise that the average citizen does not possess. The Justices are traditionally accorded the deference given to experts. Perhaps the most important reason we trust the Court is because we need to do so. It was made the third branch to protect the Constitution against violations of core rights, as well as to be an objective mediator when the other branches, or states, or courts, reach an impasse. Of the many ingenious devices the Founders put in place, the U.S. Supreme Court is one of the wisest.

That the Court is accorded inherent respect and trust is essential to the stability of our government. What the Court says, goes, and the culture and society, including the most furious dissenters in political parties and interest groups, must follow a ruling and constrain its efforts within those boundaries. There have been times when the Court recognized that its unique credibility obligated it to intercede in dangerous conflicts that might otherwise escalate to social unrest or worse. The 2000 Presidential election was a potentially dangerous situation because the result in Florida rested on a margin of error that the available technology was incapable of resolving with certainty.  Unlike the similarly dubious results in the 1960 election, the initial losing candidate and his party decided to plunge the nation into an electoral morass, in this case one complicated by politicized state courts, vague local statutes, confusing ballots, partisan media reports and varying standards of what constituted a vote, with the rotten cherry on top being a rare situation (it had happened only three times before)  in which a popular vote loser was  the apparent electoral vote winner. The Supreme Court stepped up and stopped it from spinning out of control, in essence declaring a winner. It was a courageous and responsible act, one that many (including me) predicted, and though it came at a high cost, one that exemplified why the Court’s public acceptance must be high—so it has some room to fall when it has to take a controversial stand.

This crisis was not the beginning of the effort by parties and activists to discredit the Court by impugning its motives and undermining the public’s trust, but it caused a permanent escalation. It was when the insinuation that a Justices nominated by Republican Presidents (or Democratic ones, depending on who’s leading the chorus of critics) see their job as bolstering that party’s policies and interests became routine. Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Ethics Observations On The King v. Burwell and Obergefell v. Hodges Decisions And Their Aftermath

supreme-court

 Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Supreme Court considered whether states had to recognize a right to same-sex marriages, and King v. Burwell, in which the Court was called upon to clarify some incompetent drafting in the Affordable Care Act, could not be more dissimilar in terms of issues, topics, and significance. Nonetheless, because the two decisions involved hot political issues and arrived on consecutive days, and because they ended up favoring the positions that Democratic and progressive partisans support, they have been conglomerated in public discourse to fit several general themes, all, to varying degrees, misleading, simplistic, and biased. The decisions have also launched some of the most hysterical and embarrassing commentary in recent memory.

Some ethics, as opposed to legal, observations:

1. Anyone who hasn’t read the majority opinions and the dissents, who just skimmed them—believe me, if law school taught me anything, it taught me that skimming court opinions was a sure road to error and humiliation—or who read them but could not understand them, should be ignored, and perhaps gently mocked, for expressing any view at all about whether the decisions were the “right” ones. Quite simply, such people are not qualified to hold an opinion. They can have, and express, an opinion regarding whether the Court’s calls on Burwell or Obergefell are consistent with their own needs, desires, belief or political orientation, but they have no basis for asserting that either decision is wrong, or, right, on the law.

2. One can find it troubling and ominous, as I do, that the votes on the two cases were as predictable as they were. Objective legal scholars with integrity should be capable of ruling in ways that are not congruent with the personal political philosophies. A Democratic Presidential appointee who favors expansive government activity in health care control should be able to look at a statute designed to accomplish that purpose and still conclude, “Nope, the law mean what they want it to mean,” or “Sorry, the damn thing is unconstitutional.” Similarly, we should be able to trust a politically conservative justice to examine a statute that he objects to on principle and still conclude, “Yup, it passes the test.” Maybe all the Justices are capable of meeting this standard, but these two cases don’t suggest that. They suggest the opposite. Continue reading

80 Comments

Filed under Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society