Ethics Quote of the Week: Michael Fumento

“As a conservative, I disagree with the political opinions of liberals. But to me, a verbal assault indicates insecurity and weakness on the part of the assaulter, as in “Is that the best they can do?” This playground bullying – the name-calling, the screaming, the horrible accusations – all are intended to stifle debate, the very lifeblood of a democracy.”

—-Michael Fumento, writing powerfully in Salon about the increasingly viscous rhetoric of too many conservatives, and how it has left him estranged from his own political philosophy.

He writes,

“Civility and respect for order – nay, demand for order – have always been tenets of conservatism. The most prominent work of history’s most prominent conservative, Edmund Burke, was a reaction to the anger and hatred that swept France during the revolution. It would eventually rip the country apart and plunge all of Europe into decades of war. Such is the rotted fruit of mass-produced hate and rage. Burke, not incidentally, was a true Tea Party supporter, risking everything as a member of Parliament to support the rebellion in the United States.

“All of today’s right-wing darlings got there by mastering what Burke feared most: screaming “J’accuse! J’accuse!” Turning people against each other. Taking seeds of fear, anger and hatred and planting them to grow a new crop.”

You can read his whole essay, “My break with the extreme right” in Salon, here.


Pointer: Volokh Conspiracy

Source: Salon

Graphic: Sleepless heretic

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Memorial Day Ethics Dunce: MSNBC Host Chris Hayes

My hero.

Yesterday, the day before Memorial Day, MSNBC host Chris Hayes said this:

“Thinking today and observing Memorial Day, that’ll be happening tomorrow.  Just talked with Lt. Col. Steve Burke , who was a casualty officer with the Marines and had to tell people [inaudible].  Um, I, I, ah, back sorry, um, I think it’s interesting because I think it is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the words “heroes.” Um, and, ah, ah, why do I feel so comfortable  about the word “hero”?  I feel comfortable, ah, uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism: hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.”

   Well, yes, Chris, you’re wrong about quite a lot.

Chris was wrong, for example—as well as disingenuous—to say that “you don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen” and then come out with this insulting and fatuous gibberish that disrespect the memories of the fallen. And to do it on the very weekend when millions of families across the nation are honoring their fallen, or, in the case of my family, a father who braved combat in World War II, was wounded, decorated, and regarded his service in defense of his country the greatest achievement of his life.

Hayes was also wrong, as well as incompetent and unprofessional, to utter such a half-baked and incoherent opinion without having the respect to think it through carefully, express it articulately, and in general without meeting his obligations as a broadcaster to be worth listening to. If a commentator is going to make a statement that he knows will offend and upset grieving families, he should at least know what he wants to say and have the skill and courage to say it clearly. As it was, all he managed to do was to make a gratuitous slur against patriots who put their lives at risk because their nation asked them to, instead of taking morally craven positions from the security of a TV studio that only exists because of the sacrifices such heroes made. Continue reading

Is Elizabeth Warren A Pit Bull?

You never know.

Lucky for her, she doesn’t look like one. Then again, she doesn’t look like a Cherokee, either…

After all, it is even easier to be designated a “pit bull” than a Cherokee, believe it or not. As a result, hysterics in the public and on the Maryland Court of Appeals have decided it is prudent to engage in the kind of bias and fear-driven racism regarding pets that would be condemned as brutally unjust if applied to humans.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that “pit bulls” are “inherently dangerous” and will be subject to higher levels of liability, meaning, among other things, that there will be no “one bite rule” for these dogs, the usual trigger for determining whether a canine is a risk to humans, and that landlords will be forcing tenants to either get rid of their “inherently dangerous” dogs or move out. The ruling is  the result of bad reasoning, bad information, bad statistics and bad law, not to mention bias. What kind of legal standard depends on a term that has no definition and no way to determine what fits it? Yet that is what the Maryland pit bull ruling does.

As I have noted here in other posts, “pit bull” is a generic term applied to several bull dog and terrier-mix breeds, and mistakenly to up to 25 other breeds as well. This renders the deceptively used statistics of anti-pit bull zealot organizations like Dogs completely worthless. I would say completely useless, but there are useful…for getting  perfectly gentle and trustworthy dogs killed. In its compiled statistics of deadly dog attacks, the organization states that “pit bull-type dogs” are responsible for 59% of fatal attacks on humans, contrasted with specific breeds like Rottweilers. The category of “pit bull-type dogs,” however, includes at least five distinct breeds that are often called “pit bulls”—  the American Bulldog, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, and the Mini Bull Terrier. Anti-pit bull breed-specific legislation also includes absolutely non-pit bull breeds in its definition of “pit bull types” in many jurisdictions, breeds like the Boxer, Bull Mastiff, Boston terrier and French Bulldog, the last two especially deadly threats to lick you into submission. Such laws are, in truth, dog legislation created by people who know nothing about dogs, but who are perfectly willing to take responsible people’s loving pets away and kill them if it will mollify some phobic voters.

Then there are the dog breeds that may be called “pit bulls” by dog attack victims who can barely tell a dachshund from a Great Dane. Among those “pit bull-type breeds” are the Alpha Blue Blood Bull Dog, American Bulldog,  American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Banter Bull Dogge, Black Mouth Cur, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Bull Terrier, Bulldog, Bull Mastiff, Cane Corso, Dogo Aregentino,  Dogo Canario, Dogue De Bordeaux, English Bulldog, English Mastiff, Fila Brasileiro, Fila Mastiff, French Bulldog, Italian Mastiff, Mastiff, Mini Bull Terrier, Neapolitan Mastiff. Old English Bull Dogge, Patterdale Terrier,  Presa de Canario, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Spanish Mastiff, and the Valley Bulldog.

So what does the predominance of “pit bull type dogs” in the dog bite statistics tell us? It tells us that a lot of fearful, ignorant people—and judges— don’t know what pit bulls are, but they are afraid of them and want to wipe them off the face of the earth anyway.

For the record, there is only one true pit bull, the American Pit Bull Terrier, which looks like this:

Continue reading

The Fojol Bros., Innocent of Racism, Political Correctness Victims

In its advanced stages, 21st century political correctness becomes a kind of delusional illness, causing sufferers to interpret  benign, harmless and even socially healthy conduct as offensive and sinister. An outbreak of this variety of political correctness is in full flower in Washington, D.C., where more than the usual number of officious defenders of that which needs no defending are trying to gin up public outrage against a creative, fun, and successful small business enterprise, Fojol Bros.

The company sends food trucks around downtown D.C. and serves strangely named hybrid ethnic dishes inspired by Indian, Ethiopian and Thai cuisines. The Fojol employees who hand out the delicious fare wear turbans, robes and fake mustaches,  claim to hail from  “Merlindia” and “Benethiopia,” and go by names like “Kipoto.” This was once called “theater” and “fantasy,” no more offensive than Disney employees in Frontierland dressing in cowboy and saloon girl garb and calling themselves “Tex” and “Lilly.” Now some are calling it “offensive,” because too many people have forgotten what offensive is. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Month: Howard Kurtz

“Brinkley’s book will undoubtedly tarnish the Cronkite legacy. But my admiration for the man is only partly diminished. Perhaps it is too easy to judge him by today’s standards, any more than we should condemn Thomas Jefferson for owning slaves. Perhaps he simply reflected his times, when some journalists and politicians quietly collaborated, when conflicts of interest were routinely tolerated, when a powerful media establishment could sweep its embarrassments under the rug. Cronkite thrived as television came of age, always protecting what we would now call his brand. That’s just the way it was.”

—-CNN good journalism watchdog Howard Kurtz, closing his review of the new Douglas Brinkley biography of Walter Cronkite, which shows that the legendary paragon of broadcast journalism was biased, often dishonest, and frequently conflicted.

No, no, no, no.

And that’s the way it wasn’t…

The “things were different then” excuse won’t fly as a defense of Cronkite, and shame on Howard Kurtz, who is supposed to stand for ethical journalism, for trying to rationalize the obvious conclusion demanded by Brinkley’s biography. That conclusion is that there was no Golden Age of TV journalism, and that rampant liberal bias infected the nightly broadcasts then as now, but we were too trusting and unsophisticated to realize it. Kurtz spends an entire book review extracting information Brinkley uncovered that proves Walter Cronkite’s image as an objective, incorruptible truth-teller was a lie, and then attempts to make the case that we shouldn’t judge him harshly.

Why? Because he was one of Kurtz’s heroes? Perry Mason made me want to be a lawyer, and it wasn’t until I became one that I realized that the fictional defense attorney was the sleaziest criminal lawyer this side “The Practice.” Tarnished heroes are part of growing up, Howard. Don’t pretend that journalistic ethics were different then…journalism schools were teaching objectivity, transparency, fairness, honesty and avoidance of conflicts of interest when Walter was saying “And that’s the way it is!” in a high soprano. Yet Brinkley shows that he… Continue reading

The Significance of Obama and “Choom”

Hey! Isn’t that guy a little young to be President?

Conservative bloggers and talk show hosts who should know better are running gleefully with the tales out of David Maraniss’s new biography of the President in which young Obama is revealed as a pothead. “Choom” apparently means marijuana, and at the Punahou School in Hawaii Barry belonged to the “Choom Gang,” the members of which were apparently obsessed with weed.

The Choomies drove around in a Volkswagen bus called the “Choomwagon,” and were especially fond of “roof hits,” smoking pot inside the Choomwagon with all the windows rolled up,  to maximize the amount of smoke they inhaled. Barack Spicoli Obama was apparently known for renowned for his “interceptions”…joining a group of stoners passing around a joint, taking a hit and yelling, “Intercepted!”

All of which tells us 100% of nothing regarding the fitness of Obama to lead the country today. Continue reading

Teaching Racial Distrust in D.C.: “Trayvon Martin Day”

“Now children , what does the fact that Trayvon Martin was carrying Skittles prove? That’s right! It proves he was racially profiled!”

Combine one of the worst school systems in the country with race bias and ignorance, and you get “Trayvon Martin Day.”

In Washington, D.C, Malcolm X Elementary in Southeast D.C. declared this Friday “Trayvon Martin Day.”  The nearly all-black school is using the case of Martin’s shooting death in his confrontation with George Zimmerman as part of its “Let’s Keep Our Children Safe” seminar, “to better educate students and their parents about race relations and social injustice,” and to help reduce the needless violence and bullying in the community, according the Principal J. Harrison Coleman.

That’s interesting. And how, exactly, does the death of a Florida teen in which the circumstances are still unknown and the facts have been polluted by race-baiting demagogues, news media sensationalism and a Congressional lynch mob warrant inclusion in a seminar with those lofty goals? Continue reading

Integrity Check For Obama Supporters: Is This Really How You Want The Campaign To Go?

On the heels of Newark Mayor Corey Booker’s criticism of the Obama campaign’s anti-Bain ad and his subsequent simpering recant, an interesting thing happened: some people actually checked the ad for fairness and accuracy…never mind that it was widely interpreted as an anti-capitalist statement in the world’s most successful capitalist nation. Part of the impetus for the check was loyal Democratic consultant and spin-master Lanny Davis announcing on television that the ad was deceptive in more ways than one.

If you have not seen the spot, here it is:

It tells the story of the demise of  GS Industries through interviews with sad-eyed, salt-of-the-earth workers who accuse Bain of buying their town’s small steel company to destroy it. 30-year steelworker Joe Soptic tells the camera,  “They made as much money off it as they could. And they closed it down, they filed for bankruptcy without any concern for the families or the communities.” Jack Cobb, a another steelworker, calls Bain “a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us.” Things were going fine, they all say, until Bain Capital, under the leadership of Mitt Romney, bought the company and soon sold them down the river, laying everyone off and pocketing a huge profit. How that would work…how buying a company and its equipment and then quickly shutting it down would be profitable….is never explained, because actual information is irrelevant to the makers of the ad. The point of the Obama campaign is to contrast the intercut video of Mitt Romney saying he created jobs with the weather-beaten faces of hard-working Americans who say he threw them out of work to funnel money to his rich friends.

Deceit, you’ll recall, is when one uses facts to deceive, usually by omitting other facts that make the revealed facts understandable. Deceit is a form of lying, a very effective and insidious form. President Obama’s anti-Bain ad is, beyond question, deceitful, and deceptive, which means that in this instance at least, so is he. For he, Barack Obama, “approved this message.” Continue reading

Condemning Wanetta Gibson

There’s no treatment harsh enough for Wanetta Gibson

Hardly a week goes by when I don’t receive a nasty and haughty message attacking me for harshly judging the unethical conduct of another. “Who are you to judge?,” the critic will write. “Are you so perfect? Have you never made a mistake? How can you know what was going on in that person’s life, or how bad she (or he) feels? What right do you have to find fault with someone else?” My answer, if I bother to send one, seldom varies. I tell these correspondents that all of us have a duty to judge others so that we are qualified to judge ourselves, to make certain that societal standards are carefully considered and vetted, and to identify conduct that we believe is destructive to society. Refusing to judge others makes it easy for the predators around us to take advantage of our ethical laziness, and people get hurt as a result.

And in those dark moments late at night, after a difficult day when my confidence is at low ebb, as I begin to doubt the purpose of my life and question my own values, I think about people like the horrible Wanetta Gibson.

From the New York Daily News: Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Lubricant 2: Ken at Popehat on Integrity and Free Speech

Today has been designated “Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day,” and unlike the last declared day of mass web defiance, “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day”, which was really “Everybody Go Out of Their Way To Insult All Muslims Because Some of Them Are Violent Fanatics And Comedy Central Didn’t Have The Guts To Stand Up To Them Day”, I support this one fully. Kimberlin is a violent far Left activist, the founder of the group Velvet Revolution, and a convicted terrorist who, in 1978, set off eight bombs in Speedway, Indiana, earning him the title of “The Speedway Bomber.”

When bloggers like Aaron Worthing and Robert Stacy McCain in Maryland wrote about  Kimberlin’s past, and his current involvement with active progressive groups, he mounted a campaign to silence and harass them, filing law suits and engaging in other tactics far more menacing, if not as expensive. You can read Worthing’s harrowing tale of Kimberlin’s campaign against him here.

The web’s most tireless crusader against free speech suppression by litigation, threats and harassment is, of course, the Ethics Alarms 2012 Blogger of the Year, Ken at Popehat. He has already blogged about Kimberlin, who fits nicely with the other Internet Furies and speech bullies that he has exposed, like Crystal Cox. But his theme this week was broader, and it is one that constantly troubles me. Taking off from blogger Michelle Malkin’s post declaring that there should be solidarity for targeted conservative bloggers, Ken protests that since free expression is the objective, the ideology of the bloggers being bullied shouldn’t matter. He writes: Continue reading