Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/15/17 [UPDATED]

1. Topic for a longer post when I can think hard about it: five officials in Michigan, including the head of the state’s health department, were charged with involuntary manslaughter yesterday in connection with the Flint water fiasco. The use of criminal sanctions based on gross incompetence by public servants is such a slippery slope that I instinctively recoil from it. Unless an official can be shown to have deliberately harmed people, trying officials for crimes when the real “crime” is that they were  stupid, negligent, incompetent or lazy has the whiff of scapegoating about it, will discourage more citizens from entering government service, and is so likely to become a political weapon—especially these days–that abuse of process is almost inevitable. The Flint catastrophe involved culpability at three levels of government, all the way to the EPA. These five officials are criminals, and the rest are—what? Acceptably incompetent?

2. The polarization in the news media and society is such that I find myself hesitating to use material that appears on an openly conservative website,  papers like the Washington Times or New York Post, or Fox News. This, despite the fact that I use the New York Times and the Washington Post more than any other sources, despite the undeniable evidence that their coverage is often partisan and biased. In the current environment where the Left and its allies appear to be circling the wagons, I encounter articles like the one by Megan Fox discussed in the next item and wonder why similar  analysis isn’t  appearing in the Times, the Post, or Vox? It is obviously valid and fair. But it is also critical of the left-biased news media, and so far, that entity is refusing to acknowledge how much harm its abandonment of objectivity is inflicting on the nation. So the analysis appears on a right-biased site, giving half the country an excuse to ignore it, and those who read my related post an excuse to dismiss it, and Ethics Alarms.

Good system.

3. The article is Top 6 Media Lies That Radicalized the Violent Left, written in response to yesterday’s attack on Republicans by a Trump-hating “Bernie Bro,” though much of the news media is spinning that narrative that he’s just a “madman,” just as all those Muslim shooters and stabbers are just “madmen.” Fox’s six:

1. Trump colluded with the Russians.

This wouldn’t be my number #1, but it belongs on the list. The news media has hammered the “ties to Russia” theme outrageously and in a manner designed to create suspicion. There is and has never been any evidence that Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia, Putin or Wikileaks to affect the election results. This was a smear, one of many, launched to allow Hillary Clinton to avoid accountability for somehow managing to lose to a ridiculous candidate. Those, and there are many, whose minds can’t accept the fact that someone like Donald Trump could win the Presidency fair and square, have grasped this false accusation as a way out of madness, and assume that eventually it will be proven correct.

This means Trump is a traitor, and you know what we do to traitors….

2.  Trump and Republicans hate the planet.

The climate change policy debate was transformed by progressives into a battle between good and evil long ago, at the second skepticism about climate change cant was declared the equivalent of Holocaust denial. At that tipping point the dispute became more likely to turn violent, as fear-mongering infected so many people with climate change panic completely unmoored to facts or science. The public freak-out over the US leaving the largely non-substantive Paris accords was the latest escalation. Killing Republicans to save all life on earth doesn’t sound like such a bad trade-off, does it?

3. Republicans hate gays

Some prominent Republicans and anti-gay zealots helped make this canard plausible by their bigoted rhetoric and efforts to obstruct full rights for LGBT Americans.  Still, opposing same-sex marriage, the main battlefield where this weapons was used, is not the same thing as hating gays, though it was politically expedient for gay activists to frame it as such. The issue was touched upon in the last post.

4. Republicans have launched a war on women’s health

A still live dishonest and inflammatory accusation from 2012. Imagine if the entire Republican party, aided by an overwhelmingly conservative news media, relentlessly promoted the belief that Democrats hated babies, and this was why millions of nascent human lives were ended by abortion every year. Which party would be ducking sniper shots then?

5. Republicans want you to die.

This statement has been made in exactly these words by Democratic Prep. Alan Grayson, Bernie Sanders said that “thousands of Americans would die” if Republicans repealed ObamaCare. “Families will go bankrupt. People will die,” Senator  Elizabeth Warren tweeted.

Save a life, shoot a Republican…

6.  “Nationalism” is synonymous with “racist”

There are more than six, but these are real incitements to violence against Republicans, even without assassinations in Central Park.

4. It was so predictable that rather than accept their share of responsibility for creating the toxic culture of fear and hate that led to yesterday’s shooting, the propaganda organs of “the resistance” would once again try to use the tragedy to attack the right to bear arms. Today’s New York Times editorial was especially hypocritical, since not even CNN approaches the volume of daily Republican hate the Times belches into the atmosphere. “This was one of two mass shootings in the United States on Wednesday. At a San Francisco UPS facility, a gunman killed three people and himself,” the Times editorial board observes. Yes, these two events were basically the same.

“Was this attack evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl. At the time, we and others were sharply critical of the heated political rhetoric on the right. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs. But no connection to that crime was ever established.”

That’s because there was no connection. Loughner wasn’t even a conservative or a Republican. The Times is seriously comparing Sarah Palin’s metaphorical map graphics to the full-bore campaign to characterize Trump and Republicans as menaces to life on earth, a campaign prominently joined by the Times itself.  Meanwhile, yesterday’s shooting came amidst the Times itself endorsing a play that has audiences cheering as a look-alike of President Trump is stabbed to death by women and minorities.

No established connection, of course.

“Conservatives and right-wing media were quick on Wednesday to demand forceful condemnation of hate speech and crimes by anti-Trump liberals.”

This is a lie. Conservatives don’t condemn “hate speech,” because they, unlike progressives, don’t believe in government censorship, and understand that while some speech is not civil or appropriate, “hate speech” is just speech, and Constitutionally protected.  What all objective and fair Americans should be condemning is the Democratic Party’s  unprecedented strategy designed to represent the President of the United States as a fascist, a lunatic, a traitor, a monster, and an illegitimate leader with his finger on the nuclear button, with those in his party who enable him as the equivalent of Hitler’s lackeys. That’s not “hate speech.” That is an attempt to sow anger, fear, hate and divisiveness to overthrow an elected government, and to accept the risk of inciting unstable partisans like James Hodgkinson to violence.

Then the editorial pivots to gun control, ending with…

“President Trump said just the right thing after the attack on Wednesday: “We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country. We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace.”

Yet he will not help create that nation if he continues to advocate easy access to lethal weapons.”

The Times chooses to ignore the bedrock principle that when citizens don’t have “easy access” to their rights—speech, assembly, abortion, voting—they have no rights at all.

Then, online, this hilarious coda:

Correction: June 15, 2017

An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that a link existed between political incitement and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established.

That earlier version is the one that was published in the Times’ print edition. I’m looking at it right now.

UPDATE: I was one of the first, but others noticed that last item:

Here’s Guy Benson:  New York Times Only Partially Corrects-Palin-Giffords Lie.

The Times has added an online correction on this coruscating inaccuracy, reducing the likelihood that they’ll get sued over their libelous bilge. I obviously approve of the decision to alter this grossly inaccurate content, but the fact that their essay was approved as fit to print in the first place last evening is quite revealing. A central piece of their argument was rooted in fantastical left-wing folk lore, repeated so frequently by people who populate institutions like the New York Times editorial board that it morphed into a “fact.” The new version of the editorial still mentions Palin’s map, which is totally unconnected to anything of relevance on this subject. A bizarre non-sequitur. Their utterly wrong, unsupported implication remains intact. How about deleting the entire piece? Also, having made a change to their virtual copy under intense criticism today, will the Times showcase an apology and retraction in tomorrow’s print edition?

Nah, no bias at the Times…

42 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/15/17 [UPDATED]

  1. The article is Top 6 Media Lies That Radicalized the Violent Left

    Can’t imagine why anyone would be inclined to dismiss an article with a title like that.

    • A motivation of course which leads to dishonest headlines.

      So I suppose your choice is between

      accurate but “not catchy” headlines

      unethical but likely to get readers headlines.

      • But too many people read nothing but the headlines! You can look at any comments section and see that people are reacting to the headline and haven’t read further. Since mid-election, those churning out propaganda for social media have calculated on this tendency, utilized it, which is why you see an article with a blaring headline with the topic finally mentioned in the 7th paragraph (the worst one I saw, the headline was finally addressed in the 14th paragraph) couched in ‘may’ ‘could be’ ‘could lead to’ and other fluff/weasel phrases to be able to say that they addressed the headline in the piece. They count on peoples’ short attention spans and reluctance to read lengthy articles. The average person probably reads a few dozen negative headlines about the administration daily, along with negative Tweets by the dozen…they mold opinion.

        They’re meant to.

    • Other than snark, what’s your beef? The news media lies regularly, and has been demonizing Republicans for decades. We know there is a violent left—the whole antifa movement, and others. Is it too direct for you? To say the left has been radicalized is an understatement. So…?

  2. I would add as No. 7 something along the lines of “any reported ‘hate’ incident is proven and imputed to Donald Trump, and also to anyone who does not immediately impute them to Donald Trump.”

  3. I thought about the immediate jump to gun control yesterday as how Democrats would then insist that Republicans would certainly have to take gun control legislation seriously now that they themselves were directly affected by it. As you have pointed out correctly in the past (with regard to the ridiculous belief that Democrats seem to have that Republicans should only have the right to send young enlisted servicemen and women off to war if their own children are involved), the notion that there has to be a personal stake in voting for or against legislation is idiotic. I have not seen it yet, but I wonder how quickly it will surface.

    • You got the wrong message. It isn’t that one must have a personal stake. It’s the idea that to vote a certain was is to lack empathy and having a personal stake would let them see why they’re wrong. It worked very well on the marriage equity front. As more people came out, as more people saw gay people as friends and co-workers and people just like them, as more people saw who they were marginalizing rather than what, the more support went up.

      It’s harder to vote against people you care about, it’s harder to vote for war when someone you care about will be in harm’s way, it’s harder to vote against gun restrictions when it’s your own getting shot. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think Jack would have come around so quickly on marriage equity if he didn’t have so much involvement in the theater.

      • In that same vein, it is harder to vote for gun restrictions when it’s your own getting imprisoned for victimless crimes.

        Remind me which country has the greatest prison population….

        • I’m not sure I see the connection. Are you saying people imprisoned for what you consider victimless crimes* should be taking extra effort to seek out guns?

          *You haven’t defined the term, I might well agree with you if I knew for sure what you mean.

            • Well, driving without a permit is also a victimless crime, until someone gets killed by the person who wasn’t qualified to drive.

              • That is just a silly example. Also, even if you ran over 12 people, the crime is not based on some silly “not having a license” basis, it is on the reckless act, like running a red light, or failure to yield to someone in a crosswalk, it has nothing to do with having or not having a valid license.

                • You’re wildly incorrect, Rusty–driving without a valid license is absolutely a crime, precisely *because* of the risk of an unqualified driver mowing over 12 people. If someone without a valid license does that, driving without a valid license would certainly be among their charges.

                  How do you not know this?

                  • In Texas, this is not a ‘crime.’ It is a Class C misdemeanor if you have a valid license (but not on you, and often not prosecuted until you do it a LOT) or a Class B if you never had one. Civil violation only until you get to extenuating circumstances. We do not put people in jail for this alone. If we did, jailing illegal immigrants would be very easy, as they cannot have a valid license (well, unless California gave it to them)

                    Rusty is right: this might be tacked on in case of a reckless act, but the meat of the charges will be much more severe.

                    California may have a different approach, Chris. Is it a felony in the Peepul’s Republic? (Sorry for the soft jab, Chris 🙂 )

                    • Hm. You have a point, slickwilly.

                      I’m not sure if driving without a license is considered a crime here–I’m also unsure if having a gun without a permit is considered a crime.

                      My point was simply to respond to Michael’s characterization of owning a gun without a permit as a “victimless crime.” He seemed to be doing so in order to downplay its significance and make it seem like no big deal. The driving analogy was meant to show the reason why society has an interest in sanctioning such behavior.

                    • In The PRC (Peoples Republic of California) driving without a license in an infraction (it is actually a misdemeanor / infraction wobbler). If you get a Driving without a license charge, and then go get your license before your court date, it will in all likelihood be dismissed. Driving on a suspended license, on the other hand, will likely land you in jail, depending on what it is suspended for (ie.. DUI), it can get quite serious.

                    • I understand the rationale behind requiring a driver’s license. After all, there is a substantial risk in operating (but not possessing) a motor vehicle, and there are severe consequences attached to that risk, and so it can be argued that the state is justified in requiring that prospective drivers demonstrate competency and knowledge in driving.

                      Similar justifications exist for other activities like medical practice, legal practice, transporting hazardous materials, construction, etc.

                      And it can be argued that this applies to the possession of firearms.

                      Except that is not the reason for pistol permits.

                      First of all, New Jersey requires permit applicants to ” demonstrate a justifiable need to” casry a handgun a public. Drake v. Filko, 724 F.3d 426, 428 (3rd Cir. 2013) Note that it does not require prospective drivers to demonstrate a justifiable need to drive.

                      Note that New Jersey also requires showing familiarity”with the safe handling and use of handguns”, id., quoting N.J.S.A. § 2C:58-4(c). Thus, even persons who have shown this, who pose little risk of injury, damage, or death by the negligent use of firearms, can still be denied a permit if they do not have a justifiable need. Again, i remind you that justifiable need is not required to obtain a license to drive, practice law, or practice medicine.

                      When people who have demonstrated familiarity”with the safe handling and use of handguns”, have never been guilty of a crime involving the misuse of firearms, and nevertheless denied a permit because they did not show a justifiable need, then their carrying of firearms is a victimless crime.

                    • ‘…having a gun without a permit…’

                      honest question, from one who has had a long day and is too tired to research:

                      Is a permit required to own a gun in California? Or is it necessary to carry one legally? I understand the cities may vary on both answers; asking about the state.

                      Texas is surprisingly strict in this regard. While gun permits as such do not exist, we are one of the minority of states that do not (yet) have hand gun Constitutional Carry, the bill having died in committee this spring. We are allowed to carry a hand gun to and from our vehicles; in our vehicles (used to be “if you are crossing two county lines” but that was impossible to prove so went away some time ago); on our private property; and with a carry permit in public (open or concealed) with notable exceptions (courthouse, posted sign locations, etc.)

                      Interestingly, the only penalty for carrying where a sign is posted is you can be asked to leave the premises. (Courthouses are the exception: this is a Class A misdemeanor and can carry jail time) If you refuse and are cited, up to a $200 penalty per incidence, Class C misdemeanor, like a traffic ticket. Your license cannot be revoked for normal sign violations

                      Open carry is silly, in most cases: you are the first target. Concealed carry is a case of ‘how would they know?’


                      So, I believe that simple possession of a gun in New Jersey IS a victimless crime, since many have taken a wrong turn and entered the state in ignorance. The penalties are egregious, too. Having a gun in your possession does not indicate intent, no more than owning a pit bull indicates you run dog fights. New Jersey imprisons and ruins citizens from other states for no good reason. This is a form of pre-crime punishment, IMHO.

                  • Sorry, I think you misunderstood me. I was not claiming it is not a crime, I was claiming it is a victim-less crime.

      • Jack has been strongly involved with the gay community since college, but, mostly because of his involvement in the theater and, presumably, being at least somewhat open to gay people as people. I was involved in music and theater myself in college, and never was anything other than strongly and outspokenly anti-gay, partly trying to look tough, partly because of the AIDS crisis, seeing gays as perverts and disease vectors. I stepped back from the fight against gay marriage because I realized it wasn’t going anywhere and my stake in it was pure high-schoolish hate that all boiled down to EEEWWWWWW! THEY HAVE BUTT SEX!, and that trying to defend religious liberty on other fronts had a better chance of going somewhere.

        Gun restrictions are a bit more problematic, since the thousands on the books already don’t seem to have gone too far. Wars are case-by-case. It’s perfectly legitimate to vote for this war but not that war because you believe this one is in the national interest but not that one. Voting against war on principle is all well and good in theory, and I have plenty of respect for principled peaceful people, but it’s not practical.

      • You realize that Chelsea was a child while her father was in office right?

        Now if you want to talk about the Texas Air National Guard…..

        …I actually don’t. Conceptually, conscription bothers me.

        • You realize that Chelsea was a child while her father was in office right?

          Not the point, but good deflection. BILL dodged the draft himself.

          Now if you want to talk about the Texas Air National Guard…..

          That story was a proven lie. So much so that Dan ‘fake but true’ Rather was forced out of CBS, and his team was outright fired. The documents were faked up to make political hay.

          Conceptually, conscription bothers me.

          See? Always some common ground if we look for it! It bothers me, too, as there is some truth that the rich can avoid service while the poor (including minorities) cannot.

          It should only be used in cases of existential peril, and that has not been true since WWII.

      • Not hypocrisy. That’s the “parents who used drugs can’t tell their kids not to use drugs” fallacy. Draft dodging 20-somethings are not the same people as the adults who send soldiers to war. “Do as I now know I should have done, not what I mistakenly did myself.”

        That’s not hypocrisy. That’s wisdom

        • In a flip of this, my Dad, who enlisted to fight Hitler before the US entered the war, told me that if I chose to go to Canada to avoid Vietnam, he would support that. I told him that if I were drafted, I would serve.

          • Yes. Even doubly so. Hypocrisy would be excoriating a wealthy person for not paying while simultaneously not paying yourself. Railing on them for still paying even if it isn’t as much as it could be, while simultaneously not paying yourself strikes me as extra hypocritical.

            But, someone chime in, often times we accuse someone of hypocrisy who is really just holding a double standard… but I don’t think what you described would be mere double standard territory.

    • No, I don’t think you can do that without the wheels falling off. Public servants by definition have huge impacts on the lives of many people. Their mistakes are magnified, but except in cases of outright recklessness or malice, we can’t criminalize their mistakes. Who would take the risk of accepting respobsibility that can end in prison?

      If they can prove that the Michigan officials deliberately withheld information they knew would save lives, then yes, that goes beyond mere negligence to mens rea.

      • No, I don’t think you can do that without the wheels falling off. Public servants by definition have huge impacts on the lives of many people. Their mistakes are magnified, but except in cases of outright recklessness or malice, we can’t criminalize their mistakes. Who would take the risk of accepting respobsibility that can end in prison?

        When it comes to criminal law, they should not be held to a lower standard than the general public.

        If they can prove that the Michigan officials deliberately withheld information they knew would save lives, then yes, that goes beyond mere negligence to mens rea.

        In my comment, I stated gross, not mere, negligence.

          • Really, really disagree.

            There is a difference between making a mistake – acting on the best evidence one has, but getting it wrong – and neglecting to check while having a responsibility to do so.

            The line between tort and criminality can be blurry, but when the tortfeasor is empowered by legislative authority, with legal power comes legal culpability.

            Fining police departments that employ murderers as police is necessary, but not sufficient. Jailing those who lackadaisically put others at risk, whether causing death or not, is required now for deterrence.

            Bean Counter: “Cut these corners on safety, ignore regulations”

            Engineer: “It will probably be alright, only a 40% chance it won’t be”

            Bean Counter: “Fine, do it. If it goes wrong, it will only raise our insurance rates 0.5%, and a 0.2% cost is less than the savings. And it will probably be alright as you say, we’re not deliberately trying to harm anyone”


            Engineer: “I’ll do as you say as I want to keep my job and health insurance to cover my daughter’s cancer treatment”
            Engineer: “So you are directing me to commit a criminal act? I’ll need that in writing to take to the police”

            By having criminal penalties, it provides ammunition to professionals so they are permitted to do the right thing despite the costs of obeying laws.

  4. Why should anyone change their informed opinion on something because they were “personally affected?” If anything, being “personally affected” is just more likely to make you biased.

    (I lost a family member to a fatal stabbing. My feelings about knives are unchanged.)

    And if one’s opinion about gay marriage should have jack-all to do with personal experience, then it would be valid the other way around, too. I had two teenage friends in high school who were seduced by much older men online. Is it logical to oppose gay marriage solely based on those experiences? Doesn’t seem right.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.